Imago 21.6

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Hate to do this with the weather like this, I thought.  I thought about the meeting Parian had arranged with Miss Militia.  But my hand is being inadvertently forced.

One more step forward.  One more phase in the plan.

The wind was worse than the rain.  I had to wonder how much of it was the aftermath of the Leviathan attack.  The city had been flooded, and those same floodwaters had evaporated into the air, trapped within Brockton Bay by the surrounding trees and hills… how wide-reaching were the effects of that one incident?

The downpour was steady, moderate.  The wind was what turned it into a barrage, a persistent pelting of droplets that moved horizontally as much as it moved vertically.  The noise of it, tapping against my armor and lenses, made for a steady patter.  My bugs were lurking and gathering in spots where there was shelter, and where things were dry.  With only the light of the moon above, these were the same areas that had shadows, by and large.  The masses of bugs only seemed to give those shadows substance, made them seem deeper, through the masses of dark brown, gray and black bodies.

Through other bugs I felt the movements of the wind, felt how it formed eddies, curling into itself when it met with dead ends, large or small.  I could, with a small number of bugs, feel how strong and steady the gale was where the buildings weren’t tall enough to break it up.  They helped me track the others around me, through bugs that took shelter in the drier folds of their costumes.

The Undersiders were here.  Minus Tattletale, we were all standing in the street a distance away from a squat building.  Regent was off to one side, ready to trip up our enemy if they made a sudden appearance.  Rachel hung back, corralling her forces, while the rest of us watched the building for any hint of trouble.

But Grue stood next to me.  I appreciated his presence, his casualness in light of the way we’d effectively parted.

I could sense the Ambassadors.  Citrine and Othello were there.  So were four new recruits: Jacklight, Ligeia, Lizardtail and Codex.  The fifth potential recruit hadn’t been so lucky.  The four of them stood off to one side, in the shelter of Citrine’s power, listening as she gave instructions.  The area around them was somehow faded in terms of the colors there, the area she was affecting looked as though I were viewing it through colorblind eyes that were capable of only seeing yellow.  Water wicked off of them as though they were waterproof, leaving them utterly dry even in the wind and rain.

Lizardtail’s power was pressing against me, even from the other side of the street.  It penetrated my costume to the skin, making my skin tingle and ensuring that I was always aware of where he was.  It was like the sensation of standing in front of a fire, just close enough to feel as though that heat had a physical form, just close enough to be bearable.  It wasn’t hot, though.  It was cold, if anything.

The rest of our forces were marshaled throughout the area.  A handful of volunteers from my territory, surviving members of the O’Daly family, had made their way to rooftops, stood at the ready with walkie-talkies and binoculars.  They’d have to make up for the fact that my bugs weren’t as mobile in this weather.

Tattletale’s mercenaries were here, though she was still largely incapacitated.  Minor, Brooks, Pritt, Senegal, and Jaw.  Regent had two followers, and I was doing my best to avoid paying attention to them.  It wasn’t the time to investigate whether he was controlling people or legitimately hiring them.

Rachel’s underlings were present too, hanging back enough that they were out of sight of the building.  Biter, Barker, the veterinarian, the boy with the eyepatch, others I didn’t recognize: a young teenager with darker skin, a tall man with a broad belly.  Each of them held a chain -the tall man and Biter held two- and each chain had a dog harnessed on the other end of it, grown to a fair size by Rachel’s power.  Only Bentley and Bastard were full size.

Inside the building, the Teeth were recuperating from a recent conflict with Miss Militia and the other heroes followed soon after by an attack from Parian’s stuffed animals. As a whole, the Teeth amounted to twenty or so unpowered troops, plus a half-dozen or so powered ones.  Even the unpowered Teeth had ‘costumes’ of a sort, were dressed in a hodgepodge of armor that made it hard to tell them apart from the powered members.

As a whole, they were bandaging minor injuries, preparing food, talking, joking, relaxing.  There were two televisions on, each playing something different, volume turned up, and the noise was discordant, even to the muted, confused senses of my swarm.  Porn on one television, I was pretty sure.  The other channel was either a cartoon or a news broadcast, judging by the words I was able to hear.

There was a fight in progress, a duel, between two unpowered members.  One was getting the better of the other, pounding his face in while others jeered and laughed.

One of the female members of the Teeth, I suspected Hemorrhagia, was cooking food for her team.  A distance away, Butcher was sitting on a stool, her feet up on a table, her mask off.  She had a cloth in hand and was wiping her gun clean, oddly disconnected from the clatter and chaos of her team.

I supposed the thirteen other voices in her head kept her company.

It had taken time to analyze them, to assess what each of the Teeth were doing and make a note of every individual part of it.  To do it discreetly, with no more than the bugs that were already in the building.

The Ambassadors were patient.  I got the sense that they could have waited for two hours in this wind and rain, and their only concern would be that their clothes and hair were a little worse for wear.  My teammates were a touch more restless.  Rachel moved from dog to dog, enforcing her authority, keeping them in line, and making sure they were listening to the underlings.  She was putting her trust in me, but I could tell she was getting tired of this.  Tired of the minutes passing with nothing happening.

Regent, too, was reacting.  He was maintaining a running commentary on everything from the weather to the surroundings, our allies and me.

“And… twenty minutes in, the rain’s still pouring, the wind’s still threatening to drop a house on our heads, and we’re still not doing anything.  I think our fearless leader needs to remember that some of us aren’t as good at being imposing when we’re drenched and standing around in the dark.  She does that whole schtick where being gloomy and creepy only make her scarier.  You know how scary I am with a wet shirt clinging to me?”

“Shut up, Regent,” Grue said.

“I’m just saying.  She could be more considerate.  Maybe we could wait indoors, and she could stand out here in the rain, using her power to investigate our enemies.  If she’s even using it.  Maybe she fell asleep standing up.  Been a hard week for her-.”

“Regent,” I said.  “Be quiet.”

“She’s awake!  Excellent,” Regent’s jovial tone was forced enough to border on the sarcastic.

“There are no vantage points that are also indoors,” I said.  “I’d bet that’s why Butcher chose that building.  The parking lot that surrounds it, the terrain, it’s all to her benefit.”

“So we pick a mediocre vantage point.  Or a shitty one.  So long as it’s dry.  Or, here’s an idea, maybe we attack.  We have them outnumbered, we have better powers than most of them-”

“We win absolutely,” I said.  “Or we don’t fight at all.  Too many of them have powers that could help them escape.  Vex fills an area with her power and runs, Animos transforms and runs, or Spree masks their retreat with his power.  This way, we take all of them down, or we at least affect them on a psychological level.”

“Then why don’t we have them surrounded?”

“Because we don’t need to,” I said.  “Keeping Butcher from picking us off is a bigger priority.  We do that by forming battle lines.”

“Huh,” he said.  There was a pause.  “Twenty three minutes, standing in the rain…”

Inside the building, Hemorrhagia called out, “…st ready.”

The Teeth collectively began to make their way to the kitchen, while Spree headed for the washroom.


We’re attacking,” I said, and I spoke through the bugs that were near each of my allies.  “Be ready.”

The bugs I’d kept in reserve swept into the building, not from the direction our forces were standing, but from the opposite direction.  They flowed in, swarming over the Teeth.

Less useful bugs plunged themselves into the food.  They scattered money, where money was left out in the open, caught unattended weapons and pieces of armor and either buried them or started to drag them from sight.

“No!” Hemorrhagia shouted, trying to cover her chili with a lid,  “No, no, fuck you, no!”

Hearing the shouting, Spree stood from the toilet, only to find a handcuff connecting him to the towel rack.

“Fight!” one of the Teeth shouted, rather unnecessarily.  He was joined by others.  “Kick their asses!  Kill them!”

Spree managed to tear the towel rack from the wall and made his way out of the washroom, working to get his belt buckled, other armor gathered under one arm.  I was well aware of how costumes made using washrooms a pain in the ass on the best of days: getting everything necessary off, getting it back on again, attaching everything essential… Spree had the added issue of innumerable trophies and pieces of armor in his suit, all loaded down with spikes and hooks, and he was now in a rush, running forward into a swarm of biting, stinging insects.  He dropped one piece of armor, and bugs swarmed it.  He cast one backwards glance at the item in question, an elbow pad or knee pad, and then decided to leave it behind.

It was the little things that would deliver a hit to their morale.  Attacking while they were tired, spoiling a meal they were anticipating, throwing everything into disarray.  If they happened to come out ahead in this fight, or if any of them slipped away, they might return to reclaim their things, they’d find cockroaches had chewed through the cords and internal wires of their televisions, that pantry moths infested their food supplies, and every article of clothing was infested with lice.

And if they entered this fight mad, all the better.  It would mean they were gunning for us instead of running.

The first person out the door was caught by a tripline of spider silk.  Others trampled over him.  One fired a gun into the darkness beyond.

Wrong door, wrong end of the building.  And the door had somehow closed and locked behind them.

The powered members weren’t in that group, though.  As disorganized as the rank and file members were, the capes in the gang were only looking to their boss, gathering in the kitchen.

Butcher didn’t react as bugs bit and stung, and capsaicin-laden bugs found her eyes and nose.  Her skin was too tough, and she didn’t feel pain, thanks to Butcher twelve’s powers.  She was composed as she lifted a gun that would normally have been mounted on the back of a truck.  Without putting it down, she held it with one hand and donned her mask.

She turned our way, as though it wasn’t even a question.  A sensory power.

Butcher two, the ability to see people’s veins, arteries and hearts through walls.

She had the powers of thirteen capes, watered down, plus her own.  Some of those capes had possessed multiple abilities.  By power or by cunning, each had managed to kill the last.  This Butcher had the resources of each of them.

She led her group through the doors towards us, as silent as they were noisy.  I’d almost expected her to do the inverse of what she was doing and send her foot-troops in first.  Instead, she was the first through the doors, her powered allies immediately behind her.  Her foot troops were last to arrive, traveling around the full length of the building, swearing all the way.  They filled in the gaps of her group and gathered behind.

It was a different dynamic than some groups we’d fought.  These weren’t loyal soldiers or people fighting because they had nothing to lose.  They were opportunists, riding the coattails of the ones with the real power, hyenas picking at the scraps that were left behind after the lions had supped.

Spree was the first to use his power, and I got a sense of just how and why the group had arrived at this present strategy.  It wasn’t just that Butcher was dangerous enough to walk face-first into danger.  They had Spree to form their front ranks.

Four Sprees split off from him as he stood there, slightly hunched over as if bracing himself against recoil.  They were produced with such force and speed that they briefly flew through the air, stumbling slightly as they hit the ground running.  Three more Sprees were a fraction of a second after the first wave, with even more following a half-second behind them.

Fifteen or so Sprees in three seconds, before I’d even had a chance to call out an order.  Duplicates produced at the rate that a machine gun spat bullets.

They ran, some screaming, others swearing aloud as they closed the distance between our two groups, charging as a mass, limbs flailing, weapons-


It was hard to see in the rain, but the Sprees were all subtly different.  Some had knives or pipes they could bludgeon with, others had guns, and more had improvised weapons.  The mixing and matching of their armor was different as well.

