Queen 18.5

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The television screen went dark.

Transmission over.  Damage done.

“Well,” Tattletale said, “Funny thing is, that was only the second worst thing she could have done to screw us over.”

“That so?” asked one male cape I couldn’t identify.

“Oh yeah.  I was worried she’d disappear for a few days or weeks, leave us to go looking for help.  Then we’d look crazy when she didn’t show, and whatever concessions we’d made to get you on board would cost us… like how you have us in custody right now.  Either she’s not as smart as Ballistic implied, or she’s feeling some kind of pressure.  I’d lay odds she’s losing the inner struggle for self-control.”

Someone slammed his hands down on the end of the table, interrupting her.  I sent bugs in that direction to identify the speaker.  “Does it fucking matter?”

My bugs traced his armor.  Assault.

“It matters,” Miss Militia said.

“This monster killed one of the good guys.  One of our best.  We let it slide when the Undersiders took Shadow Stalker.  We accepted it when the Nine got to Glory Girl and Panacea.  When they killed Battery.  We let the Undersiders take the Director, and they may have taken the man who’s replacing her.  Are we really going to ignore the most obvious option here?”

“You’re saying you want to turn the Undersiders in.”

“They broke the code.  They’ll break it again.”

“And now we’re effectively on trial,” Tattletale said, “When we should be hunting her down.”

“Which may be exactly what she wanted,” Grue added.

“You may be giving her too much credit,” someone said.  I was having trouble keeping track of who was talking.  There were too many people in the room, and gathering more bugs would potentially give someone cause to think I was massing a swarm in anticipation of a fight.

Not to say I wasn’t.  I’d been collecting a swarm, hiding them in shadows and beneath cars.  I drew them closer to the building, as surreptitiously as possible.

It was strange, to have more awareness of the world beyond the local PRT headquarters than I had of the room I was currently in.

“Did you miss the part where there were six Vistas?”  Tattletale asked.  “She’s a pain to deal with, trust me.  If anything, you’re underestimating Noelle.”

“I’m forced to agree.  Let’s not underestimate any opponent,” Miss Militia said.  “I’m going to put in my recommendation right here, with full knowledge that there are several people present who outrank me, and I will extend my full cooperation if they should decide on a different route.  I think we should put old issues aside and accept any assistance the Undersiders are willing to offer.  With what happened with Vista, it’s all too apparent how this situation could get out of control, with each of us fighting friends.”

She paused, and nobody cut in.

Miss Militia continued, “We treat this situation as we would an Endbringer attack.  Our side is smaller than we might hope for, but our enemy is more vulnerable.”

She looked to one man, and I realized she was checking with the Deputy Director.  Her superior, so to speak.

He offered a single nod.

“I agree,” Triumph said.  My bugs were still on him, from earlier.  “But we’d need you on board, Assault.”

Assault was standing, hands still on the table.  He didn’t respond.

“We can’t get the Undersiders on board if they’re wondering if we’ll backstab them,” Triumph said, calm.  He wasn’t someone I’d anticipated as an ally, here.

“You mean like they backstabbed us during the Leviathan attack?” Assault asked, his voice a growl.  “Broke the truce?”

“What?” I couldn’t stop myself.  My voice sounded so small and feeble, between the recent spell of coughing and the lack of bugs to augment it.  I wished I could have conveyed more of a presence.  How to word it so it didn’t sound like feeble protests?  “I think you’ve been grossly misinformed.”

Fuck me, I sounded like Coil.

“Would Battery want you to put your feelings and prejudices before duty and the safety of this city?”

Assault slowly turned to Miss Militia.  “You want to play that card?”

“I’ll play it.  And if the Undersiders decide to play it fast and loose with the rules again, I’ll be right there beside you, ready to see them answer for it.”

“We’ve talked about that before.  Nothing came of it,” Assault said.

“This time,” Miss Militia said, “Given precedent, the stakes and the dangers posed by villains unwilling to follow the written and unwritten rules of the cape community, I’d be willing to argue and testify for a kill order.”

I felt a chill.

A kill order.  It was what they had in place for the Slaughterhouse Nine.  No holds barred, official heroes would be allowed to shoot us on sight.  Any villain or vigilante that came after us would be allowed to go free with only a brief questioning for the paperwork after killing one of us.  To top it off, anyone would be able to donate or post amounts for our heads; amounts would be added to running totals.  We’d be waiting jackpots for any bounty hunter or assassin looking for a big score.

I wondered if any of Coil’s wealthier investors or contacts would hold a grudge.

There were any number of arguments against her statement.  We’d done good.  Even Clockblocker had been willing to argue that the calls I’d made weren’t entirely without merit.  I could have pointed out that any number of people in my territory would argue I was a force for good, and that it was ludicrous that we were the ones being held to this standard when they’d been at fault for Armsmaster’s breaking of the truce.  Armsmaster, who had gone free because of hero’s prerogative.  But that same bias meant things had been twisted around, and apparently popular sentiment held us at fault for the breaking of the truce.  It was an unpleasant surprise.

Hell, to give us the ‘one last chance’ line with a situation where there was every possibility of friendly fire?  It was tying our hands, putting us at mortal risk one way or another.

“I’m… willing to accept that,” I said, suppressing every argument and every bit of indignation I was feeling.  I looked in the general direction of my teammates.  “If my team is.”

“You’re the boss,” Tattletale said.  She was quick enough on the draw that I suspected there was a reason she’d said it.

“Yeah,” Grue said.  My bugs caught Imp and Regent nodding.

Rachel’s response was last.  “Whatever.”

“Well then,” Tattletale said.  “Now that that’s settled, in the spirit of being allies, I have some news.”

“News?”  One of the unfamiliar capes asked.  A woman with a deeper voice.  “Good news?”

“Oh, it’s terrible news,” Tattletale said.  “Noelle’s lying.”

“About what?” Miss Militia asked.

“About Vista being dead.”

“That’s terrible news?  Is she in danger?”  Triumph asked.  I sensed him leaning forward to get a better view of Tattletale, past the crush of bodies at the end of the room.

“No.  I can’t say how Vista’s doing, because I don’t know the specifics on Noelle’s power, but she was trying to mislead us, talking about how she’d use us up.  Too much stress on it.  If she’d only said it the first time, I’d be more inclined to think it was part of her stream of consciousness, but then she hammered it in, used it to threaten us.  It felt forced.  Didn’t ring true.”

“Can we believe her?”  This from another unfamiliar cape, a man.  It was apparently directed at Miss Militia.

“She’s… frequently correct,” Miss Militia said.

“Vista’s alive and Noelle’s trying to keep that secret?  What’s so terrible about it?”  Triumph asked.

“Because it means she’s capable of producing more clones.  She’s capable of keeping Vista captive somewhere, continually producing agents to sow destruction and apply the kind of pressure she was talking about, and she’s lucid enough to recognize that fact.”

