Interlude 20 (Donation Bonus #1)

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“Park there,” Stan said, pointing to a space off the side of the road.

“We’ll be facing uphill, and we still have to unload the equipment,” Nipper piped up, from the back seat.

“There’s a method to my madness.  Park, Marshall.  I’ll even deign to help unload and carry this time.”

He got a glimpse of Marshall rolling his eyes, but the boy steered the van to a parking spot.

True to his word, Stan was out the door, rolling up his sleeves.  Didn’t hurt: the humidity was brutal outside the air-conditioned van.  His dress shirt was already sticking to his back.

They were on a hill, and the vantage point afforded them a view of the city.  Cranes dotted the skyline, and the buildings themselves were gleaming, the whites and colors brightened by the ambient moisture in the air.  It might have looked attractive, but there were spots where buildings were missing, whole areas where the construction was only just beginning.

He could see the white building, not too far away, which was taller than even the skyscrapers immediately around it.  He’d investigated it just a few days ago.  They’d erected a tall white tent, holding it up with a crane, they’d reinforced it with plexiglass panels and iron reinforcement, and now a more solid construction was going up around it.  Slow, painstaking, careful work, filled with redundancies.  The workers would be glad to be free of the hazmat suits in this heat.

Brockton Bay wasn’t lacking in stories to tell.  The quarantine building alone was one.

“Need a hand,” Nipper said.

He hurried around to the back of the truck.  The van had been parked at the side of the road, emergency brake cranked, wheels turned so it would ride up onto the sidewalk if the brake failed, but the steep incline was making it hard to unload the equipment.  Much of it was set up to be slid out of the back of the van at a moment’s notice, but that same convenience was an obstacle, here.  The stuff was expensive, and if it slid to the road…

He found a space beside her and reached to get a grip on the far end of the camera.  It might not have been a problem, but Nipper was short, petite, built more like a thirteen year old than a twenty-three year old college graduate.

She wasn’t suited for the job.  She knew the equipment, she was capable with a computer, she had good eyesight, and the tattoos and array of piercings on her right ear were as good an indicator of her creative edge as anything else.

But this wasn’t the job she’d been working towards.  She wasn’t one to complain, but she didn’t have stamina, she didn’t have strength, and this, all of this, it was too fast paced for her.  She’d have been better, maybe even happier in the newsroom, managing the feeds, maintaining the systems and working on post production.

Marshall hefted the bag out of the back of the van.  All the wires, the tripod, the lighting, packed into a dense case.  The boy didn’t look like a professional, hadn’t quite adapted to the job he’d been pulled into: from intern to a jack of all trades, filling in the gaps in Stan’s team.  Set up, interviewing, driving, gopher… anything and everything.  He was drawing in a paycheck, but he was definitely working for it, facing all of the hassles, the intense stresses and dangers of the job, for eleven dollars an hour.

Dangers, Stan thought.  Images flickered through his mind.  Everyone at the station had seen the feeds, had watched them several times over.  Purity taking the camera from Manzaneres, a guy from channel four, then setting her monsters on the man.  A man with a wife and a newborn had been murdered, just to make a point.

There was a reason for the shortage of field reporters.  It wasn’t limited to Manzaneres, either.  The problem was a chronic one.  This was a job that put ordinary people on the fringes of events that were dangerous for capes.


Marshall closed the back of the van and locked it.  “Set.”

Stan set off, with Nipper and Marshall following, Nipper almost jogging to keep up with his long strides.  “Reason we’re parked here is that the school’s on top of the hill.  We don’t know how much parking there’ll be, with students possibly taking up spaces, and if we have to drive by, searching for a spot, then someone’s liable to spot us and take measures.”

“Measures?” Nipper asked, a touch breathlessly.

Right.  She didn’t have the experience to know.  “You’ll see what I mean.”

There were students gathered outside the walls that bordered the school.  Police cars were parked at the front, along with PRT vans, but it was the uniformed guards with ‘Arcadia High School’ stenciled on their sleeves that caught his attention.

Guards?  It conjured up an image of a prison, rather than a school.

“Nip, get some footage of the uniforms,” Stan said.

She hefted the camera and trained it on the nearest of the uniformed guards.  She had to slow her pace to keep the shot steady, but she kept following him.  When a group of students obstructed her vision, she shut off the feed and hurried to catch up.

They reached the gate, where a woman with a colorful scarf was talking to a PRT uniform.  He signaled Nipper, and the young woman raised the camera.

“Damn it,” the woman with the scarf groaned, as she saw them.  The police officer took the opportunity to step away.

“Don’t jump to conclusions,” Stan said, “We’re not the enemy.”

“You’re here to bog down an overcomplicated situation,” she said.  “I have enough problems without vultures descending.”

“We’re here for the story, that’s all.  You’re in charge here?”

“I’m in charge of the school.  Principal Howell.”

He made a mental note.  Howell, Howell, Howell.  She wasn’t the prettiest woman, with old acne scars riddled across her cheeks, a short stature and a nose that didn’t quite fit her face.

“Stan Vickery, channel twelve news,” he flashed her his best smile and extended a hand.  She didn’t take it.

“You’re not allowed on school property.”

“I would be if you gave me permission,” he said, dropping his hand.  The job was politics as much as it was investigation, creativity and presentation.  What did she want?  Peace and quiet.  “Give us fifteen minutes to talk to your students and shoot a few takes in front of the doors, and I’ll get the word out that we got the story first.  Other stations are playing it safer, these days, less crew, less willing to act on sloppy seconds.”

The principal made a face.

Stan smiled, “Sorry.  You get what I mean.  Give us fifteen minutes, and we’re one less thing you have to worry about today.  With luck, I’ll be the only local reporter you see today.”

“With all due respect, Mr…”

“Vickery,” he said, already told you my name.  “But you can call me Stan, Mrs. Howell.  Fact of the matter is, you let me in the school, and I owe you one.  I pull strings or emphasize certain aspects of a story.  Not just this one either.  Who knows?  The next incident could be worse, or more sensitive.”

“Mr. Vickers,” she said.  “I’m fully aware that you’re trying to bait me into giving you a sound bite.  I won’t comment on this situation, and I won’t be letting you onto school grounds.  I don’t want you talking to any of my students.”

“Fine,” he said.  “Come on, guys.  Let’s go talk to the cops.”

“Seriously?  We’re giving up?” Nipper asked.

“Yes,” he said, he took long strides away from the front gate of the school, until he was sure the principal wasn’t in immediate earshot.  “No.  She’s liable to get on our case if we don’t pretend to play along.  Howell has no authority outside of the school walls, so we interview students there.  Marshall, head back in the direction of the van.  Talk to students, see if they want to be on TV.  Look for the talkative ones and the emotional ones, and point them my way.”

“What about the cops?” Marshall asked.

“They’ll be around later, and cops have better memories than civilians.  It’s the students who were at the scene.  Go.  We don’t know how long we have before other crews show.”

It was a shame the principal hadn’t let him into the school, Stan mused.  Silly of her, too.  That favor he’d offered her was gold, all things considered.  Something she could use to bail a superior out of an awkward position and advance her own.

Your guanxi could be better, Mrs. Howell, he thought.  He loved the idea behind the Chinese concept of guanxi.  It fit in the same general category as the concepts of friends, family, acquaintances, but it was more based in business and politics.  Guanxi was about being able to call up a person one hadn’t seen in years and ask for a favor.  To have enough people in one’s debt that there was more implied leverage to use when seeking favors from others.

He’d been introduced to the idea a few years ago, and he attributed much of his recent career advancement to it.  It was something to be aware of at all times, and it changed his perspective on things.

He approached a group of teenage girls who were gathered in a group, observing the police and PRT officers.  He flashed one of his best smiles at them.  He could see one of them glance him over, her body language changing subtly.  He directed the smile at her, “I bet you’re dying to talk about what happened here.  Exciting stuff.”

“Sure,” the girl replied.  “Supervillain doesn’t attack the school every day.”

“Wasn’t an attack.  She showed up, and they came after her in her civilian ID.”

“I know it wasn’t an attack,” the first girl replied.  “I was just… It’s what others have been saying.”

“Skitter, wasn’t it?”  Stan chimed in.  He snapped his fingers, and Nipper pointed the camera at the girls.

“Yeah.  The bug girl,” another girl spoke up.  “I guess she goes to Arcadia.”

“No way.  I heard she was a student at Winslow, before Leviathan came.  Geeky kid, was having a hard time with some jerks, apparently.  I think her name was Taylor, but you’d have to ask someone from Winslow.”

He prodded, “What happened?  Was there a fight?”

“Dragon and this new guy Defiant showed up, along with the two new heroes.  Don’t know their names.”

He’d memorized the names.  “Adamant?  Clasp?  Dovetail?  Halo?  Crucible? Rosary? Sere?”

“Sere and Adamant,” one girl replied.

“Sere and Adamant,” he said, making a mental note.

“And two of the Wards.  Clockblocker was one of them.  Anyways, she got away.”

“She didn’t do anything to provoke them?”

“Didn’t hear about anything.”

“And they mobilized on the school?”


He started to ask for more details, then stopped.  Marshall was approaching, with a kid in tow.

“Cell phone video,” Marshall said.  “Long conversation between Defiant, Dragon and Skitter in the cafeteria.

Stan raised his eyebrows, looking at the girl with the phone, “Pay you twenty bucks to let us copy it.”

“A hundred,” she said.

“Twenty.  If you got it on camera, others did too, and someone‘s going to take the twenty.”

She glanced at Marshall, then back to Stan.  “Fine.”

“You have the equipment?” Stan asked Marshall.

“Laptop and a cord.  Give me a minute.”

“We’ll watch it later,” Stan said, absently.  He turned his attention back to the girls.

This wasn’t the first time he’d walked into a situation almost blind.  The job was a stressful one, but he thrived on stress.  Racing against the clock, to be the first to the scene, the first to report on the situation.  But even reporting was a kind of challenge unto itself.  The scene had to be investigated, the story teased out, details verified.  To top it off, it had to be presentable.

He’d been the producer, before Coil had blown up the camera crew and reporter that had been covering the mayoral debate.  He had an eye for this.  Had to, because there was nobody back at the studio that would be able to cover this base for him.  Sad and ironic, really.  There weren’t enough people in the bay, resources weren’t consistent.  So they’d reduced the size of the staff, cut back on hours.  Then six people had died, including their lead reporter.

Nevermind the rumors that the PRT was, on Miss Militia’s behalf, investigating ties between Coil and the killed reporters and camera crews.  He’d itched to look into that more, but it didn’t fit with his philosophy.

“Were you there, in the cafeteria?” he asked the girls.


“Right.  Alright.  Any thoughts?  Were you scared, knowing there were so many capes in the school?”

Twenty more seconds, to grab more details and reaction clips, and then he was moving, searching for others to talk to.

Two more groups questioned, and he didn’t have much else.  He knew Skitter’s name, and Channel four had arrived, and the race was on.

“Got the video!” Marshall called out.

Stan took the offered laptop.  To watch now, it would mean delaying interviews.  Memories would fade.

But he needed the narrative.  How had things unfolded?  What were the key, crucial points at the heart of this?  That the school was unsafe?  It would work, grab attention and viewers, but it felt cheap.  No, the public knew that the Protectorate was imploding.  There had to be a connection, tying this to something greater.

“Thank you,” he said.  He’d decided.  “Now, I need you to find me someone who knew Skitter in her civilian guise.”

Marshall nodded.

“He or she will be one of the students who attended Winslow.”

“On it.”

Stan retreated to the van with the laptop.  He took the extra time to open the video in an editing suite before playing it.

Without being asked, Nipper hooked it into the van’s computers.  A little icon notified him that he was connected to the studio.

…There for the S-class threat downtown.  I don’t want to sound arrogant, but I think maybe I deserve to, a little.  I’ve done my share.  You don’t turn around and reveal my identity in front of a crowd.”

On a notepad of lined paper, he penned down ’20th’ followed by a question mark.  The video continued playing, and he noted down times and key phrases, along with questions.  When a critical comment was shown, he was sure to copy the clip.  There were a few times where the volume was too quiet, the voices too low or things were drowned out by background noise.  Nipper worked to tune the sound so they could make it out, raising the volume or filtering out the noise.

D&D picked fight?  Pushed by authorities?Drag past convo with Skitter.  When?
Putting children at risk
Violation of truce

“…And you seriously expect me to keep my mouth shut about all the dirty little secrets I’ve picked up on over the last few months…”

What does Skitter know?  App’tly important.

“…the Slaughterhouse Nine.  Either you’ve abandoned that chase, or you’re about to tell me that there’s something more important than stopping them…”

S9?  D-check events post-Boston.

Hospital?  Skitter & Defiant?

D&D negotiating with villains?  Possible cooperation?  Corruption?

“…Stand if you side with me!

Both video and audio were distorted by the movements of students, rising from tables, pushing away from the jumble of bodies.

Stan smiled.  There.

He cut out the scene in question, the students siding with Skitter over the heroes, and gave the clip a title.  ‘The heart of this story?’

A second later, a note appeared on the side of the window.  The crew at the studio had a R.A.T. connecting them to the laptop, and freedom to make changes or add their own details.

Yes – Ed

He had it.  The editors at the station were on board.

Now to cobble it together into a story.

He opened a file and began sketching out the script.  At the very top, he put up notes, clips he’d need from the station.

There was a knock on the door of the van.  Stan opened it to see Marshall with an awkward looking young man.  Fifteen or sixteen.  He looked despondent.  Hangdog.

“He says he was her friend, once.”

“No,” the boy said.  “Not exactly.  But we sort of knew each other.  Had classes together, did group work.  And I owe her.”

Stan smiled.

…take you now to reporter Stan Vickery.”

Thank you, Nick.  One thousand and two hundred students made their way to Arcadia High for their first day back at school, earlier on this sunny day.  They hoped to readjust and get a taste of normal life after weeks spent away from home, or enduring the long series of incidents to afflict Brockton Bay.  Less than halfway through their day, those hopes were dashed.

A video clip replaced the blond man with the mustache and a face lined by years of stress.  A massive metal suit, looming at the far end of the school’s parking lot, a mechanized dragon.

The school became the site of a confrontation between Dragon, a heroine known across the world, and local warlord and leader of the Undersiders, Skitter.  Within moments of their meeting on school grounds, Dragon revealed Skitter’s identity as Taylor Hebert, a sixteen year old student.  With this revelation came a dozen more questions…

“Change the channel,” a boy in prison sweats said.  “News is boring shit.”

“No,” Sophia said.

Skitter was Taylor.  A dozen things fell into place.

Anger boiled within her.  Outrage.  That cringing, whiny, pathetic little scarecrow was the ruler of Brockton Bay’s underworld?  It didn’t fit.  It demanded an answer of some sort.

But she couldn’t.  As the voice droned on, Sophia turned her attention to the bracelets she wore.  There was a live current running through them, and they could be joined together to fashion handcuffs, but even like this, they were bondage.  She couldn’t enter her shadow state without passing through the insulated sheath that protected her.

She couldn’t leave, as much as she wanted to, right this moment.

Glowering, a confused, impotent frustration building within her, she fixed her eyes on the television.  It swelled within her until she could barely think.  She clenched her hands, but she couldn’t squeeze hard enough to release any of the building emotion.  She unclenched her fists, extended her fingers, as if reaching for something, but there was nothing she could grab.

There was no release valve for this, no way to vent.

Taylor’s face appeared on the screen in the same moment she hit her limit.  She rose from her seat, aware of the guards advancing on her, and kicked the television screen, shattering it, amid the protests and swearing of her fellow inmates.

A second later, they were tackling her.  Two guards at once, forcing her to the ground.

She screamed something so incoherent that even she would have been hard pressed to interpret it.

Who was she?  And what motivated these professed heroes to mobilize on a school, risking the lives of students and staff?  Skitter herself wondered aloud about their willingness to put hostages within her reach…

A clip appeared on the screen.  Taylor, sitting on the edge of a counter.  She spoke, filled with confidence, almost nonchalant.  “You put me in a room with three hundred people I could theoretically take hostage.  Why?  You can’t be that confident I wouldn’t hurt someone…

A student abruptly shrieked, thrashing and falling to the ground in her haste to get away.

“Danny,” Kurt said, settling a hand on his friend’s shoulder.  “You don’t need to watch this.”

Danny shook his head.  Kurt looked down the man.  He hadn’t even spoken, from the moment he’d opened the door and Lacey had wrapped her arms around him.

This is bait, isn’t it?” Taylor’s voice, oddly out of place coming from the television.

The tone of the conversation even implied there were unspoken secrets that Skitter was aware of, that the Protectorate sought to silence,” Stan Vickery spoke, reappearing, with Arcadia High behind him as a backdrop.  “Raising questions about what those secrets might be.

…You seriously expect me to keep my mouth shut about all the dirty little secrets I’ve picked up on over the last few months?”  Taylor’s voice, again.

