Interlude 2

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There were very few things, in Victoria Dallon’s estimation, that were cooler than flying.  The invisible forcefield that extended a few millimeters over her skin and clothes just made it better.  The field kept the worst of the chill from touching her, but still let her feel the wind on her skin and in her hair.  Bugs didn’t splat against her face like they did against car windshields, even when she was pushing eighty miles an hour.

Spotting her target, she whooped and plunged for the ground, gaining speed where anyone else would be slowing down.  She hit the asphalt hard enough to crack it and send fragments of it into the air, touching ground with her knee and foot, one arm extended.  She stayed in that kneeling position for just heartbeats, letting her platinum curls and the cape that was draped over one of her shoulders flutter in the wake of air that had followed her descent.  She met the eyes of her quarry with a steely glare.

She’d practiced that landing for weeks to get it right.

The man was a twenty something Caucasian with a shaved head, a dress shirt with the sleeves rolled up, jeans and work boots.  He took one look at her and bolted.

Victoria grinned as he disappeared down the far end of the alley.  She rose from her kneeling position, dusted herself off and ran her fingers through her hair to tidy it.  Then she raised herself a foot off the ground and flew after him at an easy forty five miles an hour.

It didn’t take a minute to catch him, even with the head start she had given him.  She flew just past him, grazing him.  An instant later, she came to a dead stop, facing him.  Again, the wind made for a dramatic flourish as it stirred her hair, her cape and the skirt of her costume.

“The woman you attacked was named Andrea Young,” she spoke.

The man looked over his shoulder, as if gauging his escape routes.

“Don’t even think about it, fugly,” she told him, “You know I’d catch you, and trust me, I’m already pissed off enough without you wasting my time.”

“I didn’t do anything,” the man snarled.

“Andrea Young!” Victoria raised her voice.  As she shouted, she exercised her power.  The man quailed as though she’d slapped him.  “A black college student was beaten so badly she needed medical attention!  Her teeth were knocked out!  You’re trying to tell me that you, a skinhead with swollen knuckles, someone who was in the crowd watching paramedics arrive with an expression bordering on glee, you didn’t do anything!?”

“I didn’t do nothing worth caring about,” he sneered.  His bravado was tempered by a second look over his shoulder, as though he’d very much like to be elsewhere right that moment.

She flew forward, her fists catching him by the collar.  For just a moment, she contemplated slamming him up against a wall.  It would have been fitting and satisfying to shove him hard enough against the brick to crack it, then drop him into the dumpster that sat at the wall’s base.

Instead, she pulled up a little, bringing the two of them to a stop.  They were now just high enough above the ground that he’d feel uncomfortable with the height.  The dumpster, mostly empty, was directly below him, but she doubted he was paying attention to anything but her.

“I think it’s a safe bet to say you’re a member of Empire Eighty-Eight,” she told him, meeting his eyes with a hard stare, “or at least, you’ve got some friends who are.  So here’s what’s going to happen.  You’re going to either tell me everything the triple-E’s have been up to, or I’m going to break your arms and legs and then you’re going to tell me everything.”

As she spoke, she ratcheted up her power.  She knew it was working when he started squirming just to avoid her gaze.

“Fuck you, you can’t touch me.  There’s laws against that shit,” he blustered, staring fixedly over one shoulder.

She turned up her power another notch.  Her body thrummed with current – waves of energy that anyone in her presence would experience as an emotional charge of awe and admiration.  For those with a reason to be afraid of her, it would be a feeling of raw intimidation instead.

“Last chance,” she warned him.

Unfortunately, fear affected everyone differently.  For this particular asshole, it just made him dig in his heels and become obstinate.  She could see it in his body language before he opened his mouth – this was the sort of guy who reacted to anything that spooked or unsettled him with an almost mindless refusal to bend.

“Lick my hairy, sweaty balls,” he snarled, before punctuating it with a spat, “Cunt.”

She threw him.  Since she could bench press a cement mixer, though it was hard to balance something so large and unwieldy, even a casual toss on her part could get some good distance.  He flew a good twenty five or thirty yards down the back road before hitting the asphalt, and rolled for another ten.

He was utterly for still for long enough that Victoria had begun to worry that he’d somehow snapped his neck or broken his spine as he’d rolled.  She was relieved when he groaned and began to pull himself to his feet.

“Ready to talk?” she asked him, her voice carrying down the alley.  She didn’t move  forward from where she hovered in the air, but she did let herself drop closer to the ground.

Pressing one hand against his leg to support himself as he straightened up, he raised his other hand and flipped her the bird, then turned and began to limp down the alley.

What was this asshole thinking?  That she would just let him go?  That, what, she would just bend to his witless lack of self preservation?  That she was helpless to do any real harm to him?  To top it off, he was going to insult her and try to walk away?

