Extermination 8.6

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All of the adrenaline, emotions and endorphins that had been building since I first heard the sirens, maybe even before them – when I learned about Dinah Alcott – made for one hell of a rush.  More relevant to the present, it made for one hell of a mental wipeout as I came down from the rush.  A low point to equal the ‘high’.

The background noise of screams, shouted orders of doctors and nurses, a hundred heart monitors beeping out of sync and my ‘cell’ of three curtained ‘walls’ cutting me off from everything else?   Didn’t help.

My arm hurt, and hanging from the manacle made that ten times as bad.  My back was the worst thing, a slow, steady, pain that terminated in my midsection. It seemed to build in intensity every second I paid attention to it, settling into a dull blistering of pain when I focused my attention elsewhere.  If I didn’t focus on keeping my breathing steady and deep, I found that I unconsciously held my breath to minimize the pain.  That only made it worse when I did have to breathe again, because it brought tightness in my throat and chest, along with agonizing coughing fits.

None of that was even touching on that growing terror over the fact that, hey, I couldn’t feel my legs, and it wasn’t getting better.

If my back was really broken, it could mean my best case scenario was surgery and years of physical therapy, years of crutches and wheelchairs.  My worst case scenario would be never walking again.  I didn’t have a power that would help too much on that front.  It would mean the end of my career as a cape, never having sex with a boy the natural way, and never going for another morning run.

I made myself take a deep breath.  It shuddered as I exhaled slowly, and not just because it hurt to breathe.

I couldn’t do anything about my back, in the here and now.  My arm?  Maybe.  The metal pole was fixed to the wall at every foot or so by horizontal bars, and the end of the manacle was stopped from descending any further by one of the bits that extended to the wall, three feet or so above my head.

I couldn’t really believe they were going to arrest me.  Like Tattletale had said, there were rules.  Largely unspoken rules, but still more important than anything else in the cape community.  You didn’t profit from an Endbringer attack, you didn’t attack your nemeses or take advantage of undefended areas to steal.  You didn’t arrest a villain that came to help.

Because when people started doing that, the truce broke and things became ten times easier for the Endbringer.

The manacle on my wrist made me wonder.  I’d made some enemies with the good guys.  Maybe I was getting some rough treatment because of it.

One ominous idea nagged at me, and I couldn’t get it out of my head.  It was that I might not get any treatment at all – for my back, specifically – because of grudges against me and capes who could ‘suggest’ that maybe the doctors’ resources could be better directed elsewhere.

If they went that route, one hundred percent deniable, excusable, then there’d be nothing I could do about it.

If that was what was going on, being manacled like this would be something of a slap in the face, a way of letting me know it was intentional, while keeping me from contacting anyone to complain.

My arm shifted involuntarily as I cringed at a painful intake of breath, swinging a little, and I clenched my teeth.

I turned my head, gripped the fabric of my pillow with my teeth, tugged and pulled my head forward at the same time.  It moved to my left.  I did it again, bumped my shoulder, making my arm swing on the chain once more.  I suppressed the noise I might’ve made at the pain, choked back the gorge that rose in my throat.

Whatever was going on with my back, it prevented me from sitting up, denied me the use of my abdominal muscles.  I could only work with my shoulders, my head, my teeth.

Shifting the pillow over several long minutes, I managed to gingerly ease it under my shoulder and upper arm.  Provided I didn’t move -which I couldn’t, really- it gave my arm something to rest on, prevented all of the weight from dangling off of my cuffed wrist.

Of course, I was now absent one pillow for my head and neck, and the propped up shoulder and arm made my back twist slightly, which only intensified the pain there.  I closed my eyes, focused on just breathing, tried not to pay too much attention to how slowly time was passing by, or the cacaphony of noise from the rest of the triage area.

I hated this.  Hated not knowing, not having any information about what had just happened, what was happening, what was going to happen.

Roughly half of my nightmares about being bullied took place in the classroom, knowing that a class was just about to end, or that a teacher was about to assign us group work.  That some group of faceless bullies were waiting to pull the worst ‘prank’ yet.  It was the idea that I was about to be put in a situation where something bad was about to happen, that it was inevitable.  Being helpless to do anything about it.

Maybe it was stupid, but I’d never failed to wake up drenched in sweat after that, even when I woke up before the follow-through.  The dreams had come less often after I got my powers, but they still came from time to time.  I had suspicions they might come even years after I left high school behind me for good.

But that state of mind in the nightmares?  I felt like that now.  Trying to keep from panicking, knowing that no matter what I did, I was counting on luck and forces beyond my control to not ruin my day, my week, my month.  Ruin my life.

I’d done the heroic thing.  Drawn Leviathan away from those in the shelter who were still alive.  A part of me was proud of myself.  The rest of me?  Faced with the idea of spending the rest of my life in a wheelchair?  I felt like an idiot of epic proportions.  I’d bought into the idea of the grand, noble gesture, and in the here and now it felt like I had to convince myself that what I had done mattered.  It sure as shit didn’t seem to matter to anyone else.

The chain of my manacle clinked taut as I yanked my right hand forward angrily.  The pain that caused me in my midsection stopped me from doing it again.

A girl in a nurse’s uniform pushed the curtain aside to enter.  I identified her as a girl rather than a woman because she barely looked older than me.  Bigger in the chest, for sure, but baby faced, petite.  Her brown hair was in a braid, and the lashes of her downcast eyes were long as she stepped to the foot of my bed, picked up a clipboard.  She was very carefully not looking my way.

“Hi,” I spoke.

She ignored me, turned her attention to the heart monitor, made a note on the clipboard.

“Please talk to me,” I spoke.  “I have no idea what’s going on, and I feel like I’m losing my mind, here.”

She glanced at me, looked away hurriedly the same reflexive way you’d pull away from a hot stove with your hand.

“Please?  I’m-  I’m pretty scared right now.”

Nothing.  She took more notes on the clipboard, noting stuff from the screen the electrode ran to.

“I know you think I’m bad, a villain, but I’m a person, too.”

She glanced at me again, looked away, returned her eyes to the clipboard and frowned.  She stopped writing as she glanced up to the monitor, as if she had to find her place or double check her numbers.

“I have a dad.  Love him to death, even if we haven’t talked lately.  I love reading, my- my mom taught me to love books from the time I was little.  My best friend, it wasn’t so long ago that she helped pull me out of a dark place.  I haven’t heard how she’s doing.  If she’s dead or if she’s here too.  Have you seen her?  Her name’s Tattletale.”

“We aren’t supposed to talk to the patients.”

“Why not?”

“While back, some cape sued the rescue workers after a battle much like this.  Hadhayosh, I think.”

“That’s one of the other names for Behemoth.  Like Ziz is for the Simurgh?”

“Yes, some heroes got hurt badly enough they wouldn’t recover, they knew they had no more income from their costume career, so suing, it was a way-” she stopped, closed her mouth deliberately, as if reminding herself to stay silent.

“You can’t tell me if my back’s broken or not?”

She shook her head, “No.”

“I won’t tell.  I won’t sue.”

“Saying that isn’t legally binding,” she frowned, again, “and It- it’s not that.  I’m just a nursing student.  I haven’t even graduated.  They recruited us to help meet demand, to do the paperwork and check that patients weren’t coding, so the people with experience could focus on handling the patient load.  I don’t have the training to diagnose you on any level, let alone your back.”

My heart sank.  “Have you seen Tattletale?  Have you heard if she’s dead or injured?  She wears a lavender and black costume, and there’s this eye in dark gray on the black part across her chest-”

“I’m sorry,” she hurried to the foot of the bed, hung up the clipboard.

I’m sorry?  Was that an answer – condolences – or was it a refusal to speak on the subject?

I might have made a noise, because she turned back, stopped.  I couldn’t be sure, though, over the sounds from the other nurses, doctors and patients.

“We’ve got a code!” someone screamed, just beyond the curtain.  “Need paddles!”

“Paddles are in use!”

“Then get me someone with electricity powers!  And you, resuscitate!”

I closed my eyes, tried to stop myself from imagining that they were talking about Tattletale, or my dad, or even Brian, though I was pretty sure Brian had made it out okay.  Even as I managed to dismiss those images from my mind, a voice in the back of my head noted that whoever was on the table was important to somebody.  So many beloved family members, friends, coworkers, gone from people’s lives.

“Do you want to call your dad?  Or try calling your friend?” the nurse-in-training offered me.

If she was offering for me to call Tattletale, that at least meant she hadn’t seen Tattletale’s body.  That was some relief.

I wasn’t sure if I should take the offer.  If I called my dad, would they track the call?  Find out who I was?  Would they track down Tattletale, if she wasn’t dead or dying?  Who else could I call?  Coil?  Way too many issues if they traced the call, and I wasn’t sure if Lisa had passed on word of our recent argument and/or breakup.  Grue, Regent, Bitch?  I wasn’t on their team anymore.

A darker thought struck me.

“Is that – would that be my one phone call?  These cuffs – am I being arrested?”

She shook her head, “I was just offering.  I don’t know if they’re arresting you.  Only thing they said was that I was supposed to fill in the charts for the patients on this end of the room that have the red tags.”

She pointed to a set of plastic tags that were clipped to the curtain rod, so that one large tag hung down on either side of it.  Was it to designate the seriousness of my injuries?  No, they hadn’t even examined me.

I drew a connection to my line of thinking from earlier – was it because I was a villain?  Did I get a mere check-in from the nurse-in-training while the heroes got actual nurses and doctors?  I hadn’t seen anyone put the tags up, but then again, I hadn’t been looking at the curtain rod right after I was stuck here.

“Okay,” I spoke, quiet, my thoughts going a mile a minute.

“The phone call, I can let you use my cell phone if you promise not to…” she trailed off, as if realizing the possibilities of what could happen if a villain had her phone number, contact info for her friends and family.  Yet she could hardly back out, not without potentially upsetting a bad guy.

I shook my head.  “No.  But it’s really good of you to offer.  Thank you,” I tried to put as much emphasis on the thanks as possible.  “With that kind of empathy, I’m sure you’ll become a great nurse.”

