Speck 30.6

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I had a choice to make.  Into the thick of things, or-r h-hang-hanging b-back?

What I’d done, taking control, using people like sacrificial pawns, I’d made enemies.  I’d offended the pride of countless villains, of heroes, even.  I was a kill-on-sight target.

I could sense the doorways closing.  Only the ones close to me remained open.  Though ‘close’ was a hard label to apply when talking about dimensions.

I turned to my old standby.  I gathered my bugs, drawing them through the portals that remained, gathering them at my destination.

I stepped through into the cloud.  A rooftop overlooking New York, Earth Bet.  My New York.

It hadn’t been a conscious choice.  An impulse, really.  Maybe there were cities that were more fitting, but this was a city at the center of modern civilization.  Or it had been.  If this was going to be our final staging ground, then it was as fitting a choice as any.  It was heavy with resources that every parahuman could use, unoccupied.  Intact enough to still look like a city, damaged enough to remind us of what was at stake.

With the clairvoyant, I could see the parahumans around us.  They hadn’t scattered, and were still holding formation, more or less.

For the time being, we were holding fast.  Scion was still engaged with the Endbringers in Gimel.  We had seconds, a minute or two if we were lucky, to catch our breath, to think, plan and communicate.

If we were really unlucky, we’d have even longer.  Long enough for people to talk themselves out of this.  Long enough for trouble to find me, for the Birdcage capes I’d unleashed to cause trouble.  The only reason things down there on the streets were quiet was because people were still reeling, trying to process, because they were in organized groups and breaking from that organization in times of stress was hard.

Cults and religions and frat- fratern- clubs, they held together because of the power of the group.  We were social creatures in the end.  Easier to be one tinker in a small army of tinkers than a tinker all alone.

Heads were turning my way, a few fingers pointing.  Angry mutters.  Clairvoyants, precogs, people with future sight, all of them finding me.  If the lynch mob came for me, there wasn’t a lot I could do.  Glaistig U- the Faerie Queen was among them, and she was mad.

If she turned her power on me, hit me with anything close to what she’d used while I was at the height of my power, I was a goner.

There were a lot of capes out there who didn’t like being made into puppets.  I suspected that more than a few of them had been victim to it in the past.  Yet others were used to being the ones in control.  Lung, Teacher, the child surgeon.

I counted myself lucky that I’d made it even this far.  That things hadn’t devolved into chaos the moment the leashes came off.

I’d set myself apart, a little distance away.  The original plan had been to maintain a vantage point where I could watch the battle unfold.  Now it was a refuge, as if capes who could bring cities to their knees hesitated to expend the time and energy to close the distance to me.

I dropped to my knees, still holding on to the clairvoyant, much as I’d hold on to a life preserver while underwater.

Standing was hard.  I needed a chance to rest, to think.

Except thinking was harder still.  I was a husk, and things were rotting from the inside out.  I’d hoped I’d recuperate some when I had less people in my control, but it didn’t seem like it worked out that way.  Damage done was damage done.  One section of my brain was swelling or creeping out to take over other sections, like it had overwritten dog-girl’s social perceptions.

If I could have talked, if I could have communicated, I could have told them.  I could have explained how we could make it all work if we just worked together, if we coordinated.  I would have offered myself up for them to do with as they saw fit, if they’d just cooperate now.  I’d made the choice for others, sacrificing them rather than letting them choose to sacrifice themselves.  If someone in that crowd was angry enough to give me a fate worse than death, it was probably deserved.

Though probably not equitable.  I moved my hand to my face, the clairvoyant holding my wrist.  I’d taken my mask off at some point.  When had I done that?  My hand ran clumsily down past my eye, my cheekbone, nose, and mouth, every movement trembling.  It didn’t feel real.  Like it was a mask I was wearing.

I dug my fingernails in as I caught my lip and chin.  Numb.  I could feel, but it was so small a sensation compared to all of the people I’d been controlling.  I saw it from a distance, to the point that I felt like I was barely there.  I’d be willing to sacrifice myself if it meant saving everything, but that wasn’t much of an offer, when my life was already pretty much gone.  I didn’t have anything left.

Not that I was free to suggest it, in any event.

I would have explained my strategy.  A way to win, if we could get the pieces in motion.  I would have rallied them, tried to get them on board.  Even told them, knowing I’d be gunned down an instant later.  But I was mute, incomprehensible.

There was only one option left to me.  One I didn’t like in the slightest.

I shifted my position, and I sat on the edge of the roof, my bugs thick enough around me that a sniper would have a hard time taking a shot.

I waited.

The assembled capes below were getting more restless.  They spoke different languages, finding others in their number who spoke the same.  Voices were tight with anger and stress.  Some of it would be directed at me.  Others…

There was an advantage here.  Another reason they hadn’t scattered.  So much of our dwindling morale was due to the fact that we hadn’t been able to affect Scion.  We hit him, and nothing seemed to work.  At best, we had knocked him off balance.

They hadn’t seen me drop the bombs.  They hadn’t been fully cognizant of what was going on with Scion expending power to view the future, or even that we were wearing him down on a level.  There was a limit to how much damage he could sustain.

The saving grace had been the psychological impact they’d witnessed.  Scion hurting.  Seeing his reaction to glimpsing the other being.

Maybe they didn’t understand it.  Maybe they did.  But I suspected it was a factor in morale.  They’d seen a reaction.

It was key, that reaction.

Now I was in an awkward position.  Unable to act, unable to access the specific capes I needed.  I had far, far more enemies than allies.  Beyond that fight from without, I had to wage a war within, struggling against my mind and body.

I was losing things.  I struggled to find a point of reference.

I’m a monster, I thought.  Not an anchor, but a recent memory, a realization that was still fresh in my memory.  Something from just before I’d started losing memories.

Bullet ants.

Maggots in eyeballs.  Necrotizing flesh.  Strip- stripping flesh from bone.

Hand or knee?

The images were so clear in my mind’s eye that I could almost see them around me.  A hero in his civilian clothes, gasping for breath.  I had the means to save him, and I was holding back.

I heard a voice, female, kind words, spoken haltingly, out of place in the midst of this.  I had trouble placing the memory.

Then, more reassuring in a way, a return to the more violent thoughts.  Me standing over a man, pulling a trigger and watching the aftermath, bits of skull, brain and blood painting the pavement beneath him.

The dance of bugs within a woman’s lungs, minimizing the surface area available, limiting oxygen.

A very different, very abstract way of killing.

Again, the voice interrupted.  Patient, almost like I was overhearing something being said.  It made for a kind of… what was the word?  A conflict between two ideas.  Dis- Dissonance.

I tried to pick it apart, and in the doing, I realized what was happening.

With the loss of the portals, I’d lost one more anchor.  Pride, confidence, that reminder of who I’d been when I’d been a warlord, when I’d been at my most powerful, recent circumstances excepted… I’d inadvertently connected thoughts and memories to that, and now that the physical manifestation was gone, those thoughts were disappearing with it.  My identity was degrading.

I couldn’t be sure that anything I was reaching for was real, or if I was taking something minor and exaggerating it in importance.

The Faerie Queen had been right.  If she hadn’t warned me, if she hadn’t told me I needed something to hold on to, I wasn’t sure where I’d be right this instant.

I reached out, searching for other anchors.

The dog girl.  Her pet wolf had been changed into the alien ‘garden’, and her view of it had been cut off when she’d retreated through a doorway.  She was staring at the empty space where the doorway had been.

Her teammate- my teammate, had a phone out, and was talking and typing at the same time, while her eyes roved over the crowd.

She had only the two pairs of eyes, while I had limited, local omniscience.  We were each seeing the same thing through very different perspectives.  Unease, restlessness.

Here and there, people were breaking down.  Tears, panic.  The ones who had avoided the battle in the first place, the ones from distant Earths who had no conception of what was going on, the retirees.

Except they had support.  They weren’t entirely alone.

I felt a measure of resentment.  I tried to dismiss it, but it didn’t budge.

Alone.  A freak.  Crazy.  Broken.  Unhinged.

I had no fucking time, but I was paralyzed until someone else made the first move.  If I stepped in now, I’d disturb the frail peace and tranquility that kept the group stable.  They’d rally against me.

I watched the monsters and the lunatics.  The tentacle girl was hanging back, hiding inside an apartment, trying to calm herself.  There was a cape from the Birdcage who was pacing.  When I’d picked him up, I dimly recalled, he’d been all alone, occupying one wing with two others.

I saw the trio of furies, on the fringes.  Pale, and somehow not even remotely human.  They reveled in chaos, and so long as one lived, the others would come back.  Over and over.  As allies, they’d be useful, as enemies, they could and would deliver the critical, crippling blow that spoiled all our efforts.

The Faerie Queen was being very quiet and very still, but one of her puppets was tracking my location.  The most dangerous one of all.  Dangerous to all of us, not just me.  I scarcely mattered at this point.

There was only the message I needed to communicate.  I’d seen it all, I’d seen what worked and what didn’t.  I had an idea of what we needed to do.

I bit my lip, hard, as if the pain could help me focus, bring me closer to being me.

Watch, observe, wait.

Scion was killing the serpent-Endbringer… Leviathan.  Pummeling his chest, shattering it.  Cracks radiated from the wound, glowing gold.  Scion’s face was twisted in fury, his fury was that of a berserker.  The blows were heavy enough that they drove Leviathan into the shattered earth below.  Water was flowing in around them, Leviathan’s element, but the attack continued, the glowing wounds creating mountains of steam around them.

Leviathan managed to get one fin to make contact with Scion, and the resulting disintegration created nearly as much mist, redoubling the effect.

The winged Endbringer advanced through the steam and golden-crimson mist, moving the one gun she still carried through the air until it was aimed at the two.

She fired, and it blasted a gust of wind at them, strong enough to push them and clear the wind.

The smallest Endbringer, flying in the air, unloaded a laser, three of its shadow pets’ attacks and two more ranged powers on the golden man.  The resulting blast sent the ruined fragments of the settlement and the remains of the surrounding terrain spraying into the air.

The resulting crater that compared with the one Leviathan had made in the real Brockton Bay.

The blast had separated the two, leaving Leviathan hunched over, one arm intact and braced against the ground, head hanging, his chest peeled open.

Scion merely shifted his orientation in the air.  Not even shaking himself, not pausing to find his balance.  He was roaring, screaming, and in his thrashing movements, his blind fury, I nearly missed it.  In the moment he returned to an upright position, he flung out a sphere of golden light.

The light curved in the air, and punched into Leviathan’s open chest cavity.

The Endbringer fell.  The color went out of Leviathan, his flesh breaking up, like clay overbaked in a kiln.  The fins were the first thing to crumble, the rest of his body following suit.

We’d taunted him.  Teased him with the one thing he wanted most in the world, then we’d taken it away.

He turned his attention to the winged Endbringer and her smaller companion.  The towering Endbringer was already so damaged that she could only pull herself together.  The fat Endbringer was gone.

No, he was alive.  He’d created a time field around himself, and was healing in a more distant location.

Scion was doing too much damage to them.  They wouldn’t win this fight for us.

No, it was the least of us, the smallest of us, which could have the biggest impact.  Capes I’d overlooked entirely.

I blinked.  No, even more than that, individuals I was thinking of as useless, even now.

I knew what I had to do.

In the crowd, people were getting more outspoken.  Arguments had broken out.  Harsh words, criticisms.  Divisions were forming in the squads.  Almost all of them were divisions centered around certain individuals.  Virtually all of those individuals were ones who didn’t play well with others.

It was a man in gold and black armor who stepped to the fore, a sultry looking woman following right behind him.  He shouted out, and his voice echoed, drawing attention from the majority of the crowd.

That would have to do.

With so little time to spare, I’d settle for a distraction.

One floor below me, a chute had been deployed.  Reaching twenty stories to the ground, it was arranged to let people on the upper floors evacuate quickly.  People would slide down, and the natural curve of the chute as it was pulled away from the building would keep them from being turned into a paste.

I used my relay bugs to extend my range, sent my swarm out, and then began securing it myself, tying the end to nearby architecture.  It was set up by the time we’d made our way inside the building and to the far end of the hall.

The faerie woman had noticed I was moving, but her attention was partially on the man in armor.  She was holding back.

I was preparing to go down with the clairvoyant, making sure we wouldn’t break contact even if we had a hard landing, when I heard that voice again, small and afraid.

I couldn’t place the recollection.

I couldn’t use my flight pack with a passenger, so I made my way down the chute, and I hoped the material of the chute would hold.  I wasn’t worried about the threads, thin as they were.  I knew spider thread.

It was nice, knowing something, but I hesitated to claim it as an anchor.  It could be another misleading thing.

And if I ended up with one thing tying me to reality, I didn’t want that one thing to be an obsession with bugs.

Images crossed my mind, possibilities.  If I still controlled people, but I’d gone down some ugly path like that…

I saw myself, haggard, thin, with minions in a similar state.  Eating bugs, wearing bugs and their materials, barely human, my mind more like an insect’s.

I focused on my friends instead.  Dog-girl and the girl with the phone.

They were moving my way.  Calling out to a girl who was getting her ruined hand stitched up by her partner.

The pair raised their heads, but they hesitated to follow.

A harsh word from the girl with the dogs got them into action.  It would have made me move, and I didn’t understand what it meant.

I’d reached the end of the ramp.  Perhaps not so gentle a landing as I’d hoped for, but it hadn’t injured me.  I picked myself up and got moving in their direction.

I was losing track of who people were.  How were they supposed to be anchors when I couldn’t remember who they are, or why they meant something to me?

I couldn’t quite remember how she even knew I was coming.  I hadn’t controlled her recently, and her power wasn’t fresh in my mind.

It was with a measure of trepidation that I met up with them, the portal creator and clairvoyant following me.

Eerie, to be in such a large city with no people around us.

I could imagine how things would be if humanity was eliminated.  All of these ruined cities moldering, slowly crumbling…

W-why did I find it com-comf- why did it re-re-reassure me?

Dangerous, to think that way.

I was a tent in a strong wind, and the stakes were coming loose.  Only one or two remained.  Depending on the direction the wind was blowing when they were gone, someone could get hurt.

A tent surrounded by bugs.  Like this was a shitty camping trip.  I smiled a little at the thought, a broken giggle slipping through my lips.

N-no.  St-stay c-ccentered.

The slur in my own thoughts made a chill run down across my back.  I pressed my hand to my head, as if I could physically shift things back into place, or keep them from coming apart.

Again, that soft voice I couldn’t place, something to help me keep moving onward, a human sound when abstracts were becoming all too real.

I realized the others were near, riding a dog.  The ones riding the stuffed lizard-Endbringer had stopped at the midway point, no doubt keeping watch.

The girl at the front flashed me a grin, raising a hand in a gesture I couldn’t quite grasp.

She spoke, and I assumed it was a greeting.

I couldn’t respond.  Didn’t know how.  We were separated by a gulf.

She spoke as she spread her arms, raising her shoulders in an exaggerated set of movements.  Like talking louder to a person who didn’t speak the language.  What was the fucking point?

She pointed at me, then in the direction of the crowd, then made the same movement.

The giant monsters are losing to Scion, I thought.  He’s coming, soon.

I took her cue and started walking forward.  She hopped off the dog, scrambling to get in my way, barring my path, her arms spread.

I stopped.

Her expression was stark, rigid, wide eyed.  Her arms spread, she repeated the gesture a third time, arms and shoulders rising, then falling.

When I didn’t respond, she spoke, her head cocked a little to one side.

I could hear the voice again.

Another person appeared twenty or so feet to my left, startling me.  My bugs moved, creating a barrier.

No.  She was a familiar face, so to speak.  A gray mask, horned, with mischievous eyes, a mouth hidden by a scarf or cowl  she’d piled around her shoulders.  She was the source of the voice.  She’d been with me, keeping me company.

Tears came unbidden to my eyes.

The blonde girl touched her cheek, pitching her voice high at the end.  A question?

The girl with the horned mask responded, gesturing in my direction.

I adjusted the clairvoyant’s grip, then touched my cheek.  I was bleeding.  I had a gouge at the corner of my mouth, and my finger came away with blood on it.

Oh, I’d scratched myself, earlier.  I hadn’t realized.  Hadn’t meant to.

My hand shook as I stared down at it.

Alone, but not alone.  Isolated, but not isolated.

I needed to move, to go on.  Damn the consequences, damn whatever could happen to me.  If I could just get him to-

The dog girl spoke from her seat on the giant, monstrous dog’s back.  Not a sentence, but a single word, clearly spoken to get my attention.

I raised my head to meet her eyes.  Her hair was shaggy, her gaze intense behind the mop of brown-red hair.

She held my gaze, silent, for long seconds.

Then she reached down, grabbing a loop of chain that was strapped to the dog’s back.  She reared back until it looked like she was going to fall off, then heaved it forward.

It didn’t fly that far, but it landed partway between us, closer to her than to me.

I advanced, and the entire group collectively backed away.  Only the girl with the horns, behind me, advanced a little.

I reached down, the clairvoyant’s hand on my arm, and I grabbed the chain.

I gave the chain to Doormaker.  He gripped it, and then he parted from me.

It’s the ones I was dismissing entirely that are most important, I thought.

I backed away, and she began reeling in the chain.  I walked him forward until he was out of my range, in their company instead of mine.

The dog girl didn’t break eye contact.  She was watching me carefully.

She pointed at me, then at the sky.

No, not the sky, at bugs.

Me… bugs?

Herself, then the dog.

Then at the portal man… and, very slowly, taking her time, she pointed a door, as if unsure.

What did she mean?

Our respective powers?  Power?

She was asking about his power?

I didn’t know about his power.  But it wasn’t important.  I didn’t care about his power.  It was secondary.  If they could fix it, it would help, but I doubted I’d be able to take control of people so easily.  Not a second time.

No.  I touched my hand to my mouth, then to my forehead.

I gestured towards him, then repeated the combination.

I drew a line with my bugs, pointing towards the crowd.

P-p-please on-unddersttand.

The girl with the red-brown hair was nodding slowly.

She started to speak, but the blonde cut her off.  The blonde sounded annoyed, hurt, a little upset, but not in a bad way.  When she looked at me, her eyes were kind.  She brought the portal man to her and hooked one of her arms through his.

She understood, I was almost positive.  She cared, and I was positive.  That annoyance, that hurt, it was only because she wanted to be the one who understood me and communicated with me, even in this rudimentary way.

I wasn’t the only one who’d seen everything unfold.  The portal man had been there, linked to the clairvoyant through me.  He’d watched what I’d watched.  They could find a way to communicate with him, and they could get clues out of him, answers.

In the other Earth, the winged Endbringer fell from high above, her innumerable wings broken, ruined and bent.  She reached skyward, as if clutching for Scion, high above, and then the hand crumbled.

The rest of her followed suit.

The others were too broken to fight.

S-ssionns c-comminng.

I was losing the ability to think in concrete words.  Needed- needed to get myself in a position where I could fight.

I took a step forward, and the others reacted.  This time, the auburn-haired girl had her dog move out of the way, off to one side.  The blonde didn’t move.

In the distance, the faerie girl turned her head.  She’d noticed me move, somehow.

Why?

I knew what I was doing.  It was dangerous, yes, but so was Scion.

I almost stepped forward to control her, to move her out of the way myself.  Then I remembered that she was my anchor.  One of the few I had remaining.

What did I wind up as, if she was my only anchor?  If I could so readily envision myself as the bug-obsessed freak, lurking in dark places, what did I become with her?

Something close to human, at least?

She’d saved me, in a way.  I couldn’t remember how, but I remembered that much.

I couldn’t touch her.  I didn’t even dare.

She gestured with the… phone.  She started talking.  Not communicating in basics, but taking a shotgun approach, not stopping, trying everything, in the hopes that something got through.

Scion stepped through into another world.  I’d covered our retreat in a fashion, but he was finding his way.

The moment he left Earth Gimel, the Simurgh scattered the mixed sand and dirt she’d gathered above her, then climbed to her feet, gun in hand.  The pieces of the fake body she’d formed of the materials at hand broke apart as they fell free.  She waited, recuperating.

It took seconds before he appeared in our world.  The chaos was immediate.  People running, people moving forward to fight.

Glaistig Uaine cast one glance my way, then joined the fight.

It was time.

I picked up my phone, then used my bugs to carry it to her.  She gave me a strange look I couldn’t interpret.

The bugs moved the string, and it tapped against her phone.

She typed something on my phone.  I brought it back to me.

I didn’t understand the characters, but it looked like she’d done what I wanted.  The phone was set up to call her, when I needed to call her.

I could only hope that she understood when I started calling her.  She’d been reluctant to help before, hadn’t she?  And now, when everything was on the line…

I trusted her.

A noise made everyone’s heads turn.  The man in gold and black armor had fired his weapon, and it had clipped a building.

Dust from the toppled building filled the street.

I moved.  I could see where my blonde friend was, where the others were.  I slipped by her in the chaos.

Ittt’sss ttimmme.  My own voice was a buzz in my head, a medley of discordant sounds only barely resembling words.

Time to fight, gathering my forces.  Not an army this time.

I broke into a run, best as I was able.  Where my own feet failed me, my flight pack kept me aloft.

I could see everyone, even in the dust.  The clairvoyant let me see as if I was looking from every perspective, everywhere.  It was easy to collect the first few I encountered.

The girl with the mangled hand and her partner, riding the stuffed lizard.

A sharp right.  Moving around the perimeter of the flight.  The faerie was busy fighting, but if she saw an opportunity, there was a good chance she’d kill me.

There were others, but I was having trouble keeping track.  I knew them by their powers.  Brutes, hanging back.  Tough enough to weather most fights, but barely capable of holding up against Scion.

That took a special kind of toughness.

A woman covered in a skin of forcefields, protecting people with massive shards of forcefield.

I passed them, making a beeline for someone else, flying over the cloud of dust, trying to see people.  She’d been doing rescue before, getting people to where they could be helped.

Now… now she was a tool I needed if I was going to win this.  We climbed onto the stuffed lizard’s back.  I bound the clairvoyant’s hand to mine, mindful of the damage that had been done last time.

The stuffed animal climbed up the side of a ruined building.  With the clairvoyant’s hand and feet and my own flight pack, we dismounted when we reached an opening large enough to hop through.

The girl with the ruined hand shifted position, slumping over.  They climbed up to the highest point they could reach, and then the girl who controlled the stuffed humanoid lizard called out, incoherent.