“How the hell do you keep Vista captive?”

“People,” Tattletale said.

“Then let’s wrap this up fast.  Essential details only,” Miss Militia said.  “Any objection to me taking point?  Eidolon’s not usually comfortable with it, and I’m the ranking parahuman in Brockton Bay.”

There was no dissent.

“Then we’re splitting up into teams.  Stick with the teams you arrived with.  Best to fight alongside people you know.  Standard stranger countermeasures are in effect with the clones.  I’ll assume they retain the memories of the original, based on what she said about the clone going after Vista’s family?”

“They do,” Tattletale said.

“Then we’re restricted to visual ID checks only.  No passwords.  I already got in contact with Dragon.  She’s on a mission and will only deploy here if it’s absolutely essential-”

I caught a sigh from Tattletale.

“-But she’s set the armbands up for the coming conflict.  They’ll display a green screen up until you remove them, and the screens will flash and identify other armband wearers at a range of fifty meters.  Be vigilant.  Keep track of every one of your teammates, maintain a visual, no splitting up.

“Chevalier, take your team, follow after my Wards.  If she can detect capes, we’ll need to assign her a thinker classification, and we’ll need to assume that any isolated groups are at risk.  Undersiders?  Take Myrddin’s Wards and pursue Flechette and Parian.  Ensure they aren’t intercepted.  The rest of us will track down Noelle.  Any indications about her location from the video?”

“Yes, but there’s no point,” Tattletale said.

“You know her location?”

“I know her location as of the time of the call, but she’ll be moving already.”


“The west end.  By the mountains.”

“She went from just east of Downtown to the west end?” Miss Militia asked.

“I’d stake money on it.  But again, it’s no use.”

“It doesn’t make sense in terms of timeline,” someone said.  He sounded slightly nasal.  “The distance covered-”

“Think about it,” Tattletale said.

“Vista,” Miss Militia supplied.  “She had Vista’s power.  And she will have that power at her disposal for the duration of this conflict.”

“And Noelle’s fast,” Tattletale said.  “Put those points together and she’s highly mobile.  Ergo, she isn’t going to be anywhere near where she was.”

“Good intel.  In the interest of finding her, I’d like you to accompany my group, Tattletale.”

“No can do.”


“I was just about to say I was wanting to stop by my headquarters.  I have a few theories on how we could handle this situation, and one off-the-wall idea that needs some verification before I do anything about it.”

“Nothing that puts any of us at risk?”

“No.  It mostly involves the other Travelers.  But I think it’s worth pursuing.”

“If she comes after you-”

Tattletale cut her off.  “She will.  I’ll join the Undersiders and the Chicago Wards as far as going to Ballistic’s territory to fill him in, ensure he knows that she may come after him.  I’ll see if I can’t bribe him into coming with me.  It’ll be a narrow window of time where it’s just me, him and hopefully his flunkies.”

“You make a high value target,” I said, “Especially with Ballistic in tow.  She wants you dead, and she wants his power.”

“I have ideas.  Don’t worry about me.” Tattletale turned.  “Miss Militia, I’ll be in touch by phone, so you know where you’re going.”

“Fine.  I’m ordering more capes to patrol the area around you, then, if you’re sure you’ll be a target.  Are there any other isolated parahumans in the city that we aren’t aware of?”

“Scrub,” I said.

“He’s working under Ballistic,” Tattletale said.  “I’ll get him on board by any means.  He’s one of the few people, short of Flechette, who can deal guaranteed damage to an Endbringer or Endbringer-Lite, and I have ideas about him and how I could use him.”

“Scrub?” one of the visiting capes asked.  The deeper-voiced woman.

“Uncontrolled matter-annihilation bursts in his immediate vicinity,” I said.  “Ex-member of the Merchants, a local gang of dealers and users.”

“Blaster-eight, easy, if not a straight ten, despite his relatively short range,” Tattletale supplied, “But I’m not sure he does what Skitter thinks he does, and that’s why I want to talk to him.”

“See to it,” Miss Militia said.  “Anyone else?”

“Circus, Leet, Uber,” Grue said.  “They were leaving, but-”

“They’re dead,” Assault said.

“They’re very much alive,” Tattletale retorted.  “And they would have gone west to leave the city.  The same direction Noelle went after targeting Vista.  I think that speaks for itself.”

Miss Militia nodded.  “It does.  If anyone has any questions, communicate them while on the move.  Go!”

The capes began flowing out of the room.  We had seated ourselves at the furthest point from the door, so we were stuck inside until the way was clear.

A small group of younger capes hung back.  Miss Militia had left us a contingent of out-of-town Wards.  I couldn’t get much of a sense of them just with what my bugs could give me on their costumes.  They probably weren’t a full team from a city as big as Chicago; they’d be limited to the ones who’d agreed to fight an unknown, A-class threat.  Three boys and a girl.  They were watching us, and I couldn’t even guess at their expressions without the ability to see or feel things out with my bugs.

I was getting tired of this, and my fatigue was wearing on my already thin patience.

“Bitch,” I said.  “Do me a favor and clear that window?”

She didn’t respond, but she didn’t hesitate either.  She was on her feet as soon as she’d lifted Bastard off of her lap, and kicked the plywood free of the frame before anyone could protest.

I brought every bug I’d had outside the building into the room.  They swirled around me, the Undersiders, and the handful of capes on the far end of the room.  I could sense three of the four Wards getting into fighting stances, noted how two of the boys and the girl shielded the one other boy, forming a loose triangle formation between him and us.

The movements of the bugs gave me the ability to feel them out, drawing a complete map of what they were wearing and carrying.

The boy in the very front, the tallest and largest of them, would be a tinker.  The rods that supported his heavy gauntlets were oiled, suggesting they were pistons, and I noted the presence of blunt-tipped spikes inside his gauntlets.  The setup wasn’t unlike the blades in Mannequin’s arms, but these weren’t extending into his body, and I somehow got the impression they were intended for something very different.  His armor was heavy, supported more by engineering than by his own strength, and his helmet covered his face, but not the back of his head, with a single lens on a telescoping nozzle, dead center.

The other boy in front was narrower, with flowing clothes.  He sported a surprising lack of equipment and weaponry.  It gave me the sense of someone who thought of their body as a weapon.

The girl was similar, but I did note that her gloves were reinforced for striking, a framework of some sort of metal, with rivet-like bumps over each knuckle, each etched with a fine design I couldn’t make out and metal filigree feathers at the edges.  She had padding with a similar design and near-identical feathers.

The one in the back wasn’t in a fighting stance.  He stood with his legs together, heels touching, back straight, one palm extended toward us.  He wore a mask that covered one eye and put an oversized lens in front of the other, with spikes radiating from it like the rays of a sun.  His costume was a very lightweight covering of layered and interlocking metal plates, more stylized than functional, but there was a coat-tail length of cloth extending behind the back, hanging to his knees.

