Scarab 25.6

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Khonsu allowed himself to be struck by Alexandria, using the impact to float back at a higher speed.  The act gave him the positioning he needed to draw his spheres closer to the Jaguars’ contingent.

A lack of coordination, a simple error, and ten capes were caught, to be killed in moments.  Moments they experienced as weeks, months and years.  Some had brought food and water.  I almost pitied those capes.

Moord Nag appeared, riding her shadow’s skull like a surfer might ride a wave, except there wasn’t any joy in the act.  Her arms remained still at her sides, her head not fully erect, eyes almost looking down, as if she watched the skull with one eye and Khonsu only merited her peripheral vision.

She didn’t wear armor.  Her top was a simple t-shirt with the sleeves removed and bottom half cut off.  There was a faded image of a rock band on the front, her bra straps showing through the gaping armholes.  Her dress was ankle length, frayed a little at the edges.  Her feet were bare, her hair in braids and tied back behind her neck.

The skull dipped close to the ground, and the warlord stepped off as though she was getting off an escalator.  The shadow’s head had taken on the appearance of a serpent’s skull, complete with fangs, and the body was a column behind it, stirring around Moord Nag without touching her.

It lunged, and fragments flew off Khonsu’s shoulder as the  shadow made contact, rubbed against him.  It was as though the shadow’s body were a series of circular saws, a rasp.

Khonsu’s field made contact with the shadow’s body, catching the middle of its body.  Moord Nag didn’t even flinch as her serpent was trisected, the middle section dragged away.

The serpent was winding around Khonsu now, maximizing the surface area that was making contact.  Khonsu elected to ignore it, floating forward to put himself in reach of more of the defending capes.

Califa de Perro used his massive spear to sweep a squadron out of the way before striking the ground, using the impact to throw himself back out of the way.  He landed and straightened.  He was shirtless, and had no doubt oiled his skin, though dust had collected on it, turning him a gray-bronze.  He had bracers with fur tufts near the elbows, and a dog mask that covered the upper half of his face, extending a distance forward.  The only other affectation he wore that made his outfit resemble a costume was the mount at his waist, too large to be a belt buckle, with a molded dog’s face jutting a rather generous handspan in front of him.  He smiled, his teeth white and perfect, as the capes he’d batted aside climbed to their feet.

Apparently deeming that the circles weren’t working in this situation, Khonsu banished all three.  Moord Nag’s shadow was freed, and rejoined the remainder of the mass.  Khonsu’s forward advance was momentarily paused by the impact.  He created the circles anew, placing them in spots where people at the epicenter couldn’t move fast enough to escape.

That was the moment I advanced.

Weaver, how the fuck did you get to South America?”  It was Tecton.  “The Director is flipping out.”

“Someone gave me a ride.  Chevalier will explain later.”

You completely dropped off the radar for half an hour.  We were convinced someone had come after you to take revenge for the work we’ve been doing cleaning up.

“Not revenge.  It doesn’t matter.  I-” I stopped short as a fresh circle appeared.  The placement, the timing… Legend had been caught.

Weaver?

Legend became a blur within the field.  Then, in a matter of two or three seconds, the entire space filled with a red light.  It slowly became white.  Khonsu’s power apparently affected all of the space above the bubble, reaching into the stratosphere.  It was like a pillar of light.

Eidolon created a forcefield, much like the one he’d fashioned to contain Phir Sē’s time bomb, only this one was open on one side, a ‘u’ shape with the opening facing Khonsu.

Khonsu seemed to notice, because he moved the column.  It intersected Eidolon’s forcefield, and Khonsu’s power won out.  The forcefield collapsed.  This wouldn’t be an effect Eidolon could contain.

I’m in the middle of something, Tecton.  I’m wearing the same camera I had at the last fight, so ask for access to the feed, or get over here.  We think we’ve got a way to pin him in place.”

Right.”

Eidolon was shouting something I couldn’t make out.  Alexandria joined the fray, fighting to keep Khonsu in place, pummeling the Endbringer, dodging the columns that closed in on her.

It was impossible to say exactly how he did it, but Eidolon managed to catch the light before it could turn the battlefield into a smoking ruin.  It condensed into a ball, swinging around past Eidolon as if he were a planet and it was in orbit, and then flew into Khonsu and Alexandria with a slingshot turn.

It wasn’t a long, steady stream like the one in New Delhi had been.  It was a white bullet sliding out in a heartbeat, cutting past Khonsu, Alexandria and a good mile of landscape, before driving into the ocean at the horizon’s edge.  Steam billowed out explosively.

Eidolon crossed the battlefield in a flash, weaving to the left of one of the two remaining columns of altered time, the right of the next, and erected a wall to keep the steam from frying the flesh from our bones.

It couldn’t have been precognition that let him move that fast.  Enhanced reflexes?  Something else entirely?

And he’d been saying his power had been getting weaker.

Alexandria had been stripped of much of her costume, but she fought on without a trace of modesty.  Legend, too, seemed unfazed, unaffected by however many years he’d spent in Khonsu’s trap.

And Khonsu, for his part, hadn’t suffered nearly as much as Behemoth had.  Five or six layers had been stripped away, and what was left was glimmering with a light that danced around the outside of his body.

The hue and intensity of it matched the light at the edges of his time fields.  It slowly faded.

I reached the battlefield proper, but lingered near the back, beyond the reach of the time fields.  This wasn’t a scenario where I’d be on the offensive.  At best, I was a helping hand.  My bugs spread out over the area, and I was able to track the movements of the time fields, the combatants.  I started drawing out the spools of silk I had on my costume, extending them between me and the various combatants, using the arms on my flight suit to manipulate them and ensure that neither I nor my threads got tangled up.

Spider silk extended between me and the various capes around me.  These guys were South American.  Three out of four would be in league with the various criminal factions and cartels.  One in four were ‘heroes’.  I couldn’t tell the difference between them.  The cues and details in their costumes weren’t ones I was familiar with.  The choices in color, style, attitude and more were too similar.  A cultural gap I couldn’t wrap my head around, in any event.

Things were confused further by the fact that, by many accounts, the villains running or serving within the cartels were the ones sponsored by the government.  The ‘heroes’, in turn, were rogue agents.

Califa de Perro, King of Dogs, howled and joined the fight, ready to capitalize on the success.  In the same instant, I sensed my bugs being eliminated.  Not dying, per se, but being eradicated from existence.  The ones who’d been following after the column had been caught inside.

It hadn’t changed direction.  It had stopped, in preparation for a change in direction.  I didn’t even have to look to see Khonsu’s target.  I caught an earring of the King of Dogs with my silk, tugged.

He stopped, yelping as he looked in my direction.

“Run!” my voice was no doubt lost in the cacophony.  I tugged again.

He used his spear to move.  A second later, the time field veered into the space he’d just occupied.

It was moving faster.  A third circle appeared, and the movement had accelerated.

Sensing that Khonsu was about to beat a retreat, the Thanda made their move.  A piece of rubble descended from the heavens, striking Khonsu with a force that knocked half of the defending capes off their feet, myself included.

Another of the Thanda used their power to anchor themselves to the rotating circles.  They floated through the air, equidistant to the circle, effectively untouchable, waiting, watching.

When they reached a certain point in the rotation, they caught a small hill so it could join them, anchored to them as they were anchored to the circle.  It swung into Khonsu like a wrecking ball.

The falling star, such as it was, had broken through more of the exterior.  Not a lot, but some.  As the dust cleared, I could see glimmers of light, dancing through the space beneath the injury.

It was the moment I realized that the motherfucker was reinforced.  He had forcefields set between layers, so he couldn’t be wiped out in a matter of good hits like Behemoth had been.  It was eerily reminiscent of Glory Girl.

Still, he was feeling the hurt.  Moord Nag’s shadow ripped into the site of the injury, widening it, danced back as Khonsu swung one arm at the skull, clipping and shattering one antler, and then lunged again, driving itself into another injured area.

It caught Khonsu off-balance, and he landed on his back on the ground.  The shadow flowed over him, the skull butting him in the face to knock him down once again as he tried to rise.  It simultaneously extended out, reaching across the battlefield to push Moord Nag back out of the way of a swiftly approaching Khonsu-field.  She stumbled a little as she was deposited a hundred feet back, but she didn’t really react.  The shadow had more personality than she did, here.

Khonsu had apparently had enough, because he extended his hands out to either side, lying with his back to the ground.

The Thanda member who was rotating around the Endbringer reached out, and each and every one of the defending capes was swept up in his power, drifting counter-clockwise around the Endbringer.  My feet lifted off the ground as he rose, and all of us rose with him.

The Endbringer teleported, and thanks to the Thanda, we were collectively teleported with it.  My bugs, Moord Nag’s shadow, and several tinker-made mechanical soldiers were left behind, as we found ourselves on a beach riddled with stones the size of my fist.  Silos bigger than most apartment buildings loomed just over the hill.

The fight resumed in heartbeats, capes closing the distance to fight the instant the Thanda deposited them on the ground.

My phone rang. I felt only alarm for a brief second, my blood running cold.

I sighed and struck a key on the keyboard.  The window with the video footage of the Khonsu fight closed down.

I let the phone ring twice more before I made myself check the screen.  Tecton.

I wouldn’t pick up for most others, I thought.  Hell, I’d have left the phone off if I didn’t fear that there’d be a critical call.  I’d seen most of it anyways.  I answered the phone.

Weaver, where the fuck did you go?

I smiled a little to myself.  It was an eerie, amusing parallel to what he had said in the video, except he was a little more frayed, a little more weary with me.

“You know where I’m going,” I said.  “So do the bosses.”

We haven’t even- you’re going to screw this up for yourself.  Why now?

“It’s fine, Tecton,” I said.

It’s not fine, it’s…

“They don’t have to like it.  I don’t think it matters if they don’t.”

He seemed to be lost for words at that.

I didn’t push the offensive.  I’d been working on that in the therapy sessions, not treating social interactions like fights.  Calm, patient, I dragged my finger down the side of the screen.  The text scrolled down.

Canberra, Feb 24th, 2011 // Simurgh
Notes:  Scion no-show.  Legend/Eidolon victory.
Target/Consequence: See file Polisher Treatise.  See file Lord Walston and file King’s Men.

Brockton Bay, May 15th, 2011 // Leviathan
Notes:  Scion victory.
Target/Consequence: Noelle?  See file EchidnaNo contact made.

New Delhi, July 26th, 2011 // Behemoth
Notes: Scion Victory, ENDBRINGER KILL.
Target/consequence: See file Phir.

Flight BA178, November 25th, 2011 // SimurghNotes: Loss?  Plane destroyed, Eidolon/Pretender drive off Endbringer.  Marks start of guerilla tactics from Simurgh and Leviathan.
Target/Consequence: Incognito Chinese Union-Imperial heir.  See files:
America/CUI conflict 2012 A
UK/CUI Conflict 2012 A
America/CUI conflict 2012 B
Yàngbǎn

Indiscriminate, January 20th, 2012 // Khonsu
Notes: First appearance.  Scion/Moord Nag victory.  List of all one hundred and sixty three targets and casualty numbers here.

Lüderitz, April 2nd, 2012 // Leviathan
Notes:  Loss?  Driven away by Eidolon.  Secondary targets Swakopmund, Gamba, Port-Gentil and Sulima.
Target/Consquence: Moord Nag.  Guerilla tactics continue, losses in notable but not devastating numbers, but his target survives.

Manchester, June 5th, 2012 // Simurgh
Notes: Defeat, no kill.
Target/consequence: still unknown.  Tie to Lord Walston?

Tecton interrupted my scrolling, finally speaking.  “I kind of hoped we’d gotten to the point where we were okay, that you’d trust me.

“I trust you,” I said.  “But-”

But,” he said, echoing me as he cut me off.  “Take a second and think about what you say next.  Grace asked me to call because, I’d like to think, I’m a pretty calm, laid back guy.  All things considered, anyways.  But I’m on the verge of being pissed at you, and saying the wrong thing now will push this from me being angry in terms of something professional to me being pissed because of something personal.”

“I-”

Think for a second before you talk, Taylor.  You start talking right away and you’ll find your way to a really good argument, and I’ll concede this argument, this discussion, but it won’t get us any closer to a resolution.”

“Right,” I said.  “Thinking.”

I’ll be on the line.

I mulled over his words.  I was anxious on a number of levels.  Terrified might be the better word.  I stood on a precipice, and the meeting I was running the risk of missing was only part of it.  I continued scrolling down as I thought, as if the individual entries could give structure to my thoughts.

Rio de Janeiro, August 15th, 2012 // Leviathan
Notes: Guerilla strike, mind games.  Travels from site to strike Cape Town and Perth after faking retreats.
Target/Consequence: no target apparent.

I stopped at the entry that followed.  I clicked it.  The one for Bucharest.

The video box opened up, but it was dark, the camera covered by my hair at the outset. There was only audio.

Oh shit, oh shit, oh shit, oh shit.”  It was Grace.

Are you hurt?”  Tecton’s voice.

Golem is.  Shit.

The image wobbled as the camera mounted on my mask did, and the me on the camera moved the hair aside, allowing the camera to record the video.  The streets were empty, old stately buildings loomed close on all sides, my bugs crawling along the face of each of them.

There was a beep.  The camera was mounted on the right side of my face, the armband on my left wrist, so the glimpse was fleeting.  A yellow screen.

“Heads up!” the me behind the camera called out.

For what!?” it was Annex responding, breathless.  “Oh!  Oh shit!

It was only a second later that it became clear just why Annex was swearing.  The city shifted.  Roads narrowed, doors splintered and were virtually spat out of the frames as the door frames themselves narrowed.

The image on the camera veered.  I’d seen the shift coming, and the bugs on the faces of the buildings let me know that the attack was coming a fraction of a second in advance.  As buildings on either side of me lunged closer together by a scale of five or six feet each, spikes sprung from the elaborate architecture, from gargoyle’s mouths at either side of a short flight of stairs, from the sign that bore a store’s name, a blade rising from a manhole cover… ten or twelve spikes, for me alone, each fifteen or twenty feet long.  They criss-crossed, came from every direction.

The camera had gone very still.  Then, slowly, it moved again, examining the surroundings.  Blades and prongs surrounded me, poised ready to prick and gouge like the thorns of a rosebush, all around me.  My fingers rose to the camera’s view, wet with blood.

I’d only dodged as much as I had by virtue of the ability to sense where the bugs that clung to the blades were moving, and enough luck to be able to move into a space that escaped the various thrusts.  The blood had been from a glancing blow, along the underside of my right breast.  I traced it now, as I sat in front of the monitor, feeling the spot over where the scar would be.  The fucking things were sharp enough to pierce my armor and silk both.

I could remember my outrage at that fact, the stupid, silly comment that had run through my mind, that I’d refused to say in fear that this video would somehow leak as well.

Can’t believe the blade hit such a small target.

Everyone okay?” I asked, on the screen.

I listened to the various replies of confirmation.  I followed by relating how the armor I’d made them wasn’t sure protection.

Then the camera’s view shifted as I freed myself of the spikes I’d so narrowly avoided -mostly avoided-.  I took two steps forward, and then threw myself to the ground as a figure sprung from the wall, a woman, moving so fast she could barely be glimpsed.  The camera veered again as I rolled on the ground, avoiding two blades that plunged from the underside of her ‘body’ to the ground, punching into the earth.

She had carried forward, uncaring that I’d dodged, slamming into another wall, and she had left a piece of herself in her wake.  Or a piece of what she’d made herself out of, anyways.  She’d become the city, and this small fraction of herself had been formed out of the light gray brick that formed the building to my right.  She’d left the pillar behind, three feet across, barring my path.

My head whipped around as I followed her progress.  One more of the rushing figures appeared a block down, two more behind me, simultaneous.  A pillar, then a short wall and another pillar, respectively.

Heroes, be advised,” Dragons A.I.’s voice came over the armband, “The Endbringer Bohu appears to follow a strict pattern.  The city is condensed in twenty-four minute intervals, followed almost immediately by the miniature Endbringers producing barriers, walls, pillars, blocking apertures and more.  The next phase, occurring gradually over the next ten minutes, will produce deadfalls, pitfalls and a smoothing of terrain features.  Following that, we should expect more complex mechanical traps to appear, after which point the cycle will start anew.  Be advised that she attacks with the spikes as she enters each phase.  Disparities in reports suggest that she is feinting in some cases, feigning an inability to do so.

Good news,” Annex said, over our comm system.  “She can’t affect what I’m affecting.  Bad news is I wasn’t entirely submerged.  I’m bleeding pretty badly.

We’ll get to you,” Grace promised.

I shut my eyes for a moment.  Empty promise, I thought.

There was a distant sound of something massive crumbling.  I now knew it was Tecton, tearing through the area.  I’d be using bugs to direct him to trapped citizens.  I was avoiding the terrain features, he was simply plowing his way through them, doing maximum damage.

The image veered as I approached an archway the Endbringer had created.  I paused before entering, circumvented it by going over, avoiding the traps I’d noted with my smallest bugs.

I could see her.  Bohu.  She was a tower, spearing into the sky, gaunt and stretched thin to the point where her head was five times longer than it was wide.  Her body widened as it reached towards the ground, reached into it, extending roots and melding into the landscape.  Her narrow eyes were like beacons, cutting through a cloud cover that was virtually racing towards the horizon in the gale-force winds.  Her hair, in tendrils as thick around as my arm, shifted only slightly, heavy as stone, despite everything.  She dwarfed the other Endbringers in scale, one thousand three hundred feet tall, and her body extended into the city.  I couldn’t even guess at the radius she controlled.

Beside her was her sister, Tohu, who would have been almost imperceptible if it weren’t for the glow around her.  Tohu, with three faces.  Legend’s white and blue mask, Eidolon’s glowing shroud, and Kazikli Bey’s red helmet, each twisted to be feminine, framed by the long hair that wove and wound together to form her body.  It condensed into cords and ribbons, and the ribbons and cords, in turn, condensed into her chest and lower body, two torsos made with overlapping versions of the hairstuff, small breasted, with only one pair of legs at the lower half.  The colors were extensions of the costumes she was copying, predominantly white here, but with streaks of crimson, green and sky blue highlighting the ridges and edges.

Her four hands were long-fingered, claw-tipped extremities in shapes that served as mockeries of the people she was mimicking.  Two of Eidolon’s hands with the blue-green glow around them were holding a forcefield up to protect her sister, while a white-gloved one focused on using Legend’s lasers to target capes who thought flying up and out of the city was a good idea.  Not that it was easy to fly in winds like this.  Not the sorts of winds that an aerokinetic like Kazikli Bey could make, capable of slicing someone with air compressed into razorlike ribbons.  A hand in a red gauntlet was gesturing, redirecting the wind to blow down, across, and in crosswise currents that formed brief-lived whirlwinds.

The me in the video made a small sound as she took the brunt of that cutting wind, hopped down from the arch, entering the city once more.  It was just now starting her third phase, the pitfalls and deadfalls, eliminating cover, cleaning up rubble, and slowly, painfully crushing anyone who had been trapped in either of the previous two phases.  If crushing wasn’t possible, she would apparently settle for suffocation.

I closed down the video.  There wasn’t anything more to hear in the exchange between the Wards, and it wasn’t a good memory.

Another counter to Scion.  All too often, he was late to arrive, and once Tohu had chosen three faces and Bohu had claimed the battlefield, well, the fight was more or less over.

I could hear,” Tecton said.  “You were watching one of the Endbringer videos.

“Yeah,” I said.

Thoughts?

“We’ve been through a lot,” I said.  “I owe you a lot.”

And we owe you in turn.  We’re a team, Taylor.  You have to recognize that.  You know that.  We’ve been together far, far longer than you were with the Undersiders.

I sighed and scrolled down.

Bucharest, October 10th, 2012 // Tohu Bohu
Notes: First appearance.  Loss.  Tohu selects Legend, Eidolon, Kazikli Bey.  Target/Consequence: see file Kazikli Bey.

Paris, December 19th, 2012 // Simurgh
Notes: Victory by Scion.
Target/Consequence: see file The Woman in Blue.  See file United Capes.

Indiscriminate, February 5th, 2013 // Khonsu
Notes:  Victory by Eidolon/The Guild.  List of the twenty-nine targets here.

Los Angeles, May 17th, 2013 // Tohu Bohu
Notes: Victory by Eidolon/The Guild.  Tohu selects Alexandria, Phir Sē, Lung.  Target/Consequence: unknown.

We’d participated in more than half of those fights.  My eyes fell on the clock in the top right hand corner of the screen.

8:04am, June 19th, 2013

Listen,” Tecton said.  “I’m not demanding anything here.  I just need a straight answer, so I know what to tell the others.  If you say you’re not going to be here, that’s- I’ll understand.  Except not really, but I’ll…

He trailed off.

“You’ll accept it,” I said.

I’m going to lie and say yes,” Tecton answered me.

I looked at the list of recent Endbringer fights, flicking my finger on the screen’s edge to scroll up, then down.

“I’ll be there at two,” I told him.

You will?”  He almost sounded surprised.

“We’ve been through too much, and you’re right.  I can’t throw it all away.”

I’m glad.

“See you in a couple of hours,” I said.

See you, Taylor.  Have a happy birthday.

“Thank you,” I said, hanging up.

Eighteen, I thought.  I stood and stretched, swaying a little as the craft changed course.  A two-fingered swipe on the screen showed the craft’s course and our ETA.  Another two-fingered swipe returned me to my desktop.

C/D: Endbringer
28:18:44:34

C/D: End of the World
-16:21:56:50

Sixteen days late.  The only person more freaked out than me was Golem.

I’d revised the countdown clock to assume that Jack Slash would appear on the date he’d set with Golem.  June fourth was the deadline he’d given, for Theo to find him, to kill him, or the madman would kill a thousand people in some spectacular fashion, ending with Aster and Theo himself.

No appearance, no mass murders.

June twelfth was the date the Slaughterhouse Nine had left Brockton Bay.  The day that was supposed to start the two year countdown.

It wasn’t supposed to be precise, but watching the clock tick with each second beyond the supposed deadline, knowing that something could be happening in a place I wasn’t aware of, the mere thought made my heartbeat quicken, an ugly feeling rise in my gut.

Dinah had confirmed to the PRT that things were still in motion, that it was imminent, but the idea was swiftly losing traction.

I’d heard people joke about it.  PRT employees who had likened Dinah to the evangelical preachers who promised an endtime, then scrabbled to make up excuses when the date in question passed.

My bugs could sense the insects within the city as the craft descended.  Sand billowed in dramatic clouds the Dragonfly settled on the beach.

It wasn’t my ship, but the name was a joke, due to the degree Dragon had been sending me this way and that.  Defiant was busy now, so it was mostly her doing the chaperoning, when the Protectorate couldn’t oblige.

The ramp finished descending, and I stepped down onto the beach, feeling the sand shift beneath the soft soles of my costumed feet.  I could have flown or floated, but then I wouldn’t have felt like I was truly here.

I ascended a set of wooden stairs to rise from the beach to the street proper, joining the scattered residents who lived here.  Men and women on their way to work, starting their day, children on their way to school, many in their Immaculata school uniforms.

I walked, taking it in.  The smells, the feel, even the subtleties in pace and general atmosphere, they were familiar, comfortable.

Not good, but they were things I associated with home.

It was an unfamiliar area, but I had studied the satellite maps.  I no longer wore my tracking device, but the PRT no doubt knew exactly where I was, for just that reason.  If they couldn’t monitor the Dragonfly’s location, they would have found it on my computer.

I could see additions in the distance, the white tower that speared into the sky, the blocky, windowless structure that contained the scar.  It wasn’t visible, but I knew I could make my way to the crater and see how they’d drawn up a border around it, done construction work underground to contain the contents and keep the water from eating away at the city infrastructure.  I’d read up some on changes in Brockton Bay, had heard more from my dad in our regular visits.

Here, the area was marked with graffiti, always in the same variants, no two pieces alike.  Devils, castles, angels, hearts.  I suspected the arrangements and combinations meant something.  The buildings here were new, quaint, the layout intuitive.

And in the midst of it, they’d wedged in space for an addition.  It made for a break in the flow of the footpaths.  It forced an abrupt turn, a hesitation as you tried to work out the way to your destination.  Accord had drawn out the city plans, and the Undersiders had altered it to make room for this.  For a marking.

It fit, somehow, the way it broke the rhythm, the way it didn’t really jibe.

The fact, I thought with a slight smile, that it irritated.

Two masks, resting against one another, one almost resting inside the other.  One laughing, the other not frowning, but the expression blank.  They were cast in bronze, set on a broad pedestal, four feet high.

I approached, my eyes falling on the objects that had been placed on the pedestal.  Wedding rings, a weather-beaten gold that didn’t match the bronze.  Twenty, thirty.  I might have obtained an exact count, but I didn’t want to dirty it with my bugs.

I turned, looking around, and saw how the buildings surrounding the edifice were marked with graffiti.  Castles and landscapes with blue sky above.

“I thought I’d see you first, Regent,” I said.  “A kind of apology, for not coming sooner.  For not being there at the funeral, if there was one.”

The empty eyeholes of the solemn mask stared down at me.

“I’ve thought about a lot of things in the time I’ve been gone.  Framing stuff, stepping back to consider just how fucked up it was that I was spending time with you, condoning what you’d done.  You took over small-time gang lords, I know.  Took over Imp, even.  So why did I let it happen?”

The wind blew my hair across my face.  I noticed that there were people staring, looking at me from the other side of the street.  Whatever.  It didn’t matter anymore.

“Then I think about how you went out, and I think… you know, it doesn’t balance out.  One selfless deed, after all the shit you did?  No.  But that’s your cross to bear, not mine.  I don’t believe in an afterlife or anything like that, but, well, I guess that’s the mark you left.  When we die, all that’s left are the memories, the place we take in people’s hearts.”

I reached out to touch one of the wedding rings.  It was partially melted into the surface of the edifice.  I imagined someone could strike it free with a hammer.

Not that I would do that.

“Sounds so corny when I say that, but it’s how I have to frame this, you know?  You lived the life you did, with a lot of bad, a little bit of horrific, and some good, and now you’re gone, and people will remember different parts of that.  And I think that would sound arrogant, except, well, we’re pretty similar on that score, aren’t we?  It’s where we sort of had common ground, that I didn’t have with any of the others.  We’ve been monstrous.”

I let my finger trace the edge of the wedding ring.

“I’ve hurt people for touching those.”  The voice sounded just behind me, in my ear.  I jumped, despite the promises to myself that I wouldn’t.

