Interlude 18 (Bonus #1)

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“I am Kevin Norton, and I am the most powerful man in the world.”

Kevin made a hand signal, and Duke woofed lightly.

“I’ve saved millions of lives.  Billions.”

Another hand signal bidding another small woof of agreement.

He held out his mug, but the pedestrians around him simply avoided him, ignored it.

The sole of Kevin Norton’s old shoe had come free at the toe a few days ago, and the tip of it dipped too low, catching on the cobblestone path. He tripped and nearly fell, and Duke danced out of the way, ears perked in alarm.

Kevin caught his balance by grabbing onto a bystander, a woman, and she almost thrust him away, her face suddenly etched in disgust.

“Sorry about that, miss,” Kevin told her, as she hurried on her way, quickening her pace.  When he didn’t get a response, he raised his voice so she could hear him as he finished, “A sad thing, that a man of my stature can’t afford shoes, isn’t it?”

Kevin’s gait bordered on a limp as he adjusted his walk to avoid tripping on his shoe again.  The path here was old-fashioned, cobblestones worn by the tread of hundreds of people over countless years.  The area around him wasn’t so old.  Renovated storefronts and new buildings were popping up, mimicking the older British styles while staying current, fresh and new.

“We won’t be able to stay for long, Duke,” Kevin said.  “Amount of money the city’s dropping here, they won’t want vagrants around.  But I only want to pay a visit to my old haunt, see what’s become of it.”

He saw a family approaching, held out a mug, “A few pence, for the most powerful man in the world?”

The kids stared, but the parents averted their eyes, the mother putting her hands around the little one’s shoulders as if to protect them.

Kevin shrugged and walked on.  There were only a handful of coins inside the mug, rattling around as his arm swung.

“You wouldn’t remember much of this area,” he told Duke, “I’d already moved on from this before I found you.  Ran.  I’d pass through a few times when you were still small enough to hold in my hand, but I’d avoid this particular spot.  Won’t say I haven’t missed it.  The old owners used to give me some of the leftovers.”

He pointed, “Just over there, there was a bakery.  They’d throw out anything more than a day old.  Bags of rolls and pastries.  Sausage rolls, pasties.  When they realized I was coming by to partake, supplement my meager diet, they started leaving the bags to one side of the bins so it wouldn’t get soiled, and they’d leave other things.  Little things.  Some salads, so I had some greens.  A comb, a toothbrush, soap, deodorant.  Gentle folk.”

Kevin reached down to scratch the top of Duke’s head.

“Wonder what’s become of them.  Hope the changes around here treated them alright.  Be a crying shame if they were forced out and didn’t get what their shops were worth.  They deserved that much, at least.  More.”

Duke yawned, and ended the yawn with a little whine.

“Me, you ask?” Kevin said.  “No.  I don’t deserve much of anything.  What’s that line, about power and responsibility?  Most powerful man in the world, I have a bloody great deal of responsibility.  Sure, I go to bed hungry, I slept terribly during that one spell of body lice, but the thing that really costs me sleep is the idea I might have shirked my responsibilities.”

Kevin looked down and Duke met his eyes, tilted his head quizzically.

“I got scared, boy.  Because I’m a coward.  There’s three good ways to get to where I’m at in life.  Not talking about being the most powerful man in the world.  Talking about how I don’t have a place to go, not a friend in the world besides you.  One way you get like this is a lack of support.  Caring family, friends, you can get through almost anything.  No one there to back you up?  Even the littlest things can knock you down a long way if there’s nobody to catch you.”

There was a dull rumble, and then the rain started pouring down, heavy.

“A summer rain, Duke.  About due, isn’t it?”

The few people on the streets ran for cover, and the little side street was nearly emptied in the span of a minute.  Kevin stretched his arms, letting the rain soak through him.  He dragged his fingers through his hair to comb it back, raised his head to face the sky.

Duke shook himself after only a few seconds, spraying water.  It startled Kevin from his reverie.

“What was I saying?  Oh, right.  Second way you get to circumstances like mine?  Sickness.  Sometimes that’s in the head, sometimes it’s in the body, and sometimes it’s a sickness you get in a bottle or a pipe.  Third path is the one I took.  Cowardice.  Run away from life.  Run away from yourself.  Sometimes the bottle’s a cowardice too.  Run away from the truth about what you’re doing to yourself, I dunno.  I have you to thank for sparing me that sin.”

He felt a cold wind and stepped under the eaves of the newly renovated buildings, to find brief shelter from the downpour as he walked.

“Too set in my ways to change, to live a braver life.  Just coming back here is taking all the courage I can sum up.”

Duke forced his head under Kevin’s hand, and Kevin couldn’t help but smile.

“Good boy, good boy.  Appreciate the moral support.”

They had to step out into the rain again to cross the street.  Kevin quickened his pace, and Duke loped alongside him.

He ducked under the next set of eaves as he reached the next block.  “I fucked up, Duke.  I know that.  I gotta live with that.  I did a lot.  More than most would, I think.  But it’s not enough.  If my gut’s right, it’s not nearly enough.  Shit.”

Just down the street, a shop door opened and a young woman stepped outside.  Petite, pretty, twenty-something, her black hair cut to a pixie cut and topped by a dark gray beret.  Black tights, short, pleated gray skirt.  Fashionable.  She turned his way, an umbrella in hand.

He smiled at her, stepped out into the rain as they crossed paths, so she wouldn’t have to.

“Mister?” she called out.

He was just returning to the shelter of the eaves.  “What is it?”

“Here,” she said.  She had her wallet out, and handed him a ten pound note.  He glanced at her.

Taking the note, he said, “Thank you.”

“You’re very welcome.”

He gave her a funny look.  She was looking him in the eyes.  “Usually I get two types.  Some give me the money and don’t even give me a second glance.  Those who do look at me are sure to lecture me on how I should spend it.  So feel free to wag your finger at me, tell me I shouldn’t spend it on drugs, drink and fags.  I’ll understand, and I can look suitably ashamed.”

“Spend it however you need,” she said.  She had a trace of a french accent, “Circumstances might be hard enough that maybe you need to find the little comforts, even if they aren’t good for you.”

“Too true.  Rest assured, I feed Duke first, feed myself, and then I buy the little comforts, as you put it.  I admit I do like a fag when I can get my hands on one.”

“Glad to hear it,” she said, smiling.  “Hello Duke.”

“He’s a good boy, but I wouldn’t advise petting him.”

She withdrew her hand.

“Not fleas or anything like that.  I keep him healthy.  But he’s a working mutt.  Watches my back when I need watching.  We take care of each other.  So he might be protective of me, not keen on someone getting too close, too soon.”

“Did you name him?” she asked.  When he nodded, she asked, “Any reason for Duke?”

“Thought long and hard about it.  Duke seemed fitting.  Highest rank of our United Kingdom, just beneath a king in status.  Fitting for the dog that serves the most powerful man in the world.”

He was looking at her eyes when he said it, saw the sadness in her expression.  “The most powerful man in the world?”

“It’s true.  Don’t think I didn’t see that.  You don’t believe me.”

“It’s a grand claim, Mister…”

“Kevin.  Kevin Norton.  And don’t mind my rambling.”

“Lisette,” she said, extending a hand.

He shook it.  Even with the moisture of the downpour, her hand was warm.

“Are you okay?” she asked.

“Hm?” he perked up, withdrawing his hand.

“You had a look on your face.”

