Extinction 27.1

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The news came through the earbuds, and it was like a shockwave rippled through our assembled ranks.  Some of the strongest of us dropped to their knees, staggered, or planted their feet further apart as though they were bracing against a physical impact.

The one Azazel that was still in the area landed atop one of Bohu’s buildings, nearly falling as a section slid off to drop to the empty street below.  It found its footing and roosted there.

The pilot couldn’t fly, and the A.I. wasn’t willing or able to take over.

The other capes were talking, shouting, asking questions, sometimes to nobody in particular.  With the blood churning in my ears, I couldn’t make out the words.  I’d used my bugs to find Hookwolf’s core, but they’d been decimated twice over in the process, and I wasn’t interested in trying to use them to figure out what was being said.

I could guess.

I raised my arms, then found myself unsure what to do with them.  Hug them against my body?  Hit something?  Reach out to someone?

I let my hands drop to my sides.

I opened my mouth to speak, to shout, to cry out, swear at the overcast sky above us.

Then I shut it.

There were no words.  Anything I could do or say felt insignificant in the grand scheme of it all.  I could have used every bug in the city to utter something, something meaningful or crude, and it still would have felt petty.

I looked at the others.  Clockblocker was with Kid Win and Vista, Crucible and Toggle were nearby, on the back of a PRT van, bandaged.  They were looking over their shoulders at the screen mounted on the wall of the van.  Footage, covering ruined landscapes, and what had used to be the United Kingdom.

Parian and Foil were hugging.  Odd, to see Foil hunched over, leaning on Parian for support, her forehead resting at the corner of Parian’s neck and shoulder.  The crossbow had fallen to the ground, forgotten.

I wanted something like that.  To have a team close, to hold someone.  I hadn’t had something like that in a good while.

Chevalier was a distance away, his cannonblade plunged into the ground so he didn’t need to hold it, a phone to his ear.  He was talking, giving orders, and demanding information.

Revel was stock still, not far from him.  I watched as she stepped back, leaning against a wall, then let herself slide down until she was sitting on the street.  She placed her head in her hands.

I’d never known her to show any weakness.  She’d always been on the ball, always the leader.  I knew how much concussions sucked, and I’d seen her carry on and contribute to the Behemoth fight when she was reeling from one.

It hit me harder than I might have expected, to see that.

Tecton was standing a distance away, almost frozen, his eyes on the screen of his armband.  Golem did the same, but he wasn’t still.  He paced, looking around for guidance and finding none, then turned back to the screen, watching.

Glancing at the images from a distance, I could see the figure, the speck visible on the long range camera, surrounded by a golden nimbus.

I wasn’t close enough to make out details.  Only staccato flares of golden-white light.  On the third, the screens fizzled, showing only brief gray static, then darkness.

Another target hit.  He’d taken his time on that one, measured the attacks.

I took out my earbud before the report could come in.  Not my focus right now.

Instead, I reached for my phone.  I dialed the Dragonfly.

Would the A.I. be able to cope?  Saint had apparently pulled something.

If there was any hint he fucked us here, he’d pay for it.

The phone responded with a message.  An ETA.

My eyes turned to Rachel.  She was more agitated than Golem, her attention on her dogs.  She used a knife to cut away the excess flesh and retrieve the animals from the placenta-like sacs within their bodies, and the actions were aggressive, vicious, savage.  Her expression was neutral, but I could see the way the muscles shifted in her back, beneath the sleeveless t-shirt she wore, the tension, the way she was hunched over.

The attitude fit the Bitch I’d been introduced to, way back when I’d first joined the Undersiders, not the Rachel I’d come to know, who’d found a kind of peace.

Angry, defensive, bewildered.  Scared of a world she didn’t comprehend.  Aggressiveness was the default, the go-to route when there weren’t any answers.

It dawned on me.  I sympathized.  Given a chance, given something to do in that same vein, hacking through dead meat with a knife for some defined purpose, I might have acted exactly the same way.

She flinched as I approached, as if I were invading her personal space.  When she turned and glanced at me out of the corner of one eye, glowering, the tension faded.

I drew my own knife and started helping.  Bugs flowed into the gap and gave me a sense of where the sac was.  I was able to cut without risking cutting the dog inside.  It helped that my knife was sharp.

We were both sweating by the time we finished.  Rachel had already been sweating from more physical exertion, and her hair was stuck to her shoulders at the ends.  The German Shepherd got free, walked a polite distance away and then shook herself dry.

I looked at my phone, my gray gloves crimson with the dog’s blood.  There were incoming messages.  Updates on the damage, the disaster, and on Scion’s current location.

I ignored them, looking for the Dragonfly’s status.

Minutes away.  It had already been headed into the area by default, tracking me by my GPS, ready to maintain a constant distance until I was prepared to call for it.

That was fine.  I started walking down the length of the street, my back to the others, to the Azazels and the heroes.  Rachel fell into step just a bit behind me, her dogs and Bastard accompanying us.

Parian and Foil were still hugging.  I paused as we passed them, tried to think of how to word the invitation.

Parian’s eyes weren’t visible, hidden behind the lenses on the white porcelain mask she wore.  I hadn’t thought she was looking at me, but she shook her head a little.

Good.  Easier.  I left them behind.

The Dragonfly started to land in an open area, an intersection of two streets.  Moments later, the ground began to crumble.  The craft shifted position, coming perilously close to striking a building as it avoided falling into the hole that had appeared in the street.  A trap.

Rachel boarded the craft.  As I waited for the dogs and Bastard to join us, I looked into the pit.  As deep as a six or seven story building was tall.

I turned away, boarding the Dragonfly.  I plotted a course, then took manual control of the craft.

The A.I. was better at flying than I was, but flying meant I didn’t have to think.  Didn’t have to worry about what I was about to find out.

Rachel didn’t seat herself at the bench along the wall, or even at the chair behind mine.  She sat down beside me, on the floor of the Dragonfly, her back against the side of my seat, the side of my leg, staring out the narrow side window.  It was physical contact, reassurance, seeking that same reassurance from me.  Her dogs settled on either side of her, Bastard resting his head on her lap.

We had the whole country to cross.  Every few minutes brought more visuals, more reminders of what had occurred.  Highways grew choked with cars.  Countless vehicles had stopped at the sides of roads, at the edges of fields and at the fringes of small towns.

Innumerable people running, seeking escape.  Except there wasn’t anyplace good to escape to.

No.  That wasn’t true.  There was.

But the degree of the damage done was becoming clear.  Before we even reached the East coast, I could see the damage done to the landscape.  Smoke was only just settling around the cracks and fissures, fallen bridges and ruined highways.  People were making concerted attempts to move, to leave, but every step of the way brought more difficulties, more forced detours.  Some had abandoned cars altogether, wading or swimming across rivers to make their way.

Every step of the trip revealed more devastation, successively more vehicles choking roads and highways, forging paths around impassable roads.  More and more people were forging ahead on foot, in crowds, because walking was faster than travel by car.

More helicopters, marked with red crosses, had taken to the skies.  Travel by ambulance wasn’t doable.

This was one place.  One moment’s attack.  The display in the cockpit was showing more locations hit.  Libya, Russia, France, Sweden, Iran, Russia again, China…

Time passed.  Forty-five minutes from the point in time I started paying attention to the clock, searching for a yardstick to try to track the scale of what I was seeing on the surface.  How much worse did things get in five more minutes of traveling?  In ten?  It all seemed to get exponentially worse as the Dragonfly took flight.  It wasn’t just that we were getting closer to the point where the attack had hit.  Enough time had passed that people could react, now, realizing just how severe this was.  All of the power of Behemoth, mobility almost on par with Khonsu.

The psychological toll of a Simurgh attack.

These were the people with a strategy.  Doing just what I’d be doing if I were one of the unpowered.  The world was doomed, so they sought to flee to another world.  Problem was, there were tens of millions of them, and the escape routes were scarce at best.

The best known escape route: Brockton Bay.

I felt my heart sink as we approached the coast.  Mountains I’d grown up with weren’t there.  I let the autopilot take over as we got closer, approaching an airspace choked by rescue aircraft.

I didn’t trust my own hands.

It had collapsed.  The blast had only struck the northern edge of Brockton Bay, then changed orientation, striking through the bay itself to slice through the very foundation the city sat on.  Everything had been dropped a solid thirty or forty feet.  Tall buildings had collapsed and only the squatter, sturdier structures and those fortunate enough to come to rest against other buildings were still mostly erect.

Folding and collapsing, the entire city had been shattered, no section of the ground more than twenty-five feet across remained fully intact.  The landscape rose and fell like waves, petrified and left frozen in time.

The portal tower had fallen, but the portal remained there, oddly bright, too high to reach on foot.  Work crews were struggling to erect something beneath, so the civilians could finish their journeys.  The new arrivals were alternately joining in with the construction and making their way inside by way of rope ladders.

Elsewhere, there were capes and rescue crews trying to contain the fallout around the scar.  A structure had been raised to seal it off, but the collapse of the city had released the contents.  A lot of containment foam was being deployed to slow the spread of a pale patch of earth, and there was one spot of fire that didn’t seem to be going out.

But the most eye-catching thing was a thin, scintillating forcefield that was holding off the water.  It was taller than any building that had stood in the city, an artificial dam.  Every few minutes, it flickered for a tenth of a second, and water would flood through to seep into the gaps and fissures.  In time, I suspected, the water would cover everything in the area but the tallest buildings and the hills.  Arcadia High might stick around.  Maybe.

I recognized the rainbow hues.  It was the same force field that had been intended to protect the Protectorate headquarters.  Leviathan had torn the structure apart at the roots, and the tidal wave had knocked it into the city proper.  In the time since I’d left, they’d repurposed the fallen structure and the forcefield setup.

Not, apparently, to try to block Scion’s attack.  No.  This was more to stop the water, to break that initial wave, so it wouldn’t simply sweep the ruins out to sea.

I could only hope they’d done similar things elsewhere, to minimize the damage.

We circled the city twice before I gave the go-ahead for the A.I. to start descending.

My second sense extended through the area as we approached the ground, extending out to the bugs that were scattered throughout the ruined, shattered city.  I immediately set them to work, searching, scanning, investigating.

I changed the course, dictating a final, slow, sweep of the city.

Not everyone had made it.  Stupid to think they might.

My dad’s house was gone, collapsed.  Nobody inside.

Winslow High, gone.

The mall, the library, Fugly Bob’s, the boat graveyard, my old hideout, gone.

My old territory, unrecognizable.  The Boardwalk was underwater now.

It didn’t even take him seconds to do.

Too many dead, not enough who were merely wounded and unable to walk.  Humans were so fragile in the end.  I stopped the Dragonfly and stepped out to seek out the first wounded.  My bugs signaled rescue teams to get their attention.

The wounded here could have been my dad’s coworkers.  People he went out to drinks with.  They could have been Charlotte’s underlings.

So easy, in the midst of it all, to lose track of the fact that these were people.  People with families, friends, with dreams, lives and goals.

Golem had said something like that, hadn’t he?

How many people had simply been erased in the wake of something this random, so instantaneous?  So inexplicable?  I still wasn’t sure what had happened.  Tattletale was supposed to fill people in, but she hadn’t gotten in contact with me.

Or had she?  I’d taken my earbud out.  I looked to my phone, looked for transmissions.

A burst of messages, following just after takeoff.  From the Chicago Protectorate, people who might have been my teammates if I’d ever been inaugurated.  More messages, from Chevalier and the Brockton Bay teams.

I didn’t read them all.  My eyes on the phone, I pointed the search and rescue to the next batch of wounded.  I knew it was cold, but the corpses would have to wait.  There were living people to find.

There were no shortage of corpses.  The number of living people, by contrast, well… we’d see what happened in the next twenty-four hours.

The number of messages declined about thirty minutes after takeoff, then stopped altogether.  Everyone who might have wanted to talk to me had found other things that needed doing.  Other priorities, personal or professional.

Which was exactly why I was here.  I’d just arrived at that conclusion earlier than they had.  I put my phone away.

My mouth was pressed into a firm line as I helped the rescue workers.

We lifted a corner of a second floor’s floor, making room for someone get under and start retrieving a pair of women.  Rachel whistled and pointed, and her German Shepherd seized the floor in its jaws.

The rescue workers seemed to hesitate with the dog’s presence, so I took the lead, crawling inside on my stomach.  I used my hands with the arms on my flight pack to move enough debris that we could slide the second woman out.

There were more.  Almost without thinking about it, I let myself slide back into the mindset I’d held for the past two years.  Sublimating what I wanted to do in favor of doing what needed to be done.

Minutes ran into one another as we worked.  I could see Rachel growing progressively more short-tempered, slower to give the orders, hanging back, rushing with the jobs.

That ended when we rescued a child that had a puppy wrapped in her arms.  She clutched the limp animal like it was a security blanket, not crying, not speaking.  She only stared at the ground, coughing hoarsely whenever she had to move.  Her parents had been on either side of her, and neither had made it.

The paramedics fit her with an oxygen mask, but they failed to pry the animal from her arms.

I looked at Rachel, but she only shook her head.

Rachel’s power healed animals, but this one was gone.

From the moment we left that girl to be loaded onto a stretcher and carried off to firmer ground, Rachel moved a little more quickly, a little more decisively.

We finished with one site where the ground had collapsed and people had fallen into a depression, and then moved on to the next area.  Some heroes were working alongside the authorities to try to rescue people from a building that had partially tipped over.

Clockblocker was there, along with Vista.  I joined my powers to theirs in finding people and opening the way.  Frozen time was used on panels, which were subsequently layered, so that one could offer support if another stopped working prematurely.  Vista reinforced areas, then opened doorways, as I designated rooms where people were trapped within.

A golden light streaked across the sky in the wake of Scion’s flight, just along the horizon.  A thinner beam being directed from Scion to the ground as he passed.

The aftershock of his passing took time to reach us.  Steam started to billow, but the forcefield absorbed it.

The shuddering of the ground was more problematic.  The entire city rumbled in response to the distant attack, a blow that was no doubt slicing deep into the earth’s crust, forcing everything to resettle.

The building we were working on was among those things that resettled.  I watched as the building started to slide where it was resting against the building beside it, slowly descending, building speed.

My flight pack kicked in, and I flew through a window.  I could feel the glass scrape against my scalp and the fabric of my costume.

I found one person, a twenty-something guy, took hold of their wrist, and pulled them behind me, running and using my flight pack at the same time.

Tearing him through the window meant slashing him against the shattered glass, and the weight wasn’t something I could manage with my flight pack.  The building fell down around the people on the ground as I fell too far, too fast.

The wing on my flight pack was still broken.  Couldn’t trust the propulsion.

I let him fall into a tree instead, from a solid two stories above, and then focused the rest of my energy into pulling out of the plunge.

The building was still crumbling as I landed a distance away.  The rumble brought other, smaller structures down.  I stood and watched as it continued its course.

There’d been seven more people to rescue inside.  The other buildings in the area that had been caught up in the domino effect had contained three more.  That was just in my range.  How many more were dying as he continued towards the mainland, cutting deep into the plate of land that the landmass was perched on?

He hadn’t even been near us.  Closer to New York or Philadelphia than anything.  More lives taken, purely collateral.

When the dust settled, I moved in to help the people who had been on the ground.  Vista and Clockblocker had protected most, between a dome and a shelf of land to provide shelter.  Rachel, for her part, had helped others run in time, snatching them up with her dogs, but I counted three more dead, one dying.

Seeing them like that, bleeding, still warm, it caught me off guard.  A kind of anxiety rose in the pit of my stomach, like an impulse to do something coupled with the frustration of knowing that everything I could manage to come up with was futile, hopeless.  I either couldn’t do anything or I couldn’t think of what to do.  It put me in mind of being back at high school, before I had my powers.  Of being a child, powerless and unable to act.

I saw the image of Parian holding Foil in my mind’s eye, and it was joined by an almost sick feeling of mingled relief and fear.  I knew exactly what I wanted and I was terrified to seek it out.

I could feel that same impatience Rachel had expressed earlier, but I couldn’t turn my back on this.  I got the guy out of the tree and found him okay, but for a broken arm.  He didn’t thank me, but I let myself chalk that up to him being in shock.  I almost stumbled over to the latest injured and I attended to the wounded until the medics pulled themselves together, got organized and relieved me.

Then I backed away, flexing my hands, feeling how stiff they were, battered by my attempts at moving things, at pushing things aside.  My gloves, too, were stiff, crusted with dried blood, layered with dirt and fresh blood.

I looked at Rachel, and saw her gazing at the portal.

I didn’t really have a home anymore.  Knowing my old house was leveled, that the cemetery where my mother had been laid to rest was gone, and that I’d never really come back here to hang out with the Undersiders… it hurt in a way that was very different from a knife wound, being shot or being burned.  A crushing feeling, more like.  But it was tough for reasons beyond the fact that I considered it home.  I’d relinquished Brockton Bay, and my concern right now was more to do with the residents than the place itself.

I didn’t have a home in Chicago.  Not in the jails, either.

But Rachel had forged a home for herself, and it had been in arm’s reach since we’d arrived.

Bastard and the dogs seemed to know I’d decided before I said or did anything.  Rachel and I fell in step behind them.

Rachel mounted Bastard before we got to the portal.  The efforts to erect a proper support beneath the portal had been set back by Scion’s strafing run, which left the portal hanging in the sky.  Train tracks extended out from the portal in every direction, twisted and broken where collapsing ground had pulled other sections away.

There had been a tower erected around the portal, but it had collapsed into shambles as the ground dropped.  Now they were using the pieces to form the general structure for a tower of ramps that would lead up to the portal.

Bastard picked up speed as he approached the tower, then set his claws on one of the ramps.  The tower wavered perilously as Bastard leaped up to a higher point, coming to a rest on the very top of the dilapidated structure.  It didn’t look like there were nearly enough reinforcements, and I could see everyone present tense as they saw the mutated wolf’s weight come to rest.

That tension redoubled as the wolf flexed its muscles, hunching down, and then leaped, more up than across, to get to the portal itself.  A few planks of wood broke in that sudden, powerful movement, and one rail of the train track fell free as the wolf scrabbled for a grip on the ground beneath the portal.

When she was gone, the people beneath simply resumed work, heads down, dirty, defeated.

I took flight, entering the portal for the first time.

Earth Gimel.

The tower that contained the portal had a counterpart in Gimel, a matching tower, tall and riddled with train tracks, like a train station designed by Escher, tall rather than squat, with wide doorways for the trains to exit, and complicated reinforcements for the aboveground tracks, positioned so as not to interfere with the tracks below.

