Sting 26.4

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Ellisburg loomed before me.  A small town, surrounded by a massive wall.  Ellisburg had been situated by a river, and the wall included a section of the waterway.  The building that managed the flow of water was bigger than any structure within the walls, a filtration and guard system that ensured that nothing was making its way up or downstream from the small town.

It was a risk to even have the measure, no doubt, and it would cost money to operate and maintain.  There had to be a reason they had included the river rather than section the river off altogether.  A compromise?  Something to keep the goblin king happy?

I’d only been a toddler when the walls had first gone up.  Outside of that bit of news, the Ellisburg situation wasn’t one that came up a lot, yet it had somehow found traction in the public consciousness.  It was something we all thought about from time to time, something that loomed as a possibility in everyone’s mind.

Would today be the day the wrong person got too much power?

Would today be the day our hometown was effectively removed from the map, surrounded by sixty-foot concrete walls?

The dashboard indicated the Dragonfly was now approaching the designated landing point.  The A.I. had suddenly decided to ground itself, landing in a nearby field, costing me precious minutes, while Dragon had been silent on the comms.  I’d left a message, trusting her A.I. to pass it on, and hadn’t received a response yet.

My attempts to patch into the feeds and get a view on what was going on with Jack hit a brick wall.  The corner of the monitor still showed the cube folding through itself in the corner, Dragon’s loading message, as if the process had hung.

I’d manually piloted the craft back out of the field, and the A.I. had kicked in to handle the flight codes and necessary messages to air traffic control and nearby aircraft.  When I’d input my destination for the second time, the craft mobilized.

But the silence, the strange blip in the A.I.’s direction, it left me uneasy.

Now, as we took a circuitous route around Ellisburg, to a field beside the large filtration and security building, I could see the Azazels, parked at the edges of the same location.

That was the point I felt alarmed.

I hit the button on the console/dashboard. “Dragon?  Requesting confirmation on the situation.  You intended to intercept Jack before I got here, but the Azazels are dormant.”

No response.

“Dragonfly,” I said.  “Display non-system processes and tasks last carried out.”

It displayed a list.  In a matter of seconds, the scroll bar was barely a line, with thousands of individual instructions noted in collapsed menus.  A prompt reminded me I could load more with a request.

“In the last minute.”

The list wasn’t much shorter.

“Communications-related.”

There.  Besides the orders I’d just given, I could see the message I’d sent to Dragon.

“Status of message?  Has she heard or read it?”

The loading symbol appeared in the corner.  It should have been nigh-instantaneous.

“Cancel that.  Give me manual access.”

A keyboard appeared on the dashboard.  I couldn’t use it right away, though.  I was forced to pay attention as the Dragonfly reached the field and hovered.  I lowered the ship down.  The small craft shuddered as it touched ground.

Using the keyboard and the manual access, I began digging through the data.  I navigated the menu the A.I. had provided, then opened the submenu to view the details on the message I’d left Dragon.

My message was in the priority queue, but it sat at the 89th position on the list of messages Dragon would be getting to.

I dug a little, and found the list was growing.  Ninety-four, ninety-five…

Where the hell was Jack?  I contacted Defiant.

Defiant here.”

“Weaver.  What happened?  Is the Slaughterhouse Nine situation resolved?”

“No.  He entered Ellisburg.”

I closed my eyes for a second.  It took a moment to compose myself and get my thoughts and priorities in order.  “And the suits?”

Ignore the Azazels.  Listen.  I’ve got a lot to handle and coordinate right now,” Defiant said.  Was there a tremor of emotion in his voice there?  “Golem’s on his way.  Wait for backup.  I’m sending Dragon’s Teeth your way.  Teams from across America are joining the fight now that the full situation is leaking. I’m putting some on containment and quarantine detail, make sure the Slaughterhouse Nine situation doesn’t get beyond the areas the attacks are directed at.  I’m going to send a few your way.  Ten minutes.

“Jack’s already in the city, and you want me to wait ten minutes?  That long, and Jack could get what he wants.  I’ve got the Azazels nearby if there’s trouble-“

The Azazels aren’t… reliable.  Consider them compromised, but a non-threat at the same time.  Listen, there are things I need to take-

This is the highest priority,” I said.  “Isn’t it?  Jack?  The end of the world?”

A pause.  “Yes.  Of course.  But I can’t help you while I’m on the phone.

A note of deceit in that.  He was covering for something.

Something happened.

I thought of what had happened at the school, the way Dragon had stopped abruptly.  I’d read the records, knew the gist of the story.  Dragon had been in Newfoundland when Leviathan sank it, had escaped, only to shut herself away from the world, never venturing outside the expansive building complex she’d had constructed in Vancouver.

She hadn’t left Newfoundland unscathed, I was almost certain.  Brain problems, body problems… I couldn’t be sure.  Probably both.  She had no doubt integrated herself with technology to cope, enhance and expand her capabilities.

Except that her technology was failing.  The way she’d collapsed at the school, the speech problems she’d suffered, the slow recovery, now this…  It was the only theory that made sense.

She’d pushed herself too far, something had gone wrong, and now Defiant faced losing the one person on this planet who could tolerate him for more than ten minutes at a time.  No small wonder he was out of sorts.

I considered how I’d feel if it was one of the Undersiders.

“Defiant,” I said.  “I’m going in alone.  Send Golem in after me if he wants to come, reinforcements can hang back or come with, depending on your judgement.  I’ll handle things on this end.  You focus on what you need to.  Focus on Dragon, focus on damage control.”

A pause.  “There’s nothing I can do for Dragon right this moment.  The best I can do is maintain the momentum and keep things coordinated, and hope that Dragon’s substitution can maintain the back-end.”

I didn’t respond to that.  I was already getting ready to go.

Thank you, Weaver.

It was uncharacteristic of him to thank me.  A pleasantry.  How upset was he?

I couldn’t spare another thought on the subject.  I was out of the Dragonfly at the first opportunity, making my way towards the quarantine control and filtration building.  It was squat, concrete, hardly pretty.  As I got closer, I could hear an alarm.

The front doors had been torn apart.  It might not have been so impressive, but these were the same vault doors we saw with the shelters that studded every likely target around the world.

The gouges were narrow, a finger’s width, as though someone had dragged their hands through the steel like I could drag my fingers through half-melted butter.  Siberian.

Jack had brought protection.

My bugs flooded into the facility, past the second dismantled vault door.  The alarm was louder as I ascended the concrete stairs and made my way into the building.

The emergency lighting was on, casting the area in a red glow.  My bugs searched and scanned the area, in case any members of the Nine were lurking in wait.  So many ugly ways this could go.  So many threats that Jack could have on hand.  Cherish?  Screamer?  Nyx?  Ways to fool my senses, ways to shut me down or defeat me.  My only recourse was to get them before they got me.

Hey, passenger, I thought.  Do me a favor.  If I get taken out of action and you step up to fight, work on taking out Jack, alright?

My bugs stirred, moving further down the hall.  It was so far from a conscious direction that I wondered for a second if the passenger had listened.

No.  I’d tried hypnosis, I’d tried other things.  Some in Mrs. Yamada’s office, other times in the PRT’s labs, after dark, off the record.  Nothing brought the monster to the fore.

Just my subconscious.

Just.  Like that wasn’t something I couldn’t help but wonder about.

But I’d made peace with it.  I couldn’t barter with something that wouldn’t talk back, but I could accept it, test and acknowledge my limits as far as they pertained to the entity that was apparently granting me my abilities.

I wouldn’t turn away from it, wouldn’t tell it to go away or hold back in my abilities.

My bugs marked the area, giving me the information I needed to navigate the facility.  It proved easier than I might have expected.  Rather than follow the winding corridors and make my way to the security checkpoints, I followed the path of casual destruction Siberian had left in her wake.  She’d knocked down walls to create the shortest possible route from the front doors to Ellisburg.

No casualties that I could detect.  No nonhuman life.

Had Dragon ordered this place evacuated before she was incapacitated, or had Nilbog gotten here first?

My bugs started to scan the area beyond the facility, inside Ellisburg.  They made it about ten feet before something like a frog’s tongue began snatching them out of the air.

I withdrew the swarm back to myself, hiding my bugs beneath my cape and skirt, and I made my way through the opening into Ellisburg.

A goblin wonderland.  It was clear he’d altered it from its original layout, likely over the course of years.  The remodel had been more aesthetic than functional.  Floorboards had clearly been dug up and moved to the exteriors of the buildings, creating roofs and building additions that spiraled or twisted, with more boards propped up flat against the building faces on one side, painted or modeled in the same way the towns had been put together in old western movies.

The walls that surrounded Ellisburg had been painted as well.  To look from a distance, Nilbog’s kingdom extended to every horizon, with crooked, impossible landscapes at the periphery of it, like an ocean frozen in time, grown over with grass and trees.  Oddly enough, they had painted the sky as an overcast one, where it was visible above the lush, unpredictable fields and forests.

Within the city, the trees had been immaculately cut and trimmed, and the shapes were just as strange; trees that were perfectly round, cubes, cones.  Where new trees were growing on lawns, as dense and close together as trees in an orchard might be, I could see heavy wires wound around them, guiding their growth into twists and curves.  The art of bonsai taken to a bigger scale, cultivating each tree in form.  Already, some of the largest ones were properly set up, meshing together with counterparts on the opposite sides of the street, forming lush, living wooden arches.

The grass had been cut, and I could see the attention to detail there, even.  There were innumerable flowers growing across lawns, but the grass was neatly cut beneath and around them, as if someone had taken shears or scissors to the blades that grew between the flowers.  I couldn’t make out any rhyme or rhythm in how the flowers or plants were laid out and how they grew.  It was an injection of color in the same way a random splash of paint from a palette might be applied to a canvas.

And then, as if to remind me that this wasn’t friendly territory, there was a scarecrow in one garden.  The clothes were brightly colored, the pose one of a dancing figure, but that wasn’t the eerie thing about it.  The head was a skeletal one, a dog’s head stripped of all flesh, turned skyward with its mouth opened in joy.  The hands that clutched the rake and watering can were held together by wire.  A very small human hand.

For all the signs of careful tending, the entire place was still.  A town that could have been taken from a storybook, desolate.  There wasn’t any sign of chaos, nor the destruction that would follow from an attack by the Slaughterhouse Nine.

But more than anything, what threw me was the absence of insect life.  No spiders spun webs.  Even the ground had little in the way of ants or earthworms.

A trap?  I looked behind me to see if they were planning on walling me in, and came face to face with one of Nilbog’s creations.

It hissed, its breath hot and reeking of bile.  Fangs like a viper’s parted, the distance between them great enough that it probably could have sunk some into the top of my head and the underside of my chin as it closed its mouth.  I stepped back out of reach, then forced myself to stay still and wait.

The mouth closed, and I could see how the creature’s head was smaller than mine.  It wasn’t more than four feet tall, covered in pale brown scales.  The reptilian face could have been in a children’s movie, if it wasn’t for the eyes.  They were dark, black, and cold.

It clung to the wall, its feet placed higher up than its hands, opposable toes gripping the frame that had been around the vault door.  I noticed it was wearing white shorts, with one suspender strap over a shoulder.  A taloned claw held a softball-sized chunk of the wall.

Was it fixing the wall?

“I’m not a threat,” I told the lizard-child.

I felt hands touch my belt and jumped, seizing the wrist of the offending hand in an instinctive motion before I’d even looked to see who it was.

A girl, five or so feet tall, her face mottled with purple veins that spiraled across her perfectly round, puffy, hairless head.  Her eyes were tiny and piggish, her fingers blunt, barely a half-inch long, her mouth too small for her face.  She wore a sack that looked like it had been sewn to work around her oversized head.  Her hand was on my knife.

The lizard boy had extended frills at his arms, neck, and the edges of his face, colorful, brilliant, and held out by a framework of needle-fine spines.  His mouth hung open, viper’s teeth revealed.

I looked beyond this pair, and I could see signs of others.  Eyes reflected light in the shadows beneath steps, from windows.  There were large, bulky silhouettes in the windows, some holding smaller figures on their heads and shoulders.  I couldn’t make out much, but I wasn’t sure I wanted to.

That was twice now that they’d snuck up on me.  Quiet motherfuckers.

“I’m sorry for grabbing you,” I said.  “You wanted my knife?”

She took it, her tiny black eyes glaring at me from the midst of her oversized head.  The lizard-boy eased his frills down somewhat, but his mouth remained open.

“I’d like to see Nilbog,” I said.

She ignored me, her pudgy, blunt-fingered hands fumbling through the pouches at my belt.  With painful, clumsy slowness, she divested me of my taser, the pepper spray, and the spools of silk, both conventional and Darwin’s spider silk.

I winced as one spool fell to the ground and unwound partially, dirt getting caught up between the strands.  That would be a pain to fix.

