Extinction 27.3

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Back to the beginning.

“Emma’s dead,” I said.

Sophia nodded.  “Her dad told me.”

Not a trace of emotion on her face.  Not a flicker of a change in expression.  Did she not care, or was she wearing an exceptional mask?

Funny, just how easily those masks came to people.  Costumes were nothing in the grand scheme of things.  Cloth or kevlar, spider silk or steel.  It was the false faces we wore, the layers of defenses, the lies we told ourselves, that formed the real barriers between us and the hostile world around us.

Looking at Sophia, I found myself instinctively reaching for that mask.  I was using my bugs to channel my feelings, even with my concerns about my passenger and how it might be merging with me.  I was wearing that aura of indomitable calm, even though I wasn’t sure I liked the Taylor of this past year and a half, who had been doing just that as a matter of both habit and necessity.

The two of us, in this shitty little makeshift prison.  Tattletale had had this place built ahead of time, with the idea that we might need secure storage or a prison for anyone who made trouble in Earth Gimel.  Too little, even with the measures being taken.  Those with less than six years in their sentences were being given a limited release and kept in a more isolated location, with family and friends free to join them.  The only exceptions to that early release were the parahumans.

Maybe there was a human rights violation or a lawsuit in there, but the people in charge had other concerns.

My phone buzzed.  I picked it up and looked at the screen.

Japan hit.  V. little left.  Most evacuated.  22m est. dead.  Total est. toll 500m.

“PRT issue phone,” Sophia commented.  “Newer model than the one I had.”

“Yeah,” I answered.  I put the phone down on the little ledge beneath the bulletproof glass.

“Big bad Weaver.  That’s what you go by now, isn’t it?”

“I prefer Taylor.”

Taylor.  Made it pretty big, as capes go.”

I shrugged.  “Wasn’t really a priority, in the grand scheme of things.  I only wanted the power so I could do what needed doing.”

“Never appealed to me, power in the greater sense,” she said.  “Personal power?  I always paid more attention to power on a one-on-one level.”

I let myself relax a little.  We had something to discuss.  It wasn’t going to be a fight, a series of attacks.

“I guess,” Sophia said, “You took my lessons to heart.  Used what you learned from our little… what’s the word?  Lessons?  Made something of yourself after all.”

She’s taking credit?  I was a little stunned, the mental gymnastics she must have managed to do that… what?

A small smile touched her lips.  Smug, superior.  I’d seen it enough times in my interactions with her.

“Mark on your cheek is gone, where I gouged you.”

“I think it disappeared at some point when I got healing or regeneration.  Grue or Panacea or Scapegoat.  Don’t know.”

“Mm,” she said.  Her eyes were studying me, and the look wasn’t kind.  “Your family make it out okay?”

Just the question was like a slap to the face.

“No,” I said.  “I don’t know.  Haven’t bothered double checking or asking.”

“Me either,” she said.  “Not that I’m really in a position to go look for answers.  But they weren’t visiting much anyways.  Token visits, you know?”

“I don’t, really,” I said.  “My dad was pretty cool after I joined the Wards.  We didn’t see each other as much as I maybe wanted to, but it didn’t feel like token visits.”

“Difference between you and me,” she said.  She glanced over her shoulder at the guard behind her, then planted a foot against the little ledge beneath the bulletproof glass.  Her hands, handcuffed, settled in her lap.  “Your daddy cared.  You know, that meeting where you tried to get us that in-school suspension?  I was more pissed at the fact that your dad was there than the suspension.”

“Then the woman was-”

“A PRT twit.”

I nodded, but I was distracted from my response by another vibration of my phone.  I picked it up to look at it.

Mordovia bubble hit.  Sleeper has been roused, last tracked en route to Zayin portal.  Casualties unknown.

“World’s really ending?”  Sophia asked.

“Yeah,” I said, putting the phone back down.  “Scale, damage, repercussions, all worse than any Endbringer attack.  They’re predicting that maybe five hundred million are dead already.”

The mention of half a billion people being dead didn’t affect her more than the mention of Emma’s passing.  Not visibly.

“Too bad,” she said.

“There’s no going back,” I said.  “We’re preparing for a counterattack right now.  We’ll see what works, what doesn’t.”

“He beat Behemoth,” Sophia said.

“I know.  I was there,” I said.

She looked annoyed at that.  Her eyebrows drew closer together, and she shifted position, putting both feet up on the little ledge, one ankle crossed over the other.  It was only after she was settled that she responded, “He beat Behemoth, and nobody could manage that.  He’s stronger.”

“We’ll try anyways,” I said.  “I don’t think any of us are prepared to roll over and die just yet.”

“Dumb,” Sophia said.  “Throwing your lives away for nothing.”

“The alternative isn’t any better,” I said.

“What?  Not fighting?  Finding a good spot in another dimension to hide out?  It’s a thousand times better, Hebert.  We’re like cockroaches in the face of this asshole.  You know what happens if we line up and march off to die single file?  The strongest of us die, there’s nothing left to protect the others and humanity gets wiped out.  No.  Fuck that.  Cockroaches survive because no matter how hard you try, they’re numerous enough, tough enough, and spread out enough that a few of them always survive.  They survive the predators, the poison, the fire, the radiation, and a few generations later they’re back in full strength.”

“Yet you fought Leviathan.”

“I fought Behemoth too, few months before.  Kind of.  Mostly did search and rescue.  Difference between that and this is that we’re more like rats when going up against a fucking Endbringer.  We’re vermin in comparison to them, but we’re vermin that can take bites out of them.  Get enough rats together and they’ll take down a human, no matter how well equipped that human is.”

“But cockroaches can’t?”  I asked, with a note of irony.

She gave me a look that people typically reserved for when they’d been spit on.  “Don’t try to be clever, Hebert.  It doesn’t suit you.”

I rolled my eyes.

“I’m speaking metaphorically.  It’s a… what’s the word?  Like a ladder.”

“Hierarchy.”

“Hierarchy.  Yeah.  Scion’s one step above the Endbringers.”

“Couple of steps,” I said.

“A couple of steps.  Whatever.  So you’ve got to evaluate that shit, understand?  Where the fuck do we stand in relation to him?  Rock bottom.  How do we deal?  We scatter.  Spread out far enough apart.  One guy can’t murder all of us if we can find a way to spread out over a million different earths.  Stick to villages and shit.  Whatever.”

I was somewhat caught off guard by that.  It wasn’t a bad plan.  Defeatist, but not bad.  Something we’d implicitly settled on in the meeting, though we’d also agreed to keep our mind open for options.  I was getting a chance to see how she parsed the world, if maybe she had been influenced by her passenger like I was by mine, and I was seeing a philosophy that she seemed to value.

It was an insight into Sophia, and it wasn’t one that matched up with my expectations.

I ventured, “And here I thought you were more focused on being superior to others.”

Sophia shook her head, her lip curling up a fraction.  “I acted superior because I was superior.  Still am superior to most.  That comes with perks.  Do what you want, get away with shit, get people to look past the stuff you want them to look past.  What you’ve been up to, I bet you’ve done that.  Leveraged power?”

“Leveraged power,” I said.  “Yes, I have.”

“Because you’re better.  You’re a little arrogant, maybe?  A little less forgiving of mistakes?”

“I was,” I said.  “Thing is, when it came down to it, I wasn’t stronger or cleverer because of it.  It wasn’t an advantage in the critical moment.  Maybe the opposite.”

She dropped her feet to the floor and leaned forward, folding her arms on the ledge, her face not even an inch from the glass.  “But it got you that far.  Others there, and they couldn’t fix it either.  Not a reason to change your mind.”

“It was a pretty important moment,” I told her.  “The most important moment.  But I wasn’t in the right place, wasn’t in contact with the right people.  More than anything, I wasn’t asking the right questions.”

She looked profoundly disappointed.  “See, now you’re just being a whiny bitch again.  Negative.”

“Retrospective,” I said.  “Figuring out what I did wrong, changing.”

“Your biggest problem, Hebert, is that you never realized your place.  I almost had respect for you.  Hard not to, when you’re pretty much copying me.  But you’re still waffling on shit you shouldn’t be waffling on.”

Copying her.

I’d admitted to taking lessons from Bakuda, from Jack.  I’d picked up some of Purity’s protectiveness, only I’d turned it towards my territory.  I’d learned from Coil, from Accord, and yet Sophia saying this nettled me.

I knew why, and it wasn’t because I felt like she was eerily on target.  No, it was because it was an out for her.  An excuse, a justification that let her keep her tidy little worldview.

The best revenge was supposed to be living well, but maybe there was a petty fragment of my psyche that wanted to rub it in her face.  Not that I was living well.  The situation was catastrophic, my dad was dead, and I wasn’t sure where I stood.

I looked down at my gloves.  They were dark gray, but they’d been caked in blood, and even a good washing in cold water had failed to get them thoroughly clean.

“Sophia,” I said.

“What?” she asked.  She leaned back in her chair.

“They’re opening the Birdcage.  Letting some of the scarier criminals out, in the hopes of getting some assistance against Scion.  There’s a lot of good firepower in there.”

“Uh huh.”

“Doesn’t make sense to go that far if we don’t extend the same concept to a smaller scale.  Not sure what the numbers are, but there’s a hell of a lot of possible recruits there.”

“And you’re here because, what, you’re going to recruit me?”

I ignored her.  “Problem with this situation is there’s no good way to keep track of all of this.  In the chaos, it’s hard to manage records, and time’s tight enough we’re not going to be able to pull a review panel together.  So how do you decide who gets to go free?”

“What a good question,” Sophia said.  She met my gaze with a level stare.  Not a glare anymore.

“Capes interact most with other capes.  Smaller pool of people to find, contact and question, versus trying to hunt down civilians who might know so-and-so.  It’s not a perfect method.  It’s flawed, even.  But we’re asking the victims.  Teammates who were inconvenienced, enemies of the capes in question, all of that.  Is this cape in prison worth letting free?  Knowing what’s at stake, are you willing to put the past behind you and give them a second chance?”

She smirked.  “And you’re my victim?”

“Me and the Brockton Bay Wards,” I said.  “The Undersiders were asked, too, but they gave their votes to me, with only a few words of suggestion.”

She’s fucking useless, Imp had said.  And she shot my brother.  Bitch isn’t worth having to worry about being shot in the back with a crossbow.

“Moronic,” she said.  “Making it a popularity contest.”

“Doing what we have to,” I responded.

“Moronic,” she said, again.  I might have missed it, if it weren’t for the repetition of the same word.  Slightly different.  A hint of emotion?  Disdain?  Disappointment?

Maybe she cared more about being freed than she was letting on.

Maybe, on a level, she grasped that she was reaping the consequences of earlier actions.

Well, I’d been there.

“I suppose this is the point where I’m supposed to beg?  I give you some satisfaction, you get some…”

“Closure,” I said.  “No.  I’m not going to make you do that.”

“Because I won’t,” she said.

“I know,” I said.

It’s not in you, based on what you’ve said here.  That personal pride, the security she’d apparently found in knowing what her niche was in the world and how she fit into it, it was her mask, the barrier she erected against the world.

“You hurt people,” I said.  “And the way you reacted to me, on that night where the Undersiders kidnapped you, trying to slash my throat… you’ve killed.”

“Yes.  So have you.  You might have a body count higher than mine.”

“I might,” I said.

“You hurt people too.”

“I did,” I agreed.

“A lot more than I did.”

“Probably.”

“And you weren’t even subtle about it.  Taking over a city, robbing banks, attacking the fundraiser, attacking the headquarters…”

“Extorting the mayor,” I added, “Unlawfully imprisoning people, a lot of other stuff.”

“Yet you’re out there and I’m in here,” she said.  Then she smirked.  “Funny how that all works out.  It all comes down to strength in the end.  Power.  How useful are you to others?  I was useful, strong, even marketable on a niche level, and they pulled strings for me.  Pulled your strings, even.”

“Yeah,” I said.

“But I became more trouble than I was worth.  They throw me in jail, say it’s because of a probation violation.  But why are they really doing it?  Because I’m more trouble than I’m worth.  I’m not useful, am I, Hebert?  Regent got me, I was a liability.  Couldn’t be used to fight the bad guys.  They sacked Piggy for the same reason.”

“Even if that was true, they could have moved you to another city.  They would have,” I said.  “But maybe you burned bridges.  Maybe the other teams didn’t want you.”

She shook her head a little, her smirk turning up a little.

“I think your view is a little narrow,” I said.  “It’s about more than usefulness.  There are other factors.”

Like what?  Likability?  Substance?  Respect?  Trust?”

“Along those lines,” I said.

“Bullshit,” she said.  Her eyes narrowed.  “You think you’re more likable than I am?  Fuck that, and I’m not just joking around like we did back at school.  You and I?  We’re the same.  We’re tough where we need to be, we hit hard so our enemies aren’t in any shape to hit back.  We’re good at what we do.  Difference is you were a little luckier, bet on the right horse.”

“No, Sophia,” I said.

“No?  You run, right?  It was on TV.”

“I run, yes.”

“And you don’t think you were trying to emulate me?  Subconsciously?  I was on the track team, and there you are, a bit of a loser, looking for a way to improve yourself, and you start running?”

“Not even remotely close to the mark,” I said, feeling a note of irritation.  “Not on that count.  The other stuff?  Maybe we are similar in respects.  Maybe being a cape in this fucked up world means you have to go that route, just a little.”

“Being a person,” she said.  “Dealing with reality.”

“Maybe,” I said  “But if I was like you, I was better at it than you were, went further, tested the limits more.”

I could see her eyes narrow further.

“And I think it’s a pretty shitty way to exist,” I finished.

“Ouch,” she said.  “You wounded me.”

I couldn’t hear anything in her voice, nor could I see anything in her expression… but her shoulders were tenser, her hands had stopped fidgeting and were still.

I stood from my chair, collecting the phone.  I glanced at it.

NZ gutted.  Timeline for counterattack set for 1.5 hr from now.  Testing efficacy of some abilities at range.  Legend, Pretender, Eidolon on board to help.  Weaver has been requested for assistance and field administration.

“You’re going, then,” Sophia said.

“Yeah.  You said you wouldn’t help, you’d rather scurry away like a cockroach.”

“I’m not saying I’d rather.  I’m saying it’s what we should all do.”

“Either way.  You’re free to convince me.”

“To beg, we’re back to that.”

“To convince me.”

She shook her head a little.  “Fuck it.  Let the world burn.  We’ll all be better off.  No pretension, no fakery, none of the tradition and ‘this is the way things are and always will be’.  Hit the reset button, whoever’s left will pick things up later.”

“That sounds remarkably similar to how Jack sounded.”

“Fuck you, Hebert.”

“Fine.  I’m walking away from this with a clear conscience.  Sit there in your cell and worry every minute that Scion’s going to come tearing through here and wipe you off the face of the planet.”

She smirked, but I could see that tension in her neck and shoulders, still.  I felt like Rachel, looking at someone and trying to piece together their natural responses, figure them out.

Or was it the opposite?  Was I like Rachel in how she looked at a dog, understanding them on a level most people couldn’t?

“You’re afraid,” I said.

Fuck you, Hebert,” she spat the words.

“You’re afraid and you’re hiding it behind a very good mask.”

“Fuck that.  I hate that fakery, that false-faced bullshit.”

“You said we’re alike.  You’re right.  We’re both very good at putting on a front.”

She snarled the words.  “There’s a difference between acting and being.  I’m not faking anything.”

“Yet you refuse to do anything to deviate from your path.  That’s why you’re so big on sticking to your place.  If you never budge, you never have to risk seeing if the mask comes off.”

“Oh fuck the hell off, Hebert.  You sanctimonious, know-it-all, orphan bitch!”

She’d picked the ‘orphan’ bit to hurt, to get a rise out of me.  Yet I felt okay.  Hurt?  Yes.  I felt something deep and important missing, and I wasn’t quite ready to let myself feel that emotion in its entirety.  To hear the words in full or see the body and know my dad was gone.

I needed to do that, and maybe to do it soon, if only to pay respect to my dad.

So yeah.  I hurt.  I felt the sting of her words.  I still felt off kilter.  But I was calm.

No act.  No mask.  Me, and I was okay.

“Thank you, Sophia,” I said.  “I feel a hell of a lot better than I did before this meeting.  I don’t know if-”

“Loser.”

She’d gotten the guard’s attention with her outburst.  The woman was approaching.

“-if you were right about us being similar or not.  But I don’t want to be the sort of person you could compare yourself to.  I’m going to be Taylor again, so thank you, for helping me come to peace with that.”

I can be Taylor without being weakKeep the best parts of Skitter and Weaver.

I turned to leave.

“Fuck you!”

Her maneuver was a practiced one, no doubt something she’d trained herself with in her cell or in the moments she was cuffed and unobserved.  A way to buy herself a fraction of a second to use her power, where her wrists wouldn’t come in contact with the cuffs, as she let them drop from a point further up her arms to her hands.  I could sense the motion with my bugs.

Her leg hooked under her chair as she made it as shadowy as she was, and she kicked out, sending the chair flying through the bulletproof glass.  It rematerialized as it crashed into mine, and the two chairs in turn hit me.

I stumbled.  My shin stung where the little folding chairs had hit me.

Sophia, in turn, was being held down by the guard, the handcuffs pulled taut against her wrists.

“Is this the real you, then?” I asked.

“Oh my god, you pre… pre-”

“Pretentious.”

Cunt!”  Sophia snarled the words between her grunts of struggle.  “I’m going to break you!”

“Take a minute or two to calm down,” I said.  “Breathe.  If you can relax, if you can look me in the eye and promise you won’t hurt me or anyone else, I’m going to give the go-ahead for you to leave.”

There was a pause, shock stopping both the guard and Sophia.

“You’re joking,” the guard said.

Sophia just lay there, her head pressed against the little ledge, panting.  Her hair covered her face.

“Offer’s open just a bit longer, Sophia,” I said.  “I want to take some time to get ready, and if you’re coming, you’ll need the same.”

She didn’t budge.  The guard took her weight off Sophia, and only held the chain of the cuffs, twisting so Sophia’s arms were held taut above her.  It must have been uncomfortable with the way her body was forced to one side, her head forced down.

Afraid.

“I’m not asking you to fight Scion.  Just doing search and rescue would be fine.  It’s not safe, but-”

“Will you shut up?”  Sophia’s voice was muffled, not in a position to let her voice pass through the perforated space in the glass.  “Fuck, I’ll do it if you stop prattling at me.”

“Look me in the eye and promise you won’t fuck with me.”

The guard let Sophia straighten.

She met my eyes, glaring as if a look alone could express a hundred different kinds of violence.  “I promise.”

I shrugged.  The guard looked at me, and I nodded.

“Your funeral,” she said.  “I’ll go take her to the back and get her ready.”

“No need,” I said.  I looked towards the ceiling.  Let’s try this.  “Two doors, one for me, one for her, to where the others are on Earth Bet.”

The doors opened, rectangular windows.  Unlike the portals I’d seen before, these ones were dark, one on each side of the bulletproof glass.