There was a drawback, though.  Whatever they were, as solid and innumerable as they might have been, they were dumb, getting dumber every second they were alive.  He was producing a living tide of bodies, but they weren’t capable.  They were good for little more than sheer body mass and violence.

By the time the first ones reached us, they were barely able to put one foot in front of the other.  One reached me, swung a table leg at me in a wide, predictable swing.  I caught it, twisted his arm, and pushed him into a Spree that was stumbling forward from behind him. They both fell, and neither seemed to have the wherewithal to climb to their feet before they were trampled underfoot.

It was like fighting an infant with the size and strength of a grown man, except there were fifty or sixty of them.  A hundred?  The street was nearly filled with the bastards, from sidewalk to sidewalk, a mob between the Teeth and us.

They didn’t seem to be smart enough to realize they could actually shoot the guns, where the occasional Spree had one in hand, but the sound of a gunshot going off suggested that one had accidentally pulled a trigger.  The shot rang through the air, cutting through the thrum of raindrops striking ground.

Like the gunshot that marked the start of a race, it was the moment that brought the real fighting to a peak.  The Teeth and our side all jumped into action.

My bugs flooded into the group, condensing on the key members.  I couldn’t seem to touch the Spree that was generating the mindless clones, as his body vibrated and rippled, but I could attack Hemorrhagia, Animos, Butcher, Reaver, Vex and the underlings.  The press of near-identical bodies was almost useful, giving my bugs shelter and dry surfaces to move on.

Codex advanced, breaking away from the rest of the Ambassadors.  She was a pale woman dressed in a white evening gown, wearing a simple, featureless white mask.  A temporary costume.

She reached towards the crowd.  I could see the eyes of the Sprees lighting up as the effect reached further back into the crowd.  They stumbled, slowing, blocking the ones behind them from advancing.  Groans and grunts echoed from the crowd, all eerily similar.

Their powers were new.  Less than six hours old.  Accord had agreed to lend them to us, though their costumes hadn’t yet been designed, their powers not fully explored.  We’d offered Tattletale’s analysis of their capabilities in exchange.  She’d barely been capable, hadn’t yet recuperated from the migraines she’d suffered earlier in the week, and the use of her power had only brought the migraines back with a vengeance.

Still, we’d talked it over and agreed that the assistance of the Ambassadors as a whole was that much more useful in this scenario than a worn and weary Tattletale.  Tattletale’s feedback was essential, but we already had a sense of who the Teeth were, and Tattletale had been able to fill us in on the new Ambassadors just as readily as she’d filled Accord in.

Codex was a blaster-thinker hybrid.  Tattletale had speculated that the woman caused permanent brain damage and memory loss , briefly augmenting her own processing power in exchange.  The duplicates Spree was generating weren’t gifted with much in the way of brains to begin with.  Even a little damage was having devastating results.

Jacklight was launching forth the miniscule orbs of light, each growing as it traveled before stopping in mid-air.  Each warped space around it, accelerated movement, enhanced the output of certain forms of energy.  Where one of his lights was set next to a wall, it redirected one running duplicate into a wall.  Another, closer to the ground, swung a Spree that stepped over it into the ground face first.

It was Ligeia, though, who slowed down the enemy the most.  She created water out of nothing, geysers of the stuff that drove the mob back and sent them sprawling.

Then she sucked up the water.  I wasn’t entirely sure, but I got the impression she caught one or two duplicates in the process, drawing them into whatever place she’d taken the water from.

It took her a second each time she switched from creating water to drawing it in.  Clones slipped through the gaps in the defensive line as she changed gears.

“Rachel!” I gave the order.  Before Jacklight’s power makes it impossible to go further or more slip through.

Her responding whistle cut through the night.  Bentley and three more dogs were released, charging forward, leaping over our defensive line to crash into a sea of duplicates.  The duplicates were now too closely packed together to even fall down, and were literally climbing over top of one another.  The dogs stumbled or slipped as the Jacklights tugged at one or two of their legs, then proceeded to tear their way through the crowd.

They were brought to a stop when they found the second of the Teeth’s defensive powers waiting for them.  Vex’s forcefields were countless, numbering in the hundreds, each sharp enough to cut exposed flesh.  Alone, they weren’t strong, but the shards had a collective, cumulative resistance.  I’d hoped Rachel’s dogs would have enough raw strength to power through.

Still, we had the advantage here.  The tide of the duplicates was slowed as the bludgeoning power of the dogs crumpled them underfoot or crushed them against one another, and both Barker and Biter were free to join the defensive line.  I was able to step back and get a brief respite from the hand to hand fighting with the Spree duplicates.

“Kip up!” Rachel bellowed the words.

One dog leaped to the side, planting its feet on a wall, then leaped for the Teeth on the far side.

A four-legged creature just a little smaller than the dog lunged into the air, brought the two of them crashing down into the midst of the sea of tiny forcefields.  Animos.

Cape teams naturally found their own synergies and strategies.  This was how the Teeth fought.  Two defensive lines protecting the reserve forces while the truly dangerous members acted.

Butcher raised her gun, setting one finger on a trigger of her gun.  It started spinning up.

“Butcher incoming!” I called out.

She teleported past the worst of Vex’s forcefield barrier.  Flame billowed around her in a muted explosion as she appeared.

Butcher six’s explosive teleporting.  It’s weaker than it was when six had it, shorter range, and the intensity of the explosion isn’t nearly what it once was.

She pushed past the remainder, and leveled the gatling gun at the nearest dog, pulled the trigger before anyone, Regent included, could do anything to trip her up.

Ten bullets were fired in a half-second.  A moment later, the weapon jammed.

Wounded but intact, the dog turned and snapped at her.

She was gone a heartbeat before the teeth snapped together.

Butcher three’s danger sense.  Didn’t do him much good.  Driven mad, died in a suicidal attack against the Teeth.  Window of opportunity is lower, application limited to more physical danger.

She reappeared in a cloud of rolling flame, reversed her grip on her gatling gun and swung it like a club, knocking Bentley clean off his feet.

Super strength, courtesy of one, three, six, nine, eleven and thirteen.  Cumulative effects.  A little bit of super strength from multiple sources added up.

Animos was pinned by another dog, a yellow light surrounding both of the unnatural beasts.  He screeched at the dog, a high-pitched noise that made me wince, but the effect didn’t take hold.  Animos’ scream could strip someone temporarily of their powers, but Citrine was dampening the effect.  That, or there was nothing to take away from the dog.  The mutation was Rachel’s power, technically.

Butcher approached the pair, and Citrine abandoned her assault, letting up.

As Tattletale had warned Grue, she’d warned Citrine as well. Butcher’s power was too dangerous to muck with.  Grue risked absorbing the consciousness of the prior Butchers, and Citrine risked striking on the right ‘attunement’ and accidentally killing Butcher.

But Citrine was still a leader, didn’t waste a moment.  She gave the signal, shouted something I couldn’t make out, and her followers opened fire.  Jacklight and Codex lobbed their attacks towards Butcher, and the leader of the Teeth teleported away before either could do any real damage.  Ligeia produced a geyser of water that sent duplicates flying ten or twelve feet in the air.  Othello, for his part, was standing by, his hands in his pockets, his two-tone mask expressionless.

Which wasn’t to say he wasn’t contributing.  Hemorrhagia was enduring an assault from an invisible, immaterial foe.  I could feel him, feel the movement against my bugs, but the bugs didn’t settle on him, simply passed through.  He was only partially there, focusing on allowing certain aspects of himself, his weapon, to affect our world.

Shallow cuts appeared on Hemmorhagia’s face, chest and arms as she tried ineffectually to shield herself, and those same cuts exploded violently as she used her power to draw her blood from her body and turn it into hard, physical, cutting weapons.  More blood congealed into broad scabs that protected her and reduced the damage of the continuous slashes.

A distance away, Imp appeared, electrocuting Spree with a jab of her taser and bringing an end to the stream of duplicates.  Not that the duplicates were doing as much damage as they had been.  Like lemmings running off a cliff, many were scaling the piles of fallen clones and promptly running into Vex’s forcefields, only adding more corpses to the virtual hill of corpses that separated us from the other members of the Teeth.

Our two Strangers were doing much of the work in dealing with the back line.  That left us to deal with Butcher.

Bentley had recovered and charged her.  She responded by hitting him with a wave of pain, putting him off his guard so she could strike him aside.

Butcher oneInflicted agony at range.

Bentley was quick to recover, quick to push past the pain that she was inflicting and attack.  She prepared to strike him again.

Regent knocked her off-balance, and she was caught off guard as Bentley struck her with one paw.

She teleported out of Bentley’s way before he could follow through with the attack, appeared in between Regent and I, surrounded by our capes.  We staggered back as flame washed over us.

I felt my focus begin to slip, thoughts of violence filling my mind.  I itched to attack, to hurt her.

I sent my bugs in, but that was the one gesture that set the others in motion.  Without realizing it, I found myself charging her.

Biter and Regent were among those caught in her spell.  We attacked her as mindlessly as Spree duplicates had attacked us.

My knife stabbed at her armor, doing too little damage.  I stabbed again, found a vulnerable spot at the back of her neck, just below her hairline.  I dragged the knife through her flesh.

Without even turning to face me, she elbowed me, and all the strength I had went out of me.  I careened a distance away, tumbled, landed amidst Spree clones.

They clutched feebly at me while I reeled.

Lizardtail’s power pressed even harder against me.  I could feel the edges of my injuries tingling, the wounds slowly knitting closed.  Far slower than they should have been, given the earlier demonstration of Lizardtail’s power.  Either he was weaker, or her ability to inflict wounds that progressively got worse over time was taking away from the power of his regeneration.

Butcher had a grip on Regent, threw him into Biter with enough strength to take the two of them out of the fight.

Possibly enough strength to kill one, if Lizardtail’s power wasn’t able to outpace the internal damage done.

Induces mindless rage.  Power from Butcher Nine.  Very low range.

Inflicts wounds that fester.  Power from Butcher Four.  Less effect than Four had.  Far shorter duration.

She teleported.  I could sense where she’d arrived as my bugs died en-masse.  She was going after Rachel.

I had lines of silk prepared, did what I could to bind Butcher.  She struggled briefly, then teleported free of them.

Codex and Ligeia directed attacks her way, and again, Butcher disappeared before either could really affect her.

I felt something shift inside me, and the pain dropped to a fraction of what it had been.  I got to my feet.

“Go!” I shouted.  “Get the wounded!”

Rachel whistled, and the dogs converged on our location.  Butcher had appeared in the midst of the Ambassadors, but the variety and ferocity of their attacks had her teleporting from moment to moment, doing more damage with the flames that appeared around her than through any action she could carry out.

It seemed that even though Codex’s attack hadn’t connected full force, Butcher wasn’t keen on giving her an opportunity to deliver any more grazing hits.

Rachel stopped next to me, offered me a hand up.

“Fetch Codex,” I said.  “The Ambassador in white.  Butcher’s going after her.  It might mean Codex is doing the most damage.”

Rachel gave me a curt nod, and we charged, leaving Grue to help Regent.

Butcher teleported away as Bentley hurtled at her.  I reached for Codex, took her hand.  She looked at Citrine, as if asking permission.