I could see more of the things making appearances now, getting close enough for me to see as they took interest in what was happening.  Eyes appeared in the windows, reflecting the light in curious ways.  Eyes from within the trees, between the slats of stairs… some faces.  They ranged from artistic and beautiful to horrific.

Every single one of them was a weapon.  Going into this situation was a repeat of the information gathering and problem solving issues one faced when going up against an unknown cape.  If it came down to a fight, I’d have to figure out how they operated, and the full extent of their capabilities.

Trouble being that there were a hell of a lot of these things.  Hundreds, even thousands.

I waited patiently.  No use complaining, even if every second counted, and Jack was no doubt having words with Nilbog.

“Nilbog is in danger,” I said, trying a different tack. “The man with him, he has dark hair, a beard?  He’s with a striped woman.  Bad people.  I think they’re going to try to hurt Nilbog, hurt the man who made you, so you get upset and leave this place.”

Her hands fumbled with my flight pack.  I felt her touch the arm at the side of the pack, with its narrow arm.  She took hold of it and pulled.

“I can take that off,” I said.

She grunted, and I started to move to oblige, only to get a protest.  The frills on the lizard boy extended, and her own head swelled, the skin getting thin enough in the process that I could see a fluid filling the lower half of her head.  I moved my arms away from the straps, and I watched them both relax over long seconds.

When she was sure I wasn’t trying something, she grunted again, louder, a frustrated, constipated sound.  A communication, but not one meant for me.

Her friend emerged from a garage, lifting the door to lumber forth.  He was big, fat, and moved on four limbs that each had opposable digits.  His massive belly swung right and left as he loped, so distended and so close to the ground as it swung that I worried it would hit something and split open. His genitals were almost bigger than I was, and they were, along with his sensory organs, the only way I could really tell his front from his back.

The sensory organs consisted of slits running top to bottom from a ridge at one end of his body.  There was no room for a brain, no eyes present.

This organ granted him enough awareness to approach, probably by way of scent, but it didn’t give him the fine tuning he needed to find us, specifically.  The round-headed creature approached him, took hold of a fistful of chest hair and led him my way.

I backed up a little as they approached, and received a hissed rebuke from lizard-boy.

I remained still.  The safest course.

The girl-thing moved the brute’s hand towards me, and I stayed still as she gripped the arm and placed it in the hand.

He closed his fist around it.

“Wait,” I said.

He hauled on it, clearly intent on tearing it free.  I was thrown, sent rolling until I landed in one patch of grass, dazed, startled, just a little hurt.

The brute approached, the round-headed girl hurrying after.

Before I could rise, he’d already fumbled for me, and seized hold of the mechanical arm.  This time, he managed to pull it free.  I used the antigravity panels to control my flight as I was thrown, controlled my landing, and hurried to get my hands to the straps.

There was a wail behind me, a warning sound.  I saw the others react, but kept working through the straps.  Two at the shoulders, one across the chest, beneath my armor-

The pack fell free.  I chanced a look over my shoulder, and I saw a number of Nilbog’s creations gathered, close enough that they could have lunged for me.  One was a very tall, long-limbed man with skin that looked like a Siamese cat’s, covered in a very fine fur.  His face was split by a wide, toothless mouth, his eye sockets little more than indents filled with fur.  He held a makeshift spear with a flag on the end, which had been painted brilliant colors, and wore a matching loin cloth.  Probably the most dangerous one in my immediate vicinity, just in terms of how fast he could probably close the gap and murder me.

“Safe,” I said.  “No danger.  I’m safe, the pack’s off.”

I waited, tensed, as they studied me.  Enemies on all sides.

Jack was invincible, I wasn’t.  But if I was going to achieve anything here, it couldn’t involve destruction.  I’d read the files on Nilbog, I had a sense of him, in the most general terms.  I was banking everything on his megalomania overriding his desire to collect just a little more in the way of resources.

I kept my voice level and calm, “I’d like to see Nilbog now.”

Were they hungry?  If this became a fight, I’d have to defend myself with the bugs in my costume and the bugs in the quarantine and filtration facility.  I could use the swarm to equip myself with the stuff that had been dumped on the ground, but that required that I survive long enough to do so.  Were there ranged attacks here?  Assassins?

Desperate situations called for risks.  This was my gamble.

“I have a gift for him,” I said.

Something seemed to ease in them.  I watched as some turned away, finding their way to resting spots.  The tall man with the loincloth worked his overlong body under a porch, where he could rest in the shade.

I didn’t receive an escort, but the ones along one road moved aside, sitting or standing on the sidewalks.

I walked with my head high, and sent a handful of bugs forward.  More than a few of Nilbog’s creatures took the opportunity to snap them up.

A soft rumble sounded above.  Lightning.  Rain began to patter down, light.

My surviving bugs gave me ears on the scene before I arrived.

“Lipsy?  Tell the cook to serve us something.  I fancy a salad, and something robust.  I think it should taste sweet.”

The alterations to the surroundings only grew more focused and extreme as I found my way to the center of Ellisburg.  Building faces were covered in wild plant growth, and there wasn’t a single building without more extreme modifications made to it.  Glances indoors showed little more than barren exteriors with the floorboards pried up, or clusters of Nilbog’s creatures lurking in the unlit gloom within.

“I’ll look forward to this, god-king.”

“You should, you should.”

“Your hospitality astounds me.  I’m unworthy.”

Hardly.”

So Jack was situating himself as someone subservient, even servile, so as not to challenge Nilbog’s alpha status.  He was playing nice, even.

If I tried the same, I’d only be working to catch up, to earn Nilbog’s trust.

I approached the town center, and found myself in the midst of a crowd of Nilbog’s creatures.  Goblins and ghouls, muppets and horned moppets.  Big, small, thin and fat.  Each was exaggerated, twisted, as if Nilbog had gone out of his way to insert traits and qualities that separated them from humanity.

The creatures stepped out of the way as I made my way closer.  Nilbog sat at the center of a long table, and two more tables extended from the ends to form a loose ‘c’ shape.  Checked tablecloths in eye-gouging color contrasts covered each table.  Jack sat at the end furthest me, and a man with white and black stripes sat beside him.

Bonesaw was only a short distance away, sitting on the shoulders of what looked like a flayed bear.  The thing had claws two or three times the usual size, it’s mouth yawning open like it had been broken.

Nilbog was immensely fat, easily four hundred pounds, and sat on a throne that had apparently been cobbled together from dismantled furniture.  His face was covered with a paper mask.  Other creatures sat on chairs to his left and right.

The arrangement of the tables created an open space that could host their entertainment.  I looked, then wished I hadn’t.  A bloated, coarse-looking creature lay on the ground, almost like a potato made of hair and flesh.  Smaller things were busy carving gouges and holes into it.

The resulting wounds regenerated, but not before the smaller creatures inserted body parts into the openings, allowing the regenerated flesh to close tight but not close completely.

I averted my eyes from the scene, content with not letting my brain register which parts were being inserted and what they were doing after the fact.

“Another guest!” Nilbog cried out.  He spoke like he had a bad accent, but it wasn’t.  He’d affected strange and overdramatic tones for so long that his voice had warped, and he’d had no ordinary people to hear or talk to and measure his voice against.  “A friend of yours, sir Jack?”

I could see Jack’s eyebrows raise in interest.  “Not at all.  Skitter, was it?  Except you’re going by another name, now.”

I ignored Jack.  “Nilbog.  It’s good to meet.”

Nilbog didn’t look impressed.  “Sir Jack was more obsequious when he introduced himself.”

“That’s because he’s a two-bit thug, Nilbog.”

Jack chuckled at that.

“A two-bit thug?  You’d insult my guests?”

“If those guests include Jack,” I said.

Nilbog narrowed his eyes.  “I will not have fighting in my glorious kingdom.  Jack has agreed to a ceasefire while we dine.  You will do the same.”

“I already gave my weapons to your underlings.  You should know that the black and white striped man is a living weapon, much like your creations.”

Nilbog glanced at the male Siberian.  “I’m not concerned.”

“I imagine you aren’t,” I said.  Where’s the real him?

I had to be careful in how I used my bugs.  Sending them into buildings would only reduce the size of my swarm, but there was relatively little chance that Manton would simply be hanging out in one of the hollowed-out buildings.

“So,” Jack said.  “Are you going to have a seat, or are you going to continue to be rude?”

“I’m waiting for our host to invite me to sit.  Forgive me, Nilbog,” I said.  I glanced at the fat man.  The grease on his skin made it look like he’d oiled himself.

“Sit.  But I’d like to hear who you think you are, whelp, if you won’t bow down to me.”

I approached the row of chairs opposite Jack and the Siberian, and one of the critters hopped down, scurrying under to join the festivities in the center of the tables.  I took the vacated chair and sat.  I might have removed my mask, but I was all too aware of the silverware in front of Jack.

“I’m your equal, Nilbog.”

Jack laughed again.  Nilbog seemed to react, almost looking flustered, before turning to me.  “You insult me.”

“Not at all.  Ignore the thug that’s sitting over there.  I’m a queen, a goddess of my own realm.  Or I was.”

Jack was smiling, clearly amused.  Then again, he was safe.  He was untouchable with Siberian beside him, and he was only feigning weakness to get past Nilbog’s defenses.

“A queen?”

“A queen.  With that in mind, provided you give your permission, I’d like to offer you a gift.  A… peace offering, to make up for the fact that I entered your territory uninvited.”

“Of course, of course!”  He was almost childlike, so easily moved by this promise of a gift, his mood changing so quickly.  Guileless.  He’d been surrounded by yes-men for more than a decade, with barely any human contact, his defenses were gone.  “I forgave Jack the lack of an invitation, I’ll extend you the same courtesy.  This gift?”

I called on the swarm I’d kept within the quarantine facility.  “Resources are slim.  An isolated kingdom like yours, providing for your subjects is hard.  You do an admirable job despite this.”

“Of course, of course.”

He was eager, impatient.

“I’d feed your subjects,” I said.  “Protein.  You need it to make more.  To keep the ones you currently have in good health.”

“Yes, yes” Nilbog said.  My bugs were just now arriving in the area.  “This will do.”

The full swarm arrived, the vast majority of the ones I’d kept in the Dragonfly, and the ones from the area beyond the Ellisburg walls.  I gathered them on plates in piles.  His minions devoured them, licking at the plates, picking with talons, or simply lifting the plates and tipping the insects into open mouths.

I wasn’t surprised when Nilbog turned his attention to his own plate.  My eyes fell on Jack.  He still had a slight smile on his face.

He held the cards up his sleeve.  I’d played mine for a minor advantage, but he had Bonesaw.  One virus or parasite in the midst of these creatures, and they could go berserk, roaming the countryside until they were put down.  He had Siberian, which meant he was safe, meant he could kill me or Nilbog whenever he wanted.

But he wasn’t going to.  This continued as long as the game was still on.  He thrived on this interplay.

As more bugs continued to arrive, I used them to search the area.  Nothing.

Below ground?

Earthworms, ants and pillbugs dug through the soil beneath the park, searching.  Some of Nilbog’s creatures were beneath the earth, ready to spring up and attack.  Others were beneath, eating whatever they could find.

In the midst of my search, I found something.  Not Siberian’s creator, but nearly as good.

Nilbog himself.

He sat directly beneath his ‘throne’, and was connected to the fat man by what seemed to be an umbilical cord.  This cord gave him control of the body, fed him sustenance, let him stay safe while the decoy sat up here.

One card for me to play.

“I think the bug queen here should explain how she came to nobility,” Jack said.

Setting me up to say something incriminating, I thought.  “As you did, Nilbog, I claimed a realm for myself.”

“And you left it, apparently.  If you’re truly a queen, you’re a foolish one.”

“I did leave it,” I said, “Because I had to, to save it.  I had to protect my subjects, to fight my people’s enemies.  I have not been as fortunate as you.”

“No,” he said, uncaring.  “Apparently not.”

“If it came down to it, would you step up to protect your creations?  To protect this town you made?”

“You’re sounding a great deal like sir Jack,” Nilbog commented.  He frowned.

“He’s trying to convince you to go to war,” I said.

“To take pre-emptive action,” Jack clarified.

“I’ll do neither.  Not war, not pre-emptive action.  I have what I need.  I’m a content god, a happy king.”

You’re starved for real human contact, I thought.  Or you wouldn’t have let us join you at the table.

My bugs continued to search, though the bastard creatures were coming out of the woodwork to catch and devour them.

Where in the hell was Manton?

Jack spoke, “It’s a question of whether you act now and preserve what you have for the future, or wait and let them come and kill you.  They’ve been systematically seeking people like you, eliminating them.  I could show you proof, given a chance.”

“I’ll make it simpler,” I said.  “You don’t need to leave your kingdom, your garden.  You don’t need to go to war with an outside party you don’t know or care about.  You want to know what happened to my kingdom?  That man, right over there, sir Jack, destroyed it.”

“Nonsense,” Jack said.  “I’ve been sleeping these past few years.  Naps are such an underrated pleasure.”