“Screw you too,” she hissed through her teeth.  Then she kicked the dumpster below her hard enough to send it flying down the little road.  It rotated lazily through the air as it arced towards the retreating figure, the trajectory and rotation barely changing as it knocked him flat.  It skidded to a halt three to five yards beyond him, the metal sides of the dumpster squealing and sparking as it scraped against the asphalt.

This time, he didn’t get up.

“Fuck,” she swore, “Fuckity fuck fuck.”  She flew to him and checked for a pulse.  She sighed, and then headed to the nearest street.  She found the street address, grabbed her cell from her belt and dialed.

“Hey sis?  Yeah, I found him.  That’s, uh, sort of the problem.  Yeah.  Look, I’m sorr- ok, can we talk about this later?  Yeah.  I’m at Spayder and Rock, there’s this little road that runs behind the buildings.  Downtownish, yeah.  Yeah?  Thanks.”

Victoria returned to the unconscious skinhead, checked his pulse, and listened intently for changes in his breathing.  It took a very long five minutes for her sister to arrive.

Again, Victoria?” the voice disturbed her from her contemplations.

“Use my codename, please,” Victoria told the girl.  Her sister was as different from her as night was from day.  Where Victoria was beautiful, tall, gorgeous, blonde, Amy was mousy.  Victoria’s costume showed off her figure, with a white one-piece dress that came to mid-thigh (with shorts underneath) an over-the shoulder cape, high boots and a golden tiara with spikes radiating from it, vaguely reminiscent of the sun’s rays or the statue of liberty.  Amy’s costume, by contrast, was only a shade away from being a burka.  Amy wore a robe with a large hood and a scarf that covered the lower half of her face.  The robe was alabaster white and had a medic’s red cross on the chest and the back.

“Our identities are public,” Amy retorted, pushing the hood back and scarf down to reveal brown frizzy hair and a face with freckles spaced evenly across it.

“It’s the principle of the thing,” Victoria replied.

“You want to talk about principles, Glory Girl?” Amy asked, in the most sarcastic tone she could manage, “This is the sixth – sixth! – time you’ve nearly killed someone.  That I know about!”

“I’m strong enough to lift a SUV over my head,” Victoria muttered, “It’s hard to hold back all the time.”

“I’m sure Carol would buy that line,” Amy said, making it clear in her tone she wasn’t, “But I know you better than anyone.  If you’re having trouble holding back, the problem isn’t here -” she poked Victoria in the bicep.  “It’s here-” she jabbed her sister in the forehead, hard.  Victoria didn’t even blink.

“Look, can you just fix him?” Victoria pleaded.

“I’m thinking I shouldn’t,” Amy said, quietly.


“There’s consequences, Vicky.  If I help you now, what’s going to stop you from doing it again?  I can call the paramedics.  I know some good people from the hospital.  They could probably fix him up alright.”

“Hey, hey, hey,” Victoria said, “That’s not funny.  He goes to the hospital, people ask questions.”

“Yeah, I’m well aware,” Amy said, her voice hushed.

“This isn’t, like, me getting grounded.  I’d get pulled into court on charges of aggravated assault and battery.  That doesn’t just fuck with me.  It fucks with our family, all of New Wave.  Everything we’ve struggled to build.”

Amy frowned and looked at the fallen man..

“I know you’re not keen on the superhero thing, but you’d really go that far?  You’d do that to us?  To me?”

Amy pointed a finger at her sister, “That’s not me.  It’s not my fault we’re at this point.  It’s you.  You’re crossing the line, going too far.  Which is exactly what people who criticize New Wave are scared of.  We’re not government sponsored.  We’re not protected or organized or regulated in the same way.  Everyone knows who we are under our masks.  That means we have to be accountable.  The responsible thing for me to do, as a member of this team, is to let the paramedics take him, and let the law do as it sees fit.”

Victoria abruptly pulled Amy into a hug.  Amy resisted for a moment, then let her arms go limp at her sides.

“This isn’t just a team, Ames,” Victoria told her, “We’re a family.  We’re your family.”

The man lying just a matter of feet away stirred, then groaned, long and loud.

“My adoptive family,” Amy mumbled into Victoria’s shoulder, “And stop trying to use your frigging power to make me all squee over how amazing you are.  Doesn’t work.  I’ve been exposed so long I’m immune.”

“It hurts,” the man moaned.

“I’m not using my power, dumbass,” Victoria told Amy, letting her go, “I’m hugging my sister.  My awesome, caring and merciful sister.”

The man whined, louder, “I can’t move.  I feel cold.”

Amy frowned at Victoria, “I’ll heal him.  But this is the last time.”

Victoria beamed, “Thank you.”

Amy leaned over the man and touched her hand to his cheek, “Slingshot break to his ribs, fractured clavicle, broken mandible, broken scapula, fractured sternum, bruised lung, broken ulna, broken radius -“

“I get the point,” Victoria said.