I was careful in how I condensed the bugs around me.  I kept my team obscured as I pulled the bugs away from the four wards, leaving enough bugs on them that I could covertly follow their movements.  They hadn’t been stung or bitten, and they didn’t have a clear shot as the bugs moved away from them.  It meant, at least, that they’d get a chance to realize they weren’t under attack.

The bugs filled the necessary pockets of my costume, then carpeted the exterior, including my mask.  They connected to the ends of my hair, and moved beneath it, giving it more volume and helping it come little alive, the ‘ends’ moving in the absence of wind.  Where I had excess, they trailed several feet behind me like the hem of a royal gown.

“That’s better,” I said, augmenting my voice a touch.  It was.  I felt more centered, more secure and confident with the bugs close.  I’d just alarmed the people we’d be working with, but a small show of power would help ensure we got respect and cooperation.

“Your names and powers?” Tattletale asked the Chicago Wards.  She gestured toward the door and we started walking briskly toward the exit.

“Tecton,” said the power-armor wearer.  He had to raise his voice to be heard over his heavy footfalls and the rattle of furniture around him.  He indicated the boy to his right, then the girl, “This is Wanton and Grace.  Our ranged attacker here is Raymancer.”

“Isn’t Wonton a kind of noodle?” Regent asked.

“And Raymancer?” Imp asked.  “They’re really running out of stuff to call superheroes.”

“Play nice,” Grue warned.

“Yeah,” Tattletale said, “A wonton is a kind of dumpling, not a noodle.  Get it right.”

Wanton,” Tecton said, stressing the pronounciation, “Is a breaker-stranger class cape.  He can turn into a localized telekinetic storm.  Raymancer is our long-range fighter.  The three of us are more close-combat types, but Raymancer manages to make it work.

“Grace is a martial artist.  She’s got a power spread.  Faster perception of time, enhanced agility, and a striker-class enhancement for select body parts at a time; invulnerability to both powers and general harm, as well as increased effect on contact.

“And you?  Tinker?” Grue asked.

“Tinker and thinker both.  Architecture and geology sense.  Armor lets me ‘ground’ kinetic energy like you might do with electricity.  These are piledriver gauntlets,” he patted one gauntlet, “For creating fissures, generating localized earthquakes and other controlled demolition.”

“Having tinkers against Noelle is probably our safest bet,” Tattletale said.

“Because she won’t copy their gear,” I said.

Tattletale nodded.

“Good.  Thank you, by the way, for sharing,” Grue spoke to the Wards.  Tecton nodded. Our groups had reached the door that led into the stairwell.  There were officers handing out armbands, and the elevator was in use, forcing us to wait as people got their armbands and hurried downstairs.

“You need our info?”

“No,” Grace said.  Her voice was hard.  “We know who you are.”

Imp cackled, “We’re famous!”

I hung back a second as one officer held an armband and my armor compartment out to me.  I gripped it, but he didn’t let go.

He wanted to play it that way?

I let my bugs drift away from my armor to surround it.  He acted as if I’d set it on fire, letting go and backing away.  I handed it to Tattletale as we passed through the door to the stairs, then strapped on my armband.  I spoke into it, “Skitter.”

How had things gone with Leviathan?  My username would appear.  I held my armband to Tattletale, and she pressed a button.

“No trackers hidden in your stuff,” she said.  “Want help putting this on?”

“Please.  When we’re at the bottom.”

We were at the tail end of the group, and consequently we were the last ones out the door.  The dogs were already mostly grown, and we paused as Bitch increased Bentley’s size to the point that we could ride him.

“We have too many people and not enough dogs,” Grue commented.

“We’ll drive,” Tecton said.  “Just need to requisition a van.”

“I’ll ride,” I said.  “Rachel?”

She nodded.  She was up first, and she gave me a hand in getting up.  I had to fight coughing for a minute.

“Assault’s going to try to screw us over, if we cross paths,” Tattletale said.

“I suspected,” I answered.

“And if this goes south, they will come after us.  The bit Miss Militia said about Battery?  That loses its cachet when people start to feel like the people of this city would be better protected if they turned us in than if we were helping.  We’re going to have to stay on top of this.  Turn around, I’ll help strap on your armor.”

I nodded and turned around.  I moved my bugs out of the way as she fiddled with the straps, threading them through the appropriate areas.  I blinked a few times, looking towards the nearest light source to try to gauge if my vision was any better.  No improvement.  Short of a thorough check by an ophthalmologist, I wouldn’t find out if I’d regain my sight, or how much I’d recover if I did.

Everything I’d been through, and I got the long-term injury as a civilian.

Within two minutes, the Wards had pulled a containment van up beside us, with Tecton behind the wheel and Raymancer sitting in the passenger-side window, holding the headrest of the chair inside to help maintain his position.  The back popped open, and Imp, Regent, Tattletale and Grue climbed in.

Ballistic as our first stop.  Then Parian.

I winced at the pain in my side as Bentley started running.  And maybe collect Atlas while we’re in this area of town.

Tattletale was right.  This situation being classified as a level-A situation instead of a class-S situation wasn’t doing us any favors.  I just had to note how things were different from Leviathan’s attack.  There were no air raid sirens.  People weren’t being evacuated.

Helicopters flew overhead.  I could hear them, even if my bugs didn’t reach that high.  I knew Miss Militia had assigned us capes, for the inevitable event of Noelle sniffing us out and coming after us.  I didn’t sense them on the ground, so I could only assume they were in the air.

Was it better that people weren’t being evacuated?  They weren’t on the streets, in the line of fire if the psycho-Vistas or Noelle came after them.  It meant we didn’t need to deal with unpowered clones.

But it also meant that there were that many more people here if things went south.

There was a potential kill order on our heads, and there were innumerable heroes in the city who had reason to throw us to the wolves, or to Noelle if they thought the situation called for it.  The stakes were higher, and there was a lot more room to fail.  Noelle just needed one lucky maneuver to go from class-A to class-S threat in moments, and we weren’t getting half the backup this situation deserved.

Not to mention that I was worn out.  Physically, emotionally, I felt like I’d been pushed to the limit, wrung out and then pushed to the limit all over again, and that was just dealing with Coil and rescuing Dinah in the past twenty-four hours.  If I got into the past few months, or how the very way I thought had changed-

I felt a touch dizzy just thinking about it.

No.  It wasn’t dizziness.  My surroundings really were off kilter.  The buildings around us and ahead of us were stretching and shifting en-masse.

“Trouble!” I informed Bitch.  I used my bugs to notify the others in the containment van: Vistas.

