Extinction 27.4

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The last portal closed.  The Birdcage had been emptied of everyone that could reasonably be let free, and probably a handful that shouldn’t.

We’d deal with that later.

“No faces present that shouldn’t be?”  Chevalier asked.  Ingenue was standing beside him.

“Every person on the list has a corresponding face in the crowd,” Defiant said, “Going by the facial recognition program.”

Chevalier nodded.  “With respect, I’d like to ask everyone who isn’t participating in the upcoming confrontation to please leave.  The others, your enemies, your teammates, friends or family, they need to focus on stopping Scion.”

Crowds had body language and attitudes much as individuals did.  Though they were mingled with the capes in the area, the people who’d arrived to see the people leaving the Birdcage were easy to pick out.  They shifted position, as if Chevalier’s request had a physical force to it, a wind pushing at them.  Then they planted their heels.  Hesitation, out of love or out of hatred.

But the portals opened, leading to different worlds.

“Bet, New York!”  someone announced, as a portal opened.  “Bet, Red Fist HQ!  Gimel, New Brockton settlement!”

More portals opened as locations were announced.

The bystanders began filing away as their destinations were called out.  I was surprised to see New Wave among them.  Brandish said something to Panacea, squeezed her hand, and then turned to leave.

Had they retired?  Given up on fighting?  Or was this simply a fight on a scale they weren’t prepared or able to participate in?

“I’m going to go,” Rachel said.

“Yep,” Imp said.  “No use for us here.”

I looked at them.

“Okay,” I said.

“Me as well,” Grue said.  “Cozen-”

“No,” I said.

He stopped, tilting his head at a funny angle, as if he could get a better understanding of me by viewing me from a skewed perspective.

“You’re not useless.  I get if you don’t have the courage, but your power, there’s potential.  Even if it doesn’t work, that tells us a lot.”

He folded his arms.  “If you say so.”

I nodded.

“Okay,” he said.

He stepped back as Rachel and Imp made their way to Gimel.

Parian and Foil hugged, and then Parian passed through, leaving Foil behind.

Sophia turned to go as well, very casually avoiding eye contact with me.  She didn’t want me to raise an issue, so she was slinking away.

I drew bugs from the other side of the portal together, then whispered a message to her.  “I’ll talk to you later.”

She turned, but the people behind her were pushing forward.  She couldn’t exactly turn back to retort.

The portals closed.

“Forty-five minutes,” Chevalier announced.  “We’ve got Defiant and Tattletale at systems, managing Dragon’s A.I. and running the data.  They are your resource, the people you go to if you need something, be it information or materials.”

I glanced at the Azazel.  Tattletale was sitting on the ramp, while Defiant stood at the end, near Chevalier.  Tattletale would process the data, picking up the essential details, while Defiant would handle the lion’s share of the code.

“They should be able to accommodate all requests, so don’t be shy.  Keep them updated on everything, the plans, the weapons, the possible applications of your powers.  They’ll categorize and prioritize your plans and we’ll relay that information to people with the ability to put that into a plan.”

To Cauldron, I thought.

“Forty five minutes isn’t a very long time,” Lab Rat commented.  His voice was a rasp.

“No.  But Defiant has been mapping Scion’s route with his analysis engines, and Scion is somewhat predictable.  He’s spent the last few hours veering between extremes, choosing different kinds of targets.  He strikes a major population center, then scales down to strike a select target.  Individuals, a subcategory of the population like adults or capes, or properties.  Right now he’s in one of those lulls.  We expect that, in forty-five minutes, he’ll move on to a bigger target again.  With luck, this attack will serve to distract him and buy us time to finish evacuating.”

“He’s tough,” Defiant said.  “You know that.  He took on Behemoth with minimal effort.  This is an attempt to see if we can find his limit, any weak spot, weapons that work.  If we can, we expand, extrapolate.  Keep that in mind and prepare accordingly.”

“Alright!  Let’s move!” Chevalier announced.  “First up, a door to the New York sub-office!”

The portal began to open.  Chevalier continued, “If you don’t have access to costumes or weapons, we’ll outfit you here.  Defiant and Tattletale will direct you to other locations for other goods.”

I watched as a bulk of the forces began to head through the gate to the New York location.  Chevalier and Revel stood by the portal, watching the various capes as they made their way through.

I, too, hung back, watching.  I could get a fresh costume and a spare flight pack easily enough.  I wanted to know what the others were doing.  The people who were hanging back.

Slouching, hands clasped behind her back, String Theory made her way over to Chevalier and Defiant.  The petite, odd-looking woman glanced around, not speaking up, but waiting until Chevalier deigned to look at her.  Lab Rat, behind her, looked more impatient.  He wasn’t good at hiding his feelings.

“I’ll need a lab,” String Theory said.  “Tools.  My tools, if you can get them.”

“You can prep something in time?”  Chevalier asked.  He sounded surprised.  “We expected the tinkers to take part in the next attempt.”

“I’m not an ordinary tinker,” String Theory said.  She tapped her head.  “I’ve had four years to think, plan what I’d build if I got out.  All up here.”

“Me too, seven years of thinking,” Lab Rat said.  “Need a lab.  Not sharing one with her.”

“I wouldn’t let you, darling,” String Theory said, condescending.  I could see Lab Rat’s lip curl, but I wasn’t sure if it was in irritation or amusement.

“You’ll both have what you need,” Chevalier cut in, before anything could start between the pair.

“Tell me what you need and when,” String Theory said.  “You want me to hit him?  Tell me how hard.”

Chevalier glanced at Revel and Defiant.

“When you were arrested,” Defiant said, “The-”

“The F-Driver,” String Theory interrupted.

“Yes.  Start from there, scale up.”

“Oh,” String Theory said.  “Interesting.”

“With a minimum of collateral damage,” Defiant added.

“Less interesting.  Next question: when?  My work is one-shot, and my best work is on a timer.”

“We attack in… thirty-nine minutes.  Time things for forty seven minutes from now.  Most of the combatants will be cleared from the field by then, and the rest can move to safety before you put your work to use.”

String Theory nodded slowly, “You’ll hold out for eight minutes after the initial offense?”

Defiant paused.  “Make it forty-three minutes from now.”

“Done.  I’ll need a fusion reactor.  Or a suitably large source of plasma.  Something I can draw power from.”

“We don’t have-” Defiant started.  Then he reconsidered.  “We may be able to find something from tinker materials the PRT has confiscated.  Go inside the ship, talk to Tattletale.”

Without another word, String Theory turned to advance up the ramp, disappearing inside.

Defiant looked at Lab Rat.  “Your old workshop is still there, sealed off.”

“No.  I’d be spending more time cleaning up than working, and the samples would be dead, if you haven’t tampered with them.  Something else.  A room in a hospital would work.  I can stay out of the way.”

“We’re not giving you access to humans,” Defiant answered, his voice hard.

Lab Rat frowned.  “Animal shelter?  With the animals still present?”

“Fine,” Defiant said.  “Thirty-seven minutes.  If you’re going to contribute, you should get started.  Door, please.  To an abandoned animal shelter on Bet.”

The door opened.

“Mm,” Lab Rat grunted.  “I’ll figure something out.”

Then he was gone.

“And me?” Bonesaw asked.  “I can help.”

“You will help,” Defiant said.  “After.  When you work, it’s going to be with supervision.  Panacea can check your work and vice-versa.”

Bonesaw sighed.  “My lab.  The alternate dimension, the cloning vats-”

“Destroyed,” Defiant said.

“You’re serious?”

He didn’t respond.

Bonesaw scowled.

I shivered and looked out at those who remained.  Panacea hadn’t gone with the other members of New Wave.  Instead, she sat on the cliffside with Marquis.

I felt a stab of something ugly, seeing that.  I couldn’t justify or explain it, let alone give it a name.  It felt fundamentally unfair, and I couldn’t rationalize it.  Life wasn’t fair.  Good guys sometimes got the breaks and sometimes they didn’t.  Bad guys sometimes got the breaks and sometimes they didn’t.  Panacea had taken more bad hits than most, and yet I wasn’t able to convince myself she deserved to have that.

Not because she didn’t deserve the chance to sit and stare at the view on this cold mountainside with her father beside her, but because an irrational part of me wanted to have it instead.

Someone to sit beside, to talk with, to discuss things, to be able to talk about stuff without avoiding everything cape related… someone to lean on, who’d been through some of this stuff.

I turned away.

Acidbath had stayed, rather than leave to go get a costume, and was splayed out on the rock of the cliff face, his shirt off and laid out beneath him.  Soaking up the rays, insofar as they was any sun to be had.

Just a short distance away, Glaistig Uaine was using her power.  A shadowy figure, translucent, was kneeling before her, hands raised in a supplicating gesture.  The figure had created a flame in the two joined palms of its hand, and Glaistig Uaine was using the flame to warm her hands.

I hesitated a moment, and then approached her.

“Queen administrator.”

“Faerie Queen,” I responded.  “Mind if I share your fire?”

“Not at all.”

I glanced down at the spirit.  It wasn’t smoky or blurry, and was fairly substantial, all things considered, but the features of the costume that the figure had once worn had been smoothed over, to the point that the line between costume and flesh was impossible to discern.  An overly pointed nose, sweeping up into flames at the sides and top of the head, eyes without irises or pupils, pointed fingertips with more flames at the edges of the wrists.  The gender indeterminate.

Odd, that it had picked up on something so integral as costume, but not identity.

How had Golem put it?  Someone who’d had a life, a mother, a father, family.  He’d had dreams, had undergone a trigger event or paid a small fortune for powers in a jar.  He’d had a story.

Relegated to being a servile handwarmer.

Was there any of the original personality in there?  The memories of the person that was?  If there were, then it implied something ugly.  Glaistig Uaine collected passengers, tapped them for power, and if this thing had memories, then what did that suggest about the passengers?

I didn’t want to be cold and uncaring anymore, I didn’t want to be calculating and efficient.  It made sense to ignore this individual, the spirit, to maintain peace with the Faerie Queen, but I didn’t like what it forced me to do.

So, instead, I turned to the spirit.  “Hello.”

It opened its mouth to speak, but the words were faint, incoherent, as though it were emulating language rather than actually uttering it.

“Did you have a name?”

“Phoenixfeather,” Glaistig Uaine said.

Bit of a mouthful.

I warmed my hands at the fire.  “Thank you, Phoenixfeather.”

He only lowered his head, shutting those featureless eyes that could have been lenses.

I felt a bit of a chill at that.

What if I fell in battle?  Would she claim me?  Would I become like that?  What form would that body take?  Skitter, Weaver, or a blending of the two?

“You’re not armed for battle,” the Faerie Queen observed, as if reading my mind.

“No.  Soon.”

“Yes.  I wait as well.  The head that wears the crown bears a heavy burden.”

“You view us both as queens, Faerie Queen?”

“I do.  But let us drop the titles when we talk.”

“Okay… Glaistig Uaine.  Anyone else?”

“There are others who stand shoulder to shoulder with us, but queen is the wrong word, Administrator.  The champion, the high priest, the observer, the shaper, the demesnes-keeper.  Why do you ask?”

“Just trying to make sense of it, trying to figure out where you stand.”

“Ah.  Do explain.”

“You want to see the faerie rise again, apparently, and Scion’s a big part of that whole equation.”

“Yes.  I’m seeing what you’re getting at, Administrator.  A conflict of interest?”

“Essentially.”

“We all have our parts to play.”

“Parts.”

“Yes.  Like actors taking a role in a play.  We wear our human faces and harbor our dramas and fantasies, but it’s the same individuals playing the parts, as the play starts anew on a different stage, with different faces and forms.  If it all goes well, a figure from the crowd joins the stage for the plays that follow, and the roles are refined.”

“And us… Queens and Kings.  Do we have a bigger part?  Leading roles?”

“Everyone’s the lead in their own story, Administrator.  Some roles are bigger, some smaller, but none are more important, understand?”

“Yes,” I answered her.  “What’s your role in this, then?”

“We’re back to the topic of my… conflict of interest.  I have a special role in this.  I keep the company of the faerie who have left our metaphorical stage.”

“The dead,” I said.  “You keep the company of the dead.”

“Yes.  The other nobles, their tasks are more immediate, shorter in term.  What makes us truly noble is our role before and after this act.  The others sleep, and we toil.  We’re practiced, stronger, for that constant effort.  The champion and observer ensure the next act goes on without a hitch.  The shaper and demesnes-keeper clean up after we are all done here, one way or another.  So it goes.”

“And the priest?”

“The high priest,” Glaistig Uaine admonished me.  “You and I may be doing without the titles, but we mustn’t offend the others.”

“Right,” I said.

“As for his role, well, you should know.”

“I should know?”

“Yes.”

I could only think of one powerful individual who was on a par with the others she’d named.  Contessa and Glaistig Uaine were easily twelves or higher on the power-ratings scale, and I could look to others with powers in that neighborhood to figure out who she was referring to.  Panacea, Labyrinth…

Which raised two questions.

Why the hell was I on that list, for one thing?

And was Eidolon the high priest?  He was the only one I could think of to fit the role.

“I’m not sure I follow,” I said.

“He doesn’t follow either,” Glaistig Uaine replied.  “Which complicates things.  We have two courts, but the other court arrived to the stage bedraggled, maddened, and they don’t have any instructions or forewarning, you understand?”

“I believe so,” I said.

Trying to, anyways.

“The high priest is in similar straits to these unfortunates.  He stands straight and bluffs through his lines, but he’s wearing the wrong costume and he’s arrived at the wrong time, just like the others.”

“And… what does he think of this?”

Glaistig Uaine shrugged.  “I couldn’t tell you.  But what would you think of it, in his shoes?  He’s set this in motion, and there’s no finale, there’s no promise of another play after this one is done.  The nobles of our court’s mighty faerie may have no role to play.”

“But you’re not concerned?”

She smiled a little, but didn’t respond.

“If it comes down to it, if we somehow get one over on Scion and if it looks like we might win, are you going to back him up?  Because you want to see the next play?”

She used long fingernails to tuck hair behind her ear, turning pale eyes towards the horizon.  The sky was still red, but it was more to do with the dust-heavy atmosphere than the sunrise.  “I do wish to see it.  I’d like to see the spirits of the dead dance through the landscape, even more than they are right now.  Yet I’m still carrying out my role, and that’s the evidence I’ll give to my loyalty in the here and now.”

I wasn’t quite putting two and two together, and I suspected that might have been because she didn’t want me to.  She was still carrying out her role, which was to collect and comfort the dead.  Because… she hoped this all to go according to Scion’s plan?

I looked down at the fire that her shadowy specter was creating, then to the specter.  To Phoenixfeather.

I’d watch Glaistig Uaine for trouble.  I thought of the other major players who I already was keeping mental tabs on.

“What is Scion to you?  He’s the director of this… play?”

“The audience, as well.  The metaphor falls apart at this.  He’s our father, our child, our creator and now our destroyer.”

I could grasp that much.  Was there another I could ask about, that I wasn’t so sure about?

“Doctor Mother,” I said, without even really thinking about it.  “Can I ask what role she plays on this stage?”

“Ah, now you’re asking me to answer questions that could make enemies.”  Glaistig Uaine glanced up at me, and there was an implicit threat in the glance.

“I wouldn’t ask you to answer questions if it was inconvenient, Glaistig Uaine.  I’m sorry.”  Be polite, keep in her good books.

“I should hope you wouldn’t,” she said, and there was an admonishment in her tone.  Then, her tone lighter, she replied.  “No matter.  She’s not one of ours.  A prop, nothing more.”

“No powers, then.”

“Like I said, a prop.”

“She doesn’t seem that unimportant,” I said.  “She has a lot of power.”

“A prop can be important.  The grail was a subject for innumerable quests and tales.  A message can decide the outcome of a war.  A living prop…”  she trailed off.

“Forgive me, Faerie Queen,” I said.  I saw her start to object, then hurried to continue, “I’m using your title because I’m about to be rude, and I do want to show you the respect you’re due.  It’s been a hard day.  I’m not quite so distanced from this as you are, not so willing to be the actor rather than the act, if that makes any sense.”

“Perfect sense,” she responded.

“That means I’m not connecting the dots as well as I should.  Instead of wasting your time, I’ll be blunt and say that I’m not following.  That’s the rudeness I was mentioning.  Can you elaborate?  A living prop…”

“I can’t elaborate.  They watch and listen for mention of doors, so they can take us from one stage to the next, and they’re listening to every word we utter.  If I continued, it would upset everyone in question.”

“I see.”  So there’s something more.  Something the Doctor is keeping up her sleeve.