Then again, she wasn’t someone you could anticipate.

“Imp,” I said.

I turned around to look at her.

She’d been attractive in that dangerous too-much-for-her-age way before, and to judge by her body alone, she’d grown fully into it.  She was statuesque, wearing the same costume I’d given her two years ago, when she’d been shorter.  A quick glance suggested she’d cut off portions to adjust, wearing high boots and elbow length gloves to cover the gap, and wore a cowl to cover the gaps in the shoulders and neck.  It might have looked terrible, but it fit.  Her mask was the same as it had been, gray, noseless, long, disappearing into the folds of the cowl as the fabric sat around the lower half of her face, with only hints of teeth at the sides marking the mouth.  The eyes were angled, with black lenses, curved horns arching over her straightened black hair.

“Tattletale said you’d be back today.”

“I figured she’d know,” I said.

“Was it worth it?  Leaving?”

I hesitated.  “Yes.”

I hesitated, I thought.

“I told the others.  They’re on their way.”

“Okay,” I answered.  Fast response.

No.  Too fast.  I reached out with bugs, and I sensed the crowd, the way they were standing.

Here and there, there were people who shouldn’t have been paying attention to the scene.  A young girl inside one of the buildings with the graffiti-mural on the exterior, holding a baby.  A boy was standing a little too far away to see, but he didn’t approach to get a better view.

There were a small handful of others.

I looked at the rings on the memorial.  “Heartbreaker’s.”

“He collected them.  I uncollected them.”

“I’d heard he died.”

Imp nodded slowly.  “Said I would.  I told you I’d kill his dad for him.”

An admission.  I felt a kind of disappointment mingled with relief.  Not a set of feelings I wanted to explore.  I suspected the sense of relief would disappear under any kind of scrutiny.

“People keep prying them loose, but there’s usually someone nearby to keep an eye out and get a photo or description.  I track them down and bring the rings back.  Once every few months, anyways.  Kind of a pain.”

“It’s how he would want to be remembered, I think,” I said.

“Yeah.”

No snark, no humor?  I wondered how much of that had been a reflection of her friendship and almost-romance with Regent.

“And you recruited the kids,” I said.  I used my bugs to track the bystanders, my eyes to note more who fit the criteria.  Boys and girls, some narrow in physique, most with black curls, others with that pretty set of features that had marked Regent and Cherish.  Some were fit on all counts, others mingled two of the qualities and skipped a third.  Heartbreaker’s offspring, unmistakably.

“I recruited some.  They needed a place to go, and it’s kind of nice, having them around,” Imp said.  “They’re good enough at fending for themselves.  One or two, you get the feeling they’re almost like him.  In a good way.”

“I’m glad,” I replied.  Glad on more counts than I’m willing to say.

Then, as I realized that any number of those kids might have taken after their father in the powers department, I was struck by the thought that they might know that, that they might report that relief I was experiencing back to their de-facto leader.

If that was the case, they would also report the way I felt ill at ease, just a little creeped out, as I eyed Imp’s followers.

Imp was eyeing me.  I cocked my head a little, the best expression I could give without taking off my mask, hoping it conveyed curiosity.

“I like you better than her,” Imp said.

Like me better than who?  I wondered.  Than Lisa?  Rachel?  I didn’t get a chance to ask.  I was distracted as I sensed an approach and turned to look.

“Bitch is here,” Imp said, noting the turn of my head and the figure at the end of the street, ignoring traffic as her dogs made their way to us.

Rachel, I thought.

“She’s been going to the fights, helping out here when we send for her.  I haven’t been going to the fights, so I dunno how much you’ve seen her there.  She’s been checking in on me, wandering around here with her dogs and scaring the everloving shit out of people until I come to say hi, then she leaves for another few weeks.  I’ve probably seen her the most.”

“I’ve barely seen her at all,” I said.  Even with the Endbringer attacks.

The dogs weren’t running, and it took me a moment to realize why.  There was one dog that was larger than the rest, with half of a bison’s skull strapped over the left side of its face, the horn arching out to one side.  Armor and bones had been strapped on elsewhere.  It didn’t seem like something Rachel would have done, dressing up her dog.  One of her underlings?

It’s Angelica, I realized.  The dog lumbered forward, moving at a good clip, but certainly not the speed the dogs were capable of when they went all-out.  Rachel was controlling the speed of the other dogs to allow the wounded animal to keep up.

She was riding Bastard, I recognized.  It was different from the others, symmetrical, the alterations flowing into each other better.  Two other dogs accompanied her.  Bentley wasn’t among them.

The onlooking crowd, Imp’s underlings included, sort of hurried on their way as the dogs approached Regent’s monument.  Rachel hopped down as they reached our side of the street.

Rachel was taller, I noted, browned by sun, the jacket I’d given her tied around her waist, a t-shirt and jeans, with calloused feet instead of shoes or boots.  Her auburn hair, it seemed, hadn’t been cut in the two years since I’d seen her.  Here and there, hair twisted up and out of the veritable mane of hair, no doubt where tangled bits had been cut away.  Only a sliver of her face and one eye were really visible through the hair, a heavy brow, an eye that seemed lighter in contrast to the darkened skin.

And damn, I thought, she’d put on muscle.  I’d gained some, working out every day, but even with her frame and her natural inclination towards fitness, I suspected she must have been working hard, all day, every day.  Maybe not quite what a man might have accomplished, but close.

“Rachel,” I said.  I was overly conscious of how we’d parted, of the way I’d left the group and the awkward conversation during the New Delhi fight.  “Listen-”

She wrapped me in a hug, her arms folding around me.

I was so caught off guard that I didn’t know how to respond.  I put my arms around her in return.

She smelled like wet dog and sweat, and like pine needles and fresh air.  It was enough that I knew the new environment had been good to her.

“They told me to,” she said, breaking the hug.

They wouldn’t be the Undersiders, I gathered.  Her people, then.

“You didn’t have to, but it’s… it was a nice welcome,” I said.

“Didn’t know what to say, so they told me to just do.  I wasn’t sure what to do, so I asked and they told me to hug you if I wanted to hug you and hit you if I wanted to hit you.  Yeah.”

I’m guessing she only just decided, I thought.  I’d been gambling by wearing my Weaver costume, but then, I hadn’t expected them to converge on me like this.  I would have changed before seeing Rachel.

“It’s good?” I asked.  “Over there?”

“They’re building, it’s annoying to get in and out.  But its good.  Tattletale made us bathrooms.  We’ve been building the cabins around them.”

“Bathrooms are good,” I responded.

She nodded agreement, as if I hadn’t just said something awkward and lame.

“I remember you complaining about the lack in your letter,” I added.

“Yeah,” she said.

Wasn’t the easiest thing in the world, to carry on a conversation with her.

“Others are checkpointing in,” Imp said.  “Just to give you a heads up.”

“Checkpointing?”

“Teleporting, kinda.  Limited.  Um.  We’ve only got a second, but you should know in advance that they’re married.”

“Who?”

But Imp didn’t respond.

Foil and Parian appeared in a nearby building, the same building the girl with the baby was watching from.  Two others had arrived with them.

Them?  I wondered, mildly surprised.  Then again, it made sense.

They approached, holding hands, and a bear managed to form itself from the roll of cloth Parian had bound to her back, without anyone, the stuffed creature included, really breaking stride.  They’d barely changed, but for a little more height.  Foil carried the crossbow that the PRT was apparently maintaining for her, and Parian had donned less dark colors, though the hair remained black.

The two capes with them each wore red gloves as part of their costume.  I knew who they were from the stuff on the forums.  The Red Hands.  The alliance had gone through, apparently.

“So.  You draw me over to the dark side, and then you flip,” Parian commented.

“I hope it’s working out,” I said.

She shrugged.  “It isn’t not working out.”

“We’re fine,” Foil said.  “I suppose I should thank you.  If you hadn’t left, I don’t think I could’ve come.”

“You may be the only person to thank me for leaving,” I said.

“Don’t be so sure,” Imp added.

“Huh?”

“Nevermind.”

Tattletale arrived next.  Grue appeared at the location with more Red Hands as she stepped outside.  Where the others had been modest, approaching with a kind of leisure, she almost skipped for the last leg of the approach.  She hugged me briefly, then kissed me on the cheeks.  The mandibles, really, where the armor framed my jaw.  Whatever.

Of everyone, I was least surprised at the changes with her.  Her hair had been cut shorter, and she wore a mask that covered the entire upper half of her face, coming to a point at the nose.  Her shoulders, elbows and knees had small shoulderpads on them, and there was a definition to the horizontal and vertical lines of black that marked her lavender costume.  She wore a laser pistol at her hip, which bounced against her leg as she ran.  PRT issue.  Extremely illegal to own.

“Jerk!” she said, after she’d kissed me on the cheeks, “You’ve barely responded to my fan mail!”

“It’s kind of hard to reply to it without drawing attention,” I said.  “You don’t know how much I wanted the details on what’s being going on here.”

“Jerk,” she said, but she smiled.  “But I should warn you-”

She didn’t get a chance to finish before I saw.

Grue approached.  Of everyone, he was the least changed.  Physically, anyways.

But the Red Hands walked in formation around him, and one, a young woman, walked in step with him, close enough that their arms touched.  They could have held hands and it would have been just as blatant.

I’d faced Endbringers, the Slaughterhouse Nine, I’d taken down who knew how many bad guys… and I had no idea how to face this.

He’d moved on, and I was glad he’d moved on.  He maybe needed someone to lean on, to give him emotional support, and maybe she was that.  I told myself that, I tried to believe it, but I was jealous and hurt and bewildered and…

And I bit back the emotion, approaching, ready to hug.

When he extended a hand for me to shake, I had to fight twice as hard to suppress any reaction to the hurt.  I could tell myself that he’d at least done it before I’d raised my arms to hug him, but… yeah.

I took his hand and shook it.  Then, on impulse, I pulled on it, drawing him forward and down a little, and put my other arm around his shoulders.  Half of a hug, half a shake.

“Happy birthday,” he said, after I stepped back.

The others echoed him.  Welcomes and happy birthdays.  He’d remembered, but… that choice of words.

I eyed the young woman.  She was a rogue, in the dashing villain sense, wearing a mask around the eyes, and old-fashioned clothes with lace around her ample cleavage.  Her jacket and slacks were festooned with belts, bearing utility pouches and knives.  The glove that wasn’t red had a knife attached to each fingertip, a brace around it to keep everything in place.

She met my own gaze with one of her own, a narrow, hard look.

“Oh.  Skit- Taylor, meet Cozen.  Second in command to the Red Hand.”

“Nice to meet you,” I said.  They don’t really match.

“Pleasure’s mine,” she said.  “I’m meeting a legend, after all.”

Awkwardness followed.

And in the midst of that, Imp’s statements finally caught up with me.

I like you better than her.

Don’t be so sure, Imp had said.  Well, Cozen would be happy I’d left.

Then, with a realization like a dash of cold water to the face, I remembered.

They’re married.

“Taylor,” Tattletale said, rescuing me before I could say something dumb.  She hooked her arm around mine and led me around and away.  “Much to talk about.”

“The end of the world,” I said.  “Endbringers.  Finding Jack, or the designer-”

Safe topics, somehow more reassuring than this.

“I don’t know,” she said.  “Everyone’s playing it safe, keeping things quiet.”

“What do we do?”

“What was the plan?” she asked.  “When you came?”

“I’ve got six hours before I need to be in New York.  They’re swearing me into the Protectorate.”

“Congratulations,” Grue said.  He sounded genuine.

“I should be saying that to you,” I said, glancing at him and Cozen.

“Oh.  Thank you,” he answered, in his characteristic eerie voice.  I couldn’t read his tone, and felt a little grateful that at least one of us was spared sounding awkward.

“Six hours,” Tattletale said.  Another rescue.

“I was going to visit everyone in turn to catch up, visit my mom, then see my dad.”

“Well, we’re all here.  We can go somewhere together,” Tattletale said.  “There’re stories to tell, I’m sure.”

“I’m sure,” I said.  I almost wished my original plan had gone ahead, that I could have a really short visit with Grue, a longer sit with Rachel and her dogs, then a long discussion with Tattletale about what was going on, before I headed off to see my mom’s grave and my dad.

“Come on.  We’ll walk, see the sights,” Tattletale said.  “figure out what to do for breakfast or brunch.”

“Okay,” I said.  I glanced at the others.  Would they be down, or would they back out?  Parian and Foil weren’t close to me, but they were sticking around.  Cozen wasn’t making an excuse and leaving, and neither was Grue.  I could see him exchanging murmured words with her.

I must have looked a little too long at him, because Imp fell in step beside me.

I glanced at her.

“I was just fucking with you,” she whispered.  “I thought you probably deserved it.”

My stomach did a flip flop at that.  Anger, relief, bewilderment, more anger.  Still more anger.

“Man, the way your bugs reacted.  Hilarious.  You act like you’re all stoic, but then I just have to look over there and over there and I see bees and butterflies circling around like eagles ready to dive for the kill.”

I opened my mouth to say something, but she cut me off.

“She is pregnant,” Imp said.

My mouth shut.

“Kidding.  This is fun.  Come on, butterflies, I see you over there.  Do your worst, I know you want to kill me.”

I considered jabbing her with my taser, and the thought was vivid enough that I imagined it buzzing at my hip.

Except it wasn’t my taser.  It was my phone.

As it had so often this past month, I felt my heart leap into my throat, that pang of alarm.  A very different kind of alarm than Imp had been provoking from me.  More real, more stark.

I drew the phone from my belt, then stared down at the text that was displayed.  A message from Defiant.

“Endbringer?” Rachel asked.  Something in my body language must have tipped her off.

I shook my head, but I said, “Yes.  Sort of.”

“Sort of?”

“An endbringer with a lowercase ‘e’,” I said.  “It looks like Jack may have made his challenge to Theo.  It’s starting.”

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428 thoughts on “Scarab 25.6

  1. I’ll be honest. This isn’t the chapter I wanted to write. I was hoping to extend the arc a bit more, had two ideas. One was an interlude, another a story chapter. I tried to write them, and it just didn’t pan out. At all.

    I was short enough on time that I wound up going with the next idea I had. It works, it fits, but I say that knowing people will have problems with parts of it (probably the scale of the timeskip) and that it’s something I want to fix later down the road (final edits/revisions for publishing? – Could expand this arc considerably, methinks).

    Anyways, wanted to put it out there. and be upfront about it. Not what I wanted to write, I understand and get if you’re dissatisfied in the same respect.

    Thanks for reading, regardless.

    • Wow.

      WTF.

      This is probably the most surprised I have been for one of your chapters.

      I really have nothing else to say right now. I need to process all of this.

    • I missed the fact that there was a timeskip at all for a very long time. Kept assuming that what was happening was a hallucination or something caused by Khonsu, and that it would cut back to the actual story any minute now. The fact that it (the timeskip) happened in the middle of a major fight against such a major enemy, and that the fifth Endbringer got glossed over so much after being such a terrifying prospect ahead of time, and that there was no indication that she was watching a video until her phone rang and she turned it off (which you then fixed, so maybe ignore that part), all this…it just threw me off completely. Especially since the previous chapter seems to flow into the beginning of this one so well–there was no indication there that it was a video, so we have to wonder when it became the present (2013) as opposed to the past (the Khonsu fight). There’s no clear transition, which makes it seem more like one of those cheesy revelations like “It was a dream the whole time!” instead of a needed thing.

      The main problem here is one of pacing. We’ve had Knonsu built up so much, and then the awesome threat of a FIFTH Endbringer on the horizon, and Weaver’s plans against the villains of Chigaco and other cities, and all of that, all that potential tension-building and fascinating story arcs that we’ve been looking forward to, gets interrupted by a sudden jump of two years and the arrival at what might be the climax of Worm in its entirety. This arc should, really really should, be expanded. The Khonsu fight at the very least should be finished on camera, which would give us a natural jumping-off point for a timeskip (personal opinion, I think it would work better if the new Endbringer fight happened on camera as well. Having it just seen in a glimpse in a flashback sort of cheapens the impact, especially after every other Endbringer showing up has been a completely gut-wrenching event).

      I know you did what you had to do for purposes of getting a chapter up, and I know you want to finish the story, but I can’t help but feel like we missed half a novel here. Like someone went and tore out a whole bunch of pages, and though I can still figure out the general shape of what happened I’ll always be wondering how exactly we got from there to here.

        • I really think a good chunk of the stuff in the timeskipped sections needs to be filled in more. There are far too many plot threads left just dangling loose for our perspectives to feel like they were appropriately resolved, even if in-universe they were.

          I can quite easily see why this was the worst chapter for you to write and you didn’t like it, because frankly, neither did I. It had some funny moments, like the bit with Imp teasing Taylor, and it’s neat seeing how everyone has changed after so long…

          But.

          It’s a BIG but, too; I think this is, at the most basic level, the worst chapter you’ve written so far, on a technical and emotional level both. The dialogue felt stiff, the fights seemed lackluster especcially compared to the detail given for previous iterations of Endbringers- especially with Leviathan’s attack being the moment most fans agree that the story really begins to take off. I didn’t feel any real connection to the events, nor to the characters and their interactions It felt forced, artificial- the major thing you’ve avoided so far in the rest of your writing.

          It felt disjointed and disorientating and overall just felt like… Well, like when a manga creator is told his series is getting cancelled, and so he just writes a bit of mindless fluff to sort-of wrap everything together into a semi-coherant end.

          In short, I value the chapter with Taylor and Danny just having breakfast and talking moreso than this one. Yes, it’s blunt, and it’s harsh, and I’m sorry if I hurt your feelings with this, but I’m not gonna lie to you. Sorry, WB. :x

          • You realize the story you’re advocating for, with the timeskips “filled in” with the same pacing as the first twenty or so arcs, would probably mean the story ends up being forty or fifty arcs in total, don’t you?

            You don’t necessarily have to interpret that as a counterargument, but you do acknowledge that?

            • Same pacing, not in your life. As awesome as it would be to have just all that STUFF, it’s just unreasonable.

              However, we’ve moved over two years in the space of just a handful of chapters, leaving a lot of unresolved plot threads open that could do with some hinting towards how they’re going to be dealt with, so it’s an implied offscreen moment of awesome rather than a noodle incident that’s mentioned once then never again. Like that guy that was giving the Wards so much trouble, yet… we never even heard of him, or know anything about him afterwards.

              It can be generally assumed they dealt with him, but… Why was he even mentioned if we’re never going to touch base on that point, as readers? Internally, it’s a good point, in that it’s something Taylor WOULD worry about at that point, but as the reader, I know nothing about him, or the situation, so it feels like it was a plot point that was brought up merely to be thrown away afterwards, into the tangle of other unresolved plot points.

              That’s why I’m saying going back and fleshing out the time spent between timeskips would be something good, but not to the obsessive detail level that the original sections were. The little week-or-month-long skips were, in my opinion, the best gap, because they let enough stuff happen without leaving us completely out of the loop. There was enough time to do a little exposition about what happened over the past month or months, and to move on with whatever was being handled, set up one scenario going into the next few months, then jump the actual event and just move on to the aftermath. That worked well for me.

              • Warning: reply to Skippy written basically stream of thought, not long after waking up, so if it seems rambling and not that cohesive, is why.

              • Sure Rika, but you do realise that even at that speed of pacing, you’re talking something like a minimum of five extra arcs, right?

                Any less than that, and every arc would probably have juddering intermissions in the emotional and plot flow between them that would be nearly as large as the one in this chapter. You may think that’s odd as in story time the gaps would be much smaller, but that kinda stuff doesn’t really scale linearly with in-story time.

                That’s a lot of extra writing for wildbow, when a lot of fights and fleshing out of the setting and other stuff happens, but the actual plot doesn’t move forwards that much. Have you considered that s/he needs to find the story engaging in order to be able to keep writing it, and that degree of stasis could be crippling and stifling for him/her as a writer? wildbow doesn’t even plan out chapters that much, s/he sits down and writes what feels compelling, and what will be surprising for him/her as much as for us. Have you taken a moment to wonder how difficult that might be if the chapter has to be Endbringer fight #15 or fight with random new villain #27?

                I respect your difference of opinion, I really do, and you’ve articulated it sincerely and eloquently. But I’d beseech you to consider those things, and add some nuance and balance to your opinion, even if it remains broadly the same.

              • You are assuming volumes of required fill-in in what I have written that I have not written. Don’t.

              • I would say at the very least, that the *very first fight* against the New Endbringer (Khonsu) needs to be finished in “real time” story arc wise.

                The big (ish) skip between the fight with Topsy and the TV show appearance wasn’t all that jarring, because the scene ended, and then we got the “And now time passes” act.

                Hitting the fast-forward button in the middle of a fight scene that had been progressing at normal pace is jarring.

                (And I know, that’s probably a lot of writing, and I know this is a huge project over all: I read really fast and I’ve been reading this for days. Which is part of why I’m giving feedback, because I think this is great and I want it to be the best it can be. :) )

          • @Rika Covenant and Adam:

            Maybe there’ve been some edits since you commented that I never got see before-and-after but I have to disagree by and large. I don’t know how much my opinion will matter since, aside from the discontinued chapter starring Witness, my love for every word of this story has been unconditional and nearly indiscriminate. This is a rare opportunity to justify some of that.

            For starters, aside from seeing more of her Chicago campaign against Topsy and his ilk (and thus, interaction with the Wards), I wouldn’t change anything – anything – about Scarab.

            Adam: The main problem here is one of pacing. We’ve had Knonsu built up so much, and then the awesome threat of a FIFTH Endbringer on the horizon, and Weaver’s plans against the villains of Chigaco and other cities, and all of that, all that potential tension-building and fascinating story arcs that we’ve been looking forward to, gets interrupted by a sudden jump of two years and the arrival at what might be the climax of Worm in its entirety. This arc should, really really should, be expanded. The Khonsu fight at the very least should be finished on camera, which would give us a natural jumping-off point for a timeskip (personal opinion, I think it would work better if the new Endbringer fight happened on camera as well. Having it just seen in a glimpse in a flashback sort of cheapens the impact, especially after every other Endbringer showing up has been a completely gut-wrenching event).

            See, I feel exactly the opposite. Endbringer fights *are* gut-wrenching, massive affairs and frankly seeing yet another one in entirety right after BEHEMOTH — I would even say, at all — would only cause fatigue. In-cluing and leaving things to the imagination are positives when used properly and I believe that was done here. KHONSU’s defeat (Scion showed up after all and now we know just how badass Moord Nag is), CUI/UK and CUI/America conflicts (and thus the realization of why SIMURGH targeted that airplane), Eidolon hooking up with the Guild, new mysteries like “Lord Walston” and so on; they did with a few lines what could easily have taken up whole chapters. There’s nothing stopping Wildbow from doing Interludes later to pad shit out if he so desires.

            I think we saw exactly as much of KHONSU as we needed to. Now that we know the Endbringers are being, if not mass-produced, then crafted in sequence, they are paradoxically less important. Extra-diegetically, they are just one possible apocalypse among many. In-story, they are something that can be pinned down, out-maneuvered and ultimately killed. We may be scared of them but they are no longer forces of nature, walls of inevitable doom closing in on humanity. The Passengercalypse, the Slaughterhousecalypse, those are the other shoes waiting to drop.

            Rika Covenant:It’s a BIG but, too; I think this is, at the most basic level, the worst chapter you’ve written so far, on a technical and emotional level both. The dialogue felt stiff, the fights seemed lackluster especcially compared to the detail given for previous iterations of Endbringers- especially with Leviathan’s attack being the moment most fans agree that the story really begins to take off. I didn’t feel any real connection to the events, nor to the characters and their interactions It felt forced, artificial- the major thing you’ve avoided so far in the rest of your writing.

            On the contrary, I think it fits very well with the numbness the characters could and should be experiencing at this point. We’ve seen the elation at BEHEMOTH’s death and we’ve seen their despair at KHONSU’s arrival. Now there’s Tohu-Bohu (aka Israfel aka Shalim-Shacar) and they’re like, “More Endbringers? Yeah, okay. Two at a time, you say? Sure, no problem. One of them turns cities into Indiana Jones deathtraps and the other copies a random three of the most powerful paras in the world? Bring it on. #kanyeshrug”)

            Essentially, fucks are no longer being given.

            I know you did what you had to do for purposes of getting a chapter up, and I know you want to finish the story, but I can’t help but feel like we missed half a novel here. Like someone went and tore out a whole bunch of pages, and though I can still figure out the general shape of what happened I’ll always be wondering how exactly we got from there to here.

            The shape of things is more than clear enough for anyone’s purposes.

            • I agree with you. Sure, a few interludes could be interesting. But we know how Endbringer fights go: a city gets smashed up, civilians are evacuated, lots of people die, the heroes hit/blast the Endbringer, Scion shows up to save the day, or the the other heroes just wear it down and force it to leave. As no significant deviation from that has occured, there’s no need to describe what the reader can easily imagine. I can’t be the only one who’d get bored of just a load of Endbringer fights (not bored yet, but I would be). We already know how hopelessly doomed everyone is.
              I want to get to the end of the world to see the events Weaver can actually influence rather than ineffectually observe. That’s where we are now. That’s the perfect place to go from. This is where it gets really interesting.

        • The new formatting actually helped a lot. The more distinct break between the recounting of the end of the Khonshu fight and jump to new present was clearer with what was effectively an “in-chapter, chapter break” to set things off.

        • I kinda like the retrospective, moving on, feel. The idea that everything fell into routine, and was no longer as interesting or important because of it, and we pick back up where the routine is broken.

        • The timeskips are still pretty unclear. How about simply adding dates whenever a timeskip occurs?

          Without dates it’s especially unclear because dates are frequently provided for timeskips in other parts of worm.

      • While I do agree that the fifth Endbringer deserves a better introduction I don’t know if recounting the fights in full is really a good idea. Endbringer fights tend to be intense, emotionally draining chapers. A proper recounting of them is likely to leave readers emotionally drained, and then suddenly we are skipped over all the time spent recovering and preparing for the next fight?

        Maybe what I don’t like about this chapter is that the initial fight scene whith Khonsu went long enough that it completely fooled me into mentally preparing myself for the emotional trauma that an Endbringer fight brings, and then suddenly I was flung into catching up with the Undersiders. It was rather disorienting.

        • I do agree in that another Endbringer fight would be too much. They dominate the narrative and too many of them would wind up tension too high.