I had to sweep my bugs over the area before I could find any of them.  One was perched on a rooftop, one block ahead.  She wasn’t in costume.

It had been dumb of me to expect them to be in costume.  I hadn’t even considered it, but Noelle wouldn’t spit out anything but the people themselves.  The bugs noted the hardness of her face, more like a mask than flesh, her angular, almost artificial chin, and the thin hair on top of her head.

The others… too many places to check… I found another, three blocks over, making a beeline towards us.  Noelle had ordered them to space out, to catch us if we crossed her perimeter.

Bastard yelped to my left, skidded to a stop.  Rachel seemed to read something in his response, because she pulled Bentley to a hard left, veering straight into the van’s path.

She was going to hit it?  I had to adjust my grip, lifting my leg out of the way before she could follow through and have Bentley bodycheck the vehicle.  I sensed Raymancer dropping from the window to his seat as the dog hit, only an inch away from serious injury.  The van turned and skidded to a stop, and I fell, rolling.

A block ahead of us, a building toppled.  I ducked my head low and covered it as dust and debris rolled past us as a thick cloud.  The building wouldn’t have hit us, but the debris and dust might have left us incapacitated long enough for the Vistas to act.

We’d ground to a halt, and sure enough, the pseudo-Vista on the rooftop was slowly starting to work on the buildings around us, thinning walls and twisting supports.  She was spreading out the work and laying the groundwork for future collapses, I realized.  The second psycho-Vista, busy trying to close the distance by folding the space between us and her and stepping across the shortened distances, was raising the street between two buildings, creating a steep incline that even Bitch’s dogs would struggle to climb, cutting off one avenue of retreat.

And I was aware of a third one.  The tall Vista Grue had described.  She’d stretched like taffy, her bones curving to the point that each was more a crescent than straight.  Narrow, so thin it felt like she’d break, with a face twisted into a perpetual, distorted scream, she was picking her way through the rubble of the fallen building.  Her power was twisting the largest pieces of rubble around her until they were wisps, chunks of concrete slowly corkscrewing in space until they were nothing more than dust.

Three of them.

And Noelle nowhere to be seen.  Not in my power’s range of four-ish city blocks.  She’d be going for the others.  For Ballistic, or Parian.  These troops were only to slow us down, buy her time to make another move, find another set of powers.

Fuck me.  Noelle was employing the same basic tactics I did: sensing the opposition, strategically deploying the offensive troops, acting as the heavy hitter and problem solver in the center of the chaos her minions generated, working towards complementary or wholly different goals than the ‘swarm’.

Worse, she was better at it than I was.  She was faster, her senses reached further, and the individual at the center of her army was a nightmarish force unto herself.

We couldn’t afford to get caught fighting.  Not while Noelle hit our other allies.

Still flat on the ground, I choked back the next spell of coughs and touched the button on my armband, “We need reinforcements, fast.

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135 thoughts on “Queen 18.5

  1. Well that’s a bad spot to be in. Good chapter though. The threat of a kill order on the Undersiders? They really can’t catch a break.

    • Skitter is too tired to continue like this. For how many chapters has she been in a high stress situation? She has to crash at some point so I’m going to bet that she ends up in the birdcage after this event. The heroes, Assault in particular, have to take advantage of the situation if they want to retain any credibility.
      I also notice that the Scape tag is back and the Vista tag is gone. Take that as you will.

      • Luckily, I have Earth Beta’s favorite relaxation video all ready for Skitter.

        Only a matter of time before he body simply can’t go on. Wounded, blinded, tired, at the middle of a vast criminal conspiracy and totally out of her depth. Hunted by heroes and villains alike. One teenage girl, betrayed by her country *starts playing the action movie music* The only way to save the world, to save her family, to save her cute cuddly pet…spiders… is to threaten society.

        • Psycho Gecko –
          Thank you for how much you contribute to the experience of reading Worm. This comment was a great example of the case I was making to someone about why Worm is better than GoT.

          I’ve talked about Worm constantly since I started 2 weeks ago. But only started reading comments around arc 8 – Three things are what made Worm trump Game of Thrones and kept me reading comments ever since then:
          1. I like wildbow, while George RR Martin holds a special place of confusing love/hate that kinda makes me feel like Dinah and her candy at times. wildbow is thoughtful in responses, quick to edit typos, and shows respect and recognition for the frequent commenters and newbies alike. you have also generated a sheer volume of text that makes it all the more frustrating when I think GRRM might die before he finishes the series.
          2. Psycho Gecko’s wonderful Easter egg parody comments are priceless, and your videos and humor were often the unicorn chaser I needed – especially during the S9 arc. This is almost always something I mention when talking about Worm to others.
          3. The comments from the community – this is an incredible thing to witness evolve over time. The ability to interact with the community after each chapter is released is a general awesome quality of web serials (and full disclosure this is only the second one I’ve read after HPMOR) but Worm’s commenters are a fantastic addition to the experience. From crazy speculation to great philosophical conversations to the general support one finds when you’ve just been mindfucked by the best horror you have ever experienced – thank you Skittles you all rock.

          Much love

    • Yeah, at this point I’m pretty certain that this is an active attempt to try and take care of them in a sneaky way since they’ve resisted all other methods.

      Seems very convenient that Miss Militia would be spouting this stuff about the villains who have taken over her city.

      • I dunno, I have Miss Militia, Dragon, and Clockblocker pegged as Candidate Reasonable Authority Figure. If anyone’s going to give Skitter a fair shake at this point, my moneys’ on Miss Militia.

        Mind you, a fair shake still includes robbing a bank, de-masking three government-aligned capes, kidnapping Shadow Stalker for mind control, nearly killing Triumph and actually and deliberately killing Coil/Calvert. But my read is Miss Militia would own up to her sides’ screwups too.

        ((Belated) bets on if she decides to stand with Skitter against the government, it coincides with Miss Militia’s second trigger?)

  2. On that corner we have the equivalent to a mentaly unstable Epic Necromancer. In this corner we have the “not a single Cleric” group. Place your bets guys

    • Let’s face it, if the capes’ powers are enhanced like Krouse/Trickster implied they were back in 17-8, just about any of them without regard for collateral damage is terrifying.

      Except psycho-Tattletale. What would she do? Well, aside from give really good intel to the rest of Noelle’s troops…

      • Dodge everything. On the scale of a fight the boosted clones would almost have the Simurgh’s ‘know everything’ power.

        • Not quite as terrifying as most of them. “Oh no! I can’t hit them with anything, and she’s wreaking havoc with all the strength of a teenaged girl!”

            • Imp’s a bit worse. The scary thing isn’t that she can dodge you, it’s that you can’t dodge her.
              Besides, Echidna’s a bit more of a threat than Imp.

              • Good point, Imp IS scary more because of not knowing when she’ll hit you than because you can’t target her.

