Interlude: End

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The train jerked into motion, and the men and women in the aisle stumbled.  There was a crowd at the front, where an old woman had taken a while to handle her fare.  Even now, she made her way down the aisle with excruciating slowness.  The people behind her looked irritated enough to snap.

“Hey.  Miss?”

The old woman stopped, glancing down.  The seat was occupied by an older teenager, bundled up in an overcoat and scarf, with a wool cap pulled down over close-cropped light brown hair.

“Take a seat?”

“Oh, that’s alright.  I prefer window seats.  I think there’s one open at the back there.”

“Take my seat.”

“I couldn’t do that.  I-”

But the teenager was out of the chair, swiftly vacating the spot.  With a peculiar awkward slowness, the teenager picked up the backpack and moved out into the aisle, leaving the way clear.

“If you insist.  Thank you,” the old woman said.  She took a few seconds to get settled.

With the woman out of the way, the people in the aisle were clear to move on.  The teenager ignored the grateful looks and glances from the ones who’d been stuck behind her.

“You aren’t warm in that jacket?” the woman asked.

“I was cold when I got on.  By the time I warmed up, I was close enough to my stop that I figured it would be silly to take it off and then put it back on.”

“I see.  Fair enough.  Are you traveling for business or pleasure?” the old woman asked.

The teenager struggled to move the heavy backpack to the floor.  It slid from one knee, and the old woman reached out to help catch it.

They worked together to lower it to the floor.

“Is that alright?” the older woman asked.

“Yes.  Thank you.”

“A heavy burden, that.”

“It’s not too bad.”

The woman frowned, peering, “You’re breathing a little hard.  Are you okay?”

“Yeah.  No worries.”

The last of the passengers settled in the train.  The teenager and old woman both watched out of the window as the landscape passed by.  Rural areas, farms, fields dusted in snow that didn’t quite cover the grass, the occasional horse or cow searching for something to eat.

The train reached a bridge.  The landscape zipped by and was replaced by water.  Snowfall obscured vision beyond a few hundred feet away.

“If I was bothering you with the questions, let me know,” the old woman said.

“You’re not bothering me.”

“You didn’t answer my question earlier.  Business or pleasure?”

“Everything’s pleasure, I think.”

“Well that‘s good.  When you find what you really enjoy doing, I think you find that business becomes pleasure.”

“That’s very true.  You?  Business or pleasure?”

“Bittersweet pleasure.  I’m visiting an old friend.  We went our separate ways,” the old woman confided.  “I admit, it was probably my fault.  I wasn’t considerate.”

“No?”

“Maybe it’s better to say I was prejudiced.  She confided in me and I betrayed that trust.  A different era, but that’s a poor excuse.  As a friend, she deserved more than a knee-jerk reaction and disgust on my part.  I’ve been graced with a chance to redeem myself, and I’m going to go to dinner with her and her partner and we’re going to have a merry time of it.”

“That’s excellent.  Can I ask?  Is she gay?”

“She’s white, he’s black.  I know, I know, it sounds bad, but I consider it a kind of penance, freely admitting I was a smaller person back then.  I let others dictate how I should feel, instead of considering her as a friend and looking at things objectively.”

“It’s big of you to admit that.”

“When you reach the end of your life, you have a chance to take stock.  You sum it up, and you decide if you want to spend your remaining years, months or days in regret or satisfaction.  My late husband told me that.”

“Was he a psychology professor?”

“Sociology.”

“That’s from Erikson’s work, the last of the psychosocial stages,” the teenager said.

“A college man.  I’m impressed.”  The old woman’s voice was quiet, oddly respectful of other passengers, in comparison to her dawdling earlier.

The teenager smiled.  “I read up on stuff.”

“It took me a while to wise up.  It was only after my husband passed that I looked back and started taking stock.  If there’s any point to what I’m saying, it’s that there were a lot of ugly feelings about skin color, back in the day.  But we get better.  There are similar feelings about the gays, but we’re getting better about that.  Less wars than there were in the past, whatever the news would tell you.  People are happier as a whole.”

“I wonder sometimes.”

“It gets better,” the old woman said.  “Really truly.  We have our low points, I won’t deny that, but it gets better.”

“I don’t want to sound negative, but, um, I guess I’m going to sound negative.  There are people in third world countries who might disagree, and victims of Gold Morning.”

“Even there, on the whole, things are steadily getting better.  I promise.  Don’t get me wrong, bad things have happened.  People die, and a lot died horribly.  My sympathies are with everyone who was or is touched by any of that.  But on the whole, it looks worse than it is, with the worst of it constantly on the telly.  It’s easy to get too focused on our individual problems and lose sight of the big picture.  The big picture is promising, I think.”

“Huh.”

“But it’s worth saying that it’s up to people to make it better,” the woman said.  “I trust that people will improve, as a group, but we can help it along by striving to be better people on an individual basis.”

“That makes a lot of sense.  I’m not sure I totally believe it, but it makes sense.”

The old woman leaned in close, conspiratorially. “With all of that said, in the interest of being better individuals, I’m going to have to ask you a question.”

“A question?”

The old woman she didn’t maintain eye contact, and she wasn’t smiling.  “This is me, being brave and trying to be better like that.  And if I’m wrong, well, I’m hoping you’ll continue to be the gentleman you’ve proven to be and not fuss over an old idiot’s ramblings.”

“I’ll try,” her seatmate said, smiling a little.

“I just need to know… is that backpack of yours holding something dangerous?”

“Dangerous?”  The smile disappeared.

“A bomb?” the old lady whispered the question.

The response was a stunned series of blinks.  The teenager had to bend over to get at the straps and clips before opening the bag.  Clothing had been rolled up and piled inside.  The clothing was moved to reveal more contents from inside the bag.  A bag with the end of a toothbrush sticking out, a laptop.

“If it is, it’s a pretty awful one.”

The old woman had the grace to look embarrassed.  “You must think I’m crazy.”

“Something seemed off, you asked.  No, I don’t think you’re crazy.”

A ding sounded, before the announcement sounded throughout the train.  “The train will be arriving in Philadelphia in five minutes.  Please gather your belongings and collect your litter from your seating area.”

“That’s you?” the old woman asked.

“My stop, yeah.”

“You have a good day ahead of you, I hope?”

“I hope.  A meeting.”

“You’re doing the same thing as me, then.  A reunion.”

“Of sorts,” The teenager said, slinging the backpack over one shoulder.  “Thank you for the talk.”

Tattletale allowed herself one last check of her computer screens.  There were brief, coded messages from various minions and soldiers, from spies and informants.  The tail end of those windows had responses from Imp and Parian.

Video footage showed a replay of Lung’s fighting retreat from an area in downtown New York B.  There was footage of the PRT base, Valkyrie standing off to the side, trying to look far less interested than she was as a young man tried on a white bodysuit.  One window showed the various Endbringers, all of them motionless, but for the Simurgh, who was airborne.  The last of the original three.

One of the windows updated.  A text message from Imp.

Imp:I’ve been waiting for five minutes.

Tattletale hit a few keys.  Nobody waiting was outside.  She typed out a response on her phone.

Tattletale:
waiting?

“Seriously,” Imp said, from right next to her, her chin resting on Tattletale’s shoulder.  Tattletale jumped a little, despite herself.  “Five minutes, and you don’t look at porn once?”

“One of these days, you’re going to give someone a heart attack.”

Imp put away her phone.  “I’ve killed before.  He was a clone, but I still offed him.”

“Let’s not make murder a rite of passage.  Too many new bodies in our ranks, we have a tone to set,” Tattletale said.  She hit a key combination and locked the system.  Another key turned off the monitors.  The three-by-two arrangement of screens went black, the outermost one first.

“New bodies?  Beyond our individual teams?  My Heartbroken, The Sons of Bitch, the Needlepoints?”

“Needlepoints?” Tattletale asked, arching an eyebrow.

“If they’re not naming themselves, I’m gonna name them.  Or do you want Parian’s group to wind up with a bullshit name like ‘Faultline’s Crew’?”

“Noble of you to spare them that,” Tattletale said.  She rubbed at her eyes.

“You’re usually on to me.”

“I’m usually a little sharper.  I only connect dots from whatever info I already have, and when I’m this focused, I don’t have much.”

“Big bad villainess, staring at a computer screen all day,” Imp said.  She sat down in Tattletale’s chair.

“Too much to keep track of,” Tattletale said.  She opened a fridge to grab a fat green bottle and a sixpack of assorted sodas.  “I’d plug myself into the internet if I could, take it all in while I go out to see the real world.”

“Sure, yeah,” Imp said.  She fished in the cupboards and found plastic-wrapped chocolate cupcakes.  “Fuck yes!  I didn’t think they made those anymore.”

“They don’t.  I think those go for sixty-four dollars a package, nowadays.”

“Mm,” Imp said, through a mouthful of one cupcake, covering her mouth as she spoke.  She had her eyes closed in ecstasy.  “Tashdy fuggin’ siggy-foh dowwuhs.”

Tattletale set the bottle and the sixpack down on the table in the center of the meeting room, then collapsed into a leather chair with a high back.  She resisted the urge to reach for the nearest laptop, instead draping one arm over her eyes, reclining.  “You didn’t have any trouble getting here?”

“Nuh uh.”

“I suppose you wouldn’t.  Where are the Heartbroken?”

“I brought four,” Imp said.  She licked her thumb, then rubbed at one corner of her mouth.  “Downstairs.  I ordered your soldiers to look after them and make sure they were being good.”

“That’s uncharacteristically unkind of you,” Tattletale said, without moving her arm.

“Oh, sure, I can leave little dolls all over someone’s place, in less and less obvious places, until they snap, I can steal someone’s pants every time they go to the bathroom, I can even, on occasions that warrant something above and beyond, use a knife on someone and leave them wondering what’s happening to them as they bleed.  But I ask some soldiers to babysit some orphans, and oh, now I’m little miss evilpants.”

“Are you going to call them off, or do I need to call the security team and let ‘em know?”

“I’m trying to set you up for a whole humorous interplay here, like, you look at me all stern and I do the ‘oh, right, that is worse’ thing.”

“You didn’t answer my question.”

“I’ll fricking call them, you wet blanket,” Imp said.

There was a knock at the door.

“And get the door,” Tattletale added.

Imp grumbled, but she made her way to the door, her phone in one hand.  She was still looking down at her phone as she opened the door, then turned wordlessly to make her way back to the kitchen.

“A glowing welcome,” Foil commented.  “I can’t imagine why it’s been so long since we crossed paths.”

“Imp is pouting.  Ignore her.”

“Har har,” Imp said.  She tossed her phone onto the table.  “There.  They should be good now.”

“They?  Heartbreaker’s kids?”  Parian asked.

“I call them the brats, but sure.  We can go with that, for clarity’s sake.”

“Cute kids.  They were whispering and giggling with each other when we passed by.”

“Oh mannn,” Imp drew out the word.  She paused, hesitating, then groaned.  “I’ll be back.”

Imp skipped out of her seat, then ran to the hallway.

Foil took a spot on a short couch that sat to one side of the table.  Other chairs were arranged around the thing.  Parian hopped up, then sat on the back of the couch, leaning forward until her chin was on top of Foil’s head.  Her arms draped over Foil’s shoulders, sticking out more than they draped.

Foil batted at one of Parian’s hands, making it swing back and forth for a second.

Tattletale dropped her arm from its position over her eyes.  “Food went through okay?”

“Supplies were good and timely.  Thanks for the hook up,” Parian said, moving only her head.

“No prob.  Was the data good on Carver and his gang?  I was using a new source, so any complaints would make a world of difference.”

“It was perfect,” Parian said.  “We dealt with him, and it’s all been quiet.  I feel bad for thinking it, like I’m violating the sanctity of it all, but I can’t help but wonder if things are legitimately cool or if this is just the calm before the storm.”

Tattletale said, “That’s kind of why I called you guys here.  But there’s no point dwelling on it before the others arrive.  Can I grab you something?”

The pair shook their heads.

“Right.  As far as the peace and quiet go, take advantage of it while we have it.  Rogue thing is going okay?”

“I dunno if you can call it rogue stuff.  It’s more like what we were doing in the bay, but with some legit business on the side.”

“Legit business you’re paying for with less legitimate money,” Foil said.

“I didn’t say I liked how it turned out.”

“But you accept it,” Foil said.

“I accept it,” Parian said.

Foil nodded, as if satisfied.

“Can I ask how your friends and family are doing?”

“You can ask, but I dunno if I have much to tell you.  Better, but not as good as it could be?  Best surgeon in the world changes their faces and bodies, it’s a hell of a project to get things changed back.  Especially when a good share of the surgeons out there are dead.”

“I could put you in contact with Panacea.  I don’t know what she’s doing, really, but I know that Bonesaw wouldn’t go over well, and Panacea might help out in her place.”

“Lily already tried, talking to some people she knew from before.”

Tattletale sighed.  “Damn.  Want me to pull strings?”

“Sure.  Please, If you could.”

Tattletale nodded.

“You’re being nice.  What’s the deal?” Foil asked.  “You’re buttering us up.”

“Two years in the company of evil, and you still can’t give any of us bad guys the benefit of a doubt?”

“I can give lots of bad guys the benefit of a doubt,” Foil angled her head slightly upward, her eyes moving up to where Parian was resting her head.

“She doesn’t count,” Tattletale said.

“Even others.  But you… well, I wonder sometimes.”

Tattletale moved her chair back a bit, propping one foot on the table’s edge.  “Accepting my offers for help with one hand, keep the other hand clenched in a fist in case I do something you don’t like?”

“Let’s not fight,” Parian said.  She sat straighter, moving her hands until they rested on Foil’s shoulders.  “Not today.”

“Can we compromise?” Foil asked.  “Accept that maybe you need a skeptic in your company?  Someone to watch you and call you on bullshit manipulation?”

“If we can even call that a compromise,” Tattletale said.  “Sure.  Whatever.”

“Changing the subject to something more pleasant,” Parian said.  “I need cloth, if I’m going to keep making designs.  Will you connect me, and how much are you going to want?”

“I can, up to a point, and I want four percent on any profits.”

“Four?  That’s more generous than your usual.”

“Four, but fold that in, I want to buy the product, using-”

The door opened.  Rachel loomed in the doorway.

“Hey, mighty hunter,” Tattletale said.

“Hey,” Rachel said.  She glanced around, then entered the room, snapping her fingers to call Bastard.

“Managing the first winter okay?”

“Managing.”

“You know you can send an email or make a phone call, keep in touch some.”

“Didn’t have power to recharge stuff,” Rachel said.  “No gas for the machine, couldn’t be bothered to go get gas.  Having quiet and darkness is nice, some nights.”

True, but what if there’s an emergency?”

“I can handle most emergencies.”

“And the ones you can’t?”

“For those, I have gas, now.”

Tattletale sighed.  “You’re good, then?  Or do you want scheduled gas deliveries, so you don’t run out?”

“Sure.”

Tattletale nodded.

Rachel settled into a seat opposite Foil and Parian, Bastard sitting to her left.  She scratched the wolf’s head, apparently content with silence.

There wasn’t enough time for the silence to get awkward.  Imp returned, and she had Forrest, Charlotte and Sierra in tow.  A little boy rode on Forrest’s shoulders.

“I’ve brought testosterone!” Imp announced.

“Chairs,” Tattletale said.  “Take them.  There’s an abundance.  We’re just about set.”

Slowly, the others found their seats.  Forrest to led Aidan to a pair of seats next to Rachel, putting himself between the child and the wolf.  The little boy cradled a bird, and a chirp got Bastard’s attention, the wolf’s head and ears perking up.  Rachel quieted him with an order, and Bastard reluctantly lowered his head to the floor.

“We had to bring some, couldn’t do the babysitter thing.  Our kids are playing with the others in the lobby,” Forrest said.

“Which translates to ‘let’s not dawdle too much’,” Imp added.

“Two more,” Tattletale said.

A knock at the door marked another arrival.  Imp had left it open, so she was free to step inside.

Cozen eyed the room.  The thief folded her arms.  She’d adopted a form-fitting jacket with a mink collar, her ample cleavage covered by the length of an overlong scarf.  “I feel out of place.”

“You were invited,” Tattletale said.  “Sit.”

Cozen made her way to the table.  She stepped up to the seat next to Imp, but Imp reached out and put a poorly made doll in the chair.  “Taken.”

“I travel for three hours to come here, and you won’t give me a chair?”

I didn’t invite you,” Imp said.  “And for reals, this isn’t me being a jerk.  Or it is me being a jerk, but that’s not the big thing here.  This is about symbolism and shit.”

“Symbolism and shit,” Cozen said, sounding unimpressed.

“Language,” Charlotte admonished them.  She subtly indicated Aidan.

“I’ve heard worse words,” Aidan said, quiet.  “When Tattletale’s giving me lessons and she has to take a call, she has the soldiers watch me, and they know lots of bad words.”

Charlotte glared at Tattletale.

Tattletale offered an apologetic half-smile, “I’ll quiz the young sir on who has been swearing around him, and heads will roll.  Until then, let’s get back on topic.”

“Symbolism and stuff,” Imp said.  “There’s lots of seats, Cozy.”

Cozy?”

“No fighting,” Tattletale said.  She sighed.  “Listen, this whole thing is really simple.  Let’s do this right, Undersiders stick around, I say what I need to say on other business, five or ten minutes at most, and we’re done.”

Cozen frowned, but she circled the table and found an empty chair by the far end of the couch.

The last person to arrive entered without fanfare.  The door clicked shut, and she walked with a quiet assurance to the nearest available seat, which happened to be the one opposite Tattletale.

“You made the trip okay?” Tattletale asked.

“I did,” Dinah responded.  “I saved some questions for the day, but I didn’t need them to navigate.”

“Then,” Tattletale said, gesturing toward the center of the table, “Forrest, would you do the honors?”

Forrest stood, taking hold of the wine bottle Tattletale had brought out of the fridge.  He removed the cork.

“Temperature should be perfect, I think I timed it right,” Tattletale said.  “Oh, forgot the glasses.  One second.”

It only took a minute for the setup to finish, the red wine poured and glasses distributed.  Imp and Dinah received wine glasses of soda.  Tattletale glanced at Aidan.  “Will he have wine or soda?”

“Soda,” Forrest said.

By the time Tattletale reached her seat again, everyone was standing, ready.

“A toast,” she said.  “I had to think for a good while, to decide what fit.”

“Oh man, is this shit going to be pretentious?” Imp asked.

Tattletale gave Imp the evil eye as she continued, “In honor of everything and everyone we fought for and saved.  In remembrance of everything we couldn’t save.”

The words hung in the air for a moment.

“Works,” Imp conceded.

Glasses clinked.  Rachel had a grim frown on her face, mingled with a trace of confusion as she brought the glass in the direction of her mouth twice, before discovering there were more wine glasses to touch hers to.  She seemed relieved when she could finally down the contents and thunk the glass down on the table.

“And,” Tattletale said, “Worthy of special mention, entirely separate from the ones we just toasted, because I don’t give a fuck about my floors, and because I’m not going to fucking get in an argument about whether we saved them or doomed them, I’m going to suggest a libation for those who have passed from this world.”

“Libation?” Charlotte asked.

“Yeah,” Cozen spoke.  Without looking, she turned and poured a thin stream of her wine onto the floor to her left.  “An offering.  It’s why I’m here, since I was with him the most towards the end.”

Tattletale looked at the empty seat beside Cozen.  She’d guessed the number of guests right.  Just the right number of empty chairs.

She could only hope that Taylor hadn’t caught on, that in her final moments, she hadn’t found out about everyone she’d really lost, that Grue hadn’t made it off the oil rig.

A white lie for a friend.  Taylor would have blamed herself, maybe rightly, maybe not.

“I like to think it’s a kind of payment, more than an offering,” Imp said.  She shifted her chair a bit, then poured wine onto the carpet to her right, just in front of the crude doll with the white mask and silver crown that she’d placed in the chair.  “You’re missed, dude.”

“I’m glad we could do this,” Tattletale said.  “We’ve been through too much shit together, and I was having trouble keeping us networked.  I thought we needed to touch base.  A little bit of ritual to remind us of the important bits.”

That said, she held a glass out to her left, and she poured a splash out onto the carpet in front of the empty seat in the corner.

Despite her best efforts, Tattletale couldn’t help but meet Dinah’s eyes.

The teenager entered the mall.  People were thick in the space, flowing in and out of a food court with a high-end veneer.  Spinach pizzas were on display alongside a window displaying a wealth of cuts of meat for sandwiches a step above the norm.

Once free of the chill of winter and the periodic blasts of cold from the mall entrance, the teenager pulled off both hat and scarf and undid the large buttons on the jacket.

The old woman had commented on how the world was getting better.  Hard to believe, but it was a nice thought.  It was nice, even, that someone could believe it.  The heavy clothing had been a sort of protection against the world, both against people and against the world itself.  The protection felt just a fraction less necessary than it had before the discussion.

Navigating the mall was easy enough.  It was in the midst of an area with fancy high rises and major law firms, and everything here seemed to reflect that.  Even the people.

A brief feeling of trepidation.

That feeling reached a climax as the teenager came to a stop.

There, just around a corner, there was a point where a coffee shop sat opposite a small multilingual bookstore.  A woman sat at one table outside the coffee shop, a bag placed beside her.  Willowy, taller than the average man, she wore a high end dress suit, and her dark curls were long.  She had a wide mouth that quirked a little as she read something, and her eyelashes were long enough that she looked like she was asleep, sitting there with one leg crossed over the other, her head lowered as she read the open book that rested on the table in front of her, one hand resting on a steaming paper cup.

The teenager surveyed the area, wary, looking for threats and surprises.

Nothing.

No traps, at a glance.

Easy.

This is easy.  Do it.

One foot in front of the other.

A rising sense of anxiety.

The teenager paused a short distance away, almost paralyzed at the idea the woman would look up.

And then what?

Three more steps.  Still, the woman didn’t look up.

The teenager placed two hands on the back of a chair, just beside the woman.

“May I?”

The woman glanced up, and the teenager tensed.

Only a glance.  Her eyes returned to the book.  “Take it.  I’m not expecting anyone.”

She thinks I want the chair.

“I meant… is it okay if I sit?”

Another glance, confusion.

“Are you a former client, or-”

“No.  I’m not.”

“I’m afraid I don’t understand.  If this is random conversation, or solicitation for something religious, then I’ll respectfully decline.  I only get an hour and twenty minutes for lunch, and I’d like to spend it quietly.  Please.”

“I know, I mean, I know about the way you read most lunches, or you go across the street to the museum and wander by yourself with headphones in.  The private inves…”

The teenager trailed off.

Private investigator?”

“I’m doing this wrong.”

“Just a little,” the woman said.

The teenager sat, then shrugged off the backpack, letting it drop to the floor.  “I- I’m your daughter.”

The woman frowned.  Her eyes moved to the nearest exit, then to nearby tables and the barista inside the coffee shop.  Checking for a way out.

“I… I know that sounds a little crazy.”

“I’m your mother?”

“You’re my mom, but you aren’t my mother.”

“I have two boys, and I’m pretty sure they aren’t… however old you are.  So you weren’t switched at birth.”

The teenager took in a deep breath.  “I’m from Earth Bet.  My name is Taylor Hebert, and my mother was Annette Rose Hebert.  Anne-Rose.”

Taylor watched with bated breath as Annette took that in.  The realization and connecting of the dots was quick enough.  Annette’s hand moved, and she lost her page.

“Oh,” Annette said.  “Wow.  Wow.”

“If this is too much, or if it’s inconvenient or awkward, just say so.”

“But they sealed this world off.  Someone on the other side, they used a device to close all of the doorways, because it looked like there was going to be rioting or war, with too many refugees wanting in.”

“I know,” Taylor said.  Except the device wasn’t on the other side.  “Yeah.  But they sent back everyone that belonged here, and a few of us slipped through before the doors closed.”

“Oh.  Sometimes I’ve idly wondered, ‘what if I met the other me’, but you don’t really think it’s going to happen.”

“I know.  You should know, just so I can give context to this whole thing, the other you is dead.  She has been for six and a half years.  A car accident.”

“My condolences,”  Annette said.  “I… it feels wrong to give condolences for my death.”

Taylor smiled just a little.  “I think it’s allowed, to feel weird about this.  I just, um, forgive me for being selfish, but I kind of wanted to see your face.  Or her face.”

Annette nodded.  She exhaled slowly, almost but not quite whistling.

“If you want me to go, I’m gone.  Your life returns to normal.”

“I don’t want you to go,” Annette said, her voice quiet.  “But I don’t think it’s fair, doing it like this.  I want you to stay because I’m curious, while you have a very real, very profound attachment to me… to the other me.  I’m worried I’ll hurt you.”

Taylor nodded.  “I can live with that.  Don’t worry about me too much.  I’m tougher than I look.  I’m willing to satisfy your curiosity, answer any questions.”

“You’re…?”

Taylor took a stab at answering the question.  “Taylor.  Eighteen.”

“I would have been in college.”

“You were.  She was.  She met a magnificent dorky guy with a warm heart and an awful lot of passion.  He worshiped her, and she… I think he gave her permission to do what she really wanted to do in life, at a time when her parents were being controlling.  Her mother never really forgave my dad for luring you off the track she’d set for him, getting you pregnant with me so early in life.”

“And my dad?”

“Gramp liked him, but not enough to admit it to Gram.”

“Oh.  My mother refused to let my children call her Gram.”

“I think my mom and dad encouraged it with me as a kind of subtle payback.”

Annette smiled.  “What did she end up doing?”

“Teaching.  She was a professor at a University, teaching English.”

Annette’s eyes moved to the books, but when she responded, it was a negation.  “I can’t really see that, I’m afraid.”

Taylor nodded.

“Your father?”

“He came over to this earth with me.  He’s picking me up in a short bit, we’re staying at a hotel for a bit while he does some job interviews, and then we go back to Boston if he doesn’t have any luck.  I brought up the subject, and he said he didn’t want to see you.  He might try to sneak a peek when he picks me up, if the opportunity arises, but losing her broke him.  He and I, we’re both mending a bit, on a lot of levels.”

Annette nodded.  “Some news from over there made it over here… it’s impossible to believe.  We took some damage, but it was comparatively minor.  If you can call a death toll of five hundred million minor.”

“No, it was comparatively minor,” Taylor agreed.

“I’m… I admit, I’m finding myself more and more lost for words, as my curiosity is sated.  I feel like I should say something meaningful, so you didn’t spend all this time trying to find some woman without anything to say.  It would be easier if I knew what you wanted.  It makes it hard to tailor my response.”

“I’m not expecting anything profound or special,” Taylor said.  “I thought I’d visit, refresh myself on what she looked like.  I… I’m sort of in the same boat as you.  There’s a lot I want to say and explain, when it comes to me, I want to raise ideas that have been crossing my mind lately, but I’d have to tell a really long story before I could even begin, and I’m not sure I’m brave enough to tell that story.”

“Do you want to try?”

“Telling the story?”

“Or raising the ideas.”

“A lot happened.  My mom died, I had a hell of a time with high school, I fell in with a bad crowd and my dad and I parted ways.  Over and over again, I’d think back to the advice my mom gave me, for a compass, or for a way to frame it all.  Don’t- Don’t worry.  I’m not expecting that kind of thing from you, I don’t want to put you on the spot.  Thing is, now it’s all over, and before I came here, someone asked me to make a choice.”

