Buzz 7.12

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“We’re not to blame for what Coil did,” Grue told me.

“We sure helped it happen.”

“There was no way we could know what he was really doing.”

“Because we were complacent, not paying attention.  Because of that, and because we assisted Coil in distracting the capes, Dinah has been held captive for what, three weeks?  Almost a month?”

“Almost a month,” Tattletale echoed me.

I looked at Tattletale, noted how she was refusing to look anyone in the eye, and I had an uncomfortable thought.  “Did you know about this?”

“I-” She stopped to give a little sigh and briefly make eye contact with me before staring back down at the ground.  “I had an idea, sort of.  I didn’t think it would be this ugly.  It’s hard to explain.”

“Try,” I spoke, my voice hard.

“She disappeared from the middle school near Arcadia the same day we robbed the bank.  Obviously, Coil wanted to ensure the Wards weren’t close enough to interfere, probably why he was so keen on us doing the bank job, after I suggested it.  I made the connection, after.  I just didn’t think – Nothing he said or did led me to think it would be a serious kidnapping.”

“What else could it be?” Grue asked her.

“Her uncle’s one of the mayoral candidates in the election this Summer, you know that?  I knew Coil was putting a lot of value on getting hold of her, I thought maybe he was kidnapping her to use her to ransom for the uncle’s campaign funds, or to get the uncle to drop out of the race in a more direct play.  I had a suspicion he got her to cooperate with some sort of incentive.  Figure out she’s unhappy at home, give her a place to stay and some sort of bribe.  Either way, it’s more fitting with his methods to date, and it would have been short term or more benign.  Not so bad.”

“Kind of off there,” I said, bitterly.

“I’m aware,” Tattletale answered, with just as much emotion in her voice.  “I don’t like it either.  He’s been around me enough, communicated with me enough, to have an idea of stuff that I won’t necessarily know or think to look for.  I didn’t even know she had powers, or how Coil would have found this out or found her.  This is out of character for him.  Ruthless, power hungry.”

“If it bothers you that much, tell him to fuck off,” Bitch cut in, sounding irritated.

“It’s more complicated than that,” I said.  “We can’t just walk away and leave her like that.”

“And some of us are kind of relying on Coil for some major stuff,” Grue spoke.  “Some of us have people we can’t leave behind.”

I looked at him, surprised, “I don’t want to say your sister isn’t important, but… are you really willing to let Dinah stay in captivity, just for Aisha?”

“If it comes down to it?  Yeah.”

I stared at him.

“I’m being practical, Taylor,” Grue lapsed into using my real name, “People are suffering all around the world.  We ignore what’s happening elsewhere every second of every day, focusing only on our country, our city, our neighborhood, or on the people we see daily.  We only really care about the pain and unhappiness of our loved ones, our friends and families, because we couldn’t stay sane if we tried to support and save everyone.  Nobody could try to do anything like that, except maybe Scion.  I’m applying that concept to a smaller scale.  My family and my team, they take priority, and they take priority in that order.  If I have to choose one way or the other, I’m going to take the option that includes Aisha and you guys.”

“This is different from ignoring starving kids in a third world country or ignoring some homeless guy on the street,” I told him, “You’ve seen Dinah in person, you’ve looked her in the eye.  You’re already involved, you’ve played a role in her situation.”

“I’m not saying I like it, I am definitely less sure I want to work with Coil, now, but I’m saying it’s something that we should discuss and come to a consensus on.”

I looked at the others, “You feel the same way?”

Bitch gave me an annoyed look.  Okay, I wasn’t expecting an ally there.

Regent shrugged, “I’ve told you where I come from, how I grew up.  I’ve seen similar stuff before, only it was my dad’s powers, not drugs.  I’ve got a high tolerance for that shit.”

I tried to convince him, “Didn’t you leave Heartbreaker because of stuff like that?  Aren’t you just getting back into the same situation with Coil?”

“I left my father because he was trying to control me and force me to be someone and something I wasn’t.  It wasn’t even remotely interesting or fun any more.  The day that happens with Coil, I’ll leave him too.  For now, it’s a good gig.”

These are the people I’ve been associating with?  I looked to my last hope for a backup and support.  Tattletale.

She had her thumbs hooked into her belt, her shoulders hunched forward a little, where she leaned against the wall.  She didn’t look happy.

When she met my eyes, she gave a little shake of her head.

