Arcadia high was the school every kid in Brockton Bay wanted to attend. A big part of that was the fact that everyone knew that the Wards attended Arcadia, and attending meant that any one of your classmates could be a superhero or superheroine. To anyone else, you could just as easily be one, too. It wasn’t a rich kid’s school like Immaculata, but it was a good school. Every classmate treated other classmates with the utmost respect. Both the students and the school itself maintained a certain status and pride as a consequence.
Now it was something else, and it inspired entirely different feelings. The front gate looked like it had aged a thousand years, the sharp corners of the cut stone had rounded off, the ivy that once wound around it had withered. The windows of the building were all shattered, empty of glass, and the fields were a patchwork of overgrown grass and mud. With the faint tendrils of colored mist that surrounded the grounds, it looked like a prime location for a horror movie.
I had little doubt I was in the right place.
Panacea’s the healer, top floor. Jack is the slasher, the blond girl the chemist-tinker. Panacea’s the healer on the top floor, Jack is the slasher, the blond girl is the chemist.
I recited the words as a refrain, as if I could hold the names and identities of the major players in my short-term memory by constantly reminding myself of who they were.
The school was on a hill, meaning the water that was producing the miasma was far enough away that only traces of it reached this far. The little vapor that got to the school was held at bay by the stone wall that ringed the school. The design suggested it had been intended more for aesthetics than for utility, but it was serving a purpose nonetheless.
Panacea’s the healer, top floor, Jack is the slasher, the blond girl the chemist-tinker. Panacea is the healer, top floor, Jack is the slasher, the blond girl is the chemist-tinker.
It seemed like the mechanical spiders had lost track of me. They would probably give up the chase and return to their master, but it was one less thing to worry about for the time being.
Jack and the tinker would have gone in through the ground floor. I decided to land on the roof. The second I was on terra firma, I reached for my phone to check. No signal.
I needed to signal someone about what was going on. I was woefully underequipped, and I doubted my ability to win this alone, especially when my opponents weren’t as disadvantaged as I was.
I could use something like a giant nine crafted out of bugs floating over the school to signal that the pair was here… but there was no guarantee that someone would come. There was also the possibility that it would lead to the good guys dropping another bomb on us. That would get the healer and maybe even me killed. Panacea had to survive, or everyone in the city would die in the aftermath of Bonesaw’s miasma.
Panacea is the healer, she’s on the top floor, Jack is the slasher, the blond girl is the chemist-tinker.
I tenderly touched the cut on my face. Jack must have pulled back as I used the tinker as a shield, because the cut was fairly shallow. It was long, though, and my fingertips were wet with blood after I touched my hand to it. I couldn’t distinguish the blood from the black fabric of my gloves, so I couldn’t tell how much it actually was. I wasn’t sure I wanted to know.
There was a door on the rooftop, and I used my knife to pry the doorknob partially off, then gave it a firm kick to remove it. The lock was built into the handle, and it didn’t take long to figure out how to open it when I could see the internal mechanisms. It wasn’t exactly high security, more intended to keep kids from getting onto the roof than keeping people on the roof from getting in.
Just past the door was a set of stairs that led down into the top floor of the building. It looked like a janitorial closet. I sent Atlas down to check before venturing down myself, and I began distributing my swarm through the school. I prepared silk lines across doorways and hallways to inform me of others passing through, placed ants, earwigs, centipedes and pill bugs on the walls to give me a sense of the layout, and sent flies to scan the interiors of each room to see if I couldn’t find anyone.
Again, I repeated the refrain in my head, reminding myself about who was in the building. I wasn’t sure it was helping, but I didn’t want to get tricked again.
There were two hallways and three classrooms my bugs couldn’t enter without dying on the spot. That marked out a relatively small area that the Nine could be.
The biggest issue was that I couldn’t find Panacea. Did that mean she was in close confines with the enemy? It wasn’t a good thought.
As I laid silk lines across possible entryways to alert myself about enemy movements, I was careful to check each area before I advanced further into the building. My eyes searched for details while my swarm scanned the walls and the ground.
I was a short distance away from the Nine when I saw a wet spot on the wall, complete with discoloration of the paint. I sent bugs in, and they felt shards of glass on the floor around the patch. I wouldn’t have said that the swarm smelled anything, but there was something heavy in the air as flies beat their wings, the muscular action simultaneously drawing oxygen in. Whatever it was, it was dense, cloying, odorless and colorless, only extending a dozen feet around the spot.
I backtracked and picked a different route. My pace slowed to half of what it had been as I searched for other telltale details. Twice, I found similar traps, both with that odourless smoke, and twice I had to change my route.
I paused outside the bug-killing zone. Flies had ferried spiders to me, and I started organizing them to produce lengths of silk cord. I left them behind while I creeped closer and listened in.
“…minds do think alike. I did something very similar for Siberian.” A girl’s voice.
“Shut up. We’re nothing alike.” Another girl.
“We could be! Haven’t you ever wanted to start over? I could make you younger! We’d be the same age! And wear matching outfits! Oh! I could do plastic surgery, we could be twins!”
“Did- did you do that to yourself? Make yourself young?”
“No.” A male voice. “Rest assured, Bonesaw’s immaturity is genuine. Both an asset in how it makes her that much more creative, free in her ways. A detriment in other ways.”
“Doesn’t… that bother you? Him saying that about you?”
“Jack knows what he’s doing.”
“I do. I know a lot of things,” Jack spoke, his voice smooth, almost seductive.
“Don’t. I know you’ve got a silver tongue. I don’t want to hear it.”
“You prefer the alternative?” Jack asked, his voice cool.
I could picture him holding that knife of his, the threat all too clear.
There was a long pause.
He spoke, “I suppose not. So let’s dialogue.”
“Go ahead,” Panacea’s voice was small, almost defeated.
“What’s holding you back? You’re capable of so much, of changing the world, of destroying it, but you’re so very small, Amelia Claire Lavere.”
His voice was almost mocking as he said her name.
“That’s not my name.”
“It’s the name you were born with. Imagine my surprise when I found out your relation to Marquis. In my last visit to Brockton Bay, I crossed paths with each of the major players. I met the man. I must tell you, Amelia, he was a very interesting character.”
“I don’t really want to know.”
“I’m going to tell you. And I have another motive, but I’ll get to that in a moment. Marquis was a man of honor. He decided on the rules he would play by and he stuck to them. He put his life and limb at risk to try to keep me from killing women and children, and I decided to see if I could use that to break him. I admit I failed.”
“He killed Allfather’s daughter.”
“No, Amelia, he didn’t.”
There was a pause.
“Did you kill her?”
“No. What I’m saying is that Marquis would not have killed the girl, even under duress; that was one of the rules he set for himself. If he was going to violate that rule, he would have done it when I’d tried to break him.”
“Allfather put a contract on my head before he died, because of what Marquis did. Because- It’s how I found out he was my dad. A letter from Dragon to Carol.”
“Carol… Ah yes, Brandish. Well, I suspect either Dragon was manipulating you, or your father was manipulating Dragon in an effort to get a message to you.”