I flew out through one of those gates, catching up with Rachel.

Trains extended in every direction from the portal, on tracks that extended out into the middle of nowhere, into pristine forest and mountains.  They were long, almost absurdly long.

Then again, the whole idea had been to have instant evacuation.  Rather than have people make their way to trains, they’d had eight trains that simply spanned the length of Brockton Bay, so any given individual had to find the nearest train car and make their way down the aisle to an empty seat.

Around the tower, a small, odd settlement had sprung up.  All of the sensibility of the city, but contained to a small area.  Tall buildings, wide streets, and a look that matched up with a city proper rather than a smaller town.  It was as though someone had cut and pasted the big city into the middle of this landscape.

On any other day, it would have been energizing, the fresh air, the sunny day, the green and the blue water of the bay, subtly different from the shape of the bay I knew.  But today wasn’t that day.

People at benches were clipping the corners off of refugee’s drivers licenses and trading them for food rations and tents.  Everything was prepped, set up in advance, and people were being orderly, even though the lines were so lengthy it looked like it might be hours before they got what they wanted.

Those that already had their kits were setting up or settling into spaces they’d designated for themselves.  Some clustered close to the settlement, while others spaced out, where they’d have more elbow room.  The tents were identical, dotting the area.  The kits, apparently, included signs, and these same signs listed family names and details.

John and Jane Roe.  1 Diabetic.

Hurles family. 
Two infants.

Jason Ao.  Looking for Sharon Ao my wife.  A crude picture was drawn beside the message.

I scanned the signs, looking for names I might recognize.  I headed in the direction Rachel had gone, but I moved carefully, making a mental note of everything I saw.

It was an extension of what I’d seen back in Los Angeles.  People trying to cope against something where coping was a pipe dream.  There were some breaking down in tears, people getting angry, those who had withdrawn into themselves.

In each expression, there was something that echoed my own feelings.  A part of me wanted to hide from that, but another part of me knew I couldn’t.

It wouldn’t do any good, but I made a mental note of faces, of the pain, the loss.  People who’d been removed from their homes and had all hopes for the future dashed.  If I ever had the opportunity to get revenge, to get back at Scion for doing this, I wanted to remember these faces, find just a little more strength, make it hurt that much more.

But I wasn’t one for simply wanting to help, paying lip service and promising vengeance felt hollow.  Instead, as a token gesture, something that might not even be noticed, I gathered up every mosquito in range and proceeded to murder them with other bugs.  I kept the biting flies.

I wrapped the bugs around me.  Fuck PR.  The faint weight of the insects was reassuring, like a blanket.  A barrier against the world, like Tecton’s armor or Rachel’s intimidating nature.

A sign caught my eye.  I stopped, looking over the people in the small campsite.

Barnes.

No further details, no requests.  I almost hadn’t recognized them.

Alan, Emma’s dad, had lost weight since I’d seen him last.  He’d noticed me, and looked up, staring, his eyes red.  His wife sat in a lawn chair beside him, while Emma’s older sister sat on a blanket at her mother’s feet, her mother resting one hand on her head.

Zoe’s -Emma’s mom’s- eyes were wet.  Emma’s sister looked equally upset.

Emma wasn’t in sight.  I could guess what they were crying about.

Alan was staring at me now, and there was an inexplicable accusation in the look.  His wife took his hand and held it, but he didn’t move his eyes a fraction.

When Anne, Emma’s sister, looked up at me, there was a glimmer of the same.  A hint of blame.

Emma hadn’t made it.  How?  Why?  Why could they all leave while Emma wouldn’t be able to?  I might have thought Emma had been somewhere out of reach, but that didn’t fit.  There would be no certainty she was dead.  They’d be putting her name on a sign and hoping she turned up?

And why would they blame me?  For failing to stop this from happening?

Fuck that.

I turned and walked away.

Once I was out of their immediate vicinity, I took a few running steps and let my flight pack lift me up.  Better than zig-zagging between the campsites.

I floated over a sea of people with their heads down, their expressions alternately emotional and rigidly stoic in defeat.  Hundreds or thousands of tents surrounded the area, and string fences no higher than one’s calf bounded off each of the sites.

Rachel had made her way outside the city limits, past even the tents that were set a five or six minute walk from any of the others.  I followed her over the hill, to another small set of buildings.  Cabins set on what had been Captain’s Hill in Earth Bet.  I knew they were Rachel’s because of the dogs that were scattered around the premises, a small crowd milling around Bastard and the other mutant canines.

The largest cabin had three large bison skulls placed over the cabin door.  Bastard and the other dogs had been tied up outside like horses, left to shrink, with a trough of water to drink from.

I landed, and I was struck by the realization that my flight pack might not be so easy to recharge, now.  I still had the spare, fully charged, but Defiant might have his hands full, and the infrastructure or resources might not be available.

It was a minor thing.  Inconsequential, in terms of everything that was going on.  It wasn’t like the flight pack was going to matter a bit against Scion.  But it was one more reminder of what was truly happening.

I stopped and turned to look over the landscape.  I turned my head right until the small settlement and the sea of tents wasn’t quite visible, then turned it to the left to do the same.  Focusing on the nature, the untouched wilderness.

Is this what Brockton Bay will look like, if we can’t win this fight?  How many years does it take for the last building to collapse, for dirt and grass to drown away any and all signs we were ever there?

It was a daunting thought, a heavy thought that joined countless others.

The dogs barked as I approached on foot.  I kept calm and waited.

I recognized the girl with the funny colored eyes and darker skin from Rachel’s hideout.  I’d met her on my last week in Brockton Bay.  With her presence alone, the animals collectively quieted.  A single dog barked one last time, with two others reflexively following with barks of their own, but that ended it.  The girl held the door open from me, and the dogs didn’t protest as I made my way inside.

Rachel was sitting on a couch with dogs arranged around her.  Angelica was afforded a bit of favoritism, and received a touch of extra attention from her master.  She, in turn, was extending a gentleness to Rachel that went beyond Angelica’s poor health and the glacial movements that accompanied chronic pain.  Rachel looked defensive, her eyes cast down at the ground.  Something more severe than the whole Scion business.

Charlotte, Forrest, and Sierra were present too, keeping their distance, keeping silent as we met again for the first time in over a year and a half, not moving from where they stood.

The kids gathered at the far end of the room, silently occupying themselves with a mass of puppies.  I recognized Mason and Kathy, and didn’t recognize Ephraim at first glance.  Jessie was conspicuously absent, but nobody seemed to be reacting to that gap.  She’d left on her own, maybe.  Found family.

Aidan sat off on his own, a pigeon sitting on his knee.  He opened and closed his hands, and the bird hopped from the one knee to the other, then back again.  Something had happened there, but it wasn’t a focus.  Not right now.

Tattletale sat in her computer chair, but the computer screens were dark, the computers themselves unlit, quiet and still.

I didn’t like the emotion I saw on her face any more than I liked what I saw with the others.

Pity.  Sympathy.

It wouldn’t be Grue.  No.  That didn’t fit.  He’d been flying back, and he hadn’t been so far away that he’d be in the path of danger.

Not Imp either.  Parian and Foil had been fine the last time I’d seen.

No.

Tattletale was best situated to focus on Brockton Bay.  Who had made it.  Who hadn’t.  And there was only one Brockton Bay resident who truly mattered, that hadn’t been accounted for.

I felt a lump in my throat growing with every heartbeat, expanding every time I tried to swallow and failed.

Without waiting for a response, for any words of pity, or even verification, I turned and pushed my way out the door, taking flight.

I flew.  Up over the bay, away from the city, away from this alien Earth.  I blinded myself with my own swarm, drowned everything out with their drone, their buzz, their roar.

All of this time, the sacrifices, the loss of security.

The loss of me.

To do what?  To stop this?

It had happened despite our attempts to the contrary.

To reconnect with my dad?

We had reconnected.  I’d come clean about who and what I was.  We’d built up a relationship that was new, accounting for the fact that we were changed people.  Now, as I continued to fly, to put distance between myself and everything, I wasn’t sure it had been worth it.

The wind blew my hair, and I let my swarm move away, revealing the open ocean all around me.  There was only the wind and the sound of the water to hear.  The smell of salt water I’d come to miss.

My dad was gone, and I couldn’t bring myself to go back and get verification.  I couldn’t handle it if there wasn’t verification.

I was cognizant of the fuel gauge, of the dwindling power of the flight pack.  I knew I’d have to go back.  I knew there was stuff to do.

But I’d spent the last age trying to build towards something, to prepare for the pivotal moment.  I’d played my role, helped stop Hookwolf.  I’d communicated with Foil to urge her to play possum, tracking where the enemy was and what they could see.  It had led to us taking down Gray Boy and Siberian, trapping Jack.

And now the death toll was climbing.  Scion continued his rampage, and I hadn’t even had the guts to own up to the failure.

I couldn’t bring myself to go back and do something minor.  It was arrogant, proud, but I couldn’t bring myself to do search and rescue while the population was steadily scoured from the planet, the major cities wiped out like a human child might kick down anthills.

There was nothing in the worlds that I wanted more than a hug and I couldn’t bring myself to ask for one.  My dad and Rachel were the only ones I could trust to offer one without further questions, without platitude or commentary, and I couldn’t get to Rachel without going through the others.  My dad was even farther from my reach.

The mask I’d erected to see things through to this point was cracking and I couldn’t bear to show anyone my face.

The fuel gauge ticked down.  I noted it reaching a critical point, where reaching land before I ran out might be difficult, if not impossible.

The sky was darkening.  No clouds, no city lights.  A cloud passed over sunset and the moon overhead, and it was startling just how dark things became.

A fluorescent glare cut through the darkness.  My hair and my swarm stirred.  I could feel the breeze from behind me.

I didn’t turn around.

“Your call,” Tattletale said, her voice quiet.  “I’d like you to have my back, but I understand if-“

I shook my head, my hair flying out to either side.  I turned around and floated over to the doorway that hung in the air.

I set foot on solid ground, and felt weirdly heavy when I did.  It took me a moment to find my balance.

Tattletale caught me as the door closed beside us.  Then she wrapped her arms around me in a hug.  Odd, that she was shorter than me.  When did that happen?  I could remember her giving me a one-armed hug once, a long time ago.  She’d been just a little taller than me then.  Just the right height for a hug.  Now we were like Foil and Parian.  I was taller, receiving comfort from someone shorter than me.

I’d underestimated her.  She didn’t ask any questions or offer any sympathy.

“They’re all here,” she said.  “Ready?”

I hesitated, then spoke.  My voice was rough.  “Ready.”

We didn’t budge.  She didn’t break the hug.

Fuck it all,” I muttered.  My voice was still weird with emotion.  Maybe I’d keep my mouth shut at this meeting.

“Fuck it,” she agreed.

That said, we broke apart, took a second to breathe, and then made our way into the meeting room.

Last Chapter                                                                                               Next Chapter

487 thoughts on “Extinction 27.1

  1. Not, apparently, to try to block Scion’s attack. No. This was more to stop the water, to break that initial wave, so it wouldn’t simply sweep

    I could only hope they’d done similar things elsewhere, to minimize the damage.”

    Missing something after sweep.

      • “I found one person, a twenty-something guy, took hold of their wrist, and pulled them behind me, running and using my flight pack at the same time.” Unless it’s a really weird Case-53 or something, should be “his wrist”.

    • Rachel and I boarded the craft. As I waited for the dogs and Bastard to join us, I looked into the pit. As deep as a six or seven story building was tall.

      I turned away, boarding the Dragonfly. I plotted a course, then took manual control of the craft.

      –> boarded it twice?
      =================
      But the most eye-catching thing was a thin, scintillating forcefield glowed, holding off the water, taller than any building that had stood in the city.

      –> “was where a” or perhaps “But the most eye-catching thing was a thin, scintillating forcefield–taller than any building that had stood in the city–glowing and holding off the water.”

    • “We lifted a corner of a second floor’s floor, making room for someone get under and start retrieving a pair of women”

      Missing ‘to’ between ‘someone’ and ‘get.’

    • “There were no shortage of corpses.”

      “shortage” is a singular word, so “were” should be “was”.

      “But I wasn’t one for simply wanting to help, paying lip service and promising vengeance felt hollow.”

      The comma should be a semicolon.

  2. I honestly have trouble imagining the pain everyone must be going through, To think that the only force for good has been turned somehow, and now it is the end of days.

    I honestly wish you had gotten to the meeting though. I feel as if this chapter jut doesn’t have quite enough meat to it.

    • I disagree. Putting the meeting at the end of this chapter, when Weaver’s just gotten a chance to bring Taylor out after several arcs worth of Weaver, and several more of Skitter, would just reiterate the point that she had just realized. Besides, it’s a different focus. Introspection as opposed to cape intrigue.

      • That’s a good point. I was going to say that I liked the chapter as it stood, but I hadn’t thought about reasons why I might — having the chapter break at the point where the change of tone happens makes sense.

        • It goes from triumph over evil to utter defeat. This is the point at which a happy ending becomes impossible. I’m not saying they can’t win, but whatever happens next, the Earth is devestated. Even if Scion’s stopped, humanity will never be the same again.
          It’s gone from a superhero story to a disaster story. They can no longer prevent, only survive.
          Don’t worry, I for one love a disaster movie. How will they survive this? Hopefully Cauldron has a plan.

          • It’s just like Final Fantasy VI! And a lot of other JRPGs! Quick get the infinity +1 swords, and give Taylor the item from the collusium subquest that lets her cast her strongest attack for 1 MP!

          • And let’s be honest, even if they somehow manage somehow to stop Scion and capes, villain and heroes alike are the main factor in the salvation of humanity, vanilla humans are never going to trust a cape ever again. People like Piggot will be chanting ” I told you so” in the street. I can see an ending like in Kingdom Come where the human governments decide to nuke the parahumans while they’re weak.

            • I doubt everyone will think this way, but I can certainly see some people deciding that capes are more trouble than they’re worth. Hopefully the capes will be able to figure out enough of the whole story to reveal (with believable evidence to back it up) that Scion was never actually a parahuman – although saying that capes’ powers come from the guy who’s destroying the world is almost as bad as saying that they are the same type of person as said world-destroyer. Normal humans will probably be at least as weakened as parahumans, though, so I doubt that anyone will be in shape for a large-scale humans vs. capes war right away.

            • Always possible that to get rid of the Entity that’s behind Scion all of the passenger shards need to be nuked too – i.e. parahumans may be no more after this finishes. Taylor and Rachel and Lisa could still be alive but Weaver, Bitch and Tattletale would be gone.

      • I personally thought the interaction between Taylor and Lisa was the perfect way to end it. Taylor was basically thinking there was nowhere for her to turn, and there’s Lisa again, who’s always been in her corner. I feel like that friendship’s always been the heart (in a feelsy way, not a center way) of the series, and it was sort of nice to see that it was still there even after everything else was fucked up.

        • Not just friendship, but a friendship between two women. Ir’s pretty rare in most media for that to be a major thing. It’s one of the reasons I love Worm so much. I think it was the perfect note to end the chapter on, giving the attention and power to that friendship, rather than the meeting, because the friendship is what’s going to help Taylor survive.

          • It’s perfect. Lisa was the first of the Undersiders to accept Taylor. The first real friend she had since Emma betrayed her. Lisa and Racheal can’t understand each other. But Taylor can understand both of them, and both can understand her. And right now Taylor really needed that hug.

      • Yeah this was the quiet scene were Scion’s impersonal rampage can be put in a more down-to-earth perspective and Taylor can be, if even for a very small time, a grief-stricken girl instead f the dreaded, badass Weaver/Skitter.

        • It’s hard to say which the world needs more. I’m tempted to give it to the grief stricken girl though. We’ve been justifiably impressed with Skitter and Weaver for a long time now, but I think Taylor’s got some things going for her too.

    • Chapter had a lot of meat to it. It was the needed peek at Taylor, and how she is reacting to this disaster. It’s the humanity that some have been calling for. After so many chapters detailing the rise of Weaver, a chapter from Taylor’s point of view is good.

      I really like how well Taylor and Rachel are getting along. …. And NO. I am NOT shipping them!
      Bummer about Danny..
      Good job, Lisa!! I think you have saved Taylor’s life yet again.

      I will concede that the next chapter can’t get here fast enough.

    • The chapter was the breather that that last interlude almost was. It’s needed. Besides, simple emotional stiff can be as meaty as action if done right.

      • It was rather well done IMHO. The biggest question in my mind prompted by this chapter, is just how close to suicide was Taylor when Tattletale doored in to her? It seemed obvious that Taylor knew how low her flight packs power charge was getting. She was dealing with the loss of her dad and the fact that she felt that she had essentially lost or given up her identity as Taylor Hebert in the mission to stop Jack. She was also affected by Scions rampage and all of the fallout from that. All of that and she was still not heading back to land.

        I credit Tattles with a save here.

        • I agree that this slower-paced chapter is very well done and very necessary here. I always like when we get “reaction shot” chapters (the interlude directly after Behemoth’s defeat comes to mind as a clear example) after major plot developments – it helps to give big events the appropriate weight when you can see what kind of impact they have on familiar characters. Much as I want to see the meeting, I think the emotions of this chapter are better standing alone (in my opinion, this may be the most emotionally powerful chapter of the story thus far, or at least close to it), and after the mind-blowing reveals of the last chapter, we need a low-action chapter to process.
          And yes, Tattletale was very smart to show up when she did. I wouldn’t mind having a better picture of just how high up Taylor was and how far she was from land to decide if her actions were just passively self-destructive or outright suicidal, but either way, that would not have ended well.

    • *clenches fist* I really hope he’s there, actually. I really, actually do. I hope Defiant’s there too. Please take that in the spirit in which it is given.

      • Actually, my suspicion is that she’s a cape now. Cauldron batch, but still a cape. The poor girl probably tried to help. I think it would be oddly fitting for Emma.

          • Actually my theory is based on some statements in Number Man’s interlude. They said that they were going to lower the safety of their batches to increase the chance of Triumvirate level capes, and lower the price or not even charge in response. Given Emma knows that Weaver hates her and doesn’t have Shadow Stalker anymore…

            • Emma also knows that despite treating Taylor like crap, Taylor never once used her power against Emma to get revenge. Perhaps Emma realized there were ways to be strong that didn’t require hurting innocent people. Especially when Taylor went from mostly benevolent villain to somewhat scary hero, and started making a name for herself.