“Coil’s not stupid,” Tattletale told me, “He knows what he just did, he had every reason to suspect that one or two people in our group might find his methods distasteful.  He calculated this.  He’s testing us, making sure we’ll stick around when it’s time to make the hard calls.”

“If this is a test,” I spoke, feeling my heart sink, “I think I fail.”

“Don’t say that,” Tattletale spoke.  “Grue’s right, we need to discuss this as a team.”

“Discuss what?  Whether to stay with Coil?”

“Yeah,” the word was a half-sigh coming out of her mouth.

“That you guys even think it’s negotiable is pretty fucked up,” I replied.  The anger and betrayal I was feeling made my tone harsher, harder.

I don’t know what I expected, but I stood there for a few seconds.  Maybe I was waiting for an apology, some sort of excuse, or an admission from them that I was right.

None of them opened their mouths to offer any of that.

I turned to leave, pushing the hatch open as I stepped back into the gravel lot that surrounded the high-rise in construction.

“Come on Taylor,” Grue called out behind me.  I didn’t listen.

“Hey!” He raised his voice.

I didn’t reply.  I was too angry, and as moronic as it sounded, I didn’t want our parting words to be me cussing at him.

I was three paces away from the hatch when I heard the crunch of gravel behind me.  I wheeled around to see Grue closing the gap behind me, one arm outstretched, as if to grab me.

My temper exploded at the same time my bugs did, spilling out from beneath my costume.  At my instruction, they swept between Grue and I, creating a barrier of sorts.

I was already thinking of how I’d deal if it came down to a fight – his costume covered his skin, but I remembered the vents on the edge of his mask, that redirected the flow of his darkness from his face out the edges of his mask, so the skull image would stand out.  In a pinch, my bugs could get in that way.  His power didn’t really affect me, but would a slow trickle of my bugs into his mask compensate for his obvious advantages in hand to hand fighting?

I heard the growling of Bitch’s dogs.  They weren’t full size, but they were bigger than normal, locked into the beginning stages of their transformations.  In the dimly lit lot of the construction area, I could see their shadows through the haze of my swarm.  Dealing with them would be hard, if not impossible.

“No,” Grue spoke, on the other side of the swarm.  “Fuck.  Let her go.”

I turned and fled.

The loft was empty, with only Angelica present.  Behind her, the TV had been left on, a low level of background noise and activity to reassure the dog, maybe, or just Alec being lazy about turning everything off.

Angelica moved very slowly as she climbed down from the couch and approached to investigate me.  Whatever her past experiences, she had never learned to like any humans other than Bitch, so I only got a cursory sniff before she turned to shamble back to the couch.  Whatever energy she’d expended to get to me, check me out and return to where she’d been resting, it didn’t leave her with enough of a reserve of strength to hop up.  She settled down under the coffee table, watching me with her one intact eye, a perpetual wink, if winks could be wary or threatening.

Fog had done a number on her.  It was hard to believe, but she was better than she’d been a few days ago.  Bitch had intended to use her power on the dog, but Lisa had advised against it, warning about the threat of cardiac arrest.  As a consequence, Angelica had spent the better half of a week so lethargic, weak and still that I’d frequently looked at her and wondered if she’d stopped breathing.  I wasn’t so attached to her that I’d be upset if she died, but knowing how much the loss of a dog would gut Bitch had given me enough of a reason to worry about the critter.

It was strange to think I was walking away from this: the loft, the dogs, and the others.

I didn’t know how to parse what I was feeling or thinking.  I felt angry, betrayed.  Standing in the living room of the loft, the feeling of being lost was particularly keen.  I didn’t have a plan, and I’d had a plan for a while, now.  For my first year and a half of High School, it had been all about getting through to the end of the day, reaching the weekend.  When the weekend came, it was about recuperating, rebuilding my mental and emotional strength to face the coming week.

Then I had gotten my powers.  I’d reached my very limit, the moment I might have cracked, and my powers had given me something else to strive for; being a superhero.  There’d been so much to do, so much to plan, prepare and research, that it had given me a reason.  I was hesitant to define it as hope, but it had given me something to focus on beyond the next twenty four hours.

Everything else had flowed from that point.  Meeting the Undersiders, committing to a new plan as an undercover agent, with a new goal of getting info on them and their then-anonymous boss.  When I couldn’t do that in good conscience, I changed my plan to getting to know the others, being a friend to Bitch, bonding with Brian.  Admittedly, I’d had varying degrees of success, in the short period I’d traveled that road, but it had been enough for the present.

And now I was adrift.

