Interlude 11h

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Amy sat on her bed, staring at the piece of paper in her hands.  The header at the top was stylized, a silhouette of a superhero with a cape flowing, with a script reading ‘The Guild’ extending to the right.

Mrs. Carol Dallon.  Brandish,

Let me open by stating my condolences for the loss of your brother-in-law, nephew, and your husband’s injury.  I have heard New Wave is currently considering disbanding, and you have my best wishes, whatever route you end up taking.  We have too few heroes and heroines to lose them, and even fewer of the truly good heroes and heroines who set the standard for everyone else, parahuman and human alike.  If finances ever become a concern, know that all you need to do is ask, and we will find you employment among the Guild’s uncostumed staff.

Knowing what you have been through as of late, it is with a heavy heart that I send you this message with further bad news.  Marquis, interred in the Baumann Parahuman Containment Center, confided to another inmate that he fears for his daughter’s life.  I have checked the facts to the best of my ability, and the details I have been able to dig up match with his story.  I must warn you that Allfather may have arranged for Amy Dallon to be murdered at some future date, in revenge for his own daughter’s death at Marquis’ hands.

She had to stop reading there.  The paper had been on Carol’s bedside table, and Amy had found it while collecting a change of clothes for Mark a week ago.  Carol had probably been reading it to him late the previous night, and maybe forgot to put it away due to a mixture of exhaustion and the distractions that came with waking up each morning to a disabled husband and a ten-year career in jeopardy.

Amy knew she shouldn’t have read it, but the header had caught her attention.  With her family’s fate uncertain, she had found herself reading, to see if they were joining the Guild, if something else had happened that could distract them from this.

Now that door was open, and she could never shut it again.  She didn’t care so much about the possible hit on her.  No.  What shook her was that she now knew who her father was.  She even suspected that, like Tattletale had told her months ago, she’d always known.  She just hadn’t dug for it, hadn’t put the pieces together.

Marquis had been an aspiring crime lord in the bad old days of Brockton Bay.  It had been a time when the villains had been flocking to the city to profit off the booming tech and banking sectors, to recruit mooks and henchmen from the city’s unemployed dockworkers.  It had been an era when the heroes hadn’t been properly established, and the villains had been confident enough that some didn’t give a second thought to murdering any heroes who got in their way.  Marquis included.

The bad old days were how Carol and Mark referred to that time.  There were more heroes now, and there was more balance between the good guys and the bad, but things were arguably worse now.  Everything was in shambles.

Marquis had been an osteokinetic.  A manipulator of both his own bone and, provided some was exposed, the bones of his enemies.  He’d been notorious enough that she’d heard about him despite the fact that he’d been arrested more than a decade ago, that the city and the public had remembered him.  He’d lived in the outskirts of the city, residing in a large house in the woods, just beneath the mountains.

She thought maybe there was something familiar about that idea.  Was it imagination when the vague image of a house popped into her mind?  The study with the black leather chair and countless bookshelves?  Or was it memory, something recalled from her early childhood?

To all reports, the man had been heartless, callous.  Wasn’t she?  She couldn’t bring herself to care anymore when she went to the hospitals to heal the injured and sick.  It was a chore, something she made herself do because people wouldn’t understand if she stopped.  There were only so many people she could heal before she became desensitized to it.

What else did she know about Marquis?  She vaguely recalled Uncle Neil talking about the man when he’d been talking to Laserdream about villain psychology.  There were the unpredictable ones, the villains who were hard to stop because you couldn’t guess where they’d strike next, but who were less practiced in what they did and made mistakes you could leverage against them.  There were also the orderly ones.  The ones who were careful, who honed their methodology to perfection, but they repeated themselves, showed patterns that a smart hero could use to predict where they struck next, and often had rules or rituals a hero could turn against them.

Which wasn’t to say that one was smarter than the other, or that one was better.  Each posed problems for the local authorities and capes.  Marquis had fit into the latter category, the perfectionists, the pattern killers.  He’d had, as Neil explained, a warped sense of honor, underneath it all.  He didn’t kill women or kids.

Not hard to pull the pieces together.  She could remember how quickly Neil had dropped the subject when he realized she was listening.  He hadn’t outright said that they’d caught Marquis, but she could imagine that the weaknesses that Neil had been outlining had been what they’d used.  Send Lady Photon, Brandish and Fleur against the man.  Add the fact that Amy had been there, a toddler, and Marquis had been too concerned about collateral damage to go all out.

It was him.  She didn’t want it to, but it all fit together.

It was all so fucked up.  She was so fucked up.

There was a knock on her door.  She hurried to hide the paper.

“Come in,” she said, trying to compose herself in the span of one or two seconds.

Carol opened the door.  She was pulling on the gloves for her costume.  “Amy?”


Carol took a few seconds before she looked up from her gloves and met Amy’s eyes.  When she did, the look was hard, accusatory.

“There’s word about some strange howling near the Trainyard.  Glory Girl and I are going on a patrol to check on it.”

Amy nodded.

“Can you look after Mark?”

“Of course,” Amy said, her voice quiet.  She stood from her bed and headed to the door.  Carol didn’t move right away.  Instead, Amy’s adoptive mother stayed where she was, staring at Amy.  Amy reached the door and had to stop, waiting for Carol to speak.

But Carol didn’t.  The woman turned and left the doorway, Amy meekly following.

They don’t understand.

Mark was in the living room, sitting on the couch.  No longer able to don his costume and be Flashbang, Mark could barely move.  He had a form of brain damage.  It was technically amnesia, but it wasn’t the kind that afflicted someone in the movies and TV.  What Mark had lost were the skills he’d learned over the course of his life.  He’d lost the ability to walk, to speak full sentences, hold a pen and drive a car.  He’d lost more – almost everything that let him function.

What little he regained came slowly and disappeared quickly.  It was as though his brain was a shattered glass, and there was only so much he could hold in it before it spilled out once again.  So they’d patiently worked with him, helping him to hobble between the bedroom, living room and bathroom.  They’d worked with him until he could mostly feed himself, say what needed to be said, and they didn’t push him to do more.

Victoria was in costume as Glory Girl, but she was unclipping a bib from around his neck, something to ensure he didn’t stain his clothes while he ate.  Amy’s adoptive father turned and smiled gently as he saw the other two members of his family.  It was all Amy could do to maintain eye contact, smile back.

“Ready, mom?” Victoria asked.

“Almost ready,” Carol said.  She bent down by Mark and kissed him, and he was smiling sadly as she pulled back.  He mumbled something private and sweet that his daughters weren’t privy  to, and Carol offered him a whispered reply.  Carol stood, then nodded at Victoria, “Let’s go.”

They left without another word.  There was no goodbye for Amy, no hug or kiss.

Victoria can’t even meet my eyes.

The slight hurt more than she’d expected.  It wasn’t like it was something new.  It had been going on for weeks.  And it was fully deserved.

Amy felt her pulse pounding as she looked at Mark.  Made herself sit on the couch next to him.  Does he blame me?

It was all falling apart.  This family had never fully accepted her.  Being in the midst of a family that all worked together, it was hard to preserve secrets.  Amy had learned a few years ago, overhearing a conversation between Carol and Aunt Sarah, that Carol had initially refused to take her in.  Her adoptive mother had only accepted in the end because she’d had a job and Aunt Sarah didn’t.  One kid to Aunt Sarah’s two.  When she’d taken Amy in, it hadn’t been out of love or caring, but grudging obligation and a sense of duty.

Mark had tried to be a dad.  He’d made her pancakes on the weekends, taken her places.  But it had always been inconsistent.  Some days he seemed to forget, others he got upset, or was just too distracted for the trips to the ice cream store or mall.  Another secret that the family hadn’t kept – Mark was clinically depressed.  He had been prescribed drugs to help him, but he didn’t always take them.

It had always been Victoria, only Victoria, who made her feel like she had a family here.  Victoria was mad at her now.  Except mad wasn’t the right word.  Victoria was appalled, seething with anger, brimming with resentment, because Amy couldn’t, wouldn’t, heal their father.

They’d fought, and Amy hadn’t been able to defend her position, but still she’d refused.  Every second that Victoria and Carol spent taking care of Mark was a second Amy felt the distance between her and the family grow.  So she took care of Mark as much as she could, only taking breaks to visit the hospitals to tend to the sick there.  She’d also needed a few to process the letter she’d received.

The letter.  Carol wasn’t angry in the same way Victoria was.  What Amy felt from her ‘mother’ was a chill.  She knew that she was only justifying the darker suspicions Carol had harbored towards her since she was first brought into the family.  It was doubly crushing now, because Amy knew about Marquis.  Amy knew that Carol was thinking the same thing she was.

Marquis was one of the organized killers.  He had his rules, he had his code, and so did Amy.  Amy wouldn’t use her power to affect people’s minds.  Like father, like daughter.

“Do you need anything?” she asked Mark, when the next ad break came up.

“Water,” he mumbled.


She headed into the kitchen, grateful for the excuse to leave the room.  She searched the dishwasher for his cup, a plastic glass with a textured outside, light enough for him to lift without having to struggle with muscle control, easy enough to grip.  She filled it halfway so it wouldn’t be as heavy.

Tears filled her eyes, and she bent over the sink to wash her face.

She was going to lose them.  Lose her family, no matter what happened.

Which meant she had to go.  She was old enough to fend for herself.  She would leave of her own volition, and she would help Mark as a parting gift to her family.  She just had to work up the courage.

Drying her face with her shirt, she carried the mug into the living room.

The TV was off.

Had Mark turned it off because he’d wanted to sleep?  Amy was careful to be quiet, stepping on the floorboards at the far sides of the hallway so they wouldn’t creak.

A girl stood in the living room, five or so years younger than Amy.  Her blond hair had been curled into ringlets with painstaking care, but the rest of her was unkempt, filthy.  She stared at Mark, who was struggling and failing to stand from the couch.

The girl turned to look at Amy, and Amy saw that some of the dirt that covered the girl wasn’t dirt, but crusted blood.  The girl wore a stained apron that was too large for her, and the scalpels and tools in the pocket gleamed, catching the light from the lamps in the corner of the room.

Amy recognized the girl from the pictures that were hung up in the office.


“Hi,” Bonesaw gave a little wave of her hand.  A wide smile was spread across her face.

“What- What are you doing here?”

“I wanted to see you.  Obviously.”

Amy swallowed.  “Obviously.”  Was it possible that Allfather had arranged for a member of the Slaughterhouse Nine to murder her?

Amy’s eyes roved over the room, looking for Bonesaw’s work.  Nothing.  She looked over her shoulder and a shriek escaped through her lips.  A man was not two feet behind her, tall and brutish, his face badly scarred and battered to the point that it was barely recognizable as human.  A long-handled axe sat in one of his massive, calloused hands, the head resting on the floor.  Hatchet Face.

“Runnn,” Mark moaned, urging her.  She didn’t give it a second thought.  She dashed for the front door, threw it open with enough force that a picture fell from the wall.

Hatchet Face stood on the other side, blocking the doorway.

“No,” she gasped, as she backed towards the living room, “No, please.”

How?  How had he gotten there so fast?  She turned around and saw he was still there, still in the hallway.

There were two Hatchet Faces?

Then the first one exploded into a cloud of white dust and blood spatters, momentarily filling the room.  Amy could hear Bonesaw’s giggling, felt her heart sink.

“Get it?  You figure out what I did?  Turn around, Hack Job.”

Amy had figured it out, but Bonesaw’s creation demonstrated anyways.  He turned his back to Amy, and she saw what looked like a tumorous growth on the back of his head, shoulders and arms.  Except the growth had a face, vaguely Asian in features, and the lumps inside the growth each roughly corresponded with organs and skeletal structure.  The jaw of the figure that was attached to the back of Hatchet Face’s body was working open and closed like a fish gasping for air.  The stitches were still fresh.

“You mashed them together.  Oni Lee and Hatchet Face.”

“Yes!  I can’t even begin to tell you how hard it was.  I mean, I had to conduct the operation from a remote location, using robots, because I would lose my Tinker powers if I got too close to the big lug.  And I had to fit their bodies and nervous systems together so that they could use their powers without messing up the other.”

“Oh god,” Amy mumbled.  Is this what she’s going to do to me?

“Had to add in a control frame and perform a spot lobotomy so Hatchet would obey me, you know.  He didn’t lose much.  Was never very bright.”

“And Oni Lee?” Amy was almost afraid to ask.

“Oh, I barely touched his brain.  He suffered some moderate brain damage from his close brush with death, but I revived him.  His brain’s more or less intact, even.  He can’t control his body, but he’s alert and aware, and he feels everything Hatchet does,” Bonesaw smiled wider.

“That’s horrifying.”

“It’s not a perfect mesh.  I only just started doing these mash-ups.  Still practicing.  Hatchet’s power isn’t working as well anymore, and I’m worried about physical wear and tear as they teleport, but it’s still one of my better works.  Took me four whole hours.”  Bonesaw clasped her hands in front of her, shifting her weight from foot to foot, waiting expectantly.

Amy swallowed.  She didn’t have words.

Bonesaw smiled.  “I thought you’d appreciate this more than anyone.”

“Appreciate this.”

“You’re the only other person who works with meat.  I mean, we’re different in some ways, but we’re also really similar, aren’t we?  You manipulate people’s biology, and I tinker with it.  The human body’s only a really intricate, wet machine, isn’t it?”

Others were entering the room now.  From the kitchen, a woman, the structure of her face altered into something that was more rat-like than human, conelike, ending in a squashed black nose that had staples around it.  Bonesaw had added a second set of teeth, all canines, so that the woman would have enough as her jaw was stretched forward.  Drool constantly leaked between her teeth in loops and tendrils.  She was pale, except for her face and patches all down her body, where patches of ebon black skin were stapled in place.  Her hair was long, dark, and unwashed, but most unnerving of all were her fingers, which had been replaced by what looked like machetes.  The clawtips dragged on the hardwood as she stumped forward on feet that had been modified in a similar way, no longer fit for conventional walking.

The third was another Frankenstein hodgepodge of two individuals, emerging from the hallway where the amalgamation of Oni Lee and Hatchet Face -Hack Job- had exploded.  The lower half was a man who must have been built like a gorilla in life, rippling with muscles, walking forward on his knuckles.  His upper body grew up from the point the other body’s neck should have begun, an emaciated man with greasy brown hair and beard, grown long.  He was not unlike a centaur, but the lower half was a brutish man.

Then there were the other things.  They weren’t alive.  Spidery contraptions of scrap metal, they lacked heads, only consisting of a box half the size of a toaster and spindly legs that moved on hydraulics, each ending in a syringe or scalpel.  A dozen of them, climbing onto the walls and floor.

“Murder Rat used to be a heroine, called herself the Mouse Protector.  One of those capes who plays up the cheese, no pun intended.  Camped it up, acted dorky, used bad puns, so her enemies would be embarrassed to lose to her.  Ravager decided she’d had enough, asked the Nine to take Mouse Protector down.  So we took the job.  Beat Mouse Protector, and I took her to the operating table.  The other Nine tracked down Ravager and collected her, too.  Just to make it clear that we don’t take orders.  We aren’t errand boys or errand girls either.  Now Ravager gets to spend the rest of her life with the woman she hated, making up.”

