Speck 30.7

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I was plunged into darkness.  Things stopped making sense.

I was surrounded.  I couldn’t think straight because I couldn’t think.  Trying to analyze people, to parse them, to identify them, it was like being in quicksand.  Resistance to my efforts, getting nowhere, and always slowly, inevitably sinking.

Thirty, forty, fifty people, more appearing every second, streamed through portals.  All of the survivors, returning to the battlefield to see it for themselves.  To turn their eyes towards me, because the only open space in the area was the space around me, the radius of my power, and it drew the eye.  People noticed, and others paid attention to the noticing.

The looks were hostile.  All the worse because they were alien.  Hundreds of people, and they didn’t feel any goodwill towards me.

Strangers.  Not strangers like people I didn’t know.  That was different.  Strangers who had connections to me, who I still didn’t know.  Strangers like the masked man who broke into a house.  Strangers in the sense of a stalker.  Of a jury about to announce a sentence.

This darkness around me, it was an absence of illumination, an absence of any light that could clarify and make sense of things.  I couldn’t recognize anyone, put a finger on them as familiar or unfamiliar, enemy or ally.

This… it was all ominous, vaguely threatening.  People I might pass on the street wouldn’t pay me any mind.  People here, almost every single one of them, they had a reason to pay attention to me, and the attention wasn’t good attention.

Any of them, all of them, they could attack me at a moment’s notice.  Inflict horrible tortures, kill me, fates worse than death.  There were a lot of fates worse than death.

I was settling into the end-state of my transition.  I knew it, and I could see the dividing lines more clearly.  What I could still do, what I couldn’t.

Taking action, moving… easier so long as I had an objective.

Objectives, too, were easier.  I could still analyze.  I could survey the battlefield, interpret powers, put two and two together.  I could connect the dots, recall the powers I was up against, and I could form strategies.

My head hung, but I could see the eyes of the people around me through the clairvoyant.  They fixed their stares on me, and I could feel paranoia building.  A weight, a pressure, crushing me from all sides.

I couldn’t recognize anyone, only powers.  Everyone was a potential enemy.

Everyone was capable of using their powers to hurt me.

Damn them all.  After everything I’d done, everything I’d given up, and they were standing there, threatening me.

Not a word was spoken, though the singing continued in the background.  It conveyed the story to those who were still arriving.  There were only two reasons things would be so still.  The first was that battle could be utterly lost and there was no more need for orders, for communication, for cries of grief and screams of pain.  That there was nothing left but surrender for the ones who remained.

But this wasn’t that, I had to remind myself.  We had won.  That disbelief rocked each and every one of the people who were present, that silence marked a kind of respect for the fallen.

And, all too possible, it marked a kind of unspoken agreement.  I could see it.  The silence was a relief and an added pressure, giving more weight to the eyes on me.  Every pair of eyes was telling me the same thing.

I was the next big threat.  The next one that had to be killed before this could all end.

I tensed.  I could barely move, but I could still ready myself for a fight or flight response.  Maybe I wouldn’t be able to stand, but I could use the device on my back, I could throw myself at the first opponent to approach me.

I was lost in this special kind of darkness, but I could analyze this situation too.  I could look at my capabilities and what my power had taken away, and I knew that there was a common theme at work.

Con- conflict.  I could function so long as there was conflict, so long as I was creating it or resolving it.  Given the choice between paralysis and conflict, I wondered if anyone would really choose the former, committing to it over time.

Paralysis was a scary thing.  There were a lot of forms of it, and they ranked up there as far as fates worse than death.

Conflict was better.  Familiar.

My swarm informed me that I still had my knife, tiny legs tracing over the weapon’s grip.

One tinker came through a doorway, as if to survey the situation.  Heavy armored boots rang as they struck the glassy, blasted disaster area.  The man emerged, and he cast a glance around.  He took in, no doubt, the ruined buildings, the clouds of dust that were rolling into the clearing, still following the vast amounts of air that had crashed into the space to replace the atmosphere the blast had wiped out.

The tinker pointed his weapon.  The rest of the tinkers filed into this world, two by two.

Everyone, just about, was making their way here.  Thousands, now.

Strangers.  All of them would, circumstances demanding, aim to get in my way, to stop me, question my actions, condemn me, hate me, maim, torture or kill me.  I’d seen good people go bad, couldn’t trust anyone.

My memories were incoherent, but I could see the common themes, and I knew everything they could and would do, given the chance.  Pyrokinetics could burn, telekinetics crush.  They weren’t the scary ones, as painful as a burn or other injury could be.  It was the thinkers that worried me, the masters, the tinkers.

I watched that crowd with one eye.

Some of them would kill me the second they thought they could get away with it.  Others would be scheming.  I had power, they wanted that power for themselves.  They’d take it like my portal man was taken from me.  They’d take all of it.

My hand was clenched so hard I thought something might break.

Had to remain still.  I had a handful of soldiers, a swarm of sixteen people who…

I’d pushed them away, and these were the ones who I hadn’t pushed out.  Why had I pushed them?

Had I already been interfered with?  Had someone already made a move, manipulating me?

Rrreee-

I shook my head a little.  Couldn’t form complete thoughts.  I felt a light weight on my shoulders, heard a voice.  Reassuring, coaxing.

So very small, compared to everything I was seeing, everything I was up against.  The voice did nothing for me.

I was prey in the sights of a predator.  Frozen.  When two snipers fought, the one who shot first was at a disadvantage.  The other would see the muzzle flash and be on target.  It was the same for me.  My enemy would see the direction I was moving, the strategy I was putting to use, and they’d intercept me on both fronts.

Being small and still helped.  I wanted to cover myself, to hide in my swarm, big or little, but I couldn’t afford to move.

Again, the voice.  I shifted the clairvoyant’s grip, sliding it up from my wrist to my shoulder.  Severing threads so the hand was free to move.  Once it was on my shoulder, I moved it under a strap and used the cut threads to secure it in place.

My hand was free.

That singing-  Singing was bad.

But it wasn’t the- wasn’t the winged being that was perched on a building at the far end of the battlefield.  She was silent, her wings folded over her shoulders and along the edge of the rooftop.  Worse for wear, with wings broken, but her body was pristine alabaster, her hair blowing in the wind.

The singing… it was one of my minions.  The words had been faster in tempo before, now they were… I wasn’t even sure.

Singing was bad, wasn’t it?

I silenced her.

Stunning, to be in the middle of a city and not hear the roar of distant traffic, of conversation or anything of the sort.  There was barely any wind, even, and no debris here for the wind to stir.

There was only my swarm.  A dull buzzing roar in my ears, for the smallest ones.  I could sense the pounding heartbeats, feel the breathing.  I could imagine the sounds so clearly that I couldn’t pick it apart from what I was actually hearing.  Periodically, I could hear a voice, which was the same in some ways.  In my head or in my ears?

Muscles creaked when moving.  For some, bones ground togetherJoints popped.  Stomachs gurgled.

My swarm had formed a loose ring around me, more by accident or manipulation than by any design on my part.  There was a gap just beyond them, where others were afraid to cross.  The noises of their bodies, the sensations, the perceptions… they were an island of forced familiarity in a sea of hostility.

If even one wave of that sea hit me and my island… if they charged, if someone gave them an excuse…

I repositioned my hand, a shaky, uneven movement.  One side of my wrist pressed against the butt-end of my knife.

The last of the phones finished relaying the music.  Only two seconds had passed?  If that.  The spell broke.

Someone cried out.

It had started.

The outcry was picked up by others.  People grabbed one another, arms were thrown around necks, fingers dug into costumes and skin.  They whimpered, screamed, shouted.  I could see tears in eyes, faces contorted in emotion.  Groups turned inward, focusing on one another, loners backed away, positioning themselves where they had space to maneuver.  Madness, hysterical, chaotic.  Grown adult and child alike, costumed and uncostumed, individuals dressed in white or in bright colors, individuals in black, they were part of the riot.

They held nothing back, emotionally.  I saw fireballs explode in midair.  People streaked into the sky, lightshows following after them.

But the yelling, the echoes of that first cry, they were what shook me, what shook everything.  The only thing around us to block the sounds were people, and those people were making more sound.  Thousands echoing of that one cry.

None of this surprised me, that they’d turn on each other the moment the real threat was gone.  It was the way our species operated.  A reality that had been writ over and over again in my experiences.  I couldn’t remember the specific cases, but the lessons remained with me.

I was standing, already, making my way to my feet with the help of the clairvoyant, with the device on my back, the attached arms.

Easier to move when there was something to do.  Fighting, fighting back.

My movement had drawn attention.  I started to draw my knife, and something stopped me, keeping it in its sheath.  I abandoned it, turning instead to my swarm.  They shifted positions, ready to use powers, to protect me against outside threats, and my bugs filled the spaces between them.  The strangers around me responded in kind, preparing for a fight.  Thirty, fifty people, waiting for me to act.  More lurked in the fringes, ready to step in.

It wasn’t an unfamiliar experience, to be surrounded in chaos, to be arrayed against impossible odds.  For what I was now, for what remained, it felt only natural.  All of this was as I’d expected.

They were talking, exchanging hurried words, questions.  Trying to cobble together a strategy.  I had no such need.  My side didn’t need to communicate.  They were perfectly coordinated.

Everyone here was a potential enemy, and I’d treat them appropriately.  I just needed to focus, to get my bearings, and identify the biggest threats to me.  If I eliminated or captured them, I could systematically kill everyone present.

It was… not a calming idea.  But it reassured.

I was just a little unhinged, my perceptions were broken.  I knew that.  But if I had to live like this forever, if everyone was a threat for the rest of my life, I’d well and truly lose it.  Stopping them, eliminating them and bringing them under my control…

The only way we’d all achieve anything resembling peace.

I’d wanted peace for a very, very long time now.

After everything I’d given up, I deserved peace.

Someone was pushing their way through the crowd around me.  I tensed.  My hand went to my knife again, and again it was stopped.

I heard the voice in my ear.  It was trying to sound soothing, gentle, but it was failing.  I heard the fear in it.  That fear was reassuring in its own way.  It told me I was right.  That the world did revolve around fear and violence. That I was doing the right thing, standing guard, being ready for a fight at any moment.

The madness around me continued unabated, the shouting fading, then starting anew, picked up by others, different factions, fresh sets of lungs.

I wasn’t going to listen to the voice. Not with all of the powers arrayed against me.  it would be idiotic and foolish if I did listen, whether I understood or not.

The others, they were arguing amongst themselves, barking out insults, yelling, pointing at me.  I’d taken control of them, and that was a fresh wound.

The individual reached the edge of the crowd.  A man, bearded, with a small entourage of people wearing white.

When he spoke, his voice was soothing, a constant stream of words, more like he was talking to a wounded animal than a person.  He stopped at the circle’s edge, and I could see how many of the others were tense, wary.

They recognized him, and they didn’t like him.

If I was going to exterminate them all, then I could use the fact that they weren’t all friends.  Let them fight each other, wear each other down…

Except I had this to focus on first.

He was gesturing at his mouth, moving his hand as he talked.  he pointed to me, then to one of his underlings.  He repeated the three gestures, speech, me, underling.

I wasn’t stupid.  I grasped his meaning.  I could see others around the circle relaxing.

But they weren’t relaxing entirely.  But they were relaxing, tension leaving their shoulders and hands.  Weapons, poised at the ready, dropped a fraction.

He was saying he had a means of communicating with me?  But it, or he, couldn’t be trusted a hundred percent, judging by my own gut and the reactions of the others.

He sent one of his underlings into my reach.  A boy with a shaved head and thick eyebrows.

I felt the underling’s body and powers unfold before me, and I could tell right away that there was something wrong.

My eyes told me one thing, my power told me another.

My eyes told me the man was just beyond the reach of my power, the boy following his orders.

My power told me that whatever the boy looked like, he was a half-foot taller, he had a beard, and he was loaded down with trinkets and tidbits.  I recognized him by his power.  He made thinkers and tinkers, granted powers.

He had three more, hanging back, watching.  No doubt to help facilitate this ruse, whatever it was.  To watch for people who could see through it, to watch his back.

He was putting himself in my power.  Whatever he’d had his other self, his disguised underling or his clone say, he was making his offer plain and clear to me.  He’d let me use his power on myself.

A chance to communicate, to fix something.

I sensed my bugs moving, shifting position without even moving a limb or wing.  Before I even grasped what was happening, I was moving.  I cut out with my knife, feeling like I was swinging madly into open air.

A girl materialized, shouting or saying something.  She’d appeared just a little in front of me, her back initially to me as I continued cutting, the actions jerky and stiff, uncoordinated and continuing long past the moment there was any point.  I could feel her body appear in my mind’s eye, and I asserted control over her.

At my command, her hand moved up to her mask, raising it enough that she could press her own knife’s point to the roof of her mouth.  One good push, suppressing reflexes, and she’d impale her brain.  It was a good place to keep her, keeping any of her allies at bay.

I was left panting, my knife-hand trembling.  Someone had moved to get a bead on me with their gun, but boys in white had intervened to block the shot with their bodies.  The girl… she’d been materializing, been making herself known, and I’d caught on a second before anyone else had become aware.

The man had stopped in his tracks in front of me.  Still in my control.

Was it a trap?  Probably.  People didn’t like being controlled.  He’d have measures in place.  Maybe his underlings, maybe a device he wore.

Was the offer still tempting?  Yes.

I had him extend his hands, offering them to me.

Sometimes there was a need for making a point.  He wanted to manipulate me?  He could bleed.

I cut.

The blade of my knife found the flesh of his palms twice in quick succession.  The slashes were as wild and frenzied as before.  My aim was good, but my control wasn’t.  A cut found the back of his forearm, tore deep through cloth, skin and muscle.

My next cut was comparatively feeble, though it hardly mattered.  A barrier appeared, a crystalline wall, and the knife bounced off.

All around me, people reacted.  My swarm shifted position, and were summarily buried in prisms of that same transparent, floating crystal.

I had that one member of my swarm start singing again and she was shot an instant later, electricity arcing around her armor as she collapsed, unconscious.

I had my bugs, but-

I stopped.  The reactions, the calls of alarm and the occasional shriek, they extended beyond the ring of people that surrounded me.

It wasn’t right.  The chaos beyond this one group, it should have left people blind to what was going on here.  They shouldn’t have been able to turn their backs on the others.

I was- it was parsing wrong.  Didn’t connect.

In that riot, that mob, there was no blood.  The girl I’d cut wasn’t bleeding, the people in the crowd weren’t dying… only the hands and arm, held out for the knife to slash, were weeping with blood, only the older injuries, from a short time ago.

People wrapped their arms around one another, but bones weren’t broken, limbs weren’t disjointed.  The shouting and screaming wasn’t directed at anyone in particular, nor were the powers that were actively being thrown around.  There were tears, but those same people were smiling.

I hadn’t counted on having to deal with this many people.

Too many with powers I wasn’t familiar with.  The ones closest to me?  The ones I’d just been controlling?  I had a grip on them.  But the mob beyond was something else.

I felt a moment of trepidation.

My senses… I was more disabled than I’d thought.  I couldn’t make sense of what was going on beyond my swarm, could barely make sense of what was happening here.

I moved, relying on two individuals to support me where my one leg wasn’t working properly.  Not that the other was in great shape.  Two individuals, the clairvoyant walking behind, hand strapped to my shoulder-

I saw the forcefield woman in the crowd.  Taller than most, a curved, crystalline horn on her forehead.

The people surrounding my swarm were working to get back as I approached, but the press of bodies only had a limited amount of give.

A forcefield materialized just in front of me as my power reached the very front of the crowd.  I turned the newest additions to my swarm around, focusing them on the people who were looking to stop me.

My bugs got in her eyes, blocking her sight, crawled into her ears.

I felt as she bisected them with forcefields.   I was already using the device on my back to move over the forcefield, getting a boost from the two who’d been supporting me to heave the clairvoyant up with me.

He came down on top of me, and we landed hard, but we landed on the opposite side of the forcefield.  Close enough, taking advantage of the woman’s momentary blindness.

I lowered forcefields and set them in circles around me before pushing out.  Separating the crowd to give myself room to maneuver.

I needed to escape, I needed time and resources to analyze what I was up against, frame it all.  I’d stabilized, I’d stopped degrading, now I could start building- rebuilding my knowledge base.  Put everything into a context that I could grasp, with my mind working in a different way, with different priorities.

Then I could take control.  Then I could eliminate the problematic elements.

Then everything would be peaceful.

A mission.  I functioned best with a mission.  My thoughts and actions had always processed best when I had a mission, a task.

I moved my swarm.  Half of the original sixteen, they’d serve as bodyguards, protection, tools

I saw faces in the crowd.  Young women riding a monster, blocking my path.  More than any of the others, they were strangers in the manner I’d identified the rest of the crowd before.  People I had some connection to, all the more strange because of the lack of recognition.

People kept getting in my fucking way.

I could have gone through, but I felt a moment’s trepidation.  The strangeness, the strength of the connection.  They were enemies, friends, something, but they held an importance.

I couldn’t trivialize that.  Couldn’t dismiss them.  If they were that important, they couldn’t be weak, and that meant they were potential threats.

She had a hand extended.  Something dangled from one hand.  A short chain, a black tube with a red button.

That trepidation got worse.  I couldn’t put my finger on why.

The uneasiness reached a peak.  I gave them one final look, watching for any trouble, then took to the air, crouching on a forcefield.  The members of my swarm followed, flying around any barriers I erected.  A man in blue and white who zig-zagged around anything I put up.  A regal woman in blue.

Too many unknowns.

I changed my course, and I saw the woman with countless wings standing, the wings spreading, a weapon at her side.

My pursuers were backing off, keeping a certain distance or circling around, giving her a wide berth.  Was this a way through?  If I leveraged enough strength, could I force my way past her?

I was scared, but it wasn’t the usual kind of fear.  Almost the opposite.  I was used to being able to hold things together, with only the outward signs.  To channel fear into concrete purpose.  This was different, the outward signs limited at best, the underlying fear simultaneously affecting me more.  Like so many things, it felt alien, like I wasn’t certain of what I was doing, and it threatened to throw me off course.

That fear reached a crescendo as I closed the distance.

She aimed the little gun, and I changed course at the last second.

There was a small army after me now.  Some were in the lead, and I made a point of blocking them, stalling with forcefields and directing ranged fire their way.  The man in blue and white was chief among them, as was the blue woman in a regal costume.

More were moving to follow.  Enemies from every corner.

Not a surprise.  To be expected.

A man, flying with great skeletal bat wings, a kind of lace or filigree of bone stretched between segments, rose into the air to intercept me.

No, to intercept a member of my swarm.

My swarm worked to cut him off, but he was agile, persistent.  As massive and bulky as those wings seemed, they shapeshifted in the process of each flap, the lattice of bone opening up to let air pass through, then closing when he wanted the air resistance to bear himself higher, or to one side.

In the end, a forcefield appeared through one wing, and he dropped a solid thirty feet before he managed to catch himself.  It gave me a window of opportunity.

The path of least resistance…  There was another space with only one person in the way.  A gap in the defensive line.

It was a young girl that was barring my path.  Her blond hair stirred in the wind of this upper atmosphere, and her great green-black costume seemed more decorative than anything else, with ribbons and loops of cloth flowing in a manner that made her look like a living work of art.

She wasn’t living art, though.  As remote as my understanding of humans was, I could understand what her tears meant.  There was no smile accompanying them.

Others had stopped, a distance away.  Not wanting to interfere, even afraid.

She met my eyes, and there was something in her expression that I couldn’t quite place.

The man in white and blue was calling out, not orders, but something in that vein.  Urging.

I looked at the blond girl, and I saw three shadows form around her.

My own swarm gathered, rising behind me on the floating shards of crystal.  Some crouching, some standing, others sitting with legs dangling, as they preferred, running on autopilot.

She approached me, and I held her gaze.

She passed into my range, and -again- I felt the connection deviate.  I maintained my awareness of her and her spirits, but my control over her slipped to one of her shadows instead.  A shadow of a robed man with a blindfold and nails through his hands, wrists and upper arms.

The other two – I recognized their powers.  A man with access to many powers at once, a fluctuating, flexible thing, and an thin, plain looking man with no costume, head hanging, with the power to make doorways.

She closed the distance, and her hand touched my cheek.  I flinched away.

I had my knife.  If I couldn’t control her-

She bowed, stepping away.

I felt a moment’s fear.  Except ‘fear’ was the wrong word.  The symptoms were right, if muted, the shakiness, the feeling in my gut, my thoughts being more fractured, a touch of queasiness.  But it didn’t fit the scene, this meeting.

Why would I be afraid?

No, it was something else, and I was realizing what it was.

I was familiar with my power acting of its own volition.  This was something in that vein.  My power had a firmer grip on the whole of me, and other things were on shakier ground, acting the way they pleased.  Feelings.  My body.

Passenger.

No, why would it care about any of this?  Why would it care about the winged woman?  The two individuals who’d been riding the monster?

But it was the closest feeling I could manage.

She spoke, and I couldn’t understand the words.

When she saw that, she smiled a little, glancing over my swarm.

A doorway opened beside her.  She floated away a touch, as if inviting me through.

I hesitated, at first, because of suspicion.  I had worlds filled with enemies, worlds I needed to bring under my thumb if I was going to be able to relax for even a moment.

I forced the worries aside.

I felt another stab of that not-fear sensation.  That balking on the part of my passenger.

The others around us were moving closer.  There were angry shouts from some corners.  There was a degree of attachment between some of them and my swarm.  I raised forcefields.  The man in white and blue promptly shattered them with a massive laser.

We were left staring at one another.  I couldn’t move forward, couldn’t move back.

Contradictions, opposing forces.  Some threatening me to stay, others threatening me if I stayed.  Contradictions in equal measure inside me.  That odd dissonance.

I stared at the portal.  A point of no return.  I could pass through, and I’d be able to take steps to get control, to carry out my plan.

-Again, that dissonance.

It was uncomfortable, distracting.  I wanted to be able to pursue my goals unmolested.

I started to move towards the portal, and again I felt the trepidation, halting me, threatening to take my control altogether.