“Do you?” Amy asked.  Then she sighed, “I wasn’t even halfway down the list.  This is going to take a little while.  Sit?”

Victoria crossed her legs and assumed a sitting position, floating a half foot above the ground.  Amy just knelt where she was and rested her hand on the man’s cheek.  The tension went out of his body and he relaxed.

“How’s the woman?  Andrea?”

“Better than ever, physically,” Amy replied, “I grew her new teeth, fixed everything from the bruising to the scrapes, and even gave her a head to toe tune-up.  Physically, she’ll feel on top of the world, like she had been to a spa and had the best nutritionist, best fitness expert and the best doctor all looking after her for a straight month.”

“Good,” Victoria said.

“Mentally?  Emotionally?  It’s up to her to deal with the aftermath of a beating.  I can’t affect the brain.”

“Well-” Victoria started to speak.

“Yeah, yeah.  Not can’t.  Won’t.  It’s complicated and I don’t trust myself not to screw something up when I’m tampering with someone’s head.  That’s it, that’s all.”

Victoria started to say something, then shut her mouth.  Even if they weren’t related by blood, they were sisters.  Only sisters could have these sorts of recurring arguments.  They had gone through a dozen different variations on this argument before.  As far as she was concerned, Amy was doing herself a disservice by not practicing using her powers on the brain.  It was only a matter of time before her sister found herself in a situation where she needed to do some emergency brain surgery and found herself incapable.  Amy, for her part, refused to even discuss it.

She didn’t want to raise a sensitive issue when Amy was in the process of doing her a major favor.  To change the subject, Victoria asked, “Is it cool if I question him?”

“Might as well,” Amy sighed.

Victoria tapped the man a few times on the forehead to get his attention.  He could barely move his head, but his eyes lolled in her direction.

“Ready to answer my questions, or do me and my sister just walk away and leave you like this?”

“I… sue you, he gasped out, then managed an added, “Whore.”

“Try it.  I’d just love to see a skinhead with a few broken bones go up against a superheroine whose mom just happens to be one of the best lawyers in Brockton Bay.  You know her, right?”

“Brandish,” he said.

“That’s her name in costume.  Normally she’s Carol Dallon.  She’d kick your ass in court, believe me,” Victoria said.  She believed it.  What the thug didn’t understand was that even if he lost the case, the media circus that would be stirred up would do more damage than anything else.  But she didn’t need to inform him of that.  She asked him, “So do I get my sister to leave you as you are, or are you willing to trade some information for relief from months of incredible pain and a lifetime of arthritis and stiffness in your bones?”

“And erectile dysfunction,” Amy said, just loud enough for the thug to hear her, “You fractured your ninth vertebra.  That’s going to affect all nerve function in extremities below your waist.  If I leave you like you are, your toes will always feel a little numb, and you’ll have a hell of a time getting it up, if you know what I mean.”

The skinhead’s eyes widened a fraction, “You’re fucking with me.”

“I have an honorary medical license,” Amy told him, her expression solemn, “I’m not allowed to fuck with you about stuff like that.  Hippocratic oath.”

“Isn’t that ‘do no harm’?” the thug asked.  Then he groaned, long, loud and with the slightest rattle in his breath, as she removed her hand from his body.

“That’s just the first part of it, like how freedom of speech and the right to bear arms is just the first part of a very long constitution.  It doesn’t look like he’s cooperating, Glory Girl.  Should we go?”

“Fuck!” the man shouted, then winced, tenderly touching his side with one hand, “I’ll tell you.  Please, just… do what you were doing.  Touch me and make the pain go away, put me back together.  Fix me?”

Amy touched him.  He relaxed, and then he started talking.

“Empire Eighty-Eight is extending into the Docks on Kaiser’s orders.  Lung’s in custody, and whatever happens, the ABB is weaker than it was.  That means there’s territory for grabs, and the Empire sure ain’t making progress downtown.”

“Why not?” Victoria asked him.

“This guy, Coil.  Don’t know what his powers are, but he’s got a private army.  Ex-military, all of ’em.  At least fifty, Kaiser said, and every one of ’em has top notch gear.  Their armor’s better than kevlar.  You shoot ’em, they’re back up in a few seconds.  ‘Least when you shoot a pig, you can be pretty sure you broke a few ribs.  But that’s not the fucked up thing.  These guys?  They’ve got these lasers hooked up to the machine guns they carry around.  If they don’t think bullets are doing it, or if they’re after people who are behind cover, they fire off these purple laser beams that can cut through steel.  Tear through any cover you’re standing behind and burn through you too.”

“Yeah.  I know about him.  His methods get expensive,” Victoria said, “Top of the line soldiers, top of the line gear.”