“They are,” Nilbog said.  “All of my subjects nap every day.”

“Let me explain,” I said.  “I had a kingdom that I ruled.  I had a king that ruled with me, who kept me company.  I had wealth, people I cared about, people who cared about me.  Power.  I was a god in my domain, and those who stood against me were driven off.”

Nilbog shook his head.  “You need a heavier hand to rule.  More loyal subjects, so you don’t have to bother with those who would stand in your way.”

“I was more powerful than you,” I told him.

He snapped his head around to stare at me.  To glare at me.

I’d pricked his pride, apparently.

“I was more powerful than you, but Jack over there made a promise to people.  He didn’t say it aloud, but it was still a big promise.”

“Now you’re making stuff up,” Bonesaw commented.  She slid down off the flayed bear’s back and joined a group of creatures her size.  She hugged one, abruptly.

But Nilbog wasn’t telling me to fuck off.  His attention was on me.

He’d built a storybook kingdom, an impossible place, and populated it with monsters, both beautiful and ugly.  He’d had some fixation on this stuff, some Freudian obsession.  Not sexual, but still rooted in some primal part of his childhood that had been taken from him.

I’d play this by telling him a fairy tale.

“No,” I said.  “And I think Nilbog is clever enough to understand what I mean.  Jack promised that he’d come back when his nap was done, and he’d destroy my kingdom.  He said he’d destroy your kingdom, Nilbog, and every other kingdom.  He said he’d kill all of my people, and he’d kill all of your creations.”

“All of this, from the man you describe as a mere thug?”

“Yes,” I said.  “A woman with great powers told him he could do it, and now he’s going to try.  It’s why he’s here.”

“To destroy my kingdom?”

“No.  He wants you to go to war against your neighbors.  To break down the walls that keep you safe and fight people who are leaving you alone.  He’ll use you as a distraction, and then when everything is done, he’ll come back and destroy your kingdom.  And he’ll do it in the cruelest, saddest ways you can imagine.”

Nilbog nodded slowly.

Jack was still waiting patiently.  Too quiet.  I felt a moment’s trepidation.  I hadn’t found Siberian’s controller.  I needed to defeat him before Jack was cornered.  The second he decided he couldn’t salvage this situation, he’d order the attack.

Nilbog raised his hands.  “Angel on one shoulder that tells me one story…”

A placenta-like blob swelled in his hand.

“A devil on the other, telling me another.”

Another blob appeared in the other hand.

Both burst, showering Nilbog in greasy slime.  Two creatures gripped his forearms, looking more like flying monkeys than an angel and devil.  They were roughly the size of babies, their faces feral, mouths filled with pirahna-like teeth.  One had red hair, a red beard and gazelle-like horns, and the other had white hair and beard and a strange horn that formed an off-white halo above its head.

“I’ll take the angel, if you please,” Jack said.

Nilbog shrugged.  Were the creatures more a demonstration than anything else?  He lowered his hands, and nudged the white-haired thing in Jack’s direction.  The other thing made its way to me.  I reached out and took it into my hands, holding it close.

“Do you have a response to the Queen’s allegations, Jack?”  Nilbog asked.  He reached up to adjust his floppy cloth crown.  Creatures were arriving to deposit the meal on the plates.  It looked like purple vomit.

“I do,” Jack said, smiling.  “But can we eat first?  It’s rude to argue over a meal.”

Nilbog nodded, as if Jack had said something very sage.  “I agree.  We’ll eat.”

Bonesaw made her way to the table.  “How did you make this?”

“The chef stores every ingredient we can find inside her, then regurgitates it in the form required.  I asked for it to be hearty, and here we have it, chunky.”

I looked down at the plate.  Droplets of rain made nearly-clear spots appear in the midst of the purple slop.

So it is vomit.

“It tastes like cupcakes,” Bonesaw said, around a mouthful.

I started to move my mask to eat and be polite, then noted how Jack was holding his knife.  The blade swayed back and forth in the air, as he chewed, his eyes rolled back and looking up at the overcast sky above.

The blade was making criss-crosses in the direction of my throat.

He glanced down, meeting my eyes, and smiled.

“Our apparent rivalry aside, have you been well, bug queen?”

“Well enough.”

“Then you should be hungry.  It’s been a busy few days, and it’ll only get more interesting.  I notice your friends are sitting this one out.  Did you break it off completely, or are you still in touch?”

“Still in touch,” I responded.  I glanced at Siberian.  The knife is a purely psychological thing.  If he wanted to kill me, he could use Siberian to do it.

Besides, it was a butter knife.

I moved my mask, without breaking eye contact with Jack, and helped myself to a bite.

It did taste like cupcakes.  I suspected it would have been less nauseating if it tasted like real vomit.

It was a tense few minutes of silence as we ate.  I found out the devil-thing in my arms wanted to eat, so I let him help himself.  An excuse not to eat, anyways.

The creatures in the center of the area finished their ‘show’, and Nilbog clapped enthusiastically.   I joined him and the five or six creatures around the table who really had hands to clap with.

The second show began.  A gladiatorial fight, apparently.  One of the creatures had wings instead of arms, while the other had wicked barbs extending out from the elbows and knees.  When even the tips made contact, they ripped out grapefruit-sized chunks of flesh.

I braced against the table to keep it from flipping as the pair crashed into it.  Nilbog laughed, and the sound was more than a little unhinged.

“Is everyone done?” Jack asked.

“Yes,” Nilbog decided.

“Then let me explain.  Weaver’s entirely right.  Except for the part where you die at the end of it all.”

“Oh?” Nilbog asked.  He leaned forward, placing fat elbows on the table’s surface.  It dipped as his upper body weight rested on the wood.

“Living like this, you obviously dislike the system.  You know how screwed up things are out there.  People are vile, self-centered, and so caught up in their own routines and expectations that they’re barely people anymore.  Your creations have more personality.”

Nilbog nodded, taking it all in.  “They do.  They’re wonderful, aren’t they?”

Wonderful,” Bonesaw agreed, with the utmost enthusiasm.

He just believes whatever we tell him.  He’s a sponge.  How do you convince someone who’s so incapable of critical thought?

Worse, Jack was touching on all of Nilbog’s pet issues.  The man had been a loner before, a loser.  He’d rejected the trappings of society long before he’d become this monster.  He’d spent years simply going through the motions until the last parts of the system he’d clung to fell apart.

“I want to wipe the slate clean.  Things have been going through the same motions for so long that there’s a rut in the ground.  You erased everything that wasn’t worth keeping here, and replaced it with something better.  With your garden.”

“Yes.”

“With that in mind, I’m reaching out to a like-minded soul.  Someone who rejects the malignant, stagnant society and wants to grow something else in its place.”

“Jack has no interest in growth,” I said.  “Only destruction.”

“Did I interrupt you when you were speaking?” Jack asked.

“Do it again and I’ll order your execution,” Nilbog said.

I pursed my lips behind my mask.

Where the fuck was Siberian’s creator?  I’d scanned every area where he could be lurking.  There were only monsters.  I was nearly out of bugs.  I had only a select few secreted away in my armor, and they weren’t ones I was willing to sacrifice.

I didn’t have much in the way of cards up my sleeve, but these bugs would have to serve in that department.  Problem was, they wouldn’t fix anything now.  Bonesaw could counter them too readily.

Where could Manton be hiding?  My eyes passed over the crowd of creatures that had gathered around the edges of the area, enjoying their master’s presence.

Hiding in plain sight.

Plastic surgery, or even an outer suit, like the one Nilbog wore.  He had to be dressed up in the skin of one of the monsters.

Shit.  How was I even supposed to assassinate him if he was going that route?  I touched him with a bug, only to find his flesh harder than steel.  Unmovable, just from the way his foot touched the Siberian’s.

Jack licked his plate, then set it down on the table.  “Where was I?”

“Replacing society,” Bonesaw volunteered.

Replacing society,” Jack affirmed.  “Imagine if your garden really did extend as far as the eye could reach.  If you could walk in the direction of the sunset, only to find that your creations have already settled in each new place you travel to, decorated it, transformed it.”

“A romantic goal, one I might pursue if I were a younger man,” Nilbog said.  “But even gods get older.”

“They do,” Jack agreed.  “Well, we could give you that youth.  Bonesaw could grant you immortality.”

“She could also enslave you to her will,” I commented.

“I’d never,” Bonesaw said.  She shook her head, her curls flying, “No, I couldn’t!  I love these beautiful things he makes!  To control him would mean I’d take that creativity away.”

Nilbog nodded at that.  “That’s a good argument.  Besides, to enslave a god?  Madness.”

Except they’re mad, I thought.  All of you are lunatics, and I made the mistake of trying to talk sense.

“It’s a good argument,” Jack said.  “Because we’re right.  Would you like to live forever, as a god should?  Would you like to see your garden grow to what it should be?  What it deserves to be?  Something fitting of a god?”

“It’s a tempting thought,” Nilbog said.

I reached for a rebuttal, telling myself I had to be just as grandiose, just as mad, but I couldn’t do that at the same time I was trying to convince him to go dormant again.

“If I may?”

It was another human voice, but it didn’t belong to any of us.

Golem.

He approached, taking off his helmet.  He offered Nilbog a slight bow.

“One of yours, Jack?” Nilbog asked.

“No.  Not in the sense you mean.”

“Yours, then?” Nilbog asked me.

Yes, I thought.

“No,” I said.

I saw Jack raise his eyebrows at that.

“Shenanigans!” Bonesaw cried out.  “I call shenanigans!”

But Golem took my cue.  “I’m a third party.  I stand for myself.”

“Hardly worth a place at the table,” Jack commented.

“Then let me stand for the others.  The innocents.”

“Innocents?” Jack asked.  He snorted.  “No such thing.”

“There’s always innocents.”

Jack smirked.

“I’ll allow it,” Nilbog said.  “Excellent!  Sit!  We were just having a discussion.”

Golem approached and sat at the same table I was at, but he took the far end.  “I’ve overheard some, so we can cut straight to the chase.”

“The dilemma,” Nilbog said.  “The devil on one shoulder, the angel on the other.”

“The sin of sloth versus the realm of possibility,” Jack added, gesturing to my demon as he said sloth, then to his own angel.

“Well said, well said!” Nilbog said.  He nodded so hard his double and triple chins wobbled.

“Or is the angel making false promises?” I asked.  “There’s no security.  No comfort.  You claim to care about your creations, but you’d go to war?”

“Many have gone to war and made sacrifices in the present, for the sake of a brighter future,” Jack commented.

“I thought you were trying to break out of the rut?” I asked.

Jack laughed at that.

He’s enjoying this.

I felt almost dirty, knowing I was only helping Jack in his self-indulgence, helping him revel in conflict.

“Well, stranger?” Nilbog asked.

“Golem,” Golem said.

Jack snorted at that.  He’d caught the meaning behind the name right off, the white supremacist’s son naming himself after a creature from a Jewish parable.

“Golem, then.”

“I’m not an eloquent speaker.”

“That’s a good thing,” I said.  “Too many and it just becomes people talking circles around one another.”

“Then I guess I have to get to the heart of it all.  Direct.”

“Yes,” Nilbog said.  He leaned forward, and I feared the table would break.

“Were you happy, before any of us came here?”

“Yes.  I can eat the most delicious foods, yet get every nutrient I need.  I can fuck the most beautiful and exotic women you’d ever imagine, whenever I wish.  Every need is provided for a hundred times over, and I’m surrounded by those who love me.”

“Then why change?  Why do anything?  Let us leave, then return to your utopia.”

Nilbog nodded.  He rubbed at his chin, but the act was like pushing one’s hand into jello.  It shifted the mass more than it rubbed.

“You wanted a tie breaker?” Golem asked.  “This is it.  Do what Weaver is saying.  Do what the Queen is suggesting.  Stay quiet, enjoy what you’ve built here.  Attack, and the entire world will take it away.  Then, even if you’re strong enough to survive that, which you may be, then Jack will still betray you.”

“Or,” Jack said, “You can stop lying to yourself.”

Nilbog snapped his head around.  He growled, “Impertinent.”

“Your people are slowly starving.  You make them eat each other to live, and desperately attempt to shoot any birds out of the sky so you can try to recoup what you lose.  Bonesaw said they don’t live long.  How long?”

“Four years.  Sometimes five.”  All at once, the light was gone from Nilbog’s face, the sudden fury quenched.

“Who’s your favorite?” Jack asked.

“Polka,” Nilbog said.  He reached out, and a female creature, no taller than three feet, hopped up onto the lap of the creature beside her king.  She had a narrow face with a reptilian structure, with only four fangs at the very front, but smooth, humanlike skin.  Her hair was white, her skin blue.  She wore a toddler’s clothes, a long, narrow tail lashing behind her.  Nilbog stroked her hair.

“Not the first Polka,” Jack said.

“No.  The third.”

“She was your first, and you love her for that, because she drew you from the hell that was your life before godhood, gave you this.”