I wasn’t surprised.

“I should prepare for battle soon,” Glaistig Uaine said.  “Unless there’s something else you’d like to discuss, Administrator?”

“There is.  I’m sorry.  My role.  What’s my role in things?”

“In this act or in the greater plan?”

“Either.  Both.”

She reached up, placing a hand on the side of my face.  It was warm from the fire.  Her thumb brushed along my cheekbone, the long nail coming dangerously close to my eye.

She could kill me right here.  Pull my passenger away from me and claim it.

“I already told you,” she said.  “I don’t like to repeat myself.  Now come, bend down.”

I bent down.

She gave me a kiss on one cheek, then the other, then stepped back.  “I look forward to collecting you, Administrator, or to meeting you at the end, if you outlive me.  We can have long discussions.”

“They can talk?” I asked, looking down at Phoenixfeather.

“No.  But we can discuss.  You’ll understand, sooner or later.”

I nodded slowly.

“I’m sorry for your loss, Administrator,” she said.  “Things become a great deal easier once you realize how temporary it all is.”

My loss?

She knows?

She stepped away, raising one hand.  Like an explosion occurring in reverse, Phoenixfeather condensed into a point in her hand as she closed it into a fist.

She opened her hands, and two figures flanked her.  Again, the blending of costume and flesh.  The blurring of identity.  Both were women, but one had perhaps been mutilated in death, or she had been a case fifty-three.  She was four-legged, her two arms different lengths.

They worked together to fashion Glaistig Uaine’s costume, discorporating the modified prison uniform she’d fashioned into a shroud and reforming it into a proper cloak and robe, with a texture that scintillated green and black, as though it were made up of thousands of scales the size of grains of sand.

I took that as my cue to leave.

“Door.  Chicago Protectorate Headquarters.”

The portal opened.

I stepped through onto the roof of the headquarters.

There was a strong wind, and the heavy clouds of moisture and dust were soaring across the sky.  I looked down, and saw an empty city.  No people in the streets, no moving cars.  During the morning runs, even, or the dead of night, Chicago had been full of life.

I could sense some life, though.  I reached out to the bugs that populated the empty city and drew them to me.

I knew why they had placed me on the roof.  Moving the bugs through the building, I could feel the cracks in the structure, the broken concrete, the fallen boards of plaster from the ceiling of the office level.  Something had shaken the building and it was at risk of collapse.

The opening on the roof for flying heroes was ajar.  I sent my bugs inside, all too aware of echo to the event that had led to the ironic case of my joining the Wards.

They collected fabric, collected materials and fit themselves into the channels of my spare flight pack.  Then they made their way up to me, everything on hand.

The swarm circled around me, and they deposited every item, straightening the things out, spacing it evenly around me, a kaleidoscopic pattern..  Spare costumes, costume concepts, weapons, gear.

I’d wondered what form my body would take if Glaistig Uaine were to seize me.  The core costume was the same, but the details, the features… clawed fingertips of Skitter or the extra armor of Weaver’s, with a spare coil of silk hidden beneath an armor panel at the back of the hand?

Black?  White?  Gray?  Red?  I had silk bodysuits in every color, from when I’d tested dyes and worn the bodysuits to see how the color held up when the suit was stretched over my body.

What color lenses?

What weapons?

Scion was a different sort of opponent.  Behemoth could be misled by swarm-decoys, one could hide from him.  His attacks were lethal, but most wouldn’t tear through cover as though it wasn’t there.

There was no camouflage against Scion.  No cover.  A gun could conceivably draw Behemoth’s attention for a crucial moment, with a well-aimed shot.  Not so with Scion.

I’d been in a black costume as Skitter, a gray costume as Weaver.  A part of me wanted to go purer, to go white and continue that progression.

But I picked up the black bodysuit.

This wasn’t preparing myself for the fight.  We wouldn’t be trading blows, and I doubted my costume would be any better or worse than a suit of plate mail or going into the fight naked.

No, I was preparing myself on a mental level.  I gravitated towards the black because it had seen me through the toughest and most personal crises.

It was home, for lack of a better word.  I didn’t have Brockton Bay anymore, didn’t have my dad’s.  The black costume was the closest link I had to the last time and place I’d been at home.

White armor panels, to balance it out.

White lenses.

A handgun.  Again, more for the sake of my headspace than for anything else, and because I wasn’t sure I could trust everyone present to be on the same side.  Two ammo clips.  It reminded me of Coil.  My first true kill.

A taser, for the same reason, and to balance things out once again.  I didn’t dislike the added weight of the weapon on my belt.

I donned the flight pack and fixed my hair where it had been mussed up by the straps.

Then, as a final token gesture, I picked up a small canister of pepper spray.  Symbolic.

“Door,” I said.  “To the battlefield.”

The portal brought us to a small drilling platform, in the midst of the ocean.  No music, no chatter, only the sound of the ocean crashing around us, from horizon to horizon in every direction.  The water was dark, murky, a reflection of the sky above.

Everyone was wearing spider silk.  I recognized the individual components.  Spare costumes, and costumes I’d created and sent out to Protectorate and Wards teams.

A meager contribution, considering our opponent’s firepower.

Eighty in all, and we hadn’t brought anyone like Rachel or Imp, the people who couldn’t contribute to a fight where the opponent could fly like Scion flew, hit like Scion hit.  A dog would never get its jaws on him, and he’d penetrate Imp’s defense in an instant, either by seeing through it or by the sheer amount of collateral damage he did.

Lab Rat walked among us, a backpack dangling from one hand.  He handed us devices.  An armband, for communication, earbuds for those of us who didn’t have them, and little plastic cases the size of matchboxes, complete with straps.

He was already wearing the full outfit, the wristband over the sleeve of his labcoat, the little matchbox similarly positioned, but over his bicep, like a blank white badge.

He held one out to me, then hesitated.  He fished in the backpack, then handed me another.

“What’s the box?” I asked.

“My work,” Lab Rat said.

“That doesn’t answer my question.”

“You don’t want the answer to your question.  Wear it or don’t,” he rasped.  “I’m wearing it.”

He continued on, handing out the packages.

When he was out of earshot, Clockblocker commented, “I don’t think that’s a good recommendation.  That guy is crazy.  At one point he made himself into some kind of photosynthetic lardass, so fat he took up two stories of a house.  It’s the only reason they caught him in the end.”

I looked pointedly at Clockblocker’s arm.  The little white box blended in with Clockblocker’s white costume.  “You’re wearing the thing.”

“It’s a shitty recommendation coming from Lab Rat, but as far as I’m concerned, I’d cut off my left arm if it bought me a better chance.  I like knowing there’s maybe a chance this would help.  An explanation would suck.  Give me a little hope.”

“Maybe that’s all this is,” Vista said.  “Hope.”

I shut my eyes, focusing on the capes who were present, marking them with bugs.

Here and there, portals opened, and capes stepped onto the platform.  String Theory, carrying only a laptop.  Galvanate.

Galvanate reached out and touched a select few capes.  Layering invincibility over invincibility for Alexandria, for Gavel, Gentle Giant, and a Birdcage cape I didn’t recognize.

“Could do with some of that,” Grue said.

“Borrow his power?”  I suggested.

“Doesn’t work.  We did a few test runs before you showed.  Some options.  We’ll see.”

Bonesaw and Panacea were both absent, I noted.  Somehow ominous.

“Three minutes.”

Another portal opened.  Glaistig Uaine, twice as tall as she had been, moving as though she were walking, but with no legs beneath swirling tatters of green-black cloth.  Three spirits flanked her, walking on the platform.  Not individuals I recognized.

The wind turned, and I raised my head to let it blow through my hair.  I’d always liked the sensation.

“Why put us out in the middle of the ocean?” Vista asked.  “It’s crazy.”

“Symbolic,” a voice said, from high above us.  I looked up to see Legend looking down.  “Our planet’s mostly water.  We’re mostly water.  It’s something you don’t really get, being stuck down there on land.”

“Rub it in,” Clockblocker said.

“Sorry,” Legend said.

He was a changed man, looking ten years older than he once had.  How much of that was emotional?  The toll of dealing with Endbringers, with being a pariah?  He was respected by the common people, but anyone who knew anything about capes had picked up on Legend’s lack of status in the community.

“I never liked locations like this,” I commented.  “Rooftops.  Can’t get down safely.”

“It’s isolated, to minimize chances he can track us somehow,” Chevalier said.  “And we have a good escape route.  Not to mention it’s the furthest point from Scion.”

When he spoke again, he raised his voice to be sure that everyone on the platform was able to hear.  “It’s time!  This is our staging ground.  We’re not going to get close.  We can’t, because of the danger it poses, and because the Cauldron capes can’t create portals within a certain range of Scion.”

“Can’t or won’t?” someone asked.

“It doesn’t matter,” Chevalier responded.  “This is a test run.  Trying one trick, it won’t work.  We’ll get obliterated.  So we hit him with things in a series, from multiple directions, and we see what sticks.”

I’ll be with you every step of the way,” Tattletale’s voice sounded over the earbud.  “Defiant’s here too.”

Defiant spoke over the comms.  “Take our cues, don’t hesitate.”

Chevalier said something, but I didn’t hear it, because Tattletale said something else.  By the reaction of the others, it was something for me and me alone.  “And because we’re limited in what we can do, I asked to have you in the field, as my liason.”

“Right,” I muttered.  I put on Lab Rat’s matchbox and then the armband.  A display flashed, and then a request for ID.

“Taylor,” I said.

My name appeared.  I confirmed.

The display showed what appeared to be a distorted clock, with a square in the center.  The clock had fourteen numbers and only one hand.

Fourteen points of attack.  We’re alternating strong and weak, clockwise around the dial.

One number for each attack.

One sec.  Switching String around to keep us on schedule.  Chevalier likes his speeches an awful lot for someone who doesn’t like speeches.”

“-Doors!”  Chevalier finished.

As if corresponding to the fourteen clock faces, the portals opened up in a circle around the platform.

“Ingenue!” he called out.

Chevalier and Ingenue passed through the door just to the right of the northernmost portal.

He’d taken the lead, the first attack.  He knew there would be too much risk of someone backing off if he put someone else in that crucial first slot.

Four miles north of Scion.  Hitting him unawares.”

The portal door was left open, and my bugs gave me a sense of what he was doing.

Ingenue’s power was to muck with other people’s powers.  More power, at a loss of control, more control, at a loss of range.  Her choice.

If I had to guess, it mucked with people’s heads.  Maybe something to do with their passengers.  Her partners tended to go loopy at some point.  Homicidal loopy.

Chevalier’s cannonblade grew to three times the size in heartbeats.  Not the gradual growth of before.  It was a wild, reckless growth.  Unfettered by restrictions he’d been held by before.

Ten, twenty times the size.  I’d seen it be as long as Leviathan was tall, and this dwarfed that by a factor of two.

The weapon was too heavy for him to lift.  He let it fall, the serrated blade biting into the earth on the other side of the portal.

He fired, and the combination of the detonation and the recoil wiped out my bugs.

“Second Group!” I called out, an instant before Defiant barked out, “Two!” over the comms.

Clockblocker, a Chuckles clone, Gentle Giant and a group of others.

A spread of powers, with mobility and one of the few people who could maybe stand up to Scion’s blasts, enhanced by Galvanate’s attacks.

They’d be getting dangerously close, using Chuckles’ mobility.

I waited.  Waited…  twenty seconds passed.

The world on the other side of the portals rumbled.  Even with portals miles apart, the rumble was felt in roughly equal measure across each of them.

Third group,” Tattletale said.  “Big guns.  Watch for collateral damage.  The others may still be there.”

Pretender, Eidolon and Legend took off, and were soon followed by Glaistig Uaine.

He’s running,” Eidolon reported.

“Tattletale,” I said.  “Do me a favor?”

Anything for you, sweetie.

She was being even more offhanded than usual.  Nervous?

“Pass on a message to Legend and Eidolon.  Pretender too, might as well.  They should watch their backs around the Faerie Queen.  I talked to her, and she never quite denied she’d help Scion if it came down to it.”

On it.”

I concentrated my focus on the world beyond the portals.  I could feel the bugs on the landscape, the high hills with sharp cliffs, the tall grass that could drown a man, eerily bright beneath a dark sky, with the way the light filtered down.

I closed my eyes, and focused on the senses of my bugs.  I couldn’t see detail, but I could make out bright and dark colors.  Scion was bright, and so were his lasers.

An enemy that hit too hard to defend against, too tough to hurt.  Eidolon teleported rather than try to stand up to his lasers, Alexandria took a glancing blow and plunged to the ground.  Legend peppered Scion, paused, then hit him with a bigger laser.

When that failed, Legend doubled down again.

“Fourth group.”

The others had already gathered at the respective portals.  This group was Grue, with a select few others.  Shuffle was among them.

Grue looked over his shoulder at me, then saluted.

I felt a lump in my throat.  I wanted to be Taylor, here, but there was a limit to how far I could go with that.

I saluted him back.

As much as I could see the distorted contrasting shapes, I could make out the block of Grue’s darkness that Shuffle had teleported into the air above Scion.  It sank down, subsuming the golden man.

Grue fired off a laser, spearing into the midst of the cloud of darkness.

No, not Scion’s laser.  Legend’s.

If he could use Scion’s laser, I imagined he would have.  Legend’s lasers weren’t doing anything substantial, if they were doing anything at all.  Scion didn’t falter, and he didn’t act like he was blind.  Alexandria had gotten back up and was fighting at close range.

Scion lashed out with another laser, and some portals winked out before the laser could intersect them and pour golden death onto the platform.

“Grue, return,” I said.  “Different tack.”

Chevalier was just returning, carrying a burned Ingenue.  He’d left his Cannonblade behind.  Destroyed?

Fifth group in,” Tattletale said.  “Everyone else, clear out!

Fifth group.  One individual.  String Theory.

“Open one of those portals,” she said.  “My lab.  Right in front of the G-driver.  Point the other end at the target.”

Clear out,” Tattletale repeated herself.

Capes at the periphery of the fight were returning.  The Chuckles returned, carrying two wounded capes.  Not even a third of the size of Clockblocker’s original group.  Vista hurried to Clockblocker’s side.

“He wasn’t even aiming in our general direction, and he took out most of us,” Clockblocker murmured.  “Fuck!”

Grue’s group returned.  Shuffle glanced at me and shook his head.

One more power eliminated as a possibility, I thought.

I had to do something here.  “Clock, you leave anyone behind?”

“No.”

“Grue?”

Grue shook his head.

“Nobody left on the other side,” I reported.  “String?”

“Idiot!”  String Theory snarled, “That’s not the opening!  Put a portal on the other side of the machine!”

There was a pause.

“Better.  Twenty two seconds.  Use it to give me coordinates.”

Patching you into the Number Man,” Tattletale said.

There was a pause.

The portals all closed, like shutters sliding down, with an ever-narrowing rectangle of light at the base.

We’d left Scion on the other side with nobody to tie him up.  Dangerous.  We couldn’t predict what he’d do.

We hadn’t, as far as I knew, done any harm to him.  Nothing suggested he had been affected in the least by their powers.  Clockblocker’s time freeze, Grue’s darkness, useless.

“Give me a view,” String Theory said.

“Too dangerous,” Chevalier grunted.  He sat down on the floor of the platform.

“A view!  Now!  Or I’ll make it miss!”

A window opened at the platform’s edge.

A view of the scene, a landscape torn to shreds by Scion’s attacks, grassy fields with steep hills, a fence in the distance, trees on the highest peak.  The grass continued to glow, but some of that was from fires that the fighting had started.

Scion’s golden light was distant.  He turned, then began advancing towards the portal.

It was more like the zap from a bug zapper than a shot from a gun.  There was a distortion, like one saw with a shimmer of heat in the air, and Scion was punched out of the sky, leaving behind a golden streak of light.  The path suggested he’d disappeared straight out of the atmosphere.

Sources corroborating the visual,” Tattletale said.  “Direct hit.  It worked.”

String Theory pumped her fists in the air.

“What was that?” Vista asked.

“G-driver,” String Theory said.  She lowered her fists, then fixed her lab coat and glasses.  She turned around and gave us a smug, superior smile.

Which is?” someone else asked.

“Upgrade of the F-driver.”

The Firmament Driver,” Defiant explained, over the earbuds.  “At the time of her arrest, String Theory was threatening to use her Firmament Driver to knock our moon out of orbit.

“And we didn’t hear about this because-”

Morale,” Defiant replied, as if that was explanation enough.