Sophia, still cuffed, shot me an ugly sidelong glance, watching as I made my way through the portal.  The door was already closing as I saw her turn and step through the other.

I didn’t want to let her loose without any observation.  I’d bring her along for just a short while, then find a place to stick her.

I felt okay with this decision.  Comfortable.  It wasn’t a mask I was wearing, so strong it might as well have been real.  No.  It was something simpler.

I’m not scared of her anymore.

There were other, bigger things to be scared of.

The sky was overcast, but it wasn’t wholly clouds.  Dust choked everything, thick and heavy.  The sun was rising, and it felt like it had been rising for some time.  The issues of teleporting across time zones.

Red.  The sky was a surprising red color, filtering between clouds that were almost black.  It cast the tall mountains in similar shades, with deep shadows and vivid color.

My breath fogged in the air.  I’d been dressed for summer.  This… it was cold.  The landscape around us looked like coals resting in a fire, cast in ash white, charcoal blacks and reds, but it was cold.  The cold leeched warmth from my feet, even.  We were on a mountainside, a broad, flat ledge that could have held three helicopters.  Instead, it held one Azazel suit and a crowd of perhaps sixty.

The cold wasn’t just the altitude.  The levels of dust in the atmosphere would be having an effect as well.

My bugs were having a tough time here.  I clustered them against my body, more so they could benefit from my warmth than the opposite.

With the bugs so close to me, crawling on my skin, in the cradle of my folded arms, and beneath my clothes, my sense of others was limited.  Even so, I could sense Rachel’s approach.  I didn’t react as she set her coat over my shoulders, except to glance at her and nod my thanks.

A crowd had gathered.  Everyone from the meeting, minus Saint, was present.  There were also innumerable others who hadn’t been at the meeting.  Some I recognized, many I didn’t.  Here and there, portals opened and people stepped through, joining the crowd.

“Long time,” I heard someone say.  Boston accent.

I turned around.  It was Weld, with his partner, the tendril-girl that wound around his body.  He hadn’t been talking to me.

No, his focus was on Sophia.

“Hey chief,” she said.

He gripped the two loops of her cuffs, and absorbed them into his hands.  She rolled her shoulders, then rubbed at her wrists.

“Don’t cause trouble,” Weld said.  “Too many people on edge here.”

“Yeah,” Sophia said.

Then Weld left, returning to his group.

Sophia was left standing there alone, cold in her prison sweats.

Time passed.  I’d hardly arrived in the nick of time, for the main event.  I walked around the edge of the ridge, navigating around clusters of people, then approached the Azazel.

Tattletale was within, her attention on the computer screens.  Defiant was leaning over her, giving instructions.

I left them alone, joining Rachel and Imp, where they sat with their backs to Bastard’s side, feet inches from a precipitous drop.  Grue was keeping more of a distance, simultaneously watching and keeping as far away from Bonesaw as he could manage.

“No more malls,” Imp was saying.  “No more going shopping, no more reality TV, no more stupid boy bands to make fun of…”

“What are you doing?” I asked.

“Talking about everything I’m going to miss,” Imp said.  “I’m trying to start from the outer edges and work my way in towards the biggest stuff.  Work up my courage to say, you know…”

“You’ll miss us?” I asked.

“Aw, you’re so full of yourself!”  Imp said.  “It’s so sweet!  I was going to say, um, those creepy little kids who look way too much like their big brother?  I’ll miss them way more than I should.  I’d miss them more than I’d miss you.”

I reached over and pushed her head a little, trying to mess up her hair and failing to do so before she’d pulled away.  I found a seat beside Rachel.

Bastard’s chest rose and fell.  It was one element of an uncomfortable seat.  Warm, but not quite cozy enough for me to nod off.  It was too cold, for one thing, and I felt my rear end going numb from the cold before I’d been sitting for a minute.  Even more alarming was the general sensation that someone was gently pushing me towards the ledge, then easing up, pushing me, easing up.

If he lurched to his feet for any reason, I wasn’t entirely sure I would be able to stop myself from being shoved over the precipice.  I should have worn my flight pack.

“I don’t have a lot,” Rachel said, breaking the silence.  “Haven’t ever had much more than I could take with me if I left home.  Had money, but it was just a number I couldn’t really follow on a computer I didn’t have.”

“You have something now,” I said.

She bobbed her head in a motion that was almost too slow to be a nod.  “Yep.”

I didn’t elaborate.  We watched the crimson sunrise.

“Don’t want to lose it,” Rachel said.  “Any of it.”

I-

I couldn’t even complete a thought, hearing that.  Damn it, Rachel, don’t say that, don’t remind me.

I thought of my dad.

Of my mom, though that was a wound I’d thought I’d healed.

I thought of my hometown, which wasn’t quite home anymore.

I thought of my pride, my mission, neither of which I quite had anymore.

I lowered my head, bringing my knees up to support my arm as I nestled my face into the crook of my elbow, burying it into the fabric of Rachel’s jacket.  This was too public.  The wolf’s overlong body provided a barrier between us and everyone else, but… too public.

“Sorry,” I mumbled.  My tears were hot against my face.

“Why the fuck are you sorry?” Imp asked.

I raised my head up just a little, trying to pull myself together.  “Feeling kind of- my feelings are all over the place.  A little unhinged.”

Imp didn’t look my way, instead turning the narrow black lenses of her mask skyward.  “It’s been a bad day, in case you haven’t noticed.  You’re allowed to feel bad.  It’s kind of normal.”

Normal.

I’d been thinking of my feelings as being off-kilter, out of control, unreasonable and irrational.

Were they just regular feelings?  Emotions that weren’t being reined in by my discipline and bottling everything up, by distraction and disconnection?

Somewhere along the line, I’d stopped thinking about my feelings as being mixed up or fucked up and stopped concerning myself with them altogether.  On a level, I’d blamed my passenger.

But I wasn’t sure I could justify that with what I was experiencing now.  Why would the passenger take away, gain ground in subsuming my identity and then give it back, all like this?

Was it just me?

Fuck.  I wasn’t sure I wanted this to be me and me alone.

I lowered my face into my elbow again.

Why?

What was it all for?

I drew in a breath, trying to keep my breathing level so I wouldn’t give any audible clues as to what was going on, and it backfired.  My breath hitched and I released a little hiccup of a sob.  It was all downhill from there.

I didn’t care anymore.  I wasn’t about to mentally berate people for caring about secret identities when we were so far past that, and then care about my reputation or how I looked.

Screw it.  If I was going to be Taylor again, I wouldn’t give a fuck.

Rachel put her arms around my shoulders in a clumsy hug that squished my shoulder.  Then, with the hand of that same arm, she reached up and put her hand on my head, rubbing left to right and back again.  My head rocked with the motion.

Soothing, but… ridiculous enough that I let out a little half-sob, half-laugh.

Which was probably even better than anything else.

I let my head settle against her shoulder, and she left her hand on my head, no longer rubbing.

We watched as the sunrise continued, the red of the atmosphere leaking through the gaps in the clouds.

I felt the tears stop at one point, and rubbed them away.  I had to try twice before I could voice a question.  “How’s Grue doing?”

“Ask him,” Imp said.

I shook my head.

“He’s okay.  Cozen made it out okay, but Rook didn’t.  So Cozen’s getting a promotion.”

“To leader?”

Imp nodded.

“Ah.”

Is there even anything to lead?  How do you manage a group of thieves when everything that’s worth stealing is slowly being erased from the planet’s surface?

I wouldn’t push it.

“I’m-” Imp started.

“Ready,” someone in the crowd called out, interrupting her.

Every single person on the broad, flat ledge of the mountainside turned.

I wiped at my face again with my hands, then stood, a little alarmed at how the stiffness of the cold hampered my movements, and the nearby ledge that yawned before us.

But no, no disasters.  We made our way around Bastard’s sleeping form and joined the group.

The first of the portals opened.

A broad-shouldered man with facial hair like that of a homeless man’s stepped through.  He wore prison sweats with the words ‘Baumann Parahuman Containment Center’ across the shoulders.

“Is this safe?”  Someone asked.  A girl, in her early teens.

“They sent everyone to their cells.  Maybe a speedster could slip through, if they knew what was happening, but we have a lot of people here,” a man next to her said.

“You didn’t answer the question,” Imp said.  “No, it’s not safe.  These guys are assholes.”

The man with the beard turned to glare our way, inexplicably, looked momentarily confused, and then walked forward.  The crowd parted to let him through as he approached the edge.

I’d done my reading on these guys while making my way to Sophia, waiting for her to arrive.  If this went balls-up, we’d be stuck between these guys and Scion.  I’d wanted to know.

The man with the beard was Gavel.  Cell block leader.  A vigilante who had gone after families, particularly spouses and children, all so he could break his enemies before his namesake weapon could.  He’d been notorious in the days before the three strike rule or even the code.  Even with that, people had lost patience with his ‘mission’ when a villain had threatened to detonate a small bomb, and Gavel had called a bluff that wasn’t a bluff.  Gavel had walked away.  Many, many others hadn’t.

A woman ventured forth.  Her hair was long, her features matronly.  She wore a prison uniform that had been cut apart and pieced together into heavier cargo pants and a jacket.  Lustrum.  Part-celebrity, part-antihero, she’d gathered a following of college-aged feminists, building up an almost religious fervor, before giving the fateful orders that turned things violent, pushing her thousands of followers to humiliate men, often violently.  Things soon escalated to the point that more fanatical followers were emasculating and murdering men, even carving up followers who weren’t playing along.

My mom had, in her graduate school days, been a part of one of Lustrum’s groups.  She’d backed out around the time things turned violent.  I’d heard her wonder out loud, to Lacey, my dad’s coworker, whether Lustrum had intended for things to get as bad as they had.

But they had.  A lot of people had suffered.

Weird to think about, that my mom had been in the midst of this, and here we were, the loop closing.

A woman, thin, with her hair cut short, with swooping, platinum-blond ‘feathering’ at the sides, to the point that I couldn’t tell if it was just messy or styled that way.  Her eyes were the sort that looked like they were usually half closed, her features pointed.   She moved with a strange kind of fluidity, as if she had twice the usual number of joints, limbs like spaghetti noodles.  They weren’t.  It was Crane The Harmonious.  Crane for short.

The records of her arrest were spotty, suggesting things had been redacted or hidden, no doubt to protect her ‘children’ that had gone on to careers in the Wards or Protectorate.  She’d collected children with powers and raised them to be her soldiers.

She walked into the crowd, and came face to face with a hero, twenty or so years old, wearing a robe.

She stood on the very tips of her toes to raise herself up enough to kiss him on the forehead.  The kiss was prolonged to a point that it went past weird.  The next portal was already opening by the time she lowered herself and stood with her back to her old subject’s chest.

Acidbath.  Copkiller and capekiller, he’d used his power to horrifically scar innumerable opponents and girlfriends.  His blond hair wasn’t the grass-green of his mugshots anymore, and he had circles under his eyes.  He took one step away from the portal, then sat on the ledge in front of the crowd, searching for something, then settling into a stare when he found it.

I looked, and I saw a man, not in costume but in a suit, standing and staring at Acidbath, with an expression as though he was going to cry at any moment.  But he didn’t avert his eyes.

String Theory and Lab Rat stepped out of the same portal.  String Theory was short, shorter with her slouch, and petite, her dark hair tied back into a braid, her lips pulled back into a wide expression halfway between a grin and a smile.  With her glasses, it made me think of a frog, or a small lizard.  Lab Rat was the opposite, the last person one might expect to be a tinker.  He had a mouth full of teeth that were screaming for braces, all crammed towards the very front of his mouth, overlapping and sticking out of lower gums.  He had a mop of hair and heavy brows, was tall and broad shouldered, and had a bit of a belly.

String Theory had made her tinker devices and then auctioned away ‘safeties’.  Not uses of the weapon or offering targets, but only guarantees that the owner of a ‘safety’ wouldn’t be one of her randomly selected targets.  The targets had ranged from gas stations in Indonesia to a filled football stadium in Cardiff.

As one could imagine, there had been a high demand for her arrest.

Lab Rat, conversely, had worked in secret, developing formulas that could transform people into monsters.  He had used formulas on the homeless, then when the local homeless ran out, started picking off individuals that were isolated, out for jogs in the early morning or new visitors to his town.  It wasn’t clear just what he was searching for, in developing the formulasWhat I found myself wondering was whether he’d been testing his work on his test subjects before using them on himself, or if it was the other way around.

Both ideas were weird, almost inexplicable.

Galvanate appeared.  He’d been one of a number of players that had supplanted the local organized crime in the early-to-mid-nineties.  A mafia enforcer with powers who had decided he had what it took to be a boss.  He’d done well, rendering entire squads of his soldiers effectively invincible, simultaneously capable of electrocuting someone to death with a touch.

Nothing short of Alexandria or an Endbringer would stand up to Scion’s sustained laser beam for even a heartbeat, but there was hope that Galvanate would render some people capable of surviving a glancing blow.

Black Kaze.  A Japanese urban legend that had turned out to be too real.  Word was she’d snapped after Kyushu was destroyed.  Except she’d remained lucid throughout trials, calm, patient.  Nobody knew her real body count, but conservative estimates put it in the tens of thousands.  She’d roamed the remains of the landscape, killing survivors, killing rescuers, boarding the ships that approached too close to the ruined area and killing the crews, and rendering a widespread area devoid of life.

And with that reputation, she was only an exceedingly ordinary looking Japanese woman in prison sweats, her hair tied back into a ponytail.  The fingers of her right hand clutched and grasped as if she expected to find something there, missed, and then reached again.

They’d apparently talked to her and considered her okay to go out and interact with the world at large.

I watched as Masamune stepped away from Defiant and the Guild members to approach Black Kaze.

They stood there for a moment, inside each other’s personal space, still but for the reflexive opening and closing of Black Kaze’s hand.

Masamune returned to the cluster of Guild, and Black Kaze followed, directly behind him, head bowed a little.

Ingenue, not quite the pixie I’d seen in her mug shot, eight years later.  She’d been wide-eyed and cute before.  Now she was an attractive woman, but not quite someone who could have starred as the girl next door in a teen movie.

Hopefully she had changed in her habits, as well.  She’d partnered herself with three male capes, heroes.  They had gone to the Birdcage, and records suggested they hadn’t survived more than a day after her return.  When the fourth partner had used his power to poison a town’s water supply, killing nearly a thousand people, people started wondering about the common denominator – the girlfriend.  The fourth had gone to therapy, and Ingenue had made her way to the Birdcage.

She extended a hand, pointing a painted nail, and swept her hand over the crowd.  She settled on her target.

Her walk was a practiced one, with a swaying of the hips, an unhurried pace.  She approached Chevalier, then wrapped her arms around him, raising one leg off the ground.  Chevalier, for his part, didn’t move a muscle.

Marquis was next to arrive.  His brown hair and beard were just now starting to get strands of gray in them, wrinkles at the corners of his eyes.

He’d been one of the scary bastards of Brockton Bay well before the Undersiders were even on the map.  A guy who could go toe to toe with a full squad of Empire Eighty-Eight and walk away.   He’d been successful enough to pay for hirelings and ruthless enough to execute them for failures.  His path to the Birdcage had been very similar to the path that had almost taken me there; so many violations of the law that the three strikes rule had been left well behind him by the time the good guys finally won.

He didn’t look quite so intense as his mug shot.  He seemed calmer.

Even sorrowful.

He approached the crowd, and he stopped in front of a woman I recognized but couldn’t place.

In the moment she slapped him, I drew the connection.

Lady Photon.  Sarah Pelham.

Flashbang and Brandish were with her, looking just as grim.

All around them, people were tensed for a fight.

That stopped when Marquis nodded solemnly.  He murmured a few words, then walked away, standing on the same ledge that Acidbath had perched on, a little to the right of Lab Rat and String Theory.

Teacher emerged, and I searched the crowd for Saint.

Absent.

Teacher was a mundane looking man.  If one were to put a argyle sweater and khakis on him and put him in a classroom, he would have looked well at home.  He had a receding hairline, with curly hair that had been cut short-ish.

Crimes: conspiracy to assassinate the Vice President of the United States.  Successful.  Conspiracy to assassinate the Prime Minister of England.  Successful.  He picked big targets, took his time and was successful.  Setting up his pawns and giving them the low level thinker powers they needed for observation and information gathering, for getting glimpses of the future or intuitively knowing how to hack or decrypt, or for knowing the weaknesses of their enemies and how best to hurt them.

Followers that remained absolutely loyal as long as they had the granted powers.

Saint had wanted him more than he had wanted to retain his control over Dragon’s power.  Why?

Because having Teacher free would give Saint the capacity to regain control of that power and to use it at its full capacity?

It didn’t matter.  We’d win this first and then we’d deal with that.  Whatever Teacher was capable of, it couldn’t be worse than Scion.

In a manner typical for royalty, Glaistig Uaine was fashionably late.  The Faerie Queen.

Just like String Theory’s terror campaign had driven people to desperation in their attempts to stop her from her scheduled sprees of destruction, Glaistig Uaine had drawn entire flocks of capes down on her head, by virtue of her habit of finding, killing and claiming the ‘spirits’ of capes.

Thing was, they’d sent multiple teams after her, and they’d failed.  Thirty two capes killed and claimed.

So they sent more after her.  Again, they failed.  Of the fifty who were forced into a retreat, thirteen were killed and claimed.

When that wasn’t enough, they hit her with everything, only for her to surrender.

She walked into the Birdcage of her own will.

Now they’d let her out.

The cell block leaders.  They’d held their own, maintained their territories, and had been okayed to stick around by the thinkers.  That double-check didn’t have as much weight as it should have, given how this one group alone had no less than three ways to screw with thinkers.

But they were firepower.

We had roughly forty-five minutes to half an hour before we’d take our first shot at Scion.  Try as much as we could while risking as little as possible.  These guys would be assets at best.  Cannon fodder at worst.

Other prisoners were arriving.  Dozens.  Some seemed to be subordinate to the cell block leaders.  Others, they didn’t look like they had a place to go.  I watched Lustrum beckon to a girl with yellow feathers in her hair, and the girl didn’t budge.

I saw Lung step forth, in the company of several capes.  He stopped, taking in a deep breath, then exhaled with a volume I could hear.  He was shirtless, and didn’t move to cover himself up, even with the cold.  His eyes roved over the crowd, and settled momentarily on me, on Rachel, and Grue.

Then Panacea stepped out.

She was different, her wild brown curls tied back into a plait, her face thinner, with more pronounced cheekbones.  She wore a camisole, with her prison jacket tied around her waist.  Tattoos marked the length of her arms.  A sun held a position of prominence on her right arm, a heart with a sword on the left.

The simple tattoos, symbols and ideas got denser as they got closer to her hands, and a vibrant red ink marked the space between the individual black and white images.

Blood on her hands.

I was very aware of how the common prisoners around her stepped away when she stepped forward.

Very aware of how Lung spoke to her, casually, his voice a low bass rumble as she scanned the crowd.  Her eyes locked onto the members of New Wave.  Her mom and dad.

Brandish advanced, wrapping her arms around Panacea.

Panacea received the hug in a stiff way.  Her eyes were downcast.