She gave me a funny look, then backed out through the curtain.  I could have called after her, asked for something for the pain, asked if maybe I could get some help, but I suspected she didn’t have the power to give me any of that.  I had no idea how long I’d be here, and I suspected it’d be worth more to have a potential friendly face around than go for the long shot and risk seeming manipulative or alienating her.  That, and I didn’t want to get her in trouble.

Minutes ticked on.  No more than three seconds passed without someone screaming or shouting orders or updates regarding a patient in crisis.  It would have been interesting to listen to, if I could make out more than half of it, and if the half I could hear wasn’t so horrible.

The anxiety over my circumstances and not knowing what was going to happen was gradually overriden by a maddening boredom.   I couldn’t move, had nobody to talk to, didn’t know enough about my present situation to think up contingency plans.

I closed my eyes and used my power, because it let me be outside my own body in a way, because it was something to do.

A handful of cockroaches from near the kitchen made their way through the walls, through an air intake grate in the wall, and up to my bed.  They gathered on my stomach.

I gathered them into a pyramid on my stomach, let them collapse.  Made a kaleidoscopic starburst pattern, then moved them all in sync to expand out into a perfect circle.

“You’re so creepy, you know that?” the voice was familiar, but I couldn’t place it.

“I’ve heard worse,” I replied, opening my eyes.  Panacea was entering my curtained enclosure, shutting the curtain behind her.  There was a PRT uniform with her.

“I’m sure you have,” she frowned.  Her hood and scarf were down, so I could see her face, much as I had during the bank robbery.  She had dark circles under her eyes that looked painted on.  She spoke, sighing the words, “I need your permission to touch you.”


“Liability reasons.  Someone overheard you say you’ve got a broken back.  There could be other complications, and that takes people, time, equipment and money that the people in charge of this hospital are reluctant to spare at a time like this.  You could refuse to let me touch you, make the hospital give you the X-rays and MRI, get months or years of treatment paid for by the Preservation Act, all under oppressive confidentiality agreements that could cost the hospital millions.  It’s an option, but the treatment wouldn’t be as fast, good or effective as it would if I used my power.  You’d be shooting yourself in the foot for the sake of being stubborn.”


“Just agree, so I can move on to other patients.”

“What was it you said during the bank robbery?  You’d make me horribly obese?  Make everything I eat taste like bile?  What’s to stop you from doing something like that here?”

“Nothing, really.  I mean, you could sue me after I did it, but you’d have to prove it beyond a reasonable doubt, and that’d be damn hard if I gave the symptoms a time delay before they showed up.  Plus I’m a valuable enough resource that I could get help paying the legal costs.  And, let’s not forget, Carol, my adoptive mother, is a pretty kickass lawyer.  Whatever you did by trying to sue me probably wouldn’t cripple me as much as what my power did to you.”

“That’s not reassuring.”

“It’s not meant to be reassuring.  I suppose maybe you’ll just have to either trust in the fact that I’m a decent person or refuse my help,” she shrugged, glaring at me, “There’s a kind of poetry to this.  Like, a thief fears being stolen from the most, a scumbag… well, you get the drift.  The more horrible a human being you are, the more you’ll agonize over what I might have done to you, with a time delay of minutes, hours, days, years.  Yet if you’re a decent person, you’ll be more inclined to think better of me.”

“Are you?”


Are you a decent person, Amy?”

She gave me an offended look.

“I envy you, that it’s so easy for you to think of things in terms of black and white.  I’d like to think I’m a good person, believe it or not.  Everything I’ve done, I did because I thought it was right at the time.  In hindsight, some of the ends didn’t justify the means, and sometimes there were unforseen consequences.”  Like Dinah.  “But I don’t think of myself as a bad person.”

“Then you’re either ignorant, deluded or you have a very twisted perspective.”


She went on, “Don’t really care which it is.  If you’re going to call yourself a good person,” she paused, shook her head a little, “Then don’t waste my time.  Give me an answer, one way or another, so I can get on with helping people.”

It wasn’t really a choice.  A long, hard road to recovery, possibly with no recovery at all, fraught with any potential health complications that the universe decided to hand my way, or healing for a broken back, with the potential health complications that Panacea decided to give me?

I mean, whatever she deigned to inflict on me would be calculated to make me miserable, if she went that far, but at least then I’d have someone to hate.

“Please,” I spoke, “Use your power.”

She nodded at the PRT uniform, who left the enclosure.  Then she approached the side of the bed.

“I’m going to have to move some of your mask aside, to touch your skin.”

“Permission granted,” I spoke, “Though I’ve been wondering since the bank robbery – why didn’t you reach up and touch my scalp?”

“No comment.”

Ah.  Something about hair, maybe?  A weakness in her power.  Maybe it was mucked up or confused by ‘dead’ tissue?

She fumbled with my mask for a second.

“Lower,” I informed her, “The mask and body part of the costume overlap just above the collarbone.”

She found it, separated the two, and touched a fingertip to my throat, like she was taking my pulse.

The pain left in an instant.  My breathing became easier, and I felt a steady pressure deep in my broken arm.

“You have a brain injury that’s not fully healed.”

“Bakuda’s fault.”

“Hm.  Outside the scope of my abilities.”

Ominous, but I wasn’t ready to put too much stake in what she told me, and what she might be leaving out.

“Okay,” my voice was stronger, without the crippling pressure in my chest and back.

“Microfracture in your shoulder, nerve damage to your left hand, reduced fine dexterity.”

“Really?  I hadn’t noticed.”

“It’s there.  I’m not going to bother with that, either.”

“Wasn’t expecting you to.”  Couldn’t let her ruffle me.

“Broken arm, broken spine, fractured ribs, small perforations in colon, kidney and liver, some internal bleeding.  This will take a minute.”

I nodded.  It was more severe than I’d thought.  That unsettled me some.

A part of me wanted to apologize for what had happened at the bank robbery, but the tone of our earlier conversation made it feel like I’d be trying to dissuade her from doing something malicious with her power.

Relief overwhelmed me as sensations began returning to my legs.  They were quick, like being shocked, but they ranged from hot to cold to the unfamiliar, running from my abdomen to the tips of my toes, tracing every internal area of my legs.

“Ow,” I muttered, as one line of pain drew itself from my hip to my ankle.

“I’ve got to test your nerves as I re-establish the connections, but I’m too tired to do it all with my power, and I can’t dope you up with endorphins because Armsmaster, Miss Militia and Legend will be coming to talk to you in a bit, and I’ve been told you need your head one hundred percent clear for that.  So some of this is going to hurt.”

“Wait, what?  Why do I need my head clear to talk to them?  Why are they talking to me?”

“Mmm.  I can feel your emotions in your body, hormones and altered chemical balances.  You’re scared.”

“Damn right, I’m scared – ouch.  Fuck, that stung.”  My leg jerked.

“It’s going to happen any time my concentration slips.  Best to stay quiet.”

“No, seriously.  Why are they talking to me?  Is that why I’m in handcuffs?  To keep me here until they, what, arrest me?”

“No comment,” she smiled a little.

“Hey, no.  You can’t call yourself a decent person and then leave me here agonizing over details.”

“I can.  I don’t know what they want to talk to you about, though I have… strong suspicions,” her eye drifted to my manacle.  “But I have been informed that you are to be lucid and fully mobile.”

“Why?”  I had a growing suspicion as to why, helped by her glance to my restraints.  If they were arresting me, they couldn’t have me agree to any deals or plea bargains while I was drugged up, or it would be thrown out of court.  I was pretty sure.  One semester of a law class didn’t exactly leave me an expert.

“According to the woman from the PRT that I talked to, it will work best if all of you are kept in the dark for as long as possible.”

“All of us?”  It wasn’t just me.

“A slip of the tongue.” She smiled slightly, as if enjoying stringing me along.

“Do these others include Tattletale?” I asked, “Did you heal her?”

She quirked an eyebrow.  “No.  I can tell you I didn’t.”

“You didn’t.  Because she didn’t need your help, or because she was already dead?  Ow!”

My leg jerked again, a muscle in my thigh clenching hard, not unlike a charlie horse.  It subsided.

“I think we’re done here.”

“Hey!” I raised my voice again, “Give me an answer!  Stop fucking with me!”

She lifted her finger from my throat, and many of my smaller bruises and scrapes began making themselves felt once more.  I could breathe without a problem.  I wiggled my toes experimentally, felt them move against the soles of my costume.  I moved my left arm, felt no pain.  Tugged on the chain with it and felt everything working as it should, no pain.

She leaned close, so her mouth was by my ear, “Not so fun, is it?  Let me tell you, this isn’t a hundredth of the mind-fuckery that your teammate was pulling on me, back then.”

“That wasn’t-” I stopped.

“What?  Wasn’t you?  You stood by and watched it happen, played along, took advantage of it.  Or maybe you were going to say it wasn’t that bad?  You really don’t know.  You don’t know me, you don’t know Glory Girl, you don’t know what Tattletale was saying, how she was threatening to ruin my life.  Imagine the person you care about most, finding our your darkest secrets.  Secrets that, even if they eventually came to accept it, you know they would taint and color every single conversation you have with them afterward.”

I couldn’t help but picture it.  My dad finding out I was a villain, what I’d done.  Forevermore having doubts about me.

“I’m sorry,” I spoke, my voice low.

“Maybe you are.  I doubt it.  I’m sorry to leave you wondering what happened to your teammate, what the big name capes are going to say to you, but I have others to help.”

She didn’t sound sorry at all.

“Hey!”  I raised my voice again, “Come back here!”

She turned her head to give me a dark look as she walked away, “Good luck with Armsmaster.”

I pulled on the chains, angrily.  I almost, almost sent the cockroaches on the bed after her.  I stopped when I saw the PRT uniform hold the curtain back for her in courtesy.

When Armsmaster and Legend arrived, it would be too late.

I sent the roaches after him, the PRT uniform.  They landed on him, individually squeezed into the pouches on his belt and bandoleer.

Found the keys on his belt.

Getting the keys out of the pouch was harder.  I had to be smooth, and the keychain was heavy enough that the roaches couldn’t pick it up with their mouths.  Instead, I tried lifting it up with the middle of a roach’s body, supported by the rest.  No luck, it slipped free off of the convex exterior of the cockroach’s shell.