“Would have done a lot for my morale to know we could do that,” Clockblocker said.

“In case anyone was wondering, it’s G-driver for God-driver,” String Theory said.  “Obviously.”

“Obviously,” Clockblocker muttered.

He’s coming back.” Tattletale reported.

No surprise.

But we could hit him.

Sixth group, ready,” Defiant ordered.

The sixth group.  Thanda, plus Birdcage capes I didn’t know, including one that Galvanate had charged up.  Heavy hits.

We didn’t get that far.

He’s gone,” a voice I didn’t recognize sounded over the earbud.

All had gone quiet, still.

Checking cameras, monitoring, radio reports…  Bastard’s hard to keep track of.”

I felt my bugs stir.  Not the wind.

I looked up.

Scion.  Here.  Directly above us, to the point he was barely a speck.

I’d sensed disgust from him once, when he looked at Eidolon.  Nothing measurable, not an expression I could quantify, like a movement of the eyes, brow or lips.  But I’d sensed it.

Now I sensed bloodlust.  Not anger.  Nothing so germane.

Only that sensation I’d had when I was in Lung’s clutches and he was squeezing me to death.  The sensation I’d had when Bonesaw was straddling me, carving into my head.  A feeling I’d experienced when I was face to face with Cherish.

A feeling that, underneath it all, there was some base, primal urge to carve people apart.

But he was waiting, watching.

Toying with us.

Tattletale,” I whispered.  “He’s here.

No.  Can’t be.

“We need an escape, now.”

There was only silence.

I felt a kind of grim despair in the pit of my stomach.

“Tattletale?”

They’re saying no.  Cauldron’s saying no.

“String Theory hurt him, or at least struck him.  We need others in case they can do the same.  You can’t tell me they’re going to let us gather some of the strongest capes around and then leave them to die when things take a turn for the worse.”

You don’t understand.  We put you on the opposite side of the planet, on a different earth.  He wasn’t supposed to be able to access you.”

He did.”

She didn’t respond.

One of the Birdcage capes somehow picked up on the same vibe I did.  Maybe they sensed the latent hostility that filled the air and followed it to its source.

They let out a muffled gasp.  Others noticed.

The golden glow above intensified.  Ominous.  Like a second sun, on the wrong side of an overcast sky.

If I was Skitter, I might have tried to sacrifice myself.

If I was Weaver, I might have made peace with the fact that I needed to die, so Cauldron could preserve their portals, maintain the fight.  For the greater good.

I wasn’t either.  Not at my core.

“Cauldron,” I muttered.  “You’re listening, with that creepy omniscient cape of yours.  You’re watching.  If you’re wondering what you should do, sitting on the fence between letting Scion see your portals up close and track you down or letting us die, let me cast a fucking vote.  You save us.”

Nothing.

“He knows already, he has to, if he found us this easily.  Come on.”

“Oh god,” someone said.  “Oh god, oh god.”

With my bugs spread out over the area, I couldn’t feel a single telltale breeze of a portal opening around us.

I closed my eyes.

I’m sorry, Taylor,” Tattletale said.  “I wish-

Her voice shorted out as the energy of Scion’s attack cut out the communications.

Last Chapter                                                                                               Next Chapter

366 thoughts on “Extinction 27.4

  1. Real-life distractions abounded, and there’s a whole mess of distractions due this coming weekend.

    If this chapter turns out passable, then I’ll be content. One of those chapters where I’ll probably have a bunch of unfinished sentences because of all the other stuff going on while I was writing it. Just a fact of life that such will happen from time to time when you’re writing three times a week year-round. Asking you please pardon me if it turned out rough.

    Thanks for reading.

    • It’s more than just passable. I’m starting to wonder if you’re physically capable of writing a bad section. Couldn’t really figure out who the other roles were… all I could guess was:(in order from farthest reach to best guess)
      Champion: Alexandria/Eidolon/Legend/Lung
      Observer: Tattletale/Teacher/Numberman
      High Priest: Eidolon/ Grue/ Lung?

      • Chevalier could be the Champion, and Jack Slash could be the High Priest.

        They might not have the raw power of Eidolon but they do have passenger-related powers. We know that Jack has the broadcast shard from the entity, and Chevalier’s shard might be similarly important.

        I’m tempted to try and fit Phir Se in there somewhere. Not sure which role would fit, though.

        • From what I got from that she was only talking about the capes that were there, so no Dinah or Jack and if you go by costumes and powers I say your right Chevalier is the Champion and Tattletale is the Observer (All you have to do is look at how her power works, she observes things than knows all about them)

          As to the High Priest I don’t think it is Eidolon because the Faerie Queen said he was confused. Eidolon doesn’t seen confused to me. Now Grue might be since he has be all confused since Bonesaw but there is another candidate in Legend since what happened with Cauldron he doesn’t seem to know where he fits in anymore.

          Overall the Faerie Queen knows a hell of lot more about what Scion is and what makes the powers than anyone else, makes you wonder what she might really be. Also the slap to face of Doctor Mother as nothing but a prop.

          • The “confused” part had me immediately thinking Golem. Practically speaking, I don’t think he has a bigger role to play in all of this but I kinda hope he ends up being the Neville Longbottom of the wormverse.

            • Also, really hoping that Tattletale was listening in to that convo. She could prolly pick up a lot of solid info from it (like the existence of the second entity).

            • That we know of. He could have an unawoken passenger, you see.

              But I’m now leaning toward Chevalier. He’s dressed in the wrong clothes (dressed like a Knight) he came too early (been a cape for a long time) has a power that befits a priest (sees the passengers and their strength, a side effect of which is his dimensional power), explains why it’d be important to use his title because he was there to hear and ‘be insulted’, and Taylor should know what his role is, because he’s in charge right then.

              • My assumption, based on the text, was that Contessa was the Champion. Remember, she “always wins”? Sounds like the very definition of a champion.

                Hg

              • @Hg

                I think the Faery was strictly talking about those with either Scion or his companion’s shard. Contessa’s shard came from somewhere else.

            • Props are important of course, but still just props.
              So, this suggests that Doc Mother doesn’t have any powers. That could be why she’s successful – she can’t be predicted as easily by the entities.

          • I’m hoping for someone else, but when it comes to people leading their flocks to enlightenment, there’s always Teacher.

            If Saint dare winds up right about this, I’m going to add about 15 new entries to his part of the list. I haven’t forgotten his punishments.

            • Yeah, Teacher’s “students” actually look more like fanatical cultist answering to their leader. However, I can’t really see Teacher as confused, only as a particularly evil asshole.

              • Have we seen him do anything particularly evil yet, really, aside from just using his power? He could be one of those who’s just kind of fucked by having an evil power, like Crucible. It’s not his fault he got minion-creating powers. He could’ve been put away in the Birdcage for the same reason Canary did: people were afraid of his power rather than anything he’d done with it. (Did we ever get an explanation for the origin of the Birdcage’s nickname? I just realized that the first we heard about it was Canary being sent there, yet it obviously wasn’t named after her in-setting. Very convenient or dramatic irony-ish or something.)

              • Teacher spearheaded two major conspiracies to take down high-ranking members of government, IIRC. No word on whether those conspiracies were justified, though.

              • He assassinated two world leaders for money. Not the act of a confused man with evil powers.

              • I may be reading too much in that skimpy little paragraph about Teacher’s crimes, but the vibe I got from it is that he didn’t even do it for money. He did because he could and did it in a way that meant that everyone knew it was him but nobody could prove it. Hence the need to frame him.

              • The Birdcage was nicknamed such because the prison dangles. It’s basically set inside a hollowed out mountain and the tube/elevator system that transports prisoners down is also the same (and only) thing that keeps the prison from falling.

                Originally, the Birdcage was conceived of in ‘The Cat and the Canary’, wherein Canary was the main character, and Siberian was a notorious inmate, who decided Canary was her newest victim. I make a nod to this draft when someone mentions in-story that Siberian is one of the only individuals who could break in/out of the Birdcage. (I do this a lot, actually).

      • I think Legend’s the High Priest. He seems to have the purest motives, at least, and he certainly fits as confused and bedraggled. Plus he got an interlude, though that doesn’t mean much

    • It was amazing, Wildbow. The discussion with Glaistig was really interesting and, speaking of someone who’s got a certain love for that kind of faerie story, really, really well-written. Perhaps one of the clearest summations of what’s happened so far, in some ways.

      The fight itself was exactly what it should be- Distant, world-rocking, the sort of thing that really hardcore fans would listen to from eighty miles away in a reinforced bunker. The battle would be meaningless up close, the scale is too large- It’s best seen from a distance far enough that you can see the edge of the explosions.

      You did well.

      • Alright. Thanks for the feedback.

        I get nervous about any chapter, but a chapter where I don’t even have time to reread what I’ve written earlier before submitting is brutal. Not good for my sanity.

        Need to find a reasonably priced place to live in some out of the way location and just become a relative hermit, distance myself from all possible interruptions. I’d slowly lose my sanity and probably my health, but I’d be able to write in peace!

        • It was a good chapter. The only thing I’d work on is the conversation with Glastig Uaine, which was a little more obtuse than you maybe intended? Taylor seemed like she understood things which I certainly didn’t understand, so either you’re slow-rolling some info that Taylor has that the audience doesn’t, or else she’s making some assumptions about things that aren’t really right. Either way, it can be a little frustrating to not be clear on what Taylor thinks that conversation is about.

          • I got the impression that Taylor was doing a good bit o’ the ol’ smile and nod in that conversation. She made a big deal about how rude it was of her to ask for clarification, so I assumed she was just bumbling her way along through a conversation she didn’t expect to understand until she came to a point she really wanted to use up Glaistig’s patience on clarifying.

          • If you figure out how to do that affordably, could you send me the blueprints? My time online has often been interrupted by stupid little things like needing to sleep.

        • Seriously dude, if these are your rough draft unedited versions then you are head and shoulders above most everybody else out there. You have nothing to worry about.

        • Hrm, If you really do have problems maintaining your concentration in the place where you live, have you considered some quality library time? Most libraries have cubicle rooms where people can have meetings, so you can run a little radio or music from a laptop. At one point in my life I had to take two hours of fast paced verbal recordings and turn them into spreadsheets of data, five days a week. Two hours recording. five hours transcribing. One hour of data entry. Without the local library to do the transcribing in, It would have been hopeless for me, as my workplace was loud and busy.

          Or maybe you have a large bookstore somewhere near you, one with reading areas and even some desks.

          And finally, depending on where you live, there are normally 24 hour restaurants, many of which will have at least a couple out of the way places where you might be able to set up shop, buy a coffee or soda, and get refills at need. Hint 1: Tip the wait staff well, so they don’t get upset at you. Hint 2: Know where the bad crime areas are and stay away from them – if that puts you back into your own house, so be it. In the area where I live, I used Waffle House for my personal office when I was doing paperwork intensive installation work. (Not related to the library mentioned above – local libraries were not open at 8-10PM which is when I was doing my paperwork for that job.) You can give yourself some mind-clearing time if you need it, and make the wait staff like you even more, if you volunteer to help them sort silverware when you need a couple minutes break from writing to let things try to organize themselves in your head.

          At the same time, I recognize that sometimes it’s just hard to concentrate when you are in a new place.

          Welp, I hope I’ve at least stirred up some ideas. Even if nothing above is plausible, there is probably something that will work for you if trying to write in your own home is troublesome. I am both ADD and OCD. I understand distraction quite well, and sympathize :)

          • It’s more that I’m in proximity to family.

            So the woman/family friend that rents my family the cabin up at the lake comes by to stay for 3 weeks, I can’t in good conscience not come by for dinner or see them off to the airport or whatever else. So figure a two hour interruption of writing in the evenings (which is when I usually pick up the pace) a few writing days in a row.

            Christmas, my mother wants the entire family (inc. her, me, my brother, his fiancee and his eight month old, canines) to go to Toronto for Christmas, I can’t not go, meaning I’ve got to squeeze in writing time between visiting and trips to the airport and staying at places where there’s no internet, etc. Keep in mind, it takes about 10-16 hours to write a chapter (typically from 10am to midnight).

            And it’s like… I like/love these people, so I do want to stay in touch, but if I ever come close to burning out, it’s those weeks where I’ve got to fit -everything- around other people’s schedules.

            Just yesterday, I saw family friends off to the airport. Today, my brother flies in with fiancee and one year old. Tomorrow, my cousin comes by and she’ll stay with me (my uncle and aunt are coming too, to move their son into his place for university). It’s a lot happening over the weekend, and I’ve still got to write Friday’s chapter.

            September will be quieter, with only a stay at the cottage, and then October quieter still, as I’m going to housesit for a good few weeks, in a place where family is more or less distant.

            • Do your family at least understand that you need writing time for this, and try to give you that time during these vacations? Do they read the story?

              Actually, that’s probably too personal a question, so don’t bother answering. Instead, I’ll just say that I hope they appreciate and support what you do as much as you deserve (which is all the support and all the appreciation all the time from everyone, possibly including showering you with money, kisses, and candy).

              • By which I mean the attempt to become a professional writer. Also I was thinking this would appear below his comment below and not a couple comments above.

            • It is good that you try to maintain a schedule of sorts, but if you are having difficulty during holiday season putting out a chapter, then I would suggest something simple like:

              “Due to concerns over my personal sanity during the holidays, this Tuesday Update will be delayed until Wednesday.”

              If your work at another job prevents you from updating the next day, just be clear about when the next update will happen, and stick to it.

              Then edit the chapter on the day you say you will, and none of your fans should give you any trouble. Any that do, are simply too damn needy.

              • I believe Wildbow has said that one of his goals with this project was maintaining the update schedule. As someone said recently, when it comes to working as a creative professional, discipline is more important than motivation.

              • What Packbat said.

                I took a break in June or July (Can’t remember) and it derailed me. One of the weakest arcs yet resulted. I didn’t feel more rested – just the opposite. Getting two chapters done early so I have stuff up for while I’m away, then trying to find my stride again… bah.

                I have a goal, a dream. I want to be a writer. For serious. That’s a profession which is 70% luck and 30% perspiration… which isn’t to diminish the degree of perspiration but more to emphasize the luck involved.

                Does the publisher notice your work in the slush pile? Do you get that one good review that spreads the word? Do you finish that year-long project and put your work out there, just in time for a shift in pop culture or a gap in the series of big and popular releases? Make the right contact?

                Or do you run into the negatives – the publisher with personal feelings about your story’s subject matter who dismisses it on the premise alone, the one batch of negative reviews that sinks years of hard work on Amazon, having someone beat you to the punch and release a very similar story while you’re in the process of polishing your own, or reaching out to someone in the business and having them try to take the rights to your work in a sneakily worded publishing contract?

                I can control these things (and innumerable other factors) but the effort to results ratio sucks.

                The most efficient variable (maybe even the only variable) I can truly control is the amount of serious work I output. Only .01% of authors make it (and by make it I mean earn a livable wage off of the writing). A fraction of those authors make it big.

                Those guys on the top of the Amazon bestseller lists? I’ve seen an article by a guy who hit the #1 spot for a few weeks running. His total earnings, after more than a year spent writing? Just shy of $10,000.

                So, clearly, I need to write more, work harder.

                I don’t want to take a break, I don’t want to rest or interrupt my schedule, because this is working. Maybe not working fantastically, but I’m making headway. My audience is growing. Donations are steadily increasing in total number. I know I’m going to lose some readers when I move on to project #2, because it’ll mean a change in genre, a break from our protagonist and major characters here. So let’s avoid losing any of my audience before the second project starts. If only 70% stick around, I’d rather it be 70% of 4000 readers than 70% of 2000.

                I always hated it when a series I was in love with failed to update on a scheduled day. I could make a billion announcements, and people would still wonder, because they don’t read the comments or the header of the page or whatever else. I want my work to be there when I say it’ll be there.

                I want to be miserable and stressed from time to time because I want to be the guy that’s pushing forward when other people are saying they can’t get writing done or because they’re exhausted.

                So I’m going to keep going, until injury, illness or knifepoint keep me from putting finger to key.

                …Maybe I’ll write something more coherent on the subject for my pig’s pen blog.

        • Putting up the rough draft takes balls.
          Having the rough draft shine, is proof of pure talent.

          A writer and a woman, alone in the wilderness. What could go wrong?

    • I may have mentioned this before, Wildbow, but I’ve found that these “I’m worried this kinda sucks” postings of yours are often attached to your very best work. :)

    • ” They’ll categorize and prioritize your plans and we’ll relay that information to people with the ability to put that into a plan.”