As if to distract herself, she raised her eyes, scanning the crowd.  Her eyes fixed on me, on Rachel, Grue and Imp.

I saw a momentary look of puzzlement cross her face as she looked at Sophia standing off to one side, then back to me.

She mouthed a word.  I didn’t hear it over the murmurs of the crowd, the discussions.

What?

Then her eyes fell on someone else.  On Bonesaw.

Bonesaw raised her hand in a short wave.

This time I heard Panacea.

Fuck me.”

Last Chapter                                                                                               Next Chapter

443 thoughts on “Extinction 27.3

    • “Bitch isn’t worth having to worry about being shot in the back with a crossbow.” I have no problem with the sentiment but after being Rachel’s teammate for three years you’d think she’d pick a different epithet for Sophia=P
      “Even if that was true,” Missing quotation mark.

    • you are missing a ” at the start

      Even if that was true, they could have moved you to another city. They would have,” I said.

    • “You took my lessons to heart. Used what you learned from our little… what’s the word? Lessons? Made something of yourself after all.”
      This phrasing is odd – she uses the word “lessons” in the first sentence, and then seems to be searching for it as if she hadn’t just said it.

  1. The big parahuman reunion was sufficiently heartwarming and awesome. Hating the constant cliffhangers, but loving everything else.

    Glaistig is an interesting cape. Her connections to the passengers suggests to me that she might be useful in the fight as a whole. Not so much in terms of power, but in terms of speaking to Scion as an equal.

    I’m so excited about seeing all these badasses in one place.

    • I thought Glaistig had similar but much deeper access than Chevalier’s “passenger-sight” and was driven insane by the revelation.

      • I think it was mentioned Chevalier had one of the ‘broadcast shards’. If Glaistig had a cauldron broadcast shard, she’d be significant for sure.

        • I thought it was Jack with the broadcast shard… anyway, she can’t pick up Cauldron’s shards (I think), why she requested natural capes in the first Council meeting

      • What makes you think she’s insane? ‘Fairies’ is no less accurate a description than ‘shards’ or ‘passengers’ and she seems to have much better understanding of what’s actually going on beneath everything than most.

    • “Not so much in terms of power”

      I am not sure what you mean by that – you did notice that she took down teams of capes, and beat back a team of 50, right? Her power basically allows her to be Eidolon, with a handful of cape powers she has “harvested” active at once, powered by the other Agents she is linked to. The teams were probably trying to kill her and failed, indicating some serious defensive capability too. By implication, she has been collecting any capes who died in the Birdcage, and they constitute some of the scariest things on the planet. Her limitations, as far as we know, are similar to Eidolon – she can only have a handful of powers active at once. We don’t have any evidence so far as to her power-swapping speed.

      • I meant relative to Scion. No cape is close to his level of power, Eidolon or otherwise. I honestly don’t see brute force taking him out. I mean, we’ve seen Phir Se output something close to what Scion did when nuking Behemoth with his portal/bomb/thingy, but who else comes close?

        Legend can take down buildings, but Scion is far above that. Eidolon is stronger than that, like when he was fighting the Alexandria clones in the Echidna fight (and the mention of a certain powerset being too destructive to use in the city), but Scion is orders of magnitude above that.

        I think Glaistig is a powerhouse, definitely in Triumvirate level or higher, but not close to Scion.

  2. So, Teacher got out. Sleeper awoke. Awful lot of hanging threads.

    I don’t expect Scion to survive this chapter. He’s going down, and the fallout is going to be the real thing that gets followed for the rest of the story; He’s simply too powerful, much like the Endbringers; If you don’t get him on the first attack, you’re not getting a second.

    So, who wants to theorize on how he gets taken down? At the moment, there are only a few really sensible ways that he could- Either getting convinced to move on, most likely by Weaver or the Queen of the Fairies- who seems like she could take a decent shot at replacing the partner, considering her tendencies- Or by some unexpected combination of abilities allowing a kill-shot by Foil on the Worm itself, or by a third unexpected party- Cauldron, or the Endbringers, or something stranger- getting in a shot.

    I also still harbor suspicions of Cauldron being the ones behind the Endbringers. In all frankness, the Endbringers are not a huge threat to Cauldron- Simurgh is the only one who showed any capacity to travel between worlds, and if the goal was to drive dependency on metahumans and then take control, the Endbringers are a great way to do it.

    • Simurgh stole Tinker tech to build a interdimensional portal. She’s smart, that’s her thing. Outside of that, on her own, she is incapable of traveling between worlds considering what we’ve seen.

      • That is, still, capacity to travel between worlds; not much, though, which again, is something that supports my proposition that the Endbringers are made by Cauldron.

      • She stole tinker DESIGNS. She assembled the devices from scrap with telekinesis. Who’s to say that she can’t do the same with raw materials and a little more time?

    • Remember that Trickster is under teacher’s control maybe, guess what’s going to happen at the worst possible time under the worst possible circumstances to make things go a whole lot worse.

      • I can’t believe I forgot that the Universe’s Biggest Screwup was still around. We haven’t heard much about the Simurgh lately, and I’m still not convinced that she/it isn’t the main architect of evil in Worm. Certainly is interesting to be so near the end of the world and so near to Trickster, the single greatest Simurgh pawn in existence.

          • I get the feeling all of the Endbringers are an extension of the same being.

            1. They somehow share intel, although they aren’t known to interact. Leviathan knocked out Ballistic and Sundancer, but didn’t significantly harm them, likely because they were Simurgh pawns.

            2. Each Endbringer was born as a result as the tactics used against the others. Leviathan uses water because Behemoth was weakened by water and ice, and he’s fast because behemoth was slow. The Simurgh is smaller and flies because the others were giant and easy to hit, etc. Khonsu uses time because of Phir Se, and teleports to outrun Scion.

            3. The Endbringers don’t seem to move at the same time, possibly because the being can’t control all of them at the same time.

            Unrelated question, Can Scrub hit ANYTHING (Scion excepted)

    • A little anticlimactic but I’m still waiting for Faultline’s “let’s just talk it out” strategy to be employed. Especially with feather-haired girl back and the way Scion/the worm seems to be lacking/craving instructions and purpose.

      Also, whoever’s behind the endbringers. Still think it’s the third entity.

      • Either the 3rd or the remnants of the second, though the 3rd would be much more interesting. I vote for this method as well, mainly because I don’t think Scion can be physically ‘killed’ per se. Scatter the fragments and they reassemble somewhere else, as something else, and stronger for being stressed. They still haven’t figured out how to destroy a shard, which they will need to eventually…

  3. Great chapter and so much potential. Observations:
    1. Shadow Stalker is back and a bit pathetic. She was so desperate to not be seen as weak that she convinced herself that Taylor copied her. I couldn’t help but laugh at her orphan “insult”. Damn I wonder what crazy shit turned her into that. Look forward to seeing what role she will play.
    2. We REALLY have to update the crapsack world entry for the tropes page. Mass murders, an entire stadium of people, poisoned water supply that killed a thousand, the VP assassinated, the prime minister assassinated, a portion of japan with everyone just dead, and Taylor says it is the most normal thing in the world. This means shit like this is happening all the damn time in the wormverse.
    3. Persons of Note for the birdcage:
    A. Evil mass murdering power ranger that bows to muramasa? Hilarious, scary, and awesome all at the same time.
    B. We got some answers on teacher. His students can act like normal people instead of brain dead zombies if he wishes it, and they are completely loyal as long as they have powers. He also seems to have a pool of powers he can give besides information such as language. Listed Thinker powers of enhanced observation/information gathering, precognition with glimpses of the future, intuitive knowledge similar to Uber but probably on a much smaller scale, intuitive knowledge of weakness of enemies and how to hurt them similar to Tattletale but also on a much smaller scale. I’m guessing he also has a pool of Tinker powers to give.
    C. God damn, the fairy queen is in the top ten of most powerful cape in the world. Considering all the deaths she caused and her power she was a nightmare to fight. We can add a new S class threat with her, she is the scariest person in there.
    D. Except for Panacea, the hardened prisoner. Great plan letting her in there past PRT. If the fairy queen thought she could be her equal then I suspect she will be very vital for the fight ahead, especially if she found out about Scion before anyone else. Oh, the possibilities with her power!

    • As for Teacher. There’s one place he could do an INSANE amount of good.

      The Yangban.

      Yes, their powers get diluted amongst all of them.
      HOWEVER, the cumulative effect is greater than the parent instance.
      Now think about dozens of low-level thinkers all mind-melded together (plus their other powers).

        • I’m just surprised that Taylor can describe his powers, think about Saint, and not see the connection there. Saint, the hacker, has been fanatically trying to get Teacher set free. Maybe Teacher’s got a little bit of Stranger power there too.

          • Anyone else get the impression that Saint may have been a thrall of Teacher this whole time? While Saint himself isn’t a cape, that doesn’t mean that Teacher couldn’t have given him thinker powers, which would explain much of his skill with hacking. And, he’s apparently very loyal to Teacher to the point of willingly sacrificing himself and stepping down to get him out of the Birdcage.

            • That does seem the most obvious explanation. But I’m still not sure when and how it could have happened or if Teacher could have done it before going in the Birdcage and make it last despite geographical and chronological distance. And why wouldn’t Saint think about it in his interlude?

      • Or he could take a bunch of programmers, computer science students, and the like (probably all of them left alive…), give them assorted Thinker powers, and find someone to coordinate them. Boom, new Dragon. Hardly a good replacement for the old, but it works.

      • So does Teacher thinker-up each individual member of the Yangban or does he become a Yangban and give each of them a lesser ability to make one another and others around them into thinkers? That’d be kinda cool.

    • 1. Shadow Stalker is back and a bit pathetic. She was so desperate to not be seen as weak that she convinced herself that Taylor copied her. I couldn’t help but laugh at her orphan “insult”. Damn I wonder what crazy shit turned her into that. Look forward to seeing what role she will play.

      In 20.3, Taylor said Sophia was a “sad little basket case”. I think that still pretty well stands. That said, Taylor has learned one thing from Sophia, right in this chapter: the mask that capes wear over their feelings aren’t real.

    • 1. Yeah. How the mighty(?) have fallen.
      2. I wouldn’t say it’s normal–these are exceptional villains even in the Birdcage–but yeah.
      3c. I’m not sure if she’s a Class-S threat. Possibly in the same category Blasto was, but not more than that.
      3d. I’m not sure how “scary” Panacea would be. Two major limitations: The short range of her power, and the fact that she’s scared.

      • Panace has short range only if she wants to target someone in particular. If she wants to try massmurder all she has to do is turn one of those innocuous germs or microbes we are constantly touching in a plague carrier and…boom! She did it against Jack, who was saved only by Bonesaw and threatened to do it if she didn’t go in the Birdcage.

        • Yes, because Scion is going to be affected by germs, and there is no way that can backfire, and incidentally she’s also willing to do that.

          Come to think of it, two or three of those could be used against just about any offensive use of her power.

          • Of course Scion wouldn’t be affected by germs, but since Scion isn’t even real, Panacea would be useless, range or no range. I thought we were talking about how dangerous Panacea can be , in general.

        • I believe she could also gain some defense out of symbiotic germs that convey regeneration and perhaps alter physiology.

        • Actually, if Panacea wanted to target someone in particular and had a genetic sample handy there’s a decent chance she could create a germ that spread like wildfire but only *harmed* the target individual.

          Scary, no?

      • Blasto was nearly a Class-S, only kept his Class-A rating by playing nice, something she’s not wont to do, though I suppose sticking to assassinations and not spreading wanton destruction could be considered playing nice.

        I see Panacea being more frightening in combination with other capes than alone – imagine Skitter with limitless relay bugs, literally having eyes everywhere. She could bypass the built in limiters that came with everybody’s powers.

        And in response to the original poster, I think we’re past Crapsack World, moved to full on Hell on Earth

        • Such was my point. Blasto (probably) could have been a Class-S threat, but he didn’t. In Blasto’s case, it was pretty explicitly because he decided not to be. For Panacea, it’s more because she doesn’t want to do what she would need to do to be Class-S.

          Panacea has great potential–Bonesaw saw that. The problem is that she will not use it. Breaking her sister with it might have something to do with that.

          If WH40k doesn’t get a Hell-On-Earth trope, neither does Worm. Beta might qualify as a Death World, though.

          • Okay just for clarification what makes an S class?

            1. Echidna implied that self perpetuating minions gets you S class, but the Endbringers/the 9 were also S class without it.
            2. The ability to kill alot of people quickly? The 9 probably have a huge body count but they were limited in numbers so they couldn’t kill huge numbers of people. They focused on attacking individuals, and committing atrocities such as an elementary school when first mentioned by Coil and the hospital nursery.
            3. Being really, REALLY, hard to kill and killing powerful heroes?
            So who qualifies? Candidates for S class.
            Taylor has self perpetuating minions, and could kill a scary number of people quickly, and has gone up against powerful foes and is still ticking.

            The shadow bitch has already killed thousands, held power for 8 years, and apparently survived an Endbringer that came to kill her specifically. So is she an S class or does she not count because she isn’t killing people for the evilz?

            The fairy queen seems to be similar to Eidolon in many ways, though her body count seems to have been limited to parahumans. Does she count, and surely if she does that shouldn’t Eidolon if he went nuts?

            The 9 as a group but they might be considered that because the core members have never really lost, and they get away to continue killing. If the Undersiders started killing everyone they fought, would they be S class because they haven’t lost much either?

            What makes Sleeper, the 3 blasphemies, and Ash Beast S class while others aren’t?

            • The 3 blasphemies aren’t S class according to Saint’s interlude. Likewise the Ash Beast, presumably.

              It seems having self-perpetuating minions DOES get you S-class status automatically. It’s what they told Blasto not to do if he didn’t want a kill on sight order. Echidna and Nilbog seem to be this sort of S class.

              Endbringers obviously get S-class because of them sort of ending the world. Since Taylor feared that a corrupted Eidolon could singlehandedly be the cause of the Apocalypse, I think that a rogue Eidolon would probably be treated as a S-class.

              The Nine are a bit strange. Presumably the fact that the core members seem to always get away, their sheer monstrosity and their complete disregard of the rules coupled with their high kill count (Shatterbird alone…), got them S-class status.

              We know nothing of Sleeper.

              • I think there may have been some hedging of the S9′s reputation on the part of someone. We’ve had a couple hints that Cauldron wanted to use the S9 as a propaganda tool to drive people to the Protectorate. Making them seem more dangerous than they really are (which is still fuckin’ dangerous) would help with that. The American tendency to sensationalize serial killers doesn’t help.

                Which only adds to how pathetic Jack’s vanity ultimately was. Part of his arrogance may have been brought on by the inflated media coverage and threat response. And likewise this overinflation caused the heroes to unwittingly give ground to him through caution.

                Then Jack’s vanity reaches critical mass with the apocalypse prediction, and he decides he needs to take things to the next level. Flash forward to today.

              • To my understanding, the reason the Nine were an S-class threat was because that applied to the entire concept of the Slaughterhouse Nine- they constantly had villains interested in becoming their newest members, and so that even if you did a lot of damage to them, they could bounce back from it. Further, they definitely had the capacity to do massive quantities of damage, as shown by Bonesaw’s disease threats; If you didn’t play by their rules or let them get bored, shit got real bad.

            • I think the only definite criteria was making superpowered minions which multiplied exponentially. Other things presumably apply for the Nine and the Endbringers, and maybe Sleeper and such. However, we don’t know enough about the other criteria to classify anyone for certain as “Not an S-threat” or “Potential S-threat”. I’m pretty sure it’s not just raw power, though.

  4. Oh wow, did Amy seriously just prioritize Taylor over her (shitty) mom? Ice fucking burn right there.

    I also have to wonder where the hell they get off slapping Marquis. They’re the ones who fucked up his daughter, not the other way around. Superheroes, right?

    What’s Glaistigs angle? My first guess is that she knew something like this was going to happen, and wanted to live through to see it. So she just loads up on powers and intentionally get’s herself sent to the Birdcage as a sort of time capsule.

    I can’t tell how glad I am that the closing of Sophia’s plotline isn’t a revenge thing. I’d love to see where this is going.

    • The whole New Wave group are probably some of the worst heroes around. Excessive violence, stealing a man’s child and raising her- badly- not to mention their self righteousness that basically lead to Panacea going shitburgers.

      Light Is Not Good, I guess.

      • Actually I thought of them as just realistic people with realistic problems who just had bad luck. They started out as so hopeful with their coming out with their real identities, result of a member being murdered in her civilian identity and her husband leaving the group. Leviathan attacks their hometown so they go out to fight, with the result that one family has the father and son killed. They couldn’t give Amy away because people would exploit her so they adopt her, result of alienating her and pushing her toward villainy. Though the rest of Amy’s adopted family definitely have at least part of the blame for that with shitting parenting, and the fridge logic/horror of Glory Girl’s emotion control. I’m curious where Glory Girl is.

        • Agreed. They needed a Tecton or a Weld to take charge, and they didn’t even have a Piggot or an Armsmaster. Hell, they didn’t have as much as a Trickster, and when Trickster is a better leader than you, you have problems.

            • I suspect this is a bit harsh on Trickster, actually. Thanks to the Simurgh’s influence things kept ending up badly for him, but for the most part his decisions were actually fairly reasonable. And he shared Taylor’s knack for being able to think on his feet. The way he interacted with Accord was masterful. (Unfortunate for Cody, but then Cody brought it on himself to a large extent…)

              • I was impressed with a lot of his actions. My main issue with Trickster was mostly that his team pretty much seemed to despise him. If you don’t have the trust or at least respect from your team then you really shouldn’t be considered a good leader. I’ve served under Captains that I respect and would follow to the ends of the earth and then I’ve served under completely reprehensible assholes. Trickster was pretty good for short term but utterly horrible with considering ramifications of his actions too.

                The Accord thing was masterful work. I completely agree. That alone massively elevated my opinion of the guy.

        • Sure, they’re not bad. But they’re pretty fucking mediocre.

          And when someone helps fuck up a kid’s life that badly, I don’t accept their flaws and foibles as excuses.

          • Didn’t they break the code going after Marquis at home? Plus it doesn’t look like slapping Marquis helped improve Amy’s viewpoint.

            • It isn’t made clear whether it was justified. But I’m guessing them not having secret IDs translates to them not giving a shit about anyone else’s secret ID’s.

              Judging by that, and Glory Girl’s behavoir, I don’t think it’s unfair to say they’re the kind of superheroes that are shitty just by being superheroes. The worst fucking kind of superheroes.

              Then again, that guy way back then was a skinhead, soooooo…

              • It’s more the casual way Glory Girl treats him. Like, ‘Oh fuck, nearly killed him, better call Panacea’. It’s making her sister a party to her criminal acts, and kinda taking advantage of her, for that matter.

              • Yeah, Glory Girl basically extorts her into helping her. After all, she loves GG and doesn’t want anything bad to happen to her for manhandling the poor little ubermensch. Be a shame if GG were to go to jail wouldn’t it?

                Not seeing the connection?