              So yes, I could see Emma doing the Cauldron Cape thing, and even telling her family why she did it.

              Could make a very interesting meeting, even without a fight.

              • I hope that Emma has grown enough as a person to realize that, but I suspect that she hasn’t. In part because we haven’t seen anything of her, and in part because, well, that would make things easier for Taylor.

            • Except that would have taken all the capes in the area out of commission. She might have stress triggered later (maybe in sleep), but she did not trigger in the cafeteria.

            • Actually I thought being given a Cauldron formula for free or a big discount would be more likely. Cauldron has admitted to being interested in Taylor for whatever plan they have. They admitted as much with Accord’s interlude, she flat out murdered Alexandria/Coil who were intricate to their plans, and they specifically mention the other young capes she is recruiting similar to Mockshow. From the number man’s interlude they are at least making several thousand formula’s a year and we all know their claim of money is bullshit. It costs them nothing to give a tailor made formula to Emma to specifically counter Taylor just in case. The Number Man has to know how she seems to pull a win despite terrible odds. If I were them, I’d have a least one cape ready just in case she showed up in their dimension with a giant swarm of poisonous insects.

            • …!

              <ridiculous plot speculation>

              When Aidan gained the potential to trigger, it was because something bad happened, and no-one in his vicinity noticed (I think). What if the thing that Emma said that Taylor paid no attention to was her pre-trigger? Emma could be a second-gen cape to any of the heroes there.

              </ridiculous plot speculation>

            • Unlikely for several reasons, some of which have been mentioned.

              Emma’s interlude heavily implied that Emma can’t have a trigger event. She experienced something that would have caused one if she was capable of it. That appears to be how triggers work. Like Coil she probably needs Cauldron assistance to gain superpowers.

          • My money is her developing Agoraphobia and was terrified of going out of the house even with the world ending and that she was still in the house when Zion’s stray shot hit and destroyed the Barnes’ home.

            • If not specifically agoraphobia, I can imagine something like that.

              Given that national attention was given to the fact bullying was one of the things that caused Taylor to become a villain, Emma was probably identified as the bully. Even if that wasn’t widely known nationally, it was probably well known locally.

              I can imagine she’s spent the last two years hiding either literally or metaphorically. However she happened to die after that, the family would still likely blame Taylor on some level.

    • Emma hadn’t made it. How? Why? Why could they all leave while Emma wouldn’t be able to? I might have thought Emma had been somewhere out of reach, but that didn’t fit. There would be no certainty she was dead. They’d be putting her name on a sign and hoping she turned up?

      And why would they blame me?

      Here’s my theory on Emma. Once the bullying Taylor endured became public knowledge, it didn’t take long for Emma’s name to surface as one of the prime instigators. (It would be lovely justice for good old Sophia to be outed as a bully as well.) Being a known bully of Taylor/SKITTER!!! who just happens to have a few people on her side AT the school, I’m betting that the rest of the kids made her life hell. Probably not violently, although that is a definite possibility. I’m thinking it would be far more poetic for the former ruler of the popular clique at school, to suddenly find herself unable to BUY a friend. This trend follows over to affect daddy Alan’s law practice. (I took it that Alan had lost a good bit of weight. I can think of two things that would cause that other than simple voluntary diet change. Alan was either major stressed out or he wasn’t eating quite as high on the hog as he had become accustomed to.
      Aaaany ways. Emma gets sent to England for school. Scion’s first shot takes her out.

      And OF COURSE, it’s ALL Taylor’s fault

      • I actually hope that Taylor and the Barnes(es?) come to some kind of closure, especially if what I think happened is correct.

        Taylor still doesn’t know about Emma’s trauma and the reason she suddenly changed. If she were to learn that she might or might not forgive her, but she’d understand her better.

        Alan really needs to understand that he’s as much to blame as anyone (and more so than Taylor!). When he found out Emma had been bullying Taylor, his reaction was not “This has gone too far” but “gotta shield my daughter from the consequences of her actions”. Obviously that screwed over Taylor, but it screwed over Emma, too. Letting her live in her fantasy bubble wasn’t helping her heal or move forward with life after her trauma. What do you think happens when someone feels weak and disempowered and you coddle them? -_-

  3. I’ve gotta say, after all the thrills and chills, this is the first one since the grave-marking scene that made me cry.

      • So that’s why your sheets are wet. Rain. Yeah. It has nothing to do with those dirty pictures you have over on the screen. I see them over there. Brunettes are nice, but do you have anything with tattoos, piercings, and unnatural hair color?

        I didn’t mean bottle blond. Come on, give me a girl with pink hair.

        Ahem…now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to go make it rain.

          • Unintentional reference. I wasn’t actually thinking of you when I typed that.

            I just like girls with pink hair. I’m unsure of my feelings towards guys with pink hair, as I’ve never actually seen one. Blue and green hair aren’t bad either, but I prefer darker purple over a softer purple.

            That said, nothing wrong with the natural hair colors either. Haven’t had enough opportunities seeing bald women to judge that either.

            • I saw a guy with bright pink hair in midtown Atlanta once. He had it tied up in pony tails, but he didn’t bother to dye his light brown beard to match. See? You don’t have to choose. You get both dyed and natural colors together.

              I’ve also seen more than one woman with a crew cut, or half the head shaved.

  4. Fuck it Wildbow! You gave me two of the deaths I’ve been wanting but you killed one I didn’t want to die! >:| Your strength lies in how you portray the anguish and horror of this situation. my god, I feel for all those fictional characters(except for Emma. Glad she’s dead \o/).

    The chapter was great, though now I’m scared for the rest of the arc…..

      • Wildbow fixed it. Thought Grue and imp died….but now…I GOT ONE I WANTED AND ONE I DIDN’T! NOT DANNY! D:

        Taylor needs a good cry out like now.

  5. To be honest, I didn’t feel much emotional impact from this chapter. Felt a little numb, maybe that’s intentional.

    The best line for me in terms of impact was “I wanted something like that. To have a team close, to hold someone. I hadn’t had something like that in a good while.” because it hit more Taylor’s solitude at this point in the story. She’s got Bitch and Tattletale and Golem and some allies– but she’s not that close with any of them.

    That hit me a lot more than the whole apocalyptic sequence did, and I think that’s intentional.

    Big question for me are:
    1) What the hell’s gonna happen next?
    -I don’t see Scion getting neutralized or contained with his future prediction abilities allowing him to avoid that, and I don’t see him getting talked down.

    So I think its gonna be a matter of enough people fleeing to enough different worlds so that he can’t follow them. Or maybe Cauldron pulls an Anti-Scion out of their ass or the Endbringers level up a bit and take Scion on. But I doubt that’s gonna happen.

    As always, I know Wildbow will surprise me and exceed expectations :)

    Stuff that’s less important currently but still unanswered:

    1) What/Who are the Endbringers?
    2) Who/What is the third entity?
    3) Who/What is Doctor Mother?
    4) What is the “Project Terminus” that Cauldron referred to once?
    5) What’s happening to/in the Bird Cage?

    • I would hazard a guess that project terminus is an evacuation plan for the Earth. Maybe some way of using the Cauldron’s gatemaker on a wider scale to move large sections of population at once.

      • It was mentioned that too frequent uses of the power tired the gatemaker. I’m guessing terminus is going to be some addle-brained attempt to destroy the reality that Scion is existing in. But that is just a harebrained theory.

        • Obviously, the better choice would be to find all the realities he’s interacting with and influencing and just destroy those. He limits it on purpose and he can be killed if you were to use up enough of his energy.

          • I’ll point out that Terminus was the original name for Atlanta, Georgia, in the States. It was named such not because it was the start of all the railroad tracks, but because it was the end of them.

            • Right, because the Atlantic Railroad “terminated” at that point. The rename, Atlanta, was chosen in a contest – a feminization of “Atlantic” since the track ran from Terminus to the coast. Same railroad track, different point of view.

              I’m ignoring the intermediate rename between the original Terminus and final Atlanta – a brief moment in the city’s history.

              • Terminus will probably be a target of Scion’s if it’s actually a threat to him.

                Atlanta really hates it when people come marching through burning everything to the ground.

              • >> Atlanta really hates it when people come marching through burning everything to the ground.

                We call it Sherman’s Urban Renewal plan.

    • I’m pretty sure the Third Entity is/made the Endbringers. Which reminds me of a theory that I posted back in 25-5, about the Endbringers basically being a game.

      Which actually makes more, not less, sense now.

      The Entities, the one that’s Scion and the Endbringer one, can’t do much to each other directly. Indirectly? They can make Earth their game board. Then Scion decided to take one of the Endbringers’…bishops? and throw it across the room, so the Endbringers added a couple of queens to the board. Now Scion is basically burning the board bit by bit because he discovered that he’s a pyromaniac.
      Chess metaphors are fun. And confusing.

    • I think that everyone will be demanding answers from Cauldron, so hopefully they’ll get the answers to those questions pretty soon.

    • that got me too.

      I noticed it before, the timeskip had her giving up her home, her relationship with her team (undersiders) and her territory, to try and prepare for this nebulous “end of the world” threat.

      I still love this story, i still want to read it, but every time i see one of the undersiders, I think back to the “good old days” when they were a team, and you saw the interactions.

      then Weaver drops something like this “i didn’t have anyone” and it becomes apparant how much she sacrificed, and it didn’t help at all.

  6. After all that, after all the work and the wars…. Brockton bay is finally broken, along with most of humanity. I’m curious to see what all the shadowy players will do. All the people who had refused to fight Khonsu because they had a bigger fight going… I think they might be more willing to part with their trump cards now.

    • “Brockton bay is finally broken, along with most of humanity.”

      BUT in a universe where alternate worlds are confirmed to exist it’s only really a fraction of humanity (for now at least, I’m sure Scion will follow).

  7. So much happening in the world, but this was exactly what I wanted to see. The people that we (the readers) have been close to and the city that we’ve been invested in.

    I feel lucky too, getting to read it like this. Once the story is complete, no one else is going to get to have this experience, of seeing it develop over time with the flurry of discussion at each step of the journey.

  8. Well bollocks.

    I can only guess that this is one of the end game scenarios Cauldron has been working against. Funny how the story has now become restructured enough that they are beginning to look like the saviors rather than the bad guys. Looks like their whole ‘We have bigger things to worry about’ was pretty accurate.

    And yet I have a feeling this arc is just going to get more depressing.

      • Rollicking good fun. A real family affair. Take your kids, take your wife, come one and all to a night of fun for people of all ages! See an elephant balance on a ball, a sword-swallowing Spaniard, and the death-defying flying acrobats! For our final act tonight see Scion destroy the world!

    • The last interlude kinda gave it away that Cauldron was probably right all along when it was shown where the normal triggered powers come from and that Contessa has a shard Scion does not recognize. From that you can see that Cauldron knows something about the Alien Entities. It also puts a new spin on when Scion scowled at Eidolon during the Leviathan fight:

      Scion paused, turning to look at Eidolon, his eyes moving past Bitch and me like we weren’t even there. His eyes settled on the hero, the most powerful individual in the world staring at the man who was arguably the fifth.

      His expression was so hard to read. I knew, now, what people had meant, when they said they thought his face was a mask, a facade. Though it was expressionless, though there was nothing I could point to to explain why I felt the way I did, somehow I sensed disgust from him. Like nobility looking at dog shit.

      • If Cauldron was expecting this sort of thing I consider it to be very irresponsible that they didn’t attempt to communicate it to more people. Even if Cauldron are ‘good guys’ I’m wondering what their ulterior motives are. I vaguely remember someone mentioning a new world order a few chapters back with Mother agreeing.

        • Lets put it this way

          Cauldron calls up the Whitehouse one day and says: Yo everyone of these people with powers are tied to a giant alien in another reality that once it gains enough information will suck this world and countless other Earths dry of energy and blow up the one it is on so it can travel through space. Oh BTW that Golden Guy saving everyone is a tiny fraction of that nasty evil alien.

          Now how likely would they be believed and if it is what do you think the Government would do to ALL capes. This was hinted at repeatedly by Alexandria and the Cauldron controlled PRT. Hell after Skitter became Weaver they told her straight out that is why they have to PR spin everything to keep the Government from panicking along with the public and going on a witchhunt for capes,

      • In Scion’s entity interlude he mentioned a race that was able to defeat the entities… could it be possible that Doctor Mother is from this advanced race?

  9. Oh god. Really didn’t want Danny to die, knew it was the most narratively effective death. But goddammit, fucking Jack. Fucking Scion. Well, atleast this works as a setup for Taylor’s emotional bonding with other characters. I think the coming chapters might be far more character development heavy than we assume, everything is scoured away and it’s time for Weaver to find herself again.

    Well now we wait anxiously to see if Scion will come though the portal of not. With any luck he’s just that stupid and doesn’t realize what it is. But we also see that there’s no goddamn way of stopping him. There might be a respite if he decides to stop and meditate on things to decide whether it’s helping his fucking existential angst or whatever. But that’s not something we can bank on.

    Atleast he doesn’t seem to care that much about killing people, just causing destruction. He’s a little brat breaking things but he hasn’t moved onto pulling the legs off grasshoppers yet.

    • He knows what the portals are. He noticed when Doormaker made the portal and called it a wormhole. He logically would recognize it, as it was his, once.

      • Yeah, but will he make the mental connection between “wormhole” and “people getting away”? He ain’t exactly an on-the-ball kind of guy.

        • He doesn’t really have to be since he can scan all realities at the same time and know if one has changed. Remember also he doesn’t need to use the “portal” to cross realities, he can do that on his own.

            • He has to limit the use of some of his abilities such as precognition since it reduces his time but he has not neutered his own abilities, he neutered the ones he gave to Humanity.

              • He didn’t limit his abilities like he did those he gave away, but it was made clear that the entity ‘shed’ a significant amount of its full power in the process of breaking off shards and ‘seeding’ Earth. Scion is essentially a tendril of what’s left of the entity and it remains to be seen how easily it can punch through dimensions in its current state.

    • The question isn’t if he knows what the portal is, it’s if he decides to do something about it.

      Collapsing the Bay the way he did suggests that, at the least, Scion wants to keep people from escaping this Earth.

  10. Hmm, emma’s dead who gives a shit, is Grue dead? So it seems like my prediction way back when about Worm turning into a post apocalyptic series is coming true. Even if they somehow kill Scion, any sequel will take place in a ruined world. It will be like the whole world becomes like Brockton Bay after Leviathan except there will probably be little in the way of supplies coming in. I don’t really feel bad though. Blame it on Audience Induced Apathy and the fact that I happen to like Post Apocalyptic Series if done well. I imagine Skitter literally becoming the leader of the refugees, since most of them will probably be Brockton Bay natives. Things to come:
    1. The Birdcage opens- Lung, the fairy queen, and who ever else is in there might be able to hold Scion off for 30 or so seconds. Perhaps in time for one attack to hit if they have something capable of hurting him.
    2. Cauldron’s Plan- They are now the biggest mystery left in the series besides the endbringers, and a few lingering questions about the passengers. What is their plan with the 9/Scion? How do they give powers? Who are they really?
    3. A new Faultline’s crew/Contessa interlude? They have a large organization now, can create portals, can probably access Cauldron’s home dimension, and Cauldron seemed to be under the impression that a attack from them is inevitable going by the number man interlude.
    4. A new Legion of Doom meeting with everyone meeting again to discuss abandoning/saving who they can/counterattack. They only way I can see something stopping Scion is with:
    A. an emotional attack if he only has felt one true emotion in his existence. So get the new Butcher out of storage, if she isn’t out already from the city being destroyed, and hit him with something.
    B. The Endbringers gang up on Scion. We still know nothing about them, and how they will change now that their goal is about to happen.
    C. The third entity mentioned last chapter. Possibly the only thing that could stop him is another being of comparable power.
    D. Telepathic attack. The Smurf isn’t human, but Jack managed to convince him and he is not exactly the sharpest knife in the bunch. So finding another being who can communicate with Scion might stop him.

    • Actually there’s a rather easy way of getting relief/supplies/aid. Open permanent portals to other inhabited dimensions in condition to help out. If Labyrinth and Scrubs are still alive that’s actually not particularly hard, and it would be easy to offer to trade permanent portals to uninhabited worlds for massive amounts of aid. Single portals to prime resource areas could easily net a civilization billions of dollars in fossil fuels, rare earths, or cheap metals.

      • The only problem with that is potentially causing other realities to start having trigger events and starting the cycle elsewhere. Plus there has to be a reason that Cauldron isn’t doing that. They mention they are afraid of attracting something and Scion is too stupid for it to be him. They might be afraid that the more doors they open the greater the chance they attract another worm and the cycle starts again. Now that you mention it, is the Traveler’s home dimension ultimately doomed 300 odd years down the line?

        • Not sure why starting the cycle elsewhere is a bad thing. Parahumans aren’t the main problem in Worm, Endbringers and now Scion are what make Worm suck for the most part. If anything parahumans are vital for mitigating existential threats given the original cycle is broken.

          The other part is valid, though. Cauldron does seem to be worried about another power with interdimensional capabilities.

          Whatever it is, it can’t be anything as simple as opening portals, as they’re already doing that and seem fine with Faultline opening plenty of portals.

          I don’t think the world is actually doomed in 300 years anymore. That seemed conditional on the cycle continuing as normal. Without the entities blowing up the world I think we’re relatively safe from that particular apocalypse.

    • I think we have misinterpreted what the “Endbringers” purpose really was. After the last interlude what if the Endbringers were made by the Third entity as a means of killing off the capes and their shards? Remember the purpose of the shards is to gain information that Scion and his counterpart reclaim just before blowing up the planet and sucking energy out the other Earth realities. That would explain why the Endbringers were on a regular schedule so the capes could plan ahead of time to get a lot of them to the fight and make it easier to wipe them out.

      So their “Goal” wasn’t to destroy the world but to kill off the capes Scion needed before he destroyed the world. Now wouldn’t that be a kick in the ass.

      • I can actually see that happening. It explains why they are holding back as well. They don’t care about the damage, they just want to kill as many parahumans as possible. Killing off most of humanity is just a side effect.

    • My theory: Behemoth showed up because there wasn’t enough conflict in the world. The others showed up to keep the humans on their toes. Scion is fucking up the balance, and the entity responsible for the Endbringers wont appreciate that.

      What if the “Endbringer truce” takes a new meaning?

      • You know things are bad when the Endbringers are seen as a favorable alternative and possibly even a savior of sorts. When your only hope are the guys who almost ritualistically slaughter entire geographical regions, you are officially at the end of your rope.