“Just wondering when the last time I had contact with another person was.  Might have been a few years ago.  Pastor gave me a hug as I left his shelter.”

“That sounds so lonely, Kevin.  Years without human contact?”

“Not so lonely.  I’ve got one friend,” he said, scratching Duke’s head.

Lisette nodded.

“But you shouldn’t forget.  The little stuff.  Even a handshake?  That’s something special.  Meaningful.  Value it, even if you get it every day.”

“I’ll keep that in mind,” she smiled.

“Can’t tell you how grateful I am,” Kevin said.  “Taking the time for me, it means the world to me.  Might be the push I need.”

“For what?”

“I’m looking back, and I haven’t looked back in a long while.  Visiting home, so to speak.  Thinking about stuff I haven’t even told Duke about, these past twelve years.  You’ve given me a bump of morale at a time I needed it.  Thank you.”

“I’m glad.  I hope you make peace with it.”

“Heavy burden, mine.  I… I don’t suppose you have a little while?  Would you walk with me a few minutes?”

She glanced over her shoulder in the direction she’d been headed, “My train-”

“I understand if you wouldn’t want to.  But if you indulged this old man, it’d make all the difference in my facing this, today.  A few minutes.”

“You’re not that old.”  She paused.  “I suppose I could.”

“Come, then, it isn’t far.  You might want to open that umbrella.”

She gave him a dubious glance.

He shook his head, “No.  Not expecting you to share.  I haven’t washed my clothes too recently.  Wouldn’t want to inflict that on you.  And Duke might get jealous.”

She nodded, and followed alongside him as he headed on his way.  He didn’t miss the wide berth she gave him, staying several paces away, hanging back just enough that she could keep an eye on him, as though ready to run if he did something.  She might be a kind person, but she isn’t stupid.

“I was in my early twenties when I started out,” he said.  “Born in London, had nobody left after my parents died in my teens.  Moved up here to York.  Met a girl, moved into her flat.  I won’t say it was the cause of this predicament of mine, I’m willing to take the blame for being where I’m at.  But it started me on that road.”

“What happened?”

“Too many mistakes all together.  She wasn’t the right girl, for one.  Our relationship progressed, and I realized that I don’t like women.”

“Oh,” Lisette said.

“A little late, but I’d gotten that far by doing what I thought I was supposed to be doing, and dating a girl was one of those things.  Am I bothering you?  Boring you?”

“No.  Not at all.”

“Well, I was a young, stupid twenty year old boy, I’d moved in without anything putting my name on the lease and without holding on to any money to move out.  She realized we weren’t going to work out, threatened to kick me out, and I begged to stay.  Nowhere to go.  Thought I could save up enough to get a place, if I stuck it out, dealt with the anger.  She started hitting me.  I was never the type to hit back.  It got bad.”

“I’m sorry.”

“There’s battered women’s shelters, but none for battered men, far as I know.  People somehow imagine a woman couldn’t ever strike a man.”

“You left?”

“And I’ve wondered for a long time if I made the right decision,” Kevin said.  “Here we are.”

The road ended, and they reached a narrow stream that fed into the River Ouse.  A small, quaint bridge extended the cobblestone footpath over the stream, benches stood out on a stone patio, and younger trees had been planted in soil bordered by circles of stone.

This is the home you haven’t returned to?” Lisette asked.

“Closest to home I ever had,” Kevin stepped away from the umbrella’s shelter, approached the bridge, “They changed it.  Used to be I could sleep under here.  It’s where I came when I left that apartment and that girl.”

“And you’ve been on the streets ever since?”

“Some stays in shelters, when it got too cold, and when they’d take Duke in as well.  Have to make some concessions to make it as long as I have.  Thank you, by the way, for coming.  I know you missed your train.  I don’t know if I would have been brave enough to go through with this, even with Duke at my side.  I’ve started and stopped more times than I can count.  It’s appreciated.”

She gave him a funny look.  “It’s alright.  Take your time.”

Kevin nodded, “Would you take Duke?  Just for a minute?”

She took the offered leash, a rope cord that had been carefully knotted into a harness for Duke, extending from his shoulder.  It was barely necessary.  Duke never pulled.

Kevin approached the bridge, traced his fingers over the rounded stones that made up the bridge, the rain-worn gargoyle’s face that stood out from the pillar at the bottom.  The rain streamed off the stone face, poured off and through his clothes, soaking him to his core.  It seemed almost fitting.

There wasn’t much point, given the rain, but he knelt by the water’s edge, where the surface frothed with both current and the downpour, washed his hands.  He took a deep breath, taking in the faint but familiar smells of the river water.  A natural smell.

Memories came flooding back.

Kevin pushed his hair out of the way of his face, cupped water in his hands, and splashed his face.

He stood, then stopped, frozen.

A sigh passed through his lips, drowned out by the noise of the pounding rain.

Between the nearest patio table and tree, the golden man floated, only inches above the ground, luminescent in the gloom and pouring rain.  The light reflected off the falling raindrops, scintillating, cast eerie reflections in the river, and the water that streamed between the cobblestones.

Kevin put his hands in his pockets to warm them, glanced at Lisette and Duke.  Duke hadn’t budged an inch, but his ears were flat against his head.  Lisette had her hands to her mouth, eyes wide.  The umbrella had fallen to the ground, forgotten.

Kevin studied the man.  Ageless, the golden man hadn’t changed in the slightest.  His hair was the same length, as was his short beard.  Every part of him was a burnished gold, even his eyes.  He didn’t breathe, didn’t blink as he stared.

The water ran off the golden man’s body, but he wasn’t getting wet.  His hair barely moved as the rain struck it, his costume absorbed the moisture, but dried just as fast.  The water simply wicked off his skin and hair, leaving him untouched.

It was this same effect that kept the costume clean, a simple white bodysuit extending to biceps and toes.  It had been soiled countless times, by everything under the sun, but the golden radiance the man gave off pushed away the particles, slowly and surely cleaning it just as it was doing with the water.  The suit might as well have been a part of him, now.

“Hello old friend,” Kevin said.

The only answer was the pouring rain.  The golden man didn’t speak.

“Wondered if I would see you here,” Kevin continued.  “Been a long time.  I’d nearly convinced myself I’d imagined you.  That old dog over there, he wasn’t even born when I left, and he’s on his last legs now.  Twelve years old.”

The golden man only stared.

Kevin turned away from the superhero.  Walking briskly, he caught up with Lisette’s umbrella, picked it up and shook off the collected water.  He handed the umbrella to her.

“Scion,” she whispered.

“No,” Kevin said.  “That was never his name.”

“I don’t understand.”

“Come closer.”

She hesitated, but approached until she was a short distance from the golden man.  The pupil-less eyes had never left Kevin.

“I said I was the most powerful man in the world.  Wasn’t lying,” Kevin said.  “See?”

The golden man didn’t react.

“You control him?”  Lisette asked.

“No.  Not really.  Yes.  Not like you’re thinking.”

“I don’t understand.”

“Time was, this golden man spent his time wandering, floating here and there, observing but never doing anything.  In a daze.  Naked as the day he was born.  Everyone had different ideas on who he was.  Some thought he might be an angel, others thought he was a fallen angel, and still more thought there were scientific explanations.  Only thing they ever agreed on was that he looked sad.”

“He does.” Lisette was staring, but the golden man was only looking at Kevin.

“He doesn’t,” Kevin said.  “Don’t buy it.  He doesn’t look anything.  That expression never changes.  But whatever’s underneath, that’s what’s giving you that feeling.  He looks sad because he is sad.  Except you take out the ‘looks’ part of it.”