“That he’s there, that he exists. Perhaps he sought to ensure he wasn’t forgotten by his child. He was an old-fashioned individual, so it makes sense that he’d seek immortality through his progeny.”
Bonesaw piped up. “That’s stupid. Why do something like that when someone like me could make you immortal for real?”
“Shush, now. Finish sewing yourself up while Amelia and I talk.”
“Okay,” Bonesaw said. Her voice overlapped with Panacea saying, “Stop saying that. It’s not my name.”
There was another silence.
“You’re your father’s daughter. Both of you are bound up in rules you’ve imposed on yourselves. His rules defined his demeanor, the boundaries he worked within, the goals he sought to achieve and how he achieved them. They were his armor as much as his power was. I would guess your rules are your weakness. Rather than focus you, they leave you in free fall, nothing to grasp on to except your sister there, and we both know how that has turned out.”
Sister. I made a mental note of that. There were four people in that room.
“I- how do you know this?”
“Our emotion reader picked up on some. I’ve figured out the rest. As you might expect, I’m rather familiar with damaged individuals.”
I didn’t like the way this was going. I looked down the hall to see the doors. Each door had once had a window on the upper half, but there were only slivers left, the rest scattered over the floor. In an ideal world, some distraction would present itself, or the conversation would become a heated argument and they would distract each other. I could rise from my crouching position, step forward, aim my gun and fire. Unload the gun’s clip on Jack and Bonesaw.
Or I’d miss, resulting in the messy deaths of Panacea, her sister and I. I really needed that distraction if I was going to do this.
“I’m not… not that type of damaged. I’m not a monster,” Panacea protested. As an afterthought, she added, “No offense.”
“I’ve been called worse. I almost relish being called a monster. As though I’ve transcended humanity and become something from myth.”
“And according to Cherish, it may well be a destruction myth.”
“She recently informed me that the world is going to end because of me. Not quite sure how or when. It could well be that I’m the butterfly that flaps his wings and stirs a hurricane into being through a chain of cause and effect.”
“I don’t want the world to end,” Bonesaw said. “It’s fun.”
“It is. But I expect it won’t end altogether. There’s always going to be survivors.”
“And it makes for an interesting picture. After everything’s gone, there’ll be a new beginning. Who better to craft the remains into a new world than you and Mannequin?”
“And Amelia, if she so chooses. We could be like gods in a new world.”
“You’re crazy,” Panacea muttered.
“According to studies, clinically depressed individuals have a more accurate grasp of reality than the average person. We tell ourselves lies and layer falsehoods and self-assurances over one another in order to cope with a world colored by pain and suffering. We put blinders on. If we lose that illusion, we crumble into depression or we crack and go mad. So perhaps I’m crazy, but only because I see things too clearly?”
“No,” Panacea’s voice was quiet. “Um. You’re not going to kill me if I argue, are you?”
“I’m liable to kill you if you don’t.”
“It’s not that you see too clearly. I think your view is warped.”
“Over the course of millions of generations that led to your birth, how many of your ancestors were successful because they were cruel to others, because they lied, cheated, stole from their kin, betrayed their brothers and sisters, warred with their neighbors, killed? We know about Marquis, so that’s one.”
How many were successful because they cooperated? I wondered.
Jack probably had a rebuttal to my question, but I wasn’t about to speak up to hear it, and Panacea didn’t ask. She fell silent.
I was tensed, ready to move and shoot the second an opportunity arose. Anything would suffice. Anything would do.
I visualized it, the steps I’d take to open fire, and I realized that the shards of glass on the ground between me and the door could provide them with a half-second of warning. Slowly, carefully, I began brushing the shards aside, keeping my ears peeled for some clue about a key distraction.
“Survival of the fittest, it sounds so tidy, but it’s really hundreds of thousands of years of brutish, messy, violent incidents, billions of events that you’d want to avert your eyes from if you were to see them in person. And that’s a large part of what’s shaped us into what we are. But we wear masks, we pretend to be good, we extend a helping hand to others for reasons that are ultimately self-serving, and all the while, we’re just crude, pleasure-seeking, conniving, selfish apes. We’re all monsters, deep down inside.”
Again, one of those pauses that suggested something was going on that was visual and out of sight, rather than something I could overhear. Jack offered a dry chuckle. “Did that hit home?”
“I’m… not that kind of person. Not a monster. I’d kill myself before I became like that.”
“But you see how you could be like us. It wouldn’t even be very hard. Just… let go of those rules of yours. You’d get everything you ever wanted.”
“Yes, family.” Bonesaw cut in.
“You guys kill each other. That’s not family.”
“You’re derailing our conversation, Bonesaw,” Jack chided the girl. “Amelia, when I say you could have everything you ever wanted, I’m telling you that you could live free of guilt, of shame, you could have your sister by your side, no more doubts plaguing you, no more feeling down. Haven’t you laid in bed at night, wondering, praying for a world where you could have something like that? I’m telling you that you can have those things, and I promise you that the transition from being who you are now to being who you could be would be much quicker than you suspect.”
“No.” The defiance was half-hearted.
“Amelia, you could let yourself cut loose and love life for the first time since you were young.”
And just like that, her resistance crumbled. “I’ve never felt like that. Never felt carefree. Not since I could remember. Not even when I was a kid.”
“I see. From your earliest memory, what was that? In Marquis’s home? No? Being taken home by the heroes and heroines that would become your false family? Ah, I saw that change in expression. That would be your earliest memory, and you found yourself struggling to adjust to your new home, to school and life without your supervillain daddy. By the time you did figure those things out, you had other worries. I imagine your family was distant. So you struggled to please them, to be a good girl, not that it ever mattered. There was only disappointment.”
“You sound like Tattletale. That’s not a compliment.”
“My ability to read people is learned, not given, I assure you. Most of the conclusions I’ve come to have been from the cues you’ve given me. Body language, tone, things you’ve said. And I know these sorts of things and what to look for because I’ve met others like you. That’s what I’m offering you. A chance to be with similar people for the first time in your life, a chance to be yourself, to have everything you want, and to be with me. I suspect you’ve never been around someone who actually paid attention to you.”
“Tattletale did. And Skitter.”
I startled at that.
“I meant on a long-term basis, but let’s talk about that. I imagine they were telling you ‘No, you aren’t. You can be good.'”
“But you didn’t believe them, did you, Amelia? You’ve spent years telling yourself the opposite. You’re a bad person, you’re destined to be bad, by circumstance and blood. And even though you didn’t believe them, you’ll believe me when I tell you no, you aren’t a good person, but that’s okay.”
“You say that, but you believe me when I say it.”
There was another pause where Panacea didn’t venture a response.
“Isn’t it unfair? Through no fault of your own, the blood in your veins is the blood of a criminal, and that’s affected how your family looks at you. You’ve been saddled with feelings that aren’t your fault, and doomed to a life without color, enjoyment or pleasure. Don’t you deserve to follow your passions? A decade and a half of doing what others want you to do, doing what society wants you to do, haven’t you earned the right to do what you really desire, just this once?”
“That’s not really that convincing,” Panacea spoke, but she didn’t sound assertive.
“I know. So I’ll offer you a deal. If you indulge yourself, we’ll surrender.”