                *puts on a fedora, suit, and mustache. Grabs a baseball bat* Be a shame if your sister had to go to jail for hitting this guy, wouldn’t it? I guess you better do something to fix that, shouldn’t you?

      • Well, Bonesaw helped. But yeah. I got that feeling from when we got introduced to Glory Girl. Well, actually I got the feeling that about half of the New Wave was like that, but still.

        I suppose that makes it pretty obvious that Amy was adopted. Heh. I feel bad for saying that.

    • My take on Glaistig is that she realized that in he long run she’ll get more powers (and powerful ones at that) in the Birdcage. And she won’t even have to worry about some random guy getting lucky and managing to off her.

      • Pretty ingenious actually. She gets her pick of some of the worst, and most powerful, of parahumans with no heroes to try and stop her. She hasn’t aged a day so she can play the long game, especially if she thinks its inevitable that they will let them out. If she/the world survives, she can pick a devastated part of the world and literally rule as a queen with the power she has. Besides possibly Eidolon and Panacea, she is the only real S class on their side.

        • I’m not sure I’d call her S-class any more than Eidolon. Like him, she can have a handful of different powers at her disposal at any given time. Unlike him, she has a finite list to choose from, but she gets the ghost-capes fighting for her to balance that disadvantage. They’re both quite strong, capable of facing off against most S-classes, but they don’t have the wide impact, long-lasting repercussions, or self-replicating threats that it takes to be an S-class. Thus why Nilbog is an S-class, but Panacea really isn’t.

          Now, if Glaistig got hold of dead Nilbog’s shard? And, say, Grey Boy’s? And Manton’s? Yeah, then she becomes an S-class. Chances are slim to none that she has anyone like that, though. Those types don’t get sent to the Birdcage.

          • Let’s face it, if Eidolon ever went rogue he’d be considered a S-class threat immediately. If we want to believe him, a hundred capes pose no threat to him.

            Panacea too, probably. She can turn standard microbes in pandemics whenever she wants She used that tactic with Jack. Pity it didn’t work. And I believe she used that exact same threat to get locked in the Birdcage. As the tvtropes page she can do what Nilbog does. And more.

            • Why are you listening to Eidolon about Eidolon’s power? He’s not nearly that strong. Glaistig could probably take him, if only because she can choose what powers she uses (AFAIK).

              • Unless Eidolon comes up with the power that none of Glaistig available powers can counterattack. Present day, weakened, Eidolon probably couldn’t do that immediately or even in time but golden age Eidolon? I’d bet on him.

                And when Eidolon said he’s worth 100 capes I think he meant more the middle-high capes that are the backbone of Endbringers attacks. You know a hundred Rimes, Chevaliers, Revels, Assaults etc. Not Triumvirate level capes.

              • And Glaistig could probably defeat Golden-Age Eidolon in a few more decades of absorbing shards. Your point?

                I still doubt that. At best, he could replace 100 capes for assorted purposes.

              • You are making the mistake of believing Eidolon.

                …Although with the right powers, he could probably be in 3-4 places at once.

              • I wonder if there’s any correlation between Eidolon’s decline and Glaistig’s inevitable rise in power? Maybe once she collects a shard, he can’t copy it any more, which means his power has to spend longer trying to come up with a solution from a more limited set? That would imply that she’s collected an awful lot of shards, though, to make a significant difference to him. Though I still remain unconvinced that his decline in power is anything other than in his head, possibly a mindfuck Doctor Mother used on him with the whole “Oh, you need these booster shot” thing that sounds totally bogus given the way the serum normally works.

              • That’s grasping at straws a bit…more likely, Eidolon is just the Cauldron cape with the strongest connection to his passenger, which might be the most easily exhausted.

          • IMO the ghost thing makes her S-Class depending on how far she can send them out independently. One of the key requirements for an S-Class is that you can churn out minions. Glaistig can keep churning out minions so long as you keep throwing capes at her. Or she can just seek them out…

    • You don’t have to guess whether she knew, she SAID this was going to happen. But everyone dismissed her as batshit crazy. She even knew when the Worms intended to harvest the parahumans initially: about 300 years. I think she can do more than see shards, she can communicate with them. When She Says faery, she’s talking shards.

    • Then her eyes fell on someone else. On Bonesaw.

      Bonesaw raised her hand in a short wave.

      This time I heard Panacea.

      “Fuck me.”

      And that’s when all the men who just got released from the Birdcage, except Marquis, rushed to form a semi-circle around Panacea.

      Marquis was busy glaring at the group, “That. Wasn’t. A. Request.”

      • “Fuck Me”
        And that’s when what I could only assume was once Glory Girl flew out of the Irregulars towards Amy.

        • Glory Girl isn’t in the right state of mind or body to move out of her bed.

          She’s probably dead right now. Or if her invulnerability protected her, abandoned.

  5. Love the last two words. It is so suits the situation. Still the this group does need a name. For parahumans, I think a mass gathering should have the name ‘a clusterfuck of capes’.

    • I like that term. I second that suggestion!
      Of course, Wildbow has already suggested reffering to them as “Pretty Much Everyone That’s Still Alive”, which is a longer but equally fitting term.

    • I still like calling them the Allies.

      It’s what they are–a group of people working together towards a common goal. Nothing more, nothing less.

        • Why doesn’t anyone want to use alternative names? Like the Axis, or something. Like the Axis of Amazing. Damn, that’s a good one. I need to use that. “Captain Amazing and the Axis of Amazing”

          And they can have skulls on their uniforms and their coffee mugs and so on. With little inscriptions that read, “This is the skull of a bad guy. Trust us, he deserved it.”

          Reminds me of this video on youtube… youtube.com/watch?v=hn1VxaMEjRU

          Hmm, well, looks like the Axis and skulls are out after all.

  6. No. Stop it. No redeeming Sophia. Death is the only option here. She must die. I will accept nothing else.

    *I’m sure I’ll like it however it turns out… Well, probably.*

    • She was willing to drop the bullshit there. She earned a chance.

      Maybe she’ll die heroically. Maybe she’ll die pitifully. Maybe she’ll run. Maybe she’ll live and have to live with herself. But redemption’s a funny thing like that.

      And hey…

      Nobody ever broke into, or out of, the Birdcage. Taylor never even went there.

      Well, there’s still time.

    • Symmetry suggests she’s the final boss anyway.

      Well, OK, her or Mr. Gladly, but that’s hard to make work. I guess maybe if it’s all a dream or if he’s the second entity in disguise:

      “You’re just going to walk away from all this? Billions dead, civilization in ruins, and you think you can just . . . walk away from this, mister— mister–”
      “Gladly.”

      • I’m fairly certain Mr. Gladly is dead. He was last seen in the shelter with his girlfriend being attacked by Leviathan, wasn’t seen at the new school opening, and a anonymous poster from the parahumans website mentions Leviathan attacking the shelter and killing her boyfriend. I could be mistaken but it seemed to imply he didn’t make it out of that shelter.

      • At what point in that conversation did you get any hint that she regretted any of her actions? Sophia would’ve fit right in with the Slaughterhouse Nine as far as I’m concerned.

  7. There is so much of a chance for backstabbing here, and many of those loosed are not people who play well with others.
    If I were a villain … I can play along and play tag with the closest thing this world has to an unstoppable force … and get killed. Or I can play along until I get an opportunity for some revenge, take it, and then maybe get away while the others are engaged. Taylor had best watch out for Lung.
    It is actually nice to see Panacea looking a little tougher. Hopefully, she has found some mental stability and fortitude. At least her reaction to Bonesaw wasn’t immediate cringing, but I suspect she has seen things just as scary in the Birdcage. When Glaistig Uaine acknowledges you as an equal, you are a power indeed.

    • From what I can see, Lung is probably far more interested in the big fight than revenge. He lives for the challenge of facing the greatest foe. Scion certainly qualifies.

      • He didn’t fight the Endbringers after one Leviathan fight since he didn’t consider them people (more forces of nature). Who says Scion will be different?

        I don’t see Lung as a backstabber, but tons of other Birdcake capes sure.

        • Scion is considerably more human than the Endbringers both in fighting style and (simulated) thought process. But yeah among the celblock leaders the only ones I can see sticking to the end are Marquis, Crane, maybe Gavel and Glaistig Uaine (if she doesn’t decide to side with the Faerie King).

          • Definitly some vipers in the Birdcage contingent. Even some of those who would help during the whole Scion fight would make grabs for power afterwards.

        • Scion looks human, acted like a cape, and is small enough that once Lung really gets going he’ll think he can crush Scion in a claw.

          He probably won’t be able to, but I’d like to see how far his transformation goes.

  8. So, because Psycho Gecko still hasn’t showed up to remark on it; What do you think the chances are that the first five words of the next chapter are ‘I don’t swing that way”?

      • Yeah, we could use a little humor to break up the tension. Instead of being funny Imp is comforting Taylor and thinking about missing her heartbroken minions.

        • Little does she know they’re back at the lair, having a Billy Ray Cyrus karaoke competition.

          “Don’t tell my heart, my achy breaky heart, I just don’t think he’d understand. And if you tell my heart, my achy breaky heart, he might blow up and kill this man.”

          Surprisingly relevant song to either Regent or Taylor. Haven’t decided which.

      • Poor Regent. Imp just can’t pick up on his slack at being immature. Grue’s doubtlessly glad about that part, though.

        Seriously though. Uber and Leet left the Bay and haven’t been heard of since. Regent’s dead. Who do we have left for comic relief?

      • “So, how about that moon tonight, folks, you ever seen one like that? Blood red. Dracula got so hard when he looked at it, his brides thought he was trying to stake them.

        And how many of you out there like the taste of locust? They ate all the food, so it’s that or ratburgers for awhile. Oops, sorry, no ratburgers. They choked on all the corpses.

        Speaking of corpses, good news. It’s not a zombie apocalypse. No, instead you only had to worry about getting killed by someone braindead before the end of the world.

        Wow, no laughs, eh? I guess we know where the pale horse stopped off for a drink because I’m dying up here, folks.”

        But if you want someone doing it much better than I can: youtube.com/watch?v=XiW4dwoIz-k

  9. Good, clear, exposition chapter. With everything going to hell in a hand basket, there has been a lot of action and somewhat confusing twists and plot points. This helped s lot to ground everything prep for the violent upcoming battle.

    Panacea: Badass. Yay. :) Hoping she uses her power to control biology fully this time, instead of sticking with just healing.

    Confrontation with Sophia was excellent. I’m glad Taylor could have one with at least one of her bullies, and this one makes the most sense. I wonder if the third bully is alive…anyway, this was a good and very plausible, for Sophia, way to write it. She’s good at deluding herself into thinking she’s bigger than she really is, so she’s deluding herself into thinking the girl who she bullied styled herself, of all things, after Sophia. When i think ofnthe ways This could hsve been written, this is definitely the most in character. However, I don’t know about anybody else, but all I wanted to do was scream, “Shut the hell up!” at Sopha, though, by halfway through her little act of patting herself on the back for things she had nothing to do with.

    On another, somewhat amusing, note, this has officially become a story people I just can’t try to advertise so innocently to people I know, after that little c word got dropped. I can picture it…

    “Hey, No One In Particular?”

    “Yeah?”

    “Did I just read what I think I just read?”

    “Um…Scion Interlude Discussion! Go!”

      • Now I’m wondering if Sophia Hess is a case of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. I don’t think she’s actually stupid, but she doesn’t have any patience and she goes off half-cocked pretty much continuously.

        • She’s certainly not very smart. Exhibit A: This chapter. You don’t provoke the person deciding if you walk free or get left in prison until you die (which won’t be that long, but still)!

          • Stupid people don’t generally go this far to invent rationalizations. It’s often smart people who end up the most thickheaded.

            • If you’re intelligent but you do idiotic things, I classify you as stupid. An even more tragic kind of stupid, in fact.

              • As has often been noted when discussing certain topics of controversy that are best not discussed here, compartmentalization means that even smart people can think dumb things and act on them. Smart people are very good at rationalizing dumb beliefs held for dumb reasons.

                If taken far enough, though, that’s more along the lines of being delusional. Still doesn’t make anyone dumb. I’d say Sophia is one of those two.

                Along other lines, everyone is ignorant of something. Ignorance is not preferable, but it’s hard to say a person is bad because they are ignorant. The exception to that is willful ignorance.

                Plus, some smart people just don’t give a fuck about certain things. That sometimes manifests as a student that is failing because he finds the work tedious and unchallenging. It might also mean a brilliant person who would rather design toys than rocket engines.

                On top of that, there are people who are so surrounded by idiots that the way they cope or the way they act preemptively is to do something that looks to other people as idiotic. In a dumb (or crazy) world, sometimes the actions one must take to come out ahead appear dumb (or crazy) beforehand.

              • The way I look at it might be simplistic but it’s simple: If you do idiotic things, I classify you as stupid. The only question is why, or to put it differently if you are also/potentially smart.

              • It’s not only overly simple, it’s kinda dangerous. Putting too many problems on the shoulders of stupidity leaves people open to be hoodwinked by the intelligent people who believe dumb shit. Look at every reactionary or bigoted piece of legislation in the news you shake your head at. Chances are there’s someone very clever at the helm of that.

              • I think you’re taking my comment too far.

                Yes, other things may be at fault. However, I can’t think of any half-logical reason for someone to provoke the person who is in charge of deciding if they are freed or if they’re stuck in a prison until such time as a nigh-omnipotent being gets around to destroying that part of the world.

                Past that and more generally…Hanlon’s Razor.

              • See, Greatwyrmgold, people do tend to make that assumption that highly intelligent people are logical rather than driven by emotion like everyone else. But they’re not – people are emotional creatures regardless. In a lot of cases, high intelligence mostly just makes people better at justifying what they wanted to do anyway…

            • She’s arrogant, selfish, and ever since she got jailed she’s been being forced to realize that she is not half as important or a third as awesome as she had probably imagined.

              • These are also important factors in understanding our comment section’s second-least favorite basket case.*

                * I suspect Tagg’s death did not dethrone him from his position at the rock bottom of the pile.

              • Okay to play the what if game. We know from Regent’s interlude that she has mental problems. Regent described her as almost having multiple personalities. I’m not actually sure she has ever had a “real” friend before. She was a terrible teammate to the wards, not really caring that gallant died, insulting Vista for being well human with her grief, and just being anti-social. That said she does seem to respect strength or at least perseverence through adversity. It’s why she helped emma, why she seemed to be friends with Vista during Weld’s interlude, and she actually seemed to respect Weld here with the “chief” comment. I’m not sure why she respects Weld to be honest based on her personality. Maybe because of creating the irregulars, which might be a fairly large organization now.

                She seemed to only care about Emma because she was able to help create her mask of normalcy at school by helping to make her popular, her dad helped her out with probation, and she was someone to vent/brag to. We know that a lack of a social network is a big indicator of trigger events so I think Emma betraying her hurt her much more than she wanted to admit.

                Bitch is arguably just as bad as shadow stalker was but look at her in this chapter. She has learned to be more social, is nicer, and is trying to improve herself all after Taylor’s friendship. So I have to ask, is there any situation where Shadowstalker could have become friends with Taylor and joined the Undersiders?

              • Hypothetically, if Shadow Stalker had been a less…well, terrible person, she wouldn’t have been at the point where she was shooting Grue in the first place. If she was, though, she wouldn’t have been in the situation where she was torturing Taylor in her civilian life, so Taylor wouldn’t have triggered, so there wouldn’t be a Skitter. And, most likely, if Taylor did trigger later, she would have become a hero.

        • Sophia has a very inflated view of her self importance. Silly Sophia, Taylor didn’t become strong because of you. She became strong in spite of you.

        • Certain insults disproportionately resonate with certain types of people. That’s why Sun Tzu suggested that to know thy enemy is to find naught but victory in Yo Momma battles.

          • That is not to be construed to suggest that people’s reactions are unjustified, just that certain people’s reactions to certain words are far greater. Your average white guy is not going to have as negative reaction to being called by a lot of insults precisely because that honky has had it good, the lazy cracker.

  10. Copied from last chapter comments and then expanded …
    ***************************************************************
    Brainstorming possible Scion counters:

    1. Bait Scion into flying within Cherish/Butcher’s range (or move Cherish/Butcher if you can do it remotely or find someone immune to her). If his body is truly modeled after humanity she may be able to affect him. Normally I wouldn’t wish crushing despair on anyone, but in this case …

    2. It appears that the reason so many Cauldron parahumans become warped or damaged is that both the blocks and safeties that Scion put into his shards are missing from some of the shards that Cauldron uses. This is inferred from the power spectrum (Cauldron has some of the highest power parahumans out there) and the prevalence of side affects. Doormaker and the brain-burned clairvoyant are examples of both extreme power and lack of safeties – both got mind-wiped by their transformation. If that is true, then a collection of Cauldron parahumans plus others together may be able to match the power and abilities of Scion. Doormaker for transportation, the brain-dead clairvoyant for senses, administration by Taylor, harassment by Legend/Eidolon/Alexandria (Pretender), strategy by ??? (maybe Riley can bring back Accord), tactics by Contessa (even if she can’t foresee Scion, she may be able to foresee how not to get killed, or perhaps provide the precog-vs.-precog counter), etc.

    3. As part of the set above, Citrine has proven she can at least partially block Endbringer-level powers. While it is now clear that Scion is even more powerful than that, she is one of the only likely partial defenses against his abilities.

    4. Tattletale thought Grue could block Scion’s senses.

    5. Foil may be able to hurt Scion, or at least force him to expend energy to avoid her. How she would survive his counteroffensive is unclear.

    6. Crawler adapts to be immune or resistant to any power used against him. Throw him in an area that Scion is attacking, and, if he survives, he should be resistant the next time. Do this several times with all of the remaining Crawlers and you may get someone that can be used as a reusable meat shield while others attack.

    7. Defiant has managed to mimic Clockblocker’s powers. Perhaps he should study Foil’s. That would make the loss of Foil less devastating. On the other hand, if it was Dragon that figured out how to mimic Clockblocker’s powers, this idea is SOL.

    8. Scion’s reaction to Taylor showed that he has more interest in his own shards. Perhaps if he kills a few of them he will rethink his experimental destructive rampage. Unfortunately, no-one can suggest this up front, but it is likely to happen as fights progress.

    9. It seems likely that Scion can counter Clockblocker’s powers, but putting frozen time around him might shut off some of his senses while other things happen.

    10. Figure out a way to get the Endbringers to attack Scion. Who the livid hell is the Endbringer’s Master or creator anyway?

    11. Bakuda had some really interesting effects that were not readily containable by parahuman powers. Now, will Glaistig Uaine (who took Bakuda’s power) play ball, or will she consider Scion her Faerie king and not move against him?
    ***************************************************************

    #2: Appears to be happening, at least partially.

    #4: Grue is there.

    #11: Glaistig Uaine is there. Whether or not she has time to use Bakuda’s power is unclear.

    #3, #5, and #9 are possible: “Pretty much everyone that’s still alive.”

    Most of the released Birdcage prisoners appear to be suited for support roles. However, …

    12. Glaistig Uaine is now confirmed as a heavy hitter willing to take on Scion. By all evidence, she is the equal or better of a member of the Triumvirate in a straight on fight.