“That doesn’t make sense.”

“He bloody well flies!  And fights a giant continent-shattering lizard with golden laser beams!  Nothing about him makes any sense!”

The golden man turned his eyes away from the pair, examining one of the recently planted trees.  His eyes fixated on a leaf.

“What’s he doing?”

“Getting around to that.  Was pure chance, but he stopped somewhere near here, dead of night.  Happened around the time I was still new to this life, when I was still feeling so sorry for myself I couldn’t look anyone in the eyes.  I saw him, realized he was this same golden man I’d heard about on the news.  I was mad with depression, ran up to him and pounded my hands on his chest, yelled at him, swore, called him every name in the book.”


“Because he dared to be more miserable than me.  Or because people were putting all these hopes on him and he wasn’t doing a fucking thing other than being some world-wandering nobody who happened to be able to fly.  Don’t know.  A lot of it was me shouting at myself.  I said something about not being miserable, not being a waste, and maybe if he helped in a soup kitchen or something he’d feel better about himself.”

“A soup kitchen?”

“I didn’t really expect him to go work in a soup kitchen.  I eventually did, but that’s beside the point.  I told him to go do something, go help people.  And he did.  Has been since.”

“Just like that?”

“Look at him.  There’s nothing in there.  Whatever happened to him, whatever made him this way, it broke the man.  Broke his mind.  Might be why he was wandering.  Looking for answers, trying to figure out what’s going on.”

The golden man continued staring at the leaves.

“He doesn’t get offended?” Lisette asked.  “When you talk about him like he can’t understand?”

“He understands.  He hears.  But I’ve never heard him speak.  Barely ever get him to look at me while I’m talking.  Doesn’t show emotion, maybe doesn’t understand it.”

“It’s almost like he’s autistic,” Lisette said.

“How’s that?”  Kevin asked.

“Too connected,” Lisette said.  “Too much in the way of stimuli, drowning everything out.”

“Enhanced hearing, hearing the whole city at once?”

“Maybe.  Or maybe he senses things we don’t,” she said.  “The most powerful person in the world, and looking at him now, he’s like a child.”

“Yeah, and unless something’s changed,” Kevin said, “The only person he listens to is me.  He’d come when I was alone, when the weather was bad or in the dead of night, and however he comes, nobody ever followed him here.”

“They can’t follow him with cameras or satellite, I heard.  Have to rely on eye witnesses and global communication to track him.”

“Oh.  Might be it,” Kevin said.  “Surprised he came with you here.  I thought- I almost thought he wouldn’t, because I had you along.  It made me feel better.”

“Why?  Why avoid him?”

Kevin didn’t take his eyes off the golden man.  “He scares me.  He chose me to listen to, of all people.  I’m the most powerful person in the world, just because of that.  Because I can tell the strongest, most capable man in the world what to do.”

“And you ran?”

“It took me a while to realize what I’d set in motion.  I started hearing about him.  Word on the street, newspapers, radio.  The golden man saves a small island from disaster.  The golden man interrupts a burgeoning war.  But it wasn’t until that damned clip began playing on the news that I realized what I’d gotten into.”

“I don’t understand.”

“He’d visit regular, right?  Stop by, like he was checking if I had anything else to say.  Maybe I’d tell him to be more gentle with people when saving them from a car crash, or after that horned bastard came climbing out of the ground and the golden man flew right past it to visit me, I told him he needed to help next time, to fight that monster and anything like it.  But sometimes I didn’t have anything to say, and it’s not like he obeys my every instruction down to the last detail, so sometimes he’d hang out here at half past four in the goddamn morning, and I couldn’t get rid of him, so I’d just talk.”


“About whatever.  A book I’d gotten my hands on.  Current events.  The generosity of strangers.  Or I’d fix him up some clothes so he looked decent and talk about the clothes.”

He fell silent, watching the golden man.

“What happened?”

“He never responded, barely ever paid attention when I opened my mouth to ramble about whatever.  But he was following the general orders I gave him.  Help people, do this more, do that less.  But I’m in the middle of talking to him about my childhood, about home, when he latches on something.  Head turns, eye contact.  Scares the shit out of me.  I go over it all over again, but it was five in the bloody morning and I couldn’t remember exactly what I’d said.  That is, I couldn’t until three days later, I happen to be in the right time and place, and I see a television in a store playing this clip that’s cropping up on the news.  The golden man says something for the first and last time.  Everyone seems to think he said Scion, and they latch onto it.  They’re wrong, but it sticks, and the word appears on t-shirts and in music and people are talking about it here, where I live.  All because of one thing I said in some ramble of mine, the whole world changes.”

“That’s what scared you?”

“It was the wake up call.  Stupid, isn’t it?  Trivial.”

“No.  Nothing’s trivial when you’re talking about him.”

The golden man had turned his eyes towards the river, his back to them.

“What did you say, if the word wasn’t Scion?” Lisette asked.

“Only realized later.  Was talking about home, religion and family.  Talking about a memory from my childhood.  Don’t even remember it that well, now.  But the word he paid attention to was Zion.”

“That’s Hebrew, isn’t it?”

Kevin nodded.  “Don’t know.  Don’t know the language, it was something to do with a cousin of mine getting in trouble when we were thirteen.  Don’t know why he fixated on it.  But he did, and around the same time that clip started playing, they were talking about the things he’d done.  How he was still the most powerful person out there.  It’s terrifying, because all that power was at my command, mine to order around.  Because a filthy, do-nothing loser like me can change the world with a word.”

“You’re not a loser.  You told him to help people.”

Kevin nodded grimly.

Her expression changed.  “You’re not going to change that, are you?”

He shook his head.  “Golden man!”

The golden man floated around to face him square-on.

“I’ve screwed up, waiting so long to talk to you.  But I’m here now and there’s two things we got to discuss.”

There was no response.  Only the motionless stare.

“This is a hard one, because I really want to be wrong, here.  If this works, then it means my stupidity and my cowardice cost people big.  Means I could have fixed something much sooner.  Was only about the spring before last, I got a chance to use that newfangled internet.  Took some time to learn, but I read up on you.  Saw video of how you were fighting…”

“Kevin?” Lisette asked.

“Those Endbringer motherfuckers.  I told you that you need to stop them, that you need to fight and protect people.  And you have been.”

He clenched his hands, stared down at the ground, “And god help me, maybe I wasn’t specific enough.  Maybe I didn’t realize you’d interpret me literally.  We need you to kill the things.  Destroy every last trace of them, throw them into space.  Don’t know.  But fight to kill, don’t just… God, I hope I’m wrong, that I’m remembering the words I chose all wrong, and that you didn’t hear my suggestion and take it to mean you should fight for fighting’s sake, or fight to stop them, but not to stop them for good.  You understand?  Don’t just stop them from doing what they were doing.  Stop them permanently.”

The golden man hovered in place, so still it looked like he was frozen in time, standing in the air.

“My god, golden man, I’m praying you understand.  Took me a year to get up the courage to do this, because I was afraid of this.  If that was the problem, and you kill one of those bastards, then I just- I just saved countless people, and the blood of every person they’ve killed in the meantime is on my hands.”

“Kevin,” Lisette spoke, her voice quiet.  Her hands settled on his shoulders.