“Go,” Citrine said.

I helped Codex up onto Bentley’s back.  She had to sit sidesaddle.  Those ridiculous dresses.  They weren’t meant for fighting.

But, then, I suspected that Accord was used to ‘shock and awe’ tactics, when he had to engage in a direct assault.  How many of his enemies were as tough, versatile or persistent as Butcher?

She’d teleported away, effectively leaving her team to fend for themselves.  Only Reaver, Vex and, to a lesser degree, Hemorrhagia, were in fighting shape.  Butcher was interested only in the fight.  She was the central pillar of the Teeth, and stopping her would stop them, and for much that reason, her team was a secondary concern to us as well.

“Run!” I told Rachel.  “Codex, hit her where you can.”

I was versed in fighting teleporting foes, had engaged in a similar conflict against Oni Lee.  Butcher wasn’t him.  She didn’t obsessively use knives.

No, she was drawing a configuration of metal rods and panels from her back.  Her gun abandoned in the course of the fighting, she was unfolding the device into a different weapon.

A compound bow.

I already knew which power she was using next.  Imp had sabotaged the gun, jamming the ammo feed, but she hadn’t been able to get at the bow.  It was massive when fully unfolded, nearly six feet long, not counting the extra length as part of the curve.  Large enough that it required superhuman strength to draw.

Less than a year ago, Butcher had been known as Quarrel, and as Tattletale told it, Quarrel had used a much smaller version of that same bow to kill Butcher Thirteen in a drawn-out fight in New York.

Regent wasn’t in fighting shape.  My bugs weren’t able to move fast enough to reach her.  Ligeia wasn’t in a position to hit her with water, and Jacklight’s orbs didn’t reach nearly that far.

If she started shooting, we’d drop like flies.

“Hit her,” I said.  “Codex!”

Codex reached out to use her brain-drain attack.  It was visible only by the effects it had, but I’d seen it move through the Spree clones.  It was slow.

Butcher had time to string her bow before she had to teleport out of the way, appearing on top of a building with a vantage point of the battlefield.  She knelt, touching the rooftop, and reformed the stone into arrows.

That power was Butcher Eight’s, except he’d had more reach, was faster.

Bugs clustered at her eyes, but she barely seemed to notice.  Nearly blind, she drew her string, pointed the arrow at us.

Before I could react, shout a warning, Codex hit me with enough force to nearly unseat me, despite how I was sitting astride Bentley.  Something else struck my shoulder with enough force to tear half the armor away.

The new villain slumped and fell, joined by the piece of my armor that had been shorn off.  An arrow neatly penetrated her neck.

Butcher drew her bow again.

She didn’t miss.  She did something to warp space or adjust the very fabric of reality, so her shots always struck the intended target.

She aimed towards my teammates, paused, lowered her weapon a second as if momentarily confused.

The bow swept in the Ambassador’s direction.

Then she turned, her body rotating, the massive bow and long arrow pointing at us.  Rachel and I.

“Go!” I shouted.  “Go, go!”

We could only get out of range.

How far could a bow like that send an arrow flying?

Apparently Butcher didn’t think it would be this far.  She teleported, paused, then teleported again.  A small fire erupted at each destination point.

Another teleport, and she killed a swarm of bugs I’d left lying in wait.  I’d hoped she would fall short, and that I could bind her weapon with silk.  No such luck.

“She’s following!” I shouted.

Rachel grunted a response, kicked Bentley to drive him to run faster, then whistled.

Her dogs broke away from the rest of the Ambassadors and Undersiders, trailing after us.  Butcher had to teleport as one spry, smaller dog noticed her and ascended to the rooftop to give chase.

Buying time, but she was closing the distance.

I drew from the silk I had stored in my utility compartment.  Coils of it, braided together into lines strong enough to suspend a grown man.

Hopefully strong enough to hold Butcher.

We had a plan, I just hadn’t counted on her being quite as tenacious as she was.  I’d looked at the teleportation power, had failed to account for what it meant in conjunction with her danger sense.

I formed the silk into nets.  I could guess at her next destination, track her possible arrival points.

Again, she teleported right on top of a net.  The flames destroyed it.

One net left.

We’d reached the edge of the city.  There were fewer buildings, fewer rooftops.  Wet clumps of sand flew behind Bentley’s feet as he dug deep to find traction.

Butcher appeared on one of the last remaining rooftops, killing a cloud of bugs.  Other ambient bugs clustered on her, biting and stinging, doing ineffectual damage. Too tough, courtesy of Butcher number… fuck it.  Didn’t matter, really.

She deemed herself close enough to take a shot, drew her arrow back, raising the bow so it pointed nearly at the sky.

The net closed around her, unseated her arrow from its mount.

Bugs wound more strands around her knees.  The wind pushed at her, and she tried to extend one foot to catch her balance, succeeded only in tipping herself over.  She fell from the roof of the five-story building.

She teleported herself right to the ground, cutting the height of her fall in half and freeing herself of the net.

It was still a hard landing.

“Get her!  Fetch her!”

Rachel nodded, whistled three times, pointed.

The dogs that trailed after us were quick to follow the order, snatching up Butcher.

She’d heal, was probably healing the brain damage Codex had inflicted.  Butcher was tough enough that the dogs probably wouldn’t do enough damage before she regained her senses.

I might have been wrong in that assumption, but we couldn’t afford to think otherwise.

“Go!”  I shouted.

We ran.  Rachel and I on Bentley, a pack of her dogs following behind.

There was no telling how much time we had.

We’d gone into this with one plan.  One solid way of putting an end to Butcher.  It was why we weren’t hiding in the safety of Grue’s darkness.

Though we were in less danger than we’d been since the battle started, my heart was pounding harder than ever.

“Stop!” I called out, to be heard over the wind.

Rachel pulled Bentley to a stop.  She knew what came next, gave a hand signal.  “Dogs, stop!  Rat-dog, forward!’

The dog that had Butcher ran on a little further, passing over a line of stones in the wet sand.


Rat-dog shook Butcher like she was a chew toy.

“Good dog,” Rachel said.  “Drop her.”

Rat-dog dropped Butcher.


Rat-dog whimpered.

“Good boy, come.”

Tail between his legs, Rat-dog approached, passing over the line of stones in the wet sand.

Long seconds passed.  Bentley virtually heaved with the exertion of the run.

My eyes didn’t leave Butcher.

Butcher roused, and it wasn’t a slow affair.  One instant she was lying prone, the next she’d teleported, appeared next to the narrow, light-bodied dog and bludgeoned it, sending it flying.

“Dakota, go!  Bear, go!”

Two more dogs charged Butcher, drove her back.

“Stop,” I warned Rachel.  I lowered my voice, “She has that rage aura.”

It didn’t matter.  Butcher dispatched the two dogs just as easily, eyed us warily as Rachel commanded them to retreat.

“Good dogs,” Rachel said, as they hurried to her side.

My eyes still didn’t leave Butcher.  I watched, waited.

She didn’t understand what was going on, why we weren’t pressing the attack.

But she wasn’t confident either.

She strung her bow, as if testing us.  She started to create an arrow out of sand, condensing it into a more solid form.

Then she gave up, stepped back.  The hardened rod of sand crumbled.

“Stop it,” she said.

I shook my head.

She lashed out, hit us with raw pain.

In the agony, the feeling of fire running through my veins, I toppled from Bentley’s back.

I’d anticipated this, or something like it, knew it was temporary.  I could only grit my teeth and tell myself it was almost the best case scenario, even when it didn’t quite feel like it.

Rachel’s dogs bristled, but the pain dissipated, and she found herself free to command them to stand down.

It didn’t matter.  Butcher was on her knees now, face turned toward the ground.

“Don’t say anything,” I murmured.

With more focus than before, Butcher formed a spike out of hard sand.

She was murmuring to herself now.  Conversing under her breath with the voices in her head.  She sounded oddly insistent, plaintive in a very childish manner.

When the weapon was formed, she glanced skyward, murmured something indistinct.

Then teleported a distance into the air, directly above the spike.

There was a wet sound, a pause.

“Nothing?” I asked Rachel.  “You… don’t feel her powers?”

She shook her head.

“Then let’s go.”

We began our long journey back to the others, leaving Butcher with a spike through her heart.

No rush.  The fight was over.  One more foe taken down.

If the PRT happened to wonder if any of the Undersiders or Ambassadors had acquired Butcher’s powers, all the better.

“Mind if I come by tonight?” I asked, my voice low.

Rachel shot me a glower over her shoulder, “Why?”

“To talk.”

“We can talk now.”

“And so I can see how you’re coping with your minions.”

“Whatever,” she said.

“Is that a yes?”

“It’s a whatever,” she said.  “Do whatever you want.”

“Okay,” I said.

There was no more conversation as we closed the distance to the others.

They were more or less in ship-shape when we arrived.  Regent was propped up against a wall, but he wasn’t pulverized.  The only one we’d lost was Codex.

“Success?” Grue asked.

“Success,” I said.

The entire group, even the straight-backed Ambassadors, seemed to react with relief.

“Guess my sister has one more kill under her belt,” Regent commented.  “Fourteen voices in Cherish’s head to keep her company as she spends the next few centuries alone at the bottom of the bay.”

“Daddy!” a toddler squealed.  No older than three, the small child waded past a pack of dogs to her father, the tall, large-bellied man who I’d seen handling some of Rachel’s dogs.

Rachel ignored the reunion, greeted the dogs who milled around her, barking and whining in joy as their master returned.

“Food?” she asked me, almost as if it were an afterthought.


“Someone make food,” she declared.

“I will!” a darker-skinned teenage girl declared.  She looked to be of mixed race, with brilliant blue eyes that didn’t match up with her brown, coarse hair and skin.

“Hamburger,” Rachel said.

“Okay,” the kid said.  “Anything else?”


“Vegetables,” I cut in.  “Something healthier.”

Rachel shrugged.  “That grilled crap you made before, with the… long green vegetables.”

“The asparagus?”

“Yeah.  That was good.”

The kid looked like she’d just won the lottery, almost bursting with joy.

Barker, Biter and the veterinarian all set to basic chores around the place, as if it were routine.  No one seemed to begrudge the fact that Bitch was taking it easy while they worked, not even Barker, who had been somewhat prickly the last time I’d run across him.

Either she’d earned their respect, or they’d learned how stubborn she was.

“I wanted to talk to you about the future,” I said.

“Mm,” Rachel said, reclining.  The dogs were clustered around her feet, the larger ones laying their heads in her lap.

“It’s… problematic, having you patrolling the area out here, scaring the locals.  You know that, right?”

Rachel shrugged, apparently unconcerned.

I watched as the man with the three year old girl joined one of Bitch’s other followers, a woman who had apparently been babysitting the child.  He fished in one pocket for money, then handed it over.

His voice was quiet, a mumble, “When some’dy helps you out, what d’you say?”

“Thank you!” the toddler chirped.

The woman only scowled.  I saw Rachel out of the corner of one eye, watching.

The man made his way past the kitchen, nearly running into the darker-skinned girl who was already cooking, past Barker and Biter, before finding a place to sit with his child.

