Interlude 20

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If Accord didn’t know better, he might have thought this little soiree was located here with the sole purpose of irritating him.

Wait, he did know better.  Tattletale.  She would have done this just to beleaguer him.

The Forsberg Gallery.  The building had once been a pristine, albeit distressingly asymmetrical construction of glass and steel.  Now it was a shattered ruin.  There was little rhyme or reason to the design, and navigating was something of a chore.

To his right, as he ascended a staircase, there was a wing that jutted out from the side of the building, six stories up, like an architectural tumor.  With the damage done by Shatterbird’s attack, the only glass that remained in the building was scattered across the floor like a winter frost.  The offending growth on the side of the building had sustained some damage, more likely a consequence of the vibrations than damage from the glass itself, and the reinforcements that had been made to shore it up only served to make it uglier.

Inelegant, unbalanced.

His power immediately began supplying answers and solutions.  He was on his guard, and the first thoughts to his mind were of offense and harming others.  As clear as if he were seeing it for himself, he could see a pendulum, disguised among the steel frame of the building, swinging from a point above, and he could hear the sound of steel on steel, like a sword being drawn from its sheath, only at twelve times the scale.

With the appropriate design, the impact would be clean, almost muted.  His enemies, isolated within the wing, would make more noise, screaming as the reinforcing struts and the rivets holding intact beams to the larger structure were shorn away.  The end result would see his enemies dead, and the building improved, more balanced.

Ten minutes to draw up the blueprint.  Eighty to a hundred minutes of labor, depending on the skill of the craftsmen.  Two hundred and forty five minutes of labor if he did it himself… and the result would be stronger, better and more efficient if he did.  One thousand, four hundred dollars plus salaries.

Impractical.  Getting his enemies into the area would be hard.  Impossible, if they had any intelligence at all.

He dismissed the thought, but others were already flooding into place.  Him and his two Ambassadors in the offending wing, connected to nearby buildings by an arrangement of steel cables.  Not one pendulum, but seven.

One pendulum would cut the tumorous wing free.  It would swing out on the steel cables, between the two buildings.  With the right angle, it would swoop between the two nearest buildings.  The right mechanism, and one cable could come free at the right moment, allowing a change of direction.  They wouldn’t even lose their balance, as the angle of the floor and centripetal force kept them steadily in place.

With attention to details, they’d even be able to step free of the platform, as though they were departing a ski lift.  The wing would then slingshot into the rubble of a nearby building, cleanly disposed of.  The Forsberg Gallery would be pulled apart, steel cut from steel by the shearing blades of the pendulums, the weight and movement of the mechanisms serving a second purpose by magnifying the damage, pulling individual pieces free of one another and setting the complete and total destruction of the building into motion.

The unseemly Forsberg Gallery would crash to the ground, with many of his enemies inside, while he and his Ambassadors watched from the point where they’d disembarked.

He loathed making messes, but cleaning up after the fact was so very satisfying, whether it was mopping up the gore or seeing the lot cleared of debris.

Thirty two minutes to draw out blueprints for the pendulums and work out the sequence needed for best effect.  Three hundred to three hundred and forty minutes of time to set it up.  He could estimate costs north of eleven thousand dollars, not counting salaries.  None of the materials were particularly expensive in and of themselves, and he had any number of businesses in his pocket where he could acquire those materials at a significant discount.

Somewhat more practical, but impossible.  He didn’t have the time to set it up, not for tonight.  It made for an elegant image, if nothing else, somewhat soothing.

No sooner had he turned away from the idea of violence than other thoughts were forcing their way into his mind’s eye.  The outstretching wing being transformed from an edificial cyst to a bridge, with similar connections networking the entire city, each bridge and connection point changing individual points of design into a series of gradients.  Architectural styles and building heights would change from a stuttering, jilted progression to something flowing, a seamless wave

Accord closed his eyes briefly, doing what he could to shut it out.  It didn’t help.  He had a sense of the building as a whole, could imagine reconfiguring it, removing the parts that jutted out and using them to fill gaps towards the building’s center mass.  He’d worked with his power to see things through the various lenses of viability: money, resources, time, personnel, but that was almost a detriment now.

He opened his eyes to search for something to take his mind off of the irritating aspect of the building’s design, but he saw only glass shards, discordant in how they had fallen throughout the building.  Some had been swept out of the way by people who’d taken up residence in the Gallery, but the heaping, lumpy piles of glass, dust and debris weren’t any better.  He caught a glimpse of a soggy sleeping bag and the scattered contents of a supply kit and wished he hadn’t looked.

Images rifled through his mind.  A network of wires, drawn taut by a weight plunging through the elevator shaft, moving in concert to sweep the glass shards and signs of human life into the elevator shaft.  The same wires would catch his enemies, mangling them as they were cast down after the rain of glass.  Between the long fall and the thermite that could reduce the mess to a fine, clean ash, even more durable capes wouldn’t be walking away.

No.  It wasn’t constructive to think this way.

On the uppermost floors, plexiglass and a large volume of water mixed with a high concentration of carbon dioxide and a sudsing agent, sweeping through the building.  Staggering it, so the water from the highest floor could clean away the soap-

Rearranging the glass shards into a kaleidoscopic-

“Citrine, Othello,” he spoke, interrupting his own train of thought.  “Distract me.”

“I’m not so comfortable with this vantage point,” Citrine said.  “The climb only tires us out, and the vantage point doesn’t suit any of our abilities.  It puts us in a weak position.”

“Sir,” Othello whispered.

“…Sir!” she belatedly added.

Accord was ascending the stairs just in front of her.  It might normally be impossible, but here, it was easy: to turn and deftly slice her throat with the folded blade within his cane.  Quiet, efficient.

He stopped partway up the stair case and faced her, saw her unharmed and unhurt.  His Citrine, young, blond, wearing a goldenrod yellow evening gown and a gemstone studded mask.  Her hair was immaculately styled, her makeup flawless, with a yellow lipstick that matched her outfit without being garish.

Accord’s left hand folded over the right, both resting on top of the ornate cane.

She stopped, glanced at Othello, beside her.  “I’m sorry, sir.”

“Everything and everyone in the appropriate place,” he said.  “Not just in terms of physical position, but socially.  Courtesy and acknowledgement of status are pivotal.”

“I know, sir.  It’s not an excuse, but I was tired from the walk and the climb, and I was thinking of strategy, in case we were ambushed.  I will endeavor to do better, sir.”

“We all have to do better.  We must all strive to improve.  A step backwards is a tragic, dangerous misstep.”

“Yes sir.”

As if he were watching himself on film, he could see himself pushing her down the stairs.  Not so steep a fall as to kill her, but the pain would enforce discipline, and the act of discipline would both help drive the point home for her and quiet his own thoughts.

But the bruises, cuts any broken bones, her inconsistent attempts at suppressing any sounds of pain as she joined him on the trek to the upper floor?  It would only make things worse.  More disorder.

The thoughts were so sharp they were difficult to distinguish from reality.  He shifted his hold on his cane, staring into her eyes.  She still stood before him.

With just the fractional movement of his hands, there was a change in her body language.  Muscles in her neck and shoulders grew more taut, her breathing changed.  She said, “Sir-”

“Shh,” he said.  She fell silent.

His left hand cupped her chin, his eyes never leaving hers.  More of a reaction: her eyes flickered, moving mere milimeters as she strained to maintain eye contact.  he could feel the warmth of her breath on his wrist as she exhaled slowly, the faintest of movements against his hand as she shifted her weight to stay absolutely still.

His thumb brushed against her cheek.  Soft.  He knew she dedicated an hour every morning to caring for her skin, another hour to her hair.  Unlike hers, his gaze was unwavering, assured.  In his peripheral vision, he could see her chest rise and fall.  He wasn’t a sexual creature, not in the base, animal sense.  The idea of intercourse, it didn’t appeal.  The mess of it.  But she was a thing of beauty, nonetheless.  He could appreciate her from an aesthetic standpoint.

Citrine had shifted out of place, though.  A square peg, just askew enough that it wouldn’t slide into the hole designated for it.  It jarred, and it cast a pallor on everything else that was right about her.

As his fingers moved, tracing the line of her jaw, drifting to her chin, the idea of cutting her throat invaded his thoughts.  A quick, clean severing of vital flows.  He could see the lines of tension in her neck as she stretched it, striving to keep it absolutely still.

Again, though, the disorder, the disruption.  Blood was so messy, and as much as he might relish the opportunity to take thirty minutes from his day and clean up back in a more secure area, others would see, and it would throw too many things out of balance.

There wasn’t a right answer here, and it bothered him.

Thinking rationally, he knew he was irritated.  The location, even this city, they didn’t suit him.  He couldn’t act on that, not yet, and the resulting dissatisfaction affected how he responded to the little things.

His fingers broke contact with her chin, one by one, as he contemplated his options.  By the time his index finger had dropped away, he’d decided.

“You’re my best ambassador, Citrine,” he said.

She was breathing just a bit harder than she had been, as the tension that had drawn her entire body tight was released.  A flush touched her cheeks as she responded, “Yes sir.”

“I don’t want to lose you.”

“Yes sir, I’ll do my utmost to ensure you don’t have cause to.”

“Please do,” he said.  He noted that the flush had spread down to her decolletage.  Not the result of fear or anger.  Another base emotion.  “Citrine?”

She glanced at him.

“Calm yourself.”

“Yes sir,” she breathed the words.

He glanced at Othello, who wore a black suit and a mask divided between alabaster white and jet black.  The man hadn’t commented or flinched as Accord addressed Citrine.

Accord turned and started ascending the stairs again.  “Quicken your paces.  I refuse to be late.”

Intrusive thoughts continued to plague him.  He’d once described it as being very similar to the sensation one experienced on a train platform, a ledge or while standing in front of fast moving traffic, that momentary urge to simply step forward, to see what might happen.

Except the thoughts were sharper, with more weight to them, more physical than ethereal.  His power was problem solving, and every problem demanded to be addressed. The solutions were posited whether he wanted them or not, one step and hundred-step plans alike.  And it never ended.

Every flaw needed correcting, every imbalance needed to be weighed again.  Mediocrity could be raised to greatness.

The greater the problem, the faster he could solve it.  He’d taken the time one afternoon to solve world hunger.  Six hours and twenty-six minutes with the internet and a phone on hand, and he’d been able to wrap his head around the key elements of the problem.  He’d drafted a document in the nine hours that followed, doing little more than typing and tracking down exact numbers.  A hundred and fifty pages, formatted and clear, detailing who would need to do what, and the costs therein.

It had been bare bones, with room for further documents detailing the specifics, but the basic ideas were there.  Simple, measured, undeniable.  Every major country and ruler had been accounted for, in terms of the approaches necessary to get them on board, given their particular natures and the political climate of their area.  Production, distribution, finance and logistics, all sketched out and outlined in clear, simple language.  Eighteen years, three point one trillion dollars.  Not so much money that it was impossible.  A great many moderate sacrifices from a number of people.

Even when he’d handed over the binder with the sum total of his work, his employer had been more concerned with the fact that he’d shown up late to work for his job.  His boss had barely looked at the binder before calling it impossible, then demanded Accord return to work.  A mind like his, in an office handling economic oversight within the PRT, looking for the precogs and thinkers who were trying to manipulate the markets to their own ends.

It was only one imbalance, one irregularity, but it had been an important one.  It had nagged at him, demanded resolution.  He had to prove it was possible.

So he’d siphoned the very funds that his department was managing.  It hadn’t been hard to redistribute some of the wealth that the villains and rogues were trying to manipulate.  One ambiguous evil for the sake of an undeniable good.  He covered his tracks flawlessly.

In the process, he failed to account for the full breadth of his newest coworker’s talents.  Thinker powers interfered with one another, and despite his ability to work with that particular drawback, even help them to work in concert, the clairvoyant had found him out.  He’d been caught, jailed, and subsequently freed by the jailbreak specialist he’d contacted well in advance.

Here he was, years later.  Nobody he’d contacted had taken to his ideas, and government after government had failed to thoroughly read the documents he sent them.  Nobody raised the subject of his work to the United Nations or any major political body.  They were too interested in maintaining the status quo.

His plans weren’t observably closer to fruition, but he had contacts and he had wealth, and that went a long way.  He would take the slow, steady path to victory.  The binder relating to world hunger had been expanded on, with the addition of further binders to detailing the specifics.  Other sets of binders had joined it, each relating to a major issue: disease, population, government, energy, and climate.  He spent an hour and a half every morning ensuring that everything was up to date with recent changes to the economy and international politics.

The recent altercation with the Slaughterhouse Nine in Boston had been a setback, but he remained confident.  Twenty-three years to see it all through.  Twenty-three years to bring the world into order.  Everything was a step towards those ends.

Even this, as much as the setting and the people grated.

They reached the top floor and came face to face with the Teeth.  Seven parahumans, wearing costumes that bristled with blades, spikes and spines.  They managed to wear the trophies of their defeated enemies without looking primitive.  Teeth, eyes, dessicated body parts and bones were worked into their costumes, a collective theme that promised aggression and violent retaliation for any slight.

Accord tightened his grip on his cane.  He itched to end them.  His mind burned with hundreds of ideas on how to do it.  Traps, ploys, ways to set them against one another, or ways to use the other people in the room against them.

The Teeth didn’t get in his way as he led his two ambassadors around the periphery of their group.  There were no windows, and the wind sent minuscule shards of glass dancing over the tiled floor, periodically glinting as they caught the light from the flood-lamps that were set around the room.

“Welcome, Accord,” Tattletale greeted them.

He surveyed the group at the end of the long table.  They weren’t holding back, in making a show of power.  No less than six dogs were chained in place behind them, each mutated and grown to massive size by Bitch’s power.  Their number was bolstered by the addition of a massive spider and a scorpion, both wrought of black cloth.  Silk?  Skitter’s silk?

Regent stood by Imp, a costume of predominant white contrasted by a costume of black.  They seemed to be exchanging murmured words.

Bitch wore a mask that looked much like her dogs did, bearing a black jacket with thick, shaggy fur around the edges of the hood and collar.  She didn’t flinch, even as one of her larger mutants growled and gnashed its teeth inches from her head.  The creature’s ire was directed at Accord, not her.

Parian’s style of dress had changed from the images Accord had seen in his research.  Her hair was no longer blonde, but black, her frock matching.  The white mask she wore had a crack running down one side.  She was very diminutive compared to the others, almost demure with the way she sat at one side of the table, hands folded, as though she didn’t want to be a part of this.

Tattletale, by contrast, was seated on the cloth scorpion, just beside a large monitor.  She was cavalier, her hair wind-tousled, disrespectful by her very body language, sitting askew.

He had to work to ignore her.  He turned his attention to the figures at the head of the table.  Grue stood behind the chair, one hand set on the backrest, a demonic visage wreathed in absolute darkness. Skitter sat at the end, backed by her forces, looking over the room.  Bugs swarmed her from the shoulders down, but Accord could note a shawl and hints of protective armor.  Neither the yellow lenses of her mask or the expanse of black cloth that covered her face gave any indication of her mood or expression.  Either the images that he’d seen had been misleading, or she’d done some work to her mask, making the mandible-like sections of armor that ran forward from her jawline sharper and more pronounced.

Dismissing Tattletale’s greeting, Accord spoke to Skitter, “We finally meet.  Good evening.”

“Good evening,” she said, her voice augmented by the accompanying buzzes and drones of countless bugs in the area.  “Have a seat.”

He took a seat midway down the length of the twelve-foot table, and his ambassadors sat on either side of him.

The Fallen must not have been terribly far behind him, as they arrived less than a minute after he did.  Valefor and Eligos.

Valefor wore a delicate-looking mask without eye-holes: a woman’s upper face with closed eyes.  Beneath the mask, he had a sly, perpetual smirk with tattoos that colored his lips black and extended from the corners.  The ink depicted fangs poking from thin lips that nearly reached his jaw, the points alternating up and down.  His costume was almost effeminate, with white and silver feathers featuring heavily on flowing white clothes that clung to his narrow body, including a corset that drew his waist in.

The costume was meant to invoke images of the Simurgh, no doubt.  Crass.  Eligos’ costume wasn’t so fine, suited more for a brawl, but it, too, conjured up thoughts of an Endbringer: the Behemoth.  Obsidian horns that swooped back over his head, heavy armor that resembled rhino hide in texture and claws built into his gloves.

“Valefor, Eligos, members of the Teeth, now that we’re all here, I’ll ask that you take a seat,” Skitter said.

“Why should we listen to you?” Valefor asked, his voice was incongruous with his outfit, bearing a slight southern twang.  He leaned over one chair, his arms folded over the backrest, taunting.

“It’s customary for there to be violent retaliation if someone causes trouble at a meeting like this,” Skitter said.  “Usually involving every other party that’s present.”