                I’ve read a bit further in the story now, and I don’t think this is too spoilery: What I was meaning for boosted Tattletales is actually more like Harbinger’s power. Not as dangerous as some, certainly, but still hard to beat.

                I’m not saying Tattletale clones will necessarily be the scariest enemy, but one that gets pseudo-Harbinger powers could well be in the upper half.

              • Potentially. But Echidna’s clones tend to have different powers, not just plain more powerful ones. (Kind of like the evil, warped cousin of second trigger events.)

  3. One the one hand, yay Vista’s alive. On the other hand, ouch Vista’s alive (which sucks for pretty much everyone except Noelle).
    Also, I’m left wondering if Noelle’s “I will eat you thing is true either? She didn’t have to eat Cody to dupe him so she could have been playing that up for the horror effect it would have on her opponents.

  4. Okay so lets assume circus, uber, and leet were taken/copied. Leets aren’t too much of a threat at the moment, as I assume it takes time for a tinker to gather materials/design/build their tech. A few Circus clones could act as assassins, moving in to attack at close range with knives though Skitter should be able to deal with them unless they have open flames nearby. If the clones are physically stronger than normal than Ubers could be a threat but they lack real firepower to do any definite damage to the Undersiders. The vistas are going to be a nightmare if they can bypass the manton effect. If Noelle is stalling them then her first target seems to be ballistic and his power will cause some damage. I wonder what kind of firepower their helicopters carry? Depending on how much of an effect Vista has over gravity, rifleman in a helicopter would seem to be a good counter to them.

  5. “continually agents to sow destruction” – should probably have a “producing” before “agents”

    Here we see the start of the action, as well as finally seeing Myrddin’s Wards. I’m not sure what I feel about them, especially since we’ve just met them and haven’t seen them in action. Don’t know how creative they are with their abilities. I also notice that Rayflare is in the tags when Raymancer is in the dialogue. Are they the same person? If they are, is the difference an accident, or by design (Tecton lying about things).

    It really bugs me that the supposed heroes still try to cover up Armsmaster’s crimes, especially as they end up shifting the blame to the Undersiders instead of just denying the crimes’ existence. If Flechette ever gets the evidence she was told to, she may just end up burying it.

    Anyways, you’re doing a lot better with making Skitter realistically blind, Wildbow. She’s feeling physical things more than seeing. The only problem is Skitter somehow seeing her name displayed on the armband; I don’t see how that’s possible. It may have been better if Tattletale somehow communicated it.

    In the end, though, the blindness with bug-sense was conveyed well, much better than in previous chapters. I noticed that Miss Militia emphasized a “no passwords” policy, which throws the Undersiders’ main mode of status confirmation out of the picture. With a “visual ID only” scenario, Skitter is in serious trouble. Can’t wait for Tuesday to see what happens!

      • The constant awareness of Skitter’s blindness is pretty hard.

        You might want to consider letting Skitter get her sight back sooner rather than later (or rather than never) just to eliminate the annoyance to yourself and us readers. I mean, how terrible will be if there’s a huge showdown with Noelle and you can’t even describe the expressions on her face or what she’s doing because she instantly absorbs all the bugs that touch her? When you ignore the blindness it feels wrong, and when you play it up in gets in the way of your ability to describe things.

        • I disagree, Skitter’s blindness gives her back some vulnerability that has been missing from her character since Leviathan. A buddy who also reads this put it that she acts more and more like a soldier.

          The blindness has helped make her feel like someone unsure and nervous again, which is a welcome change given the alternative implies she’s losing her mind. What with being sixteen and all.

          • I wouldn’t go quite so far as to say she is losing her mind just because she is adapting so well at sixteen. People can adapt to plenty of different things without being actually crazy, and I think her ability to do so without actually being blatantly crazy is pretty impressive.

            Quite simply she should be acting more and more like a soldier, because that is the pattern of behavior that is more beneficial to her and her circle. If she was acting more and more like a soldier when a soldier clearly wasn’t what was called for over time then I think you would have a more valid point.

          • The thing I’ve found is that it can be very difficult to tell “crazy” from people acting different for a lot of people. You see something as a threat that other people don’t, so you try to fight it by acting differently. It’s not the same as just having something break you. What you’re doing might be completely reasonable, if only other people could see it or understood it better.

            Or maybe you just desire to do wrong to people. You want to go and kill a whole bunch of people because you’re tired of the social contract that says you can’t knife an asshole in the douchebag. Or vice versa. Maybe you know perfectly well that it is wrong, and you just don’t care. Then someone comes along and says someone would only do such a thing if they were insane. Insane? What, you can’t tell the difference between someone doing something wrong and being crazy? At that rate, how long until drinking out of the carton is grounds for electroshock?

            I mean, someone has something really bad happen to them or lives in a world where they don’t feel they fit in and all of a sudden people are prescribing anti-anxiety meds and anti-depressants. Or they get pissed off at someone calling them and take a damn sledgehammer to it. Or you hunt down the call center that has been no help at all and blow it up, and all of a sudden someone is calling for anger management.

            Gotta maintain that Equilibrium, I guess.

          • Gecko, you reminded me, there is a movie called Equilibrium in witch everybody is drugged to not have emotions and conform to society.
            The end is amazing, one of the best action movies ever.

          • That was the point of my reference. Not saying there’s no need for psychiatry, but I just wonder where the line is drawn between legitimate emotional extremes we can justifiably have and stuff that people want to medicate you for.

            The Gun Fu reminds me a lot of City of Heroes too. I never did get the last powers of that. My favorite was always Execution Shot, done from point blank range, preferably to the side or rear of an enemy. It’s like you flip the pistol out and shoot them right in the head. Always reminds me of the “Dodge this” kill from The Matrix especially if you didn’t have elemental ammo, which gave the rounds knockback.

          • Geez, now I’m starting to sound like a [Happy]ologist. If you’ve been prescribed pills, take them. I just think antibiotics and pain pills get overused at times.

      • Just a fun fact about blindness: the brain starts to co-opt the parts of the brain dedicated to vision very quickly, adapting them to work for other senses. In one study there were measurable changes to the brain after just five days in blindfolds. Skitter’s ‘bug-sense’ may be boosted even faster, because she’s relying on it so much. On the other hand, it’s not a normal part of the brain, so perhaps the mechanisms won’t transfer.

        Either way, someone should scan her brain (would that be done with an MRI? I honestly don’t know much about the technology side of things), it would probably provide all kinds of fascinating data on the Passengers and the part of the brain unique to parahumans.