“I won’t even make you do it now. Just look me in the eye, and honestly tell me you’ll do it. Drop all of the rules you’ve set yourself. I don’t care what you do after, you can wipe your sister’s memories, you can kill yourself, you can run away or come with us. And your side wins.”
“Aren’t we winning anyways?”
“Up for debate. I’m really quite thrilled with the current situation. Very enjoyable, and we’ve certainly made an impact.”
“This deal is a trap. You’ll make me do it and then you’ll kill me.”
“I could, but I won’t. Do you really have anything to lose by trying? If I’m going to kill you, I’m going to kill you regardless of what you say or do. Three and a half words: ‘I’ll do it’, and we leave the city.”
I almost stood right then, to open fire before she made a decision one way or another. I had to convince myself to wait, that no matter what they were saying, they wouldn’t leave right this instant.
Then I heard the sound of glass crunching in time with someone’s footsteps.
With the length of time I’d waited for an opportunity, I was going to take what I could get. My heart pounded, my hands shook even as I gripped the gun as hard as I could, but I let out a slow breath as I drew myself smoothly to a standing position and stepped into the doorway, pointing the gun through the window frame in the door.
They hadn’t heard me move. It left me a second to take in the scene and make sure I was shooting the right people.
They were in a music room that had been arranged with seats on a series of ascending platforms, backed by windows that had exploded inward, scattering the area with glass shards. At the bottom ‘floor’, there was a podium waiting for the teacher. Jack was walking up the steps to approach a girl. I knew he was Jack because he was the only male present. He was wreathed in thin white smoke, wore a light gray t-shirt marked with blood stains and black jeans tucked into cowboy boots. A thick leather belt had a variety of knives, including a butcher’s cleaver, a stiletto and a serrated blade.
His teammate Bonesaw, was standing in the corner of the room just to my right. I could see the edge of a dress, an apron with tools and vials in the pocket, long blond hair curled into ringlets, and that same shroud of smoke around her, moving out to fill the room. The rest of her was obscured by the wall to my right and the shelves that stood behind the podium. It put her in an awkward spot for me to shoot. If I’d known she was there, I would have crawled over to the door at that end, gunned her down at point-blank.
Panacea stood at the far end of the room, at the highest point. She had brown hair that was blowing slightly with the breeze that flowed in through the glassless windows behind her, topped with a flat top cap. Freckles covered her face, and she was dressed in a tank top and cargo pants. More than anything else, she wore a look of fear on her face that marked her as the victim, not the threat.
And process of elimination meant the thing beside her was her sister. I would have called it a coffin, but it was clearly made of something living. It resembled a massive growth of flesh that had been shaped into a vague diamond shape, gnarled with horny callous and toenail-like growths that protected it and reinforced it at the edges. On the side closest to me, a girl’s face was etched into an oversized growth of bone. It was unmoving, decorative, with locks of long wavy hair that wrapped around the sides of the diamond. The ‘sister’ floated a foot over the floor.
It was so startling to see that I nearly forgot what I was doing. I drew in a short breath, then let slow breath out as I aimed the gun at Jack and squeezed the trigger.
I’d mentally planned to unload the gun on Jack and Bonesaw, but I’d forgotten about the recoil. At the same time Jack was struck down, my arm jerked up, and my mental instruction to fire nonetheless carried through. The second bullet hit the ceiling.
I whipped the door open and turned to my right to fire on Bonesaw, but my arm was numb, and her reflexes were sharp. She was already opening a door at the other corner of the classroom before I could shoot, making her way into the hallway.
I had a split second to decide if I should chase her or go after Jack. I glanced at Panacea, saw her staring. As if the eye contact snapped her out of a daze, she lunged toward Jack, one hand outstretched. She stopped dead in her tracks as he lashed out blindly with the knife. Reversing direction, she went for her sister instead.
Jack hadn’t been incapacitated. Aside from the impact of the gunshot, he didn’t even seem wounded. He was on his feet in a flash, spinning a hundred and eighty degrees to face me, his knife in motion.
I ducked back through the door, the knife delivering a glancing blow to my back. It failed to penetrate my costume.
Oddly enough, moving into the hallway and putting my back to the wall made me feel like I’d committed to fighting Jack, even if I might have been in a better position to go after Bonesaw.
“Wake,” I heard Panacea speak. She said something else that I missed.
I felt a jolt, but it wasn’t physical. It shook me on an emotional level. My voice abandoned me, not that I wanted to speak. I felt as if I stood on the very edge of the grand canyon and any movement, even one to step back onto solid ground, was guaranteed to send me falling to certain death.
The levitating construct of flesh slammed through the door and the door-frame that Bonesaw had used to make her exit. The mask of bone drew upward like an opened lid, to reveal a clear sphere, containing vitreous fluid and a teenage girl with blond hair.
Her eyes were open, but she looked half asleep, her hair fanned out around her, floating in fluid that seemed thicker than water. Her arms were outstretched, but her hands and lower body were hidden by the meat that surrounded her. The edges of the shell that were unfolding around her were curved forward like the horns of a bull.
If the sister had come after me, I wouldn’t have been able to fight back. Like a deer in the headlights, I stood there, unable to think or compel my body to move.
She rotated in mid-air slowly, as if getting her bearings. As ponderously as she had moved one moment, she went tearing after Bonesaw in the next, slamming through walls as momentum carried her too far and as she turned a corner too tight and sheared through the drywall, tile and window frames.
I could hear Bonesaw laughing with childlike glee as she fled.
“Not smart, not smart, either of you,” Jack chastised us. “See, with Victoria gone, you’ve left me here with a hostage.”
I stood with my back to the wall, gun in hand. Ten bullets in here, four spent, if I’d counted right. I’d always sort of rolled my eyes at how movies treated guns and counting bullets, but it was harder than I’d thought. The shock and disorientation that came with firing a gun tended to disrupt even basic arithmetic. I couldn’t remember how many times I’d fired during the fight in the parking lot.
“I’ve been turning every microbe that touches my skin into an airborne plague, Jack,” Panacea spoke, her voice low. “You should be dead now.”
“And me?” I called out, feeling a pang of alarm.
“I didn’t know you were there. You should be dead too. Sorry.”
“A benefit of little Bonesaw’s smoke,” Jack answered. “If I recall correctly, it’s something of a safeguard in case she accidentally deploys a concoction she hasn’t immunized herself or the rest of our team against. The fact that it works against bugs and small rodents is a side benefit, rather than the intent. Bonesaw’s work has made us members of the Nine more or less immune to disease anyways.”
“And the gunshot?”
“Subdermal mesh. There’s more protection around the spine and organs, and you landed that shot pretty close to my spine. It hurts quite a bit.”
“Skitter! I don’t care if I die,” Panacea called out, “I’d rather live, if only to turn Victoria back to normal, but… just don’t worry about the hostage part. If I have to die so you can kill this fucker, I will.”
It isn’t that simple. Killing a monster like Jack or Bonesaw? That was one thing. I could push myself to do it. Killing a bystander in the process? That was something else entirely.
Jack seemed to be able to interpret my pause. “I suspect, Amelia, that she is worried about the hostage. The monster that dwells in Skitter’s heart is very similar one to yours. It’s a lonely thing, desperate for a place to belong, and the only thing it wants to be brutish to is her.”