Amy swallowed, looking at the woman.

“The other, I’m trying to figure out a name.  The one on the bottom was Carnal.  Healer, tough, and healed more by bathing himself in blood.  Thought he had a place on our team, failed the tests.  The one on the top was Prophet.  Convinced he was Jesus reborn.  What do you call a mix of people like that?  I’ve got a name in mind, but I can’t quite figure it out.”

“I don’t know.”

“So you’re bad at names too?” Bonesaw grinned.  “I’m thinking something like shrine, temple… but one with multiple floors.  Um.”


“Pagoda!  Yes!”  Bonesaw skipped over to her creation, wrapped her arms around one of his, “Pagoda!  That’s your name, now!”

None of the three monsters moved or reacted.  Each stared dumbly forward, Murder Rat drooling, the others appearing to be in a daze.

“That’s good!”  Bonesaw smiled at Amy, “I knew we’d make a good team!”

“Team?”  What could she say or do to escape?  Failing that, was there anything she could use to kill herself, so Bonesaw couldn’t get her hands on them, turn them into something like those things?  In the worst case scenario, she could use her power on Mark before finishing herself off.

Except she wasn’t sure it would matter.  Amy was incapable, but there was nothing saying Bonesaw couldn’t raise the recently dead.

“Yes, team!  I want you to be my teammate!”  Bonesaw was almost gushing.

“I don’t-” Amy stopped herself, “Why?”

“Because I always wanted a big sister,” Bonesaw replied, as if that was answer enough.

Amy blinked.  Sister.  She thought of Victoria.  “I make a pretty shitty sister.”

“Language!”  Bonesaw admonished, with surprising fierceness.

“I’m sorry.  I- I’m not a very good sister, I don’t think.”

“You could learn.”

“I’ve tried, but… I’ve only gotten worse at it as time passed.”

Bonesaw pouted a little.  “But think of the stuff we could do together.  I do the kludge, the big stuff, you smooth it over.  Imagine how Murder Rat would look without the scars and staples.”

Amy looked at the onetime heroine, tried to picture it.  It wasn’t any better.  Worse, if anything.

“That’s only the beginning.  Can you even imagine the things we could make?  There’s no upper limit.”

There was a beep from the answering machine.  It began playing a message.  “Amy, pick up!  We’re looking at dealing with Hellhound, and there’s injured.  Call Aunt Sarah or Uncle Neil over to look after dad and get over to the-”

The message cut off, and there was the sound of a clatter, a distant barking sound.

“I don’t think I have it in me to do stuff like that,” Amy said.  If nothing else, I can’t disappoint Victoria any further.

“Oh.  Oh!”  Bonesaw smiled.  “That’s okay.  We can work through that.”

“I- I don’t think we really can.”

“No, really,” Bonesaw said.  Then she snapped her fingers.

Hack Job flickered into existence just in front of Amy, and there was little she could do to escape.  She cried out as the man’s massive hand smashed her down onto her back, a few feet from Mark.

Mark struggled to stand, but Murder Rat darted across the room to light atop the back of the couch and press one of her three-foot long claws against his throat.

Amy was pinned.  She tried to use her power on Hack Job through the contact he was making with her chest and neck, only to find it wasn’t available.  She couldn’t sense his body, the blood flowing in his veins, or any of that.  Even her own skin felt quiet, where she normally felt the pinprick sensations of innumerable, microscopic airborne lifeforms touching her.  She’d barely even realized that was happening until it stopped.

“Jack’s taken me on as his protegé.  Teaching me the finer points of being an artist.  What he’s been saying is that I’m too focused on the external.  Skin, bone, flesh, bodies, the stuff we see and hear.  He’s told me to practice with the internal, and this seems like a great time to do that.”

“Internal?” Amy replied.

“It’s easy to break people’s bodies.  Easy to scar them and hurt them that way.  But the true art is what you do inside their heads.  Do you have a breaking point, Amy?  Maybe if we find your limits and push past them, you’ll find yourself in a place where you’ll want to join us.”  A wide smile spread across Bonesaw’s face as she settled into a cross-legged position on the floor, facing Amy.

“I- no.  Please.”

“You’re a healer, but you can do so much more.  Why don’t you go out in costume?”

Amy didn’t respond.  There was no right answer here.

“Are you afraid to hurt someone?  That could be our first exercise.”

Amy shook her head.

“Murder rat, come here.  Hack Job, back off.”

Hack Job let go of her, and she tried to scramble away, but Murder Rat pounced on her, pressing her down against the ground.  The woman smelled rank, like a homeless person.

“So here’s the lesson,” Bonesaw said, “Hurt her, take her apart.  If you go easy on her, or if you leave her in a state where she can move, she’ll cut you, and then she’ll cut a body part off that man on the couch there.”

Murder Rat placed a blade against her cheek, scraped it down toward her chin, as if giving Amy a close shave.

She reached up and touched the woman’s chest.  Without Hack Job touching her, her power was coming back quickly.  She felt Murder Rat’s biology snap into her consciousness, until she could see every cell, every fluid, every part of the woman.  The two women.  She could see Bonesaw’s work, the integration of body parts, the transfusions of bone marrow from one woman to the other, the viruses with modified DNA inside them, skewing the balances and configurations until she couldn’t tell for sure where one woman started and the other began.

She could also see the metal frames inside the woman, interlacing with the largest bones of her skeletal system, the needles in her spine and brain.  Bonesaw’s control system.  There was something around the heart, too.  Metal, with lots of needles pointing inward.  She was rigged to die if the control frame was ever disabled.  The woman, no, the women, were awake in there.  One and a half brains contained in a synthetic fluid in her skull.

She targeted the ligaments at the woman’s shoulders and hips.  Cutting them was easier than putting the things back together again.  Dissolve the cells, break them down.

The woman collapsed onto a heap on top of her.

“Excellent!  Pick her up, H.J.”

Hack Job picked up the limp Murder Rat, put her down a short distance away from Amy.  Bonesaw walked over to her creation and propped up Murder Rat so she had a view of the scene.

“I’m surprised you didn’t kill her.  The healer, letting someone suffer like that.  Or are you against mercy killing?”

Again, there was no answer she could give that wouldn’t worsen her situation.

“Or are you against killing in general?  We can work on that.”

“Please.  No.”

“Pagoda.  Your turn.”

Pagoda approached with an awkward lurch, and Amy managed to stand and run.  She got halfway to the front door before Hack Job materialized in front of her, barring her way.  He pushed her, and she fell.  Pagoda lurched over to her and pressed her down.

“I use my creations to collect material for other work.  It’s a circle, using them to get material for more creations.  Having the Nine was essential to get things started, and to help get things going again if a hero managed to put down a few, but now I’m in good shape.  I stick around because they’re mostly fans, and they’re kind of family.  I want you in my family, Amy Dallon.”


“Now, I’m willing to make sacrifices to see that happen.  Same thing as with Murder Rat.  You don’t stop Pagoda, I’ll have him hurt the man on the couch.”

Amy used her power on Pagoda, felt his body, much the same as Murder Rat’s in so many respects, though the metal frame with the needles in his spine was different.  She reached for the ligaments at his shoulders and hips, separated them.

The first had grown back before she’d started on the third.

“He heals,” Bonesaw informed her.  “Two regenerators in one.  There’s only one good way to stop him.  Try again.”

Pain.  She inflicted pain on Pagoda.  No reaction.  She’d have to reach into his brain to make it so he really felt pain again.  She tried atrophying his muscles, with no luck.  Anything she did was undone nearly as fast as she could inflict it.

“Five seconds,” Bonesaw announced.  “Four.”

Sending signals to his arms to get him to move.  No.  The metal frame overrode anything she could do with her power to control him.


Amy used the only option available to her.  She disconnected him from the metal frame that Bonesaw used to control her subjects.  She could sense it as the metal shifted into motion around his heart.  Not needles, as there had been for Murder Rat, but small canisters of fluid.

“Two… one… zero point five… Ah, there we go.”

Pagoda lurched backward and broke contact with Amy, her power no longer giving her an insight into what was happening with him.  He sat down, using one hand to prop himself up.  A moment later he slumped over, his eyes shutting.  His breathing stopped.

“A chemical trigger for something I already put in his DNA, when I was patching his regeneration abilities together.  Reverses the regeneration so it does the opposite, starting with the heart.”

Amy looked at her hand.  She’d just taken a life.  A mercy, most probably, but she’d killed.  Something she had promised herself she would never do.

She shivered.  It had been so easy.  Was this what it was like for her father?  Had she just taken one more step toward being like him?

“Ready to join?” Bonesaw asked, looking for all the world like a puppy when her master had the leash out, ready for a walk.  Eager, brimming with excitement.

“No,” Amy said.  “There’s no way.”

“Why?  Whatever’s holding you back, we can fix it.  Or we can break it, depending.”

“It’s not- don’t you understand?  I don’t want to hurt people.”

“But we can change that!  We’re not so different.  You know as well as I do that anything about anyone can be changed if you work hard enough.”

“Then why don’t you change?  You could be good.”

“I like the other members of the Nine.  And I couldn’t make anything really amazing if I was following rules.  I want to make something even more amazing than Hack Job, Murder Rat or Pagoda.  Something you and I could only make together.  Can you imagine it?  You could use your power, and then we could make one superperson out of a hundred capes, and all of the powers would be full strength because you helped and we could use it to stop one of the Endbringers, and the whole world would be like, ‘Are we supposed to clap’?  Can you picture it?”  Bonesaw was getting so excited with her idea that she was almost breathless.

“No,” Amy said.  Then, just to make it clear, she added, “No, it’s not going to happen.  I won’t join you.”

“You will!  You have to!”


“I have to do like Jack said.  He said I won’t be a true genius until I’ve figured out how to get inside people’s heads.”

“Maybe- Maybe you won’t be inside my head until you realize there’s no way I’m going to join the Slaughterhouse Nine.”

Bonesaw frowned.  “Maybe.”

Amy nodded.

“Or maybe I need to figure out your breaking point.  Your weak spot.  Like that man there.”  Bonesaw pointed at Mark. “Cherish said you sleep here, and you’ve been around him for a while… so why haven’t you healed him?”

Amy shivered.

“Who is he?”

“My dad.”

“Why not fix your dad?”

“My power doesn’t work on brains,” Amy lied.

“You’re wrong,” Bonesaw said, stepping closer.


“Yes.  Your power can affect people’s brains.  You have to understand, I’ve taken twenty or thirty people apart to figure out how their power works so I can put them back together again the way I want them.  I’ve learned almost everything about powers.  I’ve induced stress of all kinds on people until they had a trigger event, while I had them on my table and wired to computers, so I could record all the details and study their brains and bodies as the powers took hold.”

Twenty or thirty people she’s taken apart.  However many others she’s tortured to death.

Bonesaw smiled, “And I know the secrets.  I know where powers come from.  I know how they work.  I know how your power works.  You have to understand, people like you and me?  Who got our powers in moments of critical stress?  The powers aren’t meant for us.  They’re accidents.  We’re accidents.  And I think you could see it if you were touching someone when they had their trigger event.”

“I don’t understand.”

“You don’t have to.  What you need to know is that the subjects of our power, the stuff it can work on, like people?  Like the fish lady in Asia?  The boy who can talk to computers?  Our powers weren’t created to work with those things.  With people or fish or computers.  It’s not intentional.  It happens because the powers connect to us in the moments we have our trigger events, decrypt our brains and search for something in the world that they can connect to, that loosely correlate with how the powers were originally supposed to work.  In those one to eight seconds it takes our powers to work, our power goes into overdrive, it picks up all the necessary details about those things, like people or fish or computers, sometimes reaching across the whole world to do it.  Then it starts condensing down until there’s a powerset, stripping away everything it doesn’t need to make that power work.”

Amy stared.

“And then, before it can destroy us, before we can hurt ourselves with our own power, before that spark of potential burns out, it changes gears.  It figures out how to function with us.  It protects us from all the ways our power might hurt us, that we can anticipate, because there’s no point if it kills us.  It connects with our emotional state at the time the powers came together, because that’s the context it builds everything else in.  It’s so amazingly complicated and beautiful.”

Bonesaw looked down at Amy.  “Your inability to affect brains?  It’s one of those protections.  A mental block.  I can help you break it.”

“I don’t want to break it,” Amy said, her voice hushed.

“Ahhh.  Well, that just makes me more excited to see how you react when you do.  See, all we have to do is get you to that point of peak stress.  Your power will be stronger, and you’ll be able to push past that mental block.  Probably.”

“Please,” Amy said.  “Don’t.”

Bonesaw reached into her apron and retrieved a remote control.  She pointed it at Mark, where he sat on the couch.  A red dot appeared on his forehead.


One of Bonesaw’s mechanical contraptions leaped across the room, its scalpel legs impaling the suede cushions on either side of Mark.  One leg, tipped with a syringe, thrust into Mark’s right nostril.  He hollered incoherently, tried to pull away, only for two mechanical legs to clutch his head and hold him firm.

Amy’s screams joined his.

“I’m doing you a favor, really!”  Bonesaw raised her voice to be heard over the screams.  “You’ll thank me!”

Amy rushed forward, hauled on the metal leg to pull it from Mark’s nostril, pulled at the other legs to tear it from him and then hurled it away.  Lighter than it looked.

“Now fix him or he’ll probably die or be a vegetable,” Bonesaw told her.  “Unless you decide you’re okay with that, in which case we’re making progress.”

Amy tried to shut out Bonesaw’s voice, straddled Mark’s lap and touched his face.

She’d healed him frequently in the previous weeks, enough to know that he was remarkably alert in a body that refused to cooperate or carry out the tasks he wanted it to.  Not so different from Bonesaw’s creations in that respect.  She’d healed everything but his brain, had altered his digestive system and linked it to his circadian rhythms so he went to the bathroom on a strict schedule, to reduce the need for diapers.  Other tune-ups she’d given him had been aimed at making him more comfortable, reducing stiffness and aches and pains.  It was the least she could do.

Now she had to focus on his brain.  The needle had drawn ragged cuts through the arachnid layer, had injected droplets of acid into the frontal lobes.  More damage, in addition to what Leviathan had inflicted with the head wound, and it was swiftly spreading.

Everything else in the world seemed to drop away.  She pressed her forehead to his.  Everything biological was shaped in some way by what it had grown from and what had come before.  Rebuilding the damaged parts was a matter of tracing everything backwards.  Some of the brain was impossible to restore to what it had once been, in the most damaged areas or places where it was the newest growths that were gone, but she could check everything in the surrounding area, use process of elimination and context to figure out what the damaged areas had tied to.

She felt tears in her eyes.  She had told herself she would heal him and then leave the Dallon household.  Actually doing this, fixing him, taking that plunge, she knew she would probably never have found the courage if she hadn’t been pushed into it.

It wasn’t that she was afraid to get something wrong.  No.  Even as complicated as the mind was, she’d always known she could manage it.  No, it was what came after that scared her more than anything.  Just like finding out about Marquis, it was the opening of a door she desperately wanted to keep shut.

