Scourge 19.3

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I could see the dirty looks from the heroes around us.  Tattletale’s outburst would cost us something in the here and now, and I wasn’t sure there was anything to be gained long-term.  Meanwhile, we were the only real villains that I was aware of, surrounded by people who didn’t trust us.  People who expected us to try something.

I was acutely aware that the Chicago Wards and Scapegoat would be listening in if I said anything to Tattletale, and the thing I most wanted to say to Tattletale would be the worst thing to say on a lot of levels.  Calling her an idiot made us look less cohesive as a team, and she never reacted well to it.

I didn’t want Tecton, Grace and Wanton to hear, so I put one hand on Tattletale’s shoulder to stop her, and spoke just above a whisper.  “That was ill-timed.”

“Only opportunity I was about to get, with all of them together,” she said.  She didn’t bother to lower her voice.  “Big piece of the puzzle, knowing this much lets me start working out how everything fits together.”

“I know,” I murmured, “But it wasn’t a good moment.  We don’t need to make enemies of the Triumvirate, and we don’t need a kill order put on our heads.”

“Miss Militia wouldn’t really,” Tattletale said.

“That so?” I asked.  “Or is that another one of your educated guesses?”

“Educated guess,” Tattletale said.

“Let’s not forget that there’s other capes with a reason to hate us, and provoking their bosses might motivate them to get on Miss Militia’s case about that kill order and cleaning up Brockton Bay.  If an order comes down from above, it doesn’t matter if she’s willing to kill us or not.  Let’s do our best to avoid seeming dangerous.”

“Sure,” she said.  “Got what I wanted anyways.”

I wasn’t sure I was happy with that outcome.  She wasn’t saying she wouldn’t do it again.  “Keep in mind that we’re tired.  It’s easier to make mistakes.”

“I get it.  It’s cool,” Tattletale said.  “But just like you need time to get your bugs together, I need background info to work with before I get into a fight.”

“That’s not a fight we want to start right now,” I said.  “Maybe ever.”

“I have ideas.  Trust me a little,” she said, smiling a touch.

I frowned behind my mask, then led the way to the Wards.  I couldn’t be lecturing her about picking her battles if I didn’t do the same, and arguing this point with Tattletale wasn’t going to help us right now.  Something to address another time, another day.

“What’s going on?” Tecton asked.

“Discussing strategy,” I said.  “How are you guys?  Wanton?”

“Myrddin caught up with me, collected all the radioactive stuff,” Wanton said.  “My other form feels a little weak.  Might be that my real self is feeling drained, might be that whatever powers my other self is.”

“And Raymancer?” I asked.

Wanton glanced at Tecton, but he didn’t respond.  I could tell from their body language.

“I’m sorry,” I said.

“Nausea, vomiting, headaches, weakness… and even if he makes it through today, it’s probably going to kill him in the next while,” Tecton said.

“There’s healers,” I said.  “Tinkers who understand radiation.  I’m sure they’ve got good doctors looking after him now.  If you’ll accept my saying so, I’d say your priority is here, now, this situation.”

Tecton shifted position, straightening his back so he stood a little taller.  With his power armor, it put him head, shoulders and chest above me.

I had to admire the power armor.  Even the idea of power armor, it was kind of scary to me.  Putting together a piece of machinery that could bend steel bars and punch through concrete was impressive enough on its own, but doing that and then climbing into said machinery, walking around in it, knowing that a single malfunction could cause a potential catastrophic failure?  Being trapped in that armor, or worse, having it accidentally leverage that terrible strength against the wearer inside?

I was still operating like I had when I was blind.  A centipede crawled over the lens of my mask, obstructing my vision.  I willed it to move away.

Tecton wore his suit well.  He was a walking tank, wide as he was tall, a glossy rust-brown with brass highlights.  His eyes were barely visible, but I could see his eyes behind the mask, studying me.  He wasn’t venturing a reply.

Had I been too forward?  Too presumptuous?

“Worrying about him is fine,” I said, and the image of Grue sitting at the base of the wall flickered through my mind’s eye, “But the best thing you can do for Raymancer is get through this thing alive, and when you’re done, you can do your job as team leader and find someone who can help him.”

“Myrddin will do that.”

“Maybe,” I said.  “But are you really willing to trust the well-being of your teammate to a supervisor?  Wouldn’t it feel better to handle it yourself?”

“Unless I have reason not to, I’ll rely on Myrddin and I’ll feel better doing that,” Tecton replied.  “All of this, this whole scenario, the organization of it all, it doesn’t work unless there’s a measure of trust.”

“Okay,” I said.  His reply had caught me off guard.  I hadn’t expected Tecton to have that kind of faith in his superiors, and I couldn’t be sure if it was my own bias or naiveté on his part that were at fault for this gap in understanding.  Even if I were right, though, it wasn’t my place to ‘fix’ him.  “You lead the way you have to.  Sorry to make assumptions.”

“S’okay,” Tecton said.  “Doesn’t matter if you do or not.  I’ll just keep making sure you and your team don’t create trouble.”

“Which we didn’t do, when we lost the armbands and let them move on Eidolon,” Grace pointed out.

“I’ll take the flak for that,” Tecton said.

“I mentioned it in passing to Miss Militia,” I said, “Better that you tell the truth and say we pushed hard for it.  Blame me.”

“No,” Regent said, “Blame me.”

I shot him a look, and he shrugged.  “Just wanted to get in on the fun,” he said.

“You want me to put the blame on you, even if it means you get the kill order?” Tecton asked.

“I’d rather not get the kill order,” I said.

“And I’d rather not be indirectly responsible for your death,” Tecton said.  “I think that settles that.”

Maybe that’s for the best, I thought.  “Then let’s talk strategy and priorities.  Tecton, do you need anything?  Gear?  Time to prep?”

He shook his head.  “No.  Need time to clean my armor and make sure it’s all in working order, that’s all.”

“Bitch,” I said.  “The dogs are okay?”

“They weren’t, but they’re getting better as they grow.”

I looked at the dogs.  They were each about twice their usual size, rippling with interior and exterior muscles, layered in calcified skin and sporting bone hooks.  They were walking, which was good.  I looked over the rest of the group, trying to take in all the variables.  “Regent, you have a bead on Shatterbird?”

“Sorta did, felt too shitty to do anything with her after metal boy yanked me out.  Around the time I started feeling better, she disappeared.”

“What does that mean?”

“She’s out of range, she’s dead, or she’s inside Noelle.”

“Inside Echidna.  That would be bad,” I said.

“And plausible,” Tattletale said.  “She would, just to fuck us over.”

“Any idea what variants we could expect on her power?”  I asked.

Tattletale was combing her hair free of gunk with her fingers and fingernails.  “No.  Seems like there’s always a consistent factor, and the variations work off of that.  For Vista, it was space warping.  For Grue, darkness.  With Shatterbird, there’s three strong possibilities: glass, sound or macrokinesis of some type.”

“Fuck me,” Tecton said.  “City-wide attacks with something other than glass?”