The thug nodded weakly, “But even with money to burn, he’s fighting us over Downtown territories.  Constant tug of war, neither of us making much headway.  Been going on for months.  So Kaiser thinks we should take the Docks now that the ABB are on the outs, gain some ground somewhere easier.  Don’t know any more than that, as far as his plans.”

“Who else is up to something?  Faultline?”

“The bitch with the freaks in her crew?  She’s a mercenary, different goals.  But maybe.  If she wanted to branch out, now would be the time to do it.  With her rep, she’d even do alright.”

“Then who?  There’s a power vacuum in the docks.  Kaiser’s declared he wants to seize it, but I’m willing to bet he’s warned you about others making a play.”

The skinhead laughed, then winced, “Are you dense, girl?  Everyone’s going to make a play.  It’s not just the major gangs and teams that are looking for a slice of the pie, there.  It’s everyone.  The Docks are ripe for the taking.  The location’s worth as much money as you’d get downtown.  It’s the go to place if you want to buy black market.  Sex, drugs, violence.  And the locals are already used to paying protection money.  It’s just a matter of changing who they pay to.  The Docks are rich territory, and we’re talking the potential for a full scale fucking war over it.”

He looked up at the blond superheroine and laughed.  Her lips set into a firm line.

He continued, “You want to know my guess?  Empire Eighty Eight is going to take the biggest slice of the Docks, because we’re strong enough to.  Coil’s going to stick his thumb in just to spite us, ABB is going to hold on to some.  But you’re also going to have a bunch of the little guys trying to take something for themselves.  Über and Leet, Circus, the Undersiders, Squealer, Trainwreck, Stain, others you’ve never heard of?  They’re going to stake out their ground, and one of two things is going to happen.  Either there’s war, in which case civilians get hurt and things get bad for you, or there’s alliances between the various teams and solo villains and shit gets even worse for you.”

He broke into laughter yet again.

“Come on, Panacea,” Victoria said as she stood up, touched ground with her boots and brushed her skirt straight, “We’ve gotten enough.”

“You sure?  I’m not done yet,” Amy told her.

“You fixed the bruises and scrapes, broken bones?”  Everything that could get her in trouble, in other words.

“Yeah, but I didn’t fix everything,” Amy replied.

“Good enough,” Victoria decided.

“Hey!” the skinhead shouted, “The deal was you’d fix me if I talked!  Did you fix my cock?”  He tried to struggle to get to his feet, but his legs buckled under him,  “Hey!  I can’t fuckin’ walk!  I’ll fucking sue you!”

Victoria’s expression changed in an instant, and her power flooded out, blindsiding the thug.  For an instant, his eyes were like those of a panicked horse, all whites, rolling around, unfocused.  She grabbed him by the shirt collar, lifted him up and growled into his ear, her voice just above a whisper, “Try it.  My sister just healed you… most of you, with a touch.  Did you ever wonder what else she could do?  Ever think, maybe, she could break you just as easily?  Or change the color of your skin, you racist fuck?  I’ll tell you this, I’m not half as scary as my little sister is.”

She let him go.  He collapsed in a heap on the ground.

As the two sisters walked away, Victoria pulled her cell phone out of a pouch on her belt with her free hand.  Turning to Amy, she said, “Thank you.”

“Play safe, Victoria.  I can’t bring people back from the dead, and once you’ve gone that far…”

“I’ll be good.  I’ll be better,” Victoria promised as she dialed with one hand.  She put the phone to her ear, “Hello?  Emergency services?  Requesting special line.  New Wave, Glory Girl.  Incapacitated criminal for you to pick up, no powers.  No, no rush, I can hold.”

Looking over her shoulder, Victoria noted the thug, still floundering and half-crawling, “He’s not going to get up?”

“He’ll be numb from the waist down for another three hours.  His left arm will be iffy for about that long, too, so he’s not going to move unless he can drag himself somewhere with just one limb.  He’ll also have numb toes for a good month or so, too,” Amy smiled.

“You didn’t actually…”

“No.  Nothing was broken, and I didn’t screw up anything, beyond a temporary numbness.  But he doesn’t know that.  Fear and doubt will complete the effect, and the suggestion becomes a self fulfilling prophecy.”

“Amy!” Victoria laughed, hugging her sister with one arm, “Weren’t you just saying you weren’t going to mess with people’s heads?”

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74 thoughts on “Interlude 2

  1. What an excellent illustration in glory girl why police don’t really like vigilantes. On top of that she emotionally blackmails her “sister” to clean up her messes. Yeesh, what a nightmare.

  2. yep there is a huge power vacume now down at the docks, looks like we might have a team of heros come charging in and taking names.

    Amy has a nice power, and yeah she can mess a person up real good if she tried.

  3. FYI, “vertebrae” is plural, “vertebra” is the singular, just one ninth vertebra. Amy doesn’t seem like the type to miss that. Enjoying the story!