    • There is another side to their hiding Armsmaster’s dirty deeds though. I assume that most of the wards/heroes were told a lie and simply believed it as they had no reason to suspect their superiors/fellow heroes would lie to them. But the fact is Armsmaster DID break the truce, got villains killed, and blamed it on an innocent “hero”. He was also not officially arrested, and allowed to leave. If Flechette does find and expose the evidence, than this will backfire big time on the heroes. The Villains won’t trust the truce anymore, the heroes will have lost credibility to others/each other, and the public in Brockton Bay may not see the Undersiders as the terrible/evil option they are being portrayed as. This isn’t mentioning what other dirt Tattletale could potentially know.

      • That is the entire reason I believe the heroes have no ground to stand in ethics and morality debates. The one between Skitter and Clockblocker supposedly left off with Clockblocker one point up, but all his arguments fail if based on faulty evidence like the one about Armsmaster. The hypocrisy just makes me so mad!

        Ironically, the only person I can believably see exposing that hypocrisy to the world is Armsmaster/Defiant. He’s the only one who seems even a bit sorry about what happened AND has the pull and opportunity to do so. No one else would care or would dare to do so with someone like Miss Militia looking down on them. Dragon, on the other hand, would push Colin to apologize.

        • “Colin! Say sorry to the villainess!”

          “mumble, mumble, mumble.”

          “Say Sorry or no cyber nookie.”

          “mumble mumble ‘orry mumble.”

          “Come on [insert Binary equivalent of Schmookie Wookie Sweetheart], You’ll feel much better.”

          *camera pans to show major camera crews covering this conversation*

          *Defiant composes himself*

          “Skitter of the Undersiders, I would like to formally admit to my wrongdoings regarding you and as apology, testify as to the PRT’s purposeful dissemination of false information.”

  6. Very tense, and the army of Vistas is a pretty scary thought. Might be time for Supergrue to bust out into a space warping, bug controlling, dog growing, telekinetic tinker geomancer martial artist who nobody can remember and who can use leaps of intuition. Maybe he can telekinetically kungfu the van and some sticks into a dog launching cannon that that shrinks space along the target path. Hot dog in a second or its free.

    “going t be anywhere” to.
    “My name appeared across the screen. ” can she read it?

  7. I have to wonder if the choice to classify Noelle as Class A rather than Class S has anything to do with the head of the Protectorate (Alexandria’s civilian identity) reacting to Cauldron’s best hope (Coil) getting shot in the head.

  8. “psycho-Vista”

    I like the sound of that, but I’m more interested in it being used for an evil copy. Not a bad way to use it, just something that caught my attention.

    But yeah, the Undersiders are going to get screwed over no matter how this goes. Honestly, couldn’t you just feel the heroes lubing up to fuck them over? We just don’t know if they’re going to catch the Undersiders from behind or come at them head on.

    I’m liking Skitter’s even more bug intensive look. Yet more development. Also, seems like she’s taken to calling Bitch “Rachel” much more than she has in the past.

    One last point: looks like Dragon’s going to get a chance to speak with Skitter after all if there are any quiet moments alone duirng or after this that she’s wearing the armband.

      • Quite possible that they will use sand instead.
        Actually, this whole situation reminds me of a few tests that I did in my graduation course.

          • I meant tests in an academic sense. Some physics courses simply were not made to be attended by normal human beings.
            So, after spending a long time studying just to see the sob of the teacher ask a question whose answer was in the little note at the end of page 450 of the book, we used to say that this question made us feel f but not only f, f with the addition of sand.
            It was common slang among the students of physics in my time.
            Whence why we were 60 at the first year of the course and only 10 got to the end.
            One committed suicide although it was not directly to related to academic issues.
            And, this is unusual, our class was exceptional. Never in the 50 years of the physics course in that university so many students from a single class formed.

            • Sorry about the necrocomment, but if you’re still there, where did you graduate from? I’m also taking a Physics course in Brazil.

          • I’ve been in one of those courses before, but with Biology instead of Physics. The professor told me straight up that people with the grade I got on the first test don’t pass the course.

            Or at least they don’t usually pass the course, which is an important distinction now.

  9. DING DING DING! Shithead of the day award goes to Assault! I don’t know what possibility is worse, that he could be enough of an idiot to think that making a deal with Noelle would work, he’s enough of a coward to want to make the deal at all, or he’s enough of a prick to use this situation for a chance at revenge.

    And then there’s Miss Militia, who’s a hair away from arguing lethal force against villains who make a point to not use lethal force. To be generous I’d say she’d want those measures in place to take a hardline on the cape code and prevent rules skirting in general, icky but defensible.

    But there’s also the possibility that she’d push for it for the sake of preserving the BB protectorate after all the humiliations they’d suffered, she apparently pinned the Leviathan betrayal on them after all. Or she could be being fed suggestions under the table by Cauldron. I’d like to be fair to her considering that she’s just been doing her job so far without too much assholery.

    Not Assault though, I hope someone rearranges his face.

  10. Nice, I especially liked how Tattletale neatly disarmed most of Noelle’s attack and how Taylor ignored, worked around and got frustrated by her blindness and general state of being beat up. It seems she is at the point where she considers her disability and being ‘worn out’ as something that is mostly a problem in her civilian identity.

    The only part that I think needs improvement was this part: “I used my bugs to notify the others in the containment van: Vistas.” It wasn’t quite clear to me how she warned them: drawing words with bugs, using her bugs to try and speak? This might need some clarification.

    To a lesser degree a bit more info on what the vista-clone she found was wearing might have been good, as she wasn’t in costume is rather vague. Are the clones clad in some stolen civilian clothing or perhaps even walking around without any clothing. It would help in classifying them as either inhuman monsters or actual people if we knew how much care they took in acquiring their wardrobe. Some ill-fitting clothes would be a sign of just having acquired the bare necessaries, while some actual fitting clothes would betray a more ‘human’ outlook and make them much more scarier.

    I also noticed that Grace didn’t get her own tag. An oversight?

  11. I find myself wondering why Eidolon would risk being there. If he gets copied, Noelle gains access to the sum of his knowledge, and could VERY quickly figure out where those power serums came from and why she’s so screwed up from it. And I imagine Cauldron really doesn’t want her as an enemy. I guess the question of what he’s doing there (aside from trying to prove himself) will get answered when/if we find out what was said between him and Lisa.

    • To clarify, Noelle wouldn’t directly gain access to his knowledge (as far as we know), but the deformed Eidolon that pops out would probably turn right around and say “Hey mom, I know why you exist!”

      • Hm…

        First thought, Eidolon always seemed a bit less involved in the evil bits than Alexandria was. We know for a fact that Legend was kept in the dark about most of it, so it’s not unreasonable to assume that Eidolon knew less than her, though he definitely knew more than Legend. Some of Wildbow’s statements kind of imply this as well, such as mentioning that Eidolon was a protagonist of one of the short stories he wrote pre-Worm, though that’s no guarantee of anything.