“I’m not saying I’m intending to cause trouble,” Valefor said.  “I’m wondering why we should follow the schoolgirl.  I’m sure everyone here saw the news.  Did you see the news, Butcher?”

“Yes,” the leader of the Teeth answered.  A woman stepped out of the midst of the group of Teeth.  She was elegant, long necked and long-limbed, with her hair tied up in a high ponytail.  Her mask and armor had an Asian style to it, though the costume were studded and trimmed with a number of wickedly barbed blades.  More incongruous, there were three bleached skulls strung to one another and hanging around one shoulder.

The costume, it was asymmetrical, lacking harmony, trying to do too many things at once.  The samurai, the headhunter, the bloodletter.  None of it fit the title she wore: Butcher.

Images flickered through Accord’s mind.  Ways to obliterate both costume and wearer. More difficult than it seemed, given just who she was.

As if to punctuate Accord’s line of thinking, she effortlessly lifted a gatling gun and set it down on the end of the table.  The sheer mass of the weapon was imposing enough that Accord momentarily wondered if the other end of the long wooden table would lift off the ground.

The woman very deliberately refused the offer to sit.  She’d spoken only one word, but managed to convey a great deal with her actions.

“Very embarrassing,” Valefor mused aloud.  “Really, I don’t see why you should get to sit at the head of the table.  A sixteen year old girl, a victim of bullying, it doesn’t conjure up the most imposing image, does it?”

“If everyone agreed to suspend the usual rules, I would be more than happy to go head to head with your group,” Skitter replied.

“Of course you would.  You outnumber us.”

“Just me,” Skitter answered him.

“That so?”  Valefor smiled, considering.

Accord surveyed the situation.  Valefor was a stranger, less in terms of his ability to hide, and more in his ability to engage in subterfuge.  He had only to look on a target with his naked eye, and the fight was over.  It was no small wonder, really, that he’d styled himself after the Simurgh.  The effect was all too similar, in how the victim was often unaware of what had happened until it was too late.

Yet Skitter didn’t seem to mind.  Was it a decoy?  An empty costume?  No.

A trap?

Accord studied the area around Valefor.  What would he do, with her abilities?

He saw it: almost invisible, except where the light caught it at the right angle.  Threads, surrounding Valefor, trailing from his corset, his elbows and knees.

They were all trailing in the direction of the window.  If they were pulled taut, Valefor would be dragged outside.  Depending on how well they held, he’d either dangle or fall to the street below.

“Valefor,” Accord spoke, the layers of his mask shifting to emulate his smile, “Trust me when I say you already lost the fight.”

“Is that so?”

“I won’t spoil the conclusion if you’re eager to see this through.  One less threat to worry about.  But if I may offer my own opinion, I think the response she gave, given the situation, was eminently reasonable.  I gained respect for her, seeing how it unfolded.”

“Then you’re a fool.”

“Regardless, I won’t condone fighting here.  It sets a bad precedent.”

“Yes,” Butcher said.

Valefor frowned.

“That’s that, then,” Skitter said.

Accord studied her.  He could see her swarm in the shadows behind the floodlights, moving in anticipation of a fight, no doubt.  Their presence nettled him almost as badly as if they’d been physically crawling on him.  They were all of the issues he’d had with the glass, but they were alive.  He knew he could make them stop, make them go away, simply by giving an order to his ambassadors.  Not that it was a possibility.

He glanced at Skitter.  “I think you and I both know you’d win the fight.  But how final would the outcome be?  You’re in the seat of power.  More villains will arrive with every passing day.  Are you prepared to kill?”

“Is this some kind of head game?” Valefor asked.

“It isn’t any manner of head game,” Accord responded.  “I’m curious.  Her response would shed a great deal of light on the discussion tonight.”

“Yes,” Skitter gave her belated response.  “But I’d like to keep to the unwritten rules, as abused as they have been, lately.  Killing should be a last resort.”

“I see.”  She has some other trap on hand?  The bugs at the edge of the room?  “Can I ask if- no, wait.  Don’t tell me.  I’ll enjoy it more if I discover it for myself.”

“Very well.  Now, if everyone would be seated, we can begin,” Skitter said, resting both elbows on the table.  

It wasn’t quite straight, Accord noted.  The table was askew, in relation to the rest of the room.  Solutions flickered through his mind’s eye, ranging from ones as simple as standing to push the table into a proper position to a flat-faced wrecking ball that could slam into the building’s side.

No, he had to focus.  He could distract himself by figuring out Skitter’s contingency plans.

Butcher seemed to come to a decision, but that was normal for her, to take some time, ruminate.  To discuss, for lack of a better word.  She sat at the end of the table opposite Skitter.  She was tall enough to be seen head and shoulders over the massive gun.  Her followers didn’t sit, but stood in a half-circle around her, a mirror to Skitter’s own group.

“Valefor,” Skitter spoke, and her voice was more ominous, hinting at the sheer number of bugs lurking at the edges of the room, “Either take a seat or leave.”

Valefor glanced over the room, then shrugged, as if he didn’t care anymore, sitting.  Eligos followed his cue.

And Accord realized Skitter’s contingency plan in the next instant.  Silk wasn’t just attached to Valefor, to him, even.  She’d connected silk to the furniture.

The table.  She could drag the table with the silk lines, each laid out to fit in the gaps between tiles, nearly invisible.  In doing so, she’d sandwich any one group between the table and a wall, or leave them clinging for a grip, almost falling.

How would she drag it?  Another mutant dog?  Some counterweight?

Regardless of the answer, Accord felt oddly pleased with himself.  The danger posed by this trap didn’t even concern him.

“Let’s talk business,” Skitter said.  “Whether you like it or not, the Undersiders have prior claim on this city.”

“A matter of a week and a half,” Valefor said.

“Prior claim,” Skitter repeated herself.  “We have rules, and if you bend or break these rules, we’ll be forced to act.”

“I’ve already discussed your rules with Tattletale,” Accord said.

“You had your chance to accept the terms we were offering then.  Now the rules we’re stipulating have changed.  No killing.  Cross that line and we kill you.  Several members of our team are capable of doing that without you knowing we’re anywhere nearby.  If you’re lucky, Imp slits your throat with you none the wiser, or Regent has one of your underlings stab you in the back, and you go quick.  If you’re unlucky, Bitch’s dogs tear you to shreds, and it’s a long, drawn out, painful process.  If you’re very unlucky, you get the worst of both worlds, and you deal with me.”

“What if there’s someone that has to die?” Valefor asked.  “Sometimes killing is necessary.”

“You come to me.  I decide,” Skitter said.

“There’s no new detail here,” Accord said.  “Tattletale outlined much the same thing, though with less in the way of threats.”

“I’m not even close to done.  Property.  We will find out about any territory you acquire.  Whatever you pay for the land, you pay us a third.  That includes the cost of buying the land itself, rent and taxes.  If you’re not paying property taxes or rent, we still expect an appropriate amount.”

“Expensive,” Accord said.

“You could have accepted our earlier offer,” Skitter replied.  “If you want out from under that particular constraint, any of you may fold your organizations into ours, coming under our direct authority.”

“This is a passive takeover, then,” Accord said.  “You intend to put the squeeze on us until we cave.”

“I am very, very tired of people telling me what I intend,” Skitter answered him.  “Our territory borders are marked with our individual signatures.  Traffic in anything illegal or harm someone within any of these areas, and we retaliate.  Target any of us, and we retaliate as a whole.”

“It doesn’t sound like it leaves us much elbow room,” Accord replied.  “I have yet to see an area that wasn’t already marked as being in one territory or another.”

“Then you grasp my meaning.” Skitter added, “My next point: during any Endbringer event, or the possible incident at the end of the world, you send half of your powered membership or three members to assist, whichever is more.”

“This is bordering on the ridiculous,” Valefor said.  “You expect us to fight the Endbringers?”

“You?  No.”

“You’re picking a fight,” Valefor said.

“I’m giving each of you the option of obeying, leaving or fighting,” Skitter said.  “The Ambassadors will accept the deal as posed.  They won’t like it, Accord may even hate me, because of my powers and my less predictable nature, but they’ll accept.”

“Is that so?” Accord asked.

“Yes.  You’ll do it because you have resources that you can use to leverage what unfolds when they’ve finished scouting the other side of the portal and open it up for business.  You wouldn’t come all the way here and then leave because you didn’t like the terms.”

“There are the other options.”

“Fighting us?  You have only two underlings that survived the attack in Boston.  As strong as they are, you’re not equipped to fight.  You’ll join us because it’s the fastest route to get what you really want.”

Ah, Accord thought.  Tattletale filled her in.

It made life a little easier, and a little harder, in very different ways.

Skitter leaned back, one hand resting on the table.  “What was it you said to Tattletale?  Everyone and everything has a place?”

“More or less.”

“Your place isn’t on a battlefield, opposite the Undersiders.  It’s in this city, building an infrastructure and gathering resources for your long term plans.  You’ll accept an expensive rent and a limitation on criminal activity for that very reason.”

“You would have me risk good help on fruitless fights against immortal killing machines,” Accord said.

“That too,” Skitter replied.  “I don’t expect the Fallen will accept the terms, with the restriction about fighting Endbringers, but I doubt they’re long for this city anyways.”

Valefor stood from the table.  Eligos joined him.  Together, they strode from the room, silent.

“That was a touch rash,” Accord commented, “insulting them.”

“I wasn’t lying.  Imp and Haven will handle them soon.”

“Valefor is more cunning than you’d assume.  An arrogant young man, impetuous and immature, but history suggests he’s rather cunning when he puts his mind to something.”

“Not a concern,” Skitter said.

“If you say so.”

Skitter turned her attention to the other leader.  “Butcher?”

“No,” the woman replied, standing from the table.

“I didn’t think so.  Do you have any other business you’d like to bring up, while we’re all here?”

“You die,” Butcher said.  “You can’t kill me.  I will win.”

With that, her longest statement yet, she turned and walked away.

“Not good enemies to have,” Accord commented.  It was just his group and the Undersiders now.

“We’ll manage.”

“The first Butcher had super strength, durability, and the ability to inflict enough pain at a distance that his enemies went into cardiac arrest.  His other powers only became evident later.  He was killed by a subordinate, and the man who would later be known as Butcher Two inherited a fraction of his powers and a share of his consciousness.”

“Butcher Three inherited it too, along with a share of Two’s powers and consciousness,” Tattletale said.  “He was a hero, though.”

Accord rankled at the fact that she’d spoken out of turn.  Her voice rang in his ears, as though each syllable were the echoing toll of a bell, growing louder with each iteration.  Out of turn, out of sync, out of place.

He bit his tongue.  “Yes.  And the two voices in the hero’s head worked together to drive him mad.  He was gone from this world well before he died in battle.  The Teeth reclaimed the power, and the legacy has largely remained within the group since, each successor inherting powers of the ones before.  The voices and consciousnesses only work with rightful heirs, members of their group who challenge the leader and beat him in a fair match.”

“Which one is this?” Regent asked.

“Fourteen,” Tattletale said.

“This one’s number fourteen?” Regent asked.  “Which means she’s got thirteen sets of powers?”

Another one, speaking out of turn, Accord thought.

Citrine was giving him a sidelong glance.  He met her eyes, shook his head fractionally.

Tattletale answered, “Only a small share of each power.  Don’t forget she’s got thirteen voices in her head, giving her advice and helping her work stuff out, and all the powers she brought to the table, besides.  Her attacks don’t miss.  She imbues them with an effect which means they bend space so they strike her target,  Bullets turn in midair, swords curve, all means she’s pretty much guaranteed to hit you if her attack reaches far enough.”

She hopped down from the scorpion’s head and walked around the table until she was opposite Accord.

One by one, the Undersiders who’d been standing behind Skitter found seats.  The other groups had left, and they were making themselves more at home, now.  Regent put his boots on the table, right in front of Imp, who pushed them away.

Overly familiar.  Presumptuous.

Accord closed his eyes for a moment.  The table was unbalanced now, in a metaphorical sense, but it felt very real.  “I don’t recall anyone giving you leave to sit.”

Tattletale raised her eyebrows.  “I don’t recall anyone giving you permission to complain.  Our territory, our house, our rules.”

I could kill you.  Car bombs, other traps.  I could manipulate the heroes into going after you.  When I direct my ambassadors, they win their fights.  You’d break in the face of what I could do, the pressure I could inflict, everything and everyone in the world suddenly a threat, with me pulling the strings. 

He drew in a deep breath.  Too much at stake, to say such things.  In his most patient tone, as though he were speaking to a well meaning but misguided eight year old, he explained, “I’m talking about the way things are meant to be, Tattletale, understand?”

Tattletale bristled as though he’d slapped her.

“Enough,” Skitter said.  Her voice was quiet.

The silence that followed was both surprising and relieving.  She had control over her subordinates.  Good.  It took a measure of talent to exert control over such disturbed individuals.

He studied the girl.  She was composed, despite the fact that less than twelve hours had passed since her identity had been revealed to the world.  And her bugs… it had grated how disordered they had been, but now that he was looking at the ones she wore like a second layer of clothing, he could see how they were ordered, all in formation.

Skitter was calm, collected, reasonable but willing to act with a heavy hand when needed.  Clever.  She thought at the scale necessary for a true leader.

“Do you accept the deal?” Skitter asked.  “Best if I ask now, because your answer dictates the tone of the conversation that follows.”

“I accept,” he replied.  She was right: he really had no choice in the matter.  He’d dealt with worse deals and worse circumstances before.  “I suspect there will be friction, and we will have our disagreements, but we’ll be able to find a common ground.  You and I are very similar people.”

She didn’t reply.  The silence yawned, and his fingertips twitched involuntarily, dangerously close to the trigger that would turn his cane into a weapon.

“In saying that,” he said, doing his best to remain level, “I was inviting a response.”

“And I was taking a second to think before giving it,” she responded.

Starting a sentence with a conjunction.  He grit his teeth and smiled, his mask moving to emulate the expression.  “Beg pardon.”

“Let’s talk about details,” Skitter said.

The city is too dirty.  Too disordered.  The thoughts were intruding again, oppressive, insistent.  They were at the point where they were repeating, cycling back on one another.  He’d have to do something to break the cycle.  It could be time spent at a workbench, sorting out the projects in his binders or eliminating some of the more chaotic elements.

Murder was out, but there were other options.  He’d sent capes to the Yàngbǎn before.  It was more constructive than killing.  Cleaner.  It also built relationships with the C.U.I..

“Talk,” he said, after too many long minutes of silence.

“We can take them, sir,” Othello said.  “Any one group, we could handle, but not two groups at once.”

“I agree,” Accord said.  “Do you think you could handle them if things went sour?”

“With little trouble, sir.  The only ones I’d wonder about are Tattletale, Imp, Valefor and Fourteen,” Othello replied.

“Imp and Valefor… your stranger powers against theirs makes for a troublesome fight.  Imp is the one I would worry about first.  Unpredictable, impossible to track.”

“I’m suspicious my power cancels hers out, sir.  My other self saw her get close to Butcher.  I think she had a weapon.”

“Interesting.  Citrine?”

“I don’t know, sir.  Forgive my saying so, but a lot of people have thought they could handle the Undersiders, and they were wrong.  I don’t know how my power would interact with theirs.”

“Very true.  Sensible.  I’ll need to recruit, regardless of whether we encounter them.  Focus on the Teeth and the Fallen for the time being.”

“Yes sir,” the pair echoed him.

Skitter and Tattletale, he thought.  They were the real issues for him.  Tattletale’s power might have seemed similar to his own, but it was almost the inverse.  He’d heard himself described as falling somewhere in between a thinker and a tinker, and perhaps that was apt.  It was how he applied his power, starting with the end result and building backwards, and the designs that he fashioned that were so tinker-like.  But his real ability was as a thinker, involving planning, awareness and ideas beyond the reach of the unpowered.

He hoped it wouldn’t come to that, but he had to plan for every contingency.

They’d reached their accomodations, a newly built office building.  He owned the two uppermost floors, and was buying the floors beneath as the owners agreed to the sales.  Soon he would have it set up his way, with escape routes and traps to target his enemies.

“Othello,” he said.

“Yes sir?”

“Send the five first tier employees with the best grades to my room.  I expect them in fifteen minutes.”

“Of course, sir.”

“Once you’re done, retire for the evening.  Rest well,” he said.  “There are big things on the horizon.”

“Yes sir,” the two ambassadors echoed him.

Only two.  It wasn’t enough.

He settled in his room.  Too much of the furniture was pre-made.  He preferred things he had made himself.  Cleaner, simpler.  He knew where it had all come from, knew how it was put together.  Accomodations he had crafted himself were as soothing as the outside world wasn’t.

The five employees arrived right on time.  Satisfactory.  He opened the door to his room and invited them in.  Three men, two women, immaculate, all in proper business attire.