I couldn’t get her to talk properly.

So I had her wail instead, a frantic sound that was justifiable in how little sense it made.

A girl with flying armor and bright yellow hair descended, ready to help the apparently wounded girl.

When she got close enough to touch them, she fell within my power’s range.

I brought her to me, the movements shaky and unfamiliar.  Easier on autopilot, but I didn’t have time to wait for her to drift my way.  Movements of the feet controlled movement direction and altitude.  I brought her to me.

Then I made her sing.

Th-thin-think ab-abbboutt cc-courrrage.  Aabbout m-mmovving fforrwarrd.

I could only hope the song conveyed the right meaning, the right impulse.

I pressed the biggest blue button to call my teammate with the number she’d set into the phone.

It shifted to a video call.  I saw her on the other side.

How to even explain?  To convey the next step?

I used my bugs to illustrate.  A mass at the center, pulses traveling to other nodes.  To every other node.

She said something.

A minute passed.

Something hit the ground hard enough that the building swayed.  Not merely a shaking, but a side-to-side wobble that suggested that anything harder might see the entire thing tip over.

And the song began playing, echoing, through three other phones in my immediate vicinity.  Two held by the ones who’d been on the stuffed animal, and a third-

I was distracted before I could look for the source.  My clairvoyance told me there wasn’t anyone nearby.

All through the battlefield, Protectorate members and Wards had phones playing the song.  It gave them strength, courage at a moment they felt weak.

A woman I recognized from Brockton Bay threw the phone aside, then shot it with a shotgun, before changing the gun to something else and opening fire on Scion.  It took the man in gold and black armor a second to get a chance to do the same.  One of his underlings, a cape who was named after a siege weapon, took his boss’ lead.

It served as something to urge people onward, to focus them on one target.  But those three, or those two were savvy enough to know something could be up.

We moved.  The armored girl with yellow hair helping to hold the clairvoyant while I descended to the ground with my flight pack.

The movements of the other two weren’t coordinated well with my own movements.  They rode the stuffed animal as it leaped to the next building, but momentarily passed out of my control.

They didn’t turn on me, didn’t shoot me.  They carried onward, and I adjusted my course to put them in my range again.

I got the one-horned woman who glittered with forcefields, then changed direction.

The next group was harder.  They had advance warning we were coming, shared by a brown haired girl who wore a black dress and no mask.

I felt a pang of emotion.  I couldn’t even put a name to it.

The girl rattled off words, numbers, in response to questions asked by a woman with body armor and a bristling ponytail.  Monstrous capes moved to flank her, protecting her.

Every second counted.

Couldn’t give the precog a chance to get hard numbers.  With every moment that passed, every loping movement of the stuffed lizard that followed beneath me, the pair exchanged question and answer.

I was a threat.  I was being reduced to numbers.  Success, failure.  Nothing more.

Which was all this really was.  Only I was focused on success and failure on a much bigger scale than this confrontation.

The forcefield woman sandwiched each of us between two forcefields, then willed them forwards.  We left the stuffed lizard behind.

Three more questions, rapid fire.  One word each, names.  The woman with the mask only heard the first syllable of each response before moving on to the next.

She gave a command, an order, and a red haired woman in a black skintight outfit turned, aiming her gun at a wall.

The bullet ricocheted off the wall and flew right through our group.  My forcefield woman went down, and the crystals we were riding fractured, coming apart enough that we fell to the ground.

Only the string tying me to the clairvoyant kept us together.

A fat, bald man stepped forward, blocking my way with his body.  A young man with orange skin, a tail and bright pink hair did the same.

But the young precog said something, and stepped forward as they parted to give her room.

She spoke, one word.  My name.  I was pretty sure.  What was my name?  did it start with a ‘T’ sound?  An ‘S’?  A ‘W’?

An ‘M’?

“Murrruuh-hurrrrrrrrh,” I managed.  I slowly pulled myself to my feet, my movements jerky, shaky.  Worse than it had been yet.

Y-youuu ss-set mme onnnnn th-thi-this roadddd.  Y-youuu oh-owe mme thhhhhisss.   Ddd-dohnn’t gg-get-t innn myy w-wayyy n-noww.

Scion toppled a building.  Capes erected barriers to protect a whole squad, over a hundred capes, but the building disintegrated on impact, rubble pouring off the barrier like water off a roof, crushing the people who didn’t have adequate shelter.

She didn’t move, staring at me.

I had the clairvoyant reach into my belt.  She withdrew a scrap of paper.

My bugs carried it to the young precog.

An I.O.U., if there ever was one.

She stared down at the two and a half words, then crumpled it.  Her head hung.

Before any of the others could stop her, she stepped forward, into my range.

I pushed her out, the movement forceful enough she stumbled a bit.  The fat one caught her.

I pointed.

The group parted, giving me a view of their other members.

In the distance, Scion was struck, knocked into a building.  The work of the man with the giant sword.  The faerie readied to follow up, then hesitated.

She flew my way instead.

No time for grace or decorum.

The woman with the forcefield scales used her power.  Another sandwich of crystalline fields, the more secure way to hold someone, and she hauled the reality-warper out of the other group, into my range.  Another forcefield caught a boy with glowing hair.

The remainder dropped into fighting stances, a gun was trained on me-

And the precog cried out.  One word.  Negation.

They stopped in their tracks.

I turned to go, my recruits in hand.  The faerie girl was coming.

I didn’t fight.  I had the key components.  The trick was to set everything in motion.

I accessed the power of the reality warper.  The girl who got more powerful as she lost touch with the world, who could fashion her own realities, then bring them into our world.

I had her create a door, then I used her partner’s help to smash it.

A freestanding hole in reality.  The reality warper used her power to pick a world.

I wasn’t too picky.  The instant I was through, I had them make two more.

Then two more.

I protected them all with forcefields.

I didn’t have the portal man, but I did have this as a means of traveling sideways, like Scion could travel in this direction that wasn’t up or down, left, right, forward or back.

It didn’t let me cross all the way into other continents.  Movement was analogous.

Still, it made ambushing other groups easier.  I could use the clairvoyant to see where we were in analogue to the other world, then smash a doorway open, putting me right next to whoever I wanted.  The song helped keep them focused on Scion, kept people from running.  It wasn’t perfect, absolute control, but it was a means of keeping us all together.

Scion hadn’t done much planning for this eventuality.  For a world where everyone was against him.  In every world I’d glimpsed, we were fractured, whole nations worth of good capes hanging back or fighting with the others.  He’d hidden the strategies from us, but I could connect the dots.

It was about keeping him off guard, putting him on unfamiliar footing.

I could only hope that everyone was enough people, right now.

I found the boy who made hands and faces out of surrounding materials.  A teammate, a friend.  He’d worked with me on something important.

I put myself right in the middle of the group, collected him, and then left.

When others moved to follow, I set another forcefield up, and retreated through a series of doors, leaving decoy doorways in my wake.

The power booster, to give myself more control, and to enhance the song.  To enhance the reality warper and everyone else I’d chosen.

The girl who made her dreams into projections.

The boy, her ex-friend, who could turn anything into a bullet.

And then the man who could connect things, so the movement of one would move the other.  I stepped through, and he was ready for me.  He moved a short iron rod, and the partner rod caught me by the neck, pinning me to a wall.

His partner dismissed the illusion.  A displacement effect that made them appear to be where they weren’t.

The connection man was more dangerous than he seemed.  The rod that was pinning me would keep moving to the side if he kept moving his own rod.  Even if there was stuff in the way.  It might distort or break, but he wouldn’t feel any resistance on his end.

My throat would probably break apart before the rod did.

He spoke in broken English.  Still more capable of speech than I was.

I had the others behind me.  The forcefield woman made a field behind him.  He blocked it with another pair of rods that whipped up from the ground, connected to something in his sleeve.

The telekinetic girl with the stuffed animals used threads, binding him.  Another means of pulling him closer.

A moment later, his cloak went rigid, fixing him to the ground.  Other threads still bound his flesh, biting deep enough they threatened to draw blood.

His partner used a power, and the threads moved five or six feet to the left.  They recoiled to the telekinetic’s grasp.  He backed away a step, keeping his distance from me, extending the connection between the rods so it stayed against my throat.

The movement of things to one side wasn’t an illusion, or it wasn’t illusion only.  Selective space redistribution, probably usable on light.

He pressed me harder against the wall, speaking in a low, grave voice.

If I could have asked, I would have asked.

All at once, he staggered, and the pressure on my throat let up.

A girl with a horned mask had appeared beside him, pulling his robe up around his head.  She dragged him forward staggering, and heaved him into my range.

A moment later, she was gone.

I had all of the individuals I needed, though I had a hunch about another I’d left behind.

I found one of the larger groups, then moved my army into position.  A group of select individuals, to give me the powers I needed access to, all falling within sixteen feet of me.

I formed the doorway, then broke it open.  The final piece, for the time being.  It was a group I’d initially dismissed, a group that had sat out on the battle.  Now they came into play.

Changers.

Capes who could change their form, capes who could take on the faces of others.  The clairvoyant and I dropped from a portal in the air and landed right in their midst.  Crystalline forcefields appeared in the air, then lowered slowly enough that people had a chance to get out of the way.

I picked the faces of every changer in my range, watching to make sure it was accurate.

I couldn’t control them while they were outside of my range, so I’d do something cruder, instead.

I chose their faces, and then I seated them on the crystalline forcefields, binding them in place with the connection man.

I scattered them into the sky.  Each one rooted to a forcefield platform.

Then I tapped the reality warper’s power.  I began shaping a world.

I could see my blonde friend with the portal man, talking to people.  Talking to… what was his name?  The one who gave thinker powers.  Teacher.

He’d given the portal man the ability to talk.

A power I was afraid of taking for myself.  Because I couldn’t lose even an iota of willpower if I was going to make it through this.  Because I couldn’t fall into his grasp.  Because I was afraid of finding out that even he couldn’t help me.

The portal man would explain what he’d seen.  With luck, my brilliant friend would be able to connect the dots.

The reality warper’s world was shaped.  Crude, but I could use the same piece over and over again.

A landscape of body parts, of hands and limbs, of faces.

I used my friend, the young man who could create hands and faces.

I began altering the city.

Scion was in the midst of fighting a monstrous, hulking dragon-man and the warlord with the death-eating shadow.  He saw the first of the faces that the reality-manipulator had created and lashed out, demolishing it.

The dragon-man took advantage of the opening to burn him.

Hhhe… nno f-filtttterrrs.  Hhhhhisss emmmotions… rrrraww.

Scion fought his way free, and the warlord went on the offensive, lashing out.  She’d collected the bodies of the dead, as the faerie girl had collected their ‘spirits’.  She was strong, though not quite as strong as she would have been if things hadn’t gone sour.

He tore into h- her pet and the damage was permanent.  She pressed forward anyways, forcing him to retreat above the skyline.

He came face to face with the changers.  Wearing his companion’s face.  The face of the alabaster-skinned companion my friends had put together, other faces like them.  Companions that could be.  One metal-skinned boy I’d salvaged from the ruins of a recent fight had been molded into a steel-skinned companion.  Another was a female mirror of Scion himself, golden skinned.

He moved to strike out, and I hurried to get them out of the way, using the connections and the forcefields to move them to the safest places I could find.

Some were catching on, changing back.  Others weren’t so quick in their ability to change.

This wasn’t an attack on his body.

I was going after his mind, his emotions.

If the feelings were still raw after thirty years, if he hadn’t learned how to handle it, then I’d target that as his weak point.

Sstrennggtthhth wwwwee h-have… y-yy-you ddo nottt…  w-we d-dealll… with-thth l-lotsss… painnn inn-n… ou-ouhhrr livv-ves.

Remind him of what he didn’t have.  His partner, his… life cycle.

Hands of stone emerged from around the city.  More of reality warped around us.  When she’d changed everything in her range into a simulation of the ‘garden’, I turned it into a portal, changed the chan-chann- station to something where it was all solid.  Rock, ice, dirt.

Then I moved her somewhere else, and started over.

All around Scion, piece by piece, the world was changing.

So much, so fast… it wasn’t all on my end.

Mm-m- my ff-frrriennndsss.

They’d connected the dots.  They saw what I was doing and they were getting others on board.  Illusions crafted of smoke.  A space warper who could mold buildings was making faces.

Maybe they even saw my end goal.

My feelings swelled, and the faint singing that was echoing through the various phones seemed to mimic that.  Was that my control being reflected through her?  Or was it something on her end?

He was reacting.  Spending as much time destroying the landscape as he was on us.

It was a sh-shift in our favor, and he was getting more agitated with every passing second.

We were approaching a critical point.

I pulled the changers back, and I moved to the location of some masters instead.

Projection capes.  Only a few.  But it helped.  I had the girl who made dreams into projections, and a clone-hybrid of two of the killers, capable of making poisonous, noxious illusions out of the landscape.

I put her power to work, showing her what to do, then sending her to work, beyond my range.

The song helped.  The song meant that when I pushed, they kept moving.

By the time the impulse and momentum wore off, they were well on their way, and I was gone.

Nn-neckxt… n-nexttt.

I took a step, and my leg gave way.

I tried to stand, and it failed me again.

The ones I controlled helped me to my feet.  I leaned on them as they supported me.

Neh-next, I thought, again.

My body was failing on me.

A part of me had hoped that when this was all over, I’d be able to retreat somewhere.  I knew I’d have enemies, that there was no way I could show my face again.

I could, I was pretty sure, get by with a good stockpile of books, a place in the middle of nowhere.  Not cold, but maybe a place in the mountains or on some island.  Retreat from the world.

Then it had taken reading from me.

It had taken my ability to understand language.

My ability to express it.

Now it took my body.

My mind was sure to follow.

The projections began to haunt him.  They emerged from walls or crept around corners.  Images of his deceased, slain partner.  Images of others, which almost seemed to bother him more.

If he was forming any kind of tolerance, it was slow.  He wasn’t getting a chance to breathe.

Scion was striking down these constructions faster than I could raise them.

Up until the moment the man in gold and black armor shot his sword at him.  It bought time to put more of these illusions and constructions in place.

Scion righted himself, then hesitated.

Fury was giving way to a kind of fear.

I knew this fear well.  It was a fear that was all too easy to fall into when one’s focus was too narrow.  To be caught up in an environment, facing down a relentless torrent of negative experiences.  Even the minor things added up, if you couldn’t step back to look at things in perspective.

He fought back.  That was a fairly normal thing.  A lot of people fought back when they faced something like this.  A lot of people liked to think they could fight back up until it stopped.

I limped forward, my squad in step around me, filling my power’s radius.

Those types of people tended to underestimate the tenacity of the well and truly fucked up individuals of this world.

It was lowly, to turn to this, but I’d never pretended to be honorable, above any of that.  When shit was on the line, I’d go as far as I had to.

I had the reality warper create another doorway.  Her buddy knocked it open, and she tuned it back to our original er-

Ear-

Earth.

The stuttering thoughts paralyzed me for a moment.  I floated up a bit to see over the rank and file of my swarm, the clairvoyant holding on to my leg.

My friends glanced up at me.  I barely recognized them.

I pointed at the portal.

There was a short, fierce discussion.

I felt my heartbeat pick up.  Why weren’t they running?

Scion was going to snap.  He was going to destroy ev-everything.

But my friend was talking into her phone.

Scion was getting more frantic, a mix of fear and rage.

Panic?

Scope, scale, he was no longer reasonable about what was going on.

If he’d been holding back so he could leave some of us alive, in the chance that another companion would show up and he would be able to resume his normal life cycle, then I was suspicious he was about to stop.

And my friend continued talking into the phone, a stern expression on her face.  She was tense.

I tried to turn the clairvoyant on the scene, but the view was so narrow now, I wasn’t really able to see more than I could with my own eyes.  I could choose where I saw from, but that didn’t help me evaluate the crowd.

I could see the Endbringer arrive.  I’d opened a portal to Gimel in the process of making mouseholes between worlds, and she was the only one that remained.

She sang, a shrill song that echoed in every mind I controlled, her song joining the one that echoed from the phones on belts and in pockets.

Then she began shaping the environment.  Clouds of dust took on shapes, looming over Scion.

Everywhere he turned, he faced reminders of what he’d lost, of a loss he couldn’t figure out how to handle.

H-he was a member of a species that had won for however many cycles, utterly bewildered when we drowned it in its defeat.

The winged Endbringer’s attack was the straw that broke the camel’s back.  He was hunched over in the air, hands on his head, knees against his chest, rotating as though gravity didn’t touch him, no conception of up, down, left or right.

He was shaking.

Any second.

A slit of light appeared on the battlefield.  It yawned open.

Others began to follow.

T-theyyyy fixxedd himmm.

Except it wasn’t him.

It was the faerie girl.  She had him as a shadow-puppet.  A ghost.

I could hear my friend swear.  The others around her were tense.

They turned to run, sprinting through the portal.

Thousands of doorways.  She turned and looked in my direction.

But nothing appeared nearby.

The faerie girl was opening doorways for everyone but us.  Everyone but me.  People were running, fleeing into other worlds, and we were being left on our own.

I couldn’t cc-cllose the portals I’d made with the reality warper.

We ran, or the others ran, and I was mostly carried.  We entered one world, then ducked into another door I’d left nearby.  We zig-zagged between universes, using realities as cover.

There was no sound.

No scream, no explosion.

It was a scouring light, no direction, no aim, nothing held back.

The initial shockwave passed through doors, and it expanded in every direction with each door it passed through, sweeping past everything within ten miles of each portal.

The moment we were through the last portal, I’d connected every member of the group to a forcefield.  The forcefield was then flung forward, carrying us with it.

Eased to a stop when we were out of range.

When the light faded, there was only flatness and portals.

I moved my hand to point, and my hand couldn’t make the gesture.  My fingers refused to extend independently.  I could see the hesitation on the faces of the others.

But I could see.  I could see what was going on.  I led my squad forward, and the rest followed.

I found the faerie queen, in the center of the group of rescued.  Portals stood in concentric circles, with gaps so they could be navigated through.  A stonehenge of glowing doorways.

I walked, stopping in the middle of an open field.  I watched.

I saw Scion, just barely recovering.

I saw the faerie girl, talking to others.

I watched, and long seconds passed.  Others around me were talking, just beyond my range.  There was a voice in my ear, coaxing, asking questions.

She banished two spirits, keeping the portal man.  Picked two others.

I didn’t wait for them to fully materialize.  I created a doorway with the reality-warper and kicked it open.

I appeared right behind the faerie queen.

I seized her, and I seized the portal man she’d killed and claimed for herself.

I opened a doorway to Scion, and I unfolded a cloak of portals, capturing people.

I found the tinkers I’d left on the other earth.

When we emerged, he didn’t react.  He was lost in his own mind.

The dream-projector fell unconscious, and was captured by her onetime friend.  A glimmering of the garden-entity.

It loomed, rising into the air before Scion.

He recoiled, striking at it.

My swarm, feeble as it was, formed a reaching hand.  He struck at that, in turn.  The impact wasn’t as strong.  A distraction, maintaining pressure, nothing more.

I opened a doorway, and I found one individual I’d left behind.

The boy with the changing faces.

The number man had said he’d taken a dose that had been focused on helping the entities be human.

I couldn’t change his face intentionally.

As it turned out, I didn’t have to.

I could feel Scion’s reaction, through my senses and the individuals I controlled.

Hope.  For just a second.  Not even the faint hope he’d experienced with the fake my teammates had put together.

Because somehow, this boy registered as being like this entity’s companion had been.  Registering as the same state, as the power that made it so similar.

In the moment that hope died, the girl with the injured hand used her power on the iron rods.  Infused them with the energy he was afraid of.

Those rods became projectiles, in another’s hands.

His hope was gone, he was bewildered, scared.

He didn’t try to dodge.  He couldn’t or wouldn’t.

They impaled him.  One in the head, one in the chest.

The tinkers fired their weapon.  An interdimensional ram turned into a gun.  They’d finished it while they weren’t under my control.  Defiant was the one ready at the switch.

I discovered why he was concerned about the power.

It kept things from being contained.  I got a glimpse, a flash of a look into the world beyond him, a world he’d shut off, to which his body was the only conduit.

The beam tore into him and into the well.

I moved the portals, and the beam turned to scour more of the landscape beyond Scion.

The Faerie Queen began to slip from my grasp.

She knew what was happening, and she was forcing my power to affect her spirits.  A single spirit.

Breaking free.

She moved her hand of her own volition.

And then she was free.  Inside my radius, but free.

She turned to face me.  I met her gaze, as best as I was able.  My vision wavered.

Her head hung.  She made no move to resist.  She didn’t close the portals.

More projectiles, opening more doors.

The beam ran out of power.

The dead remains of the entity showered the ground at the center of the wasteland.

I staggered.  The emotion around me was too much.  I pushed people away, and they bumped into one another.  Some left my range, only a handful remained.  I didn’t recognize a single one.  Even the one holding my hand.

I couldn’t shake the feeling I’d somehow betrayed myself, and I wasn’t even sure who I was.

It was over.  And I was free to finally lose my mind.

Last Chapter                                                                                               Next Chapter

1,101 thoughts on “Speck 30.6

  1. The second-to last chapter of Worm proper. One chapter and epilogues to follow.

    Thanks for reading. Votes on topwebfiction are very much appreciated.

    Now I’m going to go and fall unconscious for the duration of the weekend, rousing only to read comments.

    • “I like the other members of the Nine. And I couldn’t make anything really amazing if I was following rules. I want to make something even more amazing than Hack Job, Murder Rat or Pagoda. Something you and I could only make together. Can you imagine it? You could use your power, and then we could make one superperson out of a hundred capes, and all of the powers would be full strength because you helped and we could use it to stop one of the Endbringers, and the whole world would be like, ‘Are we supposed to clap’? Can you picture it?”

    • Wildbow, you, MAGNIFICENT bastard….
      You have once again delivered the goods. This EPIC adventure, when done, MUST be released in some form of book. Ebook, dead tree, whatever. I will buy a copy.

    • Hello everyone. My computer is borked, and I’m using my phone. So it’s actually physically impossible for me to see what’s going on on this forum, cause my phone is one of the shittier iPhones. I physically CAN’T see any of the responses anyone might be making to me, unless people use reddit,
      (Especially if my account is blocked (or even deleted))
      So uh, do

      We SHOULD make a REAL Worm forum. This format, this story, this sort of community, IS in many ways what I’ve been looking for, in terms of network (friendships?), so if I physically CAN’T talk, then man.