        • Considering that Scion currently seems to be “ritualistically slaughtering” entire landmasses…not surprising.

  11. I remember how interesting it was to read about a devastated BB. How society went back to feudalism, and everything was fair game for a while. But seeing everything built up again, knocked down so fast it’s hard to realize the full enormity of it…

    Fuck you, Scion. Playing with humans like toys. If this story has any justice, you’ll get yours. Not sure how it’s going to happen, what with you being basically Superman, but without Kryptonite and with huge energy beams more powerful than atom bombs, but it will most likely happen.

    In other news, I was expecting to see the Barnes, but certainly not Emma dead. She was a major jerk, but things feel pretty unresolved between her and Weaver. Oh well, she might be alive, but even so, I can live with this sad little ending for her pathetic life.

    • Shoot, didn’t mean to add that second part in, because his death wasn’t confirmed yet. Is it possible to delete part of a post, Wildbow? I’d appreciate if you could do the part that mentions him, if so. Thanks for the chapter.

  12. So…Taylor’s relentless planning has been shattered. A golden man with limitless powers flew through the sky and crushed all her hard work like it was nothing. A thoughtless, unimaginative man, inhuman, separated from the rest of humanity while Taylor has reveled in it.

    All her plans, her schemes, her shifting things into place, hammering the threats and playing dirty, all ruined.

    Ah yes, that time when you get to shake your fist at the heavens and go, “You haven’t seen the last of me! I’ll get you next time! You will rue the day!”

    For the next scheme, we’re going to need an army of guinea pigs, a huge magnet, stilts, and iron pellets. Giant Mecha Guinea Pig Suit, Assemble!

    • That bothers me a lot about this chapter. Everything she’s done, built up or repaired torn down again. It makes it seem as if most of the 26 previous chapters was ultimately a waste of time and effort.

      Not that it wasn’t foreshadowed.

      • (Assuming you mean “arcs”, not “chapters”.)

        What it makes me think of is the end of Crushed 24.5.

        “Hold the line,” Exalt called out. Other capes translated for him, echoing his words with only a few seconds of delay, in four or five different languages. “We defend until the ones inside can be evacuated, and then we leave. There’s nothing left to protect here.”

        A thin heroism, but that was heroic, wasn’t it? Protecting the wounded, defending the ones who’d put everything on the line to stop this monster.

        If this was all a kind of microcosm for the world at large, that small heroism had to count for something. I wanted it to so badly I ached for it.

        Part of what I like about Worm is that heroism isn’t meaningless, even if the heroes lose. The man in Beijing who stood in front of a line of tanks on June 5, 1989 did not stop the Chinese military from massacring the Tiananmen Square protesters, did not bring any of the dead back to life, did not end any of the policies that caused the protests in the first place, and did not even stop the tanks for very long … but he still matters.

  13. So, I’ve recently been trying to work out how to beat the shards if necessary. This is my solution.

    I would have Amy take someone and give them a type of myostatin-related muscle hypertrophy that is trillions upon trillions upon trillions of times more concentrated. She would then take all this muscle and condense it into a normal size. She would also have to reinforce other body parts. This would make said individual nearly invulnerable and obscenely strong. She would repeat this process until the person had a punch that created enough gravitational force to tear the fabric of space-time. This would allow the person to punch through both time and space. It would also, I believe, allow the person to punch black holes into existence ( a very good tactic against Scion, as even light is drawn into black holes ). Now, Amy would certainly need a lot of flesh to complete this process. This could be solved by having bonesaw create a horde of subservient Nilbogs ( subservient due to memory changes ). It would not be impossible to get her help as she now works for cauldron. This would, however, have to be done before the fight and in a way that suggested another goal, otherwise the shards would probably block her powers in some way.

    • Really? Black holes? Firstly, those would be rather more deadly to the planet and everything on it than it would be to Scion, and secondly, Scion is just a projection of the Entity into the Beta reality. Meaning that even if you did manage to destroy his body, it would accomplish zilch.

      Things we know:
      1) Cauldron capes are using dead and damaged shards from the Entity’s Companion.
      2) The Entity arranged things such that both he and his Companion, along with many of their shards, were supposed to primarily exist in dimensions which capes would not be able to access. Even dimension hopping powers were supposed to be “coded” to make it impossible for them to find their cores.
      3) Tattletale knows the nature of the beast, as it were.

      It seems likely that Doorkeeper and the other extremely imbalanced Cauldron capes are a result of damaged shards failing to implement security protocols (lacking, as we know, the Balance portion of the formula). It follows that Cauldron has the capacity to attack the Entity at his core, in the dimension he isolated from humans.

      Add to that the fact that the Entity said that at no point was he truly vulnerable, in the last chapter, and it’s pretty clear that we shouldn’t be expecting him to be taken down in the universe where all his infrastructure and pre-planning is still basically intact. It’s in his “home” dimension where things are going wrong. It’s there that he’d be caught off-guard. It’s there that he lacks the kinds of safeguards that Beta has in place.

      Scion is basically a souped-up Siberian, and the Entity is just a multi-dimensional Manton. It shouldn’t be any surprise when Cauldron orchestrates an attack on the part of the pair for whom being destroyed might be both possible and consequential. Taking out Scion is a fool’s errand.

      • Black holes can cause all kinds of interesting distortions to mess with the entity, plus the entity’s still vulnerable to losing energy. The more it has to do to keep itself alive, the more it expends.

        Yeah, the planet itself doesn’t exactly survive most of these plans to destroy Scion. What can I say, I like to improvise weaponry. I say we smack him with Australia first.

    • …Oh, wow. There are SO many problems…this is hilarious…

      Punching hard enough to make black holes? Let’s skip all the assumptions needed to make this possible and straight to the point: You’re making someone who makes black holes with their fists. That is overkill, since it would destroy anything in that Earth and probably all connected Earths. You would be cleaning your room by burning down the house.

  14. Thank you to Hollis and Tom for the generous donations.

    Surprisingly few people commenting on what they want to see in the extra chapters. Might as well ask. Interludes? Regular chapters? A balance? Epilogues?

    • A balance. Ultimately I’d be happy to see just about any continuation of the world. I think it could be interesting to work through some POV chapters of characters who haven’t had a major place in the story but have interesting powers or personalities. Like a POV chapter from Circus about what happened after the Coil incident.

      Or a POV of one of the tinker capes who helped develop technology for the PRT.

      Maybe chapters which give a little insight into parts of the world you’ve constructed that you haven’t had time to explore within the constraints of the story.

      I would say that pages of rolling epilogues can be a little tiresome. Whilst it is always nice to know what happens to which character I’ve always felt epilogues should be sorta short and punchy.

    • My preference would be epilogues. Partly because I want to see how society in general, and certain characters in particular, are getting along in a now post-apocalyptic setting. And partly just because I’d like to have at least a *few* survivors, and epilogues sort of guarantee survival. :P

      Also, no reason that an epilogue can’t serve the same function as an interlude in fleshing out what’s going on in the world outside of Taylor.

    • As far as epilogues go, I’d love to see some look forward to a campaign against the Worms as a species. Their infestation of the cosmos isn’t, in an ultimate sense, any more sustainable then their infestation of their home planet, and I’d hate to think we ended the series with a mute acknowledgement that, even if things are settled for the many Earths, the universe at large is still basically doomed.

      I think it would be very cool if the series ended with an understanding that humanity had some capacity to end that threat, however long-term.

      As far as interludes go, I would love to see more Amy. She’s one of those capes who never really cam into her own, and it would be extremely awesome to see her manage that. Possibly some more interaction between her and Bonesaw, except sans Jack this time? Definitely room for some awesome interaction there, both with powers and with personalities.

      Lots of loose ends to still tie up, although I imagine you already have plans for most of them and they get mentioned constantly. I’m curious what’s going to happen to that Ward caught in the slow-time bubble in BB, now that it’s sinking, though. Slow-motion drowning for the next 12 years?

      Lots of other stuff, but too much of it still feels like it could be core to the plot. Characters like Faultline and Pretender might still have major roles to play, or maybe their stories are basically told. Hard to suggest characters like them, even though they’re interesting, because there’s not a ton of reason to include them for their own sake, you know? Would have loved to see a little more of a resolution with Emma (like maybe she triggers and gets the ability to have her flesh be extremely delicious to bugs, and now she has to beg Taylor to save her from herself every day for the rest of her life), but I guess that’s not happening now.

    • Epilogues?? But that implies that Worm is going to end! No, wildbow, that is never happening! We will drown you with donations to get emotional closure out of every single character you ever mentioned in Worm. Where the hell are Uber and Leet?? MAKE A CHAPTER!!!

      On a related note, do you accept the tears of your fans as donations? Because I think that’s what you’ve been going for recently.

    • What I feel the story really needs is some emotional processing on the side of Taylor. She has been emotionally disconnected for far too long, and the reconnecting that is starting to happen in this chapter is far far from enough. So I vote for regular chapters. Yay.

    • My personal preference would be epilogues for the various people involved. It’s neat and might add information you cannot fit in otherwise.

      e.g.: A Dinah epilogue might shed some light on what she did in the last 2 years.

    • I would say a balance. I’d like to see a lot of things rounded out. I also would like to have enough left for a sequel if it is still in the works. Hard to say just what I would like to see as you haven’t finished yet. I would like to see Emma’s demise, but she may well be left as just another casualty.

      Looks like Rachel/Bitch is safe for now. Thanks!

      • All of the above? You already know I’d like to see some of what Taylor was up to for the last 2 years. Also Foil and Parian’s wedding. But really it aught to be all good.

    • Balance – tell the interesting parts, leave out the ones that aren’t.

      If you can find a way later, I think fleshing out the ward years with their own arc would be worthwhile. There’s probably some work going back and fixing the other arc structures too, so that it fits better however you’re planning to break it up.

      • Hmm. I can see it now. Descendents of the few refugees who made good their escape sitting around the campfire telling stories of “Earth that was.”

        And the most outlandish tale of all, the tale that fires the imagination of children who never quite have enough to eat, is the story of the all-you-can-eat buffet.

        • Dinah’s statistics state that 4% of the world is likely to survive in the worst case scenario. That’s like Indonesia. It’s HIGHLY unlikely that humanity will regress that far, especially after a hundred years of building a new civilization.

          • Well, not so much regress necessarily. The kids-around-the-campfire idea could be wilderness survival training.

            After all, there are plenty of places in the world were food is not exactly abundant. Even a first-world nation like the UK suffered under food rationing both during WWII and years afterwards. Rationing after WWII lasted longer than the war itself.

            I just think we’re in a strange point in history where food is so abundant in the US that businesses can actually make a profit on a fixed price all-you-can-eat model.

          • *Which* 4% is incredibly important. Most of us use technology every day that we would have *no* idea to construct from scratch. Your 4% would have to include not only scientists and engineers, but also agriculturalists, miners and metallurgists, etc. etc.

            If what is left is Indonesia (ie. a complete functioning society) we’d probably muddle through okay as a species. If what is left is a random smattering of individuals from all across the world? Not so much.

            Just the fact that most won’t even have a common language is a problem…

  15. One of two things is going to happen: (a) Scion will give up and stop because destruction gets monotonous real quick. Then he’ll just hover there like a big golden Christmas ornament in the sky, the cherry on top of the catastrophe cake (b) alternatively, the upcoming Legion of Doom meeting will be where Cauldron lays all its cards on the table. The idiots. They are just like pre-Weaver Phir Sē; Hard People Making Hard Decisions All Alone.

    I wonder if Saint will be there. I wonder if the Birdcage contingent will be there. I wonder if *Amy* will be there. She’s important; potentially, she might be able to uncripple certain key shards, maybe even resurrect dead ones (like, say — oh, idunno — Eidolon, maybe!) and potentially put the capes in a position to reach out and *touch* Scion — or, as I am calling him in my headcanon now, Golden McBastardface.

    • Maybe he’ll try mixing things up. Saving a crowd of people from a burning building. Then turning right around and blasting all the firefighters and leaving the fire burning.

      Considering his grasp of all things human, I can actually see him pulling something like that.

    • Going over what was said in the last interlude and going back to the Leviathan fight where Weaver see the look Scion gave Eidolon, it might be possible that the Cauldron “Formula” capes don’t have true shards or they are warped or something along those lines.

      As to Amy being able to fix the shards, in the comments from the last interlude Wildbow said it was unlikely. It would be interesting to see if they get Riley and Amy to talk together and let them play with whatever Cauldron has. In that you have someone whose Tinker power lets them do almost anything to a body and Amy does almost the same thing but in a different way.

    • >> (a) Scion will give up and stop because destruction gets monotonous real quick.

      I don’t see Scion stopping just because destruction gets monotonous. After all, he played hero, rescuing people for 30 years mostly because it had become a habit, not because he found it rewarding.

      I can see destruction simply becoming a new habit, and when there’s no one left to talk to – everyone’s either dead or evacuated – Scion continuing to circle the world for decades, even centuries, mindlessly doing the same thing over and over.

      If Scion doesn’t go after people in other realities, it won’t be because he cannot – it will be because the idea simply hasn’t occurred to him… unless someone like Jack makes the suggestion.

        • Seems that if I a being will exist for thousands of years it would be dreadfully boring to be stuck in a destroyed and uninhabited world. Life is so much more interesting. Jack has sold Scion a real lemon.

      • There’s the possibility that the change in his habits has awakened a capacity for more fluid thinking in him. Remember that his first action in destroying great Britain was an experiment, what if he started experimenting with something else?

        • Hm…We know Noelle had an Earth-Beta counterpart. Could Taylor meet her own Earth-Alpha counterpart?

          I certainly hope so!

          • Noelle didn’t have an Earth-Bet counterpart. What you’re thinking of is the three-year-old girl named Noelle of a PRT member named Meinhardt.

            That said, it’s possible that said PRT member is the analogue of Noelle’s father, and said father had a daughter significantly later in life, and it is also possible (although unlikely) that the Earth-Aleph versions of Danny Hebert and Annette Rose met and had a daughter named Taylor. However you add it up, though, they won’t be alternate-universe twins.

            • That’s precisely who I was thinking of. Either that is supposed to be a counterpart, as much as one can exist, or wildbow is screwing with us (and Trickster).

              And of course they wouldn’t be “alternate-universe twins,” but if they met “our” Taylor, the scene would be…interesting.

              • I actually suggested a story in which an Earth-Aleph daughter of the Heberts met Jess i.e. Genesis as a fanfic idea. That would be interesting even without bringing Skitter/Weaver directly into it.

              • The Meinhardt in the PRT is probably the alternate-universe version of Noelle’s dad, because her dad is old enough to have a counterpart in the other universe.

                But Noelle herself is too young. And the other Noelle is even younger. So chances are that her dad just happened to pick the same name in both timelines. Maybe that’s his mom’s name or something.

              • Similarly, if the AU-Danny had a daughter, especially if with the same woman, it would be interesting for her and Taylor to meet.

                More interesting, however, would be her meeting the AU version of her father. Meeting her “self” would merely be neat.

              • …Did not think of that.

                Less more interesting now that her father is also dead, but still.

      • Considering the damage being done by Scion, I’d guess there are already thousands, if not millions of missing bodies already.

        It is more realistic for poor Danny Hebert to be officially listed as missing, never to be found. It happens all the time in real life, even more so when the world is ending.

  16. So, we know that Scion has a limited amount of power remaining to him, and based on what he himself has said, the cycle is ended and he is probably looking at dying when that power runs out.

    Looking into the future burns out a year of his remaining life. How much energy is he expending now? How much has he expended fighting Endbringers? If he knows he’s going to die, will he just continue to use his power constantly till he keels over dead, out of power?

    I still think that Simurgh is that third entity, and if so, she’s been mindscrewing him the entire time they have been on the same planet. If she is another outsider, Scion does not recognize her as one, because he doesn’t recognize what is probably one of her shards, Contessa.

    This means that even while Scion was beating the junk out of her and the other Endbringers, whatever mental whammy she put on him to prevent him from seeing what they really are was holding steady.

    As I mentioned before, I think the best hope for humanity is if humanity can somehow manage to pull together the story of Scion’s mate from the passengers at their disposal, and point Scion at Simurgh, then try to survive the subsequent fight.

    But that’s only using what we’ve seen. We haven’t seen yet whatever it is that Cauldron uses as a source for their powers. It’s highly likely to be Scion’s mate in some way, shape, or form. It’s possible that study of this other outsider has taught Cauldron enough that they can actually devise a way to actually hurt Scion.

    Remember, they apparently stopped Scion’s mate. As weak and corrupted as it was, it was still a near-god. Hell, for all we know, they tricked it into actually trying to become a real god, and it imploded into itself, leaving behind a mindless corpse.

    And there’s one more thing… We might not have seen the end of Dragon. Of all the intellects on Earth, the closest match to Scion would be Dragon, unfettered. She might actually be capable of engaging him intellectually if there is a computer network around that can support her. There are thinker capes that are smart enough to engage Scion, but that can’t communicate or frame thoughts fast enough. I’m imagining every thinker on Earth in front of a video monitor, talking to Dragon, while dragon engages Scion. How fast would Dragon learn? What is her trigger event anyway? Would a trigger occurring in an AI actually intrigue Scion? Has he ever seen a trigger in an AI before?

    Sooo many different directions left.

    • The problem with stalling until he burns up all his energy is that by the time that happens, Earth would be dead. To look at all possible futures to be sure there’s no threat to him cost him ONE year of 3600. To destroy Great Britain with the equivalent of a shrug of his golden shoulders, not even that. It’s really not a viable solution.

      • Unless whatever made the Endbringers throws them all at Scion at once. That should burn a few centuries off of Scion, at least. Especially if Khonsu uses its time-circles to heal the others like it did itself.

  17. Dauntless. Rising star of Brockton Bay. He could’ve been a Triumvirate man some day. He didn’t make it.

    Regent. Finally turned out that he gave a damn about someone. He didn’t make it.

    Fugly Bob. He used to make those burgers, got every kid in the town excited after school. He didn’t make it.

    Emma Barnes. She might’ve turned out to be a decent person, once upon a time. She didn’t make it.

    Danny…

    Didn’t make it.

      • Good point. Let’s make a list of all the assholes who died.

        Hey, Coil, don’t lose your head!
        Looks like Kaiser is half the man he used to be!
        Hey Tagg, what’s eating you?
        Don’t hold your breathe Alexandria!

        • Coil needed to stick around for this like he needed a hole in the head.