His vetting process was strict, and each step up the ladder required both his invitation and the employee’s acceptance.  Each step required them to prove their worth, to face progressively more stress and heavier workloads, and to hold themselves up to his increasingly exacting standards of perfection.

It might have made for reality television, if it weren’t for the blood that was shed along the way.  Theirs and others.

“You are being promoted,” he said.  “After tomorrow, you will be my ambassadors, my representatives to the rest of the world.”

The displays of emotion were well hidden, but they were there.  They were pleased.

“That is all.”

Wordless, the five marched out of his room.

Withdrawing his cell phone, Accord dialed a long distance number.

He smiled a little at that.  He wasn’t much for humor, but it had its places.

The ringing stopped, but there was no voice on the other end.

“Accord.  Brockton Bay.”

The doorway opened at one end of his room.  His hair stirred as air pressure equalized between the two planes.

The Number Man stood on the other side, in the white hallway with white walls.

“Five vials.  Of the same caliber as the last set, same price.”

“Done,” The Number Man said.  “Where do we stand?”

“It’s promising, but I wouldn’t make any guarantees.”

“Of course.  Everything’s progressing according to plan, then?”

Accord nodded, once.  “As well as we might hope.  We lost Coil, but the Undersiders may serve as a model in his absence.”

“Good to know.  I’ll inform the Doctor.”

The gateway closed.  Accord sat down on the end of the bed, then lay back, staring at the ceiling.

Coil had been the focus of the test, unaware.  The man had also been Accord’s friend, the one who’d sold him the PRT databases.  His death had been a tragic thing, on many levels.  There were few men Accord considered worthy of being his friend.

Now it hinged on the Undersiders.  They’d taken up Coil’s legacy, after a fashion, and just like Coil, their ambitions fell in line with Cauldron’s.  The organization’s hopes rode on them and their decisions.  Accord’s hopes rode on them: his twenty-three year plan, saving the world from the worst kind of disorder.  In the end, they were responsible for billions.

Not that he could tell them or change his actions in respect to them.  It would defeat the point.

Everything and everyone had their respective places in the grand scheme of things.  For one sixteen year old, the decisions she made in the immediate future would have more impact than she imagined.

It all came down to whether she could embrace this new role, and whether the city could embrace her in turn.

Accord drifted off to sleep, his weary mind grateful from the respite from the endless assault.

Last Chapter                                                                                               Next Chapter

457 thoughts on “Interlude 20

  1. Currently caught between the idea of doing what I did at the start of this arc, so the interludes don’t interrupt as much. Something like:
    Tues – Bonus interlude
    Thurs – Regular chapter
    Sat – Regular chapter
    Tues – Regular chapter

    That said, not sure if it’s viable this week. Writer’s circle Tuesday night, birthday Wednesday, another event on Saturday.

    It would make so much sense. But I’m tight on time. Bleh.

    I’ll figure something out.

    Hope you enjoy the chapter. If you’re so inclined, votes on Topwebfiction are welcome.

    Big thanks, by the way, to dreamfarer and Rika for their reviews of Worm on WFG. Made an already excellent week even better. 😀

    • I hope I won’t get lynched for this, but I wouldn’t have any problems with

      Tues — Bonus interlude
      Sat — Regular chapter
      Tues — Regular chapter
      Thurs — Regular chapter

      I’m in this for the long haul, and I want every chapter to be the best. *shrugs*

      • I’m in this for the long haul, and I want every chapter to be the best. *dances* (didn’t want to completely copy your post )

    • I definitely think that having back to back interludes is better than having them interrupt. But if you are tight on time then do whichever is easier for you. I’m not picky. I just want Worm.

    • If you’re tight on time just don’t release a thursday chapter.

      I said earlier I’d rather you release chapters that you’re happy with late than chapters you aren’t happy with on time.

      • Well, generally speaking, if I may interject, lateness should not be encouraged. Checking a serial and realizing the chapter you were expecting is not there makes for a poor experience and generally sours the author-reader relationship. But wildbow seems perfectly aware of that, so I’m sure I’m just talking for nothing.

        Of course, if he/she decides not to post a Thursday chapter next week, that’s not lateness, that’s an altered schedule, which is perfectly fine. Planning realistically to offer consistent quality is very good.

        • Well, Thursdays aren’t on the schedule, simply put. I do them as I’m able, but that varies week to week.

          I’ve had months (last February) where I did one every week, and I’ve had months where it was once every other week. Theoretically I could have a month where I wasn’t able to do any.

          In any event, I would stick (and have stuck) to my Tues-Sat schedule religiously, and I strive to give advance notice on when to expect a Thurs chapter (typically noting the date(s) on the Donate tab above).

    • Yeah you definitely have the quantity and quality thing down. I’m sure none of us would mind if you wanted to skip an update or 2 for your birthday.

    • A thought about interludes Vs. Story chapters

      I mentioned at the end of my first archive binge that some interludes are really good and others intrude on the story.

      This one is both.

      Your response indicated that some people had occasionally skipped interludes because they felt they interrupted the story. this is going to be one of those interludes

      It is well written, has great development for Accord, and does a good job at expanding the story. Its also the wrong time to put it out.

      Given where the story ended currently, what most people really want is another story chapter detailing Taylor and the rest of the undersiders reactions to the events of the previous story chapter.

      The first interlude of arc 20, showing the media fallout was excellent and wonderfully placed. it did a great job of showing the fallout of Taylor being outed, and gave a short but good description of how many of the characters are reacting to the news.

      Now we want the focus moved back to Taylor to show HER reactions. Instead we get this one. I think another story chapter addressing the 12 hours referenced, and possibly ending with them getting ready to go to a meeting with accord, and THEN this chapter would greatly improve the flow. It would make this a part of the story, rather than an interruption to it.

      Don’t do do interludes based on donations, do them based on when they fit. Donations should just be for extra (Thursday?) updates. Put out interludes for characters when the time is right in the story.

      Great interlude
      Bad Timing

      All that being said, its a great story that i like quite a bit (interludes included) and have been referencing as many people as i can to read it.

      • I don’t know. I think that this is an interlude in the same flavor as the previous bonus one. We get a sight of how the in-town antagonists are reacting to the unveiling. In the manner that the donation bonus was a non-cape (+S9) reaction, this was very much a cape reaction piece.

        • I do like the two together, and can’t say if another overt set of reactions would be great or not…

          But, I would say, bonus interludes are definitely not the only way to go, though they seem to be more common by far. Bonus regular chapters would be great, too, as they come up. This one isn’t as jarring, but there have been some weeks where we’ve had chapters that are super-thrilling, and then a disconnected interlude that, while good, doesn’t fit? I know they’ll be shuffled when ebooking happens, but I’d also be fine with not having bonuses be interludes, necessarily, if it’d work better to keep the story flowing, too.

  2. Valefor wore a delicate-looking mask without eye-holes a woman’s upper face with closed eyes.

    Missing punctuation and/or words.

    “I don’t know, sir. Forgive my saying so, but a lot of people have thought they could handle the Undersiders, and they were wrong. I don’t know how my power would interact with theirs”

    Missing period.

  3. Hmm…. Interesting.

    Why hasn’t anyone informed Accord that the world is ending in two years, making his twenty three year long plan impossible? I would have thought that, given his connection to Cauldron, he would have been informed about it, if only to revise his plan. It makes me think that Cauldron is using him for something, but not for what he thinks they use him for.

    Also, what are the chances of him having been bugged (hah, puns!)? After all, no one yet knows about Skitter’s increase in range or her ability to see and hear through individual bugs.

      • Yeah, it seems to me that working with cauldron, he knows a lot of whats going on, since he knew coil was theirs, and that he was part of the “NOT end the world” plan. Which means he simply doesn’t find it a credible threat. or he’s continuing on like its not going to happen, because his plan includes stopping it as part of his plan. (that said… when will he realize that a quick avenue to stopping so many people from starving… is reducing the number of people?)

        • I would be very surprised if he hasn’t based on his “a great many moderate sacrifices, from a great many people” links. To him the death of normal people, who are in the wrong place, may be a moderate/ negligible sacrifice.

    • I think the world-ending thing must be common knowledge, since it was acknowledged in the conversation. Possibly some people just view it as a mere possibility, or a ‘deal with it as it comes’ situation?

    • Cauldron may or may not have a stake in the end of the world, it may be a part of his 23-year plan. Much easier to fix humanity’s problems if there’s a lot less humanity with problems

    • I think there’s two possibilities here:

      One: he doesn’t know, but when he finds out, he is the only one who knows how to stop it. This is likely being deliberately withheld from him by Cauldron;

      Two: His plan deliberately involves killing a lot of humanity. I don’t think it’s this one for one reason- Tattletale knows his plan. There is no way she would work with him if he was plotting to destroy the world. Alternatively, though, she does know, and is going to somehow stop his plan- but then he wouldn’t work with her.

      • Or his plans are partially in line with what Cauldron wants to do. Once they get what they want from him, they’ll drop him in a deep pit with 25 separate incredibly complicated ways out, and Accord becomes is trapped in the possibilities. I think there was a saying about a donkey between hay and a water trough or something.

    • I’ve been wondering since the Blasto interlude how was it possible for Slaughterhouse Nine to know and locate the new lab with the tissue samples that Accord buillt for Blasto. Did cauldron leak the information to S9? Considering that Cauldron was/is protecting S9 at some level (instructions to Battery) I’m not sure that Cauldron has Accord’s best interests at heart. Never trust a trans-reality corporation where the principals all have homes in other realities. Perhaps Accord’s earth is a market that is being closed down.

      Another issue this interlude raises is this. One day Accord has only two ambassadors the next day seven. Tattetale will notice and know where the new blood is coming from.

      Finally, Greatest line was the line unsaid by Skitter when Accord said that they were similar. Since the narrative is from Taylor’s perspective we all know that the answer is “Who are you kidding” Skitter is rational and as this interlude shows Accord only marginally rational. If Taylor was a complete egocentric and placed no value on human life she would be a bit like Accord. Add neurotic and almost there.

      • I think Cauldron’s interest in the Nine was limited to Shatterbird and Manton. For whatever reason, they really hate Cauldron-supers getting killed.

        • If Cauldron formula “intercepts” passengers, would it not stand to reason that for every killed Cauldron cape a new one with the same (similar) powers could appear outside of their control (i.e. the one who was originally intended to have those powers)?

          Think about it – independent and sane-ish Manton. Or Noelle with full control.

  4. Great to see Accord again, wonder how Cist survived Damsel.

    As always a perfect chapter Wildbow. Can’t wait till Tuesday.🙂 Valefor and Butcher sound like friggin nightmares……wonder what would happen if Crawler has killed one of the Butchers? Errm…..Soul go sleep now to think on these new developments and reread this later.

    • The biggest issue with Valefor seems to be less the threat of him mind controlling Skitter, etc (which would be easy to avoid if you already knew about his power, especially for someone who can “see” without their eyes like Skitter or who can block their own eyes like Grue) and more the threat of him mind-controlling a bunch of random people. If he spent a day walking around the city looking at people and telling them “Attack the Undersiders next Tuesday” I don’t really see how the Undersiders could fight back without killing innocent people.

  5. Sorry to make my first comment typo-fixing, but after I took the care I did to make sure I wasn’t ninja’d I didn’t want to waste it.

    I like this chapter. I like it a lot. I almost like Accord — if I didn’t already know him to be a murderer and in league with Cauldron, I would like him. He plans on the right scale for his powers, and he’s one of the few people we’ve seen who seems to recognize what Skitter brings to the table — metaphorically and literally.

    That Cauldron’s plans could accommodate Skitter replacing Coil is interesting. Looking forward to that reveal, many moons hence.

    • I like Accord. Yes, he has killed people, and yes, he is obviously mentally unbalanced because of his powers. Most likely, he lost the ability to see people as, well, people when he gained the ability to manipulate them as he can. At the same time, he really does care about the greater good, and he is rational and utilitarian in a way so very few are.

      • It just occured to me that Skitter and Accord are very much opposites in some aspects. She does wrong things for the right reason, he does right things for the wrong reason (as in, works against world hunger because he finds it untidy, not because people suffer).

  6. wildbow,

    after so many interludes, so many different POVs… i just have to wonder:

    just how do you get all these ideas and mindsets and still remain sane?

    • Who ever said our dear Overlord Wildbow was sane!? HHHMMM?!?!?!?! She attracted the likes of PG for pities sake.😛

    • I’ll second soulpelt. I have, at this point, several hundred different “storys” (multiple go into some projects) plotted out over the years, and when I talk about some of them, friends wonder the same. Answer, I’m NOT sane, not by societies definition anyway. I don’t think any author is, especially genre authors.

      • dont restrict that to author,
        if someone were compleatly sane, that in itself would drive any sane person insane
        thus noone is sane

        • HEY! Thats my phrase. (kinda). They one I always use is , “This world would drive any sane person INSANE. The only way not to be driven COMPLETELY insane is to already be a little bit insane. “

          • It’s a world where the phrase “There are tiny invisible things that want to crawl inside me in any opening or cut to make me sick.” is a true statement, along with, “And if I put some sick ones inside me, those types won’t make me sick anymore.”

            Of course, it should be easy enough to get inside a person. We’re all just a bunch of atoms with spaces in between, held so close together that we act like solids when interacting with the world.

            And then, someone thought, “I want to split one of those things.”

            And those are just the people considered sane.

          • To qoute any Chaos Marine: ‘SANITY IS FOR THE WEAK!’ This is also PG’s catch phrase, paraphrased naturally.

          • Let’s go to the dictionary for this one. The Devil’s Dictionary, that is, by Ambrose Bierce.

            MAD, adj. Affected with a high degree of intellectual independence; not conforming to standards of thought, speech and action derived by the conformants from study of themselves; at odds with the majority; in short, unusual. It is noteworthy that persons are pronounced mad by officials destitute of evidence that themselves are sane. For
            illustration, this present (and illustrious) lexicographer is no firmer in the faith of his own sanity than is any inmate of any madhouse in the land; yet for aught he knows to the contrary, instead of the lofty occupation that seems to him to be engaging his powers he may really be beating his hands against the window bars of an asylum and declaring himself Noah Webster, to the innocent delight of many thoughtless spectators.

  7. Alright, so Coil was working for Cauldron unknowingly. Very interesting. That changes the tone quite a bit. Particularly since it means Skitter might end up being the saviour of the world…or its’ destroyer.

    • He was working knowingly, actually. It’s said he dealt with the Number’s Man, and in his interlude it was said somewhere that he still owed one favor, up to a week’s worth. In Battery’s interlude, the Cauldron representative (the Doctor?) stated that favors are up to a week’s service. It’s also stated that it was an expensive ability.

      “Perhaps worthy of a celebration. Coil maintained his own vices. It would be unfair to expect more of himself, when he had the unique talent he did.

      It had certainly been an expensive talent. Even with his ability to game the markets in a way that clairvoyants and precognitives couldn’t detect, it had taken him years to pay it off. A maddening, frustrating endeavor, when he had already been thinking of plans he wanted to set in motion, having to postpone them. And he still owed a favor, even now, up to a week’s services. He couldn’t be sure if he was powerful and secure enough to fight back if they demanded too expensive a price, or too much of his time at a point critical to his plan.”

      • Hi Ashan.

        Just wanted to comment that I liked your post on DLP. The fact that you cite your sources like you do is awesome, and the fact that you cite them well enough that I could turn to said post to use it for a refresher is doubly so.

        Just wanted to comment along those lines.

  8. you keep giving me puzzle pieces and I feel like im slowly piecing them together , but im still not sure what the finished puzzle will look like …but im loving every new puzzle piece you give me and find great joy in trying to fit them together.

    • That’s the ideal situation on my end.

      It’s a little terrifying, frankly, because I have upwards of one thousand (if not two thousand) readers, and every time I hand out some clue (and some, I’ll note, are very subtle, to the point that nobody’s noted them aloud) I worry someone will pipe up with, “I’ve figured it all out!” and lay it out for everyone.

      Ideal world, I make it through the next couple of arcs, everything comes together, and people look back and say, “It all makes sense, and the clues were there all along!”

        • so far, every big “reveal” you’ve done has been obvious, in hindsight. As someone who often knows who the killer is the moment they are introduced, and sees twists coming a MILE away, I remain surprised and amused by just about every twist, in that there was NO WAY i could see it coming, but it all makes perfect sense once layed out. Keep it up, pretty please!

        • knowing everything like that would get very boring after a while I would think though. Sometimes the unknown is a good thing.

          • I dunno, figuring things out can be super fun, always more to figure out (as Accord seems to be complaining about here)

  9. im suprised that Accord didnt have a better appreciation of the order of bugs before noticing the ones on skitter.

    And a villian whos goal is to solve world hunger just because the disorder of it bothers him, i like that.