“A choice?”

“Life and death.  Or so I thought.  I chose death, and she gave me life, and I’m still trying to reconcile why.”

“I’m not sure I understand.  Does this have something to do with,” Annette waggled her fingers, “Powers?”

“No.  It’s about regret, and coming to terms with it all.”

“You’re only eighteen.  Why are you worrying about something like that at this stage?”

“Because I’m done.  My life is over, for all intents and purposes.  No matter how hard I try from here on out, I’ll never do anything one ten-thousandth as important as what I was doing before.”

Taylor could see people had noticed the emotion in her voice, the slight escalation in volume, and made a deliberate attempt to calm down.

“I might have to hear the whole story before I could give you an answer,” Annette said, her voice as calm as Taylor’s wasn’t, “But I think a lot of people go through near death experiences and I’m pretty sure they feel something like you’re feeling.”

“Ever since y- since my mom died, it’s been this constant, unending struggle to find some kind of peace, and the harder I tried, the further it went out of my reach.  And now- now I’m here and it’s right there, waiting for me to take it and I can’t bring myself to.”

“Because you can’t bring yourself to come to terms with whatever decision you made?”

“It’s been six months.  Fuck, you’re just a stranger, and I’m burdening you with this shit you don’t understand.  I don’t- I-”

Taylor stopped, choking on the lump in her throat.

Annette stood from her chair.  “Come on.”

Taylor shook her head.  People were looking.  She stared down at the table, and the upside-down book cover.  “Y- you should go.  I- I picked this spot because I knew you’d be leaving to go back to work, didn’t wanna keep you too long.”

Annette reached down, taking hold of Taylor’s wrists, where she’d jammed her hands in her pockets.  She stopped short as one hand came free and clunked against the side of the chair, limp and dangling.

“Hav- haven’t gotten used to it. Had a better one,” Taylor mumbled.  “Before.  Embarrassed ‘self on the train.  Nearly dropping my bag on some lady’s foot because I used the wrong arm, hurt.”

Avoiding looking at Annette, self-conscious, she used her left hand to try and jam the artificial arm into her jacket pocket, failed, and then partially stood, to get a better angle.

Annette took advantage of the movement to fold Taylor into a hug.  Taylor stiffened.

“I think,” Annette said, “You have plenty of time to find that peace you were talking about.”

Taylor didn’t move, with her face mashed into Annette’s shoulder.

For just a moment, she could let herself pretend.

For a moment, she was eight years in the past, and all was well, even the evils and disasters of the world were fringe things.  Endbringers in other countries, bad guys who she never had to pay attention to.

“I don’t know what happened,” Annette murmured.  “I’m almost afraid to ask.  But I don’t think you can let one decision you made in a time of stress cause you so much grief.”

“Thousand decisions,” Taylor mumbled.

“What?”

“It’s not the one decision.  It’s all of them, pressing down on me.  I’m- I was a monster, Annette.”

“Looking at you right now, I find that hard to believe.”

It wasn’t the right answer.  It didn’t make Taylor feel better.  Just the opposite.

“And your dad, if he’s with you now, he clearly doesn’t think that either,” she whispered.  “I think I see him.  He looks very awkward and out of place, and he’s trying very hard to look like he’s not paying attention.”

“That’d be him,” Taylor said.

She pulled back, but she kept her hands on Taylor’s shoulders.  “If you want to stay, that’s fine.  If you want to go, that’s fine too.  I wish I had better answers.  My boys are only seven and nine; the hardest question I have to answer is why they can’t have pie for breakfast.”

“Be easier to give answers if I could articulate the question better,” Taylor said.

“I think it was pretty clear.  You said they offered you a choice, you picked death, and they gave you life.  You were talking about wanting peace… I think you had that peace in your grasp.  Am I close?”

Was she?  Taylor nodded slowly.  When she spoke, she could barely understand herself.  “It shouldn’t be this easy.”

“If you don’t mind my saying so,” Annette said, “I don’t think this looks easy at all.  Going down any road labeled ‘death’ has to be the easier road.”

Taylor went very quiet, using her left hand to wipe at her face.  People were staring, and she couldn’t bring herself to care.

She looked back, and she could see her dad there, back to a divider between store displays, one toe raised, as if the scuff marks in the hard brown leather were of great interest.

“I think,” Taylor said, very carefully, “I’m going to go.”

“I wish I could say more, but we could talk again.  You could explain, if you were up to it.”

Taylor shook her head.  “I think this is something I have to figure out myself.”

“Go with your gut, then.”

“But thank you.  Before we talked, I wasn’t sure it was something I could figure out, and now I think it might be doable.  I feel like it’s… clarified.”

“Good.”

“And I would like to meet and talk again.  About something less heavy.  Maybe about books?”

Annette smiled.  “It’s a date.”

Taylor smiled back, then wiped at the tears again.  She grabbed her bag, slinging it over her good shoulder, then made her way to her dad.

She stopped in her tracks.

In the crowd, a boy with dark curls, a little bit of a slouch, and a white t-shirt.

Alec?

Tattletale watched on her monitors as the others migrated downstairs.

Only Imp and Rachel remained.

“Okay, so he’s… what?  This is dumb.”

“You were supposed to be explaining,” Rachel said.

“I was, but this is so dumb I can’t wrap my head around it.”

What’s dumb?” Rachel asked.  “If you don’t answer, I’m feeding you to Bastard.  I don’t want to do that.”

“Aw, you care!”

“Wouldn’t be good for him,” Rachel said.

Imp sighed.  “Teacher’s plan.  It’s dumb.  We’re supposed to worry about this shit?”

“No,” Tattletale said, watching on the monitors as the others from the meeting made their way downstairs.  “Teacher isn’t a threat.  Or he isn’t a big one.  You were talking symbols before?”

“Symbolic shit, yeah.”

“Consider Teacher a symbol.  Things are starting into motion, the quiet is coming to an end, and he’s… if not a threat, he’s a gatekeeper to one.”

“He’s a smug dick,” Rachel said.  “You give the go-ahead, we tear him apart.”

“It’s a little more complicated than that,” Tattletale said.  “There are dynamics to pay attention to, group interactions, politics, there are unwritten rules, and the nuances of what happens if and when we’re viewed as the aggressors when we violate the truce.  Not to mention the danger if we disrupt whatever he’s setting up and inadvertently set it off.  Like we sort of did with Jack, though that was more exception than rule.”

“Orrrrr you could give the go ahead, we cut past all the bullshit and we tear him apart,” Rachel said.

Tattletale sighed.

“Lemme hash it out for you,” Imp said.  “You know how Tats said he’s like the gatekeeper?  He’s like an asshole, standing in the middle of the elevator doors so they won’t shut.  You can kick him in the balls, but then you’ve got to deal with his friends, you’re dealing with being the jerkass that kicked someone in the balls and you’re maybe dealing with the big bad motherfucking dude that just came up in the elevator, who wasn’t coming out because there was someone in the way.  Someone you removed from the way by kicking him in the balls.”

“Oh damn it,” Tattletale sighed.

“Okay…” Rachel said.

“You did not just get her metaphor,” Tattletale said.  “Don’t do this to me.”

“Can we kick him down the elevator shaft before the big guy comes up?”  Rachel asked.

“Fuck it,” Tattletale swore.  “And fuck you, Aisha.  Yes.  Theoretically, we could put the kibosh on him before he gets far enough in his plans.”

“Good,” Rachel said.  “Then it’s settled.”

Imp pulled off her mask, just to show Tattletale how much she was grinning.

“Keep that up and I’m telling those Heartbroken kids you ate cupcakes while they waited downstairs,” Tattletale said.

“No,” Imp said.  “Nope.  Nuh-uh.  You would be signing my doom warrant.”

“Doom warrant?  Nevermind.  I think we have an understanding,” Tattletale said, grinning as much as Imp had been a moment ago.

“That’s it, then?  A big bad that needs dealing with, a few little bads that need an organized clean up job, and we stay in touch,” Imp said.

“That’s the gist of it,” Tattletale said.

“Cool.  Great.”  Imp said.  “Excellent.”

Her eyes slowly traveled to the red wine-stains in the carpet.

“Yeah,” Tattletale said.  “So.  Now that the others are gone and there’s no need to pretend anything, it’s your chance to say.  You guys good?  Copacetic?  We good to go?”

“Sure,” Rachel said.  “I’m not sure I really get what all this was, but I kind of liked it.  Made me feel better, where I didn’t realize like I felt bad.  Less lonely, maybe.”

“Yeah, no, I get that,” Imp said.  She shrugged, putting her mask back on as Tattletale opened the door.  They filed out.  “Yeah.  Except I guess I can say it wasn’t loneliness for me, while we’re being open and shit.”

Tattletale nodded.

“It was good,” Imp said.  “Weird, but fitting.  I’m wondering why you invited the twit, though?”

“Which twit?”

“Our kid Cassandra,” Imp said.

Tattletale blinked once or twice.  “Where the fuck are you getting these references from?”

Imp only allowed herself the smallest giggle, exceedingly pleased with herself.

“I think… it was maybe one of the big reasons I wanted to do this,” Tattletale said.  “It was important that I showed her that Taylor was dead.  I had to convince her.”

“Convince her?”  Imp asked.

Tattletale nodded.

“You’d think she’d be really good at figuring that basic shit out on her own.”

“You’d think,” Tattletale said.  “But no.  We’re really good at lying to ourselves.  Take it from another thinker.”

“Fuck,” Imp said.

“Fuck,” Tattletale agreed.

“So,” Rachel said.  “What happens?”

“What happens is we go kick teacher in the balls and drop him down an elevator shaft,” Tattletale said.  “Hopefully in a way that doesn’t leave us looking like assholes.”

Rachel nodded, satisfied.

“And Taylor?”  Imp asked.

“I’ll keep looking after things in that department,” Tattletale said.  “If that’s cool?”

“That’s cool,” Imp said.

They made their way down the last two flights of stairs.

The assembled forces of the Undersiders waited, the other guests having already departed.

Twenty soldiers, only a small share of Tattletale’s full organization.  The kids, the Heartbroken, and Aiden, all together, playing with Forrest and Charlotte standing warily by.  Parian and Foil, sitting in a windowsill, with snow piling behind them, and Rachel’s escort with each member of the gang having a dog with them.

“All good?” Tattletale asked.

“Fuck yeah,” Imp said.

“Mm,” Rachel offered a nonsyllabic response.

Taylor shook her head a little.  The resemblance was slight, if it was even there.  Her mind was playing tricks on her.

Her hand touched her forehead, and she felt a pair of soft spots, each barely wider across than a dime.  She ran her hand over her short hair.  She didn’t know how it had happened, but she could guess.  Bullets to disable her, surgery to seal her power away.

Cauldron, apparently, did have a means of locking powers away.  Or maybe it was Contessa, doing the work, or perhaps she’d simply been kept alive, carted to Panacea or Bonesaw, who could fix things up.

But dwelling on those things wasn’t healthy, and it was pointless in the end.  She’d likely never get a serious answer.  She only had the two dimples or holes in her skull, the sole apparent casualty of some kind of brain surgery.

Apparently.  Such was the momentary crisis she’d experienced, seeing someone who was supposed to be dead.  She had been left to wonder, for heart stopping seconds.

“You done?” her dad asked.

“Done,” Taylor responded.  “It wasn’t her.  I knew it going in, but it wasn’t her.”

“Yeah,” he said, quieter.  He put one arm around her shoulder.  “You okay?”

“That’s a hell of a question to answer,” she responded.

“Yeah.”

“I feel better.  It was a hell of a good hug.”

He smiled, but there was sadness in his expression, “A little bit like her then.”

Taylor nodded.

“Lunch?” he offered.

“Lunch sounds good,” she said, resting her head against his shoulder as they walked.  Her injury, the brief delirium that had followed her awakening, the lack of an arm and her struggles to learn to use the artificial one, it had gone a long way.  He’d needed a chance to be a parent again, and she’d needed a parent.

They were okay.  They were safe.  If and when a problem came up, if it somehow reached this sealed off Earth, she could stand by to let someone else handle it.

She’d done her share.

There were things that would be harder.  Even now, she couldn’t think too hard or in certain directions, or guilt and memories of another her that she’d seen all too clearly would emerge.  More recent, scarier in a way, was the lingering doubt, a belief that things couldn’t work out, ingrained in her by experience.  The idea that any reality where life did work out on any level wasn’t reality at all, or that it wasn’t life.

She spoke her thoughts aloud.  “I think… there’s a lot of stuff bothering me.”

“Only natural,” her dad said, very carefully.

“But I’ve dealt with worse.  If it comes down to it, if this is all I have to worry about, I can maybe deal.  I could maybe learn to be okay.”

“I think that’s all any of us can hope for,” her father said.

Last Chapter                                                                                                             End

775 thoughts on “Interlude: End

  1. So. That’s that.

    My final thoughts are here. This is also the go-to place if you have questions or want to know what happens next. Again, in case there’s any doubt, details on the next story I’m writing, the plan, publication and sequel are here, as far as I’ve got them hashed out. I want people to read this, so be sure to clue people in if they seem confused in places. Pretty please, I don’t want readers to lose their way due to link blindness. ;)

    Also, one last batch of votes on topwebfiction would be most excellent, before we let Worm fall past first place.

    • Honestly I’d recommend a new post just linking to the rest of your stuff when you get it up if you’re planning on leaving this site up solely for Worm.

    • Thank you! Did not know web serials could be anywhere near this good! I will definitely continue to follow your work and contribute to it/you when I can!

    • Thank you so very much.
      You did great.
      That end does not left me that empty feeling some other epics did.
      It left me with an inner warmth like the truly good epics do.
      Thank you for the journey.

        • Hear hear! Every word, indeed.

          Wildbow, we’ve talked a lot, but I wanted to publicly tell you how much Worm feels like something weighty, something remarkable. I feel like I’m among a privileged few to be the first ones to read the next The Lord of the Rings, or Foundation, or one of the other great works that has that ineffable tangibility of Significance somehow. I have conviction that Worm is the sort of work that is revolutionary in a way that inspires the countless evolutionary works that will come after it.

          Here’s to you, to the remarkable discipline you’ve found in completing this vast work. To the process of self improvement you’ve so richly rewarded us all with. To the countless brilliant ideas we could never predict that you gave to us by writing yourself into the worst corners you could think of on purpose as a challenge.

          And here’s to many more wondrous creations. Worm is not a one shot wonder. It has been far too steadily rewarding to ever be that. The combination of you and the process you have created is working, and that doesn’t end with Worm. It will follow you as long as you write, and only grow better as you continue incrementally to improve it.

          And here’s to the countless real lives and hearts you’ve touched already. You’ve moved us week after week, made us feel. And we love you for it.

          If I may make only one selfish request, it is to not take too much time away from writing new stories while you revise Worm.

          (Hell, to keep you writing we’d muster an army to revise it for you.)

          Here’s to you, and all our thanks and admiration.

      • As I said to a friend, this is the first time I have not been sad when a story I love ended. The reason? It’s finally done. It’s over, at last they can find peace, and at last there will be a happy ending. After so much, after so long, Taylor can rest.

        I always wanted the hero to go on, to find more adventures, to face more challenges. Yet here, there was no adventure, only crisis and trauma- to see that not only did she win, but she found peace as well? Thank you sir.

        Thank you for everything.

        • This was not a happy ending. “And then Superhero got a lobotomy and went back to being a normal person, trapped in a universe where the likelihood of ever being special again, as I explicitly spell out, is near-zero. She hugged her mom. The end.”

          • LoL. Okay, when you summarise it like *that* it’s not a happy ending. xD

            But it’s a happy ending when you look at the specifics.

            Taylor is the sort of person who could never voluntarily step away from the responsibility of power. Being a cape came with obligations and costs that were destroying her. But while she had power, she could never voluntarily choose peace for herself (especially since in the Wormverse power is unavoidably linked to conflict).

            Her ‘specialness’ was a trap she couldn’t escape from. Having it forcibly taken from her was the only way she would ever have the chance to just be *Taylor* again. I’m thinking Contessa’s power made the right call.

    • Called it! I totally called it! Hahahahahahahahaha!

      Now that that’s out of the way, I’ll keep it short.

      Perfect Chapter. Well done, ‘bow. Good Fortune to you for whatever you do.

        • Here is what I had to say on the last thread:

          Stephen M (Ethesis) on November 17, 2013 at 4:34 PM said:

          Well, I am going to the last chapter on hope. Wildbow has pulled it off before. So I am hoping Taylor finishes her story with a positive twist.

          So, here is to hoping faith in the author pays off.
          Reply ↓

          Stephen M (Ethesis) on November 16, 2013 at 9:48 PM said:

          I am really hoping the next chapter redeems. TT wanted to talk, because Taylor is back and with her.

          Teacher is such a focus and someone whose success all seems to have come from no one knowing about him.

          Not redeemed at all.

          Makes me dislike contessa as well.
          Reply ↓

          Stephen M (Ethesis) on November 16, 2013 at 10:53 PM said:

          But I am hopeful Wildbow will pull it altogether at the end.

          So, I will be back Tuesday.

          Where I either celebrate or move on.

    • That was a hell of a run Wildbow. I loved it. It’s my first time commenting, but I’m a long time fan. Just wanted to say thanks and that I thoroughly enjoyed it. It’s been one of the my favorite series. I absolutely can’t wait to read the new stories. Especially the biopunk one. I’m super stoked. I can’t wait to see what the future holds for you and your writing.

      Also, red wine is served at room temperature and so shouldn’t be stored in a fridge. White wine you can chill though. May want to change that as it seems like something TT would know. Thought I’d mention it.

      • This last bit about wine is controversial. Here, where room temperature is around 30 Celsius there are many that state that it is better to keep all wine in the fridge.
        Better drink wine cooled to 15 degrees (which is room temperature in some countries most of the year) than heated to something from 25 to 45 (yes, 45 Celsius in a nice summer day).

      • *arrives in a burst of rainbow light smashing into the ground. When he stands, it’s on a smiley faced burned into the ground, a rainbow afro affixed to his helmet*

        I have been away for a little bit. Taking time to reflect. But there’s only so long you can spend as a mirror before you need to come back and see to your obligations.

        And so I’m back to eat hot wings and bitchslap koala bears because they have it coming. *puts on a giant foam finger hand* Now c’mere you little grey bastards. It’s time to grin and bear it.

        Oh, wait, I really should see to the welcomes. I’ve paid this here bum to look down the comments in my place. *blam* and he just blew his own brains out, so I better get to work.

        wonderwoahman, I liked you better as Ragdoll of the Secret Six, but it’s nice to see the tiara fits so well. Nice Flanders picture. Like a second generation NAMBLA masochist, you’ll be diddly-dadburned if you think I wasn’t going to say you couldn’t show up to the afterparty. Because that’s what it all is from here. Now is the time to boldly go where everyone is eventually going to go at some point. But enough about your momma’s vagina.

        Unlike your momma’s vagina, a great, large story made up of many great characters has been shoved into you. Into your brain via your eyes, of course. Your gooey, delicious eyes. They’re so pretty. They go well with your face, I mean. It’s not like I want to pop them out of your skull and wear them around like a keychain. This isn’t the story, after all.

        This is the comments, wonderwoahman, and welcome to them.

      • I have to agree – this was the best epic I’ve ever read – it’s hard to guess what it will look like with revisions.

        You have gathered an incredible fan base, and you cared for us well. Thank you.

    • Absolutely brilliant.

      A story that I hope to re-read many more times in the future, and that is a position held very few works for me.

      Thank you

    • My compliments on an awesome work of art.

      And thanks for, once again, surprising me. I did have serious doubts about the end of last arc, but they were totally turned upside down by this ending.

      Oh, btw: if she got shot in the back of the head, how come she has bullet holes on the front? ;)

    • I’m glad I didn’t skip the epilogue, I felt pretty down after the end of the last chapter in Speck. I’m glad that Taylor is alive and, if not happy, at least not as miserable as she seemed at the end of the battle with Scion.

    • Truly amazing work. The characters, their development and interactions, and how this shapes the plot rather than just responding to it is all absolutely fantastic. You’ve shown the deftness of touch to explore hundreds of lives and plot details without killing the pacing or distracting from the overarching plot which is truly remarkable. It’s been a long and brilliant ride.

      One step back, the sheer human effort involved in churning out chapter after chapter of high-quality work to such a tight schedule is nothing short of inspiring. I said early on in the tale Wildbow and Taylor had inspired me to try writing and jogging and after a couple of months I’m still thinking through plots and running to work where I can, so I guess it made an impression.

      For everything, for Worm, thank you.

    • Just finished rereading worm.. again…. read your notes on the next thing, and i have to say, i will be right there reading anything you put out. As of right now, and i dont see this changing anytime soon, Worm is in first place for me as far as ANY kind of story goes.

      I doubt you will actually see this in the mess of comments you have, but ive seen lots of comments throughout, with people talking about a show, comic or anime based of this. For one, id buy the crap out of any of those, but, i had another idea, and if i missed someone already pointing it out, i apologize. Have you ever heard of Visual Novels? HEAVY text based usually, 4 of my top 10 stories of all time, are Visual Novels. Yeah, most Visual Novels come out of japan, and rarely make it outside of Japan, but i think it would be a pretty safe bet that Worm would do WELL in such a medium. Reaching out to a Japanese developer might be worth a shot… just not certain Visual Novels developers, quite a few, in fact most, are unfortunately porn for porns sake…. But there are some serious stories that i have come across in the list of translated visual novels, and they are starting to get some traction in the USA now. Good examples of the good story based ones are Fate/Stay Night, Muv Luv Alternative (its prequels are required reading but not as good), G Senjou No Maou, and Tsukihime.

      I have to repeat this though, this was an amazing read, i will reread this again, and i tell everyone i know about it. Publish this in any format, and i will buy it. I see the same for anything else you write.

    • So I’m done with this, and from now on, when I see any super-power-related-story, something inside me will say “well… they are not doing it quite right… if you want to see how it’s done, you should check worm”.
      So, just wanted to say thank you for the ride, and I’m looking forward for the edited version which I’m sure will make a very pleasant re-read.

      • I saw the comment pop up on the list and read ‘I’m done with this’ as meaning something very different.

        Glad you enjoyed. Hope to have the edited version out at some point in the not-too-distant future.

    • I cried a little when I realized I finished it D; I loved this more than you could imagine. Thanks for the Serial Wildbow!

    • I started reading Worm live sometime around the first endbringer fight, I just finished my third read. I gotta say, it still holds up. Even though I know what is coming, I still feel almost the same emotion as my first time reading.

      The only real difference is not having to wait days for the next chapter, so you lose a bit of the cliffhanger effect. I don’t know if people that are reading the story now can appreciate the mastery of the cliffhanger displayed by Wildbow. They don’t get to experience the anticipation, speculation, and sometimes frustration of having to wait for that next chapter to post.

      I recommend to everyone I tell about Worm that they read the comments section after each chapter. It gives a bit of that cliffhanger feel and introduces them to the wonderful, crazy, fun community that developed around this great story.

      There are not too many stories that I will go back and read again, much less a third time. There are still some typos that need to be addressed, but I am sure Wildbow has his hands full already with Pact. I am looking forward to the revised version and for this story to come out in print hopefully.

      Thanks again for the Epic adventure!

    • You did it Wildbow, you did it. This was a long and beautiful ride, a bumpy one, but a beautiful one. I even wrote something of a poem in an attempt to express what i am feeling right now, for my current feeling as surely as alien as the entities themselves.

      Behold! My mad sick poetry skillz!

      Once there was a maiden,
      Who endured everything
      Others saw this as a weakness
      So they struck her again and again
      They took her joy, and she endured
      They took her friends, and she endured
      Until she did not know anything but endurance
      She met others who told her that she could be better
      She met the grue clad in dark,
      She met the tattletale laced in secrets,
      She met the hound on the hunt,
      She met the regent with all his arrogance
      And later she met the imp with it’s cackling glee
      “You can be better” They said
      So she became something that skittered in the night
      Fear and ruthlessness became her sword and shield
      Hope and trust her armor and cloak
      And she ruled with these by her side
      “None will ever suffer again”
      Said the enduring maiden

      But she was wrong, for many would suffer
      And she realized that what she was, was not enough
      So she cast away her ruthlessness
      And shattered fear against hope
      She clad herself in trust
      And armed herself with hope reforged
      She was bound with the expectations of the many
      But made them into her armor
      She met many more again,
      “Darkness sometimes hides a sun” They said
      And she met the noble chevalier, his armor bright,
      And she met the magnificent fairie queen in her court,
      And she met the defiant, standing proud against opposition,
      And she met the mighty dragon, it’s wits sharper than it’s claws,
      “Sometimes the sun shines with the darkness” They said
      And she became a weaver of destinies
      “The few will protect the many”
      Said the redeemed maiden

      But the savior, the first turned upon them
      Spurred on his way by the lost and the damned
      By chaos and by nightfall
      Much was lost, and many fell
      Many tears were felled, and much pain was had
      The maiden who wanted to protect cried out in sorrow
      “I have failed” Said the maiden
      She once again took up ruthlessness
      She cast off the expectations
      And hope was cast aside for control
      She met none, for there was noone to meet
      She was joined by the scheming angel
      Whose motives were not known to any
      Not even itself.
      She took up a weight
      And in one bowl she laid life
      In the other, she laid death
      Their weight was rebirth, and her crown was the sun
      “Now we will never be alone again”
      Said the Queen Administrator.

      This… Seemed fitting for Skitter, for Weaver, and for Khepri… One for each.

    • i just finished and i absolutely love this story. so i hope the following doesn’t sound harsher than intended.
      but I think the story should just have ended after 30.7. the big bad was defeated and roughlay 40% (i think) of humanity survived. that seems appropriate and fitting the overall tone of the story. but with the epilogue arc everything turns out okay for most of the main characters. dragon comes free (well, it came at the expense of creating and killing another dragon, which is horrible when you think about it, so i guess i can accept that.), everyone important survives (except for grue), taylors dad is alive (which really annoys me ’cause tattletale has to have known that he survived and that taylor didn’t know, so why didn’t she tell her?). it just looks a little like things turned out well for the main characters (or as well as could be hoped for under the circumstances) just because they’re main characters. especially with taylor. i mean contessa can see the path to victory, so it makes sense that she can be alive. But her being alive, reunited with her father, in a sealed-off world, without her powers, having met the parralel-world-version of her mother and being sort of hopefull about the future, it just seems too good to be true, which is the sort of thing you’ve been skillfully avoiding so far.
      so anyway, despite everything i just said i really loved worm. if i had to put a number on it, i’d give 9 or 10 out of 10. thank you for an awesome story.

      • “That’s from Erikson’s work, the last of the psychosocial stages,” the teenager said.

        “A college man. I’m impressed.” The old woman’s voice was quiet, oddly respectful of other passengers, in comparison to her dawdling earlier.

        The old lady refers to Taylor as a “college man”? Maybe she just cant tell and is old and senile?

        ” Her mother never really forgave my dad for luring you off the track she’d set for him, getting you pregnant with me so early in life.”

        Doesnt make sense, “luring you off the track set for him”. Drop the “for him” and it works.