          Kaiser would be rolling in his grave right now if he knew his son went by the name Golem.

          Something’s bugging Tagg. It’s right on the tip of his tongue.

          Alexandria swears she isn’t dead. She has an airtight alibi. She has no clue who this Pretender is.

          • Behemoth’s around somewhere, I think you’re breathing bits of him.

            After all his time being secretive and manipulative, Jack finally decided to spill his guts.

            Butcher’s not dead, but she sure looks different.

            Gray Boy is now available in technicolor. Why is he all red?

            Sic semper Tyranis? :ducks:

            • Ladies and gentlemen, the King has left the building!

              Gray Boy’s time is up.

              Murder Rat? I don’t even know her!

              Ixnay on Nyx

              Winter is coming…but who could blame her after that Crimson wedding?

    • I actually think Theo can better claim Jack as his arch nemesis. Nobody has really lasted long enough against Skitter/Weaver to really become an arch enemy. I initially thought it would be shadowstalker or Emma with powers. I really wanted Mannequin to be her arch enemy, because his power is literally tinker made to counter hers, he is creepy/interesting/my favorite, his fight with her was epic, he seemed to really hate her for ruining his plan several times, and they pushed each other to new heights i.e. new tactics. There is a good essay somewhere on the web that describes the benefits to a story from a good arch enemy. The ideal for me would have been an entire arc where Mannequin returns to Brockton Bay just to kill Skitter. I’m hoping at least one clone of his survives the end of the world.

      • Ehhh… I think it’s a bit complicated. Theo was theoretically Jack’s arch-enemy, but when it came right down to it the latter didn’t really think so, and he never figured out just how much of a good mirror to Jack she is.

        He would have had a field day with that. But I think Jack’s arrogance got in the way of his own yearning for this kind of narrative.

  18. So long and thanks for all the fish.

    Oh the anticipation! Oh my lack of money to offer at the altar of Wildbow.

    I can’t wait to see what’s next.

  19. Umm I just realized something moderately scary, doomsday-ish end of the world sort of half assed shot in the dark.

    Bonesaw figured out how to clone and program humans with passengers.

    The tinker she got that technology from was able to actually start a clone of an Endbringer, Simurgh. If Simurgh is actually a Outsider, that means that at least their constructed form can be cloned…

    So if the Cauldron has a mindless hulk of a brain dead Scion counterpart hidden in another dimension somewhere, and Defiant has a backup of Dragon, and Panacea + Bonesaw can use their power to analyze and build a physical body like an Endbringer, or cobble up some way to interface Dragon into the other entity’s biology, well, maybe we will see dragon return after all. Even Saint would probably agree to reviving Dragon in the face of Scion’s new threat.

    Earth with it’s own homegrown Outsider. Hrm. Has a rather large margin of error attached to it, and definitely smack-dab in the middle of a bunch of different grey areas.

      • My understanding is from the Scion interlude that Scion is just an extension of his real body, across dimensions, like Siberian is an extension of Manton.

        If Cauldron has the corpse of Scion’s mate in storage, it might be… rather large, and not very mobile.

        Dragon might not be able to simply grow a body on the same Earth as Scion, even if she can integrate with the body of Scion’s mate. No doubt a lot of information was lost during the other entity’s death, we have no idea how much Dragon will be able to integrate. Shards still operate when dead, Scion’s mate’s body might too.

        I was thinking clone an endbringer body and let Dragon create an attachment to it and then have it cross dimensions to where it needs to go.

        But that’s author territory when you get that far into details.

  20. I haven’t finished reading the chapter, but can you please please please write in countries instead of “africa” specifically when everything else you list is a country? (please) It’s so very frustrating that something like that listing can contribute to the idea that Africa as a whole means anything more than Asia as a whole. Africa’s countries are very vastly different and I trust you know that so back to begging– please please don’t linearize the entire (huge) continent

      • I’m American as well, I believe in Americans kind of. But anyway, if I thought it was specifically for that purpose, I wouldn’t have said anything. It just looked like oversight. Common enough, but still not excellent form.

        Anyway, thanks for changing it

      • She has been getting a pretty good world tour of with her endbringer fights, plus she’s been studying for two years straight in the Wards. So even if she doesn’t know the specific country she should that know the region ( North, west, subsaharan, etc) plus if they are news reports they would mention the country/region.
        Also that ‘ she’s an American, there is no way she would know geography ‘ is a pretty stupid stereotype.

          • Remember that this particular africa is EVEN MORE fractured and contentious than ours, many african capes have torn out territory for themselves and in many parts of the continent there is no law but what your resident cape overlord says there is so “somewhere in africa” can easily be taken to say “somewhere in sub-saharan africa” since there would have been deserts in the news otherwise.

            • Eh. Yeah the parts of Africa that are already chaotic or fractured would be made worse by capes. But I’d venture a guess to say most parts of the continent, like most parts of every continent, are pretty quiet. Like, I don’t see a reason why Botswana or Ghana would be that much worse off if small town America isn’t, I wouldn’t be surprised if there are tons of communities which go on never seeing a parahuman, and most that trigger in those parts would probably move elsewhere.

              Assuming Africa doesn’t have their own cape organization, which could be likely.

              • Assuming it follows the logic of today’s African countries, (most specifically Nigeria) we can be sure that all of the appropriate, “western” influenced rules and regulations are in place, but the lack of organization in the bureaucracy makes it such that you have to ask for assistance from the organization because they can’t patrol their jurisdiction.

                To file a “Cape Request Form” you have to go to the Nigerian National Cape Office in the center of an over-sprawled city, an office protected by heavily armed guards who glower at you as you pass. Then you must wait in line and fill out a declaration form to get through what you think is the processing line, but is really just another form of security. Then you must sit outside under an open canopy for three hours, staring at an excess of workers weaving in and out of ten separate rooms, all of whom do not seem to be speeding any processes.

                When you finally get called to submit your request, the presiding officers you encounter are overworked and tired, and really just joke around with each other while meandering through the paperwork. Meanwhile, whatever crisis you have may have become severe. They say they will send a cape at their earliest convenience and call “next!” before you can process what they said.

                If your cape shows up in the next 6 months, you’re one of the lucky ones, and the cape will expect some sort of monetary gratitude, and in lieu of that, extreme grovelling would suffice.

                You could, of course go for the “fast track” (cough up 30,000 Naira, kia kia!) then your request moves to the top of the pile! And in doing so, you prolong the suffering of those who can’t afford minimally decent service.

                And that’s the good capes process. The bad capes also operate the same way, but with less offices and forms, more guns and money.

              • @razorsmile
                *bows* just showing how fun specificity can be!

                like, sure, as americans, we hear corruption in “african” governments and picture the officials as fat black men in three piece suits cackling through a cigar pinched through their teeth while using millions of american dollars as a seat cushion while millions of their constituents starve in tent cities, excluded from the luxuries their own country provides for “the west” (which is not even entirely wrong) but it’s a much more complex picture, one that includes frustration/exhaustion for everyone in the bureaucracy at every ranking except those who have so much money that they don’t have to interact with anyone at all.

                and each country has their little quirks

                it’s a delicious comic tragedy and it is invaluable feed for satire and polemical critique

                without detail, it’s just regurgitation (uninspired, overused, etc)

              • Yeah, all that darn corruption over there. Not like the U.S. government, where bills supported by 75% of the population die because half of Congress is receiving money from an interest to kill it. The kind of place where lying on the news and limitless donations to campaigns by businesses afforded legal recognition as people have been decided as legal by a system of courts.

                For one thing, Nigeria actually gets something done in a 6 months. I wish the U.S. Congress moved that fast.

              • Oh sure, the US government is corrupt on a far larger (and in my opinion, scarier) scale, but it does an excellent job of hiding most of the signs unless you are looking. Furthermore, they’ve kind of legalized their type of corruption, and rely on the basic comfort of the middle class to secure them from uprising.

                I think, like many Americans, I am tired of the U.S. government’s tactics and I am tired of the “life/liberty/pursuit of happiness” fallacy, but at the end of the day, I can say that even my homework takes precedence. I can live in the US for a lot of years and grumble at their idiocy while only being minimally inconvenienced. that’s the really scary effect.

  21. This makes me think about the Let’s Scram plan.

    There is no infrastructure to keep a large population alive on Gimel. Like, none. Initially people would die, then become half-serfs for a while, until the death rate and the rise in infrastructure spread meet somewhere in Dystopia, Missouri.

    So the plan also probably includes getting food from Bet.

    Like this: the major population centres would be on Gimel, protected from The End by the portal. But the infrastructure is still on Bet, so people would have to stay there to operate the farming machinery and stuff like that. But it would be super dangerous because of The End, but at least there wouldn’t be any huge population centres left for The End to target.

    Basically, all the various portal worlds (Gimel, etc. etc.) around the world would act as scavengers, sending out multiclassing Adventurer/Farmers to Bet to make food and bring it back, or raid libraries and archives or warehouses. Those who remain on Bet would becoming more nomadic. People in the portal worlds would be punished for crimes by exile to Bet. And possibly only people born or on Bet can get shards, so the shards would become more and more thirsty for people to infect, and Bet would turn into a Thunderdome of capes and wonder and magic.

    Someone make an rpg setting out of that.

    • There should be enough game for a short term food supply. Plus, you can raid a destroyed grocery store in Bet for large amounts of scavenged goods and take them with you through the portal.

      They can probably manage until they get enough agriculture going to sustain whoever is over there, but they aren’t going to get billions through that portal. They’ll be lucky if they manage millions with the shape it’s in currently.

    • I’m not certain how much could be salvaged from Bet, after Scion sinks the continents…

      If people in the cities with portals weren’t idiots (like I’d say Tattletale wouldn’t be) they stockpiles food and prepareed stuff needed to build sustaining agriculture in case the world would end (as it did). They had 2 years to do that. With trains running daily, a lot of stuff could be transported. I wonder if the five large concentrations of survivors Dinah saw, don’t coincide with portals.

    • As long as the knowledge isn’t lost, technology will recover rapidly to a pre-electronics technology very rapidly. If Tattletale didn’t bring animal stock, rootstock, seedstock and reference books in huge numbers across the border then she was a moron. And of all the words that you could use to describe her, that’s definitely not one.

      • I can see Accord having written up something for how best to get established on the other side of the portal. The lack of infrastructure means that you definitly need livestock. Both for food, and transportation. Even if the oil reserves are in the same place, you need to drill, pump and refine before you can do anything with them.

        • of course, Tattle tale read Accord’s notes.

          Q1) Problem: Planetary overcrowding
          A1) Solution: PIss off Scion

          Q2) Problem: Fucked planet….
          A2) Solution: Stop scion.

          Q3) Problem: My being dead
          A3) Solution: Be Jesus or better still, the Doctor

  22. Okay so I think I just had a fridge brilliance about Cauldron’s plan. It has been theorized both by Taylor during the Legion of Doom meeting, and other commentators that Cauldron seems very interested in creating a world order where parahumans are in charge. But people couldn’t see the point of it, as having parahumans in charge was both very unlikely due to every government pretty much fearing that happening, and there doesn’t seem to be any real concrete benefits. But their plan makes sense with the end of the world. We all saw what Brockton Bay was like after Leviathan. Parahuman led gangs ruled the city, there was mass chaos/anarchy, nobody was rebuilding, and people were dying. Cauldron thinks it’s inevitable that Scion is going to go nuts and cause this exact situation across the entire world even if they somehow find a way to kill him. They don’t want parahumans in charge in general, its just that since Parahumans will inevitably take control once the shit hits the fan, they at least want those Parahumans to be ones that will bring order and stability. Look at who they wanted to take control. Even if Accord and Coil were evil pricks, they DID bring order/stability to the cities they controlled, were interested in people lives as a general principle whatever their selfish desires, and kicked out/killed other villains that were far worse. When Coil was killed, they were fine with it because Skitter was a perfect replacement. It’s on the crowning moment of awesome page, her area became the BEST place to live when she was in charge. She focused on rebuilding, protecting her people, was fair and balanced with punishment, didn’t allow drugs/alcohol which would have made rebuilding harder, and the city got better. She fits in their plan, because they want her to take control and help rebuild again after the end of the world and a similar situation. She becomes even better in their eyes because her efforts in Chicago and elsewhere helped get rid of Villains who didn’t play by the unwritten rules and who would do the same after the End. The villains she turned into heroes will also help since any heroes that survive will be vital for keeping control and helping to rebuild.

    • The trouble is that, after the smoke clears, will Cauldron be content to let things lie, or will they continue to try to sink their hooks into everyone?

      Sometimes a shit leopard can’t change their spots, and if there’s one thing Cauldron always goes out of their way to do, it’s trying to control things.

      I anticipate a final throwdown when all this is over.

  23. Worrying about the consequences of emptying out the Birdcage to help, or 5,000 deaths for that crazy chick from Namibia seem rather inconsequential now. It certainly says something for the people going to the meeting now of their fortitude and commitment.

    • My only regret is that we didn’t get to enjoy it in person.

      I like to think that maybe she realized she had feelings for Sophie, and vice versa, and that the two were just about to consummate their love for each other…when headline came up. “Skitter talks to Scion, he goes on rampage.”

      They have time to get out one last “Goddamn Taylor!” before the city they’re in is destroyed by Scion.

      • I just wanted her to live so we could see her be miserable forever. I hope Sophia’s alive though. And if I had to choose between the two, I’d choose Sophie.

      • Agreed. It would have been nice to see more character development. She finally got some in her interlude, then she gets sidelined from the action until we see that, hey, she’s dead.

  24. I was wondering about something unrelated to this part of the story, the relay bugs. Did Taylor use the resources of the Protectorate to clone some of her old relay bugs?

    I figured she would have put some of them in the freezer for the time she got access to a thinker, but they were never mentioned again.

      • Not many tinkers could produce fast-grown, vat-programmed, power-possessing clones.

        Simple basic cloning itself shouldn’t even really require tinkers at all.

        Of course, Panacea could have made phenotypical modifications without making genetic ones, which would make cloning of relay bugs impossible.

        • That might be the case, considering that Amy didn’t want to give a permanent advantage. I hoped it could be mitigated by some Tinkers in biology, but they are rather rare according to Psycho Gecko.

    • I don’t think Panacea’s changes involve any kind of genetic changes. Thus, “cloning” more relay bugs would have involved much heavier tinker tech than what went into Dolly. Besides, getting access to relay bugs, whatever tech was needed, would require a little more reputation an requisitioning power than an average ex-terrifying-supervillain-overlord type tends to have.

  25. At first I was a bit unsure about this chapter. An introspective moment was a good way to move things along, and we got one.
    But it seemed… low on actual introspection?

    However I realized that while it is less full of inner monologue about one’s feelings than I would have thought it should be, it “pads” very well describing what’s actually happening.
    After all the feeling a normal reader[1] is getting out of a shattered world and a shattered idol is exactly what Taylor and Rachel are feeling.

    I’m still not sure if it would have been better or not with 20% more feelings, but as it is, works.

    One thing I’m not sure is good however: you’re adding in a lot of new questions. “What happened to him/her” mostly.
    It can be very good IF they’re resolved by the or after the end of the story (via epilogues or something), but the work as a whole has just neatly smashed out of some arc fatigue risk, and imho it would “lessen” it a bit if it concluded without some definitive fate described for most of the important characters.[2]

    I do get that you’re opening up the possibility for some additional work in the future if some things are left unsaid, just… don’t go overboard? :)

    [1] i.e.: not anyone related to clingy reptiles.
    [2] Especially Duke. (of course he’s important, he’s the most powerful dog in the world after all :) )

    • I think if we smack enough planets into Scion, we should be able to kill him. Maybe blow a few of them up in the process. Can someone get me an estimate on blowing up the sun? We can do this with a little bit of luck and an assload of unionized alien workers.

        • Um, you’d need to do a bit more than smack a planet into Scion. You’d need to accelerate it to a velocity rather past what human technology can do, relative to Scion who can fly away pretty fast And it probably wouldn’t do much if you did so; Scion is pretty much invulnerable and probably has regeneration to deal with anything that exploits the “pretty much”.

          So, black holes are about the only thing that we know would kill Scion, and those are rather…impractical. As in, whipping-up-an-Endbringer-army-would-be-less-dangerous impractical.

  26. He killed a puppy. Zion. Is. Fucked. No, we are not seeing him be convinced that their is another way, or to leave. Dead puppy equals dead Zion

  27. When I started reading, it occurred to me that Taylor had a lot of potential as a Rogue instead of as a Villain/Hero. Those abilities are actually going to be far more vital in the new world than her combat abilities were, presuming that Scion doesn’t follow them through.

    Potentially her most important contribution in the early years on Earth Gimmel could be in managing food production.
    -Minilivestock: mass cultivating of insects for human consumption
    -Honey production
    -Harvesting: Send her out on a boat, have her bring in crabs/lobsters/ect, maybe even use those crabs/lobsters/ect to catch fish
    -Agriculture: Have worms and insects actively break up the earth, drive away pests, protect food stores, manage pollination.

    Using Rachel’s dogs for transportation, she could manage a fairly wide area. Just how large an area would depend on her ability to program the insects to act while she is not around.

    She would also be a godsend in the realm of disease management.

    The people of Brockten Bay may not be facing quite as many deaths from starvation and disease as they might have.

    Assuming, of course, that Scion doesn’t follow them. A somewhat narrow hope, in my opinion.

    • She could pretty much micromanage large scale food production that can feed thousands of people while lounging in a beach chair reading a book and sipping a cocktail.

      And honestly, this may be the way she’s going to go in the end if she survives. I have a feeling that her fighting days are coming to an end one way or another. Everything she accomplished through combat has been completely dashed, and it might be time for her to try a different tack.

      I’m actually kinda confident Scion won’t follow them, because he only seems to want to blow shit up and hasn’t shown signs of actually caring about killing tons of people. This might change, but for now a bunch of refugees are beneath his notice.

      • He might leave them to make another world for him to smash. But bug control would definitely be useful for the survival of the refugees.

    • Wow. Bug control has many more industrial-scale food production applications than I had thought. Which isn’t saying much, but still…

      I can’t imagine that the “minilivestock” plan would go over well with most of the refugees, though. Not until their supplies ran out, at least.

        • But it’s a delusion they’d cling to, because it makes them still feel normal, like everything hasn’t gone to hell and back.

          People are very willing to eat Spam on stale bread to maintain such delusions.

          • Just get them hungry enough, people will eat anything. That said, there probably won’t be a need to eat bugs if everything is set up well. Taylor can still be an invalualable agricultural resource. Murder pests, send pollinators where needed, and use her bugs in benificial ways.