    • I also like the one Ambassador commenting that it seems like they should be able to defeat the undersiders, then expresses doubt based on the fact that the undersiders have kicked the shit out of things that no one expected them to survive.

          • The Dreaded for the PRT/heroes, yes, I definitely agree.

            I dont believe its so extreme for other reputable villains:
            They see her/the Undersiders (from what Im gathering) as worth paying a moderate amount of respect to (Unlike Skidmark and the post-Endbringer Merchants) but not necessarily someone to fear, especially not in battle. Since most seem to have a ”meh, I could take her”. Even moreso now that the teenage schoolgirl revelation has spread across the globe.

            With the exceptions of Sundancer and Citrine, I dont believe any other villain has made some comment along the lines of ”Skitter/Undersiders are trouble, maybe we shouldnt fuck with them”.

          • Emma: “Meh, I could take her.”
            Lung: “我可以带她去”
            Bakuda: “Meh, I could take her.”
            Armsmaster: “Meh, I could take her.”
            Leviathan: “Meh, I could take her.”
            Mannequin: “01001101 01100101 01101000 0101100 0100000 01001001 0100000 01100011 01101111 01110101 01101100 01100100 0100000 01110100 01100001 01101011 01100101 0100000 01101000 01100101 01110010 0101110”
            Jack Slash: “Meh, I could take her.”
            Triumph: “Meh, I could take her.”
            Piggot: “Meh, I could take her.”
            Dragon: “Meh, I could take her.”
            Coil: “Meh, I could take her.”
            Noelle: “Meh, I could take her.”
            Dragon: “Meh, I could take her this time.”

          • Though Leviathan at least would propably be right on that. Remember, during the fight with him Taylor played at most a support/distraction role. And in the latter she didn’t last very long.

  10. How is it that Skitter can take Coil’s place considering how different they are?

    They have very different powers.

    They have very different morals.

    They have very different methods.

    So what is the similarity?

    They both want to control Brockton Bay.

    I’m thinking that Brockton Bay itself might be the key to Cauldron’s aims.

    • Maybe they used Dinah to see that something big was going too happen, and the city would play an important role in it.

    • They both want to bring order to the city. It just seems that Brockton Bay is “Stage 1” and it will get bigger from there.

    • Skitter can facilitate society’s transition from democracy to whatever comes next. Feudalism, meritocracy, whatever we call it. I’m gonna go out on a limb and guess that part of Cauldron’s mission is the maintenance of human civilization, if for no other reason than that many of their members want to have a functioning society to live in. The pressures that parahumans exert on the system that was evolved before their arrival, could grind everything to paste if they aren’t managed, and then everyone loses.

  11. Interesting chapter. Always nice to see an outside view on Skitter, and this meeting has been coming up since the start of the ark. Surprised to see them ask for so much money, though. I wonder what they want it for.

    It was somewhere between bizarre and really cool to see how Accord’s mind works. I’m mentally comparing it to Tt’s interlude, and it’s similar and different at the same time. And I love how the overall worst way to die is for Skitter to sic her bugs on you.

    Good luck with the chapter planning, wildbow. …I wish I could write a slightly more eloquent review, as I really liked this Interlude, but I’m still in shock over the ending. And wondering how this ties into the apocalypse.

      • They need a new hideout! Some place to chill rather than do business. Doesn’t sound like the Undersiders get to do as much of that as they used to.

        Also, they need a place for Tattletale to throw that party mentioned in 20.1🙂

    • Part of the steep price of admission is they need to pick from the cream of the crop, as it were. They want the best, and since the bay is getting popular fast, they are gonna need it.
      The other part is the undersiders need to show just how in charge they are. Even with national news, most of these newcomers aren’t very afraid or respectful.

    • They also just plain don’t want those groups there.


      What’s the best way to keep them out? Make the price of admission too high. Then when they get in and try to ride the rides anyway, you send a horde of mutant clowns after them.

      It’s one of the oldest tricks in the book. Right up there with the handjob.

      • It worked, but not for the ambassadors. But you have a point. And I guess I forgot about the enormous amounts of cash Tt owes a lot of people, and it never really occurred to me they need a headquarters when they all already have lairs. I just thought that portal trading would begin more quickly than this, and they wouldn’t need money so much; never occurred to me they were trying to keep the others form joining.

        • They expected the Ambassadors to take the deal, though. Given that, the Undersiders must have wanted Accord for some reason. What that is, though…

          • Probably because his variety of evil is LAWFUL evil. He’s not much into randomly killing dudes or violence. It’s inelegant. Besides, they’re going to have to keep others from getting established for a good long while, maybe indefinitely. With Accord onboard and his interests roughly coinciding with theirs, he’ll help cover the city too. He very much is a devil, but he’s the lesser of many, many devils.

        • I don’t think they wanted to drive ambassadors away. Remember, earlier this chapter Taylor thinks about their possible alliance with them, and she sounded like she wanted them in. Also notice that they fully expected Accord to accept.

          • The city is a bit too big for the 7 of them to adequately defend. They can all rush a lone member. The Undersiders want someone who won’t cause wanton destruction/attack the general public, powerful enough to help drive out those that do, and is wiling to follow their rules. But they really have to start recruiting as while they are seen as dangerous, I don’t think they are intimidating enough to keep anyone out without a fight. They need more muscle.

          • Here’s a crazy thought on where they could get some extra muscle: hire Weld and his Irregulars. As long as all the Undersiders ask of the Irregulars is to deal with other villains and to do humanitarian stuff, the latter might go for it.

  12. Yeah, these new groups, with Butcher and Valefor? Too Dumb To Live.

    I mean, Butcher can’t just be killed by Imp or it’ll drive Imp insane, but I’m betting their group finds itself doing Klingon Promotions all the time, so humiliating her and weakening the group ought to give someone eyes on the prize. As good as her supposed power is, remember that it wasn’t enough to save the other 13 people to ever hold it.

    In the end, if she’s not ended by one of her own teammates, they’ll either trap her in something with enough food and air to live for long enough that it doesn’t count as them killing her, or they’ll engineer a situation where she kills herself, thus ending the passing on of the powers.

    The other guy doesn’t even have that much to help him out, though his ability does remind me of that SCP knife nicknamed “The Kitty Genovese Knife”. Whoever holds it can not be conciously harmed or opposed, which led to several And I Must Scream situations. We’re talking a killer who yelled at a group of responding cops that he was going to rape and skin them alive. Due to the knife’s powers, they were unable to flee or fight back. Just had to stay there and let it all happen.

    A couple of people so dumb they brought up the bullying thing. I’d probably have some respect for the 16 year old girl who managed to beat everything thrown at her and take over the city if I were them, but I have a brain. If anything her youth adds to the impressiveness of those accomplishments.

    At least I can wait eagerly for these bastards to be murdered.

    • Hm, imagine tattletale’s power applied in the reverse way she used it on skitter, just how long do you think it’d take tt to break butcher?
      wait, nvm we already got a peek at that after echinda.

    • Agreed. Hell they don’t even have to go to that much effort to take out these two. Butcher: cut her tendons leave for the PRT’s Birdcage. Problem solved. Valefor: Skitter sends bugs for the eyes. Curbstomp done. She wouldn’t even need to worry about the eye contact thing because she can see through the bugs now.

      Easiest arc villains yet.

        • True. I did probably underestimate Butcher a bit but for people who really try to not kill their enemies anyway she just doesn’t seem to be worth getting so scared about when these guys went up against the Nine and an Endbringer without batting an eye.

  13. There’s so much to say on this chapter that I don’t think I could possibly put it all into words. There’s many twists in another chapter-long high-stress situation. Part of that stress bleeds over from Accord being unable to turn off his power. Kudos for that bit of writing. But the biggest thing was Cauldron being almost unaffected by anything that has happened. It makes me think that they had plans for the Triumvirate to be outed, for Coil being killed, etc., and they just kicked them to the curb when they became useless. I just hope Cauldron doesn’t become that shadowy organization that can never get caught unawares, always lurking in the night.

    Dear God, I hope the Undersiders really know what they’re getting into.

    • They can’t. If they did, they’d lose their usefulness as a model. Cauldron needs to study Brockton Bay and its politics as a model for the Brave New World. For that, it has to be primeval, untampered-with. No confirmation or selection bias can be allowed. Cauldron can’t afford any.

    • They can’t just dictate PRT policy anymore, and the heroes are aware of them now. Which means the world will be at some point too as there is no way that everyone will keep that big a secret. I wonder what happened to the Big 3 and any test subjects they still had afterward.

  14. Every time someone tries to screw with the Undersiders, they get their plans upended by either Tattletale &/or Skitter; so in the next BIG arc, the Undersiders takes over Cauldron?

  15. End World Hunger, 23 Year Plan: Go to world where there is not hunger, thus there is no world hunger.

    Real Smarty Pants that Accord is.

        • Include Blasto’s technology with your assessment of the vast area of newly available farmland, or perhaps other biological tinkers like the Slaughterhouse 9 went after.

          Perhaps add Jack Slash’s seemingly wanting things to turn out better for once, and the seeming lack of motivation for the Slaughterhouse Nine who are accelerating the destabilization of the world a lot more than the Endbringers, and their connections to Cauldron.

          Plans inside of plans inside of plans.

        • Alternate alternate alternative: Create a never-ending set of Slaughterhouse 9 clones as a renewable resource, to be harvested for food. That is why they’re called the slaughterhouse 9, right?

  16. >He’d sent capes to the Yàngbǎn before. It was more constructive than killing. Cleaner. It also built relationships with the C.U.I..

    Should there be two periods in a row here?

    Also- is C.U.I China’s version of the PRT, and Yangban is their birdcage?

    I liked Accord here- he’s got more depth than I initially thought. I didn’t really like him when we first saw him in the Traveler’s arc. His goal is pretty interesting, and it’s nice to see his power at work.

      • Yangban sure looks like the Korean word for “old man”. Man, would I love to pick your brain on the geopolitics of a collapsing global community infested with parahumans.

          • Meh, China isn’t bothering to even pretend at being allies any more. Worst case scenario they make a bit of a mess before multiple superpowers crush them.

            Of courswe the loss of North Korea will really fuck up South Korea but no way is China going to let the refugees in. They have far too many poor starving people as it is.

        • Oh yeah, I’d love to see North Korea trying to run a superhero program. That wouldn’t be a trainwreck at all.

          Actually, I’m really really interested to see what China has going on. Marvel has a Chinese hero team called the Great Ten that sounds really, really cool.

          Also, the 300 year old Chinese legend Ten Brother seems so much like a modern superhero that it’s crazy.

          Being able to grow like Ant-Man AND have super speed sounds like a motherfucker nightmarish powerset to deal with. Jesus Christ.

        • I am very curious on how the world currently is in the Wormverse. We know from the lost interlude, if it was actually canon, that many countries’ heroes act more like the military than police. This implies that Parahumans have been used in wars, and may have changed a few conflicts depending on just what they could do. Leviathan might have destroyed entire countries that had few sources of fresh water, and who knows what the Smurf has done. All the trigger events in third world countries probably added to the chaos and made it even harder for some places to ever improve. Any guesses if the wormverse has less than 196 countries in the world?

          • Parts of Africa probably aren’t very pretty either. But there may be some cool sights to see in the wormverse. There is the half finished moon base, maybe a few weird animals created by masters/tinkers, and maybe the whales are better off. I keep picturing a case 53 wannabe aquaman who attacks whaling ships. But yeah, the lines on the map for the Wormverse are probably pretty different.

          • I’d guess that functioning governments are actually probably smaller and govern less territory, on average. The sorts of things we hear mentioned are the remaining ones that operate on a scale big enough to be globally noticeable.

            I’d also guess that there’s also a lot more functionally ungoverned/ungovernable territory. There’s enough of that going around without things like Leviathan or the walking shitstorms of spikes the local power distributions that parahumans would create.

            I envision a few large blocs with enough personnel and resources to extract what they need from chaotic places without governing them or interacting too directly with the chaos. The chaos itself could have any number of “countries” though how you choose to define that is tough to pin down.

          • Japan isn’t gone, it’s just badly damaged. Kyushu wasn’t sunk the same way Newfoundland was, it was just scoured pretty thoroughly. Now if Honshu was the island that was completely swept clean of humanity, Japan would be gone as an entity rather than just reeling from the loss of ten percent of its population.

            I wonder how many oil deposits and coal veins Behemoth has set on fire worldwide? Along with Leviathan’s anti-freshwater campaign, that would be one of the nastier things the Endbringers could do to wreak widespread havoc.

            Singapore may have been obliterated at some point, though. It would be incredibly vulnerable to Leviathan. And IIRC Switzerland was stated to have been pretty much destroyed by the Simurgh.

            The sinking of Newfoundland would also have had some effect on the ocean currents in the North Atlantic, and therefore on the European climate.

            And a long-term project by both Behemoth and Leviathan might be melting down the Antarctic ice sheets.

  17. Wringing the words “More or less.” from Accord is impressive, it strikes me.

    “likely a consequence of the vibrations than damage from” More likely?
    “eye contact. he could” Missing caps.
    “eye-holes a woman’s” Missing punctuation mark.
    “interact with theirs”” Missing period.

  18. Tattletale is being rather childish here, doing things explicitly to nettle Accord. Not only is it rather dangerous to make him her enemy, but working together, I think they could become even more potent, given the insight in their powers given here.

    Also, apparently Cauldron really is working towards a greater good instead of a greater profit. Or at least they’ve got Accord convinced of that, and I imagine he’d notice any flaw in an attempt at deception.

    Loved the threat and precautions made by Skitter. It’s all Image and Being Prepared, and she is getting good at both.

    Her becoming an unwitting pawn for Cauldron? Hmmm…
    The plot thickens and my curiosity peaks.

    • I think Tattletale’s nettling of Accord is a reflection of her own particular damage — she hates not being the smartest one in the room, and an Accord left to his own devices is scary-smart.

      I’m not convinced Accord would notice if Cauldron were snowing him. Tattletale would, but Accord’s power is very different from hers.

      • Possible, though something that doesn’t fit should draw his attention; But Tattle should still be better at it. One understands the situation, the other can solve any problem. He and Tattletale complement each other quite nicely.

        Uh oh.
        I sense a ship incoming

          • Cinnamon incense wafted through the air. One bottle of red wine with two glasses. Rose petals on the floor in a symmetrical pattern leading to the bed. Inside the room, the bed has candles on either side. Short candle, tall candle, short candle, tall candle, short candle, tall candle, short candle. All must be lit simultaneously. 1.5 boxes of condoms available in each nightstand, fanned out so that they can be used in turn from furthest away to closest.

            Time to draw up blueprints: 3 hours. 93 minutes to set up and execute. Costs in excess of $330, not counting salaries. Materials must be higher quality than standard due to latex allergy.

          • Addendum:

            She wanted to go ahead and do it in the back of the CAR of all places! All my careful planning, ruined. Even my attempt to work out the perfect position using 7 feet of rope, a feather duster, 3 eggs, and a genetically engineered blue and orange Shih Tzu was thrown out of order when she claimed to be getting a cramp in her right shoulder. I tried to tell her it wasn’t designed to be done in a car, but she just insisted we roll down the window so she could stick her feet out.

            At this point, the taxi driver lost his patience with us completely.

    • I think her and the undersiders where actually all working together for it on pourpose.

      Early on he mentions that he knows tt probably picked this place because it would bother him, but promptly forgets that as his mind runs through a dozen different things that are out of place and how to fix them.

      Then he gets into the meeting, and the fact that the table is out of alignment with the rest of the room annoys him so much that his power is focused on that rather than negotiations with the undersiders. By having a trap ready to go, and threatening a fight so that he gets a chance to work it out, they give him some relief, and put him into a better mood when they start to make demands.

      I think the entire event was staged specifically for them to “adjust” the terms with accord without directly insult him. The other two groups where only invited to further his distraction.

      • That … makes a remarkable amount of sense.
        Also, he’s being distracted from any traps laid out for him. (And you know there are some. Just in case.)
        Poor Accord. They’re playing him like a sock puppet.

  19. Archive Binge & First Post complete!

    Well, this is interesting. Accord is immediately a new favorite, the Teeth are dangerous, and there was no immediate counter-play by the PRT since noon. I hoped for seeing the Undersider’s reaction to Taylor’s exposure, with paticular curiousity to whatever Tattletale had to say.

    Actually, it’s almost unfair to give us a scene where everything is more or less normal considering the magnitude of such a recent event. Looking forward to Thursday, if that is the soonest regular chapter.

    • Welcome to the comments!
      Regarding the normalcy, often writers use foreshadowing before a big blowout, to heighten the suspense and tension, so when its finally resolved it feels bigger and more important in your head because you’ve been thinking about the implications all saturday and sunday and monday.