I turned it upside down, instead, used the more textured underside to catch the loop of metal.  The rest of the roaches latched on, hauled the roach up and out of the pouch, squeezed it through the flap-covered opening, breaking it nearly in two against the metal of the ring as they drove it through the too-narrow gap.  One roach dead, but the keys were falling free of the pouch.

Instinct took over, and I unconsciously bid roaches to move into place beneath the keys as they fell to the floor, muting  the noise of metal against the ground.  They skittered my way, the weight of the keychain managed between them.

Hopefully people were too busy to notice the falling keys or the small number of bugs.  I suspected it was crowded and busy out there, from what I had glimpsed when I was brought in.  If people did notice, well, I was still getting arrested anyways, right?

Getting the keys up onto the bed would be harder.  I had the roaches put the keys beneath the bed, set them on the blanket, to start unraveling it.  Ten sets of mandibles -eleven now, as another cockroach came from the air vent- each working at individual threads.

I was torn between rushing this and doing it right.  I had to convince myself that I wouldn’t be dragged off to jail in the next five or ten minutes.  Probably.

It probably took that long to get a long enough piece of thread.  One group of bugs set to looping the thread around the keychain, tying it into a firm knot, while the others brought it up the side of the bed, up my body, my arm, and to my hand.  Once I had the thread in my fingers, I started winding it up around my fingers with a circular motion of my hands, reeling in the keys.

In a matter of seconds, I had the keys in hand.  Good.

The cockroach that had brought me the thread helped me figure out the keys that would work, traveling over them to eliminate the ones that were too large, acting as an added digit to help sort through them and putting the right keys between my fingers.  It guided the end of the keys into the lock.  The first key didn’t fit, too large.

The second unlocked the cuff.

I hurried to unlock the cuff on my left hand, flexed my hand and arm, rubbed at my wrists.

I pulled the covers off, swung my legs over the side of the bed, and gingerly tested them against the ground.  They supported my weight.

The relief was palpable.  Almost something I could feel, making me want to hug my arms around my body in quiet joy.

But my priority was getting out of here.  Not so easy, with the amount of capes and PRT personnel around.  No windows around me, but if I stepped outside the curtain and into the main area, I risked running into someone like Legend or Armsmaster.  I was assuming from what Panacea had said that they had been treated for the injuries that had taken them out of the fight and were up and about.

No, a better plan of action would be to keep out of sight.

I sent my bugs forward, tracing the lines of the curtains and wall.  Once I was sure that the curtains in the next few patient enclosures were closed, I moved the curtain to my right and headed that way.

Some cape I didn’t know was unconscious, blood smeared around his nose and mouth, almost caking the upper half of his mask to his face.

Another enclosure, an empty cot, with red stains on the sheets from whatever patient had been there earlier.

There was a window past the next enclosure.  I wasn’t sure if I could climb out, or if there would be somewhere to go once I had, but it gave me hope.

I pushed my way into the next curtained enclosure.  Stopped.


There were shouts behind me, which might have been someone noting my absence.  I was at the point of not caring anymore.

I tried to take a step forward, to move to the bedside or around it, but my newly healed legs gave out under me.  I crumpled into a kneeling position.

Staring up at the occupant of the bed, a few things came to me.  For one thing, I got to experience first hand what Brian had told me, about how he’d gone cold, still and quiet inside on that day he’d gotten his powers.

For another, I realized why they’d had me chained up.  Kind of stupid not to, in retrospect.  A glance at the curtain showed a blue tag, the same style as the red one that had been on my curtain, plastic, unlabeled.

The bed’s occupant lay on her back, tubes running into her nose and mouth, an IV in her arm.  An ugly cut marred her right breast and shoulder, which were bare.  Smaller cuts covered the rest of her body.

Running footsteps and the sound of a curtain being heaved open in a neighboring section didn’t stir me from my daze.

The bed’s occupant wore Shadow Stalker’s costume, sans mask.

I recognized her.  Sophia Hess.

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101 thoughts on “Extermination 8.6

    • …Which would be part of the terms of any deal offered her, I imagine. Needless to say, she can’t just explain the problem in any way that would help her.

      • Well, I imagine she could still join the wards for somewhere else. I doubt the wards organization would want to turn down the opportunity to get a criminal off the streets AND gain a new member just because she wants to go somewhere else. The big kicker would be leaving her father though.

    • You know, she still might end up joining the Brockton Bay Wards.

      If we still end up seeing a conversation between Miss Militia, Armsmaster, and her, it’s not impossible that she might explain what her problem with joining is, or keep it to herself.

      In the first case, they might do something to stop the bullying (at least when she’s with the Wards). In the second, it sounds like Shadow Stalker is regarded as a problem there. Taylor might ultimately become better liked.

    • Yes, escaping from a hospital bed is so much worse than murder, which Sophia there committed before joining the Wards (on probation). It’s also worse than all the other crimes she’s committed over the past months.

        • No, Sophia killed some people. I don’t remember the exact details; maybe it got lawyer’d down to manslaughter or something, but Sophia has taken lives while vigilante’ing. That’s why she was required to use the tranquilizer bolts.

          • Man, you really gotta stop spoiling stuff. I know you have trouble telling what’s a spoiler, so in that case you should either be really vague or not say anything.

            C’mon man.

            • I could have sworn Shadow Stalker’s history of murdering people was mentioned, like, back when the Undersiders were planning the bank robbery or something. Towards her introduction.

              • Mrmdubois, greatwrymgold is right. I’m pretty sure that the whole history with Shadow Stalker was already stated, and by being tied in with her identity revealed as the bully Sophia, we already know that she’s a Sociopathic Hero.

                (Hey, I’m new here and just a guest but I’ve been reading up on this story for a few months from learning about it on tvtropes. :p)

            • That wasn’t a spoiler. It was mentioned early on when someone was explaining Shadow Stalker’s background (somewhere around the bank robbery arc).

    • this was easy to see honestly i guessed this a long time ago back when she was first confronted by shadow stalker. it was highly likely that one of the girls would be a hero and after that whole debacle with shadow stalker then sophia in public you could probably guess she was a hero if not shadowstalker herself since she was just so very pissed off by brian and taylor. shadowstalker would be her greatest enemy in this and i can bet that if they had found out about all this before the endbringer there would have been a big fight over this.

  1. Ok, because I had raised my concerns moving into the Leviathan storyline, I really have to talk about how it turned out for me.

    Wildbow, you’ve managed to ruin the entire setting, but not for me… for Taylor! It is like she was pulled out of the wreckage of her basement after a hurricane to find her house still standing… and then a fly landed on the chimney and it tumbled down around her.

    So many threads just came together, and I practically have to re-read the entire story now to appreciate it all. In fact, I think I will use a significant portion of my next day off to do exactly that.

    I was seriously worried about the chance of the worldbuilding being undermined, and instead it was strengthened. In most stories, at such a juncture, the best outcome is for the setting to survive in the background, I suppose, while the expected character awesomeness and badass fight carry the day. It seems, though, that this world is pretty much determined not to sit back as a passive canvas.


    On a lighter note, are you familiar with the old video game Overlord, where you have to control a variety of little goblin minions to do all lifting and carrying? The key scene really made me think strongly and specifically of how that game controlled.

    I bet Taylor would be great at Lemmings, too.

    • I have to admit, I was really hoping from an early point in the story that when this (and other) revelations came (or come) to pass, that people would feel like they wanted to go back and reread, see events in a new light. So that third paragraph is really gratifying to read. Thank you.

      Also gratifying to get more hits than I get on a typical good day between midnight and 4am alone – I have a sneaking suspicion today might be a record day, woohoo!

      I haven’t played Overlord, but I did watch a Let’s Play (typically a video of someone else play it – which can be as/more entertaining as actually playing it, depending on the quality and nature of their running commentary). It wasn’t very good as such things go, but it gave me a sense of the game. I did play Lemmings, once upon a time. I remember liking the music.

  2. *Warning, the following is in character and only in character, any resemblance to persons living, dead, undead, redead, refried, fictional, nonfictional, or copyrighted are purely coincidental. Also, I do not own a loofa, nor am I entirely sure of the proper spelling. Viewers under the age of 16 must have a parent’s permission before reading, or at least must be really good at lying to something on a computer asking if you’re older than 16. Void where prohibited*

    Well, do I ever have egg on my face. I guess I didn’t count on them taking off masks, but now we know exactly what the cuffs were for. Panacea can be a real bitch too, ya know. The point of a hero is to be better than a villain, you stupid bitch! Because that way, you can always hold it over the villain that you’re a better person. If you’re not, then what the hell are you? You’d be a Canary about to be caged, if not for your lawyer mother and family’s reputation.

    And I for one still hate Sophia. I mean, kinda makes sense. Shadow Stalker’s a bitch who is obsessed with Grue. Sophia was REALLY into Brian. She helped out one of the bully bitches, even prepared to extend that help into court. She’s real big on that whole “know your place” idiocy, too. Once again, she’s working with someone whose got a big bad lawyer on her side.

    Man, I love the heroes here. If any of you know Marv from Sin City, you’ll get the reference when I say “I love heroes. No matter what you do to them, you don’t feel bad.”

    So let me ask you this, collective heroes of the Wormverse. If you’re a bunch of stuck up, aristocratic, racist, mindfucking, arrogant, self-serving bullies in costume who happen to be viewed as heroes, why would anybody feel bad about exposing your identities and killing any of you?

    Hell, I’m a villain. I say it with pride. I’ve done unspeakable things. Dirty deeds, done dirt cheap. I even pirated AC/DC songs. Borne into the world by dimensional bomb that was part of a plot to end a world. Yep, I came in on the D-bomb. And I got no problem dealing with D-bags. I’m the fly in your soup, I’m the pebble in your shoe. I’ve been around for a long, long time, stolen many men’s souls and faith. Lethal force is a first and a second option for me. I trained a pack of vicious komondors to hunt down captain mystic just because he was afraid he’d get taken to task for his grammer and because komondors are hilarious. I’m a certified son of a bitch, based on my Westminster papers. I hear voices in my head, they council me, they understand. They talk to me. I invade your nightmares or just try to organize the Zoo’s pandas into recreating The Romance of the Three Kingdoms. I don’t do it all for free, because pay, and your tears, are all I’ll ever need.