I closed my eyes, and despite every instinct telling me to do the opposite, I relaxed.

Forgetting about the mission, about the goal.

I could feel the shakiness returning, the unsteadiness.

W-wwha- ddo y-y-you wwwant?

My control was slipping, the others descending as the forcefields lost altitude.  The forcefield woman nearly slipped out of my range altogether.

I reasserted control.

Again, I tried to let my passenger take control, to set things on autopilot.

Again, the others began to descend.  This time, the forcefield woman remained where she was.

I let things continue, watched as they drifted away, back to the ground.  The others gathered around me, the man with the blue and white costume, the man with bone wings, they backed off a little.  I could see the latent aggression dissipating.

Some were still angry, still looking for revenge.  The woman in blue seemed more angry than protective, furious at me, silent as she was.  But she had less backup now.

It was a good move, for the short term.  A puzzling one, but a good move.

I’d have a harder time taking control of things in the long term, but I was okay with survival.

I watched the individual members of the swarm touch ground.  The girl with healing powers had been placed deliberately next to a living pool of flesh with multiple heads of golden hair.  The healer’s hands were covering her face, but she didn’t step away.

Her hands slowly lowered, and she laid her eyes on the monster, which was actively, ineffectually reaching out for her.

Others were placed indiscriminately in the crowd below me.  My swarm, returned to the place they came from.

I turned to go, and there was far less resistance.

The autopilot took control of the clairvoyant’s focus.  It turned my attention to faces.  A blond girl.  A girl with brown-red hair.  The girl with the horned mask that I’d attacked so ineffectually with the knife.

Others.  A red haired girl in another world, shouting to people as she ordered them through a building project, a girl who was standing outside in the rain, in another world, kids peering through the window behind her.

Before it could go any further, I wrested control for myself.  Easier.  It was like it was weaker with every set of actions.

I passed through the threshold.

Again, that discomfort.

This would be a learning process, adjusting, adapting.  I was learning what it wanted.

It kept wanting sacrifices in the short term.  Responding to its desires had left me feeling more secure, made the ensuing resistance weaker.  The implicit promise was that acquiescing would be rewarded with a surer footing.  Footing that I could use.  There were doors open to every world.  If I could take time to heal, to build my strength.  Eating well, resting… I could move on, carry out my plan.

The question was whether the cost was too high.

It was a gamble.  I was risking myself, setting myself back.  People would come after me.

But it meant more control, and it all came down to control in the end.

I let the clairvoyant step through the portal, onto the shard I’d just abandoned.  The forcefield woman held on to him, steadying him.

I broke contact.

The last thing I saw before I passed out was the door closing.

I opened my eyes.  The moon was too bright, the stars like little shards of glass piercing my eyes.  When I sat up, I felt muscles in my neck, back and shoulders seizing up, cramping.  The world swayed around me like I was on a boat, even though I was on a hill in the middle of a forest.

I was hungry.  It had been a day, maybe two.

I heard the cocking of a gun.

My eyes shut.

Long seconds passed.  I took the time to get my bearings, to catch my breath and let the world stop rocking around me.

When minutes had passed and things were bearable, I turned to give my attacker a sidelong glance.

Twenty feet away, sitting on a rock with a little messenger bag beside her, was a woman in a white dress shirt and suit pants.  Her gun was in hand, a little revolver, resting on her knee, her suit jacket draped over that same knee.

Strangely, I felt none of that odd fear from my passenger.  Just the opposite, if anything.

The woman spoke.  The words didn’t make sense, but I understood them

Where the words themselves were nonsensical, my brain tried to parse them anyways, and they found a degree of sense in my head.

You knew it would come to this.

I didn’t move, staring.

Speech.  It affected me more than I wanted to admit, hearing it.  Even if I grasped the meaning.  Brought me back to myself, just a little.

You don’t remember me, but if you don’t look too hard, you’ll be able to tap into vague recollections of who and what I am.  You should know I have you in checkmate.  There are no loopholes, no tricks, no ways out.”

My eyes moved over the area.  I did what she suggested, and I could pick up a general impression of our past encounters.  We’d crossed paths before, and I’d lost absolutely.

If we fought here, I’d lose again.  Especially like this.  I’d try something, she’d shoot.  The bullet would kill me faster than my swarm would kill her.

A feeling of defeat settled on my shoulders.

Water?  If you speak, I’ll understand.

“Yes,” I said.

She reached into the bag and grabbed a thermos.  She threw it, and the corner of it sank into the dirt between my knees.

I drank greedily.

What you are, you know you can’t be allowed to carry on.  You don’t quite remember, but you’ve dealt with some who were like you.  The Echidna, the Faerie Queen.  You saw the Ash Beast.”

“Hearing the two… first two names makes me feel… shadows of feelings.”  Talking was hard.

I imagine so,” she said.  “We walked very similar roads.  We’ve done ugly things for a greater good.

“You still-” I started.  Then I shut my mouth.  Why had I talked?  I hadn’t meant to.

She raised one eyebrow.  I didn’t understand what the expression was meant to convey.

Go on,” she said.

“I don’t-” I started.  What had I been saying?

Not me.  The passenger.  I had to relax.  Allow myself to speak.

“You still do ug-ly things.  I saw you with T-teacher.  You work with him now.  As before, still do now.”

I’m not so sure,” she said.  “There’s less of a mission, now.  I have no cause anymore, and I hope that means I don’t lose sight of the little things.

I didn’t have a response to that.

Instead, she volunteered a little more.  “I’m thinking I’ll try to do some things without any help, in the future.”

I stared down at my knees.  I was still sore from my unconscious posture on the hard ground.  She was talking about the future, and I didn’t have one.

I keep on asking myself the same questions over and over again,” she said.  “Maybe you can answer.  Was it worth it?

I stared down at my hand.  It was shaking, but it wasn’t from fear.

Would you do it all over again?  Knowing what you know now?  Knowing that you end up here, at gunpoint?

“I… know I’m supposed to say yes,” the words made their way past my lips.  “But no.  Some-somewhere along way, it became no.”

Just about everyone comes to this crossroad,” she said.  “Some get seventy years, some only get fifteen.  Enough time to grow, to take stock of who you are.  Enough time to do things you’ll regret when you run out of time.

“Don’t- don’t regret it.  Was- had to.  Saved lives.  But I would do different, given a chance.”

She smiled, bobbing her head up and down a little.  “It’s always about the people, isn’t it?

“Protect some, pay less attention to others.”

Her smile twisted.  A little sad.  “Can’t bet on the wrong horse.

Not what I’d meant.  “Giving too much power to wrong people.  To bullies.  With powers, bullies without.”

She gave me a slightly surprised look at that.  “I don’t see that applying to Scion.

“Doesn’t.”

He doesn’t factor?  He isn’t a consideration, at the end?”

“Fighting him… always more about us than about him.  Not a consideration.”

And the person who played the biggest role in stopping him doesn’t give him a second thought,” she said.  There was a note of emotion in her voice.  She was gripping the gun handle tightly enough that her knuckles turned white, but her expression wasn’t an angry one.

I didn’t respond.  I felt like it might have been rude to.  We all had our demons, our burdens, and this was hers.

The silence yawned on.  I took another gulp of water from the thermos, swallowing past a lump in my throat.

I looked at the trees.  I was reminded of… the scene was hard to reach.  Of home, not long after it stopped being home.

Was it the other way around?  When I imagined that rotting, flooded city that smelled like garbage and seaweed, what was it to me?

Or was it different things to the two biggest pieces of me?

They’re offering amnesty to all but a few,” she said.

I wasn’t surprised.

The Faerie Queen was brought in.  You should remember her.  She’s the one who let you go.

“Yes,’ I said.

There were a lot of eyes on you two, at the end.  It reflected well on her, that she got you to free the captives.

She hadn’t, but I didn’t explain.  This woman probably knew, anyways.

She was questioned about you, in the hopes that the heroes could use the information to find you.  I got the transcription of the interview,” the woman in the suit said.  She patted the bag.  “I could use my power to get the answer, but it’s been a long journey here, and we’re in no rush.  Do you… does the word ‘anchor’ mean anything to you?

It took me a second, but I nodded a little.

What did you pick, in the end?

I opened my mouth to answer, but I found only blanks when I reached out.  I closed my mouth.

Ah,” she said, as if that was answer enough.

“A-ah?”

She went to great lengths to protect you,” the woman said.  “She’s already on shaky ground, but… I think she saw herself in you.  She held out hope that you’d found yourself.  That she’d have a kindred spirit in you.  It might even by why she balked at the end.  Seeing you, realizing she’d built herself off of a lie, compromising too much with her agent.  In that decisive moment, she did something honest.  Maybe you inspired that.

Was I honest?

Were you honest enough to inspire that?” the woman asked, echoing my thoughts.  “It’s… probably the most important question I’m going to ask you tonight.

I’d started my career on a lie, an undercover operation.  I’d ended it by betraying what I stood for.

I think you have the capacity to answer,” she said.  “You’re more lucid than you were.

“Talking… talking helps.”

That’s part of why I’m asking, Taylor Hebert.  Weaver, Skitter, Khepri, I’m thinking you’re not totally gone.  Glaistig Uaine told you to hold on to an anchor.  The other ones, the little ones?  They might have gotten you through the events, given you the strength from moment to moment.  But you had something bigger.  Something more fundamental, which was there before the battle even began.

I knew she was right, but-

Were you really a monster in the end?  A warlord, an alien administrator?  A vicious killer with a cruel streak, mutilating your enemies and secretly enjoying it?  A bully, if you forgive me for using that word?

I looked down at my hand.

Or were you really a hero?  Do the good intentions win out?  Was it Glaistig Uaine’s strength or yours, that held her back from saving Scion in those final moments?

“Why… does it matter?”

Because I think you have a chance to come back from this.  Not much of a chance.  Part of that rides on me.  I could help you, or I could stop you from troubling anyone ever again.  Part of that?  It’s up to you to win the fight, to take control and keep the administrator from claiming everything you have, leaving you a shell.

I felt a chill.  Was part of it my passenger?  Both of us?

I opened my mouth to reply, and I couldn’t.

Didn’t deserve to, either way.

It’s okay.  I got the answer, myself.

I looked away.

I looked up.  My eyes were wet.

So many stars.  The universe so vast.

We’re s- so very small, in the end. 

The first bullet hit me from behind, where my mask offered no coverage, and I slowly toppled.  The second hit me before I could fall, before there could be any pain.

Last Chapter                                                                                               Next Chapter

1,107 thoughts on “Speck 30.7

  1. So, last official chapter. Six chapters to follow, five of which are epilogue chapters paid for by readers.

    This is your opportunity, donators, to chime in on who you want to see. I already have some in mind, but I’m open to suggestions, and your status as a donator is definitely a factor. Before or after the cut-off.

    Holy crap, it’s been a journey. I’d say more, but I’m exhausted on a number of levels. Least of which was writing this all day while distracted by family (people I was house-sitting for got back). I can’t express enough thanks for the fact that you guys have followed along, or that you’ve supported me along the way. I mean that sincerely – there are no words that do it justice. I’ll try again when I’m conscious.

    I’ll see you guys on Saturday (traveling back home between now and then, so Thursday isn’t in the cards. Very sorry).

    • Thank you. All I can say right now is thank you. I’m not sure I donated to the chapters that made it all the way to the end, but I’d like to see an interlude from Oliver’s perspective.

    • “Six chapters to follow, five of which are epilogue chapters” and the last being what, exactly?

      I’d like to see the woman from the universe who had Alexandria-like powers.

          • See, that was my first thought and the reason I originally thought Speck wouldn’t get an interlude because “It’s the end of the story. The beginning of the story didn’t have an interlude, why should the end of the story?”

      • The full sentence was “Six chapters to follow, five of which are epilogue chapters paid for by readers.” I’m assuming that the sixth one is an epilogue chapter that he was going to do anyway. I’ll see (and you presumably already have seen by now. :)).

        • He was put out of harms way for a good bit of that end, yeah. But Taylor, even as she started losing it, didn’t rope him back in when she could have. I’d be kind of interested in what’s going through his head. Especially since the Grue from the beginning would never have backed out of this fight.

          • Grue from the beginning was a master of backing out of fights. That’s how the Undersiders survived for a full year before Taylor came along; appearing out of nowhere, never fighting a battle they weren’t confident of winning, and then disappearing before anybody could react or get much of an impression of their tactics or powers. Skitter changed that, by opting for the direct confrontation with the Wards during the bank job and then leading them into (and to victory in) increasingly dangerus and high-profile engagements.

          • No, I was referencing the trope (google “put on a bus tv tropes”). Wildbow pretty much dropped him after Behemoth, and as speculation goes, I figure it was because he wanted to stop shipping Brian and Taylor, so he made Brian disappear.

            • I hated how Wildbow killed Grue off. I can’t and won’t say I can understand the trauma of being sliced opened and all my stuff taken out and wrapped around and then seeing my sister and my girlfriend being taken apart and sliced open too. But really man? Wildbow gave Grue a sorry ass excuse and killed him off. Grue lacked everything and unable to do anything. I am inclined to say that Grue did so poorly in the events afterwards not because he actually had a trauma that affected him. It was more like Wildbow forced a plot on him that he couldn’t do anything about.

              You know how sometimes certain plot must take place even though they make little sense if you think about it? Yeah, Grue’s fate was like on of those. I’m not saying that’s the only one in the series – there were a ton – but that’s one that ticked me off the most.

              • Grue’s not dead, he just retired to spend what looked like the end of the world with his wife.

                Personally I don’t have a problem with him fading from the narrative. This is Taylor’s story and Grue ceased to be important to Taylor’s story.

    • I have a huge list of interludes I would love to see. They include glaistig uaine, Moord nag, shen wu, sifara/phir se.

      For less serious ones, an uber/leet imterlude I imagine would be fun

    • Tattletale, Panacea, and Dinah. I think all three deserve it. I don’t know that you can’t re-use a previous interlude personality either. But I desperately would like to see how these characters have responded to it all. Following them Riley and Dragon.

          • Bonesaw has brought the dead back several times before, so its always possible.

            I wonder if she would still have her current problem, or if rebuilding her head would fix her back to her old power set?

            • I’m pretty sure Contessa will take precautions to stop that.
              Contessa did shoot Taylor, right?
              The confusion in these last few chapters is annoying, but that’s probably intended.

              • I thought that it was Tattletale and not Contessa. Any particular reason to think otherwise?

              • Because the woman is wearing the same clothes Co Tessa has been wearing throughout the story.

                Because Taylor remembers meeting this woman before and losing to her. Badly.

                Because the last time Tattletale tried to communicate with Taylor she was having extreme difficulties and had to rely on Bitch to express the most basic messages. Whereas we have seen Contessa bypass the language barrier before with Dr Mother.

                Because Taylor accuses her of having seen her working with Teacher.

                Because the woman admits she also made the mistake of focusing solely on the big picture. And now wants to do things without “help”.

                Oh and because Tattletale would have ever been capable of shooting Taylor. not Ina million years.

    • Any part of the final battle from Tattletale’s perspective would be an amazing interlude. There were a lot of points where it felt like there must be incredible things going on in the background as the un-controlled capes struggled to formulate a strategy to fight Scion and deal with everything Taylor was doing.

    • Yeah, it’s been a journey.

      Thanks a lot, Wildbow. You’ve done a great job.

      Web serials are going to be bigger, in the future. Maybe not huge, but bigger than they are now. And I’m pretty certain that you’ll be seen as one of the pioneers of the medium.

      Because reading this makes me want to try my hand at the web fiction business. I can’t be the only one.

      Stuff I want to see in the epilogues…

      -The deal with that glass tube gun that the Simurgh made.

      -Confirmation or contradiction of the Eidolon-made-the-Endbringers theory. If Eidolon has enough brian left in his current state, maybe another Eidolon interlude to clear things up a bit.

      -The Nix/Nyx story.

      -Some resolution for the couples of the story. It would make me happy to know that Dragon/Defiant, Sabah/Lily, and Weld/Sveta all end well. Though that last one might not be a romantic couple, it’s not totally clear, I still hope they end up happy and together.

      -A Legend interlude.

      -An interlude from the perspective of someone who had nothing to do with Taylor. Like a random Indonesian bank teller, to give us the ant’s-eye-view of the apocalypse.

      -A Tecton interlude.

      -The story behind the mugger worm.

      -A Vista interlude.

      I don’t expect to get much of that, honestly, but there’s no harm in asking. If you want me to pick one thing, I pick the tube. If that’s a secret, either Legend or Dragon please.

      And yes, I’m donating. Right now, in fact.

      • Nyx/Nix would be the sort of thing that, if the next story didn’t have interludes, I’d do as a worm mini-story as a donation incentive. So I’d write story 2 and have worm mini-chapters as incentives for you guys, available every once in a while.

      • Scion confirmed that Eidolon made the Endbringers (“You needed worthy opponents”).

        Eidolon realizing he made the Endbringers is what broke his will when Scion said the words to him. That sentence was utterly mundane and something that Eidolon already knew if it just meant that he should have found worthier opponents to fight so he would be stronger now (and so able to fight Scion). Eidolon already knew that and talked about it in the Echinda fight – it wouldn’t have bothered him then. What really rocked him was the guilt because he realized how much destruction he caused.

        • I agree with this too but, as others have pointed out, Scion’s power gave him the words he needed to say to break Eidolon. They didn’t necessarily need to be *true* so long as they rang true to Eidolon…

    • Got a couple of ideas. Approaching dangerous levels of sleep deprivation, so apologies if this is brief, slightly rude, or incoherent.

      I’d like to see a long time in the future epilogue, or with this whole battle in a textbook with Taylor talked about, or both at the same time. Something I’m curious about is the rank threat Taylor was: s or a . Or maybe something from a civilian?

      If we could hear something from Riley, that would be nice. Or GG. Maybe panacea can take advantage of the confusion to heal her.

      I forget, is legend still alive? Something from him or the PRT, maybe.

      And it might have more, but I must sleep.

      • I like the idea of a history textbook talking about “The Scion War”, or whatever it eventually gets called. Maybe two of them, one about Taylor Herbert, the hero who united everyone to fight against the evil extra-dimensional beast, and another about Skitter, the villain who acquired the power to control others and used that to entrap most of humanity and take down her foes.

          • Thirded – Textbook from the future would be awesome! Perhaps it’s required reading for PRT recruits and a younger hero is reading it.

              • it would also be interesting to see what happens to powers. They were all dead chunks of alien (I think) that ‘landed’ in people. So, do new people keep getting powers? Does anyone wind up with Scion powers now that he isn’t intact anymore? Does anyone else look into this fusion trick that Taylor pulled at the end?

            • Something I’ve wondered about, does humanity have superpowers in a hundred years?

              I mean, all the parahumans of this storyline are probably dead by then, excepting a precious few, the Garden of Eden is dead, Scion is dead, so where do the power giving shards come from?

              Contessa’s intrerlude also quite specifically stated that all the formulas were broken, and were mostly irretrievable.

              A few hundred years to the future, parahumans are a legend, Scion a storied monster, Taylor (Khepri?) his human equivalent who killed him, and waits in the shadows for naughty children.

              It’s hard to imagine that anybody will remember Taylor as a hero, at least not in her final form.

              By the way, fantastic story wildbow, it ranks an easy 2nd place in the ‘stories I’ve waited for’ category, second only to the Wheel of Time, which I’m afraid beats your 1 year by another 14.

              It’s been fun

              • Not all shards Scion discarded have found their hosts yet. Remember, Imp’s shard was actually one of the first he dropped. There weird time effects going around. Considering the cycle was supposed to last 300 years, things are going to be interesting for a quite a will, still. And this isn’t taking in consideration the shards reproducing and the phenomenon of “second/third generation” parahuman.

              • Yeah, we should keep seeing new shards for as long as the Entities planned on occupying Earth before blowing it up, because all the shards that were going to be distributed were shed before Zion took the form of a golden man and then scattered across the timeline. There won’t be any new shards from Eden, but last chapter did mention parts of Zion’s corpse falling through, so there’s a good chance somebody could harvest from him now. There are two questions in my mind on the subject: will enough of the population be powered by the time shards stop raining down for it to be a permanent thing rather than dying out, and is there a limit on shard reproductions? The Heartbroken prove that one original shard can create a large number of child shards, and Theo proves that the third generation exists, but is it limited there (or at the fourth, or fifth…) or is it endless? If there isn’t a hard limit to reproduction and capes don’t die disproportionately early, well, 30 years saw about one in a million people triggering. 300 years could see most of humanity at least having the potential to do so.

            • Egyptian god of the Scarab. The scarab beetle rolling balls of dung is conceptually connected to the passage of the sun across the sky, and their young emerge fully formed, so He carries connotations of sunrise, rebirth, and creation (particularly the mythical creation of the world). Not a bad moniker for the little bug girl who became a god and gave humanity a fresh start by murdering the apocalypse.

    • This was sad and very poignant, good job. I’m depressed but not surprised at the idea of Taylor dying, though I do admit it’s possible she could have lived. Since you are planning a sequel, maybe we’ll see her again someday, as a hero or as the new big bag. The worm does turn, after all.
      If you’re taking Interlude suggestions: Dragon and Defiant, I really want to see them safe and happy together.

    • There are a lot of people I would love to see an epilogue POV from.
      However, I would mostly prefer whoever you can write the best story with.
      That said, I’m hoping to learn what it was like being under Khepri’s control.

      • ^This.

        I think the best stories are the ones you feel the most inspired to write. There’s so many characters that I’d love to see more of, but at the same time I can’t help but remember all the interludes for all of the characters that I had zero interest in at the beginning and wound up fascinated by at the end.

    • Glaistig, Tattletale, Bitch, Dinah, or Canary would be my votes for a bonus interlude.

      as for the simurgh air gun? it is my head!canon that it was an Endbringer-powered vuvuzela to tip Scion that much closer to the edge.

    • Five epilogues… okay…

      We definitely need to see the Undersiders again, and I very much want to know what happens with Grue and Cozen, but maybe not from their perspective. Probably best from Tattletale’s? Bitch probably wouldn’t work, Imp might.