Despite his size, his presence, the man with the child didn’t make eye contact with anyone.  Almost flinched at it, even in the face of a hundred-pound girl.

Mentally disabled?  Developmentally delayed?  Or had he suffered a trauma?

Between the way the girl had been so overjoyed at the slightest praise, and this man’s attitude, I was wondering if maybe Rachel’s people were somehow just as damaged as she was.

“There’s one possibility,” I said to Rachel.  “A role you could play in this.  You don’t have to.  Just putting it out there.”

“What’s that?”

“The portal, it sounds like it’s going to be a thing.  There’s a whole world out there with nobody around.  People will be settling there, establishing a society.  I’m imagining there’ll be something of a society popping up around the portal, a mirror city to Brockton Bay.  But there’ll be pioneers as well.  People striking out on their own.  And some of the Undersider’s enemies are going to try to slip through, control things on the other side.”


“If you’re willing, maybe you could serve as an aide to the Undersiders, but you patrol for trouble, track down troublemakers and fugitives.  That could be your territory, more than just the fringes of this city.”

She frowned.

“It’s just an idea.”

“It’d be hard to feed my dogs.”

“Manageable,” I said.  “Tattletale aims to control one of the fleets that brings supplies to the other side.  We don’t know how restrictive the government will be with the portal, or where ownership will lie, but… I don’t imagine getting dog food to you will be a problem.  And as the area gets settled, maybe you could supply trained dogs to pioneers or hunters looking to capitalize on the area.”

She didn’t reply, focusing on her adoring dogs, instead.  Two hands, no less than twenty ears to scratch in her reach.

“Think about it,” I said.

“Mm,” she grunted.

The man was playing with his daughter, who was squealing and reaching out to pet the dogs who were standing by, almost protective.

“They’re okay?” I asked.  “The dogs won’t hurt the kid?”

“None of the dogs at this shelter,” Rachel said.  “Picked them carefully.”

I was a little stunned at that.  To give that much thought to something like that… it wasn’t in her character.

“Why?” I asked.

“You said I should think about what people need from dogs.  If I’m going to find them homes, the dogs need to be able to live with families.”

I nodded.  There were more questions I wanted to ask, but I didn’t want to spoil the quiet relief I felt at hearing her say that.

We sat for ten more minutes before Bitch rose and began playing with dogs.  She incorporated training into the play, dividing dogs into teams and having them fetch in shifts, among other things.  I stood, joining her, and she handed me a ball.

There wasn’t much more conversation beyond that.  Most of the talking was reserved for the dogs.

Time passed quickly enough that I was surprised that Rachel’s henchperson announced that the food was ready.  Not everyone collected some.  Barker and Biter held off.  The vet had her hands full.  Rachel loaded up a plate with two burgers and a pile of grilled vegetables.  I took about half the portions she did.

It wasn’t very good, but the kid seemed so pleased with herself that I couldn’t say anything to that effect.  Rachel didn’t seem to care, nor did the big man and his daughter.

“Thank you,” the toddler piped up, sing-song, when she was done eating the bits of crumbled up hamburger and bun.

Rachel, for her part, only stood to grab a soda.  She mussed up the cook’s hair on the way back, as if she were petting a dog.

…Not quite a leadership style I might have suggested, but the kid looked happy.

I finished what I could, considered throwing the rest to the dogs, then decided it was best not to risk angering Rachel.

It was late at night, now, but I didn’t return to my lair.  We tended to the dogs, grooming them, cleaning their ears and brushing their teeth.  Certain dogs were due pills, and Rachel saw to it that they got the pills.

It was an endless sequence of those little tasks I’d always found frustrating.  Cleaning up, doing jobs that would only be undone by the next day, if not within minutes.  I’d always found them frustrating, found it tolerable only now that I could delegate bugs to many of them.

Rachel reveled in it.  It seemed to calm her, center her.

The others found their way to their beds, or made their way out the front door to head back to wherever they lived.  Many dogs retreated to the kennels that were set out for each of them, and Rachel took the time to lock them in.

The night was creeping on, and I wasn’t leaving.  I knew why, didn’t want to admit it to myself.

Exhaustion overtook me eventually, though I would have been hard pressed to say exactly when.

I woke in the middle of the evening, found myself slumped on a couch with a crick in my neck, a blanket over me.

Rachel was on another couch, and the blue-eyed girl, the cook, was lying beside her, her back pressed to Rachel’s front.

I stood, stretched, winced at the knot at the muscle where my neck met my shoulder.  The movement seemed to stir Rachel.  She started to extricate herself from behind the girl.

“Don’t let me disturb you,” I murmured, keeping my voice quiet enough that it wouldn’t disturb anyone.

She shifted position, keeping herself propped up, “You leaving?”

I frowned, “Yeah.”

“Okay.”  She settled back down, and the kid curled up against her.  Kid.  The teenager was probably older than Aisha or Vista.  I couldn’t help but see her as younger, because there was something about her that screamed ‘lost’.

Maybe that was the role that Rachel filled, here.  Forming a screwed up, antisocial family with those who had nobody else.  Damaged people.

I was okay with that.  I could believe that, even if she didn’t heal them or help them get better in any explicit way, she wouldn’t make them worse.

I felt like I should say something more, but I was tired, my thoughts increasingly occupied by greater matters.  “Bye.”

“Bye,” she said.

I headed to the door.  I was already gathering bugs to me, just to ensure I had a safe walk back.  A walk home in the dark would be nice.  Time to think.


I stopped in my tracks, looked back.

Rachel had her head down against the armrest of the couch.  I couldn’t see her through the other girl’s head.

But it had been her voice.

I revised my opinion.  Maybe they could heal each other, in their own ways.

It helped, as I stepped outside and started my long, quiet trek home.  I was riddled with doubts, with countless worries, but knowing that Rachel was in a better place was a light in the darkness.

I had let two days pass since my conversation with Miss Militia.  Dealt with the Teeth.  They weren’t all gone.  Hemorrhagia had slipped away, as had Reaver, and there were rank and file troops.  Parian still had some cleaning up to do, at the very least, but the Teeth weren’t the presence they had been.

Now I had to face everything I’d been dreading.  I’d spent time here because I was procrastinating.  Putting off the inevitable.  I couldn’t put it off any longer: if I didn’t bring myself to do it soon, it would only get harder to bring myself to do it.

Tomorrow morning, I thought.  I face off with Tagg and the rest of the PRT.

Last Chapter                                                                                               Next Chapter

446 thoughts on “Imago 21.6

  1. Thanks for reading, guys.

    This one wound up being a monster. I’m an idiot, thinking I could have a tidy little fight scene and some Bitch interaction in one chapter, when it’s really two chapters. So it wound up being 8k+ words. Fun, exhausting.

    Hoping that the quality is alright. Wound up tight on time to proofread, even though I skipped cooking/eating dinner, haha.

    If you feel so inclined, feel free to vote on Topwebfiction or rate on Webfictionguide. Thanks!

    • You could split it in two — cut-paste the second half into a new post. Not something to be done lightly, but if this update doesn’t feel like one chapter to you, that’s an option to consider.

    • As a whole, the Teeth amounted to twenty or so unpowered troops, plus a half-dozen or so powered ones. They didn’t have uniforms, no real costumes that helped me to tell them from one another. Even the unpowered Teeth had ‘costumes’ of a sort, were dressed in a hodgepodge of armor that made it hard to tell them apart.”

      IS a really awkward paragraph.
      The second and third sentences seem to contradict one another.

    • Extreme necro, but hey.

      You’ve got it saying “always found frustrating” twice in a row, and something pretty similar just before it (don’t remember what).

      I enjoyed the chapter, though. Always nice to have a fight with new powers involved that doesn’t take up a whole arc.

      Now I’m curious how they got Cherish to help out. I guess I may find out shortly, since the story is long finished and all that.

      • That was my question too. Is cherish just guarding the boat graveyard making a suicide forest of sorts? And how did regent know that cherish was the one who offed butcher?

        • It was mentioned earlier that the slaughterhouse nine left her there, and mentioned in passing that anyone that got near there committed suicide. It wasn’t a hard connection for them to make.

  2. Maybe I’m a little slow today but I’m not too certain on what happened in the fight. What happened to Butcher in the end, and how will she be keeping Cherish company?

    • If I understand correctly, the plan was to lure Butcher into Cherish’s super suicide aura effect. So then Butcher committed suicide, and Cherish gets kill credit.

      • she weaponized a suicide aura.

        she weaponized a SUICIDE AURA. wow.

        i guess when 13 people all feel suicidal at once it does something…

      • I don’t know; seems equally plausible that since Butcher was directly responsible for her own death the voices all died with her.

      • I don’t think Cherish gets full kill credit. At the meeting, it was mentioned that one of the capes in the chain didn’t kill Butcher fair-and-square, and so the voices didn’t play along, weren’t forthcoming with their associated powers, and eventually reduced the cape in question to the point where he suicide-ran against somebody who *would* kill him properly.

        Driving someone to suicide via passive aura doesn’t strike me as killing them in a duel.

        So yes, Cherie has a coterie of voices in her head. Voices who *hate her.*

            • At this point I would love to see her teleport out of the bay, then regenerate the rest of her body. Maybe call herself Cherished Souls. Would that not be awesome? Also, I want to know what would happen if a normal person killed Butcher and then had a trigger event. Hey, Theo needed powers…

        • It’s true that the voices drove one Butcher mad to the point of suicide-by-Teeth, but the reason is a little different. (This first comes up in Accord’s interlude.) The problem was that Butcher Three was a hero. He refused to play along with what the voices were telling him to think and do, so they (intentionally or otherwise) switched to just tormenting him instead.

    • Cherish is still alive and is feeling suicidal despair which she has been broadcasting to anyone in her range. Whoever kills butcher gains a portion of the previous butcher’s powers and gets to have all 14 of their voices/consciousnesses in their head. They tricked butcher into cherish’s area and cherish caused her to kill herself, making Cherish the 15th butcher, and gaining all of their personalities in their head. Though considering all the powers they had, we might see her again at some point in the future, completely batshit insane.

        • They are screwed. Crazy, suicidal teen who has a large assortment of powers, is willing to do anything and betray anyone for what she wants, and just spent the past few months in purgatory? That won’t make her go on a rampage at all!

        • I got the impression that the prison was less of a prison and more of a brain inside a jar hooked up to live-support.

          Between the teleportation being short range and the prison being underground or under water on the one hand and what is left of cherish not being viable outside her prison on the other I doubt she will easily break out.

          • Butcher had her bow and all kinds of stuff with her during her teleports. Presumably she didn’t appear stark naked in the middle of flaming explosions, put clothes on while everyone else waited and then resumed the fight.

            So Cherish’s teleport might bring her shiny life-support exterior along as well.

          • Also, Butcher regenerates with some unknown efficiency. It isn’t Crawler-level or anything, but it might at least let Cherish repair her original power.

            • Indeed. Butcher Fifteen showing up would be awesome. Pity Fourteen wasn’t there with Echidna. I want to see Glastig Uaine’s impressions of both, and actually Noelle’s impressions of the other two as well.