      –> Not sure if it’s what you meant to say or not but perhaps “…put that plan into action.”
      ———————
      ” Soaking up the rays, insofar as they was any sun to be had.”

      –> “as there was”

    • “I didn’t have Brockton Bay anymore, didn’t have my dad’s.”
      Either there’s a missing noun after dad’s, or it should just be dad not “dad’s”

    • Liason, instead of liaison. Minor, but it’s one I almost always pick up on immediately because I always made that same damn mistake and it always looked wrong and I could never remember how to spell it right and ARGH.

    • “Forty five minutes is a very short time,” Lab Rat commented. His voice was a rasp.

      “No. But Defiant has been mapping Scion’s route with his analysis engines

      Pretty sure that “no” should be a yes, since he’s agreeing. Either that or Lab Rat should say that 45 minutes “isn’t much time” so that Chevalier’s “no” can be an agreement with his negative statement.

        • So, you’re planning to tag all the characters? Neat.

          And it sounds like either tags are a lot more effort to add than I’d imagine, or you’re making sure you don’t miss a single character.

      • No, ‘saw’ is correct there. ‘One’ is the pronoun – read it as ‘There was a distortion, like a person saw with a shimmer of heat in the air’. It might be tighter to just make it ‘There was a distortion like a shimmer of heat in the air’ but it’s fine as it is…

  2. Hope people don’t mind my putting this down here early on, but I’d like to have it on people’s minds.

    An argument for a kickstarter model

    I’m sure that there’s been plenty of discussion here, and I’ve no doubts that Wildbow has considered it himself, but I just thought I’d throw out a bit of a plan as far as a Kickstarter went, and see what other people have to think. Obviously, this would be a kickstarter for Wildbow to be running and profiting from.

    There are two directions I can see this being taken in; Either finding funding for a physically published or digitally published compilation of all of Worm so far, or a Kickstarter for a sequel to Worm. Either way, I think that it would bring out a ton of interest; And indeed, it would be very much within reason to make it both; Both putting out Worm as an ebook that might be able to gain greater awareness, and to make some extra cash, or even physical publishing, as well as funding the sequel. Of course, both of these would require research into what kind of publishing would be available, but it could potentially catapult our beloved Wildbow into a much more notable position. It’d be a little sad to lose the particular coziness of the community, but if it means that he gets the recognition he deserves, well, frankly, I’m down for that.

    Now, as to the kind of stretch goals that a story like this might need- Well, there are a number of possibilities. Opening up the availability of a physical copy of the Worm book, maybe even a hardcover, if we reach a certain, presumably high stretch goal, might be fun- Though I think that Worm’s nature as an electronic media piece makes it pretty good. It might be really, REALLY cool if we could find some good artists who’d be interested in being commissioned to draw out sequences from the comic- The lack of visual medium has allowed for some incredible things, but I’m mostly thinking Harry Potter style chapter-blurbs. And of course, the most obvious, it’d make a great way to wrack up some ‘extra’ chapters- New stories and perspectives that Wildbow would be interested in telling, to add something new to the story.

    Hope this is helpful. I’d probably put down about a hundred bucks on it if it came up.

    • If there is a Worm kickstarter, I’ll donate quite a lot of money to it.

      Especially if there are physical books available. I don’t know how much it would cost to get the whole series on paper, but I know I’m willing to pay however much it costs.

        • That sounds about right to what I’d be thinking; I would think that the best way to do it would be as a stretch goal- If you raise enough money, and enough people commit their money to buying a copy of it from the kickstarter, it might appeal to some of the fans.

          On the other hand, I really love e-books, and it may be that the vast majority of the big fans here would prefer you to put all the money towards A: financing you so that you can perhaps make this into a full-time career, and B: new Worm stuff. Personally speaking, I think the art is the thing I’d like to see. No need for a serious ‘on-model’ thing; I’d really love to see a whole range of artists, all of them with their own interpretations of what these things look like. I mean, depending on the people we have here, we might have a few artists who’d jump at the chance for it; It’s not so much a necessary thing, but I can think of a /lot/ of scenes that I’d absolutely love to see rendered in a visual format.

          Course, all that is the reason why I posted this- So that, with any luck, you can see what the fans who have opinions on this stuff think.

          • Personally, I prefer electronic versions of things these days. They take up less space, and a flash-drive is easier to carry around than half a library.

            I know a lot of authors and artists seem to prefer physical copies, but I’m much more likely to purchase digital. I’ve backed 3 or 4 Kickstarter-projects at this point, and usually I donate at the highest level that gets me all the PDFs but before they want to actually mail me anything. I’d rather not have my room look like something out of one of those “Hoarder” TV shows.

          • I definitely prefer to read things in digital, but I also like to have hard copies of my favorite stuff so that I can be proud of them and reminded of them on my shelf; also, so I can show them to people, lend them to people, and so on. Sandman, for instance, is definitely worth having in hard copy. Just having beautiful things around is /nice/. I would absolutely pay for a hard-copy version of Worm once Wildbow’s done editing it to his satisfaction. Well, I’d pay for it up front when the Kickstarter runs, then happily wait for however many months it takes to edit the whole damn thing.

            Also, slight tangent: What name would you put on there? All your current readers know you as Wildbow, but one traditionally uses one’s “real” name when publishing, like, books. I was thinking about this the other day, because I’d like to do a bit of web publishing myself, but I get a bit paranoid any time there’s something that links my online handle to my meatspace identity, and that possibility of one day republishing my story in hard copy with my meatspace name on it terrified me a little. Most people, as I understand it, though, are for some reason not terrified by this prospect, possibly because they heard fewer horror stories about people online using your information to do creepy/scary things. Or because they’re less/differently neurotic.

            • Yeah, there’s nothing wrong with a pen name. Just ask Lewis Carroll, Lemony Snicket, Stan Lee, George Orwell, Mark Twain, O. Henry, Richard Bachman, and Mrs. Silence Dogood.

            • I’d probably use my real name, or just the initial of my first name, since there’s already a (somewhat famous) poet with my name out there. So I’d do W. Bowpig or W.D. Bowpig, instead of Will D. Bowpig, just as an example of how I’d frame it.

              Part of the reason for the pseudonym was because I know sometimes having (bad, offensive, hot-button-issue) work out there can sour your prospects with some publishers. I didn’t want to burn bridges with something that’s more experimental.

              As I’ve gotten more successful and my confidence regarding what I’ve done has scaled up, I’ve been less uptight about releasing more personal details about who I am and so on. I don’t broadcast my real name or any of that stuff, though (people who’ve donated might well have seen it).

              • Y’know, I was reading your earlier post about the difficulty and luck involved in getting published, gaining a following etc. It seems to me that you *have* a sizeable following, but it’ll probably be harder on you than necessary to transfer that to a publishing career because Worm is published pseudonymously. It makes it hard for people (*cough*me*cough*) to go “Ooh, this is by that guy who wrote Worm! Neat! MUST have!!”.

                That said, it doesn’t seem to have done E. L. James any harm – her fanbase followed her over to print even though she initially wrote the work pseudonymously.

                So take all that as you will… >_>

        • That’s cheaper than I was expecting.

          If $80 000 is enough for 1000 book-sets, then even with shipping and other incidental costs you can probably sell a book-set for only $200.

          (I don’t know anything about publishing, I’m just assuming that printing costs about 40% of the sale price.)

          So, yeah. I’d totally be willing to pay that.

          Hope there are enough people like me to make it possible.

          • 200 $ is a bit steep for a book.

            However I would be giving it a shot if it was signed. I know it’s not good for the wrists to sign 1000 books, but hey, it’s training for when you’re famous right? :P

            • remember, worm would be SEVERAL books. up to the leviathan storyline is, if I remember right, the first cut-off point. 200 $ for the six or seven books it’s probably going to be is not unreasonable, especially if they’re hardcovers

              • I would expect more than seven, actually. An average novel is about 100 000 words, right? And when Worm is done it’ll probably have close to two million words.

                So that’s almost twenty average novels. And usually a novel is more than 10 bucks. Which is why I was expecting a higher price.

                But I guess you could save a fair bit by making each book really thick.

              • > by making each book really thick.
                better to squash bugs with then, yeah I can see where that would be useful :)

              • Tom Clancy novels are probably comparable to the right cutoff points, which are something pretty close to 200k-220k words. 8-9 books in the series sounds about right based on that size.

                Of course, with significant editing, a hefty chunk of material would get cut to make each novel cohesive, and to make certain sections easier to parse. Added to that the fact that a professional editor would try hard to help make the prose more efficient at conveying a message (not that I’m saying wildbow is bad at that, but that’s why editors are important). You can probably anticipate shrinking the word count by as much as 10-25%.

                I could definitely see the series getting printed as a set of seven or eight large books, but it would involve a massive amount of rewriting. If we’re setting the books up to include the major climaxes, you’d basically start with a book leading up to Leviathan, then Echidna, then Coil, then the S9, then the transition to Weaver, then Behemoth, then Scion. Those aren’t exactly evenly spaced, but they’re most of the natural climax points for a novel, so turning the story into a marketable series would require modifying the story to make things fit into a structure that could be sold that way. It isn’t as easy as ANYONE here is thinking.

              • These are all reasons why I don’t think that making this thing a ‘typical’ book series would work. Personally speaking, I was always a bigger fan of huge, door-stopper series books that one could read for months at a time. I think that’s more the way to go here, and while a lot of people talk about editing, I think that this is one of those stories which has always hung together in a fairly coherent manner- especially considering most times, lack of clarity is because of Worm’s nature as an unreliable narrator, or because it’s a deliberate story choice. Though if somebody wants to do an editing job and see what Wildbow thinks of it, more power to them.

              • I don’t think that much editing is really necessary. The novels don’t all have to be the same length, and while the novelization process would undoubtedly introduce some oddness I don’t think that that oddness would be a big deal.

                Charles Dickens’ serials hold up pretty well as single novels, after all.

    • The cliffhanger exists for a damn good reason. It leaves the story incomplete, so that no given place is a ‘good’ place to stop- This can drive the audience nuts if there’s not enough catharsis, but this story has generally been good about that. But keeping us on the edge of our seats is damned important sometimes, y’know? And if there’s any point at which we should be constantly on the edge, this is it.

      • But cliffhangers are kindasorta a thing only serial format works can get away with. When it comes to publication and a first reader has the b/nook in his hands it might get… kinda dire.

        • Meh. The thing is that most chapter-based books do the same thing. End a chapter with a cliffhanger, so people feel unable to put the book down, compelled to devour it until it finishes.

          Mind you with something this size there’s a severe risk of some poopsocking, but hey.

        • I actually like cliffhangers better in print works. Because then I can find out what’s up if I just keep reading.

          In serials like this one, it’s just unpleasant to wait.

          If not for the fact that it would leave me out of the community discussion, I might read Worm an arc at a time.

          • This is actually an excellent point; Cliffhangers in books are kind of fun, because you can read up on what happens next. Cliffhangers in serial stuff like this leave you sort of pulling your hair out for a couple of days- At least when they’re as good as this stuff.

            • Lot’s of series end books on cliffhangers. I’m just thankful that with Worm, I only have to wait a few days and not an entire year.

            • That’s the point. I’m an avid reader, and there’s few things as thrilling as a cliffhanger. If you can just turn the page, it takes most if the bite out of it. If you have to wait three years for the sequel, you get bored, or forget. But… If you have to wait three days, the anticipation only hightens, making it much, much more interesting. Cliffhangers fit best in this format, not worst.
              -Zeta

        • What Ajoxer said. I thought the same as you (and made the same comment in an earlier post). But the more I think about it, the more I realise I’ve *read* books with cliffhangers every chapter like that. And they’re usually the ones that keep me reading long into the night when I should be sleeping! xD

  3. Cool stuff happening. Short (relative to Worm standards) but sweet.

    The description for the fighting was very sparse, maybe that’s intentional.

    So I’m thinking Scion can access portals, maybe?

    Somehow switch realities or something?

    Anyways, good chapter.

      • So ALL the Endbringers arrive via Khonsu to take on Zion & the Smurf mindfucks the surviving parahumans at the same time by “saving’ them?

        • I’m pretty sure that the Endbringers are stuck in one reality. Otherwise they’d probably retreat so some other reality when healing rather than “just” the oceanic trenches or upper atmosphere. Especially Smiurgh, frailest of the Endbringers and the one with the least-protected position.

    • The Deus ex Machina already made its appearance. That god from the machine you’re looking for is more of a God Driver. It sure did drive Scion away from the machine, too.

      That, or it’s whatever Lab Rat packed in his lunchboxes.

  4. Nice chapter, and the g-driver hurt him. VERY curious about the fairy queen’s background. She is batshit, but seems to know about Doctor Mother. Was she part of Cauldron or one of the first capes? Curious about who the other people who play a big role mentioned are. Panacea seems to be the shaper, perhaps she considers her an equal because she has learned to affect the passengers directly. I don’t think Wildbow will let her die like this, perhaps Scion’s light does something else, especially if the fairy queen is confident she will collect her passenger later. Curious about just how many passengers the fairy queen is holding. Though I think it is a genuine toss up if Grue is dead. Tattletale thought his darkness blocked Scion so there is a small chance.

      • “He wasn’t even aiming in our general direction, and he took out most of us,” Clockblocker murmured. “Fuck!”

        Grue’s group returned. Shuffle glanced at me and shook his head.

        I had to do something here. “Clock, you leave anyone behind?”

        “No.”

        “Grue?”

        He shook his head.

        It’s fairly ambiguous. She could be asking after Grue, she could be referring to him. Given the total lack of emotional response on her part, though, I’d guess not.

        • I thought the “Grue?” was still said to Cockblocker, asking him if Grue was still alive. I thought Grue had died just there. If that wasn’t meant to be ambiguous, I’d say that’s a mistake worth correcting.

          • I first read it as Grue surviving, but you’re right that edits have clarified the issue. All of the important people are still alive, (sorry Regent.) at the end here. All bets are off of course when the next chapter begins.

            ……. Come on 2300.

  5. Fantastic cliffhanger.

    Solid balance – a hint that something might possibly affect Scion with the G-driver, and ample reminders that this is much, much worse than fighting the Endbringers.

    Glaistig Uaine’s explanation says she’s picking out the shards who are active throughout the lifecycle, and not just in the passenger stage. Glaistig herself, Taylor – possibly Jack, as communication is the only shard for which we have evidence of activity from Scion’s interlude, but not constant activity so perhaps not.

    Champion, the high priest, the observer, the shaper, the demesnes-keeper. Administrator and whatever Glaistig Uaine’s name for her role might be would be additional, making seven. Five remaining to be named. Cauldron capes are excluded from consideration. At the crudest name/power association level: Shaper is plausibly Panacea; observer plausibly Dinah; demesnes-keeper plausibly Labyrinth. High priest and champion?

    Reconsider previous information: we’ve had strong evidence that Taylor, Grue and Eidolon are unusually strong; Eidolon’s Cauldron, and so from a different acting troupe as far as Glaistig’s metaphor goes. Grue and Eidolon might even be similar – that sort of drawing on or regulating others’ powers might fit a high priest description. Champion remains. If that sense of power is right, we can exclude everyone else who was at the Echidna fight as candidates. Foil remains a viable Champion candidate, with some support from Scion’s interlude. N.B.: the limitations imposed on spawning the passengers means that trying to judge candidates for these roles by sheer power won’t necessarily be correct. Not nearly enough evidence yet for any of these possibilities.

    Doctor Mother isn’t a direct extension of the third being. Cauldron may plausibly be another villain after Scion, though whether that conflict will be higher tension (difficult, but would be interesting) or lower (can certainly be worthwhile, cf. Harrowing of the Shire), hard to say.

    • Lung is a potential candidate for Champion.

      Current bet is that Scion’s cycled to specific, and will be killing, e.g., all left-handed cauldron capes with dark hair while everyone else tries to run and figure something new out. Foreshadowed, and a way off the present cliff (not without loss) which doesn’t involve Cauldron getting off the fence or a deus ex machina.

      • I thought Contessa was the Champion. Ok, it’s based on inference on Taylor’s part and she can be wrong (I’m pretty confident she’s wrong on Eidolon being the high priest), but it would fit.

        • Contessa was flagged in Scion’s interlude as being not one of his shards, nor one of his mate’s. Presently think that that makes her ineligible, because I think that Glaistig Uaine is talking about Scion’s nobility specifically.

    • The various nobility mentioned seem to work – collectively – as something in between Scion’s autonomous nervous system and his bridge crew. Collectively, they may have some influence or some capacity to affect him. Or understand him – he was talked into this, and he might yet be talked out of it.