“Wood?  Metal?  Pavement?” Tattletale suggested.  “The way her original power works, her kinetic ability attunes other objects so they extend her range.  She reaches as far as she can, then sets up a wide-area explosion.  Instant chaos.”

“We deal with that if it happens,” I said.  “I can use my bugs, maybe sense if she’s affecting anything besides glass, buy us time to react or take cover somehow.  But we have limited time, and we should use it.  I’d like to stop by my territory, get resupplied, and maybe swing north to wherever Coil put Atlas.”

“Atlas?” Tecton asked.

“Skitter’s giant pet beetle,” Regent supplied an answer.

“It’ll let me fly,” I said, “And I want to stay out of trouble until Scapegoat’s power stabilizes.  Easiest to do that if I’m a hundred feet above the ground.  That’s not important right now.  What I’m wanting to know is whether anyone else has an errand they need to run.”

“Yeah,” Tattletale said.  “I’d like to meet up with the remaining Travelers, talk to Scrub.”

“Scrub?” Tecton asked.

“Scrub.  And then I need to get back here to meet some guests as they arrive.  I invited Faultline’s Crew.”

That gave me pause, but I couldn’t say why while the heroes were here.  “Let’s find a ride.”

Half of the PRT’s containment vans had turrets on the top for spraying foam, and each of those vans were circling the area where the building and construction site had been demolished and brought down on Noelle’s head, laying foam down on the rubble.

The other half were little more than mobile roadblocks, and they had been positioned to block off minor roads and alleys, leaving only a few major roads that could be protected by capes.

The benefit of having the Chicago Wards with us was that we could ask for that stuff.  Tecton went to Myrddin, Myrddin spoke a word into his armband, and a PRT agent brought our truck to us.

Tecton had been talking about organization and relying on others.  I didn’t think it counted for nearly as much as he was saying.  Not the PRT, with what I’d seen and the hints at the Triumvirate’s involvement.  Still, it was a ride, and I wasn’t about to complain.

The Travelers were in custody, with Trickster absent.  Genesis was in her monstrous form, fixed to the ground with containment foam.  I didn’t see any sign of her real body, which meant she was either playing along or cooperating.  She wore a vaguely female shape with a serpent’s tail from the waist down and a bony forehead that flared and swooped back behind her head like a triceratops’ frill.  She had no eyes, and her mouth was wide and lipless, with tiny sharp teeth, her arms long with clawed fingertips.

Sundancer and Ballistic were glued down to either side of her, buried up to their shoulders.  Scrub was a distance away, buried up to his waist in the road.  His hair glowed with a faint red color, and a glow emanated from his eyes and the inside of his mouth.

Ballistic and Sundancer stared as we approached.  The heroes were giving them a wide berth, probably as a safety precaution.  I didn’t recognize any of the three who were standing watch; a boy and girl each with shortbows and headbands with a bull’s and ram’s horns, and an eight-foot tall hulk of a girl with a muscular physique that had to be power-induced and a shovel broader than I was.  She was stooped over, nearly to the point of having a hunchback, and she had a severe overbite that left her top row of teeth sort of hanging off the front of her face.  Her hair was tied into thick, dark braids that hung nearly to her toes, partially obscuring her face.  Like Weld, she wasn’t wearing a mask.

“Wards West!  Yo!” Tecton called out.

The large girl turned around.  Her voice was deeper than Grue’s when she spoke, “Chicago Wards.  Not that I’m one to talk, but you’re missing a few members.  They didn’t-“

“Nobody’s died yet,” Tecton said, extending a hand.  She shook it.  He said, “Got a couple sitting this one out.  Bearach put in for vacation, I think he’s feeling the pressure after the Leviathan hit, and he’s hoping to have a good excuse to miss the next Endbringer hit.  I told him he’s not forced to come on these missions, but…”

“He’s compelled to defend others,” she said.

“Yeah.  Garnett gave this one a pass.  Raymancer came, but he took a bad hit.”


“Radiation poisoning.”

“How bad?” she asked.

“Bad as it can get without killing you right away,” Tecton replied.  “Like I said, nobody’s died yet.”

She bobbed her head in a nod, and her hair swung in front of her.  She reached out and put a large hand on his armored shoulder.  Her voice was surprisingly gentle when she said, “I’m sorry.”

Tecton didn’t reply right away.  Sympathy could be a horrible thing to give someone, depending on who they were and how far along they were in their acceptance of the event.  I felt moisture in my eyes, but it was Grue I was thinking of.

With something to distract myself, I could deal.  I’d compartmentalize, refocus, focus on getting the job done.  But if someone gave me a few simple words and a touching gesture like this girl was offering Tecton, right here and right now, I suspected I wouldn’t be able to resist losing my composure.

It was a good thing, perhaps, that nobody on my team was that type.

“I’d like to talk to the Travelers,” Tattletale said.

The large girl looked at Tecton, and she talked to him instead of Tattletale, “Hell of a babysitting job, Tec.  These are the guys from the news.”

“Speak for yourself,” Tecton said, gesturing toward her captives.  “Where’s Fisherboy?”

“The captain’s sitting this one out.  I’m in charge for this mission.”

There was genuine cheer in Tecton’s voice as he said, “You’ve been wanting that for a while.”

She smiled, which amounted to revealing more of her top row of teeth than anything else.  “I won’t get a promotion for real.  They never give them to people like me.”

“I wouldn’t worry.  You’re winning them over,” Tecton said.

That camaraderie.  If I’d joined the Wards, would I have had that?  How would things have unfolded?

“Tattletale, Undersiders, this is Gully.  I’m only as strong as I am because of the data I got from studying her power.  There was a time that she looked after two members of my team, when they were based in San Diego.  Wanton was one of ’em.  If you treat her with anything less than the utmost respect, you won’t get any more cooperation from me.  Got it?”

“Not a problem,” Tattletale said.  I nodded an agreement.

As a group, we approached the Travelers, and Gully accompanied us.

“Figures,” Ballistic said, when we were in earshot.  “I run to the rescue, all for nothing, and I get arrested.  No help from you guys, and Trickster fucks us all over.  And when all’s said and done, you guys are free and I’m fucking sitting here in a puddle of goo.  Tell me Trickster got his, at least?”

“Not that I’m aware,” Tattletale said.

Ballistic sighed.

Sundancer wasn’t moving.  She sat in a hunched-over position.

“Is she okay?” I asked.

“Of course not.  Motherfucking Trickster teleported the two of us into the sky, let us drop.  When I stood up again, he did it a second time.  My wrist and legs are probably fractured, her legs aren’t any better.  She’s out cold.  We need fucking medical attention, and they stuck us in this foam instead.”

I turned around.  “Tecton, Gully, is there a way we could arrange some care for these two?”

“I’ll pass on a message with my armband,” Gully said.  “See what the higher-ups say.”

“Might help to mention that these guys are heavy hitters at the upper end of the scale.  Sundancer can probably finish Noelle, given an opportunity, and Ballistic can definitely slow her down.”

“Will do.”

She stepped away, retrieving a smart phone from her pocket and putting it to one ear.

“You’d think she’d wear a mask,” Regent muttered.  I sent a collection of bugs flying at his face and shot him a dirty look at the same time.  He was left sputtering.