She restored his motor skills, penmanship, driving a car, even the little things, the little sequences of movements he used to turn the lock on the bathroom door as he closed it or turn a pencil around in one hand to use the eraser on the end.  Everything he’d lost, she returned to him.

He moved fractionally.  She opened her eyes, and saw him staring into her eyes.  Something about the gaze told her he was better.

“I’m sorry,” she murmured.  “I’m so sorry.”  She wasn’t sure what she was apologizing for.  For taking so long to do it, maybe.  Or for the fact that she would now have to leave.

His attention was on his hands.  She could feel it through her contact with him, the power he was just barely holding back.  And Bonesaw?  The little lunatic was somewhere behind her.

She drew Mark’s hands into his lap, between her body and his, where Bonesaw would be less likely to see.

An orb of light grew in his hands.

“It worked!  Yes!” Bonesaw crowed.

Mark flicked his eyes in one direction, offered the slightest of nods, his forehead rubbing against hers.  Amy flung herself to one side as Mark stood in one quick motion, flinging the glowing orb at the little girl.

Hack Job flickered into existence just in time to have to orb bounce off his chest.  It exploded violently, tearing a hole into his stomach and groin.  The villain flew backward, colliding with Bonesaw.

But two more copies of Hack Job had already appeared, and the scalpel spiders were responding to some unknown directions, leaping for Mark and Amy.

Amy grappled with one spider, struggled to bend its legs the wrong way, cried out as the scalpels and needlepoints of the other legs dragged against her skin.

A blast sent her tumbling, throwing her into the couch and dislodging the spider.  Mark could make his orbs concussive or explosive.  He’d hit the spider with the former, nothing that could seriously hurt Amy.  She climbed to her feet, picked up the oak side-table from beside the couch and bludgeoned the spider with it.

More explosions ripped through their living room as Mark continued to open fire, hurling the orbs with a ferocity that surprised Amy.  When Hack Job tried to block the shots with his bodies, Mark bounced them between Hack Job’s legs, off walls and off the ceiling.  Almost as if he could predict what his enemy would do, he lobbed one orb onto the couch.  It exploded a half-second after one of Hack Job’s duplicates appeared there.

More duplicates charged from either direction, and Mark dropped a concussive orb at his feet, blasting himself and one of the duplicates in opposite directions.  He quickly got his footing and resumed the attack, fending off one duplicate that turned his attention to Amy, then going after Bonesaw.

Bonesaw had retreated into the hallway that led into the bedrooms at the back of the house, the basement and the kitchen at the side.  Mark threw an orb after her, obliterating the hallway, but Amy couldn’t see if he’d struck home, not with the clouds of dust that were exploding from Hack Job’s expired duplicates.  Between the time it had taken to create the orb, throwing it and the lack of a scream after it had gone off, Amy knew Bonesaw would have gotten away.

There was an extended silence.  Bonesaw and Hack Job were gone, leaving only Pagoda’s body and the limp Murder Rat.  Long seconds passed as the dust settled.

“That woman.  Can you help her?”  Mark’s voice sounded rough-edged.  It hadn’t been used in its full capacity for a long few weeks.

“Her mind is gone, and not in a way I think I could fix,” her voice was hushed.

“Okay.”  Mark walked over to Murder Rat and adjusted her position against the wall until she was more horizontal, almost lying down.  He crossed her claws over her chest, and then formed an orb of light the size of a tennis ball.

“Rest in peace, Mouse Protector,” he said.  He placed the orb of light in the gap where two claws crossed one another, just over her heart, then stepped away.

There was a small explosion and a spray of blood.

“I’m sorry,” Amy said, “So sorry I didn’t help you sooner, that-”

Mark stopped her with a raised hand.  “Thank you.”

She didn’t deserve thanks.

“Are you okay?” He asked.

She looked away.  Tears were welling out.  “No.”

“Listen.  Sit yourself down.  I’m going to call your mother and sister, make sure they’re all right after dealing with Hellhound, let them know what happened.  Then I’ll call the Protectorate.  Maybe they can help guard us, in case Bonesaw comes after you again.”

“She will.  But I- I can’t sit.  I’m going to my room.  I’ll pack so we leave sooner.”

“You sure?”

She nodded.

“Shout if anything happens.”

She nodded and turned to go, picking her way through the destroyed hallway.  The floorboards that looked like a giant-sized version of pick-up-sticks.  She was only halfway when she heard Mark on the phone.

“Carol?  It’s me.”

Her face burned with shame.  She made her way to her room and began packing her things into a gym bag.  Clothes, toiletries, and other things, mementos.  A small scrapbook, a memory card filled with pictures of her, her cousins and her sister.  She found a pad of post-it notes and scribbled out a few words.

I’m sorry it took me so long to help Mark.

Good bye.  I love you all,


She wouldn’t be coming back.

Amy opened her bedroom window and climbed out, pulling the bag out behind her.

It would be better this way.  Maybe, after weeks or months, she could stop worrying, stop waiting for the other shoe to drop, for everything to fall apart in the worst way.  She’d already had to face finding out about Marquis.  She’d taken a life.  She’d broken one of her cardinal rules.  She wasn’t sure she could take any more.

She just had to get away.

Amy cursed the curfew as she saw the figure in the air above her.  When people weren’t allowed out on the streets after dark, it made those few who did venture out that much more visible.  Not what she’d wanted, not when she was trying to avoid this exact conversation.

It was even more problematic when she walked at maybe three or four miles an hour, limited to following the paths the roads and alleys allowed her, when her sister could fly at fifty miles an hour.  She should have hid, instead of trying to make some distance.

Victoria stopped midflight and hovered in the air, five feet above the ground and five or six paces in front of her.

“I was just at the house.  I don’t even know what to say,” Victoria spoke.

“Pretty self-explanatory.  One of the Nine came, house got trashed, I healed Mark.”

“Why?  Why heal dad now, when you couldn’t before?”

“I only did it because I had to.”

“That’s what I don’t get.  Why couldn’t you?  You’ve never explained.”

“I can’t tell you.”

“So that’s it?  No explanations?  You just up and leave?” Victoria asked.



Amy looked away.

“We could get you a therapist.  I mean, Mom was setting aside money for Dad’s care, we could use that to give you someone to talk to.”

“I… a therapist wouldn’t be able to help.”

“Geez, what’s going on?  Amy, we’ve been together for a decade.  I’ve stood by you.  I’d like to think we were best friends, not just sisters.  And you can’t tell me?”

“I can’t.  Just let me leave.  Trust me when I say it’s better.”

“Fuck that!  I’m not about to let you walk away!”  Victoria floated closer, reaching out.

Don’t touch me,” Amy warned her sister.

Looking lost, Victoria stopped and spread her arms.  “Who are you, Amy?  I don’t even recognize this person I’m looking at.  You go berserk at the bank robbery over some secret I’ve totally not gotten on your case about.  You apparently say something to Skitter that causes this huge commotion in the hospital after the Endbringer attack.  You… I don’t even know what to say about your reaction to Gallant’s death, the way you distanced yourself from me at a time when I was hurting the most.”

Amy looked down at her feet.

“And most of all, you just leave dad to suffer, when you could have healed him?  You lash out at me, here, when I’m trying to mend fences and be your sister?”

“You want to know who I am?” Amy asked.  Her voice sounded hollow.  “I’m Marquis’s daughter.  Daughter of a supervillain.”


Amy nodded.

“How did you find out?”

“Carol left some paper out.  I think it’s under my pillow, if you want to look for it.”

“You have his genes, but you’re Carol and Mark’s daughter,” Victoria replied, her voice firm.  “And they’re going to be worried.  Come home.”

“They don’t care.  They don’t love me, not really.  Trust me, this is better for everyone.”

I love you,” Victoria said, stressing the ‘I’.  She dropped to the ground and stepped closer.

“Don’t touch me!”

“Idiot,” Victoria grabbed her sister by the shirt collar and pulled her into a painfully tight hug.

“Don’t,” Amy moaned into her sister’s shoulder.

“All of this?  We’ll work it out.  As a family.  And if your idea of family means it’s just you and me, then we’ll work it out together, just the two of us.”

All it took was one moment of weakness, and she was weak.  At the end of her rope, desperately lonely, haunted by her father’s shadow, her shame at being unwilling and unable to help Mark until now, the idea that one of the Slaughterhouse Nine thought she belonged with them?

She was losing everything so quickly.  Victoria was all she had, and it was the choice between abandoning that for everyone’s good and keeping Victoria close.

She felt Victoria’s body more acutely than she felt her own.  Every heartbeat, every cell brimming with life.

Like a flame at the end of a long fuse, leading to a stick of dynamite, her power traveled from the side of Victoria’s neck to her brain.  It was barely a conscious action on Amy’s part.

Victoria let go of her, pushed her away.  “What did you just do?”

Amy could see the revulsion slowly spreading across Victoria’s face.

The magnitude of what she’d just done hit her with a suddenness and pain she likened to a bullet to the chest.  “Oh god.  Please, let me undo it.”

She reached out, but Victoria stepped back.

“What the hell did you do?” Victoria asked, her eyes wide, “I felt something.  I feel something.  You’ve used your power on me before, but not like this.  I- You changed the way I think.  More than that.”

Tears welled at the corners of Amy’s eyes.  “Please.  This is what I was afraid of.  Let me undo it.  Let me fix it and leave, and you can go back to Mark and Carol and you three can be a family, and-”

“What did you do!?”

“I’m sorry.  I… knew this would happen.  I was okay so long as I kept following my own rules, didn’t open that door.  Bonesaw forced me to open it.”


“You have to understand, for so long, you were all I had.  I was so desperately lonely, and that was at the same time I was starting to worry about my dad.  I got fucked up, my feelings got muddled somewhere along the line, and it’s like… maybe because you were safe, because you were always there.”

“You have feelings for me,” Victoria answered.  She couldn’t keep the disgust out of her voice, she didn’t even try.  “That’s what Tattletale was using as leverage, wasn’t it?”

Amy couldn’t meet Victoria’s eyes.  She looked at her hands, appalled at what she had just done.

“And Gallant?  I was thinking you secretly liked him, but-”

Amy shook her head.  “I hated him.  I felt jealous because he had you and I never could… but I never acted on those feelings.  I never acted on any of my feelings, until just now, and all I want to do is to take that back.”

“When I was at the lowest point in my life, when the boy I thought I might marry someday was dead, were you secretly elated?  Were you happy Gallant died?”

“No!  Vic- Victoria, I love you.  I wanted you to be happy with him.  I just… it hurt at the same time.”

“Oh my god,” Victoria whispered, the revulsion giving way to something worse.  Realization.

“I- I tried to keep things normal between us.  To act like your sister, keep it all bottled in.  It’s just tonight was such a nightmare, and I’m so scared, and so tired, and so desperate.  Bonesaw forced me to ignore all the rules I was imposing on myself.  All the rules I was using and following so I wouldn’t do anything stupid or impulsive.”

“Anything stupid.  Like what?  What did you do?”

Amy’s voice was a croak as she replied, “…make it so you would reciprocate my feelings.”

She chanced a look at Victoria’s face, and she knew that the horror she saw in her sister’s expression didn’t even compare to what she felt.

“Please.  Let me fix it.  Then I’ll leave.  You’ll never have to see me again.”

“What in the world makes you think I’d let you use your power on me again!?”  Victoria shouted, taking to the air, out of reach.  “Who knows what you’re going to do to me!?”

“Please?” Amy begged.

“I can find someone else to fix it.  Or maybe, at the very least, I can show some fucking self-control and realize it’s my sister I’m having those feelings about.”

“You can’t.  I- Oh fuck.  You’re underestimating what I did.  Please.  If you never ever give me anything else, if you never talk to me or look at me again, just let me fix this.”

Victoria shook her head slowly, then scoffed.  “Good job, Amy.  You just did an excellent job of taking every instance of me defending you, every instance of my giving you the benefit of a doubt, and proving me fucking wrong.  You were worried about being as fucked up as your dad?  Congratulations, I’m pretty goddamn sure you just surpassed the man.”

With that said, Victoria was gone, flying into the distance.

Amy sank to her knees on the flooded street.

Last Chapter                                                                                                Next Chapter

208 thoughts on “Interlude 11h

  1. Bonesaw makes me think of the manga Fraken-Fran, only shomehow worse. Also I feel so bad for Amy everything just hit her at once.

    • Massive Franken-Fran fan here.

      Bonesaw’s original conception predates my discovery of the manga, though (just to head off the ‘that character’s stolen from ____’ guys.)

      • Aha! Clearly this idea of mixing two beings together was stolen from He-man character Two Bad!

        Or from the Gryphon, Chimera, Baku, Basilisk, Catoblepas, Cockatrice, Manticore, Minotaur, Centaur, Faun, Satyr, Pegasus, Hippogriff, Hippocamp, Jackalope, Sphinx, Mermaid, Melusine, Scorpion Man, Tengu, Garuda, Werewolf, Harpy, Deer Lady, Gorgon, Lamia, Ypotryll, Platypus, or Anatosuchus (the Duck Crocodile), or plenty of other traditions of mix and match monsters, both mythological and even some real ones (Platypus and Anatosuchus in that list to name a couple)

        • Well, and then there’s Bwana Beast (and later Freedom Beast) from Grant Morrison’s run on Animal Man. He had the power to merge any two animals together to make a super-animal. Rhino-sized insect? Check. Flying tiger? Check. Whole bunch of monkeys mashed into one giant glob of limbs and fur? Ew. Check. (Turns out his power didn’t work properly on more than two animals at a time.)


          • And the strategy game Impossible Creatures, in which you mix together two different animals to create your minions. I found out what you REALLY get when you cross an elephant and a rhino. It’s not actually all that useful compared to my favorite minion, the archeraffe! Half archerfish, half giraffe, all terrain ranged firepower! The fish gives it the ability to travel through water and the ability to spit water at enemies. The giraffe gives it the ability to travel on land and extra range for the spitting. To spit any harder, I’d have needed to cross a camel with a hillbilly.

            I tended to favor amphibious, and completely unscary combinations: A whale-rhino crossbreed that can charge onto land and blast you with a sonic attack, a black widow mixed with a tiger shark, and a snake crossed with either a bat or a dragonfly. Either way, you were gonna get dive bombed by a spitting cobra.

            Quick, someone get me some porcupine DNA and a sample from a Cape buffalo. It’s time to create the world’s most dangerous headbutt.

            • Wait. Over three years on this thread, and no one gave you the set-up? DANG. Well, if you’re still reading this:

              What do you get if you cross an Elephant and a Rhinoceros?

          • Oooh! Impossible Creatures was AWESOME! I only ever played the demo version, so my favourite was the archowl — the only unit that could fly and shoot at things. Nearly invicible!


          • It’s probably out for a lot cheaper now, and I believe the extra animals from some other edition of it, like preorder or something, and the Insect Invasion add-on are available for free.

      • To be fair, Bonesaw is pretty different from Fran on second thought. Not only is she exceptionally amoral in contrast to Fran’s strong, if unconventional, morality, I get the feeling Fran would find her work sloppy. Fran may put saving lives first and aesthetic second, but I can’t imagine her ever using staples as a long-term binding solution! She’s a master plastic surgeon on top of everything else, after all.