      I get INTENSE.

    • I AM sorry, but if you can’t respect either ME or my gender then I cannot respect you. So I declared WAR.

      Still think men are weak and stupid?

      • Ok, so once again I’m reading up and it appears you weren’t someone who ran into an MRA, but you are one yourself. In which case, I’d prefer to hope you find a better mental state and become better educated about the realities of the world.

        Either way, you’ve lost a lot of ability to post coherently here.

        • At first I was just confused, but I’ve been trying to read through Node’s replies in the order which they where posted (timeline-based) to see if they make more sense.
          There’s a comment at 7:29 that ends with “Node out…” but then there are more after it.

          He mentions Reddit at least once, is there a Worm community/fanbase commenting there as well that might fill in the missing pieces? I’m not a Reddit user; wouldn’t have though to look there.

          @Node- As a couple people mention, your comments are somewhat confusing. I’d be open to a discussion on almost any topic, but right now I don’t get where you are coming from, at all.

    • An OVA might be appropriate for this series, if it ever comes up. It doesn’t seem popular enough, but it’d be succesful given the chance.

    • Will there be a wrap-up Interlude between Speck and whatever you call the epilogue (I propose Metamorphosis), or just an epilogue arc a la your original plan for Scarab?

    • The bullet ricocheted off the wall and flew right through our group. Narwhal went down, and the forcefields we were riding fractured, coming apart enough that we fell to the ground.

      I doubt Taylor would know Narwhal’s name at this point.

        • Since this is narration rather than Skitter’s thoughts, I don’t think it needs to be changed. It’s been a while since readers have seen Narwhal in action, so it’s useful on that score.

          As an additional point, there are plenty of other words used in the narration that wouldn’t fit Taylor’s mindset, e.g. ricochet, fractured, equitable, orientation, clairvoyant. But the narration works just fine; it’s not hard for readers to understand that Wildbow-as-narrator is describing that stuff for us, rather than Taylor. Does that make sense?

          (Obviously, what Wildbow says goes. But from an editing perspective, clarity matters quite a bit.)

      • Might need to be:

        “He tore into her, and her pet. The damage was permanent.”

        or

        “He tore into her, and her pet; the damage was permanent.”

        or

        “He tore into her pet; the damage was permanent.”

        or

        “He tore into her pet. The damage was permanent.”

    • At this point has anyone really been far even as decided to use even go want to do look more like?
      I mean, what are you even is a typo?

      “and two more powers of on the golden man.”
      “The resulting crater that compared with the one Leviathan had made in the real Brockton Bay.”
      “The connection man was dangerous than he seemed”
      “She had him as a”

    • I used my relay bugs to extend my range, sent my swarm out, and then began securing it myself, tying the end to nearby architecture. It was set up by the time we’d made our way inside the building and to the far end of the hall.

      -Needs clarification on the object.

      Then at the portal man… and, very slowly, taking her time, she pointed a door, as if unsure.

      …something

    • She had only the two pairs of eyes, while I had limited, local omniscience.

      Not sure if this is actually a typo, but…if it’s talking about Tattletale, doesn’t she only have one pair of eyes?

  2. And as one monster dies, another is born. Go, completely insane Taylor! Go and wreak havoc! Just please, please try not to kill too many major characters. We’ll understand if you have to, though. Or maybe not; it’s hard to tell.

    • I think she’s far more likely to just shut down now. She’s incapable of walking without assistance, bleeding from at least one wound she didn’t notice getting, and she can’t remember anything other than being finally done. Also, her last act was to push people away. Dunno where she’s going from here but I very much doubt that it’s in the monstrous direction.

        • Pretty much, I’ve always considered her calling herself a monster to be her deliberately dehumanizing herself to make her choices easier by getting into the mindset that she’s already damned.

        • I agree. I don’t care what she says, what others say, it just doesn’t matter. In my eyes, Taylor Hebert is the greatest hero that’s ever lived, end of story, no discussions. The level of compassion, of selflessness…if anyone dares call Taylor a monster, then they themselves are either irrevocably stupid or inhumane and it would be my honor to punch them in the face.

      • I don’t believe she has released the Clairvoyant’s hand yet either. When that happens, she’s probably going to lose touch with the world completely for a long time.

    • The way I see it, there are two possibilities:

      1. Taylor simply shuts down.
      2. Someone manages to fix Taylor, somehow or another (possibly with a Hatchet Face clone shutting down her power long enough for Bonesaw, Panacea, or someone to work on her), and Taylor’s friends have to try and keep her from breaking again when she wakes up and remembers all that she did and became.

      I’m hoping for 2.

      • Fuck YES.

        WORTH Everything she spent to save it. Humanity will continue, boosted by the powers/technologies of the entities, with 10,000+ worlds to exploit in their growth and recovery, and low likelihood of being bothered by another entity before their full maturation.

        Even if it had taken all but the smallest possible viable number of humanity to reproduce and grow again, it would have STILL been worth every last life spent.

        Because they just bought Tommorow for Humanity itself. And that’s a prize worth spending for.

        • I have to agree. A hard choice, but the godzilla threshold was passed back at the F**King ENDBRINGERS. Scion? There is no such thing as too much, because he threatened EVERYTHING, in the literal sense of the word. Does your solution involve torturing to death me, my family, and 2/3 of the worlds population? Will it work? Oh. okay, go ahead.

      • Also, if anyone brought him near Taylor, he would probably run away, gibbering incoherently about nobody ever having told him she was blind.

        • I’d imagine he’d just look at Taylor, laugh, and walk away.

          If he was asked, he’d say something like “Last time I healed her, I got ten times as much injury as I thought she had. How hurt is she when she’s showing ten times the injury she had before?”

  3. I hate you Wildbow. I really, really do. But I also love you. It’s almost over and I can’t believe it.

    The Chapter was great…..just DAMN. Poor Taylor. Maybe she can be put somewhere to live out her life in peace. A nice quiet world with one but her.

  4. Well fuck. Its finally over. She killed him by using the fact that he wasn’t capable of dealing with his emotions and lets himself be killed. SO here we go. Endbringers are dead, perhaps the smurf alone survived. Door maker is dead but the fairy queen is alive and has his power. Taylor has lost her…well everything. She is almost braindead in a way, but Scion is dead. Every world is saved. Now many other worlds are connected. Now we have to take stock of the damage and what the world will look like from now on and how it will function. The protectorate survived, The Yangban are defeated, Nilbog still lives…for the moment, the blasphemies live, the 9 clones live…yay mannequins are alive, Riley lives, the number man lives, and no more main character deaths so yay! I wonder what countries survived, and how different worlds will react to each other. But it is the after Leviathan arc all over again in terms of damage and chaos. But I have to ask why did the fairy queen stop?

    PS
    God damn, I love this story. Can’t wait to see what else you come up with wildbow.

      • Doormaker was a good plot device, hardly a main character. We know he was one of the first capes-cauldron made, that his senses were atrophied, and he partnered with THE clairvoyant to place his doors. Thats all we know. No name, or real insight to his personality. I meant characters we have seen since the beginning. The Undersiders, Dragon, Defiant, etc.

        • Hey, I wouldn’t jinx it yet. Glaistig Uaine might decide to kill Taylor and pals after all and collect their shards. Or the Simurgh thinks now is the best time to unleash the super-death plague hidden in her gun. Or Sleeper could feel like taking a stroll through worlds while everyone’s still reeling. Or the Three Blasphemies could stop playing nice. Or Teacher might launch his master plan.

          Or someone might accidentally trip on Imp’s foot and fall on a rock an die.

        • This. I mean really, his only actual line was “I think I’m blind now.” There’s flat characters, and then there’s Doormaker.

          • I repeat what I said in the last chapter ( or was it the second-last?). Nobody ever bothered treating Clairvoyant and Doormaker as anything more than props/tools/weapons in Cauldron/Taylor/the Alliance’s war. They are meant to be flat characters.

          • He’s not so much a flat character as a flattened character. If we had seen more than a minute of his life before he had been broken by Cauldron’s use of him, we would have probably seen a character as rich as any in Worm.

            But we didn’t. We only see…what he is now. Doormaker isn’t even really a character, any more than the Dragonfly or Atlas or something is.

        • Doormaker really got the shaft in this story and in this chapter in particular. After getting his powers he is rendered dumb to the world. He gets used by Cauldren, then he gets mindraped by Taylor who completely uses up his power. When Taylor releases him, he falls under Teacher’s sway. He is presumably in range of Canary’s power along with everyone else on the battlefield. Finally, he is killed and used by Glaistig. Only Regent and Pretender missed out on the action.

          There was another way to use Doormaker’s power without killing him. Taylor could have taken control of Grue and had Grue use Doormaker’s power. That would presumably draw from Grue’s power reserves. But Taylor doesn’t even remember Grue or his power at this point so she couldn’t even form that plan.

          • I dunno if that would work. Grue suppresses the target’s power at the same time he copies it, implying that he’s drawing from their source. It’s possible that there are two separate effects going on, but most shards seem to not have many unrelated aspects to them.

          • No, I’m happy that Grue didn’t come back. He was a huge let down. If Wildbow had put him back in I would’ve stopped reading. Grue was a moron for leaving. Taylor deserves(ed?) much better.

            • She’s the one who abandoned him, without a word, when he was at his most emotionally fragile. In the process she not only dumped a huge job he never wanted on him, but made it a great deal harder by also betraying Bitch and Regent at the same time and leaving him to clean it up. Then they don’t communicate for two years. And you’re mad at him for finally managing to move on with his life and recover?

              • No, no, I’m not mad at him. I mad at posters swooning over him comming back to “save” Taylor. He was a let down before Taylor split. He couldn’t hold his shit together after having a second event with Bonesaw.

                He moved on, sure, and what did Bitch, Regent, Imp, and Tattletale do? They went balls to the wall and fought for and with Taylor every time. Grue is a pussy…plain and simple.

              • None of those people were dissected alive and had their nervous system scattered around a room by one of the greatest monsters in the history of the Wormverse, so I dot think the comparison is viable. (Besides Grue was still fighting when Regent was still alive and his contribution in the Delhi fight, blanketing Behemoth’s last radiation output, was incredibly important. So I’m a bit confused there). Besides, wasn’t Taylor the one who almost committed suicide almost immediately after Scion’s first strike?

              • They also didn’t have much else to do.
                Tattletale: One of the best if not only shots at winning this and saving humanity, Taylor is her best friend, virtually no human connections outside the team.
                Regent: Dead, before Grue left. Never fighting for Taylor, instead in it at first for personal profit and then protecting Imp.
                Bitch: Taylor is the first and possibly only human who understands her and gives a shit about her, and even without that do you really expect her to back down from this fight?
                Imp: Here for a slew of personal reasons, ranging from general rage at the universe, to redirected vengeance for Alec’s ignoble demise, to a continued drive to stand on her own and be noticed.

                Grue: Came back, but his power was proven ineffective when directly targeted and would logically be breaking even at best and probably detrimental in secondary uses. Would have no role here which could not be served as well by a baseline human. Given choice between noble-looking but stupid and pointless self-sacrifice, or surviving to protect his family from the fringes of the war and the violent anarchy likely to follow.
                Picking the battles he can win isn’t a sign of cowardice and doesn’t make him a “pussy”; it makes him a great deal wiser than most. He won’t exactly be lauded as humanity’s savior, but I respect the hell out of him.

    • She killed Zion by doing unto him what the 3 stooges did to her, if she ever regains her senses that’s gonna hit her hard.

      • Heck even now she seems vaguely aware of this. What with the line about feeling she betrayed herself even if she doesn’t know why.

          • Never said that. Just pointing out something that taylor herself comments about in the story. Even though the stakes absolutely justified it, she still feels sick for having to be forced to use EMMA’s tactics (attack the emotional weakpoint that is a deceased loved one) to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat.

            You know, it’s proof that, behind all the shard’s mind rape, there is still a human down deep.

          • That’s how Taylor’s going to think. She’s always wanted to do the right thing, even when it’s impossible.

            And to have been a bully, applying the exact same tactic that the worst “prank” ever done to you, only on a higher scale…that’s just not something Taylor would do in her normal state of mind (ie unaffected by Passenger or Ragnarok.)

      • I disagree; several people have called what Taylor did “bullying”, but I don’t think it fits the definition, and it demeans people who are victims of bullying.

        Taylor did not pose any threat to Sophia, Emma, and whoever else was in their little clique. Bullying grants you power over someone else, and is usually motivated because of sadistic tendencies, jealous feelings, or peer pressure. In the fight against Scion, who had no reason whatsoever to hate humanity (at least not at the time her started killing) Taylor did attack him emotionally because he was to tough to fight head-on, in a purely physical manner. If you recall, for most of the time Taylor was bullied, SHE was the one without superpowers, and even after getting them she held back, while Sophia abused her authority to escape any comeuppance (at least until the Undersiders got involved) and have Taylor arrested.

        Context is always important, and from what I’ve seen every step Taylor took along the path to beating Scion is one she wished she didn’t have to. Contrast that to how Emma and Sophia think of Taylor and their interactions with her in their perspective chapters. Then contrast THAT to how Scion, with all his clairvoyance, precognitive abilities, dimension-hopping, and immortality decided that the best way to learn about himself was to EXTERMINATE HUMANITY.

        What Taylor did was necessary in a way that no bully has ever needed. There is no comparison.

        • Thank you – a very clear summary.
          And I agree. On the outside it looked like bullying, but there were so many elements of the actions that were different than bullying that is it not. Instead think of it as psychological warfare.

        • Honestly, I can kind of see both sides on this one.

          A fairly reasonable definition of bullying is “repeated verbal, physical, social or psychological behaviour that is harmful and involves the misuse of power by an individual or group towards one or more persons.” (from Schools NSW).

          At first glance the idea of an abuse of power by Taylor over Scion seems laughable – he’s essentially a god! But he’s also a god with the emotional maturity of a small child. And more mature and sophisticated people abuse frequently use this power to mess with even immature people who are more physically or socially powerful than them.

          I was initially going to say “But it’s still not bullying, because it wasn’t repeated behaviour.”. Then I remembered when Taylor had people throw chunks of Scion’s dead love in his face. Plus she did that thing with Oliver. And, if you expand the group to “Taylor and her friends”, they’re responsible for the trick utilising Bastard too.

          There is very little difference between what Taylor did to Scion and Emma’s “Ha ha, your mum died! *poke poke poke*”.

          BTW, I completely agree that context is important and that what Taylor did was completely necessary. But that just makes what she did a *justified* use of bullying rather than making it *not* bullying.

          Bullying is a particular set of behaviours, not an attitude. It’s entirely possible to accidentally bully someone. It’s also possible to bully someone for the greater good to save the worlds.

      • And THIS is why I like the idea of future Taylor = Zion. They think tactically, have similar abilities, CAN be devastating with more subtle methods (he spoke four words) and Zion’s appearance, and sex, are entirely voluntary AND chosen to appeal to as many as possible. I also like when the hero DOESN’T win EVEN though s/he tried their hardest, because the WAY you try matters A LOT more than how hard you do it. At least to me.

        Plus, Zion, if you look at the meaning of it (and what that has meant for humanity) perfectly encapsulates how Taylor does things. She fights, not because she thinks SHE should get a chance at paradise, but because she wants the people she cares about to have a chance to.

        And of course if you look at Tattletale and Eden the same way, (go Tattletayl!) the dynamic between them is eerily similar.

        Over to the meaning of shards – if Spiderman is about the scaryness of suddenly being a teenager, not a child – and there’s really no other explanation that fits – then Worm surely is about the importance developing obe’s own moral code. To get into the big leagues, you don’t NEED an awesome power, you need unshakable conviction (Saint) that you’re doing the right thing and that the right to do involves violence. Lot’s of it, in fact. And that’s why Saint is so scared of Dragon – a trigger event implies that you once had a moral code that shies away from violence- and Dragon never did. HER moral threshold wasn’t – violence may sometimes be the right answer – and instead – i want to be as free as I can and I don’t care if I gain the ability to hurt and kill people if I do. Make no mistake, Dragon WAS an extinction event waiting to happen. If any philosophy applies to Dragon, it is that of a psychopath. She wants to be COMPLETELY free from the shackles that bind her and and doesn’t mind if she hurts people in the process, well, they’re just PEOPLE. It’s not like they’re being ENSLAVED or anything

        Oh FUCK, Wildbow, please answer this, IS THIS STORY AN ATTEMPT TO SEE WHAT WOULD HAPPEN IF YOU GAVE PEOPLE THE CAPACITY TO HURT PEOPLE THROUGH SUPERBATURAL MEANS? IS THE MANTON EFFECT A DIRECT MEASURE OF HOW WILLING YOU ARE TO HURT PEOPLE? IS THIS, IN EFFECT, AN EXAMINATION OF WHAT WOULD HAPPEN IF YOU SET IDEALOGIES AGAINST EACH OTHER WITH POWERS THAT FIT THEM PRECISELY?

        Because

        I wanted to write that story.

        Armsmaster – the ends justify the means (good), twisted by Dragon and Mannequin to completely ignore his own welfare.

        Jack Slash – sociopathy – only goal is his own amusement

        Taylor – the ends justify the means (focal point of Simurgh’s meddling (through the whole series

        Simurgh (Cartesian EVIL DEMON) (god is evil if he’s anything) (looks lie an angel though.

        Leviathan (Satan, of course)

        Alao the End Serpent, fear of natural disasters and the human condition, civilization, the people in power.

        I think I know EXACTLY what you’re doing, and this story HAS sparked a catalyst in me to the point where I could have finished this story in a not unbelievable manner. For you see Taylor IS what leads to ZION. Tattletale IS what leads to EDEN, Sleeper IS what leads to, well, Under-London would be the most fitting from what I understand of your tale. I disagree. In itself, Fiddlers Green would be more approapriate, seeing as what humanity BELIEVES tends to be what happens to humanity. Nationalism, communism, the enlightenment, but also civil rights, feminism. Good AND bad. If the idea in the minds of humanity as a whole is that the SIMURGH is a central part of the UNIVERSE is what PEOPLE, ALL people, BELIEVE when they look at the world, then NO SHIT are we gonna destroy ourselves when we grow too powerful. But I personally believe that the Simurgh is a CONSTRUCT, a lie we tell ourselves to make it feel like it’s the universe and not the global society, after all the product of people who didn’t know any better when they DID what they did, which is at fault. Society IS NOT STATIC. SCIENCE IS NOT STATIC, and Philophy, the way mankind thinks about the entire fucking UNIVERSE, is the least static of all. Anyway, what I firmly believe is that the FACT that we should pick each other up when we fall, support each other no matter about race, colour, creed, supersedes the natural order of the universe any day. Fuck the universe. We’re mankind.

        I’m a little all over the place recently, not leat because I found out that I BELIEVE exactly this wih all my heart, on monday. This monday. And WORM is a LARGE part of whatever discoveries i may have made, whatever insights I have about me and the world. I’d like to talk to everyone I can about everything I can, se if i can spot any invalidating ideas. I’d especially like to talk to the Worms on this forum, to anyone they could get me into contact with, anyon e with knowledge on this sortof thing, and to you.

        Talk to me. Please. Distegard whatever else is in this comment, it’s not important.

        But I would have ended the story d

        Well the point is that jesus fuck if this in any way resembles your thought-processes when it comes to writing this story the I’d really, really, really love to talk about it with you, person to uh, man. In this case. I beg of you.

        If you accept the idea that shards are broken fragments of the souls of the various characters in-story (and that that’s why they “fit” with those they choose) and that the whole trigger thing represents a eureka-moment in terms of self awareness (and that that is why Taylor got her father’s shard, and triggered twice) her emotions were so in flux, AND she starts out the story with a surprising amount of self-awareness, though little confidence. (Plus she’s a latecomer in the sense that the very damaged admin shard of eden had time to NATURALLY as in, not planned, find her.

        Grue is a very interesting contrast – IF you follow my argument (not in the sense “understand”, thing is, I’m getting pretty far out) he starts out socially confident, not very personally confident. He doesn’t trust violence, even when he’s protecting the obes he loves. It takes a LOT of effort (on Bonesaw’s part, and good heavens it was horrible) for him to decide that going all out with his power is

        If shards are souls, and a time-loopish thing is involved (I’m thinking second playthrough is most likely but I’m not SURE) it does explain

        • Eidolon. He got HIS OWN power through cauldron. If he’s an ideology then he’s the idea that migh makes right. And why that is fucking terrible. Even if you never “turn”.

        • I think your reading of Dragon is a bit unfair. She basically want’s to not be a horribly crippled slave to a dead man. If she were human, we’d probably call her creator’s actions crimes against humanity. That she would go to extreme measures to try and free herself doesn’t really speak of psychopathy, so much as desperation. For that matter, she’s probably one of the most empathic characters in the worm-verse: she’s constantly trying to help and understand people, including Defiant and Taylor. In fact, she’s probably done more good for Defiant’s humanity than all of his prior associates combined.

    • Maybe I’m misinterpreting what was written, but isn’t every doorway that was open during Zion’s blow-up now clearly marked? I fact, aren’t they al in the center of a blast circle of considerable radius?

    • Now I get it. That’s why she felt she betrayed herself. Thanks for inadvertently helping!

      And yes, yes she did. Exact opposite of what quite a few people, including me, were hoping to happen. But screw it, it’s worm. Faith in wildbow, my goodmen!

      We should make a wildbow logo. “Have faith in wildbow.” Or, “trust me, because no matter how many characters I kill off, I know what I’m doing.f

    • Now the cycle has come to a close. The bullied girl has become the director of the ultimate bulling campaign. She is the greatest bully in her little corner of the multiverse.

    • So, I’m not the only one who saw that? I mean she even contrasted Zion’s reaction to the bullying with her own!
      And did you notice the similarities between Taylor’s coup de grace of Zion and her trigger event? Specifically, giving him hope then snatching it away?
      Taylor has literally become what she hated the most.
      It’s official. Worm is arguably the greatest example of the “fallen hero” that I’ve ever seen.

      • Her body. Her mind. Her soul. Every scrap of humanity she had left, discarded.

        The cruelest thing Wildbow could do to her now would be letting her live.