          Maybe the fifth Endbringer could be dealt with not in terms of fighting it, but in terms of dealing with its impact on the world. It’s appearance may be enough to shake people. A focus on Weaver holding the Wards together, convincing villains and rouges that they should fight, preventing mass panic, this sort of thing. Still a tense conflict, but in a different area so it won’t get repetitive.

    • Haven’t read the others yet but personally it took me a while to realize it was a time skip at all. Only after the dates that I had any idea and even then I was trying to figure out what exactly it was… So yeah pretty jarring to do that.

      Aside from that the fight was rather underwhelming, the end of the last chapter and then the beginning of this one all seem to set up only for nothing to happen. Even the other two Endbringers felt flat since considering their abilities they seem like really dangerous and yet no feeling of that.

      • I have to agree. Almost until the end of the chapter I thought that Khonshu used time travel on Taylor with her suddenly appearing with cell phone in hand and/or some vague memories of what was supposed to be her past.

        All in all I am not against moving things forward in a quickened pace but I believe there were better ways to handle it.

    • Again, if need be, skip a bonus chapter or two. We’ll all be waiting patiently for the next installment, whenever it comes. It’s pretty darn admirable that you’ve made it this far without slipping once.

      That said, Scarab (and Drone before it) had some major issues with execution (assuming this is the last Scarab chapter before the interlude). With the both of them, it was the fact that there was this divide between Taylor’s inmate life (covered by Drone) and Taylor’s Weaver life (covered by Scarab), bridged by Crushed (which was one of the best chapters you’ve written since Coil’s downfall, IMO).

      Suggestions for improving Drone come publishing time: add some positive interaction between her and Glenn, setting him up in her side of the court (or at the least foreshadowing his good intentions) when it comes time for the Behemoth video to be released. (e.g. him complimenting her on keeping the butterflies to the cosmetics, where they counted, while also keeping more useful bugs in the wings) Also, the warden of the prison/juvie/wherever Taylor was being kept could use much more character depth. (An interlude, for example, or confronting Taylor with the extra costume). I think the isolation from the Undersiders is good here.

      Suggestions for improving Scarab: Stretch out the timeskips, show us more of what happens in between them. More Topsy episodes, some of the coded fanmail, some of the Endbringer fights after Khonsu’s debut. Several of the fights glossed over in this chapter (Scion victory over Simurgh in Paris, for instance, Tohu and Bohu’s debut, Annex’s death in another T&B fight if it’s necessary that he die before Weaver becomes a Protectorate cape) could have been given much more detail than just scrolling past their video entries. Also, we chafed without news from Brockton Bay, and while that isolation helped us empathize with Taylor in Drone, it’s much less useful in Scarab when it’s distracting from getting to know the Chicago Wards more closely. (Even something as simple as a TV broadcast covering Heartbreaker’s death, or Taylor’s dad passing on news, would have helped immensely) Another thing to consider: you tried making Scarab all-interlude. Why not return to that when publishing? Alternate between Taylor and other people (e.g. Mockshow’s POV of Weaver’s recruitment attempt), or have a few scenes from her perspective interspersed with others’. There’s lots of ways you can do that, and all of them would add length (and depth) to Scarab.

      Thanks for the wonderful story, and keep up the good work!

      • Structurally, excellent ideas all.

        Drone could use work, Scarab needs work, Crushed is fantastic seems about correct. Do think that the three probably need to be set off on their own, separate from the BB times and the apocalypse times – but that’ll depend greatly on how finale goes.

        Most strongly endorse Landis’ first and final paragraphs.

    • I had my problems, but your right, it still does work. My big post below labels most of my problems as me bitching, and I stand by that. In the mean time everyone, buckle up for safety on this highway to ragnarok, and make sure to tip your guide on the way down.

    • I… hmm. This… isn’t the chapter I wanted to READ, either, I guess. I suppose it’s the risk of a serial, with chapters written as they go.

      Kind of petty, but a small critic: the dramatic phone call at the end? Kind of fell flat. I’m not sure if you used that particular cliffhanger too much, or if it’s just that we literally got the end of one world-ending threat and the beginning of another in the same chapter, and thus didn’t have any time to relax and get set up… Anyway.

      I like the glimpse of Tohu Bohu, though. Giant Monster of Doom. They seem cool. (And man, Leviathan really IS the weaker Endbringer… Despite having sunk a Canadian province…)

      • From Wikipedia:

        Tohu wa bohu (תֹ֙הוּ֙ וָבֹ֔הוּ) is a Biblical Hebrew phrase found in the Book of Genesis 1:2. It is usually translated “waste and void,” “formless and empty,” or some variation of the same. It describes the condition of the earth before God said, “Let there be light” (Gen. 1:3). Precise translation of the phrase is difficult, as only the first word, “tohu,” appears to have any independent meaning.

      • I… actually kind of liked this. I seem to be the odd one out. I could have done with more preparation for it, more buildup to announce a timeskip like this would happen – and the whole Tecton conversation could have been set up with a payoff for it at the end of the chapter, that’d be nice too. But overall, I enjoyed this one.

    • I liked how it was done, but if another arc gets thrown in later, this chapter seems like it could be easily moved to the end of that one without any trouble, really. Excellent work as always. Can’t wait to meet S9K

    • …Jesus fuck, arrogant much? I don’t think I’ve seen a more pretentious, puffed-up, pompous, or presumptuous self-entitled piece of trash post than this. My nonexistant hat to you, sir, for being a total tool.

    • I think you’re off target in a lot of respects, and while I’m doing my utmost to take the criticism that comes with this chapter in stride, I do feel somewhat annoyed with this comment, if only because you seem to be presuming a lot about my mindset/perspective, and I think that’s incredibly rude.

      I haven’t abandoned my reasons for starting the work. I wrote Worm because I wanted to tell the kind of story I’d want to read. I’m telling that story. Ups and downs, and parts which aren’t as strong as others, but I’m doing my utmost to tell it.

      I think a lot of readers would say some of their favorite chapters have followed the Coil arc. I hardly think I stopped challenging myself (and am somewhat insulted at the idea), and would welcome you to spend one month trying to do what I’m doing.

      I make no presumption about what readers want, and am only maintaining my original goal. This was and always has been Taylor’s story, and other stories occur in the periphery of it, or in relation to it. In retrospect, yes, I could’ve done more in relation to other characters in this arc, but I’m afraid you don’t see what happens behind the scenes – the interludes I try to write which don’t come together, the drafts, all that. I tried some, it didn’t work, I moved on.

      Sorry, I don’t plan on expanding or releasing the Wormverse to other writers. Doing so is a bit of a trap and closes a lot of doors. For one thing, it clouds the question of my rights to the work. As far as what that means to the audience, it would likely throw a wrench into things if Worm was ever to become a movie or TV series. Is that likely? Probably not. But it’s a nice thing to consider and if I burned bridges out of a doubt for how things could work out in the future I would never have made it past arc 9.

      I certainly don’t recall expressing doubts about my ability to publish, as an ebook or otherwise. In fact, the only places where something I might have said could potentially be (mistakenly) construed as such, I’ve been pretty vocal about why I’m leery of traditional publishing vs. other options… which makes your next point more confounding.

      Here’s the thing. You’re blowing up this arc to be more than it is. I’ll make it short and simple. I had a lousy month with a lot on my plate. This arc/the timeskip is something I’ve been mulling over in my head since I had a conception of where I was taking the story (rather early on) and (notes said this, either in the comments or IRC) while I had a clear idea of what I wanted to do about the things that came before and the things that came after, I wasn’t sure about how to handle the timeskip.

      The thing about writing is sometimes you have to just write. You have doubts? You write through something until it becomes clear. You need to figure out how to make a character work? You write until it crystallizes. Need to figure out a problem or how to make dialogue work? You write it.

      I aimed to tackle the timeskip by trusting my gut and writing it out, much as I have with other aspects of the story that turned out well. Except I was tired and distracted and I was doing a lot in very short spans of time. Most months I write about 70k words. That’s… a medium sized book. This month I did that (a little more than that, in a fraction of the time.

      Incidentally – this idea of ‘just write’ is part of why I’m not about to go take a vacation and write side stories instead, or simply take a long hiatus – the work benefits more from steady writing and maintaining my habits and flow more than anything else. My ‘vacation’ earlier in the month only served to force me to write two chapters (a full quarter of a book, by pure wordcount) in a twenty four hour period and the disruption of the ‘vacation’ threw me off my stride. This arc is the product of that, with one or two well received chapters in the middle (which I wrote without disruption) and rougher chapters on either end. I didn’t have the benefit of time to mull things over and I didn’t have uninterrupted time to write.

      Do I feel a little burned out? Yes. But that’s not a cumulative thing. That’s a ‘dealing with a day that chronically screws with your attempt to get shit done’ day, only it’s been like that most days this month. Dealing with that? It’s a question of taking it easy and (see above) just writing. Finding my stride, getting some rest (I say, after staying up late spending time writing this comment response), and writing through the snarls that come up.

      Next month promises to be quieter, and I know where the story is going for the remainder of Worm, with a few question marks here and there that I’m very unconcerned with. This arc that I’ve struggled with is simply a product of having a very awkward thing to handle (a two year timeskip in a story that’s handled things day to day, with events to cover in the interim) at a time when I’ve got a lot of hassles. When I say I’m going to go back and edit things for the final revision, I’m talking to myself more than I’m aiming to reassure readers. I have ideas as to how I’d do it, it’s likely how I would’ve done it if I had the time, and I’m telling myself (and my readers) that I’m not worried.

      Reassuring readers? The only way to do that is to write. Write well, write more, write to figure out the answers to conundrums and more. I tell the kind of story I’d want to read and hope/trust that enough of my readers share my tastes that they’ll want to see things through to the end. If I’ve already lost you and nothing holds water with you anymore, then I’m sorry, but it doesn’t change the story and it may well be that you’re looking for something that isn’t Worm. Hell, I wanted to write Worm because I felt like there was a superhero story out there that nobody else was telling, and I wanted to read that story. Maybe your own dissatisfaction can be turned to something productive instead.

      • Well said.
        In universe, I can’t decide if Bitch or Imp would have been the best response to that rant. Maybe Vista, to re-warp Mr. Leftfield. I suppose Weld could be an option. Oh hell. Just give in and have everyone line up for a shot. You’ll have to let Panacea out of the cage to provide a little healing between hits though. Don’t forget. Taylor doesn’t get to hit him. He doesn’t like her.

      • You are so much better than being a fucking Baen author wildbow, seriously, ignore this simpleton’s advice. Worm deserves better than sharing a publisher with fucking Tom Kratman.

        • Edit: On posting I realize this might come over as too harsh. I actually have no problems Eric Flint and David Weber as casual lunchbreak reading.

          But seriously, Worm deserves better than the same publisher as Tom Kratman.

          • Dude, Baen’s thing is that they will publish irrespective of the author’s beliefs. While they are conservative-leaning, They are open to anyone who they feel writes good stories (Flint is a Troskyite, Kratman consideres Gengis Kahn a pinko liberal, but they can both work under the same publisher. ) (I actually don’t read either’s current stuff, as I just haven’t been impressed by the recent stuff, though I do think Flint is the better author)
            I honestly think that Baen would be the best one to approach, if Wildbow intends to publish through a traditional publisher, because they do take online authors and give them contracts to publish. I read authors who’s views I don’t agree with, because they write good stories. I especially don’t hold that against their Publishers. That just punishes all the authors for your issue’s with one.

            Also, it would be fun to see John Ringo no longer hold the title of Fastest Writer at Baen, as I saw him bragging about recently.

        • Yeah. If the choice was between jarring timeskips and Wildbow hobnobbing with the bigoted wackos they got writing under that imprint. Then timeskip the fuck away.

      • I think it’s far too early to even start thinking about Worm being in the public domain. It takes an incredibly long time for something to get into the public domain.

      • In response to:paragraphs 8, 9 and 10
        I seem to recall reading King Alcohol(http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Barleycorn_%28novel%29) by Jack London, and there is a segment there where he describes a technique he used for his writing, to get up every morning and not do anything else until he had completed his 1000 words for the day. 70k words a month is 2000+ words a day. Keep up the good work.

    • I, possibly alone in my feelings, appreciate the timeskip. Perhaps not the best wording, while I do hate the fact that we are missing so much possible story, I understand the need for the timeskip and realize that it was needed to push the story forward, otherwise, I feel the 2 year gap would innevitably reach the point of not providing maximum amusement. My reasoning for this is the feeling that Taylor’s time in the Wards could easily become repetitive and – Jesus Christ! I am extremely glad that we didn’t have to experience another Endbringer attack. I personally despise most of the Endbringer chapters, preferring the smaller scale, more personal chapters. So on that note, thank you Wildbow for writing this amazing story and using your own judgement to decide what happens next, it has not yet failed to amuse me. Thank you Wildbow. Sorry if some of my comment is incoherent, it is late.

      • While there are a lot of problems with this chapter, as pointed out by others, at least you are aware of them Wildbow. As you stated you had a lot going on, and I don’t want to rag on you because you had a hard chapter to iron out. I suspect this suffered a lot from being a transistion chapter. You needed to get from one place to another but it wasn’t easy to write. My personal suggestions would be to finish the Scarab arc with the conclusion of the Khonsu fight. Then to an interlude that details works on the missing time. Maybe Annex’s as he’d largely have the same POV on things as Taylor, with him watching the video. At the same time this would enable you to keep Taylor a bit mysterious. Then use Taylor’s return to Brockton Bay as a reintroduction to her, and to kick of THE END OF THE WORLD! But that’s just my personal suggestion

        • I meant do an Interlude from Tecton’s POV, not Annex. As you said in opening Wildbow, this wasn’t the chapter you wanted to write. I’d say this would work for the beta for about two good chapters.

    • It’s rare to see a Gish Gallop outside a religious debate.

      Potentially insulting to refer to Wildbow as the Pig Writer. Some of us are known for such irreverence, but it could easily be seen as an insult by those who he has not come to expect such from.

      Also, not really for you to judge what the story’s about. We also thought Glory Girl and her boyfriend and Panacea was going a certain way. Wham episodes tend to change things like that. There is a limit on how much reader feedback should influence the direction of a novel.

      After awhile, you do kind of realize this is Taylor’s story. Probably by Chapter 2. The interludes were bonuses in a few different ways. They were a thanks for donations and they were also ways to change things up briefly at the end of a chapter and expand the setting. They were supplementary material and bonus ones weren’t necessarily meant to be important to the story when they were done.

      I can’t seem to understand what you think Wildbow’s reasons for starting the work are that differ from how it is now. That question is as reasonable here as it would have been when Taylor turned herself in to try and become a hero and we took that well enough.

      Also, really insulting to suggest Wildbow can’t write a Worm chapter. Not too good either to suggest Wildbow isn’t challenging himself given how long the chapters are, how the story is continuing to evolve into its final phase, and that he managed to pump out so much in such a short amount of time.

      I am aware of the 1632 stuff, as the first two or three books are available for free at the online Baen Library. However, the Wormverse is rather unique, with its own bunch of characters and settings and ways it works. 1632, on the other hand, uses people from so far back that they can be freely used any way anyone wants. Wildbow is pretty good about fanfic, but that’s all it can be right now.

      When and how this stuff is published is also entirely up to Wildbow.

      As it stands, sometimes the story must be left unwritten due to the number of heroes of their own stories. It’s a little much to ask for an equivalent of Worm for each and every character we’ve encountered. Every day we lose track of people we care or cared about and don’t necessarily get an answer as to how they are doing.

      Besides, while I was slightly disappointed that such a timeskip occurred, it was inevitable. We weren’t going to cover two whole years in such a short amount of time since most of this story took place within 4 or 5 months. It’s also easy enough to work around with Taylor’s recollections or as other interludes.

      And last but not least, I am not old.

      You’ll notice I refrained from derogatory remarks. I expect you’ll see a few related to this. However, if you’re no longer interested in reading the story as is, like you seem to imply, perhaps you should reevaluate why you continue to do so. Perhaps take a short break and come back to the story at another time if you feel you should.

      • PG,
        Thank you for alerting me to the phrase Gish Gallop. Made me smile just looking it up.
        And thank you for this comment – a better handling of the situation than I could have managed and you express yourself very well.
        Almost as if you are a writer.
        Uh oh, he’s revealed the fact that he is human(e). Many acts of Gecko will be necessary before people forget this post.

        • I hate WordPress sometimes (I also have to use it at work to update my section of the company website). The last two sentences were supposed to be tagged with a non-html tag indicated they were intended to be a different tone than the others. The tag, stripped of the html formatting, was “snark”. Let’s try this again using html escape characters:
          < snark > Almost as if you are a writer.
          Uh oh, he’s revealed the fact that he is human(e). Many acts of Gecko will be necessary before people forget this post. < \ snark >

    • Understandable. A timeskip of this length in not something done easily. I felt the chapter felt a bit forced but I think if you had more time you could have edited everything into a nice package. Not really a big deal at the current date, more something to deal with in the future whenever you decide to rewrite/format Worm. Anyways, I look forward to Tuesday so I can devour another chapter. <3

    • You’ve been apologizing for the content / ‘clumsiness’ of progression for the last few chapters…..
      STOP!!
      If the masses want finely homed, no breaks, balls to the walls greatness from cover to cover, then they can wait for it to show up at Barnes & Noble. THIS is Worm. It gets created on the fly, by the most prolific writer I have stumbled across in years. Yeah, there’s typos, grammar mistakes and other little issues. So what. We get what pours out of your devious mind 2 and occasionally 3 times a week. Not to sound like Micky D’s, but I’m lovin’ it!
      I get that the episode we, (You and us readers), got was what your brain produced. It may not have been exactly what you wanted. but this is what you get with a serial. Especially with the pace of Worm. I was delighted with this chapter. It was different than what I expected. I was prepared for for a gripping fight with Teleportubbie, or confrontation over her disappearance. I did get a little of that. We then get a time skip. I totally understand that. You’ve got a lot of ground to cover to wrap this thing up. I enjoyed the reunion w/ the Undersiders. I was really hoping to see them go for their walk only to discover that Tattletale had arranged for a surprise party with Charlotte, Forrest, her dad and all of ‘Her People’ from her old territory. Alas. Jack had to go and fuck up her birthday. Again.
      Aaaanyways. Keep pumping it out and I’ll keep reading it. And trying to figure out where your going next. Of course, I’ll be wrong 99.8835 percent of the time, (Thanks Dinah), but that’s at least half the fun. I’ll enjoy the story as it develops and when you finally finish and go back and polish and expand, I’ll enjoy that as well.
      (Looking forward to buying hard copies. No matter how many books it takes to contain this marvelous dark universe.)

      • Like.

        I’m not the carefullest of readers, so I don’t attempt any criticism beyond the occasional grammar point…but, while yeah, this wasn’t a supertight chapter, the timeskip worked for me. It had to happen – because it was clear that the end of the world is the big conflict, and there was no apparent BIG reason to see the next two years. There was a little bit of tension with the PRT and Taylor’s cleanup efforts, but small time, I don’t mind missing that to skip to the interesting stuff. Khonsu and Tohu Bohu are frightening, but the whole point of them is that the capes have figured out they can’t beat the Endbringers by fighting them head to head like they have been, so seeing the nonetheless-necessary fights would have been more exercise in futility. I thought it was a good device to start and end the timeskip in an Endbringer fight, because it demonstrated that what happened in between really didn’t matter that much in the grand scheme. Just more death and destruction with no significant breakthrough, no getting ahead.

        As to the personal stuff – it was there, in small ways. Taylor doesn’t love the Wards or the PRT, but she’s at home there, loyal to her team and effective even if the Director doesn’t want her to be. She’s had little to no contact with the Undersiders, so nothing to see there. Danny has never been a big part of the story, and we could yet see some filling in of that – we just got the skip, and part of doing a timeskip is little flashbacks to skipped stuff as it becomes relevant.

        All in all, I’m not weeping over this chapter. It’s a structure chapter, it has to be there. It could be more fun, but it is what it is.

    • (Apologies in advance to Wildbow)

      … Fuck you, “the allip.” Fuck your preemptive self-awareness. Fuck your arrogant presumption. Fuck your certainty that your opinion is shared by all. Or many. Or any. Fuck your flagrant falsehoods. Fuck your wannabe-writer oh-look-i’m-so-twee-Pig-Writer bullshit. Fuck your inaccurate punctuation. Fuck your typos. Fuck your name. Fuck your race. Fuck your age and ego. Fuck you twenty-years ago retroactively.

      Now go forth and eat dicks. Bags of them.

    • Yeah it must be tough publishing something like this on a regular schedule. The timeskip and the plot changes are a bit jarring but if something doesn’t work then it doesn’t work and you have to put out something that does. A more traditional author can take time to find something else that would work but you are on such a tight schedule just to keep us all happy. It’s impressive the amount of work you put out in the time from you do especially considering the quality. Perhaps one day you will go back and alter this if something better occurs to you like you did when the undersiders fought night and fog. Perhaps if you put this all in novel form one day. Perhaps not. Regardless you are a very very good writer (from my point of view) and that is not something I say lightly. I can think of many published writers that I respect less.

    • Just for what it’s worth, here are my thoughts…

      While I found it confusing when I read it last night, putting in breaks at appropriate spots did clear up where Taylor was watching video and the time skip.

      As to the time skip itself, I think that while you might end up revising this section, on the whole, you’ve done the right thing. Endbringer fights tend to be long and drawn out, covering each of the new Endbringers in a fight or two might be interesting, but I don’t feel like it would move the story forward much.

      Similarly while I personally could have stood to see a little more of Weaver’s activities while taking down criminals and secretly recruiting, I’m guessing that both the Endbringers and capes are where they need to be.

      As such, I’d say that while you’ve undoubtedly seen unhappy people commenting, this is one of those things that’s best revised after a few weeks (or longer) when you’ve got some added perspective.

    • Hmm, I think the problem is that you’ve sped past too many plot hooks. Two new Endbringers and really we don’t get to see much of them. At the same time we’ve missed out on a lot of Ward-Taylor interactions and the clean up of Chicago. This feels like a recap of so much stuff that we all missed, and while Tecton is talking about a bond with Weaver we never really got to see it.

      Don’t get me wrong, this chapter is functional and does it’s job well. But it does feel like you are rushing to the end.

      So my suggestions for your final draft? Extend the talk show chapter. Have them go more into how Weaver’s been cleaning up town and how the Protecterate has been changing as a result. Go more into the bond the Wards share with Weaver.

      Then? Strongly consider dropping the new Endbringers. Or save their arrival for later. Because as is they are pretty much skipped over from our perspective. Just go straight to this chapter instead with some small modifications.

      Alternatively you need a whole arc to deal with Endbringer fighting, and the crazy new politics in the world that Taylor has to deal with.

      But of course this is all my opinion, and I’m sure some others have said similar.

      • Agreed on the Ward-Taylor interactions. Her heart still appears to be more with Undersiders, with tenous connection to Tecton, which kinda doesn’t fit with the time spent – we see no proof they’ve actually gotten closer.

    • I’ll be honest; it really worked for me. The framing device of reviewing the tapes and records worked, and I like that we’re swinging the perspective around in a new way; not between viewpoint characters, but from one time to another.

      Love it, and it felt really refreshing for some reason. The end of the Skitter Era felt like the story was climbing out of a cramped box and stretching its legs, or maybe sitting up from being hyper-focused on tiny details for a long time, and this feels like a running jump towards something big.

      • I agree that the infringer fights work as a great framing device.

        Of course, I also agree with the naysayers, that this timejump is too much too fast, cutting out too much teambuilding, the aftereffects of Khonsu and the reveal of the fifth (and simultaneously sixth?) Endbringer. That really deserved its own chapter, at least.

    • This is a great chapter to end the scarab arc with.

      i just dont think that scarab should have ended yet.

      I know ive commended on interlude vs. story chapters before. I think this would be an interesting time to try shuffling more interludes than normal into a single chapter.

    • The large bullet transitions should likely be centered text to explain the transitions; the alternative would be the cheat that some authors do at chapter headings, which is to give a date, and potentially an email or something before the next chapter actually begins.

      This would let you explain the time skip, and it would also let you cut down on the use of the dated messages to indicate a passage of time (it also makes it clear that she’s not still in the battle immediately prior and being sent intel from some Cape in the future with that ability).

      If you did it that way, with less intervening events being given away, this would, in a printed novel form, give you the ability to go back and put in a couple of additional books in the middle, assuming your publisher was “bugging” you for them (har har), without having to go to the prequel/other characters as the focus routes.

      BTW, if you decide to go to a publisher with this (I’ve suggested TOR previously), expect 110,000 words for the first novel/volume, and then another), I’d be happy to help with additional editing for spelling, grammar, and word choice in some areas where there are still missing/doubled words, letter, and similar words that aren’t the right ones in context. Contact me if this is interesting, and if the publisher isn’t going to be assigning anyone to the task.

    • I’ll be honest, this chapter really threw me.

      the gap in the timeskip seems to be longer than the rest of the story combined.

      that “you’ve been with us for longer than you were with the undersiders” line from Techton really hit me.

      the undersiders were the main characters, and we don’t really know shit about the Wards.

      hell, even the Bay wards, who had a few POV interludes and were mostly seen from the viewpoint of an enemy combatant still had more character development than the chicago wards.

      we don’t really know them, and we are just told “well, she’s been with the wards for longer than her previous (main-character) team, but you don’t get to see any of that, because YAY TIMESKIP”

      and now she’s going to be a member of the protectorate?

      I get that skitter/weaver’s life has moved on, she’s a superhero now, but we saw the undersiders story for about 20 story arcs, and god knows how many chapters, then you throw these new guys at us, and franky, i just never really cared about them.

  2. Jeez, Wildbow, do you sleep? I just show up to check the comments section and boom! There’s another chapter just sitting there waiting to be appreciated and loved tenderly.

  3. I liked the bit with Imp noticing Taylor’s poker face didn’t extend to her insects. And not just because it confirms one of my stupid fan theories — it’s actually pretty funny.

    • I hadn’t thought about it, but that theory was first proven, (I think), in Cell when they noticed her bugs going apeshit over Taggs treatment of Dinah.

  4. ….To be honest, I’m kind of confused by this chapter.

    I don’t think it’s your [Wildbow's] fault, I’m just really unsure of:

    A) When is the timeskip? Is the whole chapter set after it, or does it start after the Khonsu fight? It felt like Tohu v’Bohu came kind of out of nowhere if it’s the latter.

    B) Is Tohu a power copyer or something?