I can’t interrupt this.  Not with the subject being something so close to Nilbog’s heart.  I might win the argument, but I’d lose Nilbog’s ear.

But I knew I was losing anyways.  Jack had found Nilbog’s weak point.

“My first friend,” Nilbog said.

“And she dies.  Because your creations don’t last.  You make another, and slowly fall in love with her all over again, and yet you know she’ll die in turn.”

“Yes,” Nilbog said.

“Bonesaw can fix that.  I can grant you immortality.  I can grant your creation that same gift,” Jack said.

“A hard offer to refuse.”

“It would be wise to refuse,” Golem said.

“A king can’t be selfish,” I said.  “A god definitely can’t be selfish.  Your responsibility is to your creations.”

“Exactly what I’m saying,” Jack said.  “Step out of your comfort zone, to better your people.”

“Enough!”  Nilbog screamed the word.  As if responding to his anger, every single creature in the area responded.  Weapons raised, spines extended.

And Jack was still invincible.

“Nilbog,” I said.

“Speak again, and I’ll end you, queen or no.”

His eyes were angry, hard.

He’d lived for so long in his comfort zone, and now he was being called on to make a hard choice.

“Then please listen carefully,” I said.  “Because I suppose I’m paying for this with my life.”

“So be it,” he said.

“If you want proof that Jack intends to betray you, look no farther than your own creations.”

“What?”

“He’s secreted an assassin into your midst.  A killer who pretends to be one of your creations.”

A gamble, a last ditch effort.  Was my gut right?  Had Jack instructed Bonesaw to create a costume or a creature to hide the Siberian’s creator?

I called my flight pack to me, parked it on a rooftop nearby.  If it came down to it, I’d have to run.  I could see Golem tensing.  He’d read the situation right.

“Just look,” I told Nilbog.  “Because somewhere nearby, there’s a creature you didn’t create.”

His eyes roved over the crowd.

“Might not be in this crowd, but it’ll be close.”

“I see it,” Nilbog said.  “I see it.  Bossy, Patch, hold him!”

The crowd of creatures parted as two creatures took another in their hands.

“Not an assassin,” Jack said.  “Merely one of Bonesaw’s… I suppose you can call it a homage.”

“It is,” Bonesaw said.

The Siberian was moving.  Readying to pounce?

I couldn’t move fast enough if he did.

“Wait,” Jack said.  He stood from his chair.

No, I thought.  “Don’t listen.”

“I’ll do as I please,” Nilbog said.  “Last words, sir Jack?”

“Last words, yes.”  Jack approached the captive.  The Siberian followed.

“You let him do this, and he kills you,” I said.  “Your creations will go mad with grief, and they’ll die in a war for vengeance, just like Jack wants.”

“Not at all,” Jack said.  “Because…”

An instant before the Siberian made contact with the monster, Golem jammed his hand into his side, using his power, throwing the creator into the air with one thrusting hand.  Siberian lunged, punching through the hand of soil to grab the creator’s foot.

Nilbog half-rose from his seat, though he was massive enough that standing was hardly possible.  His eyes moved from Golem to the hand, anger etching his expression, if one could etch into a face as soft as his.

“You dare disturb the peace!?” Nilbog screamed the question. “Kill the queen!  Kill the Golem-man!”

In that instant, Golem created two hands, throwing us back.

I caught the flight pack in the air, hugging it.  It provided lift.  Not enough to stop my momentum as I headed back towards the ground, but enough that I could shift my direction to land on a rooftop.  Golem wasn’t so lucky, as he fell into the midst of a sea of the creatures.

“Azazels, now!” I screamed, one finger pressed to my earbud.  I pulled on the flight pack and then took off again.

Golem used his power to create a platform, slowly raising himself above the street.  Creatures tumbled off of the surface of it.  Some flew at him, and he struck at them.  Not enemies he was capable against.  I sent my bugs to them, the reserve I still had on hand, commanding the bugs to bite and sting.

Others leaped onto rooftops, then onto the rising platform.  Golem grabbed one claw as it slashed for his face.  He couldn’t do anything about the other, as it gouged his armor, scoring it.  He created a fist that jutted out of his chestplate, striking the creature off of the rising hand-platform.

Spines rained down on him.  One caught him in the shoulder, and he collapsed.

Where are the Azazels!” I shouted.  The flying creatures were turning my way.

But Defiant had said they were unreliable.  Dragon was out of commission.

My bugs burrowed towards the buried Nilbog.  Jack had orchestrated a war.  Killing the creature’s creator wouldn’t stop that, wouldn’t keep them from rampaging and seeking out revenge beyond the walls.

But it would slow things down.

They inched ever closer.  Jack was untouchable, but…

Yes.  Worms, centipedes and other subterranean bugs made their way to the buried goblin king, and forced their way into the sac that enveloped him, past the threads of material that wound down his throat and nostrils, and into his airways.

“Creatures of Ellisburg!” I screamed.

Heads turned.

“You’ve been betray-“

And before I could say more, Jack’s knife slash caught me across the chest, the cut severing the straps of my flight pack.  I dropped from the sky, landing on one of those ramshackle, spiraling rooftops.  Planks that had been poorly nailed in collapsed around me as I hit solid ground.

My hope of turning the monsters against the Nine had been foiled.  The fall had knocked the wind out of me.  I couldn’t get my footing, and the creatures were advancing.  Every possible combination of features, it seemed like, an infinite army, unpredictable.

Your king is dying, I thought, my mouth moving and failing to form the sounds.  There was only the barest whisper.  I killed him, but if you could believe that Jack did it

I would have used my bugs instead, but I had so few, here.

I sent those few to Golem, removing them from the flying creatures.

Nilbog dies,” I spoke through the bugs, but the range of sounds was too limited, and with scarcely thirty bugs in total, they were quiet.

Nilbog’s dying,” Golem said, his voice coming through the comm system.

One creature, eyeless, like a crocodile with a serpentine body, advanced on me, looming over me.  Its jaws opened.

The lizard boy was here too.  A drop of venom appeared on one distended fang.  I was surprised by the fury on his expression.

Blame Jack,” I said, through the swarm.

“Jack Slash has used us as a distraction to kill your king!”

Golem hollered the words at the top of his lungs.  I felt a tension leave me.  I might be fucked, but we’d limited the damage.  They’d turn it inward.

The attack stopped.  The creature looming over me turned and slid away in a flash.  The lizard-boy remained.  Still recovering from the fall, I couldn’t muster enough strength to fight back if he bit.

I commanded the flight pack instead, flying it into him with both wings extended.  He was brained, and the pack ricocheted off his skull, one wing shattering.

Golem had risen almost to safety, though he was still too far from the wall that had been erected around the city.

I looked at the wall.

Looked past it, at the capes who were swiftly approaching.

Rescue.

I brought the flight pack to me, the broken wing partially retracted, the other still extended, and pulled it on with slow, agonized movements.

Lost without their master, half of the creatures seemed to turn on the Nine, the other half seemed to remain intent on Golem and me.

Capes settled around me, forming a defensive line against the ones who approached.  Revel was among them, using her energy blasts to pick off the largest ones.

Someone picked me up, then took flight.

Jack,” I wheezed out the word.

The Siberian took hold of the umbilical cord and heaved, Jack maintaining contact with a hand on the Siberian’s shoulder.  Nilbog, still slowly dying of oxygen loss, was brought to the surface with a surprising ease.  Bonesaw wrapped her arms around the man.  Frailer than his self on the surface, smaller.

I felt a moment’s despair.

Foil?  Someone who could stop Siberian?

Somebody?

The heroes advanced, but the Nine created a portal, and were gone in a flash, Nilbog carried between them.

Leaving the monsters of Ellisburg to riot.

Last Chapter                                                                                               Next Chapter

280 thoughts on “Sting 26.4

      • I think the right word is pathetic, in a sad way. Despite all the power he got, in the end he was still the loner detached from reality he was before triggering.

      • Number three hundred and fifty seven in sentences that really could be taglines for Worm.

        “It is weird to see [ ], whose first appearance was terrifying, being so human.”

        • “And so the bug queen supervillain sat down with the pedophile monster maker goblin king to talk sense into him so he wouldn’t join up with the Johnny Depp lookalike with knife powers and an army of psychopaths.”

            • “Yes. I can eat the most delicious foods, yet get every nutrient I need. I can fuck the most beautiful and exotic women you’d ever imagine, whenever I wish. Every need is provided for a hundred times over, and I’m surrounded by those who love me.”

              And later.

              “Polka,” Nilbog said. He reached out, and a female creature, no taller than three feet, hopped up onto the lap of the creature beside her king. She had a narrow face with a reptilian structure, with only four fangs at the very front, but smooth, humanlike skin. Her hair was white, her skin blue. She wore a toddler’s clothes, a long, narrow tail lashing behind her. Nilbog stroked her hair.

              • Oh,right. Forgot about that.
                But, hey, they’re having sex with their god. That’s not so bad, right? Right?

              • Only if you consider his creations as human children can you label him a pedophile.
                What do you call people who’s into fucking monstrous creatures? PsychoGecko comes to mind.

              • I have nothing against fucking monstrous creatures, though I suspect other people here might question why you use that term to describe their mothers, but at least make sure the giant red roach monster with 75 mouths is of its species’ legal age before you raid that booty.

              • They do have the intelligence level of children, maybe more instantaneous or not, human or not and given their lifespan, it’s even worse, like sexually abusing someone from infancy to senility.

              • I didn’t get the idea that Nilbog was having sex with Polka. I was thinking a more Best Friend Forever kinda thing.

                But otherwise, the issues of consent here make him real fucking creepy.

  1. Typo Thread!

    “Would today be the day the wrong person got too much power?Would today be the day our hometown was effectively removed from the map, surrounded by sixty-foot concrete walls?”

    Missing space.

    “A note of deceit in that. Covering for something.Something happened.”

    An extra space between ‘that’ and ‘covering’ and missing one right after.

    “…then Jack will still betray you, and he’ll betray you.”

    Kinda redundant there.

    • “so distended and so close to the ground as it swung that I worried it wound hit something and split open.”
      Would hit.
      “Jack slash has used us as a distraction to kill your king!”
      Missing capitalisation.

    • “A very small human hand.” Plural hands?
      “subjects, to and fight” Extra ‘and’.
      “Nilbog said. he leaned” Missing caps.
      “I’m playing for this” Paying.

    • “the other half seemed to remain intent on Golem and I.” Preposition. Should be “Golem and me.”

      “Looked past it, at the capes that were swiftly approaching.” “That” refers to people. Suggest “who” instead.

    • “Through scent or some other perception this organ granted him the ability to approach, it ”
      Though scent or some other perception?

      ” I had to protect my subjects, to and fight my people’s enemies.”
      to and

    • Typos:
      pirahna – piranha

      How was I even supposed to assassinate him if he was going that route? – Lost context in editing. In the last paragraph “him” was Manton, here it’s Jack.

      Killing the creature’s creator wouldn’t stop that, wouldn’t keep them from – “creature’s” should be “creatures'”

  2. Actually, it would be very interesting, and somewhat unexpected, if, in the absence of Nilbog, his creatures didn’t riot.

    They are clearly sentient, perhaps human-level sapient, and possess the ability to reason. They are extremely loyal to Nilbog, and are capable of maintaining “society” to his liking.

    So, it would be hilarious if the next thing to happen is Taylor getting “elected” as an intermediate ruler of Nilbog’s creations (she boasted of having being a queen and a goddess, after all, was acknowledged as such by Nilbog himself, and fed the population) for the purpose of leading them to recover their creator.

    Because from what we have seen in this chapter, Nilbog’s creations aren’t just rampaging monsters with no conciousness.

    • If they concluded he’d been kidnapped? Yes, that would be funny. Awkward, in all kinds of ways, and vulnerable to Nilbog showing up and saying ‘kill for me, my children’… but funny.

    • They’re sentient, but there intellect seems limited. Maybe on the range of a small children. Small, mutant, cannibal, superpowered, children.

        • Childish mutant super children,
          Childish mutant su-per child-ren!
          Childish mutant SU-PER CHILD-REN!
          Villains with a short life!
          NILBOG POWER!

          (…kiiiiilllllllll meeeeeee…..)

          • Wow. You work 64 hours a week for seven or eight months and suddenly you don’t even realize that you’ve actually written “Childish children” until hitting the post button.

            Tiny mutant super children…. etc.

  3. Nilbog, having narrowly escaped death by bugs… seems likely to throw in with the S9. So that didn’t go at all well.

    Saint’s team seems incapable of handling the Azazels in combat. That, or he’s busy working on cracking the Birdcage. Either way, that’s twice so far the absence of Dragon has probably been decisive.

    Defiant saying ‘thanks’ truly is one of the signs of the apocalypse. Then again, Weaver told him that it was fine if her great obsession with Jack and world survival came second in his priorities, and he probably thought the world would end before she’d say that. Literally.