Ballistic stared up at me.  I couldn’t see his eyes through the lenses of his mask, but I was acutely aware of his silence, here.  He wasn’t offering thanks.

“Well,” Tattletale said, “Let’s see if my guess is right.  If not, I wasted a lot of money and a lot of thinking time on this problem.”

“Guess?” Tecton asked.

“Guess.”  Tattletale briskly walked in Scrub’s direction.  The ex-Merchant was buried in a standing position, three-quarters of his body sunken into a hole in the ground roughly two and a half feet in diameter.  He couldn’t raise his arms up out of the hole to pull or push himself up, and the narrow confines of the hole didn’t let him bend his legs.

A flash marked an explosion nearby, hitting only air.

“Scrub,” Tattletale said.

Scrub didn’t respond.

“So you don’t talk,” she said, “That makes this harder.”

She sat down cross-legged, to put herself on more of a level with him.   A flash erupted two feet away from her, a few feet off the ground, and was followed by a slight movement of the air, stirring Tattletale’s blond hair.  She brushed it back into place with her hand.

“What’s the guess?” I asked.

“His power.  What do you think it is?”

There was another flash.  Again, it hit only air.

“I was thinking uncontrolled annihilation blasts, but you’re going to tell me it’s something else,” I said.

“I am.”

Another flash.  Tattletale drummed her fingertips on her knee, watching, waiting.

“We’re kind of on a schedule,” I said.  “So maybe hurry up with the explanation?”

“I’m just waiting.  It’s a matter of time before I can check my theory.  If it’s checkable.”

If it’s checkable?”

“Can’t you just play along?  I love those ‘murder she wrote’ moments, where I can pull everyone together, then dish the info.  Everything makes sense, the puzzle pieces fall together, and things start falling into place.  We lose all the effect if I reveal some of it early.”

“And we lose that opportunity if you sit too close to the guy with the uncontrolled power that isn’t energy blasts, get half your face scooped off and die,” I said.  “I know you know you’re safe, but let’s be extra careful.”

I extended a hand, but Tattletale didn’t take it.  Right, Scapegoat’s effect.  She stood without my help, then stepped back.

“I’ll explain this part of it once I verify,” Tattletale said.  “The rest has to wait until Faultline’s people fly in.”

“How long will that be?” I asked.

“Hour and a half from the time I made the call, about.  That was about thirty-five minutes ago-“

Tattletale stopped as another flash hit.  It intersected the ground, but the ground was left intact.

“There!”  She said.  Her hand went to her belt, and she had a laser pointer out in a second.  She circled the area where the blast hit.  “Can you remove that section of ground without breaking the middle?”

Tecton took a half-step forward, but Gully stopped him.  She tapped her shovel against the ground, and the area in question rose from the ground, perfectly cylindrical, three feet high.

Another of Scrub’s explosions struck, and a spherical gouge was cut out at the bottom of the pillar.  Tattletale ducked close, grabbing it as it toppled, then hurried back out of Scrub’s range, dragging the column after her.

“Careful!” I told her.  “If you’d been hit-“

“Doesn’t matter,” she said.  She rested the cylinder with the vaguely pointed bottom down on the ground, tapped her finger on the top – what had been the road’s surface.  “Look.”

I peered closer.

It was so subtle I almost missed it.  The texture of the road’s surface was interrupted, shifting minutely to a different texture and fractionally different shade.  The area formed a neat circle.

I stood back while the others looked.  Only Rachel didn’t investigate.  She was more focused on her dogs, using a metal-tined comb to brush their fur clear of gunk.  Bentley nudged my hand, and I gave him a scratch on the crown of his head.

“I don’t get it,” Tecton said.  “The blast changed it?”

“The blast transplanted it,” Tattletale said, grinning. 

“How the hell do you even notice something like that?” Wanton asked, touching the surface.

“That doesn’t matter.  Now, if everyone will allow me, I’d like to have my moment now.  We all know that there’s built-in limitations to our power.  These limitations are apparently for our benefit, even if we might not always love them.  The Manton effect is a big one.  We get powers, and in the moment those powers take hold, we get some hardwired restrictions that keep those powers from hurting us.  A running theory says that it goes too far, and overgeneralizes to humans or living things who aren’t us.  Another says that it’s just our empathy at work, that we have built-in limitations because we care about our fellow human beings, and our powers acknowledge that.  With me so far?”

“I’m listening,” I said.

“There’s other limitations or advantages that come with the powers.  Sundancer over there can’t be burned.  Temperature completely and one hundred percent normalizes within a certain range of her body.  Our old buddy Shadow Stalker could pass through surfaces but never sank into the ground and fell to the center of the Earth.  And Scrub here, with his uncontrolled power, never blasts the ground out from under his feet, and he’s far less likely to collapse a building onto his own head by accidentally destroying a critical support.  Why?”

Nobody volunteered an answer.  Tattletale smiled.

She explained, “Looking at this, I’m thinking it’s because the same passengers that give us our powers are connecting us to some other parallel Earth.  Maybe even individual collections of Earths for each of us, so that there’s no ugly interactions when two powers meet.  Scrub here shunts matter into an Earth where there’s architecture roughly corresponding to our own, but he won’t tear up his own footing because he’s shunting in the more permanent elements as his power shunts stuff out.  When Shadow Stalker displaces her mass, she displaces it into another Earth, distributing her mass and her footing across the two worlds.  She’s still all there, she’s just not all here.  And when Sundancer superheats her immediate area, she’s doing what Scrub does, and shunting a roughly human-shaped patch of superheated air and fire into a parallel Earth, shunting room temperature air into her immediate surroundings.”

“Doesn’t that mean that they’d be causing destruction in some hapless world?” Wanton asked.

“Good question.” Tattletale grinned.  “Yes.  Probably.  Could be that every time Sundancer’s power protects herself, she’s setting the approximate location of her other Earth on fire.  Nothing’s saying that other Earth is populated, but it could be.”

I shivered.  It was too much to think about.  “Does that apply to other powers?  Mine doesn’t really protect me.”

“Ah,” Tattletale grinned.  She raised a finger, “But here’s my question to you.  What’s your power source?  Where are you getting the energy you use to relay and receive information from your bugs in real-time?  Keep in mind that so far, the only person who’s been able to intercept, understand and replicate your signals has been Leet.

“You’re saying that when I got my powers, my passenger picked a suitable Earth, and I’ve been… what?  Leeching power from it?”

“Possible.  Or drawing power from two hundred or two hundred million Earths.  Maybe it’s ambient light and radiation, and you’re condensing that energy into something you can use.”

“Am I hurting or killing people?” I asked.

“Who knows?” Tattletale shrugged.  She flashed me a smile.  “Maybe your passenger picked a few barren Earths with no people at all.  Earths where life never evolved, or where humankind went extinct.  Or maybe you’re drawing a teeny, tiny bit of energy from millions of worlds, to the point that nobody would ever notice.”

“Or maybe you’re turning another Earth’s Brockton Bay into a cold, barren wasteland,” Regent commented.