He ignored her, “The other important topic?  I’ve run out of time.  Middle aged, and my liver’s done in.  Never really drank, because I had to feed that dog over there.  Never did any drugs, besides smoking fags.  But I got the hepatitis somehow.  Bad blood in a hospital, or someone else’s infected blood got mingled with mine on a night some kids decided to pick on a homeless man and I fought back.  Running into you the way I did, golden man, and having you stop to listen to me?  That was a one in a gazillion chance.  Getting this disease was another, might be.  Meeting you was the best and scariest part of my life, maybe it’s the same with the disease, a blessing in disguise.  Maybe it was, aside from this young lady’s help, the only reason I was able to find the balls to come here.”

The rain wasn’t as violent or as heavy as it had been.  It made for an audible change in the patter of water on stone and water on water.

Kevin sighed.  “I’m here to get my affairs in order, and you’re most important after Duke.  I want you to keep doing what you were doing.  Help people.  Try to communicate with the good guys more.  I told you to do that before and you didn’t listen, but you should.  And if there’s a problem, if you need someone to listen to, someone to visit from time to time, look for this young lady.  Lisette.  Because she’s good people.  She’s a better person than I am.  Braver.  Has to be braver, if she’s stopping to talk to a homeless motherfucker like me, following him someplace.”

“No,” Lisette said, “I couldn’t.”

“Shitty thing for me to be doing,” Kevin said, turning to look over his shoulder at her.  “This burden.  But I somehow feel better about this than sending him to go obey you than telling him to go listen to and obey the Suits, or the Protectorate, or Red Gauntlet, or whoever.  You think about it, figure out what you need to, decide what he needs to be told.”

“You think he will?  He’ll come to me?”  Lisette asked, her eyes were wide.

“Don’t know, but I think he might.  Don’t know why he picked me to listen to, but he did.  I could’ve reminded him of someone he used to know.  Or he just up and decided we were friends, maybe.  With luck, he can be your friend too.”  Kevin sighed, “You two got it?  You’re partners now.”

Lisette couldn’t bring herself to speak.  The golden man didn’t respond either, didn’t even move to glance at Lisette.

The golden man hovered in place for long, silent seconds, and then took off, faster than the eye could see.  Only a golden trail of light was left in his wake, quickly fading.

In mere seconds, Scion was gone.

“We have to tell someone,” Lisette said.

“You can try.  They’ll look at you the way you looked at me.  Like you’ve lost your mind.”

“But- but…”

“Yeah,” Kevin said.  “Not so easy, is it?  Maybe if you’re lucky, he’ll show up when others are around, and they’ll believe you when you talk about it.”

He sighed.  “Come on, Duke.”

Lisette didn’t resist as he grabbed Duke’s leash.  Kevin started walking away.

“I don’t understand!” Lisette called after him.

Kevin didn’t turn around or stop walking as he raised his voice to respond over the sound of the pouring rain.  “Good deal, isn’t it?  Ten pounds to become the most powerful person in the world.”

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174 thoughts on “Interlude 18 (Bonus #1)

  1. First I thought that Scion was basically Siberian… Autism. Yeah, it fits – too much stimuli.

    Scion trying to perma-kill endbringers… Interesting. Especially given that we know next to nothing of their nature.

  2. Oooh, nice.

    But I somehow feel better about -this than- sending him to go obey you than telling him to go listen to and

    The ‘this than’ seem out of place.

  3. This was neat. Not epic or badass or a game changer. But really, really, neat.

    Good to know that the most powerful guy around doesn’t turn out to be terrifying or horrible. Yet.

      • As he tried to quote, with great power comes great responsibility. Not everyone can handle responsibility, and from what I read here Kevin was one who couldn’t handle much. He couldn’t always even handle standing up for himself. I say that it’s best that he gave the (second-)greatest power to someone who could handle the responsibility better.

    • I agree reveen, this is an interesting chapter. Especially if Scion classifies Noelle as an endbringer.

  4. Very interesting.

    But just to be picky – I spotted a few Americanisms. Over here we’d say “to one side of the bins” and it would be a flat rather than an apartment. Also pavement rather than sidewalk, but that’s narration rather than speech.

    Still really enjoying the series.

  5. Very nice. Nice to get some Scion backstory.
    “…look for this young lady. Lisette. Because she’s good people. She’s a better person than I am. ”
    Is the good people bit intentional? Is it supposed to be “a good person”?

      • This is my first time commenting: middle-aged British men would never use the phrase ‘good people’. Categorically. Ask any British person. Especially if they’d had little interaction with the internet. This reads as an obvious Americanism. ‘She’s a good egg’ or ‘a good sort’ or ‘a goodun’ would all be OK alternatives.

    • It can be either one; ‘he’s/she’s/they’re/you’re good people’ has floated around various media from time to time and I’ve said it myself once or twice.

  6. Very cool wildbow, but it does raise more questions about who he is and why he latched on to him and the word zion. I can’t help but wonder about the end of the world, as Scion has to play some role in either fighting it and failing or having a part in causing it. We still know nothing about the Endbringers and where they come from. Could this hobo meet Jack and that is the cause of the end of the world?

    • We’re not sure when this is set. So Kevin could be dead by now and control of Scion could have been past on more than once.

      All it takes is one particularly charismatic and manipulative guy to convince the controller that he’s nicer than he really is…

      • No, I just reread Danny’s interlude and it said Zion got his bodysuit in 1999, so since Duke is more than twelve, was not born when Kevin saw Zion last, and Kevin almost certainly gave him said suit (I wonder how Kevin got it, as a bodysuit appears somewhat above his means) then this interlude cannot be more than a year from the current chapter in either direction.

    • There was still Scion frowning at the one guy (Eidolon, right?) who tried to help against Leviathan. I suppose it could fit with autism, but given what we know about how someone gains superpowers in this world, I don’t think Scion’s autistic. I think he’s had the ultimate trigger event. The more you have, the stronger you get, the more screwed up you get in the head.

      • He either has a single power or all of them, I’m leaning toward the former or something purer, but if his world died and everyone was triggering as it ended…

        • I think he is a straight up reality warper. Whatever his beam hits he can decide what it does. We know there are 2nd trigger events and a scary number died soon after them according to Taylor. Was there ever a situation where someone had a third trigger event? The autism might simply be Dr. Manhattan syndrome, where he has so much power, and perceives reality so differently that he simply is removed from humanity. We all seem blind, deaf, and dumb compared to him.

      • Well, if you look up the names, in our world, they’re the three big monsters of biblical apocrypha. Leviathan being the monster of the sea, behemoth of the land, and simurgh of the sky. However, the simurgh is the least “official” of the beasties, being cribbed from somewhere else by christian scholars. Assuming that part of history was the same in Worm, and given that the simurgh showed up last, the other two might’ve just been named descriptively.

        “Holy hell, that’s a huge sea critter. It’s a freaking Leviathan!” And thus Leviathan. Then, “bloody hell, that behemoth just bit him in half!”

        Then the simurgh showed up, and some clever sod noticed the tie between the two names, and realized there was a third one in classical mythology that might not immediately jump to mind as a descriptor. And now, every time another city falls to the flying endbringer, he just stares at the television, confronted by the worst joke he ever told.

      • Well, technically, it was just revealed to us that Scion/Zion basically chose his own name based on a word that caught his attention when spoken near him. Since none of the other three have thus far exhibited the ability to speak, have to assume that they were dubbed thusly by others until proven otherwise.