      The rebuilding and the Protectorate, preferably from Miss Militia’s eyes. Or maybe Theo’s?

      Marquis, Panacea, Lung, GG, and Bonesaw. Preferably from Bonesaw’s view.

      All the ships: Parian/Foil, Weld/Sveta, etc. This can be the one from Theo’s pov I guess.

      Dragon/Defiant, and the destruction of Teacher and Saint.

      As for the final ‘interlude’, if that’s what it is? Who hasn’t done an interlude yet, who’s very relevant to events in the near future, who still has at least one unfired Chekhov? I very much vote for a Simurgh chapter, with the remaining Endbringers and the bell jar of Damocles and quite possibly what’s left of Taylor.

    • Thank you for this amazing story. Really.

      As for epilogues : Glaistig, dragon and Defiant, marquis and lung, Chevalier ,the Undersiders. These are the ones I’m interested.

    • I kind of want to see Number Man, Harbinger’s perspective. He left Slaughterhouse 9 to pursue something greater; where exactly is he now? His goal, snatched away from him and completed with little help on his part; how must it feel?

      • Oh right. Another character I’d love to see.

        This is your fault, wildbow, for having a gigantic cast full of interesting characters. Even the apocalypse could only shorten it a little.

    • Thank you so very much. Worm is the best work of Fiction I read in all this years.

      But the trolling at the end? Why? WHHYYYYYYYYY?

      Taylor deserves better than an “You still got a chance … but *bamm* lol, no.”

      This is the point i really hate.

          • We know Taylor felt herself getting shot. We know Contessa reached a decision. Everything is written so as to imply Taylor’s death without confirming it one way or the other. This, I suppose, will be the work of the 6th remaining chapter. Counting Taylor as something of a Schrodinger’s Protagonist until then.

            • I suppose if anyone could pull off brain surgery with a revolver it’d be Contessa.

              Also, sorry to not show due respect to the poignant moment, but I’m laughin my ass off at the idea of the two of the looking at eachother and going, “Mhhrh!”
              “Uggoooe.
              “Erg arg.”

              Or however it would sound to an outside observer.

              Bravo.

              • Absolutely not. Voice overs would be a violation of my rights. I am ENTITLED to my subtitled inchoerent grunts.

              • Actually I’m not a fan of anime. I believe I’ve even embarassed myself by not getting an Evangelion reference in the chapter with Eden’s reveal.

                And since I know nothing about the genre: are shounen anime a bad thing? :) .

              • Nope – shounen is basically “boys anime”, things like Dragon Ball Z.

                Anime is too broad to paint with any single brush – it’d be like saying something about “film” and having it apply to all live action releases from Hollywood ever.

                That said, if you’re looking for incoherent grunting with subtitles, animes like Dragon Ball Z and many of it’s “grunt and power up” relatives will definitely see to your needs.

          • Taylor was too far gone. There was no conceivable way to save her at this point that wouldn’t have felt like an author’s saving throw.

            Of course, Wildbow has repeatedly come up with completely plausible twists and escapes that I never would’ve conceived of. So who knows…?

      • I thought Contessa offered her a chance and Taylor decided intentionally to remain silent and get shot. She’s even thinking about how she doesn’t deserve a chance while she’s deliberately not answering.

        So, respecting her choice, Contessa fires.

        • It’s very possible that Contessas’s power provided her answer if Taylor does have a chance.

          Q: “How do I find out if Taylor can be saved/redeemed?” → Execute plan.

    • Epilogue suggestions:

      – Glastig Uaine, for someone with such a seemingly pivotal role, is extremely difficult to understand. She wanted the cycle to continue, but saw Taylor as someone similar to her, warped by her agent? Was there a struggle playing out behind her eyes all throughout the denouement? I feel I don’t fully comprehend her nature or motivations, which makes her a good epilogue choice.

      – Defiant/Dragon’s story needs some resolution, no matter the perspective. I wouldn’t mind seeing that through Teacher’s eyes, either; yet another person with ambiguous motives.

      – The Woman in Blue. She’s an intriguing character and provides a fresh perspective on things, in addition to showing the negative repercussions of Taylor’s actions (mass homelessness, possibility of interdimensional wars, etc…)

      – Contessa. If I liked her in the recent interlude, I grew doubly fond of her at the end of this. She tried to give Taylor hope, but wound up having to settle for peace. She grew as a person, if the conversation they have is any indication; the world is in good hands.

      – An Undersider. I don’t care which, but I want to see Imp, Grue, Tattletale, and Bitch toasting their former leader’s memory in a remote cabin somewhere. No responsibilities, no mission, just four accomplices honoring the fallen.

    • Umh… I’m not really 100% sure about what I have read. So I’ll shut up and wait for the epilogue(s) before commenting on “the end” and how I feel about how you handled things.

      An epilogue IS necessary after all. A story narrated from a single point of view becomes very difficult to tell after that POV becomes unable to understand dialogue or expressions.

    • What I find essential to see (aka the not knowing will really bum me out category):
      The ships! Panacea/Sveta/Parian/Dragon either from their point of view or at least touched upon.
      Tattletale/Simurgh
      Who expect to be really interesting:
      Contessa, Ulaine to see their character growth in action
      How the PRT is gonna get reorganized so Deviant/ Miss Milita/ Vista/ Chevalier (though I don’t expect a good end for Chevalier)
      Saint & Teacher, for Contessa to deliver the perfect kick to the balls.
      Mord Naag, as an unstable element or any other of the guys no one is comfortable with having in the same dimension.
      Some pure normal view on it / news / history book.

      Ah and congratz, the ending was fitting but not very enjoyable :’)

      • Generally agree, though I don’t see how she could have functioned without being “fixed” to some degree. Plus, she’s a little too dangerous for the others to be ok with her living. Still, F— Contessa. I want an interlude where someone kills her SPECIFICLY because she killed Taylor. Oh, and Teacher needs to die also.

        • no. Countess Should; be killed because she is, at BEST, a borderline sociopath with a power that’s PERFECT for manipulation. hey path to victory could be used to, say, tell her how to kill everyone else who’s a possible threat to her, or how to flawlessly take over and puppet whatever government or replacement for the PRC arrives. buy the same logic for killing Taylor, she’s too dangerous to let live. i can think of SO many terrifying uses for Prescience that isnt being hindered by a block.

          • That’s the thing though. Everyone who would be threatened by her wouldn’t be able to kill her, and anyone who would be able to kill her (Simurgh), doesn’t need to.

            • Well, if she had real class, when she fired two shots one shot would have been for Taylor and one for her.

              Sadly, I don’t think she does.

    • -Undersiders: definitely from Foil/Flechette/Fang/Godslayer.

      -Faultline’s crew: Shamrock’s perspective.

      -Chicago Wards: Cuff’s perspective

      -Dragon’s Teeth: The (Competent!) PRT Officer

      -The Protectorate: Ingénue’s perspective could be amusing or horrifying as she corrupts Chevalier

    • Maybe something like the interlude after Taylor was unmasked. Y’know, something where we get multiple viewpoints at once on a subject? Maybe for the final battle or its aftermath.

      • Ths is what I wanna see. Gonna gointoa bit of a rambly detail section here…

        Maybe… Tattletale, going around from person to person, getting their thoughts and insights on the final battle, putting together a sort of home movie (or book considering lack of tech in general, though tinkers should be able to resolve that soon enough) as a tribute to her best friend. Something from which we get to see a little bit from everyone and anyone that would deign comment- Some angry, full of vitriol because of her controlling them; others calmer, accepting that it needed to be done- The greater good outweighed their sacrifice. Others still not caring about the control, but weeping for the dead- lost lovers, kin, and friends; Yet others lauding her actions, perhaps even disappointed that it just ended there- Mostly that viewpoint would be from the thrill-seekers, and I doubt there’s many of them left. The story from those who knew her best after she left the Undersiders; How they’ve changed. Perhaps drawn out over the course of years, as she tracks down each of the people involved, so the passage of time can lessen some blows, sharpen others. Culminate with a final scene where she then presents her writings/recordings to Taylor, one way or another.

    • I feel bad for not remembering, but did Jack ever get the axe? If not… then it might be interesting to see how what he thinks of his ultimate gambit (kind of) failing.

      • He’s trapped in a permanent time loop by Gray Boy. He’s still sentient, but unable to speak more than a couple syllables at a time and in almost constant pain (he has a “pain-off” switch, that takes a moment to activate, each time the loop resets). However, Scion’s attack could easily have killed him, Khonsu might be enlisted to execute him, or the landscape could have shifted to make him inaccessible in the wake of Scion’s attack.

    • For elaboration on what was going on/their reactions to what Taylor did: Tattletale, Bitch, Imp, Dinah

      Characters whose futures I am curious about: Glaistig Uaine, Contessa, Chevalier, Legend, Vista

      Secondary characters dealing with the aftermath: Panacea (and Glory Girl?), the remaining Travellers, Riley, Dragon&Defiant, Marquis, Weld, Sveta.

      That took me ages to narrow down. I blame your large cast of compelling secondary characters.

    • My thanks and the beginnings of my thoughts are in posts farther down. I’m expecting it’ll take a while to process this but overall, I think you deserve a heap of praise.

      That said, I’m going to vote for an epilogue focused on the Paranet…cause, you know, why should us readers be the only ones who have to suffer! {insert evil laugh here}

    • Impressive.

      You managed to build up Taylor, make (most of) us love her and hope for her.

      You dangled a chance, if an infinitesimal one, for her to be saved from this horror.

      And then Contessa shot her.

      …I can’t think of a more tragic way to finish off the story. Finally, a state where things cannot get worse for Taylor.

      • I can think of a more tragic way to finish the story: Taylor enforces peace between men the only way she can now. Even without Doormaker, I’m sure she’d find a way to extend her range: grab a power-booster Cape, a tinker who can do it or grab Panacea and have her tweak the relay bugs to work with Taylor’s new abilities.

        Then the Queen Administrator extends her reach, creating peace across the worlds at the trifling cost of free will for all humanity.

        She came within a hair’s breadth of pursuing that path this chapter.

        A swift death by bullet is one of the kinder ends Taylor could’ve received at this point.

        • While possible, I don’t think that’s plausible. Taylor wasn’t that type, and the thing she turned into seemed to be driven more to beat Scion than anything else. As things progressed, she (it?) seemed more and more focused on that goal, less and less able to focus on anything else. She lashed out at the others more out of self-preservation than anything. While the right push might have driven her into overlord mode, I doubt it.

          • It very almost *happened* this chapter.

            I quote:
            “I needed to escape, I needed time and resources to analyze what I was up against, frame it all. I’d stabilized, I’d stopped degrading, now I could start building- rebuilding my knowledge base. Put everything into a context that I could grasp, with my mind working in a different way, with different priorities.

            Then I could take control. Then I could eliminate the problematic elements.

            Then everything would be peaceful.”

            Taylor had reached a stage where her passenger was in control and she could no longer tell friend from foe or violence from celebration. She was barely able to nudge it occasionally.

            Had things gone ever so slightly differently we would be well on our way to “Weaver, queen of worlds” territory right now…

      • Tattletale I think would be depressing, same with grue or her dad. but Imp and Contessa could be cathartic if it had one not being aware of the other.

        Otherwise, failing either that or a monument, speech, or epitaph that adequately summarizes Taylor’s life, a Khepri 3rd person narrative would be interesting.

    • I wouldn’t mind seeing what happened to the remaining Ambassadors (particularly Citrine). Maybe as part of someone else’s chapter?

    • GU (of course), Oliver, Narwhal, Phir Se, Blue!Alexandria, Citrine, Cozen, Moord Nag, and/or Bastard.

      Congratulations, man. You wrote your first ending.
      *faux toasts* Here’s to many more. This was definitely worth the ride.

    • First off, THANK YOU, for writing this amazing work.
      Second, who would I like to see…
      Tattletales perspective on the last fight. This could also include Imps tales of how she kept Taylor company right to the end of the battle.

      Lung / Marquis / Panacea, the birdcage in general.

      The un-powered (much reduced) masses. How does the general public see her? How do all of her people from Brocton Bay see her sacrifice?

      Defiant jailbreaking Dragon and the two of them putting a beatdown on Teacher and Saint.

      The Protectorates view. Particularly Miss Militias perspective.

      If Taylor is truely dead, there HAS to be a memorial scene in one of the closing chapters.

      Viewpoints from the woman in blue and others who got hijacked for the final battle. This could be done in a manner similar to the ‘Legion of Doom’ style meetings that Cauldron held, in order to get them all in.

    • “On the other-fiction-to-keep-you-reading side, I am currently beginning to read the online original story Worm, and it’s looking promising.” -Eliezer Yudkowsky hpmor author is reading your work.

  2. The journey’s finally done. I’m left with mixed feelings, but this has undoubtedly been one of the most entertaining pieces of fiction I’ve ever read. I’ve enjoyed it immensely.

    • “The members of my swarm followed, flying around any barriers I erected. A man in blue and white who zig-zagged around anything I put up. A regal woman in blue.”

      This makes it seem as if Legend and the unnamed Lady from the other parallel are part of her swarm.

    • I stared down at my hand. They were shaking, but it wasn’t from fear.

      I realize that Taylor only has one actual hand at this point, but it still sounds weird to have a plural pronoun (they) refer to a singular noun (hand) like that.

      Unless I’m entirely misunderstanding it, maybe something like this would be better:

      I stared down at my hand. My arms where shaking, but it wasn’t from the fear.
      ?

    • “ranked up there as far as fates worse than death.” – ‘far as’ should probably be removed. Or something rephrased.

  3. Genuinely not the ending I expected.

    Powerful, though.

    Epilogues – primarily interested in the ones where you’ve a good story to tell.

    Do believe that you can satisfactorily address the fan desires (my own included) to see favorite characters with a reference, a scene, even a well-placed cameo.

    Please focus on the stories that not only tie off old threads but hint at struggles and questions to come, for this is the end of a story.

        • I’m more interested in Saint having his computer shined up real nice, turned sideways, and shoved straight up his candy ass, stomped a mudhole in and walked dry, tombstone piledriven straight to hell, had a catheter repeatedly stuck in and pulled out, given an orange juice enema, fed high protein cupcakes with laxative cream on top, beaten in the head with a shoe, recircumcised, had his nipples scraped off with sandpaper, dragged through mud, hit with carrots, had a rabid badger tossed in his pants, tarred, feathered, drawn, quartered, had his tongue ripped out, shot, and then had his tongue shot, and trimmed that scraggly beard.

            • Nothing he’s done so far has wiped away or made up for what he did to Dragon. Who is still under Teacher’s control. Who still has a plan.

              But yes, I was the one who kept a killcount going during those chapters with the Slaughterhouse 9.

            • Oops, wait, I didn’t use the very latest version.

              Saints glued in a female gorilla suit and tossed into a troop of males, covered in birdseed and dropped in an ostrich exhibit, had Tokay geckos tied to his ears, had his computer shined up real nice, turned sideways, and shoved straight up his candy ass, stomped a mudhole in and walked dry, tombstone piledriven straight to hell, had a catheter repeatedly stuck in and pulled out, given an orange juice enema, fed high protein cupcakes with laxative cream on top, beaten in the head with a shoe, recircumcised, had his nipples scraped with sandpaper, dragged through mud, hit with carrots, had a rabid badger tossed in his pants, tarred, feathered, drawn, quartered, had his tongue ripped out, shot, and then had his tongue shot, and trimmed that scraggly beard: 0

              Here’s hopin’

            • Argh! Wait, that’s still not the most recent version I had. Here, at these to the top of that list:

              punched in the ovaries, made to be a smelly pirate hooker on whore island, been told that jazz flute is for little sissy boys,

              • So, in totality…

                You want Saint punched in the ovaries, made to be a smelly pirate hooker on whore island, been told that jazz flute is for little sissy boys, glued in a female gorilla suit and tossed into a troop of males, covered in birdseed and dropped in an ostrich exhibit, had Tokay geckos tied to his ears, had his computer shined up real nice, turned sideways, and shoved straight up his candy ass, stomped a mudhole in and walked dry, beating up Psycho Gecko, tombstone piledriven straight to hell, had a catheter repeatedly stuck in and pulled out, given an orange juice enema, fed high protein cupcakes with laxative cream on top, beaten in the head with a shoe, recircumcised, had his nipples scraped with sandpaper, dragged through mud, hit with carrots, had a rabid badger tossed in his pants, tarred, feathered, drawn, quartered, had his tongue ripped out, shot, and then had his tongue shot, and trimmed that scraggly beard.

                What do you want for Teacher?

              • Remove the part that says “beating up Psycho Gecko”. It’s far too unrealistic, and you’ll not catch me as easily as they caught Nostalgia Critic Bison.

  4. Khepri: scarab god of the sun. Just noting. Contessa, the final observer. I don’t think Taylor is dead. Getting shot by Contessa doesn’t mean anything. In fact, I’d say that since she survived the first shot, death is not the goal. But… Wow. Just… Wow.

      • Seconded! I was thinking the trolliest thing Wildbow could have done was ending it several lines earlier. Now, either Wildbow found a really subtle way to do exactly that, or we’re overthinking it, which is just as bad. :(

        A minute ago, I was depressed. Now I’m depressed, confused and freaked out!

    • 1- induce braindeath coma through applied bullets to disable the passenger’s link (and the power).
      2- give free range to Panacea and Riley.
      3- ????
      4- profit !

      • >Brain surgery with a bullet. Powers exist in a part of the brain. Interesting possibility.<

        If only I dared to hope. Maybe while she's dying and unifluenced by the Administrator Shard, Dragon swoops in and transfers her mind to a new robot body free of the shards influence? No we won't be so lucky.

        • Contessa said that she’d decided. She never said how. There’s a degree of intentional ambiguity here meant to either tease at Taylor’s survival or set the groundwork for it. I’m guessing we’ll see more in epilogue 6.

        • The Contessa saw Taylor’s reaction, said she’d come to a decision, and fired twice.

          Possible decisions:
          The Administrator would have done anything to survive and regain control, so any answer other than that indicates Taylor is in control.
          Taylor cannot speak, meaning her mind is slipping away again.
          Taylor believes she deserves death and it should be granted to her.
          Taylor believes she deserves death for what she did, meaning that she’s still a good person and regrets all the horrible things she’s done, so she deserves to live.

          Possible actions:
          Contessa kills Taylor, and double-taps because you do not take any fucking chances with a Class S+ threat.
          Contessa kills Taylor, and fires twice because she wants it to be herself rather than her Shard which pulls the trigger.
          Contessa disables Taylor’s power with a pair of bullets, and Panacea/Bonesaw is waiting just out of sight because the path to victory said that if they were visible the Administrator would have tried to take them over as a way out.

          Of these, the ones where Taylor dies seem most likely. She *feels* dead. This chapter *feels* final. But back in the first S9 arc, it often *felt* like things couldn’t get worse. When Perdition was sold to Accord, it *felt* like his story was over. So I don’t trust my feelings on the subject, and even if it’s just unreasonable optimism I’m going to keep up hope until next time.

          • >>Contessa kills Taylor, and fires twice because she wants it to be herself rather than her Shard which pulls the trigger.<<

            I like this one.

    • I’m not going to comment on the whole Taylor dead-or-alive thing, but I’d like to make a note on Contessa’s last line, “It’s okay. I got the answer, myself.“
      What question was she asking?
      iirc, Contessa’s power only works for questions in the form of “How do I accomplish [blank]“. She’s clearly had a lot of practice since her interlude, but I doubt she could use that to come up with an answer to the questions she was asking [are you a villain or a hero? can you come back?], directly at least, and I don’t know how fantastic her deductive skills are, considering Cauldron was her answer to another question she had to answer herself, how do I kill Scion?
      Figuring out what that question was could go a long way toward explaining what just happened.

  5. … Wow.

    On the one hand, the ending is … fitting. On the other hand, Contessa has no right to be the one to pull the trigger. None. She should be up against the wall of the revolution too. If anyone deserved to hold that gun, it was Theo.

    But the world ain’t fair. So it goes.

      • Or Contessa is using her power to figure out how to disable Taylor’s power without killing her. I could definitely see her doing something like putting a bullet through the parts of her brain that control her power.

            • I only caught up at the beginning of Arc 29, so I’m not included in this bad prediction history.

              Personally, I think I’ve been pretty good with predicting surprises.

              A large number of people are predicting a fake death. I think that that would cheapen the value of the story if it comes before the sequel.

              • A great many people are hoping for a fake death. But all that really matters is whether such a plot device would be optimal, and whether it could be done tastefully.

              • There’s death as in “followed by rigor mortis” and then there’s death in the Tarot card sense of “great change”.

                It’s pretty clear that this was the “death” of Taylor, it just has enough ambiguity to leave some of us (ok ME!) hoping that it’s the latter sort of death rather than the former.

      • One bullet to sever/destroy the part of the brain that connects them to the passenger, one bullet to sever her spinal cord. Powerless, paralyzed, safe to bring back to the world for trial and healing. Seems almost too cheerful for the story, though.

        • That’s what I was thinking, but perhaps I am hoping too much. I would be horribly disappointed if this is truly the end of Taylor in such a manner. I had mentioned a while back that I was worried about a cop-out ending, and that’s the sort of thing I fear in this case. It seems like there is a sickening trend in literature lately to have bad things happen for no good reason. I’ve heard this phenomenon called “misery porn”. I can’t say for sure what is going on in Wildbow’s head, but I know that several authors mistakenly think that all-consuming darkness automatically equals depth, but it usually is quite the opposite. Having a bad ending and protagonist death tends to sever any sort of development at that most critical juncture. We no longer get to see any sort of coherent thoughts from the protagonist regarding the aftermath of the crisis. We don’t get to see the effects their actions had on the characters they impacted. All we are seeing right now is a character that is easily as monstrous as Taylor get off scot free while leaving us with more questions. In my opinion, if this is how Taylor goes out, it ends up being a miserable, depressing anti-climax that really utterly fails to do justice to what this series built up to. I can’t speak for others, but I know that I would not read anything further in this universe if I knew that it could be another long, sad ride that ends up even more depressing.

          I still cling to hope, but thus far, it’s just been crushed at every step.