“Don’t pretend you know me, Jack,” I called out. “You already tried to fuck with my head, you guessed wrong.”
“I had bad information. Cherish has her uses, but she was never going to be a long-term member of the group. The people who can are truly special. Bonesaw, Siberian, me. Perhaps Mannequin, but it’s hard to say. He’s not terribly social, but he’s been with us for some time.”
I stayed silent. I could hear his voice changing in volume as he spoke. Was he moving?
There were two doors leading into the classroom. Was he moving toward one, aiming to leap out and strike at me? I glanced down the length of the hall. Bathroom, janitorial closet, another bathroom, storage room… it made sense that there wouldn’t be other classrooms adjacent to a music room with minimal soundproofing.
“You two have your differences, of course. Amelia, you’re burdened by guilt, as you’re burdened by your rules and so much else. I’d like you to think again about how nice it would be to be free-”
“No,” Amelia’s interruption was curt, almost defensive.
“Alas. Well, while I’m interpreting you two, I’d say Skitter is driven by guilt. What makes you feel so guilty, bug girl?”
He’s trying to distract me.
I scampered along the length of the hallway, keeping low enough that I wouldn’t be visible from the window while I moved to the point just beyond the effects of the bug-killing cloud. I could send bugs after Bonesaw and the sister -Victoria, was it?- but Bonesaw would still have that cloud of smoke around her. I doubted my ability to achieve anything on that front.
“There’s always some guilt related to family. Tell me, what would your mother think, to see you on an average day? Or can’t you remember her with the miasma? I’d almost forgotten.”
Even if I couldn’t remember her face, who she was, or even where she was, I could feel a pang of regret that knotted in my gut. I grit my teeth to remind myself to keep from opening my mouth and grasped the cords that my bugs had threaded together. I looped them around Atlas’ horn, and then I ran down the hallway, still keeping low.
Just to check, I tried bringing bugs into the hallway. The smoke was still present, if thin. They still died, just a little slower than before. I returned them to their previous location. No use wasting them for nothing.
“Skitter,” he called out in a sing-song voice. With the acoustics of the hallway, I couldn’t pinpoint his location. “Aren’t you going to reply?”
Just as I was trying to locate him, he was attempting to do the same for me.
I decided to give him what he wanted.
“You’re pathetic, Jack.”
I’d intended to provoke him, and I’d succeeded.
I’d also intended to pull the silk cord taut as he stepped into the hallway, tripping him.
Instead of opening the door, he leaped through the open window in the upper half of the door, tucking his knees against his chest. He landed with a short roll, spotted me, and slashed.
I brought my arms up around my face to protect it. The feeling of the silk cord’s weight dropped to virtually nothing as the slash cut it.
I’d been given tips on fighting, even if I couldn’t remember by who or by whom. Catch them off guard. My arms around my face, nearly blind, I charged him.
He caught me in the side with a kick, but I had enough forward momentum that I crashed into him anyways. We fell to the ground, and I reached for the smoking vial that hung around his neck.
Jack already had the stiletto in one hand. He jabbed it toward my face, my eye, and I jerked my head back out of the way, abandoning my attempt to get the vial. Using one elbow, he shoved me to one side, then flipped over, simultaneously reversing his grip on the knife in his other hand and driving it down toward the side of my head. I rolled with the momentum he’d given me to escape before it could pierce my ear or my temple. He was already following up, slashing both knives at me, one after the other.
He knew how to fight, of course. He’d said he’d been at this for a while.
Hated this. Hated fighting without knowing enough about my opponents.
I tried to get my feet under me, but it was slow and awkward as I was unable to use my hands. I had to wrap my arms around my head to shield my face against the continued flurry of slashes. Jack had a knife in each hand now, and he wasn’t giving me a half second between cuts, if that.
My forearms and hands didn’t cover enough of my head. I could feel the cuts nicking my ears, slashing through my hair by my temple. A few slashes made their way through gaps between my arms and fingers.
Blindly, I rushed for the classroom. Needed a second to breathe, to think, before I was whittled down to a bleeding ruin. I could hear footsteps behind me. I felt a hand seize my shoulder. I whirled and knocked it away, felt another knife slash crossing the back of my head. I had blood in my eyes, my ears were a bloody ruin, and cuts burned like fire around my scalp and neck.
A shout. Not Jack’s. I heard it again, the same words, but I couldn’t make them out. There was blood in my ears.
I stumbled into the classroom, and Panacea was at my side in a moment.
“Fix me,” I gasped. I couldn’t tell where Jack was, and I was hurting enough that I couldn’t think to strategize. He hadn’t followed. “Fast!”
She touched my forehead, and I could feel the cuts knitting together.
But there was another injury that wasn’t mending.
“The red miasma took away my ability to recognize people. I don’t know anything about the people I’m fighting. Fix my brain.”
“I don’t- I can’t.”
“If you don’t fix me, Jack could win, and billions could die. If you don’t cure whatever it is that Bonesaw’s done with this miasma, I and tens of thousands of others could die of a degenerative brain disease.”
“You don’t understand. I can’t cure brain damage.”
My heart fell.
“I- my- the last time I did it, the last time I broke my rules, everything fell apart. You’re asking me to do the exact same thing Jack was. To break my rules again.”
“They’re just rules.” Where was Jack?
“They’re the only thing holding me together.”
He’s getting away. This stupid girl. “You were willing to die if he took you hostage. I’m asking you to sacrifice yourself in a lesser way. Fall apart if you have to. But undo what Bonesaw’s started.”
“This is worse than dying,” she said, her voice quiet.
“Ask yourself if it’s worse than the slow, degenerative death of thousands and the potential end of the world.”
She stared at me.
Even as she looked at me, aghast, I felt something awaken in my mind, barriers crumbling.
“This is bad. Every second is time you’re suffering more permanent damage.”
“That’s not a huge priority. I’m more worried about Jack, and all the others who got hit harder by this stuff than I did.”
“It’s a parasite that’s producing the improperly folded proteins. I can stop it, and I think I can make them create a counter-agent that counteracts the proteins and promotes healing in the brain. Can’t make them fix the lesions, but I can promote plasticity in the brain and new connections to old information.”
Her voice was so quiet I barely heard it.
But I could remember the others; I remembered Tattletale and Brian. Rachel. I could remember Alec and Aisha. The dogs. Our enemies. My dad. My mom’s face popped into my mind’s eye and I could feel a relief as I let go of an anxiety that I hadn’t been consciously aware of.
“The parasites will replace existing parasites over time, and they’ll die if it gets cold, now. Or if you raise your blood alcohol content. Get drunk after a week or two to clear them from your system, and don’t drink tainted water. If everyone clears them from their systems, the miasma’s effects will be gone by the end of winter.”
“They’re probably what she seeded all over the area, before using the catalyst.”
“I’d believe it.”
“And the damage, can you reverse it?”
“The minor damage, yeah. But I can’t do anything for the people with more serious brain lesions unless I attend to them directly. There’s other healers out there, I know they’re not as good, but maybe they can do something to fix that.”
Precious seconds passed.