Danny put his face into his hands, pushing his glasses up to his forehead in the process.  Kurt rubbed his back, while Lacey looked on, sympathetic.

What did Skitter know, and does it relate to the event  on the twentieth of June?  Why were Defiant and Dragon willing to abandon their pursuit of the Slaughterhouse Nine?

“Is…” Danny started to speak, but his voice cracked.  He paused, then spoke again.  “Is this on me?”

“No!” Lacey said.  “No, honey.”

“Those aren’t questions I’d hope to pose any answers to today,” the news reporter said.  “The real question is bigger than that, and smaller at the same time.  What forces drive a child from this…

A teenage boy, his eyes downcast.  “She was nice, quiet.  I know people won’t believe me when I say it, but she was a genuinely good person.  Is.  Is a good person.  At heart.  I’m sorry, Taylor.

To this?

It switched to Taylor’s voice, calm, unruffled, accompanied by the same long-distance, low resolution footage of her sitting on the counter in the school cafeteria.  “You’d be surprised what I’m capable of.  I’ve mutilated people.  Carved out a man’s eyes, emasculated him.  I’ve chopped off a woman’s toes.  Flayed people alive with the bites of thousands of insects.  Hell, what I did to Triumph… he nearly died, choking on insects, the venom of-

Kurt turned off the television.  Danny was frozen, unmoving, staring down at his hands.

“It was context,” Lacey said, quiet.  “She was acting.  I’m sure-“

She broke off as Kurt shook his head.  Doing more damage than good.

“We’re going to stick by you, okay, Dan?” Kurt spoke.  “Let’s have you come by our place.  Better you aren’t alone right now, yeah?  And it’ll get you away from those reporters.”

Danny didn’t respond.  He stayed hunched over the kitchen table.

“Unless you want to wait here for her, in case?” Lacey asked.

“She already said goodbye,” Danny replied, pushing against the table to help himself rise to a standing position.  “I think that’s it.”

You’d be surprised what I’m capable of.  I’ve mutilated people.  Carved out a man’s eyes, emasculated him.  I’ve chopped off a woman’s toes.  Flayed people alive with the bites of thousands of insects.  Hell, what I did to Triumph… he nearly died, choking on insects, the venom of a hundred bee stings making his throat close up.

And what drives dozens of students to reject the heroes of this city in favor of the villain in charge?”  Stan asked.

The widescreen television showed the students rising from the tables, joining Skitter.  Another clip followed, showing students actively wrestling with the heroes.

“Christ,” the Director spoke.

Beside her successor, Piggot was watching in silence, elbows on the table, hands folded in front of her mouth.

“This could have been avoided,” the Director said.  “On multiple levels.”

“Most likely,” Defiant replied.  He stood at one end of the long table, Dragon beside him.

“If you would have cut off the feed, deleted the footage from phones, we would have had time to do damage control.”

“We won’t ignore people’s first amendment rights,” Defiant said.

…The PRT and the Protectorate have refused to comment, and the silence is damning, in light of what occurred today,” the reporting continued in the background.  “Brockton Bay has become the latest, greatest representation of the troubles the world faces in this new age, and perhaps a representation of the world’s hopes…

“You’re better than this, Dragon,” Piggot spoke.  “To the point that I’m left wondering… did you steer all of this in this direction?”

“If you try to place the blame on us,” Defiant replied, “I think you’ll be unpleasantly surprised.”

This event,” the reporter spoke, “Points to something else entirely, a fatal flaw in the system, the latest and greatest representation of the Protectorate’s steady collapse.

Director Tagg, Piggot’s latest successor, picked up the remote and muted the television.

Defiant shifted his weight, clasping his hands behind his back.  The body language was smug, somehow.

Piggot glanced at each of the people who were seated at the table.  Mr. Tagg, the Director of Brockton Bay’s PRT, Director Armstrong from Boston, and Director Wilkins from New York were all present.  Mr. Keene sat opposite her.  A camera mounted on the table gave the Chief Director of the PRT eyes on the meeting, where she watched from Washington.

Nobody else seemed willing to answer Defiant, some simply staring at him, others watching the segment on the wall-mounted television.  She spoke, “I would remind you that you are on a strict probation, with terms you agreed to.”

“I am,” Defiant said.  “Would you arrest me for being insubordinate?  Or would it take something more substantial?”

“Test us and you’ll find out,” Director Tagg responded.

“And what would happen then?  Would you send me to the Birdcage?” Defiant asked.

The question was heavy with the reminder that it was Dragon who maintained and managed the Birdcage.

Emily Piggot was caught between a desire to feel smug and quiet fear.  She’d warned them.  She’d communicated her concerns at every opportunity, through channels that Dragon wouldn’t be able to track.  She’d been dismissed, shrugged off, when she raised the question of what might happen if Dragon was killed in battle, or if Dragon turned against them.

“I’d like to hear a response from Dragon,” Piggot said.

Dragon turned her head to look at her, face hidden behind an expressionless mask and unblinking, opaque lenses.  There was something about the movement that seemed off.  Both the movement and the silence that followed was oddly disturbing.

“No?  No response?”

“A consequence of our recent visit to Brockton Bay,” Defiant said.  “I’m hoping she’ll be better in a few days.”

Curious, Piggot observed, the note of emotion in his voice, at that simple statement.

As if eager to change the subject, Director Armstrong said, “Mr. Keene.  Thoughts?  How does this affect your department?”

Piggot turned her attention to the man.  She’d only had limited interactions with him, but the man had earned her respect quickly enough.  He wasn’t a Director, but rather the liaison between the Protectorate and various other superhero teams worldwide, organizing deals, ensuring that everyone held to the same code of conduct, and ensuring that the groups could all coordinate in times of emergency.

“It’s catastrophic,” Keene said.  “I can manage some damage control, offer further aid, manipulate the grants available, but I can’t build on a foundation that isn’t there.”

“Where do our biggest problems lie?”

“The C.U.I. is first to mind.  The Suits and the King’s Men will cooperate, because they have to.  For the American teams, it varies from case to case.  But we’re in the middle of negotiations with the C.U.I., and this won’t reflect well on us.  That is, it won’t if we can’t get our footing here and make a strong showing at the next major event.”

The next major event.  The idea seemed to give everyone pause.

“Something needs to change,” Defiant said.

“Somehow, Colin,” Piggot replied, “I think our ideas on what needs to change are very different.”

“Very likely,” he said, his voice hard.  “But this was a last straw for us, in many ways.  We have a few stipulations for our continued assistance.”

“Defiant,” Tagg interrupted him.  “You’re not in a position to make demands.”

He’s a hard man, Piggot thought.  Army, PRT squad leader, a general, not a politician.  Ironic, that they’d butt heads.  “Director Tagg, you asked me here as a consultant, so allow me to consult.”

Tagg turned his attention to her.

She continued, “I don’t like this scenario any more than you do.  But let’s hear Defiant’s demands before you reject him out of hand.”

Director Tagg didn’t reply, but he turned his attention back to Defiant and he didn’t speak.

“Dragon and I have discussed this in-depth.  We need the present Directors to admit culpability for the incident, and we need to clean house, with in-depth background checks and investigations into any prominent member of the PRT.  We can’t maintain things as they are with the spectre of Cauldron looming over us.”

“You’d have us fire any number of PRT employees at a time when we’re struggling to retain members?”  Tagg asked, almost aghast.

“And relieving capes from duty at the same time,” Defiant said.  “With so few employees, it’s ridiculous to continue working to shut down leaks and control the flow of information.  Dragon has expressed concerns over having to do this in the past, and between the two of us, we’ve agreed that the censorship stops tonight, at midnight.”

Tagg rose from his seat, opening his mouth to speak-

“I agree,” Piggot spoke before her successor could.

Heads turned.

“It’s a misuse of resources,” she said, “And we do need to clean house.”

“You don’t have a position to lose,” Tagg replied.

“I wouldn’t lose it anyways,” she retorted, “I’ve had no contact with Cauldron.”

Keene clapped his hands together once, then smiled, “Well said.  We have nothing to fear if we aren’t connected to them.”

“You realize what they’re doing, don’t you?” Tagg asked.  “How does this investigation happen?  Dragon has her A.I. rifle through all known records and databases.  We defeat the sole purpose of the PRT, by putting the parahumans themselves in a position of power!”

“That ship has long sailed,” Keene commented, “With the revelations about Chief Director Costa-Brown, if you’ll pardon my saying.”

“You’re pardoned,” the Chief Director’s voice sounded over the speaker, crystal clear.  “I think this would pose more problems than it solves.  We’ll have to turn you down, Defiant.”

“Then I don’t see much of a reason for us to stay,” Defiant replied.

“And if you leave, the assumption is that we’ll be left without Dragon’s ability to maintain every system and device she’s created for us.  The PRT without a Birdcage, without our computer systems or database, without the specialized grenade loadouts or the containment foam dispensers.”

“An unfortunate consequence,” Defiant said.

“Not a concern at all,” the Chief Director replied.

There was a pause.  Dragon glanced at Defiant.

“No?” Defiant asked.

“No.  We’ve been in contact with an individual who has a proven track record with Dragon’s technology.  He feels equipped, eager, almost, to step into Dragon’s shoes should she take a leave of absence.”

“Saint,” Defiant said.  “You’re talking about the leader of the Dragonslayers.  Criminal mercenaries.”

“My first priority is and always has been protecting people.  If it’s a question between abandoning the security the Birdcage offers the world at large or requesting the assistance of a scoundrel-”

“A known murderer,” Defiant said.

“I wouldn’t throw stones,” Tagg replied, his voice a growl.

“-A known murderer, even,” the Chief Director continued, as if she hadn’t been interrupted.  “I will take security without question.”

Defiant looked at Dragon.

“The second dilemma I have to pose to you two,” the Chief Director continued, “Is simple.  What do you expect will happen when the next Endbringer arrives?  Between Dragon’s brilliant mind and Defiant’s analysis technologies, I’m sure you’ve given the matter some consideration.  Without the Protectorate, how does the event tend to unfold?”

Piggot studied the pair, trying to read their reactions.  They were so hard to gauge, even if she ignored the armor.

“It doesn’t go well,” Defiant said.  “It doesn’t go well even if we assume the present Protectorate is coordinated and in peak fighting condition.”

“We can’t afford a loss,” the Chief Director said.  “You know it as well as I do.  Now, tell me there isn’t room for a middle ground.”

Dragon turned to Defiant, and moved with a careful slowness as she set one hand on his arm.

“We get through the next fight,” Defiant said.  “Then we clean house.”

“I think that’s an acceptable compromise.”

This event,” the reporter spoke, “Points to something else entirely, a fatal flaw in the system, the latest and greatest representation of the Protectorate’s steady collapse.

“Too rich,” Jack commented, smirking.  “Across the board, I love it.  Fantastic.”

Hookwolf, pacing on the opposite side of the television, grunted a response.

Bonesaw was crouched by the side of a machine.  She watched with hands on hips as Blasto ratcheted in a bolt at the base of a tall, black-handled lever, his movements jerky with the internal and external mechanisms that forced them.

The Protectorate declined to comment, and in light of recent events and allegations of deep-seated secrets, their silence is damning.

“Almost ready,” Bonesaw said, her voice sing-song.  “You’re next, Hooksie.”

Hookwolf glanced at her, and then at the contraption.

“Don’t tell me you’re scared,” she said, her tone a taunt.

“Not of… this.  I’m questioning if this is the path we should take.”

“I’m expected to bring about the end of the world,” Jack said, still watching the television.  “But this is rather tepid for my tastes.  I’d like to hurry it along, inject some more drama into the affair.”

“…event at Arcadia High School is sure to draw attention from aross America.  We, the public, want answers.  The death of Vikare marked the end of the golden age, the end of an era where becoming a superhero was the expectation for anyone and everyone with powers, and even those who decided to work in business or public affairs with their abilities were termed ‘rogues’…

Bonesaw took ahold of Hookwolf’s hand and led him to his seat.  She stepped back, glancing over the contraption.  The only light was cast by a small desk lamp and the glow of a computer monitor, an island of light in the middle of an expansive, wide-reaching darkness.  Desk, engine, and tinker-designed seats, surrounded by an absolute, oppressive darkness.

“It doesn’t sit well,” Hookwolf said.  “I can’t articulate why.  My thoughts are still cloudy.”

Bonesaw hit a button, and the lights began to flicker, the engine beside her starting to hum with a progressively higher pitch.  With the flickering of the lights came glimpses of the things beyond.  Light on glass and wires.

“I’d rather a Ragnarök than-“

Bonesaw hauled on a white-handled lever, and Hookwolf’s voice cut off.  The flickering of the lights ceased, and the room returned to darkness.

Jack sighed.

…threatens to mark a similar occasion…

Bonesaw stepped over the body of a dead tinker in a lab coat, stopping in front of Jack.  “Strip.”

Jack shucked off his shirt, and then pulled off his pants and boxer briefs.  The blades that hung heavy on his belt made an ugly metal sound as they dropped to the tiled floor.

“…and cover yourself up,” Bonesaw said, averting her eyes.  “Shameful!  You’re in the company of a child, and a girl, no less.”

“Terribly sorry,” Jack said, his voice thick with irony, as he cupped his nether regions in both hands.  He stepped back and took a seat, leaning back against the diagonal surface behind the short bench.  Cold.

“...The reality is clear.  The repercussions of what happened today will change the relationship between hero, villain and civilian.  It remains up to them to decide whether it will be a change for the better, or a change for the worse.”

The segment ended, and the television turned back to the news anchors at their desks.

“Pretentious, isn’t he?” Jack asked.

“Likes to hear himself talk,” Bonesaw replied.  “Which do you think it’ll be?  Change for the better or change for the worse?”

Jack smiled.

“It’s a given?” she asked.  She pressed the button, and the lights started to flicker again.

“I think so,” Jack commented.  “But I almost hope things do turn out well.”

The lights were flickering more violently now, to the point that periods of light matched the periods of darkness.  Between the spots in his vision, Jack could see more and more of their surroundings.

Row upon row of glass case lined the underground chamber, each large enough to house a full-grown man, though there were only fetal shapes within at present.  Each was labeled.  One row had cases marked ‘Crawler’, ‘Crawler’, ‘Crawler’… ten iterations in total.  The next row had ten cases labeled with the word ‘Siberian’.  The one after with ten repetitions of ‘Chuckles’.

One column of cases dedicated to each member of the Nine, past and present, with the exception of Jack and one other.

“Makes for a greater fall?” Bonesaw asked.

“Exactly,” Jack replied.  He glanced at the one isolated case, felt his pulse quicken a notch.  It was the only one that was standalone.  ‘Gray Boy.’

“I guess we find out soon!” he said, raising his voice to be heard over the whine of the engine.

Bonesaw only laughed.  She hauled on the switch with both hands, and the room was plunged into silence and darkness.

Last Chapter                                                                                               Next Chapter

500 thoughts on “Interlude 20 (Donation Bonus #1)

  1. In advance: I didn’t have as much time as I’d like (unexpected appointment tomorrow I had to prep for) so I know there’s some proofreading issues. I know there’s issues with italics somewhere. Anyone who brings italics up before 12:00 noon is to be shot on sight – I will get to it.

  2. “Brockton Bay wasn’t lacking in stories to tell. The quarantine building alone was a”

    I think you accidentally a word.

  3. It’s really sad that Danny didn’t see the part where half the students stood up for Skitter. The part with the S9 though… That’s downright evil. I’m really interested in what the Gray Boy can do, given that the Eidolon clone admitted that, not only was Cauldron responsible for him, they were “selling him powers”. Which means he had several. Not only that, the Cast page leaves him as “Status Unknown”. Did he quit the S9 out of boredom one day, with the rest unable to stop him because he was simply too strong?

    • gotta feel sorry for him, i’m sad he missed that too… or it might have made him feel worse, if he saw it as her corrupting those around her. he’s in a bad enough place where he could be thinking that.

      greg is very apologetic. i was half expecting him to be out of his mind with “i knew it!” type things, but he seemed genuinely apologetic.

      he “owed her”? methinks he’s thinking it was his fault she got into that mess in the first place.

      • Well, it WAS. But on the other hand, since Dragon and Defiant were headed there anyway this was probably one of the better ways for it to play out(as scary as that might be to consider). After all, if Dragon had been forced to kidnap her from her territory, or from Danny’s house…

        • not disputing that, but after all the hate he got from the PHO forums-interlude, it’s good to see he at least can acknowledge when he’s goofed.

          …not until the consequences blew up in his face directly… but he can still recognize it.

    • My guess is that Gray Boy gets his name from Gray Goo. So, either he can transform into it, or is a Tinker specializing in it, or can create it.

      • I like to think that Grey Boy turns his immediate area into an old timey movie. No sound except for that piano background music and no colour.

      • Absorbed radiation is measured in units rad or gray. Definitely radioactive. He’s probably the end-of-the-world maker

        • …and if Jack had died, Blasto might have copied Gray Boy eventually on his own?