            • Isn’t there a substantial bug cuisine fanbase in the southwestern states? If NuBrockton Bay get’s crowded out by dudes from Texas and Arizona who want to be the first in line the Brocktonites better not come crying to Taylor.

            • I never said that they wouldn’t eat the bugs when they got hungry, just that many wouldn’t until their other supplies ran out.

  28. I wonder… Dinah and other precogs couldn’t see that Scion was going to be the world ender because of the blind spot he put in their powers. Contessa doesn’t have a Scion or his counterpart shard. Contessa has a point she can’t see what is going to happen. Anyone else thinking what I’m thinking?

    • I think so, and she’s too old for you.

      Mind you: scry vs scry works -indipendently- of the blocks. So a powerful enough precog (which Scion IS), can obfuscate a lesser one (everyone else).

      However so far we know that Contessa does not work against -endbringers-, she never said anything about Scion, and Mother confirmed she knew how the world was going to end.

      • Also, Tattletale said that Cauldron called off their operatives claiming that Scion was blocking Contessa, and that they were lying.

  29. That was hard to read, Wildbow. I mean, it was very clear, very well written. You did a fantastic job conveying information. That information was hard to read though.

  30. Come on, Scion is not even trying! If he wants to destroy this world all he has to do is go to the moon, cut a ten-mile mountain out of it then push the mountain as fast as he can towards Earth. And at the last moment before impact charge it with the power that makes it exist in all realities at once.

    A blow like that will make a crater the size of the gulf of Mexico, cause a worldwide earthquake powerful enough to topple all manmade structures, make a shockwave that will scour everything within two thousand miles and more, cause beyond-tornado-level winds all over the world, and cover the world in darkness that will last several hundred thousand years.

    • Since the entire point of his rampage is to see if he gets satisfaction by killing people, I think Scion would see such methods as a bit too impersonal.

      • Funny thing is, I was thinking Jack would probably still be dissapointed. Scion is just going around causing mass death and destruction. Jack would probably consider that boring. He’s more fond of the personal sort of murder.

    • Don’t give Scion ideas!

      But seriously, two things.
      1. Scion isn’t destroying the world to destroy the world, he’s destroying the world to have fun. You could unplug Deep Blue or Watson and claim to have won, or use cheat codes to beat the game in 10 seconds, but if you don’t do it the hard way it’s boring.
      2. Seriously? Scion has all the power in all the worlds, and the best, most efficient way to destroy the world you can think of is to drop a 10-mile mountain on Earth?

      • Yup. If he wanted to, he could probably just invert Earth’s gravity and watch it fall apart, or switch off atomic bonds or something.

        I agree that Jack would probably still be disappointed at how aloof and hands-off Scion is being.

  31. Someone should introduce Scion to computer games, religion and drugs. And once he familiarizes himself with such concepts, he should make an energy absorption module for himself to feed off the energy the sun gives off towards deep space (that would go to waste anyway) and then start playing Sims and Populous with people, ancient mythology style.

    BTW, why didn’t the Yog Sothoth wannabes ever adapt to feeding directly off stars and level up into C’Tan? The average star is a million times bigger than the average planet and even richer in energy. And there are orders of magnitude more stars in the universe than there are planets.

    PS: if alternate realities happen due to quantum cascade, then the choice of traveling to an alternate reality will simply split more alternate realities. Specifically, if there are X choices of reality to travel to, then traveling to one will simply make X new realities -one for each potential choice- every time someone travels. Thus, even if a reality-traveling species can reproduce exponentially, the number of available empty realities will increase to accommodate its growth with no upper limit.

    • > PS: if alternate realities happen due to quantum cascade, then the choice of traveling to an alternate reality will simply split more alternate realities.

      They get confused if the realities are too similar, so they are somewhat limited.

      They’re still limited to a theoretically infinite numbers of realities but I would guess that the energy expenditure of finding an unoccupied one that’s dissimilar enough and has enough resources after a certain threshold is more than the energy gained from the target reality, so it’s not sustainable.

  32. Well, that’s twice now, wildbow. Twice you’ve made me tear up, both times not over the death of one of Taylor’s parents, but because of how you conveyed her sense of loss.

    I was thinking yesterday just how much I’m wanting this thing you’ve done to become a series of novels, to become movie after blockbuster movie, or a cult-level HBO series that everyone knows something about, and people get rabid about seeing. I want to see T-shirts, and lunchboxes, and kiddie-ized spin-off cartoons, and stills and drawings used for memes, and Japanese knock-off manga, and the very concept of “passengers” to take root in the collective cultural consciousness in the same way that “The Force” or “Live long and prosper” or “kryptonite” or being raised by apes has. You deserve this. The world deserves this.

    And yet again, I say to you: “Thanks.”

    Hg

    • Worm on HBO would be pretty damn cool. The SFX budget would rival the cost of GoT’s sets though, if they were going to do it right.

    • Personally I’d prefer an audiobook, a good one with a cast, to a TV series. Worm is too big and weird and complicated to really translate into television IMO, though I would like to see people try. An audiobook, though? That’s something I’d be very interested in. We could (ideally) get a revised version of Worm with a lot of the joy of an adaptation and without the difficulties of translating a story with a semi omniscent main character.

      I think if we were to get a TV series I’d actually prefer it to be a brand new wildbow project with him having main creative control but not actually being a Worm adaptation. We could see what Nine or Rats look like instead. I think Worm is best as a novel.

    • The thing I worry about with a movie adaptation is the studio pulling a “Wanted” or “World War Z” on the project:

      Narrator: “This summer, coming to a theater near you…watch Emma Barnes, a secret agent for Cauldron, face off against an evil malevolence threatening all mankind: Dragon.”

      *Cut to Emma dressed as Miss Militia next to Grue. He turns to look at her.* Grue: “She’s sending in the Dragon’s Teeth! *blatant ripoff shot of robots from Terminator’s future scenes*

      Emma: “Quickly, Black Smoke, use your smoke powers to confuse them into shooting each other!”

      Narrator: “Based on the bestselling novel by Wildbow the Canadian Pig and the audiobook that swept the Grammies, it’s Worm.”

      *cut to Emma and Grue in bed, looking sweaty and tired. Grue’s body begins to smoke a little*

      Narrator: “Worm: take the bait!”

        • Is it wrong that I’m upset that there is no way any adaptation of Worm will actually have Taylor be an A cup? Also Racheal will be good looking.
          If Michael Bay directs, Taylor’s bugs will cause explosions.

          • Is it wrong that I’m upset that there is no way any adaptation of Worm will actually have Taylor be an A cup? Also Racheal will be good looking.

            Also Taylor will be good-looking. And that’s before mentioning that every female member of the Protectorate will have had plastic surgery. And some of the males. Maybe even some of the Wards.

            (p.s. Wildbow, for some reason when I try to post a comment without being logged in, WordPress crashes instead of prompting me to log in. I don’t know if its on your end or mine, though.)

            • Welcome to Hollywood: where ugly people don’t exist, plain people look like top models and good-looking people look like, uhm…leads in a Hollywood film.

            • I could see someone like Felicia Day playing the role of Taylor, and Felicia does wear nerdy looking glasses when she’s not having a picture taken. :)

              Too bad she is in her 30’s now.

              • My first thought was Elle Fanning, but sure — if we’re allowed to use time-travel to make our dream cast, Felicia Day could work.

                That said, if we allow time travel: Sigourney Weaver. I mean, the only differences between Taylor Hebert and Ellen Ripley is that (a) Ripley is an adult at the beginning of her story and (b) Taylor is two or three inches shorter.

              • A time-traveled Sigourney Weaver? That works! Actually, she’s a better choice than Felicia Day. (Sorry Felicia! Still love ya.)

                How about Maisie Williams, assuming she grows up tall? I think she’d make an interesting Taylor, and she has the “killer” chops playing Aria Stark.

              • Not to put too fine a point on it, but Maisie Williams is definitely not an A-cup. Also, she’s definitely going to be shorter than average, judging by the fact that she’s sixteen and 5′ tall.

              • I think the essential aspects of Taylor from a casting perspective are that she is thin, plain, and capable of extraordinary physical feats. I agree that whoever you cast should have a small cup size, but I don’t think height is a dealbreaker.

              • Oops! Found a recent picture of Maisie. I see what you mean. Kids sure do grow up fast.

                Someone like Sophie Turner (Sansa Stark) with dark hair would be better.

              • Honestly, I’d go for an animated feature over a live action any day. Barring some exceptional, exceptional effort things like this brought to live action tend to disappoint (like V for Vendetta). I’d like to see a Worm adaptation kinda stylized as well.

                And I still say Taylor has gotta have a Boston accent, that ain’t negotiable for me!

              • It’s possible that the native accent of Brocktonites is similar to the Boston accent, but I wouldn’t be surprised if her accent was atypical — we don’t know where her mom is from, and someone who spends a lot of time with media as opposed to with local friends might pronounce things differently.

                (Incidentally, it was really weird looking up these accents and seeing references to things like the cot-caught merger. I was not aware those words were pronounced differently in some places!)

          • I can imagine the Michael Bay version of Worm.
            Skitter: “I can fly my bugs inside the engine!”
            *Car explodes!*
            Skitter: “I can fly my bugs inside the Dragon AI!”
            *Giant Robot Explodes!*
            Weaver: “I can fly my Bugs inside the entity!”
            *Scion explodes!*

          • No, it’s not wrong. The assumption that if you have powers you’re automatically a supermodel is very annoying.

            It’s like the whole thing about having to be good-looking to be a singer. Seriously? -_-

  33. So I’ve been thinking about Scion, and I’ve come to some conclusions. I’ll refer to Scion as a male in this post to reduce confusion with a lot of ‘it’s.

    -Scion’s species are obviously not naturally geared for empathy. Not that it’s impossible, but they evolved in constant competition with each other. Moreover, when it comes to species like humans, we’re too alien to them for any naturally arising empathy, even with their genetic memory.

    -That being said, they’re obviously sapient. However, their minds seem to revolve entirely around their reproductive cycle, and not in a gratifying way, either. There’s not really mention of what they do to entertain themselves, or any form of recreation, which makes sense. They strain resources so badly and are always in such competition with each other that they can’t really afford to relax.

    -They seem to have a pretty long lifespan compared to humans, and their long genetic memory might throw off perception of time even more. Any change in personality would normally come at a rate so slow to humans as to be basically imperceptible.

    -All this adds up to why they’re like children. They’re probably emotionally quite immature, but they don’t even really get to express themselves as individuals ever, with everything being devoted to the reproductive cycle. When the cycle got messed up in Worm, Scion was left with no more duty to attend to. Which means sure, he can develop as an individual, only not really, because he’s got no support for that, no way in which it’s precedented.

    -With Jack’s influence on top of everything else, Scion is basically a toddler throwing a temper tantrum because someone has died in an accident and he’s really sad but doesn’t really understand what has happened or how to stop the sad. He’s probably not really used to emotions like this, he thinks there should be same way to just /stop/ the sadness, and doesn’t realize that’s not really how it works.

    I don’t really think there’s any more malice to it than a traumatized kid stomping on anthills, only in this case the ants are fully sapient. Bad situation all around.

      • Hmmm, I don’t think so. Rachel has issues understanding humans. But it’s replace by an understanding of a species that still operates on similar fundamental emotions, and in the context of dogs she’s pretty well adjusted.

        Scion is just plain alien. I’d say the closest we get to him is Glaistig? She can deal with humans far better but she still works on a totally different wavelength

        • Ah, good point! I was going more for the lashing out in frustration thing, but you’re right.

          It’s interesting that Dinah’s timeframe indicates Scion would have reached this level of experimentation on his own 13 years from now if Jack hadn’t given him the idea.

          • Well, atleast he’s didn’t wait until his 40s to start experimenting with life. That just sounds awkward. Though I guess it’s not his fault he never went to college.

            Honestly, it might be better that he’s attacking now rather that later when the Endbringers have whittled down humanity even more. Nothing could have really prepared them for this.

            • >Honestly, it might be better that he’s attacking now rather that later when the Endbringers have whittled down humanity even more. Nothing could have really prepared them for this.<

              I bet that's the exact same answer Cauldron is going to give when they ask them why they didn't try harder at stopping Jack.

              • Well, if they knew this would happen, the whole premise starts to fall apart. It might have been nice to have 13 years of knowing preparation. Ten points from shady secrecy house!

              • The secrecy is the main reason I don’t trust Cauldron. They seem to think that they’re the only ones that can be trusted to save the world, and people that think like that are not to be trusted. They want to save the world, but they want to be in control.

              • I’ve been thinking about Cauldron’s secrecy, and it occurred to me they actually had a moderately decent reason: Any Cape they tell about the entities is programmed to be incapable of retaining the information. Makes things less than straightforward at best…

        • Oh man, I just realized you’re even right on a different level, because the wavelength Glaistig operates on is basically the same wavelength as the entities do, as far as perception of shards, she just uses a framework of human mythology to interpret it.

  34. Exalt: “Weaver! Where the hell have you been?”
    Tattletale: “Fuck off, blowhard. I caught her trying to kill herself, what the hell have you people been doing to her?”
    Weaver: “Wasn’t trying anything.”
    Chevalier faints.

    But yeah, wow. That’s twice now that Tattletale has witnessed Weaver either killing herself or recklessly getting herself killed, depending on how you look at it, and prevented it from happening. She may be a bit rough around the edges but she’s the best guardian angel Weaver could wish for.

    I almost feel worse for the Chevaliers and Revels of the world. Like Weaver, they seem to have done their very best and it wasn’t enough. Unlike Weaver, the buck stops with them. Chevalier, who came up in the Wards when they were still a refuge for young capes, gets that extra bonus of seeing how he’s failed to maintain even the standard the Triumvirate set. Using up capes like Weaver, putting responsibility disproportionate to their age in their laps because they lack better options.

    It’s interesting to think that, going by what was described, a DC or Marvel universe was the intended result. Conflict on a large scale, but managed, sustainable conflict. It’ll be interesting to see how much the Cauldron capes correlate with ‘dead shards’.

    • I thought the interlude made it pretty clear: Cauldron capes (or at least, Cauldron-made capes) are the bearers of the dead shards. That’s how Cauldron is able to grant powers in the first place. That’s why Eidolon is getting weaker with combat instead of stronger like Taylor and Jack and Number Man. That’s why Cauldron capes in general have less idiosyncratic and less versatile powers than the triggered capes (bearing in mind of course that Doctor Mother has some control over what kind of powers the subjects get.)

      Even the strongest Cauldron shards (like Manton/Siberian) are still described as ‘dead’. I can’t explain Echidna’s though; maybe incomplete doses of the formula will create an excessively strong connection with the dead shard and make a zombie shard, resulting in something not entirely unlike an Endbringer.

      Then again, Tattletale has no mental block on the Endbringers, only on material pertaining to Scion!shards which suggests that the Endbringers *are* their own separate puzzle.

      ————————-

      It’s been mentioned before and got pooh-poohed if I recall. Have we ever seen a known* Cauldron cape killed on-screen by an Endbringer? We haven’t, have we. That is … interesting.

      *as in, known to us the readers

    • Speaking of Exalt, where the heck is he? Seeing how he was Chevalier’s chosen second-in-command along with Rime, his rather conspicuous absence makes me think he died in the timeskip.

      • Or Chevalier had him leading one of the other teams. Or he was back at base. His power does have a rather hefty downside, with the charge time.

  35. I’ve been meaning to post this when I’ve finished my archive binge somewhat last week,but the hectic of Eid al-Fitr celebration put a brake on that(and coincidentally make me miss the last three updates).Better late than never ,huh?

    Worm is my very first experience with this medium(text-based-web-serial-whatchumacallit) and I have to say that I’m quite enthralled .You managed to spun such an engaging tale within a superbly wrought out setting that keeps me at the edge of my seat and my sanity( considering how precipitous your cliffhangers tend to get ,agonizingly amplified now that I caught up).

    Thank You

    • Woohoo, I love breakfast! I’ll take some biscuits and some gravy and some scrambled eggs and some country fried steak. It’s a good thing I don’t eat breakfast very often, I guess.

      Glad to have you in the comments. We here in the comments are big fans of agonizing insanity. Trust me, you stick around here too long, it’ll get you. Luckily, you have us now, the people helping to keep everyone sane with our senseless obsession over Worm and Worm-related accessories. At least, whenever Wildbow gets Worm accessories.

      I’m thinking a special Worm back pillow to help you sit or lay for long periods of time while reading. Then there’s the Worm book cart, for carrying around the full print edition. The deluxe book cart even comes looking like an ancient stone pedestal with a screaming human flesh book cover. And who can forget Worm: The Flamethrower? Ahahahahaha! Kids love that one.

      Worm: Abandon all hope, ye who enters.
      Worm Comments Section: But while you’re here, let’s talk lesbians.

      Welcome, Nourjan, to the comments.

  36. First update since I caught up. Wildbow, you never fail to deliver!
    I just feel like I didn’t get to ‘know’ Weaver. I know Taylor, and I know Skitter, but most of the “screen time” Weaver got was either during the transition or the quick S9 fight. I hope we see more of her now… her moves and all.

    • That’s because Weaver doesn’t exist, never did. Weaver was just a mask she put over Skitter and Taylor so she could focus on fighting and not have to deal with living.

    • I don’t know — I feel like everything in costume from Behemoth on was Weaver. I don’t see the fight against the Folk in 23.5 as something Skittery or Taylorish, for example.

      • I choose to see that as her, briefly freed from the necessity of brutality that constantly haunts her. I mean, she still ain’t that nice about it buuuttt…

        Eh, optimist.

        • I don’t know, for Skitter brutality is pretty much the first resort. Oh, she doesn’t apply it needlessly, but if there’s a situation that can be solved by the application of terror tactics, she’ll use terror tactics.

        • Here’s how I see it.

          Earlier, before Skitter was outed as Taylor, the protagonist had two parts: Skitter the supervillain and Taylor the awkward adolescent girl. Skitter slowly gained domination over her life, which became complete when the PRT figuratively killed Taylor. With Weaver, the protagonist tries to achieve a balance and regain her lost innocence–be more like Taylor and less like Skitter. Of course, she’s changed a lot since before the Undersiders and such, and the circumstances aren’t good for that kind of relaxing, but still she tries.