      • There’s a late 1950’s science fiction movie centered around the idea that a scientist was making super humans, and his ultimate achievement was going to be cutting himself a a woman who was pursued through most of the movie in half, and combining his and her right and left halves to make the perfect future human. So this isn’t a new theme, even if you leave out Mary Shelley.

  2. Oh! I just had a thought about where the plot is going to go from here. Will have to see if it pans out.

  3. If I remember right, Wildbow said Amy and Victoria were the original main characters in this universe. I can’t help but wonder how this story played out for them when they were alternating protagonists.

    • Not the originals, but probably the earliest protagonists that I really tried to develop beyond a short story or two. Two or three drafts of ‘Guts and Glory’ that probably wound up being an arc or two in length each, taking place at different points in their story (early on to current events & one arc dealing with events beyond what happened here) before I got stalled or distracted.

      Believe it or not, their story was harder on them in those iterations than it is here.

      I dropped it because it was too dark & it wasn’t the sort of thing I could really build a long term story off of. The story played out much the same (even to the point of including the confrontation that ended this chapter) but there was a lot of material that wound up feeling like filler (ergo the getting stalled/distracted – it wasn’t that engaging).

  4. Finally, Skitter can recruit Panacea! I was starting to think it’d never happen.

    This was pretty great… man, poor victims… Hard to imagine being horrified on behalf of Oni Lee.
    A couple things-
    “weren’t private to” Privy?
    “Panacea’s control system.” Bonesaw’s?

  5. So, that closes off the Anniversary bonus week. Hope you guys enjoyed. It was an interesting experiment on a lot of levels, seeing what happened in terms of views/readership with a (much) more frequent update schedule, testing my abilities to crunch out chapters in a relatively short span of time (10 chapters in 2.5 weeks) and seeing the responses to the various introduced characters. Worm remains the first piece of writing that I’ve really offered up to the public, and it is, in the end, still something I’m using to experiment with. Some stuff will work, some won’t, and this past week gave me a few insights into what people respond to and what they don’t.

    One of my main goals for this exercise was to get myself into a more serious mindset regarding the part where I actually sit down & write. As I said in the comments a week or so back, I’ve been finding it hard to build up a backlog – chapters written well in advance so I won’t miss an update when sick, busy or when disaster strikes. Not that I’ve ever missed an update, but I don’t want it to happen. Too often I wind up finishing a chapter only a day or so before it’s due to go up. I don’t enjoy that, and I think this anniversary event has helped shift my headspace some as far as any procrastination & making effective use of my time. Success.

    I’m away for the weekend to kick back at the cottage, so I won’t be able to reply to any comments until late Sunday. Last time she went up my 11 month old puppy swelled up & went into anaphylactic shock, so I’m hoping things go better this time around (dosing her on allergy meds and keeping steroids on hand). Not sure what caused the allergic reaction, which is worrisome. Suspecting bees and/or wasps.

    There’s probably some commentary to be made in regards to that & Worm, but it’s 1:50am here and I can’t be arsed to put it together.

    Thanks for reading, boys, girls & others. Stand by for standard reminders/updates: If you’ve enjoyed the story thus far and are willing to take the time, reviews on Webfictionguide (see sidebar on front page) are always hugely welcomed (probably the #1 source of new readers), and ratings are good too (if you don’t feel you can write a review). If you’re hungry for a faster update schedule or more interludes, every $75 total = one extra chapter for the week.

    Also, I’m still interested in getting an ad banner for Worm so I can advertise, if anyone thinks they can put something good looking together. I’d be wiling to add between $10 and $25 to the total (putting everyone $10-$25 closer to a bonus update), depending on the artist’s effort & the quality of the end result. Feel free to contact me at my gmail account if interested, wanting more details, wanting to negotiate or wanting to discuss it – keeping in mind that I’m not back until Sunday night and won’t be able to respond until then.

  6. Oh God. The descriptions of Bonesaws creations left me physically ill. Body horror is my only weakness.

    I like the reveal of Panacea’s feelings towards Glory Girl and I feel so bad for her, but I want to smack her for what she did.

  7. Just minor errors:
    she was trying to this exact conversation. -> … forget …?
    Her voice sounded hollow. I’m Marquis’s -> “I’m

    Thanks for the awesome stories.

  8. The good news is that I was right.

    The bad news is that the Mark thing, the brain damage, tearing at a family. Well, that was a soft spot. Congratulations, Wildbow, you found one of mine. Over a certain amount of time I’ve begun to better understand Panacea’s mindset towards taking care of someone. This isn’t the place for all that though.

    So Bonesaw is in fact a bio tinker who merges supers to create tortured combinations that are under her direct control and die if released. The spider things actually reminded me of my time playing Vampire: The Masquerade: Bloodlines. It’s got two colons in it, so you know it’s good. Some of those fleshcrafted enemies would fit right in.

    And our next recruit is in fact Panacea. She seems like a crusader due to those rules she lives by even as she tries to fight the good fight in her own way. Personally, I think she should have been a half-orc barbarian with a strength of 20.

    One reason I thought of her, aside from the similarities in powers, was that she has some past experience with Skitter that could allow her to turn to Skitter for help. Given Amy’s fragile mindset, she might turn to Skitter as some person that knows a little bit about doing bad things for a good reason. Even if she does, Regent might bring the Undersiders in on this some as they are somewhat affected, and he at least thought about them during his recruitment.

    That family is going to hate themselves when they realize what’s been done, too. Especially Victoria, I’d hope. Yelling about self control so shortly after wondering why she just now, after all this time, after her dad’s brain injury, used the brain alteration part of her power? The product of a predictable and understandable lack of emotional distance. Amy’s family has done far more to screw her up now than Bonesaw.

    As would a lot of the dark tone. Guts & Glory darker than this? What, would one of them end up pregnant with Hatchet Face’s rape baby?

    • Re: Guts & Glory darker than this? What, would one of them end up pregnant with Hatchet Face’s rape baby?

      Some people have asked me this, and I’ve told them, and they’ve conceded it’s pretty bad.

      Undecided if the story could go down that road in the future, but I won’t spoil for that reason. I’ll let you know if and when I decide to abandon that subplot (or, obviously, if the story covers it).

    • Re: Guts & Glory (was) darker than this?
      Fool. Flying brick accidentally turned angry Yandere by the target of her new affections. It’s probably like hurt/comfort but evil. Well, moreso than normal. Not that I read hurt/comfort, but TvTropes has given me some passing knowledge of the conventions. Alternatively, Sword Art Online episode 23, but worse.

  9. I don’t think I’ve done it yet, so I wanted to make sure to say it: Wildbow, you. Are. Awesome.

    Now that you’ve gone and properly spoiled us, I’ll have to try and stop myself from whining about there not being updates everyday. I’m not gonna lie, it’s going to be pretty tough, what with how good your writing is.

  10. I have to give a “woot woot” every time I read Bonesaw’s name because that was Randy Savage in the first Spiderman movie, and I keep hearing “BONESAW is READYYYYY” in my head. “The Last Skull” used the same character name as a shout-out to that movie, interestingly enough the character there is female too.

    I suspected Hatchet-Face only temporarily affected people’s powers, so he wouldn’t have done much against an Endbringer — and am I wrong in assuming it’s only when the powers are directed at him?

    The Nine are compelling, dark characters with interesting (ie. well thought out) personalities. I think Bonesaw is the scariest so far, in that she carries this weird sense of childlike innocence into her work, even to calling her creations “mash-ups” like videos on Youtube or something. It’s all fun and games to her – even when people lose eyes.

    Cherish’s ability ot mess with emotions is extremely dangerous, and Panacea would work well with her and Bonesaw — Cherish has range but Panacea has access to more of the body, and Bonesaw will push things to the breaking point and challenge them. Frightening possibilities there. However, Panacea could also counteract Cherish’s dopamine plan, if she figured it out (and if she joined the 9).

    The other characters are interesting — Siberian’s idea of freedom coupled with her being a bit of an unstoppable force is compelling. I don’t think I really “get” what Jack Slash does for powers, but he can sure mess with people’s heads, reminds me of the “Dark Knight”‘s Joker. Mannequin was visually intriguing (weird that I can say that from word’s creating images instead of actual art) but we can only guess at some of his thought processes by evidence, given that he didn’t speak. The member of the 9 that went to Coil’s we didn’t get to see, so I don’t have a sense of awe there — Shatterbird was visually interesting but seemed the least focused of the 9, she talked like she thought they “needed” Hookwolf, whereas the others seem to want to “tempt” their targets with a more “fulfilling” life — fulfilling from their perspective. I just forgot the fire-based character’s name but again, she doesn’t seem to buy into the “freedom” concept of the 9, in her conversation with Labyrinth she sounded like she was going with the flow and denying her own fears and responsibilities.

    It’s amazing to see all of that planned characterization, incredible imagery, original powers, kinetic action and rich plot — all from one writer and crammed into a two week period. I used to do near daily updates on my stories and have seen a big drop in readers after we had twins and our schedules went to crap — so I hope that there isn’t a “hangover” effect when the schedule goes back to 2 a week. However, the length and richness of individual chapters will likely keep everyone as engaged and intrigued as I am. “Worm” is one of the stars of webfiction, as far as I’m concerned.

  11. Hmm I think panacea is the scaredy cat not the crusader.
    The psychological deep wherever Wildbow draws it from is amazing.
    As for the future fate of panacea, lets not count or eggs to early, it would be great if she would join with skitter(synergy of powers) but I am currently not seeing that psychological and emotional, besides redesigning lifeforms even if its bugs comes awfully close to bonesaws proposal.
    So i will wait and see if the Nine get her and not and hope for wildbow to not die cause of heart attack or have a writting block, or get lost in the brasilian jungle while hunted by a pseudomilitary group that smuggles drug while covering as an idealistic rebel army.

    • I didn’t mean anything about redesigning lifeforms. I mean that she’s a hurt, confused girl who doesn’t know what to do, doesn’t know where her loyalties lie, and might look for any source of empathy she can find. In the process, she might remember how Skitter has a territory, was hated by heroes because she was undercover and trying to do the right thing, and actually tried to act nicer in the hospital, up until Panacea said something to her that caused her to freak out. Maybe she’d want to go assure her that’s not the case.

      Now if you’ll excuse me, Porkins, Dax, and Biggs have been guarding the perimeter of the Alliance’s transport depot by the border to Colombia. The spice must flow, after all. Anyway, I’ve just been informed that they have something I’d be interested in.

      I hope they didn’t get all overenthusiastic and give this new prisoner a Glasgow Smile, Columbian Necktie, Mexican Water, Lima Bean, Argentinean Aardvark, or a Brazilian.

      • And alternatively getting hounded around by one of the 9(8), potentially cutting her off from any chance to work at any sort of hospital or similar facility, coupled with the fact that she’d be in prime position to be hunted down by them without any support is somehow a better idea?

  12. One thing I stumbled over was the fact that Amy’s father supposedly had this code didn’t go after women and children, when his introduction made him seem far less concerned with who he killed and what people thought about him and his killing of Allfather’s daughter did not seem to be out of the ordinary for him when he talked about it. There is probably some explanation there.

    I have to wonder how big/deep/permanent the modification that Amy made in her sister is. Presumably she will just be stuck with those feelings since she did not allow Amy to fix them. The problem might come when they are left for too long and her mind naturally grows around them. Can Amy still take the modification back after a long time? Will Glory Girl want her to after having lived with for long enough?

    • Let’s hope she doesn’t try to go to one of those camps that tries to “fix” those feelings. We don’t need even more psychological torture thrown in the mix.

  13. Seems to me that Amy quite simply can’t handle the lever of power she has over people, and her awareness of the fact makes it even harder.

    Whereas Victoria’s just a huge dick, plain and simple. In fact she seems like the simplest character in the whole story so far.

    • I honestly can’t blame Victoria for her reaction in this chapter. Responding poorly when your sister alters your brain to change your sexual orientation (or worse, make her only able to be physically attracted to Amy) does not make her a dick. It is such a massive violation coming from someone she loved and trusted. Especially if you consider that Amy seems to have total control over her powers, so excuses about losing control automatically seem unlikely. What Amy did here is the sort of thing that probably gets villains killed.

      • It wasn’t for her reaction here that I call Victoria a huge dick. This isn’t her first appearance.

        Yes, what Amy did was horribly wrong but it wasn’t premeditated and she immediately admitted how bad it was and wanted to repair the damage. She had set herself a limit against touching people’s brains for a reason. Slipping once while in a highly emotional state doesn’t make her a monster.

      • I think Victoria has more going on in the background than what we see. Losing her boyfriend, her uncle and nephew and having her dad crippled and her sister refusing to heal him for reasons she does not understand might just be the top of the iceberg. What is left of her team and family is disbanding and disintegrating in front of her eyes, the wardens don’t seem to work out very well, the city is in ruins and she just had to back down from a fight and abandon civilians to the tender mercies of the slaughterhouse nine only to find that another member attacked her home. On top of it she finds out that her sister really could have healed her dad at any time if she had wanted and then after defending and supporting her all the time her sister finally betrays her first by ruining away and then by using her powers on her in truly horrifying way, a violation of her very personality worse then any sort of rape. And that is just what we know. Who knows what else is going on.

        Maybe I am over-interpreting things, but Glory Girl’s reaction of “I would totally fight these dirty, dirty feelings. if I had them” instead of saying this like “I would never…” sound a lot like denial to me. Either Amy’s powers are a lot more instantaneous than expected or it wasn’t quite as big a change as we are lead to believe.

        • People try to fight these ‘dirty, dirty feelings’ all the time. The best they can do is repress them and deny acting on them, but fantasies and actual desire are still there. That’s basically how the whole “Ex-gay” bs work. And especially notice the failure rate.

          As science has shown when examining the effects of abstinence-only education, those are some very strong desires that most people give in to if given the chance.

      • I can totally blame her. Finding out your sister has had a thing for you for years but has been good enough to keep it to herself so well that you didn’t ever figure it out, that she’s deliberately limited her power to keep herself from slipping up and doing something that would grant her her fondest desire in the entire world, for *your* sake, because it would be wrong to do that to you, and then holding it against her when she slips, under all the strain she’s experiencing, having been willing to sacrifice her happiness entirely and walk away from the only family she has, the people she loves, JUST to keep herself from making that slip, when she begged you not to touch her because she knew what would happen…

        And then when it does happen, one little slip out of all the *years* she’s been keeping herself in check, she immediately apologizes and offers to fix it?

        Calling her a monster at that point is such a colossal failure of empathy that I can’t have any sympathy for Glory Girl whatsoever. I think she’s completely earned the suffering that she’ll experience as a consequence of refusing to let Amy fix her mistake.

        • There’s one thing we’re forgetting. Amy and Vicky have been sisters since before they were five years old; Amy has probably “fixed” Victoria’s Westermarck effect as well as her heterosexuality. You know how you feel gross about picturing your parents having sex? That’s the instinct we’ve developed to protect against inbreeding. I’m told it works the same if you have siblings, normally. (Amy is one in ~7000.)