I was, in a way, back to square one.  I had to get through today, then get through this week.  I’d figure out where to go from there.  I headed to my room.

My backpack sat beside my bedside table, and a quick investigation revealed it still contained a lot of what I’d stashed in there a week ago, back when I’d expected to spend a few days at Brian’s.  Clothes, basic toiletries, cash, an unused disposable phone.  I added more money, the card with the info for my supervillain bank account, and a few more things.  Checking the room for anything I thought I might need, I found myself looking at my dresser.  Resting on top were the katana I’d claimed as a prize from one fight, and the piece of amber Brian had given me.

I stuck the amber in my bag, surrounding it with clothes to pad it, and then zipped it up.

The alarm clock marked the time at 6:40 in the morning.  If Coil hadn’t called for the meeting at this strange hour, if I hadn’t been packing, this would be about the time that I headed out the door for my morning run.

Leaving like I was, hurrying to be gone before the others caught up with me, I was leaving a lot of stuff behind.  Clothes, furniture, pictures.  Without even realizing it, I’d sort of begun making this space my own, decorating and personalizing it.  Settling in, in a way I hadn’t when I’d been planning to betray the group.

I was putting clothes on over my costume when Lisa’s voice came from the doorway, “Where are you going to go?”

I turned to look at her, and her expression changed.  Was it the look on my face?  I wasn’t sure what emotion I was conveying.  Anger?  Disappointment?  Regret?

“A motel, maybe,” I said.  “Why?  Are you going to have to hunt me down?  Tie up a loose end?”

“You know we wouldn’t.”

“Sure.  I suppose he’ll send the Travelers after me if he goes that route.”  I pulled my mask off and put it away in the backpack.

“This feels bad, Taylor.  You really have to go?”

“I don’t even want to look at myself in the mirror, right now.  Even if we came to some sort of agreement, made a plan to save her together, go against Coil…” I trailed off, trying to find the words, “I can’t face everyone else and pretend like things are normal.  Even if we were working to save her… it feels disrespectful.  Dinah deserves better than that.”

“Believe it or not, Brian’s as freaked out as you are.  If he’s being weird or out of character, it’s just him defaulting to his core programming, you know what I mean?  Like Bitch getting angry, or you going quiet and wary.”

I shrugged, tied my sweatshirt around my waist, told her, “In hindsight, I don’t think it was that out of character for him.  Part of the reason I’m leaving.”

“Is this leave permanent or temporary?”

“Don’t know.”

“Are you going to do something stupid like try to rescue Dinah yourself?”

“Don’t know,” I repeated myself.

“You’re aware that there’s an outside chance that if you try, we might have to try and stop you.  Depending on what agreement the rest of us come to about the current sitch.”

“Do what you have to, I’ll do the same.”

“Alright, then.”

I slung the bag over my shoulder, faced the door.

Tattletale spoke, “I’m not saying goodbye, because this isn’t.  I’ll resolve this situation with Coil and his captive myself, if I have to, if it means we can have another civil conversation in the near future.  Stay alive, don’t do anything rash, and be open to hearing us out in the future?  Surely our friendship is worth doing that much?”

After a moment, then I gave her a single nod.

Lisa moved out of the doorway to let me through.  When I turned in the direction of the living room and the stairwell, Lisa almost deliberately turned in the other direction, toward the kitchen.  As if following me to the exit constituted some vague sort of farewell, and she was sticking to the idea of refusing to say goodbye.

I was halfway down the stairwell to the first floor when I heard it.  A whining noise, like you might hear from a particularly large baby preparing to scream.  The nasal ‘wa’ sound stretched out, so loud it was painful to listen to.  A siren?  An air raid siren.

I reversed direction and ran back up the stairs.  Tattletale was already in the living room.  The TV was showing evacuation directions in a rotation of images:  Leave your homes.  Find the nearest shelter.  Follow the directions of local authorities.  Leave your homes…

“Bomb?” I asked, raising my voice to be heard over the siren, “Bakuda leave something behind?”

Lisa shook her head.

I’d seen her in the presence of Lung, around Glory Girl, Bakuda, Purity, Night and Fog.  Looking at her, now, I saw an expression on her face that I hadn’t seen in any of those scenarios.  There was no trace of her vulpine grin, none of her characteristic humor or reckless abandon.

“Then what is it?”  I asked her, though I already had a dark suspicion.  Even the Bakuda’s terrorism campaign against the city hadn’t warranted the sirens, and that left very few possibilities.

Her response was one word, final. “Endbringer.”