          • Except in this case, the end is very fitting for the character. And it’s being followed up by an epilogue so we can see what all the aftermath is. And I wouldn’t call being killed for becoming too dangerous as “getting off scot free”.

            I think you got a bit wrapped up in your own train of thought there for a minute.

            • Didn’t realize the ambiguity in my statement there. I was referring to Contessa getting away scot free. Wow, I screwed that up. And no, I really don’t think the ending is fitting. She started out in a sad, horrible place and ended in one just as bad, if not worse.

              • It is worse. It is the pit of a slope into misery that she has been descending through the whole story.

                How would you have ended it? How else could it have been ended? Any solution to Taylor’s problem would have come off as a Deus Ex Machina. Any ending with neither Taylor’s death nor her healing would have been unsatisfying…what would Taylor be doing in such a case?

              • How about Taylor having made peace with herself before her death? Maybe having found out the ultimate fate of her dad? Perhaps some closure or the ability to address her accusers? There’s tons of other things that could have been done outside of this “live happy”/”die sadly” binary. Many, many things could have been done to make it a lot less depressing, yet still preserved the ultimate outcome. It just strikes me as pointlessly sad.

              • Contessa mentioned Echidna, Glaistig Uaine, and the Ash Beast.
                Echidna’s final moments were filled with a self-assured feeling that she deserved to be allowed to kill – that the bad things were someone else’s fault.
                Glaistig Uaine as a monstrous force believed that she was doing nothing wrong by following her faerie plot.
                The Ash Beast… Uh, I’m not sure, didn’t get a lot of time.

                Taylor’s final (maybe not?) moments were filled with genuine guilt for all the things that she admits she did.

                Maybe.

            • How do you figure? Name a time in the story so far where Taylor has given up without some some greater purpose being served? Flat murder would be unsurprising… but giving up when she knows there is an out? Nothing about that fits at all.

    • Theo couldn’t understand her, and she couldn’t understand Theo. Only the path to victory could have breached that barrier.

  6. I… I…
    I can’t say anything. It’s just…
    Yeah. I never really thought it would come to this. I mean, logically, I knew that it had to. But… Taylor always managed to get out of sticky situations. But… she didn’t.

  7. Oh.

    I’d…i’d hoped that Taylor would get to live. But this isn’t that type of story, is it.

    At least Contessa is alive. With her, the worlds can be rebuilt. And Taylor either survived (if Contessa wants to kill you, she does it in one shot), or she had better get one hell of a monument.

    Thanks, wildbow.

  8. So ends Taylor Herbert. Villain, Warlord, Queen, Hero, Monster, and Savior. So sad that she doesn’t recognize them at all anymore, and is almost exactly like Echidna with the passenger in control. Still don’t think she died though. She saved the world and helped Contessa complete her life’s goal. I have a feeling that she still has use for her in this brave new world. I didn’t donate for an epilogue so my vote means little, but I am curious about Dragon/Defiant and what they do with Teacher/Saint. Then there is Dinah who put her on this path, and the Undersiders she left behind.
    PS
    Awesome story Wildbow. I was a lurker for a long time but I am sad too see Worm end. You became my favorite author a while back, so I will read anything you write in the future. Hopefully you will come back to the wormverse later down the line.

    • Taylor’s passenger *was* in control at that point. That’s why she was expecting an attack the whole time. Their positions had been reversed, and it was Taylor inside the mind.

      • Yes indeed. All those moments where she thinks about the passenger interfering — all those interferences were attempts to stand down. That was *Taylor* interfering. The thing doing the thinking, thinking about getting away so she could carry out her plan — that was the administrator shard, and the plan was probably the endgame plan bred into its crystalline bones by thousands of repetitions, the only when the administrator shard has anything to do: the grand pulling together of all shards, consumption of every living human, outmigration into space, union, and eventual destruction of every possible Earth for impetus. Of course that can’t happen — Eden is gone — but the administrator shard doesn’t know that! Its job isn’t memory, just as its job isn’t speech. Its job is large-scale unification for the endgame, and it’s going to do that job dammit.

  9. If anyone can perform brain surgery to remove a corona pollentia with a handgun, it’s Contessa.

    But maybe I’m just holding out for a miracle.

      • Not necessarily. The Corona Pollentia determines how the shard interacts with the person – both Bonesaw and Panacea could alter powers by manipulating it. Without it, Taylor may lose access to her powers, but I’m not sure it would leave her better off – to much of her brain was altered/damaged by her passenger and the changes made by Panacea.

        It could be something like: destroy the Corona Pollentia and the damaged portion of her brain, then get her to someone who grants regeneration so that they grow back in their “natural” state. This assumes the changes Panacea made were not on the genetic level, just in the organs themselves.

        A remote possibility, but stranger things have happened in Worm. “First step to fix her brain? Shoot her in the head.”

        • Panacea had said before her power directly alters their biology, all the way down to the genetic level. It’s why she’s afraid to do anything but heal with it, any changes she makes are permanent and true, there is no going back.

  10. Goodbye, Taylor Hebert.

    You mattered.

    It may not be much, but it’s more than most will ever get. And in the end, you left things better than they would have been without you.

    Suppose that’ll just have to be enough.

    It’s not time to say goodbye to Wildbow yet, though. Taylor’s story may have ended, but we’ve got a bit longer before our gracious author finally gets to put down his pen. I’ll save his farewell for when that time comes.

    • Thankfully, wildbow has said he will be segueing straight into further stories.

      If you’re talking about worm, then yes, THE END IS NIGH.

  11. Goddamn. Thank you, wildbow. This has been an amazing journey and I’m glad to have been here for it. I can’t wait to see what you come up with next. For now though, you deserve a good long rest.

  12. I kind of teared up by the part where she nearly killed Imp. The rest of the chapter didn’t make that go away, at all. And holy shit, I know its all part of the character but Taylor does not know the meaning taking a break, does she?

    On the bright(er) side, I’d like to see a Miss Militia epilogue. An non Undersider, but still Brockton Bay perspective of recent events could be good.

  13. And it is over. Thank you for such an amazing story. I have loved every minute of it.

    Anyone know what Taylor’s bully regrets were about? And what is her large anchor that isn’t quite strong enough, or she didn’t feel she was honest or deserving enough for?

      • No, Lisa was the replacement for the anchor. The sorta-like but not really.
        Taylor’s anchor was her humanity, it was the one she didn’t mention. her dad.

    • No. We saw Taylor’s Anchor. It was The Mission: the same thing that drove her all this time. All then things she did with the Undersiders? For her Mission to infiltrate and spy on them. All the things she did for/against Coil? For the Mission to rescue Dinah. The way she controlled Brockton Bay? a mission to revialize the city. It’s always been A Mission, a Goal, a Task that lead her on.

      And, even the Mission let her down in the end.

      • It would have had to be a specific Mission that was tied to her humanity like the rest of her anchors. Like saving humanity. Defeating Scion is what her passenger is doing as much as her.

  14. There aren’t really any words to do this justice. I’m sort of in shock. Definitely in awe. Hard to believe that Taylor came so far from when we first met her. It’s definitely worth de-lurking occasionally to say (as so many others have) that this story is incredible. Sometimes it’s heartbreaking and sometimes it’s hard not to stand up and just start cheering for these characters.

    Thank you.

  15. Thoughts reading the final paragraph:

    “No.”

    Yeah, that was pretty much it. I mean…what do you say to that? Though I think I should mention that I said earlier I still think danny survived, and in the same way, I’m keeping open the possibility Taylor survived. They’ve got panacea, I mean. No has to comment on the absurdity of this idea, as I know full well how ridiculous it is, but give me this.

    Wilidbow, I can never thank you enough for writing this. I’m planning on leaving a detailed review at the end of the epilogues, so I’ll wait until then to tell you exactly what I think of this story, and what it means to me.

    Looking forward to the epilogues, not so much knowing that every time I reread worm I will be overly melancholic.

  16. First things first. Thanks to Wildbow, for this amazing tale. These chapter was as powerful as one would expect it to. Taylor was unable to even recognize the cheering of the crowd after Scions death. Her shard had taken her over to such and extent that only the faintest idea of identity remained whitin her.

    Screw it! This ending is perfect for Worm but the fact that Taylor had to die like that, like some rabid dog, it just leaves a bad taste in the mouth.
    But hey, Contessa can probably do brain surgery with bullets, can’t she? 2 bullets seem excesive to kill someone when you have a power like Contessa’s.
    I don’t even know how can you wrap up a series and still make it feel like there’s mountains of untold stories yet to be unraveled.

  17. Damn…. I… Thank you Wildbow. Seriously, thank you. This was a beautiful story, brilliant, dark, and rich. Your writing has inspired me to take up my own again.

    It won’t be a candle compared to the bonfire you’ve built here.

  18. I hope Taylor did survive, but I’m not optimistic. Seeing her slowly recover, even if she loses her power in the process, would be nice. She’s sacrificed so much, it would be nice to give her a rest.

    But this isn’t that type of story, is it?

    Wildbow, you did an incredible job on this story. Well done.

  19. I’d also like to say that the first part reads like the passenger had almost completely usurped Taylor without her noticing it – the ‘autopilot’ that let the captives go, that tried to turn her attention to old friends… Either they swapped controls, or the passenger wanted Taylor to regain herself too.

    • I kind of like the idea that in the end, even her shard was more human than Taylor herself. Also, even with things over, I still don’t trust that gun the Simurgh had.

    • I’ve been thinking that the passenger has swapped controls for a while. She kept hearing a gentle voice- I think that’s Taylor, trying to talk. But the passenger has slowly swapped control. The passenger can’t understand language, and doesn’t really know how to function in a human. That’s why she was slowly losing human communication, and having it replaced by the passengers abilities. And Taylor was already getting unstable from the shock of controlling so much, which made it easier for the passenger to take control. The passenger just thought it was Taylor because it used Taylor’s memories to give it an identity.

      • Yeah I’d have to agree, my impression was that she didn’t realise that the agent had been in control for a while and that her ‘autopilot’ at the end was actually Taylor trying to break back through now that her mind wasn’t under as much stress.

        • Likewise. It looked very much like her shard had fully taken over. Taylor would be the one who would release people she could remember and care about.

          They got confused because of how closely they were working during the battle, both shard and human had identical goals and the human differences were being worn away by stress and damage. They had the same recent memories and experiences.

    • I think the fact she saw the crowd celebrating Scion’s death as them fighting each other to be a good sign of the passenger’s “everything is conflict” complete control.

  20. So just to make sure I understood all that.
    -Taylor sees everyone fighting. But it turns out she only thinks they’re fighting, because she sees through the eyes of her Passenger.
    -Glastig Uaine, free from Taylor’s control, talks her into letting go of the Clairvoyant.
    -Contessa talks with Taylor about letting her live, and shoots her.

    Did I miss anything.

    • yeah. …its hard to say but I think they were celebrating.
      And I think Taylor convinced Passenger to let Clairvoyant and the others go.

    • I read it as:
      -Passenger/Shard/Administrator sees everyone fighting. But it turns out she only thinks they’re fighting, because she is the Passenger.
      -GU tricked the Passenger/Shard/Administrator in letting the rest of her cape-swarm go.
      -Contessa talks with Passenger/Shard/Administrator about letting her live, and shoots her.

  21. Twas a long, dark, twisting incredibly awesome journey but all things must end. Still I’m not going to count Taylor amongst the dead until and unless at least one of the epilogues shows her funeral, along with the raising of a monument in her name worthy of her deeds. I’m thinking something along the lines of the Great Pyramid as a starting point, if they’re going to add an Egyptian god to her list of aliases she should have a tomb suitable for one. A last word from Tattletale’s perspective would be nice to see.

    • I don’t think so. Taylor wasn’t a Great-Pyramid type of person, and her death almost fit: small, quiet, simple. I think an abstract, simple monument would fit her better, like the Vietnam War Memorial in DC. The one with the black marble wall, set into a hill, with the names of those who fought etched into it. Something like that. Something memorable, but simple. Quiet.

        • Yeah, a Library. It’s what she would have wanted. I hope that Contessa takes her body back to the Undersiders, and doesn’t leave it there to rot. I can imagine we’d see Lisa genuinly break down crying, and Rachel give the Klingon death howl.

          • That would be one way to remove Contessa from the world. If she was in the same region as Bitch, after killing Taylor, if there was any hope of recovery? The path to victory only works if there is one, and there’s only so much that a baseline human with four bullets can conceivably do against a pack of mutant wolves.

              • She did that through perfect positioning, and redirecting the enemy’s ranged attacks into each other. One was burned, one had their airways blocked off entirely by hardened slime, etc. The only one she actually used the knife on was Labrinth, who has no ability to react to rapid threats at short range. That tactic doesn’t work on giant mutant dogs; they can put her in a situation where all the finesse and fast reactions and proper placement in the world don’t mean anything against the amount of brute force and ferocity supplied.

              • The harbinger clone who neutralised them simply by pushing their knees in the wrong direction. And the clones are watered version of the original who while awesome isn’t on Contessa’s level.

                And really, Contessa can just say the exact combination of words that will make the Undersiders back down from a fight. Or fall on their knees crying. Or commit suicide. Etc.

              • All Contessa has to do is get Tattletale to look at her, and TT will call the others off before falling on the ground crying and screaming fuck.

              • Yes, a large synchronized group of peak condition martial artists with high level thinker powers could beat a couple of dogs, given appropriate terrain. A single woman cannot beat dozens of them on their home turf no matter how perfect her tactics are.

                And the verbal path to victory requires there to be words that can be said which would make the target back down. With Eidolon, for example, Zion could say four words that reinforce every doubt he’d had, reveal the horror that is all indirectly his fault, and undermine his entire reason for fighting. With Khepri, there was nothing he could say to make Taylor back down, so even after five uses of his power he lost. I believe Bitch is likely going to be similar, disregarding any and all pretty words until after the cunt who murdered her friend is torn to pieces.

              • Contessa has one of the most unbalancing powers in Worm (and that’s saying something!) but she can only do the possible.

                Some of the stuff people are saying she could do, like kill the Undersiders with a word, aren’t possible because there *is no such word*.

                It really comes down to whether she can hurt the dog with martial arts, a gun, and perfect knowledge of its anatomy. Otherwise it’s stronger, tougher and faster and will wear her down.

      • Given the widespread destruction, billions of deaths, and need for resources to be used in healing injuries, making repairs and providing basics like food and shelter for the survivors, monumnet building would be awfully low on the list of priorities. Especially given the controversial nature of of the final victory (her passenger essentially using the other heroes as puppets, without consent).

        It would be something for years, if not decades later when civilization resumed and government was re-established.

        I vote she be buried next to her mother, with her dad, the undersiders, her neighborhood, and some few of the protectorate that knew her at the graveside.

        For an epitaph, I always like the one they used for Buffy Summers.

        • I’ve been thinking of Buffy’s epitaph too. :)

          The things you’re suggesting aren’t mutually exclusive. People need to rebuild anyway. So name a town or a building or something after Taylor. Hebert is a decent name for a town…

  22. It was always clear that this chapter was going to hurt, one way or the other. What surprised me was how hard it was to see Taylor reduced to little more than her passenger’s purpose. All control and conflict, and only a glimmer of who she really was.

    Maybe it’s wishful thinking to believe that at the end she was more herself than the administrator. But I have to think, would the administrator have been talking to Contessa like that? Would the planner and fighter and the schemer have been looking up and reflecting on who she was? Could the beast of conflict have ever believed that either way she deserved what was about to happen to her?

    We’ll see what the epilogues hold. We’ll see how this moment is viewed and maybe see what lies beyond it, either way though, Taylor Herbert will always be a hero to me.

    • To paraphrase The Dark Knight: “You either die a hero, or live long enough to see yourself become a monster.” Taylor died a hero, saving the world from one final monster.

      • The quote from the Dark Knight always struck me as a little odd. It’s kind of like saying “You either die during the day or live to see the night fall”. What exactly would the alternative be?

        “I lived as a hero and then died as an unremarkable nobody?” You’re still a hero then aren’t you? Or is there an expiration date on the value of saving someone’s life?

        I mean even if Batman lived to 100 and spent the last 60 years of his life as a retiree watching old movies, for what he’d done he’d still be a hero right?

        On a separate note, your last line did manage to choke me up a bit, so nicely played there. I’m not sure its actually true, but I’m a sucker for sentiment.

        • It’s how you are remembered. Are you remembered well, or badly? You could be someone who spent 20 years doing charity work, when you weren’t persuing your carreer as a firefighter. But if the last thing you do is shoot up a shopping mall, all anyone is ever going to remember is that.

          • Yeah, it’s just that the saying implies that longer life = you become a villain, but it’s a false implication. Plenty of people have “died as heroes” decades after their heroic acts (see: the vast majority of fire fighters for example).

  23. No. That… that just… that ain’t right. After all that… this is how she goes out? I was holding out for a bittersweet ending at least but this… this just leaves a bitter taste in my mouth. Taylor deserved better.

    Still and epic story, and I can’t thank Wildbow enough for writing it, but unless Taylor actually makes it out of this somehow (if anyone could do it, it’s Contessa), I’m going to be very very sad.

    • This is what fanfiction is for.
      This is all, in fact, the mostly strongly worded demand for fanfiction I have ever yet read.

      • I pretty much never write fan fiction with other people’s characters. When I write something in an established universe, I look for an unpainted corner somewhere to start doodling in.

        This morning though, on the way into work, a whole extra chapter started writing itself in my head. I’ll probably never put it to paper (or bytes as the case may be) since this is Wildbow’s story and we still have the epilogues to come. I just found it interesting that my brain would not let this story, or these characters go like that.

        It was kind of like having my own personal Contessa in the back of my mind taking where we were at and plotting out a “Path to Victory” towards the world that I’d like to see.

        • ME3, Garrus about Shepard. “They killed you one before and all it did was piss you off.” Just because a character is dead, it doesn’t necessarily stop them form eventually returning… but not in the sequel and if wB did do this it would be astounding in some way.

          Now trying to win on line lotteries…

        • Maybe not everybody, just Taylor, Alec, Danny, Dennis, David, Doctor Mother, Rime, Revel, Carlos, Cody, Judas, Brutus, Angelica, Annette, Atlas…

  24. Its seems like for the past couple of chapters that Passenger has been in control but it thinks its Taylor.
    And what the Passenger is calling “passenger” is actually Taylor.
    I don’t know if that makes this sadder or not.

    • I thought the same after re-reading this chapter. I think that last chapter Taylor was taken over by her shard, and she became the “passanger” in the body. Things feel so odd for her (it?) because shardss don’t have any other purpose other than conflict. The cheering was misinterpreted as fighting. Imp and Rachel felt “strange” because they were Taylors anchors. When the shard relinquishes control over to the passenger-Taylor she leaves the controlled people behind. In the end what Contessa killed was no longer Taylor but a shard that was viewing the world through Taylors body.

    • It also explains the communications problems escalating. The shard had taken over her in full since Panacea’s surgery, except TAYLOR was getting weaker as stress mounted, and could no longer ‘translate’ for the shard.

  25. Twas excellent all the way through. One of the few things I have ever seen/read that managed to keep a strong plot all the way through and avoid falling into any annoying retreads. Also one of the few works of fiction EVER that could consistently deliver plot twists that make perfect sense in context, but I couldn’t manage to predict before hand. It is my number 1 most highly recommended work. (and my friends should know just how many things I recommend to people.)
    I also tend to really dislike series endings, but this one sits very well with me.
    Wildbow, you are a fantastic porcine and have made me strongly consider going vegetarian if the animal kingdom has any other artists approaching half your caliber.

        • And I said “Rextum? Darn near kills em!” ah ha ha. *grabs one of those shepherd’s crook thingies and nods* “Rex.”

          Some joking aside, you rawhide, you showed up just in time for the end credits scenes and the inevitable stinger afterward where Bruce Campbell looks up at the screen and says “Groovy”. But fear not, I’m still taking up a seat to the very end. Mainly because I’m kinda stuck to it by various sticky substances that may range from soft drinks, low grade beaver tranquilizers, powdered sugar, butter from where people throw popcorn at me, and horse tranquilizers. Apparently some people…I’m looking at you regular commentators here…have tried to sedate me. Apparently they were trying to use the personal stash of some fellow named Ramone who had nothing to do and nowhere to go.

          I invite you to join us here, the rest of us with the sticky seats and the bottoms with bed sores and bullets with butterfly wings. To be fair, though, most people are stuck to the edges of their seats instead of the whole seat.

          As for disliking endings? Well, Stephen King had a bit of a theme during the Dark Tower series about how the true enjoyment is in the journey. Of course, that may be man’s natural enjoyment of the status quo, even if said status quo involves taking a high school girl with superpowers and turning her into…well, you saw.

          So go ahead, pull down a seat and let the others file out. It’s time to give credit where credit is due.

          Welcome, Rex, to the comments.

  26. Well, I’m terrified. Because we still have not seen that glass tube, just big enough to hold a person, concealed within the Simurgh’s last little gun.

    Given cloning tech and various thinker powers, it is possible that she or some facsimile thereof will return. More likely with Bonesaw and/or the Simurgh taking a hand in it.
    Meanwhile the first bullet didn’t so much as render her unconscious, leaving the possibility of the Contessa working her magic to deal a very specific variety of brain damage without killing the subject, but that seems like an excessive stretch of the imagination.
    I think that the most likely is that she’s finally well and truly dead. Not a bad way to go, one final little sacrifice for the fate of the worlds. Certainly better than many ways, allowing her to be calm, rested, and more or less herself in the end.

    I am curious as to the sixth chapter to come; if five are paid epilogues, and this is the last “official chapter,” what’s the last going to be?

    In any case, Taylor, Skitter, Weaver, Khepri, rest in peace, as well as you’re able.

  27. Actually pretty satisfied with this. Taylor died peacefully, painlessly, and as herself. I don’t really think Contessa could have helped keep Taylor centered for long, so this was really the best way for this to happen. Plus, Scion is dead and people can start to rebuild.

    I guess all I need now is confirmation that Taylor isn’t going to be villified historically as a horrific monster, and I’ll be completely content.