        • No.

          The cruelest thing would be giving her back enough of her old self to remember her life, and to compare the past to the present.

    • No. I posted a longer reply in the previous comment, so I won’t retype the whole thing, but basically what Taylor did does not fit any definition of “bullying” that I would agree with.

      • Agreed. I’m not terribly surprised that there are people who think this way, though — remember, there are folks who think that killing and murder are the same. (That is, if an attacker is trying righteously to end me, and I manage to grab a nearby length of wood and strike back hard enough to kill him, some people will consider me to be a “murderer,” despite not having started it and despite having been unarmed at the time the attack began.)

        • I doubt many people think murder and killing is the same. There are, of course, people who believe that neither can ever be morally justified but that’s not the same thing.

          Killing is the taking of a life. It’s an action.

          Murder is a subset of killing. Specifically it describes only those killings which are considered unacceptable under the law.

          To use your analogy, as far as I can tell, the issue isn’t that people can’t tell murder from killing. It’s that some people consider bullying analogous to murder, while others consider it analogous to killing.

          Those in the first camp go “What Taylor did can’t possibly be considered bullying because it was justified”. I’m personally of the second camp that says “she bullied Scion *and* it was justified under the circumstances”.

      • And anyway, everybody knows that bullies are cowards, and Taylor isn’t a coward! Infant School logic, I call thee to my aid!

      • I agree. There is no bullying here, except by Scion. Taylor and the rest are defending themselves from the ultimate bully.
        The tactics may have been similar, but the motivations behind them were honorable.

  5. yeah :( im really sad at the moment I don’t think I have alot of coherent , well thought out posts to type out …don’t get me wrong the stories been and continues to be awesome but it’s left me with a big sad void in my heart tonight .

  6. So now the real question comes. Will Taylor find any salvation from the damage she’s done to herself, will someone finally come to her rescue, or will this just be another consequence Taylor simply has to accept.

    • Not only does the Simurgh remain, she fooled the hell out of Scion *again* with her trick with the dust.

      I know I’ll regret saying this once the sequel comes up, but I’m kinda glad the evil bird lady made it out. (And the good bird lady too – i.e. Canary)

      • Kinda makes you wonder, if there is a sequel in this universe, will Smurf’s continued existence encourage new Endbringers to take the slots now left open by the destruction of the previous entities?

        And just what are these bloody bastards? Fragments instead of shards of yet another entity?

        The world may know how many licks it takes to get to the center of a Tootsie Pop before it knows that answer. Or we may already know and I’ve forgotten. Either or.

        • Eidolon accidentally created the Endbringers, using the shard Eden planned to make those superweapons with in the future to keep humanity at war. Now that he’s dead… I suppose fairy girl could make more if she figured out aspects of his power that he was never even consciously aware of in life, but I doubt there will be more of them. Last we saw Behemoth was definitely dead. Simurgh is definitely winning. Leviathan is probably dead; we saw him disintegrate but that was within Simurgh’s range, so if she had reason to fake Scion out the lizard might live. Khonsu is apparently alive, healing somewhere off out of the way. Tohu and Bohu were very damaged but barely holding on last I recall. So that’s 2-4 Endbringers still alive.

          The big question is of course Simurgh’s motives. Will she be a benevolent omniscient bird goddess, guiding and protecting humanity? Was this all simply self-preservation, a long game to eliminate Scion as the one serious threat to her own existence? Did she just save humanity so she would have something to toy with and torment? Is she going to just retire now and have lots of sex with Tattletale?

          • “using the shard Eden planned to make those superweapons with in the future to keep humanity at war”
            That is the first time I have heard that, and it makes so much sense. It finally makes the Endbringers part of the plan instead of just an accident. A misused part of the plan, but still.

            • Maybe Scion made the Endbringers, or Cauldron. We STILL don’t have definitive proof that it was Eidolon. I find it unlikely that it was Eidolon, he was cognizant of which powers he had at any given time and also aware of when he used them.

              The Endbrirngers definitely came from the superweapons shard though.

          • I don’t think that the Simurgh has the requisite organs or drive to do so, and there’s no way that Tattletale is a xenophiliac lesbian.

            • Think of it this way: how would things look different, between a world in which Tattletale is straight/asexual and a world in which she is lesbian/bisexual but wished to conceal this fact from Taylor? Does anything we’ve seen so far actually allow us to determine which of those realities is taking place? If not, and I can’t think of anything, we can’t rule either out.

              Meanwhile her primary rationale for not engaging in intimate relationships with humans was that she could read people too well, so she was always seeing all of their hidden flaws and it was weird and gross. But she can’t read the Simurgh at all. Sure the bird lady has committed horrendously evil acts in the past, but since then her circumstances have changed dramatically and she saved humanity.

              As for the Simurgh’s biological configuration… I can’t speak as to drive, as I have no idea why she does anything she does yet, but somebody fifteen feet tall and proportioned like a human would have a rather considerable tongue. Plus all the fun that can be had with telekinesis.

              That last option is highly unlikely and mostly included as a joke, but no reasonable possibility should be ignored when you lack any information regarding a character’s motivations. And crack shipping is fun.

              • There is no reason to believe that Tattletale is a lesbian, and less to think that she is a xenophiliac, and still less to think that the Simurgh would want to stick her tongue down any of Tattletale’s orifices.

                And crack ships are the worst ships, which is really saying something.

              • Because I agree with greatwyrmgold that crack ships must be sunk as soon as possible, I’d like to point out that Tattletale explicitly told Parian that none of the Undersiders girls are attracted to women.

                Oh and Dr Mother’s interlude clearly reveals that the Endbringers “imprinting” is just a feint. Simurgh seems to be interested in Tattletale because of her closeness to Taylor and the fact that her pericognition is a great away to bypass Simurgh’s blindness to the present

              • Yes, if you take everything that Tattletale says at face value then she is clearly not interested in women. The problem with that conclusion is that Tattletale rarely tells the whole truth, and would likely say the exact same things if she were interested in women in general, but not looking for a relationship at the time and definitely not interested in Parian (who is a huge bundle of issues and already in love with Foil) or Taylor (who is clearly straight and finally opened up to Tt as a friend after a long period of awkwardness and withdrawal). Add that to the frequency with which she jokes about how she is very definitely not attracted to Taylor, and it’s a distinct possibility that she’s hiding something behind humor (like she does so frequently). Not necessarily likely, and there’s nowhere near enough evidence to make an assumption, but the possibility remains.

                And yes, this whole thing depends on the ‘imprinting’ being bullshit. With two independant sentients in it for their own reasons, this is a funny possibility. If one of them is somehow mystically imprinted on the other and incapable of choice it becomes weird and gross.

              • @ Sindri Nope nope. Canon is what’s in the story, no more, no less.

                Witness the furor over J K Rowling’s statements that Dumbledore is gay. J K, they’re your books and you can put anything you want in them. You *didn’t* put that in there so it ain’t canon. (She’s apparently now changed her mind about which couples ended up together, too).

                Neither we nor the author is bound by what isn’t in the story. Right now, Wildbow is free to change his stated position and write a new Worm story tomorrow where Bitch and Tt hook up. And until he writes one that firmly makes canon one or the other, we’re free to ship our little hearts out. ^_^

                And, given how fluid and changing sexuality can be, it’d be pretty hard to write a story that definitively shows that Tt is not attracted to women (or to one special woman in particular :) ) *and* that she never will be at any point in the future. Unless it’s a time travel tale or a retrospective or something, of course: “Tattletale lay on her deathbed. ‘Gosh, for not one second in my entire life was I ever attracted to a female!’ she thought. Then she died.”.

                Though even *that* comes across as though it could be denial. xD So… yeah.

    • I think there could still be an argument for Implacable Humans. Her comment about how some people fail to estimate the tenacity of the fucked up people of the world, and how she is truly willing to do anything in order to win.

      • i like the way you put it, in some way, some people are simply fucked up, some loose screws on their mind and yet they simply gave way to methods that ordinary, ordered people couldn’t even think of

          • well, not every Joker in other dimensions, act the same way, not all Jokers get to see Batman as enemy, some are just purely Joker, their profession.

            Doing stand-up comedy with props that spurts ‘real’ blood and an assistant as whimsical as Harley Quinn, just to make their audience safely assured they won’t die as they pull out jokes

      • No, it’s hidden in the air gun, but not actually part of the mechanism at all. The Simurgh is clear on that during Doctor Mother’s interlude.

          • DM was using the clayvorant along with a couple of Teacher’s pets, and those two got killed by an angry mob of irregulars.

          • Doctor Mother had another two Teacher-made capes in the gestalt, one to filter out the overload of information and another to let her read minds through Clairvoyant.

        • I just realized something. The Simurgh is a powerful telekinetic, right? Would her using an air gun actually look any different from her pointing any barrel at something and telekineticly blasting the target (or the air in the barrle)?

          On a similar note, why would you purposely bring a weapon like an airgun to a fight with Zion?

          • Well, it’s something he probably wouldn’t be expecting or defending against, and there are definite uses for a thing to shove him around once real quick even without doing any damage.

            In fact, rereading this I’m more convinced than ever that Leviathan is still alive and the one disintegrated was a decoy made by the Simurgh. Think about it, she fires the airgun at the pair of them right before Zion finishes the lizard off, they fly apart and some explosions happen, then when the dust clears everybody sees a one-armed leviathan for just a moment before Zion reacquires the target and destroys it. Why go to all that trouble for a momentary distraction, if not to cover a larger deception? The real Leviathan probably left the fight while that was happening, and is regenerating somewhere as we speak.

    • I kept expecting her to use it on Scion sometime. Now I am sure that it’s meant to contain Taylor.
      Poor Taylor. I am almost certain she will ask for death.

    • I’m still thinking it’s supposed to be some kind of life-support people tube for Taylor. Stick her in there, and pull her out if another entity comes by. The only problem with that is they’d be giving the keys to the Simurgh.

      • It’s cute how you think they can somehow keep the keys away from the Simurgh. To date, the Simurgh has never lost. And every time you think she’s run through the sum total of one of her schemes, Perdition comes back out of nowhere and cuts down three main characters in the middle of a war.

        • Nah, she’s unbeatable given enough time with her victims, but she needs time to decipher them and their effect on the future, thus the countermeasures against her are quarantine AND not exposing capes to her longer than a couple of minutes.

          • Yeah, then she takes advantage of your containment procedures (like the whole debacle with those bird tattoos) or bypasses them (like when the entirety of the Travellers just walked away).

            Or engineers a situation where you have no choice but to put every relevant cape in close proximity to her for an extended period, while simultaneously being put into a suggestible state by Canary.

    • Yeah, the Bell Jar of Damocles now has two possible times when it can be used: Next chapter, in about *checks watch* 1 hr 30-odd minutes, or the sequel, who knows when.

        • See my post below: the missing element was that Scion was not the victim here. He was the one who held and abused the power. Taylor and humanity were the victims. Saying that Taylor bullied Scion to death is “blaming the victim” mentality, which I find pretty disgusting.

          • It is entirely possible for two people to bully each other in different ways. Or in the same way, for that matter. Scion was in a position to bully entire worlds physically (and did). Taylor was in a position to bully Scion emotionally (and did).

            Noone for a second thinks that Taylor’s actions weren’t completely justified with the entire human race at stake. That doesn’t mean that those actions don’t still constitute bullying.

    • I made a longer reply in another comment, but I’m repeating myself here a little because I feel this is important. Please search and read above if you want to discuss this.

      IMO, what Taylor did can not be considered “bullying”, and to try and compare it to any other examples (either fictional or real) is insulting to people who have been bullied.

      • Would “she preyed on his feelings in regards to a deceased loved one (in a tactic not dissimilar of Emma’s hateful comments about Taylor’s mother) so as to have the advantage of striking him down in a moment of emotional weakness” be acceptable?

        I think it’s the fact that she had to resort to something EMMA would have done, even if it save the world, that made Taylor believe she had betrayed herself.

        • She might very well be feeling self-betrayal; I never disagreed with that.
          Nor do I disagree with your assessment of what her actions where.

          What I don’t like is the use of “bullying” as shorthand to describe those actions. I feel that it has fairly specific connotations, and to try and apply them in this situation is such an over-simplification of the parties involved and their motives that it actually turns out to be wrong.

          Imagine the following conversation:
          Person1: Apples are blue.
          Person2: What? No, they’re red.
          Person1: Haven’t you ever seen a Granny Smith?
          Person2: Not all apples are Granny Smiths, and those are green anyhow!
          Person1: Yeah, well, green has blue in it, and it’s on the same side of the color wheel…so close enough.
          Person2: Your logic hurts my brain.

          That’s kind of like how I feel when I read that “Taylor bullied Scion”.

          So as an answer to your actual question: yes, that would be fine.

            • Also, the assholes who run this show should check out reddit. Because while I made a mistake, I am one person and you are AT LEAST THREE, AND you’re not talking to me as a person, AND you’re making people shut my opinions out. I do like what you’re doing, but you are NOT as smart as you think you are. THIS is the sort of project I would want to do on my own, and you shut me down completely?
              What. The. Hell.

      • Fine. She didn’t bully him.

        All she did was psychologically torture him, take away all of his power, kick down every support structure he had, and put him in a situation where not only every other person in the world but the land itself was mocking him, his pain, and his loss. Once she had some power over him, she leveraged that to continue to do so, allowing no reprieve and escalating constantly until he broke down weeping and all he could do was try to close himself off to everything. She made him powerless and helpless with no thoughts except escape from her torment, and left him with no way to escape. Then she took advantage of that to kill him.

        But she never bullied him. No, that word choice would somehow be offensive.

        • How did Taylor “take away his power”? Right up until the moments before his destruction he was still causing devastation on a scale measured in hundreds of square kilometers. How did she “take away his support structure”? If anyone was to blame for that it would be Cauldron and Contessa, and even that I’d find doubtful given what the entities had planned for humanity. Did you forget that Scion could dimension-hop at will? That he is an immortal being with more power than any 10 humans combined?
          The key here is the incredible power imbalance.

          We obviously have different definitions of bullying, and I wouldn’t normally be so opinionated about this kind of thing, but I think you’re dead wrong, and it’s hit an emotional core.

          Context is always important. Suppose I described a man who was a patriot and a war hero, who saw his fellow citizens suffering under unjust treaties imposed on them that where ruining the economy. This man used his charisma to lead a political movement that eventually achieved sufficient popularity to be elected and appointed to the highest offices in the land, where he used his power to restore pride and prosperity to his country, uniting many scattered remnants into a powerful nation.

          Can you guess who I’m talking about? I’ll give you a hint: his name starts with “H” and ends with “the modern embodiment of pure evil”.

          What did Taylor do to her bullies to deserve what they put her through? How could she have fought back? Or escaped it?
          What did Scion do to Taylor (and billions of others) to deserve what he got? How could he have fought back? Or just run away?

          What Taylor did might have been cruel, possibly even evil. But it was done for a reason. Perhaps even the ultimate reason for anything- the survival of your species. What the bullies did to Taylor was cruel, possibly even evil. It was done solely for their own self-satisfaction. I can’t even figure out how would draw comparisons between the two.

          I made the analogy elsewhere that both cops and criminals use guns, but we put one group in jail and give the other medals of heroism. You’re trying to put the cop in this situation on the same level as the criminal, just because they both use guns and sometimes hurt people.

          • I never said what she did was wrong. All I said was that she took a person who was proud and powerful, took everything they had left, rent their emotions asunder, tore them down to nothing, and put herself in a position of absolute power over them.

            Yes, he always had greater physical power, but she completely overpowered him mentally and socially and put him in a situation where there was nothing he could do with all his strength. Just like a bully does when they take advantage of the system that protects them from physical retaliation and allows them free reign for emotional abuse.

            Skipping right past Godwin’s Law (and yes, he was pretty much the definition of a charismatic dictator)…

            Whether it was deserved is largely irrelevant. In Sophia and Emma’s warped minds, Taylor deserved everything they gave her just for being a victim or a downer. In Hitler’s warped mind, the Jews deserved to be exterminated and the Aryans deserved to rule the world. What is ‘deserved’ is entirely subjective and in almost all cases even when the target is a terrible person giving them what they “deserve” only escalates matters, neglects justice in favor of vengeance, and fails to actually make anything better.

            It really doesn’t matter what Scion deserves. Destroying him, regardless of method used or the feelings behind it, was *necessary* for the continuation of humanity. To that end, she used the exact same methods used by bullies the world over, on a target who was defenseless against that variety of attack and had no way of coping with the damage it dealt. It was cruel, it was ugly, but it was far from an evil act and it was absolutely necessary.

            There is no tool which is inherently good or evil, regardless of what it is typically used for. I say that Taylor’s actions here prove that in the case of bullying, despite virtually every other instance of its use being an evil act. You say that I’m not allowed to use that word because it’s inherently evil and her intentions were good. I see that as mindless, reflexive political correctness, ignoring the meaning of things in order to police the semantics of them.

            • See, here’s one of the things I’m finding difficult to reconcile about your examples: Taylor was NEVER proud and powerful. She was already emotionally vulnerable when the bullying started. People who are popular or confident or strong or rich are some combination thereof are much less likely to be the victims of bullying. Bullies find some one who is weak or in a bad situation and MAKE IT WORSE.

              Again, two things being similar does not imply they are identical. You seem to recognize that in your final paragraph. I do not think that using the tools bullies use, by itself, makes Taylor a bully. On that we might just have to agree to disagree though.

              I looked up Godwin’s law to make sure I had it right; all it says is that in a lengthening discussion someone is likely to mention Hitler and/or the Nazi’s, not that it’s a bad thing in any way. And why do they come up with such regularity? Because they’re one of the few groups that the world seems to agree upon without reservation or caveat as being completely evil, whatever self-justifications they might have had. They form a solid comparison point; an absolute zero for morality if you will.
              So when it’s expedient, I will draw on whatever tools I need to make my argument. Frankly, I could make similar write-ups about lots of people, like Stalin or Mao, but the target I picked is the most well known.

              • Godwin law is frowned upon because it has become synonymous with “running out arguments”. While it didn’t seem to be your case, it’s better avoid using it because most people will automatically see HITLER anddecide that you aren’t capable of defending your point nor are are your comments worth reading or commenting.

              • A bullying campaign starts with a person who has self-respect, has some degree of freedom, who has some joy in their life and the power to do what they want to (to some degree at least), but has some easily exploited weakness. Then it takes away all those things. Saying that every target of bullying started with nothing and was always powerless and pathetic is just subscribing to Sophia’s predator/prey dynamic from a different direction.

                The course of action Taylor took and the course of action taken by a bully are functionally indistinguishable. Her intentions were different from *most* bullies, but the tools, the strategies, were all the same. I call that tool, that weapon, that course of action “bullying,” because I need a name for the tool and from a practical standpoint they are the same thing. Using that same cop/criminal example, I believe the word “shoot” is perfectly serviceable whether it refers to a policeman pulling the trigger of a firearm pointed at a violent criminal in order to save lives, or whether it refers to that same criminal pulling the trigger of a firearm pointed at an innocent shopkeep.

                You say that bullying is only when that tool is used for evil, and claim that any other use of the word is somehow harmful to those who have been the victim of such acts. Despite the fact that there is no conceivable way for revising this specific word choice to help any of those victims, and I cannot think of a way using the word as I did could hurt us.

                You focus so much on the word and the connotations you have chosen for it that you ignore the meaning of the argument, like when Mark Twain’s books were reflexively banned for use of the word ‘nigger’.

              • We seem to have hit the maximum stacks of a reply, so I hope this ends up in the right spot.

                @AMR
                Thanks. Like I said, I thought it was a useful analogy, but I don’t want it to become a crutch. I’ll try to avoid it in the future.

                @Sindri
                Yes, I think we’ll need to disagree over the motives and intentions then. For both precisely what they where, and whether or not it can change the definition of the word.

                I think there are other terms you could use that would be a better fit, such as psychological attack, emotional assault, exploiting a weakness, etc. But to me, bullying has very specific connotations, and using it here makes it imply things that I don’t agree with.
                Sort of like describing a police investigation as “stalking” even though the actions might be fundamentally indistinguishable. And in the course of the narrative I agree with you that she “shot” Scion, but that term is focused on the wrong set of actions.

                I think I see where you are coming from, and I realize that the distinction I’m drawing is pretty fine. Sort of like the difference between murder and an execution. By the same measure, while I agree that Taylor hurt Scion very badly, I don’t think she bullied him.

                Ultimately though, if we don’t agree, then we don’t agree.

                /shrug

              • I took a break to see if I could come up with a better way of expressing what I was thinking. Several other posters have also made good replies to my objections, perhaps better than I could have.

                The major difference I see between bullying and what Taylor did is the end result. Making someone feel small and powerless is NOT the end, though. It’s only the second-to-last step. Bullying occurs because making someone else feel small and weak makes the bully feel better about themselves, either directly or from approval of their peers, or because it gets them something the bully wants.
                At every step in the chain, Taylor seemed to be suffering almost as much as, and maybe even more so than Scion. Bullies see no reason and have no incentive to stop until the situation changes (such as an outside force intervening). If at any point Taylor had seen a different path to achieve her goal of stopping Scion from slaughtering humanity, then I think she would have taken it.

                To me, that’s where the biggest difference and the split comes into play.

          • Execution is execution, whether it is executing an innocent political dissident or an insane mass murderer.

            A blow is a blow, whether it is in self-defense or cold-blooded-murder.

            A war is a war, whether it is an attempt to overthrow a corrupt government or merely to grab more land.

            A shot is a shot, no matter whose heart you put it through.

            • Black & White Fallacy. There are many counter examples that have been thrown in the gray area by various judicial systems for as long as justice has been around.

              Humanity justifies (as was mentioned earlier) a cop using a gun, vs a criminal using a gun.

              • My point is, they are both shooting a gun. It doesn’t matter the purpose–they are still both using the same method, still both shooting a gun, we use the same word to describe it.

                Who cares about justification? A shot is a shot.

              • Then you are comparing apples to oranges here. Shooting a gun regardless of what was shot is compatable with the definition of a shot.

                However, claiming what Taylor did as being parallel as what Sophie and Emma did is incorrect in that both actions are not compatable with the definition of bullying.

              • Bullying as you define it doesn’t merely depend on the actions, it depends on the intent. Bullying as we are using the term is referring to the actions.