      • Which is why this one is so jarring. A permanent portal has opened up in town but hasn’t been talked about yet, another S-Class struck, Skitter was revealed to be Taylor Herbert, all in a few days.

        That’s just too soon. I think there should have been a shorter cooldown arc inbetween 19 and 20, especially since there was so much emotinal closure from the double backstory reveals of Emma and Lisa.

    • Welcome, Marcus. Glad to have you with us.

      Whatever the Undersider’s reactions, this wasn’t the place for them. For the most part, they were taking a back seat and letting Skitter take point.

      I’ll be sure to try and make up for it in their interactions at a later point.

      • I suppose there were too many surprises here. Parian is on the team? When did that happen?… And so on. You do not seem to go backwards outside of interludes, so I suppose seeing the Undersider’s immediate reactions to the event is already lost.

        • Hoo, parian’s been a ‘part’ of the team since during the s9 attack, she was just trying to keep a back seat to the whole villainy thing.

    • Welcome to Commenticana, everyone’s favorite caribbean island nation for the comments section.

      In today’s news, anti-government revolutionaries are protesting the new wind turbines built by El Presidente by building a turbine that blows against the wind. Word is that El Presidente is not a fan.

      And we have a new citizen on the island. The official illegally obtained dossier says that this MarcusFell person got on the bad side of an Irish capybara, fled to the Russian Federation, and was thrown into a Siberian goulash. It’s an exciting life he leads, but it would have been safer to go Hungary.

      Regardless, welcome to MarcusFell from Psycho Gecko, Lord of the Worm Comments Section.

          • Bread, sure. Sandwiches are basically our national cuisine, after all.

            Circuses, though… last time we tried to get more than one Circus in town, it turned into a huge mess. Not sure we want to repeat the experiment.

      • A title which is self proclaimed yet recognized by many. I personally consider him to be the traveling vagrant who moves between the states of Worm and Legion of Nothing spouting an impressive blend of madness and intellectual stimulation.

        In any case, you are indeed welcome MarcusFell. As a point of interest, from where were you directed to Worm?

          • 😛

            Okay, Wildbow, I know you’re smart. Really, you must be. You can’t pull all this Worm thing together and not be. But at 1-million-plus words, is it entirely unreasonable to take a few weeks to consume the complete archive?


            • I think a lot of it may boil down to whether or not they read the comments as well.

              Worm is an impressive length – at the moment, somewhere around *three times* the length of Lord of the Rings. And even so, the vast bulk of every page of Worm is comments. We gave to be approaching a *billion* words in comments.

              I personally am in the “weeks, not days” camp, and I’ve been reading all the comments…

              • I agree. I’ve been reading the lion’s share of the comments as well which is half the reason it’s taking me so long. I’ve unfortunately starting skimming through some of the longer ones if only because 500-800 comments is…a lot…but I tend to make it through all of the 200-300 ones. I’ve averaging between 3-6 chapters a day I think depending on how long they are.

          • That has always been accompanied by the term archive binge. Reading through this as a normal person with other responsibilities, two/three weeks actually is still pretty decent a speed. Not even including some parts where you decided to go back and reread a passage to connect dots etc. Worm is dense, if I say so myself.

  20. I feel sorry for Accord. It seems like he could never feel comfortable, unless he lived within a perfect crystal structure.

    This interlude made him a lot more likeable, but he still tried to kill sundancer. So, for now, I think I’m leaving him in my list of ‘people I hope die before the story ends.’

  21. I’m saddened that we stil havent seen citrine or othello’s powers! We know othello has some sort of ghostly apparition thing, so thats something at least. I’m surprised they think they have the powers to take on the undersiders, which is partly what intrigues me.
    Accord’s make is rather ironic, since his power seems to give him predominantly murderous plans.
    Parian’s skitter-cloth bug golems are pretty sweet, Depending on the construction, I think skitter could weave some bullet ants into the scorpion stinger at least😀
    Heh, the other villains made the same mistake the heroes did, they focused on what skitter is, not what she can and has done in the past. If they saw the video, they must have seen when she rattled off the partial list of fate worse than death, her casually stopping dragon with a handwave, the way che practically effortlessly turned the tables on a much more prepared and overwhelming force, etc.

    • Also, he probably HAS been bugged, due to tattletale watching for it and he did mention skitter must have been briefed by tattletale before the meeting. Its not unlikely they have a method of communicating with skitter’s bug powers too. On the other hand, accord is the most likely of anyone to notice small bugs on him anywhere.

  22. Accord is kind of fucking scary. He also seems to be in a similar place to Skitter as far as doing the wrong things for the right reasons, although his thoughts tend far more towards casual violence and homicide. Interesting character. I wonder if he realizes just how potentially catastrophic losing Blasto to the Nine is, though?

    Interesting that Skitter seems to have accepted that some people just need killing (the Teeth and the Fallen, for starters). And that she’s already prepared to deal with the inevitable challenges to her rep.

    Poor Parian. Probably wishes she’d taken Skitter’s offer way back when and left town with her surviving relatives at this point. Should be interesting to see how she adapts to choosing a side, though, aside from the new costume. And maybe some sort of Romeo-and-Juliet thing between her and Flechette, now that they’re officially on opposing teams.

    And as I suspected, thinker powers tend to interfere with each other. Although Accord seems like a difficult sort to get along with under pretty much any circumstances, especially if you ever figure out that he has to work pretty hard to not murder people that trip his OCD triggers.

    Now I just wonder how the local hero brigade is reacting to the changed status quo. I also wonder how Skitter’s going to co-opt them into being useful, or at least attempt to; feeding them villains who break her rules seems likely.

    One little thing that just came to mind: how many new capes have triggered in Brockton Bay since the Leviathan attack? Imp and Scrub did, of course, but if there are any more out there it might behoove the various factions to start looking for them.

  23. Just had a random question. Skitter mentions that Imp and Haven will take care of Valefor. Who was Haven again?

    • Haven was that christian team who came in during/after Echinda. They also showed up for Levi, but haven’t been discussed in detail yet.

        • Wait why would a midwestern Christian team (presumably protestant) have a member called rosary? Unless it’s cross-denominational.

          • Colorado Springs: The “Evangelical Vatican”/”Christian Mecca”, with several regional or international headquarters of Christian sects, including the Roman Catholic Diocese of Colorado Springs and St. Mary’s High School.

            Before you accuse me of stalking, I remembered it from a helpful guide called “The Sinner’s Guide to the Evangelical Right” by Robert Lanham. Funny book.

            Also, insulated Christian communities are not uncommon, particularly when maintaining they are being persecuted by conventional school systems. If a particularly religious person anywhere else in the country got powers, they could decide to join the Christian superhero team, feeling they’ll have more in common with the members, with less risk of what they perceive as persecution.

            I say perceive because there are some prominent fundamentalists who are quick to call people “No True Christians” if they aren’t as fundamentalist as they themselves. They have a tendency to see persecution everywhere. This is news to more moderate Christians.

            Such a supergroup could certainly have interesting drama in itself.

          • Considering how polarizing different sects of the same faith can be, I’m not surprised they consider people that worship the Endbringers as their arch enemies. Its a group that everyone can agree on “fuck those guys” without raising problems with each other, or causing bad publicity when a member says something the general public might not agree with.

  24. I’ve figured it all out, the subtle clues

    -Defiant’s remorse
    -Dragon’s “shutdown”
    -Jack’s scheme
    -The Numbers Man and Cauldron corresponding with Accord
    -The portal (especially important)
    -Scion as a descendant

    Oh wait all I’ve done is managed to find the puzzle pieces and haven’t figured much out.

    Awesome writing I’ll love to see how this all fits together as we progress and if you can give updates faster that would be cool.

  25. It’s too bad Accord and Tattletale have very opposing personalities, they would make one kickass thinker team.

    Alas, I must await until the Slaugherhouse Unlimited come to town and they have to begrudgingly work together. It’ll both bug them to no ends as they both realize they’re an awesome team.

  26. Well… Accord. That guy.

    Yeah, I totally see this partnership lasting, oh yeah. Seriously, the Undies need to get wise to that jagoff fast because he’s going to destroy them if they let him muck about in the background. He might be competent and have good ideas, but the way his mind works I can’t see him working with other people for long. The more he succeeds, the more his standards are going to rise until he can’t even coexist with other people.

    Seeing as how his power get’s stronger the more complex a situation is, I advise that the best strategy for attack is to just go up to him and sock him in the gonads.

    And oh man. The Fallen. What a bunch of dickweeds, do they really think they’re scaring the team that survived a slugfest with the Slaughterhouse Nine?

    I almost thought the same thing about the Teeth, because I thought they we’re a parody of 90’s EXTREME comics shitheads. But they really seem more like black metal nutcases. I can respect that.

  27. I am very curious about how many changes were made to costumes to help mellow Accord out. Parian’s entire set including her hair was changed, and I think Regent’s outfit was recolored to white.

    • I saw the change of parian’s costume as more of her acceptance of joining a villainous group, especially because she’s animated some of skitter’s cloth.
      She may still not particularly enjoy it, but she’s learning to play along.

      • Solidarity on Parian’s part. If she doesn’t show up as a member of the Undersiders and is instead a separate entity, she’d be easy pickings for any groups that don’t accept the Undersiders’ offer.

        • Im glad you posted this, it made my own thoughts about the Parian situation snap into place; what with the Teeth already messing with her area, this particular meeting could have served the dual purpose of deterring any potential attacks on her/her area in the future, while allowing her to remain relatively autonomous

          • Also, check the cast page for her description. She apparently hopes that by being an official member of the Undersiders she can give them something resembling a moral compass.

          • Well Brian and Tattletale already have Taylor to do that for them, though she obviously wouldn’t consider Skitter that moral considering she actually used the words sold her soul. Good luck with Bitch hitting you, Regent laughing at you, and Imp pranking you if you try it with them Sabah.

          • At this point in time Taylor is a laughably bad moral compass. She is fine with murder when she feels it necessary, she barely regrets casual violence, and actively uses terror as a weapon. She isn’t an utter monster or anything, but she is NOT a good moral compass.

          • I second that. She will do what it takes to protect hers and herself, but she isnt unnecessarily cruel. She has a mild case of He Who Fights Monsters going on, but overall shes firmly in Horrifying Hero/Anti-Hero/Noble Demon territory.

  28. “As clear as if he were seeing iht for himself,”
    “it,” I assume.

    “scattered across the floor like the faintest frosting of ice.”
    This isn’t wrong, but ‘frosting of ice’ feels a little redundant.

  29. My, my, my.
    Skitter really does not play fair at all. I almost wanted to see the Undersiders grease one of the migrating villain teams then and there.
    I want to see more of him, but I think killing him is a necessity.

    • Define ‘fair’ in a villain fight. Besides, Valefor had plenty of ways of walking ut of that room without trouble. Kicking the hornets nest is never a good idea.

      Also, I just realized atlas was outside the window, and I doubt any of the other villains know of him.

      • Kicking the hornet’s nest is never a good idea.

        So much about that fits into this story, I seriously hope Taylor says something like that to the next person who goes out of they way to enrage her, like the PTR did this ark, because it would be followed by Taylor doing equally awesome, nay, even better, things than she did this ark.

        Also, it occurred to me just now that, as some people skip interludes while catching up, this is a really, really horrible place to skip. Vital piece of canon, missed.

  30. >Even when he’d handed over the binder with the sum total of his work, his employer had been more concerned with the fact that he’d shown up late to work for his job.

    You know, Accord really doesn’t seem like the person to show up late for work, and if he did he would certainly feel terrible about it, even if he was solving world hunger.

      • On the gripping hand, Accord is, despite his fixation on a 23-year solution to all the world’s ills, INCREDIBLY short-sighted. As Saintsaint has pointed out, Accord essentially has Obsessive Compulsive Personality Disorder, brought on by (or maybe just exacerbated by) his powers. (Speaking of which, did he have a trigger event? Given how messed up he really is, I’d say “yes”.) Accord is an exemplar of the Evil Genius archetype, far more wrapped up in his head and his own rules than the real world. We saw that over and over again in this interlude.

        And why ANYONE would want to work for this guy is beyond me. But there are all types of people in the world, and I ain’t one of them.

        (And wow, would that last paragraph piss Accord off!)


        • He probably pays VERY well, makes sure you are happy with whatever he can provide, and he isn’t go to hurt you/others just to make a point like other villains would. BUT he probably will hurt/kill you if you aren’t well groomed/dressed, follow his rules, and keep everything very clean/orderly. There are always going to be normals who want to be parahumans and I’m sure the potential people he is going to hire go above and beyond for the chance of powers.

          • Citrine, at least, appears turned on by him.

            “He noted that the flush had spread down to her decolletage. Not the result of fear or anger. Another base emotion.”

            (nicely written that, BTW, Wildbow🙂.

  31. Thoughts:

    – being Accord is suffering😀
    – Valefor is like Imp but his power only works one person at a time and he has to keep his eyes on them?
    – Othello’s got some kind of astral projection ability that he can use while conscious?
    – Citrine is sexually aroused by death threats like that chick from Archer? Kinky.
    – ahh, Skitter made some constructs for Parian. Alternatively, she supplied the materials.
    – Accord is a Couldron asset. Interesting
    – Butcher is scary. If she gets multiple copies of the same power (say, if more than one of her predecessors had superstrength), does it stack?

    • There are no copies of the same power, barring a circumstance where it’s powers recurring within a second/third generation cape. Even then, debatable.

      But they’d stack in a case where such came to pass.

      • So all the powers in the wormverse are unique?

        What about the Alexandria package or the stock powers that can be bought from cauldron?

        I have the curious image of the various powers/passengers just being aspects of a single extremely powerful being broken into components…

        • Different ways that they are applied; One might fly by ignoring gravity, while another might fly by becoming magnetically charged and polarizing herself against the current charge beneath her, another might fly by shifting most of her mass into multiple dimensions and flying on thermals that exist in any one of those worlds; There are many many different ways you can run flight. Super-strength and toughness are the same way. Imagine someone whose skin reforms itself into a layer of carbon nanotubes, while another literally crystallizes, and another imbues herself with kinetic energy that negates incoming force by applying an equal and opposite force.

  32. I feel rather confident saying that Cauldron’s plan for Coil was to have a villain rule a functioning city. That is why Skitter and the Undersiders can work in his place if things go well. Also, Accord has said they would serve as a model, so the plan may be for more widespread villain control. In one of the comment sections Wildbow mentioned one version of the Wormverse where super villains ruled the world. I think Cauldron is trying to bring about something similar.

    • That just doesn’t make any sense. Why would that be their goal?

      Coil (much like Accord and to a lesser extent Skitter) wanted to fix things up. Solve big problems. Save the town or the world.

      Coil and Accord have a bit bigger view of things than Skitter, but they’re also fucked up people, whereas Skitter isn’t.

      I think Cauldron’s goals include saving the world from Jack and the Endbringers- not because they’re “good”, but because they don’t want things to go to shit. That’s why Coil and Accord fit into their plans.

      • More supervillains than heroes, Cauldron cant keep up; by having a single villain/villain team rule an entire city (ignore Nilbog) they can then set up a conglomerate of forces which can be under the conduit (Coil/Skitter) and work more cohesively to combat the Endbringer threat instead of the constant infighting

        I had a better elaborative explanation but I have a headache, perdoname.

  33. On the uppermost floors, plexiglass and a large volume of water mixed with a high concentration of carbon dioxide and a sudsing agent, sweeping through the building.

    Maybe should be changed to *were sweeping*?

    Also, I really was looking forward to an Accord chapter and you didnt disappoint. I especially love how there is another example of how some capes actions are in response to their powers, lovely touch.
    Also also, should Number Man and Butcher be tagged?
    Also also also, I was particularly fond of the Parian touch. Really interested in what could have been the motivation Skitter used to draw her in fully (ish).

    And on another note? You mentioned possibly doing another bonus arc a la Wards/Travelers; a suggestion or two? The Guild, The Ambassadors (already admitted my interest in them), Endbringer attack arc (just an idea), Theo, whatever is left of the Pure, Irregulars, Slaughterhouse 9 before they joined up, and not necessarily my favorite suggestion, but maybe a lead-up to Nilbogs takeover of his town.
    Really love the world you have built, so my interest in ALL THE THINGS is kind of obvious, thanks for the great update

    • Another:
      “Imp and Valefor… your stranger powers against theirs makes for a troublesome fight. Imp is the one I would worry about first. Unpredictable, impossible to track.”

      Should Stranger be capitalized? It was elsewhere

      • I should really be consistent with that. Tinker isn’t commonly capitalized, and Stranger should only be capitalized when the classification is being stated outright. (ie. Stranger-nine.)

        • On that note, since it’s a title shouldn’t the number be capitalized as well, eg. Stranger-Nine, Tinker-Four, Thinker-Three, compared to Stranger-nine, Tinker-four, Thinker-three?