    Here’s to you, Wildbow! For taking my feelings so firmly in your hands, and crushing them with the most delicate of care!

    • “Taylor died peacefully, painlessly, and as herself”

      Taylor died peacefully (thats true), painlessly (it is sill a shot of a gun), and as herself (screaming inside with the Administrator taken control)

      • Yeeeah, I missed the bit about the administrator. But now Taylor is free of it! Still not a bad ending for her, all things considered.

    • Alright I’m back. Only like 20 minutes later but whatever.

      I liked the ending.

      Other comments point out that with Contessa’s power it would be possible to be shot and survive and be ‘fixed’ or something similar. I’m not entirely sure I buy that, but I like the ambiguity it creates. If you want Taylor to be dead, she’s dead. If you want her to be not dead, she’s not dead.

      That said, I’m pretty sure she is dead.

      Money became tight around the start of October due to various things and is likely to remain tight until after Christmas, so feel free to disregard the following. I probably won’t be able to throw money at Wildbow until sometime into his next project.

      Our resident fatalist Vista would be a nice epilogue chapter. How she reacts to everything being over and the only surviving member of the BB wards.
      Dragon might be another interesting one.
      Glastig Uaine would probably be a good perspective as well.

      Because I didn’t find out about Worm until recently, I was unable to comment throughout the series. So, all in all, it was an amazing ride. I look forward to your next work.

  28. Thoughts: why did contessa say there was only a slim chance at best of helping Taylor? I thought the point of her power was victory, and failing that nothing. The only exceptions were supposed to be entities or endbringers which she didn’t have a fix on.

    I’m not very happy with the ending, really – can’t frame it. Mostly because it didn’t seem like theTaylor-Administrator needed to die, or failing that, there was also a lack of resolution for Tattletale and the others.

    • It might be because it was something the only Taylor could do, period. No one not even Little Miss Win Button herself could do it for her.

      • I was under the impression her power worked in absolutes. It would have known perfectly where Taylor was at, and whether recovery was possible.

    • I think the fact that Taylor lost her main anchor means she can never recover, and Contessa realized that and did what needed to be done.

      • Read it again, after my last comment but before I read yours, and I agree mostly. Though it was left purposefuly vague, and I see potential for a story in the epologue or sequel eitherway.

        And then the question, why two shots? Why did the Administrator seem so human, moreso than immediately after scion, despite losing everything. Breadcrumbs no? But usually I’d discount this out of hand as delusional.

        • It’s been learning from Taylor. Taylor does what Administrator does on a human level. She manages people, coordinates their efforts. Much of what the shard is picking up from her is how to deal with people, how to understand and anticipate them.

          That’s what Taylor always dealt with, as Undersider, she was about bonding with her newfound friends, as warlord of Brockton Bay, she was about ensuring the welfare of her territory and the people in it, as Ward, she coordinated and developed her teammates as people. What ELSE would the shard be learning from her?

          • They were merging towards the end, that’s almost the point. The administrator was still learning, and becoming increasingly similar to the original host, and for that reason alone Taylor’s persona didn’t feel like a lost hope. Gone were the destructive impulses that dominated the first half of the narrative.

    • The fact that Contessa says there was a slim chance shows that Taylor could have beaten Scion and still had a happy ending. Taylor wasn’t doomed from the moment Panacea changed her brain, but only when she lost the battle for her mind and body to the Administrator. It wasn’t a battle she was doomed to lose or Contessa would have already known the outcome.

      I think the fatal passage was this one from 30.3:

      > I functioned best when I had a mission, something beyond the one singular goal before me. Yes, stopping Scion was key, but-
      I shook my head. I’d stopped walking again. Had to focus.
      I’d use smaller anchors here, smaller things to tie myself down to reality, focusing on my surroundings.

      When she loses her train of thought and shakes her head she goes from anchoring herself with an idea and a goal to anchoring herself with specific people.

      This is passage where Contessa describes the kind of anchor she needed:

      > Glaistig Uaine told you to hold on to an anchor. The other ones, the little ones? They might have gotten you through the events, given you the strength from moment to moment. But you had something bigger. Something more fundamental, which was there before the battle even began

      This could be referring to the people in her life (which is what she ultimately chooses), but I think it refers to her more fundamental humanity, her drive to help others. She wanted to be a hero to help people. She wanted to save Dinah even though she didn’t really know her. She wasn’t motivated as much by ties to specific people as she was by a desire for a greater good.

      In the fight with Scion she went too far and lost her hold on the Undersider members as anchors. As a result she lost her hold on herself. The anchors she picked weren’t enough to hold her back from giving herself over too much to the Administrator shard in order to defeat Scion. Her real goal was helping people and she had already shown that she would cast the people in her life aside to pursue it.

      She had a history of abandoning and lying to the people closest to her. She spent the first half of the story walking out on and lying to her father while also lying about her intentions to the Undersiders. After she came clean with them, she left the Undersiders. They were her only friends and people who depended on her. She left them just for the chance it might make the end of the world go better. She was always willing to make personal sacrifices for the greater good.

      She needed an anchor she couldn’t cast aside, something she couldn’t abandon, even to defeat Scion. She needed her anchor to align with her fundamental goals. If her mistake was making the Undersiders (I’m counting Charlotte, Sierra and Forest as members since they were on the payroll) her anchors, then she thought they meant more to her than they did in the end.

      She came full circle from the beginning of the story where she believed she could betray the Undersiders for the greater good, but found they meant more to her than she thought. However, by picking the Undersiders as anchors she overestimated how much of her turnaround was the result of her attachment to the Undersiders and underestimated how much of it was the good she could see herself and the Undersiders doing for the city and people in general.

      Of course, I’m not sure how much of the choice of anchors was in her control. I think she was on the right path in the 30.3 passage, but the Administrator shard was able to derail her train of thought. In order for there to be a happy ending she needed to get Glaistig’s anchor advise sooner or understand herself just a little bit better.

      • Cut ties.

        I’m sorry.

        She never had a chance. It was possible for her to survive the shard or possible to stop Scion. There’s no way Taylor would have chosen not to stop him.

        • At first I wanted to believe there was no chance for a happy ending, but Contessa says there was a chance. She wouldn’t be talking to Taylor if there was no chance. Contessa is aware of what Taylor is becoming but takes the risk of talking to her after she defeated Scion because there is still a chance for her. If she was completely doomed Contessa would have just shot her while she was out.

          And talking to Taylor was a risk. Contessa was confident that she had Taylor checkmated, but a lot of people have suffered for underestimating Taylor in this story. Taylor just defeated an entity with Contessa’s power and more.

          After a close reading of this chapter it is obvious that the Adminstrator shard and Taylor swapped roles in this chapter. My favorite bit of facetious evidence for this is that Taylor lets Contessa win. If she was still Taylor she would have just smiled wryly and won.

          Contessa isn’t omnipotent. I can think of at least 3 ways to defeat her. One, Taylor showed that emotion can be used to defeat Contessa’s ability. Two, it is possible that Contessa’s goal is too narrow or broad (like Scion steering toward meeting Eden, but only meeting a dead Eden) and Taylor could have taken advantage of that. Or finally, there is a moment where the plan will no longer work and a new one has to be made. If Taylor was careful enough maybe she could rig it to go from 2 steps to victory to victory impossible.

        • Well, she says there is a chance at the end; even after Taylor has defeated Scion, but Contessa needs the answer to a question. She gets the answer and then shoots Taylor twice. My reading is that there was a chance, but it didn’t pan out. And the reason it didn’t pan out wasn’t anything beyond Taylor’s control. It was only when Contessa saw how badly Taylor had lost herself to the Administrator that the chance was lost. I believe she lost because she didn’t have her humanity and selfless compassion as her anchor.

          I see there is some speculation that the bullets were not meant to kill, but to help her. In which case the slim chance would still exist, but I don’t think I buy it. Though if that were the case, I wouldn’t be upset. It certainly is possible in the Worm-verse even if I believe it to be implausible.

          I say that there was a chance because I believe Taylor is dead and that chance has passed.

          • (Un)fortunately there’s still an epologue to go, so Wildbow maybe intended to address this at a later date. Or maybe he’s going to start again, a new story, sometime post-Khepri.

  29. I haven’t been around as long as many here, but I got deeply invested in this story. I loved Taylor from the start, and have been genuinely upset at the things she’s had to go through, even while admiring the way in which she made it work. A power that anyone would have called C-List, and in the end they named her after a god, chasing her away with the equivalent of the angry mob with pitchforks. Doesn’t get more epic than that.

    I’ve laughed, cried, been disgusted and horrified, up and down, and turned around. Wildbow, you have more than done your job. For anyone who has even a passing interest in the genre, this is a tale that will likely stand as an example of how to hook your audience. At the same time, rarely were we left unfulfilled, but we always wanted, and still want, more.

    This ending, I think I’m hoping that Contessa has more in mind than dragging back a corpse. Glaistig Uaine not only not killing her, but giving her an escape… they had a weird relationship. I’m glad it at least gave her a chance. Though Taylor’s mission from here on out, will likely be too high-level for us to follow her around as narrator.

    Unfortunately, I could not be a donator, but seeing Faultline’s crew, or what’s left of the Wards would make for a nice addition to the epilogue, I think.

    Thank you, again.

  30. So here we stand, at the end of the regular chapters. At the end of a journey more than a million and a half words long. It’s here, that we have a chance to do something unique.

    Wildbow’s closed off the bonus chapters for donations. The story could only be extended so far. That gives us an opportunity. We have a chance now to show our thanks for the epic gift we’ve been given in a way that won’t leave Wildbow feeling burdened with owing us more work.

    The way I see it, a donation made now, is one of pure thanks, no strings attached.

    Wildbow rarely ever (maybe never?) directly asks for donations. He just gives his thanks for them. Since he doesn’t ask, just for today, I will.

    Let’s show him how we feel. Whether a donation’s big or small, I think every bit counts and every bit is deserved.

  31. Well.
    That’s that then.
    Guess Taylor managed to accomplish her goal of being a hero and suicide by villain.

    Stared at what I just wrote for a while before posting it… seems disrespectful. Yet I think it needs saying.

    • It could also be seen as the one that ends the story (Taylor, by killing Scion) is ended by the one that started it (Fortuna/Contessa, by killing Eden and starting Cauldron). I’m not sure if it is irony or just poetic.

    • Feel I should add that this was a nicely done ending to Worm. A logical ending to what I can only call a jewel of the internet (probably sapphire, certainly feels blue).
      Thank you Wildbow for sharing such a rich story with random strangers. Strangers who could have ended up being complete assholes but didn’t, strangers who you tortured and dangled from cliffhangers for DAYS on end (made my day more than once). Not to mention ruining sleep schedules for hundreds of people around the world.
      I started reading Worm some time around late October 2012. This means that for a full year you have filled my mind with amazing images.
      It wouldn’t be right to leave out all the pacing around my room and action poses.
      Here is one fan who will definitely be reading everything you deign to share with the world.
      Good job and thank you again.

  32. An amazing story. And a fitting if tragic ending.

    This and the end of the last chapter really show the difference between Taylor and her Shard.

    Taylor is a Cincinnatus, the Administrator will never let go of power.

  33. I’m dying for some clarification on Sleeper’s power.

    Also thank you for this both bumpy and beautiful story, it tears me up to see it end but I can’t wait to see what you do next and you’ll always have me as a reader.

    • Have a standing theory that his power is “intimidation”. He doesn’t actually *do* anything. But anyone who thinks of him is instantly intimidated. The weak believe him unbeatable, the strong believe him “too much trouble”.

      Something none too different from Imp’s power, actually.

  34. Awesome Story.
    What I personally would like to see are the statistics. # of words, # of pages, and maybe some graphs showing how visitors increased over time. or commentators increased over time. Did the number of readers grow steadily or are there big spikes every so often. I want to see how this Blog grew.

  35. Hm.

    I don’t know. I’m not happy with this. Not satisfied.

    Or rather, I was, until the last, paragraph, everything after “We are so small.”

    I expected Taylor to die. It is fitting that she would die.

    But this death felt… wrong?

    I can’t even quite say why.

    Too understated, perhaps, but a low-key death fits with the idea of her finding peace.

    I’d say there was no closure with her friends, but then, that also fits the story if I think about it. Taylor leaves, she leaves everything behind, she loses everything. This can’t be quite it too…

    So, in the end, I just don’t know.

    • Damnit. Taylor. feels a bit like losing a family member

      i hope against hope that it was ballistic brain surgery and that those last words were the passenger speaking about the worm species and shards.

      and I don’t know whether i’d be surprised or not to see Taylor turn up in book three. I do know that if she ever did turn up again, it would be an amazing plot spiril and it would fit her perfectly.

      But if Death has claimed her then I hope it’s the Discworld one.

      and with epilogues to go, i don’t think we’re put of surprises.

      But… damnit.

  36. I normally do not mark on any sites but with the ending here I figured id say this, you did a great job sir and good luck with your future endeavors.

    • Sounds like another first time commentator.

      You’ve missed out, you know. We have such sights to show you down here. Or we did. Looks like someone’s trying to put us out of business, what with Wildbow trying to poop on our little party down here.

      You know how hard it is to keep a party going with poop on it, Wildbow? This isn’t some sort of scatophiliac orgy! For one thing, such an event would be pretty bad. I mean, it’d just plain stink.

      It would gag a maggot, at least if there were any dominatrices into bestiality around.

      Menagerie of sexuality aside, you still get the treat of a Psycho Gecko welcome.

      So welcome, klast, to the comments.

  37. Thanks so much wildbow, it’s been an incredible ride. I only started following this story the last two months but it’s been quite the journey. I hope you do a kickstarter for it in the future (for a published version, perhaps?) I would definitely love to donate to that.

    Speculation Mode:

    I agree with whoever said the Administrator was narrating this one – pretty much all of her “I” statements was the Administrator, and Taylor Hebert was the passenger (and I hope Panacea gets to fix Glory Girl!).

    I also don’t think Contessa killed her. She asked a question and Taylor responded internally:

    “Didn’t deserve to, either way.”

    I feel like this is exactly the answer a good person would have, after all of this they don’t deserve a second chance. Which is precisely why they should get one. Just my ramblings/thoughts.

    • I think a kickstarter is very much in the cards. That, or a series of them. I imagine I could set it up so that if a certain goal is reached beyond the initial setup, I could do a (limited or not-limited) print run.

        • I’ll probably do a mailing list where I can email everyone on the list when there’s big book-related announcements. I’ll set it up by the time the last chapter goes up.

      • Excellent. A lot of people will have one main kickstarter but do lots of ‘Stretch Goals’ prepared ahead of time (either announcing 2-5 more stretch goals as they meet them or letting everyone know at once).

        There’s a lot of annoying things about kickstarter that you have to keep in mind, like Amazon taking a % from the final total or the fact that UPS will only ship so many packages from a single person at a time. A lot of artists have ended up in the negative trying to fulfill their kickstarter rewards.

        The following link has some good advice:

        http://alexwoolfson.tumblr.com/post/52898000188/how-to-succeed-at-kickstarter-from-someone-who-did

        Here are a few well run kickstarters if you’re interested in taking a look:

        (Free webcomic that ran for several years prior. The author did great work with the stretch goals – their stated goal was 57k and they raised over a million! He was already sustaining a living via merch on his website and had a monthly strip in some D&D-based magazines.)

        (Superhero themed webcomic run by someone who had only done one previous, semi-successful webcomic. I feel like this would be a good comparison for yourself as to what to expect, along with appropriate stretch goals).

        Hope this helps! Thanks so much again.

      • Wait, kickstarter? You can’t just publish this thing through an agency? Or is it too late to consider that, since it was posted online?

        • If you have the funds you get a lot more control over the publishing process. There’s printing, distribution and marketing all involved, none of which are cheap, so I expect the publisher to want a lot more control if they have to pony up a lot of the funds for starting it off.

          On the other hand their advice would be aimed towards increasing sales, if in a conservative manner. Might be worth contacting a published author asking them about how to best deal with the whole publishing thing.

          • There’s pros and cons to every path.

            On the whole, traditional publishing really streamlines things, which is awfully nice when you’re talking about something like Worm, which has its lumps and which can benefit from that streamlining. But there’s a lot of hoops to jump through, and a lot of those hoops sort of don’t work very well with Worm, which wasn’t originally written to conform to the typical novel standards (wordcount, start and ending points, interludes, etc). There’s also marketing and editing, which, depending on the publisher and how they’re doing in this modern age, may not be provided in full.

            All of the above gets ameliorated if the publisher happens to get in touch with me, because it implies a level of interest beyond the bare minimum.

            Self-publishing is easier in terms of getting going, but it’s a bit of a chore as far as editing and the like. There’s a lot of editing to be done, and raising the funds for a lump and/or staggered set of print runs, covers, editing, etc, is difficult. Maybe I only wind up doing the ebook, and the print run waits. Maybe I do staggered kickstarters, or one big kickstarter. I don’t know.

              • It’s possible, but I’m not sure about the rules for something like that – whether you need a product or what.

                Depends on how much interest there is (2, 3, even 5 years from now) and how well I’m doing as a writer, at that stage. I’ve been writing Worm for 2.5 years now (almost) and I feel like I need to step away for a bit before getting back into it (and that includes time away post-editing-this-into-something-I-can-publish), so I don’t get trapped as a typecast/one-setting author and so I can view it all from a fresh perspective again.

              • In response to Wildbow’s comment: Kickstarter was initially set up as crowdfunding for people who need the money to make things. You certainly don’t need a finished product up front (though obviously having one tends to inspire more confidence in pledges). Nowadays Kickstarter require a risk statement but your track record covers off on that nicely. It’s definitely a viable option when/if you feel like pursuing a Worm 2.

      • Could a stretch goal be “the story ends up on a far less depressing note”? I kid, I kid. I loved the story for the most part and would love to see it published, but I would wait until the very end before deciding to back it.

    • Hey, maybe it can get worse for everyone else now! How about we see Dragon dumping Defiant or being too corrupted to recover? Or how about Grue offing himself after he hears about Taylor’s death? Perhaps Teacher can take control of everything and become a vicious tyrant that escapes any sort of karmic fate? There’s so many ways the story can go from here, but I really doubt any of them lead to a happy place. Then again, I’ve reached a point where it’s hard to hold out much of any hope after so long.

      • And now I think you’re being unnecessary defeatist.

        Glaistig Uaine has apparently switched to the side of the angels, Contessa is walking the Earth(s) in search of atonement, Chevalier/Legend/MM/Defiant all survived to lead the surviving heroes (with Theo/Weld/Tecton/Vista ready for the next generation), Tattletale recuperated Accord’s plan to rebuild human civilization (with some possible help from Harbinger Zero), Amy has a chance to heal Victoria back,the Ash-Beast is dead, Teacher may be well bleeding to death, bar exceptional circumstances Dragon is alive and well, all the major couples survived and there are lots of intact Earths full of exploitable resources.

        The Simurgh is still there (which is a problem) and The Sleeper is ominous but Nilbog can be probably be dumped in an empty world and left to play. The Yangban will probably return to isolationism but maybe not. Lung is a wild card but Marquis’ influence has been notable in his later appearances (and seeing how his enemies now are Teacher and the Yangban, who cares?).

        • Maybe I am being rather defeatist, but it is hard not to do so. I really feel that the way the story ended was unnecessarily depressing. From my interpretation, Glaistig Uaine’s switch seemed more based on self-preservation and deception than anything else. She took advantage of people thinking she freed the hostages when she really didn’t. That makes me actually more grim about the future than otherwise, frankly. But experience with this series now tells me that holding out hope will almost always bite me in the ass. I’m going to maintain a grim perspective on everything Worm-related until something actually, verifiably good happens for a change.

          • Armsmaster’s redemption. Bonesaw’s redemption. Theo defeating Jack. Saving Dinah. Dragon’s resurrection. Parian and Foil. Stopping Phir Se from blowing India with a speech on hope. Saving the MULTIVERSE.

            Taylor’s story may have been tragic, but the side stories usually get a more or less happy ending. Hence why I’m confident about the epilogues striking a high note and I’m optimistic about the future.

  38. I can’t thank you enough, wildbow. Worm has had its rough spots here and there, but in the end, as a whole, it’s been just amazing. I don’t think I’m exaggerating when I say that that I’ve been enriched by the experience.

    As for the ending, I’m really conflicted. I really wanted Taylor to have some sort of happy ending – bittersweet, maybe much more bitter than sweet, but with some note of positivity. Taylor dying I could have handled, but Taylor being completely usurped by the administrator and then dying? Dying while the narrator isn’t even her anymore? I’m still trying to figure out if I like this ending or not. I just don’t like characters I care about having bad endings. I’ll withhold judgement until the epilogues are done, maybe make up my mind then.

    I’d be overjoyed if the last epilogue confirmed the bullet-brain-surgery theory, but I’m not holding out much hope. About the only consolation I can think of is if I interpret that last stuttering thought as belonging to Taylor herself, not the Administrator.

    • Please don’t read this comment wherein I rain on your emotional parade.

      “About the only consolation I can think of is if I interpret that last stuttering thought as belonging to Taylor herself, not the Administrator.”

      I took that the opposite way — who better to think about the universe and its own size than an ancient intergalactic traveler the size of the moon?

      I’m trying to remember if Taylor has had similar thoughts in the past. I think she has, but I can’t remember any specifics, and it’s possible they were shard-influenced.

  39. Just had a great idea!
    Highlight Reel! Time for a walk down memory lane.
    I’ll start: Showing Brian she could control crabs too.

  40. But the trolling at the end? Why? WHHYYYYYYYYY?

    Taylor deserves better than an “You still got a chance … but *bamm* lol, no.”

    This is the point I really hate as much as I love the story.

      • I have read your other comment. You have a valid opinion. I just don’t agree with you. The last arc could have handeld different. But thats ok in my eyes.

        I just hate that trolling moment.

        • I really didn’t see any trolling. I saw a dignified conversation with Contessa gently offering options before both realising that there’s really only one solution.

          • But thats not how Contessa is supposed to work, imho.
            In my eyes its a … well id may have left my with a better feeling if she just have killed the Administrator.