          It’s possible. Given his tinker specialization, Blasto would probably have been immune to Skitter’s hypothetical rampage.

          • Ayup. I’m stuck on how Purity’s kid whats-his-name fits into it, given the coincident deadline. Maybe their powers interact in some catastrophic way?

            I dunno, all very speculation, I’m sticking with just saying he’s probably radioactive.

          • OH and Accord’s working for/with Cauldron, and accord gave Blasto the lab and the DNA
            fits. Still not sure about Purity’s kid. Might be a red herring, might not, we’ll see

            • Umm… Unlikely, this is Worm. Nothing will go well / as expected for a sympathetic character like him.

              Not impossible, just unlikely.

  4. Mistake: The quarantine building alone was a

    AWESOME!!!! WE got to hear from everyone but Emma! I WANNA KNOW IF SHE HAD A BREAK DOWN AS SOPHIA!!!!!

    Seems Bonesaw is having LOTS of fun with Blasto……is she giving the powers of the former S9 to the remaining? If so MY GOD THEY’RE ALL EVEN MORE SCREWED!!!

    Now I must sleep. Awesome chapter as always Wildbow.

    • if she is giving powers, is she giving all of them to everybody, or just one additional set per person?

      although jack’s process seems to be taking longer than hookwolfs, so maybe he gets the full set or something

      • If I understand it correctly, I think she might be cloning them. Knowing her, she might be able to pull both off.
        If it’s just the cloning, then I’m not sure what to be more worried about: the fact that we’ll have at least 10 Crawlers/Siberians/whoever running around… or the fact that whatever Gray Boy is, Jack and Bonesaw decided that just one clone would be necessary.

  5. Well shit. So things are being set up for bad things to do down. Its not the end of the world, but you can see from here. The PRT is going to clean house, and cauldron is going to be outed. This will destroy the truce and quite alot of trust towards heroes. Can’t believe I’m saying this but I hope Cauldron stays secret for a little while longer. They really need to start giving out formulas on the cheap to build up the heroes strength. Hopefully Dragon recovers. Plus, lets say the slaughterhouse 900 now, maybe? The main issue is probably going to be with the Crawler clones and Grey Boy. Knowing Siberian’s secret makes those clones vulnerable. Hopefully the can atomize the crawlers before they become too powerful. Curious about Grey Boy, I’m thinking he might be as strong as Eidolon if the selling powers to him comment was true. Plus, what the hell PRT? You would really trust the birdcage to saint? Piggot really needs a trigger event just so she’ll mellow out. New fun facts: Field reporters are an endangered species in the wormverse, and the paparazzi are already hounding Danny.

  6. Poor widdle Sophia. She’s off to solitaire now. Possibly with medicine for high blood pressure… and migraines.

  7. Predicted Gray Boy was going to be the exception. Didn’t predict that 6 different people were going to ignore Wildbow’s initial comment though.😀

  8. Overall I loved it. I wish Danny would have been expanded on a little bit more, but thats from personal preference to see what is going through his head. Just picturing his baby girl admitting to flaying someone alive can’t feel very good.

      • Well she can theoretically talk to him if she keeps this range. He is still allowed some privacy, so she can have a bunch of insects sneak into his bedroom and do the swarm speak thing.

        • the question is: would he listen?

          option a) she tries to talk to him and gets a “i have no daughter” spiel

          b) they talk for a bit, but it ends something with “we both need some time to think about this…”

          c) they agree to meet up for dinner and have a uneasy but ultimately fruitful reunion

          d) they go out for *lunch*…. and he dies. cuz nothing good happens at lunch

          • At the end of the series we will find out that the true villain this whole time has been Emma who got powers and can make horrible things occur but only at lunchtime.

          • I, like many others, are very curious just what his mental thoughts are right now. He seems to blame himself, but he truly doesn’t know anything about her choices and circumstances. I think he would probably ask, “Why?” first. I can see Taylor writing down everything that happened and having it placed in his room with a note. But yeah, he must feel terrible. I can’t imagine what Taylor is feeling either.

          • If she wrote down ‘everything that happened’, danny would have a couple books of reading material to go through at least.

          • No dad you have it backwards. I dealt with the destiny changing mastermind who knew your identity AFTER fighting off the 9. Yes, I killed him but he was bad. I didn’t know he was going to blow us up! I swear he was the only one I have killed. Triumph was a an accident. Well how else was I going to get the mayor to save the city? I returned her home where she…you know what lets skip Dinah. The surgery went fine dad, I barely felt a thing. Manni was weaker than you think. Okay lets go over this one more time, I didn’t mean to rot his crotch off. He regenerated it back!…..eventually.

  9. Interesting setups for what’s to come.

    I’m wondering if Greg will win any love (from the rest of us readers) for speaking for Taylor on the news. He’s not a bad guy, he’s just inept in a way I suspect many of us were or still are too.

    Also on the “win a bit of love from the readers”, how about Defiant there? I suspect that compromise will bite him in the butt, yet I can also see how it “seemed like the best idea at the time”.

    • Yeah, it’ll bite him in the ass. Next time an Endbringer attacks and wipes so many of them out again, as usual, they’ll just claim they lost all they recovered and need until the next Endbringer attack in a few months, then maybe they can clean house.

    • Yeah, greg actually did something Gallant, Smart, and NICE. Points to him. He may be a bit of a creepy stalker (but a lot of beta boys are like that). He’s not out to screw Skitter over, which he could very easily have been, particularly after having been TRICKED by her.

      • Reading this comment made me wonder: since Gallant was a cape, who or what are Smart and N.I.C.E.?

        I know that’s not what you meant, but it was my first reaction.

  10. Good chapter. A good hook for the ending, and as for the rest, it was written well. It was a great idea to be able to get multiple points of view by using the report, though I may or may not have been willing to kill someone while reading to get into Danny’s head. I was hoping the S9 wouldn’t show up for a while, as a little psycho-crazy-murder-yay I love killing and performing surgeries to give them body horror goes a long way, but I really want to see the consequences of this.

    And I really wonder what it is about a missing word that makes everyone rush to report it. It probably feels so conspicuous and targeted, poor missing word.

  11. I have to say, Stan really, really ticks me off. Sensationalist asshole.

    Going to go shift my guess about Danny knowing Taylor’s secret identity into the “disproven” folder, now.

    • Well there has to be some fair and balanced….couldn’t keep a straight face as I typed that. I am very curious about those commenters now. Pretty much everyone is going to be a tinfoil hat guesser after this.

  12. >“A consequence of our recent visit to Brockton Bay,” Defiant said. “I’m hoping she’ll be better in a few days.”

    Oh god. Dragon has me worried.

    Sophia’s reaction was PERFECT by the way.

      • The original plan was to have the PRT group seen in the middle bring Stan in and raise the idea of him helping to cover up, and him saying no, but I ran out of time and preferred the impact of the S9 ending.

        But the idea was that her first name is worse than the second: Agnes Nipper.

  13. This seems to have been the perfect reaction interlude in response to the last chapter. A little bit of everything.

    It seems that things really have hit the fan for the PRT. They are bound to lose support and trust over this and putting the dragonslayer in charge of their dragon-tech seems like a move that would backfire quite spectacularly.

    Dragon was silent, I hope she is going to be okay and not the next major threat everyone was talking about.

    The way Alexandria and cauldron try to cling at power for a little bit longer might be a hint that they have a plan that will come to fruition soon.

    If they really wanted to repair their image and encourage others to continue to cooperate with them long term they probably should consider sending Skitter a personal invitation to the battle against next big threat. Having her turn up despite their now quite well known differences would sent the signal that the truce still holds and about how important cooperation against these threats is. That said I don’t think they are smart enough for that.

  14. Great chapter, great story. I hope that you have a good interview tomorrow.

    By the way… *cough* I hope I don’t run into any insane lizards *caugh*

    • *slides quietly down a rope behind Jakin before clinging to him, a whole body glomp, still upside down. Still quietly. He sniffs Jak’s hand, then smiles up at him.*

      You smell nice. Hello.

      And welcome to the comments section.

      *musses up Jak’s hair with a boot, then wonders when he became Canadian and what that was about*

      • You know, I was worried that you were getting predictable with your greetings. You’re really not.

        I don’t even…

      • I have a theory:

        “Hello everyone, I’m a new commentor here, y’all look like nice people, and the story’s awesome! “

        • I could have sworn you commented before now, but whatever. Welcome to worm. Join your fellow skittles/pests/fans in the weird and wonderful comments.

        • *Appears and pushes Clarvel back into a barber’s chair…then tear’s Clarvel’s shirt off and begins to put wax on his chest hair.* So there I am, unsure if I’ve welcome you before and not sure if I should do anything towards that bit of cheekiness when I figured I would go ahead and welcome you anyway so I could move on to more commenting today. Welcome to the comments s

  15. Hoo boy. Wasn’t Chuckles the one who originally had Imp’s power? Curious what he’ll be like now… Also curious just how much like the originals the clones will be in personality; the only real example was Blasto’s homunculus of himself, who somehow retained language and technical skills- and even he wasn’t sure that those would ‘take’ until he asked it.

    All told, the news could have been a lot worse. It could have been a lot better, of course, for either side, but it looks like having this as an official line won’t hurt nearly as much as the internet footage soon to come- and it might blunt the worst effects of that getting out unedited.

    Greg did good.

    “Didn’t hurt: the” Didn’t help? Not sure about this one but it just seemed strange to me(at first I actually read it as ‘didn’t hurry’)
    “whites and colors brightened by the ambient moisture in the air.” Doesn’t high humidity desaturate colors?
    “and the tattoos and array of piercings on her right ear” This might be a quibble, but maybe add a ‘the’ before array of piercings(unless she has a very tattooed ear)
    “the event on the twentieth” double space.

    • Nah. Was Nice Guy. As in, the guy so bland and normal that you wouldn’t ever think he could do something so bad.

      Chuckles was something else entirely.

      Many of the S9 and S9-alikes who didn’t make it into the final group have been referenced by this point. Ones who appeared in previous drafts of Wormverse writings. Chuckles featured in ‘Circus vs. the Elite’, the same story where Bitch was first conceptualized.

      In the story, the ‘Elite’, a top-tier group of supervillains looking to control supervillainy worldwide came to the city (might’ve been Toronto), and much like the S9 did, they pay personal visits to each of the villains and villain groups as a show of power. The idea here, however, was that the Elite were wanting the villains to submit to their authority and work under their organization. The villains band together in groups to hold out against the incursion.

      Elite member Bonesaw, who went by a different name, sends her creation Chuckles after Circus and Parian.

  16. “Perhaps the Nine truly have jumped the shark. Bested by teen villains, a spot of trouble with Dragon, doesn’t paint a pretty picture. So naturally, it’s time for a Greatest Hits album.”

    “Chuckles! Crawler! Winter! Siberian! See all your favorite Slaughterhouse Nine classics in venues across America!”

    Jack steps forward, broad grin on his mouth.

    “And back for a special appearance, for a limited time only, we are proud to present…”

    Lights go on in a cloning chamber off to the side.

    “The Grey Boy!”

    Jack leans forward and conspires with the audience, hand held up by his mouth.

    “And take it from me, that kid is one sick fuck.”

  17. Yes, as I tried to point out when that interlude occurred, that was an incredibly dark part. Now, with the fact that they’ve managed to clone Siberian and Crawler about 10 times over each, I somehow doubt everyone’s going to be all like “Woohoo, they took down Siberian, they should be easy pickings now,” this time like they were then. Oh, and do remember just how quickly Blasto got the Simurgh clone going. 5 years in that short amount of time.

    That’s also the interlude where I stopped wanting Wormverse Earth to survive.

    This interlude doesn’t help. The PRT has learned absolutely nothing. Wanting to bring in Saint, acting so stupidly, more worried about not covering up that they did all this than the fact that they did it.

    Even Dragon and Defiant…bleh…that little compromise “We’ll just wait until the next Endbringer attack.” Problem is, there’s always a next Endbringer attack and they always wind up in bad shape afterwards. So after the next one it’ll be “But all our hard work was undone in that attack. Just let us wait until the next attack. We’ll be all set then. Promise.”

    Luckily, I don’t have to be a good guy in the morning, so let’s get some recommendations out of the way. Seeing as the very reasonable audit has been refused, and Alexandria still isn’t gone, I recommend Dragon and Defiant leave and let them call in Saint. Then, execute and liquidate all members of the PRT, Saint included.

    And by liquidate, I mean I want them reduced to a liquid.

    • Mr. and Mrs. Dragon need to form a shadow conspiracy with Skitter and others in response to this idiocy with the few decent heroes they can find. Because at this point, I honestly don’t think the PRT can keep from self destructing without help/maneuvers in the shadows to counteract their terrible ideas. The peter principle in action. All the smart ones are dead, racist/retired, or supervillains.

    • Use a faulty trans-matter ray. That one usually liquifies gold, I’m sure it can do people too.

      I wonder if the liquified flesh will smell like cumin also.

    • To be honest, I don’t actually believe Defiant and Dragon plan on waiting for the next Endbringer situation to be wrapped up. They just agreed in order to escape the current situation and probably plan on going rogue, if Defiant’s attempt to free Dragon from her slavery works.

      • There’s also something I’ve noticed regarding the clones; from what I can tell, their powers can fluctuate, since he was happy it had the appropriate piece of the brain that powers awaken, rather than rely on the Simurgh’s natural powers.

  18. First off, it’s interesting that everyone commented on that one typo so quickly. Goes to show how much we fans obsess over the story.

    Here we have our first true shifting perspective interlude (not counting the end of Blasto’s). So many different reactions to this one news story, many of which we expected. I’m sad that Danny didn’t get to see the students support Taylor; that would have done wonders to his emotional outlook. Jack’s reaction to the news story was as expected, too. He would have been even more tickled if he knew Taylor was using him as inspiration during the confrontation.

    Out of all the scenes, a few questions and plot threads emerged. Just my thoughts and observations:
    1. Why didn’t anyone question Emma? Greg was an okay choice, but he didn’t know Taylor as well as he thought. Nearly everyone would know Emma would be the go-to gal to talk to. Did her dad take her away already?
    2. Dragon’s not talking, so the hack to give her freedom didn’t work as planned. But Defiant was still smug about it. So Dragon can supposedly recover? I’m not sure how that works, as she’s an AI. Maybe merging with a save state or something? Dunno.
    3. The PRT is willing to work with established murderers with no sense of honor, loyalty, or inherent conscience. Then they’re essentially forcing D&D to work with them. They really are morally bankrupt. They’ll probably keep putting off the “cleaning house” until it’s moot. Dragon has got to realize this is exactly what Taylor was talking to her about, in choosing who you follow and how it affects others.
    4. Seriously? No one at the PRT has yet realized Dragon’s an AI?
    5. Hookwolf seems to be still under the miasma’s effects. New nightmare fuel.
    6. What the hell is Bonesaw’s operation gonna be? Why does it involve flickering lights and Hookwolf suddenly going quiet?
    7. Bonesaw is using Blasto to create all the S9 past and present, multiple times. But Gray Boy only gets one. The implications are disturbing.

    Also, I don’t know if this is a mistake or not, but it mentions that there were multiple Blasto clones for every member of the Nine expect Jack and Gray Boy. Does that mean there will be multiple Bonesaws? Or are there none because she’s needed to control the operation? Just a bit confusing.

          • The current Nine seems to be going silent for some reason when Bonesaw flips a switch. With that, and the fact that they’re cloning Jack at all, maybe they’re just going to put themselves in some sort of stasis hidden somewhere, let all the 9 clones cause chaos, and then, once the heroes seem to have wiped out the Slaughterhouse once and for all, they wake up and show themselves off just in time for the world to utter a collective “Fucking bullshit!”

    • I don’t think Defiant has hacked Dragon’s freedom yet. I think she’s just partially disabled because she disobeyed orders to harm kids and capture Skitter.

    • Also, No. 6. Horrible scenario I see is making a Jack/Hookwolf hybrid. A man made of living blades that can be infinitely extended in reach? Yikes.

      • oooooh, I forgot about the hybrid applications. The wormverse can not catch a break. You are a cruel and evil god wilbow.

        • Jack Slashwolf?
          Hookwolf Jack?
          Poke & Prod?
          Infinite Enlongation?
          Yeah, that last one seems likely

    • 1. if i had to guess emma was still inside the school having a quiet breakdown, thus was not available for comment since the news team was locked outside

      2. guessing a mix of what you and moray said. conflict in programming + hack attempt not quite there yet. Dragon 2.0 clearly a failure, 2.1 will be beta-tested soon.

      3. practicality wins over principles. i’m seeing a certain irony in this situation with relation to the undersiders, but i can’t quite put my finger on it.

      4. nope. they probably just think def-master was able to pull her out of her agoraphobia as long as she didn’t have to deal with the world at large.

      5. noticed that too, wonder what happens if he ever wakes up.

      6. some WMG up above. personally i’m leaning towards the S9 becoming the S50 myself…

      7. shrug?