  4. Dear God, having seen the whole of the story (going back to look at the older chapters) this chapter hits me like a ton of bricks. Not going to spoil it for anyone going through it the first time, but…damn.

        • Yeah, doing my first real reread atm, and wow….that chapter hinted at soo much stuff yet to come, its beyond creepy.

          Aside from the fact that it makes pretty clear already that panaceas Power is among the most terrifying in the series.

    • God, I just read the names and I almost started tearing up. Could barely make it to the end. Glad I’m not the only one a little shaken.

  5. amy has the best power. seriously, im talking triumvarate levels of awesome. maybe eidelons power is better because he has all the powers, but i cant think of anyone else in your story with a better power then amy.

    • Her powers are a lot like one of the Triumvarate’s members, except for the emotional effects, what with the Flying Brickiness. And honestly, I think almost every major human antagonist faced so far has a power at least as good, and some of the villains and heroes, too.

      Hope I’m being vague enough, wildbow, if you’re seeing this.

    • It’s not the power you have, it’s how you use it. Panacea pretty exclusively uses her power for what the name suggests, but if she extended herself…
      …and didn’t have a touch-range limitation and an inability to heal herself when she gets hurt, of course.

    • Eidolon is endlessly adaptable, especially when he leans back and lets his power take over to decide what it should do, but he could probably never use a subtle, involved power like Amy’s with anything like the skill and focus she brings to it. She is different from every other power who’s been mentioned because all they seem to be good for is breaking things – you could even suspect that’s some kind of theme – while her power alone in its most basic application just heals. She’s different, and that’s why I like her

  6. I think you missed a word in ‘position for just heartbeats’ and you spelt dysfunction ‘disfunction’ here too. \o

  7. Starting my re-read of the story (not sure if I’ll get through everything). I might comment on things occasionally as I get through it.

    Anyways, I was really struck my first time reading that the skinhead in this chapter is kind of a caricature. Why was he just randomly beating up a black woman? What purpose does it serve? Most of the villains in your story have interesting motivations, but this guy doesn’t seem to. “He did it because he is a racist” isn’t really interesting writing.

    This chapter really makes me hate Glory Girl- to the point where I even kind of rooting for the piece of shit she was beating up. Just to clarify I’m not complaining about her characterization, just letting you know how this chapter makes me feel about her. The first time I read this chapter I was thinking “holy shit what the fuck she’s supposed to be one of the good guys? And she’s torturing this guy, acting like she’s completely untouchable and unaccountable? Her power makes people either worship her or fear her? That’s terrible. Are the other heroes this bad?” When the bad guy toughened up as a reaction to her fear/admiration aura, I was rooting for him a little. That’s how much I disliked Victoria at that point.

    So when Amy comes along, I immediately like her a lot, because she points out to her sister how fucked up what she’s doing is. But then I lose respect for her, because even though this is the SIXTH time Victoria has done something like this (not a surprise), she still bails her out, and even assists in what is essentially torturing someone. But I still sympathize with Amy, because doing the right thing and making Victoria face the consequences of her actions would fuck over her entire family.

    • Basically, Victoria comes off here as being like Shadow Stalker. She isn’t a super hero to _help_ people, but rather to hurt bad guys. She is the worst kind of vigilante. This impression is solidified a few chapters later at the bank scene.

      >“Drop the knife and surrender, and I’ll make sure you get leniency.”

      >“I’ve read up on the law enough that I know you don’t have the power to make any deals,” I said, “No go.”

      and then the next chapter

      >“I’m going to pull in every favor I’m owed, and put myself in debt with the local D.A. and whoever else I have to, to get you both sent to the Birdcage,” Glory Girl promised

      Glory Girl uses torture, fear, and lies to manipulate her opponents. It’s a gross violation of their rights and a complete perversion of the justice system. The picture this paints of the heroes is not a good one (which, of course, fits extremely well with the rest of the story). What she does is outright criminal, and I honestly feel people like Glory Girl and Shadow Stalker should be locked up in prison.

      I don’t feel that way about vigilantes in general (though vigilantism in general fucks the justice system)- just ones like Shadow Stalker and Glory Girl. For example- Skitter, in her first night out, harms Lung badly in order to prevent him from killing kids. Skitter feels really awful about harming even someone like Lung. Glory Girl harms someone badly, not to prevent him from committing a crime, not to capture him, but because she’s a psychopath. It doesn’t seem like she feels terrible for hurting someone- rather, she feels terrible for hurting someone badly enough that it might get her and her family in trouble. She doesn’t have empathy for the pain she’s causing or the consequences for the person she’s torturing- she’s just worried about getting in trouble.

      I wanted to point this stuff out because in one of your comments you said you were initially going to write a full story from the perspective of Victoria and Amy. I was kind of shocked, because I found her to be such an unlikable character. My reaction to her when I first read Worm was pretty strongly negative.