            • Contessa said it herself that she’s trying to stop using her power for every little thing. Seeing how this was all about how the shards gain control of their hosts, Contessa faithfully and rigidly following the path her shard suggests to convince Taylor to live would seem, I don’t know…inappropriate?

              • In the sense of not doing things for the grand scheme/big picture.

                She also said she’s trying to do things without help (her power). That’s what I meant with little things. Fortuna literally couldn’t function without her power always holding her hand. She’s weaning herself off, like an ex-junkie would.

              • But … now? With the one person that had saved them all?

                Sorry Saviour, I won’t help you. I’m on power withdrawal.

              • It’s also thematic. Finding a way to free someone from a shard’s hold by…being a complete slave of a shard is almost insulting, don’t you think?

              • I think … if Contessa had really want to help her, she had could.
                And she offered it. But she did not do it.
                Thats my problem and the trolling i see here. She offered and pulled the trigger anyway.

              • The offer was conditional on Taylor managing to reign the shard on her own. She tacitly admitted she couldn’t. Contessa going “by the power of winning I cast thee out of this body” would have been a cop out of epic proportions.

                But I wrote a post on what I think of the last scene below, if you’re interested.

    • Part of Contessa’s power is knowing exactly what to say and do in order to subtlety manipulate people, as long as it’s a step in one of her “paths to victory.”

      She may have needed to say those things in order to prod Taylor into the proper mental state before she could do anything to help her, if she can in fact be helped.

  41. Y’know, it could just be where my mind went, but… “It’s not a real story if the hero doesn’t die at the end.”

    Thanks for a great story!

        • The Odyssey ended well (for Odysseus at least).

          The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings both end as comedies too.

          Even something like “The Dark Knight Returns” ended as a comedy (Bruce lives and is renewed).

          No matter what section of history you look at, there is room for “real stories” where the “hero doesn’t die at the end”.

          • You do know what happened to Odysseus after the Odyssey, don’t you?

            As for Frodo he didn’t exactly have a nice life after the end of the story. It ain’t called eucatastrophe for nothing.

            • Meh – the Telegony is fanfic written by somebody who wanted to go “darker, and gritter and more REAL MAN!” : )

              As for Frodo? He got to go to Valinor! Even his time in Middle-Earth after the destruction of the ring wasn’t that bad – hailed as hero, given time to see his home restored and then relax and write his memoirs before heading off to a place that makes Disneyland look like a mopey pit of sadness.

          • Considering how many heroic stories there are, that you could only name three sort-of counter-examples, one being just this decade written, against the myriad examples otherwise, just proves my point though. They are vanishingly few in number.

            • You’re working with selection bias there Rika. There’s plenty more than 3, I just didn’t see the need to write the exhaustive wikipedia article on it.

              Also, which one do you think was written just this decade? Dark Knight Returns was in the 80s. It’s close to 30 years old now.

              The other point is that some of the *the* most famous and beloved and well remembered heroic stories ever written do not end with the death of the protagonist, so the claim that the “hero has to die for the story to be real” is demonstrably a false one.

              • 80’s? Really? Well, admission time: Never heard of it before the movie.

                This said, I’m well aware there’s more than three comedies ever written; There’s a listing of some thirty-four comedians in the old Greek comedies section on wiki, alone. And that’s not even counting those not famous enough to be recorded- or of whom records have survived.

                However, comedies vs tragedies isn’t the point of contention here, but rather heroes; http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Greek_mythological_figures#Heroes

                Abderus, killed by the Mares of Diomedes. Achilles, for whom we name our heel. Ajax the Great, who fell upon his sword in sorrow and anger. Ajax the Lesser, who raped Cassandra, and was punished for his defilement contiuously by Athena, until she struck his ship with lightning and caused him to almost drown- Until he stated he lived in defiance of the immortals, at which point Poseidon split the rock he clung to and carried him under to drown. Amphitryon. Bellerophon. Chrysippus. Daedalus. The list goes on.

                Compare to tragic Aeneas, whose life finally turned comedic in the end (the originator of Rome, historically). Diomedes, a great warrior in the time of Troy, who lived a long life, and settled many cities in Italy. Iolaus, who assisted Heracles, and was his lover, and went on to colonize Sardinia with some of Heracles’ sons by the daughters of Thespius.

                There are far, far more tragic heroes than there are comedic- and even the comedic have more than a share of tragedy throughout their lives, even if the end is comedic.

        • It depends what you call “historically”. It was a bit of a trend in the classical period but even then there were a lot of exceptions (Hercules, Odysseus, Theseus, Jason etc. were all successful heroes). Other than that, stories tended to favour the hero a bit more, though there are always exceptions especially religious cautionary tales…

  42. I’ve been thinking now that the passenger has been in control, especially when it remarked about not having much of an understanding of humans.

    Now I just want to see if the passenger is still alive after whatever it is that required contessa to fire two bullets, Or if its just Taylor.

  43. I liked the ending. She burnt herself out to do what she had to do. Sure, you can argue she deserved better, but… I think it’s more fitting for it to end like this. With her completely consumed, inside and out, having achieved the arch-typical Pyrrhic Victory.

    Recommended listening for the ending: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cwFt8SJaG4c

  44. Alas, poor Taylor, I knew her well. Rest in peace, little girl.

    Damn you wildbow, giving us some hope and then, well… But I won’t hold it against Contessa. I count this as a mercy kill, Taylor wouldn’t have wanted to become the new Echidna. Seems Contessa is weaning herself from using her power for everything, good for her.

    I think I realised immediately that what the passenger saw s fighting was just celebration. It was a really painful realisation, told us how deep Taylor was lost.

    Glaistig Uaine must have surrendered because there’s no other way they could have brought her in. In the end just as Taylor succumbed to her shard, GU seems to have regained some of her humanity. A great character, I’d like to see her in an epilogue.

    Was Marquis the flying bone wings guy? Everything to save his daughter. He’s another character I’d like to see in an epilogue.

    And it seems Amy will heal Victoria. Could there still be a happy ending there?

    Teacher being his usual arrogant self and getting cut up was immensely satisfying. Nice to know nobody likes him.

    And Simurgh STILL has the glass…

    • A note regarding the Marquis. It was mentioned during his intermission that he had an incredible poker face because he’d been breaking and rebreaking his own bones for years, while refusing to show any weakness. That’s an unpleasant thought and a good indicator of his toughness when you apply it to his usual uses, when he applies his power in quick spurts and leaves things immobile most of the time.

      But I get the distinct impression that there’s a reason he doesn’t typically use more fluid movements, and why he’s never been mentioned to be capable of flight before. Those wings were continually and rapidly shifting the entire time he was in the air, on a huge scale. He pushed farther here than ever before, even during the confrontation where he was captured and Amy taken from him in the first place. He tortured himself on a level beyond what most of us can probably imagine while simultaneously facing down the thing that killed Zion, all to get his daughter back.

  45. Yeah, no, fuck this ending.

    Reading this from the start as of about a month ago, churning through chapters every day? These last chapters have gone from bad to worse.

    The incoherency remains an awful and reader-alienating choice, and the authorial decision to isolate Taylor from communication from these chapters, and recognition, robs this story of the power it should be firing on all cylinders on.

    I grasp that Wildbow was aiming for a fractured, confused, and difficult-to-reconcile reality for Taylor and tried to show us it through her eyes. Congrats, succeeded. Only, it was a *bad* choice; leaving the reader bewildered and eventually just rolling our eyes, slogging through the sections until Wildbow could be arsed to write dialogue again.

    Should Taylor have died, as an ending? Sure, it’s viable. But it’s a shitty ending, and, as someone else mentioned above, worse than it being a shitty ending? “It rings hollow.”

    Which for me applies more or less from the moment Taylor lost the ability to communicate. None of the plot points required her to lose that communication. None of her motivations would have changed, and the actions would have been MORE emotionally powerful with her ability to communicate intact.

    Wildbow, come payday I’ll be firing you some cash because the first arc with the Nine was some of the best and most white-knuckled, tense writing I’ve enjoyed in a few years.

    But you wrote a bad ending. Not a sad one, a bad one.

    • The slow decent into insanity was handled mostly well in my opinion. Not sure about the ending, actually I’m trying not to think about it. If it was really the final, then I’d agree it had very little resolution.

    • No one else seems to really really be bothered by all the troubles with the communication, and it seemed easy enough to understand to me. What you have to remember here is that its not a bug… its a feature

    • I think Taylor losing her ability to communicate made it easier to understand why people would be afraid of her. I don’t think that needs explanation. If she was able to say “hey, I have a way to coordinate our efforts,” things would have gone much better for everyone.

    • Heh. Everyone can have their opinions. But these chapters were well written and brilliantly handled.

      You find the ending unfulfilling? I find it brilliant. Real. Like in the real world, it was not tidied up and dumbed down for an audience use to all problems being solved and every important detail covered at the end.

      Reality is not often satisfying. You can write great works without understanding that. But you cannot write honest ones.

        • Part of my problem with this ending is that we’ve all been on this long journey together, following Taylor’s path and sharing in her hopes and dreams. Up until the very end, the large majority of us were hoping for some sort of resolution of Taylor’s inner demons, some hope for at least a reasonably acceptable future that she has more than earned after literally giving up her right arm and more. She sacrificed and lost everything dear to her, and for what? Even she is protesting how it wasn’t worth it at the end. So, we’ve built our hopes up, trying to gird ourselves against a stream of unending trauma and tragedy, just to get to the end where one of the biggest, most vile characters in the series apparently kills her. Was this truly the only option? I don’t think so. In a world of super powers, one of which can even lay out a step-by-step plan for victory, I am extremely skeptical that this was the only possible resolution. And then there is the utter madness of having Contessa of all people, the one whose actions have caused the death and disfigurement of millions, being the one to pass judgment and executing the sentence. It’s a bit like going to trial for murder and finding out that the entire judge, jury, and bailiff groups are comprised of clones of Joseph Stalin. I really don’t think this ending fit at all and I hope there is a lot more to it than this.

          • She says that were she to know that she’d end as a brain damaged-monster with a gun pointed to her head she’d change a few things along the way.
            She does NOT regret all the lives she saved.
            Seriously, she sacrificed her friggin’ humanity so that every possible Earth , MORE NUMEROUS THAN THE ATOMS OF THE UNIVERSE, could survive. How is that a hollow victory?

            As for Contessa having no right to be judge, jury and executioner, I have made a post in that regards.

            • I understand your point about Contessa, but I would like to point out that she is also the one who had a chance to kill Bonesaw, easily one of the most screwed up and terrifying characters in the entire series, but instead chose to allow her to live and create more monstrosities that killed even more people. I would argue that Bonesaw committed crimes far worse than anything Taylor did, and she did it all with a smile. In fact, Contessa could have easily have prevented a LOT of deaths and worse, but chose not to do so out of some insane, misguided plan of secrecy. Unless there is a third bullet offscreen that explodes through Contessa’s head, there is no justice being administered here. Contessa may have some sort of empathy here, but it’s unbelievably hypocritical of her to be the one pulling the trigger if she’s left standing. Please answer this: if Contessa is to be the judge here, shouldn’t she be held just as accountable for actions taken in the same light and with far worse consequences?

              • She was also the reason for Bonesaw’s Heel Face Turn…

                And yes if Contessa was killing Taylor for the “crimes” she has committed, she’d be a hypocrite because they walked the exact same path. But this is not what’s happening. This is Sundancer killing Echidna.

                Noelle/Taylor both realise that they have lost their humanity, subsumed by their shard, and accept that they have to die. It was, for all purposes, a mercy kill.

                But we’re free to disagree. Everyone has their own interpretation. I like to think of Contessa in a more benevolent light since her interlude. People have compared Alexandria and Taylor in the past, but I think Contessa is a better choice.

              • Contessa didn’t leave Bonesaw alive because she deserved mercy, or for the evulz, but because Riley needed to be alive for humanity to beat Zion. By saying what she did to Bonesaw when she did, the Contessa caused her to regain some humanity, join the good guys after Jack fell, influence Panacea, cause Taylor to become Khepri, and kill Zion. Path to Victory, regardless of cost.

    • I’d argue that it was “bad” because there was no second act. I’d like to analyze this a bit more and assess the shortcomings, which will probably happen after the epilogues though.

    • To expound a little further on *why* this is a bad ending, on further rumination:

      Contessa is and remains a Deus Ex Machina. She descends onto the scene, resolves the issues, and forces the story and its characters in a particular direction.

      And resolving a Tragedy (as a genre) via Deus Ex Machina might be traditional enough, but I’d like to think and hope modern writing had evolved past that point.

      So, in short:

      It’s a bad ending, and it rings hollow, because Contessa is a Deus Ex Machina within the story.

      • An argument, and a good one, can be made that Contessa is a Deus Ex Machina for Worm in it’s entirety seeing how her entire schtick is to appear out of nowhere and do her thing. However, seeing how this meeting was blatantly set up in her interlude, it cannot, in any way, be considered a Deus ex Machina.

        And Deus Ex machina= automatic bad writing should be discouraged.Because it’s not true Even for today’s standards, I really can’t say Euripides is a bad writer and he invented the goddamn thing. Gene Wolfe had an actual, honest to God, Deus ex Machina in the Book of the New Sun, had it admit that it was a Deus ex machina to the protagonist and then had it basically tell the audience to stop compalining about the appearance of a Deus Ex Machine. And it was brilliant.

        • Also (and sorry for the double post) can’t you really see any symmetry in the two persons who dedicated (one could almost say to the point of ruining it) their life to the greater good no matter what and managed to kill and Eldritch abomination as young girls, having a discussion about regrets, the small things in life and second chances?

      • I don’t believe you’re using the term “deus ex machina” properly. A deus ex machina is “a plot device whereby a seemingly unsolvable problem is suddenly and abruptly resolved by the contrived and unexpected intervention of some new event, character, ability or object.”

        Deus ex machina is generally frowned upon because suddenly dropping in new solutions from outside the narrative is seen as not playing fair with the audience (not to mention harmful to the credibility of the narrative).

        Contessa is not a deus ex machina because the author didn’t introduce her out of nowhere at the last minute to solve a plot problem.

        Her existence and powers were already well known, and her taking an interest in the Weaver issue was established a number of chapters back.

        You may not have liked this outcome, but it flowed naturally from the wheels in motion in the narrative and is not a deus ex machina.

    • “Yeah, no, fuck this ending.”

      This pretty much sums up my reaction to this. I’m holding up for the epilogues, but I’m honestly already regretting voting for this fic.

    • Well, you’re entitled to your own opinion, I disagree. However, I do always enjoy a confusing story, it makes it better when it makes sense at the end, although I admit that the comments really helped me to make sense of some of it.
      I also like the tragic ending, it just works that Taylor wins this way. The Epilogues should make it less sad, by showing the people that didn’t die.
      But I’m not saying that people aren’t allowed to find it confusing and depressing.

    • Yeah, or maybe you’re just too stupid and Michael-Bay-addled to actually be able to read and appreciate it.

      Sorry, Bahumat. I rarely trash other people for their comments, but this one… well, too late, I’m not taking it back, but let’s just say I disagree with your analysis of both the final arc and Wildbow’s talent.

      Hg

    • You have some horrible timing, jakraziel, you know that? You’d be late to Taylor’s own funeral. What am I saying, so would she. Well I certainly hope the person at the funeral is late! I’m too lazy to dig her all the way up again just because somebody decided to get better.

      Even worse if it’s a girlfriend/boyfriend/spouse/friend with benefits. While it’s maybe the only time a sexy zombie kink is appropriate, there’s always the possibility of being brought on necrophilia charges if caught. Good news is, at least your partner will make a coherent witness, unlike the usual cases of necrophilia. Now we all know why the angel on her headstone had a low-cut dress, you dirty gravedigger. Mind the obelisk.

      Must have worked yourself half to death reading all of Worm. The story AND the comments? Quite a mean feet, like if a 70 year old Chinese woman had hers dipped in tar. No, no, best not to imagine that one. It’s tar-rible.

      But at least you got to squeak in here at the end, just before the coffin door finishes closing.

      Welcome, jakraziel, to the comments.

  46. Now, this is the sort of thing that I think I’ll still be assimilating come Saturday, when epilogues come around and provide more context anyway. So I can’t really speak about the ending at this time.

    What a journey it’s been, though. Glorious, thoughtful, unpredictable, fantastically clever. Thank you, Wildbow.

  47. Okay, rant incoming. Having finally seen how the last couple chapters played out, I’m just going to out and out say, this wasn’t how it should have ended.

    There are two big things about the way this ending was structured that might have worked independently, but just don’t, when taken together: first, the fact that the story is being told from the perspective on someone with no perspective, and second, that there’s no adequate explanation provided for why she has to die.

    Regarding the former, the inability to relate to anything – words or memories or people – made for a compelling final battle. Literally everything was falling apart, and we were stressing out along with Taylor as each new loss made us wonder if there was going to be anything left to save at the end. But THIS chapter didn’t need that. If there was nothing left of Taylor to save, then we didn’t need to wade through all this ambiguity to find out. It might have worked if the chapter was written to be a tearjerker, with people struggling to say goodbye in a way that was meaningful to Taylor, but that isn’t what we got. Instead we got Taylor trying to figure out how she could keep pushing things forward, keep the stress and the determination up until she’s simply too confused to do anything but just go out with a whimper, alone and unaware

    It’s like reading a story about an Alzheimer’s patient who goes out and robs a bank or something else of equal parts improbable and impressive, and then gets lost on the way home and freezes to death in alley in the night. What’s the takeaway? Are we supposed to be upset that their final act was something awful, impressed that they had the clarity to execute a difficult plan so well, sad that they died so pathetically, or amused that all of it is so discordant? You could tell it to evoke any of those responses, but what you can’t do is tell it to evoke all of them. Telling a story like that from the vaguest, most confused perspective possible only tells the reader that you aren’t sure what you’re trying to convey, and that you just want it to end.

    Regarding the second point, I am okay with a story like this ending with the protagonist’s death. I’m not advocating some ending that keeps hopes alive for some particular outcome I’m hoping for. If Taylor has to die, then so be it. But give us some closure, please. Having Contessa, of all people, the one who’s been most reliant on her passenger for the longest time, be the one to determine that Taylor is irredeemable because her passenger is too dominant, is a crappy resolution. Having Taylor decide she doesn’t deserve a better outcome, and then not being offered one regardless, is a crappy resolution. The two people present at the end of the story are exactly the two people least able to offer a valid opinion on the decisions to be made at that juncture.

    The two questions that were addressed were the correct ones: does she deserve a better outcome, and is she redeemable? Those are the things that, as readers, we are hoping to find out. It seems a betrayal, therefore, to let the answers come from such unqualified people, and then be left unexamined.

    I HATE this ending, and I say this as one who has been consistently impressed with your writing, wildbow. It’s weak. It’s unsatisfying. It reads as coming from someone who is to too used to trying to hook people for the next chapter, and forgot to not end with a gutpunch. “Tune in next time for all the emotional resolution that was supposed to be right here!” Well guess what? You missed your window. The epilogue is not the place for that stuff. The place for that stuff is HERE, and you breezed past it.

    tl:dr
    Taylor’s death ought to have been written from the perspective of someone who could come to legitimate terms with it, and justify those terms to the reader. This ending accomplishes none of that, and reads like something that is not an ending at all.

    • The format has always stayed in Taylor’s perspective during “proper chapters” and then moved to other people for “interludes”. Those interludes have always been things vital to the story, but which Taylor would have no way of knowing directly. If, as you say, Taylor’s perspective is not capable of giving us a proper ending, then the proper ending cannot and does not come in this chapter. Meanwhile, there’s one more before the donation epilogues begin.

    • I think epilogues are the perfect place for a True ending.
      Wildbow pretty much perfected Taylors story.
      Copping out on Taylors final POV would have been a disgrace tbh.

      • It wouldn’t have been “copping out”. Taylor’s final POV was in the last chapter, and it should have been her goodbye then, too. THIS chapter added nothing of value by means of her POV. The whole sequence of events was about other people reacting to things Taylor was barely aware of.

    • Eh, I’m afraid you’re wrong on one count. an epilogue from some other POV is absolutely necessary.
      The convention was to never deviate from Taylor’s perspective, except for interludes.

      And when the narrator’s perspective cannot even understand language or gestures, it’s almost impossible to tell things. Thus Contessa.
      It -is- a bit of a cheat (and yes, some of the shoe-horn feeling probably comes from that), but it was necessary.

      Still, Contessa is a bit *too much* Chandler’s law here. Maybe that’s part of the unsatisfactory feeling.

        • Not really, no. There’s several things against it.
          – she is the “default” Chandler’s for the setting (so it’s even more grating because, hey, it’s Contessa coming in as usual and shooting people)
          – there were a lot of other foreshadowings, some of them more shadowed. the Simurgh above everyone else.
          – in her interlude she was shown as really directionless. Teacher could have possibly swayed her, but there were a lot of people who wanted him inconvenienced.
          – the whole resolution with Taylor going away did not feature Contessa in any way, but -did- feature a lot of people who could possibly tell where she was. Lisa, the fairy queen (that afterwards talked to a lot of people, including Defiant and maybe Dragon), the Simurgh, Labyrinth (who’s in the same crew as Dinah).

      • If Contessa had to be there, then she could have been there at the beginning of this update. She didn’t need to be there at the end, and the fact that she is actively hurts the ending.

  48. Thanks for a great story wildbow! I’ll be waiting for the e-book/paperback, whichever you publish, and I hope i have means to buy it when it comes out. Looking forward to your next story.

  49. It’s hard to say anything when there’s a final interlude coming up, which could in theory do anything from re-emphasizing this, to changing everything, to just being a picture of Khonsu in a warner brothers curtain circle holding up a sign saying “Th-th-that’s all, folks,” before bringing the End as an Endbringer ought.

    Even before that, though—there’s a lot here. A lot to absorb to this.

    Rest in peace, Taylor.

    Thank you, Wildbow.