    13. Galvanate can provide a partial defense.

    14. Lung may be able to survive Scion, with enough warmup (I really should have included him in the last list). If his power doesn’t cap out like in the Leviathan fight, he might get powerful enough to actually make Scion pay attention to him.

    15. Panacea and Bonesaw between them should be able to bring back anyone who can (literally) be scraped up. I shudder to think of either one working on people though. Perhaps they will keep each other “honest”.

    16. Scion went and made himself a human-like body. Unless his powers flat out counter Panacea’s, she may be able to affect him. However, her powers only work on touch or at close range and she has no special defenses, so getting her close enough without getting killed is going to be problematic.

    17. Teacher and his subordinates may be able to provide low-level precognition blocking. As evidenced by his giving Moord Nag the ability to speak English, he may be able to give powers without imposing the slave controls.

    18. Is Trickster around? Teleporters are key against a foe who cannot teleport.

    19. Where is the last Manton/Siberian? He survived, Cauldron now has the controls, and even if Scion can blow apart the projection, it has got to be a better defense and offense than most.

    20. The un-named Thanda member who can lock relative positions may be able to stop Scion from simply outrunning the fight.

    • 15.a. Panacea and Bonesaw between them should be able to expand the powers of people they work on. Volunteers, anyone? Don’t you want two confirmed mindfucks working on your head?

      • One confirmed mindfucker, one confirmed mindfucked who will probably have no part in that. She could clean up after Bonesaw’s done, though.

    • 1: Scion is basically top-tier Breaker (technically he’s a top-tier EVERYTHING). So your plan with Cherish likely wouldn’t work.

      2: Again, Scion=Breaker. This is why precog powers are basically useless when he’s involved.

      3: Possibly

      4: Basically. The problem is range. Grue has to be in REALLY close. Close enough that Scion could nuke the area in general and take him out. And that’s assuming that he doesn’t have some way of adapting around it. Part of the reason they tried to get Grue before was that Scion was restrained in Grey Boy’s time loop.

      5: Agreed.

      6: Scion can basically annihilate a city. I’m fairly sure he can just vaporize Crawler and anything standing behind him.

      7: At this point, there’s no time. Too little too late.

      8: Doubt it

      9: Remember, Scion is essentially an extradimensional entity. Spacetime, as we know it, reveals just a small facet of what “he” is. This is why he’s basically a god-class Breaker. Some of the rules that tie the hands of humanity basically just flat-out don’t apply to him, or they apply only up until he exerts himself.

      10: The Endbringers have been pretty much shown to be unable to withstand the full press from Scion. Their only viable option when dealing with him is to run and blow shit up another day.

      11: GU would have to kill Bakuda to use her powers.

      12: GU still has weaknesses. And there’s no guarantee that her powers will be all that effective against Scion.

      13: No. Galvanate MIGHT provide partial defense. This needs to be tested before assuming anything.

      14: You keep forgetting “GOD CLASS BREAKER!” Remember what happened to Lung in Japan when he fought Leviathan?

      15: I’d be VERY leery of this. A psychopathic bio-tinker with an “art” fetish and another bio-tinker with power incontinence problems… “No! I swear! Your leg was SUPPOSED to explode out of your chest that way! And I couldn’t find your genitals…but you don’t need those!”

      16: Scion’s “body” is essentially a “costume”. It’s simply an interface/avatar between our world and the being that created the interface/avatar.

      17: The thing is, you have to trust that he won’t try to enslave you.

      18: They haven’t said. Plus, with the fact that he’d willingly sacrifice allies to the “Horror Hunger” means that not many people are going to trust him. AT ALL.

      19: Didn’t see that one had survived. And, even so, Scion’s going to require something a bit more powerful or more subtle than Siberian.

      20: When the enemy is in range, so are you… Now we’ll be taking volunteers to effectively get into a permanent knife fight with Scion…

      • Agree with everything you said. Right now, the heroes are screwed and Scion is unbeatable. Just a minor nitpick: GU already has Bakuda’s powers. Lung killed her and GU preserved her as one of her ghosts. It’s in the Dragon interlude.

      • #15: Two problems with your interpretation.
        1. Riley isn’t Bonesaw. She’s trying to change. She probably won’t go all psycho.
        2. Amy’s problem isn’t her power incontinence–which I don’t think she really has, the worst you could say is poor impulse control–but rather that her experiences with going past healing have been traumatizingly bad.

        #19: Do they have something more subtle than but as powerful as Siberian, or more powerful than…it?

    • Ideas folks, not reasons they won’t work. I know most of them won’t work – this is a noodle fight – you throw noodles at the bruiser until one of them discomfits him by lodging in his sinus, or he slips on them when he is crushing them, or something.

      In the spirit of the shipping thread below, and very much in jest:

      21. Ingenion. Scion made himself male – maybe Ingenue can turn her talents towards un-corrupting a man for once. Or just giving him something to focus on other than destruction, since it is likely he made a healthy male body.

      • I recall being minorly squicked by Scion saying during his interlude that Kevin Norton was hitting him in “the area he had designed to resemble genitalia” or something to that effect. I.e. no human sexytimes instincts/bodily responses for the transdimensional god-worm. In the porno fanfic version of Worm, though…

  11. A couple of last remarks and then off to bed (Wildbow, you have really screwed up my sleep schedule on Monday/Wednesday/Friday nights).

    Poor Chevalier – no one is going to trust him now that Ingenue has her hands on him (literally). There goes his Protectorate position.

    This is a truly off-the-wall guess as to the next chapter cliffhanger. There is a nasty fight, people get hurt, people get killed, things are looking bad, … and then one of the more mobile Endbringers shows up on the battlefield. Fade to typo thread.

  12. Scene with Sophia is dissonant, hesitant, an odd use of time evaluating someone who isn’t of clear use.

    Dissonance and hesitation are plausibly deliberate, evocative of the shifting identity of the viewpoint on one hand and a disruption in Sophia’s prison-calcified life on the other; the odd use of time remains odd. Who beyond Taylor would care enough to check on her? Her power is not obviously, in either scale or type, well fitted to what may come. Given sufficient imagination, I’m sure it could be used well – but nothing in her known bag of tricks would warrant a callup in this situation. And it’s not a universal summons from the Birdcage either – the heaviest heavyweights, and some others thought to be specifically useful, with everyone else locked down by the cellblock leaders and Saint working together. It fits as therapy for Taylor, and fits as Taylor’s idea of therapy for Taylor, but doesn’t fit as recruiting the dirty dozen.

    Herewith follows what happens when a vague concern about how the use of time didn’t make sense prompts an attempt to turn to the numbers and make sense of things. It doesn’t, and it ends up diverting attention from the story.

    The idea of a victim’s veto isn’t crazy (though the actual Birdcage release seems to have gone on a more realpolitik basis: cellblock leaders and their chosen assistants get out; everyone else gets some negotiation on the assistants in an effort to maximize the power and minimize the chaos being released); the idea of executing that process in the scant hours they have (and hours is stretching it, even including possible waiting for Scion to change continents so door service resumes) is unlikely. In a world experiencing a literal apocalypse, it would have strained Dragon’s capacity to find a quorum of victims at all, let alone in time. A few hundred thousand possible recruits… the numbers don’t work, not for screening, not for interviewing and deciding. They’d barely work for a tenth that number for people dooring in and and out and taking people, with guards being told that any Protectorate cape who shows up right now will do the paperwork later for anyone they take out… if there is a later. The fact that the guards are still there, instead of going home to their families or similar, is itself interesting.

    The ‘few hundred thousand’ non-birdcage, non-known teams, recruitable number also seems inconsistent with known incidence rates. Were there even 100 parahumans in Brockton Bay, among all the groups and rogues? Out of a population of (pre-catastrophe) what? Over a million? Implications for worldwide cape count is difficult to sort out – no good idea on world population, to start with, other than a firm sense that two decades of Endbringers have probably dealt with most overpopulation fears. The scale for Doormaker doesn’t work either – 200k recruits (generous assumptions: groups of ten, only need a door in and a door out, two hours of recruiting time when Scion demonstrably doesn’t need ten seconds to erase a country): 40k doors or 5.5 doors per second. Or, more likely, a lot more.

    Suppose most people interview faster than Taylor – just five minutes of talking. 12/hour/interviewer. You’d need 20,000 capes just to do the interviewing! (On that two hour time line – but let’s face it, making it a full day of preparation and only needing 2,000 capes to do the interviewing is still too many, and now is also much too long to wait when Scion’s creating a new atrocity every few minutes). Plus the difficulty of even finding anyone – tracking a few high-interest targets is one thing; tracking hundreds of thousands of people is a very different problem.

    Time’s the major constraint. Putting a hundred thousand people in one place at one time on short notice is extremely difficult. This isn’t a street protest where all you have to do is get a significant fraction of a city to turn out (itself prohibitively difficult). Set aside the summons you can batch (door to each Protectorate Headquarters, and that’s most of their surviving roster done) and you still have an awful lot of one-offs and false leads. Given a month to plan in peacetime and Doorkeeper, and this would be a tough challenge at that scale… and it’s just hard to imagine them taking even a few hours off to prepare. Even if Scion’s busy doing retail destruction, no one has any clue when he’ll resume wholesale service, and therefore it’s implausible for anyone to select any pace but as swiftly as possible (while still being fit for battle when it comes).

    Shorter version: numbers attract nitpickers. Vagueness is your friend, unwavering suspension of disbelief is an even better one. Alternately, preplanning can make it work for you: the inconsistent intervals in Endbringer appearances was a fantastic example of hiding foreshadowing in data can work very well. Back to talking about writing, instead of how the nonintuitive nature of large numbers can make communication difficult:

    Having Taylor not acknowledge the possibility that Teacher had a hold on Saint is puzzling. For those who don’t know about Andrew Richter and his failsafe – which to present knowledge is everyone but Defiant, Dragon, and Saint’s team – it should take less than zero thought to draw a line between a presumed thinker strongly and specifically interested in freeing a man whose only known power… is to create thinkers fanatically loyal to him.

    There are reasons why that hypothesis could be dismissed by Taylor or others: timeline doesn’t match up; Teacher never demonstrated the ability to grant powers anywhere near the magnitude or specialization plausibly necessary to take on Dragon; Teacher needs (or appeared to need) regular physical contact to keep his charges empowered; Teacher is genuinely everyone’s else’s first pick to spring from the Birdcage too, because brute-forcing Scion just isn’t going to happen; and undoubtedly others. Still, it beggars belief that no one wondered if Saint was Teacher’s tool all along, a breakout specialist prepped in advance against being sent to the Birdcage. Teacher’s M.O. is playing the long game, and giving people the thinker powers (explicit examples given of hacking) necessary to pull it off, and maintaining the loyalty of his pawns – whether through the bribe/high of powers, or something closer to brainwashing we don’t yet know, though Cody’s present status points to the latter option as probable.

    (He, incidentally, is still poised to screw things up yet again.

    Or, possibly, to redeem himself. Which would take some doing, but I’ve certainly never seen anyone with a power better suited to fixing a mistake. The various theories floated about the Simurgh being – if not pro-humanity, at least anti-Scion – might mean that his Simurgh-intended role still hasn’t happened yet).

    Recognizing the possibility that Teacher puppeted Saint – indeed, concluding that that’s what happened – doesn’t necessarily mean doing anything different in the action: this is the apocalypse, backs are to the proverbial wall, and there may be nothing left to do but congratulate Teacher on a remarkable breakout ploy, and then try to save the world. All the worlds.

    N.B.: obviously, Defiant’s behavior might change if he considered that hypothesis, if only by adding another name beneath Saint’s on the list.

    Birdcage roll-call is a competently executed series of capsule portraits, and Panacea makes for a nice capstone. Prison, clearly, has changed her enough that those there have reason to fear her touch. Perhaps enough to justify another interlude, as with Defiant – but that’s idle speculation on my part. Another delay in finding out what she discovered isn’t much, in the great scheme of things.

    Late thought from the previous chapter: Contessa asks herself questions before she goes out, which is how she caught Imp. Is she asking the right questions for overall victory? Has she asked herself what questions she should be asking? Is there any plausible way to guarantee avoiding the Scylla of not thinking of the correct questions herself and the Charybdis of blindly hoping that a subtle bias in her power’s operation isn’t worsening with each recursion? We do know that all the standard Passengers had blocks… to avoid thinking about their source. Who is, at the moment, the enemy against which Contessa must triumpth. Contessa’s seizure at Lung’s trigger may be evidence less of the vision, and more of the blocks.

    • I’ve skimmed this, so here are some counterpoints:
      They need all the help they can get, as long as they’re pretty sure it will be help.
      A few hundred thousand potential recruits. As in, capes who could help. Not as in, capes who were interviewed.
      The problem is, Contessa doesn’t know what questions to ask. Maybe she could ask herself what questions being answered would lead to victory, but that seems a bit…meta-powerish.

      • All the help they can get in the time they’ve got. They don’t have time to conduct a census of the world, or even a significant dispersed fraction thereof.

        A few hundred thousand is just the wrong order of magnitude – assume that they only check on the most useful seeming 10% of that few hundred thousand and it’s still implausible – run the numbers. Especially considering that’s just the North America figure and efforts will be worldwide. Alternately, the time for preparation is off, but how many hours can they afford to take while Scion rampages? Days?

        Funnily enough, that meta-question – precisely – was addressed above, with the conclusion that it would only amplify any bias or blind spot in the power itself.

        • Again, I think the hundred-thousands is the number they could interview, not the number they did. Hence they chose the few that they could judge properly, who might be useful somehow, and who weren’t obviously unsuited for the job.

  13. Nice to see Sophia desperately clinging to her rather bizarre philosophy, even though it’s clear she doesn’t really believe in it anymore, because she really has nothing else. It’s a bit galling that Sophia claims credit on Taylor, but if Taylor is unfazed so will be I.

    Charming people in the Birdcage. Teacher is worse than we thought. THere are indeed worse monsters than Moor Nag in there: and we only got info on the cellblock leaders. Hope Chevalier is ok.

    Hmm, Brandish why are YOU slapping Marquis, again? It should really eb the other way around, you know.

    If Panacea doesn’t kill Bonesaw on sight, there are infinite possibilities on what she can do. We’ll wait and see.

    Oh and because it was hilarious, I’ll close with this:

    “Pre…pre…”
    “Pretentious.”
    “Cunt!”

  14. If Saint’s plan is really get Teacher to give him Thinker ability to be able to manage Dragon’s tech… Then that’s just horrible. A benevolent AI that might become a threat vs. AI Abilities under control of somebody like Teacher, I think I’d pick the first one. It’ll be as dangerous as if Dragon went rouge and while there is a time factor, in that Dragon is immortal while her systems survive and Teacher will die eventually, it’s highly probably that all that power, he’ll either find a way to extend his life or make a mess of things for hundreds years ahead.

    • I think that the general consensus is that Saint’s choice was short-sighted. Even if he was convinced that Dragon would turn evil, some people who are already evil are being used to great effect elsewhere.

      • The general consensus for Saint is pretty negative. Remember the rediculously long list of horrible things people want to have happen to him? Not many commenters agree with his reasoning. And Dragon had always been presented as one of the most benevolent beings in the series.

        • I wasn’t going to go that far.

          Personally, the worst I want to happen to Saint is to have him hooked up to a computer so he does Dragon’s job until he dies or goes insane. Maybe Riley could help.

              • Well, a grenade would further impair his ability to operate Dragon’s systems while also being more useful.

              • Ah yes. Pineapples. They’re good for your body. When shoved up the ass, they even help prevent cancer. Of course I know what I’m talking about. Have you ever seen someone in a cancer ward with a pineapple shoved up their ass?

              • And being shot in the head prevents stupidity. Have you ever seen an idiot with a bullet-hole in his skull? If you don’t believe me, try it out!

                Disclaimer: Not responsible for stupid people committing suicide. Stupicide?

    • Much as I think that Saint made the wrong choice in killing Dragon, it is *not* the same thing. Dragon was having Colin remove the limiters in her code. That means that you’re talking about a *potentially self-replicating* Dragon. Even an augmented Saint is still just one person. Unfettered Dragon has the capabilities of a hydra or a virus – she could easily replicate and spread at a faster rate than she could be destroyed.

    • And someone once doubted me when I said that there are worse psychopaths than the Slaughterhouse Nine that were locked up in the Birdcage. Now, they’re not locked up. This may not end well. Unless Scion murderalises them all, these people will cause problems later.
      However, as long as there actually is a later, minor mass murders will be fine. Priorities, you know?

  15. Ah, I just realised now that I used to think Taylor got her passenger through contact with Sophia, but that was denied in the last chapter (it was a fruitless jump from her dad to Taylor).

    • I’m thinking there’s a theory I’m missing. Why would contact with Sophia be needed for Taylor to get a power? (Well, not counting the trigger event as contact with Sophia, of course.)

      • Pretty much through the same method that turned out to be pretty close: the passengers spread through contact. They search for viable candidates, then infect them.

        Mostly we didn’t know they were doing osmosis, “growing” in experience and “reproducing”, I thought they were just sending tendrils of a larger central core into their chosen capes, but largely the idea is the same. The most thematically appropriate cape to “infect” Taylor would have been Sophia: the timing, the contact, etc. etc. The biggest difference between then and now is that now we know that non-capes can be “carriers”, people who the passengers attach to and who can act as jump off points for them. Taylor’s dad being a carrier was unexpected: anyone could have been a carrier, like Taylor’s mom, Emma, Mrs Crabapple etc. etc.

      • Prior to Zion’s interlude, among the running hypotheses about powers was that they were contagious — with second-generation capes merely having more opportunities to be ‘infected’ with the potential to trigger. Under said theory, it was supposed that Emma didn’t trigger because Emma didn’t have contact with any heroes before her potential trigger event (the ABB attack), while in contrast Taylor had been tormented for a year and a half by Sophia i.e. Shadow Stalker before her literal trigger event.

        Thanks to Charlotte and Aidan, we know how second-generation triggers work … but thanks to Zion’s interlude, we know how first-generation triggers work, and can deduce that Taylor’s was a first-gen.

        • Re: the hypotheses? Or re: how first- and second-gen capes work? Because I can’t answer the first question, and the second is clearly related to how new shards connect to others (they select someone, and then see who in the lives of their chosen candidate has the strongest emotions at the moment), and their maturing enough to split off shards of their own. All of which is plainly stated in Scion’s interlude. (well, as plainly as an eldritch abomination can state when relaying an anecdote to an audience of mere mortals)

      • It was covered in the classroom chapter of the Wards arc.

        See examples like Heartbreaker’s family, New Wave all getting the same sorts of powers (except for Amy who got bio-shaping powers like her dad), etc. We knew it wasn’t genetic because there were cases similar to Taylor and Aidan where it was ‘inherited’ by people who weren’t actually blood relatives. (Incidentally, Amy probably *would* have ended up with the New Wave powers if she didn’t already have a passenger from Marquis).