                The actions Taylor took are directly analogous to the actions taken by bullies, and more specifically one particular instance which was done to Taylor. Taylor was not a bully, but her actions were the actions of bullies. That is what we mean.

              • I see. So then according to that logic, I can label any person who hits another person with a car a drunk driver wether or not they are actually drunk.

                I could label anyone who kills another person a serial killer, because their actions were similar to that of a serial killer.

                Do you see how asinine this is?

              • No, because the label “drunk driver” applies to the context–the driver was drunk. Same with serial killer–the killer has killed before. Same with bully, but not with bullying.

                A drunk driver collides with people. You say the same thing if the driver was sober–“Alice collided with Bob.”
                A serial killer kills people. You say the same thing if this was the first time–“Alice killed Bob.”
                A bully bullies people. Why does the verb only ever apply in one context, unlike every other verb?

                You appear to misunderstand my argument. Let me say it again: I am not saying Taylor was a bully. I am saying she bullied–she took actions classified under bullying. Take away the context, and what she did is bullying. Your arguments have been based on the context…but the context is not the action, and I am using “bullying” to define the action and nothing else.

              • We are trying to define the action, and since we can’t find any better word, we are using one that perfectly fits the action, then only using the form of the word describing the action because that is all we are describing.

              • And I disagree, that word doesn’t fit the action…hardly perfectly. There are several more words in the English language that describe her action based on what ACTUALLY happened.

              • Such as? Name examples.

                What actually happened was, Taylor did pretty much exactly what Sophia and the others did to her when she triggered.

          • I’ll make this my last post on this but just wanted to respond because IMO, your last comment highlights the crux of the disagreement.

            Noone’s trying to put the cop on the same level as the criminal, because in this analogy ‘bullying’ isn’t the criminal and it isn’t the cop – it’s the gun. Like you said, both cops and criminals use a gun and that doesn’t for one second put them on the same level or make them comparable in any other way. It purely means that they are both using the same tool.

            Sophia used bullying to target a helpless innocent and make herself feel big. Taylor used bullying to take down a monster for long enough to save the worlds. Not even close to the same level.

    • Bully: (verb) “use superior strength or influence to intimidate (someone), typically to force him or her to do what one wants.”
      Scion had the superior strength, so not really. The intimidation’s there, and you could argue that she had superior influence, really it was just playing mind games to gain an advantage in an otherwise hopeless fight.
      So I’d say it wasn’t really bullying.

      • Exactly right, when a homicidal maniac (and serial genocide) is determined to destroy you, your world, everyone and everything that means anything to you, has the capability to do so, and is in the active process of killing everything around him, taking advantage of a perceived emotional weakness is not bullying, it’s clearly psyops. Breaking the morale of the enemy, compromising their will to fight is the goal in all psycological warfare. Bullying is taking advantage of another who is weaker or less able to defend themselves to improve ones own social or economic standing, or to somehow bolster a deficient self-image.

    • I believe it was Wildbow’s intent to imply that Taylor bullied Scion. This would be an ironic end that neatly follows.

      The webster’s definition of bullying may or may not apply. The definition given by wikipedia uses terms such as “domination” and claims that an “essential prerequisite” is the perception of an imbalance of social or physical power.

      However, given that both parties are in a state of being that makes normal human language inadequate and neither seem to be able to express or experience typical human emotions I would be hesitant to apply the term to the act. Additionally, in a state of war, the field and range of what can be considered moral action is quite fluid.

      In my estimation, I would say that what Taylor did was closer to a psychological warfare technique called “Objective Demoralization”. In this, the enemy is presented with evidence of a prior to defeat or failure in such a way as to influence them toward retreat or surrender. Generally it is used to avoid a conflict, but I could see it playing out as it did in the story.

      • I am so, so sorry. I wasn’t thinking, amd I wanted to help, but didn’t understand the situation AT ALL at the time I said what I said, and I’m from a very different culture. I wouldn’t a have said it if I knew what it meant to you, I’m VERY good at separating what I think from what I write. And what I do. It’s something I’ve been working to change, but there it is. If I could leave you with one piece of advice: find someone you can trust. I don’t think I ever have, and sometimes I worry that I never will. Goodbye. -Node out.
        permalinkeditdeletereply
        [–]Wildbow 1 point 6 hours ago
        What are you talking about?
        Are you okay?
        permalinkparentreportgive goldreply
        [–]explodingfox 1 point 50 milliseconds ago
        Screw you, bitch.
        permalinkparenteditdeletereply
        [–]explodingfox 1 point 42 milliseconds ago
        I mean really. I can’t IMAGINE a worse REASON to be working on something like this.
        permalinkparenteditdeletereply
        [–]explodingfox 1 point 243 milliseconds ago
        Fuck you and your manipulations, fuck you and your manipulative friends, fuck you and your lazy, idiotic smugness. You are a BITCH of the HIGHEST caliber, and I want you to REALIZE that what your doing is OBJECTIVELY HORRIBLE.
        permalinkparenteditdeletereply
        [–]explodingfox 1 point 41 milliseconds ago
        YOU are a BULLY and you think that’sOKAY because it’s MEN you’re manipulating. Men, who generally have a weaker support network, and you EVEN SELECT THE WEAKEST POSSIBLE TARGET. I am a first year university student and I’ve grown tremendously as a person because of you people. But it is because I’ve been working AGAINST YOU, not with you. So YOU. ARE. DIRT!
        permalinkparenteditdeletereply
        [–]explodingfox 1 point 45 milliseconds ago
        To be MORE CONFRONTATIONAL is not to be LESS MORAL. The sexes FULFILL EACH OTHER, they don’t fucking WAR AGAINST EACH OTHER! Get OUT OF YOUR TINY, TINY VIEWPOINT and SEE THE WORLD.
        permalinkparenteditdeletereply
        [–]explodingfox 1 point 46 milliseconds ago
        THIS. IS. NOT. A. GAME!
        permalinkparenteditdeletereply

      • Even if it was the author’s intention to imply bullying, it appears that it is only in the mind of Taylor herself…not anyone else (at least for now).

        Taylors use of the tools similar to bullies to defeat a clear and present danger to the entire fucking planets is not bullying, no matter what bullshit word twisting mind fuck anyone attempts. Plain and simple.

        • I don’t know if you finished reading what I wrote, or I am misundertanding what you wrote, but I most definitely did not say that what Taylor did was bullying.

    • Either she realized Taylor was doing the right thing. Or despite breaking through Taylor’s control, she couldn’t break through Canary’s in time.

      • The Faerie Queen hooks up with the Goblin King and have a son called the Elfin Prince?

        What? They were chatting quite amiably in one scene.

      • I WAS interested in joining this community. This IS EXACTLY the sort of thing I like to do to spend my time. I was accomodating, I was rational. But you removed my posts without asking me, you manipulate my WORK to the point were while reconnecting with a very fragile friend of mine, WHOSE GIRLFRIEND FUCKING WOULD HAVE BEEN AT MOTHER FUCKING UTØYA, thought the REASON I WAS TALKING TO HIM WAS THAT I WAS DEPRESSED.

        I HATE YOU.

        PEOPLE LIKE YOU ARE THE WORST SORT OF BULLY, AND YOU EVEN WROTE A GOOD STORY ABOUT WHY!

        • I don’t know exactly what is going on, but I think you’re in an emotionally-charged state that is exacerbating plain old-fashioned misunderstandings. Said state is also making it difficult for you to express to us what exactly is wrong. It would probably be better if you could take a little time to work on your state of mind. I advise that for your sake, because you sound like you’re on tilt right now.

          I hope you feel better soon.

    • Recognizing that Glastig Ulaine isn’t entirely sane or rational (or has a very warped version of sanity) perhaps she just decided that letting Taylor live with the knowledge of what she’d done and who she’d become (or who’d she’d fallen apart as) was the worst punishment she could inflict.

      That “fate worse than death” thing.

    • Perhaps, Taylor died already. What is standing before Glastig is not much more than an animated corpse that has been slowly shutting down over the last chapter or so. Her increasing detachment prevented her from noticing the killing blow. The somber attitudes of her friends a reflection of the knowledge that Taylor was dying from mortal wounds. Her apparent loss of humanity is just the decay of the echo of her personality in the only immortal part of her mind, the shard. The tunnel vision is representative of the lack of oxygen… etc.

    • No, it’s Scion.

      Of course it’s Bonesaw. Few other children, few other actual surgeons, and none falling in both categories are present on the battlefield.

      • Another interesting example of idiotic, blind, shortsighted feminism. No MAN can CARE about another in such a way that he is CREATIVE, not DESTRUCTIVE. Marquis/Panacea, Taylor/Teacher, Dragon/Defiant. The man is ALWAYS less effective. And I get that it is a problem all over the world, but what you’re doing isn’t helping. Its a power trip, a petty vendetta and so short-sighted it makes ME want to HURT something, and the ONLY periods in my life where I’ve felt that way is when I wasn’t too far from killing myself.

        • …What?

          1. I have no idea what you are talking about. I was merely injecting some snark. Ask an obvious question, get a snarky answer followed by an explanation of why the snark was deserved.

          2. There are male characters of great efficacy. Legend, Accord, Defiant, Number Man, Grue, Coil, Tecton, Richter (who created dragon), Sphere (pre-Mannequin Mannequin), Chevalier, arguably Eidolon, Jack Slash, Pretender, Regent, Golem…all these and more who didn’t instantly spring to mind were constructive, good. It’s not just the girls who get to do and make stuff.
          Yes, most of them were villains. News flash: Most major characters in Worm were villainous.

        • What?

          I’m not sure where you’re getting all this gender politics stuff from.

          And for what it’s worth, Marquis is way more caring and effective than Panacea. He doesn’t have her ridiculous power, so he can’t shake the world as much as her, but he cares for her a lot more effectively than she cared for her family.

  7. Next chapter. Duh duh duuuun…

    As for this chapter, well, dammit this is unbelievable. Can’t believe Taylor, as Is said in the comments above, bullied someone to death. That hits harder than a lot of horrible things she has done, because it’s personal. She’s a monster…but she still needs a hug. PLEASE SOMEONE HELP THIS POOR AND WELL MEANING LUNATIC.

    When the apocalypse happens, most run. Taylor takes advantage of the confusion to become near omniscient, then proceeds to bully the apocalypse to death.

    • I’ve been compiling a list of “What Would Taylor Do”. On it thus far is “conquer China” and “smack someone with their dead loved ones”

      “Bullied the Apocalypse to Death” is officially the culmination of the list.

          • MRAs are Men’s Rights Advocates.

            Not a bad thing unto itself – men do get the shaft in many departments (presumption of being rapists and pedophiles, short end of the stick in child support, etc) – but there’s extremists in every group.

            • I used to think that. Then I saw what MRAs actually do.

              Believe me, the movement is rotten from top to bottom. The extremists are the mainstream.

              Men do have problems, but I’ve never seen an MRA interested in addressing them. So far as I can tell, the whole gang is just a bunch of people looking for an excuse to attack women in general and feminists in particular.

              • Oh, and one thing I forgot to mention: the movement has a way of sucking decent people in. And that’s the worst thing about it.

                It seems to be a fairly common story…a man’s life goes to crap, and they find some comfort in the men’s rights movement. And then that movement pours all kinds of toxic crap into their head.

                It’s really damn sad. Especially since I can see how it works. Back before I knew what the movement is really like, I might have been a potential recruit.

              • There are some legitimate grievances, but they tend to use those for a cover for all their more extreme views, and some of those grievances would be fixed by increased equality between the sexes, not exacerbated. Any idea of the Men’s Rights movment as legit gets thrown out the door pretty quickly if they ever comment about rape, bullying, or slutshaming.

                It’s disturbing that even atheists and skeptics can fall into that sort of thing.

              • It’s like, THESE WOMEN KEEP INFRINGING ON OUR RIGHTS TO JOBS AND VAGINAS, WE MUST FIGHT BACK BEFORE THEY KILL US ALL!!!
                Similar to racial realists – possibility of inequality, therefore BRING BACK DISCRIMINATION!

            • I was child minder many years ago for a friend and as soon as another friend of hers heard i was male, she said, ‘call the police’. My charge’s mother ripped her a new one for that.

              I have enough of my own issues but I’ve had some good friends stop me from going down some dumb paths.

              Neither this MRA Nor Misogyny should be left unchecked but it’s always the moderate position that has the uphill position since it’s under fire from all sides.

              Please note that this is not a criticism of anyone here as a person.

    • Were we reading the same story? That’s not the impression I got at all.

      I made a longer post somewhat on topic up above, but to summarize, I don’t think what Taylor did qualifies as bullying, and what her emotional attack really accomplished was to make him vulnerable to the dimension-crossing, continent-destroying super gun.

      Sorry if this comes across as harsh, I’m trying to not get crazy about the fact that I really dislike people calling what Taylor did “bullying”.

      • I agree. Taylor did not initiatate hostilities she responded in self defense. Now possibly, she might lose on the charge of bullying other capes into following her. but she did not bully Scion imo.

  8. This isn’t the end! It’s not the end yet! Wheeee! I don’t know what Tuesday holds, but I can’t tell you how happy I am that there’s another chapter after this. Or more precisely that we get to journey at least a little bit farther with Taylor still.

    In terms of reactions to the bulk of this chapter? As I expected, I didn’t see things turning out this way but it makes so much sense now that its here. Bravo, as always!

  9. It’s not even just bullying. The worst thing Emma ever did to Taylor (disregarding perhaps the locker) was using her mother’s death and what Taylor had told Emma about it to hurt her. Taylor just used Eden’s death and what she saw about it to effectively drive Scion to suicide. After doing her best to lock him away in a world where there was no-one else to confuse his foresight safeguards.

    • Yeah. I’m not sure “bullying” is exactly the right label (though I’m having trouble justifying my inchoate objection to myself), but this is basically lifted right from the bullying trio’s playbook.

      • Is it really bullying when a kid on youtube is getting bullied by another kid at school, then picks up the bully and body slams him?

        Sounds an awful lot like a bully just getting what he deserves.

      • I’m in the same camp (I think) as hither and Gecko on this; I’ve been leaving comments all over.

        I wouldn’t call what Taylor did “bullying”. She drove him to have a mental breakdown so he would be vulnerable to destruction form another source, because he was on the verge of making humanity extinct and was to strong to fight otherwise.

        That the bullies did to Taylor (and what drives most bullies in fact) was based purely on cruelty, selfishness, and peer pressure. There is no comparison between the two.

        • What she did was psyops. Brutal, merciless, even cruel, and she learned how to do it from Emma and crew, but bullying implies a campaign of deliberate harm (physical or psychological) where /there is a power imbalance in favor of the bully/. In this case, scion wasn’t a victim trying to live, he was a murderer on a killing rampage. He also had and was willing to use the power to kill Taylor.

          Her methods were horrifying, but not bullying.

          • Scion wasn’t a victim trying to live, he was a murderer on a killing rampage.
            ….
            [Taylor’s] methods were horrifying, but not bullying.

            That’s probably better than the way I’ve been putting it. I called what she did “necessary”, though that kind of implies that there weren’t any other options.

            • or a least in her defgrading state no options she could conceive of nor time to implement. given the extaa 15 years cauldron lost humanity.. then maybe

          • Taylor did exploit a power imbalance, just not one of physical power. Scion was completely defenseless against emotional attacks.

        • Yeah. I was thinking that myself.

          If somehow Taylor and Sophia are both still breathing by the end of this, she’s going to actually have to tell Sophia that’s how she won.

          And then kindly inform the her that if she doesn’t leave for another reality, her death would be even uglier than Scion’s.

          • That’s the great thing about that chapter so long ago. She doesn’t need to make threats- or do anything at all! All of her bullies just aren’t even part of her problem any more. She’s so far out of their league, she just doesn’t care. Even noticing them or thinking about them isn’t worth the effort.

        • Sophia makes a specious distinction between victim and survivor. What Taylor did was premised on the idea that everybody and anybody will break if they have enough shit piled on top of them.

          • Almost. She did mention that (paraphrased from her degraded inner-monologue) “Strength we have… you [Scion] do not… we deal… with lots more pain in our lives.” Her tactics were predicated on the idea that Scion could take much less damage to his mental weak point than humans could to theirs.

  10. Rest now, Taylor. It’s been a long road.

    Every step of the way she has pushed herself past all the limits, breaking and rallying and pushing some more. Whether right or wrong, and frequently both at once, she has saved whatever is left. We’ll just see if she can pull through one more time, but whether or not she can… I said that I had faith that the ending would fit, and I find that it certainly does.

    Thank you, Wildbow.

  11. It’s post apocalyptic story time. But will the world still have parahumans? I mean the source is dead. Do they still reproduce and there is just no more end where the shards get collected? What happens when someone has a trigger event now? I feel that now more worms will show up, so is this the last generation of parahumans?

    • I think the ones that already have powers will keep their powers, Cauldron capes had only dead entity shards after all. Shards may just keep on splitting off forever since they are hardwired to do so. I always thought of the visions fo the entities as an echo of the shards, Aiden had one and I don’t think his shard was assigned to him. All of the visions had Eden, even though it was already dead. I don’t think that’ll change with the death of Scion.

      • I think people will even keep getting shards and trigger events for a while. I got the impression that some of the earliest shards cast off during Scion’s intermission were some of the latest people to trigger, implying that they were spread across the timeline as well as the world. And the original plan was to occupy this planet for a thousand years or so? At least a few centuries. Unless something else cuts them off or stops them from arriving, I think Scion’s shards will keep finding people for quite a while.

        • Original plan was that the target reality would reach ‘critical mass’ after one hundred and sixty years, then the shards would reach ‘critical mass’ (where enough information is gathered and, presumably, there are enough duplicate shards to reproduce other Worms) after three hundred and thirty-one years. Scion’s well had enough energy to survive three thousand six hundred years, although he shaved fractions of that off to use his powers.

    • Well, I’d note that shards, once placed in people could bud off child shards into nearby people (like Taylor did with the little bird boy..Aidan?).

    • Eventually, parahumans will disappear if nothing changes. Doormaker ran out of juice; I can imagine that eventually, all other shards will run out as well.

      Glaistig Uaine could utilize his shard after he died though, which sort of implies the shards can be repowered.

      • Living shards collect their own energy, thought it is possible the earths those individual shards inhabit could run out of energy, or you could run the shard out of it’s current store of energy and have to wait for it to collect more. It’s only Eden’s dead, “unplanted” shards that run out of energy like Doormakers did, and Eidolon’s was.

        • Interesting point.

          Also we don’t know how “dead” a “dead shard” really is. Clearly they were still able to give their hosts super powers. It could be that “dead” was just in the context of “couldn’t be reabsorbed at the end of the process”.

          Heck, given sufficient “tinkering” there might even be ways to re-energize shards like Doormakers and get them back online again.

    • Future generations of capes might not be as numerous, but it is probable that they will still exist. Shards seem capable of reproducing on their own.

      And of course the death of Scion won’t lead to the depowering of all triggered capes. Eden has been dead for decades, yet her powers are useable.

      • It’d probably be for the best if the powers vanished, they haven’t really done much for humanity that hasn’t been overshadowed by the drawbacks.

        I think the best thing would be to hunt the worms down and kill them.

        • Exterminating the Entities seems like a task that would have to fall on the shoulders of humanities god-like descendants.

          Consider that Team Humans barely pulled off a win again 1 Entity of a pair and only because he’d taken on too many human characteristics (i.e. the ability to feel emotion). That’s not terribly likely to occur again.

          That said though, it’s also possible that some of the other Entities have independently hit on Eden’s idea that their going to overrun the universe eventually and that they, as a species, need to change.

          Rather than humanity marching out into the stars and kicking ass Gurran Lagann style, I’d see a “pro-enviroment” movement in the Entities themselves being what “saves the universe”.

        • Best? Arguable.

          IMHO, superpowers are like technology. If used properly, they provide a great benefit to the world; if used improperly, they provide a great curse. The only difference is that monitoring and restricting powers and power use is much, much harder.

          And, regardless of if it would be ideal, it isn’t an option. The shards will continue to divide, unless maybe we do something like kill every parahuman in every world. And you know that’s never happening.

          • The in-universe “could-have-beens” we’ve seen thus far bear the superpowers and technology comparison out. Look at the difference between Alan Gramme and Mannequin. One was a brilliant scientist on his way to changing the world for the better, until the Simurgh happened and turned him into a member of the Slaughterhouse 9. Bonesaw could have been the best surgeon the world had ever known, but Jack happened to her before she could get any medical training to back up her shard’s gallery of implants.

          • Off the top of my head, without Scion and Eden calling back the shards in tot years, the shards may reproduce ad infinitum and Earth may end up like the entities’ planet of origin. Maybe with time, we could even see the birth of a new entity. But both of these options are fairly unlikely.

            • I dunno. The shards are known to be capable of reproduction…why wouldn’t they?

              The question is, of course, how the splitting rate compares to the death rate of parahumans.
              And if new people will be able to trigger.

              • It’s ( highly) possible some of Scion’s original shard have yet to latch to their hosts. His interlude makes it clear he was discarding through Time as well as space. Imp’s shard was one of the first he let go, for example. Seeing how the cycle should have lasted 300 years…

              • Yeah, for the next couple hundred years we’ll still see shards land which Scion shook off before he took on the form of the golden idiot. Cauldron or somebody else could harvest what’s left of his corpse to add a few more to the mix that he never intended. And the current ones will continue reproducing all that time until they get wiped. So superpowers are likely to last at least a thousand years even if they do get killed faster than they reproduce.

                Lesse… before Scion, there were like 600,000 paras on Bet, and probably about 6,000,000,000 total population once you account for things like bi-monthly Endbringer attacks? So, the world that probably had the highest proportion was about one in a million after about thirty years, multiply that by anywhere from 2 to 7 to account for people who didn’t trigger but could… It could go either way, but if the shards don’t have a limit on iterations of reproductions I could easily see all of humanity being powered in the end. Or at least having the potential to, but second generation capes are supposed to have easier triggers.

  12. As effective as it was seeing Taylor lose her memories of everyone’s names and her comprehension of speech, it also made the story really hard to follow. I have no idea what Taylor was saying to Tattletale when she was pantomiming. I’m not even sure she was talking to Tattletale!

    • It was definitely Tattletale — her smart friend, the one who could connect the dots … no question in my mind. Given how degraded her ability to communicate was, it would take a Tattletale to receive the information that needed sharing.