    • The old woman she didn’t maintain eye contact, and she wasn’t smiling.
      Imp:I’ve been waiting for five minutes. (leave a space after the colon)
      Nobody waiting was outside.
      Forrest to led Aidan to a pair of seats next to Rachel, putting himself between the child and the wolf.
      Her mother never really forgave my dad for luring you off the track she’d set for him, getting you pregnant with me so early in life.”

    • Dunno if a typo, but 30.7 said that the first bullet hit Taylor from behind, mask was implied, so the second must have been from the back too. Now she has two soft spots on the forehead. How come?

        • So Fortuna does not only double-tap, but use armour piercing bullets as well? Makes sense, if you don’t want ricochets or for bullets to exit via eye-holes…
          “You should prepare to live as a blind, you know?”
          “Nah, I could use my bugs for orientation… wait. Oh, sh–”

      • It was mentioned earlier that she’d lost her mask at some point while she was Khepri.
        The holes could be exit wounds, or openings drilled in to get access to the squishy brain inside for surgical purposes. In either case the skull should heal over in a decade or so. Actually, why aren’t they covered? Soft spots in your forehead is not a good thing. Panacea would have made it seamless, and Riley would have added a metal plate or something probably (like real surgeons do), so I’m counting this as weak evidence that Contessa did the surgery herself (and is an incompetent surgeon aside from her power).

    • “the outermost one first” doesn’t make sense for a two-by-four setup, where you have four screen at the outermost locations. Unless I’ve misunderstood something, of course.

    • “She stopped short when saw him, pouting, one fist against her hip”

      She saw him

      “The old woman she didn’t maintain eye contact, and she wasn’t smiling. ”

      The old woman didn’t maintain eye contact, and she wasn’t smiling. 

    • “What happens is we go kick teacher in the balls and drop him down an elevator shaft,”

      Teacher’s name is missing its capitalization again.

      • Who knows why she’s associating with Teacher. The only reason Dr. Mother got to tag along with Fortuna was because she was there for Eden’s End.

        Fortuna’s power lets her plan and prepare things we may not even be aware of. She’s like a talking Simurgh.

        • Agreed.

          It’s funny how after the last chapter was all about Teacher’s megalomaniacal power trip ( though Ingenue, Satyr and Marquis all had some fun at his expenses), we now see him unceremoniously dismissed as just some guy who’s meddling with things way over his head.

          • Yeah, he doesn’t really need to be put down hard and messy. He just deserves it.

            Whoever breaks truce first will always look like the aggressor. So either it needs to be all sneaky-like so nobody knows you hit first, it needs to wait for him to rise up as an obvious threat to all so you can put them down and look like a hero, or it needs to be a joint effort. I think that a cooperative strike by Dragon, the Wardens, the Undersiders, and Lung/Marquis would do the trick to send the message that the truce is still on, nobody’s starting a war, just fuck that guy.

            • That would be so many levels of overkill. I mean, I’m sure everybody would be cheering, but that’s practically an endbringer level alliance. Just about the only way you could make it worse would be to add in the protectorate (or it’s new incarnation) and have Kefri calling the shots.

              • The Wardens are the new protectorate.
                And it needs to be an Endbringer level alliance, not because of the (laughable) power on Teacher’s side, but for symbolic purposes.

                Anybody who strikes first without the support of practically every player out there will have broken the peace, become an aggressor, restarted the old wars when everybody just wants to rebuild quietly. No matter how official they look or how good their intentions were, they’re the bad guy in the eyes of everyone who just wanted a peaceful life because they opened the floodgates to every superpowered fight from that moment forward.

                But if every major player agrees and works together on this, or even just makes a public statement of support if they don’t want boots on the ground, then the peace stays. The villains maintain their amnesty, the heroes don’t put themselves apart from the ‘lesser parahumans’ again, and it sends the message out to every world that we’re still working together, nobody wants to fight, the rebuilding continues and we’re all moving forward for the good of everybody, but this one asshole needed to be removed for that peace to be maintained.

  2. I’ll admit I teared at the ending. Going to have to write something better later when I’m not doing work. As a preliminary: Thank you, Wildbow. Thank you for writing such a magnificent work of art.

    • Alright, I couldn’t resist. I’ll take a breather and a chunk of my allocated lunch-time to do this.

      Wildbow, over the past… How long as it been since it was posted on DLP? 9 months? I’ve read this (or at least checked for an update) every single Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday. It’s been a magnificent serial that has constantly kept me entertained and I’ve truthfully enjoyed every moment of it. While some parts of it need work (by your own admission, even), I still believe that this is a work that eclipses several published works I’ve read, even as it stands.

      When it comes to Taylor’s story, I’ll admit to being a sucker for happy endings, especially when it comes to anti-heroes. Heroes that sacrificed their humanity, their happiness, and everything that they ever believed in for the greater good (Explains why, despite liking Saber the most out of all FSN protagonists, I love the HF route the most). Come to the end, I’m just happy that she got to live, that she can have a normal life. Nothing will come close to the life she lived before Aleph, but at least she’ll have a life, and she can rebuild herself.

      I’m really going back and forth here because I don’t know how to end this, but I guess… All I can really say to you is thank you, Wildbow. You’ve given me so much, really, in this novel. Your characterization is fantastic, your arcs are beautifully crafted, and it’s amazing how much thought has gone into this work of art. I know many people who’ll be really glad to buy any paperback form of this novel, and I’m hoping to hear news of it sometime soon(ish). I regret that I only donated once, early on, and haven’t since, but one day I hope to have a (autographed?) copy of this sitting on my bookshelf.

      Thank you, and I wish you the best of luck for all your future endeavors (especially sequels/prequels).

      • Yeah. Now I just feel bad.

        I mean, I still feel like he was just Put On A Bus, but this time it was Put On A Bus To Death. Is there a trope for that? And Taylor, not letting herself think about him… oh Taylor.

        • Eh. Clocky couldn’t either, and he bit it during the same fight as Grue.

          Which makes me wonder if Glaistig Uaine/Valkyrie might also have the latter in her collection.

            • Who says it’s Clockblocker. it says a boy trying on a white suit. We’ve all assumed white suit meant Cb. Nothing to stop Grue going with a heroic costume this time around.

              • Still, it that is Clockie and there were no side effects on the mental faculties/memories of the resurrected, if Grue does get resurrected as well and wake up on the operating table with Bonesaw standing over him…..

              • It’d be good for Riley. You know, a nice little ‘sorry I vivisected, mutilated, and tortured you, but I’m not the one who killed you and I did just bring you back to life so… we cool?’

                ‘Also all your tissues should be about 173% more durable, you’ll regenerate at about Brute 4 level, you won’t age anymore, and anybody who opens your chest cavity without the right chemical markers will get a spray of paralytics to the face, corrosive enough to eat through hazmat gear in a couple seconds and most manacles within half an hour. Call me or Amy if you want any of that changed.’

  3. *takes a deep breath*
    This has been an incredible journey. There is so much that I want to say, and more that I can’t. All I can say is that this… this feels like it’s very, very open to a sequel. I’m not sure how I feel about that. On the one hand, YES, MORE WORM. On the other hand, there won’t be more Worm for a painful while.

    Kudos to everyone who said Taylor was for-reals alive and Contessa was being a brain surgeon.

    Does Tattletale know that Taylor’s still around in another Earth? It seems like she does, and wants to keep that from Dinah. And I really, really like Imp and the Heartbroken.

    • So the idea is that Tattletale wants Dinah to be haunted by Taylors “death” anyway as a bit of revenge for the manipulation?

      I approve! Hehehehehehhahahaha!

      • Yep. It is so very Tattletale. And I feel sorry for Dinah, but I really can’t bring myself to find anything wrong with this approach. Frankly, being forced to live with the (false) knowledge that you drove the greatest of heroes to her death in order to save the human race is tiny compared to what Taylor herself dealt with. And something that will probably be good for the little precog in the long term, as she’s the most powerful non-simurgh precognitive on the planet and this peace won’t last forever.

          • Contessa is not, strictly speaking, a precog. She gets instructions to the goal she chooses, but no information regarding why those instructions are what they are or what circumstances will surround them. Dinah doesn’t get any suggestions, but she has absolute predictions of all possible futures down to the level of exact probabilities of any event she asks about. In terms of general capability they’d be comparable or Contessa would come out on top, but Dinah has vastly more information available about every aspect of the future.

    • From what I’m reading, Tattletale knows Taylor’s alive, and wants to make sure Dinah believes she isn’t, because… Dunno. I have no idea why she’s keeping Dinah in the dark. I don’t see the logic in it at all, and it’s bugging the hell out of me, because usually Tattletale has a plan.

      • It’s an elaborate form of revenge. Tattletale, more or less justly, believes Dinah to be the one who fucked over Taylor by putting the weight of saving the world on her. Dinah obviously thinks the same ( the I am sorry note). So she’s now making her feel guilty by letting her think that her actions brought the death of the person who saved her.

        • Dinah was specifically looking for versions of the world where they survived. She helped create the path that happened in how she directed people. She could have chosen others, even.

      • She’s messing with Dinah on multiple levels. One is simple payback for sending Taylor down this path, because even if Taylor lives, the Undersiders must go on without her. The urgh to make it HURT.

        Secondly, the world must be convinced that Skitter/Weaver/Khepri are out of action for good. Who are the three most powerful surviving Thinkers?

        Tattletale. Dinah. Contessa.
        Two of them are in on it. If Dinah can be fooled, then Taylor might actually have peace on Aleph.

      • If the wrong person learns that Taylor is alive, they will find a way to break open a new way into Earth Aleph to get her. Someone who wants to clone her, a Master who needs a scary puppet, too many reasons to nab her. Even if she can still take challengers (unlikely…), she wouldn’t be able to live in peace.

        Once she’s kidnapped, then someone even more stupid finds a way to unseal her shard and… yeah, noone can know she’s alive aside from the handful who already does.

        Contessa, Tattletale, Rachel and Imp. Almost too many already. Let’s hope noone starts doubting the status quo, or that Contessa is dealing with those threats subtly enough not to arouse stronger suspicions.

          • Dragon will probably figure out in due course then seal the memory with emergency recall only. Miss Militia will hope Taylor’s at peace alive or dead and if she ever twigs find out where she is and what she’s doing and strive to defend that status quo and the undersider minions might just know.

      • Also information security. Too many people would want to kill Taylor, if they knew she is alive, even if she is now harmless and nearly impossible to reach. We can probably trust Dinah, but she is not an Undersider, after all. Better for her to think Taylor is dead.

        She won’t stay fooled if anyone ever asks her the right question while she’s using her power. Maybe she will be mad at TT and Undersiders. hmmm.

  4. …hm. I’m wondering how they set up Taylor and Danny with money on the Earth they dropped them on. Easiest would probably be to give them some jewelry or the like to sell.

  5. So. It’s over. And wow, looks like those ‘Taylor lives!’ people were right. Wildbow finally gave us a (mostly) happy ending. So, wildbow, I read ‘the end’, and I just want to say, thank YOU. Thank you for giving me a story that has inspired me to write on my own, for redeeming webfiction after a few bad experiences. Thank you for giving us, the readers of Worm, something that could make us cry, laugh, shocked, pain, happy, triumphant, afraid, and excited. I would also like to thank all of the commenters here, who have been almost universally kind, insightful, and entertaining. Worm is my number one recommended fiction of the year. Also, I’m personally interested in Pact, with Body as my second choice. Anyone else have any preferences?

    • I would gloat, but I’m still crying from the reveal that Taylor was still alive.

      I hope her life is a happy one now.

      *resumes crying*

  6. Wow, Taylor still alive, and the world slowly recovering. I love how live goes on, and Tattletale is still a boss. Everything is much better than I expected it to be, though simply from Taylor’s perspective I’m not sure if her being alive is a good thing. It is hard to imagine she wouldn’t be involved in a sequel.

    Inspired by Worm, I started my own web serial a month or so ago. If you’d like. check it out. ( theleagueofprey.wordpress.com )

  7. Who did Tattletale convince that Taylor was dead?

    Also, I was wrong. I proudly admit that. Taylor is alive! Alive! ALIVE!!!!!!

    This is the happiest I’ve ever been to know that I was wrong.

      • Cassandra, who I think scorned Apollo. He cursed her with the ability to see the future but with the condition that no one would believe her. She was mostly ok there with her family in Troy, until some little shit named Paris showed up and she started talking about him being their utter destruction. He had been kept well away from the royal family because when his mother was pregnant with him, she had a dream that was interpreted by a seer to mean he would bring about his destruction.

        So she’s so cursed that even independent confirmation predating her own wasn’t enough to prove what she said to people.

      • that’s bugging me. what were the 5 groups? undersiders, PRT, Teacher, Yanbang, Caldron, birdcage, people in blue, normal people?

  8. Well, I was convinced that Taylor had died. I’m very very happy that she gets a chance to live. I would write more, but it would only be babbling.

  9. Thank you.

    This was great.

    Also….I’m probably reading too much into this (and I know you’re not going to tell me) but the boy trying on the white bodysuit under the watchful eye of Valkyrie……

  10. I came to this story quite late in the game. Binge-read most of it in the past three weeks or so. It’s amazing work, and I’m thankful you were able and willing to share it with the rest of your fellow humans. Thanks so much.

      • You should really just keep a text file of those you’ve already molested, PG.

        Either that or see if Wildbow can set up a graphic display indicating first time posters.

      • Hrm. You know I think I *may* have commented once or twice? I can’t quite recall, actually. Sometimes I read late into the night, and when I’m that tired I don’t always follow through on long-term plans like commenting, heh.

  11. Eh.

    I don’t think I like Taylor and her dad surviving. Taylor’s character arc was interesting and it ended in a satisfying way, adding an addendum is just kind of…eh.

    And it feels too easy, for everyone we like to be among the survivors of Scion’s rampage. Billions die, but fortunately all of those billions are billions we don’t care about. Again, eh.

    • Well, I think the point here is that peace-by-death is /easy/, but finding peace through life is hard. But that doesn’t mean death is the better point. It’s making a wider point here.

      And if you’re frustrated, imagine how Taylor must be feeling, haha! She’s only 18 and she’s already passed the climax of her life, if you define it in raw power… but of course, that’s not really the best way to look at it. She’s only 18, and she may not be a godling anymore, but she’s got a whole life ahead of her.

      • She’s also probably passed her climax in terms of raw impact on the world, social influence, ability to do good, physical and mental integrity, and emotional well being (though the last is the least certain).

        In a lot of very real ways, she’s passed her peak and it’s unlikely she’ll ever get anywhere close to it again. Just figuring out what she’s going to try to strive for and acquiring a sense of scale (her current one goes from normal to “Hijack every cape so I can bully God to death” and that’s too broad to be workable for a mortal) will be major trials.

          • One possibly-applicable argument would be to say that the major characters, most of whom are some of the most powerful/useful humans and/or friends of the same, have status in the setting that led to more effort/resources being devoted to protecting/ferrying them around in such a way that kept them out of the direct line of fire for the most part. However, I would admit that the “why didn’t more major characters die” thing is a niggling doubt in my mind.

    • As my mother put it, it invalidates her sacrifice, that she survived.

      I don’t mind. I see it as the Army does, what you know at the time is the basis of how you should be judged, but…

      Taylor’s sacrifice, of EVERYTHING she had, made her The hero. She saved everybody, and this ending shows that the things she sacrificed aren’t as gone as I thought they were. But… She did. The thought that she could recover even a fraction of her self? Never crossed her mind. She acted anyway.

      Thank you, Wildbow. I’ll look for you next work.

      • I don’t think it invalidates her sacrifice at all. She gave up literally everything to kill Scion, then to allow Contessa to kill her. Why shouldn’t such self-sacrifice be rewarded? What exactly would it say if such self-sacrifice is rewarded with death? Dead and revered is still dead.

        Now if she came back as fully-fledged Skitter, that would be a different story.

  12. I’ll have to take some time to gather my thoughts on thus final chapter ( damn does this makes me sad) but for now I just want to say: thank you for this wonderful story and this wonderful journey. Whatever else you write I’ll read. Really, just thanks.

  13. So her dad survived. That’s good. I was betting that Taylor was dead, but it looks like you were right Inverness.

    I wonder if Taylor has her powers?

      • Addendum: Though, I wouldn’t be surprised if Contessa had a way to give them back. I doubt there will be any situation where Khepri is needed again. She did her part and passed the torch.

        Anyhow, Wildbow you did mention there were parts of the earlier story you wanted to expand on. Particularly Taylor’s life as a warlord and the time skip period after that. I’m really looking forward to that whenever you get around to it.

        • There wouldn’t be a soft spot on her forehead if that were the case. I think it’s way more satisfying to think Contessa did it. She made her decision, and then took the shortest, 2-step path to victory.

    • Ah, I see now. I kinda wish Taylor still had her bug control powers. Maybe she could have tried her hand at being a hero this time around.

      • I think she has done enough. She has saceficed enough. She has saved the fucking multiverse!
        A quite powerless life in an mostly unpowered world is something she deserves.

        • Peace is what she deserves. This is what I was arguing for when I was still under the impression she was dead. I was happy for her because she could rest now. Still can with this setup, but she’s still alive.

  14. Well. I got everything I wanted from this. Except Grue. I wanted him to get some wrath for being a dick and now I feel bad. TAYLOR’S ALIVE!!! I have to wonder if she’ll be in the sequel.

    • Needs to get a new arm unless she just isn’t using her tinker made arm, she pops in and does some coaching, or she gets a new power.

      • It would likely be difficult to incorporate,but Worm was really depressing at times, so I could see a few interludes in the sequel just showing Taylor dealing with normal life, having really small, every day experiences and adventures. Problem being it would be very hard to incorporate this without breaking the flow of the story, and readers who start off with the sequel wouldn’t have the same satisfaction from reading that kind of thing I would.

  15. One of my favorite moments in the whole story: Taylor’s final conversation with Contessa, with Taylor’s rather straightforward words serving as a devastating rebuke to Contessa’s work, Cauldron, and their methods. So very much of what they did, so many foul and wicked and ruthless things, all in an effort to discover some power or create some cape that could…beat Scion in a battle of some sort. And Taylor was able to manage it without even thinking (much) of Scion as this unstoppable juggernaut that had to fill her every waking moment. Instead she lived a life dedicated to helping others as the primary goal, as THE goal-and that led to her ability to understand and empathize, even though she was capable of ruthlessness herself, and those qualities were what let her defeat Scion.

    • I would dispute that Cauldron’s methods were a failure – Doctor Mother’s plan of ensuring a maximum population of capes available for the fight against Scion succeeded, after all.

      • It’s not clear how many capes Cauldron actually created, really-they made something of a point of discussing how ‘naturally forming’ capes were far outstripping their capacity of keep up with the naturally occurring population.

        So it’s not clear how many capes they contributed in the end, and what’s especially unclear is how much any benefits Cauldron brought to the table were offset by all of their drawbacks. The crippling disunity, the infighting, the nearly crippling lack of trust.

        • …I do have to admit that the biggest thing they did that helped was arrange for the Scion fight to happen at a time when the parahuman population was near a maximum.

          • But they didn’t arrange that-in fact they went to quite a lot of effort to attempt to avoid it. *Jack* instigated that fight at that time.

            Just as an example, how effective would efforts to stop Jack Slash have been if the Protectorate wasn’t crippled from within by dishonesty and disunity stemming from its association with Cauldron? How much international rivalry was due to Cauldron, in fact-international capes and people had mentioned that the Protectorate was corrupt and untrustworthy.

            • Hmm? Once Cauldron heard that Jack was going to end the world in two years, they did everything in their power to let it happen. Because without Jack Scion would have flipped off anyway in 15 years but humanity defences would have already been pretty much annihilated by the Endbringers by that point.

              • The Endbringers which they were responsible for creating?

                Look I’m not saying they were *stupid* necessarily-that’s why their transgressions were tragic. They thought they were facing the annihilation of humanity across dimensions, and had good reason to think so. Much becomes permitted in that kind of scenario. It’s just if you’re gonna do terrible things for some greater good, it actually has to *work* to be much else besides terrible.

              • Not to mention that with their brilliant foresight they let the S9000 rampage across North America so they could get maybe a few dozen decent parahuman clones. Now admitidly this is done with hindsight, but if they wanted an army of parahuman clones, why not recruit Blasto and Cranial themselves? Hell once they have those two they don’t even have to worry about the army of Case 53′s made of pissed off abductees. Just have use Blasto’s tech to clone dead people, and Cranial’s to program them to be loyal, with the proper psychological profiles to influence their powers as desired.

              • @Negadarkwing (won’t let me extend thread that deep)–They did recruit Blasto. Accord was working for Cauldron, Accord hired him and gave him the necessary data to make cape/endbringer clones. Jack and Bonesaw just happened to drop by at exactly the wrong moment.

    • Fortuna: ‘How can I stop Scion?’
      Power: ’2000+ steps’
      Result: Big fight, Scion looses.
      I don’t see the ‘Cauldron was unnecessary’ angle.

      • Fortuna asked that question and didn’t get 2000+ steps, she got an error message. Doctor Mother suggested an army and that’s where the 2000+ steps came in. And technically, Cauldron was necessary. It made the Division formula, which Noelle and Oliver took, and Oliver was instrumental in defeating Scion. But that’s Simurgh-level planning right there.

          • Taylor gained her powers naturally, Triggered by Sophia and Emma, who were brought together by the ABB. It’s unclear whether the ABB was Contessa’s power or Ziz’s machinations, but Cauldron knew nothing about that chain of events. You can’t really call it machinations if it was neither intentional nor conscious.

            • ABB was formed by Lung, who was triggered by Contessa, following a path to victory fed her by her shard. At which point it all kinda gets flung up into the air somewhat.

              • Not to mention the path to victory might not show the best possible outcome. If it doesn’t show that that winning in that way will come back to bite them in the ass later, it’s a potential flaw.

  16. I started reading this back in February this year, and marathoned everything in a few long nights of reading. Since then, this has been one of the regular fixtures of my week. It’s going to feel so strange coming back here on Saturday and realizing that it’s over, with nothing more to be said. Not here, not now, at least.

    Wouldn’t have missed it for the world, though. And I’ll be looking forward to what you do next. Although if I might make a humble suggestion, Wildbow, I think you should take this weekend off. No writing, no editing, no dealing with us lunatics in the comments section. After two and a half years, you sure as hell deserve some rest before you start all over again. We’ll still be here when you get back.

    As for the rest of you guys… well, I figure I’ll see you in the comments section of Wildbow’s next work. So no goodbyes here. Only a hearty “’til we meet again”.

    And a song. Just for the heck of it. Any of you who know it, feel free to pick up where I let go.

    Closing time
    open all the doors and let you out into the world…

      • Leonard Cohen’s Closing Time is better….

        I missed you since our place got wrecked
        I just don’t care what happens next
        It looks like freedom but it feels like death
        It’s something in between I guess
        It’s closing time.

  17. Beautiful ending, though I’m sad to see it finally come. Imp’s going to find some way take down Teacher that will literally involve him getting kicked in the balls and dropped down and elevator shaft, isn’t she?

  18. I’m surprised though I guess I’m not shocked Taylor survived. The name Khepri was a pretty big hint. I think this is the second Chapter we’ve had with two separate POVs. The first being with Armsmaster and Pandora. It’s nice that the Undersiders still know she’s alive and are taking care of her. If there is a sequel I don’t expect Taylor will play much of a role except for some name dropping. Then again I was wrong about her being dead too. Not really much left to say except that I really enjoyed this story and I look forward to reading whatever Wildbow writes in the future.

  19. Grue…

    Seriously, girls were way more favored in this than guys in the end. Alec died and Grue was not doing anything meaningful any longer, then died.If I have one serious complaint, it’s this.

    • Chevalier lived, and he’s enough man to balance it out.

      But being serious for a moment I would agree a bit. If we’d kept track of Golem perhaps, it could have been enough for me, but really the only main men in the story near the end were Defiant and Chevalier. Chevalier wasn’t really a central focus and Defiant almost seemed like a support character for Dragon. Just a little complaint, but part of that may be because I wanted a Chevalier epilogue… :P

    • Ehhh. Defiant is out there. Although, yeah, the body count of main characters who’re guys is pretty high. I guess one could argue about gender roles in the Wormverse, but honestly, one could argue about gender roles in -any- literary work. Ever. Except ones starring amoebas. Maybe.

      I’m not saying you’re wrong, because I understand and (to an extent) agree, but at the same time – I mean, it’s fiction, and I don’t think it’s a big deal unless there’s some obvious ‘message’ being pushed.

    • It’s specifically stated that more women trigger than men because they statistically deal with more of the shit that can make a person trigger, just like more people in low-infrastructure or war-torn places trigger than in the first world. Thus it’s perfect logical to have more women than men in the surviving heroes. And there were a *lot* of women who died or worse over the course of the story.

      • Was it women trigger more in general? I thought I remembered it as women being more likely to have emotional or mental triggers and guys getting the violent and physical triggers. Hence all the female masters and male brutes.

        Death toll seemed fine to me. I can’t speak for Megaolix, but I thought he meant that the guys faded out of the story near the end.

        • This. You have it right krustacean.

          Alec died. Grue was put on a bus that ultimately crashed. Clockblocker and Kid Win got killed. Golem was forgotten.

          Sure, we have Defiant, Marquis and Lung. But Lung and Marquis were not doing much in the epilogue and even with Defiant being awesome, the most important part of the show was still Dragon.

          Teacher is a guy too, but I think it’s safe to say msot of us want him day. And with Dragon, Defiant and Undersiders after him, he isn’t going to remain alive much longer.

          And even right here at the end, when the Undersiders reunite here and there’s only one guy (Forrest), well…

          Is it really that hard to feel like guys got the short end of the stick like this? Even with Cauldron’s remnants. We see Contessa, but not Number Man.

          • While I have to admit i was a bit disappointed there wasn’t even a mention of Number Man, I’d like to remind that the most important thing that survived Cauldron is, arguably, their plans to resettle humanity after the Apocalypse. Which were done by Accord. Who’s a guy.

          • Right, decided to give a count because my impressions of things probably aren’t accurate.
            Taking names from the Cast page because I can’t remember everybody off the top of my head. Not listing those without significant face time, as the may or may not have died and nobody cares. Also only counting sentients. If they were alive last we saw, they go in the alive category unless there’s good reason to think they bought it after that.