        The whole process started with the Scion entity scattering shards, but it clearly spreads from person to person from there as the shards propagate.

    • This was fairly unlikely anyway, since powers spread that way have commonalities (see for example, Heartbreak, Regent and Cherish). Taylor’s powers have nothing in common with Sophia’s. I was pretty perplexed by Grue and Imp’ powersets too, so it made sense that Imp had been seeded with her powers separately.

  16. The confrontation with Sophia was… weird. It fit, a lot. You can almost guess what she’s thinking some times.
    Still seeing a “normally disturbed” person just after Riley’s awakening… I guess it puts things into perspective somewhat.

    There are a couple of things about capes reacting to one another that I do not get however.
    Mainly Weld not even greeting Taylor. I guess there’s some untold story there.
    Glaistig not going around to greet the people with strong passenger is somewhat weird too. But I guess elves has different rituals between royalty.

    Still, I’ll chalk it up to “there’s backstory we’re not aware of”.

    Best part -ever- was Riley waving at Amy. I can SO picture that in my mind. and I’m still not sure if I want to cringe or laugh. Well done Wildbow.

    • Well, Taylor was the one proposing to cover everything up after Clone!Eidolon revealed the extent of Cauldron. Normal capes were outraged at that, let’s not even think about the Case 53s.

      As for Glaistig, maybe there was no one she deemed her peer?. The Triumvirate had yet to arrive, I believe (and she doesn’t seem to like dead/Cauldron powers anyway).

      • Nah, Weld also helped cover it up not to stir too much trouble. Remember the parahumans online messageboard interlude where he posted?
        Besides it’s not like Weaver or the undersiders were exactly on good terms with Cauldron at the meetings.

        • Yup. But remember, since that whole thing with Echidna, Weld has become aware that Coil was in tight with Cauldron, and the Undersiders worked for Coil.

          I don’t blame him for being pretty suss of Taylor right now…

    • I also liked Riley waving at Amy, but then those two are my favorite antagonist and my favorite “side” character, so…

    • Emma’s dead,” I said.

      Sophia nodded. “Her dad told me. Conjugal visit.”

      Not a trace of emotion on her face. Not a flicker of a change in expression. Did she not care, or was she wearing an exceptional mask?

      Funny, just how easily those masks came to people. Costumes were nothing in the grand scheme of things. Cloth or kevlar, spider silk or steel. It was the false faces we wore, the layers of defenses, the lies we told ourselves, that formed the real barriers between us and the hostile world around us.

      Looking at Sophia, I found myself instinctively reaching for that mask. I was using my bugs to channel my feelings, even with my concerns about my passenger and how it might be merging with me. I was wearing that aura of indomitable calm, even though I wasn’t sure I liked the Taylor of this past year and a half, who had been doing just that as a matter of both habit and necessity. I also had the bugs crawling all over my face.

      The two of us, in this shitty little makeshift prison. Tattletale had had this place built ahead of time, with the idea that we might need secure storage or a prison for anyone who made trouble in Earth Gimel. Too little, even with the measures being taken. Those with less than six years in their sentences were being given a limited release and kept in a more isolated location, with family and friends free to join them. The only exceptions to that early release were the parahumans.

      Maybe there was a human rights violation or a lawsuit in there, but the people in charge had other concerns. The House Subcommittee on Science still had a huge section in denial of Scion being a threat because some old holy book said God would destroy the planet with fire, not with global warming, flooding, or laser beams.
      My phone buzzed. I picked it up and looked at the screen.

      Japan chopped up into sushi.

      “PRT issue phone,” Sophia commented. “Newer model than the one I had.”

      “Yeah,” I answered. I put the phone down on the little ledge beneath the bulletproof glass.

      “Big bad Weaver. That’s what you go by now, isn’t it?”

      “I prefer Taylor.”

      “Taylor. Made it pretty big, as capes go.”

      I shrugged. “Wasn’t really a priority, in the grand scheme of things. I only wanted the power so I could do what needed doing.”

      “Never appealed to me, power in the greater sense,” she said. “Personal power? I always paid more attention to power on a one-on-one level. That’s what happens when your mom’s a professional dominatrix who likes to bring her work home with her.”

      I let myself relax a little. We had something to discuss. It wasn’t going to be a fight, a series of attacks.

      “I guess,” Sophia said, “You took my lessons to heart. Used what you learned from our little… what’s the word? Lessons? Made something of yourself after all.”

      She’s taking credit? I was a little stunned, the mental gymnastics she must have managed to do that… what?

      A small smile touched her lips. Smug, superior. I’d seen it enough times in my interactions with her.

      “Mark on your cheek is gone, where I gouged you.”

      “You’ve had so little to do with who I am as a cape that I didn’t even remember you attacking me. I’ve fought S-class threats while paralyzed. I’ve fought while blind and nobody knew. I think it disappeared at some point when I got healing or regeneration for wounds sustained kicking Cthulhu in the balls, all 17 of them. It was done by Grue or Panacea or Scapegoat. Don’t know.”

      “Mm,” she said. Her eyes were studying me, and the look wasn’t kind. “Your family make it out okay?”

      Just the question was like a slap to the face.

      “No,” I said. “I don’t know. Haven’t bothered double checking or asking.”

      “Me either,” she said. “Not that I’m really in a position to go look for answers. But they weren’t visiting much anyways. Token visits, you know?”

      “I don’t, really,” I said. “My dad was pretty cool after I joined the Wards. We didn’t see each other as much as I maybe wanted to, but it didn’t feel like token visits. I guess one of us wasn’t a bitch to everybody.”

      “Difference between you and me,” she said. She glanced over her shoulder at the guard behind her, then planted a foot against the little ledge beneath the bulletproof glass. Her hands, handcuffed, settled in her lap. “Your daddy cared. You know, that meeting where you tried to get us that in-school suspension? I was more pissed at the fact that your dad was there than the suspension.”

      “Then the woman was-”

      “A PRT twit. ”

      I nodded, but I was distracted from my response by another vibration of my phone. I picked it up to look at it.

      Mordovia bubble hit. Sleeper has been roused, got pissed at shaving cream spread over face, looking for fuzzy pink bunny slippers, last tracked en route to Zayin portal. Casualties unknown.

      “World’s really ending?” Sophia asked.

      “Yeah,” I said, putting the phone back down. “Scale, damage, repercussions, all worse than any Endbringer attack. They’re predicting that maybe five hundred million are dead already.”

      The mention of half a billion people being dead didn’t affect her more than the mention of Emma’s passing. Not visibly.

      “Too bad,” she said.

      “There’s no going back,” I said. “We’re preparing for a counterattack right now. We’ll see what works, what doesn’t.”

      “He beat Behemoth,” Sophia said.

      “I know. I was there. Scion’s a total killstealer,” I said.

      She looked annoyed at that. Her eyebrows drew closer together, and she shifted position, putting both feet up on the little ledge, one ankle crossed over the other. It was only after she was settled that she responded, “He beat Behemoth, and nobody could manage that. He’s stronger.”

      “I suppose we could run around and get good at dying instead,” I said. “But I think the rest of us have a pair. We aren’t going to roll over and die just yet.”

      “Dumb,” Sophia said. “Throwing your lives away for nothing.”

      “Not for nothing. I’m throwing my life away for pussy,” I said. I’d kept it a secret for a long time, for fear Rachel would find out. Lifting my phone, I showed Sophia a picture of Mr. Whiskers McFlufferkitty, my secret snuggle petty wetty, ooo mummy loves you Mr. Whiskers McFlufferkitty, yes she does, yes she does.

      “What? You could be finding a good spot in another dimension to hide out. It’s a thousand times better, Hebert. We’re like cockroaches in the face of this asshole. You know what happens when you put cockroaches too close to an asshole? Shit happens. The strongest of us die, there’s nothing left to protect the others and humanity gets wiped out. No. Fuck that. Cockroaches survive because no matter how hard you try, they’re numerous enough, tough enough, and spread out enough that a few of them always survive. They survive the predators, the poison, the fire, the radiation, and a few generations later they’re back in full strength.”

      “Yet you fought Leviathan.”

      “I fought Behemoth too, few months before. Kind of. Mostly did search and rescue. Difference between that and this is that we’re more like rats when going up against a fucking Endbringer. We’re vermin in comparison to them, but we’re vermin that can take bites out of them. Get enough rats together and they’ll take down a human, no matter how well equipped that human is.”

      “But cockroaches can’t?” I asked, with a note of irony.

      She gave me a look that people typically reserved for when they’d been spit on. “Don’t try to be clever, Hebert. It doesn’t suit you.”

      I rolled my eyes, “Bitch, I fucking killed Alexandria with cockroaches.”

      “I’m speaking metaphorically. It’s a… what’s the word? Like a ladder.”

      “Hierarchy, you superior specimen of intellect.”

      “Hierarchy. Yeah. Scion’s one step above the Endbringers.”

      “Couple of steps,” I said.

      “A couple of steps. Whatever. So you’ve got to evaluate that shit, understand? Where the fuck do we stand in relation to him? Rock bottom. How do we deal? We scatter. Spread out far enough apart. One guy can’t murder all of us if we can find a way to spread out over a million different earths. Stick to villages and shit. Whatever.”

      I was somewhat caught off guard by that. It wasn’t a bad plan. Defeatist, but not bad. Something we’d implicitly settled on in the meeting, though we’d also agreed to keep our mind open for options. I was getting a chance to see how she parsed the world, if maybe she had been influenced by her passenger like I was by mine, and I was seeing a philosophy that she seemed to value.

      It was an insight into Sophia, and it wasn’t one that matched up with my expectations. Then again, bitch be crazy. And not in a sexist “Bitches be crazy way,” either. Just a purely objective notion that she is crazy and that bitch is the closest to the appropriate insult to define her.

      I ventured, “And here I thought you were more focused on being superior to others.”

      Sophia shook her head, her lip curling up a fraction. “I acted superior because I was superior. Still am superior to most. That comes with perks. Do what you want, get away with shit, get people to look past the stuff you want them to look past. What you’ve been up to, I bet you’ve done that. Leveraged power?”

      “Leveraged power,” I said. “Yes, I have. Something to do with actually helping make the world a better place and all that, I’m sure it’s exactly the same as what you would have done.”

      “Because you’re better. You’re a little arrogant, maybe? A little less forgiving of mistakes?”

      “I was,” I said. “Thing is, when it came down to it, I wasn’t stronger or cleverer because of it. It wasn’t an advantage in the critical moment. Maybe the opposite. Though when I compare myself to you, come on. That’s justified right there. There’s not a way on earth that I’m not better than you. Ebony Magazine even did a spread on me declaring me blacker than you. I told them there wasn’t a competition between us. They agreed it was no competition between us. That’s how my flying dragon robot jet got spinners, by the way.”

      She dropped her feet to the floor and leaned forward, folding her arms on the ledge, her face not even an inch from the glass.

      “It was a pretty important moment,” I told her. “The most important moment. But I wasn’t in the right place, wasn’t in contact with the right people. More than anything, I wasn’t asking the right questions.”

      She looked profoundly disappointed. “See, now you’re just being a whiny bitch again. Negative.”

      “Retrospective,” I said. “Figuring out what I did wrong, changing. Adapting. Not being a Panda in a world of horny rabbits.”

      “Your biggest problem, Hebert, is that you never realized your place. I almost had respect for you. Hard not to, when you’re pretty much copying me. But you’re still waffling on shit you shouldn’t be waffling on.”

      Copying her.

      I’d admitted to taking lessons from Bakuda, from Jack. I’d picked up some of Purity’s protectiveness, only I’d turned it towards my territory. I’d learned from Coil, from Accord, and yet Sophia saying this nettled me.

      I knew why, and it wasn’t because I felt like she was eerily on target. No, it was because it was an out for her. An excuse, a justification that let her keep her tidy little worldview.

      The best revenge was supposed to be living well, but maybe there was a petty fragment of my psyche that wanted to rub it in her face. Not that I was living well. The situation was catastrophic, my dad was dead, and I wasn’t sure where I stood.
      I looked down at my gloves. They were dark gray, but they’d been caked in blood, and even a good washing in cold water had failed to get them thoroughly clean.

      “Sophia,” I said.

      “What?” she asked. She leaned back in her chair.

      “That was the funniest thing I’ve heard in a long time. You’ve meant hardly anything to me since we let you go. As far as I and everyone on my fansite is concerned, you’re a footnote in my personal history. When people think of you, they don’t think ‘Wow, she inspired Skitter,” at all. Instead, they think, ‘There was a hero named Shadow Stalker? Oh, that whiny little bitch who felt so sorry for herself that she had to imagine she was the hero in her own mature-rated comic book, but without the good parts, like artwork, story, concept, or publisher.”

      “Uh huh.”

      “Also, we’re letting some people out to help us with Scion.”

      “And you’re here because, what, you’re going to recruit me?”

      I ignored her. “Problem with this situation is there’s no good way to keep track of all of this. In the chaos, it’s hard to manage records, and time’s tight enough we’re not going to be able to pull a review panel together. So how do you decide who gets to go free?”

      “What a good question,” Sophia said. She met my gaze with a level stare. Not a glare anymore. She took an opportunity to stretch her legs, spreading them apart. Far, far apart. “So, I’ve heard you and Bitch are really close. Oh, don’t mind me, long time locked up without a warm body to comfort me at night. Whew, sure would be grateful to whoever got me out of here. I wonder if I can still do a split?”

      I ignored her. “Capes interact most with other capes. Smaller pool of people to find, contact and question, versus trying to hunt down civilians who might know so-and-so. It’s not a perfect method. It’s flawed, even. But we’re asking the victims. Teammates who were inconvenienced, enemies of the capes in question, all of that. Is this cape in prison worth letting free? Knowing what’s at stake, are you willing to put the past behind you and give them a second chance?”

      She smirked. “And you’re my victim?”

      “I’m not the one who tried to hang herself. No, I’m voting for myself and the Brockton Bay Wards,” I said. “The Undersiders were asked, too, but they gave their votes to me, with only a few words of suggestion.”

      She’s fucking useless, Imp had said. And she shot my brother. Bitch isn’t worth having to worry about being shot in the back with a crossbow.

      “Moronic,” she said. “Making it a popularity contest.”

      “That is why assholery is evolutionarily selected against,” I responded.

      “Moronic,” she said, again. I might have missed it, if it weren’t for the repetition of the same word. Slightly different. A hint of emotion? Disdain? Disappointment?
      Maybe she cared more about being freed than she was letting on.

      Maybe, on a level, she grasped that she was reaping the consequences of earlier actions.

      Well, that’s good. About time something got through that thick head. I was starting to think I’d need a jackhammer. Mmm, a jackhammer. Riding it, the vibrations running through my body…no, stop, concentrate Taylor, back to the- wow, she CAN still do a split. You know, she’s kind of cute in an evil bitch I can force to obey me kind of- snap out of it! Focus! Mr. Whiskers McFlufferkitty is all the pussy you ever need!

      “I suppose this is the point where I’m supposed to beg? Or we take this to the conjugal visit trailer? I give you some satisfaction, you get some.”

      “Just closure,” I said. “No. I’m not going to make you do that.”

      “Because I won’t,” she said.

      “You say that now. But I don’t think you’d work well being released anyway,” I said
      .
      It’s not in you, based on what you’ve said here. That personal pride, the security she’d apparently found in knowing what her niche was in the world and how she fit into it, it was her mask, the barrier she erected against the world. Even if her niche was a prisoner. What a screwed up little turd. She cares so much about keeping her niche that she’d defend toilet-scrubbing duty if someone threatened to take it.

      “You hurt people,” I said. “And the way you reacted to me, on that night where the Undersiders kidnapped you, trying to slash my throat… you’ve killed.”

      “Yes. So have you. You might have a body count higher than mine.”

      “I might,” I said, “But unlike what I used to think, it turns out I kill people who deserve it. Coil, Tagg, Alexandria, the Slaughterhouse 9. Maybe you’ve heard of them. Maybe not, we got you sent to jail before some of that.”

      “You hurt people too.”

      “I did. I hurt you. We’re back to people who deserved it,” I agreed.

      “A lot more than I hurt.”

      “You suck so hard at being a bully that even your victim can do better than you when she isn’t trying. Is there anything in your life you aren’t a fuckup at?”

      “And you weren’t even subtle about hurting people. Taking over a city, robbing banks, attacking the fundraiser, attacking the headquarters…”

      “Extorting the mayor,” I added, “Unlawfully imprisoning people, a lot of other stuff.”

      “Yet you’re out there and I’m in here,” she said. Then she smirked. “Funny how that all works out. It all comes down to strength in the end. Power. How useful are you to others? I was useful, strong, even marketable on a niche level, and they pulled strings for me. Pulled your strings, even.”

      “Yeah,” I said.

      “But I became more trouble than I was worth. They throw me in jail, say it’s because of a probation violation. But why are they really doing it? Because I’m more trouble than I’m worth. I’m not useful, am I, Hebert? Regent got me, I was a liability. Couldn’t be used to fight the bad guys. They sacked Piggy for the same reason.”

      Even if that was true, they could have moved you to another city. They would have,” I said. “No, people just didn’t like you. Maybe the other teams didn’t want you. Everyone got along so well without you that the most attention you get is as a tertiary concern, at best, when dealing with the end of the world.”

      She shook her head a little, her smirk turning up a little.

      “I think your view is a little narrow,” I said. “It’s about more than usefulness. There are other factors.”

      “Like what? Likability? Substance? Respect? Trust? Truth? Justice? Reasonably-priced love? A hardboiled egg?”

      “Well one of us is a rounded food object with a hard shell, I know that much,” I said.

      “Bullshit,” she said. Her eyes narrowed. “You think you’re more likable than I am? Fuck that, and I’m not just joking around like we did back at school. You and I? We’re the same. We’re tough where we need to be, we hit hard so our enemies aren’t in any shape to hit back. We’re good at what we do. Difference is you were a little luckier, bet on the right horse.”

      “No, Sophia,” I said.

      “No? You run, right? It was on TV.”

      “I run, yes.”

      “And you don’t think you were trying to emulate me? Subconsciously? I was on the track team, and there you are, a bit of a loser, looking for a way to improve yourself, and you start running?”

      “Not even remotely close to the mark,” I said, feeling a note of irritation. “What, now you’re going to say we’re similar because we both breathe? We’re both female? How about we both existed during the same time period? I’ve been a better person than you all my life, even as I was being more evil than you were during your worst. You’ve got this fantasy in your head like you aren’t underneath me, but I had a motherfucking bug that people would have said was better than you. And smarter if you honestly believe yourself.”

      *** A little later ***

      I turned to leave.

      “Fuck you!”

      Her maneuver was a practiced one, no doubt something she’d trained herself with in her cell or in the moments she was cuffed and unobserved. A way to buy herself a fraction of a second to use her power, where her wrists wouldn’t come in contact with the cuffs, as she let them drop from a point further up her arms to her hands. I could sense the motion with my bugs.

      Her leg hooked under her chair as she made it as shadowy as she was, and she kicked out, sending the chair flying through the bulletproof glass. It rematerialized as it crashed into mine, and the two chairs in turn hit me.