    The portal looks like that stolen Tinker technology from before, Dodge’s. My understanding was that there were problems tracing it… unless you had the exact location where it was opened. Which they do. And as soon as the riot calms down, they may even have a chance at tracing it. Or if Jack’s group has already come back onto Bet somewhere… well, the same network that found them before could find them again. Assuming Saint is capable of operating some of Dragon’s programs competently, and that he’d consider that worth his time.

    Of course, if the S9 do vanish for a bit to let Nilbog get up to speed… well, nothing to do but sit around and be ready. Defiant almost certainly has some outings planned to reduce his stress, and who knows? He might even invite a friend or two along.

    • Staircase thoughts:

      Who’s doing the maintenance for the Dragonslayers? It’s been made repeatedly clear that Tinker-tech, without a Tinker to maintain it, breaks down fast. And it’s never quite the same unless the creating Tinker is maintaining it either. The Dragon’s Teeth have their maintenance handled by Masamune, so even the mass-production versions of Dragon’s tech require tinker maintenance.

      I think the answer to this explains why Saint would bother to help Teacher – Teacher got to Saint somehow. Before incarceration, through the communication channel… not sure. Teacher claimed to Lung that he could offer Thinker/Tinker powers without absorbing people completely into his groupthink… but Lung suspected (and I agree) that Teacher would still have a leash and collar on such, albeit a lighter one than Cody’s presently wearing. Saint got enough Thinker/Tinker powers to handle the maintenance on his stolen tech (perhaps thinking it was just him working hard on his obsession); Teacher… well, Teacher got his breakout eventually.

      Side note: Bonesaw did to Panacea almost exactly what Jack did to Bonesaw.

  4. I wasn’t expecting Taylor and Jack to go face to face so soon. That was tense as hell.

    Fascinating to see Taylor outplayed too. It leaves me hopeful that there’ll be a rematch at some point since there very few people who can beat Taylor at her own game like that. Beating Jack in cleverness would be almost the ultimate win for her.

  5. was anybody else picturing The Hobbit’s goblin king?

    also… DANG, i was sooo looking forward to a “Nilbog: meh, I could take her” moment. but nooo siberian had to save him

  6. Sympathetic? More like unbelievably gross and fucked up. Though that is a good quality for a monster. So much creepy imagery like the fact that they eat each other, are slowly starving, are as smart as small children, the baby clothes, that he fucks what he considers beautiful etc.
    Things we learned.
    1. Nilbog is a vegetarian.
    2. The nine have a teleporter of some kind.
    3. Golem and Taylor have balls of steel. She declares herself a god, ha!
    4. There is now a self replicating army of starving, enraged, monsters that are going to riot. This is one occasion where I think the army would be better off stepping in. Bring on the steel rain, and and more dakka.

    • 3) And is acknowledged as such by others.

      4) Well, we can’t be sure that they are going to riot. Taylor may be able to talk them down.

        • Well Wildbow is anything if unpredictable. If she can keep Bitch from freaking out she has some experience. I don’t think it will work but the image having a bunch of cannibal mutants fighting side by side with heroes to avert the apocalypse fills me a strange joy.

        • A bunch of strange creatures, hated and feared for what they are, cut off from their lives. Wouldn’t be out of place in this series.

    • 2. It’s not a teleporter it’s the technology they stole from Dodge in the Toybox. The one they used to get into the bubble pocket dimension.

  7. The tension keeps building. I love the way you portray the entire situation as constantly hanging on the edge of a knife. Also absolutely awesome to read Taylor taking on Jack at his own game on his terms (and losing).

    Why do I get the feeling that an Endbringer is going to show up in the middle of all this chaos and make things even more chaotic than they already are?

    Can’t wait for the next update!

    • Oh and I am going to make my wild prediction for the record. Scion’s interlude will take place during an Endbringer attack on London (or whatever city it was the most powerful woman in the world lives in).

  8. I was just about to say, the scenery did remind me of Minecraft.

    —————–

    Well goddamn. The good guys completely lost that round. A valiant effort but thwarted.

    – Poor Nilbog, he never stood a chance, did he? Not really.
    – Jack just has all the goddamn cards. He has Siberians plural, has Bonesaw … and now he has Bonesaw and Nilbog.
    – Saint, you utter prick. See what you’ve done?
    – liked the fairytale-meets-mental-illness vibe; very Alice in Wonderland which I imagine was the goal anyway
    – interesting that Rinke violates conservation of mass to make his creatures but they, not being perpetual motion monsters, must subsequently be fed the hard way.
    – Weaver is building a bit of a death wish. Charging in alone wasn’t the best idea
    – liked her best guess as to Dragon’s situation; if things go as I suspect/expect, she’s coming back as meat (thus retroactively making Weaver’s theory true) and Defiant is going to go full upload

  9. Holy shit, Weaver and Jack sparring in the court of the Goblin King. That was fucking cool, probably the coolest thing I’ve seen in a while.

    I really do hope Nilbog’s creations live through this shit. I don’t really care for Nilbog, but his creatures don’t seem like bad sorts, just a whole lot different.

    Oh, and good job Saint. Great fucking going. I’m so glad you charged in dickfirst to stop the completely hypothetical horde of crazy robots. Because the horde of crazy fairy monsters is sooo much better.

    Good. No I’m good. No, no I’m glad he did that. NO I’M GLAD. IMEAN IT’S NOT LIKE-

    • Weaver: Leave Nilbog alone.

      Jack: Weaver, beware. I have been generous, up until now. But I can be cruel.

      Weaver: Generous? What have you done that’s generous?

      Jack: EVERTHING! Everything that you wanted, I have done. You wanted to survive Brockton Bay, I left. You cowered before me, I was frightening. I have reordered time. I have turned the world upside down and I have done it all for you! I am exhausted from living up to your expectations.

      Weaver: Through dangers untold and hardships unnumbered, I have fought my way here to the castle beyond the goblin city…for my will is as strong as yours, and my king-

      Jack: Stop! Wait, look, Weaver, look at what I’m offering. Your dreams!

      Weaver: And my kingdom as great.

      Jack: I ask for so little. Just let me rule you and you can have everything that you want.

      Weaver: Kingdom as great…damn… I can never remember that line.

      Jack: Just fear me, love me, do as I say and I will be your slave!

      Weaver: My kingdom as great…my kingdrom as great…You have no power over me.

    • Jack: Oh dear, poor Gollum

      Golem: Golem

      Jack: I’ve just noticed your lovely family are missing.

      Golem: Uh, oh yes! So they are. My lovely family. Missing. I’d better find them, but first, I’m off to lead the young lady in the wrong direction, just like we planned!

      Jack: Wait, I’ve got a much better plan, Golem.

      Golem: It ain’t gonna hurt the little lady, is it?

      Jack: Oh, why the concern?

      Golem: I won’t do nothin’ to harm her.

      Jack: Oh come, come, Golgotha! I’m surprised at you, losing your head over a girl.

      Golem: I ain’t lost my head!

      Jack: You don’t think a young girl could like a repulsive little scab like you, do you?

      Golem: Well, she did say we was…

      Jack: What? Bosom companions? Friends?

      Golem: It don’t matter.

      Jack: You’ll do what I say, or I’ll dip you straight into the Bog of Eternal Stench before you can blink. And Golem! If she ever kisses you, I’ll turn you into a prince.

      Golem: Y-you will?

      Jack: Prince of the Land of Stench!

    • Azazel 1: Don’t go on!

      Azazel 2: Go back while you still can.

      Azazel 3: This is not the way.

      Azazel 4: Take heed, and go no further.

      Azazel 5: Beware. Beware!

      Azazel 6: Soon it will be too late.

      Defiant: Don’t pay any attention to them. They’re unreliable. They can’t be counted on, but you’re on the right track.

      Azazel 7: Oh no you’re not!

      Defiant: Oh shut up.

      Azazel 7: Sorry, just doing my job.

      Defiant: Well you don’t have to do it for us!

      Azazel 8: Beware, for the-

      Defiant: Just forget it!

      Azazel 8: Oh please, I haven’t said it for such a long time.

      Defiant: Oh all right, but don’t expect a big reaction.

      Azazel 8: No, no, no, of course not. Ahem. For the path you will take will lead to certain destruction! Thank you very much.

    • The heroes advanced, but the Nine created a portal, and were gone in a flash, Nilbog carried between them.

      Leaving the monsters of Ellisburg to riot.

      youtube.com/watch?v=kiUt5HuW3xc

    • Okay, I want a turn.

      Jack: Come on, Weaver, we don’t need to fight here. After all…

      We are two of a kind
      Violent, unsound of mind
      You’re the yin to my yang, can’t you see?
      And if I were to leave
      You would grumble and grieve
      Face it, Weaves…
      You’d be lost without me!
      You’d be lost (You’d be lost)
      You’d be lost (You’d be lost)
      Face it, Weaves…
      You’d be lost without me!

      (Original song here)

      • Okay well, the detail’s and context’ll be off but I’ve wanted to do this for a while.

        Been two long years since Jack laid his ass at Skitter’s feet
        And it burned inside his mind the way he suffered that defeat
        In the darkest pits of Hell Jack Slash hatched an evil plan
        To tempt Theo Anders
        For he’s just a mortal man
        The sin of pride Jack cried is what will do you in
        I thought we had this settled, I’m the best that’s ever been

        Taylor did you ever know that time keeps marching on?
        The coldest hour is the one comes just before the dawn
        Jack Slash’s back in Brockton, will you stand up to the test?
        Or will you let the Jack be the best?

        “Truth is I haven’t killed much since I turned my cape
        But give me half a minute and I’ll get my swarm shipshape”
        Jack grabbed the knife out of Weaver’s hand and said
        Girl I’m the killer underground and I walk upon the land

        Ya’ll better just be turning back if you want this girl to win
        ‘Cuz fightin’ is the only cure for the predicament she’s in
        “Now Jack it would be a sin for you to kill the earth
        So you go on back to Hell, and I’ll show Golem’s worth”

        Weaver are you fighting or will you eat the mud?
        Jack walks the land and hungers for blood
        Can you hear your dad a cryin’?
        Will he ever know Jack wants his daughter’s very soul?

        “Before we play I wanna thank you for letting Dinah’s own word ring true
        She said you can’t be trusted”
        Yeah so what you gonna do?
        “Well you get the world Jack, if you think that you can win
        I beat you once you old dog and I’ll whip your butt again”

        Taylor Hebert’s white the Devil is black
        My little passenger loves to attack
        Jack Slash dreams that he can win
        But Weaver is the best that’s ever been

        Original Song, complete with Johnny Cash:

        This is why I’m not a songwriter.

              • I’m telling you, this thing is cheesy and horrible.

                I’m saying that. I am declaring something too cheesy. Do you not understand the significance?

                This could be the cheesocalypse.

                Perhaps I’ll only post it at my site, forcing everyone who wants to see it to visit.

                I haven’t, but I’m considering it… youtube.com/watch?v=5V6UfcP5Ib0

              • >I’m telling you, this thing is cheesy and horrible.

                I’m saying that. I am declaring something too cheesy. Do you not understand the significance?

                This could be the cheesocalypse.<

                Look upon his works, ye mighty, and despair.

              • It’s cheesier than a cheesemakers’ convention! (Do cheesemakers have conventions? I dunno. I don’t make cheese, I just eat it.)
                Anyway Reveen, I like it. It’s so bad it’s rather amusing.

              • Alright, so if Worm ever becomes some bright and colorful animated movie or series, you’ll know what the score is. Also, possibly unfinished. Might need more there before the “Meh, I can take her” part. Also, might put the repeated words on those lines in parentheses. Give it more of a call and respond feel instead of repeating itself.

                When the world gets you down,
                ’cause the Endbringer’s in town,
                and everything in life is bitter,

                Put on your costume and stings,
                slip on those fairy wings,
                and don’t forget to… flitter!

                Up in the sky so high, high,
                look, it’s the queen butterfly, fly,
                that pixie will poke out your eye, eye,
                just ask Lung if you think that’s a lie, lie.

                She’s the baddest girl in pink,
                that fairy dust’ll make you think,
                but don’t push her or ‘fore you blink,
                she’ll hit you with the kitchen sink.

                That’s why the last thing you want her to doooooo

                Is put on her costume and stings,
                slip on those fairy wings,
                and prepare to… glitter

                She’s the sparkliest hero in town, town,
                With her wand she takes S-threats down, down
                They can’t touch her ladybug host, host,
                Attack her and you’ll be toast, toast.

                And if you say “Meh I can take heeeeerrr”

                She’ll put on her costume and stings,
                Slip on those fair wings,
                Look out it’s… Skitter!

              • Well, I love it, particularly the artist licence you’ve taken with her character! Anyone else like this theme-tune?