    • I think I know why Parian came into the fold. Parian has made a point of staying neutral and out of the Undersiders due to their problematic moral leanings. I think Parian had to have seen the video of the Arcadia High incident, where Taylor overcame the blatantly amoral heroes in such a way that Ghandi’s hand tore free from his grave in a huge “thumbs up” gesture. Parian has been sitting on the fence for some time, but I think seeing that there is a decidedly moral backing at the core of the Undersiders may have swayed her decision.

      Not only that, it had to occur to Parian that the PRT is desperately looking for SOME victory against the Undersiders in Brockton Bay. Even if she isn’t an official member, her affiliation with them paints a gigantic target on her back. Parian has to know that her power would be pretty much useless against a PRT zerg rush like they tried against Skitter. Her only real option to survive is to fully integrate herself into the Undersiders.

      • Well flechette told them what happened, and she might still be considered a rouge by the heroes as the website thought she made a deal with them instead of joining. Though she might have reconsidered after the school incident and just being around Taylor. When she first went to her territory, and told her she hated her I laughed at how naive her ideas on moral complexity were. But now after getting to know them I bet she doesn’t see them the same way. Well I did want a new Undersider, though I doubt she will ever officially join.

      • Oh no, Ghandi’s back from the dead! Skinny little undead bastard’s got me! He’s dragging me aiowya fromt ehadisoajds;fkljas ;jaq3IW-W8-9 IF KJL ijo28314ERWI09 KO 1233467ASGHJ afds

        It’s cool. Told him about some stuff going down with drones and persecution and stuff. Got him to hunger strike again.

        • Nope. You unfortunately provoked the Ghandi from the Civilization series. I hope you have a fallout shelter handy.

          • The Brotherhood of Steel aren’t so bad to bunk with. If you can get past the superiority complexes and the racism.

          • Then Ghandi will have a difficult time fighting my forces of the Empire of Japan! Especially now that I’ve completed the Manhattan Project in Nagasaki. (Yes, really, back during Civilization 3).

  34. Interesting.

    Accord has a combination of extreme OCD and an over-abundance of intrusive thoughts and he thinks of himself as a good guy who is trying to improve the world and make it a better place.

    Someone should point Accord out as an example of the ends justifying the means mentality to Armsmaster. Just to show him where the slippery slope led that he was rescued from.

    The original plan as far as Accord knows will continue to work with the Undersiders in place of coil. I guess this means that the plan (as far as he knows) uses them as a model of powered individuals taking over government or dividing the world into little fiefdoms. A meritocracy based on ability and a society where might makes right. I can see why he might be on board with that but I don’t see why Cauldron should be.

    Combined with the decades long plan ignoring both the immediate end of the world as well as the eventual collapse caused by the Endbringers that would have happend soon afterwards this seems strange. Perhaps Accord doesn’t know the whole plan. Although it must be hard to deceive a problem solver with attention to details like Accord.

    Maybe the plan is not limited to earth and involved emigrating somewhere else before the end of the world. Perhaps the plan does incorporate the end of the world as a key element somehow.

    I wonder if Accord is aware that Skitter killed his ‘friend’ Coil.

    For now it seems as if Accord will be secretly hoping the Undersiders succeed in their plans to take over the city and consolidate their power while on the outside not acting to support them since the plans depends on them succeeding under their own power.

    Might there be others with Cauldron who are secretly hoping that Skitter succeeds? Might that have been a motivation for revealing her identity earlier, because Alexandria et all want Skitter to be in a certain position?

    As for the others…

    I wonder if the fallen have a member patterning themselves after Leviathan. Such a member won’t be very popular in Brockton Bay I assume.

    Butcher seems like a problem since by killing them you will become Butcher. I wonder if Regent taking over the body and making it dive of a building counts. Perhaps staking Butcher out in the ship yard and drive them to suicide by Cherish might be a solution as then the past Butchers would then be trapped inside her.

      • I’m not sure wanting to solve the world’s problems because they irk your OCD is significantly different in any real way to wanting to solve the world’s problems because they irk your sense of what’s right. Either way, alleviation of personal discomfort is the goal.

  35. More thoughts:

    – I actually kind of like Accord now. Dude is crazy but it’s not his fault and he does make an effort.
    – anyone notice that bit where Accord gives Tattletale a quick verbal smackdown and she was all (albeit silently) “A hit! A palpable hit!” and shit? That may have been too subtle for me, I didn’t get what it was about what he said that hurt her. That theory that he’s her dad is not entirely without canon support.
    – I really really really want to know what Citrine’s power is. Probably not a regenerator or she wouldn’t need to spend so much time on her skin care regimen

  36. (Copied from the comments for the previous chapter)

    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.

    • New Theory:

      Cauldron is behind the Slaughterhouse Nine and their recent abduction of Blasto and interest in other biological tinkers. This would be extremely useful if vast tracts of farmland, potentially hostile microorganisms, and new yummy animals were discovered.

      Faultline’s group was left alive because Coil, then Tattletale, would need their abilities to open a hole in another dimension, something Cauldron knows a bit about given their Doorman (or whatever he’s called). In Coil’s case, his power would help make sure he did everything right.

      This was necessary because of Noelle. The Travelers were just starting to work for Accord when Coil was tipped off to them and they seemed just perfect to his plans.

      I think my current flash of insight is about spent. There’s more that is almost within my reach, and other parts of Cauldron’s plan I would not want to speculate about.

      • New theory:

        Cauldron started the Slaughterhouse 9 to get all biological tinkers out of the way of their plans to end the Endbringers

        Dont ask, I dont write the story, I just make unlikely guesses

        • I think the presence of parahumans and Endbringers on the same world probably is connected, but not neccessarily in the obvious way (the Endbringers being constructs sent to destroy any version of reality with parahumans). It could in fact be that the desolate hut-world that Alexandria flinched at during the Echidna fight, was the result of the Endbringers or another apocalyptic event (related to the upcoming one?) In which case, it suggests that Cauldron might actually be a foreign agency with it’s own reasons for creating parahumans. Such could be ‘helping this dimension fight the Endbringers’, ‘an experiment located in this dimension to both improve knowledge of parahumans and see how effective they are against Endbringers’, or ‘create parahumans here, thus luring the Endbringers away from Cauldron’s home dimension’.

          Terminus likely refers to something regarding either the portal or the upcoming apocalypse (since we know Skitter will be there at the end). This provides us with some further clues regarding Cauldron’s intentions, but I suspect we’ll need further information to narrow it down sufficiently.

      • Related theory:
        Assault was working for Cauldron back when he was Madcap. He and other jailbreak specialists were how they mainly recruited non-created capes. Assault (or someone similar) was the jailbreak specialist who broke out Accord, this is how he was recruited.
        Following theory:
        Assault is rather more loyal to Cauldron than Battery was. He was also naturally attracted to Battery, but Cauldron leveraged this to have him marry/keep an eye on her. Not entirely sure of this theory.
        3rd Following theory:
        Battery failed Cauldron, and was killed by Bonesaw’s spiders. Bonesaw works for Cauldron. Bonesaw was created, possibly indirectly, by Cauldron. She’s the real leader of S9, silently guiding them while she protects them to make sure they accomplish their purpose.
        Half-theory in progress:
        Bonesaw was Manton’s daughter? Explains the kinship, and why S9 was his first thought. She may not have known, or she may have been too messed up to care.
        -together they led S9 without Jack’s knowledge?

        ohshi- Cauldron required Burnscar and Siberian escape the city. Burnscar one of theirs too? Or misdirection? Cauldron recruits out of the asylums? I’m seeing Cauldron everywhere…..

      • Actually intrusive thoughts like that and along the lines of “I could totally drive this car into opposing traffic” or “what would happen if I just dropped this baby” are sort of normal.

        What makes Accord different is that his are presumably more frequent, more detailed and that he occasionally acts on them.

        • Those thoughts are usually fleeting though. Most people don’t stand there and stare at you while thinking them.

          I’unno, maybe I’m just biased because he’d probably open my throat if he saw my apartment. But fuck this guy.

        • He seems to experience them on the level of not being sure they didn’t happen.

          I don’t think we’d get along, but I still like the guy. He has a flair for the complicated that I just can’t help but enjoy. Don’t just rob a jewelry store. Construct a rocket to ride and test it out while robbing said jewelry store.

        • Reminds me of the Bill Burr sketch about driving along in a busy city.

          “I keep my hands *here* and nobody knows who I am, turn them just a little and OH THE HUMANITY, BODIES PILED UP ALONG THE STREET, NEVER HAVE WE SEEN SUCH CARNAGE, NO INDICATION THAT HE EVEN TRIED TO STOP.”

  37. Wow. I was completely neutral on Accord until now. I cannot stand him. I don’t understand how Tattletale can be so restrained about him. I want to trap him in an elevator within which every surface has been finger-painted by a hyperactive two year old, with improvisational jazz being piped in. Several channels of jazz being switched through by random number generators. Knowing RNGs to be imperfect, there must be a selection of different RNG seedings being toggled by, I don’t know, the number of calls received by some radio station or something.

    …I dislike the guy.

    • He enjoys the cleanup rather than the mess, so that would actually provide him some enjoyment and relaxation.

      • Mmmm…. disorder bothers him. Cleanup is his way of overcoming the temporary mess and disorder from eliminating primary sources of disorder in his world. He could happily kill me with a huge mess and enjoy the cleanup afterwards, but I think my elevator situation would bug him. Disorder with no ability to strike at the source, no immediate means to significantly correct it.

        On the other hand, I’m somewhat disturbed. Upon reflection I think my own immediate visceral reaction to having been inside his head was nearly identical to one of my reasons for disliking him, so… yay hypocrisy!😉

        • But he does have an immediate means to significantly correct it; He can scratch it all off, or otherwise clean it; In fact he would probably take his time in doing so, taking the paint down in perfect layers and re-using it to repaint the inside with the perfect thickness in a pleasing arrangement. He wouldn’t have a solution to getting to you in that, but it would resolve his current situation just fine. Once that’s done, however, the problem of escaping the cell would niggle at his mind until he got out or broke to the point he didn’t percieve it as a problem.

  38. Other than the ever looming threats (Cauldron, Endbringers, S9), what the next arc will be about is a bit up in the air. Would most likely be the Undersiders dealing with at least one of the other gangs (Teeth, Fallen), or could be, at this point, transitioning into the conclusion phase. I remember that Wildbow said that after arc 19 there would be around 1-3 more arcs before the conclusion stuff started to get underway. Lots of stuff is already being set up both in this and the previous updates.

    Also, in regards to the pacing in-story, we still have a bit less than two years left. All the previous arcs have been taking place right after each other. Are we going to have one or two large time skips to cover the remaining time, or are the chapters/ arcs themselves going to be longer/ have smaller time skips in between?

    Is Parian an actual official member of the Undersiders now, or are they just making it seem that way? Also, really like the giant spider-silk stuffed bugs. Apparently the meeting takes place only half a day after the Skitter’s identity got outed (so about midnight), which likely means that Skitter made the bugs beforehand (or maybe she is just able to work much faster now)

    • If she made the cloth in advance, Parian could almost certainly tailor it. You might recall her making a small doll for Vista in a matter of a minute or two, during conversation.

  39. Ah finally had time to read it, and I enjoy the fleshing out of all the new characters. The fallen seem interesting, but I don’t think they’ll last too long if they didn’t realize how easily Skitter could have dealt with them. The teeth’s butcher will be harder to deal with with, but they can always trap her, and drive her nuts. I wonder if Accord has realized his power’s weakness in that it cant seem to profile people at all. The main reason people follow him is one of fear, and the PRT probably would have at least looked at his plans if he calculated “people” and their reactions. I don’t think he even remotely realizes that the Undersiders are friends. I have the feeling that what will kill him is they he will misjudge how someone reacts and lose accordingly. I mean the man didn’t realize how dangerous Blasto possibly being captured was, so he is far from infallible. So it is a stranger vs. stranger cage match coming up, and I think Imp will with a unseen trap like how the 9 caught her. Looking forward to the next chapter with the Undersiders simply being people and their reactions to Taylor’s face being known. Brian and Tattletale will probably give her support and I think Bitch might actually grow closer with her now that she can’t show her face in public.

    • Your comment clicked something in place for me: the difference between Accord and Tattletale’s powers. Accord seems to judge situations like an engineer, and Tattletale judges people like a psychologist. This make Tattletale more powerful in this personal meeting, which makes me wonder why she was taken aback by Accord’s words.

      • She probably was surprised that Accord read as having some genuine respect for Skitter. I don’t think she’d have expected that to be the case going into this meeting, especially after the events of 20.5.

        • She was likely taken aback because the way he spoke to her was like that of an adult chastising a child. Remember, she hates to be called stupid.

      • I think the problem there is that Tattletale threw a superpowered thinker-softball at a guy who’s used to dealing with his personal weaknesses in an imperfect world every day. She’s trying to needle him because, for whatever reason, she has to. But she doesn’t necessarily want him to flip out over it, so she’s a little restrained.

        Meanwhile, Accord is holding himself back from the brink over tiny things all the time. ALL the time. Sometimes he slips and people die over it, but he is constantly exercising restraint as best he can. One more set of tiny things from a group of people who know they should be orderly to deal with you but who are mildly provoking you… not too much different from dealing with an ordinary world that doesn’t bother to conform to your personal needs.

        So he just barely manages to restrain himself, sees that Tattletale is needling him, and takes his own shot. It wasn’t necessarily Thinker-driven at all; Tattletale’s I-must-annoy-you issues present as childish in nature, and he put on the “as though addressing a very dim-witted child” tone in his frustrated response to her. Whether through luck or ordinary non-powered insight, that happened to score a direct hit on Tattletale’s need to be acknowledged as the smartest person in the room.

        • Im also thinking that, since the power that Tt has allows her to see beyond what is/isnt being said, she gleaned some info from that simple response that startled her

          Could have been how close he was to attempting to kill her, or how utterly disgusted by her he is/ I think either fits

        • I think the “needling you to feel superior” thing is a trait from her childhood. She was basically cast aside, left to feel unimportant, and about the only way you can feel like you are a person in that sort of situation is when you’re putting someone down, a common enough scenario seen in abused peoples throughout the world…

  40. It’s very interesting in that Taylor’s ‘disorganized’ ‘off-the-cuff’ efforts that have borne great results, she’s portrayed with many of the same sort of problem-solving traits that Accord has, just with a slightly different framework. So while some of the appearance at the meeting may have been deliberate, there may also be a promise of a level of synergy (not dominance, not symbiosis, not parasitism) between the Undersiders and the Ambassadors+Accord in the future. I could easily see Skitter executing a wayward Ambassador now, for screwing things up. And I could totally see Accord going “Was the disposal of the wayward factor enough to satisfy the needs of the city, or do I need to be… more thorough?”

    Alternatively, given how obnoxious Tattletale’s power is, she may have picked up on the power-sales that Cauldron is hooking Accord up with, and will be ready with something to shut that whole noise down before it gets started, perhaps by directing foes against each other?

    Curious times, indeed.

  41. Every time I read Valefor’s little snarks, I want to punch myself in the face just to distract myself from the burgeoning headache. ‘Just a sixteen-year-old schoolgirl’… who’s faced down an Endbringer, humiliated Dragon, et cetera.

    Accord is going to meet with a very, /very/ nasty end if he keeps on assuming like this…

  42. Well this was an interesting chapter.

    Frankly I rather surprised about the Teeth. I figured they were just a normal gang with a few capes but the whole ‘Fantasy Barbarian/Tribal Savage’ human trophy wearing was rather unexpected. Butcher has a rather interesting power, not the most original but normally it’d be the kinda thing you’d see in Fantasy land with dark magic or something.

    Speaking of powers, how exactly do you come up with such an interesting and unique variety of powers?

    • Capes, plural. Its clear this isnt the first time he’s bought powers, so it is reasonable to assume both citrine and othello got powers from a bottle too.

      • I wonder if the batch of powers in vial form the travellers ended up with was meant for accords people , say a earlier group of ambasadors ? (posted this elsewhere by mistake but meant it to be here )

        • The ones the Travelers got were meant for two children and their friends. That doesn’t sound like Accord’s style.