  7. You know I just realized something funny that should have been obvious when it says Scion is mentioned in music. Parahumans have to be in everything in this world. Every crime novel, romance, apocalyptic scenario, horror story, etc. is set in a world with parahumans. There’s parahumans in their version of Twilight, fight club, harry potter, Stephen king etc. Makes me curious about how different their literature and media is.

      • “Look, he shines in the sunlight!”

        “That’d be real impressive if we didn’t have a golden shiny superhero who flies and shoots laserbeams out of his ass.”

        Although I could see Harry Potter being rewritten as an X-Men kind of thing. He got superpowers as a baby when a supervillain named Voldemort came to kill him. When he’s old enough and his powers start to cause trouble, he gets recruited by a large, superstrong guy who is good with fantastic monsters to go attend a secretive academy to develop and control his abiltiies headed up by a powerful and wise old guy.

        • I’d actually think that Harry Potter would have some negative connotations and Britain considering that there is apparently a psycho villain in London who thinks he’s a wizard.

          Considering how fucky the Wormverse is, I wouldn’t e surprised if there was still alot of muggle fiction. In the same way we look to superheroes to escape from our crappy, mundane world people might look to cowboys to escape from their crappy fantastical world.

          • Darn Comics Code Authority is the reason for that kind of thing. Big moral panic about comic books due to a 1950s book called Seduction of the Innocent. Was real critical of all the death and adult themes in what was supposed to be a kids medium as far as most people were concerned (think Animation Age Ghetto). Because of this, the Comics Code Authority was created and you lost a lot of your Westerns, Horror, and Mystery style comics (and others I’m forgetting).

            If Worm was a comicbook, it would not be able to adhere to the original Code, though the Code did ease up over time. Here’s part of it, to give you an idea.

            “Crimes shall never be presented in such a way as to create sympathy for the criminal, to promote distrust of the forces of law and justice, or to inspire others with a desire to imitate criminals.”

            “If crime is depicted it shall be as a sordid and unpleasant activity.”

            “Policemen, judges, government officials, and respected institutions shall never be presented in such a way as to create disrespect for established authority.”

            “Criminals shall not be presented so as to be rendered glamorous or to occupy a position which creates a desire for emulation.”

            “In every instance good shall triumph over evil and the criminal punished for his misdeeds.”

            “Scenes of excessive violence shall be prohibited. Scenes of brutal torture, excessive and unnecessary knife and gunplay, physical agony, gory and gruesome crime shall be eliminated.”

            • Also:

              “Although slang and colloquialisms are acceptable, excessive use should be discouraged and, wherever possible, good grammar shall be employed.”

              And most ironically:
              “ridicule or attack on any religious or racial group is never permissible.”

              Which actually was just an excuse to remove all non-white and non-Christian characters from comics. Like, in one famous incident, the science fiction story “Judgement Day,” in which an astronaut comes to a planet populated by racist robots and in the end is revealed to be a black man, after the Comics Code came out and they tried to reprint the story the censor demanded they make him white. When they flat-out refused, he told them to just remove the beads of sweat from the man’s face. So they told him to go fuck himself and printed the comic the way it was meant to look.

      • I personally prefer Earth Beta’s version of Rage Against the Machine. They work out pretty well as a light rock/pop group.

    • I do imagine that it’s somewhat limited. Parahuman characters are probably rarer than that. Stories about parahumans are most likely extremely common, but other genre fiction has probably survived. Science fiction stories may often have an “oh, parahumans stopped triggering in the 2030s, on with the spaceships!” kind of thing. There’s also probably a lot of really poor understanding of parahumans in the stories that are about them.

      • Well it is just weird imagining their media with parahumans in it. Monk and Psych would probably be classified as Thinkers in their world. There probably aren’t any “fake” psychics because in our world you can’t prove that they are full of crap, but they have a test that proves you are a parahuman there. StarWars is still popular in their world, so I figure Science Fiction and Fantasy are probably not too different from ours. Their true crime and pulp mysteries are probably different. Like Reveen mentions they probably have different things that are big in their world right now. I mean there are a million superhero movies in development on right now, but their Pirates of the Caribbean is probably on their ninth movie. I always found westerns kind of boring actually, so I can picture period pieces or fantasy book series being made into movies instead of comicbooks for them.

        • Well, parahumans are rather rare per capita. Gangs are different, but there’s probably still a lot of conventional true crime not that different from our world. Legal dramas and mysteries are most likely similar. Historical works are probably a lot bigger so people can avoid parahuman influence when crafting a story. There’s also probably a good deal of fiction supposedly set in Earth Aleph.

          • Tv Guide DVR:
            Sunday: Law and Order Special Parahumans Unit Marathon.
            Monday: ABC special Report: Barbra Walters interviews Lance Armstrong after being stripped of his titles after test confirms parahuman status.
            Tuesday: Its the premier of Pirates the Caribbean the series on the number one rated channel: the History channel.
            Wednesday: On an all new Modern Family Gloria is glowing with her pregnancy, literally.
            Thursday: Shocking twist on Survivor Newfoundland.
            Friday: Bravo’s new hit show Super Real Wife’s of Chicago.

        • Can* prove that they’re full of crap. If that wasn’t a typo, then I suggest looking up the work of The Amazing Randi, aka James Randi.

          And why exactly would they have so many more Pirates of the Caribbean movies?

          Also, I’m finding Westerns to be much more enjoyable than you’d think. I’d love to watch more Have Gun – Will Travel someday and you can bet I’m going to have a modern day gunslinger in all black called Paladin in my scribblings. Not a fan of some of the racism though (Chinese bellhop known only as Hey Boy).

          • That was a poke at the popularity of pirates in the Watchmen universe that took off instead of superheroes that Wildbow mentioned. You read one such pirate comic throughout the book. I will admit that there are a few westerns that are quite good/enjoyable but those are the diamond in the rough for me. The rest all blur together. The racism is unfortunately part of the times and gets lost in the nostalgia for an idealized past. An all black gunslinger would imply a villain. What color is the hat? My favorite genre is horror and I loves two specific types. The honestly scary and well made horror films, sadly rarer than they used to be, and the so bad they’re good horror films that are so badly made and ridiculous that they are hilarious to watch. The irony in the wormverse is that many monster movies could technically be treated as crime dramas due to shifters and masters. I had actually heard of James Randi and his debunking of psychics from the Houdini challenge that a TV show mentioned that Penn and Teller inherited. Houdini told his wife a secret phrase to test a psychics claim that they were talking to him from beyond the grave, and she passed it on to other magicians later on. No one has yet to say the phrase. I was actually referring to the fact that alot of people usually get swindled before they are outed as fakes and some still insist they’re psychic despite any proof to the contrary. The wormverse shouldn’t have this problem because they have a test to prove if you are a parahuman or not. So if a John Edward comes along and says he can communicate with the dead, a person can ask for test to prove they are a parahuman. Though now that I think about it, there are probably few if any fake psychics because of The Smurf. Tattletale mentions that psychics scare people and I can picture some torches and pitchforks.

          • The main character of Have Gun – Will Travel is known only as Paladin, even to those who knew him before his service during the Civil War. He lives out of a hotel suite in San Francisco, wearing bright clothes and not appearing all that adventurous. Well read, a fan of Shakespeare, and a lover of opera, his job is kind of a problem solver. His card reads “Have Gun – Will Travel, Wire Paladin, San Francisco” and when someone does wire for his services he dons an all black outfit, including black hat, along with a holster that has a white knight chess piece emblem on it.

            While quick and accurate with a gun, he tries to avoid fighting whenever possible, preferring to let his wits and his words handle the situation. Even if you get his gun away from him, though, there’s the problem of the derringer he hides in the front of his belt.