        Secondly, Eidolon is clearly not that concerned about being cloned. He says he thinks he’s immune, and if he is lying he has another plan. Eidolon would be present if Noelle clones him. The most likely result of an Eidolon clone is Eidolon vs Eidolon right then and there, as Eidolon could teleport away or something if Noelle has him cornered. Honestly, if Eidolon has any control over his powers and the situation he’s unlikely to be cloned unless he wants to be. He’s got too many options for avoiding a touch.

        Third, Caldron isn’t treating this as an S-Class threat. Sure, Noelle’s a danger, but there’s a limit to how much damage she could do. Noelle is not well suited for taking down Cauldron before she goes Endbringer. Eidolon’s clone MIGHT but it’s still a stretch. As dangerous as Noelle is she can’t get through dimensions to harm them personally. A lot depends on details of Caldron we don’t know about.

        Caldron could be miscalculating. Or, and this is very likely, they DON’T know that she comes from them. Even if she did, there’s no reason to think they wanted it or had anything to do with her creation besides the creation of the serum. Her real enemy if Simurgh.

  12. Great chapter wildbow. Now I feel bad about complaining about Vista’s fate in the previous (non-bonus) chapter – though, seeing how your story has gone so far, you’ll understand if I withhold my actual apology until we see her final fate 😉

    also, love Tecton’s power-set/theme. but that may be my tech-hero/villain fetish speaking again X-)

    • I am a bit unsure what Tecton’s exact powerset is supposed to be other than perhaps being a great help in earthquake proofing buildings, but it might be fun if he were somehow like Jack Hawksmoor “The King of Cities” from the Authority or perhaps Syndablokk from Empowered who is like Aquaman only with concrete instead of fish.

      If the heroes are really unlucky than his powers will give him (and his clones) the ability to pinpoint the exact point of a building he has to hit to bring it down, sort of like Ryoga Hyibiki.

      • I just realized that with his specialization in architecture there’s a decent chance that Tecton designed the PRT elevator which gets mentioned -every- single time a perspective character is within sight of the building.

  13. You know tieshaunn, with an outfit like his its only a matter of time before tecton gets brainwashed by bonesaw and dubbed ‘mr bubbles’.

  14. When things settle down (if they settle down) & before the Undersiders run out of money to pay the Mercs, I wonder if Tattletale will use Baron von Steuben’s Blue Book as a framework to get the remaining mercs to train up a cadre of minions and expand from there.

  15. The Undersiders should probably get a deadman switch to tell the world what Armsmaster did, after Miss Militia’s threat.

      • A little bit of doubt goes a long way. Especially with those who’ve met the Undersiders personally in and out of costume.

    • How could they prove it?
      Dragon had enough time to remove the deactivation of Skitter’s armband from the archives.

      • But would she?

        We’ve had hints that Dragon is opposed to some of the Protectorates bullshit on a vague level, but she’s limited by her programming. I wouldn’t be surprised if she could have covered up the issue but chose not to because he programming doesn’t specifically compel her to.

    • I am not sure that this would be a good idea. Bluff that you have such a dead-man switch sure, but actually implementing it would not be ‘nice’.

      By releasing this information they would hamper any future responses to Endbringers and indirectly kill perhaps millions out of spite. Considering the threat level that the Endbringers represent, discouraging villains from joining in future fights might even threaten humanity as a whole.

      I see parallels to the cold war, mutually assured destruction and the sort of “Letters of Last Resort” that British missile submarines carry with order to carry out in case Britain has been destroyed. At that point you have to weigh vengeance for your people against doing what is right for surviving humanity as a whole.

      • The thing about bluffing in Earth Bet is that there are a lot of people with superpowered ways to see through it.

        Still, I suppose it is a bit too easy for me to suggest the deadman switch when the people harmed by it aren’t real to me.

      • But allowing the Armsmaster cover up to slide could be just as dangerous in the long run if it sets up a precedent. What’s to stop another hero or group of heroes to make a similar truce breaking decision under the assumption that the Protectorate will help cover it up? It could lead to an even more explosive incident down the line if the Protectorate doesn’t properly enforce their own rules.

        If the Undersiders disclose the Armsmaster incident the PRT will be forced to publicly crucify those responsible and come to the table with the rest of the cape community to renegotiate the terms of Endbringer truces. That could lead to more transparency and ultimately a more trusting arrangement between heroes and villians.

        It’s better than letting the Protectorate get away with shit and waiting for more rule-breaking among the heroes to cause an even bigger incident.

  16. Raymancer Is our long-range fighter

    Should be lower-case ‘I’.

    Sweet update. Does Noelle have mind-control over her creations or is she just exploiting their actions independent of herself? Grace’s powers are like Circus’ – unfairly cool.

    • I’m thinking they see her as their ‘mother’ hence her unofficial name ‘Echidna’, or maybe she does have some kind of mind control over them. It’s impossible to tell at this moment.

      Also Wildbow, how many of Bakuda’s bombs do the heroes have left?

  17. Also, just what exactly the heck is Vista’s power? Does she warp space or does she warp matter? Both? I feel like I’m missing something every time she does stuff.

    • She warps space if I’m remembering right. Effects inorganic material…..though I’m guessing atleast one clone has the opposite ability.

      • Huh. I wouldn’t expect spatial powers to damage matter any more than I’d expect rolling up a piece of paper to damage the picture drawn on it. In fact, someone without related powers of their own would most likely mistake it for teleportation or superspeed.

        Vista’s powers must thus be stranger than that.

        • There’s a pretty good precedent for people not knowing how to accurately describe powers in relation to all their little intricacies. Even in this chapter TT comments on how Taylor sees Scrub’s power is a little off.
          Panacea’s power isn’t technically healing, but fine manipulation of organic material, for instance.

          • On the subject of Scrub’s power’s I’m pretty sure they only annihilate organic matter (IIRC, they at one point destroyed some grass but not the ground underneath it). This is probably the Manton effect at work, but I suppose it could be him creating Neutrino Radiation or something.

          • Shaker.

            All capes ‘break’ physics to some extent. Breakers break the rules as the rules pertain to them (and maybe their immediate surroundings/possessions).

            Grue, Labyrinth, Shatterbird, Lady Photon/Laserdream/Shaker, Fog, Stormtiger, Cricket, Rune, Burnscar, Narwhal and Skidmark are shakers. You might be able to divine the common theme, there.

          • I’ve kinda been sensing a pattern with capes having “sciency” physics based powers. Clockblocker, Flechette, Assault, Battery, Vista. They all directly interface with the laws of physics.

            Biology based powers are the other big theme I’m seeing.