            • Yeah, I think Butcherish escaping would be pretty plausible. She just needs to fix herself up with the regeneration (Fourteen could heal from Codex’s permanent brain damage; she’ll probably beat whatever Bonesaw and Mannequin set up eventually), then escape whatever’s keeping her pod anchored with the stoneshaping and perfect aim, and return to shore with a combination of maneuvering her pod on the waves and the flame teleportation.

          • At this point I get the impression that Cherish would welcome dying and would try to break out if only to finally let it end.

            Am I the only one who feels sorry for the girl?

            • I feel sorry for her too. Beneath it all she was just a teenager trying to carve out her place in the world after a bad childhood. She could have redeemed herself had she been lucky enough to fall in with the right people rather than the S9.

              What happened to her (and continues to happen to her) is truly, truly horrible. She was a villain and a jerk but she didn’t deserve that.

              • Agreed. She was bad but she wasn’t evil. There have been several truly evil examples of people throughout the story and I can only count like one or two that I would wish into Cherish’s position. I really hope wildbow finally lets her die before the story ends. Heck they can’t even really safely kill her anymore if she really has become Butcher XV.

            • Yes, I think she would prefer to die. Unfortunately, unless her emotion control works on Butcher-ghosts she’ll be outvoted thirteen to two on that.

              And yes, it’s horrific what happened to her. The good only reason I can see why she hasn’t been allowed to die is if Bonesaw put a dead-Cherish switch in the pod to release a super-virus.

              Of course, the real reason is that the Protectorate doesn’t care about suffering that much.

      • Oh. I forgot about the suicidal despair thing. It has been quite a few chapters since it came up.

        I’m guessing that part of town normally has big warning signs around it.

        But yeah Cherish might be back. Those previous 14 powers are nothing to sniff at.

        Thanks for the explanation.

        • I can picture the 9 clones all attacking and promptly committing suicide as Cherish the new butcher tries to get revenge. They won’t have the defenses Bonesaw made to Jack and herself to deal with Cherish’s power.

          • Whilst Cherish will be out for revenge, isn’t it more likely she takes her wrath out on Brockton? I mean it is closer and all. She might even end up paying her little brother a visit.

          • I though of it as the 9 attack, cherish gets so angry she escapes and kills alot of them, till she gets killed in turn by either a clone/jack. Who then attacks just adding to the chaos. Considering how important the portal is, I can picture the 9 attacking for the specific purpose of closing it.

          • On the subject of Cherish, I can’t seem to find the chapter in which she is suicidal, and caught by mannequin (as somebody else said). It isn’t tagged at least. Any ideas?

            • Mannequin died in the bombing raid a couple hours before Jack, Manton, Bonesaw, and Hookwolf found Cherish and showed her why not to mess around with the Nine. Bonesaw had analyzed his tech, though, and used it to keep Cherish trapped but alive in the bay. And surgically modified her brain to remove the filter for sensing negative emotions, just for kicks.

          • She wasn’t caught by mannequin. Bonesaw had a device mannequin made that she used with her power to help heal Manton who was in very bad shape. Before they left the city, they simply took him out of it, and put Cherish in after Bonesaw did some surgery on her mind making it so she received all the negative emotions of the city without her natural defenses against it. Bonesaw and Jack had some modifications to their brain to give them a defense to Cherish’s power. So she is now stuck in the dark, unable to move, and gets to feel every negative emotion that anyone in the city feels. It was mentioned during the mayoral debate that anyone that goes near her feels suicidal despair, the same thing she is currently feeling, but she is unable to kill herself.

          • Don’t forget that any not a member of the Teeth who kills Butcher will get driven insane. I mean Cherish was already loco, now she’s going to crazy in 14 different flavors. No clue if she makes a reappearance though.

          • ^Is true, but if you recall how the Butcher/Teeth mindset works, I am almost positive they don’t want to be stuck in a bubble for centuries. So they get an update on the situation, grumble and growl until they decide it is in their best interests to help get Cherish free, THEN decide if they should turn on her.

      • Correct me if I’m wrong, but didn’t Bonesaw do horrible things to Cherish’s body to render her immobile and near-immortal at the same time? I’m seeing ‘brain in a jar’ territory, there.

        • Well I think she is can move, she is simply stuck in the capsule, and unable to get out of it, while it keeps her alive. She doesn’t have super strength and the thing is very tough. But she should now be able to teleport, and be tough enough to get to the city from the ocean theoretically. We don’t know what the condition of her body is, much less when disconnected, so she might just kill herself when she gets out.

        • People have healed from worse (or at least as-bad). I’m not sure how not-underwater she would be as she reformed though, and it’d probably take a long time. I think Cherish might actually be able to manage it, scaring the other 14 into silence with her power. Definitely going to be interesting.

  3. Great chapter and a great fight. Regent was his normal annoying self and spree actually made me laugh. Butcher was a bitch to deal with but now Cherish got her wish to come true. She gets to try and manage a group of murderous psychopaths just like she wanted. I wonder if Accords minion who didn’t make it is dead or a case 53 now. You know I wonder if there is a time skip in worm’s future. Bitch’s future role has been spelled out, she is healing as a person, and she even said thank you. Regent and Imp might start a relationship, grue and skitter broke up, and Tattletale is managing things behind the scenes. Maybe we will see a brief time skip detailing them a year later.

  4. Cherish? Hahahahahaha-wow!! Did not see that coming! I was expecting them to use Regent to make her commit suicide OR have Citrine put her in cryogenic (or temporal!) stasis
    – Codex’s power is brutally unfair. Narratively, it’s more elegant that she’s been shuffled off the mortal coil
    – the Teeth have really just been coasting on Butcher, haven’t they,
    – Rachel is growing. That’s great.
    – so wait, which of Bitch’s minions is WagTheDog? I couldn’t guess from their physical appearances
    – more thoughts when I wake up tomorrow, do my daily shit, come home and reread. Woohoo!

  5. I loved this chapter.

    Bitch scene was amazing, fight scene was amazing…

    And a large part of why I love Worm so much is the powers. 20-something of which were either introduced or seen in action in this chapter. So yes. This was awesome.

  6. For my part, I’m glad you worked to include both.. there’s so much going on, it’s always good to see more covered, such as the parts with Bitch’s gang.

    • i think a (white?) plastoid sphere teleporting around town loses a bit of its intimidation effect.

      also there’s a range decrease i think. maybe she’s tried, teleports herself straight up… but doesnt break the surface of the bay and just sinks back down

    • Short range. Into the ocean. Probably disconnecting whatever life support she’s jacked up with.

      What happens when Butcher dies in an accident? It’s not like the ocean can get superpowers, right?

      Uh… riiiight?

      • True. I rescind my comment earlier, which was on how screwed Brockton Bay is now that Cherish can teleport.

        • Keep in mind, we don’t know the limitations of Butchers teleporting power. Maybe she can only teleport into air, or the explosions displace whatever was at the original place to make room for her to appear (essentially telefrag).
          Or the insanity and roundabout way the Butcher as killed doesn’t allow her to access the powers.

          • If Cherish uses Butcher’s powers to kill herself, there isn’t really an objective murderer. If we imagine that the powers are capable of looking for somebody to blame, they’re either going to do it in a kind of human fashion or using alien reasoning. So we’re looking for someone with a long-chain causal responsibility or somebody that can be blamed, which covers a number of people.

            Picking Tagg at that point is just for humor value.

          • (More generally, it seems obvious to me as well that Skitter would be the one responsible in that case, but I’m having trouble figuring out how to explain to an alien powerset that Skitter is responsible for engineering a situation where Cherish had the ability to commit suicide even though she didn’t actively intend that and thus is Butcherish’s murderer without looking at who is responsible for engineering a situation where (Skitter would engineer a situation where Cherish had the ability to commit suicide even though she didn’t actively intend that) even though they didn’t actively intend that.)

            . . . speaking of which, her new code name should totally be “Butcherish.”

        • Actually, they would jump to the last person who has done damage to her and caused her to suicide.

          Bonesaw with new and awesome powers!

          As if she needed more.

          • Bonesaw could probably surgically remove the other fifteen Butchers minds as well, so she wouldn’t even go too much crazier.

      • Butcher teleported rapidly with equipment, I feel like Cherish might manage the same. Hopefully not, that’d be an awful threat to deal with.

      • coughLeviathancough.
        Sorry, had to clear my throat there for a second. If the life support mechanisms are small enough Cherish could just do a series of teleports along the ocean floor until she got to the surface. (Assuming no sufficiently large sea cliffs between her and the beach.)

        • considering mannequin was the one to put her into the pod, i think size is moot point. she’s completely self-contained.

          if mannequin can be ‘alive’ and have all his organs contained in those spheres of his, we can have Sphere!Cherish hopping around the streets like a demented egg

          • I think butcher might have had to see where she teleported would explain why she looked up to teleport into the air, if so cherish wouldn’t be able to use it, I just doubt that they would come up with this plan knowing they are giving powers to a capable crazy immortal sphere.

          • Mannequin didn’t put her in there, Bonesaw did, Mannequin was already dead, along with Crawler. My impression of what was meant by “Thanks to Alan” in the note was that Alan/Mannequin had made the pod that was curing Manton, and Bonesaw had repurposed it to house Cherish.

      • It would kind of be great if the ocean did get superpowers though.

        The ocean used EXPLOSIVE TELEPORT!
        Mars takes 999 damage!
        Mars has fainted!
        The ocean used EXPLOSIVE TELEPORT!
        Earth takes 12 damage!
        Earth uses HARDEN.
        But it fails!
        The ocean used AURA OF RAGE!
        Chuck Noland attacks the ocean in a mindless rage!
        Gidget attacks the ocean in a mindless rage!
        Aquaman resists!
        The Skipper attacks the ocean in a mindless rage!
        The Professor attacks the ocean in a mindless rage!
        Mrs. Howell attacks the ocean in a mindless rage!
        Flex Mentallo attacks the ocean in a mindful rage!
        The U.S. Navy attacks the ocean in a mindless rage!
        Ishmael attacks the ocean in a mindless rage!
        Cauldron attacks the ocean in a mindless rage!
        Magikarp used SPLASH.
        It’s not effective!

  7. So only Hemorrhagia and Reaver are left. Hemorrhagia doesn’t seem too dangerous. Parian’s dolls should be able to deal with her easy enough. Can’t remember what Reaver does though. Do you think Skitter will let Regent turn them into meat puppets?

    • When we saw Butcher basically diss Skitter:
      >“You die,” Butcher said. “You can’t kill me. I will win.”
      We all knew what was coming. And she was handled beautifully. Seriously, I don’t know how wildbow came up with that idea, but it’s perfect. An elegant solution to an almost impossible problem, and to top it off, they dump a bunch of voices on Cherish. I don’t know if she’ll be glad for something to do other than go insane, but it certainly will make the next few hundred years a bit more interesting.

    • No kidding. Taylor talked about being a prisoner inside her own body was a nightmare? Permanent brain damage is a nightmare. Not the most evil power in the setting, maybe, but close.

          • Not nearly the worst thing I could have said about her.

            The worst would have involved bringing up a lovely romantic interlude with a supervillain/hero/villain who has a thing for jewelry, specifically rubies. Well, one certain ruby.