      • Every cockroach, every fly, every bee could be Taylor looking for revenge. She doesn’t know that Taylor doesn’t really give a shit about her anymore. Every day there isn’t an attack will simply cause the paranoia to build.

        • Just wondering if the psychological effects of the revelation were to build up, would that be enough for a trigger event?

          Shadow Stalker caused Skitter to trigger, Skitter cause Emma to trigger?

          Perhaps I’m reaching a bit here

          • No, Emma caused Sophia’s trigger in the first place, and this has all been an extremely long, drawn-out way of getting revenge.

          • Tattletale’s trigger event was psychological, but I don’t see Emma triggering. I don’t know to what extent this is a selection effect on who we see, but all the parahumans so far have had a kind of emotional strength that Emma lacks — including the rogue, Parian.

          • Well it has been shown that being near parahumans seems to increase the chances of having a trigger event. Sophia seemed to almost have a psychotic break from the fact that her entire world view was destroyed by Taylor. She was strong but not vicious, they beat her with pitiful ease as a team instead of the lone wolf crap she spouted, and most of all she showed that someone weak could become someone strong. There was probably a flashback to whatever fucked her up and caused her trigger event. Emma is a possibility I guess. Her fight and flight reflex was pushed to the breaking point by the ABB but she didn’t trigger like Aisha did when she was attacked. Though Cauldron might give her dad a discount just to fuck with Taylor. I have to admit to being interested in Emma right now, especially if she does trigger. She is like sophia in that her entire world view was just shattered by Taylor in that she was overwhelmingly strong but she didn’t fight back against her, and that she probably could have done horrifying things to her if she wanted to. There is a chance she becomes a better person, but this is the girl who idolizes/imitates sophia which is pathetic/sad and I hope she at least thinks a bit more about the path she is on. A parahuman Emma is interesting in that I honestly can predict what she would do. She isn’t a decent human being, the PRT must look like crap to her after the debacle in the school, and sophia always preferred to be a lone wolf. So I can see her trying to be a vigilante that avoids the Undersiders like the plague and only messes with the Teeth, the fallen, or Accord’s crew while trying to be like sophia by trying to put weak people in their place. On the other hand she might choose the villain route, and she admits in her own fucked up way that she kind of wanted Taylor to stand up to them so they could be friends again at some point. Sophia and the others can’t have the best and most healthy relationship with each other. So a villain Emma try to stay out the way, build up a reputation, and try to join Accords crew for protection. I wouldn’t mind seeing her try to join the Undersiders just for Taylor reaction. Would she let her join as a minion? Would she ignore her? Is there any chance of them every being close again? I mean Taylor is friends with Bitch of all people, so the possibility isn’t too out there if Emma was truly remorseful and Tattletale checked her out for sincerity.

    • I wonder if Dragon’s inability to react much to this meeting *is* the temporary hack allowing her to circumvent the PRT’s directions? “Oops, I’m temporarily deaf and blind, I guess I can’t obey your orders, la la la.”

      I assumed that the flickering lights were due to massive power draws from the cloning chambers.

      Why do you say that Hookwolf is under the miasma’s effect? I thought he joined them willingly? By the way does that imply that everyone in the S9 is white? Hookwolf was in a white supremacy group, after all.

      • Their recruitment of him seemed to be that they grabbed him during the miasma and ran. In this chapter, he still talks about his mind being hazy. They probably had to cure him so he’d recognize them, but that doesn’t mean that the damage is completely repaired.

        If it wasn’t for the need for him to recognize his own teammates, I doubt they’d have ever cured him of that.

        • ^What he said, also Shatterbird was Middle Eastern
          So they arent racist; at least Jack Slash has that going for him
          Also, Crawler was black

  19. This was a great chapter but I really wished the scene with Danny and friends was longer and we had something about Emma or her dad freaking out/reacting to this. Also I really have to question the new Director, I mean, bring in the Dragonslayers to hand a prison full of supervillains? Yeah, I’m sure that’ll end well.

    Also, am I the only laughed when Jack sat bare bottom on a cold, metal chair. I don’t the know, the mental image I had of him flinching slightly and quickly resuming his expression before anyone noticed was funny.

  20. “Brockton Bay wasn’t lacking in stories to tell. The quarantine building alone was THE NINTH TIME SOMEONE HAS COMMENTED ON THIS SUBJECT, AND WE HAVE BECOME EXCEEDINGLY EFFICIENT AT IT”

    Okay, now that I’ve got that obligatory bit of ribbing out of the way…

    I like the different perspectives. Nice to get to see a snapshot of how the last chapter is rippling out across the Wormverse.

    Also, not surprised that Greg figured out that the whole clusterfuck was in large part his fault. Wonder how that’s going to impact him? Might make him a more reflective person, which given his issues couldn’t hurt.

    Liked the Sophia bit. For a moment I was thinking the sheer degree of butthurt would give her a second trigger then and there.

    The Slaughterhouse Over Nine Thousand is quite the Chekhov’s Military-Industrial Complex to be setting away for a future arc. For maximum fun, bet its release coincides with an Endbringer attack.

    Called that Piggy wasn’t dumb enough to have thought this was in any way a good idea. I do wonder how the relationship between D&D on one hand and Alexandria on the other is going to go from here, though, since they’ve essentially put each other on notice that their cooperation now has conditions and a timetable. Basically, can D&D dispose of Saint (assuming they’re willing to in the first place, given that “disposal” will probably have to involve killing him) before Alexandria figures that Saint has enough of a handle on all of Dragon’s tech that D&D can be eliminated without risking a Birdcage breakout or any other unpleasantness? Because no way does Alexandria let them stay indefinitely, now that they’ve made it clear that they’re only putting up with her bullshit on extreme sufferance.

    Do hope that Dragon comes out of this without too much damage.

    I also wonder if Danny’s going to get people visiting to try and relay their thanks to Skitter through him. It would certainly help give him a more balanced perspective on Taylor’s other life.

    Honestly, the only gripe I have is that there are still so many more people whose perspectives on this I’d like to see, but since that would turn this into more of an interlude novel than an interlude chapter I can accept it.

    • >>”The Slaughterhouse Over Nine Thousand is quite the Chekhov’s Military-Industrial Complex to be setting away for a future arc. For maximum fun, bet its release coincides with an Endbringer attack.”

      Anything else you’d like added to that? A mass jailbreak from the Birdcage, perhaps?

      • Nilbog decides to pull a Loki from the avengers and targets the nearest big city to assimilate, someone from Cauldron goes batshit and puts their formula in the water supply causing an entire town to trigger at once, and the Smurf decides to hit Washington.

    • Well if Wildbow does do a once a day interlude again, I vote for either an all undersider week that ends with a new member, or just a reaction to the last chapter with all the interludes.

      • From a narrative perspective, I’d say it’s at least two arcs out. Next arc is likely to be about dealing with the aftermath of this one. The Slaughterhouse 9001 showing up would immediately turn it into an arc about them, and the last world-ending threat was too recent for Jack and Bonesaw’s Carnival of Horrors to have the impact it really should.

    • D&D vs Dragonslayers

      let’s not forget that’d be a fight in itself. iirc Dragon’s record against Saint is 0 for 9. defmaster might be the thing she needs to sway the odds, but if they have the PRT backing them by that point…?

        • While Skitter would be a big help, I don’t think the Dragonslayers will have the same luck with Dragon next time around. From what I’ve read, Saint mostly preyed upon the faults in Dragon’s programming and never really won on the grounds of might alone. Defiant appears to have just removed that handicap from Dragon. It would be highly amusing to see Saint try the same old logic bombs or exploits on Dragon, only to have her turn the tables on him in a way he couldn’t possibly have anticipated.

    • The Slaughterhouse 9000 attack just as an Endbringer does. In the confusion they destroy the Endbringer, only halving the size of their group. The world as one focuses on a blinking Jack Slash who, noticing the attention suddenly, flashes a true showmans smile and…

      The universe puts it’s petri dish into a washing machine, shaking it’s head and wondering why they always end up batshit crazy.

      Throwing some stock dust clouds into a new dish, the Universe settles down for Ham Sandwich to ponder the reboot.

  21. Great to see the reaction from various quarters! I especially enjoyed seeing people reacting to different parts of the news story.

  22. Regarding the slaughterhouse 9 clones, I hope Jack is smart enough to realize that unleashing them all at once would make them susceptible to the law of conversation of ninjutsu. One Jack is scary 10 Jacks at once far less so.

    One Jack that seemingly comes back from the dead again and again however would be quite terrifying. (The comic Promethea had a nice take on this sort of idea.)

    • Well there are two ways to go. Number one they ALL attack one place at the same time to do the most damage. Washington, the Birdcage, or just a populated/undefended city. Number two they attack EVERY city with capes at the same time. This means there won’t be any reinforcements/coordinating of resources on a single place. Jack can’t be sure they won’t bomb the city if they are all there. Plus it lets them work in their element, with each city’s heroes pretty much on their own.

    • I gotta say, though, that Wildbow isn’t the type to play the Conservation of Ninjutsu trope straight. Probably.

      Anyways, it explicitly mentions no clones of Jack.

  23. I have now found something to be more terrifying than fighting all the endbringers at the same time.

    Who remembers Hackjob? The mix of 2 mutants by Bonesaw… And now she has all the Slaughterhouse 9 front and back to toy with. I am imagining a Crawler with everyone’s abilities all sort of mashed together. Let’s see…

    The new slaughterhouse amalgamation would be a infinity regenerating, pyromaniac tinker, who can manipulate emotions and do everything else under the sun they can do… I have the distinct feeling that this monster might be able to take down Leviathan and Behemoth. Not sure about Simurg though.

    • Considering that Behemoth is probably powerful enough to incinerate Crawler and pyrokinesis is useless against him, I wouldn’t necessarily bet on that outcome.

      It’s in situations like these that it really strikes me that Leviathan (a.k.a. horrible, city-killing, unstoppable monster) is really the weakest of the three Endbringers.

    • All they need is one former member who counts as a precog, and this new cape “Slaughterhouse” will beat Simurgh easily. If they get the Crawler powers far enough first, at least.

      Also, what a self fulfilling prophesy: A precog who knows they eventually join the S9 and are driven crazy by it to the point where they actually fit the group.

  24. Was principal Howell just being rude/ inattentive when she referred to Stan Vickery as Mr. Vickers or is that just a typo?

  25. Stan! Fuckin’! Vickers! Hey, thanks fer validating my chosen trade that I wasted thousands in education for Wildbow! A positively portrayed journalist in a superhero universe is as rare as a principled officer in a PRT meeting!

    Also, Piggot looking at a PRT operation and going “Oh, for fuck’s sake!” that’s a bad sign.

    • I have a Mr. Kent and a Mr. Parker here who like to disagree with you on that bit about portrayals of journalists. Also a Ms. Lane, a Ms. West, a Ms. Park…actually the line seems to be stretching around the block. Should they just start taking numbers?

    • Seconded. Hell, a positively (and fairly accurately) portrayed journalist is hard to come by in any type of media. You’ve done a fantastic job of capturing both what makes us tick and the frustrations of the job.

  26. By the way, this chapter makes me feel really bad for Danny.
    That man has been served plate after plate of shit in this story.

      • What standing-up could he have done? He was offered a choice between “let Emma go free” and “have his daughter thrown in juvie for assault”. Now, I don’t know anything about prison, but I wouldn’t want it for my daughter.

        • Those were the choices he was offered, sure, but there were other choices. He could have fought any criminal or civil charges, and retaliated with civil charges of his own, ‘cuz lets face it, a single altercation was not gonna get Taylor sent to juvie, that wasn’t in the cards. Probably have to take out a second mortgage on the house to do it, but the inaction he chose was disgusting. Letting Emma and Sophie off with a slap on the wrist, and a blank check from both their parents and the administration to do whatever they want to Taylor in the future? Teaching Taylor that she can never, ever trust society to look out for her? Teaching Taylor that any justice she wants she’ll have to take by force from scumbags like Alan and apathetic school administrators? So far from acceptable.

          Other options include taking the issue to the court of public opinion and potentially smearing Alan’s name. Alan talked big, but if Danny went this way, dollars to donuts Alan backed down, he doesn’t strike me as a stupid man, and that sort of kerfuffle closes doors. If Danny was not a nice guy, he could have scrounged up the money to hire a vigilante/villain to solve his Barnes Problem.

          Danny could have punched Alan out, or tried. Probably the second worst solution, but at least it’d have left Taylor knowing there’s at least one authority in the world willing to stand up for her, even if it’s only her dad. Instead she got a nice pointed lesson in “nobody gives a fuck about you, kid, better learn to look out for #1”.

          • Hell, bullying is an issue that many people can relate to. Just have him publicly tell others the story of what they are doing, and see if anyone will donate. Heck, have a hidden tape recorder, and come in for a meeting and have him admit the evil crap the trio was doing. Then he can countersue for any and all court fees.

          • The thing is, most of Alan’s argument was bluster that lawyers use to bully their way into the situation that they want. If Danny had stood his ground then Alan would have had to change his tack some. The worst part of it all? Schoolboard had to have known that Sophia was a Ward; They were giving her preferential treatment because of it. It’s also why there was talk of sending them over to the other school, initially, no doubt. All because of their little pet project and for the sake of PR, they ruined lives.

  27. Well there are two bright spots for the wormverse. A unchained Dragon is going to help immensely, especially if she can reproduce. A scion that is willing to kill might be able to take care of the crawler/siberian clones. If there are people worshiping the Endbringers, then there are probably people who worship him and are going to be praying for him to intervene pretty soon.

    • …Oh god. Unchained dragon. That can replicate. And the replicants can replicate. Isn’t that exactly the terminology used by Wildbow in the comments for the previous chapter for what constitutes an immediate ranking as an S-class threat?

      • But she’s a good guy. The world would be better off with her unchanged. Who knows, the wormverse could soon approach the technological singularity if she was self-replicating. Granted we have all be shown countless examples of AI that go nuts and try to kill us all but I find it refreshing that Dragon is a good person.

      • Its not explicitly mentioned but I’m fairly certain that dragon owns the birdcage, so prison releases would be entirely her affair.

        • Indeed; Technically, it is private property and she holds them on sufferance. If she were to declare that those within her territory are absolved of their crimes, there is nothing the world could really do about it. They (the government(s)) willingly transferred their prisoners over to Dragon, which removes all culpability and capacity to interfere legally. Thus Lung couldn’t be tried and sentenced for the crimes he commited once again if he was released by Dragon; He couldn’t even be deported, because he is still a citizen of the country, which is an inviolable right granted by the Declaration of Human Rights. And if they try to even intimate that it holds no water for parahumans? Hoo boy the can of worms that would open…

          • But can’t the government do something with the fact that she is “technically” a canadian citizen? Legally the birdcage is probably in a very interesting situation and I wonder if it counts as a privately owned/operated prison. There doesn’t seem to be any government oversight. At the very least I would want a bunch of employees whose only job is to watch the cameras in case of abuse by Dragon towards the prisoners.

  28. I don’t know if it’s just me, but I’m actually betting that the S9K will end up having a lesser effect on Brockton Bay than the S9 expected, for one simple reason.

    The Brockton Bay capes have already fought a mutant clone army before.

    • I can actually see it before my minds eye. Jack standing triumphantly in front Showmans-smile and all and the Brocktonites going meh we ve had worse.
      Which could actually get Jack going wtf is wrong with this city? Everywhere else people freak when we show up and here they go oh its lunchtime already.

  29. … So. I’m finally caught up.

    Now what am I going to do with my free time?

    It’s been an awesome ride, Wildbow. Now I guess I get to hang out waiting for updates with the rest of you guys.

    • Have you read the comments section previously? If not, be ready for your obligatory welcome by Psycho Gecko.

    • Welcome! I only caught up a week or so behind you, and boy can I relate. We’re glad you joined us on this crazy whirligig of fun. We’ll all be one big happy family while it spirals down to Hell.

    • *Rides up on a sleigh pulled by a pair of giant pekingese, a pair of cuckoos perched on his shoulder and an earhorn hanging out one ear, holding a yellow and curved spear.*

      Welcome, honored dead by archive binge. Luckily you avoided getting caught by the woman with only half her bodyparts actually being alive, but I am sure you’d hate being in the clutches of some overly plastic surgeried actress.

      Stay awhile. Test your mental mettle against the other souls in limbo here, waiting for the end of Worm’s days.

      Just be careful of that Psycho Gecko fellow. I hear he has delusions of grandeur, which he doesn’t need as a godly sex symbol who knows where his towel is at.

      *Hopes off to give you a biiiiiiiig squeezy hug* Say, do you work out?

  30. Something that has bothered me since the first episode with Blasto. There are two or more concepts of how the passengers interact with their hosts: one says that the passenger initiates a change in the brain structure when it establishes a link with it’s host. The other school of thought is that you can be born as a child of a parahuman or created as a clone with the proper brain structure and that will cause an appropriate passenger to take up residence. Note that with children it isn’t a sufficient condition as they still require something to trigger. What Bonesaw is doing seems to be cutting corners in a pretty spectacular fashion (mix the DNA, build the brain region and the right passenger will *just* have to appear). Then again Cauldron seems to have made the process somewhat deterministic. I realize that this is a plot device and that this is fiction, but ….