Don’t want to think about it, I thought.  It wasn’t like I could even turn my power off, short of killing myself or removing every bug from my vicinity.

“It’s… a bit of a leap,” Tecton said, “To go from looking a piece of pavement to thinking on that scale.”

“It’s only a theory, but I’ve been giving a lot of thought to powers in general, and my teammates know I’m pretty good with this stuff.  Now, I want you to imagine this.  Think about all the complex processing and work that goes into managing powers.  Hell, Skitter can individually control every insect in her swarm and simultaneously give each a completely different instruction. My own power, it’s similar.  Tecton’s brainpower, his processing as he thinks about engineering, architecture… where’s that work taking place? Our brains certainly aren’t capable of it.”

“The other world?” I asked.

“But how?  Who?” she asked.

“Tell me,” I said.

“Insofar as we’ve even thought about passengers, we’ve been sort of inclined to think about them as being pretty small.  After all, the way Bonesaw talked about them, they’re these things that work their way into our heads, bond with our brains and then burn themselves off in the process of reconfiguring how our heads work.  Right?  But anything as small as what she’s describing wouldn’t possibly be able to do what we need to manage our powers.  So what I’m asking is… what if they’re big?  Massive.  What if each and every passenger is picking us, for whatever reason, they find us and then they bind to us.  They connect to us by rewiring a tiny part of our tiny brains, and through that extra lobe, they connect us to all the other parallel Earths, including the one where they reside?  Maybe they’re physical, maybe they’re more ethereal, I dunno, they could be plant or animal, but they’re there.  Lifeforms that could be titanic, the size of cities, continents or moons, lurking in some other parallel Earth and attaching themselves to us with a thread, a fine hair that stretches across dimensions to a lobe in our brain, sending and receiving all necessary data.  And things like that are connected to each and every one of us who have powers and those of us who don’t, existing only to process our abilities, to absorb and channel the necessary energies, signals and information, and make each and every one of us into…”

She paused to chuckle a little.

“…Into superheroes and supervillains and everyday nobodies who use their powers for business or entertainment.”

I shivered.

“It’s nonsense,” Tecton said.

“Maybe.  It is just a theory,” Tattletale said.  “But it feels mostly right, and I’d love to hear a better explanation.”

Why?” Gully asked.  “Why would they do that?  If they’re that powerful, if they’re that big, why care about us?”

“Excellent question,” Tattletale replied.  She grinned. “No clue.”

“I’m not saying it’s not an interesting theory,” I hedged, “But how does this tie into the Echidna situation?  Is she an Endbringer, and do the Endbringers relate to the passengers?”

“Oh.  I’m pretty damn sure there’s no real connection between her and Endbringers.  I saw her at work.  Nothing really fit, as far as the various things I saw about Endbringers.  No, she’s something else.”

“Then what does this have to do with her?  Because this definitely could have waited.”

“Well, there’s two major factors at play here,” Tattletale said.  “Two plans.  Numero uno is that it’s really quite possible that Echidna’s got a broken passenger.  Something went wrong, it’s damaged, it’s demented, or some of the usual limits are gone.  Hell, maybe it’s gaining more of a grip over her as she brings more of the passenger into this world to operate her body, and the usual processes that keep a passenger passive and sleeping are missing in hers.  Or it could be that her passenger is trying to make its way into our world.”

“And it’s city sized?” Wanton asked.  “Or moon sized?”

Tattletale shrugged.  “It’s not like she couldn’t get that big.  I was thinking about throwing Rachel’s dogs at her until she couldn’t support her own weight, but she’d still be able to use her power and puke, and while her clones seem to be getting more fragile, weaker and more plentiful as she grows, I’m not positive that’s a good game plan.”

“Not fucking risking my dogs like that again,” Rachel said.

“Of course,” Tattletale added.  “There’s that too.  I can’t really say more about Echidna without finding more about Cauldron’s process for granting powers, and I’d really like to grill the Travelers on that front.  But understanding all this is our best bet for understanding Echidna, and potentially stopping her.  Or even fixing her.”

I glanced at the others.  “But… there’s some powerful people who wouldn’t want us to dig for more information about Cauldron.”

“There are,” Tattletale said.  She glanced at the heroes who were with us: Tecton, Wanton, Grace, Gully, Scapegoat and the twins.  “Which means we may be doing this without the support of the other heroes who are here to stop Echidna.  Which is probably sensible, because they probably won’t be on board with the next idea I’m going to propose for a democratic vote.  The second reason why I wanted to carry out this particular research project.”

“I get the feeling I’m not going to like this,” Grace said.

Tattletale smiled, “I think we can tear a hole between dimensions.”

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148 thoughts on “Scourge 19.3

    • She’s a supervillain, on a team of supervillains, in a world full of superheroes and -villains, which is under threat from three monsters that would put Godzilla and the Tarrasque to shame. The whole world is rediculous and fantastic.

  1. An interesting info dump wildbow. We know more about the passengers and why Noelle is like she is. But that raises more questions on how the Endbringers/Scion fit in with the passengers, and how Cauldron’s formula works. Noelle might stop if she heard about the possibility of going home, but the heroes would never go for it. While she isn’t a Endbringer, and there are fewer parahumans in Earth A, Noelle can do alot of damage in her home dimension. So many plotlines coming together. Faultline is coming home, Dragon and her metal boy toy will probably make an appearance/an offer to Skitter, and I expect Legend to make a move soon. I look forward to seeing what is going to happen.

  2. “But understanding all this is our best bet for understanding Echidna, and potentially stopping her. Or even fixing her.”

    Now isn’t THAT an interesting possibility? Talk about “Go Big or Go Home”, Tattletale doesn’t think small, does she?

  3. …I honestly would be happier with this if it weren’t for the timing of it. It’s rather like announcing that you’ve cracked the theoretical basis for cold fusion in Fukushima a week after Daiichi melted down.

    I mean, yeah, you don’t want to sit on it, but could the timing be worse?

    • Agreed. The timing does seem off. I feel that everyone would be giving a little more focus towards preparing, although I DO like the information, It just doesn’t feel… Relevant? Crucial? Although Tattles plan seems to be leading up to something properly ludicrous.

    • The timing is actually pretty good, if Tattletale’s plan is what I think it is.

      And if it is, either the other Earth is going to have a big problem or Cauldron is about to face the music and will find Dr. Frankenstein’s fate preferable to their own.

      • Lets also have a moment of silence for the poor universe(s) that got a couple dozen chunks of Crawler dumped into them. Especially since this universe appears to be the most parahuman-dense; those other ones will be basically defenseless.

  4. Great chapter as usual.
    It does raise a question for me though. Tattletale says that the only person who was able to intercept and replicate Skitter’s signals was Leet, but that’s not really true. Panacea was also able to create the amplifier bugs for Skitter, and that must have involved interacting with the signal somehow.
    I wonder if that will be important down the line, or if it was just a Panacea recreating parts of Taylor’s brain inside the bugs or something.

  5. “I think we can tear a hole between dimensions.” Any plan that start with those words, is gona be either a great failure or a really fucking failure.