            Male, alive:
            Danny Herbert
            Forrest
            Bryce Kiley
            Barker
            Biter
            Assault
            Triumph/Rory
            Armsmaster/Colin/Defiant
            Clockblocker/Dennis (probably)
            Weld
            Flashbang/Mark Dallon
            Halo
            Valefor
            Eligos
            Theo Anders/Golem
            Ballistic
            Oliver
            Newter
            Gregor the Snail
            Scrub
            Marquis
            Lung
            Legend
            Leviathan (probably)
            Khonsu
            Nilbog
            Uber
            Bastard
            Brooks
            Chevalier
            Dimitri
            Number Man/Harbinger
            Scapegoat
            Teacher
            Tecton
            35

            Male, dead or worse:
            Grue/Brian
            Regent/Alec/Jean-Paul
            Dauntless
            Velocity
            Aegis
            Gallant
            Manpower/Neil Pelham
            Shielder
            Tagg
            Accord
            Othello
            Fog/Geoff Schmidt
            Crusader/Justin
            Hookwolf
            Jack Slash
            Crawler
            Mannequin/Alan Gramme
            Manton/The Siberian
            Hatchet Face
            Gray Boy
            Scion
            Eidolon
            Behemoth
            Kaiser
            Oni Lee
            Skidmark
            Mush
            Trainwreck
            Coil
            Leet
            Blasto
            Heartbreaker
            Myrddin
            Raymancer
            34

            Male, I don’t remember/not mentioned
            Kid Win/Chris
            Chariot
            Browbeat
            Stormtiger
            Victor
            Trickster
            Greg
            Mr. Gladly
            8

            Female, alive:
            Taylor/Skitter/Weaver/Khepri
            Sophia Hess/Shadow Stalker
            Tattletale/Lisa/Sarah
            Bitch/Rachel
            Imp/Aisha
            Parain/Sabah
            Sierra Kiley
            Charlotte
            WagTheDog
            Miss Militia
            Vista/Missy
            Flechette/Lily/Foil
            Lady Photon/Sarah Pelham (last I knew…)
            Laserdream
            Brandish/Carol Dallon
            Glory Girl/Victoria Dallon
            Panacea/Amy Dallon
            Rosary
            Emily Piggot
            Jessica Yamada
            Bonesaw/Riley
            Sundancer
            Genesis
            Faultline
            Spitfire
            Labyrinth
            Shamrock
            Matryoshka
            GU/Valkyrie
            Canary
            Dragon
            Narwhal
            The Simurgh
            Tohu
            Bohu
            Dinah Alcott
            Contessa
            Garotte
            38

            Female, dead or worse:
            Annette Rose Herbert
            Emma Barnes
            Battery
            Citrine
            Butcher XIV/Quarrel
            Purity/Kayden Anders
            Night/Dorothy Schmidt
            Fenja
            Burnscar
            Cherish
            Damsel of Distress
            Echidna/Noelle
            Gully
            Alexandria
            Pandora
            Bakuda
            Sqealer
            Aster
            Doctor Mother
            Prism (I think)
            20

            Female, I don’t remember/not mentioned
            Menja
            Cricket
            Rune
            Othala
            Shatterbird
            Grace
            6

            ???:
            Circus

            So you’re right. If my count is right, men had about a 50:50 survival rate, while only a little more than 1/3 of the significant women died horribly.

            Also, if anybody wants to make a better casualty list please do.

            • Satyr is a male that survived. Pretender, Kid Win and Trickster are dead. Gladly is probably dead, going by one interpretation of a post on the parahuman forum.Leviathan is also dead. This chapter has Simurgh as the last of the original three.

              Othala and Shatterbird are dead.

              Where does it say that Othello and Citrine (and the other Ambassadors not Ligeia or Codex (both females, btw)) are dead? They just disappeared from the story last I recall.

              • Derp. Mixed up Satyr and Scapegoat.

                I still think Leviathan is alive. We saw him about to die, then Ziz scattered the combatants with the air gun, then when the dust cleared Scion disintegrated what appeared to be an immobile Leviathan and what appeared to be an immobile Simurgh. To me that says telekinetic duplicate while the real one swims away.

                I thought Citrine got killed somewhere in the Behemoth fight, but I admit to being unsure about a lot of these.

              • Yes, and then she talked about raising the dead with Nilbog and Riley, and then in this chapter we saw her trying not to stare at the red-haired young man putting on a white supersuit in the Wardens’ headquarters. So Clockblocker is probably alive now. Or possibly undead, depending on where you want to draw that line.

    • Holy shit, really people? “Girls were more favored than guys” is a complaint? Do you have any idea how entitled that sounds from a culture where guys make up the vast majority of protagonists in pretty much every piece of media?

      Even if the ideal is a “balanced” gender representation, the idea that writers should go through their stories with a fine-toothed comb to make sure both genders come out evenly is just silly.

  20. So Grue is dead and Danny is alive. Didn’t see that coming. (which is par for the course.)
    We did manage to finally guess one twist in the end that Taylor was still alive, so that’s nice.
    I hadn’t thought about Earth Aleph for quite along while it’s interesting to have Taylor set up a new life over there, though I don’t see her (or that dimension) being cut off from the others on a permanent basis.
    I suppose it makes sense that her powers are all the way gone, but I’ve always hated that trope of the characters losing their powers at the end of the story. Would have preferred if they’d just been weakened down to near start of story level bug control, but that’s just my random personal bias and the story is probably stronger as is.
    Thank you for writing this. Among my friends and acquaintances I’m known for recommending things to them, to the point that I’m slowly putting together a google.doc to save people some time. On that sheet and in person, I state that Worm is my number one recommended series in any medium.
    (as a side note, I’ve managed to get three of my friends reading it in the past week. The story may be finished, but Taylor’s swarm won’t stop growing for quite awhile yet.)

    Again, thank you for giving us this story. We eagerly look forward to your next work.
    (just think Psycho Gecko, You’ll be able to inhabit the comments section from the very beginning, and there’ll be a whole host of people already working with your style. :) The comments section enhanced this story to even greater heights and you were easily one of the biggest factors of this.)

    Good bye all of you. Heroes, Villains, monsters, and those who walked the paths in-between. Good bye commentors, and interludes, and white text on black background.
    Good bye to Brockton Bay, to Endbringers, to entities, to Earth Bet (and gimel and all the rest.)
    Good bye Dragon, Defiant, Undersiders and all the rest.
    T’was fun. I hope we meet again some day.

    Hello new world of Wildbow’s. I look forward to playing with you.

    • Why thank you, Rawhide, but I’m not sure if I will stick with whatever comes next.

      Perhaps I give myself too much credit, but it was nice to help promote a community, which helps reader retention and increases enjoyment, both intellectual and sophomoric.

      Though mainly, I just really like myself some black humor and low-brow jokes.

    • I don’t like the idea of depowering either, but it was the only way it could end for Taylor. Not in the sense of predicting this ending, but in the sense that only if she doesn’t have her powers could Taylor ever sit back and work at something resembling a normal life.

      Which will be made pretty difficult without any records of birth, life, or education for her or her dad in this new world. Sound like a dumb barrier? Sure, fine. Go see if the 18 year old high school drop out can get a decent job when undergrads are fighting over minimum wage.

      But depowering is such a harsh thing to do to people in general. I mean, at least some wouldn’t be stopped by it, but to go from something beyond human to just a miserable, nearly helpless bouncing sack of organs seems like such a major letdown. Gave me a fun idea for a plushie though. “Sacky, the bouncing sack of organs!”

    • I suppose it makes sense that her powers are all the way gone, but I’ve always hated that trope of the characters losing their powers at the end of the story. Would have preferred if they’d just been weakened down to near start of story level bug control, but that’s just my random personal bias and the story is probably stronger as is.

      The things that made Taylor’s bug control power ridiculously OP were the massive multitasking and swarm sense aspects, both of which were present from the start. And even if you assume that she loses all the little tricks like the cloud-of-bugs sidestep that I’m guessing her passenger learned, she’s still got tons of experience to draw on.

      • See, I don’t think that was her Passenger acting as much as her subconscious. She was aware of every movement in her swarm, an attack came her way, she sidestepped without thinking about it. Nobody with significant combat experience needs to think consciously about every little dodge and parry and few will remember them all, because that would be too slow and often pointless in combat. In fact until (possibly) the fight with Scion, almost everything she attributed to her Passenger looked to me (and the Wards’ psychologist) like an ordinary subconscious. I think she just latched onto the Passenger idea when Bonesaw mentioned it, and started to assume that applied to anything she didn’t do fully consciously and deliberately.

        Anyway, even unpowered she has a lot of experience to draw on. The lack of bugs might trip her up in her first couple brawls (Grue mentioned a long ways back that she didn’t look around as much as a normal person would because she’s used to “seeing” in all directions), but ultimately she’s in great shape (aside from one arm), has a high pain tolerance, and has won more fights than an average spec ops soldier. I pity any thugs, criminals, or low-end capes who think the skinny one-armed lady is an easy mark.

        • I second that notion. Most combat drills are done to get you to where you subconsciously are following those drilled movements without having to think about them, so you act without thinking and save your life, instead of being paralyzed by having to think, which is an eternity in comparison to just reacting.

  21. THANK BABY JESUS SHE’S ALIVE. And bullet surgery. Wouldn’t have thought that possible, considering what hydrostatic shock does to soft tissue, but maybe they were special bullets.

    So the madness-inducing powers get sealed away, her and her dad go to a peaceful world. I like it. Bittersweet on the end of the heroes she left in the dark, but I suppose even Tattletale and the others would try to meddle if they knew she was alive, and I’d put serious cash on Teacher trying to release her powers and control her if he knew.

    When I read the ‘getting shot’ line, I felt like I had an out of body experience. Just sat there slack-jawed. Reading about Taylor here was the same, but in a good way. It’s fantastic that after all the shit she went through, she gets peace and the chance to work for a true happy end.

    The bit about Grue dying must’ve been your last little gut-punch to justify the smiley faces. I’ll let you have it.

    I only found this near the end and powered through it, got some whiplash at the drastic change in mood between some chapters. But I’m really glad that the “gritty grimdark” aspect gave way to some hope at last. Effing amazing story Wildbow. 10/10.

    Now off to those fanfics.

        • Especially with Riley and Panacea (presumably) on the job. Hell, Riley was able to do all sorts of shit, she’d probably be able to put a brain back together from mush.

          Almost makes me wonder if they had to seal her powers totally, or if they could’ve toned them back down to bugs only. Cauldron seemed to be getting pretty advanced in shard-manipulation.

          It’d have been pretty cool if a bug had landed on Taylor’s shoulder at the end. Just enough to make you wonder.

          • I actually assume Panacea *wasn’t* on the job because Panacea probably would have grown her a new arm. Unless she was still feeling a bit vengeful over being controlled. But “I’ll fix you up good as new but won’t do your arm” is an incredibly specific level of peeved…

  22. Most puzzled by Danny’s presence.

    Requires active interference early, before the S9000 hunt, by someone with truly remarkable planning or precognition.

    Not Tattletale, or she would have told Taylor he was alive earlier. Not Dinah, or Tattletale wouldn’t be lying to Dinah about Taylor being alive.

    The Simurgh?

    Contessa, doing something which only made sense to her in hindsight? At that time, Cauldron was still intact and Doctor Mother was calling the shots.

    I can find no other plausible candidates, at first glance. Motive existed to take Danny at that time, as a lever against Weaver, but no sign of that earlier.

    I suppose it’s conceivable that the Eidolon clone purged by Lung was Simurgh’s second (known) run at the cloning business, and that’s how ‘Danny’ survived.

    The device sealing off Earth Alpha – and it’s really only now that that designation fits, even considering Haywire’s backstory – is on Earth Alpha. A relatively intact, industrialized Earth, with the longest record of interuniversal communication… deliberately cut off from the blossoming multiverse.

    Probably to contain Taylor / give her a quiet retirement. And the fact that she knows the device is on Earth Alpha probably means that it was brought in with her. She may even know where it is, and how to deactivate it.

    Not sure how that quiet retirement will work, in the long run. She still has the mindset, and the experience, and was famous enough that some people on Earth Alpha will have heard of Skitter/Weaver/Khepri. Depending on the record sharing, the name of Taylor Hebert might even be attached to it… though whether Taylor uses that name with anyone but Annette Rose remains an open question.

    The surviving Travelers went home, and at least some of them fought under Khepri against Scion (the bug that rolls the sun away). Otherwise, very few who’d know her personally.

    Grue’s death fit his story, more than his withdrawing to be alone with Cozen did. He always was about stepping up when called upon, whether by Aisha or Taylor, whatever the price.

    • Keep in mind Taylor’s identity was public. Danny probably figured out any number of “cheese it” plans offscreen whilst his daughter was doing the whole “reformed villain” thing. Never know when some asshole with a grudge might do something. Less useful against a tantruming god-child, but better than nothing.

      Also… Taylor was mentally fused with the *builders* of those devices. She punched a hole through at least one. She’d know how they work, at least enough to be aware they had to be in the universe they’re shielding.

      Chances are, the thing will die naturally. Probably has a 10 year or so charge. Enough time for the other earths to establish an equilibrium before Aleph opened again.

    • I’m thinking it was the Simurgh, on all counts.

      Aleph got sealed off, by somebody on this side. But there were no notable Tinkers on Aleph, and very few paras overall. Taylor could have brought an interdiction device with her, but wouldn’t have any idea how to maintain it or make more. Teacher definitely didn’t do it. But who can memorize Tinker designs, scale them up, and reproduce them years later perfectly out of scrap?

      Danny was in BB when Scion hit. His house’s ruins were empty after that. Tattletale believed him dead. But who could look into that part of the future and scoop him up right before the devastation? Other than Contessa, who had no reason to ask about that before it happened and would probably have given his survival away earlier?

      The question is why. But the SImurgh has always been the least powerful, directly, of the Endbringers. She relies on planning, manipulation, and pawns to get the job done. Scion was a major threat to her, which she did not have the power to take down, so she had to arrange things so a certain little bug girl would do the job for her.
      But that Khepri is a wonderful resource, and it would be wasteful to just discard her after a single use. On the other hand she is quite moral, and would lose most of her usefulness if she were overtly controlled, or driven too mad, or if nobody would trust her. So Khepri would have to be persuaded rather than tweaked or manipulated, and she needed time to recover psychologically from what happened before the next mission.
      So, give her a quiet place to rest. Protect Khepri’s father in a tube through the worst of the fighting, then drop the tube with some decoy inside that matches up with the motivation the heroes have for the Simurgh’s motivations in order to draw off suspicions. Seal away her powers in a way that can only be reversed by maybe four people in the multiverse so Khepri isn’t guilted into heroism while she’s supposed to be having a peaceful life and nobody connects her to the bug goddess, but make sure it can be reversed when the time it right. And then use your accumulated Tinker toys to seal off that entire minimally devastated planet so the trouble in the rest of the multiverse doesn’t spill over. Have Tattetale convince the rest of bet and the rest of the multiverse that Taylor is gone forever. Maybe even put some money in local accounts for them if it wouldn’t draw too much suspicion.

      Then years down the line, when the time is right, open it again. Ziz placed the interdiction, she made portals to Aleph before, it should be easy. Approach Taylor quietly. Reveal the true course of events, how the Simurgh saved her father’s life, how she gave Taylor this peaceful, happy life, how she protected this entire world. Make this good, moral girl think that just maybe the Endbringer isn’t totally evil and self serving. And then reveal how she’s needed again, and use a combination of Tinker knowledge and perfect telekinesis to unlock her power to the exact extent needed. The Simurgh gets an unbeatable minion that nobody is prepared for, for the low low price of one peaceful planet and a few years of patience.

        • If Taylor did it, then she’ll be lucky if that interdiction lasts a year. Tinker devices tend to not last long without maintenance, and only the right tinker can do that, so whatever machine this is will shut down sooner rather than later.

          • True, I forgot Tinker devices don’t last long without maintenance, but Taylor did think to herself that the device that sealed Aleph was in Aleph and not Bet. She either threw it away or destroy it. Most likely the former, since you shouldn’t try to destroy Tinker stuff.

          • That assumes that locking the dimension away need be an ongoing process. If the device does something like “thicken the walls between dimensions” or move the dimension further away, then it won’t require maintenance – it’s already done its job.

    • I figure Danny was just ‘missing, presumed dead’ all this time. Noone had time to look for him during the Scion attacks but once that was over it’s as easy as Contessa path-to-victory-ing “find Danny Herbert”.

      And yeah, the Grue thing makes sense. I justified his withdrawing to the cabin at the time, and I still think that would potentially have been in-character for him. But this better explains his sudden and complete removal from the storyline. I did wonder why he hadn’t at least been keeping in touch with Imp…

  23. My last rambling musings on a Worm chapter. It feels strange after all these months.

    Taylor lives. And so does Danny. I don’t know how I feel about the latter. Call me callous but I think he should have stayed dead. Still, it wouldn’t have been that much of a happy ending if Taylor survived but was separated from everyone she knew, so I can understand.

    It seems Clockblocker was just ressurected.

    Grue instead died. Last time we saw him he was already dead, actually. Cozen power, maybe. I wonder if that was always the plan or if it was a more recent decision.

    Teacher is going to get his just rewards. And so, even if Worm ends, the adventure continues*. Thanks again, wildbow.

    *Always wanted to say it.

      • No, that’s why I’m speculating. Her name does mean “to deceive”, so illusions could make sense.

        Though, now that I think about: did we see Grue after the battle. Because at first I thought so, but now I am not so sure.

        • Headcanon: Cozen is actually a baseline. She’s been deceiving everybody long enough to rise to the top of an organization of supervillains, but is actually just a damn good thief.

          And no, I don’t recall seeing Grue after the oil rig. His supposed actions were reported to Taylor, but she had bigger things to deal with, he was a long way away, and she didn’t want to peek in the cabin.

          • Which bugged me and made no sense, but I’m not complaining anymore. Grue’s deadn AND he dies in a way that made him not-a-bitch! Woo. Now all we need is that follow-up letter and a personality for Cozen and then I’ll be just dandy.

            • I actually feel a little bad for Cozen. I mean her boyfriends Ex comes back. And now you’ve got to compete with a living legend, and his little sister makes it clear she prefers her. Then the ex talks him into doing something that gets him killed. And you go off to a cabin to cry, and his team is telling her she’s still alive so as to help the Ex keep it together, even as she becomes a God/Monster to save the world. And then in the end his little Sister still likes the ex better even though she sorta got her brother killed.

              • That’s assuming that they even got together in the first place. Just because two people working together are male and female doesn’t mean they have to be humping each other. :x Does no one respect fidelity around here?! (I recognize the irony given the number of ships I’ve toyed with, thank you.)

  24. Taylor’s ALIVE!? *brains shuts down for a moment*…Y’know, I thought she’d hit rock bottom, I thought that Contessa would have just put her out of her misery. I didn’t think she would have recovered. (I even wrote her an epitaph, c’mon!) In hindsight, though, as with Scion’s rampage, it makes sense. Khepri was out of control, but Taylor was still there underneath, so the solution would be to remove/lock off the corona pollentia.

    And Danny’s alive too? It’s funny, you expected him to be one of the very first named casualties of the Scion War. It’s like a splash of cold water when you see him pointedly scrutinizing his shoes to avoid looking at his dead wife’s alt-reality doppelganger. I’m glad to see that Taylor got some peace from the reunion, though. (Although the old woman on the subway really shouldn’t have called Taylor a college “man”, though. ಠ_ಠ )

    Once again, thank you for the ride, Wildbow. Please tell us when you print this so I can buy it and gift separate copies to everyone I know who likes a good read. (And possibly buy a separate e-copy to throw more money your way)

    • If you click on the ‘end’ link on the chapter itself, it takes you to my other blog, where I discuss future plans.

      At the bottom of that blog, I go into how you can subscribe to hear from me if/when I get to publishing/kickstartering/sequeling.

  25. Great story, I’m going to be sorry to see the ole Worm die. It’d become a glorious way to spend friday and monday nights with my friend, reading and then discussing and guessing what’ll happen next and usually get proven wrong by some unexpected loop. Gunna need to draw a picture of happy end-of-the-world normal Taylor now reading books with her good hand…

    One thing that struck me as an odd coincidence was that everyone Taylor ran into in this world was folks we thought dead. Her, her dad, her mom, even thinking she sees Regent/Alec… sort of as if she was in some kind of heaven, and wouldn’t ever appreciate it because of what she’d been through and what she’d done. But on the other hand she kind of deserves a break after all that… being in a shut off, somewhat perfect-ish world makes sense. A place no one’s going to know her.

    I think what would have made the ending totally perfect for me would have been to have the very last line be something about the bugs around her acting strangely, flies forming a conga line in the air in their wake.

    • Well her power did seem to exist outside her mind somehow in past chapters. But Contessa wanted to help her so leaving her power intact wouldn’t have worked. Unless he saw that Taylor having her power would be important for a future step in the plan.

      • The power removal is curious. Because if Cauldron could do that, wouldn’t they have, at some point? And Bonesaw, who would know, told us that a power can never be removed or cut off, just altered. So if I had to guess, I’d say Taylor is still powered, but in a much more subtle way. Maybe they just cut her range down to an inch, maybe they shifted it from total control to a subtle emotional thing, I dunno. I doubt it’s in a form that could be identified as Khepri or used effectively in combat, because that would prevent a peaceful life. But I suspect that Taylor and Danny will notice a little bit of weirdness in the coming months or years.

  26. Well, well done wildbow. What an epic journey. I’m very glad I clicked on that link a year ago.

    Had i not, I would have missed out on something truely brilliant. I would certainly have never have started my own serial and, bizarrely find out I either have some basic talent for writing or there are some strange people in this world.

    I’m looking forward to what you move on to.

  27. In hindsight, it was a little amusing that we were half convinced Contessa used the first bullet to kill Taylor, and then the second just to make sure.

      • Her power should instantly know if she justs asks the question. So she intentionally isn’t asking the odds that Taylor is alive. Probably from guilt, but if she does discover she is alive, then what? Granted I know why Tattletale doesn’t like Dinah considering she put Taylor on the path despite her saving her from Coil. But I don’t see why she doesn’t want her to know.

        • Powers have limits. The anti-portal device worked by blocking out the Clairvoyant’s vision, it might block Dinah’s similarly; or Dinah’s power might not work transdimensionally or have other limits or whatever.

        • She can’t ask questions like that. She has to visualize a scene, and then sort through the possible futures to see how many include a scene like that. So she could ask the probability of Taylor rejoining the other Undersiders, and come up zero. Or the probability of meeting Taylor again. Or basically any other scene outside of Aleph (which is sealed off), and get the same result whether she’s dead or extra-dimensional.

      • I think the most plausible explanation is that Dinah does know and either Tattletale doesn’t know, and believes Dinah is just deceiving herself, or Tattletale does know but wants to convince Dinah that she is deceiving herself.

  28. So it ends. Well that was a good ending, and I’m a little sad that it’s over. I look forward to reading what you have next though. Reader for life.
    The Sons of Bitch is canon!
    Taylor is alive with her dad, and her power is sealed off.
    Grue died on the oil platform.
    Dinah/Cozen are part of the all girl Undersiders.
    Thoughts on a sequel.
    1. I assume that Tattletale knows she is alive, and is trying to figure out how to get to her world.
    2. Teacher’s plan will cause something big to happen, and the Undersiders are going after him.
    3. Dragon still hasn’t had her revenge, or become a mother yet.
    4. The Smurf, arguably the most dangerous Endbringer, is still active. Still don’t know what the fuck was up with that baby, but Teacher might play a role in whatever she has planned.
    5. Sleeper, and the 3 blasphemies are still around. Plus as we saw with Bitches chapter the powers that be are still acting freaky and we might have a new S-class threat any day.
    6. The former fairy queen has discovered boys! There is also that speculation of working with Bonesaw and Nilbog to bring back the dead. What could go wrong?
    7. Miss Miliita still runs things, and Vista might be the leader of a new wards team. I assume they still have a truce with the undersiders.
    8. Panacea is free and working with her father and Bonesaw. I wonder is she intends to finally see if she can fix her sister.
    9. Lung seems to be trying to rebuild the ABB in one of the New Yorks.
    10. Contessa did save Taylor’s life, and followed the step she saw to give her a semblance of happiness. I think she is with Teacher to try and thwart whatever the Smurf is intending to use him for.
    11. Is this the last we have seen of Taylor? She earned her rest after all and she deserves happiness. She doesn’t have a mission anymore, but she is lying to herself if she thinks she can ever have a normal life after everything that happened and what she has done. There will be plenty of capes wanting payback, and considering the sheer number of parahumans abilities I consider it a matter of time before someone else figures out she is alive. Maybe another precog like Dinah or something similar. Perhaps that extremely powerful parahuman who seemed to run a whole world. At the very least Taylor is a powerful symbol for others, and we still do not know what the Smurf has planned.

    • I think, in a sequel, she could be a mentor character after the worlds open up once more, a few more decades under her belt, give some advice to some future Atlas bearing the weight of the world on their back.

      • Taylor’s most important power might still be intact, and that is her ability to figure out the best ways for people to use their powers and work in concert. We never really determined if that was a power, or if it was just Taylor’s own brain and its ability to think through things creatively.

        In any case, I could see powerless!Taylor acting as the finest trainer in the multiverse for parahumans who need to understand how to use what they have to the fullest possible extent. Much like she did for Golem.

    • Honestly, no idea what the intention was originally with Sleeper, but just the mystery surrounding the character sounds like a really interesting protagonist actually. I mean, from the very brief view of him in Worm, he didn’t seem particularly violent yet has everyone terrified of him. Not sure if this is because his superpower is intimidation or just that he reformed, but it’s something I’d be interested to know more about either way.

    • Regarding one, I get the feeling Tattletale is somehow keeping watch on Taylor to make sure she’s okay.

      >>“And Taylor?” Imp asked.

      “I’ll keep looking after things in that department,” Tattletale said. “If that’s cool?”

      “That’s cool,” Imp said.<<

      Just because a dimension is sealed off doesn't mean it's permanent. After all, Taylor managed to break into CUI's dimension by stealing Teacher's stuff, so there's the possibility Tattletale has a way to someone keep watch over Taylor and Danny.

    • Personally I would expect a sequel to focus on a new bunch of characters. I imagine at least a 10 year time skip, maybe more like 25. Aidan would probably be a key character, maybe even the viewpoint character. We’ll probably encounter some of the old favourites, but I expect them to be in the periphery.

      Remember that Wildbow has written many stories in the Wormverse from many viewpoints. My guess is, after this, he’ll want to take a new tack for Worm II and do something quite different.

  29. So I’m a new reader. Saw that it was going to finish and marathoned this in the space of a week.

    Anyway I could talk about the story up to here, but frankly that#s all been said.

    So The End. Fitting. That hit all the right notes Wildbow. Just the right mix of melancholy, hope and unfinished business. I particularly liked Taylor’s determination to let someone else step up to the mark if anything happened, I could possibly imagine her doing that at the beginning of the story but frankly it would’ve been for utterly different reasons and this Taylor just feels so much more mature. Which is good.

    So what I’m saying is: Bravo. That was one fantastic ride.

    • Alright, fried icecream. You scream, I scream. That’s because I can only get a hard-on from human suffering. Like Worm, it’s a debilitating condition that leads to such other conditions as Scream Ankle, porneal implants, and restless bowel syndrome. Don’t even get me Started on Men o’ Pause. Luckily only A Select few people will B capable of getting that one. New a pair of guys that Contra-cted it once. They had 99 lives…*sniff* and so much left to live for when they died!

      Whyyyyyyyyyyy?!

      And here’s why we love Worm.

      A. Great characters
      E. Great writing.
      I. Hot girl-on-girl action
      O. mg Becky, look at her butt.
      U. can enjoy yourself in the comments section.

      Yyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyy?!

      Because I’m here to say that this is one awesome place to discern, discuss, and derogate the story with other dishes like yourself. And because I’m here to welcome you, friedice, to the comments section.

      Buckle up. It’s going to be a bumpy parking job.

  30. Wow. I didn’t think you would be able to keep Taylor alive without it feeling extremely contrived, but you pulled it off. That was a wonderful ending. Also as they all started gathering together, I started wondering where Grue was right before you mentioned he was dead.