“Let me know the second I can go,” I said. “Jack’s going to attack, or pull something.”
“Trying to engineer a large-scale solution to help as many people as soon as possible. The parasites will leave your body through your sweat, spit and urine, and enter the local water supply to override the others, and anyone you cure will cure others in a sort of reverse-epidemic. I have to make sure this is engineered right, or nobody’s going to get cured. If I screw it up, it could be worse than what Bonesaw did.”
My leg bounced on the spot with anxiety and anticipation. Jack was up to something and I was sitting there.
I tried to distract myself with a change of subject, “Where did you get the material for what you did for Glory Girl? That sarcophagus thing. You have to use living material, so…”
“They weren’t human.”
“That’s not that reassuring.”
“I used pheromones to lure stray cats, dogs and rats to us, then I knit them together. Victoria didn’t have enough body fat to stay warm, and she was wearing out faster than I could get her nutrition.”
“She’s going to return to normal, though?”
“Just a little more time. I have to ensure she’s totally together inside the cocoon, then disconnect her from it, and make sure she reaches a physical equilibrium afterward. Once I know she’ll recover…” she trailed off.
“Go. You’re done. Go after Jack.”
I hesitated. There was a look in her eyes, dark. She wasn’t meeting my gaze.
I turned and ran. Atlas was waiting on the rooftop as I ascended the stairs.
Too much time lost. My body was a counter-agent for Bonesaw’s prion generators, but I had to find Jack and Bonesaw. I could scout the area with my bugs, vaguely sense the areas they’d traveled by seeing what spots murdered my bugs on contact, but I still had to track their movements.
Glory Girl was hovering over the school, searching for Bonesaw. The ‘cocoon’, as Amy had called it, was damaged much as the school gate had been, but Glory Girl was still intact inside.
The fact that she was looking made it very possible that we were facing the worst case scenario.
The bug-killing smoke extended outside of the school gates. It was hard to verify if they’d gone that way and corked the flow of the smoke or if it was traces from before. My only resource and means of detecting it was my bugs, but testing it meant killing them by the dozens, if not hundreds.
If they stayed on the grounds and I left, it could mean something ugly for Amy and Glory girl. Conversely, if they’d left and I stayed, it could mean disaster for everyone else.
I left, flying Atlas in an ever-expanding circle, reaching out with my bugs to scan the surroundings.
With a mixture of relief and fear, I realized that Bonesaw’s extermination smoke was stronger a half mile away. I’d been lucky enough to guess right.
They’d split up. Two trails, extending down different streets. My bugs felt around to see where the death-zone was, a few dropping dead each time, their numbers whittling down. It was like a game of battleship, with constantly moving ships and limited ammunition.
Three trails. I stopped in mid-air.
I gave chase to the nearest one, abandoning Atlas to pursue the subject into an alley, through a hole in the wall and into a derelict building, past a pile of rubble… this wasn’t right. It was too nimble, moving through spaces too small for even Bonesaw.
And before I even returned to Atlas, there were a half-dozen trails in total that were branching out around us. In another few minutes, there were a dozen.
Our group had used this method some time ago, using Grue’s power to slip away from the bank robbery. But how were they doing it? It wasn’t just the wind carrying the gas down misleading alleys. Were there living creatures carrying vials of the stuff?
Mechanical spiders. They’d found their maker, and Bonesaw was using them to distribute the vapor and cut off my swarm sense.
Thought id try my hand at the undersiders this week ….and was practicing chibis soooo think of these more as undersiders for kids http://scarfgirl.deviantart.com/art/Chibi-Worm-cast-330912917?ga_submit=10%3A1349496759
And thank you so much for another chapter to read 🙂
I love the cute monster dogs. 😛
Very nice, the first picture that includes Atlas and Aisha.
Me too! Bentley looks really cute. I thought Sirius was a black dog though?
I think Taylor would be extremely jealous of her Chibi-version’s chest. 😉
You lot so need to add costume descriptions to the wiki , figuring out what people wore was frustrating .
As for her chest and hips that definitely wasn’t an artist mistake …Skitter added umm errr padding to her outfit to errr help absorb so of the damage from all the physical altercations she’s been in ….honest ! <..>
Step 1: Replace chest armour with padding.
Step 2: Seduce Grue.
Step 3: ???
Step 4: …Profit?
Very cool idea, making them into fridge magnets. Maybe you and Wildbow and drunkfu can get a little side business going.
If wildbow ever wanted to use them for something he can have them free and clear no side bussiness required 😛 im far too lazy for a side bussiness and my parents kinda frown on the whole drawing thing anyways .
At the moment I am just really enthralled by worm and enjoy doodling things for it and of course it gives me warm fuzzies that folks like them enough to comment 🙂
What a shame that your parents frown on your drawing. You’re quite good.
See Amy? See what happens when you pull your head out of your ass for five seconds? SHIT GETS DONE.
I presume her head will shortly be returning to its usual perch. Jack’s mind-whammy was at least partially successful on her, I’d say.
By the by, quick and dirty (or rather, least dirty) way to have Skitter cure people? Kiss ’em. Or lick ’em, I guess. That’ll be fun.
Anyway… good effort, Skitter. Shame about Jack and Bonesaw, but hey, maybe someone else will hero up and get them.
Go find Tattletale and kiss…. I mean cure, of course I meant cure, her right now!
Nevermind mc2rpg’s Freudian slip of the tongue, it’s very important to go vigorously and relentlessly cure your close friend. In fact, don’t be afraid to try multiple times to make sure it takes effect. Better get some tongue in there, make sure it takes.
Cure the fuck out of her. Cure her like a ham. Cure her like the common cold.
Must…suppress…rabid…shipper tendencies…Ah screw it.
Kiss her Taylor! Follow Psycho’s advice to be absolutely sure!
The rabid shipper in me cannot help but notice that this lines up Skitter telling Grue to remember her and then kissing it into him.
Or better yet, ‘Remember this?’
Well, it’d probably take a while for it to fully take effect…a looooong while. Like at least ten breaths worth.
The degenerate in me was more intrigued by the implication that Panacea’s treatment included getting drunk and taking a tinkle in the local water supply.
Works for me! If I didn’t know any better I would start to like her.
What? Well if that’s all it takes, she should have fixed me up with those parasites. The red mist would have never even activated if that were the case.
What I meant to say is that bottled water is an overpriced capitalist bourgeois scheme to steal your money! Stick it to the man, drink from the tap!
That, or drink new Gecko-brand Yellow Springs Bottle Water. I take a special interest in each and every bottle. Straight from me, to your mouth.
This chapter yet again makes me question whether I like or dislike Amy her. At the beginning of it and after seeing Glory Girl I was again at the latter but then she actually gets off her high horse and helps Skitter plus explains a bit about her motivation with GG and well I almost like her again. Generally I either hate a character so much I gloss over any good they do or I love them so much I gloss over all the evil but with Amy she keeps flip flopping so much between effective/smart and asshole I can’t decide how I feel for her. Well done wildbow. Well done.
Just the right mix of nightmare fuel, action, and villainy…
I was surprised that Jack didn’t try to use the ‘cure the horrible plague’ argument against Amy. Seems like something Bonesaw, at least, would have brought up if he’d have let her.