    • The whole chapter is set on Taylor’s eighteenth birthday: she’s reviewing the video files from various Endbringer battles, starting with Khonsu. The ‘break’ is when she gets the call from Tecton in the real world, and presses a button to pause the video, then starts reviewing all the EB battles since.

  5. What the fuck? I feel like I’m being thrown in the deep end here. Too much of a jump, I think. But then, how else could it go? Hm…not sure how I feel about it. We’ll see.

  6. For once this is a chapter I don’t like. Mostly due to MASSIVE time skip and so many things happening and changing. Bohu, Tohu, Grub(TaylorxBrian) finally dying ect. It’s disappointing, but I figure it was needed.

    But still, wonder what Jackie Boy is doing.

  7. Might just be because it’s 5am here, but it took me a second reading to realize there was a timeskip, so to me it appeared as if they were fighting Khonsu and suddenly there was another Endbringer and I didn’t know what was going on anymore.

  8. … did Annex die in that first fight against Bohu? Taylor mentions how it was an ‘empty promise’ that they’d get to him… shit.

      • And Tohu copied Phir Se and Lung – so either it can copy people who aren’t there or are dead, or Phir Se didn’t die and Lung escaped or was let out.

        • Phir Se was sort of confirmed to still be alive when they used that portal trick against Khonsu again. Lung probably was let out or the breakout already happened. Which we didn’t get to see.

          • Know what, lung probably was let out, then got controlled, then weaver probably neutralized him to keep up appearances.

          • Phir Se against Khonsu? I thought what happened was Legend filled the time field with light (since, you know, he had all the time in the world, and all the lasers he shot would just bounce off the invulnerable edges of the time distortion) then… Eidolon got it out? Or something? And he threw it at Khonsu, and Legend was a part of that. I mean, my first thought when Legend got caught by Khonsu was that he should accelerate to the speed of light to complete his weirdo transformation and stop being a biological being entirely (at least until he could get out of the trap). So I assumed at that point Legend WAS light, and Eidolon grabbed him with the rest. Or something.

            I will admit to having been somewhat confused by that part of the fight.

            • I *think* what happened was Legend fired lasers all around and they were stuck in the border of the time circle. Eidolon then grabbed Legend’s condensed lasers and chucked it at Khonsu. Legend survived the years spent in the time pillar, presumably, by flying fast enough to go into stasis.

  9. I like the second half of the chapter. The first half I couldn’t follow, mostly because right here:
    “The fight resumed in heartbeats, capes closing the distance to fight the instant the Thanda deposited them on the ground.

    My phone rang. I felt only alarm for a brief second, my blood running cold.

    I sighed and struck a key on the keyboard. The window with the video footage closed down.”
    She’s suddenly at a computer. In that whole section before it there was no indication she was watching a video, and the transition is really rough, especially because I missed a line or a word and had to go back and re-read it several times to make any semblance of sense.

    Don’t get me wrong, the individual parts are good, but the transitions are really disjointed.

  10. I’m afraid that I’m with the people going “not the best chapter”. At the very least, I suggest putting a break (* * * centered on the page) at the massive timeskip (right after they teleport to the silos?). Longer-term, I think this would work better as three separate chapters: the fight with the Khonsu; then an interludes that has the note-reading/video-watching/talking to Tecton and ends with something like “… and then I stepped onto the beach of Brocton Bay”; and then the meeting with the Undersiders.

  11. Hm, I don’t think the scale of the timeskip is as much as an issue as the fact that it was not that clearly signaled, at least to me. I didn’t realise there was a time skip until halfway through, which made the video extremely confusing. Still, I really enjoyed this chapter :)

  12. Sigh, I was hoping that the end game was a while off. I really didn’t like this chapter and it went too fast in my opinion. We never had the arc where she got to know her new teammates and grow closer. We never got to see the extent of her campaign and the changes in the PRT. Just a timeskip of two years, and now Weaver is joining the Protectorate. It sort of works for the Endbringers in showing the change in tactics. They made guerrilla tactics, and the new twin endbringer simply took a city over and must have killed millions every time. I wonder what the population of the world is? So its time for the end game. Jack and an army of the 9. At least the world seems to be more united then it used to be and may join against them. Rachel, and Imp were perfect though. So Taylor still loves Grue after two years. Damn, worm is ending. I think I’m going to go reread the story from the beginning now.

    • Ok, sorry, I needed a drink after reading that chapter. I have to admit, I am disappointed that we are moving towards the end game now with all these time skips, but I guess we all knew this is going to wrap up /around/ arc 30, so it needs to be rushed foward to some degree. I was hoping for some more time with the wards, getting to know them better. Taylor has now been with the Chicago crew far longer than she was with the undersiders, and we still have drastically less to go on about them. I was hoping for a few more street-level fights before this was over, and a few less time skips.

      Now that my bitching is over:

      HOLY…….THERE ARE INSUFFICIENT EXPLETIVES IN THE LANGUAGES I KNOW FOR THIS.

      We are dealing wit somewhere between 5 and 6 end bringers-it was a bit hard to actually pinpoint what the abilities here were. It seemed one controlled the city;s materials and spawned smaller duplicates to attack, while the other sits in defense and mind controls 3 individuals completely to keep from getting attacked. Someone please correct me if I am wrong. I am pretty sure most of us noticed this but LUNG and PHIR SIE were controlled means the birdcage was opened, and the dead are not sacred. The end of the world is come and gone, I can only imagine what the legion of doom has been up to…….

      I have one outstanding question for you Wildbow…… Just how much of the world’s urban population is left? How many human souls still walk the great planet of Earth in the Wormverse?

      We need a distraction from all this. LETS ALL GO DEAL WITH THE LIGHTHEARTED BY COMPARISON THREAT OF JACK SLASH AND HIS OVER NINE THOUSAND COMPANIONS!!!

      I now go to sleep, and cannot promise nightmares won’t follow me.

      THAT is the mark of a good story. I can’t wait to see what happens next.

      • Speaking of Jack. Could they seriously not find his hideyhole in two years? With thousands of capes with crazy powers to call on?

        Oh, and did Cauldron not elaborate on how they saved the world at all? Come on, she’s got to give the doubters SOMETHING. “Oh yeah, I’m totally necessary. Saved the world and everything. No, you wouldn’t have heard of it.”

        • Unless my memory is faulty, Jack is hiding in an artificial tinker-made closed-off bubble dimension. If Doormaker can’t access it (see last chapter), then probably nobody can.

  13. I think the timeskip works very well. Having played “the Last of Us” recently, I see the value in a great big timeskip where the exposition on past events is kept light and fluid.

    My only problem is that I didn’t get that it was a timeskip until a while in. Confused the hell out of me. But otherwise, I do like the chapter. I’ll say that Imp’s development and the Regent memorial and subsequent analysis are the best parts, in my opinion. Definitely want to learn more about those Red Hands. Sound like pirates or something.

  14. The format was a little difficult to follow, but a great chapter nonetheless. The pacing is uneven, but if you’ll fix it or modify it eventually, complaining now won’t help.
    I do have some issues unrelated to that with it:
    Namely, while Khonsu seems relatively safe from Scion, since the power that allows the rest of the heroes to continue to engage him (the Thanda cape’s power) probably won’t affect Scion and thus, he can flee from him, there’s no reason for the following Scion intervention to have not ended with the Endbringer’s defeat:

    “Paris, December 19th, 2012 // Simurgh
    Notes: Victory by Scion.
    Target/Consequence: see file The Woman in Blue. See file United Capes.”

    While the heroes might think this the norm since they didn’t expose her core, Scion’s kill order should have provoked him to kill Simurgh, and since she can’t teleport, her survival seems very doubtful to me. Scion has shown the ability to fly as fast as her before, so why didn’t he kill the Simurgh?

    This seems a bit plotholey to me.

    Additionally, I see Tosu and Bosu as quite vulnerable to Scion’s intervention. If he starts to fight them, they don’t seem particularly mobile enough to escape his attention like Khonsu can. But there’s been no contact between them and Scion, so we’ll see what happens later.

    Thanks for a wonderful arc and a fantastic story Wildbow :)

    • My thought would be that 1: good old ziz is trying to avoid that fate
      and 2: Maybe the new mistress of the golden man rescinded the order in light of the consequences.

      • Except Simurgh’s precognition doesn’t work on Scion. So she wouldn’t be warned of his imminent arrival.

        I’m for the “killing order got rescinded after Khonsu appeared” theory.

  15. I can see how this transition would work visually, but I think it doesn’t lend itself to words. It also cheapens a lot of the following information. The impact of the new Endbringers is completely gone, we lose the small thread we were finally getting on Cauldron, and even with Taylor’s thoughts on the interim events, from what Dinah said, we’ve got a whole new character to be figuring out.

  16. Dude, timeskip. TIMESKIP. AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAH!

    Whoa, this is pretty insane. At least two new Endbringers, Imp’s staying faithful to Regent’s memory, Grue’s got a new girlfriend, Bitch is actually kinda sweet, was I the only person expecting the married couple to be Parian and Foil? AAAAAAAAH, AAAAAAAAAH, AAAAAAAAAAAAH!

    Oh, and Taylor’s legal now. Man, I cannot WAIT for this arc to go ahead.

    • Imp said she was just fucking with Taylor, both times- With the married bit/I liked you better than her, and the “she -is- pregnant” bit as well. She obviously has inherited Regent’s sense of humour. Grue, in his usual obliviousness, must have thought she meant the alliance when he accepted the congratulations.

      • Oh I totally knew she was talking about Grue. I mean Taylor would hardly be surprised by F&P. But hey, if Brian has moved on maybe Taylor should too? Plenty of great guys out there. Clockblocker may or may not be dead, but we still got Tecton, he seems nice. Or Theo, I mean he also understands the fate of the world depending on you. Or just finally make the Lesbian Leap with Lisa. Of course it might not be such a good thing if Taylor dies at the end.

  17. Well, that certainly qualifies as tripling down on the timeskips.

    Strongly recommend backfill, at some point – if you’ve already got a plan on how to use the missing time (flashback?), why you’re aiming to produce that sensation of dislocation, then disregard my insufficiently informed alarm. Possible alternative: this update is a very credible and indeed natural way to start a sequel or sequel series: enough distance to provoke new speculation, enough continuity to pull readers along. If that’s the planned structure, it’d still be worth fleshing out the Ward year somewhat, as it presently feels like an awkward join between the cohesive Brockton Bay months and the (presumably cohesive) finale. Still… the iron rule is ‘tell the interesting parts, and only those.’ If that’s what’s driving this, so be it.

    Previous Endbringer fights have been epic things in every sense of the word – it’s not hard to see the difficulty in covering another 6+ such fights (incomplete list, but pushing double digits, plus her note that she’d been in half the fights) fittingly without exhausting both author and reader. Khonsu being defeated off-screen is in keeping with that constraint.

    The hinted fights have interesting consequences. Three fights (wars?) between the CUI and the US/UK, with Yangban involvement? That’s a novel of its own in waiting, if inspiration serves.

    The Thanda cape’s ability to fix things relative to other things really is a hard counter to teleporting away. Phir Se likely did survive New Delhi, unless Tohu can mimic dead or absent capes.

    Annex seems likely to be dead.

    The fact that Moord Nag rated a personal reprisal raid is quite interesting, as is the fact that Leviathan apparently failed to kill her (then?), and that Leviathan is now trying guerrilla tactics. The Endbringers respond to defeat in a way that indicates there’s definitely someone behind them. The repeated Eidolon/Guild victories are probably Eidolon/Dragon victories – the only other known Guild heavyweight is Narwhal.

    Cozen is as ill-omened a name as any could conceive of for the ‘other woman’ in any circumstance, just this side of ‘Traitor’ as an alias. That said, presumably Tattletale vetted her, and her organization. Cozen’s comment about ‘meeting a legend’ continues to hint that much must have happened in the timeskip.

    Imp remains Imp, Rachel remains Rachel, and Lisa remains Lisa. Little evidence for others, yet.

    Much else of the chapter will not be meaningful without further context. The Kings Men… the UK’s government sponsored group? With Lord Walston as their head? The Number man mentioned helping to finance them, and they were in the background of Jack and Harbinger. The Woman in Blue? United Capes? Kazikli Bey seems to be perhaps the world’s strongest aeromancer, and possibly earned his reprisal attack the way Moord Nag did.

    And clearly the S9000 reprise is about to kick off.

    • On reading Wildbow’s initial comment, will clarify: this update’s fine. You can polish it, but you can polish anything. Books aren’t finished – they’re abandoned for the next project.

      Structurally, the Ward arc isn’t sufficient to bear the weight of the transition right now. About half of the issue is expectation management: set up the Ward arc the way you did Travellers – as a self-contained digression, necessary as context for what comes next but also of interest in its own right – and I believe the sense of whiplash will be much reduced. You’ll have a continuous story to the moment on the stage where Skitter becomes Weaver, a hefty novel-sized chunk that’s the interlude, and then regular service resumes here. The theoretical Ward-Arc is neatly bookended by Endbringer fights, and just needs enough more stories to it that someone reading Tecton’s statement about having spent more time with the Wards than the Undersiders thinks ‘I didn’t think of it that way’ instead of ‘WTF’ – that being the fairest acid test of sufficiency I can think of.

      It’ll also be a lot easier for readers to just note ‘yeah, this arc has timeskips’ – the Travellers arc had some large ones, and little complaint about them. (Assuming, of course, that it’s going to run with minimal time-skips from here until the end, perhaps an exception for an epilogue – it needn’t, certainly, and my assumption that it would is based on what I presently think Wildbow is going to do, not what Wildbow must do, or even would be well advised to do.)

      • Tohu choosing Lung reduces the likelihood that Phir Se survived, but does not eliminate it, by providing evidence that she can draw on capes who aren’t in the fight.

        • She might also be able to copy any cape who’s ever used their powers against any of the Endbringers, living or dead.

          • Ohhhh, I like that! The living personification of the Endbringers capacity to learn and adapt. Everything you have done to stop Endbringers? We can do it better.

            Also, Tohu and Bahu get standard biblical names but Khonsu doesn’t? No wonder he’s so pissed.

          • That’s an interesting spin on it.

            Also implies that whoever’s designing Endbringers has been keeping very good records indeed. Possible motive?

  18. Woah, big timeskip. I guess that’s fine, but it’d be cool for that big interlude arc to be a flashback thing, I guess beginning the arc here after that interlude was the original intent?

    Anyway, good to see the Undersiders getting along relatively well, I especially like how Rachel is becoming Dog-Conan. I assume WagtheDog is responsible for the fucking bison skull? Also, good thing we sacrificed those five thousand people, we really needed Moord Nag to do precisely dick like everybody else.

    Okay, didn’t take last time. So I guess I’ll say it again; Kill Jack. Kill Jack. Kill Jack kill Jack kill Jack KIIIILL JAAAAACK!

  19. I was kind of expecting thistime skip to be honest, a the narrative equivalent of the instory countdown in some ways to show us all how close to the end game thins were getting

  20. Definitely one of the most surprising updates. But I can’t help but feel like a proud parent, like holy crap Taylor’s 18 now and everyone’s different and I still remember when they were a bunch of ragtag group of teenage villains and wow.

    Kids grow up so fast these days. :(

  21. Well, this was unexpected, but interesting. At least we seem to have reached the long awaited end of the world.

    On a less than related note, while this does throw off my schedule in regards to the theoretical TV show (yes, I am still focusing on that), I’m pretty sure that this would mark the season 5 finale, leading into the world-ending sixth (and final) season. Though some of the time skipped stuff will probably be worked into the fifth season. (Out of curiosity, is anyone getting annoyed by my bringing this up repeatedly? Apologies if that’s the case, this concept just strikes me as interesting.)

    In conclusion: time to batten down the hatches, people. Things are probably about to get … apocalyptic.

  22. I think it’s kind of weird that in the near two years of the timeskip, Scion hasn’t actually killed any of the other Endbringers, despite Levi and Smurf being substantially softer targets than Behemoth.

    I have to wonder, did the woman who gained control over him call him off killing Endbringers in response to Behemoths death getting three more Endbringers to show?

  23. I can see the need for some timeskip because 6 Endbringer fights would just be too much, but the pacing is just |so| uneven. Honestly, even a whole arc for just this chapter would have felt very rushed. Though thematically it would have made sense– an arc that starts with the defeat of Khonsu, the new tactics by the Endbringers, the new Endbringers, some information on Taylor’s plans in Chicago, some more maneuvering before the endgame. But it just doesn’t work in one chapter.

    To cover in one chapter more than the amount of time the rest of the story has encompassed all together?

    Doesn’t feel right to me.

    I know I”m beating a dead horse, I know you’re aware of this– but I figure more feedback can’t hurt.

    Regardless, I appreciate the work you’ve put in and continue to put in to this work :)

  24. Okay, I’m going to join some of the people here and express a little disappointment that the emergent fights of two Endbringers were just kinda…glossed over.

    Perhaps back-filling the gap there might be something on which some of the outstanding “bonus chapters” could be utilized for. I don’t necessarily mean *NOW*. But possibly as part of the final wrap-up of the story closer to the end of the year. And then take this chapter and break it into an ending chapter for the Khonsu stuff and the time-skip and video stuff as the first chapter of the next arc.

  25. Am I the only one who thinks that rather than endbringer with a lowercase “e”, jack should be an ENDBRINGER???

  26. Interesting thing to note here. We know from 25.4 that a a matter of seconds in the time field is enough to reduce humans to a skeletal husk. A full minute and buildings crumble from decay. The internet is telling me it could take between 100 and 200 years for a modern building to crumble from natural decay. Now that’s between 1.6 years and 3.3 years per second, which fits pretty well with the skeleton timeline.

    From reading, it seems to me that Legend was probably in there for at least 30 seconds.

    Alexandria’s interlude doesn’t give an exact age for anyone, but I’m guessing Legend is around 15(?) in 1988 so he’s around 40 in 2012.

    You’re still reading? Neat. The shortest period of time: 1.6 years for 30 seconds, would make him nearly 90, the longest period of time I’m willing to guess at: 3.3 years for a full minute, would make him nearly 240 years old.

    Mostly guess work, and yeah, Legend doesn’t actually age while on Passenger-pilot Galaxy-hopper mode, but still. This makes Legend by far the oldest parahuman ever which is neat.

    Also, if this is all true, it means powers don’t deteriorate and passengers don’t take over your brain which I’d wondered about. Oh the things you fixate on while hopped up on Tacobell and sugar at 1 am.

    • I wondered if perhaps Khonsu tried to reverse the effects on everything in there to prevent Legend from pulling a Phir Se, weakening the projectile but keeping Legend alive.

    • Khonsu’s power was noted in the last chapter as having an additional entropic effect, which would accelerate the decay of the buildings. Still, yes, many subjective years probably passed with him moving at astronomical speeds and his mind shut off.

    • I think that Legend told his power/passenger/body to start feeding his O”mega/Phir Se” Laser Blast and then went str8 to Ludicrous Speed. Once he went plaid he was relatively/effectively immune to the time bubble, so he didn’t age at all due to relativity. So he’s still young chronologically/actually/really.

  27. It sounds like what was intended is a similar transition as in Watchmen, the interlude of three decades while Dylan’s song is playing. Everything that happened is important and adds to the history and story being told, but the details would detract from the story if told in full.

    I think it could be expanded a bit to clarify all that a bit better and show the Chicago wards team getting closer with each other, but all in all I think it works.

  28. Now then, I believe it’s time for the initiation. The hazing, if you will. That thing people go through now for a little while to truly test their resolve to join the Worm Comments Section. To help you remain tranquil in the face of almost certain death, smooth jazz will be deployed in 3, 2, 1: youtube.com/watch?v=PwJ5sl_N96Q

    Max, you may now step forward and wear the sacred hat of…hold on…let me look around…let’s see something around here you can wear on your head…ah, here you are, I happen to have this wooden giraffe with my dreadlock hat on it. You may wear the sacred wood giraffe of the Worm comments. I know it’s heavy. You only have to wear it for this. Ok. Now, to the owner of the pink scooter with the minigun attachment in the parking lot, you left your lights on and the police would like a word with you about the bag they found sitting next to it. Don’t be shy, step forward, no need to feel embarrassed about having a pink scooter. I had one myself until it blew up under mysterious circumstances. *presses a button, followed by a loud explosion outside*

    Now, moving on, we get to the sacred oath of the Worm Comments Section:

    Fuck
    I think Cauldron is good and saves the world. Well I think their baby eating is wrong.
    Taylor is a villain. Taylor is a hero.
    Nuke everything. With tungsten rods from space.
    I hope the Endbringers win.
    The only way to win is a second trigger event!
    Fuck
    Wow
    Taylor and [Insert name here] would make the perfect couple.
    Lesbians!
    TV Tropes
    Typo thread
    Pun War!
    Fuck
    “Meh, I could take her.”
    “It’s lunchtime.”
    “Skitter doesn’t have a chin. Underneath her beard is another fist.”
    “Dick jokes that go on too long. Like my dick.”
    “Hi, I just caught up and I haven’t had to use brain bleach yet.” “Psycho Gecko: Mwahaha.”
    Fuck.

    If you are still reading, you’re in and caught up on the Worm Comments Section.

    Welcome to the comments section, Max.

    • I really can’t describe how much I love reading your introduction posts. If aliens land on Earth I swear I’ll do whatever it takes to get you on the welcoming committee. It could be the deciding factor on whether they eat us with fava beans and a nice chianti or share their knowledge of FTL travel and shiny space clothes.

    • When was lunchtime a thing? I started going to the comments when I caught up a subjective waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaay back in the graveyard.

      • Everything bad in Taylor’s life seems to happen around lunchtime. It has popped up sporadically every now and then.

  29. Personally, I didn’t mind the timeskip. I think I may be one of the few people who actually liked it, because I really REALLY want to see where this is going, and after the meeting in the last chapter the Endbringers seem…
    they don’t seem like small potatoes exactly, but they seem less important than they did compared to whatever Cauldron has going on. Barring a major escalation, they will keep fighting and trying to deplete resources, but nothing’s really changing.

    The build-up has been great, but at some point it starts to drag on and get exhausting without providing any new information or character development, really. Besides deaths, I guess, but at some point if you keep killing off the old and introducing new people, it starts to lose it’s impact. I call that the “GoT problem”.
    The only difference I might have suggested is to make the big skip at the start of a new chapter or even a new arc. Having it right in the middle of the chapter like that is jarring in a way that’s more confusing than dramatic.

    The only that I didn’t like the sudden cliff hanger of an ending. Wildbow seems to really like those (the school-visit/behemoth fight jumps to mind, but I think there have been others). Just once I’d like to see Taylor actually finish a conversation with someone. And like anything else, the impact starts to get lost in familiarity when it happens repeatedly. This isn’t cable TV; I don’t think you need to worry about keeping your ratings up or people not coming back and compensate with this rather contrived timing.

    • I agree with what you said. I’m not sure what else you could do with an Endbringer fight that would make it feel new and exciting.

      But I disagree about the cliffhanger endings. Serial writing is actually quite a bit like cable TV. You do have to worry about your readers not coming back and cliffhangers are great for getting the reader to stick around until the next update to see how the writer resolves it.

  30. I at least reserve judgment on the timewarp. I think I helped cause this, after all. I just jumped to the left, then took a step to the right. I put my hands on my hips, then brought my knees in tight. It was trying to do the pelvic thrust like that that almost drove me insane.

  31. And next chapter Taylor will die of old age in an retirement home … with a quick recap of 70 years of cool stuff we would have liked to read.

  32. I can sympathize with your problems, really. But I’d almost have preferred you take a month off to be sure this is the right decision, than to do what you just did now.

    You CAN fix all this in editing, but I’d rather you not rush out content to meet some arbitrary standard. Yes, it’s important you show some potential publisher that you can meet deadlines, I guess, but you’ve already shown that consistently for the last year or so, so I think you’ve afforded some respite here.

    Of course, you’re welcome to write how you wish, but this chapter calls into question everything that has happened since Alexandria died. What was the point of New Delhi? What was the point of Vegas? What was the point of any of the events since Skitter switched sides? There needs to be a proper climax and resolution. That stakeout/Khonsu/morning show thing wasn’t it. The arc wasn’t even close to being done with its rising action before you just kind of killed it.

    You can save this chapter for a rainy day, or you can make fix all that in the editing phase, but this chapter kind of just fucks everything you’ve done with the second major arc so far. I would say this chapter “doesn’t work” at all. Not that I don’t doubt the story will “work” once this third arc kicks off properly.

  33. It was an excellent chapter but I cant help but feel irrationally disappointed.

    The huge timeskip at an awkward moment as they were fighting Khonsu kind’ve made me sad. Then no details on the story or Taylor’s progression in the wards for another huge timeskip makes me feel like I dont even really “know” Taylor anymore.

    In Short since it is late, I would have liked to see maybe an entire arc (about 8-10 chapters) go into the time between them successfully fighting Khonsu off and when she met the undersiders for their get together.

  34. I’m reading this version, while being depressed and exhausted, and it seemed pretty great to me. Yeah it hurts. Worm always does hit you with pleasure and pain. Sorry I’m not more articulate.

    Anyway, I like it.

  35. My biggest qualm with this chapter is that it tries to do far too many things in too few words. The beginning seems rather unclear; I thought it was the actual continuation of the Khonsu fight until Tecton’s call clued me in on the fact that she was reviewing previous incidents. Even that transition, though certainly aided by the introduction of a line break, was unclear the first time around. I thought there was some significance about the location that Khonsu had teleported to that triggered Tecton’s consternation. For about fifteen seconds, I was convinced the silos meant there was some sort of imminent nuclear threat. Some of Eidolon’s actions regarding the light were also vague. Did he throw the energy built up by Legend inside the time capsule, despite it being contained? This lack of clarity can be attributed to the sheer amount of stuff that happens in the chapter; the conclusion of the Khonsu fight, a new Endbringer, Brockton Bay revisited, the Undersiders’ alliance being fleshed out… Each of these is quite possibly deserving of a chapter to itself. I get that you want to avoid burning people out by having too many high octane fights in a row, but it’s an Endbringer. The last one was only introduced two chapters ago. It really felt like there should have been an arc to tie up loose plot threads and display preparations for the end of the world before diving back into the larger scale stuff; skipping through the resolution and aftermath of a new Endbringer only seems to compound the problem. These momentous events are denied the descriptions and nuance that they deserve, and which you’re capable of delivering, because of this compression.