    • Alternate possibility is what if it’s the same passenger that links to all the clones? It might not be noticeable for some since the passenger may be able to spread themselves out pretty easily but in others, like the Siberian, maybe you wind up with clones that aren’t quite as omnipotent as the original was.

    • This was my concern as well. And the Cauldron process isn’t *entirely* determined; you might get a fire agent but it could be one gives you pyrokinesis or one that gives you thermal vision and rocket feet. You never know. What I expect is that they have ten clones each so that at least one will have useful powers.

      • You know, the variations Cauldron sees could also explain why Noelle’s clones were similar, but often had variant powers that diverged from the norm.

        • I tihnk that the divergence of the powers within a clone-group is merely just another facet of that particular passenger’s power, myself. Each connects to the passenger along a different tendril, and so touches a related-but-different particular power, especially with each of their… Medulla Corolla? Being different on the synaptic level. Or whatever that part is called that holds the powers. I forgot the name. >.<.

  31. “What forces drive a child from this… To this?”

    Emma’s screwed. She can leave the city to get away from Skitter but pretty soon everyone will know she harassed a 15 year old who had just lost her mother into a mental breakdown/trigger event.

      • Yeah, but now? They just found out that 15 year old is one of the most powerful people in the city, someone who beat the S9, MULTIPLE ENDBRINGERS, a shitton of PRT heroes, some of the Wards, and to top it all off, is pretty damn popular now.

        5 bucks says she now is a pariah, at school and home.Nobody will want to be near her if possible, either because at how upset they are, or because you don’t want to be near her incase Skitter comes back for some revenge.

        Hell, I think her neighbors will be filing petitions for her family to be evicted, or at least moved out of their house, no sense in risking collateral damage when Skitter attacks. And while Skit might not, well…. do you see Bitch taking this news lightly? Especially when she finds out who was responsible?

        That’s not even counting how her father’ll be affected, because right now? Odds are all her past transgressions are being checked, and people’ll start to wonder “What else did he cover up for his daughter?” And that taint will remain with him if he wants to become a politician, if he goes for a promotion, because the Partners will weigh the risk of promoting someone connected to such a hotheaded idiot who made some dangerous enemies…

        Actually, I wonder whose territory she lives in? Because I imagine that whoever runs that area will be keeping a “close” eye on Emma and family. For her protection, of course. And as a subtle reminder: We’re watching you.

        • If she ever gets back to school I’d definitely think she’d be a pariah. But I seriously doubt that girl is going to be in any sort of mental state that allows for school for quite some time now. How awesome would it be if insurance companies started to look at them and then jacked the rates for “Skitter Insurance” or refused to cover any future damages because “Acts of Skitter are included under Acts of God and not covered.” Hehehehe.

          • I would be curious to see Emma’s breakdown. Did Alan believe that Emma was being innocent and it was mean ol taylor? But yeah, once Taylor’s past comes out things aren’t going to look good for the family. Alan would be asked “why the fuck did you cover up for that?” Emma would have a hard time modeling (I doubt anyone would want a bitch like her no matter how hot. Anne wouldn’t get a job or would have a hard time finding one. Alan would be shunned like the plague as “that asshole who drove skitter to villainy or helped.”

            It’s like in house of cards; this general dude raped Claire Underwood. now that she’s the vice president’s wife, the military is finally forced to take action when she publicly accuses said general of his crimes. Something might happen to Alan Emma and the rest; because the person they bullied is now so powerful people will be pressured to look into it.

            Alec already sent the evidence of Emma’s crimes from when he bodyjacked sophia so Emma would have been fucked regardless.

        • Who knows. She was the most juvenile of the bullies so I say let bygones by bygones after a little playground payback. Nothing too bad. Maybe a wedgie hanging from the top of a building, a swirly in the middle of Leviathan’s temper tantrum forcing her to swim to land, or just hiring all of the kids in her territory to constantly attack/harass her with soda filled water balloons.

        • Possibility: She’s one of Parian’s surviving relatives & neighbours who got Bone saw’d into s9 lookalikes. Extra irony: she got turned into a Bonesaw (fake).

  32. Huh.

    Part of me is worried that the PRT is going to use the confusion and chaos of the next S-class event to clean house on their own — that is, to clean up the threat of Dragon and Defiant.

    Still. The fact that Alexandria is still in control of the PRT makes me wonder ‘Why?’

    What end is being served by the PRT, exactly? What is she getting out of it? She’s too smart to be doing it just for the hell of it, and it seems like running it as a ‘civilian’ is more important to her than being a cape is.

    Great chapter as always, Wildbow! Excited to see what the new status quo looks like!

  33. We didn’t see the Wards in this chapter, which is fine, but I’m terribly curious how they’re reacting to this.

    In the plus column, they know more about Taylor now and what formed her to be who she is. They also saw how she held back on hurting anyone. Her arguments against D&D weren’t just a call for the robo-couple to wake up either, they apply just as well to the Wards too.

    On the other hand, I’m picturing Kid Win at least as not a fan of hers at the moment. Yes, she didn’t sting or bite him, but a mouth and nose full of bugs is still a pretty disgusting thing to live through. I wondering if he’ll come away with a sense of “she’s not a bad girl, she’s a terrifying one. Keep her the hell away from me!”

    Or, as a Tinker, “let me make sure that no bug ever gets within 5 feet of my body, ever ever again.”

    • Poor Kid-Win- The people interviewed didn’t even remember his name and when Skitter beat him last chapter she did so with laughable ease, tying him to the door and making him look like an idiot, she even pointed him to where she had put his gear as she walked of just to drive home just how irrelevant he was to her.

      I think Kid-Win might very well have if not a second trigger event than at least the sort of psychotic break that usually leads mad scientist shouting things like “They laughed at me, but I will show them all!” while putting the finishing touches on their gigantic death ray.

      He probably really needs to see the nice therapist from the interlude before he starts putting up job adverts for an Igor.

      • Well in his defense Skitter is the dreaded at this point. There is no shame to losing to the best. If anything his willingness to dare to take on someone who has humiliated the PRT speaks well to his bravery. Everyone loves an underdog, and all 3 of the wards are probably seen as such.

        • Would be nice if he could be that lucky, but it’s hard to be the underdog when you’re on the same side of the fight as two massive armored suits and your opponent is a sixteen-year-old girl.

          • Well be honest, who do you think the residents of Brockton Bay would bet on at this point? That sixteen year old girl or the heroes and the Dragon suits? I can see the wards getting more fans depending on how much Taylor is truly feared. Kid Win dared to take on Skitter, the girl who sent Dragon, Lung, and the Merchants running for the hills.

          • @TheAnt: Pretty sure the Brocktonites would be betting on Skitter, but that’s not the point. A large part of the appeal of the underdog is that David is a little guy compared to Goliath, that the Oakland A’s have a third of the payroll of the New York Yankees, that Batman is just a man while Superman is the goddamn Superman. Regardless of what odds you lay on different outcomes, being on the side with all the big guns and losing anyway is not a very good way to build sympathy in an audience.

      • That’s terrible, now I can’t stop picturing him with that annoying voice. Kid Win needs a win pretty soon or his new name is Kid Lose.

        • It’s not purely terrible — if he realizes it, he can use it to his advantage. Slippy was basically a combination of G2, G3, and G4 services for Star Fox: he built the Arwings and the Landmaster, and as long as you kept him in the fight, he gave the full briefing on the weak points of your enemies. Look at Kid Win’s services in Arc 9: he was clearly pro working the console for his teammates, he pegged Chariot as a Coil plant on his own, and he spotted the implications of the nine bodies before anyone else despite being innumerate.

          If I were his boss? I’d tell him to make floating ‘cameras’ with multiple data sensing and transmitting modes and make himself a conduit of tactical data for his team — a kind of cross between Skitter’s swarm-sense and Tattletale’s threat appreciation. Heck, pull another trick from Skitter’s book and equip them with projectors so they can act as decoys. Don’t be force, be force-multiplier.

          • I’m not sure you can tell a Tinker what to build. They seem to require divine (passenger?) inspiration to build stuff. Probably can’t just do it on demand.

  34. I want to give Dragon all the hugs! She’s just had core parts of her mind ripped out, and she’s still trying to put herself back together, yet she’s still got to stand up in front of the firing squad of her “superiors.” Worse, she has to put up with Colin’s grandstanding ass talking for her. I want to give her hugs and carry her off to Skitter’s hive and induct her into the Undersiders and let her finally be a good guy.

  35. Well, it’s not noon yet, but this would be easy to miss: case –> cases

    It’s nice to see that Armsmaster really has turned a new leaf. I like this new version better, too.

    Aw, somebody beat me to the Slaughterhouse 9001 joke. Really, I’ve got to wonder why the other members seem to trust Bonesaw. I bet that she’s just the type to install self-destruct coin slots in her “friends” or something just for giggles.

  36. Can Jack and Bonesaw really control the clones? Blasto used to make them dumb and controlled by pheromones, but this kind of control is dangerous with Crawler.
    Jack had trouble avoiding a Crawler vs Siberian fight, now he will unleash a hundred or more Crawlers? If they have the same masochism as the original they will soon be carving pieces off each other.

  37. Seems like the jars with Siberian on them should say “Manton” instead because she wasn’t real, it was just a projection of some sort. Would clones have all the memories of the original? They shouldn’t since it is just DNA. Of course, this being Bonesaw, should could have taken a perfect neural map of these guys at some point to give them memories of everything that happened, if she thought to do it. Crawlers wouldn’t be crazy powerful right off the bat since they’d be revived as their normal selves, I think anyway.

    I am very interested in Gray Boy and his history. Even Jack gave pause to him and they thought only 1 was enough.

    • Even with their memories it seems like it would take a little while for some of the Nine to get up to speed. Mannequin, for example, will need time to build his enviro-suit.

      That might be a weak spot for them too. If he’s Tony Stake “made it in a cave, with scraps” then the Nine’s in good shape. If he needs to use any specialty parts or materials though they might have issues outfitting all of the Mannys or it’d be obvious that there are thefts that really need looking into

      • For mannequin, yeah, he is only good with his suit but he almost seems redundant with bonesaw there. Also, he would be one where he’d -have- to have his memories otherwise he wouldn’t be the same insane-driven man.

        I really want to know what Chuckles did to be apart of the S9 and why that is his name. A insane clown cape maybe?

  38. Curious about Grey Boy, I’m thinking he
    might be as strong as Eidolon if the
    selling powers to him comment was

    I wonder why Jack has such a crush on Grey Boy? Was Grey Boy his mentor? His lover? His dad?!

    Plus, what the hell PRT? You would really trust the birdcage to Saint?

    What I’d really like to know is whether Saint is a tinker* or just a really smart really lucky normal. I’ve asked before but either Wildbow didn’t see it or was very pointedly Not Answering The Question.

    *with a primary focus on computer hacking, natch**

    **I just figured out that ‘natch’ is 90s-surfer-dude for ‘naturally’! After all these years! o_o

    • …Wow, really? >_>; Hello, Slowpoke. Heard about the war in Iraq yet? <_<

      As for PRT trusting Saint- That's Costa-Brown aka Alexandria trusting Saint. Aka Cauldron. Aka the one that gave Saint powers, most likely, and probably also has him on payroll to reverse engineer Dragon's tech specifically for cases like THIS.

      • I am amazed there hasn’t been a case 53 attempting to assassinate someone yet. Defiant is right, the longer they keep this secret, the bigger the backlash.

  39. – I guess they’re the Slaughterhouse Ninety
    now. Better yet, the Slaughterhouse OVER
    9000!!! And I am certain – certain, I tells ya! – that nobody has ninja’d me on that joke yet.
    – and Shadow Stalker gets her just desserts.
    – “/Oh Danny Boy/oh something something
    something soooomething/”
    – anyone else think Dragon is basically
    unconscious right now and her meatpuppet is
    just being sockpuppeted by Defiant?

  40. Worm Fanfiction time! This was almost a crossover with another web original until I realized that I don’t really have time to cross reference two different stories and make sure I get them both right before the next chapter of Worm goes up. The story that I am basing this on is Interviewing Leather. Names changed so that no one can complain that I’m doing his point of view wrong. :p

    Hope that Wildbow doesn’t mind my attempts at a fanfic, and that I do Skitter justice.

    Oh who am I kidding. I am a n00b writer. This can only end badly.

    • Heading south along the coast towards Brockton Bay in my car was an interesting experience. I could where the outermost edges of the wave had hit the shore, and the hasty patching that had been done to make the road drivable. Every now and then I had to slow down passing road crews, but I was still making better time than I had expected and could see the city in the distance.

      My name is Susland Mason and I am a freelance reporter who makes his living interviewing super villains. I’ve interviewed several over the years and learned a lot about how to handle the most dangerous people in our society. For one thing many of them are rather proud of what they do, and as long as I don’t pose a threat to their operation, they enjoy having me document a heist or two.

      The other thing I’ve learned is not to get too attached to any of my possessions I bring with me on a job. I have lost so many vehicles since starting this gig that I can’t get insurance anymore and so I tend to drive pretty ugly cars. I no longer bring an expensive laptop with me, though I do invest in a decent camera for each job.

      The final thing I’ve learned is to always call ahead. Always make sure the villain in question is cool with me hanging around with them for a while before heading into harms way. The reason is two fold: first it makes sure that they know that I am coming and have an opportunity to object ahead of time, the second is that I get a chance to judge from their tones if they are going to try to screw me over. despite how many villains I’ve interviewed, I’ve backed away from many more.

      Calling first was a rule I’d always followed. That is until today when I was heading into Brockton Bay to interview Skitter, the local crime lord of the city, without calling first. There were several good reasons for it, not the least being that the local capes seemed to have it out for her. The official cape forums were locked down tight on the subject, with several bans happening and threads speculating about Skitter being deleted without any warning. There were stories floating around the news agencies that the PTR was putting pressure to shut up about the attack on the high school, or at least to put a less damaging spin on it. Nightmares of Endbringer attacks and the need for unity were starting to get the bigger news outlets to fall into line.

      Me though? I believed that there was something big going on here. Bigger than usual. The threats of Endbringers made the attack and unmasking incredibly strange. Why would the PTR violate protocol and risk such dire consequences? What was going on that was more important than the safety of the world? More specifically, why was it so important to get a 16 year old girl, who seemed to have the backing of the residents of the city itself off the streets and discredit her?

      I wanted her story. I figured that in this case, the only one who would give me a straight answer was Skitter herself. I also knew that there was no way that I would be able to go if I gave anyone any warning of what I was up to. Call me paranoid, but the way things were happening stunk of a coverup, and I know my phone is tapped. I allowed the PTR to do it when they threatened to prosecute me for collusion. They said it was for my own safety if anything when wrong. I believed them, but still didn’t trust them not to stop me if I was close to something they didn’t want uncovered.

      So there I was, driving an old beat up 4 by 4 truck down a battered stretch of highway, with my cell phone turned off. No one knew where I was, and I had no safety net to fall back on. For the first time in this business I was truly on my own. I had one thing going for me; Skitter had never attacked civilians as far as I could tell. She never killed, and would give me fair warning if she didn’t want to speak to me.

      My hands were wet with sweat as I drove down the road, Brockton Bay in the distance. I had never been this scared since my first ever interview with a Super Villain. I hoped I wasn’t heading to my death.

      • I suddenly want this to be an interlude. I would LOVE see Wildbow do something like this. Skitter needs her side out there.

      • In all honesty, you had me at “The story that I am basing this on is Interviewing Leather.” (Here, for the curious — I imagine Worm fans would find it very interesting and not nearly dark enough.)

        I’d probably suggest posting it on or something, though – easier to link to and edit.

        • I might when I’m done. The good thing about posting it here is that it will get lost and never seen again in a few days, on, it is forever. :p

          Anyway, I hope you enjoy it so far

          • well the comments are all still viewable, and I think only wildbow has editing privileges, so it really is forever!

          • Bah, after tomorrow night no one will ever see this! Which is good in a way because it probably won’t make sense after tomorrow night :p

        • 1) I loved it, very intriguing, well done!
          2) I read Interviewing Leather via a comment linking it in the last arc, very awesome, loved it

        • like a few others have said, the tt/skitter portions seem just a bit rushed and dont *quite* capture their personalities imo.

          to me, tattletale would probably be more circular in her teasing, trying to figure out every angle before homing in for the final stab once she’s gotten everything she needs.

          skitter i don’t think would be quite so free with her info. hers and leather’s personalities are vastly different—skitter more defensive i think—so you’d need to find a new way for mason to weasel her way past her defenses and get her to spill.

          that said, i also just read Leather and while i also liked it alot, what it’s really done is made me look at your writing with that more of a critical eye.

          good luck! you’ve just raised your own bar. +_+

      • Driving though town had been interesting. I could see the damage done from Leviathans attack that hadn’t been apparent from a distance. The rebuilding efforts seemed to be slowly moving along, but the city seemed to be functional, with the occasional store open, and most of the traffic lights working. However when I reached the docks, the place I expected to be the hardest hit, things started looking better. Entirely new buildings were everywhere. I could see several buildings being either constructed or renovated, and the sidewalks were clear of garbage.