On another note, I really really hope that Amy hasn’t done something more to Skitter at the end there.
“containing with vitreous fluid” the ‘with’ doesn’t fit.
“to reply? “ Extra space
Fixed the with. Can’t find the second without Ctrl-f, don’t have access to an internet connection right now, so borrowing an iPhone to read comments & make necessary edits.
Was Jack taunting Skitter, right before she called him pathetic.
Thanks. Fixed. Was doing last minute edits using laptop with flaky airport wifi while waiting for family to arrive. A little rushed. Glad there don’t seem to be an overwhelming number of complaints about the chapter (and that it did go up without a hitch).
Also, I think “he’s been with us from some time” should probably be “for some time”.
i think Jack left beacuse Amy did just what he wanted, she broke her rules.
the thing with Marquis not going after women and children while killing Allfathers daughter had been brothering me since it was first mentioned a while ago. Jack’s explanation makes sense, but there is no guarantee he is telling the truth.
The cure that Amy came up with probably won’t cure everyone. If the modified parasites are killed by alcohol there probably will be quite a few people who will kill them off before being cured. It is not quite clear if all the effects that Amy describes are from the modified parasites or things she does specifically to Skitter.
One thing makes me wonder if there might not have been some side-effects to what Panacea did: Taylor was able to remember Aisha, when it previously seemed like her powers of being forgotten worked pretty much by themselves. Has Amy accidentally given Taylor a sort of immunity to Aisha’s powers? Might the elasticity she mentioned and the ability to (re-)form new connections affect Skitter’s ability to interact with her bugs?
It has always seemed to me that the characters can remember that Aisha exists when she isn’t using her powers. Also, when the villains and heroes were meeting on the island Grue remembered that Aisha existed even when she was using her powers to stay concealed to spy.
Unfortunately for Aisha, it’s much worse than that. She’s got a two-part power. The first makes people forget about her. The second is to turn that off by concentrating.
Even if our man Jack is telling the truth, that doesn’t make him correct. I am still worried about either side effects or deliberate secondary effects.
Jack implies that everyones favourite homicidal doll is still alive. Does he simply think that Mannequin could survive Bakuda’s bombs, or does he have proof?
Could it be? Could our dear [brain-in-jar]-in-a-puppet-torso return?!
On a more serious note: in the comments to the previous chapter, Digerati mentioned that there were still too many major issues to be resolved for this story to end in just a few more arcs. I agree with that, but I want to add one which I think might be the most important one (for Taylor): confronting Emma. Seriously, this warrants at least an entire chapter to itself, if not more. Emma’s betrayal is the catalyst for Taylor becoming who and what she is – she wouldn’t even have her powers without her!
When I started writing this post, I just wanted to ask about Mannequin and praise your work, so here is the praise: Great work, wildbow!
PS: can you recommend some other superheroe web serials? I’m already reading Whateley Academy (my first) + Worm and have just started with Legion of Nothing and Masks, but I need MORE!!!
If wildbow will forgive using the comments section for such, I recommend The Descendants at http://www.descendantsserial.paradoxomni.net
The author is pretty prolific, too. Every week, there’s one update for the main story and one update for one of the ongoing side-stories set in the same universe.
Masks? Have I been missing out on a good superhero serial all this time?
Don’t fear the archive binge if it comes down to it. Then, once you’re caught, you can rain havoc upon the unsuspecting comments section. Mwahahahaha!
There was something more about Emma that we were allowed a hint of, when that one former schoolmate was rescued by Taylor. If she turns out to have died from the Burning of the Docks, then it’d be cool for Taylor to just find Emma and go all bad cop on her.
As for Whateley…bleh. I’m a bit biased, as I’ve only read a couple of stories, but I just still really hate that 2nd Book of Jobe. All of the reasons why need not be expanded upon due to the length of my complaint, but I heard even worse stuff has happened to him by now. The only thing that stopped me from taking an assassination contract on a great old eldritch abomination is that I didn’t want to be guilty of the same wish-fulfillment as Whateley sometimes does. On a lesser note, I’m also not a big fan of having a character being allowed to look like a character. It stinks of amateurish writing to have a character magically become a lookalike for an anime toon. I also don’t like the blending of Lovecraft with superhero themes. That is one of those topics that should probably be done sparingly unless it’s the absolute main focus.
Oh, and there’s a slowly-updated site called Metahuman Press that has a few good stories. A little hard to keep up with sometimes. Not really a serial, but there should be some good stuff for you there.
I remember one of the Whatley authors did some sort of interview, and talked about how mythos in a setting tends to come to dominate the setting over time. Makes a lot of sense when you think about it, as mythos sort of demands a perspective from the extreme end: inconceivable, impossible, infinite, and from beyond those perspectives.
To keep that from bleeding into the setting at large is a hard thing.
What I have read of whately would incline me to say that the issues with characterisation, general tone and the overall plot are far bigger than mythos issues. Which are there to be sure, but aren’t what I’d see as breaking it.
There are enough authors on Whateley that its kind of hard to even generalize about it as a cohesive whole. Frankly, some of the fanfic is loads better than some of the official stuff.
Frankly, there are some stories I’ve read more than once, some that are just meh, and some I pretend don’t exist. Now that I think about it, I could make the same comment about the authors.
It’s not updating right now/any longer, but The Last Skull is a fantastic super heroic story with a pretty epic final arc.
I’d also say Super Powereds by Drew Hayes is pretty good, too.
Wasn’t there one called Magnificent Bob or something? I remember that being pretty solid, and it had kind of a similar vibe to Worm. I believe the author died, however.
Well, Mannequin’s brain is the only piece of him that has to survive and there’s been little evidence that it was inside the body that he puppets around- it wouldn’t be much of a mannequin if it was pulling its own strings…
My guess: Mannequin survived the bombing, but his tools and doll bodies didn’t. His brain jars trapped under a pile of rubber someone.
His still alive, but he ain’t goin’ nowhere.
Okay, well, I’ve read quite a bit of this stuff. Aside from the ones that everyone has already mentioned, I highly recommend these three:
Flyover City: http://flyovercity.blogspot.ca/
Sliced Bread 2: http://slicedbread2.blogspot.ca/ OR http://matthewe.com/sliced-bread-2/
The Velvet Marauder: http://velvetmarauder.blogspot.ca/
All three of these are completed series.
Oh yeah, and there are only three active series I read as soon as they update: this one, Jim Z’s Legion of Nothing (http://inmydaydreams.com/), and Drew Hayes’ Super Powered (http://drewhayes.digitalnovelists.com/SP).
And, if people are checking out Metahuman Press (which looks like it hasn’t updated it’s superhero fiction content since April), the best two series are Firedrake (http://metahumanpress.com/mhp/stories/firedrake/) and Century (http://metahumanpress.com/mhp/stories/century/). In the interest of full disclosure, I should say that I became good Internet friends with T. Mike McCurley, the author of Firedrake, so much so that, after he decided to include one of my ideas in Firedrake, he chose to thank me by putting me into the story as a minor character. (Minor, but I do have some real interaction with the main characters over a couple of episodes.) I’ll leave it up to the readers to figure out which character it is.