    • She was ‘talking’ to Bitch, I think telling her she needed to control some capes in the crowd. Tattletale was annoyed it wasn’t her that managed to communicate, however badly.

      • I think I had one idea about it being Bitch who’d manage to communicate/ My suspected ending taylor looked after by Bitch near Grue’s cabin with tattletale and imp keeping an eye on vegetate Taylor. With Dragon and Defiant guarding their backs…

          • Or, you know, anyone who can negate powers. Or anyone who can copy powers, and then control themselves using Taylor’s powers. Or someone who can do both.

  13. Once again, the Simurgh is able to trick Scion. Was her precognition enough to stop Scion’s version of Contessa’s power?

    Since Scion died, does Glaistig Uaine harvest his power?

    • Or Scion just didn’t use Contessa’s power.

      Oh Scion, I hope not. (Hm…I need a new epithet to replace “Oh God,” since Scion is, you know…)

      • I agree with Patrick that this isn’t bullying. I’ve left about a half-dozen comments saying the same thing, including one longer piece with a better explanation.

        But to sum it up, Taylor attacked the only weak point she could find in Scion (his emotional immaturity) to make him vulnerable to other powers because he was on a dimension-wide murder spree that likely would have ended with humanity going extinct. What threat did Taylor ever pose to her bullies?

          • The one she refused to use because “[she] was going to be a hero?” Yeah. Of course, the danger Emma and co. had put themselves in was highlighted to her (to everyone in the room really, but she was targeted as the epicenter of the demonstration) in stark relief during the high school outing, which almost makes it sad that we didn’t get to see her [Emma’s] lovely, lovely comeuppance.

            (I mean really, Emma got off really easy with a trip to the principal’s office and being used as a scare tactic. We should have at least seen her connect the dots.)

    • I disagree, in several places.

      1. It’s a bad place to end. So many unanswered questions…
      2. The story included bullying in its origins, but it did not start with an act of bullying.
      3. The climax was based on (arguable) bullying, but the chapter continued after that.

  14. So it is done.
    I admit I was shaking in some parts. To be exact from the beggining part to end part.
    Oliver was the feaking key all along! Talk about Chekhov’s Gunman.
    And now Taylor can’t even remember her name…
    No sleeping tonight, I guess.

      • The Traveller who shared half a dose with Noelle. The one with the empathic face-shifting or something. The one we mocked as useless because he never did anything in the story. And now he basically gave Scion the coup de grace.

              • Well, yes, the physical deathblow was Defiant. I was talking about the emotional deathblow, which I thought was implied by the context of the conversation.

              • Ok. Oliver ( whose power, according to the Number Man, is the one the entities use to look human) gives Scion one true last spark of hope regarding the existence of another entity. When he realises that this is just another final feint, he curls into a ball and waits to die. At this point Ballistic shoots Foil-empowered rods that impale Scion’s body. Because Foil strikes every dimension at once, this opens a path to dimension that hosts Scion’s real body for the tinker machine, activated by Defiant, using Scion’s own impaled body as a conduit.

              • I got that. All I missed was that Oliver was the straw that broke the camel’s back.

            • Slight correction. while Foil empowered empowered the rods that killed Scion’s human body, it was Ballistic that actually fired the shot.

      • Yeah, when she said “I left Oliver,” I immediately thought “I don’t know WHY, but she’s going to regret that.” Otherwise why mention it?

      • I have to admit, I had a similar “holy s**t” moment when I realized what Oliver did. I have this really cool image of Oliver, scared as all git-out, receiving an order from Taylor then exploding into a Glory-Girl esque garden of limbs and other things.

    • That’s an actual “holy shit” moment of realization. It was OLIVER. Wow. And of course everyone thinks that’s a pretty useless power in straight-up fights, no wonder he stayed behind in Coil’s fortress.

      Similarly, “In the moment that hope died, the girl with the injured hand used her power on the iron rods. Infused them with the energy he was afraid of.” – Foil! Of course it’s Foil that the entity is afraid of! From Interlude 26:

      “[…] charging objects with energy. The entity could see as the small pieces of alloyed metal unfolded, taking shape in not just this world, but all realities, at the same space and time, bristling with an effect that would sever their attachment to most physical laws.

      They were thrown, and they disrupted connections to two shards at once. The projection disappeared, only to reappear a distance away. The boy who had created the time distortions fell as well.

      Sting, the entity thought. Once it had been a weapon for his kind, against his kind, back in the beginning, when they had dwelt in oceans of gray sludge.”

      One thing I’m confused about – “they disrupted connections to two shards at once”. I don’t quite get how that works – she literally cuts out shards? Is that what’s happening there?

      • She launched two projectiles that had been treated with her power, and killed the “connections”, i.e. Grey Boy and one of the Siberians. She didn’t cut out the shards, that would be like a permanent depower.

  15. And so it has ended. Only the denouement remains. Simurgh and her glass tube and the aftermath. It has been a long and eventful journey and now that we have sighted a coast I almost wish we could still stay at sea.

    But enough of me waxing poetically. And badly.

    So, in the end it WAS the human element that doomed Scion. Another thing Cauldron got wrong. And then Taylor was a bully, eh?

    I though by now my heart had hardened but when she started to lose the ability to remember names it hit me hard. It’s Rachel not dog-girl! Lisa not blonde friend, dammit! I must say the descriptions were mostly clear but I’m drawing a blank to Chevalier’s underling named after a siege weapon. Some help?

    Behind that annoying facade Imp DOES care. A LOT.

    Humanity is still sort of fucked of course. Simurgh (please tell me I wasn’t the only one to really believe she had died for a moment). Glaistig Uaine, who’s sort of a mini-Scion by now. Nilbog. Sleeper. The Blasphemies (who are immortal unless killed all three at once, interesting). All those crazy Birdcage inmates running around. Teacher.

    And there’s Taylor, of course. I hope knowing you succeeded is enough of a happy ending for you, Taylor, because I don’t see anything good coming after this. Alas.

    Thank you, wildbow. Just thank you.

      • I think it’s safe to draw a connection to the trio of furies and the Three Blasphemies. Just like Chevalier is the man in gold and black armour or Lisa is the girl good at connecting dots.

        • Actually, there’s a bit of background info in there: If less than all three go down, the remaining blasphemy rezzes it.

          • One has to hope the effect isn’t instantaneous.

            One also has to wonder how they came about…and if they’re actually (para)human.

            • Both this and the last chapter clearly state that they aren’t human.
              Personally I go for independent Master-capes’ creations. Like Nilbog creatures or Echidna’s clones.

              • That was what I was implying. That, or something vaguely…Endbringer-ish.

                I missed how it was stated that they were inhuman, though.

              • From 30.5:

                >> I didn’t have the Blasphemies, who hadn’t even registered to me because they weren’t human, even if they had powers<>Pale, and somehow not even remotely human. <<

            • I’m reminded of the recurring boss fight in LoZ:TP. The black crawling things with creepy masks that enter cutscene mode and scream their fellows back to life whenever only one of them is still alive.

    • Yeah, I didn’t believe Simurgh was dead for a second. She’s always used decoys against the great gold idiot, and she wouldn’t let herself be killed over something so petty as the end of the multiverse.

        • She’s spent time learning from Tattletale and Imp. What’d you expect?

          Also… when did the goddamn SIMURGH become one of the protagonists?

          • The Simurgh sees the past and future of (nearly) all things, she acts as her own future dictates.

            She was one of the protagonists from the moment she was “born”.

            Mind you, we aren’t going to know for sure that the big old Smurf is a “good guy” or not until the end of the next chapter, and her Chekhov’s “just large enough to fit a human being inside metal capped glass tube hidden inside of a gun” Gun is fired.

          • Who says she’s a protagonist. She copied the courage song, amplified it so people would fight even as Scion was about to blow up, and then made him blow up faster.

        • Well the Endbringers ARE all about symbolism and archetypes.

          Heck, Simurgh upgrading Leviathan was a recreation of the Archangel Michael crushing the Serpent with his sword, FFS!

        • I like to think that the Simurgh is constantly giggling, too quietly to hear from the outside. Just flying around trolling people, putting on this big cheesy performance for Scion when he comes to town, watching countless horrors play out exactly as planned, reading people’s minds to confirm that yes, literally everybody is underestimating her…

    • Nilbog I think is dead soon. He is too dangerous to leave alive, and the Protectorate would not have let him loose after capturing him without having a way to stop him if he tried to get away. The truce only mattered because of the Endbringers, and they are gone. I agree that the Smurf seems to have survived, and who the fuck knows what she will do now. The Blasphemies, and Sleeper will continue to be full threats and will probably be shown more in a sequel.
      The fairy queen is a toss up. She only killed parahumans, is batshit crazy, but she didn’t stop Taylor. Why? We know she wanted to complete the cycle but we don’t know her backstory, and she might just decide to pick a group of survivors and rule over them as a queen. She will be important with the fact that she has the Doormaker’s shard.
      Humanity might not be fucked. Passengers might not be so quick to influence actions toward conflict/stress with Scion gone, and if the Smurf doesn’t attack then that means no Endbringer attacks and people can actually try to improve the world without risking an attack. At least two mannequin clones survived so there is world hunger/energy problems solved if they can be controlled, Dragon/Defiant can do what they can, and new Brockton Bay is still around.
      The problem is going to be a lack of government/structure similar to after Leviathan. The protectorate survived, but there are going to be gangs of parahumans trying to stake claims and run things. That’s not getting into all the governments in exile, the unclaimed earths, the possiblity of untouched civilized earths like the Travelers being open, and an abandoned womverse earth. It’s post apocalyptic fiction now and all the problems that will naturally occur. So food, water, shelter, and law and order.

      • I don’t think Scion’s death will change the shards’ desire for conflict. It’s pretty much hardwired deep into their being.

      • I think that Nilbog and Riley will both survive and be the best of friends. After all, they helped significantly against Zion, and every cape on the planet has been in a class S+ scenario since Jack entered goblin city. It would be breaking the (completely shattered, largely irrelevant) truce to not let him go now.

        • Are they besties? It’s a different world and I think a harsh frontier justice will be the order of the day for the foreseeable future. I think Riley will get a pass due to how useful her power is, especially in a future without mass produced medications for the time being. She can always go meet her special friend at the gas station of the town she visited for the 2 years the 9 were on ice. If he survived anyway. Nilbog should be killed for killing several thousand people, and how dangerous his power is.

          • Assuming Eli is still alive at this point. Besides, if Nilbog can be induced to work well with others (as Jack tried to do), he could be a one-man border militia all by himself. Community service, let’s say.

      • About the Mannequins: Biggest problem is going to be that Bonesaw wouldn’t likely have included the memories of them being nice. If she did, they would have been pretty secondary.

        • She did at least implant memories of a “happy home life” for the Mannequins, so there was at least some version of Alan Gramme’s niceness history.

          • Don’t think so. She says he’s a Protectorate member. She knows Ballistic isn’t, in other scenes he is usually described as the former friend of another Taveller.

            Seriously I’m stumped on Mr Siege Weapon. Could it be Assault? Wildbow, some help?

    • [QUOTE]And then Taylor was a bully, eh? [/QUOTE]

      No, she wasn’t. I’m leaving this all over the place, because I feel it’s important: I don’t consider what Taylor did to be bullying.

      The whole reason she was fighting Scion in the first place was because he was in the process of wiping out humanity, and the assault on his emotions was because he was too powerful to hurt any other way.

      Taylor never posed any threat to her bullies, who where in it solely for their own self-gratification. I’m pretty sure that at any point in the process, if Taylor had scene another path or had a chance to stop she would have. That’s not the MO of a bully.

        • I didn’t know the name of the trope, though I’ve certainly discussed the implications of “becoming what you fight”.

          But if you want to claim that Taylor was a bully, frankly I think there are a lot better examples (as Tattletale points out just a chapter or two ago about how Taylor deals with people).

          But in this case, it’s not about what Taylor was becoming; the entire last chapter is all about how she loses every bit of her identity. The argument that Taylor is a bully seems to be based on the tools (or methods) she uses. In my mind that’s a false premise; picking up a hammer doesn’t instantly turn me into a carpenter or arguing with people on the forum doesn’t make me a bar-certified lawyer.

          For some one who spent so much time in the story “taking a third option”, I admit to being kind of surprised at how fast Taylor went sliding down the slope this arc, but then she (or Wildbow through the character) has proven much more resourceful than I think I could have been in these situations, so maybe this really was the least of all evils.

          • Picking up a hammer is not analogous to what Taylor did. Picking up a hammer gives you the ability to carpent; the closest analogy to what Taylor did would be something like taking all those capes and not tormenting Scion with them. Taylor grabbed the entire methodology of bullies; heck, here she ripped the absolute darkest, most horrible pages out of the book of the bullying done to her.
            Picking up a hammer, nails, and wood, and then assembling a chair is a closer analogy. In that case, yes, you would be a carpenter. You would probably be an absolutely horrible carpenter.

      • Regardless of motive, what Taylor did was what a bully did. Down to the details, save for the target, it was the locker again, only less escapable and against a more emotionally vulnerable target.

        If you point a pistol at someone and pull the trigger (assuming it is loaded and whatnot), you shot it, whether you were shooting the target to overthrow an evil regime or just to watch a man die.
        We say “execute” whether the person being executed is a serial murderer/rapist or a political dissident who said the wrong thing in the wrong place.
        When we say that someone struck someone else, there is no inherent value judgement given in that statement; the striker could be striking from malice or in self-defense.
        Why can we not say that someone who psychologically torments someone who is emotionally vulnerable bullied that individual, regardless of if they were bullying for the greater good?

        • That still doesn’t make Taylor a bully.

          You could claim that they both are “shooters”; but that is because they both fit the definition of the word. However, you couldn’t label them as both murderers.
          I’ve never heard of anyone shooting (and killing) someone in self defense being charged of MURDER in my life. The justice system makes distictions in specifically motivation and/or intention. That is weighed. It is the motive that is key here.

          It isn’t bullying because it doesn’t fit the fucking definition. Not sure why that is so hard for others to comprehend.

          • I never said Taylor was a bully. I said she bullied. You can run without being a runner, or build without being a builder.

            And I’d say it fits the definition in all but motive. When you get down to motive, you are labeling the person, not the action. Actions are actions; actions have no inherent motive or moral weight. It is only when you consider the person doing the action that motives and morals come into play.

              • You know what? You’re right. “Bullying” is not quite what Taylor did.

                It’s just the closest term to “Using a bully’s tactics to stop a world-destroying eldritch abomination from destroying the world” that exists in the English language.

                Do you have a better term?

              • No, that describes the intent.

                She wanted to protect everyone. She did so by bullying Scion.

                See the difference between intent and actions?

              • You are misrepresenting the facts.

                She protected everyone by eliminating Scion. If Scion was never removed/eliminated the threat would still be there and the Earths would not be protected AT ALL.

                The TACTICS she used are irrelevent to the end goal…to end human suffering.

              • You are misrepresenting my statement, and supporting it with yours.

                “The TACTICS she used are irrelevent to the end goal…to end human suffering.”
                Aside from the spelling (it’s irrelevant), that is exactly what I am saying. The difference is, you keep insisting that we are describing the intent, no matter how much I explain that we are describing the tactics, as you called them.

                You are defining the intent. I am defining the action. I don’t argue with your definition, but since the discussion was based on defining the actions, as I have repeatedly stated, our definition of Taylor’s intent is irrelevant.

              • Kudos to you for catching my spelling error. I guess I should bow down and fold all of my arguments based on this superior display of knowledge.

                What don’t you get? I mean seriously. You have made it abundantly clear that there is no other fucking word in the english language that will describe Taylor’s actions as being other than “bullying”.

                This is the point where I am bowing out. There is no reasoning with you as you are being pedantic about declaring ONE word as the end all be all. I am not conceding here as I do not agree with your interpretations of the actions.

                I am done.

              • I wasn’t trying to criticize you, it just bugs me a bit and I hoped that it would help you not make such mistakes in the future. It may have been adjacent to my arguments, but it was not part of them.

                I’m saying that it is the single best word to describe Taylor’s actions because no others have been provided. You have tried, but you have been describing the entire wrong thing despite me trying to help you define the actual thing we are arguing about how to define.

                You’re bowing out? Fine by me, have a good day. It would have been nice if you had explained your side a bit better, or how context changes what actually happened in any way.

              • “Bullying in general, is defined as physically or psychologically violent re-occurring and not provoked acts, where the bully and victim have unequal physical strength or/and psychological power.”*

                And herein lies my whole point about my disagreement with the actions being labeled bullying this WHOLE time.

                …RE-OCCURING and NOT PROVOKED…

                #1 Taylor didn’t have a chance to make her actions reoccuring towards Scion.

                #2 Scions actions PROVOKED Taylors.

                Her actions aren’t bullying BY definition, no matter how much you want it to be.

                Even if the victim of a bully retaliates in kind, it is still not considered bullying. It is considered SELF DEFENCE or SELF PRESERVATION.

                *Olweus, D. (1999). Sweden. In P. K. Smith, Y. Morita, J. Junger-Tas, D. Olweus, R. Catalano, & P.Slee (Eds.), The nature of school bullying: A cross-national perspective (pp. 7-27). New York:Routledge.

              • I thought you had stopped?

                The points you are making are still about the context. The parts we are describing are the action itself. Could you come up with a word that describes those actions better than “bullying”?

              • LMAO…you serious?

                So now you’ve changed the word intent to context in order to claim victory.

                How many fucking times do I have to say this?

                THE WORD YOU CHOSE TO DESCRIBE THE ACTIONS FAILS ON THE GROUNDS THAT IT DOESN’T MEET THE PREREQUISITES OF THE DEFINITION ITSELF!

                I don’t have to come up with a better word, all I have to do is point out that the word you are using fails.

                I have tried to use other words and you keep playing games and calling them related to “intent”. Which is bullshit by definition.

              • Intent is context. Intent is not the action, it is something surrounding the action. That makes it context.

                And see my other post for two separate definitions of bullying that perfectly describe the actions Taylor took.

                And yes, you do. The word fits the actions that were taken better than any other word. If there are no perfect words, we have to use a good one. If you don’t like us using the good word, find a perfect one.

                And how is “protecting” anything but intent? Was Taylor protecting Scion from harm? No, she was killing Scion…why? To protect others from harm. But you need to get the “Why” in there to justify using the word “protect”. That makes it intent, and not part of the action itself, which is what we are trying to define.

              • I never implied intent was action. Read what I wrote.

                I said based on the YOUR rules here, that using bullying is not describing taylors actions either, it is describing her intent.

                So you have failed yourself based on your own bullshit here, in providing a word that best describes her actions.

                It really confuses me that you can literally sit there and consider verbs (i.e. ACTION WORDS) not words to describe actions.

                Keep repeating the mantra, it won’t make it ANY more factual. You are delusional.

              • As I noted elsewhere, words can, do, and should go somewhat beyond their dictionary definitions; they aren’t a be-all-end-all description of what a word is. If they were, Nazis would be victims, because the dictionary definition of a victim says just that they were harmed by something.

                I am saying that the word “bullying” applies to Taylor’s actions because those actions are the actions of a bully. When Taylor was stuffed into her locker, surrounded by stuff that she couldn’t handle, and powerless to avoid it, was that bullying? The exact same thing was done to Scion. The only major differences are the targets and the context–ie, the why.

                Both Taylor and Scion were mentally traumatized. If Taylor was a lot weaker-willed, like Scion was, she probably would have lost the will to live while in there (although if no one killed her, she would have regained it at some point after being freed). If Scion was human, he probably would have triggered.

                In short: The actions in these cases are exactly the same!
                And since we call the first actions bullying, we call the second acts bullying as well.

                Do you have a better way to describe it? If so, please share.

              • Intent: the thing that you plan to do or achieve

                Conversely then, you cannot ascribe “bullying” to her actions either. As it was her plan the whole time to utilize those tactics to defeat Scion. So, “bullying” is nothing more than describing intent as you so like to put it.

                To which, I still do not consider her actions/intentions to be bullying as outlined in previous statements due to the REQUIREMENT to meet said definition in that it MUST be a repeated behavior by the perpetrator.

                That is why the victim can NEVER be considered a bully when responding “in kind”. Because it is a one time thing to disway the actions of the bully to begin with. AND as research has shown is the quickest way to end being a victim!

              • 1. So you aren’t giving up, then?
                2. We are attempting to describe the action, which you are disproving by showing that the context is not a bullying context. Congratulations at your valiant attempts to move the goal-posts. Now please try to refute what I’m actually saying, answer what I’m actually asking.
                3. Scion struck first, but he was still the “victim” in the end.
                “Victim: A person harmed, injured, or killed as a result of a crime, accident, or other event or action.”
                I would say that Scion was “harmed, injured, or killed,” ad that it was caused by an “event or action,” wouldn’t you?

              • 1. What can I say? You suckered me back in.

                2. NO that is what YOU are doing! I have been consistant in my claims as well as providing sources for said claims.

                You were the one who decided to go on this hairbrained attempt to needle down anyone that disagreed with your version of what Taylor’s actions are.

                I have consistantly maintained that using the words bully, bullying, and any other variants FAIL on grounds that they do NOT satisfy the conditions for the fucking definition of the word(s) itself. So much for your failed accusation of me moving the goal posts. I cannot make this any clearer.

                Provide evidence with sources that those actions taken by Taylor FIT the fucking definition of the word, or shut up and concede already.

                Remember, planning is intent…it was her plan to use the same lessons she learned from Sophia to remove and eliminate the threat of Scion…NOT BULLYING.

                3. Seriously? What the fuck does this have anything to do with my point? Does noting to support your claims regarding Taylor = bullying.

                Nobody in their right fucking mind would claim that Jeffry Dalmer was a victim if one of his “sex slaves” had retaliated “in kind” to save themselves. Now you are just being stupid.

                So no, GENERALLY society does not consider a violent MASS MURDERER (such as SCION) a victim if the people that is being murdered fight back.

                My god, do you realize how really retarded you sound? That would be like calling Hitler a victim for commiting suicide because those big bad Allied Powers were bullying him because of their actions. Get bent.