        I saw people sitting together, talking or laughing, as they started taking a break from thier duties to have lunch. I saw a few people driving trucks around handing out lunches to the workers before moving on. They were probably Skitters henchmen if the stories I had managed to get off of some unofficial forums were true, so I tailed one as they headed to their next stop.

        They pulled up in front of what appeared to be a small warehouse, though I could see some people moving around on the roof. I pulled up behind them as they got out, one was a tanned young man with blond hair wearing a t-shirt and shorts and the other was a burly man with glasses and a large black beard. The burly one headed my way as the blond one started grabbing bags of food. I got out of the car and gave him my best ‘I am not hear to cause problems’ smile.

        “You new in town or returning?“ he asked. His voice was rough and he was glowering, though I wasn’t sure if it was at me, or just a permanent feature on his face.

        “I’m new. Actually I’m a Susland Mason, a freelance reporter that does articles on super villains and I was wondering if you know where I could find Skitter?”

        I realized he hadn’t been glowering at me before as his glower doubled in intensity. “You want to do a piece on her?”

        “Yes, but only if she is okay with it.” I shrugged, “Strange things have been happening here and She seems to be at the centre of all of them. If nothing else it would give her a chance to put her side of the story out there.”

        He looked at me for a second then nodded, “Just a second,” He pulled out his cell phone, wrote a quick text, then turned back to me. “I let her know that you are around, if she wants to talk to you she’ll either find you if you stick around here, or contact me back with instructions”

        “Thank you, I guess I should stick with you till you get a text back then.” I looked over at where they where the blond haired kid was handing out food bags to a motley collection of workers with mud all over them, “Would you like a hand in the mean time?”

        “You allowed to do that?” he asked, “You won’t get in trouble with the higher ups?”

        “Never have before. As long as I don’t help do anything illegal I’m fine. Even then as long as it’s something small, like not calling down the police on a a villain when I have a chance, I haven’t had any trouble.” A small lie, I had had trouble for that last one, but so far other than some threats, and the bugging of my cell phone I hadn’t actually been charged yet.

        “Okay, grab and armload and help me carry it up to the roof.” He turned and held out his hand, “Names Forrest, that’s Richard.”

        I shook his hand and grabbed a bunch of bags. They were rather heavy because each one had a couple water bottles in it. I could see why, it was fairly hot with the sun out and directly overhead. “So you work for Skitter?” I asked as we headed toward the building.

        “Yes I do. I have for a while now in fact. Been with her since she took over and started rebuilding.” he held the door to the warehouse open for me.

        I stepped inside and was momentarily blinded. The entire inside of the warehouse was a greenhouse. There was a fairly low ceiling and from it hung grow lights. People moved around watering the plants and gave Forrest waves of greetings as he came in behind me.

        “Wow… It’s amazing.” I said, shocked.

        “Thanks. It’s hard to get all the food that we need shipped in and a lot of stuff that does make it is rotton by the time it gets here, so we started this garden to have fresh vegetables on hand.” He led me to a fight of stairs, “There isn’t too much room to grow down by the docks though so Skitter got the idea to turn this warehouse into something far more useful. We managed to get 3 floors in the warehouse, and one on top, giving us a decent amount of food.”

        “Isn’t it rather expensive though for the electricity and all the workers?” I asked once I got over my shock.

        He shrugged “I don’t know about that, but I do know that right now it’s easier to get power in here than food. As I understand it though, the Undersiders don’t have any money problems, so this can’t be too much of a drain.”

        We reached the roof and started handing out food. The other odd thing was the variety of people that were working. Some were in their twenties, but most seemed to be older, in their fifties or sixties and didn’t look like very good fighters. I had run with several super villains before and usually the people they employed were people that were young strong and healthy. They usually wore uniforms or at least similar styles. Here? None of these people looked like henchmen. They looked like normal people going about their daily jobs. Some happy, some looking exhausted. They all wore different clothing, and none of them seemed to care that they were in full view of any police that happened to walk past.

        At that point Forrest’s phone buzzed and he pulled it out of his pocket and read the message, then he turned to me, “Come on, I’m supposed to take you to Tattletale.”

        • Hey, this is great! Keep going!
          (an unrelated note, for Wildbow: I really, really, really want to see reactions to this from the Wards. And the message boards. And- I’ll stop now. But no matter how the media spins this, the full cellphone videos are going to be up online soon enough- hang in there Danny!)

          • I was thinking that while skitter wouldn’t mind getting her story out, she wouldn’t want to give any quotes to a guy who might be trying to screw her over in his article. Who better to find out if he is honest, or just another ploy by the PTR to make her look bad. This might come up in a later post.

        • Good Fanfiction, but I noticed two things. First, you overused ‘interesting’ having it in the starting sentence of the first two segments of the Fanfiction.

          Second, it is the PRT, isn’t it, rather than the PTR?

      • An interesting start- it might work better to have it in the present tense, with him speaking into a recorder as he drives. Of course, this could easily fit as the introduction to a documentary written up afterwards but it certainly loses a bit of the sense of danger that way.

        I’m gonna read the rest before I say much more. ^_^

        Saw a few things- not gonna go too much into overall editing so much as typos and the like.
        I see someone mentioned the ‘PRT/PTR’ thing.
        “I could where the” See where?
        “slow down passing road” Needs a comma.
        “who makes his living interviewing” Might read better with ‘makes MY living’?
        “For one thing many of them are rather proud of what they do, and ” Needs a comma after one thing, and perhaps replace the comma after do with a dash?
        ” insurance anymore and” Maybe a comma?
        “harms way” needs an apostrophe in harm’s.
        “two fold: first it” Needs caps, and a comma.
        “time, the second is” I suggest starting a new sentence after time. Also, you are inconsistent between ‘first’ and ‘the second,’ so you might want to decide on how you want to phrase it and standardize it more.
        “me over. despite” Missing caps.
        “Calling first was a rule I’d always followed. That is until today when I was heading into Brockton Bay to interview Skitter, the local crime lord of the city, without calling first.” Saying that he didn’t call first is probably redundant, since he already said that he broke the rule in the same sentence. Also, could use a comma after ‘That is’.
        “the city itself off” Comma after itself.

    • I didn’t know much about Tattletale. I don’t think anyone did. The internet she was part of the Undersiders, and that she was never known to fight, or have gadgets. The best guesses on her was that she was a thinker of some type. Considering how many times that the Undersiders had come out on top, the current speculation was that she was able to see the future in some sense.

      I wasn’t sure if that was true. After all, wouldn’t she have warned Skitter about the attack on the school if that was the case? On the other hand things had worked out in the Undersiders favour so maybe despite how it looked Skitter was in control the whole time and knew what would happen. If Tattletale was going to look into the future to see what I would do I didn’t think I had to be too worried. I wasn’t planning to do something to betray them, and I couldn’t think of a situation where I would. Doing so would be worse than suicidal. There were a lot of capes who might be afraid of some of the secrets I knew and would want to silence me, and make an example of me.

      Forrest was still waiting for my reply “Sure.” I said, I had come too far to turn back now, though despite the heat, I was feeling chills again.

      “Come with me then,” then he turned to Richard, “Richard, grab Joan and keep doing the rounds, I’ll see you back at head quarters.”

      Richard nodded then grinned at me, “Good luck man. Don’t let her get to you.”

      As we headed back downstairs I turned to Forrest, “What did he mean get to me?”

      “Tattletale likes to mess with people a bit. It’s mostly in good fun as long as she likes you.”

      I raised an eyebrow, “So be on my best behaviour? Why are we going to see her anyway?”

      “Because she validates anyone who gets to see into where our headquarters are. Being on your best behaviour won’t help you much. She’ll either like you, or she wont.” He didn’t elaborate, but I caught a subtle distinction in the words. Super villains had lairs. The name for where they lived had grown up around them and automatically was attached to anywhere they lived. Even by themselves.

      On the other side the heroes had headquarters. It was just a simplified naming convention that people used without thinking. So here I was, with a henchman who was decently high up in Skitters organization, and he thought of Skitter and her group as heroes. He might deny it, but he didn’t see himself as a henchman for a super villain. He saw himself on the side of Good, capital G. That just made the PTRs attack on Skitter stranger to me. These were the type of people that I met when I ended up talking to heroes. They didn’t have the same presence as henchmen or super villains did.

      “You want to take your truck, or would you rather we wait for a ride?” Forrest asked as we hit the street.

      “We’ll take the truck, you’ll need to give me instructions though, I don’t know my way around town.” Another small lie. I had studied the maps hard before I left. I didn’t want to go into a dangerous situation without knowing where every back alley led if I needed to try to run. I wasn’t sure I could get away if things went south, but even a small improvement of my odds was better than nothing.

      He agreed and we got into the old beater that I drove. He directed me towards the downtown area where the internet said that Tattletale lived. It wasn’t a long drive before he had me pull up outside of a burger joint and we got out. From the joint itself I could see the military perimeter that had been erected around a large recently built building. No one knew what was going on there either except that it had to do with the class S that had last hit the city.

      “You have lunch yet?” asked Forrest.

      I shook my head, “Spent the entire morning driving out here. I wanted to give myself plenty of time to get out of the city if it turned out I wasn’t wanted.”

      “Fair enough. I’ll grab you a burger while you talk with Tattletale”

      I agreed as we stepped inside. The first thing I noticed is that it was almost empty except for a couple of hard looking men standing around watching the doors. In one corner sat a young woman with a black mask in a black and purple suit.

      I walked over to her, careful to keep my body language open and approachable, “Tattletale I presume?”

      She looked at me and smiled playfully, “Ah, the reporter, why are you here?”

      “I would like to interview Skitter, get her side of what’s going on around here,” I replied a little nervously.

      “Really? That’s it? An honest quest for knowledge? You’re not here because being in the thick of things makes you feel like you really matter? That you have a love of flirting with death? You realize that it’s going to get you killed one day. And it will all be for what?”

      I stood still trying to get my mind around what she was implying. I wasn’t a thrill seeker. Not really. Until I had been forced to interview my first super villain I had played my life as safe as possible.

      “Did you have any siblings?” She paused, then got up, and whispered in my ear, “No matter how much you try, you will never understand why Jack killed her. It’s a fools errand. Don’t go looking to join her. She would want to you find someone and settle down happily. Not get tortured to death by some psychopath.”

      I tried not to think of the night when my sister had saved me. I didn’t completely succeed and a felt a tear run down my cheek as I fell against a wall for support. I was so caught up trying to regain control of my emotions that I barely caught Tattletale telling Forrest that I was clear.

      “By the way,” she said smiling at me playfully again as I managed to pull myself together, “You’ll have to leave your car and your phone with me. Despite what you might think, turning off a phone doesn’t turn off a tracking bug.”

      I numbly handed her my phone and followed Forrest out the door. He led me to another car that was parked in the parking lot and we got in. I wasn’t sure how Tattletale had known what had happened. Had she researched me that fast? Had she known I was coming? After meeting her I still didn’t know her power, but I was suddenly sure that she was as scary, and as dangerous as the girl I was going to interview was.

      • Hm, the only thing I don’t quite like is tatletale’s section. I’ve always seen her method as more friendly than that. Striking up a conversation, something inconsequential, then she starts casually spilling all your secrets when you’re halfway through the burger. It just seems to blatant to me.
        Rest of its awesome though!

        • This is partially due to how minor a character the journalist is. She only booked about 5 minutes out of a busy day to give him a once over. She looked up who he was online, so she just needed to poke him a few times. Then, in the middle of the teasing, she realized that he is actually a bit of a death seeker. She doesn’t have time to be really subtle, so she says something that will knock him off course and gets back to her busy life. If he was more important, you can bet she would have been more subtle about it because she would have had time.

          Either that or bad writing :p

    • Forrest handed me a burger as I sat pulling myself back together. After a few minutes of driving he spoke, “Sorry, she doesn’t normally act like that. I’ve only seen her do that once before, and it’s usually a sign that she likes you.”

      I choked, “Likes me? She ripped things that I’d put behind me right open.”

      “Well, considering the last person she did something like that to was suicidal, I would take any advice she offered. You’re not going to be here for long, so you probably won’t have time to see her again. She is pretty busy, but you should know that she wouldn’t be so serious if she didn’t have a good reason.”

      “I’ll… I’ll try to keep that in mind. It’s just what she said came out of nowhere, and brought up stuff she shouldn’t even know. That’s some pretty bad tact right there” Even as I said that though I couldn’t help but notice the faith that Forrest placed in Tattletale. I had been with a lot of villains over the years. Some of their henchmen believed that their bosses were looking out for them and cared for them, but I had not met one group of henchmen that thought that their boss would do something for me just out of the kindness of their heart and truly believe it.

      “I won’t disagree there, she looked rather tense. I would not want to be on her bad side today. Someone is going to get it.” Ah, I thought, there is the super villain shining though. Taking out the troubles of a bad day on someone, something that everyone does, but only villains admit to. Maybe I was reading this whole situation wrong.

      We drove for a while longer making small talk before we pulled up in front of a small building. As I got out I looked up on top and saw a figure surrounded by bugs standing on the roof looking out towards the bay. The bugs were so thick all I could see was a vague impression of the person inside. I hoped that I managed to stay on skitters good side. I wasn’t afraid of bugs, but if she sent all the ones in the swarm around her at me, they could probably eat me alive and leave nothing left but bones.

      Forrest unlocked the door and ushered me inside. I stepped in to see a young lanky girl finishing off a bowl of soup. She looked up as I came in, she looked tired and stressed. It took me a moment to recognize her from the pictures I had found on the internet.

      “Skitter” I said, “pleasure to meet you.”

      She looked at me, and her face sank for a second, then she straightened up, “Good to meet you to, why don’t you step into the living room while I talk for a second with Forrest here.”

      I went in the direction she pointed and waited standing up. I suspected it wouldn’t help me if she sent her bugs after me, but I was hoping I wouldn’t offend her by sitting in her favorite spot. Looking around I noted there were a lot of children’s toys scattered around the room. Why were they there, had this been a family’s home before she kicked them out?

      As I was waiting I could hear fragments of sentences coming from the dining room.
      “…Could have warned me.”
      “I thought…”
      “…need to see…”
      “…approachable…. ….not dealing with criminals…”
      “…there a difference?”

      Finally skitter came in, still wearing her civilian clothes. She looked at me and gestured, “Take a seat. So how do you want to do this?”

      I sat down across from her and put on my best friendly look, “Well, I usually stick around for at least one job so that I can get a sense of how you operate. However if you would rather we just do an interview and get me out of your hair as soon as possible that works too”

      “We don’t really do jobs” She said, “but if you want to stick around you can. You if you are willing to help out with the rebuilding I’ll give you food and a place to stay, otherwise I can direct you to a few decent motels that have opened up recently.”

      “You don’t do jobs?” I asked, “What about the bank robbery back before Leviathan?”

      “There were…” and she paused for a moment, a distant look in her eye, “We were working for someone else then. He’s dead now.”

      “Coil” I asked, pulling what I knew of the situation.

      “Yes” and again she had a distant look in her eyes and I got the feeling that she wasn’t telling me the whole truth.

      “Are you willing to talk about your plans then?” I asked.

      She laughed, “Sure, but I’m pretty sure they would be boring to you. Right now we are trying to get the northern docks cleared up so that major ships can land. We are also trying to get the water treatment plant back to full capacity so that there will be enough clean water for the entire city. Right now most of the city still has to boil and filter the water.”

      “So you don’t have any plans to make money?”

      She paused thinking, “Finances are Tattletales purview, and I am pretty sure I don’t want the world to know where we are getting our money from. Sorry” She looked apologetic.

      “So you are just focused on rebuilding?” I questioned. She simply nodded. “Then what?”

      She paused clearly not expecting the question, “I don’t know,” she finally said, “I don’t know if it’s gotten around much lately, and if it hasn’t I would appreciate if you don’t print this, but there will be a major worldwide threat in two years. I suspect that we’ll start trying to prepare for that. See if we can stop it, or if there is possibly another solution that we could draw on.”

      “And that’s it?” I asked with a slight amount of skepticism, “Rebuild the city, then save the world?”

      She smiled sardonically, “What can I say? When you put it like that it sounds rather unlikely doesn’t it? A super villain that doesn’t do anything.” She sighed, “But that’s what my plans are right now. They’ll probably change. The PRT is probably going to do at least one more big push to capture me. And even if they don’t…”

      “Even if they don’t?” I prompted

      She looked at me steadily, “You must be good at keeping secrets. I looked you up and you’ve talked to a lot of villains. Trust me when I tell you that I can do far worse things to you than you can imagine. Don’t think you can hide either. Tattletale can find you no matter how well hidden you think you are. If you publish what I am about to tell you, trust me when I say that I will hunt you down and make you suffer for a long long time.”