Whoa, thanks for all the recommendations!
As for Whateley: from the canon, Diane Castle is definitelly the best author – seriously, her Phase stories (and the aquerna stories, to a lesser degree) are awesome.
Otherwise, Bek D. Corbin writes good stuff whenever she is not writing her main character Chake – that one is just a straight up mary sue. But her Jadis-Stories are very good. Also, E.e. Nalley and Joe Gunnerson are good. Babs Yerunkle is hit and miss. Starwolf rarely writes anything and has now left the group. Heather O’Malley is writing two Mary Sues at once (Bladedancer, wwho is just a plot device with bareely any personality beyond “I must serve the tao, but I dont want to”; and Gateway, who is a straight-up mary sue everyone loves immediatelly and all.
What I wanted to saybefore I started rambling was, Whateley is pretty muich hit-and-miss, but there is some awesomely good stuff hidden in there.
Anyway, thanks again for the recommendations! I’m now reading Legion of Nothing, mainly because it has may favourite type of hero as the main character (gadgeteer).What I wa
“He’s not terribly social, but he’s been with us from some time” Just a minor correction. Been with us for some time.
Also, looks like we got our answer about where Siberian’s maker is. He’s currently cocooned in a bunch of dead bodies somewhere by Bonesaw.
Escaped doesn’t necessarily mean escaped from the city, either. She could pick up the trail. You’ll notice that Jack pulls a bait and switch on Panacea without being caught (it is something to look out for). I hardly think Jack Slash is clinically depressed.
Oh poor little Jacky-wacky poo. *pops some pills into Jack’s mouth, washes them down with a bottle of vodka, then tips him over to spit out any excess spirits. When he stands Jack back up, he’s got whited out skin, guyliner, black lipstick, and black hair in some sort of swooping fashion* I’m sure the pain in your soul is bad enough that it makes you just want to livejournal about it. Now go fight the conformists
The truth about the world is that our lives, any lives, are both meaningless and the most precious things in the universe. Precious because of rarity and the impact that can be made on others’, worthless because we’re a bunch of particles making up a bunch of atoms making up a collection of cells that thinks it’s a human with a brain that’s got a lot of flaws on a mote of dust suspended in the sunbeam of just one star (that’s running on a time limit) out of a huge number of stars in a universe of mindblowingly incredible size that is currently expanding but won’t always do so. Also, strangely, very valuable lives because of that same big long sentence. But worthless again because society is such that it can erode the best of humanity with waters from the sea of assholes. You might be able to recognize those waters. Just tune to MTV or any channel that’s heavy in reality programming. Even Pawn Stars, Hardcore Pawn, American Pickers, or that show about people that hunt hogs would count.
By the way, I never thought I’d see someone degrade a woman’s body so horribly…by using the term of the industry in which her body is a sexual object in relation to a business that buys and sells a bunch of literal objects that people don’t care a lot about. Next time, use those terms with respect! Like having a reality show about the U.S. mint being named “The Money Shot” or something. Remember, naked women are a precious commodity that must be protected and cultivated.
Great Chapter, found one small error.
“praying for world where you could have something like that”
should be “praying for *a* world where you could have something like that”
Great chapter as always Wildbow. If anyone has ever seen Batman Beyond: Return of the The Joker you would agree with me that Jack is like Joker, but more Hannibal Lector and less chaos. They both love to corrupt, both have unknown back-stories(unless Jacks was explained) and they both hate to be called pathetic. Jack makes up for his own insecurities, maybe he lost his memory like a Case 53, so he makes up for by corrupting people by using their own histories.
Also so Jack and Bonesaw are heading out of the city, right? If they get to Cherish I doubt anything good will happen to her. I want to know what’s up with Mannequin, was he taken apart after becoming unfrozen in time? I also still want to know what happened to Crawler, did he truly die? Come on tuesday get here already! AND BRING A DEAD JACK AND BONESAW WITH YA OR DON’T COME AT ALL!! >:P
I so hope tuesday dosn’t bring a dead Jack or a dead Bonesaw , Though id love to see those two (Minus all their heavy hitters ) wander straight into a group of one of the other super factions and really have to fight for their lives .
If I may be so crass as to quote a video game… ahem…
Kill Jack. Kill Jack. Kill Jack. Kill Jack. Kill Jack. KIIIIIIIIIILLLL JAAAAAAACCCCKKKK!
Tiny Tina FTW.
If we are speculating on Jacks origins, I’m going to throw out a theory that my mind has seized upon. We know that Jack craves control and that he takes bold risks to gt big rewards. He seems to follow destruction theory (ie. “Destroy yourself a million times and even the gods will fear you.” -Tales of the Wyre). He goes everywhere destroying the world and remaking it in his image. He also things of himself as an artist.
Based on those things I would bet that Jack’s trigger was self inflicted. He pulled some stunt that was so horrible and traumatizing that he was remade as superperson.
If I were to psychoanalyize Jack’s motivations, I would say that Jack’s actions stem from his psychological need for ‘greatness’. Subconsciously, Jack is trying to become a myth so that he can find a mate that is of a similarly high mythological status. One can only shudder to think of Jack’s idea woman. Some monster put together by Bonesaw and Panacea perhaps?
Control is a big thing with him. I still think there’s some major fear of death in there too. That’s something he can’t control because even if he does everything right, and even with Bonesaw around to help him, he must die at some point.
He likes being a legend. It’s a form of immortality. He wants to take the world with him and even put himself at the head of a group of some of the worst supers around. That close to them, he can manipulate and control them, rather than risk being on any one’s bad side or collateral damage on his own. And there’s the added protection of having that group around him.
HAHAHAH fucking love you’re answer.
just red new post.
and thank you for you’re hard work on the story.
… lost my whole comment 😦 not in the mood to write it again… was so proud of the formulation.
Pride before the fall?
retold In short: Does not not feel like the end at all. Where can I find the story masks?
Try webfictionguide.com/ and besides powered maybe try s-class? though its still to early to tell if that one is really good.
sniff my sentences may you rest within the whispering lullabies of gentle ghosts.
Hey, so, I’m just wondering, if Jack can cut through things ignoring the intervening space, why is he stopped by Skitter’s armour more than once? After he realizes his knives are stopped by her costume, he should have just started the cuts _behind_ the fabric. That seems like a pretty rookie mistake. Either he totally blew that fight, or he let Skitter live on purpose, or his power is far more limited than it was first described.
It might be that there needs to be a gap large enough for a blade to fit that a skintight costume doesn’t provide?
Maybe it’s more like a projectile or an extension from the blade? Like the cutting action shoots off from the blade or where it alters reality slightly so the blade is affecting the space between the blade itself and a further point.
Neither would really allow it to skip past something. It would just have to cut through as much as it could before being stopped. We’ve seen where he’s needed a heavier knife before, so he has his limits with it.
His power was originally described as lengthening the cutting edge of a weapon. I don’t remember anything about ignoring stuff.
I’m curious as why he “stabbed down” at Skitter’s eye with the stiletto–and how she was able to dodge. If the edge is extremely sharp, shouldn’t he have been able to extend it (causing penetration of Skitter’s eye via the “thrust” of the extended edge) without moving his arm?