          So Victoria would be dealing with not one but two whole new spectrums of sexuality opening in her head, one more universally reviled than the other but probably both of which she’s been conditioned from birth to despise. She’d be picturing her sister licking her butthole or whatever gets her off and desperately wondering what is wrong with her that this doesn’t feel creepy or wrong at all, in fact maybe even a little hot. You can picture the same, and replace “sister” with whichever of your family members you’re most uncomfortable seeing naked, and maybe get an idea of how freaked out she must be.

          She’s still making a lot of bad decisions in short order about what to say and what to listen to, in my opinion. Probably she’ll regret what she said when or if she figures out what Amy told her about it being an accident. But we have known her to be hostile when provoked and impulsive all the time so I guess we can understand her.

          And Amy would know that too and they could probably sit down and talk it out when they’ve calmed down if Amy wasn’t so set on punishing herself for being born.

  14. One thing about Panacea’s power is another of those ‘hilarious misapplied’ powers you see in superhero literature. Based on the usage here she has access to an inherent metadata about organisms (otherwise she’d never be able to fix the emergent behaviour stuff like brains, or modify feelings). Fuck wearing her out fixing people in hospitals one at a time, a month in the lab doing diagnostic work could see them making cures that could save the lives of tens of millions due to the enhanced understanding of pathogens and illnesses we are still massively in the dark over.

    Heck splicing together a bacterial cellulose->long chain hydrocarbon pathway (for which all the bit exist, just in different organisms) or a better wheat (Norman Borlung saved half a billion lives without the benefit of superpowers) would easily improve the lives of the /entirety/ of humanity. But oh no the rest of her team should judge her for not beating up criminals in the streets.

    Panacea herself is just a kid so I don’t hold it against her, but the fact that none of the adults, doctors, and the scientific community in the Wormverse has twigged: Control Biology->organisms can reproduce->Holy fuck this person could literally change the world, is grating (heck I’d expect Monsanto to kidnap her right off the bat ;)).

    Bonesaw is awesome though :).

    • I agree, if by “hilariously” you mean “tragically.” Instead of changing the world, she’s a burned out girl who just violated her adoptive sister, and who may or may not be slowly losing her moral compass and sanity.

    • Most superpowers are misapplied, really. Superhero vigilantism is pretty stupid. But that’s what happens when you give powers to human beings.

      • Well many just seem to be multipliers of physical force, and thus would naturally fall into the fields where physical force is the most valuable in the post-industrial age – Law enforcement, law breaking, and disaster relief. With the wormverse presupposing a large villain population the usage of superpowers on the front lines seems pretty valid.

        I mean pulling people out of burning buildings or punching bad guys is probably the best use for boring power sets like Glory Girl and Aegis, and theft and intimidation being the best use for Grue’s skill.

        Its just certain ones with insane potential like Panacea that make you wonder what the heck are people thinking – after all she’s already in the hospital system, does no one have any bright ideas, or sit down and have a talk with her?

    • That’s why I like when they find a good civilian thing to do with their powers. Like in Marvel, when putting the Mighty Avengers back together, Ares was a possible candidate. He was working construction for (I think) $24 an hour.

      Then again, when you can save money on equipment by lifting items yourself and holding stuff in place due to superstrength, they’d pay you more too.

      One time, the Flash sped through books on engineering and such to build an apartment in minutes. One time. Think of how much more good that kind of time can be put to. All the countries that need stuff built. All the hurricanes Storm could have turned away. All the pesticides Poison Ivy could have devises, and food she could have grown. Environmentally friendly teleporter technology that would make shipping much greener.

      Of course, there are bad ways associated with that. Flash is a one-man war front. Storm could send those hurricanes at a certain country. Poison Ivy might just work to make better chemical weapons or a widespread delivery of those pheromones of hers. And teleporter technology would be an easy way to ship a hidden bomb to a location, or assassinate someone by only grabbing half of them, or just sending them about 20 miles underground.

      So there are some benefits to the distraction of cops and robbers.

      • Funny, just yesterday I posted about Worm there. I really dislike facebook but it can be useful for promotion since people insist on using it. I actually only joined finally when I entered a movie contest that used voting for the judging(blech).

        • What really bugs me about facebook is that I get stats via. WordPress that tell me, ok, X people clicked on Y link & that happened on [site]. Like yesterday, fifty or sixty people clicked on the link that Mc2rpg put up on one forum. Pretty awesome (and Worm almost doubled its old record for most views in one day as a share of those people started going through the archives). Hi guys!

          But facebook? I see a link from facebook and it refuses to show me the page/comment/review/whatever that contained said link. Leaves me so curious.

          I’m honestly not going to be too serious about the facebook thing, but it’s nice to have something out there as far as covering that base.

        • Yeah, tracking stats off of facebook is very annoying. Completely screws with youtube’s analytics, too. And that’s besides all of the terrible privacy concerns and not even scratching the surface of other reasons not to like Facebook…

  15. Dunno what to say… with this, it became so intense that I srsly consider to stop reading it.
    Might be better for my health.

    • So would stopping eating bacon,or other unhealthy foods you like….yet,it would make you more miserable all the same.

  16. So I was wondering how the hell a little girl was in charge of a group of psychopathic monsters. After reading this chapter I know why. How the hell did Bonesaw get this messed up? If I was a cape, or even just a normal civilian, I would honestly rather fight an Endbringer than the Slaughterhouse Nine, as the worst an Endbringer can do is kill you. All three at once would probably be safer for your sanity than the Nine!
    Anyway, Amy sure had a good reason to not mess with people’s minds. A dangerous path now she’s started. Better hope she doesn’t team up with Bonesaw or they’ll be unstoppable!

      • Why do I have a feeling you imply Simurgh,based on prior foreshadowig and comments?

        Also,yaay for me being late to the party,but I will eventually reach your current stories.

        • That can be quite the challenge! I was late to Worm too and thought I’d finally catch up with Wildbow in Pact but nope nope, he’s just managed to finish that too.

          I’m beginning to think the guy can actually write faster than I can read. >_>

          (To be fair, I do read and respond to the comments too, which adds a lot of time, but even so…)

          • Generally,I read more than 2 chapters per day,including comments,even on a bad day,which is certainly faster than Wilbow can dish them out,so I’ll reach eventually.If I didn’t read the comments,I would prolly read 2 arcs per day,even on a bad day,4 on a good,while currently I am stuck on 1.

            • Yeah, I’d rip through the chapters too if it weren’t for the comments. But that wouldn’t be the authentic experience. 🙂

              On a good day I read two or three chapters, which is faster than Wildbow produces them. If you’re going an arc per day it’ll be interesting to see if you overtake me before I manage to catch up with him. I’m about 2/3rds of the way through his second serial ‘Pact’ which he only just finished (he’s just started his new one ‘Twig’ – maybe WordPress charge him per syllable for the titles. :P).

              Also yeah, Glory Girl = massive jerk and I’m thinking perhaps more than a little homophobic.

              • I do not think I will overtake you….Also,I feel like the younger the character is,the easier it is for me to cut him slack,because inexperience,strange thought processes and unescapable enviroment,most of which is the case for most,easily impressionable,child villains,including Glory Girl (yes,I categorize her as a vilain) (though I dunno about bonesaw).Seriously,her enviroment is toxic,a family that is very morally absolute powermongers,where the best guy we have met tends to neglect you due to depression….yeah

                Then again,I did think the same about Joffrey.

              • I think a lot of people see GG as a villain. I never quite saw her that way myself, just more of a spoiled, arrogant, hellhound bitch who threw a hell of a lot of tantrums. I hate her but I don’t truly see her as a villain. Villainish but not full on like the true pyschos or even semivillains like Sundancer. (Though Dancer is a better person than GG which takes a ton out of my argument.)

                But seriously you don’t see Bonesaw as a villain? It’s sad that such a young, impressionable girl is totally surrounded by crazy serial killers but dear lord she is one of the creepiest, pyschos in the story from the moment she shows up. Jack cheats but he seems to give chances to his victims, Crawler is interested in power, Cherish is fucked up, Burnscar is mentally damaged, Siberian is mysterious and scary but relatively straightforward, Mannequin is second creepiest character, but Bonesaw gets excited up chopping people up and putting them back together with others and futzing with their powers! How is that better than GG?

                You can feel for Joffrey? Wow. Dude, you have huge heart. If his book version is anything like his tv version I may have put the novels down before he got his comeuppance out of shear hatred.

              • I don’t believe GG is a villain. But then, one of Worm’s key themes is that ‘hero’ and ‘villain’ are oversimplified labels that lead to oversimplified thinking.

                In this case, if you look past the labels to the person you find a self-centred, intolerant individual.

              • Although honestly, GG isn’t that different from any average teenager in those qualities of her.

              • To slider:
                YES,I feel for Bonesaw and Joffrey,you know why?

                Because,while their actions are undeniably as heinous as you can get,they are not old enough to truly exercise their free will,thus they are more a product of their enviroment (at least until they grow up),in this case a serial killer family,in Joffrey’s an overprotective mother,an idiot drunkard father and a world that obeys him.Yes,not all kids turn out the same under the same enviroment,but the younger you are the less control you have on your nurture+nature combo,not only because you had less time to exercise your free will to change yourself,but also because kids brains are more impressionable and absolute=they have less control.Thats why the older a villain is,the more evil he is imo.

              • Storryeater: Okay I suppose I can see your reasoning and I can grant a bit of leeway with Bonesaw. I agree she is a product on the environment but it doesn’t change that I feel she is by far one of the most psychopathic creatures in the setting bar none. Jack and Mannequin come close but I still think she overshadows them in sheer crazy.

                I disagree completely on Joffrey. Maybe he’s presented as younger in the books but in the show he is definitely old enough to know exactly what he is doing and chooses freely the cruelest possible thing consistently at every opportunity. Even then though, while his mother is mean, ruthless and overprotective and his dad was a bit of an idiot neither were remotely bad enough to mold him into the unrepentant sadistic bastard he is. Nobody with the exception of the Frey’s or the Bolton bastard (literal this time not figurative) even come close to Joffrey’s levels of Bad. And he doesn’t get a pass for being a child of incest either since by all appearances his siblings are sweet kids. There is just something inherently wrong with that guy that has nothing to do with nurture.

              • To slider:Wow,they changed his age from 12-13 in the books to 16-19….just wow,what do some people do to not show a kid commiting atrocities…

                And it might not be elaborated in the tv series,but it is clear in the books,and it also shows the reason he turned like that.He had an overprotective mother who codled him and a drunkard,abusive father (I think he only abused his children once,because Cersei went all “if you abuse them again I will kill you even if it kills me”on him,but he did abuse her regularly),who often said stupid stuff he didn’t really mean when drunk,which Joffrey,who ,unlike the other 2,was meant to be a king,took to heart,most of which affected how he acted,especially the worst actions…and his abuse of Cersei will make him a misogynist based on that,too.Plus,unlike the other 2 kids,he had all his whims done to him.Soooo….no mtter how atrocious,he aint really guilty.I think Bonesaw is the same.

              • Okay storryeater I’ll grant you book!Joffrey would be a bit more sympathetic than tv!Joffrey. And yeah pretty much everything you said about Robert wasn’t in the show. He’s a drunk and said to be a poor king but that’s about it.

                While I can see more credence for granting these two sympathy I still can’t do it. There is a point in your life where no matter your age or upbringing you should be able to look at something and say “this is just too far”. I believe in both nature and nurture and with both Joffrey and Bonesaw I just feel they both saw the line on the sand and hopped, skipped and jumped over it laughing. They get sympathy votes but no passes from me. I still find them both monsters who are better off killed for the sake of everyone and everything around them.

              • to slider:nature and nurture?thats why I say they do detestable actions that run over the event horizon like demons run over puppies….but they are still not guilty,exactly because of nature and nurture.

                See,a person is comprised of nature,nurture and choice.Choice is what makes you accountable,otherwise we are all not accountable for our actions.However,the younger you are the less influence choice had on your life,and an underdeveloped brain makes choice even less substantial.I am not arguing about how heinous their actions are,or about how dangerous they are,I am arguing about the responsibility they had about their actions.It is the same as blaming someone who is body controlled for the actions the one that controlled them did,only less “someone else did it”and more”someone else is responsible for their actions,though he couldn’t predict them due to nurture playing a part”

              • Mmm. But if people’s actions are largely dictated by nature and nurture, doesn’t that mean that getting older just changes the ratio? We go from being largely controlled by nature to being largely controlled by nurture.

                If our understanding of the world comes from our experiences, and our ability to interpret our experiences and make decisions comes from a combination of nature and experience, then where does free will live?

              • Good point,irrevenant.By definition,free will is the ability to make a choice,a choice being an action that is neither random nor predetermined.That makes free will umprovable,but if we want for things tomatter,for people to be accountable for their actions,for anyone to truly make the world better or worse,we have to accept it exists even if it doesn’t,because a world without free will has no meaning.And as a world with no meaning has no purpose,happiness and purpose become subjective (and predetermined or random,but thats another story),thus chasing hapiness becomes the closest thing to purpose one has.As most humans have to accept there is a meaning to be happy,they have to lie to themselves in order to be happy,an action that is not bad or immoral because truth has no meaning without,well,meaning.

                Thus even if free will is nonexistent,people have to and will believe in it,and arguing against it is only detrimental.

              • Yeah I think we’re going to have to agree to disagree here. I see your viewpoint but I’m never going to really agree with it because I firmly believe that unless someone is physically moving your body you still have the ultimate choice of what to do. Tons of influences some stronger than others but it’s still your choice. Even those people in hostage situations who are told to shoot someone else to survive have the choice to pull the trigger or to die instead. To me, that choice is free will and that choice does exist no matter your upbringing or nature.

                Alec is actually a perfect example of this. Everything in his life has pretty much led him to being a sociopathic dick who only gets his happiness through hurting others by controlling them and literally living through them. Yet for the most part he seems to be able to choose to more or less keep this restrained. He chose the higher ground despite his environment unlike the others.

              • Who’s this “you” that has the ultimate choice what to do? Once you take away the brain you were born with and the changes made to it over the course of your life, what is left to be making choices? And on what basis would it make them?

              • Just because someone has been pyschologically tortured does not mean they are no longer capable of rational thought. Nor does PTSD. It makes things difficult and muddy and sympathetic but if someone with PTSD kills another man the killer is still held responsible. It’s the same with Bonesaw and Joffrey. They are deeply scarred and horribly influenced but ultimately each is still the one holding the knife/crossbow. They are monsters who deserve what they get. The backstory makes them sympathetic but it doesn’t make up for cold blooded torture for torture’s sake.

              • I have read her interlude as well as the ones for the Smurf’s victims. I finished the story months ago now. I still stand by my statement of Bonesaw being a monster. She is sympathetic after her backstory but that sympathy leads me to simply want to give her a bullet through the brain instead of an extremely prolonged extremely painful death. Was she put through hell? Yes. Hell yes. But when by the time things get to the present she is so far off the deep end that she counts as a monster. She sews people together for crying out loud! For fun! And it’s not an act! The sweet child is long gone and the pyscho is standing in front of us giggling. She is a monster.