“What- but-”  I turned toward the stairs, then back to Tattletale, “My dad.  I’ve got to-”

Tattletale cut me off, “He’ll evacuate or get to a shelter like everyone else.  Taylor, look at me.”

I did.

“The others and I, we talked about this possibility.  It came up before we met you.  You listening to me?  You know what happens, the usual response.”

I nodded.

“We all decided we’d go.  That we’d try to help, however we could.  But you weren’t a part of that talk, and there’s tensions in the group.  You’re pretty much not on the team, right now, so if you don’t want to-”

“I’ll go.”  I didn’t even need to think about it.  I would never be able to forgive myself if I walked away, knowing there was something I could have done to help.

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77 thoughts on “Buzz 7.12

  1. Last chapter of arc 7.

    To be honest, I’ve been looking forward to writing arc 8 for a while now. It also happens to be the last arc of ‘book one’. (Though in reality, it’d probably be the last arc of book two – Worm’s at something like 260,000 words, and the length of an average book is 100,000, so…)

    Anyways! Thanks for reading thus far. I mentioned this before in the comments of a previous chapter, but I’m thinking that when the next arc is over with, I’ll do an Interlude arc. Probably centered around a team. 8-15 chapters, give or take.

    As before, I’m most definitely open to suggestions/votes/comments on this. I’d say that of the possibilities, if nobody said anything, I’d be 50-50 as far as deciding on the Travelers or on Faultline’s crew. If there were a lot of suggestions for something else, that’s totally possible, too.

    Let me know what you’re interested in.

  2. As much as it would be neat to learn more about the mysterious Travelers, I find myself really looking forward to seeing more of Gregor’s story in particular.

    As for this update, wow. This is an excellent way to keep her in the game despite such a major rift between her and the Undersiders. As much as major cosmic threats can be dangerous for my enjoyment of settings, I still find myself entirely on the edge of my seat waiting to see how you pull it off.

      • Well, when you don’t know much about a setting(and we really don’t- we don’t even know much about metahumans in the wider world, much less world history. After interlude #6 I was considering that Dragon should recall the Nuremberg trials… but then realized that they may very well have not happened in this setting, or might have gone differently. We don’t even know when metas started making a significant difference. We cannot make many assumptions safely.), vastly widening the scope while simultaneously raising the stakes can be a moment when justifications fall apart or holes appear.

        I am still anxiously looking forward to it, mind you. I often find myself enjoying your world building not as a setting where everything is ‘right’ so much as one where things happen logically, even when in hindsight(to the world) they might have problems. So many superhero settings have perfect solutions(theoretically) that make the rest of the setting look silly by comparison.

      • That’s fair.

        Touching on already established history, I can point out that the first parahuman appeared in the 1980’s (later than in many other settings), something mentioned in Interlude 1. So that’s really the point you’d start seeing major differences and deviations in events, expectations, standards, whatever.

      • Yes. If there’s any gross historical deviations prior to the 1980’s, it’s an error on my part rather than some clue or underlying secret in the story.

        …and all of a sudden, I feel pressured. Someone’s going to call me on some serious error I made.

  3. Oh no, The Toaster from Old World Blues has tapped into the main power supply and is ready to cleanse the world in nuclear fire! Everyone, hide your appliances before he murders them!

    This day, the Endbringer brings his end around to us. I won’t lie to you, my fellow heroes, villains, and assorted psychopaths in both groups. I won’t lie and say I’m afraid. Because I’m nuts. Seriously, each and every person standing before me looks like a hot dog mascot. Except you, Lisa, you’re a poodle. And peeing on the person next to you. Oh, nevermind, Kaiser brought his pet, Froo Froo. Yes, the Endbringer’s end is upon us, like some oversized, barely-washed piece of meat with a few pieces of white still clinging to it. Someone really ought to tell him to wipe better. But just because he has come to end us doesn’t mean we can’t kick his end so hard that his spine comes out his ears. So join me, regular assholes of the world. Together, we shall ride forth, ride hard into battle, and smote our eternal enemy.

    Everyone who wants in, sign up on the sheets I’m passing around that in no way resemble a will listing me as all of your sole beneficiaries in the event of your deaths. Heroes, y’all bring the cupcakes and chips because I don’t trust the villains with food, villains, you guys get me flesh-toned spandex, funky tunes, and lots of hairspray.

    It’s time to get Mid-80s on this punk.