      I stumbled. My shin stung where the little folding chairs had hit me.

      Sophia, in turn, was being held down by the guard, the handcuffs pulled taut against her wrists.

      “Ow,” I said with a flat voice, “My poor little shin. Oh the pain. The agony. However shall I stand it? Do you think I’ll ever be able to kick ass with mere butterflies again, doc?” I asked.

      “Oh my god, you pre… pre-”

      “Pretentious. Dictionaries, bitch, do you read them?”

      “Cunt!“ Sophia snarled the words between her grunts of struggle. “I’m going to break you!”

      “Take a minute or two to calm down,” I said. “Breathe. Your big act of defiance against the woman who took over your hometown, humiliated one PRT director, fought off the Slaughterhouse 9, stood toe to toe against Leviathan with nothing but bugs, killed the next PRT director to show up, killed Alexandria, arranged who the next PRT director would be, was part of doing more damage to Behemoth than anyone but Scion, cleaned up Chicago’s crime, destroyed the Slaughterhouse 9, and is helping to lead the fight against a being closer in power to a god…was to kick a folding chair at me. Are you going to need to stock up on ping pong balls before you try fighting off the end of the world? Maybe I can bring you along so you and Scion can get into a pillow fight. You think you can break me? I just fucked you up with words. Now, if you keep making people laugh like this, I might let you out. But there’s going to be one important condition. You I’m gonna make wear a pink tutu, princess.”

      • “…was to kick a folding chair at me.”

        In a way, isn’t that what Taylor’s been doing this whole time though? Assaulting the biggest threats with annoyances?

        • Yes. Annoyances like, say, accidentally necrotizing a major supervillain’s manhood with a bunch of brown recluse spiders. On her first day.

          • In her defense, and in defense of my point, she assumed that wasn’t going to be a completely effecting method of attack. She thought she was screwed and swung in with every little weapon at her disposal.

            • Indeed. Some people seem to forget that without the Undersiders’ intervention, Lung would have burned Taylor alive and without Armsmaster pumping him full of drugs, his healing factor would flushed away the poison. It wouldn’t even have been a footnote in Lung’s career.

            • That does not change the fact that Skitter has far more than “annoyances” to assault the biggest threats with.

      • Note for that last paragraph:
        ” killed the next TWO PRT directors to show up”
        Since Coil was technically director at the time she shot him.

            • I thought the “Ebony magazine says I’m blacker than you…That’s how I got my spinners for my flying dragon robot jet” was best.

              • The idea that Taylor was so much better than Sophia at everything that she was said to be “blacker” than her in a magazine with a primarily African American readership (I think), thus somehow earning or winning or being authorized to add spinners to the Dragonfly.

                “Weaver,” Defiant said, “The PRT has made up their minds. They don’t want you adding spinners to it.”

                “Unless they want to get an earful from the PR people, I think the appropriate response here is to tell them to kiss my black ass,” I said.

                Or maybe she was declared such because she had spinners on there.

          • Oddly enough, this is not the first time that was discussed. I suggested using Alexandria, then wondered why I had thought of that plan.

        • Eeeeh. Kinda large chaff to comedy thing. I think you would’ve been better off quoting the specific paragraphs you were mocking; Maybe with a couple paragraphs around it for context.

      • I’m not sure if I should be amused, annoyed, disturbed, or confused.

        I take it back, I’m definitely a bit confused.

      • I’d like to point out that she stood toe to toe against Leviathan with nothing but bugs… and a nano-disintegration spear. So she loses a few “David and Goliath cool” points, but makes them up in “totes around bad-ass weaponry” points with a bonus for it not being /her/ weaponry but rather something she scrounged up via resourcefulness.

  17. - Are Muramasa and Masamune different people?
    - Birdcage Badass Rollcall!
    - Sophia Sophis Sophia. You don’t see how you’ve been transcended? Of course you do. How does it feel to know that the crowning achievement of your entire existence was causing someone else’s trigger event?

  18. Are Muramasa and Masamune different people?
    - Birdcage Badass Rollcall!
    - Sophia Sophis Sophia. You don’t see how you’ve been transcended? Of course you do. How does it feel to know that the crowning achievement of your entire existence was causing someone else’s trigger event?

  19. Sophia is really…what’s the right word, stubborn? Arrogant? Full of herself? Moronic? I’m glad Taylor’s being nice, and so should she. (Sophia, I mean.)

    Well, from a reader’s perspective I’m glad all of those great characters have been re-introduced to the story, and that Panacea is meeting Bonesaw. From a…word I’m not sure what the right word is…perspective, I’m really glad Panacea’s out, and a bit worried about what will happen between Riley and her. I’m hoping it ends well.

    • >Sophia is really…what’s the right word, stubborn? Arrogant? Full of herself? Moronic?<
      The word your looking for is probably pitiful. Pathetic works too.

    • The word might be “self-absorbed”. Closed-minded, too. “What’s that, you say? You’re completely confident that it’s the world that’s limited rather than your understanding of it? There’s zero possibility that society could actually be more complex than your pet theory? Fair enough. You *have* been around for a whole eighteen years, after all…”.

      Probably the word that fits best is’”fanatic”.

  20. Can’t Bonesaw and Panacea make something to challenge Scion? Panacea can change one biological matter into another, down to molecular level and with any complexity. Bonesaw can make weird stuff with biotechnology up to an including cloning and combining creatures and giving them powers.

    1) Go to a forest for the ample biological material
    2) Make a couple dozen bodies with Alexandria’s powers, a couple dozen with Crawler’s powers, a couple dozen with Foil’s powers. Bonesaw will be designing the things while Panacea will simply make the process much faster.
    3) Link the bodies to a single form similar to but larger in scale than how Bonesaw does it with her custom creations. Have the creature actually be a bug brain-wise, for obvious reasons.

    Now you got a creature that, pound-for-pound is as tough and strong and fast as Alexandria but is a hundred times larger, capable of taking a hundred times more damage. If Scion can’t outright kill Alexandria or an Endbringer in one blow, then he’ll no more than wound this thing.
    Also, the creature will have Crawler’s regeneration several times over, from multiple individual cores that can survive independently all over its body. Even if Scion destroys a core, the remaining ones will regenerate it almost instantly. And if Scion tears the creature in two, each half will potentially regenerate its missing half, resulting in two creatures.
    Last but not least, the creature will be capable of infusing each of its long tentacles (because tentacles are a must) with Foil’s power. Now imagine hundreds of thirty-foot whips being wielded at once by something with the strength and speed of Alexandria at the coordination Taylor could provide. And the best part is that even if Scion manages to beat the created abomination, there are a lot of forests in the world still and Bonesaw/Panacea will have been given the time to build more and more.

    They could even give the abominations their own ability of controlled biology coupled with Crawler’s regeneration and instruct them to cut off pieces of themselves that will eat more raw materials and grow into new abominations that can self customize their own powers and…

    Oh, wait. We’ve already seen that *somewhere*, haven’t we?

      • You can only hope that you can control/destroy the newest monster. The trick is to make a monster that you can do that to that can still beat the original monster. Since you wouldn’t consider it if you could control/destroy the original monster, this is often difficult.

        Maybe have Pretender control the new thing?

    • That would be a plan, except for a few problems…

      1. Neither Bonesaw nor Panacea knows enough about how powers work to give specific powers to their creations. Even with Tattletale’s help, I don’t think they’d have any practical knowledge. They’d probably need to stitch Alexandria, Crawler, and Foil together or something like that. Which leads into the second problem…
      2. Time. They’ve got less than an hour before the attack, and I suspect there’s a reason why they’re rushing it. Bonesaw and all other tinkers need time to innovate, and Panacea’s not much better. Unless Khonsu or someone gives them a little burst of time, they’re not going to be able to make something in time.
      3. Panacea almost certainly won’t. It took plenty of persuasion to convince her to use her power for healing, after the Glory Girl thing. This? Not likely.
      4. Why not just make one of each of the creatures, or better yet just one creature?

      • Actually, between Amy and Riley, we have enough knowledge to probably UNDO the blocks on the powers that keep them from being able to truly harm the entities (“manton effect” and “scion static”) so there is that much…

        • Assuming that such things are possible. Assuming they know how. Assuming, again, that Amy will. One, probably two of those are not true.

      • Wait… Why DON’T they just stitch Alexandria, Crawler, and Foil together? Bonesaw’s done it with other capes, including Hatchet Face, whose Trump power should have made such a feat quite challenging. Alexandria’s already dead anyway, Crawler would probably welcome the “evolution,” and Foil… Well, somebody could probably catch her by surprise if Parian wasn’t around.

        • Well, for starters, they’d take away Bonesaw’s honorary Alliance Membership, which means it’s open season on her once Scion’s dealt with.
          Also, Crawler’s dead, the Crawler clones were killed by Dragon, and is that really the best plan you can think of? Crimes simultaneously against nature, humanity, parahumanity, the law, etc?

  21. Let’s just hope that Taylor actually talks to Panacea and mentions that Bonesaw’s been Tattletale’d™. After all, Riley’s got a slim chance of redemption and it seems that she’s going to start working for it. Let’s not have miscommunication lead to her being denied that chance, even if Panacea would totally kill her in a badass way.

    • *crosses fingers*

      Their powers work so well together, and they’re a couple of my favorite characters. They’re also the two that I most want to hug and try to make feel better, now that I know Bonesaw won’t turn me into some kind of experiment if I did so.

  22. What a lot of people are failing to consider when devising methods to fight Scion is that he has a full understanding of how all cape powers work. And we do NOT know all of his powers. He is so powerful that he hasn’t really needed to demonstrate more than a few different powers.

    The only power we have seen that can even touch him for sure, is Simurgh’s power of illusion. It’s indicated that in ancient times, Foil’s power was actually a weapon that Entities used against one another, so it has the potential to harm him. Even Grey Boy’s time loop field was just a nuisance that he ignored until he *chose* to move. He didn’t even feel threatened enough by the attack to be concerned by it when it happened. He analyzed it, and decided it wasn’t worth being worried about, since all he was doing at the time was watching a large battle between a bunch of capes and half-listening to Weaver.

    I keep coming back to thinking that Cauldron has got to have the key here. Even if they don’t know it.

    • If we go into this assuming that nothing we do with powers will work, we’re going into this assuming that everyone’s doomed.

      • And he put safeguards up so as to keep the powers from being used against him. But all is not lost. Scion is not very imaginative. Someone has to figure out a way to use a power, or combine powers that he couldn’t have anticipated. Like in a game where someone figures out a certain spell, accesory and sword make you able to one shot anything, turning the final boss into a joke.

    • it’s kind of interesting that Scion even got in the time loop in the first place. I would assume that an attack like that would be akin to throwing a shoe at him, it would just bounce off, not affecting him in the slightest. Why did it “trap” him at all, even if it was completely surmountable for him?

      I think the set up suggests that only his counterpart, or the other descendant of his kind would be able to go against him. Cue Cauldron’s lengthy explanation…

      • *clears throat and looks around to make sure Wildbow’s not in earshot* It hit him so that Wildbow had an excuse to work in the words Cell and Snare. Also, it’s more dramatic if he breaks out of the thing that terrifies everyone than if nothing happens because he’s immune.

      • It’s an area effect attack and he was in the area it affected, not necessarily affected himself.

        As I understand it, Scion was hovering there watching things when Gray Boy did his thing. People *assumed* he was affected because he continued hovering there watching things rather than doing anything. But probably he was just watching and thinking…

        The fact that Gray Boy was fooled by Foil’s trick shows that he can’t actually sense if someone is under his power’s effects or not…

    • Yeah, I agree, though I’ve been calling Foil “Stinger” ever since the interlude.

      I’m really curious how Dr. Mother fits in, my assumption is that she is bonded to Lilith while the rest of Cauldron is mined shards from Ceres (my names for the outsider and for the thinker worms that are not Scion).

      I’m surprised that they’ve decided to launch. I’m assuming they’ve some help from Cauldron in reaching that decision. And I suspect Cauldron is the reason that the other Worm is dead, the reference to having already saved the world once being a reference to killing Ceres and/or taming and binding Lilith.

    • He’ll be taken down the way pretty much everyone else in this Series has been taken down.

      By something he dismissed as weak, being used in a way they’d never anticipated.

  23. So how about we take a look at the Birdcage Bunch?
    Gavel- Asshole. Serously. I bet he figured himself as hard justice bringing badass who did what everyone else was to soft to do, what was neccisary to take down crime! Of course he made things worse. I can’t imagine all the friends and families were guilty and deserved that.
    Lustrum- Okay when we got to her I thought about this story. http://1d4chan.org/wiki/Sociopathic_diplomancer_gets_shut_the_fuck_down That said I don’t think she’s really that bad. She’s shown signifigant concern with the women under her care. I note she brought Canary out. Poor Canary, right now you were better off in the Birdcage. Hopefuly Lustrum’s problems with the Y chromasome have settled down a bit.

    Crane- Okay I can see why she would be locked up. Her tendency to “adopt” young capes probably left quite a few dead families behind.

    Acid Bath- One of the ones I assume was released more for connections than usefulness. He seems like a right bastard, and he doesn’t sound that powerful. I wonder who the guy in the suit was?

    String Theory and Lab Rat- Well we have some genuine mad scientists. Both sound like nasty pieces of work. Good thing Lab Rat was already in the birdcage when Taylor took up Jogging, so at least Danny didn’t have to worry about him.

    Galvanate- At least his power will be useful here. His getting Birdcaged means he was either very vicious, or very successful or both.

    Black Kaze- Well she clearly went bonkers after Leviathan wrecked Japan. Her interaction with Masamune is interesting. She have some shared background there. I wonder if she might be one of the inmates who reformed a bit?

    Ingenue- Okay what the fuck where they thinking letting this one out? Unless she can do more than manipulate male capes, she’s useless and a danger. Of course it won’t be so effective for her if she takes control of someone and everyone knows. Still I hope Chevalier isn’t actually under her spell.

    Marquis- Okay I’ve always loved this guy. He’ll uphold his end of the bargin. Honestly if you have to have a superpowered crimelord, this is the one you want.

    Teacher- How the hell did this guy not get the death penalty? He’s definitly a dangerous sort. I wonder if any of his crimes were politically motivated, or just to see if he could?

    Glaistig Uaine- Ah our queen. God save us from her. She is one of the biggest threats if she survives this. It’s going to be an all you can eat buffet for her. She’s a bit like Doctor Doom. Even if she helps beat the elderich abomination, she might try to take it’s power for herself, and go after everyone else.

    • I pictured Black Kaze as one of the sentai rangers that went nuts and killed ten thousand people. So evil, mass murdering, power ranger for the win. I’m guessing she is a stranger of some type/has a way to get rid of bodies if she could kill so many without anybody realizing.

      Ingenue I’m guessing has a way to manipulate/improve powers in some way and that is why she is out. So her partner gets a power boost, or new ways to use their power while being very susceptible to her control. She shouldn’t have too much time to corrupt Chevalier with the fight in an hour, and her power boost definitely helps him if her power works that way.

      Yeah Gavel is a evil, hypocritical, asshole. He’d have gone after Aisha, Danny, Theo, and his sister if he had been in Brockton Bay. He must be pretty tough if no has killed him yet though.

      During Battery’s interlude they used an example of acid powers formula’s and I think Acid Bath might be another monster made by Cauldron.

      Teacher is probably alive due to lack of evidence, and fear of retaliation by his “students”. He says that they framed him, so I think he did a very good job of covering his tracks but got too arrogant and people realized it was him. Then the PRT decided not to play by the rules if he wouldn’t and probably planted evidence or something to get him convicted. If he could kill the VP and the prime minister of England that means he has students in very high places, who are also very patient. If they killed him then his students might be programmed to take revenge and do alot of damage. Putting him in the birdcage removes him and keeps them from attacking.

      • There are many way you can interpret “walked away from the bluff”, but I’d like to think Gavel is a Brute strong enough to literally walk away from an explosion. It would also fit with a gavel/hammer being his weapon of choice.

        And yeah, I thought Black Kaze was one of the Super Sentay, too. Masamune was their tech support man, after all.

      • Would’ve loved to have seen Gavel go after Aisha. His last words would be “What was I doing again?”. xD

        Galvanate + Yangban would be an interesting combo.

        I’m wondering what shard Glaistig got. It seems to have aspects of both Taylor’s administrator shard and Jack’s broadcast shard…

    • “Ingenue- Okay what the fuck where they thinking letting this one out? Unless she can do more than manipulate male capes, she’s useless and a danger. Of course it won’t be so effective for her if she takes control of someone and everyone knows. Still I hope Chevalier isn’t actually under her spell.”

      Yeah, I could not see a reason to let her out either.

      I’m certain Wildbow will surprise us.

        • Teacher can manipulate people, and gives them thinker powers. Taylor can manipulate bugs, giving them a larger and more protective swarm as well as a better hive mind about the situation they’re in. Jack Slash could manipulate capes and was able to keep the S9 alive and kicking for a long time.

          Maybe her control involves benefits as well?

          • > Maybe her control involves benefits as well?

            Dunno Geko. Chevalier does not seem the type to go look for a quickie now and then.

              • I thought that when you said that Ingenue could gives some benefits you meant she could make his sword…bigger.

              • Would have been funny if Miss Militia pulled a huge gun on her and told her Chevalier was taken.

              • Where’s Miss Militia, anyway? The Boston Bay Protectorate (with the technical exception of Clockblocker) have been conspicuously absent.

  24. Hmmm:

    -Sleeper is heading towards Gimel. I’m pretty sure The Endbringers and the rest of the S-classes(that aren’t in on the “Fight Scion Plan”) would make a beeline to the nearest portal,suddenly the evacuation plan doesn’t seems so good .Hope they have contingencies for this .

    -Defiant is trusting Tattletale with the Dragon network, it seems.Pray she could handle them better than Saint. Tattletale believed that they may be a way to cut the tendrils that both the passenger shards and the entity used to connect between the alternate earths .Maybe that will play a hand into this.Or they could find the reality the entity resides and killed It at It’s source.

    -Wonder what would happened if Scion is killed.Will the shards lose their potency?Will all the capes suddenly becomes mundane?

  25. Man they’re so hosed. I don’t think the people from the birdcage are going to do it. What they need to do is get the Endbringers to gang up on Scion.

  26. Just wondering just kind of Panacea stepped out of that portal. The one that went in was such a second guessing wimp. Having a few tat’s and hanging around your daddy’s court dont make you a badass. That being said I hope she fixes Glory Hole (if she’s still alive).

    Oh yes…surprised no one’s tried to ship Taylor and Bitch…. though it’s more like master and pet. After this chapter not sure which is which.

    • You’re right being covered in tattoos and having a gangster daddy doesn’t make you a badass. Having some of the hardest psycho capes ever give you really wide berth, however, means you’re going in the right direction.

    • Oh yes…surprised no one’s tried to ship Taylor and Bitch….

      *doubletakes*

      What are you talking about? I’m pretty sure that Taylor/Rachel has been the third favorite non-canon ship for months, after Taylor/Lisa and Taylor/Dennis (Clockblocker). Unless you mean “in the comments to this post”, in which case I’ll just admit 21.1 took most of the wind out of their metaphorical sails.