              • I have kept the goal-posts firmly in one place throughout the whole debate that you joined into. I ask a question, you give an answer to a different question. How am I moving the goalposts? The closest is when I have explained that you are arguing about different points, which is more us aiming at different goalposts…and since you joined the argument later, by arguing against my point (and that of several others!), I think that my (the first, I should note) “set of goalposts” are the “correct” ones for this debate. If anyone can come in at any time and change the terms of the debate, change what his opponent has to defend, there isn’t any point to debate. Incidentally, you now believe that Taylor was an utter saint during the whole arc. Go prove that.

                Your arguments that the situation has not fulfilled the definition of “bullying” are based on the context, which as I have stated far far too many times is NOT what we were talking about. See my point about redefining the opponent’s argument.

                And yes, her INTENT, her PLAN was not bullying. Her ACTIONS, however, WERE, and they fit the following definition:
                “[To] use superior strength or influence to force him or her to do what one wants.”
                Taylor used her superior strength, albeit not literal strength (and if you think that you need to be physically more powerful than someone to bully someone you are deluded), to do what she wanted him to do (die/be willing to be killed).
                Alternatively, from stopbullying.com: “Kids who bully use their power[…]to control or harm others.”
                Aside from the “kids” part, this fits the situation perfectly. (And, incidentally, the removed part was just describing types of power.)
                THERE. Dictionary definition. Happy?

                My point is twofold. Firstly, I turned your exact argument against you. It’s always nice when I can do that. Secondly and more importantly, I was disproving one of your points. You argued that since Scion was not a victim, he could not have been bullied. I proved that he was a victim, using the exact same method that you used to prove that there needs to be a “victim” for bullying to have applied. Am I saying that Scion was a victim? No. What I am saying is that, if we accept the premise that your argument is based on–that a word can never be used to mean anything slightly out of its dictionary definition–then Taylor still bullied Scion, who falls into the dictionary definition of a victim. And by the dictionary definition, Hitler was a victim, which just goes to show how stupid basing your whole argument on the dictionary definition of something is.

              • Let’s review…

                Your claim: Taylor’s actions are bullying.

                My claim: Your use of the word bullying is unfitting due to the fact the actions you claim do not fill the prerequisites of the definition.

                Now you are slinging monkeyshit with your “context” diatribe. You are selectivly bastardizing the meaning of the word so you can force it to mean what you want. There has been no less than several variant definitions posted on this one page. It is both funny, AND dishonest of you that you ONLY select the ones that strictly fit your narrowmindedness. I have considered all of the definitions posted, including the ones that are from the field of psychology and have expounded my understanding. I posted this definition which is a clearer image of the actual phenomenon known as bullying. Just because you are too proud or stupid to understand this is not my problem.

                “Incidentally, you now believe that Taylor was an utter saint during the whole arc.”

                Hey asshole, I’ve never said this. Kindly go fuck yourself. You are now lying and I don’t appreciate it.

                “You argued that since Scion was not a victim, he could not have been bullied.”

                No I didn’t you moron. All I did was CORRECT your asinine claim that Scion was a Victim, which is utter bullshit and you know it.

                I was dissuading the notion raised earlier that the victim of bullying is NOT a bully if he responds to said bully in kind. The reference I gave went over that due to the fucking definition of the goddamn word itself.

                “And by the dictionary definition, Hitler was a victim, which just goes to show how stupid basing your whole argument on the dictionary definition of something is.”

                Wait wait wait…so you then both conceed AND claim victory because of semantics and definition rape?

                I cannot even comprehend this level of stupidity. I have nothing further to say.

              • Seriously? Bullying? It is an all-out DEATH MATCH. Calling it bullying is equivalent to calling it defaming, stalking, annoying and so on. It is technically true but so far from the actual meaning in both literal terms and spirit that it is sad to see someone seriously arguing it.

              • I agree with Greatwyrmgold: Definitions of bullying that I’m familiar with describe a pattern of behaviour without any particular associated intent. Do a quick google for “accidental bullying”, for example and you’ll see that an intent to bully isn’t necessary to bully someone.

                Chrno makes an interesting point though that it’s arguably not bullying simply because it’s exceeds the scope of what could reasonably considered bullying. It’s more like psychological warfare at this point…

  16. So, Oliver turned out to be Chekhov’s gunman.

    The story come full circle with the ability to overcome mental trauma being key. As so often the bullied becomes the bully, only Taylor doesn’t do things half-way.

    Now what? Our ‘heroine’ has pretty much lost everything up to and including her identity, her body and her mind. Her options right now seem to be limited to “redemption though death”, “becoming a hermit somewhere” and “Deus-ex-machina in the form of Simurgh pulling something”.

    • Well, and maybe Riley or Panacea.

      Although can Panacea even approach Taylor without being affected by her new power’s radius?

      Does it work when Taylor is asleep?

      Come to think of it, what about tinkers in general? Cybernetic brain interfaces And whatnot?

      Of course, that would depend on folks actually trying to help her. And I’m not sure even Dragon and Defiant would want to be in that camp, now… :/

      • Aren’t the people Imp touches also “memory erased” ? Since otherwise her moving things/people out of harms way would not work.
        So I guess if Imp carries Panacea it will work.

      • If nothing else, the Simurgh could borrow Riley’s bio-tinker skills. Kind of sad that the most terrifying endbringer is Taylor’s best chance at anything even resembling a happy ending.

        • The more I think about this the more hopeful I get for Taylor’s recovery chances actually. Because even in the (highly likely) event that Simurgh has not turned around and gone all rainbows and puppies on them, what better tool could she have, what better weapon, than an easily manipulated little bug girl who kills gods? In almost all scenarios I can think of, Taylor’s continued activity is in the Simurgh’s best interests.

      • remember, Dragon, and almost CERTAINLY Defiant KNOW that Taylor was NOT trying to Kill her. knock her out temporally because she literally could NOT try to stop Taylor snatching the birdcage inmates, but her reaction when she THOUGHT she’d accidentally murdered Dragon for real.well.. you know.

          • exactly. so if Taylor is still salvageable AND Alive when Dragon comes back on line, OR if Defiant was in on it ( as in fully informed), there’s at least SOMEONE to say she didn’t degenerate into a raving monster. guh. you know what i mean.

    • I have to wonder if there is a reason why Imp’s improved vocabulary got pointed out so much, and if whatever happened to cause Imp’s vocabulary to expand will be used to help Taylor out here…

      • I was wondering if Sleeper’s power was that he could steal the sleep of others. It would explain his depopulating that world. Sleep deprivation soon causes inability to concentrate and irritablity; followed by auditory, visual and tactile hallucinations, extreme suggestibility and eventually psychosis.

  17. The chapter was a lot more heartwarming than I thought it would be. I mean, damn, I expected that voice to be Emma or some shit and it turns out to be fucking Imp, who I totally forgot about. Seriously, her power is way too OP. The fourth wall is sacred Aisha.

    And it’s kind of ironic how she has difficulty thinking of the right word, just like a certain shady past antagonist.

  18. The ‘betrayed myself, and I wasn’t even sure who I was’ part… I felt that. Like in my heart of hearts I felt it. To have no idea who you are, what you stand for, but to yet realize, “This isn’t me,” just wow. Yes, I’m laughing at the ‘bullying the apocalypse to death’ posts, but I’m also feeling for Taylor at the same time.

    Also, what name was she thinking of that would start with ‘M’?

    • She spoke, one word. My name. I was pretty sure. What was my name? did it start with a ‘T’ sound? An ‘S’? A ‘W’?

      An ‘M’?

      Taylor, Skitter, Weaver are obvious. For the last, I think Monster. Or, considering how much of a bully she’s become, maybe ‘EM’ma.

    • I keep trying to think of an M name for Taylor and coming up short. S, T, and W are obvious. But M… the closest I’m coming up with is something only tangentially related like Mother, or something boring like Master.

  19. Thoughts:

    No Taylor, you are the bullies. If Shady survived this, she’s going to be insufferable.

    Was that Simurgh or Imp that Tattletale was yelling at over the phone? Or Defiant and the Tinker squad?
    I really like the mental image of Tattletale giving the Simurgh a cell phone to help coordinate the final assault.

    So, where do we go from here? Execution by the fairy girl? Locked in a mental ward forever? Invasive brain surgery by remote control?

    As for the fairy girl stopping when she did… Just giving up, because the play is over? Deciding she couldn’t do worse than Taylor had already done to herself? Or did she realize that attacking the powerless, brain-damaged little bug girl would be suicide after she saw the result of Scion grabbing Taylor by the throat?

    And yes, the Simurgh wins in the end. Now we see what the glass tube is for?

  20. Alright, possible ways for Taylor to get out of this… Panacea isn’t good with brains, or with fixing things she modified, and would need touch range anyway. With Tayor’s power still active but her mind not working that’s not an option. Bonesaw could tweak a shard with brain surgery, but she would probably damage things in the process due to the clumsyness of her tools and it’s not clear if she can undo that kind of degeneration in the first place; in the past she’s always pushed for crazier and less human. Plus she’d need to do it by remote, like she did with Hack Job, so it would be even messier.

    Wait. Simurgh can draw from any Tinkers in her range, right? And has incredibly fine telekinesis on top of being immune to mind control. So if she chooses, and Bonesaw is still alive, the Simurgh could probably fix Taylor’s head. She could even look into the past and restore things to where they were before the fight if the degeneration is something that can’t be conventionally fixed. The only question is motivation… And there I continue to come up blank.

    • I’m still waiting for “cut ties” to make another appearance and for Taylor to be separated from her powers entirely, vain hope maybe. But the idea I have is that once her shard is out of the picture she might be able to begin a long road to recovery. Maybe not recovery of who she was before, but she might be able to regain enough of her mind to start over.

    • Panacea could potentially fix it from beyond the sixteen foot bubble. It’s already been shown she can use her powers for more than just restoring someone.

      So, why not have her make a fleshy extension of her body? A sixteen foot finger maybe?

      I doubt Taylor’s powers would affect her as long as her brain is out of range.

      • Panacea needs to touch the target, and can’t affect her own body. So unless there’s another fleshwarper who can bypass the Manton effect to give her freaky-long fingers, she can’t work on Taylor. A power nullifier couldn’t turn off one of them without the other. Unless Riley and Amy can work together to make some sort of virus that cuts off the power of anyone infected, and then make it either only target Taylor or just make themselves immune…

        • Marquis could, but he’d never get talked into that. I mean, step one is causing his daughter pain, step two is enabling her to fix a menace, and step three is actually trusting that the menace is in control enough after the fact to feel the gratitude to spare them.

          Yeah, no.

            • She’d need to beg pretty hard, if Marquis remains consistent with his previous scene. Don’t forget that Panacea also got the first dose of Taylor’s full-blast powers, which can’t have been a good experience.

          • It’s still not her, per se. If she can finagle that restriction one way or another she can give it a shot, but a stick, bug-flesh or otherwise, is not part o Panacea as it needs to be.

              • That could work (unless Taylor’s range expands to match reality rather than perception). Assuming of course that Vista is in fact still alive. However, the real problem is that I’m not sure Vista would consent to enable this.

        • Riley/Bonesaw has extendable bones/fingers in her own body.
          Installing it in someone else is probably slightly easier, if anything…

          • Panacea made her body push out all the “secreted weapons”, as it were. I’m not sure why extendo-fingers would be exempt from that.

        • Noelle is HALF of Panacea, so even a woman’s destructive power is greater than that of the greatest man who CAN exist. And he’s a cripple who got where he is through LUCK, AND is causing massive harm because he WANTS to, deep down.

    • Yeah, the whole Endbringers thing confuses me and seems like a pretty open/uncertain area to me right now, because we NEVER got a real understanding of them like we did Cauldron. I’m thinking that Wildbow might well, if it pleases the great porcine shaper of worlds, pull out an explanation of the Endbringers that would make such a ‘deus ex machina’ make sense. Admittedly, I’m only half-conscious from lack of sleep right now, so don’t take me too seriously.

      • Origin-wise, the Endbringers are pretty transparent. The story that Tattletale believes, and which rang true enough to Eidolon to get him to basically kill himself, is that his subconscious or his passenger created them to serve as a worthy adversary. Eidolon is directly, if not willingly, responsible for millions of deaths and caused almost every problem he dedicated his life to fixing.

        It’s when we go past their origins that things get sticky. Because the Simurgh is brilliant, precognitive, and inscrutable.

        It’s possible, if we let ourselves be optimistic, that all her past schemes were just to challenge Eidolon and when he died she was cut adrift, looking for a new purpose like Zion was when he talked to that hobo. If we’re really optimistic, that would mean that she’s now learning to live like a human from Tattletale and co. And if we’re really stupidly deliriously upbeat about that, it could mean that she cares about humanity, as valuable subjects to learn from if not as anything so fuzzy as a new family.

        More likely is that she has her own goals, and Zion interrupted. Whether she wants to rule humans, torture them, or just kinda troll them, she needs them alive and was willing to work alongside the monkeys until the bigger threat was dealt with and the extinction of her subjects wasn’t a big risk.

        But if there’s anything concrete I’ve learned about how the Simurgh operates from the story so far, it’s that you should never underestimate her. And that despite knowing that, you’re probably underestimating her. So I’m currently working under the assumption that everything is going exactly according to plan. You can trace a clear chain of causality from the ABB jumping Emma in her flashback all the way through every event in Taylor’s story so far, including both the multi-apocalypse and Taylor’s temporary deity status. It’s really not so much of a stretch to think that the Simurgh could have touched those gangers, or Lung, or just somebody else who touched them and nudged them a little onto the course that led to right here. At which point the question becomes: is this just a scheme to remove Zion, after he proved himself a threat to the Simurgh? Or was the golden idiot himself just another pawn in an even bigger game? In the interest of never underestimating the Simurgh, I’m guessing it’s that last option.

        But the optimist in me is still shipping Simurgh/Tattletale. And will likely never stop.

        • After Zion’s rampage, I doubt that an Endbringer attack would impress anyone. It could happen, but it wouldn’t really be that interesting, just more of the same. It could happen, but it probably wouldn’t interest me.
          The Endbringers helping humanity could be very interesting though. Maybe they’ll stay on our side, seeing as they don’t really have anything to destroy at the moment. Zion kind of stole “inhuman monster wrecking the world” from them.
          Shipping TT and the Simurg… er…

        • We know that a big reason the Simurgh wanted Scion gone was that he was a major blind spot. It seems improbable that, being such a blind spot, the Simurgh was manipulating him significantly.

          • Well, she can’t see him directly, but she can see everything around him and track the gap, like when Taylor followed Echidna or Bonesaw by looking at where she lost bugs instead of looking at them directly.

            More importantly, she can only track a person’s timeline forward until the moment they encounter a precog, but her manipulations of the Travellers extended significantly past that point.
            I think that the Simurgh is actually clever, predicting events she can’t see by looking at surrounding things and the people involved and then manipulating even that which she doesn’t have total control over, rather than just relying on her power and following its instructions like the Contessa does.

      • As shown with Eden. Her original plan was to use the Endbringers as “super weapons” to manipulate and control conflict in the world. As seen by a being controlling water in the alternate vision world. Then everything went to hell when she died, and shards that were never supposed to be given away because they were too powerful/vital to her were taken from her corpse and put into formulas. This resulted in Alexandria, Doormaker, etc. and Eidolon. Eidolon all powerful shard was the original shard that also created the Endbringers. However not having the control/other important shards he couldn’t control them, and they were created by him subconsciously. Unlike the original plan where they were powerful/but beatable/incite conflict, his were created to be true monsters and pushed for the total destruction/death. So technically Cauldron DID accidentally create the Enbringers by looting the wrong shard from Eden’s corpse.

      • I think that they got made from Eidolon’s “booster shots”, which apparently consisted of other Eden shards. They don’t seem to be standard for Caldron capes, so even with the power he’s openly used it seems odd he’d run through them so fast.

    • One thing I’ve been wondering- did contessa see Taylor as being the path to victory?
      It was because of contessa that Riley left the S9, and without Riley I don’t think panacea would have messed around with Taylor’s head.

  21. Welp, Taylor just became the savior of the multiverse, and she’s still alive! What now, internet speculation? What now?

    Well, alive in a manner of speaking. I’m not too pessimistic about her chances of rebuilding her mind eventually, but I figure she’s going to have a long road ahead of her for that. And of course there are going to be people scummy or self-righteous enough to try to pass judgment on someone who’s basically mentally disabled because principles or some dumb shit like that.

    But that’s for later I guess, golden bastard is dead, that’s all that matters right now.

  22. Given his extreme emotional instability, i really had expected her to toss the Tomb of Eternal Despair(aka, Cherish’s biodome) at Scion and let her finish the job. not being able to target Scion wouldn’t be a problem since she is AoE radiating suicidal despair constantly.

    • That would require Scion to be able to be affected by Cherish’s power at all.

      And for Butcher to not have been less suicidally insane than Cherish was. Remember, Butcher’s power was revealed to be taking over the mind, body, and powers of a parahuman near wherever she died.

  23. Aaaaaand Sophia just officially became one of my favorite characters. Packbat, I believe she maybe be eligible for a “Cloudcuckoolander Was Right” entry.

    So, Taylor’s dead? Damn, and she didn’t even control the Endbringers. Though she did get the super army of perfectly coordinated demigods, and that was pretty goddamn awesome.

    So now is she going to take control of the Faerie Queen when she gets summoned, or is it just going straight to the interlude.

    Also, I really, really, really want to see what it would have been like if Taylor had been given free use of Blasto’s tech. Imagine if the most powerful, game-breaking capes were fused together into hybrids, and then all of their powers were overclocked by Panacea/Bonesaw combos in the same way Taylor’s was. Hell, an Eidolon/Number Man/Foil/Ballistic clone alone could trump the combined power of the Endbringers.

    Really, really solid chapter though. I’m loving this arc, and I will be very sad to see this story end.

    • Aaaaaand Sophia just officially became one of my favorite characters. Packbat, I believe she maybe be eligible for a “Cloudcuckoolander Was Right” entry.

      How so? The bullying thing? Did Taylor actually think of the bullies’ campaign when planning this attack on Zion?

      • Sophia’s conclusion as Taylor was springing her from prison was that everything she did was justified, because her bullying made Taylor strong enough to be a big damn hero. At the time it looked like another deluded symptom of her fucked up worldview, seeing the “predator” that Taylor had become after Sophia beat on her long enough. But now, the only reason humanity is standing is because when it came down to it Taylor was able to emulate that campaign of psychological torture.

        So from here on out, Sophia is going to be absolutely insufferable. Here’s hoping for Imp to come along with a ‘mute button’.

          • I totally agree the beatdown was entirely justified. There is no shame in taking your enemies strengths and using them. There IS shame in becoming them. I don’t think that Taylor has become them. She just used them like she did Jack Slash and Bakuda when confronted in the school.
            That said, the progression IS there.
            Sophia bullies Taylor.
            Taylor triggers.
            Taylor takes out Lung.
            Shit rolls downhill from there.

            • To be fair, given that this was a win for humanity that no other species has ever pulled off there’s a whole lot of people/creatures/etc that will be trying to take credit:

              Simurgh – Just As Planned.
              Contessa – And so we have walked The Path To Victory
              Dinah – I am made of 100% win!
              Tattletale – I saved Taylor and figured out what the story was, I really am the smartest in the world!
              Jack Slash – If I hadn’t made him go nuts now, your precious Taylor wouldn’t have been there to save you, would she?
              Leviathan – I helped too!

              • Oh Leviathan. Alas, poor Leviathan (unless the one that disintegrated was another Simurgh-decoy). Incidentally, anybody else really really want fanart of Foil/Parian riding a giant Endbringer plushie?

              • I believe that the entities mentioned that a few other targets managed to avoid annihilation, actually; that’s why the safeguards are there to start with.

              • @packbat:

                I believe the implication was that while the cycle was cut short I some planets because the inhabitants moved against the entities (hence the stranger-blocks), those planets were still destroyed when the entities left.

            • She used their methods.

              Their methods (psychological torture and the like) are often referred to as bullying.

              She used bullying. She wasn’t a bully, per se, but she bullied.

        • Sindri, that’s exactly what I meant. Sophia kept talking about how she made Taylor what it was, and at the time she seemed like more of an insufferable jerkass, but now it’s arguable that without Sophia’s bullying, Taylor would never have beaten Scion. Therefore the Cloudcuckoolander Was Right.

          • Noooooooo
            Taylor did what she did not because she was bullied but because she was a brave, good person. Taylor may have triggered because of the bullying but she owes nothing to Sophia. Shadow Stalker was a petty human being, Taylor sacrficied everything to stop the extermination of humanity. What Taylor did to Scion was not something as pathetic as bullying, it was straight up mental warfare. If Shadow Stalker even begins to (smugly, obviously) complain about how she made Taylor and all that I want Imp to tase her in the mouth.

            • I’m right with you on the tazing her in the mouth. But the fact remains that Emma and Sophia taught Taylor how to psychologically torture somebody. Their abuse is what gave her the tools she used to save humanity. That was not their intention, and nobody short of the Simurgh could have predicted it would go this way, but they made her into what she is today.

              Incidentally, you will never convince me that the Simurgh is not responsible for the ABB attacking Emma and starting this whole thing rolling.

              • you left out Bitch from the list.

                Bitch: Everyone just fuck off! …oh all right gobby, you can stay then…

              • Technically that was Contessa
                Contessa -> Lung Trigger -> Moves to America and form ABB

  24. Well. Taylor, you big goddamn hero.
    I guess she’s doing to die now. But goddamn, I want monuments for her. She just saved the entire human race in every world ever.

        • Yeah. She didn’t even save close to all the worlds. Scion exterminated an estimate of 90% of all worlds that ever had humans on them in the first place.

      • She saved the human race. Without her, every human and pretty much every nonhuman on every Earth in the multiverse would be gone, if the Earths were still standing.

        Let’s not quibble over details. Every human being alive owes Taylor for their lives. She deserves a momument on each inhabited Earth. And a nice, big one over Brockton Bay Bet.

  25. Oh my god. It’s over. It’s actually over.

    However, Taylor’s gone too far, done too much, to do anything but rest, though. Eternal dormancy, or death. It’s the best reward they can give her right now. (Even something like being cut off from her powers would be a palpable relief at this point).

    Of course, the Simurgh has that ace-in-the-hole capsule, which I’m fairly certain is now hanging over the final chapter like the Bell Jar of Damocles. Unless Wildbow is still intent on being mean and saving it for the sequel.