    This ought to be fun. Almost as much fun as playing in that 800-point GURPS game three years ago where the plot involved us being among the first metahumans to emerge in the modern world with power-level comparable to Superman’s. The game begun with my character kinda accidentally obliterating Belfast with nuclear fire. After this gave a bad name to metahumans, those of us playing supervillains banded together under the leadership of Shadowspawn, a guy who could conjure entire armies of shadows with tentacles. We alienated China with some tsunami-creation experiments we did in the pacific and nearly started world war 3 when we cursed the north american governments to tell the truth for a day.🙂

    Word to the wise; when making a character in GURPS or similar games don’t add the uncontrollable flaw to a power comparable to nuclear weapons. No matter how many character points you save.

  5. Well, a reason for Taylor to remain in the game has just appeared from the sky. If not from this “intervention by God (the author)” she would stay in a hotel for a while thinking things trough.
    The rational escape would be to give a phone call to the Protectorade saying where the kidnapped girl was and leave town.
    Of course, people are usually not that rational. Anyway, it would be an interesting situation.
    Now, with an Endbringer in the game, she may end in a better situation than this. Taylor may redeem her name with everybody, perhaps save Coil´s life, even find a way to rescue the girl at the end. In chaos everything is possible.
    I usually do not like this kind of Godsent solution to the character´s problems, but this one makes her life even more interesting instead of just solving a problem for her.

    • I can see where it’d come across as very Deus Ex Machina. I can only hope I’ve built up enough credibility to this point that my readers will see the next dozen or so chapters through.

      • It’s not deus ex machina- it’s Chandler’s Law. You’re in good company.

        Nyfb, gur riraghny rkcynangvba- gung gur Raqoevatref gnetrg cynprf jurer gurl pna qb gur zbfg qnzntr, naq Yrivnguna pnzr gb Oebpxgba Onl orpnhfr vg’f fb gbea hc naq shyy bs cnenuhznaf sebz nyy gur frdhragvny tnat jnef- jbexf irel jryy ng znxvat guvf sybj anghenyyl sebz cerivbhf riragf. Rfcrpvnyyl bapr lbh pbafvqre gung gur frevrf bs tnat jnef pna or genprq qverpgyl onpx gb Gnlybe urefrys: Pbvy zbirq ba R88 orpnhfr ur jnf ernql gb gnxr gurz bhg nsgre gurl jrer birerkgraqrq va gur jne jvgu gur NOO. Gur tnatf jrag gb jne jvgu gur NOO orpnhfr Onxhqn jrag ahgf ba gur pvgl. Onxhqn jrag ahgf ba gur pvgl orpnhfr gur Haqrefvqref cvffrq ure bss jura fur gevrq gb znxr na rknzcyr bs gurz sbe ure arj pbafpevcgf. Fur unq gur yrrjnl gb pbafpevcg crbcyr naq gura fubj bss ure yrnqrefuvc fxvyyf orpnhfr Yhat unq orra bhg bs pbzzvffvba. Yhat jnf bhg bs pbzzvffvba nsgre uvf onyyf ebggrq bss va Cebgrpgbengr phfgbql. Yhat’f onyyf ebggrq bss orpnhfr… qha qha qhaaaa.

        • Damn you! I was sitting here, happily reading Worm, and then I somehow found myself reading my immortal instead. TVtropes is a dangerous place…

      • Actually, I see where this came into play… the dischord that Skitter re-growing a conscience regarding her villainry alone could not have allowed for the drop in Dyna’s probability calculations. But toss in a literal world-ending event (or the potential for one) coming to play hopscotch through the city and well… *shudders* Just hope there aren’t too many intereeting characters lost needlessly ala Game of Thrones (or so I’ve heard via my friends who are junkies on the subject). Keep up the great work!

  6. Ehh… I see we’re still sticking to the “survived this fight, let’s go fight something more dangerous next”-pattern. Now we’re up to threats demanding a crossover teamup, next one will probably be on the whole franchise chrisis crossover, but what’s it going to be after that? Using bug control to storm the gates of Heaven and throw down God for being unfair?

    Seriously, just once a fight that’s not considerably more dangerous than all the previous ones. All I’m asking.

    • Haha. I was going to ask the same question, though I already suspect the answer.

      Don’t get me wrong. I -can- see where this would bug some readers, but by the time Mazzon or anyone else raised any complaints along those lines, I’d already organized the stuff I wanted to see happen through to the end of this arc, the next arc and partially into the beginning of the next ‘book’. Nothing I could really do to avert it, besides throwing away a whole lot of preparation, tempo and/or interrupting the more or less natural flow of events that spiraled out from when Lung was first taken into custody.