    Most of this is just a variation on what others have said before, so I’ll include some praise. The powers exhibited by various parties continue to be innovative and unique, which is always a plus. Using an effect that describes the distance between two objects to counteract the teleportation was particularly ingenious, but the best bit by far was the worldbuilding happening in between the lines; those little tidbits, like how there are ‘notes’ and ‘Simurgh notes,’ complete with a the list of the targets. It really drives home the fact that this a world. Things happen in it. Things which may not even be tangentially related to the protagonist. All these people, places, and conflicts incite curiosity, which is the mark of good writing.

    Posting from a different computer, if you’re wondering about the lack of a gravatar.

  36. I’m not disappointed with this chapter or the timeskip: yes, it seems like a lot of things have happened during this time, but at the same thing, not a lot of it seems important, in Taylor’s character development at least. If we had to choose between two years of mopping up of villains and the escalation of Endbringer fights without much development for Taylor herself, then forget about them. Maybe an arc more dedicated for time-skips of the events this chapter is dedicated to, with some politics and some show of how desperate the man in the street must be feeling like, but eh.

    Originally I thought we’d not actually see the end of the world during Worm, but that the story would end on some climax related to Taylor herself.

    Anyhow, here’s a toast.

    To the End of the World!

    • But how could this large amount of time do not change Taylor? I mean her developement in her skitter time and even the little wards time we have seen was huge. I think this MUST be a different Taylor. How could she stagnate?

  37. Uh, I didn’t understand it. What do Bohu and Tohu do?
    Bohu takes over a city, transforming it into many weapons and killing everyone within. Tohu copies two or three capes and turns them up to eleven. How do they move? How do they retreat? How do they counter Scion? Why don’t the capes just bomb them over and over again?

  38. I am really not sure about the pacing here.

    Surely enough stuff happened in the time skipped over to write about? Is this just based on the desire to get this story over with as quickly as possible?

    As it is we had more words spend on the relatively short time spent as a villain than on the time spent as a hero. It feels like it skews the character a lot, But perhaps that was the point as Taylor herself still feels more like Skitter than Weaver. There is also the fact that we haven’t actually seen her improving much in regards to her personality or powers and their use. She used to increase by leaps and bounds when it took chapters for a day to pass and now we have fast forwarded to the end and she is still largely the same as she was when she became Weaver.

    It feels like Taylor is stuck at the point where she faced Alexandria in her development. Maybe that is clever story telling and maybe it is misdirection, but it feels wrong to me.

    I also feel there should have been enough time to speculate about thing like the fact that 5th Endbringer combined aspects of teamwork and using power in synergy and battlefield control on a massive scale and that he could use powers of presumably dead capes. Just putting it out all in one go feels like the story is outpacing the audience.

    We have no idea who is dead or alive at this point. Is annex dead? Did Clockblocker and Kid-Win survive? Who is currently in charge of the protectorate?

    I feel like an arc dedicated to the various Endbringer fights followed by a slow chapter of Taylor reflecting on the losses and changes and how far she had come would have made for better pacing than cramming everything into a single chapter.

    I will try to withhold judgement for now expecting that things somehow work out, but I really hope there is a payoff at the end and not just a overly hasty ending.

  39. Ok, I know you want to probably shoot everyone who says it at this point, and you seem to have some plans on how to make it all flow better, but the timeskip is a bit jarring.

    There, said it. On to the good things .

    Legend escaping Khonsu ime attack by, I presume, flying at the speed of light? BADASS. Moord Nag surfing on her shadow monster who turns into a snake and starts strangle Khonsu? BADASS (pity for the massmurdering thing.) The Thanda cape linking himself to the time circle, a hill to himself so it revolves around and hits Khonsu and finally everyone to Khonsu to negate his teleporting? AWESOME.

    Imp killed Heartbreaker? Simurgh attacked the plane to start a war between USA and CUI? Was the Protectorate involved? Phir Se is actually alive? Lung manged to cut a deal either with Cauldron or the PRT? Annex is dead?
    AAAAAAGGGGHHHH! I know I promised to shut up about the timeskip but…but…never mind.

    Good to see Imp is still the same.

    Seriously, Taylor it’s been two years, get over it. You thought Brian was going to wait for you forever? Cozen sounds like a tinker what with the knife gauntlet.

    Hmm, nothing else comes to mind. i’m out.

  40. Wildbow – writing consistently is hard, and you are still doing a great job with your story. Take a deep breath, center yourself, and lead us onward! Whatever pacing issues, or time skips, or whatever else people might have problems with, they care enough about what you’ve created that they comment about it, which is pretty awesome.

    Everything else can be fixed in post. ;)

    P.s. Worm is awesome, you are awesome

    • This, this and this.

      Sometimes I wish I’d know how to be, how can I put it?, more expansive in my support. But I agree wholeheartedly with everything jainhollle said.

      Seriously, after discovering Worm I decided to give other web serials a try, including some recommended on this very site. And you know what? For me, Worm is still the best one out there.

      • I knew well before mine that there was no way I could do things how Wildbow does. A different flavor. And Wildbow’s flavor is very good. Wait, that sounds strange. I am not tasting any part of Wildbow right now. Or ever. No offense, Wildbow, I may find you attractive and wish to nom on you, but not currently. I have also never tasted Wildbow in the past, not even in a way that involves me getting a time machine in the future.

        Luckily there are different niches. Sometimes all you want is to sit back, relax, and read about a guy and his Moai minion.

  41. I… am unsure of how to feel about the chapter. If I had to summarize, then I’d use this quote

    “And we owe you in turn. We’re a team, Taylor. You have to recognize that. You know that. We’ve been together far, far longer than you were with the Undersiders.“

    That there is a need for Tecton to remind Taylor about this and for the author to remind readers about this… It just doesn’t feel right somehow.

    I recognize the need for transition, but… Taylor doesn’t seem to have changed. No, that’s not quite right. my perspective of Taylor doesn’t seem to have changed. I saw and see her as Skitter who has just killed Alexandria, or fought Behemoth. After that… There is no… I am not sure how to formulate this, really. There is dissonance. Taylor, from in-universe perspective and Taylor from meta perspective. This chapter especially feels like it was written from a very meta point of view – with information, situation and exposition solely for the benefit of the readers, not written from the in-universe logic.

    No, again, I am not expressing myself clearly or correctly. I am sorry (and for this whole stream of conciousness too).

    What I am trying to say is that to me, this chapter generates a very bleak picture of Taylor, whose last two years of life were equivalent of solitary confinement. She hasn’t grown or changed, didn’t establish new bonds or remake herself. She survived, endured (yes, that would be a good word) the last two years, but didn’t live them. She is still sixteen years old Skitter, just two years older biologically, and with some new memories.

    At least this is what I am getting from the chapter’s feel. From how she doesn’t know of any changes in Brockton Bay, from how Tecton has to remind her that they are a team and have spent together far more time than she did with Undersiders, from her reactions and actions.

    I think that is what I wanted to say.

  42. That was a real rollercoster, the timeskip threw me for a few moments at first. But with this story I’ve come to expcet the unexpected, but still Jack is back… knew it was coming sooner or later but still…

  43. You’ve spoiled them, Wildbow. You’ve done a good job of depicting the micromanagement and day-to-day stuff, only leaving the larger questions unanswered. One little timeskip later and people are confused by the glimpses given in the meantime.

    The necessary answers will be provided, people, I’m pretty darn sure of that. Wildbow’s been good about that. I just think we have to give it some more time, and some unnecessary things may be left to the imagination.

    • True considering what he has before but I would say if this chapter had ended right before the timeskip and the rest was the beginning of another arc most of the problems wouldn’t be here.

      Sure there would still be some disconnect but that can be dealt it just felt very odd how things went.

  44. Sorry for the double post, but there are no edit options.

    I’m re-reading the series and I noticed something in 11.7 – is there any more information / details on the various programs that Cauldron has? The one in this chapter mentions Nemesis.

    • I believe Project Nemesis was about using a Case 53, brainwashed, and set up as your enemy to help you get stronger, or something along those lines?

      • A Case 53, released with a weakness or trigger of some kind so that you were guaranteed a win to make yourself look better.

    • Nemesis comes up again, in passing. Can’t even guess as to where, now. It’s a program that will see Cauldron release a case 53 that’s been brainwashed with a trigger or weakness that means they’ll always lose to you when it counts.

      • If the Nemesis program’s name carries any of the multi-entendre naming theme that so many other things in this series do, I’d imagine it also relates to the Greek goddess Nemesis, who while often thought of as the goddess of revenge, would be more accurately described as the goddess of getting what you deserve (whether it be good or bad); essentially karma.

      • It was mentioned in passing in Battery’s interlude, IIRC. Something that Battery might consider in the package deal. (with, of course, the necessary increase in fee)

  45. Just wanted to chime in that I couldn’t and didn’t read this right now. The time-skips over everything and anything that would have been considered important previously in the story, making endbringers routine and such, were just too painful. I’d answer to Gecko’s insightful post above me but I can’t even do that. I’ll try to read on once I calm down. May not be today though.

  46. The need for a time-skip.

    We’ve seen what happens when you kill Endbringers.

    We’ve seen what happens when Endbringers kill you.

    We see that they had a solution to Khonsu- A way to at least chase him off for a time.

    Ultimately, that’s all there is to these things. The Endbringers are intense, but really, they’re not a regular part of the story anymore. Skitter doesn’t have a whole lot she can do in those fights, by the very nature of the foe.

    There’s two years of various interactions she’s been going through. I noted someone mentioning Skitter doesn’t seem like she’s developed- Well, yeah, when you go back to an old situation, there tends to be some falling back to your old ways of thinking.

    I think that what we just experienced was perfect. This is the way it feels to be in Worm’s world- Horrific new Endbringers showing up and wreaking havoc is /just a par tof their world/. That’s what it’s like to be in this world. Tohu and Bohu showed up, and are awful, too, but there’s really not much that can be done about them.

    So, what did you want to see?

    I personally was thrilled to see all of this. The new Endbringers were introduced, and that is horrible- But the horror was at its peak when we learned that the Endbringers were adopting a ‘kill one and two more take its place’ Hydra style of adaptation. Tohu and Bohu are introduced, in their true horror- stealing faces, devouring cities- and what more can we ask for?

    I see a lot of people disappointed, talking about a waste of plot, but.

    This is Weaver’s story. This is Skitter’s story. This is Taylor’s story. She’s not Alexandria, or Legend, or Eidolon, someone going toe to toe with the Endbringers. There is only so much effect she can have against these creatures, and we’d be here for another decade if we wanted to go over everything that happened, all the crushing grinding fear.

    People are afraid, I think, of endings. I know that an ending leaves me emotionally drained- There is an inertia that exists with you for a long, long time, and then, you’re left running on air, until you crash. But this is not a terrible thing. Wildbow, I know you’ll end this story well.

    And, there’s always the Star Wars Expanded Universe style. I don’t know if that would interest you, Wildbow, but if you found a writer whose style you appreciated among your fans, and who could discuss their ideas with you, hey, you never know. Might be a cool shared universe to tell tales in. But I know that you’ll do this well, and I think that the timeskip was important to this.

    So, who wants to bet Jack kills whoever made him miss his date with Theo? Or maybe he’ll just pull a ‘For me it was tuesday’ on the kid.

    • I agree. Taylor’s not a heavy hitter, she’s a sneaky clever one. No need to give the details on on Endbringer battles, we can guess what happens. Anyway, we may get them reappearing later on. The end of world has got to feature the Endbringers in some way, so that might be why we’re not getting the details now. I do hope we get a bit more on the new pair at some point, they’re a terrifying but interesting concept.
      Anyway, I think Jack was waiting for Taylor’s birthday, and that’s why he’s late. He’s got a cake with 18 candles, and a big party for Taylor, and Golem, and Jack and all his friends. It’s going to be….

      Memorable.

    • I have to add that the time skip works to put me in resonance with the emotional state Weaver is in at the end of the story.

      I have been wondering how we get two years down the road and to the end of the world by December. This does it.

      Confirms there is a builder and that they still have not found them. Cauldron is still in the shadow war and it has not spilled out.

      And Jack came back.

      Scion has still not been clarified. Kill order change still up in the air.

      But very effective.

  47. I think this chapter had the most negative reaction I have ever seen for a chapter. Not so much hate as confusion and dissapointment. It sort of reminds me of Xenogears second disk. That was a mess because they had the time and budget slashed while working on it.

    This may seem odd, but if I were to see a spin off from the POV of any other Undersider, I think I’d like Imp. She just seems like she’s become the hero of another story. And her interlude shows a whole other side of her you would never have imagined. I also wonder what happened with her youngest sibling.

    That Taylor hasn’t changed is rather noticable. That’s her fault though. A part of her I think has always been rebbeling against having to go where she went, and do what she did, and as a reasualt she didn’t let herself grow and change like she should have. Honestly I think Taylor has kept herself from growing into what the world really needed her to be over the last few years because she couldn’t let the Undersiders grow, or rather realize they were only going to be a part of her life/forces.

    And I bet I know why the S9K are late. Bonesaw kept hitting the snooze didn’t she?

  48. I don’t think this was weak or flawed at all.

    I find it interesting that we have a time-accelerating Endbringer and suddenly time starts flying by. (Plus, a time-suspended Slaughterhouse 9.) I like that kind of parallel as a metaphor, and it also makes me wonder if there’s a trick to this story that we don’t know that makes it more than a metaphor.

    I’m sure there’s room to slip a novel or two in here later, but it doesn’t have to be told now; and the in medias res openings and cliffhanger closes are an odd match for this, but that’s a small detail. The basic story is still sound.

    One thing it is giving a sense of is that . . .

    She’s only really real when the Undersiders are around. She wants to be a hero, so she separated from them, but they’re her vital principle, and her life faded into disjointed fragments glued together by the crises, the moments her relationships with others approached that or called back to it, and the chances she had to interact with the Undersiders.

    I assume that’s either consciously or subconciously intentional, though, or at least the emergent result of things that are.

    • Realigning things so that the Endbringers (or antogonists generally) are shaping story structure to their themes by the gravity of their presence would be a valid way of justifying a shapeless timeskip at this point. Strikes me as elegance of design taken to excess (which I normally adore), though – once a story is working on the basic level of entertaining people reading it, then’s the time to make it work on a second (or third, etc.) level.

      The only real around the Undersiders theory is an interesting one. I suspect that’s more to do with the ways Wildbow’s imagination has focused on Taylor’s story thus far… but that is, itself, telling in some ways.

  49. Personally, the execution may not have been perfect, but a timeskip was probably necessary for multiple reasons. Personally, I don’t think the execution was too bad- I like how we only realized how much time had passed as we read through. Not to mention that timeskips are a very difficult thing to do, so frankly I think it’s a real achievement as a writer who’s still growing that it wasn’t a total disaster- let alone actually being fairly good.

    Moreover, note that there are now many chapters worth of bonus material you could set within the timeskip, so wildbow could write like ten or fifteen of them, and add them into the version of Worm he eventually sells as an ebook, as a special bonus to promote buying. I want wildbow to be able to become a full time author, and as a greedy reader I’d like special content in the version of Worm that I’ll buy, so this seems a fine plan to me.

    Lastly, I don’t mean to be uncharitable, but I honestly think that some of the more vocal complaints may be due to a little bit of this:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LHpdgHTINik

  50. Well, after reading a whole lot of Whaaaaa! in the comments, I just have to say… Jack must have a hate on for Taylor. Ruining her birthday like that.

    • Not the first time either. Back when the S9 attacked Brockton Bay she actually forgot it was her birthday. So, it’s a step forward, at least.

  51. There’s very much a “defense force” mentality going on here, people commenting that we readers are “spoiled”.

    People have called “book 1″ of Worm the beginning of this story up unto Alexandria’s death.

    The reason for this is Skitter finally chose to leave the Undersiders. This was an issue she had since the very start of the story. She finally made her choice and the falling action was Alexandria’s death. There was resolution there and all the events made sense leading up to it.

    “Book 2″ of Worm is Skitter finding herself. In New Delhi, she felt like she was being herself for once – between good and evil. Yet, the PRT still didn’t approve of her command and that video was leaked. The conflicts there haven’t been resolved, but more than that, Skitter still hasn’t found herself. This book was left unfinished.

    “Book 3″ of Worm is going to be about her reconnecting with the Undersiders and finally making things work as a real hero in the PRT, I think. She knows her place in the world and will make hard decisions regarding it, when shit hits the fan.

    “Book 2″ can be finished in editing but it doesn’t change the fact we’re jumping the gun here. I don’t get why Wildbow feels like there is a timetable here. Or at least, that’s my impression, that the december deadline for finishing this story is real. I get maybe you could get sick of writing the same story forever, but since this is the first one… get it right. If Worm is gotten right, which it has been so far, I could see this getting big enough that one could write whatever they want after this. Rushing isn’t very smart here.

    If my “books” theory doesn’t agree with the author’s interpretation of their own work, then New Delhi, Vegas, et cetera all have to be justified in the context of this time skip. Why did we get all that detail on all those events and Skitter’s emotional turmoil for it all to be hacked off arbitrarily at some end? One commenter here sarcastically said, “Next chapter Skitter will be 70 and recounting events.” Although it’s hyperbole, it illustrates what’s wrong here.

    I remember Episode 1 of Star Wars when I think of this, but forgive me since that movie is garbage compared to this. But, like, in Episode I you have those two stupid jedi, Obi Wan and what’s his face. They’re friends. Yet, we never know why they’re friends, because, we’re just supposed to accept they’re friends as the audience, because Obi Wan says something like, “Man, those adventures we went on together sure were something, weren’t they, old buddy?” Then he proceeds to wink several times, I think.

    It’s going to be hard to buy into this huge time skip without resolution to all that shit I just read. I mean first of all, how can Skitter save the world if she still hasn’t found her fuckin’ place in it? She sounds still kind of mopey and confused in this chapter. How can she make difficult decisions if she doesn’t even know yet which side she belongs on? Is she really a villain? Is she really a hero? Maybe you want to keep this conflict into the “end game” but I don’t believe it would hurt the story for this conflict to be resolved some.

    • *sigh*

      I’ve never said the December deadline is a firm one. People have asked, repeatedly, when Worm is likely to end. I’ve responded ‘given the pace of the various arcs, it’s likely it’ll fall around the end of the year, give or take a few months.’ Virtually always, I add the qualifier that I’ll write until the story reaches it’s natural end. See the FAQ (click ‘faq’ at the top of the page), question 5. I haven’t edited that. It’s been like that for a while.

      I’d love it if people would stop attributing to malice or greed or selfishness what’s borne of distraction. I’m not deliberately rushing the end. The work reads as rushed because I was rushed. Real life has gotten in the way a little. That’s all.

      • I know assuming things makes me an ass, so I’ll apologize, but when you stay so true to your update times and then say that you “ran out of time” with this chapter – it does SEEM like you’re purposefully trying to stay on track toward this deadline.

        I can’t make you change this chapter, nor would I want to. My only aim to covince you that you can do better, which I know you can. It irritates me that people are saying dissenters in these comments are “whiners” when we’re not, we’re just trying to make sure this story is the best it can be.

        • When he says he “ran out of time” with this or any chapter, he means “ran out of time before he had to update the site.” The larger deadline almost doesn’t matter, just the time between chapters. It’s why I, and a few others, have heartily endorsed Wildbow skipping a bonus chapter or two.

      • I hope I wasn’t one of the ones who you feel was attributing this move to anything other than trying to do the right thing for Worm :-(. However, I do worry a little bit about your reservations about what you’ve termed “greed”- you need to be able to eat and have a roof over your head and have time to write if you can keep writing for us! I would have like, no issues at all with you using the timeskip as a source for some bonus material when you eventually release Worm as an ebook or whatever.

        Obviously you’re the author and know a lot more about it than me, so if you come up with a better idea than that or feel differently, that’s fantastic too! I wasn’t trying to say what you should do, just that no one should fault you for wanting to make a living out of this, or being quite robust about pacing, if that makes sense? We all want you to become a full time author. Plus, we’ve seen what happens to stories where the author isn’t rigorous about the pacing and excluding what’s unnecessary for the story- it doesn’t end well.

        So seriously man, don’t get stressed out about people getting silly in the comments in reaction to bold moves, on either side of the argument- it happens, it’s the internet. And if you have real life stuff to deal with, then I’m not trying to tell you what to do or patronise you, but that really should take priority over a story you’re writing- for the good of the story if nothing else, y’know? I’d be happy to go a month without bonus chapters, if that’s what it takes. Hell, if you want a fortnight’s summer holiday, an actual holiday from the updates, I’d support that too. Or alternately, if you think keeping up the updates is better, and you’re already sorting the stuff that’s come up, then do that too! It’s your life, you know much more than me about it, and all I’m trying to give is a message of support and to try not to let yourself get psyched out, if see what I mean?

        You’ve got a lot of people around the world who believe in you. :-)

        • Oh. I missed the “greed” comment. To be honest, I don’t know what is intended by that at all.

          This story is on wordpress (ie, it’s free). If you intend to make money of the completion of “book 2″ or however you want to view it, fine, whatever, I get that, but it’s not something I was aware of as the intent. If it’s about your own personal time being compromised, then I’m confused, since I already said… you’re free to do whatever the hell you want. Sure, some people would upset if you took a break (you certainly deserve one), but it’d be better if you did if you consider “asking for the best of the story” to be greed. Sorry if I sound like an asshole saying that shit, but I really don’t get what you mean by “greed” because I don’t see myself as greedy – if wanting the best of a story, if wanting to read a story in its entirety is “greed” then I would hope all readers are greedy assholes.

    • Not trying to be part of a defense force.

      Do think that this more naturally splits into two series of novels (Undersiders and Apocalypse), with a one-novel transition that is presently awkward.

      Time will tell how the series does most naturally split.

    • Okay, what the hell is going on here? Wildbow already explained the circumstances behind the entire arc and the timeskip and that everything just fell in that way. It’s as simple as that.

      I really don’t see how people can expect a well structured and plotted story where past plotlines are addressed in a weekly serial. For normal books laying out the entire course of one novel can take weeks to months, and they can STILL drop the ball. We really don’t have that luxury, it’s probably enough that we’re actually getting one continuous story rather than the individual smaller plot format most serials use.

      Wildbow could have done better, but not all that much more without having a couple weeks to look at the entire story and tighten everything up in hindsight.

      • Anyone complaining about the “quality dip” (I feel it is an awkward chapter but nothing world ending [haha]) should remember we are reading the first draft of a multi-book series as it is being written. The first draft. That the quality and quantity of Worm is so good is nothing short of amazing, and that Wildbow updates twice, sometimes three times a week is a superhuman feat in and of itself. When he talks about “keeping to the schedule” he’s obviously referring to the bi-weekly updates, not the scheduled end of Worm, which in a first draft serial format is probably going to shift dates all the time as he tries things and finds they work or don’t work.

        Seriously folks. Try writing someday. It isn’t as easy as the Amazing Wildbow makes it look. Anyway, I’m all for time skips – when authors have time skips in mind and then don’t implement them we end up waiting eleven years for half a book.

        • Again, goddamn right. People are starting to sound seriously entitled here. How many of you have read any serial that updates this frequently and this densely at this level of quality? Ever?

        • Reveen and jainhollie I don’t know about the rest of the people here but since this is not supposed to be the final version as things will have to move here and there to fit within a book well I try to speak what I think might be important to note(or the ones I find just spectacularly good, interlude 24 is probably going to remain my favourite for the rest of the story).

          So here I commented what I think about it, it is up to wildbow decide what he does in response as he knows the story and can consider things in terms of what actually needs to change now, what will be better explained later on, what will be corrected during edit and such.

          In interest of being through here is basically what I think about this chapter:

          The end of the last chapter and the beginning one this one flow together really well so it builds an expectation of actually seeing the fight happen. In hindsight it is not described that much(and several parts of it required re-reading) so not really having a long fight fits. That is just a recording is odd but I suppose it fits if it is something Taylor still can’t stop thinking about in specific which I suppose ties with the some of the complains about Taylor not having changed, didn’t really get the same feeling but then I didn’t get the feeling of a two year timeskip or that Taylor worked with them far longer than with the Undersiders even just part of a chapter mentioning things would make it have more impact.

          And then after the timeskip we have some many things happening at once that we have no real context for any of them or, more importantly, what any of them mean to /Taylor/, certainly something that will happen later on so not really a complaint beyond the usual not completed yet story. With the Undersiders it is the same thing we have lots of information without Taylor really reacting to anything beyond Imp’s jokes, it is again glaring because through the entire story we have been following her pretty closely.

          Basically the problems of any timeskip ever made just one that was pretty big so tends to be a lot more jarring.

          That said while I certainly wouldn’t complain if we had more about what happens in those two years from Taylor’s point of view I do expect these events to tie in with the narrative through the rest of the story since this is Taylor’s story and so far a great part of it is that we could keep so close to the character and it would be a shame to lose that. From my understanding of the story so far that is more or less what you intend to do but correct me if I am wrong.

          Aside from that I do feel that the real actual problem here is that the timeskip was badly placed which just made the above all the more frustrating which caused so many people to complain about it. Why do I think that? Well it is that this is the latter part of an arc and then such a jump happens, if instead of happening here you ended on the last chapter or this one was used for something else and the timeskip happened between arcs it would have been better.

          Not sure I phrased that correctly so I will try another way and hope the idea gets across. Imagine you are reading a book and midway through it the story jumps several years, far more than the entire story told so far(including previous books) even if all you have to do is continue reading it /still/ feels jarring. Now if instead you finish a book with something like last chapter and start the new one with a timeskip, well that just makes you curious towards what happened, right?

          I think the second explanation was better but please correct me if I am wrong.

          Don’t take this for criticism because I am not really qualified for that I am just saying what I personally thought while and after reading this chapter(plus the comments off course). This is still among the best stories I have ever read and considering I have read books on the high hundreds, movies not that far off, hundreds of manga, dozens of animes, LNs and VNs not to mention quite a few (web)comics and don’t even get me started on fanfics I do feel qualified to say what I think is best is not such for lack of competitors.

          • Complaints: time skip is jarring, Taylor hasn’t changed. Answer: the chapter will probably be reworked, either now or later, or make the transition smoother. Frankly I thought making the Endbringer fight turn into a recording she’s watching was an inspired choice for a time jump. And then as she scrolls down the screen reading all the OTHER Endbringer fights you realize how long it’s been. Very cool.

            Regarding how she’s changed or not changed, it’s only been like half a chapter with eighteen year old Taylor. Give her some room to breathe. I’m confident that her two years with the Wards have changed her, and that in the next chapter those changes will make themselves apparent. She’s visiting the Undersiders for the first time in ages, it is natural that she might fall back into former ways of interacting with them at first.