      • Riddle me this now, and try to affirm
        Does anyone really know the mind of the worm?
        I live in the shadows, I work in the shade
        A swarm and a mask a lonely Skitter’s crusade
        Can you tell me I’m not insane?
        Sometimes I get this feeling bout the law I’m dealing
        Am I letting my reason wain?
        Have I been forsaken on this path I’ve taken?
        Check my head, I guess the joke’s on me
        I’m not laughing at the irony, oh no.
        Riddle me this now, and try to affirm
        Does anyone really know the mind of the worm?
        Can you tell me has something changed?
        The odds are zero cause I ain’t no hero
        Do you know it when you go strange?
        Is your taunting true, am I as crazy as you?
        Wherever you’re going, whatever you do
        I’m out in the snow keeping watch over you
        So Slash up the Goblin with your Simurgh-made fears
        We’re counting down as the apocalypse nears…
        Original: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ncrhSikSFLU

  10. And now Bonesaw Stitches Nilbog to Crawler and/or Syberian, allowing him to spawn self-replicating infinitely adapting / made out of forcefields monsters.

    Just for the fun of it.

    • I was thinking maybe she does to him the same thing she did to Blasto and turn him into a meat-puppet mook maker or mindwipe him like they did Hookwolf and have him manipulated.

      • Ionno, Jack might find that boring. On the other hand-
        … Didn’t Jack tell Theo that to kill the thousand people in his name he was going to use different methods than usual? Pretty sure Nilbog is the new method. eeeep.

    • I don’t think it would work that way because Siberian is a projection. And if it *did* work, it wouldn’t achieve anything. Crawler has to be hurt in order to adapt and Siberian’ s unhurtable.

      What you could end up with though is a horde of Siberians whose projector is *Crawler* leaving an enemy with almost no vulnerabilities.

  11. Nilbog’s little kingdom managed to be even more horrifying than I imagined it would be. I can’t tell if I would be thrilled to have slop that tasted like whatever I wanted, or horrified.

    “His genitals were almost bigger than I was…”
    Probably the only thing on earth with balls bigger than Taylor’s.

    • Look they have every flavor of vomit you could want! I’m actually surprised at how badly Nilbog uses his power. He could have at least given some of them herbivore stomachs. Considering they built that quarantine building without him attacking, he could ask for a cow or two to study their digestive tract. If Taylor had his power, she’d have built a self sustaining ecosystem, school, and living manufacturing within a month. She would probably be good at the civilization games.

      • But that’s just it, he’s not Taylor, nor Bonesaw, this guys problem is that he’s NOT a Tinker. He’s a man, a poor, sad, deluded man, living in his own fantasy world. He doesn’t care HOW it works, only that it does, and he’ll only ever concern himself with the how if it immediately affects the end product. Other than that, he’s a toddler with a toy, using it however he pleases for his own sick, twisted amusement.

        • Yeah, this is it. Nilbog could have been the greatest danger this side of the Endbringers, he’s arguably one of the most powerful parahuman in the world, and all he did was recreate his fantasy medieval town.

      • Taylor with his power ends with Zerg taking over the world. In, like, a year.

        And that’s a happy end.

        Also, yes, it makes a very interesting “what if” scenario, to consider how the story would have gone if Taylor got such power (maybe her bug control + ability to modify bug biology / mutate bugs? Including things like producing relay bugs)

      • I wonder if it’s the protein problem. If you’re creating an animal, you’re going to need a bit of protein. You saw that by now they’ve eaten every bug available. The problem with vegetarian and vegan diets is that you have to find plants that actually provide protein.

        • But surely if he can make a devil/angel mutant by thought, he can make one just a herbivore? Though I know nothing about the digestive tracts of a livestock. If he has things that multiply with fire, how about light them on fire? They multiply, and now there is more food to eat. Problem solved besides that disease you get from eating brains. The stupid bastard could at least plant a vegetable garden.

          • I may remember wrong but I believe Nilbog can’t create from nothing. I recall wildbow saying he stored flesh in his hump the way camels store water. So, a lack of meat would definitely be a problem.

            • Not Nilbog. His creations that multiply if you burn them. So burn them and have all the biological matter you need.

          • I think he’s a mentally deficient life tinker. He creates whatever he can imagine with sufficient thought, but can’t maintain his imagination with enough focus on anything that isn’t “cool” long enough for it to become reality.

            Just like a mechanical tinker, he just makes things – but unlike most tinkers, he can’t understand what he built well enough to learn from it.

            Not every tinker-type cape is super-intelligent, it seems.

      • Speaking of every flavor of vomit…. Did that remind anyone else of “Berties Botts Every Flavor Jelly Beans” from Harry Potter? :) The Every Flavor jelly beans included one that was vomit flavored. Yum!

  12. Also liked how Taylor has acknowledged and made peace with the fact that her power essentially has a weird will of its own. We really need to name her Eldritch Abomination. Sample names:
    1. Bug
    2. Ananse after the African trickster spider god.
    3. Chitin
    4. The Host.
    5. Worm

      • I don’t think of it as a destroyer. I mean it chose Taylor after all and she wins by being clever and out thinking her opponents. That said, her nightmare fuel entry could fit with the Destroyer.

      • The Hive? Insect themed,could work. I was hoping for an actual name or nickname since this thing is closer to Taylor than anyone else in the world.

    • Dunno, I think Weaver works just fine. Whatever threads you give her, she generally finds a way to put them together into a solution. She gets outperformed/beaten often enough that it keeps it interesting.

      • Naming the inhuman entity the same as her hero codename is boring. Besides it fun to figure out what to call it.

        • Ooh I misunderstood that. I thought people were trying to rename Weaver.

          A name for Weaver’s passenger. If you want a serious name, I’d suggest Synergy. If Taylor just wants to put a name on it for moments when she decides she wants to say something that she doesn’t expect to be answered, then “Not Me”. “Family Circus” is your hint if the reference doesn’t make sense.

          • In the business world, “synergy” has been overused, beaten into the ground and left for dead.

            I still shutter when I hear the word thanks to mouth-breathing corporate yes-men types. The kind of guys who excitedly read the latest management self-help book because they know the boss read it.

            “We need some synergy around here!” or, “Let’s synergize that!” were once common catchphrases.

            Fortunately, abusing “synergy” has gone out of fashion now, but its abuse has left its mark on me.

            • I understand completely. Synergy was pretty overused for a while. Still is in some circle, but the word still means the same thing :)

              I like “Not Me” better anyway :)

      • That makes me question alot now. I still think she thinks of the ruthless, dangerous part of her identity as Skitter internally. Though with Noelle and Riley’s passenger’s influence on their behavior I wonder how how much of Taylor’s mental processes are her own? How much influence has her passenger had on her? If her passenger starts murdering people left and right on its own after she goes under again, then Skitter might very well work.

      • When it comes to naming the passenger, how about Glaurung? That’s a character from Tolken also known as The Great Worm.

        • Glaurung was the Father of Dragons who used his hypnotic powers to ensure two siblings married each other and then, just before dying, revealed it to them. The two siblings proceeded to commit suicide. All to torture their father whom Morgoth, his boss and essentially Satan, had cursed. Something tells me Weaver wouldn’t like that name.

          • Considering how much passengers screw up people’s lives both directly and indirectly, perhaps it’s appropriate. :D

      • Why does he remind me so much of you? If he exists in the wormverse you just know he’s a villain. Like the mask. I kind of want Taylor to have had Sierra and Co. wear differed colored versions back when she was Skitter.

      • Nah, everyone equates Loki with the Avengers movie now. Anansi is a Spider, Trickster, God as well. So it fits the insect theme.

    • After reading a few of the replies, here are my top 5 in order.
      1. Eldritch Nice and simple. Since it would be the first named passenger, it could take a simple name like Hero did.
      2. Skitter I agree that she still equates the more ruthless side of her to Skitter.
      3. Source
      4. Bob
      5. Hive or Nest
      Anansi seems to be claimed by Marvel. http://www.marvunapp.com/Appendix/anansism.htm

      • Well I don’t think Marvel can claim ownership of a cultural deity that’s several hundred years old. Then again copyright law is bullshit here at times. Bob come on. Steve is much better. Behold puny earthlings. Bow before your new god, STEVE! Eldritch abomination named Eldritch? That just blew my mind. I’m still gonna vote for Anansi, but that’s a second vote with Packbat for The Hive.

        • Aunt Nancy (Southern American name for Anansi.)

          Other names along the same line as Passenger: Freeloader, Goldbricker, Flunky, Parasite, Truckler, Leech.

        • Deities are public domain, though you can probably copyright a certain depiction. Same principle behind public domain superheroes like Black Terror. Certain public figures are also public domain by virtue of them being public figures.

          That’s why both Marvel and DC have Thor and Aries. I haven’t checked on if they both have Hercules, but Marvel’s is worth checking out.

  13. So if Dragon was still alive she would have probably been able to ward off the Nine or take Nilbog out before Jack could teleport them away. Jack getting Nilbog ups the casualties but Saint finding Amy’s message is probably what tripled their chances of preventing the end of world.

    Makes you wonder why Cauldron didn’t let Teacher spill the beans to the rest of the people at the meeting then if the discovery triples the chances of saving the world.

  14. So, it seemed a little unclear, did Taylor successfully kill Nilbog? I mean, bonesaw is just gonna rez him, but is this another s-class threat she hast technically put down.

      • Don’t think Alexandria counts as S-class. The Siberian only did in conjunction with all the other Slaughterhouse 9; and she had true invulnerability. She coudn’t fly, but still.

        I think S-ranks are given out to those who can cause massive destruction, not those who are hard to kill. Nilbog was hard to kill, but he could produce an endless monster army. The Endbringers have there natural desaster equivalent. The S9 have Shatterbird and Burnscar for mass destruction.

        Taylor helped kill Echidna and Behemoth and half the S9.

        • On a semirelated note, Blasto of all people could have been a S class threat if he had given his creations self-replication but he refrained from doing so because he didn’t want to have a “kill on sight” order on his head.

        • Taylor didn’t help kill Behemoth at all; that was entirely Scion/Norton.

          She did sort of save India from being destroyed, though.

    • We didn’t see the body.

      So yippy, now the Nine have their own Nilbog to strap in like Blasto and make their own army of minions, probably by harvesting flesh off Crawlers.

    • I would have to qualify this as a combat win for Taylor, with the possibility of a kill. If he IS dead it would be her first S class kill. (At least on screen. I would assume that something THAT cool would be shared with us fans.) She has done some good damage to several S class threats before, and coordinated some others.
      Leviathan – She managed to stick Armsmasters halberd up Levi’s ass.
      S9 – She fought Mannequin to a standstill on her own, and coordinated a damn good response to the rest of them. Her and the Undersiders efforts were pretty much instrumental in running the S9 off the first time.
      Echidna – Cut the bitch in half using subterfuge and someone elses power.
      Behemoth – Coordinated the well documented ‘Most Damage EVER’ to an Endbringer….. Twice!
      Unknown – Confrontations through the time skip… Assuming no kills or major damage here. (Yeah yeah, I know… “Assume”….. Bad thing to do in the Wormverse.)
      S9000 – As bad as the collective threat is, individually, none of them qualify as an S class threat. Each GROUP, however, I think does qualify as an S class. Taking that into account, Taylor could credited with the demise of two and possibly three class S threats. The possible is the group Golem went after. She wasn’t there, but she IS the General of this campaign.

      As an aside, I think that overall, the S9000 collectively qualify as something more than an S class threat. Perhaps a new class Z?

      Nilbog – If he’s dead, he would be the first S class she has killed singlehandedly. Since Jack got away with the ‘body’, I would have to say this encounter is a loss even so.

      • I don’t think the gangs of S9 they’ve taken out would count as S-Class. They only become so when Jack is around, because he’s the one who makes them what you are. Without him even Crawler and Siberian are just brutes that can be taken out. Certainly not Mannequin. Though the S200 would count as a whole.

        The rest… yeah, did Weaver ever get a Congressional Medal of Valor or something? Or her teammates? I can understand not giving the Undersiders any even for their heroism, but as Weaver? Why the fuck not?!

        • Actually, if you want to make the cape coalition fighting Endbringers actually stick, and try to convert villains to the good side of the tracks, then some recognition and rewards might go a long way with some personality types. Weaver is most certainly not the only cape to ever dance the line between villain and hero cape. We see Flechette go the opposite way.

        • I would say Siberian on her own is an S-class threat. Alexandria survived dozens of fights with Endbringers completely unscathed and the only being to ever seriously injured her was Siberian. Taylor sent Siberian running.

          Speaking of, Alexandria’s not considered an S-class threat because she’s theoretically on the side of the angels, but she’s in that league and I’d definitely include her on that list.

    • Speaking of recommendations, you quoted from Watership Down here some while back (comparing Tagg to Woundwort), and it was such a fine piece of writing that I sought out the book. Thank you muchly for that. I quite enjoyed it.

      Well, okay, I didn’t have to “seek” very hard because, hey, bookstore, but y’know…

      • And I sought out interviewing Leather and am currently reading Interviewing Trey. Well worth it. OHh and if ‘Jack O’Knaves’ hopped realities and joined Jack slash…scary though there PB?