      Sorry it’s not your cup of tea, Maz. All I can tell you is that I’m writing the sort of story I’d enjoy reading and that I’m writing the flow of events in a way that makes the most sense given the world I’ve got in my head. Deviating from either of these wouldn’t be fun for anyone in the long run. I don’t think it’s too big of a spoiler to say that the stuff I have in mind for Arc 9 and on might be more what you’re looking for. I suppose you’ll have to grit your teeth and endure through the next arc, my apologies.

      • I probably sounded too harsh there, sorry to be whining. It’s just one concern and while it does bug me, well, if I weren’t enjoying the story on the whole I wouldn’t still be reading, which I am. It’s a good story.

        Oh yeah and not going to consider any fight not worth using powers or weapons to win a real fight. So scuffling with Sofia and sparring with Brian don’t count.

        • You seem to have forgotten both the Undersiders vs Uber and Leet, and Bitch and Skitter vs a handful of skinheads. Both those fights were easy wins for our protagonists and utilised powers.

          I’d also say Hookwolf and Co. were probably a step down from Lung and Oni Lee, though that’s more subjective.

          All that said, I think there generally *does* need to be an overall escalation of threat or things become anticlimactic.

          It’s especially necessary in this story because a key theme is that the Undersiders are rising through the ranks of Brookton Bay’s underworld – and that requires playing in bigger and bigger ponds.

          One thing Wildbow has done well though, is that the escalating threat has not just come in terms of increasingly tougher fights, but also in the Undersiders getting increasingly in over their heads with Coil, and Taylor getting in deeper with the Undersiders…

  7. This next arc sounds like it is going to be interesting. Just like this arc was. I look foward to reading it.

    One question, that may have been answered, but I have not read all the comments of all the chapters, just the ones since I got caught up. Also, it has nothing to do with this chapter, I just had a stray thought.
    Is Taylor just going to get her GED instead of contuing to fight the powers of the school?
    I completly understand if this is something you, wildbow, do not want to answer for spoiler reasons.

  8. Now we know it’s an Endbringer that’s the anomaly . This will be gearing up to have a lot of superheroes team up and some supervillains too like they did with ABB but we’ll probably see more heros in action with this fight. After this crisis is handled with Taylor could start her own team then save Dinah because I can’t see her joining The Undersiders again after this.

    The Guild or Alexandria’s team would be cool to see for a story arc.

  9. This feels like a Lost-style cliffhanger. All we need is a creepy sound effect and a black titlecard that says “WORM.” But it will definitely be fun to see Taylor fight alongside of the people she just flipped out on. Not sure how much it will help mend a few of her relationships though.

    As far as the bonus arc goes, have you thought about writing more about the wards? The chapter when they discussed their fight with the Undersiders at the bank was really interesting. I liked seeing how a team on the good guy side operated.

    • Ok, sorta-keeping track, here, more in depth look for replies after: Jim said the Wards and Faultline’s crew. Pinkhair said Faultline’s crew or maybe Travelers. Madninja said The Guild or Alexandria’s team.

      There’s definite interest in the heroes, it seems.

      I gave some serious consideration to writing about the Wards when Jim brought it up, a few chapters back. Without spoiling anything, I can say that there’s a minor snag that comes up in the next Interlude that makes writing such harder than it might be. It’s doable, and I’ll definitely go that route if there’s a lot of interest on that front, just a little harder.

      Travelers, by comparison, would be easiest, if maybe not the most interesting. I say this because of all the stories I wrote as test drives, prior to getting underway with Worm, I wrote the most with the Travelers.

      Given that it’s sort of 50-50 between Faultline’s Crew and the Wards, and knowing that Faultline’s crew offers some possibility in terms of being able to offer up info on some stuff that’s going on in the background, that Taylor won’t cross paths with for a while, I’m leaning slightly towards Faultline’s crew at the moment.

      • Would you Balefire me if I said I found the Wards more interesting?

        I think there’s an interest in heroes here because heroes are exactly what we haven’t seen a lot of. Due to various supervillainous encounters, the teamup to handle Lung and Bakuda and the story with Coil so far, we’ve been seeing one side of the coin. Some people may want to see the other, too.

      • No balefire. 3 votes for the Wards (two people on IM; one wanted wards, one vehemently wanted not-wards) vs 2 for Faultline and 1 for the Travelers. I’ll start giving some serious thought to a chapter on the Wards and how to make it interesting.