  6. Bloody awesome Wildbow!

    Also I think ‘flack’ should be ‘flak’ I’m not really sure…..anyways….time for bed….zzzzzz

  7. Fridge brilliance: Whatever world or worlds that Eidolon is drawing power from is dying or dissappearing. Assuming Tattletale is correct.
    I dont understand why the passengers are not considered as a potential source of power.
    Finally, I don’t understand why Scrub doesn’t talk anymore. He showed the capacity immediately following his trigger when he asked to be called Eraser.

    • I’m guessing that Scrub took a formula that’s meant to create the super-powerful utility mutants like Labyrinth and Doorman. And Lab has her good and bad days.

        • Eidolon’s power loss could also be due to the fact that he could have taken a modified formula like Echidna- possibly a mix of many formulas to give him multiple powers? He is shown receiving booster shots in Alexandria’ interlude, which could be more doses of formula. Changing the dosage appears to have unpredictable side effects so this might be why his powers are degrading.

          • Going off of Tattletale’s theory, my guess is that Eidolon is parasitizing another world’s superpowers. On some other earth, capes are gradually and inexplicably losing their powers.

            • And as that world loses its luster, Eidolon becomes weaker. He feels another reserve of power but can’t access it – that’d be another earth full of fresh capes, but his passenger isn’t allowing him to get to it.

    • Passengers aren’t considered sources of power for three reasons: Most people don’t know about them, passengers only put out specific kinds of energy (admittedly, some–pyrokinetics and light-makers, for instance–output useable kinds of energy), and the implementation is tricky.

      Note that Tattletale said Scrub won’t talk, not that he can’t. He isn’t in a good mood.

  8. That’s a lot of information to take in. Assuming they go through with this, it’ll be interesting to see how their powers operate while they’re in other dimensions. I’m still not sure I buy Tattletale’s theory completely, but the basic premise of the alterations to the brain linking them to something in another dimension seems sound; there are just too many varied powers and effects for each of them to be caused by reaching into parallel universes.

    When a pyrokinetic throws a fireball, is he manifesting a possibility where there just happened to be flames in the exact same space, shape, and intensity he wanted? It seems unlikely, especially with so many powers out there that let their users adjust the trajectory or shape of whatever effects they’re using. When Legend’s lasers turn corners, is he banishing that ‘possibility’ of a laser and manifesting a new one that uses a different vector? Wildbow only knows, but it seems like such repeated violations of the borders between parallels would have lasting consequences for reality as a whole, or that you’d see what we just saw now with Scrub’s power happening far more frequently, with matter being brought across from the ‘other side.’ From a logical standpoint, it’s easier to assume that Scrub’s power is a unique one.

    • Coils’ power looks even stranger if this is the only mechanism to provide powers. Or Welds. Perhaps this is just one, possibly common such mechanism?

    • It seems more likely that a pyrokinetic’s flame is the result of a massive energy input from the other worlds, converted into flame and motion.

      Or maybe not, I am neither a physics student nor Wildbow.

        • It seems that both energy and processing power come from other dimensions. The specifics of how the power manifests though are tied to the individual circumstances that created the power.

          • Well that makes me curious about where Tinkers are getting their ideas from. Are they leaching them from someone else? It also puts that obscure Tinker Blasto in a new scary light. Where did the sentience for his plants come from?

            • Tinkers probably get a boost to their intelligence/processing power/intuitive grasp of technology. Their technology is always described as simply futuristic, not actively supported by powers. That’s why Dragon (even pre-trigger) and the Simurgh can copy Tinkers designs; they naturally have that intelligence and understanding.

        • Sweet! This fixes conservation of mass and energy and doesn’t even affect any fundamental laws! Really all the passengers have is a higher understanding of the working of the universe and the know how on how to tweak energy-mass states and forms into new directions. Power and raw material comes from other worlds and is shaped on the receiving end into the useful tidbit it becomes. The Tinkers probably steal their knowledge from smarter selves on parallel worlds and the Thinkers or Masters like Taylor probably run parallel processing through alternate selves or borrow some of the passenger brains. I love getting the workings of the universe because it makes things so much more deep!

    • Labyrinth’s power was also noted to use pocket dimensions. Echidna’s “core” where she gets the regeneration-stuff from, is noted to be a sort of portal to somewhere. Scapegoat’s power draws on alternate dimensions. Sundancer keeps everything within a few feet of her nice and cool despite her power. The energy and matter for all of these powers has to come from somewhere.
      Yeah, alternate dimensions definitely aren’t the only thing in play with powers, but they are a thing, and probably a thing with a lot of powers relying on it in one way or another.

  9. Dun dun duuuun!!! Cliffhanger!

    Great infodump chapter, with a final line worthy of a TV series season finale. I wonder if that was the intended effect. The expansion of the Worm world once again occurs, and I really don’t think we’ll ever get to see every cape introduced in action. Suprisingly, I don’t mind it here; it seems fitting.

    The chapter once again shows Tattletale’s lack of restraint; she could have been killed! Her plan could also end up sending Echidna to a poor, unsuspecting, POPULATED Earth. These things are setting Tattletale up to being someone less and less benevolent. I wonder if Taylor will call her out on this; she did at the beginning of the chapter.

    Taylor gets good characterization this chapter, too. She thought through so many things: concern for Brian, what-ifs about joining the Wards, playing politics as Undersiders leader (keeping up the image of a united group), etc.. The emotions seems a bit disjointed at times, but that may be justified, as Taylor mentions that’s how she works past her emotions. So good job, Wildbow.

    I’m a bit concerned about Genesis. While Skitter thinks she’s playing along, what if she’s incapacitated and can’t de-form? What if Echidna gets to her? Food for thought.

    I’ve noticed nobody has since mentioned that Noelle shares her full name with the PRT member’s daughter: Noelle Meinhardt. Was I mistaken somewhere, or is that not at all significant?

    Also, aren’t people healed by Scapegoat supposed to stay close to him? Wouldn’t leaving like they did, as well as Skitter’s plan to ride atop Atlas, be counterproductive?

    • Tattletale mentioned that Scapegoat has a safe-distance of about 150 feet. She just needs to stay in the air above him. But, with all those Shatterbird clones soon to be formed… That might not be the safest place to be. Atlas isn’t exactly an F-15, you know?

    • I thought that was why Tattletale was trying to get a hold of Labyrinth. Labyrinth has her own private worlds with no people in them, so if they can dump Noelle into one of Labyrinth’s worlds…

    • Someone pointed that out back when we first found out about it and when she was first nicknamed Echidna.

      Echidna’s aren’t so cool. Hell, Sonic the Hedgehog outruns Knuckles all the time. I’ve yet to see him outrun a Tiamat.

      • I’m the one who mentioned the name, thank you very much. That’s why I was wondering.

        And echidnas are awesome. They’re one of the few monotremes in the world, just like the platypus. And you can’t say platypi are not awesome.

      • That certainly seems to be it, but the fifteen-twenty year age difference makes it more complicated.

        On the other hand it might explain why the Simurgh hit Madison: she had to stop Bet-Noelle from playing Ransack and triggering into Overlord, a strategist Thinker capable of stopping the Endbringers ;).