    I don’t hide behind a lawyer parent when I break the law. I got no nepotism or good ole boys on my side to give me a boost. I’m so low on the social ladder that I’m not even standing on it. I also don’t give a damn about people staying in their place and I think a good blowing up would help some of the established types realize their obligation to everyone else. If I’m going to help you, I’m only going to help you, and if I’m going to hurt you, I’m only going to hurt you. I’m impolite. I’m inefficient. I have a plan to kill everyone I meet. Worms to me that you are, I don’t care if you’re black, white, blue, green, or even teal. I am a villain. I am the inelegant lowest of the low and I don’t care what your tv tells you about me.

    And let me tell you heroes. Based on how you all act on average,

    I’m a better person than you.


    End transmission.

    *Backs away from the screen, showing that he’s backed by a plastic curtain, with a shower cap on and a loofa, apparently not knowing the camera’s not off. He begins to sing into the loofa*

    And IIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIII will always love youuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuu-

    *At this point, the screen cracks, then breaks, ending the picture, with the speakers apparently shorting out about the same time.*

    • Geeze, Gecko, when you’re evil (reference intended), you are EVIL. And here I thought Clockmaster or Willy Pete might be the most petty supers around (as long as you don’t count those jerk heroes).

    • Love the references, but you missed an easy one. Things are about to go to hell in a handbasket. 😉

      (I nearly went with Almost Human because I like the song more, but tying it into parahumans being almost human or making a play on “I’m almost a decent being” seemed like too much of a stretch)

  3. Can’t really say I didn’t see this coming. The heroes being dicks has been such a major theme in the story that the dicks being heroes is only to be expected. Especially with sadistic tendencies going so very well with vigilantism.

    It’s quite lovely. The sheer cynicism of the story gives me warm fuzzies.

    • I feel kind of bad for the heroes in this story. Everyone keeps disliking them for being dicks, but the whole lot of them just tossed themselves in front of a giant monster that absolutely massacred them. Quite a few of them have done it multiple times. So what if Armsmaster is a prick to people? He was still willing to fight to the death and save people that would have died without him.

      It is kind of heartening that all of these people that normally don’t get along or hate eachother are all gathering up in defense of humanity.

      • Oh yeah, you found out just how much Armsmaster was willing to sacrifice himself…oh wait, no, you found out he wanted all the glory for taking it down.

        You also found out that while some heroes might feel enough to protect their own family and friends, their actions otherwise show they don’t give a crap about anyone outside of that circle.

        Guess what, Panacea violated the Geneva convention. Doctors, medics, whatever, are not allowed to threaten prisoners with malpractice. They can’t tell them they’ll inject them with something that’ll force them to tell the truth, or give them something to kill them, or not heal them up quite right. Panacea didn’t even do that to the person who threatened her, just to someone else she had screwed around with with her power. What are the odds that Lisa’s going to be as whole as she used to be if Panacea comes around? Maybe Pan can’t mess with the brain. Actually, whose to say she really couldn’t. But either way, I guarantee you she won’t do her duty.

        Hell, because she didn’t provide some very basic information, she was the cause of an escape attempt.

        As for Sophia, she’s been a lethal vigilante this whole time…
        Think of The Comedian from Watchmen. He wasn’t in it to do good and help people. He just wanted to beat people up and kill them. There’s your Shadow Stalker.

      • Sure. That’s what they probably tell themselves, too. They’re doing valuable work and sacrificing themselves, so it’s okay for them to beat up a schoolgirl or two to unwind. After all it doesn’t really compare, does it?

        So anyway, with both the heroes and the villains standing against the Endbringers and both of them committing violent crimes just for the fun of it, why is it that some of them are celebrated role models and others end up in the Birdcage?

        Jedem das Seine. You like the bad people’s redeeming moment of heroism, I like the seamy underbelly of the heroics. Two sides of the same coin. How great is that?

      • You can’t compare The Comedian and Shadow Stalker, at least not yet. She hasn’t actually KILLED anyone yet, and that is a pretty big line. I’m not trying to say that any of these people are perfect or great people, but I am saying that collectively they are going out there and dying to save people. Discounting that because Armsmaster beat up a young bank robber is utterly ridiculous.

        So what if Armsmaster wants glory for killing Leviathan, so long as he kills Leviathan? The man would deserve it in that case. The purity of his motives in the defense of the public isn’t as important as the fact that his arm just got torn off when he could have just left town instead.

        Also, where are you getting this idea that the heroes and villains are only fighting to protect their families and friends? Sure that might apply to some of them, but a bunch of out of town heroes teleported in to stop Leviathan. Also, I kind of doubt the Travelers had a bunch of family sitting around in Brockton Bay.

        Also, Panacea is in no way shape or form bound to the Geneva Convention. She isn’t part of any government organization. She is a member of New Wave, an independent superhero group.

        I like that the heroes and villains can be shown to have bad sides, but still gather together for a higher purpose.

      • About Armmaster’s glory… Sure, managing to slay Leviathan would have been worthy of praise. But how about holding back your with your new Endbringer-killing superweapon so that the creature first gets to massacre a whole bunch of heroes and villains and maybe get winded a bit? He could have just brought it in right from the start and use it in conjunction with other powerful people’s attacks, which would have had a greater chance of succesfully ending the threat, not to mention not letting all those people die? Oh, but he would have had to split the glory with other people…

        How about Scion then? He does more heroics than anybody, and doesn’t really seem to have much respect for the lesser heroes (or Eidolon at least), or at least that was Taylor’s impression of him. Is that just him being a self-righteous dick and holding them to impossible standards, or is it because the Scion knows what evil lurks in the hearts of men?

      • It is very easy to backseat superhero Armsmaster. Could he have whipped out his disintegration halberd earlier? Sure. Could he have fought it as effectively when other people were screwing with his predictive software? I rather doubt it. As awful as this sounds, when you are fighting an abomination like Leviathan it makes sense to wear him down before going after him with a weapon that can finish him off.

        On the Scion end of things I find it considerably more likely that he is like the endbringers in that he was never human. He looks down on humans just as much as the endbringers, he just has a face more capable of expressing it. If he is human and looks down on other heroes for not being active 24/7 then he is a dick, but still the most helpful dick on the entire planet.

      • Actually, I felt it was mainly the heroes that were fighting for their own kind. The ones that came in from out of town might just be slaves to their PR.

        Villains don’t have that problem, and don’t have as much of a reason to fight for a society that wants to lock them up. Still, they’re there, and doing it, because maybe they know what it’s like to do the right thing by their own conscience even when it goes against society.

        And purity of motive is a big thing too. Superman has it. Batman has it. Spider-man has it, and Captain America. They want to do the right thing for the right reasons. Taylor began this with pure motives as well. Remember, the two necessary parts of a crime are actus reas and mens reas. The guilty act and the guilty mind.

        Or, as the phrase goes, “Actus non facit reum nici mens sit rea.” The act does not make a person guilty unless the mind is also guilty.

        As for the reason Panacea should be bound by the Geneva convention, that’s simple.

        It’s the right thing to do. All this BS about someone not being bound by it because they didn’t sign it and they aren’t part of the government is a big steaming pile. It’s the right thing to do. You really think it matters to say “Well, I didn’t sign it. I mean, it’s the right choice morally and preserves human dignity, but it doesn’t technically bind me so I’m just going to ignore all that.”

        And so now it comes to this. I must quote Lex Luthor from I’m a Marvel…and I’m a DC despite not even following it. Of course, I don’t hold to his criticism on Marvel, but I see it as entirely accurate as it related to these heroes. Because of that, I’ll substitute other names in place of the Marvel stuff.

        “Your job is to be an inspiration for people, someone they can look up to, someone they can aspire to be like; in steadfastness, in character, in ideals. And what did [Worm’s Heros] offer? They said don’t worry; you don’t have to aspire to anyone in our books. You just have to relate to them. And now we have an entire culture that thinks that who they are is just fine and how dare anyone suggest they can improve themselves? Why aspire to be Superman when it’s so much easier to relate to [Armsmaster]? No one wants to look up to you anymore, Superman. They don’t want to strain their necks. Instead they look straight ahead at the compromised heroes in front of them and say “That’ll do just fine”.”

        What can I say, I still believe in superheroes.

      • The big problem with that Lex quote is that in the Wormverse the job of the heros pretty clearly isn’t to be an inspiration. It is to stop the endbringers from wiping out humanity. That is it. So long as they do that then their jobs are accomplished. The entire system is pretty clearly set up to train the heroes and villains in live combat so that when the endbringers come they are ready.

        Also, Armsmaster pretty clearly is concerned with his image. He maintains it pretty well when in front of the civilians, so for all they know he IS someone to look up to.

        If I had to make a choice between Taylor commiting evil acts with good intentions, or Armsmaster saving people and fighting for civilians with selfish intentions I would pick Armsmaster every single time.

        It is ridiculous to try to argue

      • It isn’t pointless to argue. Yes, the guy may do good, but he’s such an enormous douchebag that it cancels out. Just because he does good doesn’t mean he can be such an asshole.

        But what we all forget is that this is a realistic setting (Superpowers and Endbringers aside). Absolute power corrupts absolutely and a lot of these heroes have several kinds of power in fucking spades.

        Superpowers, financial power, social power, legal, some of them even have a place in the government i bet.

        These people have far too much power and it’s beginning to show, because they all seem to hold this belief that they will be perfectly fine doing or saying what they want because they’re heroes. It’s the same with celebrities (Oh, i’m a celebrity, i get away with everything by sprinkling money on it.)

        and Panacrea needs a boot in the ass too. “ooooh, i’m rich and my mummy is a totally amazing lawyer so i can threaten to ruin your life”. *Buzzer* Wrong!

        All it needs is to hit the papers and low hath the seed of doubt been sown into the minds of men. Slowly it’ll become that no-one would trust her to use her powers on them. Plus anyone she heals will assume any health problems were her doing. Baldness, weight gain, fuck, if a woman ends up pregnant, theres a stick claim to be made. Eventually she’ll be reviled and hated by a majority of the public.

        and, Scene *Bow*

      • Depends on what the argument is; Discussing who is the better person is different from discussing who you would rather have in the neighborhood when trouble comes.