      • I think it’s time then for my vote to throw a wrench into your plans… MWAHAHAAHAHAAHAHAHAHAAHAHAHAHAHAAH!

        No preference either way.

  10. Okay, well, just because I like to be different than everyone else, I decided to really stretch my imagination and think of other characters I’d like to see more about. What I came up with really kinda surprised me, considering that when I first heard mention of this character, I immediately thought, “Okay, lame. This guy’s really gonna bore me. Some sort of cross between the Wolfman and Lobo, or some such” — and that was my best case scenario. And the he showed up, and for reasons I can’t entirely put my finger on, I found myself thinking, “Awesome. This is actually cool.” So, here’s my vote:


    Cricket and Storm Tiger I can take or leave, and are only interesting to me in that they are subordinates of Hookwolf with significant history therein. But this guy, this caniform metalstorm, he’s the one that caught my imagination, deep inside. So here’s that vote again, in the hopes that you’ll make a mistake and count it twice:


    ‘Nuff said.


    • Caniform metalstorm? I like that. Can I use that on the cast page?

      I’m surprised (and pleased) that anyone really paid attention to Hookwolf. Nobody really commented on him when he showed up.

      Chalk up one for Hookwolf. Though I have no idea how I’d write an entire arc around him without the story getting taken off wordpress. Maybe a single interlude, at a later date…

      • He’s interesting though–especially the ambiguity of his origin as a white supremacist. Does he really believe it or is it just an excuse to hurt people? That’s interesting. Not admirable in either case, but interesting.

        That said, I wouldn’t assume people weren’t interested in a character because they didn’t comment on him (though admittedly, how else can you know?). Your updates contain a lot of material. If I remember correctly, it was easy to be more concerned about the characters’ survival when he showed up as opposed to responding to the character idea.

        I’ve been amused to notice reader responses to details that barely seemed to raise any attention when they first appeared.

      • I almost want to do a favorite characters poll/survey to see what people think.

        Though people who don’t comment probably aren’t much more likely to fill out a poll/survey.

  11. Perhaps this is not germane, but as I said earlier, I would like to see something that deals more explicitly with just how much is known in theory or in practice about powers and just what they are. So far, from what we’ve seen of the little documentary segment on Scion, Faultline’s struggle with the Manton Effect, and all of the vague language used to describe the Effect, I get the sense that a lot of people are just flying blind when it comes to metahumans and powers in general. Is that true for everybody? If so, does this ignorance have consequences that we’d care about (Canary’s treatment might fall under that umbrella). If not, who are these people who know things others don’t, and why are they hiding it?

    I don’t think this particular interest of mine requires that the focus be placed on any specific character to be fulfilled, or if it does, then I don’t know enough about the world to be aware of such a requirement. So given that, I’d like to toss in another vote for Faultline’s crew.

    • Storyline I have in mind for Faultline’s crew would touch on a lot of that. Interlude that goes up 10 hours & 5 min from the time I post this comment also does answer (and raise) some questions.

      • Luckily, you’ve got a cast of commentators who can fling some major BS your way, useful for fertilizing your mind for ideas, or just stealing an interesting kernal of information from. For are we not all kings upon the thrones of our own imaginations, gilded as they are by a shower from the muses above us, ready to engage in wondrous water sports in the vast ocean ideas that make up the swirling collective inspiration of humanity?

  12. Out of curiosity, is the dilemma with Dinah a homage to Le Guin’s “The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas”, with Taylor choosing to walk away and the others choosing to stay and make the best of it?

    • I thought that. It’s stylistic, but I’d prefer it without.

      I think the superfluous “the” is more clear-cut in: “Even the Bakuda’s terrorism campaign”.

  13. “This is different from ignoring starving kids in a third world country or ignoring some homeless guy on the street,” I told him, “You’ve seen Dinah in person, you’ve looked her in the eye. You’re already involved, you’ve played a role in her situation.””

    Sometimes I really fucking hate Taylor. Seriously every fucking second that she doesn’t spend the ill gotten money on charity people die, because she never donated the £2k to charity water 5 kids in Africa die of a disease they got from unclean water, even ignoring her ill gotten money every time she replaced her notebook for school that’s money she’s spending not on food for starving children.

    “About 21,000 people die every day of hunger or hunger-related causes, according to the United Nations. This is one person every four seconds”

    The amount of money she could gain by dealing with a drugged up kid (like seriously that’s what she cares about, get off your artificial ignorant high horse stupid first world white girl) could save/extend (tens of) thousands of lives. It’s so fucking pathetic.