    It’s been quite a journey. Thanks for the years worth of reading material.

    • I’m pretty sure the idea is that whoever Annette-rose (is she Cajun?) Married the genteic loterry ended up lookinglike Regent, something that would probably snap Taylors mind in half (again) of she fully processes it.

      Come to think of it they both looked kinda alikefrom the description. Lanky white kids with feminine black hair.

      • I didn’t see any indication that they were related. Pretty sure that the regent-look-alike was just some teenager in a mall. Possibly the child of whoever Heartbreaker or Alec’s mom was in this version of events, but unrelated to Annette.

  31. I kind of like that I got to the end of the story in time to leave my first comment as the final chapter is posted. This has been such an awesome experience. I’m an avid reader, especially of fantasy, and I feel confident in saying this epic is by far superior to the vast majority of published works out there. I desperately want you to publish this, so I can see this on my shelf and think “Oh yeah, Worm. Man I need to re-read these.” Get on that so I can throw my money at you.

    As with any wonderful tale, I’m sad to see it end. But you ended it as you began it, and as you wrote it throughout: just right. Thank you so much, Wildbow. I can’t wait to see what you do next.

    • …and so I said “Flagellum? I don’t even know ‘em!” And then it turned out they were really into flagellation, but who isn’t, am I right?

      Now that you’ve said the magic words, you’ve got bigger things to worry about than what Wildbow does next. Like sterile mutant whales that shoot bombs from their blowholes. Those would be much bigger. Just don’t wander too close to Bomb Bay.

      There’s easier ways to get your mind blown, and at least two of them involve this site right here. This story has gotten to you. It’s burrowed deep into your mind, like some sort of two foot long fleshy purple amphibian known as atretochoana eiselti. You don’t want that bad boy crawling all over you. Just imagine all the chickens it would choke if it was a python.

      No, I’m here to shock you worse than that time your friend Sanchez didn’t take a shower for a few weeks and hacked Super Smash Bros. to turn Captain Falcon into Captain Donkey. That dirty Sanchez had a hell of a punch, I know that much.

      At times the story could put a lot of pressure on you, cutting off your breathing worse than a Columbian necktie. It’s time to loosen up down here with what remains of the commentation station after the end of the Worm.

      Welcome, Shwaggy, to the comments.

  32. Totally and utterly fantastic.

    Someone capable of saving someone who NEEDS to be saved finally takes everything Taylor ever fought for to heart AND Taylor is still left to deal with the consequences of her own actions as well as the actions of others, with no easy answers available.

    It’s not a “happy” ending, nothing is easy, nothing is perfect, but people are finally trying to really, honestly, do better. One of them even did do better.

  33. I was pretty sure we’d get a decent ending after all, but now that I’ve actually seen it, I can stop worrying. Maybe I can even go back and start reading again, now. Thanks, Wildbow. Excellent end to an amazing journey.

    On the subject of Grue’s death, I didn’t see it coming, but it works. He’d already been sidelined, and I much prefer knowing that he died fighting, rather than broke down and spent the end of the world in a cabin.

  34. This is satisfying. This is so very satisfying.

    The Undersiders all gathered around; that was what Speck 30.7 was missing. I’d hate for them to get left out.
    I can’t believe I didn’t see Grue’s death coming. Suddenly a lot of stuff makes sense.

    Should Taylor have lived, died? Consequentially speaking, I think I’m okay with this ending. She did a wonderful, awful thing in the end. She’s definitely hurt from what she did during the Salting of Scion, but at least she has her father.

    And so ends Worm, 1,681,859 words long.
    It consists of 513,923 Interlude words (those not from Taylor’s perspective). These make up approximately 30.56% of the story.
    The average chapter is 5551 words. The average Interlude is 6589 words.

    The longest chapter is Scarab 25.3 (11193 words). The shortest is Insinuation 2.1 (1382 words).
    The longest Interlude is 26 (10772 words). The shortest is Interlude 4 (2782 words).

    The longest arc is Monarch (92008 words). The shortest is Gestation (17446 words).
    The arc with the most words per chapter is Sting (8511). The arc with the least is Gestation (2492).

    Notes:
    1. I count the two Extinction Interludes as one interlude.
    2. I count Interludes 11a-h as a separate arc from the rest of Migration.
    3. These numbers might be a bit off.

  35. “Keep that up and I’m telling those Heartbroken kids you ate cupcakes while they waited downstairs,” Tattletale said.

    You Win, Wildbow. I literally busted out laughing when I read this line.

  36. Wildbow, in your blog entry at the end, you actually thank us for reading.

    Thank you. It has been a privilege to watch this story unfold, entry by giant entry, week to week, tortured by the scores and scores of cliffhangers. I’ve said before that I didn’t really care for supers fiction when I got started, and it was true enough. But I was utterly drawn in by Worm.

    I said that I had faith that the ending would fit, and then at the end I said I would have to wait for the epilogues to provide context. This was why. Tricksy right to the end; that was why I was here, after all!

    This? I like it. A dead Taylor has a depressing injustice to it. Not implausible, not unlikely, just depressing. A live and just-peachy, completely-fine Taylor, on the other hand, is too saccharine. Sickly-sweet, wouldn’t quite ring true. But this? Taylor still has problems, things that bother her, issues… but the big one, feeling like she needs to save the world even if she destroys herself trying? She already has. She can rest. That’s perfect.

    So, once again: Thank you, Wildbow. I’ve genuinely enjoyed the ride, and now the ending as well. I look forward to your next project.

  37. An excellent ending, just the slightest bit bittersweet, but with lots of hope thrown in. The Grue revelation… poor guy.

    On the story overall – it’s a great story and writing, but it has it’s ups and downs. It’s incredibly good when it’s good, other parts really need some work. Particularly the time-skip and also how unrealistic it is for Taylor to take over a city in a few months. Strong parts include Taylor’s outing, her surrendering to the PRT, and the part all the way to the end starting from Cauldron’s base.

    Probably elaborate more on that in a more comprehensive review.

    Overall one of the most engaging stories I’ve read in quite a time. Thanks for sharing it with us.

  38. I’m pretty young, and I haven’t had a lot of luck finding good stories. The YA stuff they try to give teens just seems like it rehashes idea after idea. And the romance. Coating every plot line, never feeling real…I was sick to death of novels and of the inevitable romance. I had, years earlier, found manga and fanfic, and however annoying it can be to search out good stories in them, was content.

    Then I found tvtropes, and from there I found the trope “Heart is an Awesome Power”, and from there I found worm. And though the tvtrope page was pretty scant back then (January), I said, “This sounds good.” Clicked, started reading. Have to say, would probably not have read if I realized how long it was at the time, because I tend to procrastinate reading longer stories. This, I would have regretted, so I’m happy I was ignorant.

    I spent the next few weeks steadily reading my way through the archives, caught up in February, right before when the reader views started jumping ridiculous amounts up each time, and so I will say this: Worm is just an amazing story, among the best I’ve ever read, and I’m so happy to have found it.

    Is the beginning not as strong? Yes. But it evolved, slowly but surely, as the characters and the worldbuilding and the ideas piled on, and the writing grew to match that pace. The entire story is just a joy to read right now. It just got better and better. For an example: I read gone, a six book series, a while ago. It was delightfully dark, the romance wasn’t over overbearing, and there was a ton of action. However, the writing…well, I think of it like gone’s writing was a window of plain glass, allowing a clear window to inside. And with how much action was going on, I learned to deal and just forget the words and get absorbed in the action. Worm? It’s like the words are a magnifying glass, magnifying everything wonderful about this serial

    The romance is the opposite of why I don’t like YA. It was subtle. It added subtly to the story’s plot. It was not the running subplot. And looking back, adding Grue’s interlude was pretty genius. It added the other person’s perspective on why the relationship existed, and that made it feel very real.

    The plot is part tragedy, part action, all badass. I love taylor. I really do. By the time I caught up, I pretty much wanted to hug her through the screen, screw reality, when the really tough things happened. And it’s a tribute to nothing but your hard wok, wildbow, that I like her so much, because I wouldn’t like her this much in a shorter story. Not enough time for her to grow and evolve and develop as a character, not enough time for me to gain so used to slipping into her head 2-3 times a week that interludes were almost jarring, and it was weird sometimes to look up my screen after twenty to thirty minutes, and remember I’m me, not Taylor. You know, I expected her to die. I felt, plot-wise, it would feel cheap for he to be alive. But there were so many fake hints, or maybe I was just reading too into the story to find Taylor, that I couldn’t help myself but believe. The big shocker was when Taylor’s mom popped up, I fully expected we’d skipped four or five years and that was her. I was still so mixed up when Taylor spoke up that it barely registered that no, that was a fake, but here’s the real Taylor. I was so used to the hope from the chapter’s beginning that she was alive that it didn’t cheapen the impact at all. So that’s good, because Taylor lives and this does not feel like a cop out.

    And you know? I like the story’s ending. A lot. People were discussing earlier on how sad Taylor would be, for various reasons, if she lived, and if this didn’t come up, it should have. But this problem doesn’t need to be solved before the story’s conclusion, because the wormverse probably broke a universal mirror and the multiverse got cursed with bad luck for whenever, because that’s how things roll- but Taylor is probably the expert of dealing with tough luck, so she’ll be okay, powers or not. So if Taylor doesn’t show up in the sequel, I know she’ll be alive and well.

    Also, I can’t believe I used to dislike aisha. Because…well, Aisha: Bringing hilarity to epilogues of epically dark stories with almost no humor in them recently since…whenever, I can’t seem to remember.

    • Just realized I wrote a sentence in there about plot, then skipped straight to the main character. Agh. One day, I will stop writing long, praiseful comments when my eyes are closing as I type, because coherency really suffers.

    • A good rule of thumb is that 90% of everything is shit. A further 9% is okay, but not worth much. The top percent is varying levels of magnificent. A lot of people give up on literature because the stuff on the best-sellers lists, the stuff the force you to read in school, all that’s in the 90% most of the time. Meanwhile a lot of categories of fiction (superheroes, grimdark, fanfic/web serials, romance…) get a terrible reputation because all anybody outside sees is the shit.

      I used to think I hated romance stories, because I hated every example of it I had seen. I used to think I hated idealistic, bright, noble stories because they were too unrealistic and impossible to relate to. Then I fled to grimdark, and concluded I hated that too because everything was always just so hopeless and pointless and bloody and gritty that it was impossible to care and things were even less realistic. I used to think I hated most genres of music, most kinds of tv shows, most works of art…

      But there’s just so much on the internet, so many people writing, so much music and art and everything that you could go your whole life on just the best of it if you have the patience or the good recommendations to find it. And there is great work in every genre, on every theme, in every medium, from every country and time period and age group, just waiting for you to plow through the sea of lesser works to find it.

    • To be fair, you probably disliked Aisha at first because she was pretty antagonistic at first. She really only became the Imp we know and love after her powers kicked in and she settled into the Undersiders. (Nice red herring with the vocabulary thing, BTW, Wildbow – had half of us fearing Teacher had gotten to her. xD).

      You probably already know this, but smeh, it merits saying: Even if you’re young, there’s no law saying you have to stick to YA fiction. It’s pretty recent historically that there’d even *been* a genre specifically for young adults. If you’re finding YA inadequate you’re probably beyond it and rwould be better off with more complex adult novels. Like Twilight (j/k!).

  39. Oh… and having been utterly blindsided by “Grue is dead,” I’m really looking forward to another full re-read. I’m already sure that my perspective on certain things will be very different.

  40. Thanks so much wildbow, fantastic amazing story… I can’t even remember how I found it but I’m so glad I did. You’re a star and a great writer. Loved the ending.

  41. i just binge read this since the day when epilogue one was published. holy fuck. whatta story. i honestly dont know what to say, other than job well done.

    • There’s not much left to say at this point.

      But, if you’re just looking for stuff to say, might I recommend the sentence, “It’s thanks to the gerbil nuts that the car started, otherwise I’d have gone on that cruise.” Which makes sense, of course. How else did you think that was going to happen?

      More than the adventure in the story, the adventure down here, in the comments, with in-jokes and outtakes, it’s acknowledgement of eyes raped and asses kicked, that also comes to a close. But many things closed can at least accept a few last people in them before they’re good and buried. That’s what the necrophiliacs say, at least, and they can be surprisingly knowledgeable about some things. After all, their girlfriends are never late, so they have birth control down. Unfortunately, that’s because their girlfriends are late in a different way.

      But enough about the dead, Kingbob, welcome to the comments in their last moments.

        • Nope. No cheating. I have never had a set formula for these. In fact, I’ve used necrophiliac a lot recently and was worried people would think I was reusing stuff, which I’ve also not done. I considered writing stuff out ahead of time to throw someone’s name in, but never did that either.

          Some might even venture to say I’m a little bit creative.

          P.S. I DID start pulling out random words for the guy who said he was grabbing new words from the comments section a little before the update, but that wasn’t a welcome. Let’s see him work with camelopard and phagocyte.

          • ” So little brother, what are you looking up today?£
            “Giraffes. did you know they were first called camelopards?
            ” This is what I get for talking with you after you’ve worked with Vladimir after he came back from an African safari.”

            “Doctor, The process is not progressing. The Phagocytes are not forming correcting.”

            NB Phagocyte is a very useful word for what I will eventually be writing. it was very helpful of you PG. You’re a hero to me again youngling.

            • You’re welcome, uh, oldling? person.

              Found phagocyte while hanging around CrashCourse and SciShow. Fun stuff to listen to.

              As for camelopard, well what else are you going to call an animal that looks like a cross between a camel and a leopard?

              • How about ‘bloody weird?’ ps. leaving little remarks on your previous posts about which words i’ve yoinked. I couldn’t help nanowrimo and its’ charitable work without you PG,,,

                Still can’t quite beiievehow useful Phageocyte will be to me

                NB every time I write PG i think of a train station in North Wales…

              • A fake animal sewn together by the Chinese…or so thought people who’d been exposed to the famous mermaid combination of a monkey attached to a fish.

  42. Thank you.

    This story has brought me a lot of happiness, and I’ll definitely buy everything when it comes out in ebook form. I don’t know what else to say.

  43. So many questions still unanswered. It’s frustrating but I do love a series which leaves me wanting more. Worm was good.

    I can’t wait for the next story Wildbow starts. I’m already looking forward to Peer.

  44. I will forever be grateful for that moment when I saw Worm listed on the web serials page, on TVTropes. A story about a girl who controlled bugs seemed interesting, and promised to play with superpowers in more interesting ways than, ‘give a man the ability to fly and smash stuff.’

    You far surpassed every expectation, and every hope, that I had for this story. Congratulations on doing a phenomenal job. Wildbow, you are amazing.

  45. She made it. Nuts.

    Oh well, I guess there’s always the chance that one of her enemies gets her. Personally I’m hoping for the lady in blue.

    You don’t get to walk away, Taylor. You don’t get your life back.

    • The Lady in Blue, almighty god-Empress of an entire fucking PLANET, has finally broken through the interdiction around “Earth Aleph”, where her sources indicate that cowardly little bitch fled after DARING to try to control HER mind.

      Locating a specific person out of the paltry billions here is no trouble at all to one of her power and brilliance, and she quickly flies over to where the target of her vengeance waits, unaware of the certain death drawing ever closer. That quiet, unassuming street full of bookstores which this “Khepri” walks down alongside a middle-aged prole.

      The target has clearly been stripped of all powers. One arm, a lot quality prosthetic, hangs limp at her side. This will be too easy, almost an insult, but it has to be done anyway. As she descends to street level, the petty mortals below begin to notice her. Some stop and stare in awe and reverence. Most flee in terror. Two stand stock still, rooted to the earth by the appearance of their doom. The Empress reaches ground level a few meters away, looking to enjoy the look of terror in the stupid little crippled bug girl’s face as she–

      Begins giggling?

      The man beside her, the twit’s father if the resemblance and age is anything to go by, gives a weary sigh. He begins to turn and walk away. “Right, I should get started on dinner. Have fun, but be back before dark.”

  46. “Waiter there’s a fly in my soup…” she said. she looked own at the insect and glanced up at her father. “The waiter hasn’t heard me.. can you get it dad?”

    The rest of the restaurant visitors weresubsequently mystified by the roaring laughter coming from the father daughter duo.

    Right. i was wondering how Wildbow could pull off Taylor being alive and without massive contrivance… well now I know. Brilliant.

  47. Skitter:This was Leviathan. A creature that had killed more people in the last 12 years than I had even seen in my entire life.
    Eddie:(to Leviathan) Your diary must look odd. Get up in the morning, death, death, death, death, death, death, death, lunch, death, death, death, afternoon tea, death, death, death, quick shower.
    Leviathan:(Snaps tail and goes back to writing in diary)

    -
    “Leviathan had revealed the desperate, needy animal at the core of everyone in this city. He’d made things honest.”
    Shadow Stalker makes me think of the Joker with that line.
    Joker:They’re only as good as the world allows them to be. I’ll show you. When the chips are down, these… these civilized people, they’ll eat each other.

    -
    “In that respect, perhaps, he and I weren’t so different. I’d developed in much the same ways. The difference was that he had years more experience. That, and he was batshit insane.”
    That got fixed on both accounts.

    -
    I was trying to reread Worm but I got sidetracked(or back on track for other things) so those are comments I thought of up to 13.3.

    I thought the old woman was going to be important but she was a red herring or an early character introduction. The Taylor’s “what could have been” mom was another bit of misdirection. Danny being alive wasn’t that surprising as Taylor going for uncertainty instead of denial had been done in Cell. Grue was surprising as the body(might be glowy golden light) got past the Clairvoyant and Tattletale lied. I think Imp and Tattletale destroyed Grue’s fan base.

    Bird swarm? New leader (public face) of the Undersiders? Who was the old woman? Will Tattletale capitalize on the cupcake shortage? Why has no one saved the people who were frozen in time? Who are the new bodies going to be?

  48. So Tailor has finally become a real-life version of Elvis Prestley! Wait, no… Er… Whatever. Happiest possible ending for Tailor after everything that happened. Thank you, Wildbow!

    • Yeah… but we’ve dealt with worse. If it comes down to it, if this is all we have to worry about, we can maybe deal. We can maybe learn to be okay. ^_-

      Can’t wait to support Wildbow with my patronage.

      Fin~

    • No, you can’t say that. :)

      There’s too much power in a good, solid feel good ending to pass it up if it can be managed. And Wildbow managed about the best possible ending for Taylor based on the story, I think.

      She gets to live, and she gets to be a normal person.

  49. Taylor being alive and depowered is expected, not a twist, her choosing to die and Contessa forcing her to live was the twist.

    Clockblocker ressurected, but is it really Clockie or his passenger running the show? Even worse even if it really is Clockie, can the trauma of death and rebirth have similar side effects as Ingenue’s twisting of her boytoys?

  50. I started reading Worm three weeks ago. I finished the last three arcs and epilogues today just in time for the final release and I’m still reeling. Thanks, for three weeks well spent. :)

    • With a story this long, parttimepedestrian, and this hard to read and write, it’s no wonder the final release knocked you off your feet. You know, you just keep grasping for more and more, trying to take it all in, and then the climax comes and it’s like fade to white. Leaves you feeling tired, and maybe a little sweaty from all the action. Like you need a shower and a cigarette.

      And now we just have to hope that this story is collected in some sort of container. Traditionally they were more bound by leather, though rubber’s not bad either. Or you just need to soak it up like some sort of sponge. Still, some people will germinate the seed of their own stories by taking various pieces of inspiration from the story and eventually birth a piece of fiction themselves.

      *stands up on a rocky outcropping in Africa and raises up a laptop to the sky while singing* It’s the circle of fiction!

      And down here? Well, this here is kind of a tainted place, you might say, between where the action happens and the ass end of the internet. Welcome, parttimepedestrian, to the comments section.

  51. Bitter sweet, I feel sorry for Taylor though, suddenly being forced to give up all that power and potential would drive me crazy.

  52. “A white lie for a friend. Taylor would have blamed herself, maybe rightly, maybe not.”
    My Response: Extensive Egomaniacal Laughter
    Seriously Wildbow, I love you. (What happened during the timeskip still nee- Okay, okay I’ll stop now.

    The Worm Statistics Spreadsheet, updated for the final time: https://docs.google.com/spreadsheet/ccc?key=0ApEJSdIrWJwbdHpxa2g2aUotNGJLQnZMV2pTT0lzLUE&usp=drive_web#gid=3
    (You know WB, if this landed on the About page here I would not complain)

    Anyways, I plan to do a hindsight/retrospect on this thing from the point of view of a reader at some point, but that might take a while because College and I’m trying to launch a blog with said retrospect and a few other things. Anyways, here’s my obligatory (but rightfully earned) thanks and wishes of good luck. Have a nice writing career.

    • Addendum because no edits: Also, if I get off my ass and start writing a web serial, then there is nothing else to blame but Wildbow and this immaculate work of fiction. I won’t be able to guarantee anything related to quality, but I can confirm it won’t be about superheroes. I feel there’s enough of those already.

  53. OK folks. I know how hard it is at times to take in all the free things on the internet and consider actually donating or paying for them.

    But if you have enjoyed the last 2 million words or whatever it’s been, and you haven’t donated yet, I’m here to activate that little guilt-trip trigger in your head.

    Consider the amount of time that you have spent here reading. Then add to that the time spent commenting. Follow that up with the amount of time you’ve spent simply thinking about where Wildbow might go next as you are bored in the line at the grocery store, or wherever.

    Now donate. At least donate what it would cost you for a movie and a drink. $10 USD for the hundreds of hours of entertainment you got for free. More if you can, less if you have to. I already put my money where my mouth is. Made my third donation today.

    Reply to this if you donate. Let’s see if we can get a little donation rally started here.

  54. (Warning: REALLY long comment ahead. Feel free to skip past.)

    Hard to believe it’s over.

    I started reading this in…late July of this year, I think, and got fully caught up in late August. While I tried to comment at that time, I felt unable to do so without articulating my thoughts on the story, but I felt unable to do that until it ended, as the ending always heavily colors everything that came before. Hence, not commenting until today. Sorry about that.

    So first of all: This is really good. Definitely one of the best internet fiction things I’ve ever come across (counting stuff like webcomics, etc). The fact that it’s a first draft (or at least close to it) is astounding to me; the consistently high level of quality and plot/character consistency makes it feel as if it’s already gone through several rounds of editing.

    There are, of course, some issues. The beginning isn’t bad, per se, and the relatively slow pacing is kind of unavoidable as it’s laying the foundation for everything that comes afterward, but the first 2 arcs in particular could certainly benefit from some streamlining. Lots of people complained about the timeskip, but the biggest problem IMO is that, for obvious reasons, Taylor post-timeskip is rather different from Taylor pre-timeskip, and yet since we couldn’t see those changes happening it created distance between the reader and Taylor for the first time. (This is one of the reasons I think Sting is the weakest non-beginning arc.)

    There are many aspects I can single out for praise–the insane level of creativity with the powers; the fight scenes that (for the most part) manage to be suspenseful and frenetic while still being easy to picture in one’s head; the consistent, sprawling world. But if I can be allowed to engage in some literary analysis (he says in a “sarcastically but really meaning it” manner), the facet of Worm that I liked the most is what I would say is its main theme, or perhaps the main axle around which the story turns: namely, the old maxim “Everyone is the protagonist of their own story.”

    Almost all minor characters in all works of fiction, even really good works of fiction, are flat. This is by necessity; it’s impossible to give a character real depth without focusing on them, and minor characters by definition don’t get much focus. But the sheer length of this story, and moreso the Interlude format, allow you to flesh out even comparative bit players like Purity, Piggot, or Triumph into “actual people,” with their own histories, motivations, and relationships completely distinct from Taylor’s. More than anything else, this makes your world feel like a living, breathing place, and even more important it makes Taylor’s conflicts that much more meaningful. She’s not fighting with cardboard cut-outs; she’s fighting people like herself. (For this reason, I think the Scion fight was always going to have a lower ceiling of quality than the S9, Coil, and Echidna arcs, despite the higher stakes; until the very end, Scion was more a force of nature than a “person.” As Taylor said at the end, it was never really about him, it was always about the capes themselves. This isn’t to say the ending was bad–it was really good–but I do think it’s not *as* good as the middle.)

    For this reason, while it’s really hard to pick out a favorite arc (Extermination and Crushed are epic and harrowing; Snare and Prey perhaps remain the most intense the story’s ever been; Monarch was the perfect culmination of so much set-up; Queen/Scourge was compelling and tragic; and the ending almost stands alone), I honestly have to go with the “Slaughterhouse Nine interludes” at the end of Infestation. They were a true masterstroke, and the S9 would not have been nearly as compelling without them, because all eight of them were powerful, terrifying, but most importantly, unique. None of the S9 is just “crazy” (well…maybe except Crawler, who got the least focus); just like everyone else, they each have their own personality, history, and motivations; just like everyone else, they’re all justified within their own worldview. That you even made psychopaths into real, well-rounded people instead of cardboard cut-out villains is almost miraculous. (This is the major reason Sting is the weakest non-beginning arc–the S9 clones are not only flat and boring, but the clone aspect made the fights feel almost video game-ish at times. The Golem and Scion interludes were really good, though.)

    It’s this, that everyone is justified in their own worldview, that leads to the other major theme: “Doing the right thing for the wrong reasons.” Or to be more specific, “Why ‘the ends justify the means’ logic is bullshit.” Almost everyone in this story, from Taylor to Armsmaster to Piggot and Tagg and especially Cauldron, engages in this “necessarily evil” thing, but as many commenters have noted, most of the time they’re wrong to. But the reason they’re wrong is because, for the ends to justify the means, you need the level of foresight necessary to know that the means actually are the best or only way to achieve the ends. But in a world, like the real one, where all 6 billion+ people have their own lives, personalities, histories, and worldviews, you will never be able to accurately predict the consequences of your actions. Not even if you’re Dinah or Contessa. So when people say “I did what I had to do,” what they really mean is “I did what I thought I had to do,” and since everyone, without exception, is biased and blinkered, they almost always thought wrong. (One of my favorite interludes is Contessa’s because it reveals that Cauldron, for all its posturing, was basically two random people who just fell into incredible power and knowledge and never had any real idea what they were doing.)

    It should be noted here that even Taylor’s ultimate “necessarily evil” moment, taking over almost every cape in the multiverse, ended up not working. Her strategy that *did* work was, well, recognizing Scion as someone with his own history, personality, and motivations, and exploiting them–and honestly, she probably could’ve done that without ever unlocking her Khepri powers. It should especially be noted that had she done the “necessarily evil” thing of taking control of Tattletale (and Rachel and Panacea), she never would’ve gotten the idea of psychologically torturing Scion and everyone would’ve died.

    Anyway, yeah. Very good story, and I’m really looking forward to what you have in store for us.

    P.S.: I kind of have to go against the grain in that I don’t think this is really a “happy ending.” Yes, Taylor gets to have some semblance of peace and a normal life. But from everything I know about her, that’s not what she needs to be “happy.” Like Jack Slash, I think she only feels truly alive during the hunt, risking her life and fighting overpowered opponents. She may be able to change, but I kind of doubt it. But that’s ok, because I also don’t think it’s truly an “ending.” The title of the Epilogue is Teneral, after all. She’s no longer one of those people Marquis talks about, who knows who they are and where they’re going. Some temporary peace and normality will be useful for her to figure that out–but who knows what kind of person she’ll be at the end of that process?