            In the end of course it’s Wildbow’s choice what he does with Worm. I just support his decision, whatever it is.

            • You didn’t read my post at all did you?

              Oh well whatever, I prefer to give my thoughts(and logically expect everyone to do so) on it to Wildbow so that he can make the choices based on the reactions and his own knowledge than to do nothing but read and post meaningless things. If he thought everything was perfect he wouldn’t be calling this a first draft or changed it at all therefore it follows feedback is desired so that is what I am doing.

              Not to mention that the only complaint that I actually have(and even that is more a suggestion) is how the timeskip should be presented which again you apparently didn’t bother reading.

              Honestly if your reply is going to ignore everything I said and repeat your post to the letter then why bother? I specifically said that those comments were mainly for when he went back to edit the story and you reply that my complains are stupid because he will fix it when he edits the story? Really, wtf?

              • No, you’re right, and I apologize, I did sort of skim through your obvious comment and misunderstood some of it. I think we’re sort of saying the same thing, and I didn’t mean that the complaints I listed were *your* specific complaints, just ones I’ve read here in the comments. Anyway, you are right, and I agree that some things that some people are worried about are things that could be solved in a paper book by just turning the page and reading on. Archive readers will probably look on this chapter with more favor than the initial update by update readers have because they can just keep going and find out what happens next.

  52. Okay, let’s see what we’ve got here:

    - Khonsu lost to Moord Nag and Eidolon thanks to the Thanda but still lives
    - Moord Nag surfing Scavenger’s skull? Badass!
    - Eidolon and Legend pulling that move on Khonsu? Badass! Let’s see you trap a relativistic semi-photonic transhuman inside a freaking time bubble again, genius!
    - Simurgh caused the heroes to kill a CUI bigwig on that plane. That plus CUI-Cody’s actions equals something not entirely unlike war. Brilliant.
    - TOHU and BOHU are Annex and Eidolon cubed. Ouch. Good thing they didn’t make a Foil-Endbringer.
    - man, at this rate, the 9000 won’t have anything left to destroy when they — oh wait, they’re here already. Never mind.
    - birthday present of SUCK
    - Imp is a dick.
    - Heartbreaker’s kids are her kids now. it’s beautiful, man. I bet quite a few of them can track her even when she’s in Ignorable Mode which has its uses, no doubt
    - Rachel is actually asking her people for help with social interaction and listening when they tell her. *wipes tear* This room is suddenly very dusty. Yeah.
    - Califa de Perro and Bitch should totally meet. That would be some funny shit.
    - Cozen, huh. Guessing she’s a deception Thinker whose power also lets her do incredibly effective feints and see through those done by the enemy. Offensive tactitian/strategist, crazy CQC, I’m betting. Possibly able to deceive Tattletale?
    - speaking of Tattletale, I wonder how many more Legion of Cauldron meetings have taken place. If the timeskip makes me miss anything, it’s this. And more interaction with Tecton/Chicago villain beatdowns, yeah.
    - Looks like Scion’s kill order on the Endbringers has been rescinded. Makes a horrible kind of sense. Poor Lisette. Poor Kevin Norton, if he’s still alive.

    The end is nigh. If you haven’t already abandoned hope, you haven’t been paying attention.

  53. I actually really liked the timeskip. It seemed obvious to me that this was designed to be “the accelerating timeskip arc.” With the increasing pace of jumps forward in time anchored on an endbringer that accelerates time, it all worked for me.

    After reading the last two Song of Ice and Fire novels, which really dragged in places because Martin couldn’t commit to just taking the timeskip he wanted, I heavily support fastforwarding between the two sections that have a lot of story meat. The stories in those two years might have been interesting, and might, as others point out, be fun things to revisit later if Wildbow wants to do some novellas. But they’d have to work hard to not distract from the major storyline, which seems to be trying to stop the various ends of the world and solve the mystery of the passengers.

  54. So, just throwing it out there, but I was lying in bed last night considering my options/the feedback. Now, this morning/early afternoon, mulling it over, I ran the idea past the IRC, and I’m running it by you guys here.

    The main complaints are that the timeskips are too jarring, stuff people were wanting to see was glossed over, and the writing quality dipped.

    That in mind, what are your thoughts on a restart of the arc? I’d do it from the individual perspectives of the Chicago Wards and Protectorate, it’d be a longer arc, and I’d aim to develop more of the relationships/characters, filling in missing details. I think there’s a few reveals/cliffhangers that I’d planned for the drafts that didn’t work out, that I could use to keep it interesting. It would still be a timeskip arc, but maybe the timeskips would feel less jarring if it’s not a deviation from the usual Taylor-narrative.

    Pros -
    ■ Fixing what’s not stellar.
    ■ Filling in details.
    ■ More Worm in general, putting off the finale (not a bad thing).
    ■ Interludes (which people generally like).
    ■ It’d be easier, because some chapters would be the same events from different perspectives, so maybe a little bit of a break for me (and interludes are generally easier to write)
    ■ It’d make for a better reading experience for new readers, who wouldn’t get bogged down in a less than stellar arc.

    Cons -
    ■ It’s sort of a break in my original motivation for writing a serial; I wanted to do it to stop myself from going back and getting bogged down in edits/revisions and keep moving forward (which is why I like sticking to my schedule of 2.6 chapters a week).
    ■ Readers would get confused. I could put big alerts all over the site with links to an explanation, and people would still get confused.
    ■ Readers could potentially get bored, if it’s 2-3 weeks of chapters with a lot of events that readers already know are coming. I could change stuff up or leave it as canon, depending.

    Thoughts?

    • Depending on what the feedback is, I should say, I’ll likely decide one way or the other by Monday Morning, and you’ll find out with the release of Tuesday’s chapter.

      • I say do it, but not now. It’s bumpy, but we can deal with it if we can get to the end of the story with the same level of quality we have come to expect. You’re a great writer and I know that we won’t be disappointed overall if you just continue.

        I would like to recommend that you possibly give thought to doing it for the book. Along with any other little tidbits, bonus material, it would be awesome to read it for the first time in that form. Since it wouldn’t be completely the same as reading the same thing over again (which just happens to be a thing I’m iffy on). So, maybe try that? Unless the point was to get feedback about the story BEFORE the book, then disregard this I suppose.

      • I would say leave it as is and continue on. While it would be nice to go back and provide readers with a better sense of the skipped time, I agree that it would be rather jarring to the continuity of the overall story. Rewrite it for the book, (Epub or paper), and I’ll enjoy the differences then. Although I must admit that I am saving local copies of the story as is, so I can enjoy it in it’s original form even if the internet gets smurfed.

      • No. Hell no! Leave it as is. Anything on that front should be done after you’ve finished the series, taken a goddamn vacation and then you can come back and throw in some interludes for the dead-tree version.

      • Go where the inspiration is.

        If you’ve got inspiration to redo it, go ahead. If you’ve got inspiration to write the apocalypse, do that. If you want to write the apocalypse and use some interludes to flesh out the Ward year, do that.

      • By the time someone reaches Arc 25 they’re fairly invested in reading the story. They’re not going to get confused or bogged down, and I don’t think any of us would be bored because they know the outlines of what’s coming.

        I’d like to see this filled in, but it doesn’t have to be now if your motivation is elsewhere. I’ll happily read Worm either way.

    • It’s sort of a break in my original motivation for writing a serial; I wanted to do it to stop myself from going back and getting bogged down in edits/revisions and keep moving forward

      ^This right here is the bg numero uno reason I say just continue, and come back to this arc and redo it later. Finish telling the story first, before you pretty it up and fill it out.

      • That’s easily possible, Arcee, but I should say that maybe I should move past that a little. It’s been 2.5 years, I think I’ve proven I can write, haha.

        Maybe it’s ok if I break from that original code I set for myself.

        Or maybe, conversely, it’s important I stick to the elements and ideas that have gotten me this far.

        I’m on the fence enough that I’m willing to put it up to the readers for input/ideas one way or the other.

        • I’m so, so against you going back and breaking your code that I’m posting again just so you see my other comment.

          You had time before Worm started to fill in the world and the characters. Now, you face a far more difficult task: reacquainting readers with many characters, Taylor especially, while still advancing the story.

          One must write for oneself. You started Worm, you’ve said, to help you get out of your head and just write. It may not seem like it, given your daily angst, but you’ve succeeded. Your output, as many others have told you, is tremendous.

          Now, you run the risk of turning away from this new challenge, of knowing a character intimately and, more importantly, communicating that knowledge to readers.

          Backing down now–and it is backing down–would do a disservice to your growth as a writer. I know it’s presumptuous of me to say all this, but I feel very strongly about it.

          Let’s be honest. Reviews for Worm have been, compared to really any other “real book,” almost uniformly positive. This is some of the first “authorly pushback,” so to speak, that you’ve gotten outside of your own head. You’re moving into the endgame now, where even the best books tend to lose momentum, and the best writers tend to falter.

          You can rewrite endlessly, and risk retreating back into your head. Or, you can do what you’ve done, and what has served you so well. Push through, trust your instincts, and see what happens.

            • Overall, I’d say to keep it. A lot of the reason is the one of following your initial motivation, but I think the jarringness of this fits with the rest of the story. In this story, horrible or unexpected things can happen at the drop of a hat. I sure as hell didn’t expect a Behemoth attack right at the end of that chapter, and I was absolutely certain afterwards it was still alive, until I eventually realized it’s definitely dead. It’s a bit of a shock to look at that paragraph and realize so much time has passed, and maybe there’s a way to make it a little smoother, but I liked it as a shock. And thinking as you read, “Woah, he actually freakin’ did it.” Instead of another drawn out Endbringer battle, you get this. I really like it.

              But tying in with your initial motivation, I also think you should keep it like this because…hmm…I went into this review knowing how I wanted to explain it, but I’ve forgotten. Shoot. Hope I explained myself sufficiently above, then.

              So I’d just like to say, for the record, that this was the ONE FREAKING TIME it completely slipped my mind worm was being updated today. Of all the times to come late to the party…

        • I would say trust the process. It has gotten you this far. Worked wonders for Jack London(previous comment, this chapter comments). If you feel that you need to go back the do so. If not, push on. It is ok for worm not to be prefect the first time it is written. That is why, once you are done, you go back and fix what you feel needs fixing. Usually, you would have finished the book before anyone saw it. But this is not the usual format. You have instant response, and that can be a good thing.
          That said, do not let anyone dictate how you should write your art. That is your choice as an artist. Write from the heart and you will be fine. We are the ones who get to read and be enriched by this tale. And for that, I thank you.

          • I vote for a redo, just to see different points of view. It’s always nice, and You could fit in stuff you weren’t able to before.

        • We’ve been getting all these little tidbits of information, new plot threads starting, that then stick out of the weave o the pattern written like stray clumps of yarn. It’s… Geh.

    • Personally, I think you should push on, and leave something like that for when the story is finished. It would feel jarring and unnecessary, personally, and would be like an admission of failure when I don’t believe any failure has occurred. Also, as you say, it defeats the purpose of Worm being a serial.

      I also like seeing these events from Taylor’s perspective, particularly the meeting with the PRT in the first chapter, and the interaction with Tecton, and the Cauldron meeting. I feel those are important.

      Really, if you did want to make the transition a tad more filled out, you could add an interlude arc into the middle at a later date, but it hardly needs it.

      Honestly I’d support you taking a week or two noff and making some edits to the existing arc, before I’d support a rewrite.

    • I think as of now, what you have isn’t as bad as people are making it out to be. I think people have been really confused simply because the time-skip was extremely sudden and right in the middle of a fight. I don’t really have any problem with the time-skip itself. As opposed to others, I enjoy not knowing what exactly happened during the years we skipped and you can play around with revealing those details as the story progresses from here on as well, without doing a “reboot” of the arc. So I would say that revise the exact scene where the time-skip happens, but stick with the way it is right now and don’t do a reboot.

      I also second what Rika said.

      I’ll never say no to “more Worm” though. :)

    • From this list of pros and cons, I feel like it might be better all around if you did a rewrite. It’ll be easier to write for you, fix a lot of the complaints some readers have and delay the ending of Worm which I know we’re all sort of dreading.

      It would be really cool too if we got some mention of what the Undersiders were doing during the timeskips.

    • I’d suggest keeping it as-is and fleshing it out when you get to the novel.

      You also, with the existing way the interludes work, theoretically have the potential to retcon them in. So if in the next Taylor arc, you plan to have her encounter something that would have been explained during the timeskip, you can release an interlude that is actually a flashback to this arc, explaining the new element, and then the next proper continuity chapter makes sense in light of the interlude. At publication, you could choose to either leave the interludes where they are, or, if there are enough of them, sort them back temporally into this arc.

      • This. So much this. I actually suggested something similar above prior to the inquiry about a rewrite, and I still support this idea.

        • Honestly, I’ve only made major revisions to a chapter once so far myself. It was worth doing in that case. Thus I’d agree with Rika and Samhaine.

          I generally go with the assumption that a person shouldn’t rewrite sections of a first draft because otherwise you’ll never get done. It’s a little different with serials since people are actually reading it as you go, but I tend to think it’s not much different.

          I’d say live with it, and do your best to make the next section great.

            • Well, I hope that’s true on some level. I suspect that everyone works a little differently as a writer. Plus, I don’t know exactly what’s coming in the story, so I don’t really know what Wildbow has to put in place to get there.

              My take on this is simply that people would likely have been unhappy with the time skip regardless, but that the initial lack of clear markers as to what was video and what was happening right then was confusing, and made people more unhappy than they would have been.

              I suspect that someone reading this as part of an archive trawl (in a couple weeks or so) will simply say to themselves, “Whoa, that was a jump,” and click through to the next update.

              When I think about what hasn’t been developed fully (fights with new Endbringers, relationships between Taylor and the Chicago Wards, and more tension with PRT directors), I tend to suspect that these things are more interesting when hinted at than they would be if shown.

              • It’s funny you say that about how it will look in an archive trawl, because I suspect a lot of the reason why I like the chapter more than it’s detractors is because I read it after those changes had been added.

      • I agree with this – if you start mucking about with rewriting an entire arc because some people were confused by a time skip then they’ll expect you to do it all the time. ;) Add more and polish it for your book – or maybe do an interlude that is a flashback?

        I expect that the next few chapters will explain enough that in the end everything will work fine from a storytelling perspective. Is this chapter perfect? No. Is it “rewrite the entire arc” bad? No again. I would leave it as is and keep going.

    • Having gotten past my original, confused reaction to the timeskip, this post is the one I really feel a need to comment on.

      I think going back now would be a bad move. This is a first draft. Write how you want, change it in editing. Despite all the Sturm und Drang about this chapter, I don’t think the unresolved plot threads are that big a deal. Plot is the easiest thing to fill in, particularly because you’ve had 2.5 years of experience gradually filling a world.

      Here’s the obstacle to me. This obstacle, keep in mind, is something that you can either work with on the fly (if *you* want to, of course), or change in editing.

      It’s character. Yog touched on it briefly, but it’s a kind of dissonance. The Wormverse in general is a place where people can change very quickly. We’ve been with Taylor, before this arc, for what, a year in story? And that’s *with* the timeskips.

      We’ve seen her growth from a girl scared to eat in the cafeteria to who she was one arc prior to this one. Given all the character development that has happened in so short a time, and given what we know about Taylor’s frenetic lifestyle and constant self-reflection, I feel as if I don’t really know who she is anymore.

      I feel like Danny, coming back to his daughter after a long absence, seeing what’s changed and what has stayed the same. Only in this case, I have firsthand experience of all that can happen in so short a time.

      The relationships between characters, how Taylor has changed, all that…anything can happen in a year. Taylor could literally have had a child with one of the Wards, and we wouldn’t know. Obviously, that hasn’t happened. But I’m just saying…it’s a long time.

      To me, the simplest fix would be to move the timetable up on a universal scale. The world is slated to end in two years? Now it’s slated to end in one, with all the accompanying changes that implies. We can have the timeskip, the growth as a team, all that, but we wouldn’t be as divorced from Taylor as a character.

      I honestly don’t even care about the missing plot. Just the character stuff. I have confidence in your ability to write, Wildbow. But it’s going to be tough reacquainting the reader(s) with who these people are. Tough, but necessary.

    • I don’t think you need to redo the arc. This arc was great, it’s just that there is so much we didn’t get to see. I say do another interlude arc to flesh out this one.
      An interlude around this new girl of the Undersiders to see what the Undersiders were up to.
      One describing Tecton to give us some character development of the Chicago wards and how they have become closer with Taylor.
      Maybe one from a random villain in Detroit/Chicago so we can see more of Taylor’s plan and how it went.
      One of the PRT leaders to see changes that are being made and how they tried to push back against Taylor.
      One of the fairy queen to see what happened in the Birdcage and she is just so interesting.
      Finally one of the reporters/Cuff to describe more about the Endbringer attacks that happened during the timeskip. Cuff would probably be an interesting viewpoint for them considering her backstory.
      Just to say again, don’t redo the arc. It was AWESOME! Just give us an interlude arc to flesh out the details. You made an amazing universe and I think all the complaints about this chapter are tied to the fact that we felt disappointed we didn’t get to see all we wanted of it.
      That said, I’m greedy for more Worm story, so I’m a little torn just to see what else your big, beautiful brain could come up with. I trust your judgement. You haven’t steered me wrong so far, and this is a kick-ass story.
      PS
      Sigh, Why can’t you be like the other big comic companies wildbow? Where are the endless reboots, the Ultimate Worm universe where things are slightly different, and nothing ever ends? I know it would probably ruin some of Worm’s magic, but I’m sad the ending is almost here.

    • Teach me to make a long comment without first reading all of them through… Said most what I thought about this there but here is the answer to this specifically.

      I am personally torn here. I would love to see the rewrite and do think that these chapters wouldn’t be boring at all and would fill up the void here. However so far you kept a steady course even despite a few setbacks here and there therefore changing how you are doing things now when it is so close to the finish of this ‘first draft’ feels like it would be somewhat of a betrayal to the original intent.

      I can’t really tell you what is best here but I would say that if the main intent is fixing things and adding content then it is probably better to wait until you start editing the story. If the rewrite is because you feel as it is the follow-up chapters won’t be as good as you prefer and/or because you could use the time to have a break while ensuring you can handle the load of continuing then go and do it.

    • My humble opinion.

      First of all – it is not my place to give my humble opinion here. Ultimately, this is your creation, and it should be your decision on what to do with it. I can try giving some advice, however.

      If you decide on a rewrite, take a break before doing so. Otherwise you are likely to run into the same problems you have faced when writing it the first time. This may be a reason not to do the rewrite (now) and go on.

      I don’t think that the arc and the latest chapter were THAT bad (despite what I have said above). They could certainly use a remake, sure, but maybe it would be better after you finish the story and won’t be constrained by a schedule so much.

      You should decide whether you are satisfied with the plot of the arc in question or not. If you go on, then you commit to the plot (and would only be able to change the formatting, fill it out later when doing a rewrite). If you do a rewrite, you get freedom to change things. But you also get into the “endless rewrite” danger.

      You could try flipping a coin. If, after it lands, you instantly regret the decision it dictates, then you know what you actually wanted.

      Hopefully, my advice was useful.

      Now, the personal opinion of a reader: the arc and the chapter were sometimes confusing, but by no means terrible. And I am very interested in what happens later and can live with seeing the rewrite, should such happen, on a much later date, when I get enough money to buy this in book format.

    • Short answer: I would much prefer going forward. Handle the missing time as interludes.
      Longer answer:
      I found the chapter jarring and hard to follow. Some of the edits made helped on the second point, but even on second reading after reading some of the clarifying comments it is jarring. However, if writing it different ways didn’t work out, don’t force it – I think the chapters would suffer more by forcing yourself to write something you didn’t like than by doing something like this. Trust your writer’s instincts (and you are a writer, moreso than many authors published in hardcopy) – write the story the way that feels best to you.
      Comments on the jarring parts:
      I get that the Endbringer fights are turning into “time to make the donuts”. Perhaps a variant of Lampshade Hanging where a character says or thinks this idea (with the appropriate gallows humor) would work to make it less confusing for readers. Same for some of the more puzzling elements, e.g. why isn’t Zion killing the non-teleporting Endbringers when he does engage them?
      Taylor was improving her abilities and contacts quickly and in many ways in the earlier chapters. Even in the time skip chapters we see her fulfilling plans and making contacts. Has she spent one and a half years standing still? We see hints of this now (Dragon’s ferry service, her comment on not making conversations battles) and I suspect we will see more later, but it is a significant difference from other Taylor-oriented chapters. I have no good suggestions on this, other than to insert a chapter later.
      The last is more a personal bug and I acknowledge this – I like explanations and resolution. I can wait for grand reveals, especially if there are significant hints along the way (the last chapter was like mind candy), but I dislike major unexplained/unresolved stuff. This chapter does answer many questions, but it also raises many more. This point can be solved neatly later, with interludes or regular chapters.

    • When you say “restart the arc, do it from the perspective of the Chigaco Wards and Protectorate”, I wonder where exactly you would be restarting. The Khonsu fight? This chapter (25.6)? Taylor officially joining the Wards (25.1)?

      Personally, I would really enjoy reading about some Taylor’s early days in the wards from the perspective of her team-mates/the protectorate. The same goes for a little more detail about their post-Topsy adventures.

      If that’s what you were talking about, I’m on board. But, I understand if you want to just plow ahead.

      The other option is to just re-start this particular chapter, or rather un-do this most recent time skip, instead finishing up the Khonsu fight, the aftermath, some of the consequences of the Cauldron meeting, and then you timeskip to where we are now.

      Out of those two options, I would prefer re-doing Taylor’s early days in the Wards. But I would also prefer re-doing this most recent chapter/timeskip to just plowing on ahead.

      In any case, if you do end up plowing ahead now, I would suggest that when you end up polishing/editing/re-writing for the book release you should expand on the early Wards days. It would be a big improvement over what we have now. But I understand if you want to leave it as-is and just move ahead with the story.

    • Even though you’ve asked for our thoughts, I cannot in good faith tell you which path to choose.

      All I can say is that one way or the other, it’s been one hell of a ride so far and I can’t wait for Tuesdays chapter, be it all new, or a rewrite.

      Do what you feel is best, I have faith in you that whichever you choose is the right way to go.

      Sorry if this isn’t helpful.

      • +1. Despite my (perhaps arrogant) advice to you on the first post, and later in this very thread, I can’t really tell you what to do with your creation.

        Not that I’m telling you to disregard my vote, it’s just that don’t feel beholden to us when making a decision.

        Of course you’ve probably made a decision on the matter by now. Oh well.

    • My thoughts are fairly simple:
      - As always go with what feels the most right in your head.
      - Personally, I’d keep going. If you’re going to rewrite the arc, you’ll be in a better position to do so once you have the entire story completed. That’s the way my brain works, ymmv.

    • Hm…

      Okay, I brought up something similar in the SpaceBattles thread, so I am inclined to like this.

      Commenting on your pros and cons:

      I don’t actually think any part of Scarab was actually bad by Worm’s high standards besides MAYBE this chapter, so “fixing what was not stellar” is not a plus for me.

      Filling in details, weirdly enough I actually think we might have had too many details in 25.6. If, for example, Maho and Baho were referenced but we didn’t have a clip of the Endbringer fight with them I think that might have worked better. I’m fine with not knowing everything about Worm. I think the scattered scenes and details of what happened over the intervening period were actually quite jarring and it would have fit better if we hadn’t had the scenes Taylor was watching on video.

      Personally, I want Worm done as soon as reasonable. It’s not that I don’t love Worm, but even after all this time I have an unreasonable fear that you’ll have your hands eaten by wolves sometime in the next few months and be unable to finish. I’d much rather have Worm finished and then have you get started on the pallet cleanser than to stretch Worm out for another year.

      I kind of doubt that anyone is starting Worm with new arcs, so anyone who reads Scarab will have been through the entire series up to now, so a single six chapter arc that’s a bit weird is probably not going to turn anyone off. I have never seen a comment along the lines of “I am now reading it as it updates” instead of the many “I just finished and it was awesome” comments I’ve seen, but you might have a better idea of your readership than I do.

      I definitely like Interludes, and think there haven’t been quite enough for my tastes in a while. Admittedly, I think there were too many for a long stretch, so the balancing act is one I’ll probably never be entirely happy with. I think I would greatly enjoy an interlude arc.

      I can’t really comment on what’s easiest for you to write.

      On the cons:

      Well, I am not inside your head, but Worm has changed very radically from the inception. Worm has become a force to be reckoned with. Doing some triage on a controversial arc, in a way, just shows how important Worm is in that people care enough to really want a revision and would make it possible.

      Yes, people would be confused. Then again, people are, um, people. I seriously thought Parian, Imp, and Foil were now in a threeway lesbian relationship this chapter due to a typo. People are very easily confused.

      I think there’s enough unknown stuff to keep things interesting, but I’m honestly not sure if the Chicago Wards would be capable of holding an Interlude arc. The Travelers could because they were a mystery build up for a very long time, and the Slaughterhouse Nine introductions could hold their arc because everything was interesting and different from each other, plus they were some of your best character’s points of view, and even if someone didn’t like one there were a lot of others to like.

      Personally I’d be inclined to not have a Chicago Wards PoV, at least not entirely. Have it go, say, Golem, Saint, Tecton, Tattletale, Glaistig Uaine, Bastard, Bonesaw, Simurgh, each one being spaced two or three months apart. I think there needs to be a global scale to it for the skip to feel natural. This would also help with the “bored” issue, as we don’t know about a lot of the people and intervening things.

      My vote is to keep calm and carry on. Worm is good, and has stayed good for a very long time. This is a serious structural problem, but the worst thing you could do is let it psyche you out or make the writing stop being fun.

    • I’m ok with keeping this chapter as is. Like I said, gaps can be filled in via interludes and recollections by Taylor in the middle of events. Not all gaps need to be filled in anyway.

    • Which ever option you pick, I for one will be happy to keep reading.

      Worm went over a bit of a rough patch lately, admittedly, but it’s over now and you clearly have a plan for the future, so in that respect I’m leaning towards just continuing form here.

      There’s one big but on that though.

      I feel that if you’re going to do extensive revisions of the time just covered you should do them now. At least for me personally, coming back to a point in story already covered WAY after those events have been relevant is a huge drag that makes enjoying the new things hard, even if the quality is good.