  10. That’s a fairly dramatic plan. And I’m not certain if the Travellers would be enthusiastically in favour, or very very opposed, considering how well Simurgh used that tactic…

    • There is that sort of sneaking suspicion that somewhere in the upper atmosphere, the Simurgh is steepling its appendages, and going: “All according to plan.”

        • We know very little to nothing about Tattletale’s past. Is it possible that she had a run in with Simurgh sometime ago? Maybe Tattletale herself is a pawn in Simurgh’s strange plan.

          • I was more making a joke that Dinah’s ability to halt the simurrgh’s predictions mmakes for a similar playing field to Creed’s ability to hide stupid shit stupidly well.

            Oh look, a Warhound Scout Titan squadron…behind that streetlight.

          • Given this explanation, I am now thinking my previous musings on her having the full Akashic records and (more potently) a method to navigate them by using stuff she can sense as bookmarks…might actually have hit somewhat closer to home then I expected.

            Well, through enough darts blindfolded and all that.

          • If you’re going to Wild Mass Guess, don’t be afraid to go really over the top. Like that Tattletale’s trip will somehow cause her enter the dimension of the passengers in a time that counts in the Wormverse as two years later. Her presence infects them and causes them to die off, eliminating powers from ever having existed in the Wormverse, thus causing a paradox that removes the world that was and replaces it with a more mundane version, with the side effect of throwing Tattletale back in time where it’s revealed she was always fated to have been Taylor’s mother.

            You’ll never win a guessing game against Wildbow if you confine yourself to mere logic!

            • Sad thing is that could make sense if you combine the right powers in just the right way and wind up in just the right parallel world…odds are astronomical but there are powers to change odds so yeah.

  11. All clear in this dimension, for the most part. A little problem with time traveling space marines, but they die easily, like time traveling space chimps.

    Let’s hope no one sends back time traveling marine chimps. We don’t need another ape escape on our hands.

    Now tips on how to get through. Not easy. We’re talking a lot of destructive energy to brute force your way. Luckily, the Wormverse already has a link. The passengers. See if Labyrinth can send you aay

    • Yeah, time-traveling marine chimps would be bad. Those are the exclusive property of either hell or a Tim Burton movie… not that there’s much of a difference.

      Speaking of hell, Noelle is in for a rough time of it if Tattletale’s idea to transpose her into one of Labyrinth’s sub-parallels works out. Seriously, who would want to spend eternity slowly starving to death in Elle’s ‘bad place.’ And her power won’t let her die, she’ll just get even hungrier.

      • Just a quick and terrifying thought: if there are an infinite number of universes, there’s an infinite number of Echidnas. How many will end up in the same universe via Tattletale’s plan?

        • Some things may be unique to one dimension or a special being that exists in multiple ones at the same time but has no duplicate in other dimensions. Anything omnipotent would have to be like this or else it would risk facing an equally omnipotent copy of itself.

          Due to the nature of the passengers, these beings may qualify. Or maybe they are various dimensional duplicates of the same being.

  12. And now, a preview of coming attractions…on the next episode of Worm:

    Huge explosion. Tattletale grins as she sights a sniper rifle across a theater to try and ricochet it off a metal button on the shirt of an actor who has come to meet President Lincoln. Bitch, as she’s buried under a mountain of kittens, screams “Nooooooooooooo!” Regent and Grue, with feathers glued all over them, being ordered by a pink-latex wearing Simurgh to “Assume the position” while she threatens them with a riding crop that has a unicorn toy on the end.

    Taylor, missing a hand, cries as she looks at Alexandria, who is turned away. “You’re not my father!” she yells. Alexandria calmly states, “You’re right,” before turning to reveal a mustache and that “I’m Hitler!”

    Leviathan and Cthulhu run through a field of wildflowers, claw in claw to the song Ice Ice Baby.

    The Undersiders run from a bouncy house to escape the bigass explosion that blows it up.

  13. Meanwhile, another dimension over.

    An wrinkled old man with skin long tanned brown by the harsh desert environment steps out of his hut. The fellow villagers look at him hopefully. He leans heavily on his staff as he walks out to the altar built in a small clearing at the center of the village. On it sits a golden idol of a man with a scorpion’s tail and turtles biting his ears as earrings. The old man kneels down before the idol, praying quietly in desperation.

    “Oh lord, please send us more of your gifts today. If you would but bring us water, the plants would grow tall again and we would exhort your name to the heavens for all the world to hear. Please, my lord. It has been so very long, and we are so very thirsty.”

    Through his eyelides, the old priest sees the flash telling him his prayers have been heard. The god has once again delivered them…something. He stands and turns to his right to see…a chunk of what he doesn’t know is called pavement. He pokes at it a few times with his staff before turning his face toward the heavens.


    The old man turns and bangs the idol with his staff before beginning to hobble back to his hut, mumbling to himself in frustration. Then he’s smashed by another large chunk of pavement that appears over him with a flash.

    • On another parallel Earth an incorporeal humanoid figure made of flame walks heedlessly through the centre of a metropolis, the local superheroes scrambling to clear the way. Then the figure (tentatively named Trailblazer) fades out and vanishes, leaving everyone thoroughly confused at her random appearances.

      On a third parallel Earth Taylor Hebert suddenly goes blind and crashes the car she’s learning to drive, running over Dinah Alcott (causing permanent paralysis) and killing Taylor.

      On a bazillion other Earths, Coil says “wait, that wasn’t supposed to-” and dies to whatever lethal circumstance caused him to ‘close’ that reality.

      Earth Aleph’s Brockton Bay is also reporting sightings of a girl, sometimes wearing a demon mask, who wanders around and occasionally slits the throat of the empty air. There’ve also been odd glows in the air, usually around the same areas as the mirage-girl.

      Noelle Meinhardts across most worlds have acute unexplained hunger, yet grow ever thinner regardless (to the delight of several of them).

      A monster with many limbs and immense speed is best fought by waiting to attack until is turns into a disoriented woman calling herself “Night” at seemingly random intervals.

      Many worlds have brilliant people becoming inexplicably less intelligent overnight, to the point of barely functioning; though telepaths in the worlds with access to them claim that these people are actually just absorbed with planning parts of impossibly complex machines.

      The close parallel Brockton Bays are also running low on dogs: they mysteriously wither away in a span of minutes and die from lack of muscles and bones (which later reappear, crammed inside the corpse’s skin).

      And no, I don’t think Wildbow is this evil. The Wormverse may be dark, but it’s not actually malevolent.

  14. And the first line of the next Chapter:-

    “To make this work, the first stage of this plan requires that we stake Reagent down as bait for Shatterbird”

    Everyone turned around just in time to see Reagent soil his pants.

    • Yeah, the Vitamin K I get, but I’m not sure about the iodine. I thought that was more for when there is a reactor meltdown, and radioactive iodine is released into the atmosphere — taking the pills then saturates your glands (can’t remember which ones) with clean iodine, so that none of the radioactive stuff will be taken up and stored in your body. If I’m correct, then it won’t make a whit of difference for Raymancer. Let’s hope, instead, that Myrddin and Eidolon together can do something to save the poor guy.