  27. Come on, where’s the Simurgh when you need her? If an average Joe can direct Scion with a few words and Jack Slash can mind-fuck him with huge experience in that thing and a bit of Passenger help, imagine what our resident mindscrew expert could do to him.

    She could have him believe he’s a half-faced demon madly in love with her boss or some other insanity.

    • Scion is immune to Simurgh’s power. If Simurgh wanted to manipulate Scion she’d have to do it by talking. Which she can’t. Big mistake on the creator’s part.

      • Woah, I know Panacea said “fuck me”, but don’t you think it’s a bit premature to come up with ship names for the two of them? :) .

        • It’s never too premature to make up ship names for people.

          *considers*

          Defialier, Greydolon, Glory Garrote, Weldcon, and WagTheTaylor are now your fault.

            • Weld and Tecton, presumably. And I know shipping logic is not like normal logic but those two have hardly interacted. At least Defiant and Chevalier are best friends or something, and Yamada wanted to introduce Garrote to Glory Girl and any friend of Rachel is presumably a friend of Wagg the Dog. As for Grey Boy and Eidolon, hmm…they’re both incredibly powerful Cauldron capes? Ok, I’ve got nothing.

              • Correct, it was a typo for Weld/Tecton.

                The logic behind Weld/Tecton is that they’re both good, sane people in leadership positions. Those are kind of rare in Worm if we are being honest.

                Grey Boy/Eidolon, well, that one has no excuse.

          • Greaver. (GruexWeaver)
            Regimp. (RegentxImp)
            Echickster. (EchidnaxTrickster)
            Glorea. (Glory GirlxPanacea)
            Defigon. (DefiantxDragon)
            Gralem. (GracexGolem)
            Leviurgh. (LeviathanxSmiurgh)

            Those are the best I can come up with. Yeah, I’m not that good at this.

            • I was okay with these (albeit Grace/Golem seems to come a bit out of the left field, I believe it was Cuff he liked) until I saw Leviathan/Simurgh*. NOW I CAN’T UNSEE. AAAAGGHHH.

              *Incest!

              • I was under the impression that we were going for crack pairings.

                I’m…I’m not good at crack. Which came out wrong.

              • I think it was because all the others were reasonable. If there had been other crack pairings before the Endbringer one I might have been prepared. You know Piggot/Danny or Accord/Coil (Accoil?) or Doctor Mother/Doormaker.

            • I just had some more crack pairs. Alphebatized this time!
              Accitrine. (AccordxCitrine)
              Alexandrolon. (AlexandriaxEidolon)
              Bambinarnold. (BambinaxArnold Schwarzenegger–no one said they both had to be fictional!)
              Bangelica. (BastardxAngelica)
              Bassault. (BatteryxAssault)
              Bastiothala. (BastionxOthala)
              Behemantle. (Behemothxthe Earth’s mantle–no one said they both had to be alive, either!)
              Botu. (Do you need to ask?)
              Chevalia. (ChevalierxAnexandria)
              Dinoil. (I…don’t want to say.)
              Echrawler. (EchidnaxCrawler)
              Eidolegend. (Do you need to ask?)
              Foght. (FogxNight)
              Hookscar. (HookwolfxBurnscar)
              Judatlas. (Do you need to ask?)
              Legandria. (LegendxAlexandria)
              Leeber. (LeetxUber)
              Manterian. (MantonxSiberian)
              Miliant. (Ms. MilitiaxDefiant)
              Onuda. (Oni LeexBakuda)

              That’s a lot of B’s.

              • Bangelica is a rather good one, both because of the name and the pairing. It gets poor, disabled Angelica more love and attention, and it gets Bastard, well, laid. Possibly some pups. Bangelica. Heh.

                Miliant was a miss, though. Use one more letter of Miss Militia and you get Militant, which is way more points because it’s a word and that word describes both of them.

              • Militant. That’s pretty good. Thanks!

                …for helping me with an activity I’m somewhat ashamed of participating in…

            • I think Greaver is actually a rather good name. Catchy. Wrong, though, unfortunately, because, as I’ve mentioned previously, I WILL NEVER STOP SHIPPING LISA/TAYLOR. Unfortunately, I can’t think of any good ship name for them. Skittertale? Tattle… weave? Taysa? Yeah… LISA/TAYLOR, shouted at the top of one’s lungs, will have to suffice.

              • Lisa/Weaver. Leaver.
                Or just “Insane,” since Taylor has shown no interest in anything past a platonic friendship and Lisa has specifically denied such interest. And the closest to so much as a ship-tease was to stop the agnostia.

      • Riley doesn’t want to be Bonesaw, so how about Rilea?

        And as for “Then what,” the answer is “They wouldn’t”. Unless Scion is somehow affected. Maybe.

        • Fale (TattletlaexFaultine….) so named cos it’d never happen
          Faylor ( TattltalexTaylor) whihc is at leat better than…
          Titter (TattletaleSkitter)

          But if Grue and Tattletale can’t have ms hebert then…

          True (TattlletalexGrue) Or finally,
          Titch (easy to work out )

          Right, back to the apocalyspe…

            • First, we must ship Scion! I feel ashamed for saying this and even more so for adding:

              Alexandrion
              Khonscion
              Levion
              Scihu
              Sciler
              Sciurgh

          • I like Greaver better than any of the others. Although Fale and Faylor do at least advertise how terrible they are.

            • Earthmovers- Tecton X Gully
              Shatterwolf- Shatterbird X Hookwolf
              Dantessa- Danny X Contessa… Which at one point Wildbow faked us out with. (I refer to when he trolled with the Taylor’s Mom tag.)

              • Hookwolf is a bit of an easy one. You can put “wolf” on the end of just about anything, and it’ll sound cool. Just ask the 80s. See also his own damn name. Skitterwolf, Impwolf, Legendwolf, Bitchwolf, Sleeperwolf, Moord Nagwolf, Doctor Motherwolf (see what I did there? Wolfmother? Eh?), Gracewolf, Armswolf, Dragonwolf… Parianwolf.

  28. Crazy theory about Skidmark.

    I was reading the TV Tropes page…maybe a week ago, and the Foreshadowing entry included a quote from Skidmark that just didn’t seem right.
    “No, no. You definitely don’t want to do that.”
    More recently, I’ve decided on why that bugged me: How did Skidmark learn about splitting the formula?

    Think about it. Cauldron’s formulae weren’t–and actually still aren’t–public knowledge, let alone what happens if you take part of one. Well, maybe someone Skidmark knew/heard about had…oh wait, the only time that happened, it was worldwide news of another S-class threat. Nothing near that has ever even been hinted at. Anyways, who would have heard about Echidna being from splitting a formula?
    No, Skidmark must have heard about it from the source, or from a grapevine leading directly to the source. Two groups would have an idea of what happens when you split a formula: the Travelers (duh) and Cauldron. The former would have had no reason to blab to anyone, least of all a methhead in Brockton Bay, so it was probably from Cauldron. Which leads back to how he got the formulae.

    Before you consider that statement, the Merchants could have probably stolen the serum from somewhere. But if he stole it, how could he know what happens when you drink half the formula? If there’s anything in the documentation about it, it would be more like “Warning: Do not consume with alcohol; Warning: Do not consume a partial quantity of this formula; Warning: Do not consume if you are under emotional stress…”, which would lead to a remark more like “No, you probably shouldn’t.” But no, Skidmark laughed, said “definitely,” which indicates that he had some inkling of just how terrible the result would be.

    So. Skidmark probably had either some contact in Cauldron and/or just bought the formulae. Unless Skidmark worked for Cauldron, but simply dealing with them seems likelier. It also explains how he knows the price. Question is, what were these deals?

    • I don’t think the documentation is that scanty. It might not have a lot of details, but judging by this prescription documentation I found in my desk drawer, there’s probably something along the lines of “DO NOT TAKE A PARTIAL DOSE. The probability of death or undesireable physical transformation is substantially increased by failing to follow the aforementioned procedure.”

      • That reminds me, how does taking a partial dose affect the host’s relationship with the shard? I’m guessing it has something to do with the stunted connection lacking the control mechanisms.

        So what happens if the heroes start fucking around with the shards? Or with Scion who’s responsible for the controls. In the unlikelyhood that they kill Scion, will everyone’s powers go completely haywire?

        • I’ve always wondered what would happen if a natural cape drank the Cauldron formula. Now that we know they each draw from a different entity, I’m even more courious.

          • We know that no one has ever even suggested taking more than one Cauldron formula or giving one to a natural cape. Not Cauldron, who think that thousands of deaths is an acceptable price for understanding the formula better. Not Taylor, who was willing to give up everything to prepare for the end of the world and would have surely been willing to risk it for improving herself or Golem. Not the brightest Thinker who made battle plans talked about this method of improving soldiers.

            This kind of implies that stacking these things either doesn’t work, kills the cape, or produces something horrible without chances of something good happening, or possibly something SO horrible you don’t want to risk it for the successes.

              • It probably just wastes the dead shard. I’m guessing that the serum is just a beacon for the shards and all drinking a second would do is attract the second shard just for it to “bounce” off.

                Noelle’s situation was more akin to cancer, the full signal from the serum is corrupted or damaged by not taking all of it. Making the power go hog wild.

                Cauldron capes don’t have passengers right? Maybe that’s part of the passenger’s role. Keeping the power working as it should be. Are all Cauldron capes at risk of being Echidna’s if something happens to fuck their shards?

              • We know that a half dose produces results in both parties taking the half dose. We have strong evidence that some mixing, at least with the component known as Balance, is possible: we know that Doctor Mother talks about reducing the amount of the Balance component in the doses in order to get stronger results (but results more likely to cause unwanted side effects) and we know the names of some of the formulas that have Balance mixed in.

                We have evidence from the Scion episode that he mixes and matches shards to produce results, sometimes combining multiple shards to produce one result.

                We have evidence from Glaistig Uaine that a parahuman can connect to an indefinite number of shards, although you could argue that she is connected to one shard that then helps her manage the others.

                We have never seen a parahuman, Cauldron or otherwise, develop completely different powers during a second trigger. We have never knowingly seen a parahuman, natural or Cauldron, take a Cauldron formula that was different than their initial power (I do remember Eidolon dosing, but that was presumably on his own formula). We have never seen Doctor Mother answer a question about mixing or stacking formulas, other than her comment on Balance.

                I would not characterize Skidmark as sane, reliable, unbiased on the subject, or necessarily intelligent, all of which throws doubt on his credentials as a subject matter expert on Cauldron formulas.

                It does make sense that a parahuman with weak or undesirable powers might try to buy a better one, so I suspect it has happened. If so, it happened off-camera.

                Based on this, my guess is that stacking formulas is possible but that it is an invitation to have unwanted side effects. Since we know that unwanted Cauldron side effects can be just about anything nasty, including death, I suspect stacking formulas, either all at once, or in sequence, is just very, very dangerous. If Doctor Mother had figured out how to stack them with any reasonable degree of success or even survival, I suspect she would have done so already. Or perhaps she has, and we have yet to knowingly see the results.

              • The powers Grue got from his second trigger had essentially nothing to do with his initial powers. Senses-dampening darkness? Okay. The above to copy other capes’ powers? Where on earth did *that* come from?

        • I’m pretty sure Echidna have a Passenger.At least that is what got from her interludes. I’m not sure about the other Cauldron capes ,though.Heck,I’m even not sure if the dead shards Scion mentioned were caused by the fact that the original shard owners(Manton, possibly Gray Boy?) were dead(Harbinger’s original shard owner is still alive) or because they are all Cauldron capes.

          • Eidolon has either a passenger or an overactive imagination, as we know from interludes where he alludes to someone choosing what powers he can have.

            Presumably other Cauldron capes do, as well.

    • It’s been a couple years. He could have died in an Endbringer attack for all we know.

      Or possibly as a side effect of Scion killing everything.

  29. I guess if Riley wants to earn some bonus points, she could help Amy fix Glory Girl. And hey, Amy could grow back all those parts Riley had to cut out.

    If Scion gets wrapped up this arc, then that leaves the question of the Endbringers origins.

    • Hey Amy, can you heal that brain damage Taylor had that you snubbed back when you were a little shit? Don’t let your BFF to be end up like Rocky.

        • Good question. Lots of impacts to the head can have an incredibly deleterious effect on one’s mental health. For a good (effective good, not good good) example, one might look at the sad case of Chris Benoit. Too many chairshots, flying headbutts, and German Suplexes. They said he had the brain of an 85 year old Alzheimer’s patient when they took a look at it. It resulted in a tragedy involving his wife and son.

          Only thing is, Taylor doesn’t show signs of chronic traumatic encephalopathy. The symptoms sound a lot like people who get powers in general, but it can only be diagnosed when the person is dead.

          • Taylor has been healed multiple times by healers (Panacea on more than one occasion, Scapegoat, Lizardtail.) Presumably even more so during the missing two years of her Chicago Campaign.

            • Panacea doesn’t heal brain injuries, and we don’t know about Scapegoat and Lizardtail. So, while it’s probably been healed, especially if other healers are available to the Wards…we still don’t know.

              • Panacea doesn’t heal brain injuries anymore. And considering what her previous attempts at screwing with brains included, I can’t blame her…

  30. In re reading the Marquis interlude, I ran across this…

    “Faeries,” Amelia muttered. They were venturing toward the communal dining area.

    “Not real,” Marquis answered her. ”She sees things we can’t, the auroras that surround those with powers. She’s named them as something else.”

    “No,” Amelia replied. ”I saw her physiology when I touched her. I couldn’t see what she sees, but I see how she’s carrying them inside her, drawing an energy from them. And there were three more, just beside her, and she was using that energy to feed them… but they weren’t active?”

    “She collects souls of dead and dying parahumans,” Marquis replied. ”Or the souls of any living soul that gets on her bad side. But they’re not souls, really. Teacher says they’re psychic images, photocopies of a single individual’s personality, memories and powers. She can have a handful active and doing what she wants walking around at any given time.”

    “They’re not faeries. Or souls, or psychic images. Our powers aren’t part of our bodies, exactly. I would be able to alter them or take them away if they were. What I saw when I touched glass-”

    “Glaistig Uaine.”

    “Her. I feel like I just got clued into a missing piece of the puzzle. They’re sentient. Maybe they’re sleeping, like she said. But they’re not dumb, and I think I’m getting an idea of what happens when they wake up.”

    “Is it something we can use?”

    “Not here. Not in the Birdcage.”

    “What a shame.”

    “God,” Amelia muttered. ”Why did I ask to come here? If I’d realized sooner-”

    ***
    Glastig is the key. She is one of the entities avatars.
    (My W.A.G. I’m sure Wildbow will prove me wrong.

    • I’m not sure about “avatars,” but stick Glaistig in a room with Tattletale for an hour under heavy guard and we’d probably get some useful answers.

      • I don’t think a heavy guard would suffice. G girl has taken out platoon sized groups of capes who tried to stop her before. I’ve kinda gotten the impression that if you by chance meet up with Glaistig and survive the encounter, it’s because she *didn’t* want to kill you.
        I do think you are right though that Tattletale would get tons of info if Glaistig was feeling talkative.

        • I’m hoping that she’s the right kind of insane that the guard would stop her from starting anything. Tattletale’s brains aren’t much use if Glaistig smeared them over the wall.

          Although Tattletale’s power means that she is the best-qualified to talk to her without risking madness and anger.

          • I wonder if G.U. would be able to use Lisa’s power more effectively than Lisa herself, since she presumably wouldn’t suffer a migraine from her summoned ghost using her power. Rather a moot point, since G.U. already has most of the answers and wouldn’t tell anyone what ghost-Lisa figured out for her.

        • We learned from her appearances that she’s capable of diplomacy and tact. I don’t even think she’s hair trigger psycho unless you act like an impertinent peasant. Remember she committed mass murder to deliberately get in the Birdcage.

          I mean, she’s dangerous, but I think she can be trusted to not flip out on Tattletale as long as the meeting is with her consent.

  31. Caveat. Off topic.

    And now, by no one’s special request, coming all the way, from ‘Broke up Bay’ Gimels first heavy metal band! Ladies, Gentelmen, Politicians and Pg.. I give you

    Defiant and the Undersiders!

    Defiant: Lead and male vocals
    Skitter: Back by needing her old name to fit… Lead female vocals
    Grue: Guitarist
    Tattletale Violinist and pulling strings like nobody else!
    Bitch: Drums, anyone want to get on her case about it?

    The band’s dancers Parian and Foil! Frock and roll!

    Metal supplied by Dragon

  32. Anyone remember the predicted bodycount? IIRC it was minimum 33% of the population. So, 500 million dead so far, they’ve got at least 1.5 billion more to go right? Which means they’re not going to stop Scion any time soon.

    • There’s also the fallout from what he’s already done. All the ruined infrastructure, and envormental damage. Taylor mentions lots of dust in the air, and it being colder. Assuming that isn’t just because of location, we are looking at global cooling, and less crops, for several years on earth bet. And who knows how things might get fucked up from the upcoming fight.

      • We also don’t know how this will effect the Endbringers and other S-Class threats. It’s plausible that Scion could fall but other threats pick up where he left off and destroy more of the world even if he is down.

  33. I really do not understand why Taylor is so close to the Undersiders and so distant from her team.
    What was the important difference between the two groups?
    The time-skip REALLY needs work to explain this.

  34. Dangit Taylor, you’re still letting these bullies get to you with their preposterously inane smack talk. The correct response would have been “Are you serious? You’re trying to insult me by calling me out on being an orphan? Oh yes madam, you’re so right, and only now you’ve pointed it out do I see the folly of my no-parent-having ways, and I promise I’m going to try and make my parents less dead so I can be a healthy productive individual. I have hair, you should make fun of that too.”

  35. Hmm okay so I honestly can’t tell from this chapter whether I hate Sophia less or more. She is an honest to god psycho but she seems to stick to her beliefs as screwed up as they are and she does seem to have something resembling human emotion buried deep, deep, deep, deep down. But she is still such a smug self righteous bitch that I really do think she should be left to rot in that jail.

    It’s nice that Panacea does seem to be on good terms with Weaver. Enough so that she essentially checks that everything is cool with seeing Sophia there which is really kind of sweet. It’s very nice that she at least appears to be much more stable now. Guess Marquis got through to her after a while. Also, Lady Photon = WTF?! Bitch! Where the hell does this woman get off on slapping Marquis?! He should be the one slapping her and Brandish! That family utterly destroyed Panacea from the moment they laid their sad little hands on her and were the prime factor in her psychological break. And SHE slaps HIM?! Fuck her! Ahem…sorry about that. I have a problem with bad parents who don’t own up to that fact. Known too many friends with broken homes.

    Hmm…hopefully Lung isn’t going to be a problem. I doubt he would be anytime soon but he really needs to let his grudge go.

    Ingenue really has no idea what she is up against. Trying to seduce Chev? Bitch, please.

    Okay, so I admit I really underestimated just how sick some of the people sent to the Birdcage were. Like massively underestimated.

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