      It’ll just feel less relevant and will end up tasting a bit stale. (Needless to say I’m not a huge fan of prequels :P)

      Of course this is irrelevant to the first time readers who come in after the revisions, but doing bigger revisions now rather than later would, in my opinion, serve your current readership better. I’m quite willing to buy the Worm book(s) once it/they come(s) out, but since I’m reading this now, this will forever be the definite version of Worm for me. Anything added later, how ever good, will just feel tacked on.

      /ramble

      The good thing is, I’m exited to read both of what’s to come and what happened during all that skipped time. Regardless of your choice, I’m going to get something thrilling.

    • Honestly, I don’t think rewriting everything is necessary. Adding a more detailed description of the end of Khonsu fight would help, I think, and than start the next arc with a chapter detailing what happened in the interim would be sufficient.

      You don’t need to pad out the story; if there are important things that happened then tell them, but don’t get bogged down if it’s really just the same conflicts over and over again. I liked the Endbringer fights, but we’ve seen just about one of each now (even if Weaver wasn’t in the Simurgh one); would anything really change next time?

      As I said in my original post I kind of liked that fact that the story was moving quickly, and getting into new/concluding territory and I’m loathe to see that delayed.

      What I really think you should do though, is take a little break.
      I’m relatively new here; I’ve only been reading this about a month, so maybe there are some reasons or history as to why you try and maintain such a huge output that I’m not aware of. But I would suggest you take a break not from writing, but from posting.
      Let yourself build up a little buffer, even just a few days worth, and then little blips in the road are a lot easier to deal with. Also, it would you time to consider more controversial chapters like this one, and tweak them before posting if necessary.
      Lots of webcomics do it (or try), particularly some of the better ones.

      So there you have it. Maybe the rest of the fanbase will disagree with me, but honestly, I’d love to see you step back, take a breather, and use however much time you need to confirm that whatever you decide is the BEST decision, not the one you make just because you feel like you have a deadline.

      -DBD

    • Go on. As yourself and others here have said, this is basically a first draft. Stopping to change things mid-draft is usually pretty dangerous because you may never stop making edits. Just go with your original plan: finish this wonderful story, take a break, relax, maybe start writing something else, then return to Worm and make all the changes you want. That’s my humble opinion.

      And frankly, people have been muttering at the pace of this arc and this particular chapter may be a bit difficult on a first read, but I don’t think reader’s reaction is as bad as, say, Cody’s interlude or even the Migration arc.

    • My vote is on keeping it as-is, save improvements for a re-write. You mentioned you feel like you have the rest of the story pretty well done. If that is the case keep going.

      Personally I’ve enjoyed this arc, maybe not as much as some of the others but that’s probably because they are so damned hard to beat. I want more. Forwards!

      • Wildbow, do whatever it is you think would best enable you to tell the story you want.

        Now if you want my constructive critisim for suggestions on how to expand or revise things latter, here’s a few things that come to mind. First off, don’t cut out and leave us hanging on how the first Khonsu fight ended. That just leaves me feeling unsatisfyed. Second, we really need to have Interludes or something for the Chicago Wards. I mean Tecton is supposed to be close to Taylor now, but we don’t even know his name. I felt nothing about finding out Annex died compared to Clockblockers implied death, or Battery’s. Getting to know Battery via her Interlude really made the difference there. Finally this chapter would work as three distinct chapters in my opinion. One to show the conclusion of Khonsu’s fight. An interlude that would cover the time skip and the watching of the video. And finally I thihk Taylor’s return to Brockton Bay and her reunion with the Undertakers would warrant a chapter all to itself, as it is so important.

    • I’ve been reading Worm for quite some time now, never felt the need to comment before. Your strict weekly writing requirement generally works really, really well. But there comes a point where dealing with the world results in posts that everyone can see aren’t up to the standard you’ve set for yourself. There is a balance to be found between posting on schedule even if you have to post crap, and taking three days out of four off to deal with ‘creative issues’ while you rewrite the same five lines over and over again. I read a bunch of web serials and Worm is the best by a significant margin. But it’s gone a long way down hill since you started timeskipping. This is by far the worst timeskip chapter. Far, far too much of the build up you’ve foreshadowed has been glossed over, and the tone of the work has change radically. The second half of the fight with Konsu and the fifth Endbringer’s first appearance both appear as a flashback? Taylor’s entire probation is over, just like that?! What about her conflict with the PRT leadership and their local proxy, the Chicago director? How did her relationship with the local wards develop? What happened in her campaign to deal with uncooperative villains, did she succeed in recruiting any of the newer villains to the cause? Cauldron has just revealed itself to a select few, surely that has some consequences? Are we supposed to think that people like Taylor are just going to suddenly go along with their plans for the next two years because ‘oh, they have Contessa working for them, I guess they know best’?

      Worm has been feeling like you’re rushing it since the very first timeskip chapter, but compared to this one the earlier timeskips feel as deliberate as the day by day pace of the earlier chapters.

      We’re used to following her life a day at a time. Skipping even a few days is jarring, skipping two years is a massive shock. Fuck finishing Worm around December. I want to follow Taylor day by day. I want to read the quiet chapters as she recovers and rebuilds after the trauma of facing class S threats. I want to see her gradually build trust with the Chicago wards the way she did with the Undersiders. I want to see her figure out new tweaks for her armour and flight pack, new techniques to use in battle, new ways to use her powers and her allies. I want Worm to finish the way it started – huge, sprawling, dark, complex, and utterly compelling.

      I truly hate it when authors of serialised works that I enjoy go on hiatus as it means I don’t get my fix for however long they’re off, and I really, really enjoy Worm. But seriously, The story has been so good up till now it deserves better – if you need it, take a hiatus, deal with the real world, recharge your creative batteries, address whatever it is that’s been dragging you down and then come back to give Worm the finish it deserves.

      (I realise this post could be read as massively entitled, I hope you won’t take it that way. I’m a fan, my only desire is for Worm to be everything it can be)

    • If you think it’d provide a good break for you, a working vacation of sorts, then maybe do it. Otherwise, redo the arc when you’re moving to publishing, I’d say. I’d love to see more in-depth all these events, and get to know the characters better, for sure. I think the slow build is one of your big strengths, and that this could all become another big arc of small skips and flesh out the Chicago Wards and the Protectorate in really great ways.

      But you’ve also said you want to get Worm done, and redoing this in a slower manner will definitely delay that substantially, it seems like. It’d be super cool to see, but that’s why I’d say – only do it NOW if you need the break, but maybe do it in the future at some point.

    • I’m torn. Part of me looks at the finale, the climactic showdown between the S9000 and Taylor, and says “Continue, save fixes for the publishing redraft!” However, another part of me looks at Scarab, at this chapter in particular, and there are too many seams there to just ignore them, especially when the story has been virtually seamless up to this point.

      Verdict: Go where the inspiration hits, but my vote is for a rewrite.

  55. Hmmm… Taylor is free to go visit her old team (or even join it) because she’s 18 now and her probation is over.
    I wonder if Shadow Stalker has served her jail time and is out by now and plotting some weird revenge scheme, since Taylor was threatened with a 2 year sentence if she broke her probation and more than 2 years have passed.

    • Any timeskip makes me wonder about what happened to everyone. Emma must have had a interesting school experience, and I doubt Shadow Stalker will join the PRT. Yet she claims to wan to kill villains. So I picture her being a violent vigilante till somebody seriously hurts or kills her because she doesn’t have any allies. Her personality, I’m hoping she got at least some psychiatric help in juvie, doesn’t lend itself well to others so she is probably all alone.

      • I’d actually like to know what happened to Emma and whilst not letting her off the hook, hope by the end of it she got her act together. Maybe she and Greg ended up dating?

        • While Emma has been ‘dealt with’ in the sense of Taylor’s story, it would be interesting, I agree. That thread never felt fully finished, because we never really saw the end result for Emma… Yet at the same time, I don’t know if it would really be any good, other than a passing mention that she’s moved on with her life, or whatever.

          • It maybe be interesting to see her within the framework of a ‘whatever happened to ‘so an so* interlude letting us know what happened to surviving minordemoted characters. Emma gets paragraph or two, Piggot gets a paragraph or two… things like that perhaps.

  56. The amount of time skipped in this one chapter raised my eyebrows a bit, but I’ve figured since the Wards development that time would have to accelerate. It feels to me like Weaver, plus her team (and the resources that belong to the PRT and Protectorate) is too strong to be significantly hampered by normal cape-level opposition. And the series of Endbringer fights that would occur in that time, if done on the scale that we’ve seen before, would be… emotionally exhausting.

    Right now I do feel like we were set up for a struggle with the PRT directors that sort of got glossed over, but… I dunno. Perhaps I misunderstood what the one director said about finding a balance. Perhaps, also, that part of me is recoiling from the way this chapter emphasizes that the ending is approaching, because I’ve had so much fun with the journey so far.

    Mostly, I’m just plain okay with this as it stands. Lest it be thought that I’d be okay with just anything, I did speak against the Witness chapter a little while back. But this feels more “right” to me.

    That said, in the event of a rewrite or a backfill, could this chapter be something Dinah saw?

    • All of which was a long-winded way of writing, “I was surprised, I had reservations, but upon reflection I am perfectly fine with this as it is.”

      I miss my forumsy “edit” button. :D

  57. I liked this chapter, the timeskip brings a bit of refreshment to things – I was getting a little bored of ‘oh no, annother endbringer attack! Lets go’ that had started to happen… To be honest it was a relief to have ‘they had an awesome fight’ rather than another fight, however awesome – they just get a little too much after a while.

    For the two years to be described in more detail would have just been painful to read. Now we get to cut to the good stuff that actually matters. Sure, some things might get neglected but its the best that could happen – this is a serial, so I don’t think anyone expects perfect long-term pacing, on re-write I’m sure it could be handled a little better. I’m not going to complain though, because I’ve basically read about 15 books worth of content for free, bar a voluntary donation – and pacing 15 books worth of content is going to be a bitch.

    One thing that irks me: Is clockblocker dead? He got a mention a few chapters back but it was such an off-hand comment it seemed like he was alive – Taylor hasn’t really reflected on him dying at all which frustrates me a little – especially because it was effectively off camera.

    Anyways, good chapter in my opinion Wildbow.

  58. Hmmm. Only Behemoth gets the ‘ENDBRINGER KILL’ tag. Interstingly, the rotation schedule goes completely out of whack, with Khonsu not showing up after Leviathan and Simurgh have each had a turn, and immediately going back to Leviathan. Leviathan then proceeds to not show up between Tohu Bohu appearances.

    I suppose the designer could just be mixing things up a bit to keep the heroes off-guard, or having to make repairs due to increased hero effectiveness.

    • I don’t think the rotation works like that. All it ensures is that no one goes twice in a row not that it should be one for every Endbringer. For example:

      Shanghai, April 23rd, 2002. Leviathan.
      Bogotá, August 20th, 2002. Behemoth.
      Lausanne, December 30th, 2002. Simurgh.
      Seattle, April 1st, 2003. Leviathan.
      London, August 12th, 2003. Simurgh.
      Lyon, October 3rd, 2003. Behemoth.

  59. I think, before people vote on a rewrite, etc., they ought to reread this chapter again. It gets better on re-reading, as it captures and transfers an emotional state. I think the real problem is that the reader ends up feeling like Weaver feels, which at this point is conflicted.

    But I think that is a good thing.

    Anyway, I’m going to go back and re-read the last chapter and this one another time. I don’t generally re-read Worm chapters, but this one has gotten a few re-reads already. I like it more each time.

    • The first reading at midnight last night was pretty confusing. I had to start over again and it still didn’t track for a while. I went back again after Wildbow edited the breaking block in between the continuation of the 1st Khonshu fight and the jump forward to 2 years later and I felt it tracked much better. I had no problems understanding where we were at or what was going on. Of course that was also my 3rd read through so that might have been helping too.

    • I keep trying that, but there are so many places where there could have been much more, where it could have been much more. Scarab, for instance, could have been about Taylor growing comfortable as a Ward and planning her cleanup process, but we only got Topsy’s turnover and some political sparring with the Director. The Endbringer fights could have been spun off into their own arc (the point of which would be Cauldron’s meeting, essentially verbatim from what was in this chapter), with a few select fights expanded on, or concentrating on the aftermath of a fight (e.g. it’d be interesting to know what Taylor thinks of the Simurgh, the last of the original three Endbringers she had fought), ending with this scene in Brockton Bay, but they were smushed onto the end of the “growing into anti-hero” arc, with the result that the whole thing feels like an impressionist painting rather than the pointillist feel of every earlier chapter to this point.

      • I was thinking about a way one could address the pacing problem of this arc without having to resort to massive rewrites and I came up with an idea: what if we knew from the start that there was going to be a two years timeskip?

        The first chapter of Scarab is Taylor waiting for her 18th birthday, she starts thinking about her time with the Chicago Wards and the flashbacks begin. So we don’t have to worry about how the chapters feel a bit jumpy because it’s sort of stream-of-consciousness recollection. Maybe add a few more chapters focusing on her relationship with the Wards and then at the end, in a nice elliptical fashion, we return with this chpater ot present day Taylor as she steels herself for the end of the world.

        Oh, and uhm, this is just a fan’s (mine) ramblings and of course wildbow will do what he thinks best. It’s just that it suddenly came to me and wanted to share.

  60. I wouldn’t be opposed to a few interludes filling in a few blanks. Because like many others, I found the break a bit jarring.

    I think there’s two separate problems here. One is that this arc had a tendency to move very quickly. We do not really get to see Taylor interacting with the Wards much at all, we don’t know what her relationship is. I feel as if we’d need an entire new introduction to the characters at this point, as I have no idea how Taylor is thinking now or what her relationships with her team partners are.

    The second is that we jumped over a few potentially interesting things. The Khonsu fight ends pretty anticlimatically. There’s a teleport follow and then short note that he was defeated after that, but we aren’t told how. That’s a bit disappointing. Just a bit more information there, maybe a short paragraph’s worth, would fix a lot.

    • That said, don’t think of it as a rewrite. That’s the wrong way to go about it, as you said yourself.

      Think of it as different perspectives on the same event, as we’ve had quite a few times before.

      Or go into the new age as you planned and give us some exposition first. I think either one would work equally well.

  61. Please continue with the plot. May do an interlude or two to explain what happened in the two years, but lets see how to kill the Slaughterhouse 9000 soon.
    Going back and rewritting would be bad at this point and really, the time skip was not a bad idea.
    Reading through five more endbringer fights would get bory. Same with day to day training of Golen and dealing with vilains.
    I prefer the ark as its is, but even if I didn`t I would still consider a rewrite a bad idea.

  62. Just some general comments:
    Glaistig Uaine’s comment about Turanta being an “astrologer” makes sense now – he ~@#$%^&*()_+ summons meteors!
    Taylor’s relationship with Tecton is more strained based on much of the dialog with him. I am guessing he is getting tired of dealing with a person who treats events that are not “preparing for the end of the world” as trivialities.
    Leviathan attacks Lüderitz: probably a reprisal for Moord Nag’s attack on Khonsu (and noted as such in the text).
    Tohu can apparently duplicate powers used on any Endbringer.
    “Accord had drawn out the city plans.” So either Accord is alive or the Undersiders and the local government followed his plans.
    “white tower that speared into the sky” What?

  63. Okie dokie. You don’t need to go changing if you don’t want, leave that for when you try to get it published maybe, but you said you were sort of dissatisfied and here’s my opinion on the issues with this chapter in that regards.

    1. It trivialises the Endbringers that little bit. Having always been given better coverage and having a big deal made about them. I understand this needed to happen for a time skip, with their frequency you can’t cover every event. But I always felt the Endbringers were the biggest and most interesting threat, now it’s glossed over, no sense of loss, no detail. I think you maybe need just snippets of those battles and years. Not much, but you’ve gone from major coverage to ‘and then there were a bunch off screen’, something inbetween would be better I think.

    2. Relationships with Taylor’s team. To come next chapter I guess. But like, are they friends, is the team the same, how did they become friends etc. It was still right at the start of their relationship and it just kind of cut off. Also Dragon and Defiant.

    3. Same with her Dad. The ‘we meet a lot’ thing seems shoehorned in.

    Having a time skip is fine, and I understand you’re reaching a part you’ve been wanting to write for AGES, and I know that feeling of being SO CLOSE. Didn’t have a problem with not covering Undersider stuff, as she shouldn’t be involved with/knowing much of it.
    Anyway, that’s just my opinion and thoughts and attempt at constructive criticism, it’s not like I’m a professional author or the like so feel free to discard.

    • 1. Ah but you see, I think this trivialization is done on purpose. Back when the Endbringers were in the importantly important number of three, they were bigger than life, inexplicable creatures, beings straight out of myth that could not be fought or reasoned with, akin to a force of nature. But now? They are nothing more than mass-produced giant monsters. They may be more dangerous but that original mystique is pretty much gone.
      Besides there’s only so much with Endbringers fights.

      2 & 3 I sort of agree with you there. But that’s things that can be fixed later.

    • Just going to reiterate what I’ve said elsewhere – I did plan for this to be longer, but in sitting down and trying to write the chapters that came between, they fell flat, or the storylines didn’t work out. Stuff wound up feeling forced and didn’t serve to move the story forward or develop characters meaningfully. Maybe I could’ve worked it out, but I opted to do the stuff where I did have a better idea of how it would serve, rather than struggle through it.

      • I know, and honestly I don’t expect a perfect chapter every time (something which is subjective anyway). I don’t want to be one of those people who is so enamoured with a series or author they become convinced they can do no wrong and just heap on praise instead of thinking about the strengths and weaknesses in a chapter/episode/whatever. You’re a good writer, getting better over time and updating three times a week which is an impressive effort.

        Plus as I said, there’s a degree of personal opinion from the reader. My thoughts are exactly that, mine, and there’s probably going to be someone out there who thinks the exact opposite thing and their opinion is no less valid.

  64. If I’d like to see anything different about this arc, it would be an interlude arc at some point with each chapter from the POV of a different Ward: Tecton, Grace, Cuff, Annex, Golem. Weaver through their eyes in different scenarios.

  65. Oh hey, Wildbow used that reader-suggested power from way back for that Thanda guy. The one with anchoring oneself to an object and remaining equidistant no matter what.

      • I have been thinking about how I’d implement a Worm RPG game. Pen and Paper would be easy, since powers could be very diverse and interesting, sort of like WOD in how powers might effect players.

        But a computer-RPG? It’d be hard to approximate a skill like Tattletale’s in terms of a game. Skitter would be kind of hard too, though an interesting challenge to program.

        • Actually Tattletale would be a breeze in a computer game. CRPGs are fundamentally fixed stories. Playing as Tattletale would mean you’d get exposition dumps to move the story along without needing to do a lot of investigation to back them up.

          I’ve had PCs like here in Tabletop RPGs that I’ve run and the effect winds up being that the game becomes much more action focused, since the players spend a lot less time trying to figure out what’s going on or what they’re supposed to be doing.

  66. The character I most liked in this chapter was Imp, and not just because she’s grown up to a point where slashfics about her don’t cause “To Catch a Predator” to come snooping around or because she’s got her own bisexual harem made up of Regent’s brothers and sisters. That second one especially is a good reason to like her this chapter.

    But no, I like her a good deal for lying to Taylor about things going on because some people seem to think, despite all evidence to the contrary, that people aren’t lying. Cauldron, for instance. They’ll infiltrate, they’ll bribe, they’ll kidnap people, they’ll do illegal human experiments, they’ll offer to set free mass murderers and serial killers, they’ll even agree to give 5,000 people to an African warlord for her help attacking an Endbringer, but NO WAY are they lying when they claim they do it all to save the world. That would be dishonest, and thus a Cauldron would have to go sit in the corner and think about how naughty they were for lying.

    As I neglected to mention it earlier, I would just like to point out a great line by Imp: “Kidding. This is fun. Come on, butterflies, I see you over there. Do your worst, I know you want to kill me.”

    This quote leads to the obvious next stage of preparation for Taylor. She needs for Armsmaster to design tiny weapons for her insect minions. Butterflies with flamethrowers. Roaches with switchblades. Maybe even ants with tiny tommy guns and fedoras. Ladybugs with little pew pew laser zapper guns that make the sound “pew pew”. Dammit, I want to see a praying mantis with nunchaku!

    • Cauldron lying to Taylor and the Protectorate and the Case 53? Oh, I’m sure they lied about somethings. Heck, I could even buy the Doctor lied to Alexandria, even though everything seems to point at Alexandria being a member of the inner cabal. But the Doctor lying to Number Man or Number Man lying to himself? That doesn’t really make sense. So, while they may be wrong in thinking of being the solution, I have no doubts that Cauldron BELIEVES that they are saving the world through their actions.

      • They lied about some things? Let’s get real here, they’re a secret cabal that’s infiltrated institutions on an international level. That pretty much makes them pathological liars by default, or else they wouldn’t have gotten so far.

        Though Doctor lying to Number Man might seem wrong. But remember how he doesn’t know what’s in the parts of the facility that only she has access to. And everyone else is fair game, especially the triumvirate. I guarantee you none of them even know a fraction of the real story.

  67. Thank you, thank you, thank you! I was thinking it might be another 4 months to a year to get to this story line. I was dieing to get to this part!

  68. Thank you to Matthew, Tom and Calle for their donations. :D

    Fun fact: the captcha as I updated the image for the donation bar on the front page was ‘birdcage’. I think the captcha bot has been reading the story.

  69. Question, is Grue insane? Does he realize that his ex-girlfriend happens to be one of the most powerful, well resourced, women in the western hemisphere and she, if the Topsy incident is to be considered her SOP for enemies, is known for her tenacious, vindictive nature and casual application of cruelty? How on earth did anyone forget to mention, in fanmail or otherwise, that Grue has a new girlfriend and has been getting better? You don’t drop a bomb like this on someone as terrifying as Taylor, even if she is your friend. I feel sorry for Cozen, even if she is as deceptive as her name suggests. Best case scenario, she is treated coldly until Taylor finds a use for her. Worst case scenario, she ends up being a traitorous “Meh, I could take her” type, in which case I’ll still feel bad for her, just because assaulting Weaver should be considered grounds for insanity by now.

    On the topic of the timeskip, I feel it is appropriate given the scale of things for the past two years. Weaver and the Chicago wards have most likely been shutting down the work of people like Topsy for two years in between Endbringer fights. While it would be interesting, we’ve already seen growth and characterization from the wards, Tecton is essentially Weld with skin, Grace is tough and snarky, Golem is driven by his desire to protect and will even put up with Taylor’s training to do so, Wanton is a bit of a trickster, not the character, in terms of behavior, Cuff is kind and has a hard time hurting others. Any non-endbringer combat at this point would be essentially like chewing though mooks in a Dynasty Warriors game and we just killed Behemoth six chapters back and we were just introduced to Khonsu. I can understand people being upset with not seeing the end of the initial Khonsu battle but in thinking about it, the setup was more important than the battle itself. In the battle we considered it a victory and no one important to the story died. In the Cauldron meeting we were given exposition and the major players at the EotW event were defined.

    On the Endbringers, It feels like they’ve locked down the method of fighting Khonsu and Tohu Bohu is introduced in a manner that feels like a callback to the introduction of Behemoth back in Alexandria’s arc. We’re given a brief introduction to its powers and a sense of its capacity for destruction.

    Overall, I feel that it was an appropriate summation of two years, though it seems that it would have been better used to start an arc than to finish one

    • Uuhh, what are you talkin’ about? Taylor isn’t a vindictive psychopath, and she knows Brian needs the support and already knows she can’t really help him. Brian knows all this. What possible part of the chapter made you think Taylor is gonna do a 180 and punish her boyfriend for daring to move on?

      i’m pretty sure it’s going to be fine. Wildbow isn’t so crass as to go the romantic rival=EVIL route and both Grue and Weaver are mature enough to work things out.

      The emphasis in the comments put on Skitter’s more questionable actions is doing something to people’s brains, I swear.

      • Well, according to Imp, Taylor’s bugs were ready to eat Cozen alive. THAT would be a pretty extreme reaction even if you had just walked in on your boyfriend having sex with someone else. It gets ridiculous when it’s because you just discovered that you ex-boyfriend, whom you haven’t seen in two years and with whom you were together a few months at most, has found someone else.

        Still, I do have faith in Taylor and her understanding that Brian is entitled to his own life.

        • Taylor’s passenger loves to please its master. A stray emotion at the wrong time can send it cues she doesn’t want it to act on. For instance, Taylor’s emotional turmoil at seeing Grue’s new paramour translates to her swarm “acting like hawks about to move in for the kill.” Her more rational side, the “he needed someone to lean on, I wasn’t there,etc., etc.” side, is the one that keeps the bugs from actually attacking.

          Also, Imp is being hyberbolic. Gasp, shock, and awe.

  70. Hey quick question for you guys. I weep for the fact that worm is nearing it’s end and to make myself feel better I thought of it’s possible sequel. I figure Wildbow will write another story besides worm which will probably be great, but will then go back to write a sequel later. So the question I ask is what kind of story would you like to see in the wormverse? Here are my top 3 choices.

    1. Wildbow’s own version of a Japanese anime. Japan is a 3rd world country here with very few dedicated heroes so I figure we have someone Taylor’s age trigger and they go on to be a hero with the catch that they are completely on their own. There is no PRT to send backup, there is no birdcage to send villains to so they might have to maim/kill the worse villains to keep them from coming back for revenge. Maybe they form their own super team and they act like the anti undersiders. Imagine the Legion of Nothing if they were the only heroes in the country. So they have to make the hard decisions that PRT directors do, and they have to do things completely on their own.

    2. A story in the wormverse out of the cities. I figure very weak parahumans stay out of the cities and try to be the normal fish in a small pond scenario. Similar to Damsel in distress and the two really weak heroes just to see things on a much smaller scale. I’m thinking the story takes place in a small town or county and then something weird/horrible happens. Cauldron formula gets into the water supply, the Smurf attacks so the world quarantines the town etc. So something really character driven that might turn into Wildbow’s own Under the dome where a group of people become completely isolated with a few becoming parahumans just to add to the chaos.

    3. A prequel to worm. So we get to see Brockton Bay in it’s early days when New Wave was just starting out and confident about their plan to reveal their identities. We would get to see the Marquis in action, the early version of the teeth, AllFather with awkward teenage Kaiser, and an earlier version of the 9. We could see the dark fairy queen/teacher in their prime and how the heroes captured them. Maybe we even see Bitch running and surviving on the street.

    What do you guys think and does anyone else have any other ideas?