Either way, I agree with Hg re: limits and/or throwing the fight.
Good point. I’m no word of god, but I suppose I can offer my own riposte here. Jack’s power still seems to need him to use a bladed weapon like they normally are used. Otherwise, he could always just hold one and extend it to hit whatever he needs to hit.
Alternatively, do we know it works on the whole blade or just the edge? Stilettos are thrusting weapons.
With a guy like Jack, there is another possible explanation that goes more towards throwing the fight. Maybe he can extend it without needing to slice. He’s just kept that ability quiet in case it helps in a life or death situation later on.
I’m not sure where you guys are seeing these limits: his power is working exactly as I always assumed it worked. I guess we all got something different out of the original description.
I believe that he was using his power to extend the stab. Either that or they were close enough that he did not need to use his power.
And Jack has never demonstrated the ability to attack without moving.
The power was originally described as spatial warping–ie, anywhere he slices is within arm’s reach, or his blade is always long enough to cover the distance. Spatial warping does not let him warp through solid objects; think Vista, not Shadow Stalker.
“A big part of that was the fact that everyone knew that the Wards attended Arcadia…”
Which reminds me of something that bugged me a little: Why wasn’t Sophia Hess there? Did she join the Wards a little earlier in the school year and just didn’t transfer yet? Was the PRT worried about making Shadow Stalker’s secret identity easy to divine?
And the Nine just don’t slow down, do they? It’s almost as if they’ve had years to practice and to prepare.
“Too much sanity may be madness and the maddest of all, to see life as it is and not as it should be.” Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra
“According to studies, clinically depressed individuals have a more accurate grasp of reality than the average person. We tell ourselves lies and layer falsehoods and self-assurances over one another in order to cope with a world colored by pain and suffering. We put blinders on. If we lose that illusion, we crumble into depression or we crack and go mad. So perhaps I’m crazy, but only because I see things too clearly?” Jake Slash
The Impossible Dream will never sound the same again.
Gah, Skitter. Amy is vulnerable, Jack is a master of persuasion. Don’t just sit there and let him wheedle her around! I worry what she might have done, or be about to do… But that said, it is nice to see Panacea getting smarter with her powers. She’s insanely powerful – if she can create an anti-parasite that quickly, I imagine she could cure 90% of all diseases in the greater Brockton Bay area in just a few weeks… And she’d be utterly devastating if she fell.
One miscapitalisation near the end: “Amy and Glory girl”.
Great serial. I started reading worm five days ago, and it has been pretty hard to put down. I specially love the creative ways the characters use their powers.
That said, I am kinda disappointed at how Coil seemed to be holding the idiot ball back when skitter made the phonecall. Failing the code should be a prompt for Coil to hang up quite at that instant, and it was pretty obvious that the prisoner was trying to relay her location, latin nonwithstanding. Among other things.
Will there be any elaboration on this scene in the future?
If I had Coil’s power, I would have used it as soon as Skitter failed the code. Of course we can only assume what would happen if they didn’t end up calling Cherish; who know’s when Skitter would realise that she’s with jack and bonesaw (if at all), or how long it would take them to find amy and get a cure. Maybe allowing the call was the best reality /shrugface
ok this arc has gone on long enough, if she doesnt kill either jack or bonesaw by the end of next chapter im done with this. The constant setbacks are getting tedious. for once, just once, id like to see her come out on top and dominate the situation rather then just react to it.
I find it incredibly scary that Jack insinuates Mannequin is alive. As much as I want his death to be on screen I am far more interested in the bastard dying at this point. I seriously hope Jack was just guessing he made it out of the blast rather than knowing for sure he did.
A big part of that was the fact that everyone knew that the Wards attended Arcadia, and attending meant that any one of your classmates could be a superhero or superheroine. To anyone else, you could just as easily be one, too. It wasn’t a rich kid’s school like Immaculata, but it was a good school. Every classmate treated other classmates with the utmost respect.
There’s an interesting bit of bullshit. It’s actually more plausible than in a mundane universe, because I can believe that nobody wants to make an enemy out of a possible superhero… but we’ve seen that the Wards don’t treat each other with the utmost respect, so ultimately it is bullshit. Even if only the kids with superpowers can afford to make enemies, that just means the worst case scenario is them ruling the school.
Well, that’s Taylor’s perspective on Arcadia as the place where she’d ideally escape to, freeing herself from the bullying. A bias of hope. It’s not unquestionably true. The “utmost respect” line always does make me chuckle, though.
Remember,though,the kids with powers have to keep their powers secret.So they have to act as the others do.
Also,while “utmost respect”might have been a hyperbole,the only Ward known to be a jerk and/or abuse her power does not even go to Arcadia high.
>His teammate Bonesaw, was standing in the corner of the room just to my right.
A bit awkward flow. Try “His teammate, Bonesaw,…”
I dont like what panacea did to those poor cats and dogs
Reverse-epidemic? Genius! But they escaped, time to see if it’s time to prepare for he end of the world…
Oh thank god we’re done with the amnesia stuff. It’s well-done, don’t get me wrong, but I was already feeling burnt out on the Slaughterhouse 9 and this on top of that was making me feel just *bleah*.
The worst part was that I know (knew?) I’d keep reading anyways, just to see what finally happens.
“Panacea’s the healer, top floor, Jack is the slasher, the blond girl the chemist-tinker.”
The first time it’s repeated, “top floor” should be italicised.
Wilbow’s chapter are immortal, they never die, necromacy is redundant.
This remains true.
Great story I really enjoy it so far! My critical comment below is not indicative of my overall experience of the story, I really do think it’s amazing and can’t wait for it to be published as a full book!
Just for survey purposes I wanted to say that I really can’t believe why someone would feel bad about killing a bystander when they know Jack will end the world if he leaves, like that is so beyond my threshold suspension of disbelief. In general humans tend to biased towards thinking they have to kill person X in order to establish a better order even if there’s no obvious benefit and will cause a lot of harm in the short run. That’s probably why we have deontological rules like “don’t ever kill anyone no matter what”. When you have a really good reason like this to kill someone, not only is it martian-like to be so worried about bystander/civilians, but it’s actually an obvious moral flaw. I get that you have to have an impediment, but I just wanted to give you an n=1 survey that I can tell it’s just a plot device, not good moral judgement getting in the way.
Small thing, “The monster that dwells in Skitter’s heart is very similar one to yours” should have a in front of very. Loving it so far!
I’m confusedb she hets away from Jack and Bonesaw, *flys* to the school, and finds the same pair already there and waiting? How did they get there ahead of her?
How does Skitter remember Bonesaw’s name? She just starts using it out of the blue.
Jack’s secret power: being the only person in Wormverse who’s seen The Empire Strikes Back. Poor Amy!
Incredibly hard to focus on reading once Skitter has reservations about killing Jack, even after Any conceded to dying if it meant Jack dying. No one seems to listen to Amy when it’s most critical. Maybe she still had the gas affecting her, but !!!! Supreme frustration. Seems to be the most common and popular villain vs hero trope, ESPECIALLY when millions or billions of people’s lives are on the line.