    • I think that Taylor’s problem is that she knows that it’s wrong to leave Dinah in Coil’s clutches, but doesn’t know how to convince Brian how to act on that.

    • THANK YOU! I was getting increasingly frustrated with NOT seeing an utilitarian imbalance. OK, some mayor’s niece gets drugged out of her mind. Happens every single day. And what kind of fucked up condescending human life disrespecting BS is it that Brian gets away with saying? Is that some crystallization of “Charity starts at home”? If home has golden door knobs and the rest of the world doesn’t, then hell naw!

      Nevertheless: I am happy that we know find ourselves smackdab in the middle of the beginning of the end – and that that puts a temporary end to the beginning of Taylor’s doubts which in turn puts her and her team mates rear ends on the line. Sorry, I’ll end my babbling, I was in the middle of saying something else: Could the appearance of the Ender be a central piece of Coil’s plan? As in: this could be the beginning of his ascension in the eyes of the city. If Coil could make himself look like he was the only thing that stood between the city and its end(er), the PR would be priceless. I had actually thought he’d go for the eminence grise, but this would be an interesting take on it.

      • I think it’s the well-known way that people care most about those closest to them. Even the most charitable of us would spend more on our own children or family than on each family in the third world. Brian’s more self-aware about it than I’d expect a teenager to be, but I guess he’s done more thinking through his priorities.

        • Yeah, guess I’m very schooled in not thinking that’s PC. In general: how much you can down-prioritize the rest of the world in favour of helping your surroundings have been at the core of a lot my ethics debates. Sleep deprivation plus a major value clash jolted me for a sec there. I do like how Taylor’s rose-tinted glasses are shattering in these chapters.

    • The difference is one of morality. Skitter is not personally responsible, not even in a tiny way, for the starving Children in Africa. Her TEAM isn’t personally responsible for any of that. They are, however unknowingly, responsible for what happened to the numbers girl. Morally, they ARE more culpable for it happening.

      They are accessories to it happening, even if they didn’t know it.
      Therefore, in any reasonable scheme of morality, they are MORE responsible for doing something about it than they are the starving kids in Africa.

      Because I’d say a pretty basic piece of morality is “If you screwed something up, you help fix it”

  14. I was so engrossed in rereading the story that I forgot the Leviathan arc was coming up until the air raid sirens blared…well-written, wildbow.

    On that note, is there a difference between air raid sirens and Endbringer sirens, or are the same ones used for everything from Endbringers to major supervillain attacks to actual air raids?

  15. Sorry to be a grammar geek but you wrote “between Grue and I” in this chapter. It’s “between Grue and me”. The old chestnut about “You and I” being correct is only if they are the subject of a sentence (an approximation, I know, but it’ll do).

    That aside, I’m enjoying reading this series a lot. Your imagination is astonishing!🙂

  16. No, you aren’t, but I think you might be spoiling here and hence I’d recommend removing the comment (remember that the sitting mayor is also one of the mayoral candidates).

    (my own comment further up is from when I was reading this arc for the first time – while I’m basically saying the same thing, it’s due to me misreading and not reading ahead).

  17. Great complications!
    First — thanks for resolving Angelica’s status. Her absence in 7-11 with no explanation how she’d spent the intervening week was jarring.
    Next — “my first year and a half of High School” — you don’t capitalize the generic, only a specific school.

  18. Late as hell and noticing stuff on re-reads.

    “Even the Bakuda’s terrorism campaign […]” — the “the” needs to go, there.😛

  19. >Even the Bakuda’s terrorism campaign against the city hadn’t warranted the sirens, and that left very few possibilities.

    The Bakuda? Editing relic from ‘the ABB’, presumably?

  20. “Now, that leaves one us final issue to remedy…” should probably be “Now, that leaves us one final issue to remedy…”

  21. The moment I read ‘Endbringer’, I felt freaking chills down my spine. I could tell that they were some kind of VERY feared group from the snippets of info on the previous chapters, but Christ almighty. They’re as dangerous as an air raid? Well, I’d suppose so, since if they were more dangerous there’d be a special siren or something…. Well, I’ll stop ranting now. Greetings from Albania! This book got suggested to me a few days ago by a friend and boy, do I love it. This is now one of my two favorite books and honestly, it has been since I started. Wildbow, you deserve the biggest round of applause.

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