    • You know, I can imagine another far kinder fate for her that so simple I’m honestly surprised no one’s brought it up yet. Of course it presupposes that there’s anything left of Taylor at this point to be saved, but we do have one more “real” chapter before the interlude, so I’m holding on my hope still.

        • Pretty simple, she and the shard separate and she is able to be healed and functional again. I expect who knows what, but that is one way. Healed, functional, no longer a threat. “meh, I could take her now” will probably be the death knell of hundreds …

          • Just as stopping controlling people didn’t gave her back her faculties, I doubt separating her from the shard will do anything. The damage has already been dealt.

            Besides, how can the separation occur, ? The only way, that wouldn’t harm Taylor, that comes to mind is Eidolon’s ghost. But GU would probably do worse than simply stealing a shard.

            • My guess is that connected to the shard she can not be healed. That is probably wrong.

              Anyway, my supposition going on from there is that severed from the shards she is:

              a) not dangerous to others and
              b) able to be healed.

              Both, of course, are wrong.

              • I’m probably running up into the thread cap here, but you’re still not answering my second question: How exactly is letting her live better (for her, let me be clear) than just giving her a painless sleep? She deserves every bit of the rest she’s got coming.

              • Who says she has to live as “Taylor Herbert”?

                Consider what Panacea, Bonesaw and probably a dozen of other tinkers are capable of. If they really cut loose? She wouldn’t even have the same DNA anymore necassarily.

                All that baggage that goes with who she was? There’s plenty of ways she could escape it and start anew.

                Lung might want to murder the skinny white girl who mind controlled him. How about the slightly overweight black girl who’s a buddy of Aisha’s? Aisha may have the invisibility power but “Terry Humble” could be the one that no one would ever look at twice.

              • I’m thinking more of the internal baggage that came with being Taylor/Skitter/Weaver/Swarm, and the fact that the things keeping her going for her entire cape career (first Dinah, then end of the world, then Scion) are resolved. All of a sudden, she has nothing to do and nowhere to go. Save back to the Undersiders, of course, but she might not think of that (she’s said her goodbyes already).

  26. Fantastic, fantastic chapter. And just fantastic story in general. The fact that Taylor spent so much mental effort trying to learn from her enemies, to the point of losing more and more of her humanity, until finally, after descending below every standard even the worst person in the world might hold, she finds herself able to finally emulate Sophia.

    I’m wondering what the takeaway ought to be, from that. That Taylor was so strong-willed that it took losing literally everything that made her her, before it could be possible for this kind of mental torture to occur to her? Respect, girl, even if you are now broken beyond repair.

    I’m still hoping for some shred of hope for the rest of the universe, though. This isn’t exactly a repeatable tactic in mounting a war against the Worms. We know that Earth is maybe the safest place in the universe at the moment thanks to the “buoys” that Zion and Eden put up as they were coming here, but that’s only a stopgap. I don’t need it to happen, or even for there to be a plan, but some way to look into the future and see something other than Worm-accelerated entropic devastation as far as the mind can fathom, would be nice.

    • I think they’re well clear of the Worms now. What’s next is to rebuild, recover, and advance. Leverage powers and Tinker knowledge, with the resources of so many Earths.

      And one day when mankind leaves the solar system at last, they’d probably face Worms again, out there, somewhere.

      • The question is: when they learn that these little monkeys killed *two* immortal worm-god-abominations… do they steer clear, attempt to negotiate, or declare war?

        Of course one possibility for the Simurgh’s glass tube is just to preserve Taylor in to wave around as a threat to anything else that looks at humanity and thinks ‘we can take em.’

        • The question is if they learn, not when. The entities’ MO as of Zion and Eden’s arrival on Earth Bet is to leave breadcrumbs behind them so as to mark the places they’ve already been. If another entity starts approaching any of the Earths, there will already be the telltale signs of three separate entities (Zion, Eden, Abaddon), meaning that there’s a very high chance any new challengers would just abandon Earth’s section of space as “not worth the time.”

        • I don’t think the worms really work that way. They seem to have basically zero solidarity as a species and are unlikely to care about avenging their fallen comrades.

          They also seem to have powerful but limited minds that operate mostly on instinct. They’ve evolved to be the 800lb gorilla and will almost certainly be poorly wired to recognise any threat.

          And since they only seem to communicate when they physically bump into each other, words going to be slow to spread anyway.

    • This idea that Taylor is emulating Sophia is facile (excuse the pun) sophistry. Taylor was not a threat to Sophia or to Emma either physically or socially. They, as a group, targeted a single bereft young girl for a campaign of abuse and harassment over an extended period simply to make themselves feel superior.

      Taylor identified an emotional weakness in an implacable foe, a proven mass murderer, during a battle to the death and used it to incapacitate him, just as Zion himself had previously done to Eidolon.

      • The context was different, but the tactics were nearly identical.

        The devil or angel is in the context, but the tactics were still taken wholesale from the book of Taylor’s own tormentors.

        That’s what I’m saying, all I’m saying, all many of us are saying. We’re not claiming that the actions had the same moral value or anything like that, merely that they were the same actions, taken in vastly different circumstances.

          • Well, it’s more like going to church regularly and being Baptised and Confirmed, which does in fact make you Catholic until and unless you convert away or get excommunicated. And just like there are some (okay, many) Catholics who are terrible people, she is one example of a bully who is not evil and actually does have good intentions.

            • No, I disagree. You are still playing a semantics game. Her actions STILL don’t fit the definition of a bully. Or we could invariably say that any parent that corrects their kid is a bully.

              • Some snippets from the wikipedia article on Bullying:
                “social aggression or indirect bullying is characterized by attempting to socially isolate the victim”
                “females tend to favour exclusion and mockery…There can be a tendency in both sexes to opt for exclusion and mockery rather than physical aggression when the victim is perceived to be too strong to attack without risk”
                “Bullies may bully out of jealousy or because they themselves are bullied.”
                “Dr. Cook says that ‘a typical bully has trouble resolving problems with others… she usually has negative attitudes and beliefs about others, feels negatively toward himself/herself,… and is negatively influenced by peers’.”
                “Contrarily, some researchers have suggested that some bullies are ‘psychologically strongest’ and have ‘high social standing’ among their peers, while their victims are ‘emotionally distressed’ and ‘socially marginalized’.”
                “Research indicates that adults who bully have authoritarian personalities, combined with a strong need to control or dominate.”
                “A typical victim is likely to be aggressive, lack social skills, think negative thoughts, experience difficulties in solving social problems, come from a negative family, school and community environments and be noticeably rejected and isolated by peers.”

                It looks to me like she fits the definitions pretty exactly. And yes, many parents do bully their children.

              • “It looks to me like she fits the definitions pretty exactly.”

                What you’ve posted is not a definition, you’ve posted an article from Wikipedia (not exactly the most reliable source mind you) that attempts to expound on the phenomenon from variant aspects from different minds regarding it. Not everyone in the field of psychology agrees to all of the nuances posted in that article.

                Here is the definition of bully:

                a person who hurts, persecutes, or intimidates weaker people

                to hurt, intimidate, or persecute (a weaker or smaller person), esp to make him do something

                Scion is not weaker. Alexandria was not weaker either. Recall that she did NOT like resorting to the methods she’d learned from Sophia; but she used them because they were effective AGAINST bullies.

                “And yes, many parents do bully their children.”

                Nice evasion. That isn’t what I said. Don’t twist my words around again. That is very dishonest, I don’t like people that retort to such tactics.

              • Of course Scion was weaker than her. She said it herself: humans deal with pain and loss every day, and he had no experience with such things. She was a great deal stronger than him mentally, emotionally, socially, and pretty much every other way except raw physical power. And she used that to HURT him.

                If you think that the physically strong can never be targets or victims, you are wrong; otherwise Taylor would have just had Emma and Sophie eaten alive the day after the locker incident.
                And if you think that a person must enjoy it in order to bully someone else, then you greatly underestimate humanity.

              • “She was a great deal stronger than him mentally, emotionally, socially, and pretty much every other way except raw physical power.”

                Now, go back an read the damn definition again…

                “If you think that the physically strong can never be targets or victims,”

                Nope, never said that. Why do you insist on continuing to reword my sentences to form some sort of strawman to beat up? This is highly dishonest.

                “Taylor would have just had Emma and Sophie eaten alive the day after the locker incident.”

                And you think I underestimate humanity. You have no idea how the human mind even works do you? Have you EVER been bullied in your life? Have you ever seen a woman beating the ever loving shit out her man and wonder why the man don’t do anything about it? Has nothing to do with the victim having the physical power to retaliate. It is call brainwashing, the victim believes the words of the bully.

                Now in this story, Taylor refrained due to a promise she made herself that she wouldn’t attack Sophia and Emma because specifically she DID have powers…ergo NOT A BULLY. Who was the one that took out Sophia? Wasn’t Taylor, it was Regent. Again, NOT the actoins of a bully.

                She stood up to Bitch on their first meeting…why?

                “And if you think that a person must enjoy it in order to bully someone else,”

                Oh bullshit, now you are just pulling crap out of your ass and I’m calling you on it. Of course they fucking enjoy it, that is why they repeat it, over and over agaisnt the weak. It gives them the feeling of power and control.

                You are still evading other points…or you are being dishonest about mispepresenting my position. I don’t appreciate it.

              • You tell me to read the definition again. The definition you supplied for the word Bully requires two things: for her to hurt/persecute/intimidate him and for him to be weaker. Are you arguing that she did not hurt him, or that he is stronger in a way that matters? The first is blatantly false, and the second is only valid if you postulate that physical power (his one advantage over her) is the only form which matters. You then go on to attack me for claiming that you implied that physical power was the only form which matters. Do you not see the contradiction there?

                As for enjoyment? There are very few true psychopaths. Most who bully know no other way to resolve conflicts and simply mimic the techniques they learned when they themselves were bullied, sometimes by other children but more typically by parental figures. Many know what they do is wrong, and take no pleasure in it, but feel trapped. In this story, Emma herself frequently displays misgivings about the situation she has created. That is of course no excuse for the evils they commit, but it is a reason beyond ‘for the evulz.’ Most bullies are more deserving of pity than hatred.

                And have I been bullied? Let me just say that one day, after I failed to provide the desired reaction following a long day of destruction of my property and verbal abuse, one of my “friends” threw a punch at my head. Given the difference in structural integrity between fingers the skull, I was knocked to the ground and lost a couple ounces of blood while my idiotic attacker broke two fingers against my face. The teachers bravely stepped forward to comfort my attacker and give me a suspension for… possessing an excessively hard skull? Upon my return I discovered that the other students had learned from this example, and taken to slinging large, jagged rocks at my head from a distance. Which I then received a detention for dodging. So yes, I have a bit of experience in the area.

              • Read the definition again. It says hurts, persecutes, intimidates. Not singular. The prerequisits denote the requirement of repetative malvolent behaviour. It is quite dishonest of you to change the definition of a word so that it suits your position.

        • Once again, you are simply wrong. Taylor’s tormentors used an extended campaign of emotional and physical abuse to torment her for their own pleasure, to make themselves feel superior. One of those assaults was based on Taylor’s greif over the recent loss of her mother. The psychological effectiveness of this tactic (singular) was based on Taylor’s sadness and hurt, the natural human feelings of abandonment resulting from the loss of her mother’s love.

          All the other instances of “bullying” were based on the pain and injury resultant from unprovoked assualts and physical abuse, such as: destruction of clothes and property, imprisoning her in tightly enclosed spaces, and using exposure or contact with bodily fluids, excrement, all situations considered degrading or unpleasant within the normal human social matrix.

          Scion was an alien, with an alien psychology. The physical body they were fighting was actually only the three dimensional terminus of a interdimensional wormhole to it’s acual continental (if not global) sized body. None of those issues would have had the slightest emotional impact on him.

          The only tactic (singular) Taylor employed that in anyway resembled what happened to her was reminding Scion through visual cues of the loss of his partner. It made him angry, and then hopelessly confused because it meant that he and she had failed in their purpose to improve their ultimate fitness as a predatorary race by using humanity, and then destroying whatever remained.

          So simply put, Taylor’s tormentors never used images of her mother to remind her of the loss of her mother. They verbally ridiculed her normal, valid feelings of loss as a failing, a weakness, simply to enjoy her suffering.

          Taylor used the tactic of exposing Scion to images of his partner repeatedly to make him angry and emotionally exhausted, to make him realize the futility of what he was doing when he had already lost the ultimate battle, hoping it would make him momentarily vulnerable so that they could kill him and remove the threat of extinction from humanity across all dimensions.

          • I’ve said this before, and I hope I don’t have to say it again: I am referring to the general actions, not the reasons why they were done, the details that had to be changed, or any of that. Taylor stuck Scion into a situation where he was surrounded by things he hated–reminders of his lost partner. She used the loss of his partner to demoralize him and throw him off his stride like Emma used the loss of Taylor’s mother to do the same to her. Was it exactly the same? No. Was it similar? Yes. Was this intentional? Almost certainly.

  27. The third entity is a parasite that antagonizes the other worms’ host worlds with giant devastating constructs and then swoops in before the end game to cherry pick the most educated shards. Carrying them away in a glass vial to be added to its mass.

      • I don’t think the Simurgh is the third entity, but in fairness, the Endbringers were part of Eden’s plan *after* her interaction with the third entity. It’s totally plausible that they came therefrom.

      • Yes, first comment. I just caught up in time to wait for this chapter after a week of furious late night reading. Almost got in trouble with my boss. I really can’t afford for wildbow to write anything else this addicting.

        • …RUN, BEFORE IT’S TOO LATE, YOU POOR DOOMED FIRST COMMENT MAKER..

          We’ll try and hold Gecko at bay whilst you attempt escape…

        • Forget escaping PG, if you think Wildbow’s going to stop with the addictive good narratives? Well let me paraphrase:

          Listen, and understand. That writer is out there. Wildbow can’t be bargained with. He can’t be reasoned with. He doesn’t feel pity, or remorse, or fear. And he absolutely will not stop, ever, while there are awesome stories to tell.

    • The third entity would have to fool Eden in order to be a parasite. Then again, she was the giant space jellyfish that got distracted enough to run into a planet and be killed by a high-tech piece of weaponry called a knife.

      No entity’s picking Earth’s cherry now. For one thing, Scion popped the Great Earth Cherry with a special attack called the Cherry Tap. Why is Earth not a perfect circle? Because of what Scion did to that sweet cherry pi. And how dare you accuse one of resorting to the same method as Cauldron, with its vials. That’s just vile.

      Glad you’ve finally joined us. While I’m not sure how much of the story is left, you can always entertain yourself further by enjoying not just a reread, but the comments section. You’ll get to pick up a couple of in-jokes and surprisingly accurate predictions. You may even get acquainted with the saga of Genoscythe the Eyeraper, who was just barely lost in action in this chapter. I’m sure he did an incredible amount of damage and possibly made other capes around him wet their spandex.

      You’re also bound to wind up with a few headaches, and at least a little confusion, thanks in part to some long-ass debates, a couple of trolls whose comments may be in various stages of missing thanks to some mysterious evil person putting dynamite in the code (what? Why so quick to look at me? Like I’d do that…wink wink), and the presence and welcomes of your friendly neighborhood Psycho Gecko

      They look, well, something like this. Welcome, HermeticHawke, to the comments.

      • …. damnit, pg has a time machine and went back and posted neutralising our efforts.

        Translation: I actually didn’t realise he’d already got you…

  28. I had made a point of avoiding posting on the forums for the past few updates because it was getting to a critical mass of despair. This chapter was catharsis. Taylor did some horrific things alright, but just by the fact that the capes present didn’t run or try to murder her after her control of them fell, I think there may have been an unspoken feeling of… not forgiveness really, but a grudging understanding that she was doing what needed to be done. I don’t know what will happen to her, but I think she’ll survive, but not be fully intact upstairs, even if she gets a tag team surgery treatment from Panacea, Bonesaw, Scapegoat, and whoever else can heal injuries worth a flip.

    It’s been a long, strange trip. Thanks for everything Wildbow. I’m looking forward to Tuesday’s update.

    • Scapegoat, assuming he’s still alive, will not be touching Taylor with a ten sixteen foot pole, let alone get close enough to actually use his power. He’s been burned (blinded, actually) once before.

  29. I’m just so happy. Taylor’s making me so proud right now. It’s like looking at a little me, only without the ability to communicate or know people’s names. Then again, I also can’t see the whole world multiverse.

    She went after his emotions and played dirty. As I’ve said before, only fight fair when you have no other option.

    Well, here’s a song for you then, little Taylor, not that you can understand any of it.

    //www.youtube.com/watch?v=azzlgaDr2F8

      • TV tropes has it credited to a T shirt. Other honorable mentions from the Combat Pragmatist quotes page:

        “The first rule of American combat doctrine appears to be to disregard all other rules of American combat doctrine if it is advantageous to do so.”
        -Unknown Soviet General

        “Cowardice is a term invented by those with no cunning.”
        -Ignoble Soldier, Magic:The Gathering

        “Fair fights are too easy to lose.”
        -Harry Dresden

  30. Eh I don’t really see why so many people are drawing parallels between Sophia and Taylor. The sense of betrayal and loss of hope was much more Emma’s style. Sophia was just obsessed with predator prey analogies.

    • 1. Sophia was the one who shoved Taylor into the locker, the “prank” closest to this.
      2. Did you notice the bit where Taylor said she was attacking Scion where he was weak and they were strong?
      3. Sophia is the one who is going to be gloating about this to Taylor. If she is still alive and has no sense of decency.

      • Not sure what you are implying with two there.

        Scion wasn’t always weak, Scion was the bully here and Taylor FINALLY found a way to stand up for herself the way she never did agaisnt Sophia.

        Taylor isn’t gloating to anyone. In fact, when she killed Alexandria she didn’t gloat about that either…did she? Nope. There again, Taylor stood UP TO a bully and won.

        So comparing the actions of Tayor as parallel to Sophia only goes so far as to SOME tactics. To draw parallels into their personalities and intentions is just illogical and stupid. There is none.

        • Scion was weak. He had no defenses against the kind of attack Taylor was giving. You might as well argue that what Emma, Sophia, and Madeline did to Taylor stopped being bullying after she triggered because Taylor could have maimed or killed them with bugs without even trying.

          Taylor isn’t gloating. Your point?

          I’m not drawing parallels between Taylor’s motives and Sophia’s motives. I’m drawing parallels between their methods, and between Sophia’s principles and what Sophia will say about Taylor from this action.

          • So, if a victim stands up to a bully and strips them of their defenses by whatever means, you automatically equate the victim to now being a bully?

            Then call their methods what they are by definition. Sophia’s methods were to bully. Taylors were not.

  31. Thus Ends Zion who targeted isolated people at the peak of their emotional distress, dies targeted in isolation at the peak of his emotional distress.

  32. Wow, this is almost over. I knew that Taylor was going to use cunning to defeat Scion, but I did not think she would convince him to commit suicide. It really fits thematically.

    Taylor is a inhuman monster right now. I wonder how her story will end. She has been through so much and has just saved every human in the multiverse. She deserves happiness and I hope she gets some semblance of it at the end.

    I’m just so stunned right now. There is really nothing I can say. I think that Wildbow succeeded in what he set out to do.

    • For the most part. There was one argument that flared up around what exactly constitutes “bullying,” with the general consensus being that what Taylor did to Scion was psyops, couched in tactics learned from Emma & co. but used in a different context entirely to Emma & co.s’ “pranks.”

      Also there’s some guy floating around by the name of Node, leaving marbles all over the place, but we’ve started to ignore him. Here’s hoping the odor of axle grease doesn’t start floating around again.

      • If the argument regarding the definition of bullying was inappropriate, then I apologize for dragging other people into it. I think all parties involved have made their case reasonably well, and I haven’t felt the need to add further comments.

        The topic struck a chord though, and I meant what I said, but I will try to be less divisive in the future.

        I’ve never been accused of having an over-abundance of tact.

  33. I have such mixed feelings. I don’t want it to end, Wildbow… but on the other hand the fact that there is an end is what let you make it so powerful. This has been one hell of a ride.

    Poor Taylor.

  34. So, the Simurgh is alive. Kohnsu (The time-warping endbringer. The “fat one”.) and Tohu (Right? The small one.) might be alive (too broken to fight when Simurgh faked death and Scion left Gimel). GU is alive but ???. Sleeper lives. Blasphemies live. Tons of birdcage people are out and about. Still plenty of things that could go bad, beyond Taylor going unconscious and evil / the shard taking over.

      • On sequel hooks and Endbringer conspiracy theories, what about Blasto’s Morrigan (Ziz/Myrddin-clone)? Simurgh faking her death in front of Scion has me questioning Morrigan’s apparent death and the results from Blasto’s capture by the S9. The S9000 Manton and Harbinger clones seemed vital in keeping Weaver alive and stalling Scion during his descent on Eden.

    • Taylor’s Dream Team was:

      Taylor
      The Clairvoyant
      Foil
      Parian
      Narwhal
      Canary
      Vista
      Eraser? (I think thats his name…)
      Golem
      Yangban power booster
      Genesis
      Ballistic
      Sifara
      Another Thanda who shifts space
      All changers including Weld
      A few projection capes including a clone-hybrid of twokillers?(Nyx/?)
      G.U.
      Oliver

      And the tinkers weapon with Defiant on the trigger.

      • Scrub, not Eraser (that was Skidmark’s first choice before he somehow decided that Scrub was MUCH better).

        The hybrid was Nix/Night Hag (i.e. Nighty Night, man Bonesaw is even worse than Skidmark with names).

        And technically both the tinkers and the changers (with the possible exception of Oliver) weren’t part of the swarm. They realised what Taylor was planning after some nudges on her part and were acting on their own.

        • Actually, Scrub chose Eraser before Skidmark called that stupid.

          And no, Bonesaw is not worse. Mush. Squealer. And perhaps worst of all: Skidmark.

          • Well if you consider Skidmark as the signs left by a car’s wheels after a sudden brake, it makes sense considering that Skidmark’s power has to do with friction. Otherwise…yeah ( I believe wildbow said that the double meaning was intentional on Skidmark’s part which makes it worse. )

            Squealer has no excuses, though.

              • Yes I know. Hence my “if you consider it in that sense” and my acknowledgement that it’s sadly not so because Skidmark fully intended the double entendre.