      Wild speculation: third being might be the result of Cauldron’s researches trying to revive Scion’s mate, and the whole thing might be a closed loop.

    • Just want to make a suggestion; What if Defiant is the Champion? His power is unique in some special ways, he’s driven, and he does, indeed, have a certain curious knightly feel to him. When he fought for his own honor, he was lost, and when he fought for the honor of his damsel in distress, he was at his best.

      The fact that said damsel was also in fact a dragon speaks towards the fact that we all know that the best princesses are dragons, as well.

      I honestly do like Defiant. He started out as a real asshole, and he’s gotten better. He’s the sort of character that I can empathize with all too easily, someone whose reactions to the world around him aren’t quite right, and who is too driven by ambition to be able to step away from the situations where he’s hurt by his lack of social savvy. He makes a particularly strong counterpoint to Sphere/Mannequin; He started as a selfless man, working for the betterment of all mankind, and became a ruthless murderer, destroying those who attempt to make things better; Armsmaster started as a ruthlessly ambitious social climber, and when his career was destroyed, he found love, and started focusing on making the world a better place. And frankly, that does sound like the kind of background you might expect from a champion- one who fights in place of someone who cannot fight.

      • Not impossible.

        A consistent drive to make things efficient is something that makes sense to be always active. He wasn’t around for Echidna. Not sure that it fits, but not impossible.

        • A further thing worth noting; The nobility seem to have a certain meta quality to their powers, from their significance; Armsmaster is one of the single most significant characters so far. His actions have shaped Skitter intensely, perhaps more than anyone else, in a lot of ways, and his power is a very meta one- He’s great at miniaturizing and appropriating the tech of other Tinkers. When you think about it, that’s a kind of ridiculously useful power to have; Technology, after all, is best when it can be mixed together.

          Guess he’s going to have to install the God-Driver in one of his gauntlets…

          • By the time he figures out how to do that, Scion will be pretty much done with killing humanity on all the earths and will be busy working on whatever comes next. Or Scion will have been defeated. Either way.

      • I like Defiant, too, but if you’ll allow me to quibble:

        I think Colin always wanted to be a hero, but as Armsmaster he got caught up in becoming publicly perceived as a great and valiant warrior — and ended up not only sending a teenage girl into the arms of supervillains but arranging the deaths of her and others for his own gain … only for the girl he thought he set up to die being the one who saved his life (among many others).

        What made Colin stop was not love, I think, but perspective — both his own, having time to think about it, and Dragon’s, during their conversations. He realized that he didn’t want a reputation. And so when he was given an opportunity to escape, he used it to become Defiant, a hero who didn’t care about reputation, public image, or his rank in the hierarchy. A hero who was no less proud, but whose pride was in what he did, not how he was seen. That he found love in the process was a source of great joy — not his prime motive.

  6. Okay, Cauldron is now collectively that guy. That guy who always makes excuses to skip out when it’s time to pay the check. Or that guy who runs the fuck away when you got burly biker dudes about to knock your head off. Or, y’know, that guy who goes out of his way to assemble a superhero army then promptly leaves them all to die because he’s a complete pansy.

    What the hell are they even thinking? Sure, they’re cold utilitarians. But do they really think leaving all these people to die to avoid a possible chance of getting killed by Scion is going to help things? What do they think the rest of the heroes are going to say? Oh, you left our leader and some of our most veteran heroes to die because you couldn’t take a risk? Oh well! Acceptable losses right?

    Fucking low-down snake-ass motherfuckers.

    • Well, keep in mind that there are a bunch of people who are obstacles to their plots for world domination in this group.

        • They could just conquer the non-decimated worlds, where all the remaining people are. I mean, Earth Bet is pretty solidly fucked regardless.

            • We’re just coming up on decimation now. Possibly right at it. When Taylor was talking to Sophia, the estimate was 500 million dead out of 7 billion, so 1/14th. If 200 million have died in the hour or two since that time, we’re right at decimation! (In the utterly archaic sense that hasn’t been what anyone other than pedantic assholes have meant when they said that word since approximately 1856 (I’m the sort of pedantic asshole who checks the OED about this sort of thing, so I ought to know.))

              • [begins pointless rant]
                The problem is the the “misused” meaning haven’t yet to completely usurp the l context of the word from what it originally meant(unlike say,”billion”) and many still used it that way.Until they people” in charge “of dictionaries(they either listed only the original definition or both) choose a definition that isn’t completely contradictory to one another,it will remain be a sour point for me,it fills me with so much rage(I have a history with that particular word).It’s bad enough that I want to decimate the bodies of the person using them(choose your context wisely,Mhuahahaha!!), one of my more romantic fantasy I have to say[/pointless rant end]

              • http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/decimate

                Words change in meaning. Evolution, dude. It means to remove a significant fraction of something- What is significant varies. As you pointed out, a person losing 10% of their body could easily be fatal. Lunatics aren’t just people who are being affected by the moon. Decimate CAN mean removing precisely one tenth, it can mean other things too, because verbal evoluition.

              • @ Ajoxer

                See! See! That is exactly the type of thing I’m talking about. They list both [b]CONTRADICTORY[/b] definition while noting that none of them had become obsolete or disused .GAAAARHHHHHH!!!!!!!

              • May I have the pleasure of introducing you to my friend “literally”? If you want a good word to have neurotic fits about its use, there’s probably your best prospect. Or, if you prefer to historical examples like “decimate,” try “peruse.”

                See also: a rant about how dictionaries are not in any way responsible for the progress of language and are only peripherally important in the establishment of “standard” meaning. I’m too tired to actually give such a rant, so just imagine it or google one or something.

  7. I don’t think it’s just “passable”. With character development, a good fight scene, an evil cliffhanger, and the other assorted things that help make this a good story, this is well up on your usual standards. I mean, the way your comment sounded, it seemed you thought it would turn out closer to a flop chapter than a regular one. And that thing with Skitter/Weaver being resolved was nice. It makes me happy that she seems to have found a balance.

  8. Great chapter as usual. Just wondering, is there any chance of a Glaistig Uaine interlude? She’s one of my favorite characters and I’d like to see her in action.

      • It would be a rather fascinating piece if, for example, written in screenplay format, or maybe stage and with everyone as the name of their character- For example,

        EXT. CLIFFSIDE (DAY)

        QUEEN ADMINISTRATOR: And the priest?

        FAERIE QUEEN: The high priest. You and I may be doing without the titles, but we mustn’t offend the others.

        QUEEN ADMINISTRATOR barely reacts, but seems put off by this answer.

        QUEEN ADMINISTRATOR: Right.

        This’d open the possibility for some interesting views on her perspective of people, and a whole lot of theorizing on which actors correspond to which characters.

  9. Hmm. It’s seems to me that Taylor has the power to read Scion’s mental state, hinting at some additional power to read or influence him — or become his equal in some fashion. I don’t think insects clued her into his presence. Her status as the last shard is undoubtedly the key.

    • Everyone can read Scion’s mental state. His emotions radiate even if his face doesn’t move.

      So it’s not just Taylor.

      • That’s far from confirmed. There may be something to Mister Eel’s point. Theo’s assertion that Jack can sense other capes /like Taylor/ might be more telling than it seems. It would make a lot of sense if the Administrator shard had an ability to check up on other shards, direct them effectively, and so on. Like Jack, she may have “invisible” powers going on that have contributed to her, let’s face it, basically implausible level of success so far. Of course, I’m not at all certain I want that to be true, because it does rather steal a good bit of her thunder, but it may be crucial to the eventual victory.

        They do win, right, Wildbow? Lots of people die and all, but humanity wins somehow. Right? I just got back from seeing The World’s End, and let’s just say that I’m duly suspicious of these sorts of things.

        • No, it is confirmed. Here’s a quote from Kevin Norton’s interlude:

          “Time was, this golden man spent his time wandering, floating here and there, observing but never doing anything. In a daze. Naked as the day he was born. Everyone had different ideas on who he was. Some thought he might be an angel, others thought he was a fallen angel, and still more thought there were scientific explanations. Only thing they ever agreed on was that he looked sad.”

          “He does.” Lisette was staring, but the golden man was only looking at Kevin.

          “He doesn’t,” Kevin said. ”Don’t buy it. He doesn’t look anything. That expression never changes. But whatever’s underneath, that’s what’s giving you that feeling. He looks sad because he is sad. Except you take out the ‘looks’ part of it.”

          • Hm, yeah… I suppose there is that. The first time I read it, I just read it as Kevin projecting his own depression onto the blank slate of Scion and Lisette doing the same because of his suggestion, but… that is pretty solid, at least compared to Wildbow’s usual level of implication.

        • We know from Scion’s interlude that the Shard Taylor got was one of the strongest. That he had to cripple it so badly it was almost destroyed. And that it had the power to control other Shards. So the impression I got is that it was a part that controlled the others. A brain or CPU.

          So just what could that mean? I would imagine uncrippled Taylor could control a lot more than bugs, and over a lot larger area. Whats more she’d be one hell of a Trump, if it did indeed tell other shards what to do. She could just order the other shards to stop helping, shutting down powers for example. It would be a threat to Scion by messing with the Shards that Scion still has. Though I don’t think we’ll see Taylor getting a sudden power up to save the day.

          • Huh. You guys are a lot better at reading deep into that stuff than I am. Glad I’m not an English major, I take things too literally.

            Anyways. I suppose the trick would be to A. have Taylor not die and B. have Bonesaw and Panacea and such “fix” Taylor’s shard, under the direction of such passenger-nature-knowing folks as Glaistig and Tattletale. With the unspoken step of learning what the readers know, of course.

  10. Kinda neat that Taylor can sense Scion’s emotional state. It neatly explains how she could tell he didn’t like Eidolon. I wonder if she has other Scion related powers that she hasn’t had the chance to discover yet.

    Well, if they all survive this Taylor can try and pull a reverse Jack Slash.

  11. I kind of hope that, the pepper spray that she packed along more for nostalgia’s sake than anything else, somehow turns out to be Scion’s kryptonite. Or at least somehow crucial in winning the day.

        • Well the line between foreshadowing and chechov’s gun is rather blurry, but Glaistig Uaine blathering about fairies rising in 300 years could be considered one.

          And if people count, then Calvert appearing as a bit character at the end of the interlude with Nilbog is definitely one.

          But yeah, I’m hard pressed at finding others.

          • Don’t forget Greg. Dude was a Checkhov’s Gunman in a big way. He put in a brief appearance as an unimportant bit character in the very first arc, dropped off the map, then resurfaced something like 20 arcs later to initiate the series of events that led to the public revelation of Skitter’s civilian identity.

        • The E-pens that were used in the mayor’s house were first mentioned when Taylor was suiting up for the first time, before she fought Lung.

          • It looks like the correct term should’ve been Epipens, not e-pens. They were mentioned in 1.04 when she was considering her options during the fight, not when she was suiting up. It wasn’t used until 15.09. It’s so annoying not having edits here.

            • I’m not saying Scion is going to turn out to have a fatal pepper allergy. But I can see Taylor using that pepper spray in some way that helps her out. Maybe Lung will try to go after her and she’ll spray it in his eyes for old times sake.

              • I can see it. It’s the last chapter. Taylor, against all odds, still lives. Things seem to be going fine…when suddenly Lung appears out of nowhere ready to settle old scores. He starts to say something…and gets a canister full of pepper spray straight in the eyes. Cut to credits has Lung screams in pain.

  12. Vista is another candidate for Demense-keeper or even Shaper, maybe.

    Taylor ‘feeling’ Scion might be related to the effects when someone triggers — since Scion is the source of the passengers, they might all ‘feel’ him a bit, but maybe the ‘noble’ passengers are more developed in that sense.

    Dunno.

    Keep up the Awesome, Wildbow!

    • That and the fact that Taylor has started being able to keep track of capes who she hasn’t put any bugs on yet. At one point I think she even senses Rachel behind her when it is explicitly stated there aren’t any bugs around. I think she probably got a shard designed to control other shards (somehow?) and she interpreted this as insects, having no other parallel. I’m pretty sure the shards all have a rudimentary intelligence to them (like bugs) which together make up the whole entity (like Taylor, with her bugs). It has been noted that she gets smarter when she has more bugs around.

    • Everyone can “feel” Scion. Even people without powers.

      Let me quote Kevin Norton’s interlude:

      “Time was, this golden man spent his time wandering, floating here and there, observing but never doing anything. In a daze. Naked as the day he was born. Everyone had different ideas on who he was. Some thought he might be an angel, others thought he was a fallen angel, and still more thought there were scientific explanations. Only thing they ever agreed on was that he looked sad.”

      “He does.” Lisette was staring, but the golden man was only looking at Kevin.

      “He doesn’t,” Kevin said. ”Don’t buy it. He doesn’t look anything. That expression never changes. But whatever’s underneath, that’s what’s giving you that feeling. He looks sad because he is sad. Except you take out the ‘looks’ part of it.”

  13. - Glastig says some very interesting things. The courts are of course the Scion shards and the Third Entity shards (Cauldron shards, being the dead leavings of Counterpart don’t count)
    - so she’s Skitter again, is she. No, she’s at long last a Taylor in Skitter’s clothing, a synthesis of everything she has been and become.
    - Ingenue was paired with Chevalier because his insane willpower can be trusted as a shield against her shenanigans
    - obviously, anti-Glastig protocols are the same as anti-Jack: send in the non-capes. Better yet, send in the Azazels.
    - where is Teacher and what’s he doing right now?
    - how are they going to survive? Either it’s a deliberately non-lethal attack OR not an attack at all OR Cauldron will stop being such chickenshits.

    Ha. Hahahahahaha. Like that could ever happen. Nah, it’ll probably be Lab Rat’s mystery doodads.

    • One possible interpretation is that Chevalier was the fourth (fifth?) boyfriend, the one they got to before Ingenue did too much damage. That would explain how he and she were able to know what her power would do to his without extensive practice. Remember how released villains are chosen – someone had to vouch for Ingenue in order for her to be released. That would explain why she went to him immediately upon release.

    • Re: Point 1: The two courts are the Warrior’s shards and the Counterpart’s shards. She says that the “other court” arrived all fucked up, i.e. the Counterpart’s dead shards. This also confirms that Glaistig is one of the Warrior’s. She almost certainly has the shard that’s meant to collect all the other mature shards at the end of the cycle.

  14. Lots of interesting and mysterious things.

    Stupid Glaistig Uaine and her purposefully obscure ways. Ok some we already knew ( the two courts being the two entities, obviously) and some she’s not saying explicitly because Cauldron is listening, but still. So, taylor is administrator, Labyrinth is probably demesne-keeper (that’s actually a very badass-sounding title), Panacea is presumably the shaper and I’d go with Contessa as the champion (not that she’s doing much championing). Observer may be Tattletale or perhaps Dinah, I have no clues on the high priest. Almost sure it’s not Eidolon, though.
    Oh and her ghosts just got even creepier. Brrr.

    If Lab Rat says you don’t want to know what’s in those things he made, then I don’t want to know. Oh and he and String Theory should totally get a room, it’s not as if there’s much time left.

    Speaking of which, Scion has basically just showed he can cross dimensions on his own. At this point Cauldron shouldn’t really care of him following through a portal, as Taylor aptly put. But noooooo.

    By the way, seems I was right about Ingenue and Chevalier. She did make his sword bigger :) .

    • I’m willing to bet Chevalier is the Champion. It’s practically his character description.

      That, and I’m convinced his “Passenger-Vision” is going to end up being spectacularly important considering he and Glaistig Uaine are the only people to have it.

    • I’m pretty sure Contessa’s not it due to her being part of a third “court” or some other strange source. I’m pretty okay with it being Chevalier, even if it’s a bit obvious.

      It just hit me what the really creepiest thing about Glaistig Uaine is: She said that her metaphor breaks down. She KNOWS that she’s projecting this obtuse metaphor onto everything. She’s not ACTUALLY batshit insane. She just chooses to act in a manner that’s totally contrary to consensual reality… which is also insane, but a much more insidious kind of insane.

      • It’s impolite — I don’t know that it’s actually insane (i.e. symptomatic of mental illness).

        That said, I think it might only be the actors-on-a-stage part that’s a metaphor, and said metaphor is being presented within her larger off-kilter interpretation of the universe.

  15. Why are they firing at Scion when Cauldron and even Tattletale know he’s just a projection?
    My guess is Cauldron had a plan to attack the entity and wanted a good distraction.

    An omniscient cape? Damned stalkers!