                The same with the Smurf’s victims. She snaps people yes. She puts them through hell yes. She is one of the scariest things in the setting yes. But at the end of the day she can’t make someone do something they wouldn’t do under the right circumstances. She pushes buttons and arranges events just right to make the worst possible outcome. But it is still the person themself who makes the final leap off the diving board.

              • I suspect those comments are pretty spoileriffic at this point in the story and should be redacted.

                Re: that second bit you said, you have no evidence that that is the case. Even in the real world we have technologies (mostly pharmaceutical but also surgical) that can totally destroy people’s ability to choose. And Earth Bet has technologies and powers far in advance of anything we have.

              • Thanks, but even beyond that we already have a better example: Heartbreaker. Slider, would you really judge one of Nicholas Vasil’s slaves to be acting under their own will, or else do you believe that the Simurgh cannot perform at least the same amount of mental rewiring? Arguably, their actions are worse than those of Bonesaw, going by the story of Regent’s first kill. We don’t actually see any of said slaves’ atrocities, but going from context, they almost certainly happened, although we should get Wildbow’s confirmation on that one. I can definitely see Heartbreaker getting a loving wife to shoot her husband while testing his power, or even just for fun, as the Cherish Interlude seems to have proved is possible. Presuming something like that did happen, though, would you judge them by the same standard?

                Also, seconding the motion to have this moved to the Reddit, on account of spoilers.

              • Moving to reddit works for me though I honestly don’t think we’ve given any spoilers yet. It is just difficult working around things avoiding them the longer this goes. What’s the page?

                Irrevenant, I grant you there are pharmaceuticals that do that sure. I can’t rebut without definite spoilers though so I’ll concede at this point unless we switch threads.

                Horatio, Heartbreaker is a perfect example. I don’t judge his victims by the same standards because for all intents and purposes they really don’t decide anything for themselves anymore. Depending on how fast and how strong his initial pushes are maybe they have a short period of time when they might be able to try to kill themselves knowing what he does but even if that’s the case I can’t really think of them as much more than sad victims. With them I see Heartbreaker as the one who decides what happens and is the one responsible since he is basically mind controlling them.

                I honestly can’t say why I consider Heartbreaker and the Nine/Simurgh different cases though. I guess it’s probably that I consider Hearbreaker to be direct involvement in his victims while the Nine/Simurgh are simply influencing. Maybe it all just boils down to seeing the latter on-screen and the former are off-screen. Truly, after seeing Bonesaw has literally sewn different people into one suffering body…to me there is never going to be a reason strong enough for her to have the remotest chance of redemption. That’s just not something someone can come back from in my mind.

              • Slider, I think I see our main difference on this point. I’m a devout Christian, and therefore, as I understand it, I must believe that people can change, and that we should judge them only on their present and future actions, so long as I believe that they are truly people, and hence alive in a nonbiological sense. Any actions in their past must, for the sake of true objectivity, be weighed only as evidence for future actions, and for all their monstrousness, given the plausible option to rehabilitate the Nine, I should take it even at significant cost.

                Storyeater, my particular brand of Christianity believes that responsibility for one’s own actions starts at the age of eight, and while I don’t think we get concrete numbers, I suspect Bonesaw at triggered before that, making her case even less clearly her responsibility. But her responsibility aside, I still believe bodyhorror surgery to masses really isn’t much less forgivable than being complicit or even active in the atrocities of World War II, and that, at least, has been proven forgivable, and even the right thing to do, as far as I can tell. You aren’t making a bad argument for leniency in her case, but on this point it shouldn’t actually be necessary.

              • Also, I’m finding it painful to read my own comments with this format, so can we please hurry the move? On reflection, I’d prefer somewhere other than Reddit, as I haven’t decided on whether or not to get an account there yet, so I’m soliciting suggestions.

              • You keep answering the action is too monstrous,I keep saying its not an action they are responsible for.And you also compare apples with potatoes:I am talking about a fundamendal unability to make choice based on their youth,you talk about trauma that does not actually remove your choice.

                Tell me,a man giving a handshake to someone else,which is horrible torture each time he does it,but he has no perception it hurts anyone,is he guilty?

                How about if he does,but he has no capability to understand that is bad?What if he is not old enough to understand,or empathise?old enough to deny nature and nurture?

                How about a Hive mind that takes humans apart because it thinks the human hive mind wouldn’t miss a few drones,not understanding humans work differently?

                How about an AI that executes horrible tortures,then suddenly achieves self awareness and is repulsed by its past actions?is it guilty of them?it didn’t have self awareness back then

                How about a toddler pressing buttons to torture and liking the sounds the torured make,as instructioned by its father?A todleer using an inherent power to torture perhaps?

                And,btw,Regent did commit unforgivable atrocities when younger,on par with what Bonesaw did,he only denied his nature and nurture when he was old enough to run away.Until then?rapefest and drugfest with no consequences to people fully aware but unable to control their actions,feeling the deep reaching consequences of his actions

                Bonesaw’s actions might be worse existentially,but not morally,ya know,you are pushing your fear of things by transforming it to hate for the one dispensing it,regardless of culpability.If you wanna hate someone for Bonesaw’s actions,hate Jack.

              • Also,irrevenant:I do not believe in absolute free will,choice is choice between valid paths based on nurture and nature,which is why children yet a pass as far as I am concerned,they had no chance to deviate.

              • Then I’d (re)ask the question I asked in another comment thread: Once you take away inherent biological tendencies (‘nature’) and all lifetime personal experience (‘nurture’) then (a) what remains to make decisions and (b) on what basis can it possibly be making them?

              • Irrevenant,I already answered on this very thread (reread it,you might have missed it) that by defining it and then pointing out that even if its untrue,its pointless to deny it.

                Now,if you have objections to my arguments,or if I was confusing because I am bad at explaining things,I am all ears if you explain me what the problem is.

              • @Storryeater I can’t find those comments in the discussion and I don’t quite understand what you mean. Can you please rephrase?

              • copy pasted from my comment,I hope future comment readers will forgive my sin

                By definition,free will is the ability to make a choice,a choice being an action that is neither random nor predetermined.That makes free will unprovable,but if we want for things to matter,for people to be accountable for their actions,for anyone to truly make the world better or worse,we have to accept it exists even if it doesn’t,because a world without free will has no meaning.And as a world with no meaning has no purpose,happiness and purpose become subjective (and predetermined or random,but thats another story),thus chasing hapiness becomes the closest thing to purpose one has.As most humans have to accept there is a meaning to be happy,they have to lie to themselves in order to be happy,an action that is not bad or immoral because truth has no meaning without,well,meaning.

                Thus even if free will is nonexistent,people have to and will believe in it,and arguing against it is only detrimental.

              • @storryeater Thank you for reposting.

                I’m afraid I strongly disagree with basically that entire argument.

                If free will is a thing that exists then it is not unprovable. It can be found and identified. If it is a thing that doesn’t exist then it is *dis*provable. We can find the actual mechanism behind what we had been attributing to this magical ‘free will’ thing. Either way, it doesn’t have to go into the too hard basket.

                I completely disagree that a world without this thing called ‘free will’ has no meaning. If there’s no such thing as free will then we already *live* in that world and we are able to find and create plenty of meaning for our lives. Ditto purpose and happiness. People always have the motivation and meaning given to them by their bodies and instincts and experiences. And they’re often much more complex goals than just ‘chasing happiness’.

                I would argue the opposite to your point with regard to purpose: If purpose relies on a thing called ‘free will’ and we do not know what such a thing is, how it works, or if it even exists *then* purpose is subjective and arbitrary. If you understand how decisions are actually made then how can that be subjective?

                I would argue that the search to understand what lies behind ‘free will’ is itself meaningful, as is figuring out how to live once that answer is available.

                People give no indication of have to accept there is a meaning to be happy. They certainly do better if they have agency and purpose, but neither of those are actually reliant on meaning as you describe it. And as we discussed earlier, happiness is only one goal of existence amongst many.

                If people lie to themselves in order to be happy then that happiness is hollow and meaningless. Better to find purpose from a genuine understanding of the world.

              • How can something be hollow and bitter if everything is hollow and bitter without it?

                How can something have meaning if it doesn’t have a drive(yes,purpose was…wrong choice of words)?something either has a drive of its own,thus creating meaning,or it doesn’t,thus being utterly meaningless unless used by a being with drive.Because,you see,nothing matter if I have no free will,I cannot change the world,everything is predetermined or random,thus everything I do has no possibility of mistakes,so I am nothing but an faux AI (not really intelligent),an endless talk between ais of the chinese room,puppets to nothing,beings with no responsibility or accountability,experiencing nothing real,but instead,a script,a dream,a story.Nothing truly has meaning without deviation from it,elst you have a useless clockwork that works perfectly but does noothing.At some point of the process,there needs to be something self aware,something that can choose to change things and be changed by them for the clockwork to have meaning,lest it become an useless contraption,a contraption no god,good or evil would want,but only chaos could create.Thus,nothing has purpose,ever things that do have purpose,because nobody is gonna be benefitted or harmed by purpose,as nobody can be benefited or harmed,thus nothing has purpose because nothing affects a self aware being.Lo,even characters in stories have free will,how often have you heard of an author saying he made his character do something other that he’d do,because thats what he knew his character would do?regardles of the will of an omnipotent entity,he took his choice in his hands.

                People find meaning,you say?This can,alternatively,be confirmation of free will,or confirmation of the chinese room working very well

                And can free will be disproven?maybe,but ccan it be proven?never,because people wil always call on a higher level of predetermination,saying they need a stronger computer,or more information.And God help anyone trying to prove everything is random instead of fre will,not even alternate universes will help him as one can always ascribe,by its very nature,free will to chance and vice versa.

              • People have drive and people always will have drive. It’s an inherent property that doesn’t rely on free will.

                When you say “there can be no meaning without free will” that’s a very high level philosophical argument that depends on a very particular definition of “meaning”. People clearly live their lives with purpose. They advance their families, they pursue cultural, artistic and scientific goals. These things are instinctual and if some philosopher goes “our instincts are inherent therefore predetermined therefore meaningless” it changes absolutely nothing in practical terms. People are not going to stop raising their children and expressing themselves through their lives.

                You say that if life is predetermined or random then it’s meaningless. I would say that’s an arbitrary definition of ‘meaning’. Meaning isn’t an inherent property, it’s found in the observation. Rivers have a purpose/meaning – to carry water downwards to the sea. That’s not something it set out to do – it just followed the terrain due to natural forces. There isn’t even such a thing as a ‘River’ except as defined by observers – it’s actually just water molecules doing their thing. And it *still* has meaning.

                Humans are perhaps unique in being able to observe *themselves* and thus create their own meaning without needing an external observer.

                To your last point: I think we’ll probably eventually be able to explain decision making purely through biological purposes. But if I’m wrong, decisionmaking is still a process that involves the brain and is enacted by the body. Even if ‘free will’ somehow floats outside our measurable reality (at which point we might as well call it a ‘soul’) it still has to have some mechanism by which it intercedes in brain function. And that intercession is measurable and would prove the existence of an external intervention beyond our own brains which can be defined as free will.

                Of course, if there *is* some agent out there affecting our decisions beyond our biology and experiences our reaction is less likely to be “Yay, free will! Our life has meaning!” and more likely to be “Holy crap, some unseen thing from another universe is controlling our actions!”.

              • Ah okay yeah I understand now Horatio. It definitely seems to be my same problem with storyeater’s argument. It all boils down to fundamental differences in belief. I believe there are some things you simply can’t make up for which means you and I will never agree on the case of these guys.

                To storyeater, you believe that Bonesaw is fundamentally not the one doing her crimes. I disagree. Jack pushes but and twists and corrupts but I still find his victims capable of making their own screwed up decisions and so that means you and I will never agree. I don’t believe that she was too young to be unable to be held accountable. While her age is never concretely given I’ve been around enough kids to feel that they can recognize right and wrong much earlier than we tend to give them credit for. Her youth is not the be all end all of the argument. Most of the main characters in this story are below eighteen. Many people would argue that a fifteen year old (which Taylor started out as if I remember correctly) is unable to choose for themselves and shouldn’t be held accountable. Yet I dare you to find a single person who says that in these comments. Bonesaw I’d say conservatively is eleven or twelve at this point. She’s old enough to know what she’s doing. Given that the Nine have a high turnover rate let’s say she was inducted at six at the earliest. That is borderline not responsible due to age yes but even then I personally feel she would’ve known even then exactly what she was being forced to do.

                Your example with the AI is completely unrelated. Of course it wasn’t responsible. It wasn’t alive until it was self-aware. The Hive Mind example is also unrelated to me. It has blue and orange morality and is unable to understand (the Buggers come to mind). The difference I find with Regent is that yes while he was a monster before he came to be disgusted with himself which is clear in his interlude. Your other examples have merit but again we fundamentally disagree on when someone is able to understand and make a choice. You feel they have to be much older than I do which is where our disagreement lies.

                I suspect neither of us is ever going to agree or change our views though so this argument is becoming pointless. I understand your views. I just can’t agree with them.

                I’m mostly not going to touch the whole free choice thing. The only two cents I’ll contribute is that yeah sufficiently detailed characters do have choice. I write myself and I’ve had four or five separate characters that basically write themselves with very little input from me and one ended up giving me an entirely different direction in the story because she thought my original plan was totally idiotic and refused to be put into a situation like that. It was actually kind of annoying…

              • To slider:ok,lets agree to disagree,but let me just add a few things

                First:I never said teens are irresponsible,I do say they are,however,less responsible than adults (which means say,GG is not guilty for the shit she does,but Shadowstalker is).At young ages people change and evolve much faster,often there is more of a difference between 12 and 13 than between 30 and 40,psyhologically.

                Secondly,kids have the flaw of seeing things in black and white.That means that ,if their sense of morality is skewered,that means they won’t escape until they come to the age where they start questioning authority figures,and often 2 or 3 years later.Sure,they do not always implement authority figures orders the way or for the duration the authority figures want,but they fundamentally respect them.If you learn some kid psyhology,Bonesaw is likely to do a heel face turn growing up,much moreso than Joffrey (who would 7 of 10 times remain like that,just more refined),that is,unless the trigger event has messed with her mind,like with Bitch,but then that is Blue and Orange morality anyway (yes,in that case she should be killed with fire-but quickly and painlesly)

                irrevenant:there is a reason free will is one of the existential questions philosophy never answered,and its not because its easy to find

                But whatever humans have,without free will,its only a simulation.River has a purpose insofar beings with free will give it one.

      • Ok, a correction, now that I’ve read the whole story. I’d rather fight 2 Endbringers than the Slaughterhouse 9. 😉
        (Does anyone else think that me from two and a half years ago seems really imature in his writing style? I’m kind of embarassed every time I read his comments.)

  17. I think I’m going to have nightmares now =S

    And… yeah, that’s a pretty good reason not to want to mess around in people’s brains.