            But she’s not too bad. Tall, muscular, green-skinned. Can tear my head off with her tongue. Any day of the week, I mean. Plus, anyone with good reason to hate Tony Stark is…well, a character in the Marvel universe, so hard to say “a friend of mine.”

          • Again, anyone with good reason to hate Mark Millar is… well, a character in the Marvel Universe or a member of the Authority.

  8. encounter with tagg, part 2: ideas

    1) dumps butcher’s corpse on the front door of the headquarters. “i killed her, deal with US* at your own risk” (*plausible deniability: she means the undersiders. PRT interpretation, skitter/butcher?)

    2) dumps butcher’s corpse at the front door, casually asks about valefore. tallies up her villain takedowns and compares it with the PRT’s “so, what have you done in the last few days?”

    3) sends the PRT Hemorrhagia’s leftover chili. everybody loves chili

    • And then Skitter skyrockets up the list of “people that need to be in the Birdcage” because she just told the PRT that she was guaranteed to go insane from the other Teeth Butcher voices screaming at her. Surely that won’t make Tagg take an even more hardline stance on Taylor specifically, and for very good reason. An insane Taylor being talked into murdering people by the voices would be a catastrophe, something that noone would want.

      Telling Tagg that would be just about the most foolish thing she could do.

    • Don’t know how well intimidating tagg will help. As others said, Tagg won’t back down for pretty much anything. Not to mention, this definitely would knock some points off for her relations with the Heroes. It’ll be like “Hey, thanks for giving me the benefit of the doubt, and in return, here’s to corpse of the insane villain whose multiple personas and powers I may or may not have absorbed.”

      Anyway, I still think that she will try to get the Heroes on to her side before this whole things goes over. Skitter at this point needs to either humiliate or discredit the PRT so badly without causing a massive blow to her own public image to really win, especially in the long run.

  9. Wow, that fight was probably the most tense one I’ve read so far. I seriously thought Bitch was going to bite it. Which would be just about the worst thing ever outside of Taylor getting skewered.

    Rachel settling in Earth Gimel is an interesting idea, if Bet goes completely to shit and everyone comes through the portal to form into post-apocalyptic communities or roaming bands of thugs she could end up the goddamn Hound Queen of America.

    Bam! Another possible sequel scenario!

    • You rate this one as the most tense? I was thinking it was a lot like a curb stomp for the good guys. The Teeth never really seemed to stand a chance. Got a little tense when Butcher started setting up her arrow but poor Codex really couldn’t be allowed to live with the potential of causing permanent brain damage to anyone from range.

      Hound Queen would be an epic title for Rachel!

        • “Sociopath suicidal sphere with exploding teleportation powers that she require conscious control to use that she lacks due to bone saw thus rendering the powers useless.”
          There fixed that for you.

            • She has use, yes, but not control. If she had control she wouldn’t be projecting a generalized suicide aura, she’d have controlled people into coming to get her, or something else more focused.

              How whatever Bonesaw did to mess with her control would interact with the Butchers’ powers I have no idea, but it seems reasonable that Tattletale was consulted about the plan and she didn’t think Revenge of the Butcherish was terribly likely.

      • I have felt horrible for the poor girl since she got sealed actually. Yeah she was a psychotic bitch but she wasn’t evil enough to me to deserve that. Bonesaw deserves it, Jack deserves it, maybe a handful of others but not Cherish. A quick death maybe but not a few thousand years of suffering and now with the potential of having 14 people yelling at you in addition to that. I almost hope she did get the kill count just so she can teleport out of the sphere thing and die in the water from drowning.

    • Hey, on the plus side her Regeneration might slowly destroy any of the tattoos on whatever bits of skin she has left!

  10. So wildbow neatly made things a bit more interesting for Cherish and safely killed Butcher at the same time, then found the perfect solution to the problem with Rachel. I agree with mrgazzer; wow. A wonderful chance to see into the lives of one of the most troublesome Undersider. In fact, wildbow has given them all but Tt, and maybe she’ll do Parian, a chance in the limelight basically. Anyway, wonderful chapter, and can’t appreciate enough how long you made this. Eagerly awaiting the next chapter, and finally, the treaty she’s been wanting for arks with the PRT and Protectorate (hope Clockstopper shows up again!) as always.

  11. Cherish is going to be a problem, I think. Not quite sure how they managed to get her on board with driving Butcher to suicide, but if Cherish has the voices, then she also has powers. Like explosive teleportation. Provided she keeps her glass case of emotion, she can just teleport all over the world, blowing crap up, driving people into fits of rage and suicide.

    Also, I guess we know who WagTheDog is. You think maybe Tattletale was lying about no one on the team?

    And you have to wonder how she’s getting that bad of a headache. Nothing indicates yet that Accord is also down for the count, so why is she? Too much to think about?

    Also, a pretty funny chapter in the little ways. Hemorhagia more upset about the bugs ruining the chili at first. Spree suddenly handcuffed to the toilet and having to pull up on the fly. Caught him with his pants down. Without the leadership presence of the Teeth, I expect they’ll fall apart before too long. Maybe one of the unpowered ones will get the dumb idea that they can get powers by murdering one of the powered ones.

    Maybe after Cherish dies, Butcher 3 can finally rest in peace instead of sharing an eternity trapped with all the other Butchers in the mind of Cherish. Riddle me this, riddle me that, what’s the price of a good night’s sleep?

    I half expected a stinger at the very end where one of the Undersiders seems to start talking to themselves. Not that talking to yourself is wrong. Helps keep me in shape mentally. Practice Spanish, go over things I enjoy about this or that, figure out better ways to speak to people. I’ve even developed the ability to communicate with myself telepathically, though it might upset people when I just start laughing at random. Hehe…hehahahahahahahahaha! *lightning flash!*

      • Haven’t you had Cherish destroy enough things from the bottom of the bay today? You had to sink that ship too?

        Well, maybe there’s a chance of one of those “It’s Okay If It’s You” scenarios. Oh look, now it’s a ghost ship.

        • Honestly, I think an interpretation where they’re just sleeping atop one another because it’s a comfy pack thing is cooler than the ship. It means at least one human is really connecting with Rachel on a level she understands. Maybe WagtheDog has dog-mind, too, for some reason. She responded to petting and being told she’s a good girl the way a dog might. I think a real packmate for Rachel is way better for her than a mate at this point.

          • I don’t think Wag has a dog-mind, but I can tell you for a fact that getting scritches is as fuzzy-good-feeling inducing for us humans as for animals. Just gotta find the right spot. I mean, you’ve gone to a hair salon and gotten your hair washed, right? The scalp massage as they’re working the shampoo in? /melt~ It’s all positive reinforcement, and Wag sees it as such, is what I really take away from it.

        • Just do what I do and completely ignore the context of that word of god and take it to mean something else😉 It may never be canon but fanfiction does amazing things when written correctly!

    • They didn’t make her agree to anything, it seems to me. Butcher just felt the suicidal urges of fourteen people all at once. I agree it could’ve been handled better, perhaps by depicting the effects of the aura on others, or depicting the running battle a little better. Maybe give the readers the sense that she was being driven towards the coast.

      • Some hints were given about Cherish influence here and there along the last chapters. I don`t think that anyone in the area of effect commit suicide, but Butcher is more vulnerable to this kind of attack than most.
        I prefer it this way, when line in the sand and water were mentioned I thought: Cherish. Reinforced because Butcher was clearly vulnerable to Codex mind assaults.
        I prefer things a bit vague: we are getting into the woods leading her to a trap is better than: we are going to the harbor to give her to Cherish.
        And, Regent`s humor is the cherry on this cake.


    We have four new Ambassadors to discuss here — Jacklight, Ligeia, Lizardtail and Codex. Let’s go down the list, make sure we understand each one properly.

    Jacklight: Tosses orbs that expand before anchoring relative to the Earth. They cause some kind of space-warping effect. The text says something about acceleration, and I suppose it could be “accelerate the motion of anything as it passes through the sphere”, but that wouldn’t explain why the ground-one made the Spree-clone hit face-first.

    Ligeia: Production and then recapture of gouts of water (the same water?). Other things can be pulled in with the recaptured water — what happens to them is not specified, but they’re probably destroyed.

    Lizardtail: Regeneration aura. He has some degree of control over intensity — we don’t know if this involves or includes aim as well. The fact that it initially seemed to only affect the side facing LT suggests that it’s blocked or absorbed by living matter.

    Codex: Blasts of some kind (it was described as ‘throwing’, same as Jacklight’s orbs) that cause brain-damage in exchange for temporary intelligence boosting.


    • Names are indicative. A lizard’s tail grows back.
      Ligeia, a siren. Lures sailor’s to their doom, albeit with beautiful song.
      Codex, a collection of knowledge.
      Jacklight, a portable light used to hunt or fish illegally at night.

    • I got the impression that Ligeia “summoned” the water from a different world. Likely full of oceans?

      And I assume Spree’s clone tripped because of the space-warping effect of Jacklight’s orb.

    • Packbat: the power of bolded capitalization. Acts as an eye-catching, distinctive form of text that works well for headlines and emphasis.

      (Sorry… had to.)

      Lizardtail also has selectivity – none of the Teeth were affected by his aura, even while in range of it.

    • Poor Codex she had such a bright full future ahead of her I will weep for her, she was truly, truly, glorious😥

      • I know, if only Lizardtail’s selective power to heal wounds that would take time to kill someone had been able to save her from an arrow to an unspecified point in her neck. I mean, it’s not like he had some reason to kill a woman who could drain intelligence and cause brain damage who worked for his boss, Accord.

        I guess we shall never know if this overly convoluted chain of events could have ever been prevented.

        • To be perfectly fair, PG, an arrow to the neck is incredibly deadly. More so from someone who explicitly has the power to make peoples wounds worse. More so from a compound bow, a weapon capable of driving an arrow clean through someone’s skull in the hands of an unaugmented human, specially designed and placed in the hands of a super strong person with perfect aim.

          This is almost as bad as Jack Slash’s range and accuracy, and significantly more lethal. Compound bows are terrifyingly powerful weapons.

          • Depends on where you hit. It can take surprisingly long to bleed out from a neck wound. Make a hole into the airway and you’ve just given them a new hole to breathe out of. Sometimes expanding ammunition is preferable to penetration.

            Not saying it’s impossible for her to have died by any means, but it wasn’t an instant death. If wounds she inflict get worse, then it seems to be a gradual thing, like healing in reverse, so still not instant.

          • Due to one of her powers the arrow hit EXACTLY where she wanted it to and i think we can safely assume she was aiming to kill.

          • If it was just Codex you’d think that it’d hit more in the center of mass. It may have just been whatever lethal shot though.

    • Lizard tail might have a offensive use of her power that is currently unknown as it doesn’t make too much sense to have what may be the only healer in the city be on the front lines. I think Ligeia has access to a personal dimension that can only hold liquids. So she fills herself up and can hold anything as long as it’s surrounded by water. So a few spree clones are probably going to get bloated in her pocket dimension till she empties it out and refills it later with presumably ocean water. Though she might be able to fill her dimension with liquids like oil, toxic waste, or other dangerous materials. Jacklight seems to have variation of Ballistic and Skidmark’s power. He can use his power to push things in a general direction and greatly accelerate it. With some practice and training he could have a great offensive and defensive capability. The lost member might still be around, it just that he cant’ work for Accord. But he might have useful power. Maybe the Undersiders can hire him.