  16. Always preferred lurking but the fairy queen’s talk got me curious enough to comment.

    Seems there are seven positions of import. People with powers of key import.

    We know that the fairy queen is one of them and she thinks that panacea and Taylor are with her.
    During Echidna’s interlude, I think she said that Taylor, Grue and Eidolon are shards of equal significance but, since Eidolon is a cauldron cape, he can’t belong to Scion. Echidna also lets us know that everybody else that was there at the time do not have that same importance.

    In Scion’s interlude, he thought Dinah and Taylor’s shards were very important and maybe shouldn’t be grouped together. So, Dinah is probably also important. Same thing with Jack Slash

    So, I’m thinking:

    Fairy queen: Glaistig Uaine

    Queen administrator: Taylor

    Champion: Grue? (Not sure where else he might fit)

    High priest: Jack (SH 9 are his flock :/ )

    Observer: Dinah (Strongest precog in the world)

    Shaper: Panacea (No explanation)

    Demesne-keeper: No idea (Maybe labyrinth?)

    Anyways, awesome chapter as always! :)

    Hopefully, not eveybody dies. :(
    Also, is Grue dead? :’(

    • They don’t have to all be people we’ve met. It’s a big world.
      Well, it was. In Worm, there’s now a lot less of it.

    • Demesne:

      1 : legal possession of land as one’s own
      2: manorial land actually possessed by the lord and not held by tenants
      3a : the land attached to a mansion
      b : landed property : estate
      c : region 2, territory
      4: realm 2, domain

      Great, I’m sure that eliminates all ambiguity once and for all and easily allows us to figure out the inner workings of Wildbow’s plot.

  17. They opened two doorways. One directly between Scion and the Heroes and another facing Scion. Boom, he shoots himself. Calling it now.

    Unless Cauldron and the people in charge know something I don’t that’s the first thing I would have tried against the big golden idiot.

    • I wouldn’t be surprised if Scion’s blasts can simply ignore doorways/portals. His power is to essentially have all powers and ignore them when used against him.

      • Didn’t he give up his powers when he sent them out?
        Felt that was why he’d gotten rid of Dinah’s shard only at the end. Still needed it to project the future.
        Would be awesome if the portal trick worked though.
        Or maybe it will be sent to his real body? Cauldron capes probably don’t have the safeguards that he gave to his own shards. All the other capes were just Cauldron’s bait. :D

        • They do need some way of stopping him, I agree, because it’s just been demonstrated that nothing, not even fleeing to another world, has any effect on him.
          In true Worm tradition, I’ll expect the unexpected.

          • I can think of something that can work against him. It’s been demonstrated against Jack Slash and it’s been demonstrated here.

            Scion works through his components, the shards. Jack could manipulate them, sense them, all that, and he was ultimately stopped by a man with advanced technology, tinker tech even.

            It may be helped by the possibility of a different high priest candidate.

            High Priestess Tarot card is associated with: Knowingness, Love, Relationships, Wisdom, Sound judgment, Serenity, Common sense, Intuition, Mystical vision, introspection, otherworldliness.

            Some of that sounds like Contessa, some of it sounds like Dragon, except I think it’s much more likely for a Faerie queen to confuse the pronouns of an AI. Either way, like much wild speculation, I don’t except to be right on the money for my part.

            Especially because the Hierophant card is also sometimes called the High Priest.

            Only thing I don’t like about that interpretation is that the High Priest focuses on knowledge, institution, group identification, power, discipline…and education. A strong teacher there.

            • “Only thing I don’t like about that interpretation is that the High Priest focuses on knowledge, institution, group identification, power, discipline…and education. A strong teacher there.”

              That immediately brings to mind Theo, to be honest. Just think about Golem’s life growing up, and then how he had to push himself to his limits after he joined the Wards.

              There are, of course, other reasons for that particular guess.

              His bet with Jack Slash could be seen as the moment where this all was set into motion. Wearing the wrong costume could be a reference to how he would have been a member of Purity’s Gang, if he hadn’t been forced to trigger so quickly in order to settle the bet with Jack – and the haste in making him trigger also fits with him arriving at the wrong time.

              The fact that Taylor should be familiar with the High Priest also helps, since Theo was the person closest to her during her time with the Wards.

              In general, I can’t imagine the Fairy Queen considering Cauldron capes as equals. Their shards are dead, unable to grow, and power alone doesn’t make someone her equal.

              Of course, the fact that the High Priest has a role to play in this at all means that his power should be able to affect Scion in some way. It’s hard to know what Theo’s power could do to even effect Scion, but… I can’t help but think about how Scion had intentionally made his body resemble a certain mineral.

              (Obviously, the prank scene with Wanton was foreshadowing for how Golem will use his power against Scion.)

  18. For once I can give a negative review on something… bah, you’re spoiling us, seriously.
    Ok, this is complicated, and I’m not entirely sure I can convey it. So please bear with me Wildbow.

    Anyway: para-prophetic name calling (I’m sure there’s an actual name for this device, but it eludes me at the moment).
    Glaistig regales us with some titles, that identify some people we might or might not know. I’ve seen the same thing elsewhere, and it’s almost never done well enough. Sorry but I do not think you pulled it off either.

    She probably is trying even harder to be a cryptic Tolkien elf, since Cauldron is watching, but still we have a list of titles that have no meaning whatsoever.

    -> I always found that for this literary device to be employed in a “good” way, the author -must- put in at least a couple of dead giveaways, and/or limit the list (or part of it) to a very specific subset of possibilities.

    However Glaistig’s list could mean pretty much everyone, and if you start down that path next you think “even capes we have not yet met”. This is not good because it adds a vague mystery that’s more bothersome than enthralling.
    The hints about the high priest -are- cool, but while they restrict the scope a bit I feel by that point in the narration I’m already in the “I don’t care, it’s too vague and this does not help a bit” mindset.

    -> Another important (but not mandatory) thing is to have a “cohesive” list.

    I know it’s hard, and sometimes you probably have to shoehorn a bit to make someone fit. But at least if we have e.g. “earth wind and fire” we can make some guesses by inference, or maybe have a vague idea of what the group is supposed to do.
    At he very least it diminishes the -feeling- of randomness.

    Sure, Glaistig -flat out says- what the various guys do (save for the priest). But normally she’s so off kilter you never know if she’s speaking sense or at that moment she just tuned into radio anotheruniverse and she’s discussing five dimensional edelweiss instead.
    The heterogenity of the list -adds- to the confusion for no apparent good reason.

    I do get she’s fond of important sounding names, they’re related to what the shards do, and in an actual court (real or elvish) the names -are- different. It fits her and the setting.
    Still, it adds to the confusion and it was maybe avoidable.

    Ok, there we go. Hope it made sense.
    I’m sorry I cannot offer actual suggestions about how to change it but that’s what I get for discussing a mystery topic.

    And please Wildbow, do not take it as a “this chapter sucks” post. The chapter was good as usual, and I really liked some interactions between characters. I just got confused by the elvish confusiness. :)

    • I don’t believe that Glaistig is fond of important sound names so much as that is how she perceives. We’re trying to resolve two points of view which thus far only tangentially relate to each other.

      • Glaistig’s reality being only tangentially related to our own is one of the problems in understanding her imho.

        Anyway, off the top of my head I can think of the following people for all the positions (for various reasons that I’ll not add, lest the post becomes even more kilometric), and I’m sure more will come to mind at the most unlikely time:

        - Champion: Grue, Jack, Chevalier, Defiant, Dragon, Golem, Legend, Pretender, Noelle, Eidolon

        - High priest: Grue, Jack, Nilbog, Dragon, Golem, Pretender, Noelle, Eidolon, Riley, Aidan

        - Observer: Tattletale, Dinah, Chevalier, Eidolon, Pretender, The most powerful man in the world, Dragon, Grue

        - Shaper: Bonesaw, Panacea, Nilbog, Moord Nag, Dragon, Spectral girl who manages Cauldron’s base

        - Demesne Keeper: Vista, Labyrinth, Eidolon, Pretender, Grue, Doormaker, Spectral girl who manages Cauldron’s base

    • Remember back in the Slaughterhouse Nine recruitment drive? Wildbow used this exact same device. Cherish rattled off a list of titles she made up for capes she had sensed with her power but didn’t know their names. It fueled some great speculation up front, then a satisfying feeling of revelation as it became clear who the recruits were.

      As of right this second, I think this use is slightly less good, if only because I remember that previous use, so it’s not as novel. Also, the cast list felt much more solid then, so I had an easier time speculating about the possibilities. Now, we barely know who’s alive, much less which “court” they’re part of, if they were present for the meeting, or if they’ve even been named yet… or named in the past hundred chapters. But! I remain confident that, despite this uncertainty, the device will play out well, because I trust Wildbow. Very, very few of his narrative devices have fallen flat so far.

      • You’re right, I almost forgot about the Cherish nicknames. They were indeed handled better, for the reason you mention (much narrower scope, less cryptic) and because we knew what those guys were supposed to do (be nuts enough to be considered for nine membership).

        When it happened in the story helped too. Back then we had a lot of impossible (or nearly so) to answer questions, an easier one helped stave off the feeling that you were not getting answers at all.
        It was in an action heay part of the timeline too, so a bit more of mystery was a nice addition.

        Now, however we are in a cosmic reveal moment, and while this adds a piece to the puzzle, it’s a piece cut up into tiny confetti.

        I even came up with a better way to explain it:
        if Glaistig said “the aaargabl, the unzmart, the prot and the zappaman” it would have made exactly as much sense for me.

        > I remain confident that, despite this uncertainty, the device will play out well, because I trust Wildbow.

        I am too very confident in his narrative skills. But I find so few things I disagree about in his writing of late, that I never know what to comment about. :)

    • Honestly, this is really only a negative if we need to have the payoff *now*. And we don’t. These are plot seeds whose meaning will become clearer over the course
      of the story.

      Remember way back when Taylor had some throwaway thought about how there were no psychics – well, no non-endbringer ones, at least. Then some arcs later we met an endbringer and we were “Oh, so *that’s* what an Endbringer is. Holy crap! o_O”

      Think of it like that. Sometimes story elements need to lie fallow for a while so they can have their full impact.

  19. “Cauldron,” I muttered. “You’re listening, with that creepy omniscient cape of yours. You’re watching. If you’re wondering what you should do, sitting on the fence between letting Scion see your portals up close and track you down or letting us die, let me cast a fucking vote. You save us.”

    Yes! There’s that last ounce of sack I was looking for! Dishonor before death!

    Also, the G-driver was nice. It actually knocked Scion for a loop there, momentarily.

    Also, whatever’s about to happen, I bet Lab Rat’s box thingy is about to do something. I don’t know if he used that time to grow little white and green mushrooms with eyes on them or anything like that, but it’s time for his trick to save the day too.

    Speaking of plays, God Driver is quite the Deus ex Machina.

    Regardless of if they lived as heroes, it’s time to die as villains, and by that I mean they start chucking bodyparts that get knocked off at Goldenboy there. Every last bit of spite and vengeance needs to be used up.

    I think the more appropriate speech in this instance needs to come from Dr. Doom himself:

    “Bereft of my technology…mystic armor damaged…offensive and defensive capabilities minimal. Enemy forces… *faces a horde of demons*…substantial. It matters not. Even cornered, to my last breath I remain who and what I am. I will not hide, nor tremble, nor beg. Let them come and reckon with fury that is Doom Defiant. Here I stand, hell-horde! Unbowed! But understand: If it is my destiny that I should perish this day, I shall not go down easily…and I shall not go down alone.”

    Demons: “Rip its skin.” “Weat it for hide.” “Its eyes for me.” “Tear its flesh from its bones.”

    “Yes, come, and let us make an end of it–

    –THERE IS DOOM ENOUGH FOR ALL!”

    • > Speaking of plays, God Driver is quite the Deus ex Machina.
      Definitely, it’s so ex than the god is propelled beyond lunar orbit.

    • My guess? He made worms. Those proto-entities that developed the ability to move between dimensions. At the moment of the attack, the thing in the box will shift Taylor into different dimension.

      • Having been privy to Panacea’s discovery of Scion/the passengers’ true nature, it could be possible. He does say he was working on it for seven years, since he was captured, which makes it a bit problematic.

    • I don’t know, it didn’t work. I think it would only be a dues ex machina if it killed scion. As it was, it inconvenienced him briefly.

      But it does seem like now is the time to go down like a badass. Although, if everyone’s going to die, nobody would really know if you did go down blubbering like a little girl. Except Cauldron, as they have that weird all-knowing parahuman, but as you’d be dead there’s not much they can do.
      I do like the quote though.

  20. Well here goes with my interpretation of the various roles. I’ve combined both what this arc chapter specifies as well as what the role means in a general or historical sense, at least as I believe it to be.

    Fairy queen: Glaistig Uaine
    Known.

    Queen administrator: Taylor
    Known.

    Champion: Chevalier or Legend. Leaning to the former due to the latters involvement with Cauldron. Defiant is out due to his fall and redemption cycle ill fitting this persona and Grue is too damaged and unknown (comparably).

    Helping to keep the court on the path set by the high priest. Consistently noble, fighting for their cause/side/faith. A standard to which others aspire. Skill in arms, skill in leadership. Protection of those in need. Inspiring.

    High priest: Scion or Jack. Leaning towards Scion as Jack is out of commission, and while Scion could (I believe) neutralize Gray Boy’s loop of Jack, it doesn’t resolve the latters’ being anything but a catalyst. Another set piece if you will.

    Initiator of the conflict. Deserving of Respect. Is not fully apprised of what the main group is doing/conspiring. Not in communication. Is rigid and putting on an act, wears mask(s) to hide his/her true self. S/he who sets events in motion. Did expect a new play, but now there is no finale. Interface between man and the divine. Keeper of the faith/secrets/mysteries. Interprets Gods will and/or words to the world.

    Observer: Dinah.
    Opposite the Champion in keeping the act in motion. Watcher. Neutral. Witness. Arbiter.

    Shaper: Riley or Panacea.
    Helps clean up the aftermath of the Act. Ability to shape, given the context of the zenith of this Act, humans. To further elucidate, the planet is a mess with hundreds of millions dead. The core of the defense and vision consists of parahumans, very few in number and in immediate vicinity to the Act’s culmination. This suggests that the Shaper is directly related to them and their cause.

    Demesne-keeper: Labyrinth.
    Demesne means “manorial land actually possessed by the lord and not held by tenants.” Bear this in mind when interpreting this persons’ identity and role. is the lord the same or other than the high priest? is the lord even a person? Is it the species? And with ‘tenants’ being humans does that rule out this Earth plane?

    I don’t know if I err or not by excluding Cauldron capes. I do believe at this point, though, that they are the Antagonists if this story and Scion will ultimately redeem and grow/learn/evolve. Cauldron are the other court and the final conflict will be the two courts in battle.

    So, what do you think? How far off the mark am I?

    • Ugh, I messed up the paragraph demarcations. To clarify, each portion is delimited by the role titles. Sorry for any confusion.

    • Looking again at her lines, I think Glaistig Uaine is a natural cape and I think the theory that the “two courts” are natural (i.e. Scion) and artificial (i.e. Cauldron) is correct. In this case, I think the High Priest is a natural cape who is similarly confused to the Cauldron capes.

      I honestly think it’s Chevalier. Look at it: most capes use their powers pretty directly in their fighting — Chevvy uses his power for his armor and his blade and that’s it. I suspect he may be like Parian: using his power not quite correctly because he doesn’t understand what his power should be.

      • About Chevalier, if that is true then it’s hilarious that CODY, of all people, is actually the first to think so. When he gets angry that he’s losing to a guy whose power seems to be just having a big sword and armor.

      • I was thinking by two courts she meant Seelie and Unseelie. They just got done joining together the capes too uncontrollable and hostile and the capes that stayed within the rules or helped enforce them.

        But I can see that with Chevalier, as his power seems to involve layers. Like an onion or an ogre.

        • > But I can see that with Chevalier, as his power seems to involve layers. Like an onion or an ogre.
          or photoshop

          and I think the seelie/unseelie thing is coincidence, but a coincidence that helped her decide she’s an elf.

    • I don’t think Scion can be the High priest. Glaistig says that Scion is sort of outside the schemes. He’s father, child creator and destroyer all at the same time.

      • So Scion plays the role as lord (which is still a problem for me because I see it as a static position. Maybe I should pay less attention to crazy ass Glaistig Ulain). Who is high priest? Not in communication, wears a mask (not literal), is the initiator or associated with s/he who set this conflict in motion. Not sure. I don’t believe it’s Eidolon. Too close to Cauldron.