      • It’s the Thyroid gland.

        I’m not sure what the radioactive powder was made of; but it could’ve been I-131 (The radioactive isotope); in which case the administration of Iodine might be a good idea.

        But I wouldn’t have high hopes.

        I won’t pay attention to the possibility of cancer, because he probably won’t live enough to get it.

        His bone marrow is probably fried (Which means no inmune sistem, no platelets, no red cells); and his lungs, digestive tract and heart were most probably affected too.

        The full extent of the damage depends on the dose of radiation and the affected surface. If I read right, they were both high.

        So, poor guy :S

  15. the endbringers could be demented passengers from different worlds that followed zion a chill passenger here

  16. “She stood with her own power, then stepped back.”

    Normally not a problem, but given how often the word “power” and variations thereof come up in the narration of Worm maybe consider changing “with” to “under.” I know what you mean, just saying that in this story it can be read as somehow Tattletale’s omniscient brain picked her up off the ground.

  17. I’m not sure how I feel about the nature of powers starting to be laid out like this. But that’s personal preference. I tend to like things mysterious and/or mystical.

    Did I mention I want Trickster dead today? Cos I want Trickster dead. The fact that he dropped his teammates TWICE eliminates any doubt in my mind that he gives a fuck about anyone other than Noelle and himself. If there’s one villain in this story who distinctly DOESN’T deserve to have her legs broken, it’s Sundancer.

    Fucker. I hope he and Echidna get ported to an earth with no sun. Being dumped into cold vacuum would be a fitting end I think.

    • Have you ever read the webcomic Goblins: Life Through Their Eyes? There’s a regular bonus feature where the goblin Tempts Fate has to receive enough donations in order to make it out of the next jam. I’m half hoping we can do the reverse for Trickster, see how much money we can raise to see his absolutely grisly death. I’ll put down $10 at least even if it only helps him get an anticlimactic death.

      As for the nature of how powers work through multiple dimensions… eh. Probably the most cliche element in the story so far (that wasn’t discussed by the characters). Still the fact that it’s only Tattletale’s guess makes it easy to ignore/retcon if necessary.

    • So, Reveen, you’re worried about the midi-chlorian effect? Interesting. I didn’t get that vibe, I think mostly because of the setting. This stuff didn’t really come out of nowhere — Wildbow’s been dropping hints and tidbits since early on. (I think it was Miss Militia’s interlude where the Passengers were first described.)


  18. “Can’t you just play along? I love those ‘murder she wrote’ moments, where I can pull everyone together, then dish the info. Everything makes sense, the puzzle pieces fall together, and things start falling into place. We lose all the effect if I reveal some of it early.”

    Tattletale should have been a detective. You know one of those Great Detective archetype figures: Arrogant geniuses who can tell a lot about you from the smallest amount of observation. The sort who after pushing their nose into other people’s business for a while, likes to gather everyone together in the parlor for the great detective dénouement or summation gathering saying things like:”You are probably wondering why I gather all of you together here… The truth is someone in this room is a murderer!” And the she would proceed to point out everyone’s most hidden secrets while showing how they all had motive and/or opportunity only to in the end sharply veer around to point an accusing finger at the butler bringing refreshments and explain in detail where he slipped up in arranging the nearly perfect locked room mystery.

    She really missed her calling there. Maybe if that supervillain thing doesn’t work out she can try herself as a consulting detective. Maybe Taylor could act as her Watson or possibly her Cato.

  19. Hey Wildbow. I just finished reading the serial. Really amazing world creation. You may actually remember me, I had dinner with you last year around Thanksgiving; I’m a friend of your brother’s. In any case, I wanted to let you know that I thoroughly enjoyed the read and I’ll be checking back often for updates! keep up the good work.

    • Another hint about the mysterious Wildbow — a brother! Wildbow is a Canuck with a brother! Whoo!

      And for all you American readers, that Thanksgiving would have been at the proper time, in October, when there are still leaves on the trees, and there’s a good chance that a pick-up game of touch football (with, of course, only 3 downs) won’t be a cold, wet, miserable mess.


      • Plenty of trees retain their leaves through November down South here. December too this past year thanks to the sporadic temperatures. Don’t y’all just love global warming? I don’t know how you Yankees and Canadians survive up there in the Arctic Circle. ;P

          • Ah yes, the American South. Shorts weather every month but December and January. And if you’re far enough south, shorts weather all year long.

            Besides, U.S. Thanksgiving is clearly a better celebration for a supervillain. It celebrates the Pilgrims getting the Indians right where they wanted them…

            Instead, the main holiday the U.S. celebrates in October is Halloween, in which people troll each other, dress up sexy, go around just asking people for candy to fill their faces, and run around worried the holiday is Satanic and trying to ruin it for everyone else. Which is a lot more representative of people around here than sitting around and being thankful with family.

            And with how much we care about money around here, there’s no way we’d ever be caught dead putting the wrong symbols on our currency. Seriously, a Norway maple leaf?

            My apologies. Allow me to clarify. *pulls out a megaphone*

        • I assume, O Sire of all things Potato, that you refer to this:

          “I can get more people listening more seriously to me if I can indicate that I’m not just some schmo that’s putting his stuff up in some dark corner of the internet.”

          Good catch. I didn’t actually notice that pronoun.

          I think, though, that the reason why I didn’t notice it is because it’s not explicit. Since the sentence can be construed as giving an example (i.e. of a prototypical webfiction author), it is not definite that Wildbow was actually self-referential. It could very well be that Wildbow chose the opposite pronoun in the example on purpose, to mislead or dissemble.

          In other words, there’s still a 50/50 chance you’re right. 🙂


  20. So who else here thinks that Tattletale is going to wind up destroying the world some day? Or ruling it. Whichever comes first.

  21. I think it’s interesting that Taylor doesn’t see eye to eye with Tecton in trusting his superiors. There’s probably several reasons for that: her teachers and school staff failed her big time and we all got to see it, the last man she worked for tried to have her killed off when she became ‘inconvenient,’ and for a couple less well grounded examples she only recently got along great with Bitch by proving her dominance and becoming top dog of the Undersiders, and her Master-class power has given her a massive degree of control over her surroundings in normal circumstances.

    That’s not to say that I automatically assume Taylor has trust issues with her friends/teammates. I just think that the story so far and even her own power reinforces a mindset that is distrustful of any greater authority than herself. She’s giving off a very Dr. Doom vibe to me, thinking that she can handle things better when she’s in charge and able to direct resources where they’re most needed (and like Dr. Doom she may very well be right some of the time).

    As an only somewhat related sidenote, it’s interesting that she and Bitch have very similar aspirations, being left more or less alone in their territories to do as they please. She won’t really be able to do that though because there are always people trying to prove their worth by knocking down the biggest player in the game. So she’ll either need to join an organization of some sort (don’t think it’s really likely given the idea that she distrusts higher authority) or Skitter will need to create her own powerbase and end up getting further wrapped up in the superpowered political underworld. I think the point I’m trying to make is that Taylor/Skitter isn’t ambitious, no lust for power and an active dislike for those who she thinks abuse their power, but she’s even more dangerous than an ambitious person because she would accumulate power for (what she may convince herself are) purely selfless ends. That’s a capital C Cause, and Causes are dangerous. Lots of people can be convinced that they’re right and that THEY should fight for the Cause.