      • If my back was broken, and I knew the only person that could get me walking again was Panacea I would go to her. It wouldn’t matter to me that she had messed up some supervillain. As long as I didn’t know for a fact that she had tortured civilians I would take that risk. I think you would find that many people that are crippled or dying would be willing to take that risk.

        Also, the protectorate and wards pretty clearly have government superiors. They are being reorganized by Piggot and others so clearly they do have people they are accountable to.

        Also, the argument that absolute power corrupts absolutely is so trite. A good person with absolute power is in no way gauranteed to be corrupted. It all depends on the people and the challenges they face.

        The line “it is ridiculous to argue” was from my first attempt at writing my response, I thought I had cut the entire paragraph but I seem to have missed parts of it.

  4. Despite being black Sophia Hess is the absolute right wing bitch. She states her beliefs quite well when beating Taylor:
    1- There is a social order and it is absolute, who got “there” did it for a reason and has a right to it.
    2- The ones lower in this social order should bow to their betters. This includes “low class” trying to be thiefs and/or supervilains that, by definition, threaten the stabilished order.
    BUT, many police officers out there may have similar (if not so extreme) feelings, many officers are not good persons but they still do their jobs and are useful to society.
    Superpowered people from these government agencies are just police officers with powers. They get a salary, receive bonuses and training, have corporate beliefs.
    Taylor must do something to atone to Panacea.
    Panacea heals people because she wants to. She could have said from the beginning that her power was to harm people with a touch.
    Imagine being the only person around with the power to heal, imagine the pressure on her shoulders.
    A nice bullet proof outfit would be a good present to atone.
    And now Taylor broke the unspoken rule, she knows the identity of one of the heroes. They can´t let her walk after this.
    BUT, in a court of law she could open her identity, state why she became a supervilain (because they did this and that to me in school, with hospital bills to prove) and add the shopping mall incident as an example of abuse of power by a cop.
    Actually, a friend of mine stopped her car to avoid hiting a pedestrian crossing in the wrong place. The driver of the car that was behind was not paying attention and hit the back of her car. The guard gave reason to the owner of the car that hit her from behind.
    Why? She understood when the owner of the car and the guard started to talk like old friends in front of her.
    Now, when I think in the situation at the mall I see the same thing.

    • Thats damn odd as the rule (at least for insurance purposes) is that if you rear end someone, you are at fault. You are required to drive in a manner that allows you to be able to stop even if the person of front of you has to do an emergency stop.
      Im not saying that having a cop there who is friends with the other party is a good thing, but if it goes to court what matters is that the front of their car hits the rear of your car = they are at fault.

  5. Hmm. Just re-read the confrontation between Taylor and Sophia at the bookstore. I wonder if ‘track-team’ was code for ‘Protectorate’. Or more specifically, ‘time spent working with the wards as an essential part of not getting punished for my earlier vigilante acts’.

    • Sophia -is- a member of the school track team, but when she says “I need that shit,” (7.6, paragraph starting ‘it’s not just that’) she’s referring to how it’s a part of her ‘probation’ as a part of the Wards.

      So you’re close-ish.

      • Yeah, I figured she was a member of the track team, but mainly in a sort of excuse-related way. “Sorry everyone, I gotta go. I’ve got my track team meeting on today.”

  6. I was a little disappointed in Taylor here. I thought that she would make some token of gratitude. If I were in her shoes, I’d gladly take the obesity or whatever in return for a full recovery of this magnitude, but she doesn’t even fake it. She’s proven willing to patiently work with Bitch before, so I don’t understand what’s holding her back here.

    Even if she’s not grateful, she probably could’ve won some easy concessions/ goodwill by pretending to be grateful. “Thanks ever so much for healing me. Tell you what, I can spool up some more silk thread if the hospital is running low. I can monitor patients for you or something, too.”

    Speaking of gratefulness, thank you for writing this story. I really love it, and I hope I’ll soon be able to throw money your way; you definitely deserve it.

    • Sure, let’s go with the picked on girl being obese now. Maybe then, instead of being able to dodge stuff, she’ll just get hit all the damn time instead. Course, since her muscles won’t have adjusted over the time period, as does happen when people put on more weight, she’d have only the muscles she uses on her smaller frame now to move her bulky body around.

      She could damn sure say goodbye to most of your classically good looking guys out there. Don’t give me that look, you know how things are.

      Maybe she couldn’t even work it off. Obese people already have a difficult enough time going to work out given how most people would look at them on a treadmill. If Panacea did something to her to keep the fat on, it wouldn’t work out so well either. All those health problems too. Being incredibly overweight is no minor matter here.

      Course, I kinda doubt Taylor would have the time or bugpower to handle silking out a hospital, and if someone’s in there then they’re generally beyond Taylor’s first aid ability to help. She said she was sorry. Why do I hold Taylor to a different standard? Because she’s a villain, not a hero.

      I will agree with you that the story is excellent, much more in hindsight now that we know what’s up here. Very good work. Talk about a tough act to follow if anyone else here started writing. I’d hate to be them.

      • Forget heroes and villains.
        One thing that kept me alive when I had problems in school (you may call it bullying) was the sure knowledge that I am not the center of the universe and that my “all so big” problems would seen small from another perspective.
        Of course Taylor has it much worst than I had, but she must learn to put herself in other people´s shoes.
        What Tatletale did to Panacea, in a desperate situation, was an ugly blackmail, this after Taylor covered her in poisonous spiders. Forget heroics, Panacea still healed Taylor from wounds that would keep her in bed perhaps for life, but Taylor has that belief that some people that suffer have that her suffering is the worse in the world.
        On the other hand, the simple fact that I can relate to this character in this way, seeing her as if she was a real person, indicates the level of ability of this author. Taylor has layers in her personality and is more than a little egocentric, as are we all.

      • Panacea was willing to blame Taylor for the blackmailing because she was merely an accessory to it. She didn’t do it herself, but she let it happen.

        By such logic, if Panacea were to do nothing in the face of Taylor’s paralysis by Leviathan, she would be just as much to blame as she feels Taylor is for the actions of Tattletale. She didn’t do it herself, but she let it happen when she could fix it. What was it Panacea herself said? “You stood by and watched it happen, played along, took advantage of it.”

        Besides, she’s wrong about the idea that a thief fears getting stolen from the most. If the thief was actually any good, they’d know they could always just steal it back, or they even know the fences it would have been taken too. It’s the innocent “Good” people that can’t steal it back and don’t know all the ins and outs of the underworld. They’re the ones who fear.

      • The big difference between Taylor letting Tattletale go on about panacea’s secrets and panacea not healing someone that leviathan injured is that Taylor actively helped Tattletale. She stood there with a knife to Panacea’s neck to keep anyone from stopping her teammate. Panacea didn’t go around crippling people so that Leviathan would have an easier time on his murder spree (although I do think Coil might have).

        The idea that Panacea should be NICE to Taylor is utterly ridiculous. For all she knows Taylor really would have slashed her throat if things had gone poorly enough. If you are looking at Taylor from the perspective of either Panacea or Glory Girl she really does come across as a monster.

        • I mean, there was actually a moment when Panacea DID ignore the knife and lunge forward, and Taylor had to actively move to KEEP her from hurting herself on it. Taylor wasn’t just bluffing, she actively went out of her way to prevent her threat from being carried out, and if Panacea had thought about that moment clearly she could have seen it.
          Not that I blame her for not doing that… but yeah. She could have known.

    • Even holding a knife to someone’s neck, Taylor didn’t kill anyone.

      But with every person Panacea refuses to heal, that’s a shortening of a life, or a reduction in the quality of a life, or the end of a life.

      Tick tock, tick tock. How many people does she have to let die before you realize the real hero here is the one carrying more dead presidents then dead people on her conscience.

      In fact, Panacea refused to use her power offensively. She could have ended the whole Oni thing long before it got around to bombing an entire city. People didn’t have to wind up with explosives in their skulls. But no. She hid behind her so-called conscience. She didn’t want to hurt someone. Well, I’m glad that worked out. All that power and no sense of responsibility.

      On the other side of the coin, we have Skitter. A relatively minor power, or so people would think. The difference is she doesn’t restrict herself. She finds new ways to make uses of it. She took down Oni. She did. Panacea, for all her supposed goodness, didn’t even try. She just locked herself in the hospital and said it wasn’t her job. Skitter, the bug girl, went looking for him. She got him and she didn’t kill anyone. She did her best to stop Bakuda as well, but powers can only do so much. The person who was much more capable of dealing with people who had bombs forced into their body was off elsewhere, I suppose.

      Taylor and her dad are in no position of power like Panacea and her adoptive mother. Nice contrast, don’t you think? Adoptive mother versus widowed father? A high-powered lawyer versus a low-powered union man. I’d be willing to say it’s even the case of the haves and the have-nots. And amidst all of this we see the great division.


      Those who have always have it don’t care about it. They either abuse it to their own benefit, like holding onto the limelight as a caped crusader or prestigious medical resource, or they don’t bother to use it where it’s needed. Those who know what it’s like to be powerless, afraid, alone, and stepped-on know what power can really do. Sure, they can abuse it too. It’s only human to want revenge. After all, sometimes the only way to balance out the equation is to violently tip the scales. And often those without power are the ones best with it. Because they know. They don’t want to do that to someone else.

      I mean, if you don’t even know the problem’s there, because it never affected you, how can you do anything about it? Miss Militia knows. She’s been on the end of a gun and known what it’s like to realize your life is completely and utterly out of your hands. Powerless. And from that powerlessness came power and the means to do something about it. Taylor, too, powerless in the face of bullying by the same horrible social structure that says one person’s life and experiences are worth less than another’s.

      She deserves her revenge. She is allowed the opportunity to tear down a system that did that to her and does that to countless others like her on a regular basis.

      Instead, she’s done more to protect it than the ones it benefits most.

      Oh, how I love and hate her at the same time for that.