    • Suppose that you stretch space at one point, so that a distance that once was a meter now becomes two.
      Now, somewhere in the middle of the piece of rock that you wanted to break the stretching ends, so, for an external observer the rock became deformed and I am pretty sure that in the frontier the atomic interactions that keep the rock together will break.
      Take a pillar that support a building and make its middle smaller, by curving the space locally. What happens then is difficult to predict since this is practically impossible in our world without the use of a huge amount of gravity. But lets imagine that the space that you curved also becomes smaller when looked from and external observer. Around the curved area normal, untwisted space is brought from around to feel the void in the column. BUt there is no matter in this surrounding space, only air.
      In other words, outside of the affected area space continues normal and the upper part of the column suddenly find itself without support. The building falls.
      If any of the above does not convince you, use Einstein`s analogy comparing three dimensional space with a mattress now, put a mass over this mattress and it will create a depression. Vista can do this, the space around the depression continues basically unchanged and the material that was in the region where she created the depression disappear in it.
      An alternative way in witch she can break things is by doing what gravity does. Gravity can break a body if one of its extremes is more attracted than the other, which can happen with relatively large bodies in strong gravitational fields.

  18. Donation Bonus chapters are always somewhat relevant to what’s going on in the arc, right?

    So I’m wondering when Scion is going to show up trying to murder Noelle as per Limey Schmuck’s instructions. (Don’t take the name too seriously people. I went on a tangent about Scion during Migration and this is a slight call back.)

  19. Really well done chapter, the interactions with the Undersiders and the heroes were great and I LOVED the little bit of drama Skitter employed and the relief she felt when getting her bugs back. It gives a sense of how scary she is to other people. One of these days I’d love to get a Interlude where someone interacts with her in full on Skitter mode so we can see how scary she looks through their eyes.

  20. Darn it…I do all that work and can’t even get “parahumans.wordpress.com” to be written in the lights.

    You’ll have to excuse me, I’m not the streaking type where large men in armor are involved.

  21. Just realized that the Female Ward “Grace” doesn’t have a tag. Either she is so unimportant to the story that wildbow just doesn’t care about her, or she is a redshirt.

  22. Hey Wildbow I got a British University Radio show to mention Worm on the air. :3 Not sure if it’ll help but it’s getting the name out there atleast! 😀 You need moar support.

    • Hey, thanks!

      Crazy awesome and very much appreciated. I’ll keep an eye on the numbers, see if there’s any indication of how many people checked it out.

      • Hehe you’re most welcome. I’ve also posted it on some FB pages about reading. I want you to be among the greats someday. Who knows they could turn Worm into a comic someday! :3
        The radio station is called Juction 11, the show was ‘Hello Stonehenge’.

  23. Well, I figured it would probably be worthwhile to mark my stopping place for the author’s information. I started reading this a week ago, and was amazed at how good it was. REALLY enjoyed the first 11 arcs, and thought I’d found a new favorite series. It might just be that I gorged on the story for a week, but I started to gradually lose interest from there.

    Precog plotlines bore me. I think that’s the main thing. I think it poses an interesting challenge to the writer (“How do I defeat a prophecy in a way that doesn’t trivialize the problem?”), but not nearly as interesting for the reader (we all know that the word “inevitable” means exactly the opposite, in super-hero terms).

    There’s also the problem that the Travelers are boring characters. Jess/Genesis is the only one who struggled at all with the morality of her choices, or with overcoming a personal flaw. Everyone else on the team either is a 1-dimensional madman (Trickster, or even more, Noelle), or else is a complete waste of space (Ballistic, Sundancer, Oliver). That’s aside from the fact that this huge buildup to Coil getting defeated kinda doesn’t mean anything if he wasn’t the big bad of the story – I’d have been much more patient with having to deal with Noelle if it was one of Coil’s machinations, instead of his spite.

    Noelle, specifically, is just sooooo dull. Dinah’s prediction makes any resolution which involves removing her powers seem awfully convenient, but she has no other motivations to exploit. Even Leviathan has a long-term goal in mind. Noelle’s got nothing but petty, short-term revenge before her brain sloughs away or whatever it’s going to do. Meh. Some people will die, the town will fall apart some more, the heroes will find more reasons to distrust Skitter, and probably we’ll find more clues about Cauldron, but none of that will be game changing, nor will it resolve any important plot issues. This arc isn’t going anywhere I care to be.

    So I’m just going to let it be. Maybe I’ll come back to it in a year and find it a lot better than I remember. But right now I don’t have the patience to sit through Class S threat #3, Electric Boogaloo.

  24. Wildbow, I would dearly appreciate a section of your Cast page detailing the different classifications of powers. Several of the names are similar enough that I’m having trouble keeping track. Thank you for writing such a wonderful story! I’m a first time reader, and I’m absolutely loving it.

  25. “How the hell do you keep Vista captive?”
    “People,” Tattletale said.
    “Then let’s wrap this up fast. Essential details only,” Miss Militia said.
    It seems like a line or two is missing here. As written it’s kind of a non sequitur.

    • Vista’s power weakens and breaks down the more people are in an area, scaling exponentially, and cannot directly affect a person. This has been mentioned before, I think as far back as the bank job. The reason they have to wrap it up fast comes from the line before the ones you quoted, where Noelle is continually producing clones (i.e. the longer they take the more clones there are).

  26. Oh god Skitter is certainly living up to her Queen of the Underworld title what with a bug hem trailing her around? Creepy and awesome effect.

    I love the parallels between Skitter and Noelle. I was going to comment on it earlier but forgot. They act and think the same the way that Tattle and Ballistic had described her.

    How in the holy hell did Assault get that the UNDERSIDERS broke the truce with Leviathan?!?! That is such a horrible spin campaign that the people involved should be shot! Not even from a protagonist biased perspective; things that important are either covered up or explained. NOT SPUN! There were dozens of heroes and villains in there to hear Armsmaster’s outburst and Tattle’s insinuations. Not to mention Fletchette’s earlier confrontation with Skitter. I get that the guy is completely biased at the moment but SERIOUSLY WHAT THE HELL?!?! He is on the local team with Miss Militia who knows the full details of the incident and he thinks that the UNDERSIDERS BROKE IT? I just lost so much respect for both him and Miss Militia for not keeping her team informed of important need to know information. She was doing so well beforehand too…

    And really? Pushing for a kill order? She just got finished a few chapters ago stating how they may hit hard but they specifically don’t kill. WTF?! So much respect forfeited.

    • Technically Skitter did come close to breaking the truce by seeing Shadow Stalker unmasked, which looks a lot like taking advantage of the situation for personal gain from an outside perspective. Of course there is a whole heap of extenuating circumstances, but I can see the talk about Armsmaster’s truce breach getting
      accidentally attached to hers once his was covered up.

  27. Must EX-TER-MIN-ATE VIS-TAS… 🙂 Thanks PG; your comments as always are the perfect blend of WTF?! level crazy and genius-level brilliance!

  28. “invulnerability to both powers and general harm, as well as increased effect on contact.”
    Doesn´t sound strong at all….

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