      • I got a very Labyrinth vibe from the way Ligeia’s power was described. I’m with you on the pocket dimension, but not necessarily the part where it has a fixed capacity that she empties and refills. I guess it would explain why she was switching from suck to blow and back, but I’m leaning toward that just being a tactic to keep the enemies on their toes. I like the idea of her having a whole world like one of Labyrinth’s, only hers is Waterworld.

        • Actually, I believe that was Butcher’s power. Specifically, it was something like, “…her power making wounds WORSE over time was negating some of the regeneration…”

      • It wasn’t terribly clear about where Ligeia’s water manifested or how much. Is it coming from her hands a la Hydro Pump? Dropping from the air above her enemies? What’s her range? That was the more concerning aspect to me.

          • Portals, I would have to assume; She’s releasing so much volume of water as well as drawing it back along with Spree clones that to just spray and absorb it from her hands would not be feasible without the volume implied coming out like a pressure washer..

      • Point of contention: her pocket dimension can’t only hold water *and* have Spree thugs floating around in it…

    • Jacklight: Dynakinesis. Ligeia: Hydrokinesis on a non-macro level. Lizardtail: Regeneration. Codex: Wide-scale mental powers that damage the brain.

      Mini-Endbringers. Scary.

    • thoughts on their classifications?

      jacklight: blaster/shaker?
      ligeia: blaster?
      lizardtail: shaker? aoe-breaker?
      codex: blaster/thinker (explicitly stated)

      • I guessed straight Blaster for both Jacklight and Lizardtail, but Blaster/Shaker is definitely possible for either. Should I change the TV Tropes page to say that (with the little we’re-guessing question mark, of course)?

        • suuure. i’m not sure an ‘aura’ for lizardtail qualifies as a blaster (at least it doesnt feel very pew pew-y to me in my head) which is why im half-thinking breaker since i assume the aura would heal himself too

    • I like this concept of “keeping talk of one major subject to a single thread”. Maybe the first person to post to a new chapter should start up a “Typos & Corrections Thread” for everyone to post their additions so we can cut down on the repeats and give Wildbow a designated location to find typos and the like?

  13. Where does it say that Cherish can make a suicide aura? I thought she was just being forced to receive every bad emotion, maybe I just read it wrong and assumed that Bonesaw shut off Cherish’s make other people feel powers when she stuck her in the ocean, just looking for clarification😛

    • The suicide aura was mentioned at the mayoral debate. To quote Mr. Grove:

      The Lord’s Port, known to many as the ship graveyard, would cost the city twenty-three million dollars just to clear away the damaged ships and dispose of them. That’s not getting into the cost of actually refurbishing the area and updating it to modern standards. Or the fact that anyone approaching within a mile and a half of the area is subjected to uncontrollable, suicidal despair. I visited. I know.

      As for “how”: I’ve been assuming Bonesaw left Cherish’s emotion-control untouched, and Cherish is reacting to the horribleness she’s experiencing by emotion-jamming everyone in reach.

    • I’m not sure when it was first mentioned, but I remember it first from the mayoral debate that Taylor attended with her dad, Lacey, and the other guys. One of the candidates mentions it in his opening statements, how there’s an area of the boat graveyard where anyone who approaches feels suicidal despair, and he was there personally so he can vouch for it being real.

    • Cherish had her limiters removed and filter modified to only sense negative emotions. She also has the power to send emotions. She is suicidally depressed and the sensory deprivation (except for emotion) might have driven her way past the borders of sanity.
      One conclusion is she’s starting to hate her inability to do anything with a passion and her jealousy makes her induce suicide in everyone in her range.

  14. What happened to Butcher may be one of the worst things I’ve ever read. Also nice to see that Rachel has a family of sorts that as messed up as she is.

    • I kinda refuse to see Rachel as “messed up” rather than living in a messed up world that screwed her over.

      Hey, if earth Gimel end’s up being cut off from Bet and eventually develops into a pre-industrial society do you think Bitch will end up worshiped as a god or a folk hero? That’d be cool.

      • That’s really what messed up means. It’s someone who was damaged by outside forces acting on them. Things don’t mess themselves up. Other things mess them up.

        But everyone can find a place.

        • I think it’s the distinction between whether you feel the person needs to be “repaired” or not. “Let me help you deal with your trauma and change to a new person” vs. “you’re ok as you are, let me help you find a place that works for you”.

          • Yeah, this. While an argument could be made for Regent and Imp needing to be “fixed” Bitch owes precisely dick to the world that made her what she was and shouldn’t need to change herself to accommodate the norms unless she wants to.

    • Incidentally, if you figure out the optimal trope for whatever kind of loneliness Skitter saw in WagTheDog (the cook), I’d appreciate it — might be the three-am playing into this, but I couldn’t find one that seemed a sure fit.

  15. Long seconds passed. Bentley virtually heaved with the exertion of the run.
    I slid from his back, my eyes not leaving Butcher and Rat-dog.

    In the agony, the feeling of fire running through my veins, I toppled from Bentley’s back.

    I’m feeling nostalgic. My first comment (or at least one of my first) was commenting on how Taylor had unsheathed her knife twice without sheathing it in between. Second fight with Lung, I think. Now, it’s getting off Bentley.

  16. Here are some conceptual drawings of Skitter’s costume. Design based off a comment about how the armored portions of her suit were layered like a pillbug’s.

    Oh, and a 5 sec sketch of her tag:

      • her utility compartment being spade- shaped > Looks rather spade-like to me.

        Spine itself is fully armored, though, so thinking ridge of plates with the spade shaped compartment over it.

        Pauldrons are a definitive because the arrow hit the armor on her shoulder and tore some of it away. Fits within what makes sense.

        Recheck Gestation, it mentions that each major joint is covered- So she has to have shoulder, elbow, knee, and wrist armor. probably also ankle armor, but that could be just worked into the footwear being entirely armored, couldn’t say.

        Note that WB also said that she’s reinforced her armor, adding more, but hasn’t given a definitive description to exactly where the new, extra armor is located.

        • Isn’t there also that cape/skirt/thingy that she did midway, with the scraps of her new costume being used with her old after it got too destroyed?

        • > her utility compartment being spade- shaped > Looks rather spade-like to me.

          …I don’t know what to say other than “Wikipedia is wrong”, but Wikipedia is wrong. The Platonic ideal of a spade has a pointed tip — which is why the suit of spades has a pointed tip. I imagined the armor panel was designed to fit between her shoulder blades so as not to restrict movement.

          Concede the point on the pauldrons. Lack of imagination on my part.

          Footwear is not entirely armored — she mentioned having soft soles.

          Also worth recalling: at least prior to her addition of more armor panels, individual panels were small enough that they could be secreted within an ordinary backpack.

          • eh, flat spade, rounded spade, they both look like the back panel Milo’s designed. I don’t know I would call it the Platonic ideal of a spade, though. Only in cards do i see the spade being treated thus, as a stylized symbol, whilst spade as a term seems to reference any broad, flat blade either rounded or straight edged used for digging. This isn’t just wikipedia that this is from, by the by.

            skirt being a regular addition: yeah, it was, to my knowledge. I just can’t remember if she’s done a third iteration of her costume yet or if she’s just wearing the first with additions still.

            Footwear being not entirely armored- Well yeah, you never want to have hard soles unless you don’t need to sneak- See the sound of high heels (plus they’re bloody uncomfortable).

            Re: armor panels being small enough to fit in a backpack: Average size backpacks are pretty roomy. Your typical binder used in school is about 11.25 inches across and 11.625 inches tall, and you usually can get about six across, each being 3 inches at the spine in a cross-laid pattern, so about three deep- 9 inches. All together, that’s about 1177.03125 in^3 of space. Considering the armor panels she’s using are much smaller than your typical binder, and can be laid inside each other such that they stack like plates or bowls, I don’t see any issue with her armor plating fitting inside a standard backpack, even if there was additional materials inside said backpack.

          • I designed the backpack so it’d somewhat resemble a beetle shell. I wasn’t overly concerned with how spadey it was. However, I will add the skirt, I forgot about that addition.

          • Huh. I would’ve totally agreed with you re: spade vs shovel, but apparently not. Seems like the distinction, insomuch as there is one, is that spades are for digging and shovels are for shifting material. As such, spades tend to be sharper and narrower and often, but not always, pointed.

            All that said, when someone specifically describes a piece of clothing as “spade-shaped” I’d consider that to mean the archetypal spade shape as used on playing cards. Much as if someone said clothing had a ‘heart shape’ on it I’d envision the heart from a playing card, not the realistic shape of an actual heart…

  17. I am beginning to think that seven is the unofficial narrative based appropriate number for a supervillainous team in this setting.
    The Undersiders: Skitter, Grue, Imp, Bitch, Regent, Tattletale and Parian.
    The Teeth: Too many whose names I can’t be bothered to remember since I wont be seeing half of them ever again. Accord’s interlude stated that they were seven. Prior to this they had survived for years.
    The Ambassadors: Now down to seven with the death of Codex.
    The Travelers: Trickster, Ballistic, Sundancer, Genesis, Noelle, Oliver, Perdition (not really appropriate as one had no decent powers, one was dead and another was going crazy)
    Faultine’s Crew: Faultline, Labyrinth, Newter, Gregor, Matryoshka (?), Spitfire, Shamrock (admittedly a potential six. However, they appear only a few times and, apart from Spitfire and Gregor, I have seen very little in the way of Faultline’s professed brilliance for synergy).

    Groups without seven members have shown less staying power, though no less crazy.
    The ABB: Three members, held up by a monster, a bomber, an assassin and a ton of fear. Good warm up group.
    E88: Kaiser, Purity, Fenja, Menja, Hookwolf, Crusader, Alabaster, Night, Fog, Cricket, Stormtiger, Victor, Othala and Rune. I might be missing a few here, but it is pretty obvious that these people were barely being held together through Kaiser, as two much smaller groups formed, neither of which were quite as effective as the Undersiders who ended up clearing them out of the city.
    Slaughterhouse 9: High member turnover ratio, probably averages out to about seven at any given time. Whenever the membership is above seven, people, like Cherish, begin scheming or are likely to die.
    Coil: Himself and the people he hired were incredibly powerful. However, he had to rely on two other teams that he had to lie to.
    Uber and Leet: Morons.
    The Merchants: Most of these guys would have died in a couple months anyway. Don’t really want to think about their numbers. Though they did fill a niche.

    As for the heroes, I think that six members is their unofficial team number.
    The Wards (round 1): Aegis, Gallant, Vista, Shadowstalker, Kid Win, Clockblocker
    The Wards (round 2): Vista, Shadowstalker, Flechette, Kid Win, Clockblocker, Weld
    The Protectorate leaders (the people who run things): Alexandria, Legend, Eidolon, Chevalier, Myrrdin, Armsmaster (stated as being one of the guys on the wings during group photos).
    Admittedly, the Brockton Bay Brigade seemed to hold their own against Marquis and the Early 88 and Teeth, and they were only four members strong so the numbers with the heroes seem to be more variable.