      Again, me telling you this stuff is not intended to be criticism, but rather just commentary. I don’t know what impression you wanted Glory Girl to make on the readers. I’m simply telling you what mine was, so that you can decide whether or not you hit the mark you wanted.

      • I would argue that she’s not a psychopath so much as she is disgustingly, hideously naive, the kind of naive that allows righteous people to murder thousands. She’s the kind of “hero” who thinks that the world is divided entirely into good people and bad people, and cannot comprehend the notion that “good” and “bad” are not inherent qualities. She doesn’t get that a good/bad person is a good/bad person because they do correspondingly good/bad things. She thinks that good/bad things are good/bad things because correspondingly good/bad people do them. She thinks that, because she wears a heroic costume, has a heroic name, and has been designated by the media and culture as a hero, all that makes her a “hero” and means that it’s okay for her to violently assault a designated “villain”. And of course, she won’t risk her status as a hero just because she inflicted harm on a sentient being — injuries that would have crippled him for life without magic super-healing, and that would have gotten a non-hero assailant 25 to life. Because her victim was a designated bad guy, it’s all okay — in fact, it’s the right, just, and moral thing to do.

        Granted, I hate bigots with a merciless passion, and would have happily beaten this guy into a pulp, given half a chance. But I would not have deluded myself into thinking that was heroic behavior.

        I suspect someone else (probably someone much wiser) said this or something like it before me, but it must be asked: Who is more moral, a hero who beats criminals into the ICU and honestly believes it to be heroic, or a villain who does the same to a hero and knows it to be wrong?

        • Yes, this. That’s the attitude I got from a lot of the heros, especially early on. I had the impression that Taylor gets it, too.

      • Don’t be silly, she’s not a psychopath. She just has the racist bugger (and probably most criminals and villains) classified as Other.
        It’s how racism works, how war works, how slavery worked, how the American conservatives attitude towards criminal suffering in prison works, how poverty works, ect.
        It’s almost universal throughout history, only becoming a bit rarer and more selective in recent times (but who gives a fuck about pedophiles?).

        • No no no don’t you see? Racism and slavery are bad, torturing criminals is bad, but those are pedophiles. That’s something completly different. It’s not like the’re people.
          Seriously, I’m not sure if it even got any better in recent times. We might just not notice it as much because we don’t have the outside perspective.
          Yeah, People like glory girl really aren’t anything special. They’re the norm.

        • Oh, wonderful! You’ve concisely and eloquently phrased a major principle of human behavior. I salute you. (And agree, of course.)

          The only difference we shouldn’t tolerate is intolerance.

          And should we be supporting theocracies, whether they’re Israel, Afghanistan, Saudi Arabia, Iraq, or Iran? We could easily make equal rights and education for women a requirement for any foreign aid, including support to Syrian revolutionaries.

          • Well, Victoria was doing exactly that. Beating up someone who was known to be an intolerant fuck. Does that make her right?

        • Hello Daniel,

          Your arrogant comment about how “the American conservatives attitude towards criminal suffering in prison works” paints with an overly broad brush. As a politically and fiscally conservative person who has worked both as a welfare social worker as well as a probation officer, let me suggest to you that you may not know as much as you think you do about conservatives and their thought processes.

          While both American Liberalism and American Conservatism each claim to hold the moral high ground, most people, of either stripe, are generally too closed minded to accurately evaluate their own moral rectitude while holding those with differing opinions as morally inferior.

          You may benefit from giving this some consideration . . . but, then again, maybe not. It’s a good story, don’t cheapen it with pointless political barbs.

          Other than that, your comments weren’t without some merit.

        • What i found curious about this comment is that you use present tense for everything in your list but use past tense for slavery, too me this undermines everything you have too say, why do you deny slavery exists?

      • I found it darkly humorous that Glory Girl and Amy are talking about the emotional scars of a beating with the thug lying crippled beside them in the alley. laugh or cry,

        Interesting comparison between those two characters. If my assumptions are right and it wouldn’t be spoilers then I’d state them.

    • Glory Girl _is_ pretty untouchable. She probably doesn’t even fully comprehend the idea of pain – her forcefield stops physical attacks, and if she gets sick, Amy will fix her.
      I’m not saying that what she did was right; I’m just saying that her power – particularly since she probably got it quite young – has probably taken her capacity to empathise and smothered it with a pillow (to the point of brain damage at least).
      An interesting point to be raised here is whether or not she actually cared about Andrea Young; she was pretty much just posturing until the skinhead insulted her (to which a dumpster to the face is apparently an appropriate reaction).

      • Based on info from later in the story, Glory Girl understands pain up to the “everyday” level – stuff like stubbing your toe or scraping a knee/elbow. She was not born with her power so she has been hurt before, but anything that could be described as “severely painful” would have triggered her powers. She is probably familiar with pain as a concept but has never experienced extreme physical pain (like, say, being hit by a dumpster or thrown 25-30 yards down an alleyway).