  18. Every time I read this chapter Bonesaw creeps me out more than anyone else.

    Panacea…I don’t like her, she refuses to confront or work through her hang ups. What I really don’t like though is that she’s kind of justified for that because no one she knows puts in any effort to understand the pressure she’s under. Glory Girl’s reaction is kind of understandable because she has been going through a lot of crap with her loved ones dying or falling apart. In the end though, Glory Girl is incredibly self-centered. First the assault on the skin head where she uses emotional black mail on Panacea, then the bank robbery where she doesn’t even consider the emotional trauma that Tattletale is threatening to perpetrate on Panacea, and now this. She says she wants to mend fences, but the second Panacea does something wrong and unexpected she fails to give any consideration for all the crap Panacea might be going through, was going through just a half an hour ago. If she’d let Panacea reverse the damage or reached out to her in spite of it, tried to be the bigger person, then a lot of their drama could have been avoided.

    Everything to do with Panacea and Glory Girl in the S9 arc is pretty much my least favorite part of this entire series. It leaves me feeling incredibly frustrated. Man if only Gallant hadn’t kicked the bucket, Panacea hated him but his super therapist powers might have been really handy here.

  19. Wholeheartedly agree with the above 2 comments 😀

    I don’t know what to say, I want to keep it short so I can click the next chapter and get back to Skitter’s PoV.

    You write emotions very well. The interactions Amy had with her family especially Victoria was suitably heartrending. These anniversary chapters were good, some slightly better than others. Gave a good view of the nine. Loved DInah’s chapter too. Argh, can’t stay longer must read on!

  20. A well done chapter.
    Glory Girl and Amy are (understandably given the insane stressors they are under) being idiots.
    Glory Girl fearing further modification is silly as Amy could have done the necessary mods right away, the only reason Amy would want to modify her again would be to reverse what she just did. Amy could have mentioned this.
    Calling Amy super evil is also counterproductive and stupid and very very human.
    Flying away instead of marking her position for pickup (and possible therapy) was also stupid and human.

  21. I have to say, after reading all of the comments on this chapter that so few of them were devoted to Amy. Yes I agree bonesaw is truely disturbing and adding Amy to the potential members of the Nine is a masterstroke. But so few people are paying any attention at all to just how bad things are for her. She’s been living her life, probably since 13 or so maybe younger not just loving but being in love with her sister. She’s also known ever since shes had her powers that she could do something about it.

    The only thing holding her back, from keeping her from giving in to temptation was her self imposed rule not to mess with the brain. On one hand Victoria can if she has the time sit back and realize just how hard and how long her sister has fought against the urge to make her love her differntly.

    That she actually ran away from home to try and resist the temptation. That Amy realized she couldn’t continue to do the right thing after she slipped and let herself realize she can change everything. When you look at the dialogue and realize that it was Victoria who said, lets forget about the rest of the family and just make it about you and me, to a girl who loves her more than anything the best case scenario is that all Amy did was change her sexuality.

    I feel bad for Amy not because of the slaugherhouse nine but because of the combination of hope and despair that bombarded her this chapter.

  22. Before I comment on Bonesaw, a note about the setting.
    There were more heroes now, and there was more balance between the good guys and the bad, but things were arguably worse now. Everything was in shambles.
    Interesting, isn’t it, how more heroes don’t make things better.

    And now onto Bonesaw, biological tinker, apprentice to Jack Slash in the arts of mind fuckery, and adorable little girl. Poor Bonesaw, to be so screwed up at such a young age. I can never quite figure out if I would give Bonesaw a hug or run away really fast if I met her in real life.
    Well…what can I say that I haven’t already? Bonesaw is well set-up to be the next leader of the Nine when Jack is dead and gone. She is also well-set-up to be a great doctor if she can overcome the whole “part of a band of super-psychopaths” thing. And I suppose I could contemplate what she and her adoptive sister might make together. But, overall…Bonesaw is pretty self-explanatory, at least as far as I can go without using data from several arcs in the future.

  23. It is truly tragic to consider how hard Amy tried to stop herself from doing this to Victoria in the face of her “fathers” injury she still refused.
    Victoria got what she wanted, Amy healed her father and then when the consequences she had been warning Glory Hole about happened she acted like a brat.
    I know Victoria’s got issues, but Amy does too and even before anything at all went wrong in Victoria’s life we saw her acting like a bitch like her powers made her above other people. She nearly killed a guy and then guilted Amy into covering it up. She then interfered and fucked up the Ward’s attempt to stop the Undersiders by being a Glory Hole. Amy’s been wrestling with the fact that she’s both in love with her sister and that she knows its both wrong and her sister isn’t interested. Actually if it weren’t for what it’s done to Amy I’d say she deserves this.
    She got what she wanted, Amy does brains now. She didn’t want to but she does and now Victoria’s either gay and attracted to Amy or just plain attracted to Amy.

  24. One question, why Hatchet’s power doesn’t cancel Oni Lee’s power?

    Remarkable series, I’m really enjoying it thus far.

    • Bonesaw mentioned it, she was able to figure out how to mash them together, but it cost some of the range of Hatchet Face’s power nullification ability.

  25. Man these Slaughterhouse 9 chapters are amazing… I keep finding myself wondering how the entire world could possibly survive them. They may well be worse than the endbringers… The only thing you may want to fix, the membrane around your brain is called the arachnoid, not the arachnid

  26. To start off, I originally found this story from Eliezer Yudkowsky’s author notes on Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality sometime early this month, but only started reading a day or two ago. I read kind of really fast.

    Now, I would have just been reading and ninja-d away when I finished, because I tend to be kind of awkward about commenting on things, but this chapter basically destroyed that plan.

    I commented because I feel the need to declare that Bonesaw is now one of my favorite characters. Not just in this story, she’s now in my mental list of “favorite villains”. I haven’t quite defined what it is that puts villains in that list yet, but it also includes the Joker (The Dark Knight) and Khan (Wrath of Khan). My guess is that the qualifier is something I consider “particularly creepy and/or evil compared to most villains”, but unfortunately that’s not an objective or predictable standard.

    I have not yet worked out what exactly it was about Bonesaw or the writing that made her one of my favorites, if I do figure it out I’ll probably make another comment that will probably be more useful feedback. My best guess so far is the combination of childishness and a really fucking creepy ability (those mash-ups) – and how she can at one moment be casually describing the creepy thing she did to people, and the next moment be childishly enthusiastic about it. I’m not even sure which is creepier – when she’s just talking about it normally or when she’s got the kid thing going.

    Er, wow, more text than I meant to put here. Evidently this is what happens when I try to say things after midnight, I go all rambly. *awkwardly looks around, then ninja-s off into the shadows*

  27. Obviously the answer’s already out there in the later chapters, but I’m wondering if Amy really did what she thought she did to Victoria.

    Like, Victoria’s reaction was–explicitly–disgust, not arousal or romantic love. And Amy is *really* the self-loathing type, whether she’s self-loathing in general or (potentially) her incestuous desire. So for Victoria to “reciprocate” could ultimately mean disgust every bit as much as desire or romance.

    Most likely, a mix of the two, but if she’d actually just turned on the romantic love switch, this shouldn’t’ve been Victoria’s reaction.

    (I’m not trying to say what Amy did was ok, it wasn’t, just that there’s a huge dissonance between what Amy says she did versus Victoria’s reaction. Getting freaked out and disgusted would be a completely sensible reaction for an outside observer on whom the power hadn’t worked, but not as much for someone experiencing it firsthand.)

    • Yeah, my first thought was that Amy had transferred some of her self-loathing to Victoria, at a moment where Vic was being particularly accepting towards her, and Amy didn’t like herself too much at the time… Vic’s initial reaction of disgust just served to further that train of thought, but then, BOOM she’s gay for her instead.

  28. Ok, what Amy did was kinda fucked up, but it wasn’t intentional and she was trying to fix it the second she realized what she’d done. Victoria… I get she’s having a really, really hard time and all that, but… immediately freaking out for one slip up after relying on Amy to hide her own self control issues all the time is kinda fucked up.

  29. Wow. I feel pretty bad for all of New Wave, especially GG and Panacea. One wonders if this might have been averted if Panacea had just had parents who took better care of her, although I don’t put all the blame there by any means. Panacea’s situation does parallel Taylor’s earlier circumstances in one respect, though; they each had one person left that they felt like they could talk to (sister and father, respectively) but couldn’t talk to that person about the thing that was hurting them the most, largely because they care about their opinions.

    All in all, this is a very tough chapter. Even Hatchet Face, Oni Lee and the Ravager get some pity from me, and I definitely feel bad for the Mouse Protector, along with the others. I guess GG and her mother will at least have Mark back, so there’s some good coming out of this complete mess. I somehow doubt that things will get better for them, emotionally speaking, but at least the family has Mark functional again.

    With no support system apparently available right now, I could see Panacea going in a lot of bad directions. I do think that her family should have seen some of this coming; not her feelings toward GG, perhaps, but the fact that she has always been isolated and was growing more so, her feelings of guilt and self-hatred with regard to her healing, and just her general downward spiral. It’s unpleasant to think that Tattletale started this chain reaction, although it also seems likely that things wouldn’t have been much different without her. Panacea’s insistence on not messing with people’s minds makes a great deal of sense to me; if I had that power, I would be utterly terrified of using it. I think the disconnect comes from the fact that her family thought of her as a healer, but she always knew better; her power isn’t to heal people, even if it can be used that way. And even if she hadn’t, it’s not necessarily easy to draw a line in terms of where “healing” ends and something else begins. For example, if Faultline’s crew was caught, would it be “healing” to lock Labyrinth’s mind into a state where she was at her least powerful but most aware of her surroundings? One could argue it would be for her own good, and that she might not be competent to make the decision for herself. What about Bitch? She apparently has some problems relating to people as part of her power. Someone might argue that “fixing” her brain would be the humane thing to do. And once you’ve done that, someone will ask whether there’s any reason not to have Panacea deactivate the powers of villains when they are captured. After all, it would make it possible to imprison them normally, allowing the Birdcage to be downsized if not closed in the long-term.

    But then again, if we’re going to do that, wouldn’t it be better to rewire their brains, so that they can be productive and law-abiding members of society? And for that matter, maybe we shouldn’t deactivate their powers. After all, the Endbringers are tough and some of those villains are pretty powerful…

    Well, I think that makes the point, without even getting into the further possibilities, but these aren’t even the most nightmarish ones. The point being, I think Panacea’s rule is pretty understandable. She doesn’t trust her own wisdom/strength of character when it comes to these uses of her power, and frankly I’d be terrified of and far less sympathetic toward her if she did. I don’t think she’s a great role model, or anything, but she’s not without a point.

    Lastly, I just want to say that I love this series of interludes. The S9 are extremely frightening but diverse enough to remain interesting, and it’s a good opportunity for us to see more of some other interesting characters, including Panacea and Bitch.

  30. Gotta say, Victoria kinda juggles the idiot ball here. Feels kinda off that she gets as irrational as she does, considering the friendship between her and Amy.

    • The phantom troupe are angels compared to them….yeah,the phantom troupe is one of the worst villain teams in fiction,the scary thing is,despite this,my point is still true.

      • I’ve searching online for someone else to make this comparison! I totally agree with you, I mean for one thing, SIBERIAN isn’t part of the Phantom Troupe so that just makes them 10 times less scary right there. And while the Phantom Troupe is ridiculously powerful and evil in their universe, they’re still all human..technically lol. What I mean is none of them would be as terrifying to look at as Crawler. Honestly, S9 make them look like a bunch of puppies.

  31. I threw my phone across the room because of the end of this chapter! I love this story so much that I hate it. Fucking Hell!

  32. What Regent does horrifies me, but what Bonesaw does, 2 for 1 botched possessions of villain capes, makes me want to curl up in a fetal position.

    I know there is an audience for it, and I know horror is a genre you have dabbled in, so obviously it’s your call. I also recognize that you are dealing with “which group is the worst-est” issues in characterizing the S9 in contrast to Endbringers, etc. Still … I thought you should hear from at least one reader saying, “Great writing, but tread gently on overloading the creepiness.”
    ” … so that they could use their powers without messing up the other.”
    Should this be messing up EACH other? Or the other ONE?

  33. Even with Victoria being Victoria that seemed an overreaction, the way she was repulsed by Amy. I have to wonder if there was more than a little homophobia lurking in there…

    PS. Thanks for doing these interludes. Without them we’d all be ‘Wait, what happened to who now?”. xD

  34. Victoria’s reaction to Amy’s lapse of control is darkly ironic given that the first time we met them, Amy lectured Victoria about her own self-control (and ultimately forgave her).

  35. GG’s power directly affects emotions. She uses it indiscriminately to get her way. Panacea is immune only after long term exposure, meaning she has probably suffered permanent effects from it.

    Panacea starts picking up a lot of flak for mind raping GG. You should ask yourself though, who mind raped who first?

  36. Wow so Bonesaw is just…uh…yeah. That’s…well damn. Those poor people. And the girl is barely even a teenager. I honestly can’t think of what else to say except that I think I’d prefer to run into an Endbringer than any of the people in this horrible house group.

    God, Amy’s life sucks massively. The poor girl has no self esteem and is entirely burned out. The family really should’ve taken her to a therapist earlier but I’m sure the whole issue with Carol doesn’t help. I feel bad for Mark too but at least he has a chance now. If only she had tried to explain that she didn’t want to start on a slippery slope I think they would’ve at least been able to try to talk to her rather than glare and hate.

    You know, I was willing to give Glory Girl a chance. She was arrogant, annoying and a bitch but I was willing to let her try and be redeemed but now? Wow. Yes, your sister screwed up majorly. But, she had just warned you several times not to touch her is obviously extremely emotionally distressed and had just been attacked by a member of the Slaughterhouse Nine the biggest psychos around who are known for screwing with people in every way possible. I can understand flying away in a huff and being pissed but the speech she gave before leaving? Congrats wildbow, you have made yet another character that I hope dies a horrible death.

    Poor, Amy. I foresee very little chance of this ending happily for her.

  37. The whole Dallon family is a mess. Mark suffers from chronic depression, Carol resents having to raise a child of a villain she personally put in the birdcage, and they raised a pair of cape children – and we know that powers fuck up people’s minds. What chance does a family of capes have at happiness?

    Just guessing here, but since the forms powers take have something to do with the cape’s state of mind, it’s possible that Vic and Amy’s powers are linked with their home life. Since Carol the lawyer appears to be the primary breadwinner for the family, depressed and inconsistent Mark must be the primary caretaker of the children. How does this link to the children’s powers?

    GG’s powerset is flying, invincibility and aura projection. The aura especially is basically a continuous shout of ‘notice me! I’m here! I’m important!’ It would have worked to bring her more attention from her often physically/psychologically distant parents. Maybe young Victoria was starved for affection, and wanted people to see/notice her.

    Panacea can alter biology to change bodies and minds. Since hers was an open adoption, she must have been aware that she was different from the rest of her family from a young age. Neither Carol nor Mark were really her parents – she calls them by name, and Vic seems to accept that she may be Amy’s only family. So maybe she wanted to change others, to ‘fix’ them not to be so depressed/resentful, to make them love her.

    Not to mention that aside from Vic’s aura directly affecting Amy, its effects probably also isolated Amy by drawing Carol/Mark’s limited attention to Vic – leaving Amy even more lonely and susceptible to the ‘I’m wonderful! See me.’ aura.