    • I read the whole post.
      I’m not even mad.

      I especially like what you said about Taylor’s massive assimilation plot being ultimately pointless. Then again, it probably helped gather all of those Changers together.

      • Thanks!

        About the changers: they had Doormaker. They had Canary. Taylor has consistently shown an ability to convince others to follow her plans through charisma and conviction. Maybe it would’ve had a lower chance of success, but there were options. To be fair, the Simurgh probably played no small role in convincing her to take the path she did.

        (I should mention, as an addendum, that while my favorite arc was the S9 interludes, my favorite *chapter* was Chrysalis 20.5, where Taylor escaped from Dragon and Defiant in the school. If she had internalized the true lessons of that scene, of what cooperation and unity *really* look like, maybe she would’ve made a different decision in the end.)

    • Make this welcome as hard as you can, why don’t you?

      Yes, the story is over. It is dead. It has ceased to be. Now there is only us: the vultures of this finished corpse of writing, with its fantastic funk, nice suit, and funeral home makeup that makes it look like a harlot.

      The epitaph, of course, a simple, humble affair.

      “Here lies Worm, who died saving the world from face-raping alien lava lamp robot ninja pirates using nothing but a straw, a piece of rubber band, and a nuclear arsenal the size of a planet.”

      Because what’s at gravestone for, if not lying about accomplishments or dick size?

      The heart of this story may have stopped…but that doesn’t mean the party’s over. Stick around six-feet under, in the comments section, and throw the Bow a bone. What else are you going to do, move on to the other side?

      Welcome, tealterror, to the comments section.

  55. I’ve enjoyed reading, and thought at the very least I should say thank you to the writer. Good luck on future projects, and I hope you are able to make writing a full time job.

  56. Great job! Been enjoying this story for a while but the end kind of had me hold off on the final decision until Taylor’s fate was resolved. Suspected it given the twists before but still great! I’m usually quiet about stuff I read but this deserved a comment at the very least now that you’ve reached the end.

    • I hate to see you when you have a hold of a Willow Tit or a Blue-Footed Booby, Twister. Probably makes people twist and shout.

      I’d ask if you were ever cowed into staying quiet, but I think that’s the same cow. Now that you’ve reached the end, come on baby. Let’s do the twist. It goes something like this.

      Now stick around down here with the rest of us, tearing this place up like the Tasmanian Devil. Maybe get drunk on some Twisted Tea, you and your Twisted Sister both!

      Take the comments section for a spin, Twister, and welcome.

  57. Yes!

    I KNEW it was a possibility, but EVERYTHING in the story prepared me to expect a Bad End, and the previous interludes seemed to reinforce the idea.

    Some thoughts:
    1. Even if cut off, the Passenger should still be attached to Taylor, meaning people in Earth Bet around Taylor will eventually start getting Administrator-spin-off powers. Considering 2nd gen requires significantly less trauma, I doubt we’ll be getting as bad of a villain/hero ratio.

    2. ‘Happy’ end earned so incredibly much, but I do have a bit of an issue with depowered-endings – somehow they seem like an artificial way of reinforcing status quo and connecting with “real” world. Less so here than in most cases, but still…

    • There already is a second generation spin-off of the Administrator shard: Aidan. Who controls birds instead of bugs and doesn’t seem to have the finesse and multitasking Taylor possessed.

      • Heartbreaker demonstrates that there isn’t a limit to how many child shards can be produced within a single generation (or at least not one in the single or double digits). So Aidan just proves that the Queen Administrator is mature enough to start throwing out kids as soon as Taylor lives near or forms an emotional connection to them.

        Come to think of it… I remember somebody saying that the whole second generation thing happened regardless of whether the children were natural or adopted, but almost never went from child to parent. Was that an absolute never? Was it maybe just because most child capes either have cape parents or live apart from them?
        What are the odds, now that they’re living together again, that Danny is going to grow an Administrator shard as soon as he hits enough stress for a second trigger?

        • I suspect the odds are low. The only similar case I can think of would be Legend’s husband. As far as I know, he didn’t end up with powers, and Legend has been through enough stuff that I suspect he would be tossing off shards left and right.

          That is, if Eden shards can split.

          • I think Eden shards are dead. Still powered, but no reproduction or second triggers. And it seems probable that if anybody could keep their loved ones safe and comfortable enough to never trigger, it would be a guy like Legend.

            If Legend’s son triggers and his husband does not, without extenuating circumstances, I’d take that as evidence, but so far his example doesn’t tell us much.

          • Yeah, but second generation capes tend to have more developed and refined powers. I’d guess that the Shard uses the experience gained in the first generation in a way similar to how the second trigger refines things.

            In Taylor’s case a completely inexperienced Administrator shard gave her powers with the standard assurances that she wouldn’t kill herself with them, then the new sensory input drove her over the trigger threshold again so it went back and added Thinker powers to also prevent her from going insane. By the time it got to Aidan it would already have learned its lessons.

    • 1. Even if cut off, the Passenger should still be attached to Taylor, meaning people in Earth Bet around Taylor will eventually start getting Administrator-spin-off powers. Considering 2nd gen requires significantly less trauma, I doubt we’ll be getting as bad of a villain/hero ratio.

      Particularly for any 2nd-gens that Taylor finds out about.

    • As I recall it, Shards bud off once they’ve learnt enough that they become “full”. They learn by engaging in conflict with other shards. If Taylor’s shard is locked away it’s never going to get the field experience it needs to bud off another shard.

  58. EEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE
    *sniffle*
    c-curse you wildbow… have to go to class like th-his.
    also KNEW IT KNEW IT KNEW IT.

    *ahem*
    Thank you, wildbow. This has been a wonderful, wonderful s-uh-s-h *bursts into tears*
    (happy tears)

  59. So, previously I left a review where I explained that, although I loved the work in general, and your writing is incredibly interesting and just generally good, I couldn’t get on board with the ending, because 22 novels worth of content where I begin to empathise with a character only for her to be killed off for saving the world left an awful sour taste in my mouth.

    I suppose I need to retract that statement. Wildbow, it was a pleasure to read worm. I enjoyed it from start to finish, and I’m so incredibly, incredibly glad you didn’t decide to go for a downer ending. I couldn’t stand to see Taylor, who through the text I’ve come to know better than many of my real life friends, be abused like that in the very end.

    In other words 10/10 would read again (and will).

    On another subject, Wildbow, you are definitely going to be a famous author eventually. I don’t say this out of fanboyism, or because I think your writing is good (Holy hell it is though). I say it because you have the work ethic. You didn’t miss a single update, you treated this like a job (A fun one I hope!) and you muscled through the entire epic.

    Even more impressive than your writing, was your commitment. You never let us down, not even a little. There were no long breaks, and your schedule was ironclad. That kind of commitment just doesn’t come around very often.

    Anyway, I’d like to make a suggestion.

    Firstly, if you’re going to put your future stories on another blog, Could I suggest possibly consolidating all your blogs under a single site umbrella and creating a forum? Because as much as I adore this serial, I think a structured forum would lead to much more discussion and fan works, and I also think it would increase your reader base. Originally there was no point, when you had 200 readers a day, There wouldn’t have been any activity on the forum, but now you have at LEAST ten thousand readers, a forum could be a hub of activity, and also, it would make a place for people to play pick up games with the worm RPG. You’d end up attracting players who don’t necessarily want to read the work, and those players would attract more people, some of whom would become readers. You’ve reached the critical mass where the people reading your work will continue to attract more people, all you need to do is expand the genre (add in the forum to attract the RPG gamers) and your readers should increase yet again.

    I very very much enjoy the personal touch you’ve retained while writing worm. Being able to actually talk with an author about their work makes the entire thing more personal, and I strongly hope that even when you inevitably become a famous author, you won’t forget this personal touch.

    Now, I’m off to drink a strong cup of tea and sit contemplating the sunset. (Possibly with a tear in my eye, but you didn’t hear that from me.)

  60. I had hoped that Taylor would really be dead. To me the story always felt like it took consequences seriously. This diminishes the impact of her implied death a few pages earlier.
    But I realise Wildbow can’t please everyone. Thanks for the fantastic story nevertheless!!

    • Consequences of what exactly? Saving the world? Sacrificing her family, friends, sanity and arm?

      At what point in that does she deserve more serious consequences? Just asking, I agree that people have a different take on the ending. But I’m confused.

      She’s a lifelong cripple with brain damage isolated from everyone she’s ever known except her dad. Her ex boyfriend is dead, she’ll never talk to any of her friends again and she’s lost her power. On top of this, she’s massively depressed. Give the girl a fucking break man.

      In my personal opinion, she saved everyone, and sacrificed everything she had. So I don’t think there should be ANY consequences at all, but that’s just what I think.

      She’s suffered enough throughout worm. She deserves a rest. And she got one, in a way that wasn’t SOD breaking or grimdark.

      There’s only so far you take a character into suffering before it becomes nearly a joke.

      • It’s implied that Tattletale has a way to keep watch/have limited communication/is trying to get into Earth Aleph and it’s also implied that Taylor is the one who sealed Earth Aleph off and may even still have the device, so I don’t think the “never talk to any of her friends again” thing is a problem.

    • I agree, though we are definitely in the minority. I never felt that Taylor’s death would be a downer ending. Sacrifice makes the emotional impact strong, and she died doing exactly what she wanted, to save everyone she could. I don’t think I will be able to re-read the ending with as much passion as I did that first time, knowing it will all turn out hunky-dory. I felt more when she found out Coil had Dinah.

      Her “death” is now like any other popular superhero’s death. About as meaningful as it takes for the next arc to start.

      I don’t mean to belittle her suffering involved with the emotional trauma of the entirety of the event. Plenty of people seemed to mock Grue for not “manning” up, after just having to deal with something as simple as physical pain, only to find out he is dead in the stinger. By all rights, everyone should be suffering from more than a little PTSD, human and parahuman alike. Taylor’s is only very slightly special in the face of the multiverse, and she has always been well equipped to deal with trauma.

      It looks like Taylor is pushing ahead with almost as much aplumb as she did after Leviathan attacked Brockton Bay. Her worst problem, she is missing an arm and she lost her powers. Yes, it sucks. But its not tragic. She can justify her actions. In the long run, her emotional trauma is about her pride not being able to reach such heights ever again.

      Panacea has to deal with more trauma than Taylor, seeing how many times she has tried and failed, but we don’t see nearly a rainbow ending for her. Nor do we see anything positive with Grue, and he had to fight *after* his Despair Event Horizon, unlike Taylor, who gets to live a boring everyday life after she gets to her lowest. The only reason their arcs have less meaning than Taylor’s is because we more than a million words with her and her alone.

      I love the story, and I regret none of the time and energy I spent on it. Loved it from start to very nearly finish. Thanks Wildbow. I think you hit this ending right on the money. Nearly everyone loves it, which means you made the right choice.

  61. Man, I was hoping to catch up before it ended so I could participate in experiencing the ending at the same time as everyone else, but I’m still only on arc 13. Don’t worry I didn’t read ahead, I just noticed that the end was posted and I felt I had to comment to say great job, really loving it, and I can’t wait to get to the end (but at the same time I’m dreading it since then I won’t have anything to do in my free time).

  62. Wow, this is the end.
    I’m surprised that you decided to keep Taylor alive, I thought she was dead for sure. Although I am really happy that things have left on a much more positive note.
    It also seems that Tattletale knows that Taylor is alive, and is keeping it from Dinah as a form of passive aggressive revenge. Tattletale being a devious bitch to Dinah sort of warms my heart.
    Anyway, there is nothing else I can say right now. I’m going to have to reread this chapter later in order to form a more concrete opinion.
    Once again Wildbow, I am in awe of your superb writing.

    • I think I speak for most of us when I say that Tattletale being a devious bitch to Dinah warms my heart too.

      Besides, knowing you’re responsible for the death of the greatest hero around but saved humanity in the process is a valuable lesson for a young precog, preparing her to do what needs to be done in the rest of her life. Or something. It’s justifiable, no really. But yeah, mostly just like seeing Tt be a devious bitch at her.

      • It probably is a pretty good lesson. Had Dinah learned Taylor was alive it’d be like “Sweet! It all worked out! I’m awesome!” and the idea that sh can solve problems through her manipulations will be reinforced. But now with Taylor “dead” she has to deal with the fact that her decisions have can and will effect people’s lives. She won’t be so quick to “I’m sorry” people now!

        • Dinah’s power is, at least potentially, the most powerful in the known multiverse. She needs to see both sides of that, the billions she can save and the dozens she *will* kill in doing so, if she’s going to make full use of that power. If she doesn’t see the good she’s done she won’t be around to help with the next apocalypse (and there totally will be one), and if she doesn’t see the cost then she’s likely to go all god-complex (which would probably end worse). By teaching Dinah these lessons early in her life, Tattletale provides a vital service to the world at large and will probably make the kid happier in the long run.

          Getting a chance to HURT the one responsible for everything Taylor suffered through after Echidna is just a nice bonus.

  63. Is whoever kept complaining about Grue not helping out in the end happy now?

    Oddly enough, I’m glad Taylor seeked out Annette-Aleph.

    The big thing about this chapter is that Taylor is alive, her powers disabled, and…well, it feels cheap. It feels cheap in multiple ways.
    1. It cheapens Taylor’s sacrifice. She was willing to sacrifice her humanity, her sanity, and her life to finish Scion. It fit with her pattern of escalating sacrifices for the greater good. She risked life and limb, cut ties, sacrificed her periphery principles, lost her civilian identity, lost her friends, lost everything to making the world a better place. The ultimate sacrifice for the ultimate good was the crowning jewel. And suddenly…just like that, thirty arcs of sacrifice goes down the drain. All that Taylor did becomes that much less meaningful when she didn’t really sacrifice much in the end for it.
    2. The bullet surgery. Sure, if it was possible, Contessa could have done it…but find a straight, bullet-sized path or two through the brain that hits all the right areas without hitting something important. I highly doubt that you’d find one. It stretches disbelief too far.
    3. The recovery. No, seriously, WTF? This magical stuff would have needed to be done from 17 feet away and would need to completely undo massive brain damage and remove Taylor’s powers. Since even disabling the corona pollentia only made the powers a little clumsier, this requires some measure that has been completely unmentioned. Taylor even admits that she has no idea how this worked. Pretty much every other major plot twist had some foreshadowing to it, if you look hard enough (or read it 2-3 times), but this is out of the blue.
    4. What literary purpose do these violations of common sense and the destruction of the meaningfulness of Taylor’s sacrifices serve? Taylor can live happily ever after and talk with her mother. Maybe she does a cameo in the sequel, but since she lost her powers (somehow), barring some miracle to return them to her or completely ignoring that anything (non-power-related) Taylor could do, others could do better, she can’t play a major role there. Seriously, why did you bring Taylor back? Were you trying to mess with us? Did you ruin my suspension of disbelief just to make fun of how certain I was that Taylor was dead?

    It just feels…completely unsatisfying and impossible. I think I’ll count Taylor’s resurrection as about as canon as Witness in my headcanon.

    • Contessa didn’t do bullet surgery. She disabilitated Taylor and then either she or someone else she directed (possibly Panacea or Bonesaw) did” normal” surgery.

        • 1. Because Contessa only had a gun.

          2. Taylor’s power still needs sensory and neural input to function, if Taylor is in a coma deep enough to smother her capacity for feeling, that should render the queen administrator inert since even if it can control people, it wont realize it is because it can’t sense it.

          • 1. Why did she only bring a gun?

            2. Remember when Taylor was unconscious after one of Bakuda’s bombs, and she still kept drawing bugs to her? Yeah, I don’t see that helping any. Certainly not enough.

            • 1. Because she had to come at short notice?

              2. There’s a big difference between being unconcious, and being in a full blown coma where you can’t hear or feel anything.

              • 1. Right. Because she didn’t have time while Taylor was unconscious or while she was hiding with Teacher or anything to get so much as a thick branch or fair-sized rock.

                2. Why? You can’t hear or feel anything when unconscious. Besides, it was clear that her power was acting without any kind of conscious stuff during that sequence–comas still have subconscious brain functions, unless they’re the “brain-dead” type, which is usually referred to as a vegetative state.

        • The administrator could not control imp when Imp’s stranger power was active, so we know that the administrator is limited by human senses. That’s enough to give plenty of possibilities.

          • And yet, it could control bugs Taylor could not see, hear, smell, touch, or (ew) taste. Her power is another sense; Imp presumably resisted control by forcing the “administrator” to forget her. That is a pretty unique power, unless maybe we somehow brought the Slug back and forced Taylor to constantly forget everything every fraction-of-a-second while someone somehow fixed all the damage.

            You cannot hide from Skitter, you can only run.

            It doesn’t work.

        • They can’t move of their own volition if they are a cape. I was under the impression it was really shards that she was controlling.

          • That was due to the circumstances, since she was in a battlefield full of capes, fighting someone who would be less affected by twenty billion normal humans than you would be by a single ant.

            When she swept through other worlds, normal humans never did anything to help the capes being taken away, even when they were right by their beloved heroes, which suggest that Taylor did have some control over them, even if it wasn’t conscious. Besides, she still had bugs and such.

    • Forgot to add: it can’t even be called a Deus Ex Machina because Cauldron claimed they could rid people of powers since way back in Battery’s interlude.

      So the pieces fit the information we wee given ether it fits the tone of the narrative is up to the single reader.

      • They claimed they could. Bonesaw also thought she could stop Taylor from controlling her power, and she was wrong. One mention of a claimed ability which is brought into question by the failure of a similar claim does not proper foreshadowing make. If there had at least been a mention of someone who had had his/her powers stripped by Cauldron, rather than a threat by Doctor Mother to someone she would have had little need to be honest to, and if there had been a mention of how this did not operate by disabling the corona pollentia or something like that, then sure, I’d count that. But there wasn’t.

        • Nah, Bonesaw was interrupted by Jack, so we don’t know if Bonesaw could’ve figured it out. I kind of agree with you though, I thought that once the brain was “infected” by the shard there was no way back.

          • Bonesaw wasn’t interrupted in applying the powder by Jack. Remember, that powder caused paralysis and disablement of the corona pollentia, which Bonesaw expected would lead to a loss of control in her powers. Bonesaw has been at this long enough that we should trust her judgement on this sort of stuff–it should have either knocked out her powers or left them utterly out of her control. But it didn’t.

          • There’s no way, as far as Bonesaw knows, to remove a person’s power. Cutting the corona pollentia out completely removes their conscious control of it, but the power keeps going.

            However, she could easily alter a person’s power by making changes to the brain without destroying it completely. That’s how she got Murder Rat’s powers to mesh properly, it’s how she upgraded Cherish’s range to cover the entire city while only receiving negative emotions, and it was a big part of her plans for Grue and Skitter before she got interrupted by Jack’s impatience and Brian’s second trigger. That’s also how Taylor’s power was shifted over to humans in the first place. Given time and motivation, she could almost certainly shift a person’s power over to an entirely useless variant of itself, or drop their maximum range to near zero, even if she could never remove their connection to a shard completely.

            And since a purely physical change can alter how a person’s power works, an impossible shot with an ordinary firearm should be theoretically capable of making a person safe to approach for proper surgery, meaning that Contessa could do it easily.

            As for the total power shutdown, I don’t quite believe that. It would require a threat from Cauldron with no good explanation of how it could be implemented to be true despite every other rule we’ve learned about the subject. Which is why I theorize that her power /hasn’t/ been completely removed, but rather altered to a form which would not be connected with Khepri or compel her to go out and fight crime. Perhaps she still has remote perception by bugs, but can only process the data on a subconscious level. Perhaps rather than taking total control of humans within 16ft, she subtly tweaks their perceptions to make them like (and/or fear) her more. Maybe she has her classic bug powers, at a range of less than an inch and set to only project non-aggression, so she never has to worry about getting stung or bitten but can’t do much with them. Whatever it is, it’s subtle enough to not interfere with her peaceful life and she’s not (yet) aware of it.

            However, her shard is still mature enough to reproduce and still attached. So as soon as the external conditions are right, she’ll be throwing out more child administrator shards all across Aleph.

            • My theory is this. Cauldron was messing around with the restrictions placed on shards. They wanted one that had no restrictions. But what if Cauldron also figured out how to add restrictions? Maybe Taylor got a bunch of restrictions added. So now her power only affects a species of deep sea crab that doesn’t even exist on earth Aelph.

    • 1. A sacrifice is valued by what the person is willing to give up, not whether somebody managed to help them after the fact. She gave up her power, her sanity, her very sense of identity, and her life. The fact that Contessa could catch her when she fell changes none of that. And so in the end, she’s lost every friend she had, she’s lost the worlds she saved, she’s lost the power that let her change things on her own terms, and she’s even lost the peace of death, but she gets to try to build a new life.

      2. An alteration to the brain switched her power from bugs only to also humans. Therefore, brain damage could change things back. Simple removal of the corona pollentia doesn’t help but subtle tweaks to it can alter powers in big ways. And as soon as she was switched away from humans or her range was dropped to less than a human arm, further surgery could do the final adjustments and patch over some of the damage.

      3. Cauldron claimed to have a way to take away the powers of the case 63s back in like, interlude 12 or something, and used it as one of the many threats in their contracts. Maybe Contessa-surgery, maybe grafting in little bits of a power-nullifier, maybe a tube entirely filled with Balance, who knows. But like so many things people have tried to call out as bullshit or deus ex machina, all the pieces were laid out long ago.

      4. It’s not to everybody’s taste. Nothing is. But claiming that a story “served no literary purpose” because you personally don’t think it was perfect? Interpreting a whole 2 million word piece of literature as a personal attack on some anon?
      No. Just no.

      • 1. The sacrifice is still cheapened by the impermanence.

        2. It didn’t “switch” the power from bugs to humans–it damaged the barriers that Scion put in place. Moreover, tons of damage was done between the initial change and this epilogue, Panacea can’t get close enough to use her power, and her self-imposed prohibition on brainwork would logically be stronger than ever. Saying that Panacea or someone could just fix it is like saying that you could fix a vase that had been shot with a shotgun and then the pieces ground to dust by the same shooter, even though that person locked up the gun forever and can’t even get close enough to hit it.

        3. Claimed, yes. Once, to Battery pre-powers, to help scare her into behaving, referring to powers Cauldron granted. Maybe something of that nature exists, but I’m doubtful.
        In case that wasn’t enough, Bonesaw claimed (or thought, or whatever) that she had a dust that would disable one’s ability to use/control powers…and it didn’t work on Taylor. I’ve seen better arguments for TattletalexSkitter shipping than for Cauldron’s ability to disable power.

        4. I don’t honestly think that this was a personal attack on me, or even on everyone who was so certain Taylor was dead. But let me ask you this: What purpose does it serve to have Taylor live? To let her live happily ever after? That isn’t Worm, that’s Disney. To let her reunite with her father, despite her being half-sure he was dead and separating from him completely a full third of the story ago? So she could talk with Annette-Aleph? But that conversation is meaningless without Taylor alive, making this a circular argument.
        It’s pointless. At least Witness set up future potential plot points.

        • 1) She made a sacrifice she thought was permanent.
          2) The administrator uses Taylor’s senses to detect targets. Imp was immune when she was hidden, despite being very close. Several times.
          3) The whole disabling powers thing is somewhat off, I agree. But remember that Contessa was involved. She used some random drug overdose from the medical supplies of some medieval doctor to allow her to remember the Worm Dream from her trigger. Contessa is Deus ex Machina personified.
          4) There is no purpose in the current story to allowing Taylor to live. That’s why it happened in the last Epilogue, not the last chapter of the main story.

          If you have to assign some literary purpose to it, I think it would be fair to say that it humanizes Contessa a bit, and leaves options open for future works involving Taylor.

          • 1. That makes the sacrifice no less noble. The sacrifice is still cheapened by waiting a few short chapters and then going “Taylor is magically all better now, guys!”

            2. Wrong. One of Taylor’s major secondary powers was the ability to use her bugs to sense things she couldn’t; this makes it all the more obvious that her power works on things she cannot sense. How does she see, hear, or smell bugs three blocks away in Brockton Bay? How does she see people through layers of portals, all at once?
            And remember–Imp’s power works on memory, not senses. People Taylor doesn’t remember are immune, but that’s pretty much just Imp, who would be a slightly worse surgeon to use than Bonesaw when drunk, sleep-deprived, one-handed, and still with the Nine.

            3. That does not make Deus Ex Machinas less DEM-ey. Especially when real-world and in-story evidence shows that the DEM is impossible several times over.

            4. And what purpose could it serve in the next story? Taylor is trapped in a different world, powerless, and probably wants nothing more than a quiet life.
            Humanizing Contessa? Too late, way too late, and too invisible. In order to humanize her, it would need to actually explain what and why she did it. Moreover, it goes against her previous characterization…and if you want to humanize Contessa, a great time to do that is during her interlude!

        • “1. The sacrifice is still cheapened by the impermanence.”

          In your opinion. Not an opinion that is shared by everyone. I don’t think her sacrifice has been “cheapened” at all. I think Taylor getting a chance to recover and build a life for herself as normal, non-powered human is far better than simply having her be dead.

          • Ugh.

            Yes, Taylor deserves to be alive and to have a better life. Yes, it would be “better” in the sense of “if this was the real world, I’d want that to happen”.

            No, this does NOT mean that it is better for the story. As I’ve stated repeatedly, it not only makes no sense in the setting and completely failed to be foreshadowed, it also violates the themes of the work. But you complained about me saying it cheapens the sacrifice.

            Let me put it this way. Two people buy luxury cars for $200,000 each. Then they but yachts for $300,000. Finally, they buy mansions for $1,500,000. One of them wins $2.5 million from a lottery the next day, despite the fact that he vocally hates gambling and hence would not have bought a lottery ticket, and despite how both people made a point of getting their money through hard, honest work rather than luck.
            Think about that analogy. Taylor had given up everything, but she got all of it and more back all of a sudden, for no good reason. She gave all she had; that is an excellent sacrifice. She got it all back; that undoes a good part of what makes sacrifices notable.

    • It cheapens Taylor’s sacrifice.

      And I think Taylor’s “sacrifice” cheapens her life, reduces a living breathing person to be the universe’s martyr after being screwed over by it time and time again. Yeah, she jettisoned everything she had out of the window to save the world, but painting that as purely a noble sacrifice ignores the fact that she did that out of despair and had to do it because of the dozens of failures and foibles of the people around her and the manipulation of one certain half-pint ingrate that led up to that point. Her “sacrifice” pretty much sends the message “sorry your life went to shit because the rest of us are fucking idiots, but we’ll rapay you in spirit!

      See, I guess this’ll be kinda controversial, but I don’t like the heroic sacrifice trope. Actually I hate it. Sure, dying for a reason is noble and all, but putting the death itself on a pedestal over survival is fucked in my mind. It’s a atavistic throwback from a time when we still thought it was a great idea to kill people because they insulted our honour or some shit. We really should have gotten over the concept after World War One. Nine million bodies rotting in the ground ought to have taught us not to enoble death so much.