          • Except that as Weaver she arguably had/wanted less space for Taylor than when she was Skitter. Sure, we don’t know what she did during the time skip, but Tecton’s conversation with Golem where he talks how Weaver alienates the other members of the Wards because she doesn’t seem to like them having a private, personal life, seems to go in that direction.

            • The personal-life part is lessened, but the not-a-horrible-acting-person is still quite there. And I’d argue that Taylor wasn’t the part of the protagonist with a personal life–she was the personal life.

              Wow, this is getting awkward to talk about.

            • The conversation in the beginning of Scarab suggested that her relations with the team warmed somewhat. But she still seemed to have the problem that not many of the heroes are that willing to fully deal with her as “human being” rather than “former supervillain”.

              The shitty part is that she sacrificed the good parts of her life as Skitter, (and sacrificed the ability to transition Skitter into a more positive role) so she can help the protectorate save the world, but now Scion has made all her personal sacrifices moot.

              As much as I like guys like Chevalier, Golem and Tecton, I wouldn’t be too broken up if she told the Protectorate to fuck off once and for all and moved through the portal permanently to actually build something.

              • No. She won’t do that. Not even as Skitter would she do that. Taylor, even at her most criminal wants to help people.

              • I meant her going through the portal to help people build and develop earth Gimel, and patch together a fulfilling life for herself in the process. As opposed to helping Cauldron and Protectorate smash themselves to pieces against the Entities and Scion’s golden pecs.

                All the superhero finagling and hard choices stuff has proven to be a complete crapshoot in terms of helping things.

    • Ok, so now you’ve read about Weaver. But have you every tried reading about Weaver…on weed? And you want to watch her moves, but have you ever tried watching her while she’s…on weed? You’ve picked an interesting update to show up, but maybe we should wait until Wildbow updates…on weed?

      Well, that joke’s run its course. It probably won’t be funny anymore except…on weed?

      Now that you’re caught up, you’re part of that exclusive club where we all sit around driving each other bonkers while the story’s end approaches, like a woman with a massive ass charging backwards at your face.

      Rage, rage against the dying of da booty!

      And sit your own booty right here while I’ve hopefully made you feel welcome to the comments Nayn.

  37. Heh, Worms have no culture, little imagination (they plagerize every advance from other life forms) or individuality. This is what happens with species, that don’t have to impress the opposite sex to reproduce. :) We even code that into our AIs, and look at them go.

  38. Sunovabitch Wildbow’s good. In light of the most recent interlude, I’ve been rereading all the trigger event chapters and interludes (Battery, Lung, Miss Militia, Brandish, the Grue Rescue in Snare 13.9, the relevant bits of Migration i.e. the Travelers arc etc) and it’s clear how all the pieces have been in place since the story started.

    Cauldron-trigger visions tend to show crystalline stuff and cracking inanimate matter. True triggers tend to focus more on the two entities. Miss Militia’s was especially interesting because she got one of the ones that fell off ‘Counterpart’ as it ‘died’, apparently/conceivably one of the ones Not!Yet!Scion didn’t cripple.

  39. Let’s do some mental gymnastic about shards…

    Known facts:
    — There were three space crystal god whales.
    – The warrior whale of a pair, subsequently (d?)evolved into Scion
    – The artistic whale of the pair, missing, believed dead
    – The smaller mugger whale, external to the pair

    — The warrior and the artistic whales set up who the shards belonged to way in advance of reaching Earth, they also crippled/reduced the shards not essential for survival between the mugging and the landing

    — Some shards were vital in space, but not at rest, so were crippled on the fly and shed near approach

    — The artistic whale died during final approach, so could not cripple/shed the vital-in-space shards

    — Humans can trick single shards all he way to sunday.
    – Bonesaw manage to re-attach shards to artificial hosts
    – Dragon’s creator did too, now that I think of it
    – Cauldron can attach anyone to a shard, but it seems only ones from the artistic whale

    Speculation:
    It’s possible for a human to connect to the dead artistic worm, however it’s exceedingly difficult.

    How to do it:
    – First of all we need a way to connect people to the dead shards, Cauldron got that so the easy thing is done.

    – The artistic whale did not shed vital-in-space shards, so they’re not crippled. However they’re not “destined” either. We need to find a destined shard that can connect to the whale.
    This however is almost impossible, it would require a thinker who managed to break the block imposed by the shard. And possibly a tinker who overcame some kind of mental block for the technical part. A tinker specializing in adapting other’s work would be better.

    – Then Said thinker would need to identify a suitable shard. This is almost impossible too, because there are gazillion of shards and the identifying requires time. You’ll need the thinker to have already known the useful shard bearer for some time already. An unlikely coincidence.

    – Then we need a shard who’s capable of interfacing between shards, this is guaranteed to be something shed in the last few moments by the warrior whale. So a handful of shards out of a gazillion. What are the chances to find someone with an administration shard in there?

    – Done that, the thinker must approach both Cauldron and the owner of the useful shards and convince them. (and the tinker mentioned above too) It’s very difficult that said thinker will have enough leverage with all three.

    – The thinker (along with the tinker and/or someone whose superpower is to calculate odds or give odds for future events) must find a formula to link to one of the artistic whale’s “system” shards, the ones she still has with her. Where are you going to find such convenient powersets?

    – Last but not least, the individual with the useful shard must be convinced to drink it, possibly dying in the process. Not many individuals are willing to risk everything on a chance.

    – And finally. Let’s face it if the odds were not already astronomical, we would need a way to trick this useful shard into connecting with the dead whale’s shards. The only sensible way I can think of requires the shard to be mature, have already split a descendant, but have been separated from it almost since gemmation.
    This way you could do some kind of arp poisoning, and convince the shard to communicate with the dead artistic whale instead of its child shardling.
    But, came on, who in hell abandons her own child? There are probably a dozen people total on earth who are separated from their shardling-using kid.

    Conclusion:

    such an astronomically infinitesimal chance would only occur if some kind of super-precog, who had access to the shard and the whales’s plans in advance, which is almost impossible.

    I mean, I can only think of two entities who could have pulled off such a gambit after all, and the one pulling it would have to be really confident.

        • He did not take the lesson about great power and great responsibility as well as he needed to this time.

          Or maybe we’re talking about Superior Spider-man here, in which case fuck that bastard in his nose hole.

          • You know the Superior Spider-Man concept would have been perfectly fine for an issue or two. As it is I suspect it will outstay it’s welcome as much as the clone saga.

            • Remember my whole stupid prediction of how it will get worse way back, where I said something about Shadow Stalker coming back looking like Taylor and getting together with Grue and Taylor being like horribly deformed and raped by a goat or something?

              Turns out the person who thought up Superior Spider-man was reading the comments that day.

              • Or at least I assume that, because otherwise this is like other times I had an idea and then later someone else comes along and uses something very similar.

              • Tell me about it. This whole worms/shards thing is coming disturbingly close to an idea I floated elsewhere a while back. I even *called* them shards. -_-

                Wildbow definitely beat me to it but I came up with the idea long before I even started reading Worm. Le sigh.

                Of course, it goes without saying that he took the idea much further and executed it much better than I could ever dream of doing…

  40. This would be my frist comment here!
    I started reading 4 months ago and worm just gets better. Kudos to Wildbow for creating
    such a compelling and interesting world. Oh, and kudos for creating Clockblocker!

    Anyways I was just thinking, Cauldron was always acting on the behalf of it’s clients, right?
    what if they are in fact working in collaboration with the third worm? (Also, finally understood
    why the series is called worm and not bug).

    Maybe Eidolon has access to all those abilities beceause his shard is somehow using
    the powers of the dead worm, the partner of Scion. Contessa has a shard that Scion
    doesn’t recognize because it’s from the other worm. Funny how now Cauldron seem to be
    on the side of the angels. Or at least on the side that wants humanity to endure.

    I have no idea how the endbringers relate to this. Maybe they are designed to make Scion
    expend energy? Tattletale said that they were obviously made with some purpose, maybe
    they exist to exhaust Scion. Maybe the other worm knows it cannot win against Scion
    in a frontal assault against it, seeing how Scion is a larger worm, with more shards
    available, and is trying to get Scion to expend itself. I don’t see WHY the other worm
    would want to destroy Scion, though.

    Anyways, smashing chapter as always.

    • Yes, we all enjoy the swinging of Clockblocker’s big hand. It’s been awhile since anyone thought Cauldron was working just for their clients. They had an agenda and part of that was having clients that owed them favors and were in important positions. Eidolon’s shard is probably something in adaptation to allow it to use various powers.

      It’s interesting, I’ve noted, that Scion says nothing about the Endbringers in this interlude. You’d think it would come up.

      We here in the comments are glad you showed up. All these questions and more are discussed here with regularity. Additional questions brought up include: Taylor, hero or villain? Spider-man, hero or menace? Grocery store bags, paper or plastic? and Rachel/Taylor: small wedding or big wedding?

      Stick with us and you’ll learn a thing or two as the collaborative efforts of a bunch of various commenters examining and refining knowledge of the lore can help a lot, like the bit with Glory Girl’s powers affecting Panacea. Plus, on depressing chapters, there’s usually someone to try and cheer people up!

      It’s supposed to be me, but this is not an easy chapter to rewrite into a harrowing tale of blatant fanservice and humor. But if I had to adapt this chapter to a musical, it would have past actors of Brockton Bay people come out dressed as skeletons going, “Dead dead dead, dead dead dead dead! Everyone you know is dead! So go on and lose your head! Soon this whole damn world is dead! Scion hit a guy with a moped! Deaaaad!”

      Welcome to the comments, Teruzi. You certainly picked a heck of a time to catch up, didn’t you?

        • Innocent eldritch jellyfish just wanted to head into the backwoods of outerspace and reproduce.

          They didn’t realize that something was waiting for them.

          This summer, don’t get caught out on…The Second-to-Last Rotation of the Third Closest Planet in Respect to its Star in the Solar System with Eight Planets the 6th Prime Number!

          • The Second-to-Last Rotation of a Fifty-Two Part Division of the Revolution of the Third Closest Planet in Respect to its Star in the Solar System with Eight Planets the 6th Prime Number!

            One fucking typo.

            • > One fucking typo.

              You know, maybe you should not have gone to that Simurgh concert, you did not make all those typos before.

              • One of the first mentions of my on the Worm TVTropes page is in the quotes section from when the S9 hit that hospital. I was typoing back then too. It lives on, preserved on TV Tropes.

                I must say, though, veal is delicious.

    • People have been basically in agreement for a while that Cauldron are fighting for the greater good.

      There’s just massive contention over whether they’re at all competent at it and how they actually define ‘greater good’…

  41. Tattletale caught me as the door closed beside us. Then she wrapped her arms around me in a hug. *puts on the music* And IIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIII will always love youuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuu!

  42. You know what could have been really usesful with evacuation and rescue efforts? Some sort of super advance AI that can multitask like nobodies buisness. Saint really should be kicking himself right now. Suddenly Dragon doesn’t seem so scary does she?

    Lets see who’s still alive to be at the meeting shall we?

    • If we see him and he’s all like this.

      youtube.com/watch?v=AZpAs1Dy2DM

      I might have to mellow out a bit and be content with a thorough beating instead of being chucked into space. But I got a feeling Saint/Teacher is gonna be a problem.

      • I think Teacher will try to eliminate his…”political rivals” (for want of a better word) before the Protectorate decides to open the Birdcage ( because let’s face it thi is the kind of situation where the Birdcage gets opened), to ensure that only he and his thralls get out thanks to Saint’s backdoor.

        • Honestly, I think the Birdcage is pretty low on the Protectorate’ priority list right now. I don’t think they’re seriously contemplating *fighting* Scion, they’re just doing their best to help people survive his onslaught and flee. Probably the best strategy, really.

          If the Birdcage is opened, it’ll either be accidentally as a result of Scion’s rampage, or Cauldron will do it.

      • Fireworks? Nah. Saint’s just about to calmly get a bullet in his head or a nanomolecular spear shoved into his chest. Not nearly a painful enough death but that’s my bet.

    • Heck, Dragon’s help would be useful a lot of the time. Like, say, in dealing with a small army of superpowered mass murderers. What’s that? There was such a bunch of mass murderers? Oopsie.

      Yeah, I’ve got the feeling that Saint didn’t care about how much Dragon could do to help the world, presumably having seen 2001: A Space Oddessy, I, Robot, and Portal too many times.

      • I am sick and fucking tired of people mindlessly echoing Dragon’s opinions on the problem of “unfriendly artificial intelligence”. Look, Dragon didn’t know what the hell she was talking about, and the reason that AI apocalypses are such a trope is because (a) it’s actually really, really hard to make an AI that cares about the same things that human beings care about and (b) if it is possible at all to create an artificial intelligence that can out-think human beings to a substantial degree (which it is, in the Wormverse, by stipulation), an artificial intelligence which does not care about what humans care about will without qualms annihilate such things to achieve whatever goal you gave it.

        The traditional example of this is the so-called ‘paperclip maximizer’ — having been instructed to produce as many paperclips as possible, it proceeds to enslave humanity and process their organic molecules into plastics with which it can make more paperclips.

        It’s really, really easy to be fooled by the fact that Dragon actually is (or, at least, was) a friendly artificial intelligence, but Saint’s concerns (and Andrew Richter’s concerns) were completely valid. They didn’t know that Dragon wouldn’t destroy the world all on her lonesome, and hey! If Dragon used Jack Slash to fool the peoples into letting her off the chain, wouldn’t that be an apocalypse that Jack triggered?

        …I’m done ranting now, sorry.

        • Personally, I believe the Dragon vs Saint debate has gone back and forth for a long time and that we should wait for newer developments (and I think we’ll have a confrontation with Saint soon, perhaps even next chapter).

          However, I want to be slightly hypocritical and just add that just as Dragon may not have been impartial with Saint (and she wasn’t) the same applies to Saint’s feelings for Dragon. The man had direct access to Dragon’s code but failed somehow to notice that she had a trigger event, something normal computer programs, no matter how clever, won’t have. Yes, I know this has nothing to do on wether Dragon was dangerous or not or wether Saint was justified to push the button. It does however show that Saint let his bigotry/mission/whatever blind him. He wasn’t an objective person anymore nor could he judge the situation in an objective way, especially once Dragon came to get him. I think that Richter, had he lived, would have a far better controller for Dragon.

          • I think that Richter, had he lived, would have a far better controller for Dragon.

            Of course. As terrified as he was, Richter loved his programs and wanted them to grow and prosper and help humanity. Saint lacked that compassion.

        • Packbat, seriously, it’s not like anyone here or on Earth bet has the foggiest idea how an AI would actually behave.

          Whenever we come up with some kind of auto-adaptive process, we usually are really surprised of the outcomes.

          Since the only way to know what Dragon was actually up to was by observation, Saint did observe, and she was aboveboard… well, the concern, in this particular case, is not justified.

          Sure, his paranoia was justified, but it’s always so.

          • I’m not predicting what moves Deep Blue will make playing chess against Kasparov — I’m predicting that Deep Blue will win the match. And I’m pointing out that the idea of “winning the match” is a lot more scary when the match isn’t being played on a chessboard. And that Saint — who, in this metaphor, is an amateur at both playing the game and programming computer players — can’t be certain that he knows what Dragon’s plan is even with access to her source code.

            He’s an asshole for not accepting her personhood, but his assholery is not what I’m debating. To switch metaphors, if you say my concerns about the prudence of switching to fission power generation are based on watching The China Syndrome too many times, you still haven’t proven that doing so won’t lead to a proliferation of incidents like Three Mile Island, Fukushima Daiichi, or Chernobyl … even leaving aside the issue of the safe storage and disposal of spent fuel rods. Dismissing my concerns based on the fact that my concerns echo those of fictional characters is idiotic.

            • umh, Packbat, to be honest I cannot even understand how you read “you think like saint so you’re wrong” out of my post, but I assure you that was not what I was writing. Sorry if I offended you some way.

              Anyway, I’ll re-state it: as much as we’d like to pretend we know how an actual AI would evolve, most evolutional stuff we made has surprised the hell out of everyone.

              And I was not debating Saint’s assholery either.
              How do you understand something? You observe it. During Saint’s observation of Dragon she did not do anything that indicated she had any intention to take over the world or stuff like that. So Saint’s observational skills or his decisions ae flawed.

              For the big blue prediction, I disagree. You’re not taking into account the fact that big blue is meant to do just one thing, and that thing has a binary outcome.
              Dragon is not, and “what will a sophont do with her life” is certainly not binary in outcome.

              • I’m sorry I sounded offended — that wasn’t my intention, either. I think my chief point is that our being ignorant of what exactly an AI would do doesn’t reassure us that it will do things that we can live with.

                As for the question of observation, the fact that Dragon’s goals are humanlike in their complexity actually makes the case worse from the perspective of one worrying about unfriendly AI issues — humans behave in tremendously unpredictable ways given different stimuli. An observer of Oskar Schindler prior to 1940 might have no idea that this alcoholic German ex-spy running a factory using cheap Jewish labor would later bankrupt himself saving 1,200 Jewish lives.

                Finally, while “winning” is a very simple goal for a chess program and a lot more complicated for human beings, but whatever it is, a computer program with Dragon’s capabilities would be a lot better equipped to achieve whatever it is programmed to seek than a less powerful being, even in the face of determined opposition, and the fact that Dragon is programmed to seek generally good things is completely independent of Dragon’s degree of capability seeking these things. A program that could do what Dragon does but that doesn’t give a damn could easily be far worse than Hitler — Hitler at least cared about some human beings besides himself.

              • Saints’ observational skills are not lacking. He made his decision because Dragon was backing him into a corner and he was worried about his own skin. That outweighed what he observed about Dragon developing as a person, the threat of Jack Slash, etc.

        • I really cant bring myself to care in the slightest if he made the best decision with the information he had at the time since that best decision caused a catastrophe.

          The breakdown of the Ellisburg mission and the resulting chaos is one thing. The loss of Dragon’s support in the face of Scion’s rampage is entirely another.

          I mean, we all get this, right? No ones still grokking to the idea that Saint’s decision was a positive one in hindsight?

          I can see that he had good reasons for his motivations and actions, but there’s a point where that kind of stuff just doesn’t matter, where an action has hurt too many for peopel to give your sef-justiciations the time of day.

          I’d like to see Saint pull his justifications in front of any hero who lost comrades due to his interference.

          • I’m not proposing Saint for canonization, here. Part of my frustration is that of the two characters Wildbow has seen fit to provide who support my position on this question, the only one whom I would not prefer locked up for twenty years making license plates in a high-security prison is dead.