    • Thing is, something like Demesne keeper comes off more like groundskeeper to me. More of a custodian, if you will. Maybe that mindless thing they call the Custodian or Janitor or Dr. Rotinaj or something.

      • Why is there any doubt that Labyrinth is the demesne keeper? That’s what she does. Literally. She keeps the demesnes. In her head. And fiddles with them. And we’ve already seen her be crucial to ending one plot arc. Her ability to access multiple worlds is doubtless going to be vital now that things are getting all Sliders.

    • The Demesne-keeper is Grue. The Demesnes in this case are the powers or passengers.

      “… the demesne was all the land, not necessarily all contiguous to the manor house, which was retained by a lord of the manor for his own use and support, under his own management”

      Really seems like Grue’s power.

  21. I think a lot of people (including Taylor) are misinterpreting what Glaistig Uaine means by “a prop”. My guess is that Doctor Mother is a front — she acts as if she is in charge of Cauldron, but she’s actually just playing a role for whoever Cauldron truly is.

    • Cauldron is another antagonist of equal strength to Scion and the parahumans who have his shard. something along those lines.

    • Then one of us is misinterpreting it for sure :)

      I read it as literally as possible. Dr Mother might very well be an advanced version of a projection, or some kind of esoteric sock puppet.
      She herself might consider or believe herself human, but she’s just the paw of either the mugger whale or the artistic one (presumed dead by scion whale).

        • And it just occurred to me that Scion is the Conqueror Worm! Yay for Poe reference! (Also, everyone should look up and read “The Conqueror Worm” by Poe if you haven’t already. Amazing poem, very short, you’ll thank me. Or be a philistine. Whatever.)

          • Short enough to post here:

            The Conqueror Worm

            Lo! ’t is a gala night
            Within the lonesome latter years!
            An angel throng, bewinged, bedight
            In veils, and drowned in tears,
            Sit in a theatre, to see
            A play of hopes and fears,
            While the orchestra breathes fitfully
            The music of the spheres.

            Mimes, in the form of God on high,
            Mutter and mumble low,
            And hither and thither fly—
            Mere puppets they, who come and go
            At bidding of vast formless things
            That shift the scenery to and fro,
            Flapping from out their Condor wings
            Invisible Wo!

            That motley drama—oh, be sure
            It shall not be forgot!
            With its Phantom chased for evermore
            By a crowd that seize it not,
            Through a circle that ever returneth in
            To the self-same spot,
            And much of Madness, and more of Sin,
            And Horror the soul of the plot.

            But see, amid the mimic rout,
            A crawling shape intrude!
            A blood-red thing that writhes from out
            The scenic solitude!
            It writhes!—it writhes!—with mortal pangs
            The mimes become its food,
            And seraphs sob at vermin fangs
            In human gore imbued.

            Out—out are the lights—out all!
            And, over each quivering form,
            The curtain, a funeral pall,
            Comes down with the rush of a storm,
            While the angels, all pallid and wan,
            Uprising, unveiling, affirm
            That the play is the tragedy, “Man,”
            And its hero, the Conqueror Worm.

    • I’m taking that bit as strength for my theory that Doctor Mother is the tendril-body Scion-equivalent for the Third Worm. She’s literally just a prop that the Third Worm is waving around. A hand puppet.

  22. Cauldron Plan:
    1. Assemble the strongest capes alive
    2. Have Scion kill them
    3. ???
    4. Profit

    Nah, I don’t think that was Cauldron’s plan, though there is a charming simplicity to it. Though I do suspect that Cauldron is being used by somebody. They think they are saving the world by making tough choices and ”following path to victory”, while the true objective si something else. Doctor could be an artificial or regular human molded to preform a function.

  23. My vote: the High Priest is Chevalier. Why?

    Glaistig Uaine is only talking about parahumans there on the scene “There are others who stand shoulder to shoulder with us … the high priest …” So the high priest is there.

    The High Priest is not of the other court (not a Cauldron cape): “The high priest is in similar straits to these unfortunates [the other court].” So, not Eidolon, or any Cauldron cape.

    “He stands straight and bluffs through his lines …” That is Chevalier, leading and giving his speeches.

    “… he’s wearing the wrong costume …” He’s wearing armor instead of vestments.

    I do not have a guess as to what the “… he’s arrived at the wrong time …” line means, but it applies to everyone, so there is no way to distinguish what it means by differentiating between people.

    But more importantly, a high priest is a leader (Chevalier is a leader), but a high priest is a specific type of leader – the role is a leader of worship to the deity. The way that the Worms are worshiped is through combat, and Chevalier is a combat leader in several senses of the word – at a minimum he is first to attack and leader of the Protectorate contingent.

    • While I like this reasoning, and indeed I’m almost convinced, I don’t think the “nobility” has to be capes present. I read the “shoulder to shoulder with us” comment to mean that they shared the same status as the queen and the administrator.

      • I’m thinking the “High Priest” may be the Teacher. He creates his own acolytes, granting them thinker powers through their devotion to him.

        • Sure, but he’s not really wearing the wrong clothes, is he? Doesn’t seem terribly confused or putting on a show. I mean, we could get a Teacher interlude on Saturday that reveals all these aspects, but I think the high priest is supposed to be someone we “should” be able to figure out, since Wildbow gave us so many clues.

          This is a strong argument for Chevalier. The “similar straits to other unfortunates” bit could have to do with his position at the top of the Protectorate, like the Triumvirate who are some of the most notable members of “the other court”, even up to and including his devil’s bargaining with Cauldron.

          I think Jack is also a strong candidate, though. He’s involved in atrocities, like the Cauldron capes (though many of them were the /victims/ of said atrocities, but it wouldn’t put it past Glaistig to overlook that distinction). We know he’s one of the Warrior’s shards. He’s “wearing the wrong clothes” in that he’s a murderer instead of a communicator, the role his shard is “supposed” to have. “Stands straight and bluffs through his lines” ties into all of the posturing and lying Jack did. He’s not standing shoulder to shoulder with them in the sense of being present or fighting on their team, but he is/was their peer in terms of power and influence. The big flaw in this, of course, is that he’s out of action, presumably permanently, which should remove him from Glaistig’s concept of the stage. Either she knows something we don’t know about him getting out or continuing to be active in some way, she’s out of the loop about him being out of commission (seems a bit unlikely, but she did JUST get out of the Birdcage), or it’s someone else entirely.

          • The description given of the High Priest actually fits Shadow Stalker fairly well. Wearing a mask? Check. Very confused? Check.

            Obviously she’s not male as the term suggests, but remember that Glaistig is talking about the role of *shards*, not necessarily the individuals holding them.

            In the tarot, the High Priest card describes a specific role and meaning that is quite different to the role and meaning of the High Priestess card.

            Given how much Glaistig views things through the filter of roles and titles, it’s quite possible that gender of the host doesn’t even factor in…

    • Quite possible. For me the main argument is that Chevalier can see the Passengers. And Eidolon-Cauldron has convinced him it was something else, so Chevalier didn’t try to develop & ponder what he was seeing. Thus the false clothes – his true ability is related to passengers, but he never realized he should experiment with it.

    • Chevalier strikes me more as a Champion, he was the first attacking Scion and his general attitude strikes me as very chivalrous (ha). He also seems like a very moral person, and his cause would be saving humanity (surviving withouth comprimising it’s morality), which is very different from the cause of Cauldron, which seems to be the survival of humanity (at any cost).
      If I had to pick who is the high priest I would say that it’s Jack, but it see farfetched, with him being constantly mutilated and all that.

  24. When I read the line “Black? White? Gray? Red?”, I couldn’t help but think of the Angelspit song “Red”.

    The last part has this refrain:

    “White is the color of purity”
    “Black is the color of execution”
    “Grey is the color of urban bland”
    “Red is the color of revolution”

  25. This is what Cauldron should have expected. What I would have expected — though the G-driver was fun.

    Saturday will be interesting. As is the Fairy Queen’s awareness that letting others know some truths will make them dangerously angry.

    There is a nasty deep game going on.

  26. Okay various thoughts.

    So Sophia opted out? Well no surprise there.

    Some of what Glaistig Uaine said was really surprising. No, not the stuff about the Fairy. Or the roles. No, what surprised me was that in her own messed up way she tried to console Taylor. And her statement that “Everyone’s the lead in their own story, Administrator. Some roles are bigger, some smaller, but none are more important, understand?” I would not have expected that from her.

    So did Cauldron leave the portals open the teams went through? Taylor was still able to sense her bugs, and other side of earth, in another dimension seems a little outside her range.

    Okay, so there was a point to springing Ingenue.

    So now Scion decides to actually persue something? Decades of letting the endbringers get away. Lets Konshu just teleport away, never persues. And not he’s willing to chase things to whole other earths? Jackass.

    Damn, no wonder String Theory got birdcaged. End of the world might have come a bit faster if she’d been left loose. She and Lab Rat have the old married couple thing going on. On the other hand the G-Driver probably could get rid of an Endbringer. For a while.

    And it looks like they are all dead. Well I guess the remaining chunk of the story will be about Taylor’s ghost. I hope she isn’t just going to be Glaistig Uaine’s sidekick from here on out.

    • I think Scion is probably very interested in the heroes since this is probably the first time he has ever been hit with something he could actually feel. The invincible godling just got smacked out of the sky for a second, so it probably got his attention more than anything in the past. I don’t think the Endbringers have even hurt him before. G-Driver for the win.

      Maybe it’s a bit of meta thinking, but I don’t think everyone died from this. Taylor was apparently conscious enough to note that the communications cut out because of Scion’s energy, but I imagine she would have died before making that realization if he were really, truly murdering them. Wildbow is very fond of using cliffhangers where someone is getting their head handed to them in the very last sentence – just ask Golem about that. My thinking is that something interrupted him, possibly Glaistig Uaine, Cauldron, or even an Endbringer.

      And I would really hope that Glaistig Uaine doesn’t end up harvesting Taylor, as I think everyone got their fill on the whole “insane power-copying imprisoner who will require the combined might of everyone to take down” with Noelle. It’s one thing to repeat techniques, and another thing entirely to reuse plots.

    • So Sophia opted out? Well no surprise there.

      Well, even in the next-to-worst case scenario*, I’m pretty sure that Bitch and Parian can keep Shadow Stalker from inflicting too much chaos on New Brockton.

      * Everyone here dies, but Scion leave Earth Gimel alone for some reason.

    • It looks mostly like Scion just went “Challenge Accepted” after the G-Driver. He didn’t react to any of the other attacks, save by casually including them in whatever he was doing at the time. Given that the G-Driver actually punted him out of orbit, he’d likely just initialized a new projection though.

    • Yes, those fourteen portals closed. Wildbow even describes them as shrinking rectangles eventually become the line of light under a door, then winking out. One of the few times he gives a really visual narration.

      As for Taylor sensing her bugs through the portals, I’m pretty sure she was doing just that: She wasn’t sensing them across dimensions and half the world, she was sensing them through the portals. Her range reached through them just the same as her arm would. Poking holes through space and co-location is wonky like that. What’s a million miles away by one route can be inches away by another. Fuck that Euclid guy, anyway. Who needs his geometry?

    • I wonder what would happen if Miss Militia told Tattletale about the details of her trigger event. I imagine TT could get a lot of great intel on how to bring down Scion just from knowing that bit of information.

        • Unfourtunatly MM didn’t bother to talk about remembering her trigger event to anyone else because they didn’t remember their event. And TT had the block that kept her from seeing the picture to break through.

          • Yeah, but now TT has figured out a way around the block. I imagine she could actually do something with the information now.

  27. Alright, I’ve had radio silence for the past four chapters. Mostly because I was in shock.
    Good. Job. Normally I would have been making jokes about this, but the situation is so desperate that- No. Just… No.
    Anyway.
    AAARGH. CAUUUULDROOOON! (although I suspect this is part of Contessa’s path to victory)
    Current Theory: Canary saves the world. Or generates a Hope Spot. After which everything goes back to being doomed.
    Scion, you are a jerk. A jerkish jerk with a jerk face and a juicy jerky center. Jerk. (I’m still giggling at the bug-zapper though).
    My brain’s theme song for this entire story is Miracle of Sound’s Take It Back. (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9feUxKIqKmg) However, if this was a movie, all that would be playing now would be something wordless and quiet and sad, probably with a lot of strings.

    • i’ve been waiting for Simurgh-lite (Canary) to reappear myself…

      Canary saves the world, not longer behind bars with people being reminded of the Smurf, now behind bars cause she scared people MORE shitless by stopping Scion.

  28. You know it says that there are a few prisoners who married each other in there. Lab Rat and String theory might very well be the married couple from hell already. You know I’m surprised Amy hasn’t talked to Taylor or others yet about the info that she knows. My guess is that she figured out the passengers connection to Scion, and how the cycle ends with the world’s destruction. That info would have changed the world like Teacher predicted, and might have united many more parahumans before Scion went nuts which is why the Smurf blocked her transmission. Though if the Smurf blocked it then that means she knew that Scion is going to go nuts and end the world. Which raises more questions about what the Endbringers are and their place in all of this.

    • Also just to add, is the Travler’s world also doomed in 300 years because they have parahumans too? They don’t have a Scion so do they have a different cycle?

      • The departure blows up all possible versions of the world, whether they were participating in the cycle directly or not. Of course, Scion may not be able to do that trick without his Counterpart, since it’s a critical part of the cycle.

  29. One thing I’m interested in, and I know it’s unconventional to question this, but what is Taylor’s perspective in this story? Is she writing down everything she did as a cape years into the future from these events? Is she doing an American Beauty style voice over? Or is it just a story, I shouldn’t think about it.

    Anyways, I can think of a few ways for Taylor to survive. No idea what will actually happen though. I’ve given up trying to predict this story ages ago.

    It’s interesting that despite Grue’s apparent death, Taylor has no strong emotional reaction. That’s a *very* Weaver and Skitter thing, not a Taylor thing. I know it isn’t a good time for it, but if she’s trying to stand as herself in this, she has to work to avoid old habits like that.

    I liked this chapter overall. The battle tactics employed were sound, imo. They weren’t really trying to hurt Scion, just trying to hit him with a bunch of different attacks to see what stuck. If all you know about your enemy is that it is immensely powerful, can easily kill you, and has no readily observable weaknesses that’s a good approach to take. Not to mention, they attacked from as secure a place as could be found. Makes me wonder who built that oil rig though. It’d be pretty funny if Cauldron pulled off a huge dick move and had them all attacking from an oil rig on Earth Aleph.

    Number Man: “What, you all escaped thanks to our last second portal, and now Scion is busy killing all the humans one reality over. It bought us time, I don’t see what you’re so upset about.”

    Chevalier: “Not. The. Point.”

    And speaking of which, I seem to have misunderstood Chevalier’s power. I thought he was able to grow his sword because he usually kept it smaller than that 50 foot monstrosity that he kept as one of the three he made it from. Unless Ingenue powered him up enough that he was able to readily take the Size from a mountain or something and apply it to his sword, and nothing else.

    Anyways, another solid chapter. Thanks for coming out with it on Thursday! Not too long a wait for the cliff hanger this time. Hope all goes well with your family Wildbow.

    • No you understood Chevalier’s power well. When he fought Behemoth at one point he started making his sword bigger and bigger by absorbing(?)/linking(?) random landscape elements but he mentions that it’s tasking when things aren’t similar too each other. With Ingenue powering him up, that shouldn’t be a problem.

      Oh and I don’t think Grue is dead, if only because, as you said, there would have ben a bigger emotional reaction.

    • The interesting theory was put forward that Taylor becomes the new Counterpart and the chapters from her perspective are her relating her side of the story to Scion/the Warrior/her mate. I could also see a case for all of this being memories the Warrior is getting from his shards once he reabsorbs them, though the interludes from Cauldron-made capes like Battery and Alexandria make that less likely.

      I think the perspective of the narrator is an unanswerable question until possibly the end, especially if Wildbow isn’t particularly interested in answering it, but it’s still worthwhile to consider it. I definitely don’t think it’s any guarantee of Taylor’s survival, though. There are any number of scenarios in which she dies, then still relates her story. Glaistig Uaine, for one.

    • Plausible, if her shard range is way bigger than her bug range. (there were some situations with no or few capes nearby, but lot of insects, and she performed really well)

      It has scary implications for her however, much like Alexandria’s has.

      Exactly where is her thinking process (and by extension, her self)?

    • We keep assuming that Taylor gets smarter when she has more bugs around.