    • Personally, I’d like the sequel to be set AFTER Worm but with a storyline that’s completely unrelated and linked ti the previous work only with occasional cameos from some old friends. Possibly in a way that the current character(s) would have no idea who just showed up and only the readers would recognize, say, the old,bespectacled man who just killed a mugger by jamming a pen in his skull.

    • As someone who likes Under the Dome (book and series), I’d say that Scenario 2 sounds like it would definitely be interesting, as a fanfic if nothing else. You might not even need previous heroes in the town, just have Simurgh attack, Cauldron formula gets in the water supply, no one notices until after the town’s been sealed up (bonus points if they actually do create some sort of dome like barricade for the town), and just watch the dominoes fall. Not sure when the story would be set, though; prior to Worm’s beginning might work (or after Worm, depending on the state of things).

  71. I’ve been expecting a major timeskip for some time.. the vibe I was getting was that Weaver could work with the Wards but, well.. wasn’t gonna gel with them. And that Dinah’s prophesized end of the world was gonna be the finale. It still smarts a little, losing that time and probably never finding out 99% of what went on during it. Particularly discussion of how Chevalier, Taylor, Dragon, and Defiant reacted to the Forum. I feel like it deserves caps.

    Still, these last couple chapters were two of the meatier and more interesting chapters to read. Lots of bits in there that I’m not sure what they meant, but pretty sure… like, with Cauldron’s experiment. Alexandria was mostly trying to get Skitter back with her crew by hook or crook (like that speech about group dynamics), it just completely blew up. I almost wonder if the establishment of (temporary, conditional….) parahuman rule of Brockton Bay was a condition set for Cauldron to not go after Weaver for smoking not one but two of their people. All in all, more a tragedy than anything.

    Sucks about Annex, he seemed pretty chill :(

    Loved the memorial to Regent and the rest of Heartbreaker’s victims.

    Still wondering if the prophecy is purely of the man-made sort. I mean, you tell Jack something like that, go giving him ideas…

    Dunno if you did any editing, but second read-through a day later seemed tighter in terms of conveying when was when.

  72. I’m super excited to see how everyone’s powers have developed over these two years. At the beginning, Taylor had had her power for three months, and was getting pretty decent. By five or six months in, she was capable of taking down Alexandria. Before the timeskip, in 25.3, there is a mention of her having some sort of ability to taste with her bugs. If this is anything like when she first heard with her bugs after Bakuda’s attack, I’m anticipating a lot of growth. Not to mention that I’m sure she now always incredibly prepared in terms of silk rope and other such things.

    I’ll bet the Undersiders have also improved their powers too. Pre-timeskip, Imp had only had her power a little over two months, so I’m curious to see if she’s come up with any new ways to use her power.

    Parian seemed to be fairly badass as well, and Foil’s probably got some new tricks as well. I can also imagine them having some pretty killer combo moves, seeing as how Foil can apply her power to an object, and Parian could then control that object, or even incorporate it into her creations (e.g. Foil imbues a small amount of fabric with her power, and then Parian turns that fabric into the claws of one of her animals. Voilá, superstrong minion capable of easily ripping through literally anything).

    Rachel, I’m sure, has improved her techniques with her dogs, as well as now likely having a fleet of dogs fully trained and able to be used in battle. Plus Bastard will be a lot bigger and badasser.

    Tattletale probably won’t have any surprising growth, but I’m sure she’ll have lots of neat information to share with us. Grue, though, I’m interested to see fight. I’d imagine that by now, he (or Tattletale) would have thought to train thoroughly with every power the Undersiders have at their disposal, to the point where he can competently use any of them if need be. Of course, I also want to know if his secondary ability has developed further, to the point where he might be able to use more than one power at once (admittedly not that likely), use other people’s powers at their regular levels (as opposed to a weaker version), or perhaps even use modified versions of their powers (similar to the differences in powers between Echidna’s clones and the originals).

    • Additionally, there’s the Wards. Or should I say, Golem, as I’m not as invested in the abilities of the other members – though I am curious about Annex’s somewhat ambiguous fate. And Clockblocker’s. By now, Golem has probably figured out how to make his suit as efficient as possible, and I’d imagine that he’s much more practiced in its use, as well as physically fit.

      With Dragon, we’ll get to see how her AI has been changed, and hopefully even get more insight into her trigger event and power.

      Then we have S9K. They’ve had two years to combine one Tinker’s ability to make insanely powerful clones with another Tinker’s tendency to commit heinous acts of overpowering surgery. Oh, and is it worth mentioning that Blasto could have been an S class threat of his own if he had made clones that could reproduce? Or that with an entire Tinker paradise to work with, they could be easily mass-producing what would likely be considered persons of mass destruction even by the standards of this world? Shit’s gonna be cray.

    • One thing I am curious about, though, is something that was brought up by someone else already – Scion vs the Endbringers. We know how Khonsu is designed to work against Scion, but even though we were informed that Tohu and Bohu have Scion-proofing, it didn’t really seem clear to me exactly how. Does it have something to do with Tohu’s Shaker powers preventing him from getting close? Or is it that in conjunction with Bohu’s power copying?

      I’m also curious as to how Leviathan, or at least the Simurgh, have been able to escape Scion’s kill order. I could see Leviathan escaping to the ocean, but as someone else mentioned, the Simurgh isn’t as fast, and I can’t imagine she’d be able to outrun Scion every time.
      It would make sense, though, if after the arrival of Khonsu, Tohu, and Bohu, Scion’s friend cancelled the kill order with the reasoning that even if Scion did kill all of them, they could just end up continuing to get new, more dangerous Endbringers.

      • Bohu destroys targeted city areas (and populace) in less than an hour, and Scion takes a while to get to Endbringer fights. Kohu’s ability to copy and employ the strongest parahuman powers means they can’t just dump all their heaviest hitters on her and try to burn her down before she does it.

        • So simply the fact that there are two of them means they can be in and out before Scion gets there? That makes sense. I’m still a little curious about the Simurgh and Leviathan’s survival.

          • Well that’s actually simply, they just changed their MOs so they don’t stick around long enough for Scion to show up.
            Levi became NinjaGodzilla, jumping in and out of the Ocean to attack several nearby coastal cities, making it look like he’s left for good when really he’s just hiding.

            I don’t think Smurfette was all that slow either, considering she hides in the thermosphere but needs to be up close and personal to do her Arael-shtick…

  73. I really enjoyed the time skip. How it done was really jarring, and it felt good that it was that way. We didn’t need to be shown that the next endbringer fights were going to be losses, massive losses, as readers of your work, we knew it would happen already.

  74. I really liked the message board segments, but admit they can turn into info dumps.

    So many questions I am looking forward to seeing answered. Wonder who else can build Endbringer class critters. I keep waiting for two builders to start fighting each other.

  75. You know, there is a way that Clock and Kid Win might be alive, but reported dead by the Protectorate. They could be numbers 39 and 40.

  76. I suppose not everyone is a nerd about narrative devices and structures, but I can’t believe so many people were upset at the end of this chapter. The thing that upset them isn’t really the time skip; it’s the pull-back-and-reveal. This is one of my favorite narrative devices, and this is an amazing, enormous use of one. Using the expectation from the end of the previous chapter, we are set up to brace for an Endbringer battle. We see huge, epic things happening, but they feel a little off, not quite as immediate and personal as previous fights. Then the rug is ripped out from under us and we find our expectations utterly dashed; the fight is long over, and this is only a video of it.

    This enormous expectation is the sort of thing that can only be created as a result of 40 million words (or whatever we’re up to) and emotionally wracking arcs like the Leviathan fight, the S9 attack, Echidna, and New Delhi. To recognize that you’ve created that sort of expectation, let it keep building, then turn it around to throw the reader entirely off-kilter is incredibly powerful. If there is a weakness in this chapter, it’s that it doesn’t spend enough time picking the reader back up and setting them back on their feet before moving on and diving into the Undersiders reunion.

    Jim Z mentioned that a later reader, reading through this back-to-back with the rest of the story, would hardly bat an eye at this chapter; I think that’s somewhat true. 25.5 ended with the expectation of seeing the Khonsu fight, yes, but it also ended with a feeling that that fight was a done deal. With a plan in place to stop the teleporting and Moord Nag to do killing to it, everything else was going to be fluff, especially since Taylor wouldn’t have any friends there to interact with. Likewise, I imagine that later chapters will continue filling in the gaps left by the timeskip, alleviating all the issues people are raising. The reactions of rabid, emotional followers of the story are not good indicators of what the finished product will look like. Look at the way Dickens fans freaked out about things when each chapter of his serials were published. Few, if any, of their concerns seem valid in retrospect.

    This chapter really excited me, and it had little to do with the plot. Honestly, when I read the bit about Jack and all that, I kind of shrugged. Of course the end of the world starts now. That was clearly signaled and foreshadowed. I’m looking forward to it, but it wasn’t really a cliffhanger.

    Anyway, don’t do a big rewrite thing. I mean, it’d be kind of interesting to watch such a rewrite play out and see how you fuck with your readers throughout it, but there’s no need for it.

    • I agree with all of this. I was really thrown off, but that’s a good thing, and while I love this story and want to keep reading it, I think that we certainly didn’t need to have however many arcs to cover two years. Think about it! The story so far has taken place in a timeframe of less than a year. Two more years In-Universe to get to the end of the world would be much more than two years out-of-universe. Moreover, I don’t think the world ending or not will end the story, as there’s still so many unresolved threads there. If Cauldron really did save the world before, what happens shortly after this isn’t going to be the end of the world-ending threats. Even without Jack, there’d be the same threat 13 years later. It’s the sort of thing you need to cut off at the source rather than deal with as it happens, and I think that’s where the story will go.

  77. Uhhh, hi, relatively recent reader here, so forgive me if I am ignorant of the details of everything between a few weeks ago and everything after Arc 3 or the 300+ comments already posted (Seriously, you guys need a forum if you keep this up!)…

    I think I have an idea of why this time skip doesn’t gel well; The previous chapter established that Khonsu ‘single’ attack has lasted continuously for several days straight.
    The start of this chapter details what we can assume is the first fight right after the meeting that finished the last, but we are left with pretty much a mid chapter cliffhanger as to how Khonsu first appearance ENDED!
    All we get is a little blurb in the “Endbringer Attack Briefing” about how it was a Scion/Moord Nag win, but that’s not really closure…
    Even just a token comment by Taylor after the break about just how or what happened to stop Rolie Polie Olie from just teleporting to another target would help dispel the illusion that what was an unstoppable Juggernaut didn’t just keep doing so for the intervening year and a half.

    • You read the bit where the Thanda cape with the power to define a set distance between objects used his power to teleport everyone fighting Khonsu along with the Endbringer when he tried to run, right? Figure they kept on building up forces as he teleported until they ran into Scion, and then he and Moord Nag beat the crap out of the guy.

      • Fair enough, but it was also pointed out here that Khonsu was built out of layers reinforced with force-fields…
        I can figure that Scion and Moord eventually did enough damage to force him to retreat, but it would have to be a pretty damn grievous wound and even the fact that he was able to get away at all is somewhat noteworthy.
        I have read the TV Tropes pages after all, so I know Behemoth was striped down to the skeleton just for Scion to finish him.

        • For all we know Scion could have vaporised Behemoth at full strength. THe main problem with Khonsu was that as soon as he saw Scion he would teleport and Scion was too stupid to understand he hadn’t simply escaped like all other Endbringers. Besides we saw Moord Nag hitting him pretty hard (I believe the only one who did as much damage was the Thanda who dropped a mountain on him.) So they beat him by denying him his respite anf having the heavy hitters pile on him.

          • Well I don’t think Scion was too stupid, just that his handler had no means of directing him to a reappearance fast enough.

            But that still begs the question of HOW Konny escaped, if they kept denying him respite by tagging along as he teleported, what did he do to get away?

            • Ok, that’s a good question.

              They actually hit him hard enough to expose his core, the core’s power nullifying abilities kicked in freeing Khonsu from the Thanda’s power and he teleported somewhere suitably deserted to lick his wounds before Scion could home in for the kill?

              • Hmmm… Possible, but then that does make one wonder why he would outright retreat instead of continuing with light skirmishes that would allow him to regenerate…

                Of course Khonsu is the odd-Endbringer-out in this regard, he’s the only one who’s pressed a prolonged general attack instead of incidental objective based ones.
                Then again, the WHY of the Endbringers is one of those fridge question I’m afraid to elaborate on, least I somehow muck things up for somebody.

  78. Hey there,

    Just wanted to say that I found this 3 or 4 weeks ago, and you trapped me into reading the whole thing …
    So yeah, basically one arc per day … :/
    It was great ! :D
    Can’t wait to read the following chapters !

  79. @wildbow: I read this one fairly late, so I dunno how much revision went into it before I got to it, but I didn’t have a hard time understanding the shift in perspective, nor did I feel like the timeskip was jarring. There were lots of details you could have included, but very few of them would have related to the story you’re actually telling. We don’t need to see Weaver learn to become a hero: you set things up strongly enough that we knew that would be inevitable. We don’t need to see Weaver handling small-time crime lords in a different setting: we already saw her do that in Brockton Bay and again with her current team. We don’t need to stay with her day-to-day, and the timeskips you gave us up to this point led pretty obviously to a larger one, one that we knew had to be coming because the story doesn’t have much else that needs to happen before the threat of the end of the world becomes immediate. The only thing I really feel like we missed out on was Weaver manipulating her way into a stronger position with respect to the PRT, but I think that can probably be effectively handled in a bit of reflective conversation, later on. We certainly don’t need 5 arcs of nothing new except time passing, and the story elements that are going to tie into the climax are all already there.

    I’d have been happier if this arc ended with an actual farewell, though. Another phone call saying “there’s an emergency!” followed by a cliffhanger feels a little overdone. That’s my only real complaint about this chapter.

  80. As promised, here is my 2nd (hopefully better) attempt at giving some constructive feedback on this chapter. As I mentioned in IRC the other day, this chapter bothered me a lot when I first read it, and I think the reason for that is the way its paced. Individually, the plot elements here are all really cool, but the way they are strung together feels a little weak.

    25-5 did a great job building tension, and broke right before transport to the battlefield. It was a great cliffhanger and I came into this chapter expecting an action packed Endbringer scene. Which is exactly what I got right up until the scene break. Then suddenly its 2 years later and I am forced to completely shift gears.

    Here the time skip is not what bothers me. In fact, I love how you use Weaver’s log of Endbringer attacks to bridge the gap and give a sense of what happened during it. But the change of pace was incredibly jarring to me.

    On the other hand, the way the transition to and from the Bohu/Tohu scene was really smooth and felt natural. Similarly, the transition into meeting with the Undersiders was clean, because Weaver’s thought process led in that direction.

    I think that if you go through and edit this later, you should either show the Khonsu fight in its entirety and transition into the phone conversation with Tecton in another chapter, or find some way to make the transition feel more like the other two I mentioned.

    Hopefully this is helpful. Sorry I took so long in getting this written down.

    • Indeed, it isn’t so much the flashbacking itself, but the fact that it is used as such a jarring transition.
      Khonsu was built up as this HUGE threat, an Endbringer who simply doesn’t stop attacking!
      We get into the actual fight and after a single teleport it’s, “Oh, we’re a year and a half in the future now, that fight is long over…”

      It reeks of ‘Copout’, like you didn’t know how to actually end that fight and simply wanted to gloss over it to continue the story.
      Considering how many questions Khonny’s apparent defeat WITHOUT completely destroying him brings up, I do have to wonder if you didn’t write yourself into a corner on how to actually deal with him without outright removing him as a future threat.

      • I disagree extensively with this.

        Khonsu’s status as an OCP came clearly from his teleporting ability and the fact that he could evade and regenerate effectively at will. Once this advantage was negated by the Thanda, he ceased to be anything more special, in terms of combat, than Simurgh or Leviathan. Terrifying and deadly? Sure. But ultimately just another Endbringer fight, and we’ve been through three of those fights already. There was nothing to be gained in the story from another big kaiju batlte.

        It also plays into an interesting new dynamic in the story, now that we know more about the Endbringers; specifically, they’ve ceased to be special. Whereas once they were inexplicable, unique genocide machines of unknown original and fantastic malevolence, with the revelation of their origins-their design as terror weapons and the fact that they can all, ultimately, be replaced-focusing on fighting them stops being of value to progressing the story and instead becomes a detriment.

        • But that still leaves the question of HOW did the teleporting monster who never halted his attack before end up getting away to fight again another day?
          Remember the entire battle plan for fighting him was to hitch a ride along with his teleportation so that the everyone could keep pressing the fight, how did he end up escaping when they were purposely exploiting his primary means of transportation?

          As for the dynamic behind the Endbringers, this changed NOTHING about them to me…
          Further up I mentioned that I didn’t want to bring up questioning the “WHY” of the Endbringers because of how it could spoil the story, but their systematic schedulable attacks clearly painted them as something more then Giant Space Fleas from Nowhere.
          WHAT goes into making Endbringers is mostly irrelevant, and WHO is responsible is only important due to its tangential relationship into finally stopping their threat.

          • Here’s a counter-question to your question: why does it matter?

            If you must have an answer, presumably he pulled some bullshit power out of his ass once they had done enough damage, as Endbringers are wont to do (they are explicitly noted as sometimes waiting decades to spring a particularly good trick). This distracted or disabled the Thanda cape that anchored him, allowing him to escape and retreat to lick his wounds.

            As for your second suggestion, it makes no sense to me whatsoever, and I can only presume that I must have misunderstood you. Of course the reasons behind the Endbringers are important! The existence of the threat has been clearly established, so now what remains to be uncovered is the reasoning behind it. The person behind them is even more important than that, given that they’re the ones responsible for making giant superpowered intelligent terror weapons and setting them loose on humanity. Fighting the Endbringers, it has been made clear, is a losing game because they are swiftly replaced with upgraded versions-the true value now comes from locating their creator.

            • Yeah I can understand Khonsu coming up with a means of escaping, but it’s particularly glossed over.
              Have you ever heard of Offscreen Inertia? http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/OffscreenInertia
              That’s what makes the time-skip so especially glaring; It comes off that Taylor has just NOW gotten a break from fighting an Endbringer!
              Yes later we are given a blurb that states the fight ended, but it doesn’t make the previous transition any less jarring.

              As for my second point, what I was trying to say is that the “why” behind the Endbringers is so crucial to the plot in comparison to the who or how that speculation on it could ruin the story.

              • Hm.

                I think we’re reading the scene completely differently. I don’t see it at all like you apparently do, so I’m not sure what I can say here. In any case…

                Your second point seems to assume that Worm exists in some sort of quantum fiction state, where correctly guessing at the mechanics behind the setting will somehow invalidate the entire story. I consider this to be entirely inaccurate.

              • Basically, the reason people find the time-skip so aggravating is that it makes it look like Taylor and the other heroes have only just NOW got done with the fight we last saw them in.

                As for my second, well, I’ve had plenty of experiance where my interaction with a work’s creator ended up causing things to happen…

                …Seriously, I don’t want Wildbow having to hastily alter the planned ending because I correctly guessed that Simurgh would be defeated by being turned into a harmlesss chibi version of herself…

  81. Reading this chapter, I’m reminded that Eidolon could have a wide variety of tinker powers, and combat suits that range from simple armor against creatures like the Simurgh to AI assisted combat suits incorporating every bit of Protectorate tinker tech he can suss out.

  82. So I have a question that has absolutely nothing to do with the timeskip, or really with anything…

    What is the distinction between loss and victory when dealing with the Endbringers? Clearly victory doesn’t mean Endbringer Kill, or there would be fewer. But how do you determine if the losses were sufficiently small to declare it a victory, or too large? Or should I just assume there’s a system going?

    • “Victory” means “drove off Endbringer with few enough losses to call the fight non-pyrrhic.” I assume it’s case-by-case, dependent on the environment, capes fighting it, and whatever the target is.

      • I think it has to do with whatever the “objective” is determined to be as well.

        For example, New Delhi was a Pyrrhic victory, but it was a victory. Behemoth’s objective was to use Phir Se’s energy to destroy a good portion of India. Even with all the casualties, Behemoth did not succeed in his goal, and things truly could have been a lot worse.

        Meanwhile, Simurgh’s attack on the airliner was a defeat. Even though the fight was low casualty the broader consequences meant that Simurgh was successful in what she was trying to achieve. The PRT noted it as a loss.

        Driving off the Endbringer is not how a victory or defeat is defined. The attacks do not have the simple objective of killing and destroying things. Endbringers have a specific objective when they attack, and if they achieve this objective things go much worse than a normal Endbringer attack does.

  83. Forcefields between layers? Holy carp, this is only more proof that this Endbringer was made for cheating.
    Same with Tohu and Bohu being, you know, more than one. And the non-rotation of the Endbringers. Killing one has screwed with something deep.

    So. Time-skip to Taylor’s 18th birthday. Neat.

    Imp never changes, does she? Neither does the tendency of the story to screw poor Taylor over by interrupting these important moments.

  84. “Alexandria joined the fray, fighting to keep Khonsu in place, pummeling the Endbringer, dodging the columns that closed in on her.

    It was impossible to say exactly how he did it, but Eidolon managed to catch the light…”

    It never mentions the light getting free.

  85. Wildbow, I’m glad that you added the scene separator at the time skip and kept using words like “the image” or “in the video” to keep it clear that the Tohu and Bohu fight is not happening real time – I imagine it’s a lot clearer than when you first posted this chapter. However, I was still not totally clear on what was happening right after the timeskip.

    My impression after the timeskip scene break was that Taylor was still at the Khonsu fight, but talking on her phone to Tecton while hanging back. Then I saw Taylor apparently viewing a timeline of the future on her phone, and thought “wow, during the chapter break, in Cauldron’s HQ, some precog looked at the future and foresaw those events, then gave everyone that information.” And then Taylor watched the video of herself, and I was slightly confused, but still thought that the precog is so powerful that they can copy videos from the future. It was only after Taylor finished viewing that video that I realized that the setting was actually the future, and there had been a timeskip.

    I think the middle of the Khonsu battle was the wrong place for the timeskip. At least, the wrong place for an 18-month timeskip. I am glad that you skipped the rest of the Khonsu battle; I think the rest of the battle would have been predictable, so soon after another Endbringer battle. But there were plot threads that I was hoping to hear about right after the battle. Mainly, the secret that Tattletale figured out about Cauldron in the pre-meeting – I had thought that Taylor would meet up with Tattletale and learn it.

    I also think that the 18-month skip followed by Tecton arguing about how they’ve been a team for longer than the Undersiders doesn’t work when we’ve only seen two battles as part of that team. I feel like one more mission or group interaction after the Khonsu battle should have been shown (or at least part of one), so that we get an idea of what Taylor thinks of her new group after spending so much time with them. The current writing makes me feel like Taylor still thinks about the Undersiders much more than the Wards, because that corresponds to the amount of focus they’ve been given in the story. But I can’t believe that Taylor, after all those years with the Wards, has been mainly pining after the Undersiders and not formed any significant bonds with the Wards. The timeskip would feel more realistic if another Wards team interaction were described.

    An easy first step to making the timeskip better, I think, would be to change the format of the scene break so that it is clearer that it is a major one. You could do that by separating the Khonsu battle into its own (short) chapter, and the post-timeskip part into another chapter. Or perhaps put three scene break lines in a row, to show that it’s a really big scene break.

  86. Let me throw another voice on the pile that found the timeskip jarring and confusing. Particularly because it happened suddenly in the middle of a fight against an Endbringer with time manipulation powers. Thought at first that the videos were from the future or an alternate earth, since Taylor just got back from Cauldron who say they’ve dealt with this apocalypse before, and misinterpreted the line about “where the scar would be.” Also, since the phone conversation with Tecton begins with “Weaver, where the fuck did you go?” I thought it was about her teleporting after Khonsu.

    A full chapter break and a bold “X amount of time later” would go a long way in making this easier to follow, IMHO.

  87. Wildbow, you have written so many amazing chapters before this one. You’re at well over a million words and have enough material to fill roughly eight novels at this point, right? This chapter is confusing, but I’m amazed that it’s taken you so long to write a chapter that I didn’t like — that fact says so much about what a great writer you are!

  88. It took a couple doubletakes and rereads to get on board but then ZOMG and I was ready to drop my phone into the bathtub until I realized tattletale didn’t marry grue. Whatevs I loved it. GOOD CHAPTER COOL CHANGE OF PACE THANKS WILDBOW.
    As soon as I finish up here I’ll go meet pactman.

  89. It is very good that you decided to rewrite this for the eBook(s). I’m buying.
    What leaves me confused is that in two years, Taylor makes no progress in finding out about Dragon. That should be addressed (especially since they spend so much time together on the Dragonfly….). At least show how Dragon & Defiant block her questions, so that we realise why it wasn’t possible to find out more. And no more info on creation of the endbringers?
    well, I’m going to enjoy those eBooks one day! :-)

  90. I think the timeskip dulled the cliffhanger for me.

    Worm has been eating my last few days in a continuous binge read, always wanting to read one more chapter. Till the world powers come together and amass against Khonsu, then we suddenly fast forward into the next volume. The tension just evaporated.

    When the ominous phone call at the end came, I noticed that, unlike previous cliffhangers, I was no longer eagerly anticipating what comes next. After sliding from the edge of my seat to the back, my metaphorical butt didn’t want to move to the edge again so soon. My stride was broken.

    Maybe skimming over a list of averted apocalypses made a little-e endbringer seem not so dire. Maybe my emotional investment was left behind back with Khonsu. But the cliffhanger just didn’t grab me like it should have.

    Just my feelings upon finishing this chapter. Yours may vary.

  91. This time skip was jarring but it was necessary and not as bad as it could have been. I thought that both the parts where Rachel hugged Taylor and the bit with Aisha at Alec’s memorial were particularly touching.

    The only part about the time skip that truly aggravates me is that most of the Boston Ward characters weren’t given much depth, which just feels odd with the amount of time Taylor spent with them. I’m still definitely enjoying this story as a whole though.

  92. “Califa de Perro” is … a terrible name. It’s even miswritten in a way that is not even a wordplay.
    If you want the guy to be King of Dogs, call him “El Rey de los Perros” o “Rey de los Perros”.
    “Califa” is not a latin name for “king”, it is arabic. But ok, cool, everyone can use it.
    What you can’t do is call him “de Perro” because that is singular. It would translate to “king of dog”. So: call him “Califa de los perros” or “Rey de los perros” (the latter sounds more like a name you would hear in Latin America. I’m venezuelan, take it from me)

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