  50. Well, wildbow, thank you for this wonderful story. Been reading through it in the last few days and I loved every* bit of it. No matter how much Jack Slash stole the show (because he was the best character in the entire story. Sorry, everyone else, he was too awesome), I felt a connection to Taylor at some points, and that’s a rare thing. Congratulations.

    *my one point of disgruntlement is Coil’s death in that it felt way too sudden. Apart from that, flawless.

  51. I definitely want to see some Riley stuff. I’d like to see her perspective when she starts working with the heroes, or her view on the aftermath. Or both, if that’s what you decide.

  52. Thank you, Wildbow, for sharing this incredible tale with us. This story has become one of my favourite piece of literature and I loved it from beginning to end, sometimes more, sometimes less.

    The ending seems fitting, as does the choice of seeing Taylor sacrifice everything in a way that I haven’t seen before, because she did literally sacrifice everything.

    Her friends, her family, her humanity, her happiness, her life, language, mind, sanity and dignity and while I totally understand why the end happens the way it does, I still wish for a happier one for Taylor.

    A quick google search also shows rebirth to be one of Khepri’s traits, so, there is still hope for more Taylor and I dearly hope that she survived this.

    As suggestions for eventual epilogue characters, I would nominate Tattletale, Dinah, Vista, Imp, Miss Militia, Dragon, Defiant or Flechette.

    Thank you again, Wildbow, for sharing this.

    • Very much in agreement with that set of chars to focus on for the epilogue. The epilogue wants to be about how various chars that Taylor knows well / cared about respond to everything that has happened. While other chars do have interesting things to say this isn’t the time to say them and with 5 chapters there will be enough background / world info available to fill in enough blanks.
      I would like to see an interlude from GU before we start the epilogues though.

  53. I have too much trouble figuring out who is who (as I’ve complained before) and these chapters have put that dial up to eleven. The only people I figured out where Aisha getting her brain almost impaled(? or something), and for a while I thought Glaistig Uaine was Lisa. I have no idea where Lisa or Rachel were during all of that, etc. etc.

    • The only one I had trouble with was the guy in the blue and white suit, whom I realised was Legend only when he shot a laser.

      Since Taylor lost her ability to recognise people the only one I haven’t managed to peg down is the Protectirate cape named after a siege weapon. And it was just a brief mention with no impact on the story.

  54. Thank you for the story. Part of me hopes that it was a non-lethal gun which used tinker bullets to put Taylor in stasis (or the equivalent). She gets dumped off at Panacea or another healer, and she gets a happy ending of some kind, after all, involving her Dad. I’ve followed Taylor’s saga and I wish for her not to die from her own madnesses. After reading for so long, I want more for her than a death reinforcing the message of how small we all are, I want a finish emphasizing the light at the end of the tunnel. Worm has had its dark moments, and I’ve enjoyed it because those moments are so emotionally wrenching. Still I’d rather read an end which evokes positive emotions. Looking forward to the epilogues.

    (I could even foresee some set-up where the second shot is a control bullet implant or bomb for down the road.)

  55. Arriving early at work so I can read this first thing in the morning. Damnit, I’m on the verge of crying now. Shit, Taylor you deserved better!

    Thanks for writing this, Wildbow. What a journey it’s been.

  56. That moment with offering the water reminded me of Cell.
    I like that Taylor died with no reliable witnesses. “A man dies when he is forgotten,” in time people will most likely forget Taylor, they might forget Skitter or Weaver, but they won’t forget Khepri for the cost would be too high. Prove me wrong. Khepri will become the name scorned in rally, praised in whispers, and the nightmare that haunts those that don’t believe she’s dead.
    In all honesty, it is possible that Taylor may not be dead by nonlethal ammo or Contessa’s power and with cloning and other powers out there some people might try to recreate Taylor and some might try to revive her. I don’t think that will happen. A clone I find being the most likely as there have been clones of her before and there is a character that made some clones that is still alive. A clone wouldn’t be the same person as it wouldn’t have her memories unless Simurgh helps and even then with Simurgh being what she is no one would trust the clone and it would most likely lead to a large disaster that can be blamed on the Simurgh.
    I want to see the offspring shard learn from the parent shard.

    • Oh god you are are right, I can see it Khepri cults.. *brrr.

      Now I really wonder if the Tinkers will think fondly of the time they spent “at their most effective”.

  57. Wait actually. Here’s something, If a bullet that should have been lethal hit her in the back of the head she wouldn’t feel any pain as there’s no actual resistance via the mask and spiderweave armor. So there is a possibility she is knocked out since she felt the second bullet.

  58. imagine something of this scale for Taylor arranged by Tattletale or Char.

    Maybe a bit more somber and might be a different song.

    • The song would be fitting, maybe, I don’t recall any mention of Taylor’s religion or lack thereof. There weren’t enough bagpipes. You can never have too many bagpipes for an event fitting Taylor.

  59. Hm… Rebirth is one of Khepri’s traits… and it was Contessa, of all people, who named her such.

    It also was Contessa who fired the bullets. I don’t think thats an coincidence…

  60. Ok, I have seen people (mostly in other forums but there are hints about this here, too) complaining that Contessa of all people should have no right to act as judge, jury and executioner. And I wonder if these people have actually read this chapter ( or Contessa’s interlude for that matter).

    This wasn’t about Contessa being a hypocrite. This was about the only person who could actually sympathise ( in the original, truest meaning of the word) with a young girl crushed by the burden of killing an entity and making questionable choices in the name of the greater good, essentially becoming a puppet of her power in the process, having a heartfelt conversation with Taylor about mutual regrets and second chances. And at the end of this conversation they agreed TOGETHER that Taylor really, really didn’t want to become Khepri, the new Echidna.

    Personally I found Taylor’s death to be very dignified and tastefully written.

    • There is a certain poetry to it. I imagine contessa would be jelous as all hell to realize she played a marginal part at best in defeating scion despite 30 years of her life spent towards the task.

      • I think the part where Contessa shows emotion realising that Taylor isn’t giving much thought to her role in Scion’s defeat to be telling. Contessa, in contrast, had her entire life shaped by her killing of Eden.

        • ” It’s up to you to win the fight, to take control and keep the administrator from claiming everything you have, leaving you a shell.“

          I felt a chill. Was part of it my passenger?”

          Thats the point I imagine Taylor screams to hell locked away inside the Administator Shard. The Shard gives up and Contessa kills her.

          That makes me sad.

          • Im may seem i don’t like the chapter. That i don’t like the end.
            I love the story and the end was fitting. Contessas last “FU” just bothers me.

          • As if I know the larger picture, but Taylor and the entity were virtually the same person with only a minor distinction. Impulses, intuition, memory, those are remnants of the life the entity had before the conscious mind playing narrator took the dominant part. Technically if Taylor ever did come back she wouldn’t be the same person unless it was with the help of panacea or some other healer.

            It’s not as if Khepri had two literal minds, only figuratively, in the end.

            • The moment They (as in Taylor and her Passenger) woke up in that other World.

              Have they reached duallity? Are they one entity now? Thats the major question.
              The last of the Arc … its becoming less Taylor and more Administator.

              Why should they reach that dual state of mind from just laying in the dirt?

              Me thinks we just read the Administrators dead, with Taylors dead inculded.

  61. And so dies Khepri. As before her, died Weaver. And before her, Skitter. Who’s next, I wonder? Who shall wake up to this Brand New World, that will see tomorrow thanks to the efforts of one… Worm? No. Taylor. Taylor Hebert. Who will live, one way or another, to wake up not in peace she deserves, but in chaos she needs.

    Thank you, Wildbow, for this beauty of a story. Story that no doubt will pave even wider way for others. Thank you.

  62. Good bye Taylor.

    All that is left is to tell your tale to those who ask. To tell it truly, the good along with the bad, so that you may be judged accordingly.

    The rest, is silence.

  63. I believe this tune is appropriate listening material for this, final, chapter.

    While I like to think that Taylor will live on, somehow….if she doesn’t? Well…true Heroes never truly die. They just fall asleep in the poems and songs.

  64. *hits the overclock mode on the brainbonded CPU, slowing down his perceptions as he kneels, watching her fall*

    Well, well, well. I was afraid of this. Ever since, instead of the big anchors, you went with little ones. Maybe your problem was that you saw yourself as too much of a means to an end. That whole “administrator” thing, you know? Never found yourself for all the missions. Always linking your value to your ability to get done what others can’t or won’t.

    Now, I suppose with Wildbow there’s always a chance that two bullets to the brain might just be helpful to you, and maybe the closest thing you have to an anchor is that self-sacrificial attitude, but I’m going to treat this like your last call. Don’t gotta go home, but you can’t stay here. I’m not much of a barkeep, but I am the closest qualified around here that you’ll get. The name’s Psychopomp Gecko, after all.

    And in the end, what can the harvest hope for, if not for the care of the Reaper Man?

    I’m gonna level with ya, even though it’s going to leave some people rather confused by me. One of the worst days you can have is the day that you understand, objectively, that you deserve to die. See, most people have to deal with the greater world not giving a crap. A few have to deal with the world mourning. More people? People hire strippers and a DJ for their funeral.

    And what’s even worse than that is realizing you can turn back. That what you did didn’t need to be done, shouldn’t have been done, or that all your sacrifices can somehow be humbly forgiven if you were stripped to your core and laid bare before the judgment of an entire world. A chance at true penance, no ulterior motives? Scary as hell. You have to give up a lot of yourself. A lot of control.

    Nah, often it’s easier to stay the monster that you think you deserve to be until someone gives you the death you’re sure you’ve earned many times over.

    Of course, the best heroes are also the best monsters. Not just if they go wrong. Every single great savior leaves blood behind. Those they can’t save. Those they have to kill to end a threat that just won’t stop. And, if you think of yourself as evil, then the one hero who manages the courage and ability to put you yourself down.

    And yeah, cooperation. Good stuff. Support. Community. That bit about redemption? You need people for that. Yep, other people are your redemption. Unfortunately, you lost your people.

    You know, you didn’t deserve this shit. Hey, I tried to point it out. They don’t want a hero. They want a martyr. A reason to not be so heroic themselves, with deadly consequences backing up their own inadequacy. You weren’t forced into it, though. The fact that you saw saving the world not as an option but as mandatory, compared to all the rest? Yeah, you were better than them. At the very least, we can hope that your bright shining heroism shines a light that exposes their flaws to all. So yeah, in the end, you could have opened up a short-ended stick wholesale store, but you were a hero.

    Well, time to go, Taylor Hebert, or whoever you were.

    *disappears with a laugh as time speeds up for him once more*

  65. Well that was sad and I was hoping for a nicer end but rather expected. Hopefully at least people will understand why she did as she did.

  66. I don’t know.

    Just because she got shot, dosen’t mean she’s gone.

    Brain surgery with a gun?

    I suppose I’ll have to wait to find out.

  67. I’m expecting more commentators than usual this time around, so any of y’all that are new, let me know here.

    There are nice things, I swear. Like candy, or mustard.

    I said “like” though. It’ll still be plenty worth it, though.

        • *particles* I’m just keepin’ it light.

          Heya Bahumat989. It’s a hard time to get caught up, but a good time for a welcome. Everybody needs a laugh some time. I stole this one from Ted Dibiase, because that’s like bottled bastard.

          Would you look at that? What light through yonder skull breaks? Some Shakesearean similarities around. Lots of deaths, including the main character. A protagonist with some major family issues. Even a couple instances where women were played by men. Thing is, I think Wildbow beat Shakespeare in terms of total deaths, but missed out on some important ones. Rosencrantz survived! Or was it Guildenstern who survived? Either way, we only lost one of them. And to make matters worse, not nearly enough dirty jokes! Not one bit of followup about Leviathan tearing Japan a new hole and Lung diving into it headfirst.

          Not even a discussion of how Tattletale knew her brother was well hung. And then the disturbing bit about how Simurgh was also well hung. Then again, the Blasto clone DID have both parts…

          Speaking of Blasto, if ever there was anyone who deserves to have “Barbie Girl” as a funeral march, there’s your guy.

          Explore these observations and more here in the comments, perhaps with shipping Imp and Tattletale together due to Imp’s stranger abilities, and don’t let a little thing like the end of the story put an end to the wild mass guessing. Just imagine…this could be a prequel to Dune…

          So let’s hit that Barbie girl, have one bourbon, one scotch, and one beer, and stay with us just a little while longer to move it, move it. Welcome, Bahumat989, to the comments, where Bitch let the dogs out.

    • Long time Lurker sacrificing myself to the Gecko. I need an epilogue with Taylor’s father. No one seems to care about him anymore. Other than that it was an amazing adventure.

          • Tattletale noted Taylor avoiding looking into him, and mentioned that she thought it was unhealthy but she wasn’t going to stop it while there was a crisis. If he were alive, she would probably have just said that there for a morale boost. I don’t think she’s cold enough to let Taylor think her father was dead just for whatever slight, dubious tactical advantage it might hold, so not saying anything there was as good as admitting he was dead. Meaning that if he did survive, he did so in a way that convinced Tattletale that he was dead.
            Given her resources and connections at the time, that pretty much leaves the Simurgh as our only hope.

            Again.

      • Sacrifice, eh? Ok, let me get the fancy headdress. Had to improvise it out of spatulas and feather dusters. Mind if I put on some music while we work? I feel like “Thankless Job” from Repo! is a good pick for the ole-heart rending sacrifice. Hey, somebody’s got to make the Heart planeteer ring work.

        Taylor tended to forget about the little things like that. Revenge on Emma. Checking on her father. Telling Tattletale about her deepest, gooeyist feelings and a libido influenced by thousands of horny fruit flies. I think we all missed the pair of them walking out of the women’s room and Imp having to remind Taylor that her fly was down. And then laugh when Taylor checked her pants rather than her swarm. But you know Taylor. She was pretty fly for a white girl.

        Nope, she just had to bite the bullet and sacrifice again. That’s why Taylor would make a terrible Aztec, you know. She’d get up on the alter, hold the knife over someone, and then cut her own heart out. Amy Winehouse, eat your heart out. Or Taylor’s heart. See, they tried to make Taylor go to rehab, but she said “eeeuarghl, eeeuarghl, eeeuarghl”. Roughly translated, I think it was something like “Your mama goes to rehab,” and then she was attacked by an anthropomorphic bear with a ranger hat on for such a devastating burn.

        But seriously, Taylor needed to a sad ending like she needed a hole in the head. Maybe she just needed to get more oxygen past that thick skull of hers.

        Either way, it’s time to stick around for the moist, delicious cake that serves as the epilogue to this adventure with portals.

        Enjoy your front row seat and welcome, Airda, to the comments.

  68. Goodbye, little queen. Time to rest.
    Should you ever wake again I hope that the world is kinder to you than it was.

    Thank you, Wildbow. Thank you.

  69. Slightly unhappy with the ending, it was predictable. That doesn’t make it bad, but it was visible a mile off. I was hoping for something unexpected to round of this awesome series, maybe not even a happy ending (because wow this is pretty damn unhappy, a huge majority of humanity has been exterminated, and the big damn hero protagonist has been killed by her own team, possibly out of necessity, after she saved the entire multiverse) but at least one that wasn’t quite SO unhappy.

    Ah well, its over now, guess there’s no point in bitching. But god damn, nothing ever goes well for you Taylor does it?

  70. Bonesaws prepped in the OR: 1
    Grey Boys blacked out: 1
    Jacks in the box: 1

    Nilbogs populating a dungeon: 1
    Saints glued in a female gorilla suit and tossed into a troop of males, covered in birdseed and dropped in an ostrich exhibit, had Tokay geckos tied to his ears, had his computer shined up real nice, turned sideways, and shoved straight up his candy ass, stomped a mudhole in and walked dry, tombstone piledriven straight to hell, had a catheter repeatedly stuck in and pulled out, given an orange juice enema, fed high protein cupcakes with laxative cream on top, beaten in the head with a shoe, recircumcised, had his nipples scraped with sandpaper, dragged through mud, hit with carrots, had a rabid badger tossed in his pants, tarred, feathered, drawn, quartered, had his tongue ripped out, shot, and then had his tongue shot, and trimmed that scraggly beard: 0

    Scions extinct: 1

  71. Where the hell do I start? I think I need bulletpoints for this.

    1. Thank you Wildbow. Thank you for an amazing story, that also ended up giving me the push to start my own.
    2. I won’t give up hope on Taylor surviving, somehow, until the epilogues confirm her death. Never give up!
    3. Glaistig Uaine always seemed too perfect in her insanity. Nice, very nice to see that she could be turned. I love that it was Taylor who, in some small (or in this case, big) measure redeemed her.
    4. I won’t give up hope on Taylor surviving, somehow, until the epiloges confirm her death. Never give up!
    5. Suck it, Shadow Stalker! People didn’t turn on each other, at the end!
    6. I won’t give up hope on Taylor surviving, somehow, until the epiloges confirm her death. Never give up!
    7. As for the Epilogues (how long is the donation window open?), I’d vote for Glaistig Uaine, Tattletale, Miss Militia/Chevalier/some other Protectorate member, Dragon/Defiant and whoever can shed some light on the Endbringers.
    8. I won’t give up hope on Taylor surviving, somehow, until the epiloges confirm her death. Never give up!

    Lastly, and once more, thank you for this awesome story. I know you’ll deliver even better, both in the Epilogues and in your next project.

    I won’t give up hope on Taylor surviving, somehow, until the epiloges confirm her death. Never give up!

    • “We never gonna give you up
      Never gonna let you down
      Never gonna read around and desert you

      Always gonna have to cry
      When it’s time to say goodbye
      Always gonna tell the truth to respect you”

      See you soon Taylor! And you too Wildbow!
      Waiting eagerly for Saturday, I NEED SOME CLOSURE!!!!

  72. I wasn’t expecting a happy ending, but would’ve settled for a ‘Walk the Earth’ kind of thing. This, though… After all she’s done, she deserved more than to be dumped on another world and shot in the dark, far from her family.

    I’d hoped as the story went on, that in the end Skitter would have gotten to sit down with Dinah, and talk. Dinah drove Skitter for most of the story, yet had very little actual presence in story, especially after she went home. What I most want to know from her is, would she do it all again? Was this ending worth it? Was there a happier ending out there?

    I really hope this ending is wildbow messing with us, and that was ballistic brain surgery, with Panacea waiting in the wings.

  73. I would also like to say, as meaningful, complex and well written as this ending is, screw unhappy endings. Screw a world in which sacrifice of sanity, self, life and saving the entire multiverse gets you judged by small people as a monster.

    Of course she’d have taken another route if she had known there was one. Taylor never enjoyed inflicting suffering. But goddamn, she just saved your lives! ALL your lives! At almost no cost! If she doesn’t get a goddamned globally acknowledged monument at the very least… I’ll very much hope that another entity finds worm. That kind of ungratefulness is truly tragic.

    But its also human. Sad.

    God-DAMMIT! I really liked Taylor. ; _ ;

      • I disagree, although I can see the allure of such a viewpoint. I’m more of the opinion that if you keep a story going too long, it will have to end in death. The story of Ezio Auditore is the perfect example of stretching out a story this way, culminating in “Assassin’s Creed: Embers,” where he dies of old age in the last scene. As a very genre savvy character once said: “There’s no end, there’s just the point where the storyteller stops talking.”

        • actually, why does dying of old age qualify as a sad ending?

          I’ve never played AC2 (stopped aftter the first game), but considering that he’s an assassin, living to old age is quite the achievement

          • I think the point was that, to paraphrase Neil Gaiman, if you keep a story going for too long, it can only end in death. Which is neither a good or a bad thing, but more, like, you know, a fact.

      • The way I see it is this. Taylor realized there was one last monster she had to see stopped. Her anchors were lost, and she was adrift, too influenced by her passenger. And it can’t see the difference between a hug and attempted murder. It would only have been a matter of time before it tried to take control of everyone again.

  74. Requiescat in pace, Taylor. May you find peace at last. Goddammit ;~;

    So the emotional rollercoster of Taylors life is at an end. Contessa, you asshole, couldn’t leave well enough alone could you? I hope Teacher takes all your freewill and you end up like Krouse.

    I wonder what has become of Rachel. It couldn’t have been easy for her to lose Taylor. PUPPIES! PUPPIES FOR EVERYONE!

    • The next apocalypse: puppygeddon! Rachel will find some way to go full Khepri and spawn an infinite horde of puppies, burying the world.

        • Personally I would have gone with Legion for Taylor’s S-Class designation, but for some reason they wanted to associate her with the fat Endbringer.

          • Khepri is also associated with life, the transition of the sun, and the mythical creation of the world. It means she wasn’t treated as a monster in the end, but rather a force for good.

            • Even if that’s the case I’d still hope Tattletale goes out of her way to make sure Taylor’s known by the name she chose or was born with, damn it. It does a disservice to her to treat her as another inhuman IMO.

              • Yeah, well. When her monster went on a rampage, Noelle was atleast a little bit on board with it.

              • Taylor was very on board with what her monster form did seeing as the main thing it did was save the Earths by stopping Scion. :)
                Very much agree that she needs to be remembered as Taylor though.

      • “Hero lives at the end” is overplayed but you pretty much have to go with *one* of them.

        The differences tend to be more in the how and the why of the heroes’ fate than whether they simply live or die.

    • Honestly, I had more of a problem with her snapping and attacking people. When you find yourself skipping to the scene where the main character dies because the previous one was too painful to read, you know the story’s dark.

  75. An end to Khepri, perhaps not an end to Taylor.

    Panacea made biological changes to change Taylor’s mind and release her Administrator. Contessa’s power would allow her to, perhaps, damage Taylor’s brain sufficiently to stop the Administrator’s control.

    Otherwise, why two shots? Contessa is talking about doing things on her own, insinuating that she’s not going to allow her powers to control everything she does. To me this means that she’s not going to stop using the power, she’s going to stop using the power to make decisions that should be made by humans, with emotions, not with some cold calculation power.

    If there is one place where Contessa will absolutely use her power, it’s where she was, dealing with Taylor, who is arguably one of the most dangerous beings in any of the Earths at this time.