          • ohhh missed that bit , but after rereading you are correct 🙂 packbat the all knowing !
            I’ll have to sneak you in as a chibi one of these days and see if anyone notices😛

          • Ah, crap — I know what I’ve done. I confused it with the five canisters Skidmark looted. We never saw the details of the contract, just the list of six canisters:

            Canister A: F-1-6-1-1, ‘Deus’, 85% mixture.
            Added: C-0-0-7-2, ‘Balance’, 15% mixture.
            To be consumed by Client 1

            Canister B: R-0-9-3-6, ‘Jaunt’, 70% mixture.
            Added: C-0-0-7-2, ‘Balance’, 30% mixture.
            To be consumed by Client 2

            Canister C: C-2-0-6-2, ‘Prince’, 55% mixture.
            Added: O-0-1-2-1, ‘Aegis’, 30% mixture.
            Added: C-0-0-7-2, ‘Balance’, 15% mixture.
            To be consumed by Client 3

            Canister D: M-0-0-4-2, ‘Vestige’, 75% mixture.
            Added: C-0-0-7-2, ‘Balance’, 25% mixture
            To be consumed by Client 4

            Canister E: X-0-7-9-6, ‘Division’, 80% mixture.
            Added: C-0-0-7-2, ‘Balance’, 20% mixture
            To be consumed by Client 5

            Canister F: E-0-7-1-2, ‘Robin’, 60% mixture.
            Added: C-0-0-7-2, ‘Balance’, 40% mixture
            To be consumed by Client 6

            Krouse took Jaunt. Noelle and Oliver each took half of Division. Cody took Vestige (and got killed by Accord, later). Luke took Robin. Jess took Deus. Mars took Prince. And Client 3 was the one who had cerebral palsy, which gave them the idea that the canisters could be used to cure physical injuries.

            • Presumably Simurgh transported it from Cauldron along with the Case 53s.

              That said, I doubt that package *was* intended for Accord. Accord seems to be very selective about choosing and grooming his Ambassadors. I can’t really see him ‘promoting’ half a dozen people at once.

        • Bumping up the correction to the same reply level as the original: I checked in Arc 17, and we never saw the pages of the contract which detailed who the six (not five) clients were whose doses the Travelers stole. The only information we had is that the third client had cerebral palsy which was supposed to be treated after he took Prince — the Sundancer vial.

          • Do we know of any villains/heroes/PRT/anyone related to any of the previous mentioned that suffered/suffers from cerebral palsy? And if that’s the case, then why the heck didn’t Jess get it? And thanks for reminding me that it was Accord that ended up ending Cody. Couldn’t remember for the life of me. Still, six vials (since in my initial count I forgot Jess, below- Whoops!) could have been his initial ambassadors, perhaps?

  43. It’s interesting – if Accord is allied with Cauldron, they could have given him the database, as PRT’s databases should be open book to them. I guess it’s either they aren’t close enough allies or it was to give an excuse to how he could have acquired it.

    Coil + Accord = BFFs was pretty clear. I suspect Coil was consulting with Accord a lot.

    I wouldn’t mind Parian’s chapter at this point.

    • I am not entirely willing to say Coil felt the same way. If you recall his speaking patterns, the way he chose to carry out his plans, and the plethora of information from his Interlude, the guy treated or thought of everyone who worked with/under him as either a possession or a tool. I saw no indication that such would be altered for anyone, especially since he didnt see anyone as /above/ or even equal himself, simply another obstacle.

    • Accord needed the PRT database info from Coil for essentially the same reason that Coil needed the Undersiders to steal the database in the first place even though he personally also had full access as a PRT member. Access or not it is Dragon that manages the database and the data within and she is not corrupted by Cauldron. Dragon could track any full download and then would be able to expose the culprit as a security leak. Thus Coil had to steal what he had access to. Same would go for Cauldron. Cauldron may not even possess the full data at all unless they got it from Coil also since none of the Cauldron capes/agents might have been willing to rick the exposure.

  44. I’m surprised that nobody’s mentioned this yet but parts of this chapter were written in different size fonts: “Valefor stood from the table.  Eligos joined him.  Together, they strode from the room, silent” is one example.

    Maybe it’s only in the mobile version?

    I’ve got to go soon, but I really liked this chapter. I connect well with Accord, minus the muderous intent. People say that he rules out of fear, but he mentions in passing judgments of what makes a good leader that I think shows that he understands the balancing act involved (not that I’m a great leader of any kind, of course, so maybe I’m as wrong about that as he is).

  45. “The voices and consciousnesses only work with rightful heirs, members of their group who challenge the leader and beat him in a fair match.”

    This doesn’t seem to work with how Butcher Three was a superhero. On the other hand, it makes killing Butcher Fourteen that much simpler, if you don’t get the voices if you’re not a member of the group.

    • Reread that section. It didn’t work. Butcher Three went nuts and got killed because of it.

      The voices jumping to whoever kills the previous Butcher is the part that’s automatic. The voices cooperating with the new Butcher, on the other hand, isn’t.

    • Read that as ‘work’ as in ‘cooperate’.

      If you’re not legitimate, they fuck with your head instead, drive you mad, taunt you, play mind games.

      • Yes. Like if a superhero wound up with the voices of two Butchers in his mind. Keeping him awake, taunting him, trying to drive him to kill people. Maybe speaking up really loudly while he’s doing his wife to make sure he knows they’re in there experiencing it too a little bit. Give him messed up dreams.

  46. Ha! THERE’S the Accord interlude.

    Yep, still evil. But as a character? Quite, quite awesome. Good to see inside his head, just how much his power has messed him up. Absolute order, and the compulsion to see it through.

    And just the Starts of a Skitter-fan in there. Called it!

    Too, with his Cauldron ties, this gives an excuse to bring Faultline and her team into the picture. Which rocks, because I love her team something fierce.

    And the Teeth and the Fallen will make for good adversaries for the next arc or so. Dangerous, yeah, just dangerous enough to be a problem, but definitely smaller fry than the Class S threats that the Undersiders have had to deal with lately. It’ll make for a nice break from the OHMYGODWEREALLYGONNADIE situations that keep hitting Brockton Bay.

    In other news, interesting to see Parian going goth. Guess she’s accepted the fact that she has to work with the villains at least a little bit if she wants to properly protect her people. Be nice if she joined their ranks formally, though I don’t see that happening until she gets a little tougher… Or at all, really. She’s made it this far with her kindness and empathy intact, and joining our protagonists would mean she’d take serious hits on those fronts.

    I have to say, I really hope that the next interlude is a Wards/local heroes one. That was a seriously dirty trick that the PRT pulled in 20.5, and I want to see how the “good guys” are dealing with both it and the aftermath. It’s got to HURT, when the very people you bust your butt trying to protect support one of your sworn enemies. Very much a “What the Hell, Hero!” moment, in TVTropes terms.

    ::Sighs:: SO glad I found Worm. Well. Back to working on the fanfic! 😀

  47. After giving it some thought, I realized that only two people in that room would be able to contain and control Butcher’s powers without being a member of the Teeth.
    I suspect that Regent would be able to limit his interactions with the other minds as he regularly has had practice with it due to his own power. However, he has only had a history with feeling their emotions, not their actual thoughts.
    The other person is Skitter. Her natural ability to deal with her swarm through either pushing them away or putting more of her consciousness into them will likely give her an edge in dealing with additional thought processes in her head. Besides, she is the worlds greatest multitasker, additional minds would be child’s play to her.

    • That assumes they even go the kill route with butcher. They could easily tie butcher up and leave a nice big present for the PRT to take to the birdcage.

      • No, it’s quite obvious that Butcher will be killed by someone in the Slaughterhouse 9. If you think about it, that’s the worst possible outcome, therefore the most likely.

        • Or Butcher goes to the Birdcage and gets killed there, eventually combining the powers of every inmate; ending with a Marquis/Butcher who has 650ish powers and can probably escape (even if the preserved powers are only half strength he’d still trounce Eidolon).

          THEN one of the Slaughterhouse 9000 kills him.

          Who thinks this would take about two years?

      • From a literary perspective, the capes who take the name Butcher have been killed around than 13 times over the course of about 3 decades. That doesn’t set a very good precedent for their survival rate. I was also personally speculating about who would be the best person to control Butcher’s power.

        • The only person I can think of who could kill Butcher and suffer no problems whatsoever would probably be Glaistig Uaine. Judging from what is said about her, dealing with extra voices in her head and gaining peoples would be pretty normal for her.

  48. It’s interesting to me that Accord’s plans only got set back by five years if he doesn’t have direct assistance from world governments. Looking forward to finding out just what Cauldron’s plan is too, right now I lean toward it being a different angle of the “People with powers take over” plan, since that seemed to be what Alexandria was shooting for as well. Alexandria chose to work inside the system, Coil and now Skitter is working from without.

  49. Random thought, while I am reading through the chapters again: I definitely wouldnt mind another Travelers arc: Genesis, Sundancer, Ballistic, Oliver, and Krouse
    We get to see how they readjust to life back in Earth Aleph/what the Aleph parahuman scene is like AND another look inside of the Birdcage with Krouse

    So, just something to keep in mind if you still hadnt decided if/what you would do for another bonus arc

      • Oooh, I think you might have hit it on the button there. The instructions were very neat and precise after all!

          • Oliver and Noelle each split a singular vial ,And pack rat debunked my idea way up thread

            (packbat on April 6, 2013 at 8:33 PM said:
            The ones the Travelers got were meant for two children and their friends. That doesn’t sound like Accord’s style.)

          • Oliver & Noelle, Krouse, Marissa(sp), Cody, Luke. Five total. Or, as we know them better, Oliver & Echidna, Jailed Asshole (Trickster), Sundancer, Dead Asshole (Perdition), Escaped Asshole (Ballistic).

            I’m still interested to hear how Krouse killed Cody, exactly… Or if he did his usual misdirection and said he killed him, but didn’t really and instead threw him out to fend for himself, told him never to show his face again, sorta thing, and said that he killed him to his team to absorb the brunt of it in a misguided attempt to soften the blow to the rest of them, like he usually did? If it was noted and my sleepiness just has me having forgotten it, please correct me on that.

          • This said, packbat mentioned above to another similar thread that he was actually wrong on that, conflating the ones the Travellers got with the ones Skidmark had.

          • Hey now, whats with the Asshole titles? I think they deserve a bit of leniency for the whole *ripped from their dimension by a nigh-unstoppable eldritch abomination and forced to deal with the multitude of shittery in another dimension in order to save a friend and get home* thing kind of gives them (Krouse and Luke, at the least, Cody was always a jackhole) an excuse to be a bit dickish; even with Krouse siding with Noelle in the end, I found it charming while misguided.

          • Perdition was likely offed by Accord, who wanted to deal with him because he was the source of the problem that caused Sundancer to interrupt his and Trickster’s meeting. With what we now know, I think Accord could have defeated Mr. Sands of Time pretty easily.

  50. Tatletale learned what the powers of everyone in the room were a few minutes after they started talking. And skitter + grue can now plan how to deal with each one of them.
    Add Grue`s ability to copy powers and we have an interesting situation where the undersiders can plan and go prepared instead of being taken by surprise.

      • Most people don’t realize the full extent of Skitter’s powers. Or the details of Tattletale’s powers. Or, I suspect, Parian’s. Regent and Bitch are the only two Undersiders whose powers are in any way publicly known, and the New Wave was still underestimating Bitch as recently as her Interlude 11.

        Like Grue said once, it’s easy to appreciate what having Tattletale brings to a team.

  51. I’ve figured out the nature of the Endbringers! Let’s see: malignant, crystalline beings. They’re sentient kidney stones!

    • I wonder if the reason Cauldron wanted shatterbird left alive is because her powers might be really useful in dealing with a crystaline endbringer ….come to think of it Siberians power (who was the only other one explicitly asked to be kept alive ) would be very useful in fighting a endbringer

  52. An illustration of how quickly the audience has grown in the recent past:

    In the last month, there has been exactly one post with less than two hundred comments (the nixed donation interlude).

    In the year before that, there has been exactly one post with more than two hundred comments (the fight with Triumph — although the last post of the Migration arc had exactly two hundred).

    Thought that was interesting.

    • A more concrete illustration:

      View counts, last while. Keep in mind the day & week graphs only cover the last 30ish, and the last bar on each graph isn’t accounting for the incomplete day/week/month:

      More views in just the past six days than I had in all of September 2012 (six months ago).

      The visitors numbers are a little wonky, because it doesn’t count those subscribed by email, among other things.

      • And more hits this march than in any other two months combined (except maybe Jan/Feb ’13). O.o Jebus. Well, I hope we can continue to expand! I’ve been recommending Worm to each and every person I know, so I hope it helps!

        • Is it strange to ask how many of you are familiar with sci-fi and fantasy fiction in general? I have read a lot, and this is fine work.Sometimes gripping, sometimes a bit dull, but overall interesting. Odds are you will blow up quite a bit in the future.
          I am unequivocally in favor of the format. Bite sized chapters 2 or 3 times a week-wonderful.Free to read, but you can donate directly to the author to support her-great. Just the artist and her audience, for this is art and is, at times, beautiful.

          • I don’t think i’d have ever read Worm if not for two things , my friend drunkfu started doodling characters from it while he was doing a art stream and the designs and names were intresting but I still sorta wrote it off as traditional superhero stuff but then drunkfu and several other friends sorta sold me on a strong female lead ,a nontraditional ‘hero’ , bite size chapters (often with cliff hangers ) and updates twice weekly (sometimes more ) and that really fits perfectly with my likes and needs (I also love that im slowly able to start seeing things falling in place and that seemingly trivial things become important later in the story ).

          • I wrote a review up on webfictionguide, to give you an idea of what I think of Worm… The only reason I didn’t know about this earlier is because I didn’t even know it existed, or that WFG existed; It was word of mouth that pulled me in, and I couldn’t be happier for that. I’ve been spreading the word as I can, but I think Wildbow might benefit from looking into Project Wonderful or somesuch for a bit of cheap advertising; I know that Dominic Deegan has a PW ad slot that is relatively cheap. shows that the current ad placement people are paying eight cents a day.

          • I’ve been known to read a bit of sci-fi, fantasy, superhero, and CreepyPasta. I found this story over at Legion of Nothing. I was bored one day, presumably after causing someone to spit up some tea on their computer, promptly drawing attention to said readers’ pants being around his ankles. At a book store. Jim has a link to it (Worm, not the man with the pants around his ankles) on the side of his page and the name caught my eye. Read it all over the course of a couple of days (it was a lot smaller at the time. “That’s what she said.”) and then began my commenting spree when the next update occurred.

            But for Worm, it was Tuesday. Or possibly Saturday.

            As for me, I think it’d be fun to take the advertising away from just the internet. Utilize fan support to go viral IRL.

            “And in other news, a groups of people across America all zipped themselves up into sleeping bags except for their heads and participated in what they’re calling a ‘Worm Walk.’ These self-described ‘Maggots’ are hoping to raise awareness for an online serial that one fan described as ‘like being skullfucked by awesome.’ Back to you in the studio, Ron.”

          • Wildbow was looking for a phrase or something to go on the banner, but wanted a serious one. “Prepare to be skullfucked by awesome” is one I proposed anyway and still use. For some reason, I’m alone in this.

            Given recent dark chapters, I think it’s become even more appropriate.

  53. Oh, final piece of the puzzle, now I’ve figured it all out. Nifty, as usual.

    And while I’m on the subject: my personal guess would be that the “saner” speculations are not found on comments, because they’re on mark, and people do not want to spoil it for other readers.
    Besides, it’s funnier to dream up the weird pairings between Taylor and any number of her female friends.

    @Wildbow: did you get any of my last emails (on this address or the other) and/or the google drive share? I’m uploading more stuff as I get going btw.

    @PG: no, I’m not new. Here: take this, it’s dangerous to go alone *hands over a box with “this side towards enemy” printed on the front and pulls the cord while PG reads it*

    • Actually, quite a few very serious speculations have been gone through here in the comments section, and even the more wilder guesses are serious attempts to figure out what Wildbow is doing next, because as we look to the past where the story goes is not necessarily something you’d think is perfectly evident, until you look at it in hindsight. And it also helps that ildbow incorporates some of our commentary directly into the story as well, either in questions to be answered as things go on, rather than an exposition fairy, or in taking a good idea and expanding upon it. We’re the ParaWiki community come to life after all!

    • Genus poecilotheria, while painful, is hardly deadly. The venom is painful enough that it will completely ruin your day though. If Taylor wanted an absurdly lethal spider, she’d go with Atrax robustus or Phoneutria nigriventer or fera. A few bites from those would probably be enough to bring all but the nastiest capes down.

      • Taylor is a proponent of the mix n’ match swarm. These babies are intimidating if anything. Too big for many of the attacks we’ve seen, though. Nothing beats a brown recluse + beetle to bring venomous pain to the enemy. The point is that on the other side of the portal is a reservoir of insects some of which may be unique to that reality and really useful. Lots of fun scenarios to imagine there.

        • If Taylor wants to mix things up, might I suggest my namesake? Scolopendra subspinipes/gigantea are horrific species to deal with. 9-12 inch centipedes that have a bite so painful that morphine cannot mitigate the pain. They are also extremely intimidating, far worse than a spider. In addition, their legs are all very strong and have sharp claws, making them much harder to escape. Their mouths can also be so full of bacteria that they can sometimes cause necrosis similar to a brown recluse. At least 2 deaths have been attributed to bites from them.