      Okay, that got dark. The digression is that this chapter turns Worm from yet another FUCKING heroic sacrifice story into one that says “You know what? Fuck death, I’d rather be alive”.

      just like that, thirty arcs of sacrifice goes down the drain

      Well, no. Twelve or so arcs down the drain, the earlier chapters had sacrificed as an element, but they were also about Taylor working through her issues and learning to live, the end of the Echidna arc makes this pretty clear.

      If the story started with the timeskip I might agree that it’s an appropriate ending, but as it stood it was only fitting for the tail end arcs that started to veer away from the emotional core of the serial in my mind. Taylor’s “death” in Speck pretty much jettisoned away the progress and character development Taylor went through IMO, and only served to drive a sharp wedge between the two halves of the story, of which the first is better than the second IMO.

      Now we have an ending that maintains the themes of the entire serial, instead of tossing everything aside to serve the needs of the last third.

      • And I think Taylor’s “sacrifice” cheapens her life, reduces a living breathing person to be the universe’s martyr after being screwed over by it time and time again.
        I’m sure every character, and every real person, ever to have had a heroic sacrifice of whatever kind is gnashing their teeth at you. Sacrifices end your life, but it can give extra meaning to it if you sacrifice yourself for something meaningful.
        Hey, no one’s saying it’s good to die, but…if you’ve got to die, you want your death to accomplish as much as you hoped to accomplish in life. Taylor’s death accomplished a lot. HEr death had meaning. It didn’t cheapen her–it did the opposite. It’s sad that she died, but what she did when dying is good.

        Well, no. Twelve or so arcs down the drain, the earlier chapters had sacrificed as an element, but they were also about Taylor working through her issues and learning to live, the end of the Echidna arc makes this pretty clear.
        If it wasn’t for the fact that she now had a normal life with her dad, I’d probably agree. But, well…right now, she’s about where she was back before Emma betrayed her, except with five more years, one less friend, and a prosthetic arm. Every sacrifice she made, in her personal and private lives…pretty much fixed. Yay!

        Now we have an ending that maintains the themes of the entire serial, instead of tossing everything aside to serve the needs of the last third.
        How? The whole story was a story of Taylor making sacrifices, sacrificing her own well-being, her time, her family and her whole old life, risking her life again and again, sacrificing her friends, sacrificing her sanity and her life, for the greater good. This…this undoes all of that.
        The whole story made sense, with foreshadowing and such over any major plot shifts. The closest you find for this is a questionable threat by Cauldron and a couple examples that show just how hard it is to turn Taylor’s power off in any way, which is anti-foreshadowing.

        • I’m sure every character, and every real person, ever to have had a heroic sacrifice of whatever kind is gnashing their teeth at you.

          Well, no. They won’t. Since they’re dead. Blewie. Nothing left. A carcass rotting in a whole in the ground. That’s the point. And I’m sure those people, at the time of their death, weren’t as happy about than going in. Anyway I doubt there’s been a heroic sacrifice in the history of the world that was only attainable with the sacrifice part.

          Sacrifices end your life, but it can give extra meaning to it if you sacrifice yourself for something meaningful.

          Doing something meaningful can give extra meaning to your life. In death it’s only a consolation to the people you left behind. Or a name on a statue the state or church can trot around as an example to get more martyrs lined up.

          Taylor’s death accomplished a lot. HEr death had meaning. It didn’t cheapen her–it did the opposite. It’s sad that she died, but what she did when dying is good.

          Taylor’s death (that didn’t happen) accomplished nothing. She beat Scion before she was shot. The shooting was just one more person giving up on her. (but that didn’t happen)

          But, well…right now, she’s about where she was back before Emma betrayed her, except with five more years, one less friend, and a prosthetic arm.

          Except for, y’know. No friends, no other family, no prospects, a shitload of mental trauma, and an existential crisis she needs to solve for herself before she can rebuild a life.

          The whole story was a story of Taylor making sacrifices, sacrificing her own well-being, her time, her family and her whole old life, risking her life again and again, sacrificing her friends, sacrificing her sanity and her life, for the greater good. This…this undoes all of that.

          No. The whole story was a suicidal teenager recklessly throwing herself into deadly situations because she can’t conceive of living her life for herself. Is what she does heroic? Yeeesss.

          But the mindset behind it is incredibly unhealthy and is not something to be treated as unambiguously good and noble. Much of the story is her gradually working her way through they, until she’s put in arrested development and thrown under the bus to save the world, and she goes along with it because she doesn’t care about her own life.

          Again, I feel the way society puts a noble sacrifice on a pedestal over a noble non-sacrifice is a deeply fucked up aspect of our society that ought to be scoured from western culture and left in the “Yeah, we were DUMB back then.” bin.

          • Again, heroic sacrifices end life. No one denies this. What you fail to understand is that sacrifices can have meaning.
            The death rate is a constant that trancends time, nationality, and class: One death per person. When we die, as we always do, what is left? Call this a legacy. Your legacy is all that matters, when you flatline and enter the afterlife of your choice. If your death does something, that is part of your legacy. If your death adds a massive amount to your legacy, it adds a massive amount of meaning to your life.
            That is a heroic sacrifice: The result. No one cares if you sacrifice yourself to save a donut, or for the Whig Party, or whatever. If you sacrifice yourself to save the world, or all the worlds…it matters, It’s remembered. Taylor’s death gave her a spot in the memories and legends of all humanity. How can you say this is meaningless?

            Except for, y’know. No friends, no other family, no prospects, a shitload of mental trauma, and an existential crisis she needs to solve for herself before she can rebuild a life.
            She had no other friends or family, she had no more prospects as a 13-year-old than she does now, and the latter two fall under the five years.
            And you know what? If I had to choose between a prosthetic arm and mental trauma, or absolutely nothing except the sweet oblivion of death, on top of complete loss of everything down to sanity…it’s impossible to want to choose the latter over the former (assuming all else is held equal). It’s like saying “Yeah, I got all my limbs back, but now I have this paper cut.”

            No. The whole story was a suicidal teenager recklessly throwing herself into deadly situations because she can’t conceive of living her life for herself…
            You’re missing the point. I AM NOT SAYING THAT DEATH IS A GOOD THING. I NEVER SAID THAT. I AM SAYING THAT TAYLOR’S DEATH WAS HEROIC. And it was–you just admitted such. Stop trying to disprove me by saying “Death is bad! People shouldn’t try for a glorious death, they should try for a glorious life!” Yes, they should. But if they have to pay their life, and they do, they have given a lot more than people who didn’t die and deserve to be recognized for this.

            Regardless, my point is that all those sacrifices being removed in a single sentence completely negates the sacrifices. EVERY sacrifice. Cut ties? Nope! Leave your friends? Nope! Lose your mind? Nope! Die? Of course not! This is Worm, we need a happy ending!

            • I AM NOT SAYING THAT DEATH IS A GOOD THING. I NEVER SAID THAT. I AM SAYING THAT TAYLOR’S DEATH WAS HEROIC.

              But you are saying that a heroic death is more worthwhile and uplifting than a heroic life, no? I disagree with that. Violently. Martin Luther King, as great a man as he was, is not a better hero than Nelson Mandela because the latter is still alive.

              And again, she didn’t die fighting Scion, if she did, fine. That’s heroic, but no more heroic than if she went in expecting to die but live anyway. That’s the point other people tried to get across. She thought she was sacrificing her mind and her life, that’s what matters, whether she survived or not is immaterial to how heroic she is.

              But in the scenario that didn’t actually happen as of this chapter she died because Contessa shot her. And Contessa shot her because Taylor was so despondent, and had forgotten so much that she couldn’t think of a reason why she should be given a chance. How the shit is that heroic? That’s her giving up, her becoming even worse off than she was at the start of the story! Suicidal girl tries to kennel her black dog but she fails and kills herself anyway. How is this uplifting heroism?

              • I’m not saying that a heroic death is better than a heroic life. I’m saying that a heroic death is something worthwhile, and that taking it–and every other sacrifice Taylor ever made–away takes something away from the story. How the hell did you interpret that from my arguments?
                Mind you, if a heroic death does enough more than a heroic life, the death is better…but those are either highly unusual circumstances or a life that isn’t actually that heroic.

                And so what if she technically survived the Scion fight? By then, she wasn’t Taylor anymore, and she didn’t want to live. Taylor did die over the course of that fight, replaced by Khepri.

    • 1. I disagree. I’ve said this earlier but it bears repeating; who are we to say that Taylor’s sacrifices should not be rewarded? What does it say about us that there are people saying that such a reward should not have been given?

      2. Path to victory power is hax, yo.

      3. Assuming it was based off sensory perceptions, severing the pathways between the corona and the brain might defuse Khepri enough for the metaphoric bomb squad (Panacea and Bonesaw) to move in. I’ll admit I don’t really have a good answer to this one.

      4. It rewards her for everything she has done, and forces her onto the arguably harder path of continuing to live past a horrible tragedy. It allows her to start over, free of the Skitter/Weaver/Khepri external baggage but armed with the lessons all three of them have taught her. Frankly, she has a long way to go before “happily ever after” is even possible, even connecting with her Aleph!mom. Her sacrifices are still meaningful. If they weren’t, why lie to the precog about it? Her sacrifices shaped the entire world, h**l, the entire multiverse! The fact that she survived them does not mean they had no meaning.

      …It’s far too late, and I’m being far too confrontational here. I hope you can see at least a bit of my point (and that of many others also replying in this thread).

      • 1. Taylor deserves to be rewarded, but that doesn’t mean that the story is automatically better from rewarding Taylor. Given that the entire rest of the story has been the exact opposite, suddenly Taylor having a happy ending, better-off than she was when the story started, is jarring.

        2. Yes, but every other time we have had some idea what she did and why it would have worked. Here, we’re supposed to accept that Contessa is possessed by a fit of Taylor-loving, magically avoids killing Taylor, magically stops her powers when even disabling the corona pollentia did nothing, and then magically undoes the brain damage done by Taylor’s passenger and the two bullets.

        3. IT ISN’T BASED ON HUMAN SENSES! Sorry for caps, but this bugs me. Taylor could control bugs she couldn’t see, hear, taste, touch, or smell, she controlled humans despite layers of portals obscuring her sight and despite facing directly away from half or more of them, there is no evidence that Taylor’s power works by senses, and Imp’s power affects memory!

        4. They still have meaning, just less. And, while Taylor deserves a happy ending, it clashes heavily with the tone and themes of every single arc, not to mention that the way wildbow did it makes no sense. Oh, and wildbow obviously planned out the story beforehand. If she wanted Taylor to live and have a happy ending, why did Taylor suffer massive brain damage and get shot by Contessa? That just seems stupid. It makes any later recovery essentially impossible. Barring that, why did wildbow basically go “Meh, it happened and Taylor doesn’t have a clue why” about the whole thing?

    • Can’t disagree with you more. For all the trouble she went through, all the things she did, Taylor deserved more than being shot and disappeared. And she got more. Yeah, she’s a wreck of a human being, and has a long way to go to reach anything approaching normal, but she’s alive, and might someday recover.

      That whole survival and recovery is what makes the story work, for me. I really couldn’t recommend this story to people without it. A story which gets you this attached to the main character, then at the end kills her off and dashes all hopes for a good, or even slightly fair ending just isn’t worth reading, to me.

      • Yes, Taylor deserved more. That doesn’t mean that ignoring logic, past chapters, and the entire tone of the story to give Taylor a happy ending with virtually no explanation is a good thing.

        What’s wrong with the heroes dying in the end? Pretty much all Shakespearean tragedies do it, would you not recommend people read Shakespeare because of it? 1984 ends with Winston getting executed; does this make 1984 unreadable? Did Neo’s death ruin the third Matrix movie? Jean Valjean of Les Miserables, James Cole of Twelve Monkeys, Jesus Christ of a little book called the Bible…their ends make the work they starred in complete, and often add more meaning. And that’s ignoring many, many works that have nonlethal downer endings.

        On the other hand, bringing the hero back from a complete loss of mind and health to a nearly completely perfect state with no explanation other than “Cauldron is awesome! Here’s something I never really proved they could do, mixed with some stuff there was every indication no one could do, all to make sure that Taylor has a happy ending to clash with the whole story!”

        • The whole story was not about horrible things happening to Taylor. It was about her overcoming everything. No matter how bad it got, she kept going. The ending fits the rest of the story because she is still going, still surviving despite all odds. Her powers may be gone, but her trials are unfinished. She gets to limp off into the sunset, with Earth Aleph and all its troubles before her.

          There is a distinct difference between your examples and Worm. Worm is really, really long. Anybody I get to read Worm is going to be reading it for a long time. They are going to go through all kinds of hell alongside Taylor, and in the end they are going to care for her far far more than they would for James Cole or Neo. When the end comes, they’re going to be so emotionally invested in her that I’m going to catch unbelievable amounts of hell if she dies in the end. Her apparent death was particularly bad. I can understand dying to save the world, but the world had already been saved. It was over, and she got shot in the head days later for her trouble. Wasn’t even the big bad of the story, just some idiot with a gun. What a letdown.

          Nobody I know will thank me for that. They would be very angry at me for making them read for a month or so, only to see the hero die stupidly, after surviving so much worse. This isn’t Disney, it doesn’t have to end up all sunshine and rainbows. But when I tell someone they MUST read something, there has to be a sense of fulfillment at the end. The ending you’re advocating for just left me feeling broken, and I refuse to subject my friends to that.

          That was not a complete loss of mind, from what I could tell. With the information overload stopped, she seemed to be gaining some of her senses again. Had a conversation, even.

          To the whole ‘no one could do that’ bit, I have to say that Bonesaw did not know everything about powers. Nobody but Scion did. However, Contessa’s power doesn’t rely on her knowing things. If disabling Taylor’s powers was at all possible, her power would get it done. Doesn’t really matter that we don’t know how it worked, it did, and the general consensus is “Yay!”.

          I am totally ok with that. This is a superhero story, and suspension of disbelief is required. Crazy stuff happens. People come back from deadly injuries all the time, it’s par for the course. Hell, Taylor’s done it a few times before this, even.

          • Taylor didn’t overcome this–Contessa, some medical tinker, and most importantly plot magic overcame it for her.

            Are you saying that we shouldn’t care about Shakespearean characters, Neo, Jean, or–to play a slightly underhanded card–Jesus just because their stories aren’t as long as Worm? And are you saying that we should f^#% logic and continuity just so our favorite little heroine gets the reward she deserves?
            Also, it wasn’t Taylor who died in the end. Taylor was already farther gone than Noelle was when Echidna was killed. Taylor was dead, Contessa shot Khepri.

            Besides, this is Worm. You can’t always get what you deserve. Skitter fought the ABB, saved (many of the people in) a shelter from Leviathan, played a key role in driving the Slaughterhouse Nine out of Brockton Bay, and killed a villain who was trying to take over the city…and what did she get for it? Hate, fear, and more hate. Moreover, characters died, often for much less meaningful things than “I can’t think of any reason why I should–or want to–live.” Most obvious: Regent. Life isn’t fair, neither is Worm; why should the ending be different?

            The conversation was clearly stated to be due to some side effect of Contessa’s power. The text was all in italics because Contessa wasn’t actually saying those words. Besides, it wasn’t much of a conversation–more of a monologue to an audience of one.

            I’m saying that it isn’t possible, it has never been shown or even suggested to be possible, it has been shown to be nearly if not totally impossible, and wildbow didn’t even try to explain what happened. From the author that brought me the entire rest of Worm, I expect better.

            And I haven’t even brought up the issue of why Contessa wanted to nurse Taylor back to health and sanity.

            People have come back from grave injuries before, but there was always a good explanation. We knew how, and we knew why. Panacea healed Taylor’s back because it was her job, and because of the treaty. Time and Coil’s surgeon healed Taylor’s shoulder, because it was his job, he had the tools, and he was getting paid for it. And so on, and so forth. Recovery has never come out of the blue before. And here…it has.

            • PREFACE: I am equally satisfied with Taylor dying or surviving, in fact I wa pretty sure until this chapter that she was dead and had no problems with it. If anything it’s Danny’s survival that I found problematic on a narrative level. Having said this:

              Shakespeare’s plays were commissioned and he had characters die or survive at the end depending on the wishes of his employers ( did they want a comedy or a tragedy?), the Matrix sequels are a bloated mess that should never have happened, Jean Valjean had a happy ending and died of old age ( and thus has nothing to do with the other examples) and Jesus famously got better.

              In fact, since you opened the door, the main difference between Jesus’ sacrifice and Taylor’s is that Jesus KNEW he would get better, whereas Taylor did NOT. And really, and this is my opinion, her life was the least of the things she sacrificed.

              You also asked why Contessa would bother saving Taylor. My answer is: redemption an atonement. You said, in another post, that if wildbow wanted to make Contessa sympathetic he should have done it earlier, perhaps in her interlude. Personally, I think he did. In the interlude we saw that Contessa was in truth a scared little girl, in the thrall of her power, who managed to do the impossible and had to bear the burden of killing a god, not unlike Taylor. This improbable rapport they share is confirmed by the touching conversation they have in the end, where Contessa talks about the futility of the grand picture and the need to focus on the little things, doing things without “help”. And it’s because Contessa is the only one that can really, on multiple levels, understand Taylor and what she has done, that either ending ( Taylor dying and Taylor surviving) make sense.

              The rest is up to taste. And well, de gustibus non disputandum, yes?

              • Shakespeare’s plays were commissioned and he had characters die or survive at the end depending on the wishes of his employers ( did they want a comedy or a tragedy?), the Matrix sequels are a bloated mess that should never have happened, Jean Valjean had a happy ending and died of old age ( and thus has nothing to do with the other examples) and Jesus famously got better.
                The plays were still great, the Matrix sequels sucked for non-Neo’s-death reasons, Jean still died, and Jesus stuck around for a whole before basically dying again. Oh, and there are a lot of other examples. On the topic of gods dying, consider Ragnarok, where the gods everyone knew and (for the most part) loved, from Thor to Odin to Tyr, all died. That’s like if all the Undersiders, plus just about everyone else, was killed in the battle against Scion. Are you going to say that Norse mythology sucked because of that?

                In fact, since you opened the door, the main difference between Jesus’ sacrifice and Taylor’s is that Jesus KNEW he would get better, whereas Taylor did NOT. And really, and this is my opinion, her life was the least of the things she sacrificed.
                And she got all of it back anyways.

                You also asked why Contessa would bother saving Taylor. My answer is: redemption an atonement…a scared little girl, in the thrall of her power…because Contessa is the only one that can really, on multiple levels, understand Taylor and what she has done
                That Contessa is pretty much gone, as gone as the girl in the bathroom who just sat there crying while bullies throw juice and soda on her–if not more. Contessa shows no sign of still being a scared little girl, or of not agreeing with Doctor Mother’s plans on any level; given her prowess and prominence, I think that the absence of proof, while not unarguable proof of absence, does hint pretty heavily that Contessa isn’t much like the Fortuna she was before Eden.
                More than that…I didn’t see Contessa really empathizing with Taylor, or really anyone at any point after the Eden thing. To me, Contessa came off as distant from the world, willing to do whatever her power said she had to do to make sure she met her goals. Besides, what did Contessa do that could be made up for by (magically) fixing Taylor’s mind and stripping her of her powers?

    • I think the biggest missed point by those who disagree is that you is that you are not rooting for Taylor’s death. You are simply stating that from a literary standpoint, her last moments are more emotionally gripping if she doesn’t survive what should have been a meaningful heroic sacrifice.

      You don’t read news articles about fire fighters rushing into buildings, saving three people and surviving certain death, and sigh, wishing the fire fighter had died for greater symbolism. That’s insane. When fire fighters die, it is a tragedy, and there isn’t anything positive to find in the result, because rarely does it feel like, “Yeah, their death was worth it, for that emotional “oomph” I feel now.”

      From a purely fair and fictional universe, Taylor should survive. It seems fair that someone who put so much on the line, who sacrificed so much to see the world survive, should survive themselves.

      But Worm has never been a fair universe. Doormaker did nearly as much to make sure the human race survived. He was blind and deaf and worked at the whim of Cauldron, but he never once complained or refused to work with those who needed his services. He didn’t have an administrator shard. He didn’t have anything that would work against Scion without outside intervention. His death was tragic and undeserved, burned up in a fervorous battle of a thousand portals. We don’t know what he was like. Maybe he was just as devoted to the survival of the human race as Taylor, as earnest as Golem, and as well meaning as Dragon. No one really cares if he survived or not, because we spent a million and a half words with Taylor.

      Glory Girl was a brat, but she fought for good. She wasn’t cruel or insane like Shadow Stalker. Sure, she isn’t the best at sibling relationships, but who is? No one clamors for her safe return to something like a human. I get shivers thinking of her fate. It is literally the most terrifying thing I could imagine happening to someone, and nearly the worst fate in the Para-verse. If there was anyone I wished we could save, it is her. One of the big differences is that she didn’t get to sacrifice anything quite like Taylor. She was changed, against her will, by someone she willingly loved once as a sister. She’s still a lump of flesh, barely sane but fully sentient. If she even survived Scion’s assault. Does her fight against Crawler mean so little? Maybe so, if she wasn’t given the blessing of survival.

      Taylor’s survival feels a little like favoritism, Mary-Sue-ish even, not simply luck. She ended up with a missing arm (easily fixable in Para-verse), little power (about as permanent as her death, with a few plot hand-waves), and emotional trauma (something she has had to deal with since before arc 1, and something she has always excelled at defeating). Even her emotional trauma feels a little cheap. She is struggling with her pride taking the blow of “oh no I will never amount to anything again” not “I wonder how many people I left behind, broken and abused. I wonder they can recover in time to save the rest of humanity in time. I wonder how many I killed in that last fight, and who could I have saved?” Just leaves me a little cold.

      If there is a character that can literally survive anything via plot armor… who cares if they sacrifice their “life” to save the world?

      We as the audience don’t need to build a memorial to her in our minds. We just need to make more “Chuck Norris” jokes.

      • Thanks for understanding and explaining.

        Heck, I’d argue that her emotional state is better than it was before she got powers. She can talk with (a version of) her mom, which kinda negates that bit, she doesn’t have to worry about Emma or the others torturing her at school, and there aren’t even vague worries about supervillains attacking near where she is. All she has to worry about is finding a place for a smart teenaged girl to be able to work. How will she do that? It’s not like the Wards Taylor was with require their heroes to go to school…OH WAIT. What stops Taylor from just going to college?

        • As far as I can tell, her lowest emotional point in the story itself was when she discovered Dinah had Coil, and she was responsible.

          For what its worth, I’ve come up with a reasonable explanation as to why Taylor has survived. Its a meta answer and could easily be seen as an insult to the author, and I don’t really want to do that. It probably won’t satisfy most everyone who doesn’t much like the ending, but it makes the most sense.

          If you are interested, shoot me an email, mines in my gravatar profile.

          • Is it because everyone was ‘sure’ Taylor had died and needed to die to make the story make sense and wildbow had to troll us one last time?

            • If that were the case, then the only people who are being trolled are those of us who are disappointed that Taylor survival dilutes the literary accomplishment in our opinon.

              Even most of the people who thought she was dead didn’t want her to be. What’s the opposite of trolling, where you give the majority of the audience what they want?

              Wildbow made the choice for a good reason, and I respect him for all of his work. I just didn’t like the ending. Not the end of the world.

      • If there was anyone I wished we could save, it is her.

        It was heavily implied Amy fixed Glory Girl after Scion was defeated. Taken from Speck 30.7

        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.

        Taylor’s survival’s isn’t supposed to have been luck. Contessa wouldn’t have gone out there and given Taylor a choice if there wasn’t a way for her to return to the person she was before. I suppose you could say it was favoritism on Contessa’s part but it makes sense that she’d sympathize with Taylor and not say, Glory Girl, that would care enough to use her power to do something about it.

        I don’t agree that dying makes her sacrifice any greater. At that point, Scion was already dead so what would she be sacrificing herself for? So no one would ever be troubled by her again? She was already stuck on some random Earth, weak from not eating or drinking in days. She didn’t pose a threat to anyone, and in the brief conversation with Contessa we could see she was already on the road to recovery.

        • I think that Amy coming to terms with what she did is heavily implied. Glory Girl still reads as “in rapture” of her biomoding sister. Amy might have picked up a few tricks with body modification from Riley, but that isn’t going to fix the adjustments Amy made with her sister’s mind any quicker. If Amy can make herself do it.

          I think I will hedge my answer and say its easier to agree to disagree here. My opinion is definitely personal, as everyone’s is, and it hard to explain my feelings on this, not without making a bunch of disjointed comparisons that will be relatively easy to pick and choose and pull apart.

          I do understand wanting to see Taylor alive again. I don’t begrudge anyone their happy ending. Really. I just thought the ending was happy and up-beat enough before the final chapter, and it’s a little too “and they all lived happily ever after, the end” when topped with Taylor’s contrived near complete revival.

    • Yeah, Grue will just go to extraordinary lengths to get out of the Scion fight, won’t he? So lame. :P

      1. This one is subjective. Personally, as far as I’m concerned, she willingly sacrificed herself to save the world. IMO, that others were able to prevent that sacrifice being permanent doesn’t weaken her sacrifice one bit.

      2. Contessa used the bullets to incapacitate Khepri. It was left ambiguous who actually performed the surgery.

      3. The recovery strongly suggests that, when a passenger takes over, it doesn’t overwrite the previous persona. This quite possibly means growing a whole new, separate area of the brain. This is consistent with the fact that the first thing a passenger does upon manifesting powers is to make sure they’re not detrimental to the host.

      While such a capacity hasn’t been mentioned before, (a) There has only been one prior case where they needed to recover someone from a passenger takeover. And Noelle was an aberration – she took half a formula so none of the safeties were in place. (b) The heroes have a lot more power at their disposal now. If it’s possible biologically, Tattletale, Panacea/Bonesaw, GU and Contessa working together should be able to pull it off.

      4. Again, this is more personally subjective. I personally am closer to the border than you. I think Taylor dying was an appropriate ending, but I don’t think this is an inappropriate one. Re: literary purpose, it serves as a continuation of Worm’s recurring theme that even seemingly impossible obstacles can be overcome with enough determination and intelligence.

      I’ll agree though that, when rewriting, Wildbow should consider laying the groundwork for this ending better.

      We *saw* all the other impossible threats being overcome, fair and square. This happening off-camera does feel rather like cheating.

      It’s a tricky balancing act, laying the foundation for the surprise without spoiling it. But Wildbow has done a spectacularly good job pulling that off elsewhere and my guess is, when he comes back and looks at this with fresh eyes, that he’ll do so here as well.