    So! Vic becomes loud, Amy becomes withdrawn… Carol suspects Amy of harboring secret whims alike her father and grows more resentful… Mark feels he should be a better father and husband and resolve this tension and grows more depressed… (and resents Amy for not fixing his depression…) and so on until things come to a head in this chapter.

    All that said? I think they all do love each other, to an extent. That may be the saddest thing.

    Wildbow thou art like a god and deserve worship. I being poor can only offer rambling verbose comments. Praise be to your work.

  38. >She looked over her shoulder and a shriek escaped through her lips.

    That ‘through’ really isn’t necessary.

    >ebon black

    Kind of redundant.

    >“Murder rat, come here. Hack Job, back off.”

    Murder Rat! Not rat.

    >Murder Rat placed a blade against her cheek, scraped it down toward her chin, as if giving Amy a close shave.

    Ambiguous sentence; reader doesn’t actually realise the object is Amy until the end of the sentence. Should put her name as the first object instead.

    >She was rigged to die if the control frame was ever disabled.

    Were ever disabled.

    >The woman collapsed onto a heap on top of her.

    Into a heap, rather.

    Fucking Panacea. Moralistic idiot into impulsive spreader of the gay. Seriously?

      • Considering her age (people her age think things in a generally absolute way),and her environment (all new wave seems to see things tad too black and whitey for some reason,as far as I have observed from subtle clues)I would be suprised if she didn’t turn out t be a moralistic idiot,at least until she had grown up a tad.

        And this turned better than expected,really,considering the burst of repressed emotions I feared this might end in murder….fact:in order to write interesting fictional characters,all parents must be nonexistant,abusive,or incompotent (or some mix thereof)

  39. This is so cool only up to here right now cannot stop reading but i think the entire making people addicted to you idea should’ve and still should be expanded upon anyway really cool never ever stop

  40. Poor Amy, the teenage years have really taken a toll on her. Turning her sister gay? That’s terrible, but she clearly regrets it. Too bad Victoria didn’t give her the chance to fix it. That’s probably gonna be more damaging in the long run.

    I must say though, Amy really does have a strong moral code compared to the other heroes. She’s probably stuck to them out of fear of becoming a bad guy. I wonder why she didn’t cure Mark sooner though, was she afraid of making a mistake? Or did she feel it would somehow slip her closer to the dark side?

    • Yeah actually she did think that fixing Mark would lead her slipping into the dark side. Note it’s almost immediately after fixing Mark that she finally screws up and changes her sister. That’s how temptation works, after the first time you give in (Even if it’s for a good reason!) it gets easier to give in again and again.

  41. I can’t believe I’m about to say this… but Bonesaw is somehow almost cute in her pure, childlike enthusiasm. I can’t believe you were able to pull that off.

    The most striking thing to me in this chapter, though, was Bonesaw’s insistence that they can “fix” Panacea’s desire not to hurt people. The way she repeated it, I imagined her with almost a wide-eyed childish innocence – as if she actually believed that it was a defect, something to be repaired. Wow.

    I originally heard about Worm from HPMOR, but it was reading a bit about the Slaughterhouse Nine that led me to finally take the plunge. These introductions certainly didn’t disappoint. I can’t stop reading Worm, and my work is starting to suffer!

  42. I have been following the story for some time, but “…make it so you would reciprocate my feelings” is probably the most hilarious lines I have seen on Worm so far.

  43. A long time ago I read a story about psychic healers and why they were exterminated. It was because healers in that world had the ability to not only heal, but create the most deadly pandemics imaginable.

    Here, with Amy, i see the End of the World.

    • Oooo. Interesting theory. S9 foreshadowing world end. Amy being pushed beyond the brink just as she is invited to join S9. Amy has amazing powers.

      But it doesn’t seem likely from a plot-building perspective. It would make for uncomfortable literature, and Wildbow doesn’t want to make his readers suffer /too/ much. Readers wouldn’t forgive him/her for it.

  44. One more thing, Victoria’s reaction is blatantly excessive. Too much of a 180 degrees to feel believable, since Amy’s little fig was fully accidental and Victoria has loved her foster sister for years. Doesn’t seem even remotely possible Victoria wouldn’t give Amy a chance to correct the mistake. Too many years of trust between them.

    • While I do agree with that the main mitigating factor really comes down to Victoria being a spoiled brat. She pretty much always gets her way it seems and throws a hissy fit when things don’t go how she wants.

      I agree though she completely overreacts. And I think 95% of the people in universe overreact too. Compared to half the other stuff that can be done to people either unintentionally or on purpose, making someone gay and being able to change them back really shouldn’t be that big of a deal.

    • Yeah, that turn of events made me mad. Not at Victoria, but at wildbow. She shouldn’t have reacted like that.

  45. “I don’t think I have it in me to do stuff like that,” Amy said. If nothing else, I can’t disappoint Victoria any further.

    “Oh. Oh!” Bonesaw smiled. “That’s okay. We can work through that.”

    “I- I don’t think we really can.”

    “No, really,” Bonesaw said. Then she snapped her fingers.

    Rkgen ubeevslvat bapr jr yrnea Obarfnj’f bevtva. Fur xabjf jung fur’f gnyxvat nobhg.

    • Nyfb vzcerffvir: Obarfnj’f rkcynangvba bs ubj fbzr cbjref trg nyvtarq gb bayl jbexvat jvgu pregnva rkgreany guvatf (“crbcyr be svfu be pbzchgref”), juvpu frgf hc n qrirybczrag gung qbrfa’g unccra hagvy gur irel ynfg (frpbaq gb ynfg?) svtug bs gur fgbel.

  46. This is the second time I’m reading Worm now and I still can’t accept how Victoria reacted. At least give your sister the benefit of the doubt, no?

  47. Well that seems rather excessively dickish of Victoria. Yeah, messing with someone’s brain to flip their sexuality is kinda messed up, but it was an accidental slip in a moment of high stress after a rather extremely traumatic incident, and she immediately tried to fix it the second she realized what she had done. At least let her undo the damage before you hit her right in her biggest insecurity.

  48. In Amy’s defense, when someone with touch based powers tells you not to touch them, you don’t fucking touch them.

  49. ‘”Can you imagine it? You could use your power, and then we could make one superperson out of a hundred capes, and all of the powers would be full strength because you helped and we could use it to stop one of the Endbringers, and the whole world would be like, ‘Are we supposed to clap’? Can you picture it?” Bonesaw was getting so excited with her idea that she was almost breathless.’

    Fanfic idea, ooh.

  50. man, screw you glory hole. she said not to touch her. she said she didn’t want to work on brains. you only thought of her as family when you thought her restrictions were irrational, when you completely removed the agency from your sister and molded her to fit the image you had of her in your head. screw you for not ever believing her.

  51. Amy/Panacea is a very interesting character. Her extraordinarily powerfwl ability to help people makes the very human flaws that keep her from doing so very apparent. All humans can spend much more time helping people, and we’re all kept from doing so by many of the flaws that Panacea is showing. Selfishness, irrational excuses, emotional trouble, a need to et away, etc. She makes all these flaws very visible.

    I can imagine the reason she continued to refuse to help people’s brains intensified over time. After years of not healing brains, she would feel a very strong need for a reason to not heal brains. If she felt like she didn’t have a good reason, she would have to think of all the people she could have helped but didn’t, and it would make her feel very bad about herself. So she would be very adamant about her excuses for not healing brains.

    Now that she’s healed Mark, it becomes obvious to everyone that she’s killed millions by not healing their brains earlier. I would feel a very strong need to run away after that as well. Even if running away meant that millions of people would die because I couldn’t help them. (But I don’t know if I would have acted on that need.)

    Also… That /was/ a bitch move by Victoria/Glory Girl. But it was an instant reaction, so she didn’t have time to think it through, and she could have misunderstood and thought Amy did it on purpose.

    • I wrote the three paragraphs before I read Amy’s real reason for not healing brains. Because it would make her accidentally alter people’s emotions sometimes when they came into contact with her.

  52. Pretty serious spoilers (or at least implied ones) to follow. Decrypt at your own risk.

    Gur sberfunqbjvat va guvf puncgre gubhtu! Uhaqerqf bs pncrf jbexvat nf bar betnavfz jvgu nyy bs gurve cbjref ng shyy pncnpvgl … abg gb zragvba Obarfnj’f eriryngvbaf nobhg gur bevtva/angher bs cbjref. Gur zveebevat bs Obarfnj’f bevtvaf jvgu jung fur qbrf gb Cnanprn vf terng nf jryy. Guvf xvaq bs guvat vf jul V’z pbzvat onpx sbe n shyy erernq naq nagvpvcngr qbvat fb znal gvzrf ntnva va gur shgher

  53. Somehow, even though I know these situations aren’t feasible in real life, they leave me with this sad, despairing feeling of 2real4me.

  54. “arachnid layer” is probably supposed to be “Arachnoid mater”(or -“layer”), as i see no reason for mark to have spiders in his brain. Oh wait, he HAD a spider to his brain!

  55. I hate this fucking chapter.

    I hate this chapter, I hate this story, and I hate myself for reading it.

    Fuck this. Fuck everything.

    And just so you don’t think I’m using this as shorthand for “Gah this was so good I can only express my emotions through anger,” let me assure you that I don’t. This is horrible. It is grimdark on grimdark on grimdark, and it thinks it’s a good story. The fact that so many fans seem to think it’s a good story destroys my hope in humanity.

    • As a person who is not usually a fan of grimdark, I have to say, it matters not so much how dark or light a story is as it matters how expertly it is written.

      This is written exceptionally well. Would say the same for a far more optimistic story that is equally good though.

  56. I actually hated this chapters contents, especially since it was so.well written.
    Mind wipes or.rewrites are what’s scares me the most.

  57. Seems like Amy’s gonna be the one who ends up as the ninth member. Just seems like a great foil to Taylor. Should be fun to see how this plays out.

  58. This was a great chapter. Lot of good drama. I do like Amy as a characters. Now I know the Interludes are over and we’re going to get back to Taylor. But I really hope we see some follow up on some of these and more than just passing mentions or the tests the candidates get. Especially follow up for this chapter. I really want to know more about what Amy did to Victoria and how their relationship will develop in general. Because i doubt thats the last we’re seeing of them together. Personally, I really think Victoria fucked up here. Yeah what Amy did was messed up on multiple levels, but she has been resisting the temptation to use her power on braisn for this reason for years. Resisting her attraction to Victoria for so long. Finally caved and used her power to fix Mark, but even still she warned Victoria not to touch her. Then she accidentally used it and immediately explained, apologized and asked to be let to fix it. Compared to all the temptation she was fighting, one slip up is not only excusable but almost expected. Cut her some slack.
    Also I’m a bit of a romantic, so this romantic tension and subsequent extreme complication to the relationshio…i find the scenario intriguing. Ideal case is some more drama for a while, then Amy fixes it and Victoria ends up reciprocating anyways. Or she refuses to let Amy fix it because she does want it now. Or something like that. Basically i want them to be happy together.

  59. AAAH this is realistically frustrating, much on the fact that GG constantly seeing Amy’s restrictions as irrational until it happens, and then blames her as she’s asking to fix it. :-/ f you glory girl

  60. Holy shite. Did Amy ACTUALLY change Victoria’s orientation? Or just build on sexual feelings Glory Girly already had or something else. Either way good god Panacea has more pull over people than I could have considered. I think I can see that Glory Girl’s reaction was unnecessary but I can understand why.

  61. Oh, poor Amy. Oddly enough, Victoria’s starting to grow on me. Didn’t think I could like that sort of character especially with what she did in this chapter. Hopefully they can get together and undo Amy’s mistake in the future, though I don’t think it’ll happen anytime soon. (So is GG gay now? I got the feeling that she’s become “straight with an exception”, but that might be the lesbianism talking. The idea of a sexuality switch scares the crap out of me.)

    Btw, love Bonesaw. She seems so normal and reasonable (for a mass murderer), it’s horrific.

  62. This was a really good arc, don’t get me wrong, but this is one of those times where I sincerely feel like the various interludes and bonus chapters beat the content of the arc as a whole.

    I don’t even know where to start. The Slaughterhouse Nine being slowly introduced, the terror behind their appearances and horrifying powers, extra stuff with other side characters, but the big one was with Glory Girl and Panacea at the end.

    I never had guessed in all this time that Panacea had romantic feelings for her. What an amazing twist.

    Not that I dislike the Undersiders, but sometime I really find myself wanting to read a story about the two of them.

    • Fun fact–Glory Girl and Panacea (then codenamed “Guts,” IIRC) were the protagonists of a pre-Worm parahumans story Wildbow was working on, titled Guts and Glory. He tried a whole bunch of ideas before settling on Taylor and the Undersiders.

      I’m kinda glad he didn’t go with Guts and Glory, both because I like the Undersiders and because Guts is kinda not the best name for a healer.

  63. And yet again as I skim through the story I find myself remembering just why I despise Carol so much. And between this and the Endbringer hospital portion remembering just why I really, really dislike Amy. Yeah, her life sucks and she seriously needs to sit down with a therapist for like a decade, but Carol has warped her psyche so much that I have little sympathy for her at this point in the story.

      • I finished it ages ago yes. And I’ll eventually read the sequel. Wildbow is a bit too dark for my tastes at the moment and while his stories are amazing, I’m reading through other things first. I’ve read small portions of it. (Enough to know about Amy…) And I still stand by my statement lol.

        • Not surprised. That wasn’t really a “this will change your mind” suggestion, so much as a “this should be interesting to you” one. But for obvious reasons I don’t want to discuss details.

  64. Guvf vagreyhqr uheg rabhtu gur svefg gvzr, naq jbefr gur frpbaq (xabjvat ubj Nzl “svkrq” ure zvfgnxr), ohg vg’f fb zhpu jbefr abj gung Jneq rkvfgf.

    (ROT13. Only decipher if you’ve started reading the sequel to Worm.)

  65. Typos.

    > Murder Rat darted across the room to light atop the back of the couch

    Shouldn’t it me “land atop” instead of “light atop”?

    where one woman started and the other began. > where one woman ended and the other began.

    arachnid layer > arachnoid layer

  66. Whew. This is my first re-read of Worm (haven’t read the sequel), and I’m not really up to it, but I have to at least comment something here.
    For me, this is the single worst chapter in all of Worm. Not in terms of bad writing; worst for the characters, and for how it makes me feel. It’s the grossest Worm has made me feel. And it doesn’t have anything to do with Bonesaw’s works. I know the first time I read it, it left me a little depressed for awhile.
    God, poor Amy.
    Fuck you, Glory Girl.
    This hits the hardest because it absolutely shouldn’t happen and it absolutely would. It’s too real.
    It’s a little muddled to use the easiest analogue, because it already is a same-sex attraction situation here, but that’s not the relevant factor, so: Imagining she was instead coming out as gay, with the same reactions, the same disgust. It’s just… eugh. The reality of this stigma, what it does, it gives me the heeby-jeebies.
    That is one closet you’re very much not allowed to come out of.

    So, very good writing, in fact. As usual

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