      I was sweating again, Skitters eyes were cold as she looked at me, and I saw something there that I rarely saw. Conviction. Skitter utterly believed in what she did. Most of the super villains I interviewed viewed what they did as a game. They were safe because they wouldn’t do anything to jeopardize their place in the game. But for Skitter it wasn’t a game. It was life or death, and she sat where she did because she truly believed that she was doing what was right.

      She was trying to intimidate me and it was working. The sheer conviction in her words scared me as much as the threat itself. It is often said that the most dangerous person is the true believer. And Skitter was a true believer. What had I gotten myself into?

      • >Trust me when I tell you that I can do far worse things to you than you can imagine. Don’t think you can hide either. Tattletale can find you no matter how well hidden you think you are. If you publish what I am about to tell you, trust me when I say that I will hunt you down and make you suffer for a long long time.”

        That threat feels WAY out of character, and really really dumb for her to tell a reporter something that she doesn’t want printed.

        • Oh, and just so I’m not only posting negative comments- I actually like your story so far. I really like the concept, and overall it’s pretty good. The conversations with Tattletale and Skitter were the only bits I didn’t really like.

        • Not really,its in character for Skitter to make threats to convince others,even if she knows she cannot go through with them.

          Trusting such details to a reporter,even a Tt approved one,on the other hand,is not.

      • This is good, but it seems odd for Skitter to meet a stranger in her lair without at least blindfolding them. And they shouldn’t have been able to catch her by surprise unless her swarm-sense has stopped working for some reason.

        Having Skitter be out of costume is a surprising choice, but it does make sense now her mask doesn’t matter; I can definitely see Taylor deciding that being armoured might give the wrong impression.

  41. *Appears and pushes Clarvel back into a barber’s chair…then tear’s Clarvel’s shirt off and begins to put wax on his chest hair.* So there I am, unsure if I’ve welcome you before and not sure if I should do anything towards that bit of cheekiness when I figured I would go ahead and welcome you anyway so I could move on to more commenting today. Welcome to the comments section, I am sure you’ll be just fine. *Begins to sing Epiphany in Vietnamese as the lights slowly fade to dark, followed by the sound of a strip of wax being torn off* Ooh, looks like I got your nipple there. Don’t worry, I know a night surgeon who can reattach that.

  42. My favorite about Worm is its amazing characterization and that very few characters fall into that trap where they are, and only are, an archetype. I think that’s why I’m not really fond of the Slaughterhouse Nine. I mean, yeah, they’re evil. But they just kind of stopped being scary. Now they’re just those cardboard cutout assholes who are being evil for the sake of evil because that’s what they like to do. I just find them hard to even take seriously anymore because of that.

    We have the Endbringers, who are forces of nature, and that works. Coil and Noelle especially are well fleshed out for being full on villains. Legend, Alexandria, and Eidolon are mostly doing what they think is right without fully understanding the ramifications- just a sort of not quite actively malevolent, but still negative force. Then there’s the S9, who just feel so….incomplete. Flat. Out of place in a world where everyone is so richly developed.

    Even with the Jack interlude, I don’t get the impression that there’s really much of a drive to him other than ‘be a dick’. And the world seems to bend around that whim; the S9 are never short on funds or materials as you think they would be with the whole ‘everyone hates you’ thing. They’re never cowed or weakened, even when they should be. In Worm everyone gets theirs- except the S9.

    That’s basically my only gripe about the story ^__^; honestly though, I *love* Worm. So many of the powerful people are women without it being ‘strong despite being a girl’, masculinizing them, or making them out to be soulless bitches for daring to be powerful. It’s so hard to find that in any media, and especially in the super hero genre. So, thank you Wildbow. Whenever I have anything left from my (pathetic, college student) paycheck I will keep donating. Even if it’s not much, you have my support.

      • Thank you!

        Kinda-sorta new. I think I replied in the comments on one other chapter a couple weeks ago. Been reading since maybe early September or so, just had a tendency to avoid the comments, haha.

    • Jack’s problem is that he fell into something be dislikes. The thing he came up with to accellerate the end of the world is..the same thing he has alwaya donw, but more. As in, all the old Niners again. I am still all for the Wormverse’s destruction though.

    • *Hops along a chessboard patterned tablecloth that Maeri appears to be standing on as well until a pawn bars his path. Then he pulls out a mustache, puts it on, and sings We Will Rock You before breaking it with a swipe of the mic stand.*

      Greetings, mate, welcome to the down under of Worm. Just like in Australia, cute fuzzy things, like me, are all out to get you, with snuggly mauling of evil! You may cry but your tears will dry when we hand you a paper towel or something. Who knows. Now if you’ll excuse me… check, mate. *Maeri is handed the bill from the restaurant.*

    • I actually agree. The only thing I didn’t like about worm was the 9 seemed a little too much like villain sues.

    • So, the only characters who get consistant hate in the comments section are the actual ‘end the world’ villains, Sophia, and maybe cauldron. Everyone else is in some way redeemable due to circumstance.

      • Sophia is deplorable, but I think she’s still sympathetic. A bad person, but a bad person with that all-important depth. Cauldron as a whole is hard to comment on because there are too many unknown factors in them. They’re evil, yes, but complex. Not so with the 9.

        The Nine are just really *boring*, I suppose. It’s hard to hate them with the same passion as I can hate Sophia or Emma or any number of other villains because there is so little to them.

          • I just find it interesting that the villians that are apparently only there for the evulz are the ones you think are boring. I suppose it makes sense though, we don’t really understand what happened to them that caused them to become so messed up or what drives them to just go around killing everyone, except maybe manton. All we really see are the killing machines, not the people they used to be.
            I suppose a good villian is one who has reasons for joining the dark side, and needs to be relatable in some way. Compassionate characters are ones people care about. Hell, even showing general manners or personality often is enough, I know I want to know more about citrine from a couple postings ago, even though she had maybe 5 lines in total.

          • Well its actually similar to the joker from the dark knight rises. I for one don’t like the joker as a character for the same reasons you list. He just does evil just because, or because he was funny. I honestly thought the movie was going to suck because of that but they gave us a reason in the movie why he acts the way does. It’s crazy but we at least understand where he is coming from. Not so with the 9. Honestly wouldn’t be surprised at the end if the Jack/Bonesaw somehow get away again because the universe just lets them.

          • The thing that would make me the happiest would be to see Jack well and actually cornered and terrified. It doesn’t have to be a protagonist that does it. A new antagonist doing so might be even better, haha.

            Jack just never really lives up to his reputation when we get to see him.

        • The Nine worked pretty well as a sort of catalyst for the characters to begin changing to deal with the darker situations in the story and as a test of their new position as big time supervillains. Plus they kind of serve as a kind of moral line in the universe, to give an evil extreme to help set up the moral spectrum in the story.

          A villain as a story device is fine for a one-off in an arc, but to directly involve them in the story again there might need to be some reinvention of these guys into something more three-dimensional, and since they’re so far off the deep end that will be hard to do.

          We don’t know if they’re going to end up directly involved in the story yet, they may just be the cause of the big crisis that’s going to occur. I suspect that they may get killed by a Gray Boy clone who will serve as the new big bad guy.

        • Well, there were a lots of little bits and bobs about them- kinda hurts to lose the interlude that went into Shatterbird’s past, as I rather liked that in particular. Burnscar’s relation with Elle, Mannequin’s… well, everything.

          I think that there is plenty to them, and given Wildbow’s habit of sideswiping you with information you’ve been wanting at juuuuust the right point in the story… Well, I’m willing to wait to see.

          • Yeah, you do have a point there, we learned about Shatterbird, Burnscar, Mannequin, and Manton
            But admittedly, the *faces* of S9 leave much to be desired
            -Jack kills and terrorizes simply because he can
            -Bonesaw, not really sure with her deal, I am slightly tempted to blame her particular dissonance as an effect of her power; if not, she is so fucked in the head it is really creepy (could be the intention)
            -Crawlers carrot is the potential to continue evolving
            -Cherish had the same upbringing as Regent, but didnt get away when he did
            -Manton got butthurt because his daughter turned into a monstrous parahuman or died; his fault, I might add, so instead of fixing it, he runs off to kill people with Jack Slash

            I am half and half on this topic; I am similarly not as emotionally invested/scared of the Nine anymore, but I am willing to be patient as possible due to Wildbows track record of being fantastic
            Besides, the earlier in the story he has hinted as some character, the more likely they are to be worth the wait (Endbringers, Noelle, Nilbog, etc)

  43. Hey all, new here. Just popping in to say I absolutely love this place.

    I just have to say that it’s kind of ridiculous that when I wake up at 6 in the morning there’s already almost 300 comments.

    There seems to be a lot of speculation about the Grey Boy, and I feel like I have to point out that he’s a product of Cauldron, so we get Noelle’s insanity type thing if any his Cauldron powers went wrong. I can’t remember where I saw it, but if I remember it right, they just kept selling him powers until he went out of control. So we have a lot of powers to go wrong. Imagine Prism with all of the showstopping powers. And considering how creative Wildbow is, that’s honestly the best case scenario.

    But I also want to point out how Noelle’s clones aren’t exact copies, and have different powers from the original. Same thing happens with Cauldron, where the potions are classed into groups, such as “Prince” and “Jaunt.”

  44. Okay, so here’s something I’ve been wondering about:

    So, every parahuman has a part of their brain that controls their power -I don’t remember what it’s called at the moment- that normal people don’t have. They all start out as normal people, so they all have the same size brain.

    What it looks like is that that part of the brain takes a little while to grow as the power is used- hence the sensory overload shortly after when someone with sensory powers has a trigger event. As it grows, they get more control. From what it looks like, it also continues to grow the more they use their powers, making more connections to other parts of the brain. This explains why Taylor is now able to parse bug-o-vision.

    This all makes sense -it’s a phenomenon called “neuroplasticity;” as someone uses a skill more, the part of the brain responsible for it grows, and if it is not used, that part atrophies. This is why blind people often have better cognition in other areas- such as better hearing or touch. Since they don’t use it, the space is allocated to other tasks.

    The parahumans seem to have the blind-person situation in reverse. They suddenly have an entirely new sense or new ability that their brain has to deal with. While the passenger seems to handle some of it, Bonesaw states that parahumans do have a portion of their brain responsible for controlling their powers. If their brain is staying the same size (which it must, else they would all suddenly have concussions,) this must be taking space away from other areas.

    This could potentially cause pretty serious harm, and I believe it’s a contributing factor for why many parahumans are so cracked (aside from the psychological trauma). Stuff like this has been shown to cause personality changes or cognitive issues depending on where it is located. This is what I want to know, and I don’t care if I get an answer, or even if there is one, but I want to put this out there:

    Taylor has been getting a lot more control over her power, and getting a lot more power; but what is she losing?

    [tl;dr version]: As someone gets better with their power, the part of the brain that controls it should grow in size, taking space away from other parts of the brain. What does this mean for parahumans?

    • That’s like with Bitch and Garrote(I think) their brains were effected more than the average capes.

      For Taylor it could be her ‘skittishness’. As she used her powers more she got more and more confident in herself.

    • I would say she’s losing her ability to distinguish between the rightness and wrongness of her actions. She rationalizes everything she does far better now, and hesitates less, and while repetition would explain some of that, it doesn’t explain all of it.

      • There’s a reason our legal system is based on precedent; It’s one of the easiest concepts for the human mind to grasp. “It’s been done this way before, that’s how to do it in the future,” and in tiny font there’s the addendum, “no other circumstances considered.” which frequently is forgotten. It’s why companies have to protect each and every occurance of copyright infringement or flat-out lose their copyright, simply because if they don’t maintain a perfect legal wall then people will dig at the cracks (precedence of non-protection; In short and avoiding all the legalese, “You didn’t sue them, but you’re suing me? That’s unfair and biased!”) until eventually the entire wall they use in their defense will crumble and it’ll become public use.

        • I’m not sure how this is relevant to what I said, since the human mind doesn’t work at ALL like the US legal system. The letter of the law is more important than the spirit of the law 99% of the time, particularly in lawsuits regarding copyright infringment and so on.

          Sociopathy, which is what I was referring to when I said Skitter is losing her ability to distinguish between right and wrong in her actions, is entirely unrelated to recognizing the legal ramifications of them. A normal person sees something they’re doing is illegal/immoral and tries not to do it because if they get caught they’re screwed. A sociopath sees something they’re doing is illegal/immoral (to other people) and does it anyway, knowing (not assuming or hoping) that they’ll get away with it even if they’re caught because rules are pointless and consequences are for other people.

          Mind you, Skitter’s nowhere near being a complete sociopath, but I become concerned that she’s wandering down that particular fork in the road as she spends less time having to think through these hard calls she makes. Her thought processes feel colder and more clinical, not just “god dammit I have to make this awful, awful decision AGAIN?!” but “Okay so I did this before and the last time worked out okay but I can do it better if I just do -this- now.”

    • Well there must be studies of parahumans over a long term period somewhere. The oldest would have been parahumans for 30 odd years so I guess they see compare their mental health to younger ones. There is also that 5 year old with the still developing brain who triggered who people are going to pay close attention to. If there are older parahumans. With the Endbringers constant threat, being heavily outnumbered by villains, and the numerous s-class threats, the life expectancy for parahumans probably isn’t that great.

  45. The little threat about bringing in the Dragonslayers was a pretty alarming line there. It seems that because of all the failures and the Trimuvirate breaking up the suits are going to be taking control of operations away from the actual heroes.

    It means the PRT is gonna start playing dirty, expect Taylor to be shot at by snipers, super villains being hired to cause trouble and patsy the Undersiders, and some Suicide Squad-ass team of superfascists coming to take Skitter’s head.

    If this stuff happens guys like Triumph and Miss Militia are going to have a hard choice coming for them. They can’t have their moral high ground cake and eat it too.

    • iirc, triumph is a cauldron customer. not necessarily in league with them, but he might have been forced to retire in the echidna fallout

      • IF he came forward. The main reason for concern is they can’t tell who is a cauldron cape and who is not. Battery was probably seen as one of the best of them, and even she was Cauldron. He seemed like a good guy, hope things are alright with him and Hannah.

      • Triumph was a Cauldron customer. His dad (mayor) bought him the vial. It’s mentioned from his point of view in one of the interludes; Has him comparing himself to Prism, how similar they were, things like that, I believe.

  46. Dovetail, Halo, Crucible and Rosary are the Christians here to stop the Teeth, aren’t they? That means that the protectorate only brought in 3 new guys, (Adamant, Clasp and Sere) and one of them has already proven incapable of handling Skitter. It’s almost like the heroes want to look weak. Really, if they wanted to imprison or at least stop the Undersiders, they would just put aside the petty politics and treat them like the A-Class threat that they are. Honestly, even if they don’t have the man-power to capture them all, a one day, serious, multi-man raid against the Undersiders, like the dragonsuit event with more people, would most likely lead to the end of the Undersiders as a power in Brockton Bay. After all, Only a third the students decided to side with Skitter. That is still 1/6 away from a 50/50 split in the citizenry, assuming that the pattern stays true through every age group. Not to mention that prior to this event, the general public had practically no idea that anything was seriously wrong with the Protectorate anyway.

    As such, I get the uncomfortable feeling that Cauldron is still attempting a power play for Brockton Bay, in spite of Coil’s inconvenient death.

    • The problem is that going after the Undersiders in force would result in a similar situation as what happened when Dragon went after them. The Undersiders, being cornered, end up doing something drastic that hurts the PRT far more than they usually would.

      It’s even more of a dangerous idea now that one of the Undersiders was outed and they will be willing to go further as a result. Skitter now officially has no civilian life to go back to to escape the heat. Any big play they do will corner her and the PRT will end up with a black eye.

      Considering how one of the biggest flaws with the heroes in my eyes in an unwillingness to take risks I understand why they would hold off on decisive action.

      • They also know all those dirty secrets they want to keep hidden. They break the rules, so will they, and I think they’ll come out looking better too.

    • I’m waiting for the sponsored heroes. I can see team Coke and team Pepsi coming in and butting heads while trying to catch the Undersiders.

  47. To be honest I don’t want more S9, they feel evil for the sake of it, no motivation or greyness. Jack never seems to quite live up to his reputation in terms of writing, and while resurrecting a bunch of them makes things worse it doesn’t make things more interesting. They feel like they exist purely for the plot point of making things worse, rather than having any real agenda or mystery of their own. The Endbringers are interesting, the relations between the PRT, villians and those breaking away are interesting, there are so many good interesting characters and possibilities around, and the S9 feel like they’re just there to make things more crapsack, when imho, it would be better to focus on character/world/non-‘we’re all gonna die’ problems rather than a constant stream of ‘it got worse’ to the point of disbelief. That was the problem with Witness too, every battle ends with it not being a victory after all, it somehow made things worse, and while that’s fine sometimes, if it happens over and over you get sort of fed up with it. I think this arc is so far a good break from that. There’s no new giant threat, it’s a different kind of problem rather than ‘more things trying to kill people’. And then I see the nine and thing ‘Sigh, they’re going to have to deal with them AGAIN and Dragon’s hurt and I just want it to move on’.