      • First off, look back at the interlude with the Wards. Panacea spends so much time healing people that it is driving her crazy. She is burning herself out trying to fix as many people as she can. It is laughable to try to say that she isn’t a genuine hero. Oh no, she was adopted by a high powered lawyer! What a monster that makes her!

        Can you actually show her refusing to heal anyone? We don’t know how her powers work exactly, but I rather doubt she can go on healing people 24/7. Not healing some damage in Taylor’s hand that was already there seems like a pretty good idea when there are almost certainly other heroes with life threatening injuries lying around.

        Also, when exactly was Panacea supposed to fight Oni? Why would anyone even let her get near the crazy son of a bitch. Someone with her powers shouldn’t be a frontline fighter. She is able to save infinitely more people healing them at a hospital then she ever could when the rest of her family has already taken the field.

        Also, you seem to be ignoring the fact that the heroes and the national guard were running around fighting during the day. Coil informed them of the truce after the villain meeting and I kind of doubt it was random that heroes pushed during the day and villains attacked at night. The fact that the villains found Lung and his crew at a place they didn’t expect them is just bad luck.

        Don’t even try to say that Taylor isn’t abusing her powers either. Just because she has good intentions doesn’t make up for the fact that she is robbing banks and threatening to murder people. If she hadn’t seen that drugged up kid in Coil’s base she would still be a full blown supervillain. You can’t blame the heroes for only seeing the side of Taylor that she presents to them. They don’t have our perspective.

        Now I’m not saying that Taylor is evil or that the heroes are pure hearted bastions of kindness and morality. What I AM saying is that actions often speak louder than words and Panacea’s actions trump Taylor’s every day of the week.

      • Small correction. As all villains can do while monologuing, I overlooked a small detail. I confused Oni with Lung, though Taylor did an excellent job against him as well.

        Still, Panacea can reach into people and cause pain while altering their body to heal or cause horrible injury. Just let her get a hand on Oni or Lung and let her cause some full-on paralysis.

      • Why bother fielding Panacea though when it obviously isn’t necessary. Panacea can do SO much more good healing people. More than half the supers we see can already kick the shit out of people. You don’t risk such an amazing support ability as Panacea’s for no reason. If she was just sitting around doing nothing I would agree that she should go out and fight, but she is clearly working her ass off.

      • You obviously missed the point I tried to bring up about the attorney.

        She has power. She has always had it, if you go by the fact that her dad is referenced. This modifies her viewpoint a great deal. She will never understand what it feels to live her life with no meaning or control and with nowhere left to go.

        She resents people for injuries and diseases and medical conditions that they don’t necessarily have control over all. She lords over some of them, wanting to threaten or guilt them because she can save a life and they want to live.

        She could use it to beat the mightiest of the mighty. Who knows, just let her get a hand on Leviathan and maybe this whole thing could have been over without her dear Aegis dying.

        I’ll give some ground, as someone who is at least contemplating and masticating the debating, and say that perhaps she’s not the worst person in the world. I even have a lot of fun in tearing at her faults. It’s a useful skill if you’re ever going up against an enemy to rip their confidence a new one. As Sun Tzu himself was once quoted as saying: “When you encounter an enemy general with superior numbers whose position you wish to weaken, tell him that his mother is so ugly, so fat, and so old that even the rivers mistake her for a mountain and so all of them run from her.”

        But at the same time, she’s screwing with people’s minds when she’s supposedly there to heal them. She’s an accessory to several assaults and batteries caused by her sister and the reason Shadow Stalker’s identity is now known. She could have just told the truth. You know, the right thing to do. It would have eased the mind of her manacled patient who had just recently been paralyzed and kept her from running off. She just didn’t bother with that because she figured Taylor couldn’t do anything about it.

        Ah yes, the villainous tendency to tell the worst truths in opposition to heroic lies. Of course, the racist ones are wrong, but they think it’s the truth. Not that it gives them any credit.

      • Let me lead in with the fact that I am not saying any of the heroes are perfect, or that the all the villains are necessarily evil. Panacea is clearly not the best person in the world.

        My main problem so far is that people seem to just assume the worst about her based off her interactions with Taylor and a thug that threatened to ruin her family with lawsuits. It just strikes me as incredibly unrealistic to expect her to be nice to the girl that threatened to murder her and almost let another girl destroy her relationship with her sister.

        Obviously she shouldn’t resent the injured and the sick. She pretty clearly knows that and is struggling against it. She didn’t up and decide one day “I hate those people for being less fortunate or lucky than me!” She seems to have just been ground down.

        From an outside perspective it is very easy to claim she is incapable of recognizing the problems of others, but that doesn’t mean she has control over her own life. I kind of doubt she was given much of a choice about using her powers considering the family she was adopted into. Without any context it just seems kind of wrong to dictate how the person that is saving people all the time should feel and view the world.

        The big problem with the idea that maybe she could end the reign of terror of Leviathan with a simple touch is the word maybe. Maybe she kills him, but maybe she gets splattered against the wall when he backhands her because his physiology is different. The risk of losing someone that can save SO many lives just seems too large unless the endbringer is already completely immobilized.

      • Just one question – “Who knows, just let her get a hand on Leviathan and maybe this whole thing could have been over without her dear Aegis dying.”?

        Did you mean Gallant?

      • Wildbow, I’m just going to have to start going with the Bob Kelso solution to names.

        All the guys are Dave, all the girls are Debbie, and if any girls are actually named Debbie, then I’ll call them Slagathor.

        Daves, Debbies, Slagathor, I hate getting little mix ups like that one with Gallant. Makes me feel like Goofus.

  7. Now then, this little discussion about Panacea has reached the point where it is no longer fun for me. It was great to run her into the ground, but she was less of an example than Shadow Stalker, Armmaster, or Debbie. This post’s revelation about Debbie, including her interactions with Dave and Debbie, was so fun for me that I can’t wait for another post.

    The good news is, people have probably gotten real tired of my writing this time, so any lingering wishes to have me do even more should be dying out about now. Take that, Daves, Debbies, and Slagathor!

    I like to hold heroes to a higher standard. Villains don’t have to be better people than normal. Heroes do. When it comes down to it, Panacea is working her butt off to be one. She’s also being a dick to a bullied character that I sympathize a great deal with. I’m biased here. I’m on Taylor’s side. Excellent job there, Wildbow. Taylor is our woobie, destroyer of worlds.

    If I get to thinking crazily and villainous enough, my standards for heroes jump through the roof. Last night, a lot of this had to do with watching my digital copy of The Joker Blogs.

    You gotta wonder about the people who watch these tapes of him at Arkham. He gets to people.

    • >I like to hold heroes to a higher standard. Villains don’t have to be better people than normal. Heroes do.

      Gotta disagree with you there. If we’re following this story’s definitions of villains and heroes, I’d go the other way and say that the heroes get cut some slack because they risk their lives daily for the public good, protecting the people of the city.

      Cutting them some slack of course doesn’t mean that they’re free from blame. Whether she’s saved some people or not, Sophia is still an awful person for bullying Taylor all this time.

      You seem to have issue with Armsmaster’s motivations. He has his pride, he wants glory and recognition. He’s not exactly a shining bastion of selflessness. But that doesn’t matter, he’s still risking his life to protect people. If we, in addition to that, also expect from our heroes that they’re morally impeccable and completely selfless, we’re not going to have much heroes left.

  8. I like that Wildbow’s writing is so effective that we become so defensive and sympathetic towards our protagonist, Taylor, as a misunderstood “villain” facing off against arrogant heroes.

    Funny thing is, I’m pretty sure that if the protagonist/narrator was Panacea or Armsmaster or someone else, we’d see Skitter differently. Our sympathies would change, because of the insight we have into the narrator’s personal intentions, motivations, feelings and reactions. We care about Taylor and we know her reasons behind her actions.

    Panacea and the other heroes don’t share that insight, so they can only judge the actions themselves, not the intent behind them. Skitter has held people hostage with poisonous black widow spiders. She’s cut out eyes, and attacked genitalia. Sure she just helped out against Leviathan, but so did a lot of other people. I’m sure Panacea is stressed out by the fact that scores of people have been injured or died, including friends and colleagues. And now she has to help someone she considers dangerous — anyone would get defensive.

  9. A few things to keep in mind;

    1) Empathy/mercy are neither good nor bad, have nothing to do with the “right thing” and/or morality. A hero too merciful to give the villains what they deserve is definitely not good, as both Joker and Jason Todd know quite well. Neither is a very empathic mother doing the right thing when she’s killing children because she understands what they are feeling and doesn’t want them to suffer in a flawed world. And an entirely apatehtic towards fellow humans hero couldbe doing both the right thing and be moral while simultaneously showing not a shred of empathy or mercy (Scion, Old Testament angels)

    2) Power -including absolute power- has nothing to do with morality or justice. Power merely gives someone freedom of choice and/or a broader range of choices to pick from. Humans are flawed. That as a given, weaker individuals are often seen as good because choosing to do good won’t cost much to them – they don’t have much to lose. But give the same person more power, more things to lose, and they won’t choose good as easily. This is not the power’s fault but the person’s; their character didn’t change – only the price of doing each act.
    Absolute power specifically makes all choices exactly equal, since all choices end up being just as easy to do for an individual. In that case, that individual’s nature is what has them choose what to do, not the specifics of any one choice. Does said individual have a dark desire he would never have been able to do when weak? Now he can do it. Has said individual anger/jealousy/other issues towards others? Now they can act on them with no effort. Has said individual a bad case of acting before they think? Now they can make monumental mistakes by performing very big things before they act.
    Power doesn’t change the individual – it merely allows them to act upon all facets of their character and thus aspects that are plain not visible in other people become visible in them.

    3) Justice – the right thing to do – has nothing to do with empathy, emotions or personality. It also has nothing to do with whether it is socially acceptable or whether it is nice. Punishing Canary? Justice – she had a power she failed to use responsibly so the mutilation of her husband was her fault. Her specific punishment? Not justice – the punishment must a) be proportionate to the crime and b) allow for correction. A just punishment for her crime of irresponsibility would be twenty lashes once per week for a year – she would remember her responsibility after that.
    Taylor being punished for her life of crime – justice, regardless of how the system makes her “feel”. Panacea being mean to Taylor – irrelevant. Being mean is neither just nor unjust, merely a choice or opinion. Panacea threatening Taylor – justice; Taylor had threatened Panacea in the past. Panacea actually refusing to heal somebody – wrong, provided healing them would not cause worse harm upon another as far as Panacea knows.