      Speak for yourself — that fanon’s been disproven since she was locked in Dispatch’s sphere during Behemoth, if not longer.

      • Yeah, all that increases with her bugs is the size of the area she can perceive and the amount of info she can work with. The big, beautiful, genius plans? That’s aaaaall her.

        • You know for a long time, both Taylor and us have thought that Passengers influence their hosts. They make them more inhuman in their thought processes, and more violent. But ever since Scion looked at Jack and thought how odd it was he used the Broadcast Shard so violently… Some of the things Taylor has been thinking and feeling these last few chapters… Maybe we had is wrong. Maybe the hosts are the ones influencing the passengers.

          • I imagine it’s a little bit of both. Passengers clearly have some influence on their hosts, as is shown by the mental side-effects experienced by capes like Bitch and Labyrinth. At the same time, Scion’s remark about Jack suggests that shards have general abilities that become specific powers in response to the host’s personality. It seems like the passenger-host relationship goes both ways.

            • That could be the case. Bitch isn’t the best example, due to her fucked up childhood. But at the same time a lot of capes get their powers in some way that relates to what the trauma from their trigger event was. Then again some don’t fit. Imp’s power makes sense for what her trigger event is. She wanted an escape. But Grue’s darkness makes less sense for his wanting to protect his sister and beat the guy up. He didn’t want to hide her, he wanted to kick the guys ass. It could be what the power is and the need to percieve it affects the mind more than the passenger itself. Bitch seems like she go a requried secondary superpower there.

              • My interpretation of Grues power is that’s it’s more about putting the capacity to act and protect his loved ones squarely in his hands. He uses his power, and he becomes to the only person within it’s affect who can still fight, blinding his enemies so they can’t hurt people and blinding his friends so they can’t be hurt.

                It’d go with his somewhat misguided sense of sole responsibility for Taylor and Aisha. He didn’t quite respect their ability to take care of themselves until a bit of character development, and the fact that the power prevents even his allies from acting reflects that.

      • > Speak for yourself — that fanon’s been disproven since she was locked in Dispatch’s sphere during Behemoth, if not longer.

        While it’s fanon, you’re assuming she did not think of the plan beforehand swarm-subcounsciously and that her link actually gives a damn about distorted phisics.

        • Indeed. If I weren’t posting from my iPhone, I would quote the relevant passage – if I recall correctly, it supports the former, and the fact of Clockblocker locking out her bugs when he froze them supports the latter. Not to mention her not thinking clearly during Glenn’s section of the Crushed aftermath interlude, or her being faster off the mark than Tattletale about Grue’s bluff during the Bakuda scenario despite having very few insects, or her being no sharper than normal during her Arc 11 public relations stunt, or….

  30. The things in the box might have something to do with that photosynthetic mess Lab Rat worked on before he got caught. They talked about it turning him into a massive lump or whatever. If they could adapt that to Scion’s lasers, it could grow into a large shield whenever he struck.

    Unfortunately, they have somewhat of a limit on standing room.

    • I note that because earlier in the life of Worm we had a number of 12+ chapter arcs. More recently they’ve been five or six chapters. This is four so either Saturday or Tuesday could well see the end of the Scion extinction arc.

      • e.g.

        Arc 20: Chrysalis
        20.1
        20.2
        20.3
        20.4
        20.5
        20.x (Donation Interlude #1; Stan)
        20.y (Interlude; Accord)

        Arc 21: Imago
        21.1
        21.2
        21.3
        21.4
        21.5
        21.6
        21.7
        21.x (Donation Interlude #1; Number Man)
        21.y (Interlude, Parian)

        Arc 22: Cell
        22.1
        22.2
        22.3
        22.4
        22.5
        22.6
        22.x (Interlude, Charlotte)
        22.y (Donation Interlude; Lung)

        Arc 23: Drone
        23.1
        23.2
        23.3
        23.4
        23.5
        23.x (Interlude; Number Thirty-Six)

        Arc 24: Crushed
        24.1
        24.2
        24.3
        24.4
        24.5
        24.x (Interlude, Chevalier)
        24.y (Interlude 2, Aftermath)

        Arc 25: Scarab
        25.1
        25.2
        25.3
        25.4
        25.5
        25.6
        25.x (Interlude, Bonesaw)

        Arc 26: Sting
        26.1
        26.2
        26.3
        26.x (Donation Interlude; Saint)
        26.4
        26.5
        26.6

    • Presumably he at best freezes a more normal sized area of the ocean or the atmosphere instead off the whole thing, That’s assuming he even can do something so diffuse.

      • Also, he has a limited reach with it — presumably he can’t freeze an object unless he can catch all of it with his power that day.

        …I wonder if after learning that range is dependent on how similar your emotional state is to that when you triggered, Clockblocker started playing with ways to approach his trigger emotion.

  31. Here’s my ideas for who is who
    Shaper: Panacea
    Champion: Chevalier
    High Priest: Teacher
    Observer: Tattletale (would be Dragon if e were still active)
    Demesne-keeper: Labyrinth (if we use a less literal definition possibly Clockblocker fits here as well)

  32. I’ve been waiting far too long for Panacea to leave the cage and start being productive.
    - Where are the relay bugs? For that matter, has she ever played StarCraft? Why keep it at relay bugs, if you could make Overlords (bugs).
    - She can make retroviruses, as we saw with the memory loss virus. Why isn’t she using those to remove most of the other sicknesses as well? (or maybe she did and all released prisoners are carriers.)
    - She can reduce/remove ageing, put her and some good thinkers in a time dilation field (or on an earth that moves faster through time) and have them start producing super weapons to fight Scion.

    • >- She can reduce/remove ageing, put her and some good thinkers in a time dilation field (or on an earth that moves faster through time) and have them start producing super weapons to fight Scion.<

      Still got the mental block Scion left behind, keeping them from coming up with anything that could actually work. That's what's really making everything fail against Scion.

      Amy's biggest problem is that she kept healing on an individual level. Call her to the hospital where she'd try to fix everyone one at a time, and it drove her to the breaking point. Like you said, retroviruses. Get her a sample of various diseases, and let her make the antibodies. Change the west nile virus into the flu booster shot for the year, then let the mosquetos be useful for the year.

      • I think now that she’s (presumably) made peace with her father’s criminality and washed some of New Wave’s black vs white wacko taint off her brain she might be open to experimentation. She can create life that goes beyond normal biological functions, maybe she can create plants or algae that induce rapid healing when applied, or create microbes that can increase the physical limits of the human body.

        One thing is likely, Taylor’s gonna need some serious healing real soon. I can’t wait to get a mirror of the hospital scene the two had together.

    • Can she affect passengers?

      Can she do it through the link, or does she have to touch the “real” body, hidden out on one of the empty parallels? (Like, I dunno, maybe the one where New Brockton is now set up…)

      Anyway — the reason I ask is that part of why the parahumans are the way they are is that Scion *crippled* the Passengers that could hurt him before sending them out. If Panacea can *fix* that crippling…

      Of course, it’s possible that the biology/lifecycle is too removed from what Panacea can actually affect. She never tried affecting an Endbringer, either, AFAIK, probably for similar reasons. Or just cowardice, I suppose…

      • I dunno. Scion would have to have been really stupid to cripple the shards, and then leave the one Pancea got so it could uncripple them.

        And I can imagine very good reasons why Amy never tried her power on Endbringers. She’d have to touch them. For BEHEMOTH that means she gets withing 30 feet, and fried extra crispy. For Leviathan, that means she gets drowned, or smushed by the afterimage. The only way I can think of her getting close enough to touch them alive is if Siberian carried her. As for the Smurf… Would you want to risk her getting Smurffed?

        • Scion *is* really stupid. The entities seem to have evolved to be reactive. Throw an attack at them and they’ll adapt. But thinking ahead? Remember, this is the guy who spent 30 years saving cats from trees ‘cos he couldn’t come up with anything better to do with his time.

          To a significant extent, humanity evolved such clever, inventive brains because we’re otherwise kind of rubbish as a species. No natural weapons or defences, not particularly tough, don’t breed particularly fast, not even particularly good at surviving extreme climate like some creatures. Innovation is our primary survival advantage as a species. The above matters a lot less if you have fire and spears.

          The entities have never had that *need* to be innovative. They’re already the 800 pound gorilla of the galaxy. Only once have they ever met another species that even seriously challenged them.

          They seem to do a lot of stuff by rote. Only twice in their history have they ever really had to innovate. Except for those “just keep doing what has always worked” is actually a very effective approach for them…

      • I think She already stated that she couldn’t affect passengers or modify a cape’s power(due to Scion’s nerfing of her shard) .She can still mod the biology of a human/creatures body to give them an extra edge ,though.Think extra fast reflexes,heightened senses, toughness or extra strength.She could probably even grants some form of permanent faster regeneration(albeit a minor one) to her “patients”.

        • Makes sense.

          At the same time, Panacea was able to make the Relay Bugs, which interacted with Taylor’s powers in a kind of active way. There might be a loophole.

          Frankly, Scion does seem kind of… Dim. Powerful, but dim.

          However it turns out, I’m enjoying the ride. :)

          • There maybe a loophole with that.Amy did mod Rachel’s dog so that it could retain their monstrous form longer as well as the aforementioned relay bugs and our beloved Atlas [poor little bugger :( } .Lets see anyone gets creative with that.

        • Actually, on the powers, Taylor asked something similar of Ami in 14.3:

          “There’s this part of the brain that Bonesaw called the… Corona something. Corona potential? Can you access mine? Tweak my power, give me more range? As much as you can.”

          The mental image of Bonesaw cutting through my skull with her saw was so real I could almost feel the sensation of it.

          But we had to stop Siberian.

          “I can’t affect brains.”

          Which seems to refer to the promise Ami enforces on herself. After the first time she broke her own promise, she mindr*ped her own sister soon after.

          The mental blocks were on the images of a trigger event. The blocks on power are not fully explained. Considering String Theory’s device could affect him, I’m assuming that others can too. Even so, influencing a human brain to handle more of the shards power, seems to be a nice work around.

  33. New Worm chapter! Almost worth taying up insanrly late!

    Comments coming shortly if I finish the chapter before coming to my senses and going to sleep.

    • I can’t tell if Glaistig is seeing the whole puzzle while everyone else is trying to piece it together from scattered pieces, or if she’s looking at the wrong puzzle.

    • So. Cliffhanger. It sounds like this is the endof Worm, but somehow I doubt thst. Just gotts wait until Tuesday…

  34. People talking about Les Miz inspired me. Here’s the result:

    Do you hear the Allies sing, singing the song of angry capes?
    It is the music of a species who will NOT be slain today!
    When the beating of your heart echoes the beaming of Scion
    There is a chance the world won’t stop when tomorrow come.

    Will you join our army, who will be strong and stand with me?
    Past the apocalypse, will there still be a world to see?
    Then join in the fight
    And then maybe we might
    All still be…

    Do you hear the Allies sing, singing the song of angry capes?
    It is the music of a species who will NOT be slain today!
    When the beating of your heart echoes the beaming of Scion
    There is a chance the world won’t stop when tomorrow come.

    Will you give all you can give so that Scion won’t kill us all?
    Some will fall, so all may live; will you stand up or let us fall
    The blood of the martyrs will redden the Earths, them all!

    Do you hear the Allies sing, singing the song of angry capes?
    It is the music of a species who will NOT be slain today!
    When the beating of your heart echoes the beaming of Scion
    There is a chance the world won’t stop when tomorrow come!

  35. Huh, I expected more comments.

    Anyways, there are some questions I had been wondering about. Some were asked earlier, most of those were answered.

    Organized by individual:
    Clockblocker–Does his power work on fluids? Or chains?
    Crawler–How does his regeneration “work” if, say, he is cut in half? Which half regenerates? Does he have a “core” like Echidna’s, or does one of his organs function as such? If so, what happens when his Core/brain/heart/spleen is cut in half or destroyed?
    Also, why is his form so…inhuman? Some guessed that he regenerated differently to help him combat various threats, but Crawler’s power as I understand it would just make him tougher against the attacks of the threats. The biggest question comes from the acid spit…and, of course, the fact that the Crawler clones were developing into the same thing, acid spit, tentacles, and all. Does it have something to do with his passenger? If so, why that particular form?
    Dragon–More about the cast page than the story, but why does the in-depth cast page not list her as an AI? Ideally with the name of her creator?
    Jack Slash–What is the boundary between a cutting edge and a blunt object? Could Slash slash with car keys or butter knives? Axes or spears? Index cards or posters? (“You gave me a papercut! YOU MONSTER!”) The edge of a 2×4?
    Night–Why couldn’t Night just cover herself with a cloak and transform? And why do the eyes of bugs and such not affect her?
    Othala–Minor thing, but why did the white supremacist choose a name so similar to the name of a certain well-known Shakespearean character who was quite non-white? It seems like Othala would need to correct that about once a week.
    General–Is there any place I could find a list of all the characters in Worm? Not just the ones on the cast page plus the ones since the last update, also more minor characters like the capes that showed up to Endbringer fights and such.

    • Clockblocker – his power worked on Leviathan’s water when Leviathan crashed forward. Armsmaster’s timestop tech is based on Clockblocker’s power and it froze the spray of water from the drainpipe.

      Crawler – Q1A1.
      His form is monstrous because the adaptations aren’t purely defensive. His power provides the ability to defend himself better. Multiple legs to give him more stability so he can’t be knocked over, etc.

      Dragon – Because.

      Night – Her other form is larger than a form she could wrap in a cloak, so it wouldn’t work. It would have the opposite intended effect, because it would limit her combat utility.

      Othala – More on this if she ever gets an interlude (here or in the main story), but it’s a family/language thing. Old English root. She knows and anyone in the white supremacy circles know what’s up there.

      Make one?

      • Hm. That reply-alerter thing wasn’t blinking. Maybe it needs a new bulb.

        Clockblocker–Neat, I’d forgotten those. (And I’m not alone.) Was it ever determined how large of an area of fluid he could affect, or if he could affect gases and not just liquids?

        Crawler–Why were the Crawler-clones developing into about the same form?

        Othala–Well, I hope she lives long enough to get an interlude.

        General–I’ll…see if I can? I don’t think I’d even have time.

  36. Was there a typo thread? Hard to search in my iPad.
    “The swarm circled around me, and they deposited every item, straightening the things out, spacing it evenly around me, a kaleidoscopic pattern..  S”
    Too many periods.

  37. I’m trying to figure out who the people Glaistig mentioned where. I’m guessing the observer is either Tattletale or Dinah and maybe the champion is either Chev or Contessa but I got nothing for the others. Would Panacea and Labyrinth be the shaper and demesnes-keeper? Also these names seem like they should be capitalized.

    I get this woman a lot better now. She basically seems to have merged with her passenger to a greater extant so that she has most of its memories. It is very interesting that both their shards are ones that are always active between cycles which helps to explain more of why Taylor’s had to be so crippled before being let go. That entire conversation was exceedingly cryptic but very intriguing. I can’t help but like her to an extent. I’m a little worried that she may eventually become a replacement to Scion’s counterpart if she collects too many shards but that’s a problem for a later time. Tattle really should’ve been listening in on that entire conversation. Dear lord we would’ve had so much extra info!

    Hmm well at least Lab Rat seems on the up and up. His potion things are probably going to turn some desperate people into giant kaiju at some point in the upcoming battle but the dude is at least man enough to admit that they aren’t going to like his emergency transformations.

    Of course Bonesaw and Panacea are absent! You don’t send the two main healers into the thick of battle!

    I love how Taylor labels herself as “Taylor” for this fight. The masks are coming off indeed.

    Dear. Freaking. Lord. String Theory wanted to punch the Moon?! Umm…I don’t know how to respond to the sheer utter crazy that is contained in that statement. I think that qualifies as fucking up the cycle. Just…wow…And she upgraded that?! Daaaaaaaammmmmmmmmnnnnnnnn.

    Alright I’m tired of trying to defend you Cauldron! Fuck you and your holier than thou attitude! The sonofabitch can jump between dimensions at will obviously where the fuck do you get off thinking you’re safe? Screw you bastards. You just admitted this was the best shot and now you piss it all away? Fuck Cauldron. Somebody send Tattletale in to talk to Doctor Mother! Then send Defiant with his spear!

  38. Cauldron not opening doors for the heroes doesn’t necessarily mean Cauldron is abandoning them. With Doormaker alone, I can think of one way this chapter’s ending could be an offensive on their part. Wait until Scion thinks he’s unopposed, let him take a swing- and then give him the Blink-vs-Hyperion maneuver. >:D

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