    Anyway, sorry to just complain, overall it’s very good. I look forward to it every few days and I’m interested to see where things go from here and I think you’re noticeably becoming a better writer as things progress. All the best.

    • Hey, dont worry, a few others have had similar thoughts BUT
      Wildbow hasnt failed us yet, has he?

      Also? Money says Grey Boy disposes of the Slaughterhouse Army before anyone else has a chance to know
      That would be a twist worthy of Worm

      • I don’t know why, but this whole argument of “Well, yeah, you might have a point BUT [so and so] shits rainbows, so we’ll just dismiss that” kinda bugs me. This is a sort of ‘in general’ thing, not just here.

        Wildbow is an awesome author; that doesn’t mean they aren’t above criticism.

        Also Bic. Hiiii~ I’m pretty sure I knooow youuu~

        • I do apologize if it seemed like I was dismissing him out of hand; earlier, on your OWN comment regarding the same issue, I outlined my (largely in agreement) stance on the issue and ended it with “-But so far, Worm has retained a kind of quality that gives me hope that things wont be as obviously sue-ish as one would expect/I will maintain faith”
          So instead of copypasting, I just abbreviated it here

        • I think it’s because there’s not really any argument there. Most arguments, you can break them down into steps and break those steps down into steps and see how they proceed from cause to effect (or vice-versa), but that’s not the case here. It’s more like saying, “Yes, he’s behind two rooks, a bishop, and a queen, but he’s the best chess player in the world — he’ll win anyway!” Even when it’s true it’s not convincing.

          I think in this case a stronger case can be built up from the basic idea, though — something along the lines of:

          I know it looks like wildbow is just setting up bad things for the sake of setting up bad things, but I think it’s worth trusting him at least a little longer for three reasons:

          1. He set this up in advance. In Blasto’s interlude, Bonesaw got away with him, his seeds, and the tissue samples of the supers, and in this arc, we discovered that Dragon and Defiant were pulled off of the pursuit for the job at the school. This isn’t just coming out of nowhere, this was a logical consequence of what came before.

          2. It’s almost certainly not as awful as it sounds — Blasto’s interlude suggests that his copies are not as strong as the originals. Plus, a lot of what makes the Slaughterhouse Nine are skills that the copies won’t have developed.

          3. The entire setup is directly in line with wildbow’s style — a style which has worked really well so far. He makes a situation which is dire, and he figures out how the protagonists can deal with it. Reading through the archive, there were a number of places where people in the comments complained that wildbow had set up an impossible situation, only for the next chapter or arc to resolve it in a surprising and satisfying way.

          • Unfortunately, the complaint by-and-large wasn’t what you just addressed. We know that this will culminate in some sort of big confrontation where Skitter shows off her brains, probably aided by a few side characters. Things will be tough, they won’t get a complete victory, but they’ll make it. Because that’s what happens. Every time.

            It’s not that there won’t be a cohesive, well written arc out of this. It’s that we don’t find these characters interesting or scary. There’s nothing believable or relatable about them. They work as one arc villains, but they just lack the sort of depth to be interesting for a multiple-arc story set-up. There is no surprise in the motive or characters of the 9. No mystery, no depth, no interest. *Maybe* Gray boy will change that, and I’m hoping he will, but I’m not holding my breath.

            This, when there are so many interesting, deep, complicated characters around. There’s so much of the world and the people in it to explore, and we keep getting the camera zooming in on the zany, evil cardboard cutouts.

          • @maeri: Ah, I misread Bic’s complaint, then.

            And I share it, honestly — what makes Jack and Bonesaw interesting is what they do, not who they are. And what made Hookwolf interesting was his philosophy, which he has been driven to abandon.

    • Thanks Hannah! And to anyone curious as to why I post these thank yous when I see them, in reply to Wildbow’s comments: Because I want them to know, when they see these messages, that they are appreciated by at least one of us viewers as well, for helping support our favourite author.

      • Much as I try to welcome all comers to the comments section, though it may be having a detrimental effect to the population of commenters.

        Good to have people tossing money at Wildbow. I have been unable to myself, leaving me somewhat guilty.

        Geez, I’m not very helpful at all here, am I?

  48. Well, I was fooling around with The Secret World’s character creation when it struck me to try and make some models in the likeness of the cast. I only seemed to manage to get Taylor, tho I forget what color her eyes were. Anyway, here’s the screenshots:

    Is html/bb code enabled on comments? I have no idea.

    The name “Skitter” is taken by the way.😛

    • I assume that it allows a subset of HTML tags — a-href links work, as do em tags and blockquotes (which come out in italics). I haven’t tried anything else.

    • I figured that her hair would be curlier, seeing as how some lady called her out by that a couple chapters ago. But that’s a pretty good rendition of the last fanart entry.

      Also, if anyone wants to take a crack at stuff like this Heromachine 3 is up and running and pretty damn versatile. I’m probably not gonna, lazy as I am.

  49. Added a few entries to the Worm TV Tropes page that I thought were odd being missing;

    Cybernetics Eat Your Soul (added this one a week or so ago)
    Indy Ploy
    Xanatos Gambit
    Xanatos Speed Chess

    • Note to self: make the comment-line reminding people about the Character Sheets more obvious.

      I wouldn’t have called Mannequin “Cybernetics Eat Your Soul” — I thought that his psychotic break preceded his self-encapsulation.

      • True, there are only a few characters with normal cybernetics in this setting so far, Armsmaster, Alexandria etc. and there doesn’t seem to be any common theme of them losing their humanity because they put on some high tech prosthetics. Mannequin is not a very good example at all.

        • Mannequin also seems to be the least human of the characters who used to be human. What’s left of his body could be carried around in a large trashbag if it wasn’t stuck in a torso. And in a less literal way, his cybernetics are less humanoid than the others. He turned himself into something with blades and chains and extend-o-matic body parts. He used to be a man, but he’s more machine than man now.

          Also, I didn’t recall Alexandria having cybernetics.

          Also, Packbat, while I’m at it, think that thing from Chrysalis 20.5 would count for Heartwarming after all? As I said, I don’t like to put my Crowning Moments in there.

          Now I’m off to go see if Blasto’s got an I Must Scream under his name.

          • she had a cybernetic eye as the director of the PRT. Mentioned after Echidna gets burned away once. Can’t remember what chapter exactly.

          • Which thing, Gecko? There’s an entry there saying:

            In 20.5, over a hundred students stand up and form a human barricade to protect Skitter/Taylor from Dragon and Defiant after they exposed her identity. And after the last kernel of them make it out of sight and they stop, each of them, starting with Fern (whom Skitter had just expressed suspicion of that morning), explains the key incidents that gave them a personal allegiance to the Undersiders or to her specifically.

            …so if that’s what you’re referring to, it’s already done.

            Also, Blasto absolutely needs an And I Must Scream entry. I wonder if that trope belongs on the main page, though — it’s an event that happened to a character, not an essential aspect of the character. Is it more like Body Horror (which we’ve been putting on the character sheet) or Out Gambitted (which I added to the main page)?

  50. A thought: PRT is banking on the next Endbringer attack to bolster their image. But… What if the attack already happened – the Simurgh’s intervention “counting:” as one. So, there’ll be no attack any time soon. Nothing to boost their image.

    • Or there is a Endbringer attack and they lose harder than they ever have before to completely destroy their image. We have seen Leviathan/The Smurf’s abilities explored over an arc so I’m hoping Behemoth is next. Maybe he’ll attack the birdcage to bring the prisoner back into the story.

      • Losing is something they can plan for – it’s something they may even be counting for (to kill off the unreliable heroes).

        No attack at all is an OCP, from what I can tell. Something that PRT is not prepared to deal with.

        Consider – they are preparing to make a good showing. This likely means preserving their forces. Potentially abandoning “minor” areas, pardoning some criminals to induct them into their numbers, putting off dealing with their internal problems. Things that will build up pressure and marginally sour their public image, but will pay off, one way or another, during the attack.

        If there is no attack, the pressure just continues to rise. Plus they are left without a schedule or an idea of where the next strike may happen.

          • Behemoth or the Simurgh. Discussed in the Parahumans Online interlude. It’s not a strict rotation, and can go B L B S B, theoretically (as opposed to BLS BLS BLS…).

          • Oh? I thought the rotation was set this entire time
            Whoa, imaging them facing Behemoth every /other/ Endbringer attack would really take a toll on the world as a whole

  51. I just realized. No one else asked about Vikare?, because i found that little tibit of info (and the origin for the term “rogues” in the Wormverse) awesome.

    Wildbow, could we get more infor about him/her?

  52. I’m speculating the Undersiders’ & Parian’s possible Gang & Territory names:

    1. Grue – Territory Name: The Shades, Gang Name: Pitch Black
    2. Skitter – Territory Name: The Colony, Gang Name: Wretched Hive
    3. Bitch – Territory Name: Dogtown, Gang Name: Sons of Bitches’
    4. Regent – Territory Name: The Regency, Gang Name: The Aristocrats
    5. Imp – Territory Name: Mogwai, Gang Name: Gremlins
    6. Tattletale – Gang Name: The Paparazzi
    7. Parian – Territory Name: Dolltown, Gang Name: The Plushies

    Any other suggestions?

  53. There are a few thoughts I have been having about Cauldron and the Case 53s. They don’t have a lot of evidence for them but it seems to me like it all fits together. In other words, here are my wild guesses for some of what is happening/has happened behind the scenes.

    Hypothesis 1: Scion/Zion is the first Case 53.
    We know that the Case 53 parahumans were experimented on by Cauldron and were physically and/or mentally transformed in addition to gaining powers. We know Scion/Zion has significant mental issues, and his body looks like it is made of gold so we have a physical transformation as well. The only thing he is missing is the Cauldron mark. He wasn’t marked because… well how would you mark him? Even the Endbringers can’t scratch him.

    Hypothesis 2: Cauldron is ultimately responsible for all parahumans on Earth Bet.
    Scion was the first (recorded) parahuman. We know that proximity to other parahumans makes it easier to trigger. We know that Caulrdon is capable of interdimentional travel. If Cauldron really is responsible for the first parahuman, it seems likely then that the Case 53s dumped in Earth Bet are what allowed other humans to start triggering ‘natually’.

    Hypothesis 3: Cauldron deliberately stimulated Earth Bet into gaining more parahumans in order to lure the Endbringers into attacking Earth Bet instead of Earth Aleph (or some other parallel Earth).
    Why would Cauldron dump the Case 53s instead of killing them? Why spare Faultline and her crew? Humanitarian reasons? It is possible, but it seems unlikely. It is more likely that they some reason to want as many parahumans as possible on Earth Bet. Earth Aleph does not have Endbringers. Assuming that the Endbringers do not have a human origin (they were never human but it is possible that they were the product of some parahuman ability), and considering that Earth Aleph and Earth Bet only diverged 30 years ago, Earth Aleph ought to have it’s own Endbringers. The most likely explanation to me is that the Endbringers have an extradimentional origin. But why attack Earth Bet rather than Earth Aleph? The most obvious difference between the two Earths is the number of parahumans.

  54. Been reading through, and intended to start commenting once I caught up, but something struck me. With the amount of monumentally stupid moves the PRT is making, it almost seems like Cauldron is setting them up so that the eventual collapse is as catastrophic as possible. Why? Who knows, but with their influence, odds are they wouldn’t be letting things like this happen unless they wanted everything to come apart at the seams in… I dunno… maybe two years.

  55. I think Taylor was wrong to call Defiant Armsmaster. It might be true, in the way calling Echidna Noelle might be true, but Defiant seems to have turned over a new leaf. Either that or his old leaf is oriented in a new direction.

    Either way, I approve.

  56. What’s wrong with Dragon’s voice processing system?

    How come clones have powers? Does the passenger decide to link and give powers to everything with a slight resemblance to the original? For Echidna’s clones I simply assumed Echidna was providing the power.

  57. > “Cell phone video,” Marshall said. “Long conversation between Defiant, Dragon and Skitter in the cafeteria.

    You’re missing an ending quote on this paragraph, since the next one doesn’t begin with dialogue.

  58. > Howell has no authority outside of the school walls, so we interview students there.

    Point of order: at least in the school districts that I’m familiar with (maybe it’s different in Brockton Bay), the school’s formal authority over students extends from the moment they arrive at school, until they either arrive home or are picked up by their legal gaurdians.

  59. HAHAHA! Oh Sophia, you poor sad little girl. Your little punching bag grew up to rule a city and kick so much ass that you are barely a blip on the radar in comparison. Tell me, when was the last time YOU cut out a supervillain’s eyes?

    I wish we had a reaction shot of Emma too though. We got all the important players with Danny, Sophia and the PRT but I really want to know what sort of mental state our old queen of evil is in now. It’s highly doubtful that she’ll ever show up again so I guess I will consign it to the realm of fantasy.

    Oh god Danny you really need to watch the entire video when it goes online. Those parts were definitely some of the most ruthless ones in the conversation. Par for the course for news but it doesn’t paint the nicest picture of your daughter nor show the reason that 100 of her peers stood up to protect her…that poor guy. At least he recognized the butterfly for the goodbye that it was.

    Haha oh Defiant I really do like you. “We could’ve avoided this.” “Yeah we could’ve. Next time leave us the fuck alone asshole. Oh and don’t bother trying to send me to the Birdcage ’cause you know, my girlfriend is the Warden and she’s not exactly your friend either anymore.”

    Oh crap…I hope that he didn’t do serious damage to her when he fixed her…

    Okay I was willing to give Alexandria the benefit of the doubt and even willing to chalk up her arrogant dickish attitude to simply being a well-intentioned extremist but now she’s crossed the line. Nope Alexandria is a hair’s breath away from being a bad guy in my mind now. Putting a murderer in charge of murderers. Yeah, cause THAT makes sense. Bitch. And Defiant is not a murderer. Armsmaster was not a murderer. Did he leave people to die? Hell yes. But he didn’t sit in front of them and pull the trigger. He was an arrogant reckless asshole but he was not a murderer. There is a large difference to what he did than to what people like Coil and Lung have done.

    Uuummmmmm…can someone please kill Bonesaw already? Please? Because this girl alone could pretty much take out a continent with her crazy…TEN Crawlers? TEN SIBERIANS?! I understand not nuking Endbringers since it apparently doesn’t work well but if anyone deserves a nuke it’s that little bundle of nightmares. I’m pretty sure by this point sacrificing a small town or even a small city to nuclear fallout is an acceptable price to pay for ridding the planet of her. It’s probably even a smaller overall loss of life…

    If Jack is only willing to make one of Gray Boy…that’s very worrisome.

  60. “… built more like a thirteen year old than a twenty-three year old college graduate.”

    Standard form for multi-word nouns would be thirteen-year-old, but the second one’s correct, since it’s an adjective there.

  61. Glad Sophia has some time to dwell on the person who put her in jail. Dat reaction: Priceless.

    Poor Danny😦 , I doubt Taylor will get the chance to contact him again.

  62. Danny’s relationship with Taylor reminds me of my own relationship with my parents. Can you really love someone if you don’t know her? If all you see of her is your own expectations? If she cannot talk to you because you’ve set yourself up as a person unable to accept the real her? Whose fault is it that matters came to be such? Danny’s? Taylor’s? The world’s? And if ultimately, the world is to blame, isn’t it really your own fault if you don’t seek the power to change things? How do you look back at that person in their little weak bubble and say “Sorry. I’d burn right through your vision. You can’t see the real me?”

  63. There’s a part of me that wants to see this serial as a TV show. The dramatic reveal at the end of this segment was amazing, but I feel like it would have been even more amazing if it were an actual visual reveal, the camera panning around to show the full horror of what will be unleashed upon the unwitting world.

    There are other parts of me that really don’t want this to ever be a TV show because a) I would need to watch it through and that would take ages and b) there are some things in this serial that I would really not want to visually see.

  64. Also, man oh man – D&D take the heat off S9 for a few hours to go harass some poor teenage girl, and look what they get up to!

  65. I like how it seems like Armsmaster/Defiant has legitimately become a decent person. The cliche thing to do would be for him to go crazy after the post-Endbringer events and seek some sort of revenge against Skitter, but it seems like he honestly thought about things and came to some reasonable conclusions.

  66. “Piggot was watching in silence, elbows on the table, hands folded in front of her mouth.”

    She’s doing the Gendo… SHE’S DOING THE GENDO! Oh this is a wonderful day.

    On another note. I’m really sorry for Danny. If he had been watching for maybe twenty more seconds than he could have seen all those people standing with Taylor. I don’t think it would do much but I just wish he got to see that.

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