    • You’re both missing the effect that being in a powerless or powerful situation has upon a person’s psychology or what a person’s position says about who they are. You see, it’s been found that if you’re more powerful, you tend to be a jerk. This may be either because jerks are willing to step on people, or because being in a position of power makes someone less empathic, and hell, less compassionate. http://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2007-01/afps-sgu011007.php

      However, because they tend to think more about themselves than other people, they will generally abuse the position to the betterment of their own self, including increased willingness to lie and otherwise bend or break rules. http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/notrocketscience/2010/04/27/power-breed-hypocrisy-%E2%80%93-the-powerful-judge-others-more-harshly-but-cheat-more-themselves/

      Their viewpoint becomes skewed as well. They overestimate themselves and the world, becoming more likely to engage in risky behavior. While that can be a plus, there are certainly many negatives with risky behavior out there (Iraq, Bernie Madoff, the Mortgage crisis, yada, yada, yada…) http://www.time.com/time/health/article/0,8599,1883658,00.html

      And so we get Taylor, the underdog, willing to run back and save a teacher who didn’t save her. She put her life on the line out of caring for others, spending her time asking after Tattletale and the others of her old team, which she left out of compassion for Dinah.

      She gets lectured by Panacea even while Panacea threatens to harm her more and is causing mental harm by framing things a certain deceptive way. So, there’s that.

      And when it comes to the idea that heroes can be great because they do good even when they think bad, I would suggest some examination of the debate over whether it is better to have faith or works. It is a religious debate, which is why I will not be making any quotations from the book of Dave, the psalm of Debbie, or the sermon of Slagathor, nor am I attempting to make this a big religious thing. I’m just pointing out that we are not nearly the first people to have a discussion like this. I’ve certainly seen a number of people come down on the side of works without the proper goodness of mind being hollow and not nearly enough.

    • I’d just like to append the list here with something…

      4) Morality and justice are both subjective, and have no absolute measure. Hence no act whatsoever can be said to be morally right or just except as a statement of personal opinion, and the opinions differ heavily.

      Bottom line: Nihilism. Mercy is worthless. Compassion is worthless. Justice is worthless. Morality is worthless. Power is kind of cool.

      This is a way of thinking that is philosophically very strong since it can’t really be swayed with any argumentation. The downside is that building a society on it creates a dystopia.

      • As for nihilism… uh uh. Some things are simply wrong, even without society.

        You see, sapient life, at least to our knowledge of it, is rare in this vast universe of ours. Only 7 billion. Not even an entire planetful. If that 7 billion doesn’t grow and advance in time, disaster will strike. Expansion of the sun, climate change, some random space disaster. Something will happen to wipe out all of us if we don’t branch out to other planets and boldly go where no man has one before. If we are up to that challenge, we must then get out of the galaxy before it is cannibalized by any nearby, bigger galaxies. Even it just cannibalizing a smaller one could have disastrous consequences as far as we are concerned. And so we must spread throughout the universe if we as a species are to survive.

        And so the goal of humanity can be to live as long as possible.

        Until the universe collapses down to a singularity, then we’re all dead no matter what.

        In light of this, this protection of human life, certain things must be done. War amongst ourselves should be kept to a minimum, unless it is to get rid of a greater threat to humanity. Slavery, which demeans humans and counts them as worth less than other humans, is also to be done away with. There are enough other species out there that would seek advantage over humanity and we would not give it to them by dividing ourselves. After all, just look at the rapid growth in insect and rat populations due to so many empty homes that were foreclosed on or just never sold. We can not allow the ants to overtake Earth, I say. And trust me, that is a much more credible threat than anyone wants to think about.

        Now, after we wipe out roaches, rats, and mosquitoes, a number of collective pests to humanity that also spread disease, it is in our best interest to protect the environment that is beneficial to us. After all, we live in it. We have to get our food from somewhere.

        I’m sure as hell not going to eat a dead rat, because then we’d start having to breed more rats to use as a continuing food source, just like the population of cows has increased as humans have taken to eating them more and more. This also means we should eat less seafood because we are incapable of breeding more fish so easily as we do cows. Also, fish stink and taste nasty.

        I also say that no man may oppress another man purely over political, philosophical, or religious differences unless they are causing harm in actual physical ways such as by promoting violence, protecting roaches, or eating seafood.

        Geez, come on guys, I’m the supervillain here. Do I need to take my “reason you suck” speech up there that was aimed at Worm’s heroes and direct it at some of the people out here too?

        I mean, it’s very simple how my master plan works here. I want to meet the perfect shining beacon of superhumanity. And do my best to grind them into dust and make them curse everything they ever believed in. I want to make them give up on their principles, forget about morality, and die in ignominy after they have been run ragged to their limits and finally succumb. Every one that drops is a great thing. It separates those who aren’t worthy from being thought of as if they are. Or, another way, it destroys those not true heroes to keep from being assumed to be true heroes.

        Because I think it would be the most wonderful thing in the world if I failed. If they rose to the occasion, stayed true, and beat me by holding true to their purpose. If I had found that shining beacon, that wonderful person, if I had tested them and pushed them, and showed that they were such an example of the best of humanity, then we would all be better off at seeing such a thing.

        Ah, to become a devil to find an angel.

        Pardon me, I’m monologuing again.

  10. From the point of view of society (law) things have to be practical.
    Taylor threatened Panacea with poison -> this is a fact.
    The apparent motive was robing a bank -> no known extenuating circumstances (yeah, we know some, but we are inside Taylor´s head).
    If apprehended by a police officer or other certified agent of law she would get time in jail for theft with an increase in penalty due to hostages.
    IF her motives were known she could get a reduction due to attenuating circumstances.
    Why? No matter how good you are or your motives, society can´t encourage people to rob banks. This behavior must be punished, because the limiting cases, if these crimes where not punished would be:
    1- A kind of anarchy where everything is property of everybody.
    2- A situation where those that can keep it have and those that can´t do not (not so different from our society, but you got my meaning).
    Now, busting into a party and showering people with stick glue is just assault, perhaps aggravated assault. Since no one was really injured, it may be viewed as a kind of protest, if Taylor´s past is known. She will probably not serve time because of this (here in Brasil I think that “community work” would be a possible outcome).
    Threatening a patient under your care is justifiable in the case of Panacea (think of her as an adolescent with powers that try to do her best with what she has, forget the hero part because she is not one) but, of course, from a moral stand point it is “murky”.
    Looking from the point of view of “society” this is something that MUST be discouraged since, if doctors (and yes, she is practicing medicine) start doing this kind of thing it will lead, sooner or latter, to mistreatment of patients that are not liked by the staff and to a very ugly future for hospitals.
    So, yes, it is also anti social behavior. She has to be punished somehow, to give an example, but I really do not know what would be fair punishment to a girl that already spend all the time that she can healing people.

      • That is because they paid for their crime by providing information that could very likely result in them or their loved ones being killed by some not very nice people. Sure, they don’t go to jail. However, they have to spend the rest of their life with the fear that the person they just betrayed will find them.

  11. Wow, things have definitely moved on past my original comment. If I can backtrack a little, I’d say that it’s understandable for Taylor to not really feel gratefulness–and maybe she’s too far into shock to feel much anyway. Still, it would’ve been seen as a positive step if she wants to get out of the role as villain.

    I think that, if she wasn’t under so much stress at the moment, she would have naturally said “thank you” in some fashion.

    I agree with the sentiment that it doesn’t really matter whether or not Debbie is more of a hero than a villain. From a purely self-interested perspective, Taylor doesn’t lose anything by saying thanks whereas she stands a better chance of a perfect healing if she does express her gratitude (she also gains the possibility of getting a reversal some time in the future if Panacea really did leave a little “present”).

    • Taylor did express a concern that apologizing for the bank robbery might be seen as a manipulation intended for just that reason – to make it less likely that Panacea will leave a booby trap in her… and if seen that way, it might backfire and make Panacea -more- likely to leave that trap.

      Along those lines, you could surmise much the same thing about a ‘thank you’ or offer for medical assistance, etc.

  12. Reading this chapter and the comments thereon makes me think of something Nate Silver (a US political analyst) once said: the first rule of taking the high road is don’t talk about how you’re taking the high road.

    Panacea violated that rule. I think that accounts for a large part of why she ticked us off so much.

  13. Missing spaces: should be “…mandibles – eleven now, as another cockroach came from the air vent – each…”

    “Ten sets of mandibles -eleven now, as another cockroach came from the air vent- each working at individual threads.”

  14. Holy hotfuckingdamnshit!

    I thought Shadow Stalker was one of Emma’s new crew. Didn’t occur to me that it would be Sophia.

  15. Located a typo: “Imagine the person you care about most, finding our your darkest secrets.” should be “Imagine the person you care about most, finding OUT your darkest secrets.”

  16. Wow. Love this chapter, had a lot of fun reading the comments, too. First, I just have to chime in in defense of the heroes; most of them don’t know anything about Taylor. If someone threatens to kill people, whether with a knife or her superpowers, well they have to take that threat seriously. If I walked into a room with a gun and said I would shoot the first person who tried to leave or call the cops, I would deserve whatever happened in response to that threat. You can’t express your willingness to use deadly force, make it a credible threat, and then complain that someone took you seriously. Obviously this is part of what makes any undercover operation such a nightmare, so I think Taylor deserves some sympathy from us, but it’s not hard to understand why the heroes might not be in the mood to grant her the benefit of the doubt, especially when it’s right after an Endbringer attack and they’re still wondering how many friends and family members they’ve lost.