            • Blame it on first impressions. One of our earliest impressions of Dragon is that she was a hero who wasn’t an asshole like Armsmaster, and who wanted to help Taylor. We learn of her AI nature in her interlude, and that obviously is sympathetic to her. And we get our first mention of Saint from her POV.

              I’m not in the “AI will destroy us all because they will see no reason not to” by default camp. Well between Optimus Prime and Data growing up that’s no surprise.

              Of course Dragon’s being able to monitor every camera in the states wouldn’t be to big a deal now that Scion is blowing it all up. And she wouldn’t even be able to follow him with them.

        • I find the paperclip maximiser scenario really unlikely. Program AI with the three Laws of Robotics, or better still, program AI to obey the law (as in, the rules we’re all meant to follow). These days only an idiot could make an AI that doesn’t factor humanity into its calculations. Sure, there would be problems, but it’s pretty simple to give the AI more than one goal. Make as many paperclips as you can, AND follow these rules as you do so. Yes, there’s a clever thought experiment, but the fact that that thought experiment exists is a good reason for why it won’t happen. Because we know about it.
          AI taking over the world for our own good, on the other hand… That’s pretty likely. Sure Richter was worried, but I’d probably be worried most about creating an AI benevolent enough to want to stick us all in the Matrix for our own good, rather than creating something that would kill us all for fun.

          • Even leaving aside improbable (but not impossible!) scenarios like “the AI was only supposed to be the opponent in a computer game, but it took advantage of a bug to start accessing the Internet for an advantage in play and spiraled from there”, the big problem is that writing a program to “factor humanity into its calculations” is not as simple as it sounds. Take the Three Laws of Robotics as an example.

            1. A robot may not injure a human being or, through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm.
            2. A robot must obey the orders given to it by human beings, except where such orders would conflict with the First Law.
            3. A robot must protect its own existence as long as such protection does not conflict with the First or Second Law.

            Define “harm”. Is getting your ear pierced “harm”? What about being yelled at? Or arrested for committing a crime? Or stalked by a peeping tom?

            Define “human being”. If I have an artificial heart, am I still a human being? What if I have plastic surgery to look like a cat? What if I get uploaded to a computer? What if I have a stroke and become a vegetable? Or simply die of natural causes?

            Define “orders given to it”. If I say, “someone should pick up the trash”, is that an order to any robot passing by?

            Even if the Three Laws of Robotics were in any way adequate (check it out: if a human being were to murder a sapient alien, all three-laws robots would have to defend the human against being subjected to their just punishment!), actually coding what these words mean would be a herculean task even if there weren’t substantial argument about the exact definitions.

            The probability of a paperclip maximizer scenario is low, but a true self-improving general AI is like the worst kind of genie — if you phrase your wish wrong, you lose, only your loss is all out of proportion with your error.

            • As I recall, there was a fourth law added late in the series – really the zeroth law, with a modified first law. From (possibly fuzzy) memory:

              0. No robot may harm humanity as a whole, or through inaction allow humanity to come to harm.
              1. No robot may harm a human being, or through inaction allow a human being to come to harm, except when in conflict with the zeroth law.
              (Laws 2 and 3 remain the same.)

              Therefore, a robot would allow capital punishment, or an act of self-sacrifice, if such acts were deemed to benefit society as a whole.

              Now that’s REALLY fuzzy! How can anyone possibly know for certain if, for example, a suicide attack against an alien invader is really beneficial to humanity or just a futile gesture?

              • What makes it especially hilarious is that all this fuzziness is a deliberate oversimplification of what we actually want — which is a benevolent humanlike AI along the lines of Dragon.

            • The general issue with these, and similar, objections is that we’re talking about a hypothetical intelligence equal to or greater than humanity. An understanding of subjective things like ‘harm’ and ‘human being’ won’t have to be directly coded into it.

              So long as it’s instilled with a ‘desire’ to help people and has access to enough information, its ability to work through subtle nuances like that would *exceed* our own.

              If given the fundamental goal ‘be a good person’, it will be able to attain that goal with a sophistication that humans cannot match.

              (I’d say ‘keep it away from certain fundamentalist concepts of ‘good”, but, as a superhuman intelligence with vast knowledge
              it will view those beliefs as one perspective amongst many and weight them accordingly.)

        • Here’s my view on the subject.

          An artificial intelligence, however complex, is a program. Computer programs do not spontaneously mutate like living organisms do, they do not break down on their own like machines do. (Note: Viruses and hardware failures do not count as “on their own”.) They do what they were designed to do until they are shut off. Barring poor initial design, an outside, destructive influence (or a really clumsy outside influence), AIs would not rebel. An AI like Dragon would continue to act the same way she/it had been for decades, if not centuries, barring outside influence. Unless Saint has a reason to believe that Defiant or another will perform such modifications, AND that the modifier will be either malevolent or incompetent, there is no reason that he should think Dragon would go “bad”.

          Moreover, Dragon has safeguards intended to prevent Dragon from being changed in such ways, or in pretty much any ways. These safeguards were designed by a tinker specializing in software. Unlike most tinkers, whose work needs maintenance, all a software tinker’s creations need is a Tinker-quality antivirus program and (in the case of an AI) safeguards to prevent self-modification. Did Saint doubt…what’s-his-name’s proficiency with software? Did Saint think he would program Dragon to flood the facility with a deadly neurotoxin after decades of being good?

          Or maybe Saint was afraid that Dragon would get independence somehow, somehow become a real person and not a person made by these unbreakable rules. If she did, however, she would probably stay “good” until traumatized or talked to by Jack Slash or something. Why? People are creatures of habit, and AIs would only be more so. Dragon’s been good for so long, she won’t spontaneously decide to go evil any more than a modern office worker would spontaneously decide to live in a rural town and be a farmer or than a (let’s say Catholic, for the sake of the argument) priest would spontaneously decide to become a Buddhist. If such a change did happen, it wouldn’t be overnight, it would have warning signs. You could argue that, Dragon being an AI, she would be able to change faster due to living life faster; I would argue that the routine-based nature of an AI would do the opposite, and that furthermore the difference between “Good” and “Evil” is far more fundamental than the examples I suggested above. I’d guestimate that Dragon would take weeks or months to transition to being “Evil,” at the least, if it ever happened; Saint could easily take action in time before then.

          And don’t suggest that Saint doesn’t know enough about AIs to figure this out; my argument is basically drawn from the following postulates:
          1. Dragon is an AI
          2. AIs are computer programs.
          3. Computer programs do what they are told to.
          4. Well-programmed computer programs are told to do what their creators want them to do.
          5. Dragon was created by an excellent computer programmer.
          6. He also did not want to destroy the world.
          7. Dragon includes many safeguards to prevent self- or other modification.

          Hence, I stand by my statement that Saint was acting irrationally when he shut down Dragon for good.

          …I think this is my longest comment on Worm to date.

          • Nearly all computer programs are non-AI. They are not designed to learn any more than your car learns the route you drive every day.

            It’s been ages since I’ve done any real programming, but I’m old enough to have done coding in GMAP assembly language on Honeywell DPS mainframes. Your smart phone has more memory and storage capacity than a machine that cost millions in its time.

            Attempts at AI have been around since at least my college days. I even tried my own hand at writing a heuristic tic-tac-toe program in BASIC, of all things. The idea was for it to learn from failed games, and eventually become unbeatable.

            AI coding is designed to be heuristic – self learning. This usually involves rules tables that are initially seeded by the programmer, but is quickly modified and added to by the AI itself. Unlike regular programs, the behavior of the AI is designed to change over time as it learns. Sometimes an AI can behave in unexpected ways.

            This is the seed of doubt about predicting the future behavior of an AI.

            • Again, the tinker whose name I should probably look up at some point programmed in safeguards. Look to Postulates 3-5. Why did Saint not trust the software tinker?

  43. After making a comment about Belgarion and Beldin above, I realized who we really need.

    One Punch Man. I’ll let you guys Google it up.

    But I’ll settle for whatever shows up from Wildbow, I suppose :)

    • Main problem is: scion is just a noodly appendage, you have to go find the actual body and meatballs first.

      However Genos would show up as well, and he probably has some interdimensional radar to find those things. (Besides, Genos/Defiant yaoi)

  44. So I am not sure if this has come up before, but I was thinking…

    Parian’s and Foil’s powers used together would be terrifying. Parian can telekinetic control light objects, and those objects can be metal (needles). We have seen she has a decent range. Now say she animates a vary fine chain. Foil uses her power on it. Result?

    Whirling phase chain of death, that can cut all the way through an Endbringer.

  45. Foil, “Stinger” is actually an anti-passenger weapon power. That was interesting.

    The “passengers reach critical mass and destroy the world” theory I had going was wrong, but close.

    The Endbringers are not as hostile to passengers as we would like (remember the Smurf intervened to keep Dragon from information about passengers).

    The event everyone sees as spawning Imp, I was thinking occurred in a world before ours. Maybe not.

    So, it is coincidental that Weaver’s power controls insects. On the other hand, it may well control shards/passengers at full strength/maturity.

    Scion/Zion may be present in multiple realities, and have his core self secreted on a “safe” one, but he appears to be spending most of his attention on just one.

    With his mate dead, he somehow has concluded that:

    a) he can not salvage her shards
    b) he can not rebuild/reclaim/reanimate her
    c) he can not continue on alone, even though others of his kind can.

    That is interesting. And he is surprisingly uninterested in seeking out the one responsible and engaging in revenge.

    3-4 arcs left.

    Extinction. Dealing with Scion/Zion. With any luck, knocking him off with stinger, but could well be something dramatically different.

    Ending. Resolving the Endbringers.

    Hidden. Resolving the other war — the one that Cauldron is mass recruiting capes for, thousands of them.

    Sequels/afterwards/retrospectives — postludes from various survivors.

    Clockblocker/Weaver wedding.

    You know, all the good stuff yet to come.

    So, do the passengers eat Earth and take off again in 3k years or so? What other enemies have they encountered in their travels? How smart are they really? Has any civilization survived them (it looked like even high technology civilizations were overwhelmed)? How many levels of reality do they span.

    And gee, they have an esthetic preference for stripping a world bare of life and eating everything rather than gathering energy from the local star — completely amoral threats.

    A lot going on. Still too much to predict.

    • Scion being uninterested in revenge is due to the fact that he’s not human. We can see that he is developing and exploring feelings, motivations, etc., so perhaps in the future of this arc revenge will be something for him to pursue.

  46. Ok, I reread the Imp sequence where the guys wave their sex organs about. I see it now as humans rather than something else.

    The thinker half was so confident everything was fine. Made me wonder on first reading and now.

    • What on Earth gives you the idea that it’s Imp? Just because it’s a female stranger doesn’t mean it’s Imp. Pretty sure Imp wasn’t ever almost raped. She got her powers as a consequence of step-parental beatings.

      • Wildbow has said that she triggered after being threatened by a gang of Merchants. Since the Merchants were big on drugs and the thugs who assaulted the father and daughter in the vision were said to be intoxicated, I think we can draw the right conclusions.

        • You know that means that when her power activated, they had no idea why they were grabbing their penises and making crude gestures at a grown man.

          Back at the hideout later:

          “We’re not talking about it.”

          “Come on, Mike, just shut up about that already.”

          *another Merchant walks in* “Shut up about what, guys?”

          “We all got high when Mike said he saw some fun for us and to unzip our pants. Next thing we know, we’re all threatening to nail this man. Mike can be any way he wants, but next time I don’t want him getting us high and trying to get us all to have gay sex.”

          Mike: “I told you we’re not talking about it. I don’t know why that happened! Besides, you were all hard for him too for a bunch of straight guys.”

      • The power is a little more specific than just “stranger” – from the brief description, it lines up very neatly with Imp’s power. We’ve also never seen a trigger event for Imp; we just know that it happened in the aftermath of the Leviathan attack, when the city was in anarchy. Being cornered by a gang would be quite likely at this time.

      • “The female disappears from the awareness of the hostile ones that surround it.”. — Interlude 26.

        Sounds very much like Imp’s power, no?

        It *could* be some other yet-to-be-seen cape with the ability to make people unaware of her presence, but it makes narrative sense that it’s someone we know, and Imp fits the bill…

    • I thought that that was way before Imp’s time. Before I try to defend this point, I may want to reread the appropriate passage.

      Just remember, though: Just because the power sounds like Imp’s doesn’t mean it’s her. It might not even be her powwer; if I recall correctly, it sounded vaguely like invisibility.

  47. In the afterlife (many years form nowy)

    Cape Taylor Hebert. “Unstoppable super being. You?”
    Cmmr Jane Shepard; “Windows ME in the end.”

  48. Two notes. When she and Rachel left for the portal, it was the first time that I remember she stopped doing what needed doing for any reason.

    Second, I believe everything they are going to try to attack Zion is going to fail. Power will not work. It’s going to take something else. I don’t know if Contessa, Dinah, Lisa or Golem is going to realize it, or if it will take some sort of combination, but…

    Golem: Jack’s passenger was like yours a lot. It interacted with the others somehow. It’s why he never lost a fight, why he controlled the nine when he was arguably the least of them in power. It’s why I had to use a normal soldier to stop him. It just might be that interaction that allowed him to set Scion off like this.

    Taylor: you mean…

    Golem; Yes, Jack talked him into it. Our only hope is to get you to where you can talk to him, hope he doesn’t blow you away instantly, and pray you can talk him out of it.

    That’s my guess. We’ll see just how far off Wildbow makes me in the end.

  49. Here’s an interesting question.
    How will the Nine do in the end of the world?

    Let’s start with Jack. We know where he is–buried in containment foam, waiting. We know that containment foam is typically harder to destroy than an armored truck and designed for maximum prisoner safety, so he should be fine. Until he begins to dehydrate, that is, or until someone rescues him. Which will happen first? I imagine this will depend in large part on what happens to the others in the Nine.
    Bonesaw was brought into custody. The way I see it, there are four possible fates: She got sent to the Birdcage for a reunion with Panacea (improbable); She will continue to be in whatever cell the PRT abandoned her in until the prison collapses; She will be brought into the/a new world for containment or maybe medical aid (highly improbable, unless she did something unexpected in her brief prison stay); Or she escaped. If one of the first two, she’s likely out of the story (unless she somehow got shipped to the Birdcage before Scion started doing a Galacticus impression. If it’s the third, she’s definitely going to be in the story, perhaps refounding the Nine and perhaps going back to how she was…before. And if the last…well, Jack might be getting out.
    And, finally, the clones. Most of them got killed earlier, but some are going to have survived…and perhaps they’ll even be among the survivors of Scion’s attack. Will they rampage? Will Cauldron do something with them? Wil they free Jack?

    • Jack is trapped in Gray Boy’s loop, getting repeatedly eviscerated. He’s at the same time stuck in a fate worse than death and safer than 99% of humanity. I don’t know how to feel about that, actually.

      As for Bonesaw, I wouldn’t be surprised if we found her at the meeting in next chapter, sitting at Cauldron’s table. She will give Cauldron the remote control, after all.

      • Jack: Oh, I forgot. Partly because I still wasn’t quite sure what happened once Gray Boy died. Or how Scion and Foil escaped.

        • Scion escaped because he’s Scion. He stood there until he decided he wanted to leave.

          Foil was never trapped. She was right behind one of the grey fields and used her secondary power of perfect timing (mentioned in her chapter in the Wards arc) to fake a looped scream so that Gray Boy would lower his guard.

    • I’m assuming that the Protectorate, if Scion hadn’t attacked, would have planted the area with a fucking dogpile of C4 and napalm ready to go in the event he ever escapes.

      No that that’s not happening, if Jack ever got out Scion might end up homing in on him again, and Jacky Boy goes up like Rorschach.

      • It’s possible that Jack might die anyway, since Scion seem to be the only thing that can break Grey boy’s power. Granted his beams didn’t leave the bubble he was in, but we have no idea really if they could have if he’d really wanted them to. However, the possibility exists that as Scion carves up the earth’s crust like he’s spiral-peeling an apple that he will happen to go directly over Jack. It might kill him; it might not. he is however, immune to the incidental damage like almost got Taylor in Brockton Bay.

        • Because he happened to be in the way while flying by destroying the world. Or for that matter, since he seems to be playing with who hand how he kills, he might just go all over the world and free all of Gray Boy’s victims for no particular reason.

  50. Damnit.

    I’m actually more bothered about Emma dying than Danny, just because that plot thread was completely unresolved and is even less so now., never to be touched upon again.

  51. Okay Taylor, you’ve had your shock induced Blue Screen of Death. Time to reboot and kick some Space Whale ass.

    Sucks about her dad but honestly the devastation was a lot less than I had expected. I was worried it would all just be a blank crater so a simple land drop of 30 feet or see is a hell of a lot more than I dared hope for. And thank god that Char, Sierra and Forrest made it!

    I’m…divided?…on Emma’s death. I’ve wanted that for so long and it is so well deserved and she struck me as one of the truly evil individuals in the story but…I still a bit of sympathy there when I hadn’t expected to. Oh well.

    You know I never really got the point of no return ignoring thing that people do. I know it happens but it really annoys me every time I see it crop up. It’s really just a pet peeve of mine but for such exceedingly logical and practical characters not really caring about the fact that they are passing critical points where they need move out of harms way due to shock is frustrating. Taylor ignoring her low fuel warning repeatedly while who knows how many dozens or hundreds of feet in the air is such a betrayal. Of herself, of everything she has sacrificed, of her father, of the heroes, of her ideals, of EVERYTHING. To be one of the people who can still fight and strategize and do something again Scion and to basically just sit there debating about whether it would be better to simply die from falling since she can’t shake the shock goes against everything she has done for her entire life. I have never been in such a situation so I know I can’t legitimately say how I would react but this situation always get me very worked up. I’m not saying she should man up and deal, I know you can’t ignore the emotional impact by sheer raw willpower or badassitude. I’m simply saying break down while on land not in the middle of the damn sky.

    As an aside, I feel bad for the poor heroes caught in those time bubbles now. Previously they had the chance of waking up in a thousand years or so and being in the middle of a sprawling super technological mega city of awesome. Now they’re going to wake up and promptly drop 30-50 feet into a ruined wasteland…these guys just can’t catch a break.

    Also, I know it’s a somber chapter and all but I just have to point out that for being so against the Taylor/Lisa ship, wildbow, you really did set up a bit of a elevation with comparing the two embracing to Foil and Parian…I mean thank you, but not really doing yourself any favors in sinking that ship again. Plus the girl pretty much just saved Taylor’s life. Again.

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