        • Honestly, I don’t think it would work hopping either way — Wormverse superpowers are generally stronger than Justice Wing superpowers, as far as I can tell (I think Jack O’Knaves doesn’t even have powers).

          I know what you mean, though. They’re both elementally terrifying.

      • I’m glad you liked Watership Downthat Woundwort passage is one of my favorite in … well, anything.

        Speaking of that and recommendations, let me once again name Shardik, also by Richard Adams, as a great work of prose fiction. And Helm by Steven Gould, and Islands in the Net by Bruce Sterling, just because those are two other books competing for status as my favorite novel of all time. And Moneyball by Michael Lewis, even though it’s not even a novel (it’s about baseball, baseball statistics, and how the Oakland Athletics in 2002 used the latter to compete with richer teams at the former), because I love that one too.

        …I’ll stop.

  15. I’m curious now. Why hasn’t Nilbog’s little realm been leveled? I don’t want to even go near the morality of whether or not it is or isn’t wrong to kill the little weirdos, but in a more tactical sense.

    Seems to me that they really aren’t that threatening. I know no one wanted to nuke him because of the unpredictability of that, but I imagine a little battalion of capes with powers similar to Crucible or some Dragon-craft could probably take out the city in less than a day. Is it because Nilbog was content to sit around in his little castle and never really showed interest in taking over more land? What did the people in charge plan to do when he died and his beasties weren’t so controlled? What happened if he woke up one day and decided he felt like sending an army of flying gremlins out to destroy the world? Did they have a system we didn’t see in place to take out more adventurous tunnelers?

    Inquiring minds like mine wanna know.

    • My guess is that nobody knew how badly the community was suffering, because nobody was doing more than watching the borders. My guess is that even Jack was not prepared for how weak and pathetic Nilbog actually was – he came with Siberian and Bonesaw as backup, two of his heaviest hitters. Bonesaw to release a killing plague at need, and Siberian to protect from physical harm. The three of them would have been innoculated against the plague. Remember what Bonesaw did to the merchants.

      Nilbog as a Bonesaw toy though? That is a bit scary. I do not expect to see him again, except as a controlled hybrid. A Nilbog + breed hybrid would be pretty ugly.

    • I said the same thing during Piggot’s interlude. I still think they should have nuked the bastard. If it didn’t work, then send in the infantry, tanks, jets, shoot the hell out of them. Then nuke him again. Who cares if they replicate, the army outnumbers his creatures. What’s the point of having a military if you’re never going to use it when an enemy force is killing civilians? The 9 and the endbringers I can understand not using the military but Nilbog should have been surrounded, and invaded within a week. They set a bad precedent by letting him live. It makes them seem weak and ineffectual.

      • That probably works!

        Until the creatures he made that replicate when exposed to a convenient source of energy start to outnumber the army and he goes on a genocidal rampage across the nation, of course.

        • Okay, send in the army and if it fail then nuke it. If it fails more bombs, more tanks, more dakka! Then more nukes. He isn’t Behemoth, If Brute force doesn’t work, you’re not using enough!

    • Attacking would be useless. The people of Ellisburg are dead, one small community gone in an actually really vast country where the distribution of industry means that one little town won’t account for much on a tactical level.

      Not even getting into the fact that Nilgob can apparently engineer his lovelies to reproduce on contact with fire, or that he can get them to resist just about anything. Nukes wouldn’t be a good idea either, because the only real Ellisburgs I could find on google maps are in the North-Northeast. Don’t wanna be sending fallout to New York or Boston, and if Toronto even get’s a wiff of gamma we’ll have turned Michiagan, Ohio, and New York into boneyards within the week, mark my words.

      I choose to believe that Wormverse Canada is a murderous police state with tons of secret supersoldier programs like it is in the Marvel Universe. Shit yeah.

    • They didn’t know how far his creations can go. He didn’t really create anything made for war, they didn’t want to give him incentive. Just think about it as fighting against over a thousand Genesises. They an do almost anything, given the brainpower, creativity and incentive.

      Fun thought, Scion stumbles into their meeting.

  16. “The head was a skeletal one, a dog’s head stripped of all bone, turned skyward with its mouth opened in joy.”

    I think you mean “stripped of all flesh”?

    If it were stripped of all bone, how could it be “skeletal”?

  17. No change in the kill count. I’ll post it anyway.

    Mannequins poisoned by anti-plastic: 3
    Cherishes chewed, chelated, and chipped: 8
    Siberians reassigned to Antarctica: 0
    Shatterbirds eaten by gluecats: 0
    Crawlers turned into crullers: 2
    Burnscars put on ice: 0
    Hatchet Faces that have to wait for the sequel: 0
    Murder Rats scared by the munster: 3
    Kings left a-hunk, a-hunk of burning flesh: 1
    Screamers gagged by Mistress Taylor: 1
    Harbingers assuming a direct dirtnap: 0
    Breeds inbred: 3
    Crimsons eaten by a big bad wolf: 1
    Nyxes zilched: 1
    Psychosomas treated by a Frontier Psychiatrist: 0
    Damsels of Distress in another castle: 0
    Winters ended by global warming: 1
    Chuckles’s hit in the faces with pies: 0
    Hookwolves arrested for hooking: 0
    Skinslips given a pinkslip on life: 0
    Night Hags coyote uglied when the guy woke up: 0
    Nice Guys finished last: 1

    Bonus Round:

    Snowmenn snowballed: 0
    Nighty Nights bitten by bed bugs: 0
    Laughjobs had it handed to them: 0
    Tyrants hiding in spiderholes: 1
    Spawners violated: 0

    Bonesaws boned: 0
    Grey Boys whited out: 0
    Jacks knifed: 0

    Nilbogs slain by a +1 Sword of Asskickery: 0
    Saints dragged through mud, hit with carrots, had a rabid badger tossed in his pants, tarred, feathered, drawn, quartered, had his tongue ripped out, shot, and then had his tongue shot: 0

  18. Wildbow, you always manage to surpass yourself. The first time Nilbog showed up it was straight from a zombie flick whereas this was more of a psychological horror, where you know something’s wrong but can’t really guess what. Or maybe, one of those old fairytales where humans are brought to Faerie and warned not to eat anything and then the Fae are all trying to convince you to eat and get angry when you don’t. I think that’s appropriate seeing how Nilbog believes he’s living inside Alice in Wonderland.

    Nilbog sure was pathetic, but in an understandable way. I wonder if Jack knew he was going to be like that or he was surprised. Speaking of Jack, it’s so fun seeing run in circles around everyone else that it’s a pity he’s a psychopathic monster. I particularly enjoyed the part where Weaver is afraid of taking off her mask because Jack is waving his cutlery in the direction of her throat.

  19. I was wondering, can we add Villain Decay to Nilbog’s tvtropes page?
    I know that it’s usually considered a symptom of bad writing but I think that Nilbog is one of the few examples truly justifiable in-story .
    Maybe something like:

    “He was never sane to begin with but years trapped in a small town with only his monsters for company have turned him in a childlike grotesque who believes he’s living in a fairytale* and lack of resources have severely dampened his potential.”

    *Wouldn’t it be fun if Glaistig and Nilbog met?

      • Unless I missed the point, Villain Decay is about a villain who starts strong but is progressively nerfed in his next appearances. Sure, Nilbog isn’t a recurring villain but I think going from scary boogeyman who makes capes flee in terror leaving their foot soldiers to be slaughtered to deranged Alice in Wonderland character whose monster army is slowly starving to death counts (albeit, as I said, pretty justified in- story).

        Alternatively, is there a trope about some boogeyman or shrouded in myth character who doesn’t really live up to his reputation?

        • Badass On Paper?
          Nilbog was never nerfed, though. We just found out more about him. Shrouded In Myth might work.

  20. Poor Defiant.

    The thing is that not only does he have to face the prospect of losing the only person capable of tolerating for more than ten minutes at a time, as Weaver correctly deduced, he also has to work with and cover for her murderer.

    He can’t tell people that Dragon is down because Saint attacked her, he also has to allow Saint to act as her replacement.

    He partly has to do this to safeguard Dragon’s problems in case she ever comes back and partly because he realizes that the good guys need a united front at this point…

    Well, shit.

    I also really hope that Weaver has a backup flightpack in her dragonfly craft as the chances of getting one of her pet tinkers to repair it for her are pretty low at the moment. Maybe Masamune can help.

    Quick WMG: Did we ever really meet Masamune? He hails from a land which conveniently has had all its records destroyed and his powers of being able to mass-produce and maintain Dragon-tech is sort of the sort of thing you would expect from an AI that recently had had its restrictions against creating further AIs removed. What if Masamune is actually a creation of Dragon made specifically to maintain and build the tech she invented?

    • And he’s a Hermit. Someone who avoids meeting people… But probably not. Saint would have used the killswitch sooner if Dragon were to reproduce.

      • He didn’t, and yet he “delegated tracking to the child A.I. Dragon made”.

        He was aware of her reproducing and either didn’t care or didn’t realize the significance.

    • I don’t think allowing Saint to continue is the best move. Sure, now is not the best time to start shit. But the moment theres an opening they probably should move to destroy the Dragonslayers and take control of Dragon’s system ASAP.

      Saint’s already proven that he won’t be operating in syn with the mission and might be willing to screw everyone else over if he thinks something is more important. He’s a rogue element who is allied with people who don’t seem to care about stopping the Nine.

      Defiant would probably be alot more capable of handling the data input anyway. They need to get control of the Azazels and such right quick so they aren’t at the mercy of someone else’s whims.

      • I agree, and I don’t think he’d necessarily have a problem with bringing Weaver into the heart of the problem to help resolve it.

    • > He can’t tell people that Dragon is down because Saint attacked her, he also has to allow Saint to act as her replacement.

      I don’t know why either of those are necessarily true.

      “Saint launched an attack on Dragon, and he’s in control of her systems right now” seems to me to be a reasonable statement for Defiant to tell Weaver and Chevalier, and has the virtue of being both completely true and not even misleading.

  21. Golem did well here. Bad situation, but he sucked it up and walked right in. Got some of his own shots in. I’ve been worried about him cracking under the psychological strain, and he might yet, but past this point… if he does falter, he has still risen above and beyond the call, in my books.

        • Really? This guy spent his childhood among such charming persons as Kaiser, Purity, Crusader, Night, Fog and the amazing size-changing twins, stood up to easily the most evil fucker of the Wormverse, somehow found his way to the Wards after being abandoned by the closest thing he had to a family, soon after he accepted to fight Behemoth, survived, and spent the remaining time getting training from hell, going from a overweight introvert kid to a ridiculous badass. How the heck isn’t that material for an interesting story?

          • I dunno, most of the interest I see for him is his interactions with and observations with the other wackos he interacts with, who in comparison to he doesn’t really stand out to me. We’ve kinda had a introvert to badass hero transition already, I guess.

            Now, a Imp or Miss Militia perspective, that sounds cooler to me.

            • Chevalier. I’d love a story completely focused on Chevalier. From his vigilante- quest to find his brother’s abductors to entering the first iteration of the Wards to his relationship with Miss Militia and Armsmaster (old friend and all of that).

              Or on a more villainous side, Number Man. A guy that was best pals with Jack, helped him kill King , walked out of the S9 just like that and helped found the most powerful organization in the world. All with the power of super-maths.

              • Something to think on: Bonesaw cloned all members of the S9. Including Harbinger. We havn’t seen any Harbingers yet, but they have to be out down at some point, right?

                The Number men vs Harbinger, I want.

              • I believe I commented on this in a previous chapter. I bet they’d like stay still for a looooong time as their calculations continually shift and adjust in answer to each other .

              • I would really like to see more of Chevalier’s age group. Miss Militia, Mouse Protector, all those guys.

                Hell, more Mouse Protector! A dozen weird powers, and likes to stick her foot in her mouth with lame jokes.

          • why do i now want a short about Miss Militia and Imp being on clandestine mission, just the to of them? Would need a reason I cant’ think up though…

  22. This is an excellent chapter. The tension of the scene in Nilbog’s court is incredibly strong – it takes good writing to make that short scene of Jack and Weaver playing devil and angel even more suspenseful than all the (very good) action sequences. I also love the fairy-tale style of the Nilbog scenes – it’s an interesting break from the usual tone, while still fitting into the larger story. Well done!
    SInce this is my first time commenting, I should also mention how much I’ve enjoyed this story in general. A friend recommended it to me a few months ago and I quickly became obsessed.
    That said…Nilbog + “all the goddamn psychopaths” = bad news. VERY bad news. And I imagine this is not the worst things will get before this fight ends. I am worried about our heroes (and non-S9000 villains) right now. They’ll think of something…probably…maybe…I hope…

  23. This chapter just goes to show how much of a cowardly dick Saint really is, the tripling of success versus end-of-world notwithstanding. I can sympathize with self preservation, but at the knowing cost of thousands of lives and the possibility of billions, I find it unconscionable. Now we have the results. And the thing of it is, I think that if he’d only just talked to Dragon things could be so much better. A different sort of partner than Defiant is.