    Of course, this same thing applies to the good guys, in a sense. Heroes handcuffing Skitter to a hospital bed are either breaking the truce, or doing a great impression. On a related note, if the PRT chooses to sign on someone like Shadow Stalker and protect her, they are responsible for ensuring that she lives up to the heroic concept of the organization. Someone is, at the very least, systematically failing to check up on how Sophia Hess spends her time in her civilian life. She is a cruel, abusive person, and just as Taylor can’t reasonably complain that people see Skitter as a villain, the PRT can’t complain if learning about Shadow Stalker makes her decide to burn the entire PRT to the ground on the logic that the organization is rotten. They choose their members. They made their bed, and they have to lie in it. If they were doing their jobs correctly, Taylor’s complaint to her school would lead to Sophia’s conduct being looked into, and any such investigation by someone competent would inevitably turn up the abuse of Taylor. At that point, I’m not sure what good guys would do assuming they were both effective and decent, but they would sure as heck do something.

    I actually feel a bit more sympathy for Armsmaster, despite the fact that he’s a prideful guy and potential gloryhound. The night he met Taylor, he thought he was going to pick up a few PR points and maybe take a step towards bringing a new kid into the game on the good guy side. Instead, he winds up with the blame – and we’re still not sure how deserved it may or may not be, I don’t think – for poisoning, maiming and nearly killing a criminal in the course of bringing him into custody. He’s put years of his life into the work of protecting people, quite possibly seen colleagues die around him, and is implied to have little personal life. His work is all he has, and we know that it’s not odd for him to lose track of time and stay up all night perfecting his gear so he can better do the job. But lately, he’s caught the blame for something that wasn’t his fault, been humiliated, stripped of the position he worked hard to earn, and knows that he’ll probably never achieve something similar again. His career isn’t over, but it has peaked. And right when it happens…he sees a chance. Not just to look good, but to really BE the hero he’s always wanted to be, take down the unstoppable Leviathan. Fighting the monster one-on-one makes a certain amount of sense, to minimize variables if he’s using software to analyze and predict moves, and the reason not to do it right away could just be that he wasn’t sure it would work. For all we know, he asked Legend offscreen to try to go hand-to-hand with Leviathan, and the guy told him to stick to the plan. He may be a jerk, and deficient in empathy and people skills, but I don’t think we can label him a villain at this point.

    On Panacea: She definitely seems like she’s headed for an emotional burnout from previous chapters, and in this one she’s been healing people for an indeterminate amount of time, probably with little rest, all the while wondering if maybe her sister or adopted mother will be the next body bag to get wheeled in. IIRC, at least one member of New Wave is confirmed dead at this point; even if it’s not someone she’s close to, personally, that will take a toll on her family. I don’t find it at all odd for her to act the way she does. I don’t think her emotional state excuses it, however – she is deliberately cruel, at least briefly, toward someone who is helpless. The fact that Taylor threatened to kill her – a threat which she had no reason not to take seriously – is a good reason to say as little as possible and leave the room immediately, but the cruelty was over the line. I do think that people who apply the “hero” standard to Panacea may be doing her an injustice, however. If we set the bar higher for heroes because they claim to stand for something, I’m not sure she deserves that. She’s never claimed to be a hero or role model, that I can think of, and has stated out loud that she helps people so much because she would feel guilty doing any less – in fact, she feels guilty despite how much she does!

    Finally, on the setting as a whole: I wonder how long people could live like this. Endbringers, villains outnumbering heroes, the Birdcage and violations of civil rights, all of it. There are good people in it, but this is not a nice world.

    I was going to close by saying that I would never live on the coast in the Wormverse, but on reflection I think I would want to learn more about the other two Endbringers before making any absolute statements like that. Seems like tempting fate.

    Lastly, this is a hell of an arc, with a hell of an ending. Exhausting to read, but in a good way.

  17. It’s chapters like this that justify going through all the comments on a re-reading binge. Wow. Aside from all the moral/ethical issues, which I think have been sufficiently covered, I never really considered Panacea’s side of things so much my first time ’round. I mean, she can heal pretty much anything, from broken spines to cancer. Everyone KNOWS she can do this. And since she’s in New Wave, they all know who she is, really. Can you imagine how many desperate pleas for help she must get? How much hate mail and death threats for not saving a loved one? How many kidnapping attempts must occur when villains or rogues need a cure for themselves or someone they care about? I’m not justifying her behavior at all, this is just me realizing how much it must suck to be her.

    On another note, it really was dumb for them to keep any villains in the dark about the restraints. I can’t imagine any of them not making the same assumption that Skitter did unless they’d been through it before. And cooperation in keeping identities secret seems like a logical extension of the Endbringer truce.

  18. I find it interesting how all of the discussion is about Panacea and none about the nameless nursing school student. I think her presence is an important factor in why most readers (me included) react so opposed to Panacea’s actions and dialogue – she helps despite potential negative consequences for her. Of course, she wasn’t personally connected to Skitter the same way Panacea is, but I guess it takes a lot of courage to act this way given that her knowledge about Skitter is only from the media. While she hasn’t personally experienced it, she (thinks she) knows the person lying in that bed is a cold-blooded criminal with a sadistic streak, and yet she still decides to help.

  19. As always — mind-blowing story twists!

    All this comment discussion about Panacea “threatening” Skitter has me a bit puzzled. Panacea didn’t bring up the earlier threats from during the bank job; Skitter brought them up. Panacea just came in, exhausted, explained why she needed Skitter’s permission to attempt treating her, then did proceed to begin fixing her. Skitter’s grilling her for more info was what made Panacea get cranky and balk at giving her any reassurance.

    I’m not saying there wasn’t a little spite involved, I’m saying she basically did what she was supposed to do in helping heal. I don’t read her dialogue or behavior as having come in there intending to screw with Skitter. Most of the “mind-fuck” was Skitter in her own head.

    They both have reasons to not trust one another.

  20. Ohhhhh. They weren’t breaking the Endbringer truce- they were scared she would, because they don’t know her and it would be really easy if you wanted to.
    Also… huh. That’s unexpected. Interesting.

  21. “I could only work with my shoulders, my head, my teeth.”
    holy shit – nice parallel to Bakuda!
    … now will Skitter be successful where Bakuda failed?

    second time reading through, and the tension is just as palpable – kudos, Wildbow!

  22. As someone who is not from the US and has never had to deal with lawyers I find it very difficult to comprehend a society that could tolerate that amount of legal bullshit (in a hospital of all places too!)

    The conversation between Panacea and Skitter seems completely unrealistic to me. Why doesn’t Amy realise that villains can’t sue, they are villains! As soon as a masked Taylor walked into a court she would be arrested. Aggravated robbery takes precedence over suspected medical malpractice any day. Taylor should have just mentioned that she saved Laserdream from drowning right before she stabbed Leviathan (“I saw Laserdream lying face down in the water, bent down and turned her over with my good hand and one foot, checked she was breathing.”)

    I’m kinda disappointed Taylor hasn’t figured out how to remotely listen with her bugs yet, since she can already see through their eyes. That’s the first thing I would have done.

    This story is pretty compelling otherwise though, can’t wait to get to the end.

    • The fact that she’s a criminal does not change the fact that Panacea is threatening to egregiously violate her rights.

    • If I remember correctly, capes (including criminals) are allowed to remain masked in legal proceedings, provided they can prove they actually are who they say they are.

  23. This chapter has caused me to realize a major deficiency in someone’s character. No, I’m not talking about Panacea or Shadow Stalker, though it is somewhat connected to these matters.

    I’m talking about Carol Dallon.

    Look at the facts. Despite the fact that she is a leader of New Wave, which is all about accountability for cape actions, her own children are threatening and bullying others and getting away with it by threatening their victims with her. First we have Victoria, who has critically injured six people and blackmailed them all into silence; then, Amy, who actually threatened to break the Endbringer Truce to get revenge on someone who is only tangentially connected to the harms she has suffered.

    Situations like this do not arise in a vacuum. Would the Dallon sisters keep coasting on that “My mother’s a lawyer” card if it hadn’t worked before? The kind of Reliance on this tactic feels like the sort of thing that would only exist if it’s use had actually been justified, at east to the user. You rely on people to get you out of trouble because you know they will, and who better to trust to save you than someone who’s done the same thing before?
    It seems quite likely to me that Carol Dallon has previously used her legal expertise to get Victoria out of trouble, and seeing how effectively Victoria has used this to her advantage has led Any to think she can get away with this too. Carol Dallon has betrayed her ideology by enabling her children to call on her to rescue them from whatever predicament they’ve landed themselves in, even if they deserved it. Not only that, she has actually failed her children as well by teaching them that they can do things like this and evade the consequences. This sort of attitude from the Winslow administration is exactly how Emma and Sophia got away with mentally assaulting Taylor for the fourteen months before Sophia wound up on the Wards, and it is just as wrong, if not more so, in Brandish/Mrs. Dallon as it is in a teacher. Not to mention that by letting superheroes brutalize criminals, however unintentionally, Brandish is destroying the moral superiority of the law and her own movement, turning her organization into just another gang.

    I’m not saying Carol Dallon is completely complicit in her children’s actions, but I am saying that she is why they do what they do, and I am outlining the extreme consequences of what she has done. Even criminals deserve to be treated with basic human decency, but no Dallon has ever shown that they have even heard of that notion, and the blame for this can be laid firmly on Carol’s shoulders.

  24. It’s a shame that no cape has the power to create clones. You could then send limitless numbers of clones to fight an endbringer; whilst their death would be tragic, at least the original cape would survive. although, you’d want the clone creator to be a good guy or gal.

    • Problem is any Endbringer (with the possible exception of Behemoth; we don’t know how intelligent he is yet) would promptly make the clone creator a priority target.

    • More than a bit late, but there are, and they did just that:

      “We are splitting you into groups based on your abilities! If you are confident you can take a hit from Leviathan and get up afterwards, or if you have the ability to produce expendable combatants, we need you on the front line! You will be directed by Alexandria and Dragon!”

      As a concrete example, take Crusader and his “ghosts”; and also look at how (I’m pretty sure) he was listed among the fallen to see that it’s not a get-out-of-this-safely free pass. Oni Lee might count as well, if his teleportation wouldn’t be more helpful as transport.

      And first time through, so it’s not a spoiler, but I keep expecting we come across him again. He ran from the fight rather than going down, and wasn’t in the van with Canary, so unless there was an offhanded mention of his capture or death I missed, he’s still out there.

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