            According to TVtropes, Gene Roddenbery has more writing credits on Have Gun – Will Travel than any other show he worked on, including Star Trek.

            Can’t really do much about getting a clip on here. There’s a few full episodes on youtube, though I hear all the seasons are on Netflix if you’ve got that.

        • Actually, in a world with superhumans, I can imagine that stories which celebrate the achievements of normal humans would have a lot of mileage. So genres like Westerns and War Movies are probably very popular. And the PRT is probably very popular in both drama and reality TV…

    • I suspect Twilight couldn’t really exist in the Wormverse, and probably not Harry Potter either. Both those series rely heavily on the idea that the world appears mundane on the surface but isn’t. I don’t see Stephen King being affected at all. In fact, Carrie would probably look quite prescient in the Wormverse…

      That said, paranormal fiction existed in the Wormverse before the arrival of capes, so they may still have continued on in some form.

      • But I don’t think the idea of a hidden special world would loose all of it’s charme. Most people born after Parahumans were already widespread would just see their current reality as mundane, and most civillians still lead pretty normal lifes.
        Harry Potter in particular could be popular, even if it’s for different reasons then in our world: The wizard world has a medieval tint to it, and hasn’t changed much during the last centuries, which is the complete opposite of the massive changes the wormverse had over the last decades, and an uncertain future, even if you don’t know about the end of the world prophecy.
        And then magic powers in the Harry Potter universe are obtained (mostly) by studying, not by random chance, so everyone (or at least every wizard) is in theory on an even playing field, instead of everyone having completely different powers. The wormverse version might focus more in that, but just because they live in a world with quasi-magic powers doesn’t necessarily mean that the whole genre dies out.

  8. Great chapter, wildbow. I love the contemplative mood in this one – you got the mood across perfectly.
    though I’m somehow sad that my wild theory regarding scion’s origin and motivation is all but disproven T_T

    • “He bloody well flies! And fights a giant continent-shattering lizard with golden laser beams! Nothing about him makes any sense!”

      sums up pretty much every superhero story, ever. I’d write that in a dictionary

  9. Just imagine how apeshit all the world’s conspiracy nuts would go if it turned out the most powerful hero was named “Zion”.

    Clearly, he’s a time-travelling nazi templar jew elder illuminatus from Draco.

    • You forgot the aliens! Imagine the fact that there are mysterious mutant people with strange markings that have no memory and were simply deposited randomly and the fact there is an alternate world. But the irony is there is a conspiracy among the heroes and I’m assuming their government by Cauldron. Not to mention that with the sheer amount of damage done by the Endbringers, the PRT can’t be the only ones who figured out how screwed they are in a few decades. There are probably more than a few cults that worship scion and the Endbringers.

      • Nono, I covered that. “Draco”. It’s the star (constellation?) that the shapeshifting lizard aliens that control all th eworld’s governments and the British monarchy come from.

        • The only thing left out is something about Scion faking the moon landing, tainting vaccines, putting fake birth notices into Hawaiian newspapers, and using actors to stage an elementary school shooting while preparing to take everyone’s guns and send them to FEMA concentration camps using black helicopters that leave chemtrails.

          I’d have thrown in the ones for 9/11, but that didn’t happen in the Wormverse.

  10. “Amount of money the city’s dropping putting into this spot, they won’t want vagrants around”
    Dropping or putting, but not both

  11. Heh. Heheh.

    The world’s most powerful being, in a world with superpowered people and monsters, an Autist.

    Being somewhat autistic myself, I kind of like that idea.

  12. I wonder if he might not just be someone with three or more trigger events. So much of the mind destroyed coupled with so much more power.

    Course, with all the significance of the word Zion, there would be a lot to write about as possibilities. I don’t feel like doing that this time except to point out that in one meaning it is a place of spiritual peace in one’s own mind. I’ve got enough junk down below without bringing that up.

    It is interesting though that we come upon a homeless man who gains the ear of the most powerful being in the world and prefers to have him help people. You’ve got to watch out with that Norton family. Powerful people. I wonder if Kevin Norton is related to Joshua Abraham Norton aka Emperor Norton I of these United States and Protector of Mexico, who was born in England with possibly Jewish family.

    Also interesting, if you’ve read The Sandman, how Death brings up the Tzaddikkim. Take it away, Talmud: “As a mystical concept, the number 36 is even more intriguing. It is said that at all times there are 36 special people in the world, and that were it not for them, all of them, if even one of them was missing, the world would come to an end.”

    Sounds a little important. 36 important heroes and the world could end if someone messes with them. Gee, I wonder if these 36 bear any resemblance to something you’d find in a superhero story.

    “The Lamed-Vav Tzaddikim are also called the Nistarim (“concealed ones”). In our folk tales, they emerge from their self-imposed concealment and, by the mystic powers, which they possess, they succeed in averting the threatened disasters of a people persecuted by the enemies that surround them. They return to their anonymity as soon as their task is accomplished, ‘concealing’ themselves once again in a Jewish community wherein they are relatively unknown. The lamed-vavniks, scattered as they are throughout the Diaspora, have no acquaintance with one another. On very rare occasions, one of them is ‘discovered’ by accident, in which case the secret of their identity must not be disclosed. The lamed-vavniks do not themselves know that they are ones of the 36. In fact, tradition has it that should a person claim to be one of the 36, that is proof positive that they are certainly not one. Since the 36 are each exemplars of anavah, (“humility”), having such a virtue would preclude against one’s self-proclamation of being among the special righteous. The 36 are simply too humble to believe that they are one of the 36.”

    • I’ve always found the idea of the Tzaddikim fascinating, and in a world with parahumans, the concept of the 36 noble people who are the pillars of the world could be quite literal.

      I could easily see the corruption of some secret power playing into Jack’s apocalypse.

      • I like the idea that they would be too humble to realize they are who they are, and that you would instantly know they weren’t genuine if they ever claimed to be one for that reason.

        Only thing is, it starts to sound a bit like The Life of Brian where they just know he’s divine because he’s denying that he is.

      • I’d say it was a coincidence, that I went through my usual methods for deciding on a name and it worked out that way. But I won’t discount the possibility that I pulled it from my deep subconscious. Ditto with the Leviathan arc coinciding with the Japanese Tsunami (That’s a little more embarrassing).

        It’s… out there as coincidences go.

        • An Englishman named Norton claiming to be extremely powerful but seen by others as crazy in a world of superheroes with something explicitly Jewish brought up in relation to that power? (Superheroes in The Sandman’s take on things where Morpheus runs into the likes of Constantine and the Martian Manhunter. And Dr. Destiny…that 24 Hours arc was something. IRL, no superpowers, obviously. Not even super digging or invisibility when no one is looking at you.)

        • Ha, I was thinking the same thing. Homeless guy named Norton calls himself extremely powerful, checks out. It’s funny how these coincidences/subliminal influences happen.

  13. I’ve been expecting something like this for a long time, and Wildbow, you did not disappoint! If this was ever a TV series I see this being a special episode on the shows one year anniversary. Can’t wait for the next one…….:D

  14. Great entry! Gives a lot more insight into Scion and the EOW scenario.

    I cant believe I didnt think of the phonetics of Scion, and how it could be Zion. I think with what we know about him, his powers, and now his name we have a good idea of where this is heading.