  8. For new readers having trouble keeping track, the white supremacist is the villain and the vigilante who nearly paralyzed him is the hero.

    Yeah. Welcome to Worm! I hope you like Gray vs. Gray, with the occasional splash of black!

    • I laughed. But I think Glory Girl is in the right, here, even if she had gone farther. The kind of skinhead who beats a black person for no reason is not the kind of person who can or will change. Sometimes extermination is the only way we can deal with these kinds of ideologies. The thing that makes her grey is not her actions towards the skinhead, it’s that she’s not thinking about how they’ll impact her family and friends.

      • I disagree. Yes, the skinhead is definitely in the black. However, I peg Glory Girl as on the darker side of gray for three reasons:
        1. Her actions are entirely needless. She could have easily gotten the skinhead to talk by picking him up and flying away, maybe replicate the wire-running stunt from Action Comics #1 if she wanted to, but nooo. She had to throw a dumpster at him.
        2. As you mentioned: Glory Girl does not consider the consequences.
        3. This isn’t the first time this has happened; Panacea makes that clear. Glory Girl has grievously and needlessly injured people before and she will probably do so again. In my opinion, this is the damning bit; if we just had 1 and 2 on their own, it might be attributable to feeling a bit rushed or to having had a late, rough night with homework or something. This indicates that it is a deep-set problem.

        To summarize the personality traits most easily connected to these three when we consider these three:
        1. Recklessness, Apathy towards Human Life, Possible Schadenfreude/”Blood Knight”-ism
        2. Apathy towards Consequences.
        3. Apathy towards human life and consequences on a regular basis.
        These kinds of traits are the building blocks of all sorts of evil character traits–sadism, selfishness, greed, and so forth. Obviously not a Knight in Shining Armor.

        And that’s just how Worm is.

  9. > “I… sue you, he gasped out, then managed an added, “Whore.”

    You’re missing a closing quote after “sue you”.

    • I appreciate the heads up on the typos, Clint, but I’ve already got reams of fixes noted for early chapters – I just haven’t had time to implement them. If you wanted to focus on arcs 4+, instead, it wouldn’t be as redundant.

      Thank you, though. I appreciate the attention to errors.

  10. I just wanted to point out, that the said bookisms in this chapter kind of grated with me. It felt unnecessary even irritating to put other words (spoke, told, sneered, snarled) there instead of just said.

  11. Now that the finale has been posted, I’m reading through Worm a second time, and looking at the comments as well (I skipped them the first time to eliminate spoiler-risk). I think a lot of people might react differently if this interlude started with Glory Girl arriving on the scene and seeing a random bystander bleeding, missing teeth and beaten badly for no reason except her appearance. I’m not a big GG fan or defender; she crosses the line and has apparently done it before. I’d be interested to see whether this incident motivates her to change her behavior at all, and to see how others (in New Wave or the official hero teams) see her. Do they condemn her for going too far? Do they even know? Could Panacea rat her out to family, rather than the law, thus limiting escalation while still taking a meaningful step?

    I feel little pity for the nameless skinhead, but on the other hand this is a terrifying situation for him. What happens here is a pretty close parallel to a future scene involving Panacea and a certain patient who she heals reluctantly later on, after the massive L makes a big splash, if you see what I mean. Panacea is in a tricky situation here, though; she can’t punish Glory Girl without bringing consequences down on all of New Wave (and their allies, to an extent) and she can’t refuse to heal the guy for obvious reasons.

    Not criticizing your writing on this one, Wildbow; but I do think that our look into Glory Girl’s head is a bit…shallow, in this chapter. Whether you want to give it more depth is up to you, of course. That said, her impulsive decision to chuck a dumpster at the guy and her subconscious assumption that her sister will make everything better, plus her reliance on inspiring fear with her power, speak volumes. I guess I just wonder if we’re meant to see her as more of a reckless youth who doesn’t consider the consequences of her actions, a burned-out hero who has trouble empathizing with those she sees as “bad guys”, or an emotional but well-intentioned cape who feels righteous anger at this guy after seeing his victim.

    Or maybe you wanted us to wonder. Food for thought.


    P.S. Enjoying my second read-through so far. Thanks again for creating this.

    • I’m doing the exact same thing, although after seeing how the comments multiply later I’m not committing to reading them all.

      I really like the way this chapter was set up. Plot-wise, it gives us a forewarning of what’s going down in the Docks. Theme-wise, we just got to see a notorious group of villains as a bunch of (relatively) normal teens wanting to hang out and referencing an obviously long-running debate about what to order out for. Now we get our second glimpse of the hero side of things, and we have Glory Girl going way over the line with an unpowered, unarmed skinhead. Granted, the teens have guns and powers and have committed crimes, and Glory Girl was avenging a victim, but I see this as a great method of beginning to show that capes in Worm are people, with all the inherent flaws. Even more importantly, that the terms “Hero” and “Villain” may not be good guidelines for determining a parahuman’s likeability or moral character.