        • Also in reference, here’s a video of one of the many Scolopendra subspinipes subspecies. I would have posted others, but I don’t think people want to see videos of them devouring mice and rats.

      • THANKS FOR THE NIGHTMARE FUEL YOU LOT!!!! I can only imagine what could be on the other side of that portal in terms of insects…. ._. Taylor should really look into getting all these nasty little blighters. It’s probably make even Alexandria hesitate to see all those pain bringing flesh eaters coming at her….

  54. Hey I was learning about Shakespeare in class and one thing that stands out is we know very little personal information about him.

    Wildbow is like this to the extreme. All I know about him/her is that he/she is a Canadien most likely a christian, very organized, and likes cats and has at least a few friends.

    So Wildbow if your interested in sharing a minor amount of info about yourself like whether your a guy or girl what your job is ect.

    • I admit that I’m interested in the male/female side of things so I just know whether to use he or she in reference. I’ve used he prior, but others have used she, and not knowing which is correct bugs me. >_>; Aside from that, not interested because it leaves Wildbow more mysterious and cool.😛

      • Pretty sure Wildbow’s a guy, at least according to the e-mail address attached to his Paypal account. (Apologies if this was supposed to remain a secret.)

        • Not a secret, but I don’t go out of my way to divulge personal details either. I kind of like it being ambiguous. When people know details of the author, it colors how they look at the text. Does he write a female character wrong? Does she involve X romance because she’s writing a self-insert character? Etc.

          I would ask, just saying, that those of you in the know dont divulge my name.

          • Oh, on a similar note, one of my friends that I brought along for the ride has a neutral name, and you’ve assumed he was female, which amuses him greatly considering the debate on your own gender.

          • You know at some point you posted your real name under this account.

            You were discussing using pen names and why your real name would be unsuitable. Its on the webfictionguide forums about 5 months ago.

          • Fuck that. Wildbow, I’m outing your personal info in this here Necro-comment. Sorry mate.

            Her real name is Sick Steelfingers, and his origin story involves Disability Superpower: Transplanted Brain in a Pig. She’s a 19kg Georgian boar who secretly sneaks into his owners’ house while said owner is asleep and clatters madly on a forgotten laptop in the attic until the wee hours of the morning. All this talk of being Canadian was pre-op. Now he’s thoroughly acclimated to being Georgian, even though I guess now that would make her Russian? Whatever. Everything to the contrary is a ruse.

            Fact: 5/7 Dashboard cam videos from YouTube are provided with voiceover by Wildbow, that’s his day job. She’s a busy pig.

            Sorry Wildbow. Your powers of Internet have failed you. You’re outed.

  55. Im curious, within Interludes involving other characters, does the frequency that their own/another capes name pop up vs their alias indicate anything? Or is it just a writing quirk that has no significant meaning? This came about due to a reread of Kid Wins Interlude where his real name isnt even revealed until Vistas Interlude, where she has a passing thought regarding ”Chris”.

  56. The Cats Assumption came from when you mentioned you were house sitting someone’s cats while they were out of town.

    Christianity came from you wishing us a merry easter.

    • Dog sitting two dogs, not two cats.

      Non-Christians can celebrate Easter/holidays.

      Conventional Easter celebrations predate Christian celebration. Rites to Eos/Eostre, as I recall, were celebrations of spring, with motifs of eggs (symbolizing new life) and hares (fertile creatures). I suspect orgies or the like were common but didn’t persist. A good thing, when worship tends to be a family thing, now.

      As I understand it, it was kind of matter of fact of the time, when the religion was new (so to speak, whether you’re a Christian viewing it as the J-man gaining attention among the masses in Rome or an atheist who believes the religion was being invented around then), for religions to gain more traction by absorbing/co-opting ideas from the pagan religions. Easier to sell the new ideas if you can connect it to the religions the people are already used to. Satan is oft depicted with a pitchfork because of associations with Neptune, God as a bearded guy in white robes because of associations with Zeus, etc.

      Eostre being ‘borrowed’ for Easter is another such thing, as are many Christmas traditions. Decorating a tree, for example.

      And all that aside, I could possibly have no particular belief system and a very religious family, or the other way around, mucking up the waters.

      TL;DR: Celebrating a holiday has very little connection to one’s beliefs.

        • Wanted to Mention in case you see this about my earlier comment to “post updates faster”

          That was in reference to your original post which talked about an accelerated schedule you might be doing and i was simply acknowledging agreement that I would like it if you did that. I wasn’t trying to say you aren’t posting fast enough already because you are probably the fastest writing web serial author I’ve ever seen.

    • I think we have Taylors new spying insect…..Though a dragonfly is much more noticeable than lets say a fly or ant.

  57. Wanted to Mention in case you see this about my earlier comment to “post updates faster”

    That was in reference to your original post which talked about an accelerated schedule you might be doing and i was simply acknowledging agreement that I would like it if you did that. I wasn’t trying to say you aren’t posting fast enough already because you are probably the fastest writing web serial author I’ve ever seen.

    Added it to the bottom incase u missed it in the muddle of comments

  58. Wildbow, I have some theories I want to run by you regarding the story that I don’t want to toss up here just in case, due to potentially spoilery nature. Not asking you to confirm if I’m right or not with it, but I do want to run it past you before I post it here. Where would be the best way to contact you regarding that?

  59. Accord should post his shit to websites, if he got media attention his plans and designs couldn’t be ignored behind backdoors. What I don’t understand is that he should know this and should be able to plan and use media and public attention to get his plan for curing world hunger on the table.

    Get a deal with some papers to include it with one of their daily copies, post it all around the web, etc.

    • But it’s subjunctive. It’s technically correct. It’s the same kind of formation as “If I were coming to visit tomorrow”. I will admit the turn of phrase was a bit odd, kinda in an unusually formal register, and wildbow might want to consider rephrasing it. But it’s technically correct.

      • Except I’m pretty sure the subjunctive case does not apply here. It would apply IF there was some probability that the costume might NOT be studded and trimmed as described. Subjunctive case has an if/then quality; a maybe/ maybe not possibility.

        In this case, the costume WAS studded as described, right?

  60. The text size seems to be wonky and slightly inconsistent on mobile. I’ll get halfway down, and there’ll be a paragraph or two with a font size two or three points larger than the rest, then back to normal. (Accord would flip shit)

    Excellent story so far, I was referred here from the HPMOR(Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality) subreddit a week or two ago. You have been following the First Rule of Fanfiction(possible renaming to First Rule of Fiction?), which essentially states that if you give Frodo a lightsaber, then you have to give Sauron the Death Star. Skitter has been ramping up the ways she can use her power, and the difficulty of her obstacles are also substantially increasing. I’m at the point where I’m wondering if Tattletale will use a large portion of her resources to counteract Cauldron, knowingly or(unlikely?) otherwise.

  61. Accord is one scary sumbitch. Like the ultimate incarnation of the end justifying the means combined with a heaping helping of super-OCD.

  62. Does someone know what the tag links are? I thought they would take me to a list of pages with that character tagged in them but it seems like they might take me to the next chapter that character is in…

    • They take you to every chapter with that character in them, but they show the full chapter rather than just a linked title.

      • Ohhhh. I see. Also, they’re ordered with the latest released chapter at the top. Dangerous if you are coming in after the story is done. Thanks for the heads up.

  63. This was awesome😀
    And also in need of serious proofreading, especially near the start. There were missing capitals, surplus capitals, missing punctuation, surplus punctuation. Be sure to get this one focused on before you do the ebook release.

    I went “Oooooh” when it was revealed Accord was working with Cauldron. It makes a lot of sense, and yet I really didn’t see it coming. Accord is very much like Skitter, actually: working in illegal ways for the benefit of society… as they see it. I think Skitter’s got slightly more plausible aims, but who’s to say, really?

    I imagine the little smile to himself is because the “long distance” phone number is in another world.

  64. I’ve been reading this serial since November 2013, when I first heard of it. I wasn’t going to comment until I completely finished, but I have to say… I think Accord is the scariest villain so far.

  65. Wow, is there *anything* the PRT haven’t managed to just make worse? They have an almost perfect success rate in driving people to supervillainy.

    “Yeah, thanks for the cure to world hunger, but I think we’ll pass”. *facepalm*

    BTW, I think I’ve discovered Accord’s achilles heel: You just have to ask him to solve what is meant by “Has Anyone Really Been Far Even as Decided to Use Even Go Want to do Look More Like?”

    All the capital letters alone would drive him nuts. xD

  66. As a speaker of Mandarin, I’ve been wracking my brain to come up with the Chinese characters that match “yàngbǎn”, and I’m drawing a blank. My best guess is 样板, which is a nonsense phrase comprising of the characters for “shape” (as in 模样, múyàng, “appearance”) and “board, plank” (as in 木板, mùbǎn, “wooden plank”). I assume you were going for something closer to “Board of Costumed Adventurers” (yay, a ‘Watchmen’ reference)?

    Given the scant context, I can’t tell if the “yàngbǎn” is the C.U.I equivalent of the Birdcage, Protectorate or PRT.
    For the Birdcage, I’d suggest Chāoyù (超狱, literally “super prison”) or Wújiànyù (无间狱, “infinite prison”, which is also a reference to Avici, the lowest level of Hell in Buddhist teachings).
    The Protectorate could be Hùmínzù (护民组, “public protection team”).
    The PRT could be Chāoyìngbù (超应部, an abbreviation of Chāorénfǎnyìngbù 超人反应部, “super/para-human response bureau”).
    Unfortunately, my meager literary talents lie in English, and these terms sound slightly clunky to my ears, so feel free to ignore them.

    • Aaand boy is my face red; I just Googled 样板 and it’s apparently an honest-to-God Mandarin word, meaning “prototype, template”. In all my years of speaking/reading/writing Mandarin, I’ve never come across it before. My talents really DO lie in English.

  67. It bothers me that Accord does not think to himself in complete sentences. He breaks Rule 6 from Strunk and White’s The Elements of Style.

    Furthermore, Bill Bryson in Mother Tongue: English and How It Got That Way:

    Who sets down all those rules that we all know about from childhood: the idea that we must never end a sentence with a preposition or begin one with a conjunction, that we must use “each other” for two things and “one another” for more than two …? The answer, surprisingly often, is that no one does, that when you look into the background of these “rules” there is often little basis for them.

  68. “Accord drifted off to sleep, his weary mind grateful from the respite from the endless assault.”

    Should Be “Grateful For”

  69. “Distressingly asymmetrical” This gives us in two words a perfect look into Accord’s head.

    And wow, the dude can make a Death Scythe Of Building Chopping in 4 hours by himself? That’s impressive.

    I don’t think I have the mental fortitude to work for that man though. I mean I have mild OCD tendencies for a few things but it’s more of watching where I step and arranging things in neat piles. This guy…fantasies of killing good, efficient, loyal minions for simply forgetting a single word? How do people justify that kind of stress in their lives on a daily basis? And maybe I’m reading this wrong but was Citrine turned on by that? I guess that would give someone reason to stay but…wow.

    He really is pretty cool though. A cross between a well-intentioned extremist, utterly crazy, utterly sane, and extreme disorder in one weird little package. Strange little man…

    Oh sweet! Skitter silk combined with Parian crafting! Epic combo powers! An uncuttable, bulletproof critter! And they even made them into bugs to add to the visual combo effect! Oh I just found a new ship. It’s good to see Grue back in action. Aww I like Regent and Imp. Even if they aren’t an official couple I’m going to keep that going. They offset each perfectly.

    God Skitter is badass enough to already have contingency plans in place. Schooled by a high school teenager before Valefor even opened hir mouth. Dude is in no way going to be any sort of major threat. Maybe a minor one for an arc but for a cult that worships Endbringers…sad show man, very sad show. Talk about taking control of that meeting. Holy wow, Skitter has come a long way from the sad little girl we saw way back in chapter one. Dear lord is she intimidating!

    Okay I think it’s safe to assume that Butcher doesn’t have regeneration or only a very mild version otherwise there wouldn’t be so many dead before. Meaning she is easy as hell for Imp to take out. Cut a few tendons so the woman can’t move, staunch the bleeding and toss her to the PRT so they cart her off to the Birdcage. Problem solved in ten minutes.

    Valefor is even easier. Skitter sics some bugs to eat his eyes. Problem solved in ten seconds.

    Not sure what Othello can do so he might be problematic but he already loses massive points for discounting Grue stealing some of his powers and not even considering Skitter a threat. Echidna/Noelle didn’t think her a threat either. She got cut in half for the mistake. Othello’s already lost. Citrine at least seems to have a head on her shoulders. A bit of genre savvy goes a long way so she’s probably survive for a while since she’s smart enough to not make trouble.

    Okay so this makes perfect sense. Of course Accord wouldn’t recruit from people with powers already! He’s too much of a control freak. He’d test people thoroughly beforehand and buy them powers that were guaranteed to follow certain paths. Perfect sense! It’s interesting to see that he and Cauldron have determined that the Undersiders are perfect for whatever big plan is going on. I honestly really am starting to believe that they are a nebulous evil organization honestly trying to work to fixing the elephant in the room. It’s annoying that I can’t focus on these guys as being evil. Who is going to be my evil end boss? The multidimensional entities? How the hell do you kill something that exists in every parallel world at once?

    • “Who is going to be my evil end boss? The multidimensional entities? How the hell do you kill something that exists in every parallel world at once?”

      From the descriptions during power events so far, the entities aren’t like Coil, who had multiple independent existences and needed to be killed in each of them simultaneously- they just have one form that spans various universes.

      Picture someone standing on a border between countries, or between rooms. They exist in each of those regions of space, but not independently of one another. If you deal them a fatal injury in one region, they’ll die, including the parts located in regions other than the one you attacked.

  70. He’d been caught, jailed, and subsequently freed by the jailbreak specialist he’d contacted well in advance.

    Oh my god. Accord and Madcap? Those two would be HORRIBLE together.
    How much do I have to donate to get to read this story?

  71. We lost Coil, but the Undersiders may serve as a model in his absence.

    Ahhhh. That’s encouraging. With the references dropped to “helping him would defeat the point” I was worried that “everything rest[ed] on Coil” because of his power, and when he died it screwed everybody permanently.
    With this context… it sounds like they’re talking about his plan for Brockton Bay, instead. An individual or group, self-selected, using superpowers to rule and to manage.

    Considering that it was Cauldron doing the talking, I’m suddenly concerned about what “everything” means. I had thought it was the long-term survival of humanity against the Endbringers, but if it requires superhumans putting themselves in charge of the population, and its main proponents are the very shady main source of superhumans… I’m not so sure.

  72. “Wait, he did know better.”

    You mean he didn’t. The expression “If I didn’t know better” means “If I wasn’t /sure/ that this was impossible/ridiculous, but I do.” In this case, he’s saying “Oh, wait, it’s completely possible,” so he /doesn’t/ know better than to think that.

  73. Shit dude. Since the beginning I always hated Accord, I could never stand uptight attitudes, especially to his degree. But world hunger? Really? How am I supposed to NOT root for this guy?

  74. “My next point: during any Endbringer event, or the possible incident at the end of the world, you send half of your powered membership or three members to assist, whichever is more.”

    Horror-movie-child’s voice: La, la, la-la-la-la, la, la-la-la…

  75. “The binder relating to world hunger had been expanded on, with the addition of further binders to detailing the specifics. Other sets of binders had joined it, each relating to a major issue: disease, population, government, energy, and climate.” …Why didn’t he write one about the Endbringers? Are they not considered a ‘major issue’???

    • Damn! Good question; I hadn’t noticed that.
      Best guesses:
      a) not enough info to formulate a plan with enough certainty
      b) enough info to conclude that someone else is handling it
      c) they’re covered under “population”

  76. I feel like Skitter and Accord could get along quite well, if they could lay everything out on the table. Alas, they likely each have the other pegged as Evil.

    With the discussion on placement of interludes, I am amused to note (as a years-later archive binger) that narrative-wise this interlude isn’t so much a followup to arc 20 as it is a prologue to arc 21. I wonder if that simple numbering change would have been enough to kick out the concerns about what happened in between these interludes.

  77. For all of his brilliance, Accord is very stupid. He should have been working on the endbringer problem, or figuring out where powers came from. Hell, Cauldron should have recruited him the moment he triggered. A lot of their problems would have been solved if he had been working with them.

    • That assumes the Endbriger problem can even be solved by using such means, that he didn’t already have a plan for this whose first parts were something along the lines of “get rich” or “solve some other problems”, and that Cauldron doesn’t already have someone equal to or better than Accord.

  78. I don’t remember who I think was, but someone mentioned in the comments awhile ago that Taylor should ask Dinah the odds of the coming disaster happening if she killed herself right then and there. Looks like said answer would have been pretty damn high.

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