    So Contessa is using her power, carefully, carefully watching to make sure Taylor or her administrator aren’t able to surprise her in some way. She’s rejecting her power to make human choices though. Mercy? Compassion? Those never used to factor before. Now they might. She asks questions and gets answers with her power, but looks at those answers as a human, with emotions, to make a decision. Then she tries to formulate a solution with her power to the decision she made as a human… And she shoots twice.

    That’s the kicker here. She shoots twice. There is absolutely zero possibility IMHO that Contessa would risk shooting at Taylor without using her power. They are NOT that far apart. Contessa was sitting 20 feet from her. That’s 4 feet separating her from Taylor and slavery.

    Imagine Taylor with Contessa’s power. I’m absolutely certain Contessa imagined it. Contessa’s decisions might no longer be controlled by her power, but if her physical actions were not completely controlled by her power during the entirety of her conversation with Taylor, then there was something severely broken in the head with Contessa.

    Regeneration of Taylor after a brain injury might not be possible without restoring her power. It might be possible to heal her, without regenerating the damaged parts, and let her live without powers.

    Author territory though.

    I hope to see Danny Hebert in the last few pieces of writing here, perhaps including a Taylor with no powers, and a head wound being carefully healed without regeneration.

    • A mercy kill would have been a single shot killing Taylor instantly. Wildbow left it open intentionally I think, similar to how the rest of the second half played out: first person, seperated and removed from any depth through coincidence and likely by design.

      All the really key thoughts went on in the subconscious and were only revealed selectively. Whether the actual Taylor had an answer to Contessa’s questions, we weren’t meant to know definitively.

    • I hope it’s that.

      Contessa gets 30 years to come to terms with her decisions and Taylor only gets like 2 minutes? lolwut?

      I will be extremely disappointed if Taylor really did just get executed right after saving the multi-verse by the one person who should have the ability to fix it but doesn’t. What kind of nonsense would that be.

    • Using emotions to make decisions is bad, they were designed (in as much as natural selection can design something) for a world where speed was of the essence, where there were few members of your tribe and you knew them all personally and where humans had no good reasoning skills (we have over millennia constructed our amazing languages and logic to allow us to reason).
      Those with the most power running on emotions will result in more suffering overall, it’s only with our hindsight that we can see that some of Contessa’s decisions were suboptimal, given the information available at the time she did everything to minimize suffering. Making decisions based on emotion would have resulted in Scion still being around and killing people.
      We’ve constructed every institution we have (example: our justice system) to minimize the power emotions have over our actions for good reasons.

      In fact, as a rule humans should not make decisions if there are better options. Humans suck at them for reasons you can find many textbooks on.

      • A life without emotion isn’t worth living. You would have about as much enjoyment in your life as a can opener. Contessa has a power that will tell her if an emotional decision she makes is tenable, -she can specifically word the questions.

        After she determines that Taylor is still there, inside the Administrator, “Is it possible to remove Taylor’s powers and the influence of her Administrator shard, while allowing her to live a productive, happy life?” 47 steps, starting with two bullets.

      • I’m all about logic and reason, but that’s no reason to leave out emotion. It’s a part of us too. A powerful part and a useful motivator. Plus, exploring them and finding out why you feel the way you feel can really help you learn a lot about yourself. So don’t reject them altogether, just don’t let them rule you.

      • Using emotions to make decisions is bad

        Uh, no. Emotions are the reasons we can make decisions in the first place. Feel free to correct me on this, but I’m pretty sure there have been cases of mental disorders that stunt higher emotions, and far from turning the patient into a pure logician that makes awesome decisions, it made them completely indecisive.

        The way I see it, the problem with Cauldron is that they were too locked into following their script, without ever letting their own reason (to which emotions are fundamental, because they tell us what to value) and emotions step in so they can keep their big plans in check.

        Which is exactly what Contessa was doing here IMO, she sympathizes but she’s so demented that she falls back on the stark logical choice so Taylor never actually had a chance to make one of her own.

  76. Damn, if that doesn’t wrap it up nicely.

    Well done, Wildbow. I’m gonna miss this once those epilogues are over- I’m going to have to stop setting my schedule by when you update.

    This is I think the first time I’ve been willing to accept a main character dying.

    • If it helps, I’m planning on segueing straight into releasing sample chapters for the next work, then straight into that work.

      I’ve got a streak going, be a shame to spoil it.

      • Didn’t your FAQ mention the possibility of a short story, set in the Wormverse but unrelated to Worm, after the posting of the samples but before you started your new project? Or have I completely imagined that?

        • I think I mentioned it in comments.

          Basically, depending on what happens with the next project, I may do worm shorts as interlude incentives. Stay in touch with the wormverse, and stick with something the audience is liable to like.

          If the next project still has other incentives, then maybe I’d do something more periodic/rare as an anniversary or between-project event.

          • Don’t get me wrong, I love the Wormverse, but I also have faith that your next stories will more than be able to stand on their own, so I’m hoping we’ll have the option for donations to expand those stories, the way the interludes expanded this one.

            • Well the sad thing is Worm is done. The happy thing is I have found an author I like reading, so there should be more to read.

  77. Wildbow. There are no perfect endings. This is not perfect, but I must protest haveing Contessta of all people pull the trigger, under prompting from Teacher.

    Thematically… yes, it made sense, I suppose. But if it is so, it is probably the most depressing ending I could think of…

    Good intentions are for nought?

    I’ll have you know, this story. It’s portrayal of humanity, of the best hero I have ever seen written, has given me the strength to overcome some personal problems that have plagued me for years.

    Give her a hopeful end, it needn’t be happy, but hopeful. Please. Please, man. Don’t go down that road. Not for something as beautiful as this.

    We still don’t know what happend with the Simurgh’s mechanations, her strange glass tube. It is unlikley that contessta would need two shots to kill Taylor. Not with her power. But she might have needed two bullets to destroy the part of her brain that linked her to her passanger without killing the girl.

    And in the end, Taylor was still in there, I’m fairly certain that Contessta knew it. the fact that Taylor, or her passanger, couldn’t give a difinitive answer proves there was still something left.

    As I said, this work is a thing of beauty. But it tears my heart, to see the best mankind has to offer thrown away.

    Take her power from her. I don’t think she needs it any more. But don’t take the happy ending from the wounded, the tired.

    “And can’t there be a joyful ending somehow?
    Remembrance played across a smile
    A question dancing in a crooked eyebrow
    What beauties next will us beguile?”

    I look forward to the beauty that next beguils us.

    Thank you, Wildbow.

    • See my comment below. I don’t think it was Contessa pulling the trigger.

      Yes, Taylor is still in there. But not in a happy way. She won, not only against Scion, but also against her own passenger in this chapter, stopping it from rampaging when that was distressingly close to happening (though in context they would have put her down with only dozens of casualties). She knows she won. What reason does she have left to hang on and claw her way back to a damaged existence? I think in the end she chose to let go. This chapter was a passenger interlude, as farmerbob below says, but the one actually finding the words to speak was Taylor. When she finds no words at the end, that itself is her final choice.

  78. [insert obligatory congratulations, thanks, and philosophizing here]

    [also a donation]

    [also also go check out the Worm Statistics Spreadsheet*]

    *-https://docs.google.com/spreadsheet/ccc?key=0ApEJSdIrWJwbdHpxa2g2aUotNGJLQnZMV2pTT0lzLUE&usp=drive_web#gid=0

      • WOW!
        Nice to see it in Numbers. Now I can brag about wildbow’s wordcount, backed by statistics!

        Although my favourite teacher always said: “Never trust a statistic, that you didn’t personally fake.”

          • And wildbow has adjusted the comments by removing spam though the numbers how up in my url bar.

            so it’s something like 50,688 posts but only (est) 47.617 actual comments.

              • crap, was trying to add to above post not generate a mostly pointless extra one. Forgot you can’t do that, so here am I asking Wildbow to remove ‘edit and after that this post. Worm’s going to breach 50,000 genuine comments on its own strengths

  79. So, having just been introduced to Worm last week, and reading through all the chapters, this is the first time I’ve read or responded in the comments. I get the impression I’ve missed out a bit, as I’m sure Psycho Gecko will tease me for.

    The ending arc was incredibly depressing for me, despite some good moments. Taylor has a habit of missing options that seem obvious to me… such as grabbing a regenerator and sharing it with herself and her swarm using the power sharing yangban member. Also, sharing any thinker powers with herself to let her actually communicate again, but I suspect her passenger was deliberately blocking that option. I was pretty sure she started losing when she focused on Grue’s cabin instead of himself. Avoiding the pain of seeing him with someone else, weakened her grip. Losing the location of her house was where it became apparent she was losing.

    • Yes, phlinn, you did miss out on a lot. Rewrites, Genoscythe the Eyeraper, puns, lesbian shipping (half price if you get them from Eastern Europe), songs, hula girls, and an argument between unleashing chemical weapons or nuclear weapons in a city.

      I think the smart thing to do is always to avoid letting Teacher control you. That’s where the arsene-filled whoopee cushions and extendable thumbtacks come in. Don’t forget to give your Teacher’s apple a creative stuff to earn even more brownie points. Brownie points with almonds in them. Faintly bitter almonds at that.

      Bitter? I haven’t even licked her! Gotta see how many it takes to open up Tootsie’s center. Just try to avoid Tootsie’s pop. He takes very good care of his daughter…and his shotgun.

      Speaking of bitter…Bitter! Bitter! Or should I say “Gorko, gorko, gorko!” I think we’ve all had more than enough vodka after this chapter. We need some kissing around here. Ladies and gentlemen, fetch me a llama! Me llama llama! Llama llama duck.

      Well, enough Flynning, phlinn. The end is nigh. Almost like Wildbow’s way of saying that out there is our future. Out there is our destiny.

      But for now, feel free to stay in here. Welcome, phlinn, to the comments section.

      • Please tell me Gecko, before it’s too late – who is Genosect the Eyeraper?
        I feel like I’ve only heard the punchline of a joke!

        • Genoscythe the Eyeraper is… an OC that Gecko made up that could hypothetically fit in to the Wormverse. Wildbow said “sure, he could be in the background somewhere.” and never mentioned him again. Except when PG exulted that he (Gs) was still alive and Wildbow immediately put the kibosh on that.

        • I made him up as a villain that would perfectly fit into Worm and could be the next to show up after some dark chapter. I believe I put his power down as using still-living people and crafting them into his weapons and armor, then using them to kill or defend against their loved ones. Also, he’d rape eyes. It’s kinda fitting with Taylor’s own eye stuff throughout the story.

    • So, after thinking about it for a bit, I’ve figured out why the ending bothers me so much. Giving up and letting herself be killed feels out of character for Taylor. Consistently throughout the story, she keeps going when other people give up. Now, rather than trying to stay alive so she can help the survivors, she just lets Contessa kill her? It would sort of fit with her continued loss of identity for the last couple of chapters, but her passenger also seems to have a “never give up” attitude. Every time she gives up something (her plan to be a hero, her successfull supvervillianhood, and her drive to do whatever it takes regardless of appearance) it’s been in the service of some larger goal. This is just giving up, for no stated reason except a sense of guilt. Especially given that Contessa said it might be possible for her to return, it feels off.

      • The thing is, she never gives up on a goal but she frequently gives up on herself. When Mannequin attacked her people, she dove into melee with him because she was okay with being killed, but refused to allow him to hurt others when she had any chance of stopping him. When Coil trapped her in a burning building, she had to survive and escape because she had to save Dinah. Self preservation has never been a goal for her, but rather a means to an end. Here, she had accomplished all of her goals and was left with no direction, no anchor, no momentum, just regret.

  80. So, in the showdown with Ulaine, the passenger, in full control, thinks that it’s Taylor, and that Taylor is it. When Taylor desperately pushes for it to let go, it thinks “I’m Taylor, and that’s the passenger, so whatever it’s pushing for must be tactically smart.” It also helps that the passenger is, as a matter of fact, strategically stupid; the only strategy that entities have or need is the Power of Win. So the passenger lets go, Taylor releases her swarm, and they move to another plane.

    I think the first of the two bullets was Imp. I think she managed to turn her power back on as soon as Taylor/whoever was distracted by Teacher. Contessa would not be directly aware of Imp, but would foresee the possible impact of Imp’s actions on her (Contessa’s) chosen goal. Still, the uncertainty around Imp’s yet-unmade choices would parse, for Contessa, as Taylor’s own free will. Which is a good thing, because it let Contessa back her Winning down low enough to give Taylor and passenger time to reach a resolution. Which was… Taylor doesn’t have enough reasons to hold on and suffer and suffer and suffer for a recovery that would inevitably be incomplete.

    As to why Imp chose that moment to shoot… I think she saw that Contessa was about to, and wanted to give Taylor the dignity of being killed by a friend. Also, it’s Imp, and so there was surely a bit of revenge, which is not a dish Imp eats cold.

    If Contessa had been clearly focused on “save Taylor”, her power would have beaten Imp’s. But since Contessa’s goal was more like “save the world from Taylor in some way that gives Taylor due dignity”, letting Imp shoot first actually suited the power’s purpose. (Note, there are situations where Imp’s power would win, if active. For instance, Contessa could never get around to formulating a “kill/neutralize Imp” goal unless Imp first turned off her power; and so Imp could actually throw real sand in the gears of Contessa’s other goals, though probably not enough sand to stop the machine.)

    The one part I don’t think I understand here fully is Teacher. I guess he’s just taking a shot in the dark at Taylor falling under his influence, and he knows that others wouldn’t let him take that shot if they knew it was him and not a minion. But does he seriously think that with basically all the capes in the multiverse watching, he could get Taylor under his thumb without someone taking them out? Seems crazy to me, but I guess that’s Teacher.

    This is my first comment. I intend to donate when all is done. I don’t need any extra prizes for donating, the debt is all mine already.

      • Not to… uh, but this would be faster if I went straight to the point. Taylor turned her back to Contessa first, before looking up to the stars.

          • Again, to expand:

            I’m not 100% certain of my theory. But there is one thing I’m pretty certain of: the “bullet from behind” is a clue to something. The only theories that make sense to me so far are the bullet brain surgery (BBS) one and my Imp theory.

            Arguments for BBS:
            Contessa is Contessa.

            Arguments against BBS:
            Too deus ex machina.
            Why paralyze first? Taylor is not dangerous because of her body.

            Arguments for Imp:
            Imp is Imp.

            Arguments against Imp:
            No hints I can see in stepping through the portal. It would have been hard for Imp to ride the same forcefield through that whole scene and make it through the portal at just the right moment.
            Would Imp ever kill Taylor? I think it’s plausible, if it were just to forestall Contessa doing it first, and also as a bit of revenge on Administrator. But I can see the other side.

            So all in all, it’s pretty balanced. And it could be something else entirely that I haven’t considered.

            I’m going with the Imp theory because it’s mine, but I’m really not sure. I’m pretty sure there’s still a shoe that hasn’t dropped, though.

            • How is BBS deus ex machina if it follows directly from long-established facts about a character whose involvement here has been foreshadowed for a couple arcs?

        • You’re right.

          Hmm.

          Still “hit me from behind” doesn’t fit with that for me. If she was looking to one side at Contessa, then turned to the other side to look up at the stars, I’d describe a bullet to the spine as “hit at the back of my head”, not “hit me from behind”. So, Wildbow, (I’m not worthy and thank you thank you and) if it wasn’t your intent to suggest third-party intervention, once the next chapter is posted and the question is resolved, you might want to come back and fix the “from behind” wording.

            • It’s one of the biggest Chekhov’s Guns ever. In the very first arc, Taylor mentioned that her mask did not cover the back of her head where her hair exited. As I recall, Taylor said something about hoping nobody hits that spot…

              • And in the Echidna arc she tells Clockblocker to shoot her in the back of the head because her costume doesn’t protect her there.

            • Yeah, but she wasn’t wearing her mask now. Unless somebody put it on her while she was out. During the fight with Zion she noticed that she’d taken off or lost her mask without noticing, and actually scratched her face.

    • Contessa can totally detect Imp. As in “turn around and tell her to stop following” detect.

      As for Teacher i think you’re correct re his motivations.

      • What chapter is that in? Anyway, that’s clear evidence that Contessa’s power can detect Imp (“you have to say this nonsense thing now”), but not that Contessa can. As I said, if the goal was “Stop Taylor, but leave her with a dignified death”, not noticing Imp could further that goal.

          • So the quote is:

            “No,” I could overhear Contessa saying, “I ask myself several questions before I go anywhere, and one pertains to strangers. Stay behind.”

            We don’t know the exact wording of that question. But it would be very easy for her to overlook Imp if Imp were already in place. Remember, Imp’s power directly interferes with her specifically thinking to ask an extra time after she’s arrived.

    • Alright, homunculoid, way to make this as controversial as JFK. We already know a conspiracy is involved without adding people bouncing the bullet off swam gas that reflected light from Venus to make it appear that there was only one shooter.

      And it’s very easy to understand Teacher. He wants control. All of it. He wants to be the smartest, bestest, most in controllingest man out there, for no other reason than he can be. I say we tie him down and smack him with thawed salmon. Maybe get a guy to put on some face paint and smack him repeatedly with a spoon until he dies. I have someone in mind for that, but I think he’s still busy tormenting someone else.

      The guy abused the rules to put Dragon under his thumb with everyone watching and they let him keep her. The reason Taylor was so effective is that finally one of the good guys broke those rules for good reason. No more breaking them for selfishness, like killing criminals or breaking their backs. No more tolerating someone break the rules because they still need them during a crisis. So Taylor showed up and did what they could have done if they’d bothered. She ended the crisis.

      Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to go back in time and test drive an Avro Canada VZ-9 Avrocar to Area 51 to deliver some of important papers regarding the research into their unusually high flying U2 spy plane and the stealth of the Lockheed A-12 that they did there back then. Maybe stop and hike back to the time machine in nothing but a gorilla suit.

      And even though it may empower even more Wild Mass Guessing, which I don’t object to anyway, I’m gonna stop here to welcome you, homunq, to the comments.

  81. This chapter is an Administrator Interlude. A hidden, sneaky interlude.

    I didn’t catch this the first time through, not clearly, but something was bugging be about it (pun definitely intended)

    Taylor is now the passenger and the Administrator is the dominant individual. As Taylor forces the Administrator to do things, she is casting aside her anchors and becoming weaker. The Administrator is becoming stronger, learning how to appease Taylor and make plans around Taylor’s few remaining anchors.

    I was reading this whole thing as being Taylor degrading and falling apart, but no, it is the Administrator growing and coming together. This is the bit that crystallized it for me during a reread.

    So am I just imagining things?

    “The autopilot took control of the clairvoyant’s focus. It turned my attention to faces. A blond girl. A girl with brown-red hair. The girl with the horned mask that I’d attacked so ineffectually with the knife.

    Others. A red haired girl in another world, shouting to people as she ordered them through a building project, a girl who was standing outside in the rain, in another world, kids peering through the window behind her.

    Before it could go any further, I wrested control for myself. Easier. It was like it was weaker with every set of actions.

    I passed through the threshold.

    Again, that discomfort.

    This would be a learning process, adjusting, adapting. I was learning what it wanted.

    It kept wanting sacrifices in the short term. Responding to its desires had left me feeling more secure, made the ensuing resistance weaker. The implicit promise was that acquiescing would be rewarded with a surer footing. Footing that I could use. There were doors open to every world. If I could take time to heal, to build my strength. Eating well, resting… I could move on, carry out my plan.”

    • You are absolutely right. I missed that. It makes the possibility that Contessa did some ballistic brain surgery less likely, just because it makes it clear that there really isn’t much left of Taylor. There are still some important questions:
      1. Does Simurgh have a use for that gun and glass tube beyond making Taylor sidestep? I will note that Contessa’s precognition is blind to endbringers. So Simurgh could pop up and rewind time or heal Taylor without Contessa necessarily being forewarned.
      2. What was the anchor? Being a hero? Maybe not being able to think of her anchor what convinced Contessa that Taylor wasn’t salvageable.
      3. More generally I would like to see what happens to the Undersiders, Defiant/Dragon, GU, Contessa, Dinah, wards team, Panacea, foil/parian.
      4. Also what happens to endbringers/other S-class theats in the new world? Foil’s power seems like it actually should kill endbringers since their invincibility was based on a well like scion’s.

      • Remember, unlike most characters in fiction, Contessa potentially knows more about what is going on than the readers do. This chapter is written from the perspective of the Administrator shard, with bits and pieces of Taylor making herself heard. Contessa’s thought processes aren’t known to us. We don’t know the questions she’s asking, or the answers she’s getting.

        It’s quite possible that Contessa’s power was able to determine that Taylor was still “there” enough to be rescued, in which case, here comes bullet surgery. If there was not enough of Taylor left to salvage, then the strange, unnecessary double tap.

        • Clarification: We don’t know the questions she’s asking herself mentally, or the answers she’s getting. We only see the outwards questions directed at the Administrator / Taylor.

        • The reason why your observation makes me think it is more likely she was killed is because it shows that Taylor had slipped more than was otherwise obvious. It made me realize her situation was closer to irreparable than I had first thought. Contessa may well be asking lots of things, and yes, the double tap is strange. That being said: shooting where her mask doesn’t cover certainly implies death. Unconsciousness could be obtained by shooting her in the mask covered area, without hugely wounding her. As cool as ballistic surgery would be, I don’t think it is necessary since bonesaw or panacea would be easy enough to conscript. Furthermore IIRC removing the brain component related to powers just disabled conscious control of the power – not a good thing here. Furthermore the tone of the story would fit her death better. I made a prediction book entry regarding this: http://predictionbook.com/predictions/21896

          As an aside, I was very glad that Contessa implied she wasn’t going to just follow Teacher blindly. That was the sourest implication of her interlude.

  82. I don’t know what to say. Whatever you have gotten from writing this story, be it money, enjoyment, knowledge or something else, I am certain that you deserve more. I pour through more books in a month than many do in years and this might be one of my absolute favorites. None of the so called great fantasy and sci-fi worlds are as intriguing as yours and none of the great dramas are more emotionally demanding/draining. I understand there’s such a thing as personal preference but how are you not among the more famous authors of today?

    The top spot on a list of web fiction is like pinning a medal for most impressive plant in the village fair to Jack’s beanstalk.