    I know we have a ways to go probably, but I’d like a good, solid win for Weaver. It would be an oasis in the desert of our journey to the end.

    • Saint is incomprehensibly fucking lucky that no one under Weaver’s command died. Though I’m worried about Theo. If that had happened she’d shove her fist of Geoff’s ass so hard his head would pop off like a Pez dispenser.

    • Y’know, it’s entirely possible that the improved figures re: the end of the world are because, after this SNAFU, The S9 will kill a hundred times as many people – which increases the chances of them inadvertently killing whichever trigger individual will bring on the apocalypse.

      Woo?

  24. Thank you to Christopher, Tom and Oliver for the donations.

    Got some money towards the Dragon donation fund, and surprisingly, money explicitly against the Dragon donation fund.

    Thank you nonetheless.

    • I’m sort of worried on whether the money donated can actually influence what’s going to happen. Readers input on whether they like or dislike something can be important, but readers direction on how story should proceed isn’t something I’d like to happen.

  25. I may be dense, but I didn’t understand why Nilbog gave the order to kill Weaver and Golem. Wasn’t it Jack he was about to execute, because of the revealed “assassin”? The only thing that happened next was Golem made the creator go flying up in the air, but Nilbog wouldn’t have even known it was Golem who could do that, and why would he interpret that as an act of aggression toward him anyway?
    Is it just Nilbog’s random craziness that makes him suddenly turn on Weaver and Golem? Or did something get missed out?

    • The way I read it, Nilbog sees the impostor but since he has no idea what Siberian can do, lets him/her go near the projector while being all “any last words?” to Jack. Weaver and Golem know that if Siberian grabs Manton it’s the end, act, with Golem sending Manton flying. Nilbog, who is even more mercurial than he is crazy, somehow sees this as an attack and turns on them.

      Or, maybe, he somehow sensed the worms and the other creepers converging on his real body and decided that stopping Weaver from attacking him was more important than stopping jack. I go for the first reading, however.

      • But then, wouldn’t he think Manton was attacking, not Golem? He doesn’t even know Golem can do that, because that’s the first time Golem uses his power in Nilbog’s presence. Still doesn’t make sense to me. I bet a paragraph got missed out.

        • Golem’s power use is fairly obvious, he needs to put his hand into something to create his projections from it. So it’s easy for Nilbog to jump to that conclusion.

          I agree it’s a little odd, though.

            • As I said Nilbog is mercurial and batshit insane. He sees Golem do something, as erratic noted it’s pretty obvious when Golem uses his power, and even if it was for his benefit he may have thought something like “These stranger believe that I, the god-king, cannot defend my person or my subjects? Off with their hand!”

              Remember, WE know that Siberian could annihilate everyone in that town even if Nilbog hadn’t been growing weaker and weaker as time went on and resources became less and less.. Nilbog instead lives in a fairytale where he is allpowerful.

      • The way I’m reading it is that Golem screwed up bigtime, and then Weaver compounded it.

        It doesn’t make any sense for Golem to make a preemptive strike on Nilbog right then, so I’m presuming that Golem didn’t know the one up top was a decoy, was attempting to intervene to protect Nilbog, failed to do so, and then didn’t take the opportunity to try to explain his actions.

        Weaver then eliminated any possibility of salvaging the situation by immediately trying to kill the real Nilbog, but likely failed to do so (I’m presuming Bonesaw will keep him alive), and just managed to incapacitate him so that he couldn’t defend himself against Siberian snatch-and-run. It’s unclear, but it’s also possible/likely that the S9 didn’t even know they were dealing with a decoy until Golem yanked him up (presumably revealing the umbilical).

        Basically, Golem/Weaver had three options: Attack the revealed Manton, do nothing or attack Nilbog, and attacking Nilbog led to one of the poorer potential outcomes.

        To be honest, this situation felt a lot like the Alexandria fight–Weaver dives into a situation with no real plan, things fall apart, and she then jumps right to “suffocate someone with bugs”. I was hoping that she had learned something since that experience.

        • Theo attacked Siberian – once the Siberian made contact with the outer casing covering Manton, the Nine would have been 100% safe. Weaver/Theo wouldn’t have been able to attack, and with the Nine getting nowhere, they had no reason not to attack Golem/Weaver and/or Nilbog.

          Which would have been a crushing loss in any event.

          Theo sought to separate Siberian from her creator, to mitigate those losses.

          • What is bothering someone is why then Nilbog ordered an attack on Weaver and Golem. I think the fact that Nilbog is mad is enough of an explanation, or alternatively, he somehow knew that Weaver had found his real body. Is there some other factor we missed?

            • I clarified a little. Didn’t realize it was so unclear, but I made a tweak at the last minute (well, in the last 10 minutes before the chapter went live), removing a short conversation where Siberian -did- make contact, and flow/continuity might have suffered just a smidge.

          • I see where I went wrong. I read that as saying that Siberian was inching toward (and Golem attacked) the *goblin’s* creator, not Siberian’s creator. (In this version, I read it the same way again, and then got to the paragraph in which Nilbog stood up, and realized I had it wrong.)

        • To be fair, it worked last time. She killed Alexandria and got made a hero for it. Clearly, the lesson learned is that unleashing the bugs is a winning strategy. Just not this time.

  26. Awesome chapter I reread it today as i was tired the first time I read it, excellent writing am super excited for Monday at 9 P.M.
    also

    Scion interlude

  27. I agree, an interlude from the perspective of a mindless automaton would be absolutely, positively, sarcastically fascinating. I don’t think Scion could have an interlude at all, for the same reason the endbringers can’t. That sort of power doesn’t come with intelligence, or social skills. I mean, the S-class threats. Slaughterhouse Nine, all serial killers, who can’t really blend in well. Except for Nice Guy, and that’s his power. Nilbog… well, we know about him. Endbringers are animals, and The Sleeper seems to be “dormant.” Scion is more powerful than any of these. So, with great power comes a terrible social IQ. One thing I love about this story is the rule on the interludes. So, rather than having Defiant realize Dragon just got shut down, we get backstory and personality on Saint and the Dragonslayers. We get minor characters like The Most Powerful Man in the World, and they advance the plot. It’s a great device.
    arenohumans.wordpress.com

  28. I’ve left this story alone since growing completely bored with it after the Noelle arc ended.

    A mate who I got into it (he was as obsessed as I was for a time) had a similar experience, feeling that the Noelle arc really should have been the end of the story. I agree with that thought myself.

    Anyhoo, came back to find my way to and then remove all the stuff sending me alerts constantly, got mildly curious and picked a random chapter…

    Knife rape. That’s the level you’ve sunk to wildbow? Knife rape? I don’t know what the hell happened to this story but it’s just become yet another “dark and gritty” comic book gorefest. Meaningless bland grimderp, no reason for emotional investment, all sympathy or relatability purged and no point to it all in sight.

    At this stage I can only draw comparison to Mark Millar at his most pointlessly grim. Which is a grave shame because I loved this work to the point of staying up all night to read the latest chapters. I doubt you’ll care for a few lost fans and I must congratulate your popularity, however in my opinion at least, this story should have ended a long while back.

    • I have no idea what you’re talking about. I fear your reading comprehension may not be up to par. I don’t know what you’d even suggest was knife rape here.

      • ” A bloated, coarse-looking creature lay on the ground, almost like a potato made of hair and flesh. Smaller things were busy carving gouges and holes into it.

        The resulting wounds regenerated, but not before the smaller creatures inserted body parts into the openings, allowing the regenerated flesh to close tight but not close completely.

        I averted my eyes from the scene, content with not letting my brain register which parts were being inserted and what they were doing after the fact.”

        Seems pretty cut and dry to me.

        Wildbow, frankly speaking if this is how you respond to criticism these days…well best of luck with whatever you write after Worm finally ends. I fear you may need it.

        Also if anyone can tell me how to stop the alerts, because I wiped my subscription page and they’re all still coming.

        • Please understand where I was confused – there weren’t knives involved, and the event was consensual on all sides. Blue and Orange sexuality/amusement, if you will.

          When your initial comment came up, there were quite a few (15+) people in the chatroom trying to decipher/figure out what you were talking about.

          Generally speaking, I hold to the altruism studies mindset of relating to others. I give everyone the benefit of a doubt and try to be nice where possible. If someone’s nice to me, I respond in kind. If someone’s respectful, again, the same. If someone doesn’t extend those courtesies, I don’t devote energy to doing so either.

          Your comments have been steadily less kind and respectful and steadily more entitled. I’ve done my utmost to address them as best as I could, as they’ve come up. I thought we reached a consensus some time ago when I suggested that, by all indicators, Worm doesn’t seem to be the story for you. You, in turn, said you’d stop.

          That you keep coming back to restate the same things again and again, brimming with negativity (your writing is getting worse, the story’s too dark, you’re losing readers, you lost me as a reader, etc, etc) is kind of hard to deal with on my end. I… don’t know what you expect or want me to do – I can’t/won’t change the story to suit your particular tastes. I’ll keep writing the sort of story I’d want to read because that’s the story I’m best equipped to write, and by all indicators that’s working for me – the readership is still growing and there’s no sign people are leaving in droves.

          My response to you, above, is an extension of my frustration. I had thought we’d reached an accord and then I get this comment that’s completely out of left field, again, brimming with that negativity and disrespect. I asked others if they could figure it out and the response across the board was that you were just looking to pick a fight.

          Now I understand what you were referring to, please allow me to apologize for the jab at your reading comprehension. It was unfair of me, and I am sorry.

          I’ve done some research about the email subscription thing and not had any luck in finding a direct solution (there’s a subscriber list but no option to remove people from it). I’m sorry – might I recommend marking it as spam or looking for filter settings? I know gmail has a means of filtering incoming emails from particular addresses and deleting them on sight.

          • Good answer Wildbow, I don’t think I’d have that much patience :-S
            I heard someone said that you can’t please every reader and trying to answer to them was frustrating in the best scenario. It is very kind of you to do so and to try to reason with them.
            I hope this person Anzer’ke stops torturing him/herself by coming and reading and stops torturing you by posting.

            I think this Weaver-Golem operation went to the dogs XD they screwed it badly!! I am eager to read what comes next!
            Ellisburg is like Wonderland in drugs, spooky place to visit!

          • I *completely* misinterpreted that scene. I thought they’d done something to Crawler and were constantly sticking things in him so he couldn’t regenerate.

            Make of that what you will…

        • I understand where you’re coming from, but frankly, it’s not really what any of us want to hear. You’re not offering constructive criticism, you’re not speculating, you’re not commenting on the psychological impact of people seeing “knife rape.” You’re using the comments section, something typically used only by fans of the series (especially this far in) and saying the equivalent of “I don’t like the direction of the story, it’s too violent.” Great. Don’t read it. And, please, don’t bother us.
          -Zeta
          (I can say ‘us’ now, right? )

    • Did a free bamboo rice steamer come with the Ginsu knife rape?

      Cutting commentary I understand, but I have no idea what you mean by knife rape.

  29. WELP. TOTALLY TOAST NOW. JUST SAYIN’. The way this chapter ended had me staring at the screen with my hands to my mouth, completely horrified. And that’s a good thing (:

  30. Oh screw you Saint. You completely screwed over the Nine operation just now, didn’t you?

    Defiant’s still enough of Armsmaster for Taylor to think it’s odd when he thanks her. Huh.

  31. “The hands that clutched the rake and watering can were held together by wire. A very small human hand.”

    Plural to singular. Typo?

  32. I’ll be honest, I didn’t read more than halfway through the chapter before I scrolled down to post.

    I’m dropping Worm at this point.

    I’ve been archive binging for the past week or so, and what kept me glued wasn’t the top-class world-building or the crisp writing style. Nope, it was my instant connection to the fully realized characters of this ‘verse.

    Maybe it’s the fast-shifting Godzilla threshold, maybe it’s too many characters. Perhaps I just need a break. Whatever the reason, I’ve lost that connection, that empathy for the actors on the stage. And I can’t continue without it.

    Thanks for the ride up to this point anyway, wildbow.

    • I did the same in the middle of chapter 26.3; been gone for a week or two. Now I’m back and hoping to make it to the end without another burn-out. Just 4 arcs after this one, then the epilogue…

      I can’t put my finger on why I’d grown so weary of the story. I agree it has something to do with the characters, though. The timeskips might have contributed to it… so many characters were added and subtracted from Weaver’s life. We never got a chance to get to know the new ones, or learn exactly how the old ones had changed over the past couple years.

  33. This was a really awesome chapter. Grippingly tense, wonderfully creepy, wondering which side Nilbog would fall down on, even as I know that all these sad sweet little vicious monsters are narratively more likely to end up attacking our protagonist… Great one.

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