    Zion is the Hebrew name for the Temple Mount in Jerusalem and was the seat of the first and second Holy Temple. It is the most holy place in the world for Jews, seen as the connection between God and humanity. Observant Jews recite the Amidah three times a day facing Zion in Jerusalem, praying for the rebuilding of the Holy Temple, the restoration of the Temple service, the redemption of the world, and for the coming of the Messiah.

    I think also knowing that Eidilon was frowned upon by Scion during Levinthians attack is important as well. IMO Scion knows he did not receive his powers naturally, knows that he works for cauldron, and he probably has a good idea of what Cauldron is up to as far as giving powers to the highest bidder, and possibly creating Endbringers.

    This may be setting the stage for a big fight between Scion and Cauldron / Endbringers. If that happens, I think we will see some really interesting stories involving those certain members of the Proctorate (alexandria, eidilion, etc) who have connections to C.

  15. Interesting. This is a flashback, right? Because if Kevin became homeless around twenty years of age and is now ‘barely past thirty’ then Scion can’t have been fighting the Endbringers for much more than a decade and we know from interlude 1 that Scion has been running around and saving people since at least the mid 90s and in 1988 Alexandria was already referring to him as the most powerful parahuman in the world so we can infer he was active at that point as well.

      • Hmm…so what was Scion doing that led people to regard him as one of the most powerful parahumans in the world if he wasn’t fighting Endbringers and saving people from disasters back then? I get the impression from this chapter that he wasn’t really active at all until he met Kevin.

        • I think there weren’t many parahumans or any endbringers until Kevin convinced him to do good.Remember,he was the first,and the second didn’t appear right after.

  16. Just spent a week reading through Worm, and I have to say I am impressed–with the quality of the writing, obviously, but moreso with the way everything fits together. Like how the Endbringers and the Slaughterhouse 9 were mentioned way, way back in the beginning, and the reality of what those two names meant wasn’t revealed for ten thousand more words. The degree of forethought put into the world is, in a word, astonishing.

    Keep it up. I really can’t wait to see where this thing goes next.

    • Thank you, Adam. Always good to hear from those who’ve finished an archive binge.

      Don’t know if you read the comments (probably not, or it would have taken you more than a week), but Worm is sort of woven together from 100+ short stories/snippets I wrote in years prior, all taking place in the same general universe. Just to explain how I went about pulling everything together into a more cohesive picture complete with foreshadowing.

      • I skimmed the comments at first, but stopped once I realized that the people trying to figure out the secrets behind everything were occasionally spoiling impending plot twists. Much rather figure things out on my own.

        And I must say, even with a hundred story seeds written out beforehand, the narrative as a whole is remarkably cohesive in a way that I don’t usually see in long-running fiction like this. I can see how a small universe of story snippets would allow you to easily plan out the long-term issues facing Brockton Bay and the world at large (the Endbringers and Slaughterhouse 9 were my earlier examples, and they work just as well as examples here), but even the little details are carried forward throughout. Every tiny nugget of information is made to matter, to fit into a bigger picture that is so large and complex that I cannot help but be impressed.

        • In a way, our WMG is good like that. Some people latch onto the theories they like down here and it distracts them from figuring out what is really going to happen.

          That is why I am here to suggest that Scion is a delicious Cuban sandwich with superpowers.

  17. Somewhat interesting to note that Zion (I’ma gonna use that from here on out, it’s cooler, and will drive the conspiracy nuts bonkers!) was only approaching the one person when he was pretty much alone–thus the folks who thought the ‘Most Powerful Man In the World’ was crazy. If he is/was autistic/overwhelmed by some stimuli, then it may be that Zion CAN’T function in any sort of interactive capacity with ‘normal’ crowds of folks… it just blows him away.

    The fact that the Endbringers can’t seem to do much to him and he as of the most recent indication is the trump to them would seem to indicate that there is something linking them.

    Chilling thought on the ‘what if’ variety: What if Cauldron ‘created’ Zion but he ‘escaped’ when he detected BS, and they’ve been attempting to recreate Zion ever since using different combinations of hero-juice?

    • I think Alexandria would have mentioned it in her interlude, and this is the group who still turn several clients into case 53’s so I their methods seem far from perfect. But from the Timeline, the doctor seems to have recruited Alexandria some time after Zion appeared. So I think they do know more about him and the Endbringers that no one else does.

  18. I remember reading the part about Sion way back, and thinking ”I wonder, what was the word he actually said?” :).

  19. The woman in this interlude is described has having a french accent. Anyone else remember another character in Worm who has a french accent? DING DING. Cauldron’s Doctor.

    Coincidence? I really hope so.

        • she is not explicitely described as black. writers, even coloured ones, are biased towards mentioning skin colour if it deviates from white, so we can assume she is white by virtue of not being told otherwise.
          furthermore, the age does not add up. the doctor is described as already late-twentiish when alexandria first meets her. this is at least 15 years later (3 years until behemoth first appears, which is the earliest point at which kevin might have run away, though he probably ran away later) and we know from interludes that the doctor has preserved her appearance, but not reversed her aging.

            • I have a feeling that Zion is not human, and might be something similar to the Endbringers. Not in the sense that “parahumans” are humans who have gained superpowers.

  20. Man. I’ve been wondering why scion never seemed to try and finish off the End Bringers. This explains so much.

  21. I have to say the quality of this story is getting better and better.

    I’d almost say this is one of the best written stories I’ve ever had the pleasure of reading, and that it deserves enormously more attention than it’s getting now. The characters, the arcs, the interludes like this, everything. The whole thing should be considered a classic.

    Sorry if this sounds like hyperbole, but its how I feel.

    I know I’m just some random guy on the internet but I very sincerely hope you get this published. Doing it like this you don’t get a tenth of a tenth of a tenth the audience you deserve. I have no idea HOW you’d publish this, and you might not get it anyway, but I hope you find a way to try.

  22. by far, this is the (‘best’ is not technically exact diction to scale with another chapters) mind boggling, heart-touching chapters of worm verse.

    I’ve got to admit i enjoyed the depiction, background niches of this chapter, a British bump living with a mutt (old at it) and got a hell of subtle living issues scaring the shit out of him, but he kinda got choices that is beyond any mortal could’ve hoped for… the mixture is just, sweet, for lack of better wording…

    Thanks, for lining up this well composed story, i respect your dedication, Wildbow

  23. I’ve read the entire Worm, more or less, and I wanted to say that this was the chapter I enjoyed the most. Not quite the same in retrospect, but it comes as a fresh, unexpected break in the Echnida arc. Starting up slowly, with just a long enough build-up until you get to a conclusion that just fits with what we know of Scion. Thumbs up!

  24. Homeless man, claiming great power but with no apparent evidence, named Norton… I thought it was Emperor Norton I for a few minutes.

  25. So Scion gets told to kill things like Endbringers just as Noelle starts going on the rampage? I’ve a feeling this may not end well.

  26. D: I almost cried! poor man, I never ACTUALLY cry but I think it relates to the fact that I read this stuff in a public place where crying would be reason for trouble.
    Standing ovation again!!!

  27. Point of fact; male abuse victims aren’t ignored because people think women don’t hurt men. People think that when a woman slaps or hits a man, he deserves it, or she was acting in self-defense. There are actual police policies to that effect. Which means that a victim of F>M abuse is more likely to get arrested if he calls the Po-po than his abuser, and it gets categorized as M>F.

    And then we come to the millions upon millions of dollars tied up in the status quo for the DV industry, along with all the political influence bought to bear in propping up the system.