      • 1. It’s still as noble, but it loses a lot of its effect on the reader by being temporary.
        2. Alright, I’ll concede that that’s possible. I would, however, like to question the point of the handgun if that was the case.
        3. It’s not a case of the Passenger “taking over”; if it was, Taylor would still be able to understand the input from her senses. In the previous case we have, Echidna took over the body’s functions, but Noelle was still fully aware of what was going on. She would still be able to read, she held conversations (or at least Echidna did) and understood other speakers, she could still recognize people she knew (or even ones she only met a few times), and she even managed to seize control back for a moment. None of these things is the case for Taylor. She couldn’t interpret the signals her body saw as letters (or, at least, words), had no way of verbally communicating and gradually lost all ability to comprehend human speech, couldn’t recognize even her closest friends, and had no way of snapping out. If it was a situation of Khepri taking over Taylor, Taylor wouldn’t be the one calling the shots like Noelle wasn’t. Finally, no physical aberrations were present for Taylor, which isn’t just due to the lack of a Cauldron formula–Noelle wasn’t a Case 53, her body took on an Endbringer-like structure as time went on (but starting fairly quickly). In short, Taylor’s symptoms are nothing like those Noelle had. I wouldn’t expect them to be exactly the same just because they had the same origins, but the symptoms are practically nothing alike. Overall, something along the lines of “brain damage caused by uncontrolled power” seems far, far more plausible than “passenger took over”.
        In case the above was a bit confusing, I’m using codenames to refer to passengers and birth names to refer to humans.
        4. There’s also a certain sense of “You can’t fight the inevitable”. Taylor can fight Leviathan, but she can’t stop it from massacring the citizens. Taylor can work to make the city better, but it’s still a disaster zone. Taylor can fight the Slaughterhouse Nine, but they still release their aerosol and get away almost scot-free. She, Chevalier, the PRT can work to try and make the Protectorate what it should be, but it remains mostly as bureaucratic, hero-centric, and Cauldron-held as before. The entire world strives as hard as it can to stop Jack Slash from causing the end of the world, but he still gets Scion. Sure, Scion was defeated, but that was inevitable, too–”only” a large fraction of all people were going to die from the End of the World, we knew that from back when the chapter numbers were single digits.
        Nothing is more inevitable than death. Except when it isn’t.

        • 2. I agree a gun isn’t the best way to incapacitate someone. Presumably it’s just what Contessa had handy.

          3. I was specifically making the point that you *can’t* really draw an analogy with Noelle. Which you clearly agree with. :) And which means we have no existing data for what happens to the human mind when it is supplanted by a passenger. Whether it is preserved or not. And when I say the passenger ‘takes over’, I essentially mean it completely SUPPLANTS the host. It hooks itself up to all the input output links to the brain and disconnects Taylor from them. But rule #1 for passengers is “don’t harm the host” so her original mind was preserved. To me, that’s a lot more plausible than “half her brain was destroyed but… someone… restored it to it’s previous state… somehow”. Which *is* possible if they roped a time-manipulating super into helping – but it seems likelier Taylor’s mind was tucked away, waiting to be freed once the passenger was out of the way.

          4. They beat Leviathan (in fact, he probably works for them now). They defeated the S9 for good. The PRT (and Cauldron) was replaced by the Wardens (jury’s still out on that one). Scion was defeated (and yes, you can say he was defeated within expected parameters, but he *was* defeated). Every problem the heroes were faced with was overcome sooner or later.

          • 2. And why did she only have a gun handy?
            3. Again, the hypothesis that Taylor’s mind was disconnected from control of her body (and power) does not match the evidence in any way. She can control her body, though not well; she can control her power, directing her puppets almost as well as she directs her own body; and there is no reason that being disconnected the way you’re saying would cause a slow break-down of comprehension rather than either no change to what Taylor sees (aside from a lack of control) or no sensory input, period.
            4. Leviathan being “beaten” isn’t inevitable, and it’s never supposed to be. The inevitability is the cost. The S9 were defeated for good…with the power of basically every group in the world, again at great cost, with the help of Grey Boy turning on Jack, Grey Boy only died due to poor decision-making on his part and the use of one of the more OP cape’s powers, and that’s not the time I was talking about. Scion being defeated was never inevitable–the inevitability was, in fact, Scion losing (remember the original predictions?), and the loss of a massive majority of the world’s population.
            It’s occurred to me what the most constant inevitability of Worm has been. Victory comes, but at what cost? Apparently none, this time.

  64. Wildbow, you are, by far, the most incredible author I have ever had the opportunity to read. I can’t thank you enough for rejuivinating my desire to write as well. I cannot…absolutely cannot wait to sample more of your next works. The anticipation is exasperating.

    With regards to the last chapter:

    1. I FUCKING KNEW IT. Taylor’s dad WAS alive.
    2. Thank you for wasting Grue, I appreciate it.
    3. I FUCKING KNEW IT! Taylor is NOT dead. Now I REALLY can’t wait for Worm 2.
    4. The way you brought her back was impeccable. I had NO idea the teenager in the train was Taylor. Magnificent. In the back of my mind I was wondering why you’d use the end chapter to introduce a new character…lol
    5. I’m totally digging the Undersiders…
    6. I’m happy that Taylor and her dad are reconnecting.
    7. I’m not exactly sure how I feel yet about Taylor seeking out her alter-mom. It makes sense given the way she’d upheld the lessons she’d learned from her before she died. I may have to re-read this chapter again.

    Anyway, thank you so much for the most adventurous, emotionally charged story. It will remain my favorite. I do hope you consider offering this up as an ebook in the future.

      • You know, that thought at first crossed my mind as well. But, there was something about her mannorisms that didn’t quite match. Conversly the same could be said about the girl on the train as well.

        It was a brilliant ending. It does so much to open up one’s mind at the possibilities regarding Worm 2 as well.

        I can only hope that my story is received half as well as this one has been. Wildbow here has definately set the bar; and set it very high. Much respect.

  65. The little fake out regarding the teenager being Dinah instead of Taylor was one last Wildbow misdirect.

    A few questions I had. Does Tattletale know that Taylor is alive? It seems like she might not. If Tattletale knows that Taylor is alive I have no clue how she expects to persuade Dinah/Cassandra that Taylor is dead considering Dinah’s power. As to why Tattletale’s power could fail in this situation? She doesn’t have many clues to interpolate, and Contessa was presumably trying to hide Taylor.

    It’s still sad that Taylor doesn’t have her power. Much of her changes through the series was driven by the omniscience and control her power gave her. In many ways her character development was the Administration shard shining through more and more. That being said having to learn who you are after losing the mental component you entrusted with most of your identity has interesting potential.

    Some possible sequel stuff:

    Possibly Simurgh is trying to clone a body for Eidelon, which Valkyrie can fill with his stolen spirit. The unanswered question is whether she takes human memories or just shards. Most plausibly she just takes shards, since that would be the obvious entity level goal for her shard. Possibly Eidelon’s last wish was that he hadn’t given up his life to fighting and had had a son.

    They really are dismissive of Teacher here. He has a pretty darn potent power that’s perfect for taking over the world. Guess I have to wait to see his ass kicking.

    Taylor’s situation is just begging for a reunion with the Undersiders. It’s just sad to part them when they were almost all she cared about at the end. A great moment would include Teacher or some other annoying villain invading Taylor’s new home. She tries to let other people deal with it, but eventually is forced to be a hero again. They recognize her and immediately flee in terror. On a similar though annoyingly god mode note it would be plausible that Contessa is saving Taylor for some future situation that needs her unique coordination.

    • I believe that Dinah’s powers are multidimensional in nature.Maybe with Aleph blocked off, she can’t ping on Taylor? And this makes it easier for Tattletale to convince her that Taylor is death?

    • I suspect they’re dismissing Teacher because they’re seeing the plan Teacher wants them to see, and not the one he’s really after. He’s a thinker, after all, and if his plan seems dumb, that’s probably not his plan. The flaw in Tattletale’s power is ‘Garbage in, Garbage out’. If Teacher plays his cards right, he could send her the wrong signals, thus making her come to the wrong conclusions.

      Then again, he could just be as dumb as he looks. Who knows?

      • He’s not really a thinker though, not on his own. His power let’s him have other people do the thinking for him.

        What I got from his epilogue is that he’s on some level a moron. He has his cunning, but his schemes are ultimately harebrained, and mistakes the brilliance of his slaves plans for brilliance of his own.

  66. Hmm, not sure how I feel about this ending. I’m glad Taylor’s alive, especially since I gave up hope that she would be, but the bullet brain surgery theory never made that much sense to me and it’s odd to see that become canon. But then again,

    But dwelling on those things wasn’t healthy, and it was pointless in the end. She’d likely never get a serious answer.

    I feel like that’s Wildbow being meta.

    The idea of the Undersiders going out to kick Teacher in the balls is fantastic. I literally want them to kick him in the balls. At least ten times, hopefully more. And have Tattletale destroy him mentally too.

    I guess this doesn’t feel like an ending and more like a new beginning. The Undersiders continue being unscrupulous heroes, the rest of humanity rebuilds, some people continue to be douchebags, and Taylor has an opportunity to find peace someday, maybe. It fits, because this isn’t a goodbye, it’s a see you later.

    Thanks for the story, Wildbow and I’ll be reading on Saturday for your new stuff.

  67. Awesome! Glad Taylor is still alive, leaves room for sequel sometime in the future.
    Instead of crying on clone-mom shoulder it would have been awesome to see back to school effort with laying low routine “nothing to see here, im just another teenager, not eldritch abomination material at all”. But then slipping up and beating some annoyance half to death with her arm prostesis or smth. Might have been better “back to normality but not quite the same” finish.

      • Didn’t they have only 500,000,000 casualties in her new home? That should be enough to come up with a convincing story to get new papers.

        • Yeah, which is plenty for a man and his adult daughter to show up out of nowhere and live here. It’d probably be enough to get her into a public high school if she were younger. But college? It’d be complicated at best.

          Inventing a reason why every single document required for the application process would be lost, in a way that somehow doesn’t leave traces for the admissions office to find, and then getting accepted without a shred of education history? When everything she’d learned about the politics and technology and recent history and even culture of this world is either forty years out of date or skimmed through a portal?

          • I’m sure that Taylor could get herself into a community college or something. God knows those places have weirder people taking classes.

            But yeah, maybe if Contessa contacted Tattle they’d be set up with false identities or something?

      • Also she dropped out of High School so she doesn’t have the knowledge.

        She probably won’t get straight into college, but I can see her doing a year or two of bridging study then going to college…

  68. My internet was down so I had to wait a whole six hours longer than I would have to read this.

    Brian is dead. Taylor and Danny live. Taylor isn’t entirely happy she lived, poor messed up girl. Seems like the Undersiders are planning a boot to balls meeting with Teacher before he fucks things up too badly, but might get pegged as the badguys. I guess I can’t hate Contessa too much now.

    Now crazy thoery time. Taylor actually is dead, and this is her own personal purgatory. Or she’s in a lotus eater machine.

  69. Congratulations. It’s been an amazing ride and there have been no updates that I had issues with. Very well done! Thank you so much for sharing this with us :)

  70. Honestly, this last part was disappointing to me. So Taylor lost everything to her power, and one magical surgery gave it all back? It does not add up, not after the story operates so heavily with the idea of permanent losses to the powers. After the timeskip, that is the second most unnatural part of this story.

    The death of Taylor felt like a natural conclusion. This doesn’t.

    • Whether the ending is “natural” or not is a matter of execution, not purely concept. And since Worm is going to be edited, the execution is bound to improve.

      Anyway, here’s my take on the “she should have died” thing.

      You know what is wrong with Skyrim the comments these days? Everyone is obsessed with death.

      • Sod death, I prefer Life. I plan to be as late for my own funeral as possible. I hope to miss it entirely due to a sun an sea holiday…

        as for the execution improving I hope not, I prefer Contessa leaving our Taylor alive…

  71. Posting this here instead of the blog because I’m not sure if the blog permits spoilers:

    I agree with the five-book structure. There’s enough iterations to divide the story into reasonably sized books (each would be 300-350k words), and the books would end between distinct eras in the story.

    Book one (333 020 words) would be arcs 1-9. It would cover Taylor’s origin as a supervillain, and climax with Leviathan’s attack on Brockton Bay. Arc 9 would be a sort of epilogue, resolving the ambiguity from the end of arc 8 while still encouraging a continuation of the story.

    Book two (313 563 words) would be arcs 10-14. It would cover the Slaughterhouse 9′s attack on Brockton Bay, and climax with Bonesaw’s plague and Taylor vs. Jack Slash. We get to see the Triumvirate working for Cauldron at the very end.

    Book three (366 323 words) would be arcs 15-19. It would cover Taylor’s battle with Coil and Echidna. This is probably the hardest to pull off, since Coil and Echidna are equally-sized arcs and don’t really have a unifying theme.

    Book four (315 485 words) would be arcs 20-25. It would cover Taylor’s origin as a superhero. It starts with her identity being revealed, setting off a chain of events that has her eventually working for the PRT. It climaxes with the appearance of Khonsu. Scarab 25.6 might go to the next book, seeing as it’s the start of the time skip and seems like a better start than an end.

    Book five (353 468 words) would be arcs 26-30+E. It would cover the apocalypse, starting with the Attack of the Clones before Scion takes centre stage.

    • My alternative formation emphasizes the two interlude arcs at the start of books rather than the end, but that’s just personal preference:

      1-8: Skitter’s origin story. Climax with Leviathan and cut to credits after.

      9-16: Open with the Wards, deal with the S9 and then deal with Coil. Skitter’s evolution into the Queen of Brockton Bay is the main theme here, and we end on a really intense note with Coil’s death and the cliffhanger of Echidna

      17-24: Open with the Travelers, in a similar fashion to the Wards open from book 2. Here we deal with Edchidna at the start and Behemoth at the end, with a lot of other stuff in the middle. the theme here is Dinah’s prophecy and Taylor’s evolution from a heroic villain into a conflicted hero.

      25-End: The fourth book opens with the big timeskip and then resolves the apocalypse. I think it’s important to start with the timeskip, and the start is sort of shades of book 2 and 3 with the disconnected opening in the series of staccato scenes over arc 25.

      • I actually think having more, shorter books works better. Here’s my breakdown:

        Book 1: 1-5. I like Arc 5 as the ending for the first book because you’d basically start and end with the two Lung fights. The Gregor interlude is also appropriate for a “book-ending interlude,” as it’s the first time we hear about Cauldron, though not by that name. The last regular chapter of arc 5 is kind of low-key as a book-ending regular chapter, but I have a feeling that can be changed.

        Book 2: 6-8. This would be the arc where Taylor decides to be a supervillain, then finds out just what being part of a team of supervillains entails when she runs across Dinah. It climaxes in the Leviathan fight. The Coil interlude actually works quite well as an ending interlude, I think. The other option is to pull the Sentinel arc from the third book and put it here, but that would leave Book 3 feeling a bit bereft.

        Book 3: 9-11. This would seem to be the “Taylor learns to be a full-fledged supervillain” book. You also basically start and end with interlude arcs, which is either good or bad depending on your point of view.

        Book 4: 12-14. Slaughterhouse Nine arc, not much to say that hasn’t already been said. Arc 14 definitely gives off an “ending” feel.

        Book 5: 15-16. This would basically be the “vs. Coil” book. Ends with the huge Noelle cliffhanger. Although I think the Marquis interlude should probably be moved to the end of the book.

        Book 6: 17-19. Since Arc 19, for all intents and purposes, is the ending of the Travelers’ storyline, I think the Migration arc should be in the same book as it. Other than that, this would be the “vs. Noelle” book. Again, I quite like the Emma interlude as a book ending.

        Book 7: 20-22. Skitter starts out this book as the Queen of the Brockton Bay Underworld, ends it as a new hero. Appropriate. Lung interlude works as a book ending, especially if the Marquis interlude was moved to the end of Book 5. Apparently Wildbow plans to write more about Taylor’s life as a warlord around here, so that would help give this book more content.

        Book 8: 23-25. This would be the “Weaver” book. Again, since Wildbow plans to write more on this period of her life, the book would have more content than might appear at first glance. I feel bad because I’d prefer the Behemoth fight to be at the end of a book, but I don’t see a good way to do that. As Cephalo suggests, the timeskip at the end of Arc 25 would be moved to the next book, though I feel the book should end with an elongated Khonsu fight rather than Khonsu’s appearance. Also the Bonesaw interlude totally needs to be the last chapter here.

        Book 9: 26-28. Kind of undecided about just where to break up the Scion fight, at 27 or 28. Ended up deciding on the more even split. With Arc 28 as an ending, Book 9 becomes essentially nothing but setup to the big finale in Book 10, which does make a certain amount of sense. Doctor Mother interlude works reasonably well as an ending.

        Book 10: 29-End. The final unveiling of Cauldron and the defeat of Scion, followed by the epilogue. It works, I think.

    • While I think 300k word books are a bit on the long side I do definitely agree that Wildbow should be looking to split worm into longer chunkier books that the 80 – 100k he’s mentioned on occasion.
      See this link http://www.cesspit.net/drupal/node/1869 for a listing of the word counts of a bunch of popular stories all easily into the 150k + word count for each book. I think possibly the 10 book setup by tealterror would work the best as the story feels too large for 5 books.

  72. “Too many new bodies in our ranks, we have a tone to set,” Tattletale said.

    OH HEY THE UNDERSIDERS GOT NEW MEMBERS?

    Wonder who decided to join up. Number Man and his clones, perhaps? I don’t think they really have any other place to go. I can see whatever remains of the Ambassadors, if they still exist, joining.

    • I’m hoping it’s H-zero and his rugrats. He’ll need kids like Heartbreakers if he wants to socialize the little bastards, they can do wtfever they want to almost anyone else. Even knowing the guy is 100% horrible I just plain like the aesthetic of the character, and the idea of him being stuck as a single father of 5 versions of himself the way Jack Slash remembered him. It’s an amusing sort of sins-of-my-youth comeuppance, even if it isn’t a millionth of the hurt the Number Man dealt out.

  73. Hey…are we sure that Taylor has all of her memories?

    From her dialogue (and her clear recognition of her parents), she at least has a general recollection of her past (“My mom died, I had a hell of a time with high school, I fell in with a bad crowd and my dad and I parted ways“). But for all we know, there might be massive blanks in her memories.

  74. I’m actually happy that Taylor got depowered in the end.

    The Queen Administrator Shard can go fuck itself for all I care.

    At least we now have conformation that Contessa is indeed screwing with Teacher in her own way. Grue’s death was a gut punch but I expect him to be back up and running soon if Valkyrie managed to collect his shard. She did managed to likely ressurect Clockblocker after all.

    Though the best part was Imp and her social-fu.

    We need a story about her and the Heartbroken.

  75. Truly excellent. One of the best stories I’ve ever read, and if it’s a little rough in spots, well, it’s the first draft.

    I think I’ll be remembering Worm for a long time, and I’m very excited to see where you go next, wildbow.

    I’ll be watching.

  76. It’s really sad that Worm is over, but I’m glad a new series will be starting soon. This time, at least I’ll be able to be with it from the beginning instead of catching on just as it’s getting over.

    I liked all the epilogues quite a bit (though the Teacher one far less than the others). The only thing is that I really wish there had been more about the end to the situation with Panacea and Glory Girl. I know it’s sorta implied Panacea got a chance to fix her in 30.7, but I’d like to see if they reconciled at all afterward. Marquis mentions Panacea saying goodbye to her family, and that sounds like a scene that would’ve been really interesting. The whole thing with Amy and Victoria was always such a tragic situation, and they’ve been with the story since almost the very beginning, so it’s sad than any further answers would be at least 2 or so years away in the edited version, or further down the line in a possible sequel.

    I am really excited to see what the edited version will look like, though. To consider that all of this was just first draft stuff being written on the fly… I can’t imagine what the end product will look like.

  77. So, here we are at the end. Like a few others, this is my first comment because I only recently discovered Worm. I generally lurk without posting, but I feel this deserves a response enough that I’m willing to go against the grain.

    I’m glad to see Taylor depowered. It’s the only way she could live, I think. With powers, she would probably feel compelled to use them; her defining characteristic is that she has to step up when something goes wrong. She throws herself into trouble to help people, and if she retained her powers then word would get out sooner or later. I think we can take it as given that the second anyone heard Skitter/Weaver was back, they would hunt her relentlessly. A few might want to thank her, but many would want to control her or kill her out of sheer terror.

    As far as what Taylor deserves…she gave up everything. She sacrificed every last piece of herself, and if Contessa had just blotted her out after she demonstrated that she still had some humanity and morality left despite it all, I would probably have been very unsatisfied. At the very least, I would have loathed Contessa. In a way, the two of them are uniquely qualified to judge each other.

    I do wish that Taylor didn’t have to give up her friends in order to have a new life, but at the same time I think it may be necessary, in a way. Taylor was the one who looked after the other Undersiders as people, as well as in battle, and I think they need to go without her in order to grow up. Under her guidance, they all became better human beings, and the ending shows they haven’t forgotten her or her lessons. I like that aspect of it.

    Part of me also wishes that she could talk to a few other people: Dinah, Dragon and Defiant, maybe Valkyrie. At the very least, I think Dragon might well offer a well-deserved hug and some forgiveness. But again, I don’t see that as a flaw in the writing; just a case of the characters inhabiting a world all the more real for its imperfections.

    Since most of the characters will never have the chance, and some wouldn’t do it anyway, I’d like to take this opportunity to say: Thanks, Taylor.

    And in honor of Wildbow, for breathing life into this story and its characters, I’m going to recall a few of my favorite moments from Worm that led up to this ending; other commenters, feel free to join in. In rough chronological order:

    1. Taylor shooting Coil herself and dropping the gun in revulsion. It’s a defining characteristic for her that she won’t try to foist the dirty jobs off on someone else, and equally central to her identity that she still hates what she’s doing.
    2. Dinah hugging Taylor when they release her. This moment was a long time coming, and it felt right for Dinah to give her that acknowledgment, especially since she receives so little appreciation for her many sacrifices.
    3. When the good guys find out that Skitter has apparently been running around being awesome while blind without them even realizing it.
    4. The moment in the school when Clockblocker says that he really believes he’s looking at Skitter, Queen of Brockton Bay and supervillain extraordinaire.
    5. When Taylor says goodbye to her father via bug.
    6. When Taylor walks into the PRT office, totally confident, and surrenders.
    7. The one time that she truly loses control, when Alexandria tries to push her and goes that one step too far.
    8. Taylor realizing that she has lost the ability to read. Probably the saddest I felt throughout the entire story.
    9. The moment that she turns her complete, undivided attention to crushing Scion with her army of capes.
    10. The moment she virtually shuts down, because the crisis is finally over and she has no idea what to do.

    There are other great moments, of course These were just the first 10 I thought of.

    • Very good list of moments. You make me want to reread them. I might add defeat of Mannequin, since that was by far the most viscerally challenging thing she had faced yet to my mind. I also really like when Glenn showed her a video of herself attacking PRT headquarters and said that he wouldn’t have batted an eye if told that was a member of S9. I also really enjoyed the forum reactions to weaver’s behemoth video.

    • I agree so much about her looking after people and making them better. Knowing Wildbow’s writing I’m sure the whole redemption theme was deliberate because look how many people improved through contact with her even discounting the undersiders.

    • Yes, Sindri and Shawn, they indeed did say first comment.

      And so we get to see Curious George meets Psycho Gecko. Or we would if I hadn’t already seen the guy over at LoN. I think. Hola, George. Orange you disappointed I didn’t say banana?

      Now, my armor is orange, not a yellow suit, so keep your curious paws off me you damn, dirty ape! Or I’ll get a gun and a bunch of people who like guns! And then we’ll really do it! We’ll blow the it all up and yell at the head of the Statue of Liberty.

      Fun fact: It’s incredibly easy to decapitate Lady Liberty. All you need is an advanced heat ray and the ability to fly it around.

      So now that you’ve stopped monkeying around and have made your ape escape from lurkerdom, it’s time to go-rilla, Magilla. It’s quite the mighty accomplishment, Joe Young, to have faced down the entirety of the story like a swarm of airplanes when you’re hanging off a building with a woman in your hands. But if you don’t feel like this is a case of easy Con, easy go, then you can stick around with us in the comments. Check in, like Dunstan, and hang Every Which Way but Loose with the rest of us down here.

      Welcome, Curious George, to the comments section.

  78. Thank you Wildbow for creating and sharing an amazing adventure. I’ve just binge read the whole series over the last 3 weeks!. Really looking forward to your next project.

    • PIsa cake, right OptomIsa? It barely seems fIsable to have spent so much time without hanging out with mIsa down here, the Jar Jar to your Annie. Now before you issue a cIsa nd desist order against me, remember that I’m not nearly so much a tIsa s this story’s cliffhangers.

      If dIsa words keep getting to you, a quick grIsa my palms would help me take a trip elsewhere, like to PIsa. No, of course I didn’t say all this to flIsa you.

      Welcome, OptomIsa, to the comments section. Try the cheddar chIsa.

  79. Bye Worm…bye Taylor, Tattletale, Armsmaster, Dragon. Miss Militia, Imp… :(

    Uch, I hate when fiction novels end. I built up a connection to the characters, and in a real sense, I care more about them then people in real life whom I don’t build a relationship with. And to see them just…not exist anymore, to not hear their story, to have them be, for all intents and purposes, gone…
    :(

  80. Okay various thoughts.
    -Makes perfect sense that TT is going to twist the knife on Dinah. Lisa spent the first part of the story with “Making Taylor not suicidal” as her top priority, and then Dinah sets her up to save the world… God, I don’t even want to think what the meetings with Pancea are going to be like…
    -I wonder just who exactly knows Taylor is alive. I assume Contessa told the three Undersiders so they wouldn’t keep trying to kill her. Chevalier and maybe D&D?
    -Only group whose reactions to Taylors “Death” we didn’t see I would have liked to have seen that we didn’t are the Chicago Wards. Well I guess there wasn’t room.

  81. Jokes:
    Taylor’s so awesome, when she drops a bag, old ladies think it’s a bomb.
    Grue, people will only like you when you’re dead.
    Jack, your one mistake was not getting Skitter to join you when you had the chance. Must suck to watch her beat the apocalypse.
    Taylor needs a badge for fighting Scion… scratch that, she needs 5,001.

  82. A lot of people are saying that Taylor and Danny being in Earth Aleph is a bad move because they don’t have documentation, but there were hints dropped throughout the story that the Heberts won’t face any trouble on that front. In this chapter alone we found that Taylor had enough money to:

    -Board a train to Philadelphia
    -Get a hotel room
    -Hire a private investigator to find Annette Rose.

    Hiring the private investigator alone would have caused a lot of money. I also have a theory that Taylor might have met with Tattletale after her powers were removed, so I could Tattletale faking Earth Aleph documents and giving Taylor and Danny a shit-load of cash, enough that Taylor isn’t even too worried if her father doesn’t get a job in the city even though she spent a lot of money on the three things I’ve mentioned above.

    And it’s implied that Tattletale may have a way to keep watch over Taylor or even have limited communication with her, in case she needs some extra cash or help.

    >>“And Taylor?” Imp asked.

    “I’ll keep looking after things in that department,” Tattletale said. “If that’s cool?”

    “That’s cool,” Imp said.<<

    So I think Taylor and Danny will be fine in Earth Aleph.

    Hell, who knows? Maybe she'll decide to head back to Earth Bet. It is hinted she has the device that sealed off the dimension.

    • The problem at it’s heart isn’t if they have the resources it’s that the distance between where Taylor was at the end of 30.7 and where she is now is too far.
      For the rest of the Undersiders you can see the shape of their journey between chapters well enough to not need that information. For Taylor we last saw her completely incapable of communicating other than through Contessa’s power on an alien world.
      What we need to know includes.
      1. How did Danny survive?
      2. As far as Taylor and Danny are concerned what happened?<