    I couldn’t really be a leader like that. Or even the man behind the man like Tattletale. I’m more of what TV Tropes calls a Corporate Samurai, loyal to my employers/superiors purely on principle.

    • I hear ya. If I’m hired to do a job, I do it, barring certain exceptional circumstances. It’s the Deal, you know. You see it all the time with villains.

      Take away the hero’s powers so a woman won’t be harmed. Remove the heroine’s voice in exchange for giving her a chance to woo the man she thinks she loves. Give the prince the freedom he desires with a shake of a poor sinner’s hand. Don’t tell the pride about the young prince’s role in his father’s death if the prince runs, runs away never returns.

      Working with the genie didn’t quite fit it as that time the deal with was with a party that was not the hero or the villain, but the potential for great harm resulting from the deal was still there.

      Oh yeah, I have no problem holding up my side of a bargain. Just remember: pay up on time, don’t break the rules, and be very cautious about whose power you’re giving yourself into.

  22. Tattletale smiled, “I think we can tear a hole between dimensions.”
    Skitter, “I’m skeptical.”
    Someone put its on youtube. Skitter is skeptical becomes a common image macro 🙂

    But yeah, I really wanna see how the media/internet buzz for the Undersiders is shaping up.. Skitter’s rep in particular. Watching the Undersiders discover how big they’ve broken will be hilarious.

    • The Undersiders are national news, I’m pretty sure this has been covered. Quite possibly international news, given how they played critical roles in beating up the Nine, who we’ve discovered are almost unique in being a Class-S threat.

    • I’m sure the “She’s fucking blind!?” becomes a meme as well. Either that or Tattletale’s reply of “Could’ve sworn I mentioned it.” That one is easier to memeify I think.

    • Yes, I’m a bit disappointed to be honest. This chapter feels a little like Wildbow is trying to wrap up the story, rather than the natural progression of, well, almost all the rest of it.

      So, a back-handed compliment, really.

  23. “I’ll pass on a message with my armband,” Gully said.
    Then in the next moment she steps aside and pulls out her phone, instead. Drop the ‘armband’ part, just say ‘pass on a message’?
    Funny fridge moment: Wait — “Murder, She Wrote” (ran 1984-1996 here) made it into the Earth-bet universe and ran long enough/ got serialized so that a teenager in 2011 KNOWS it!?!?! Woulda seemed mighty TAME TV in a post-Scion arrival world, doncha think?
    WB under-estimates his comedic talents again. 🙂
    “Right, Scapegoat’s effect.”
    So, did they bring him WITH in the van, or is she already dangerously far from the guy holding her injuries for her? It’s not too clear how far away from the Echida-pit they are, nor who all came for the ride, actually. Eh, you clarified that later for TT’s cliffhanger moment, but a headcount earlier wouldn’t have made me pause when I did.

    Overall, a good “pick up some loose threads’ chapter! It’s been a slight breather. Where are we now, about 2-3 hours past Dinah’s “ugly dawn” arriving? 🙂

  24. Wildbow, for your edit of this section keep in mind that you’re confusing theory with hypothesis. Specifically during this bit:

    “Maybe. It is just a theory,” Tattletale said. “But it feels mostly right, and I’d love to hear a better explanation.”

  25. I see what you did there, priming us for this revelation with the nature of Scapegoat’s power. Masterfully done.

  26. It’s interesting to think that so much of Noelle problems could be coming from her passenger having gone insane or pissed to some degree. I’m guessing she missed the part of the dosage that is supposed to reign them in or keep them sane? It gives a lot more credence to her lower half actually thinking and that that wasn’t just a sign of her going increasingly insane herself. If her passenger is actually manifesting and using her body as a host its very intriguing. I’ve pretty much lost any hope that she can be saved though at this point. It also brings up interesting ideas about the Endbringers. I would’ve commented that maybe they are passengers as well but Tattletale pretty much shot that one down and they just don’t seem like the part honestly what with being solely focused on: Maim. Death. Destroy. Not saying the passengers are inherently good as I don’t trust any multiuniversal enigmatic superpower granting through trauma giant on principal but they at least are enigmatic currently while the Endbringers really aren’t.

    • On the expanded alignment chart, the passengers are still Confusing Neutral, while the Endbringers are Confusing Evil. Rounding out the set, we appear to have Cauldron as Confusing Good…

      Legend: Stupid Friendly Good
      Alexandria: Clever Chaotic Good
      Eidolon: Asshole Good
      Trickster: Stupid Evil
      Accord: Lawful Asshole
      Perdition: Stupid Chaotic Asshole
      Armsmaster: Chaotic Asshole
      (Defiant: Chaotic Good)
      Dragon: Lawful Friendly
      Weld: Friendly Lawful Good
      Uber: Chaotic Friendly
      Jack Slash: Clever Evil
      Bonesaw: Friendly Evil
      Manton: Confusing Evil
      Coil: Clever Lawful Evil
      Ballistic: Confusing Asshole
      Genesis: Confusing Friendly
      Shadow Stalker: Stupid Asshole

      (Friendly/Asshole is one axis; Clever/Stupid/Confusing is another. No Tinkers have been rated Clever or Stupid.)

      • Oh god I love this expanded alignment chart! The only one I dispute is Uber but granted it’s been a while so I can’t really say whether he’s more of an asshole than friendly with confidence.

        Where do you rate Lung? Chaotic Confusing Asshole?

        • Uber is Friendly for two reasons: a) his reply when Tattletale asks why he doesn’t leave Leet and go solo, and b) the fact that he trusted Bakuda to have his back.

          Lung… I’d say Chaotic Asshole Evil. He’ll do whatever it takes to survive and win, he controlled his own people through fear, and he presided over some pretty nasty shit as the head of the ABB. (rot13) Uvf eryngvbafuvc jvgu Znedhvf vf n zbir va gur qverpgvba bs Sevraqyl, ohg ur zbirf qrpvfviryl onpx gbjneq Nffubyr ng gur raq bs uvf vagreyhqr va Pryy.

  27. Waaaaait.
    Those “samples” Cauldron has- the ones it uses on different people, in different amounts, over and over.
    If the passengers are multidimensional entities, extending only as far into Earth-Bet (and Earth-Aleph, and…) as they need to… who says they have to only be “riding with” one person?
    If the different Cauldron samples originate from different passengers, then each of those passengers probably has a LOT of footholds in the capes of any given Cauldron world…

  28. Holy shit! First comment – I’ve been devouring these chapters like No’ devours capes. I’m amazed at how familiar, yet fresh this entire universe is.

    Amazing work – I never want this to end (but I’ll be kind of pleased to have my life back when it is…!)

    I have no idea how all this is going to go, but I can’t wait to find out! I’m glad I found this after it had already all been written – I think the suspense of having to wait for episodes would have killed me

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