      I’d forgotten about this early glimpse into the dynamic between GG and Panacea, but on re-reading I think it’s perfectly placed, and makes even more sense knowing how things turn out.

    • In my opinion, one of the main points of this interlude is introducing Glory Girl and Panacea and establishing some key traits. By starting with GG hunting this skinhead down in an alley, this chapter paints GG as being more of a violent “crusader” out to hurt the bad guys as opposed to a “white knight” trying to save people and having to use violence in the process. Glory Girl is the kind of person who sees things as very much black & white and considers beating up the bad guys to fall somewhere from “okay” to “morally good”.

      It also helps set the tone of her relationship with Panacea. It shows how she’s the reckless one who causes problems and relies on her sister to bail her out in a pinch while still being capable of handling certain types of problems (i.e. fights) by herself.

      Regardless, it’s definitely worth re-reading at 4am which I am totally not doing atm 😛

  12. > Since she could bench press a cement mixer, though it was hard to balance something so large and unwieldy, even a casual toss on her part could get some good distance

    She could bench press a cement mixer, so though it was hard to balance something so large and unwieldy even a casual toss on her part could get some good distance

  13. Not sure if anyone else caught this yet. It’s amazing how our eyes sort of “auto-correct” when words are doubled. Too many “fors” in this line —
    “He was utterly for still for long enough … “

  14. There’s some really intense foreshadowing here. Won’t say what because spoilers, but certain parts really stick out on a reread

  15. Worm interludes are wonderful as a method of introducing the larger aspects of the cape universe that Taylor has not confronted yet. Ditto with above comments about the bounty of issue-raising/foreshadowing here.

  16. Hiya, when I found an error, thought you might like to know. When the thug is talking he says ‘I sue you’. You missed the closing apostrophe, writing: ‘I… sue you, he gasped

  17. Glory Girl’s merits as a hero and a human being have been covered enough that I won’t say anything on that here.

    I can’t buy the gangbanger. He goes from profanity-slinging goon randomly attacking a black woman to surprisingly well-informed and insightful infodumper and back again. And then when he’s sounding like an intelligence report he inexplicably talks about Coil’s soldiers carrying machine guns around.

    Taylor referring to assault rifles as machine guns I can stomach. A veteran of Empire Eighty-eight this well informed, not so much. The alternative, that Coil’s mercenaries are actually lugging around machine guns with laser attachments, I refuse to entertain.

    The characterization of Vicky and Amy, and their interactions are great, but this interlude is really marred by what I think is the most awkward infodump in the story so far. And the last interlude had Danny watching the background exposition channel while waiting for Taylor.

  18. Hi,

    Just reporting something: “He was utterly __for__ still for long enough that Victoria had begun to worry that he’d somehow snapped his neck or broken his spine as he’d rolled.”

  19. The freedom of speech and the right to bear arms weren’t even in the original constitution, much less at the start of it. The freedom of speech was the first amendment, and the right to bear arms was the second. The first ten amendments are called the bill of rights because the constitution lacked such assurances and was only ratified with the promise of drafting a bill of rights later.

  20. I have the impression that heros are slaves of the law in the this story in a major level than other people.
    For me a real hero wouldn’t work for a governement that protect criminal of harm.

    • Eh, that’s a little harsh. Her victim brutally beat a student based on the color of her skin, causing what would probably be permanent harm if not for Panacea. That he almost immediately receives the same (down to being healed by the same person) is very close to karmic or even poetic. Glory Girl is in the wrong not because her victim is undeserving, but because the force used was unnecessary for stopping him and because her reasons for punishing him essentially boil down to impulsive spite.

      In short, her actions are less ‘evil’ and more revealing of flaws, flaws that are admittedly not good things for a superhero (or any authority figure, really) to have.

      • I mean, I had the same reaction (hoping that she would die) when I first read this, and it had nothing to do with her vigilantism, which I think was bad but understandable, and everything to do with her treatment of Amy and the grossness around that.

  21. So this was a particularly interesting arc overall.

    I do somewhat feel that Taylor’s progression to joining the Undersiders was a little quick, all things considered, but she needs a friend group as much as anyone else. The whole group of them are really cool though, with some pretty out of the ordinary powers that I’d certainly be interested in seeing more of.

    I do wonder what depths of super-villainy she’ll find herself in, and inevitable problems it will create with her father in the process.

    Loving these interludes a lot, and Panacea and Glory Girl sure gave that skinhead exactly what he deserves. I hope we see more of them in the future, the world-building is strong in its foundations and I’m definitely looking forward to more.

  22. It’s been a long long time since this was posted, but there’s a missed quotation mark.
    “I… sue you,” He gasped

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