    The most tragic part? Most of this was put in place by well-intentioned people trying to protect women. Heck, there are many who actively oppose more support for male victims, through what logic I can’t even imagine. It’s easy to say that men need less support because they’re less of the victims*, but when you have no problem with women getting all the support until their abuse is “dealt with”, at which point men get support – I wish I was making this up – something’s gone really wrong.

    * Not actually true, BTW. There’s scads of evidence that there are as many men abused as women. But what man is gonna look for support in a shelter that says DV is “violence against women”? Heck, F>F abuse victims are kinda screwed too.

  28. This was a chapter I very much enjoyed, and I also found it to be the most uplifting chapter in Worm so far. Bravo.

  29. I second SYABM that it was really good to see it acknowledged that Female on Male domestic violence can and does happen.

  30. “But I somehow feel better about this than sending him to go obey you than telling him to go listen to and obey the Suits, or the Protectorate, or Red Gauntlet, or whoever. ”

    I think there’s an extra “than” in there.

  31. Is the man’s surname being Norton a shout-out to Emperor Norton of the United States, a homeless man in turn-of-the-century San Francisco who thought he was…well…his title says it all.

  32. “Too set in my ways to change, to live a braver life.  Just coming back here is taking all the courage I can sum up.”

    should Be “Summon”

    “But I somehow feel better about this than sending him to go obey you than telling him to go listen to and obey ”

    drop The “This Than”

  33. Oh god. I hope Scion/Zion/Golden Man doesn’t view Noelle as an Endbringer, make an army of himself bent on ruining everything and that’s why the chances were so unaffected before.

  34. i feel this chapter was ok, it was of acceptable quality. by which i mean that it is probably the low point of worm.
    i didn’t like the atmosphere, it felt quaint and quirky, almost humorous.
    i feel there was a lot of very interesting information given here that could have been given more subtly and intelligently. i think that with this chapter you told instead of shown, gave too much background information that was better left hinted at like you normally do.

  35. Well I guess I got a bit too annoyed before :L Because I’ve read on and its very good. I have detached myself from most of the characters, some you can’t help but feel for but with the others I’m just waiting for the other shoe to drop now.

    I’m wondering if what was just said to ‘Scion’ (technically his name if its what hes known by) could lead to the end of the world? Will he kill one and the others try to take everyone else with them before they go?…. Or will it set a domino effect in play with whoever might be trying to make their own endbringers….

    Howevermuch this annoys me at times I’m liking it.
    Thanks for sharing 😀

  36. There’s no way that he would hear the word “Zion” during a situation where a thirteen year old Hebrew-speaking kid got in trouble. I’m 95% sure that he misheard “Zayin!”, which is a common curse word meaning “Dick”.

    This is my headcanon now.

  37. Aaaand,as usual,more answers breed more questions.Now Scion’s characterization mostly makes sense…except for the contept to Eidolon.So we are still missing an important part of the puzzle.

  38. I just started reading Worm about a week ago, and I wasn’t planning on commenting until I read the entire story. But man, this interlude changed my mind. It’s amazing, just… wow. I normally don’t get emotional when reading a book, or watching a film, or whatever. But I sure did whilst reading about Kevin and Scion/Zion.

  39. So that’s what’ll end the world, right? Scion going all-out on the Endbringers, destroying them but causing so much collateral damage billions die.

  40. Stupid joke just occurred to me. When supposedly the name was misheard and was actually something similar to Scion but not it, I didn’t think it would be Zion.

    It would be cooler if it was Saiyan.


  41. That was overwhelming. Scion was always a mystery, the mystery maybe. Now we know that we are not getting answers from him any time soon… and we get to know how close that bullet was that humanity dodged.

  42. Brilliant – just excellent world building and story. This chapter motivated me to comment for the first time, but it’s all been great up to this point.

  43. Gur jnl Xriva gnyxf nobhg Mvba’f rkcerffvba- ur qbrfa’g ybbx nalguvat, ohg ur vf fnq, naq crbcyr pna gryy gung ol ybbxvat ng uvz. Gur guvatf Xriva gryyf Yvfrggr nobhg uvzfrys- ybfg uvf cneragf, zbirq va jvgu n tvey, gur tvey uvg uvz, vg jnfa’g jbexvat bhg, abj ur unf ab bar. Gur jnl Mvba whfg “hc naq qrpvqrq jr jrer sevraqf.”
    Mvba erpbtavmrq Xriva nf n xvaqerq fcvevg. Fbzrbar ryfr jub jnf nyy nybar, jvgu ab crref naq ab shgher, jub jnf sne sebz sevraqyl jvgu gurve bayl yvsr cnegare naq gura ybfg ure. Mvba gbbx gung rzcnguvp pbaarpgvba gung yrgf crbcyr gryy gung ur’f fnq, ghearq vg bhgjneq, naq ybpngrq fbzrbar jub unq nyy gung va pbzzba jvgu uvzfrys naq jnf jvyyvat gb gnyx gb uvz. Naq gura ur fgnegrq yvfgravat.
    Juvpu zrnaf Jvyqobj ernyyl qvq unir gur jubyr pbfzbybtl bs jurer cbjref pbzr sebz- gur ragvgvrf, gurve uvfgbel, gur uvfgbel bs Mvba va cnegvphyne- znccrq bhg guvf sne va nqinapr. Znlor rira gur raqvat bs gur fgbel.

  44. Oh God, I really hope the homeless guy kicks the bucket before he sees the aftermath of no-holds-barred Scion. I can only imagine it won’t be pretty.

  45. I have to say that this was my favourite interlude to date, it changes the way I view Scion/Zion in a lot of ways although I do have to wonder if Jack will somehow take command of Zion in the future which will cause the end of the world?

  46. I like how Wildbow can without effort change the writing style. This interlude gave me heavy Ray Bradbury vibes.
    There’s something about Scion being guided by talks with homeless, a little delusional, but good at heart guy, that is so fitting in the rules of storytelling(or maybe rules of universe). I think that ability to see this(is that even a trope?) and use it wisely is what makes a great author.

  47. Wildbow this is getting creepy. Of all the non American cities, you’ve picked my birthplace as where the Simurgh first fucks up humanity and my hometown as where Scion gets his marching orders. If you start talking about Cambridge UK I’m gonna call the police 😉

    Thanks for an amazing story though

  48. Still on my slow third read of Worm and just stopping to say that if a Worm TV series does happen then David Tennant has to play Kevin Norton.
    The most powerful man in the world is one of my favorite chapters in a story full of incredible moments. I love it so much. Thank you Wildbow.

  49. “I said I was the most powerful man in the world. Wasn’t lying,” Kevin said. “See?”

    i caught a double-space before the word “Wasn’t”

  50. This is hands down my favorite chapter thus far, and probably until the end. This works magnificently well as a standalone story. Kevin Norton’s life has been tremendously sad, and his last words to Lisette were just the epitome of perfectness. Nothing else should or could’ve been said.

  51. I love chapters like this, where I’m *pretty darn sure* I’ve figured out the punchline early on (“This is the story of Kevin becoming Scion!”) and then WHAMMO the real twist happens. In this case it really would have been too obvious, and I was suspicious, but it still makes for a fun read.

  52. I keep coming back to this chapter even over 5 years later. There’s something about this chapter that enthralls. I love Kevin’s parting line and I believe that this is one of the best interludes you have ever written.

  53. I live in York. I can confirm that the only part of this that would be surprising to see happen around the place is the period when it wasn’t raining.

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