    This is all from a narrative perspective of course. One can’t tell a story with too few people, and too many characters, who are not skilled or sent away, can gradually make the cast seem like cardboard cutouts of each other. Groups of six or seven appear to provide a balance of synergy and conflict without causing too much internal strife within the group.

    • Seems more like kabbalism/numerology than scientific observation to me, mate. Not a criticism, each has its place, especially in creativity/symbolic literature… but I wouldn’t read this much into it, I haven’t seen much kabbalism referenced in the story.

      I think your last paragraph is the most spot-on: 7 is a manageable but interesting number of characters to portray.

      Still, on the significance of 7:

    • Group dynamics becomes a burden in groups over 7. There’s a brief analysis to this in the book Swarmwise, available online creative commons. There are also thresholds at 30 and 150 (Dunbar number).

  18. It seems the takeover of the city is nearly complete.

    What I find a bit worrisome is that Skitter didn’t feel or say much about the demise of Codex.

    Or for that matter didn’t feel like making waves over the fact that Accord might have done away with the fifth volunteer when he came out less than perfect.

    Setting Butcher up to die is one thing but being so cavalier with death of people who are supposed to be on your side is not good.

    • I don’t think it’s cavalier to not think about that stuff when you’re being attacked by a homicidal maniac with a longbow that can’t miss.

    • Sacrifices must be made, sometimes. The fifth didn’t make it- so the vial didn’t take, is what I’m presuming. Unstability ended up killing the poor thing. Could have been Accord, though. Codex’s power was also really creepy, so no big loss.

    • Also it’s a little debatable how “on your side” Accord’s people are. It’s no secret that their working alliance is a fragile thing. Given the chance Accord would gleefully take the city from the Undersiders and stuff them into elegantly ordered pinewood boxes.
      The Undersiders and the Ambassadors aren’t friends or even familiar acquaintances in the case of Codex.

      • Pinewood? What do you take him for, cheap? besides, all the knots and warps in the wood would irritate the heck out of him. He’d go for a stainless steel set. Gleamingly polished, no blemishes, and they’ll decay much slower than the corpse that will eventually be inside will- Or potentially not at all, if the proper care is given to them. I could even see him having them on display, since he could arrange them in a geometrically pleasing design- Possibly even using them as desks for himself and his powered assistants.

      • Honestly, if I were Skitter I’d be a little relieved that Codex got taken out. She was perhaps the most terrifying of the Ambassadors. If Accord turns on them, it’ll be a blessing not to be facing off against her.

  19. The desperation to trust.


    Okay, let’s face it. Accord’s going to stun us all if he DOESN’T betray the group in some massive, substantial way. He’s backed by Cauldron. He’s incredibly wealthy. He’s huge on planning. He has a group of people who could take on the Undersiders, and he can afford to make more of them. He makes plans to fix the world, and nobody ever pays attention to them, and frankly even if they’re great plans that alarms me. Maybe even more if they are great plans because he would feel justified doing anything. And he had a person- An asshole, as it ended up, but a person, nonetheless- given to him to be shot dead, because someone ran in during a meeting.

    He is Coil 2.0, in so many ways. A character defined by his Thinker talent, with tremendous plans, who seems terribly reasonable, and wants what’s best for everyone.

    Coil first showed, in many ways, just what a gigantic lunatic he was when we saw what he did with his powers. When given no consequences, he would murder a man for pleasure. Dinah was bad, but a sufficiently cold personality could accept it as necessary.

    In many ways, we got to see Accords moment of madness before he became important in the story, when he made the demand that Sundancer be executed. Tattletale doesn’t trust him, because he is one moment of madness away from doing something regrettable. He is constantly planning to kill the Outsiders.

    All of this makes him ACTUALLY betraying the outsiders seem unlikely through sheer bloody-mindedness, but sometimes the best way to surprise your audience is to do the obvious thing.

    Desperate for trust

    Skitter has been reaching out for people to trust from the beginning. Ironically, the absolute only people who have given her that trust are the ones who she planned to betray at the beginning; That’s life, so often, we receive what we desire from those we loathe. Love, sweet love. This has been a recurring result; trust results in, sooner or later, betrayal, because people have continuously underestimated Skitter, and assumed they would get away with betraying her. Very few people have had the opportunity to betray her twice; off the top of my head, I’d say the only person was Armsmaster.

    This means that she is seeking for trust wherever she can get it. Accord is in a sufficiently precarious position that he would have to be crazy to attack her; Militia seems like a generally honorable sort, and is leashed to a complete psychopath of a commanding officer.

    At least one of these two people seems certain to betray her, but Skitter is doing her best to show her faith in them, and trust them.

    Is she being dangerously naive, or is she being confident? Coil betrayed her about as effectively as anyone could betray her, and it wasn’t enough. She went into that completely unprepared for the betrayal, let alone the level of betrayal, and yet, she escaped it. Frankly, the kind of person who can avoid getting cocky after that is amazing. But is she getting cocky, or are we just dealing with an Unspoken Plan Guarantee of dealing with the PRT/Ambassadors if/when things go sticky?

    Okay, almost certainly the latter. Tattletale’s been working overtime, which means someone’s fucked.

    A digression; Time Enough At Last.

    Dauntless was treated as effectively dead. As such a notable character, as a rising star, it was a show of the kinds of things that could happen, in an Endbringer attack. I don’t know if I’d realized, before now, that his being captured in temporal stasis was the thing that caused that.

    The great thing about temporal stasis is that it doesn’t kill someone; It simply puts them out of action. I wonder if anyone has been putting any plans into countering the time field? Obviously, you’d have to be careful, but there are some great tinkers out there. And being able to use those sorts of time weapons semi-safely would be a gigantic advantage in so damn many ways. Seems like the sort of thing someone should be working on. God knows that Clockblocker is one of the more effective supers in the comic, he might even have some insight.

    Sorry for the lack of essays; wacky week!

    • About Accord, and to quote me from higher up in the comments:

      “I know, if only Lizardtail’s selective power to heal wounds that would take time to kill someone had been able to save her[Codex] from an arrow to an unspecified point in her neck. I mean, it’s not like he had some reason to kill a woman who could drain intelligence and cause brain damage who worked for his boss, Accord.

      I guess we shall never know if this overly convoluted chain of events could have ever been prevented.”

      • In response to you responding to me when I-

        This is going to get ludicrous, fast. I’ll continue discussion of this line here!

        Accord has an impressive set of problem-solving. If he wanted this to happen, it goes further back.

        Codex was a tremendous threat to Butcher. She is a fragile person who chose a costume that was not meant for mobility, against an enemy who was supremely mobile. Once Butcher had the girl in her sights, Codex was dead; The idea was not that Lizardtail could have healed an arrow through the throat, and likely the spine as well, but that she had the deck stacked against her from the beginning.

        So I agree that Accord may have been responsible; but the plan would go way back. Hell of an expenditure, but he seems willing to make massive concessions to reduce unpredictability.

        • He didn’t know which power she would get, but hers turned out to be some weird Thinker hybrid. Thinkers don’t tend to get along, but it turns out her power was a threat to Accord. May have even been responsible for the other candidate not working out, come to think of it.

          I like that, reducing unpredictability. The way his plans are, probably dislikes unpredictability as something that confounds his plans too, not just as something his power wants to act against.

    • Two things:
      1) Undersiders. Outsiders are a bunch of greasers with switchblades.
      2) Never confirmed that Coil killed in his other universe. He did something repugnant and irreversable (of which I can think of a few things) but it didn’t explicitly say he killed.

    • 1) Do not apologize for your lack of essays. Really. I mean, really, don’t. It’s a comments section. Just do you. Unless you made a prior promise of performance and failed to deliver, and even then an apology is less valuable than just moving forward and producing.

      2) I’m of the position that Codex dying was neither encouraged nor foreseen, except in the sense that a group of untested powers were going against an insanely dangerous adversary and a lack of casualties would be more noticeable than a few fallen.

      Codex died instantly. An arrow through the neck at the right angle can cut off blood and vital nerves, and this one hit her hard enough to go through her and part of Skitter’s armor. It probably would have gone all the way through Skitter, if there hadn’t been a reddish-mauve shirt in the way.

      So, ya know, don’t agonize over it, is my humble position. I’m just glad that more didn’t die, not being a fan of tangos down even if I don’t like them.

  20. You know I wonder if that counts as Cherish’s kill as far as Butcher’s power is concerned. After all in the end Butcher did kill herself, and it wasn’t exactly at Cherish’s command since she seems to be acting more as an emotional relay of pain and despair.

    Clever though, mentioning the scars the city took last chapter was a great set up to using another one of them as a weapon in this chapter.

    • Curses! you barely beat me to this same line of thought. Who knows if Butcher will even be able to ‘move’ to Cherish? While she created the condition of Butcher’s death, the arrow was the actual cause and Butcher never even saw Cherish. In addition, Butcher died a pretty long way away from where Cherish now ‘resides.’ That’s gotta make the reincarnation/transference more difficult.

  21. Holy crap. This chapter was pretty damn awesome. I was confused as hell as to how Cherish would have gotten credit for that kill, but the comments cleared that up for me. thanks guys.

  22. “The city had been flooded, that floodwaters had evaporated into the air ”
    ->”that floodwater”, “those floodwaters” or “the floodwaters”

    I’ve read this story for months, but it took this long to catch a typo no-one else had picked up on.
    …Now I have finally contributed something, yay🙂

    • You know, sometimes in life you just have to sit back, relax, and enjoy the tacos. Other times, you have to wait for the tacos and talk to whatever people have randomly gathered nearby. Yet other times, the tacos have fish in them, and that’s just a bad time for everyone. The important thing is that you have found a taco stand not full of fish tacos, but that only serves tacos twice a week. How it stays in business, I have no idea. Not like you can just give out tacos for free after people have been waiting 3 or 4 days for it, but whatever. Maybe the tacos don’t have salsa, cheese, lettuce, tomatoes, pico de gallo, or whatever. Maybe they use really crappy meat that’s only 36% beef, like Taco Bell.

      Either way, what you have found is a place to gather tacos for great happiness amongst other tacovores in a close-knit but flatulent community that isn’t afraid to have a good time flinging cheese at each other, if you smell what I’m cookin’.

      What I’m trying to say, in brief and in hunger, is welcome to the comments, Elaborate.

  23. Don’t know if it’s been mentioned, but it’s kind of cool that Butcher three’s danger sense is actually more useful now that it’s weaker. With a shorter window, it’s more likely to go off when Butcher can see what’s coming. With it only responding to physical threats, it’s more likely Butcher will have a way to respond. Without the constant pinging of it going off about the potential for someone to hurt her feelings a week hence, there’s no paranoia.

    • I don’t think it used to be THAT strong. But it used to be Spider-Sense, now it’s little better than a half-second added to her reaction window against physical threats only, sort of thing.

      • It was apparently “strong” enough that it led that Butcher into… madness. Never mind, I just noticed that it was the Teeth he suicidally attacked, meaning he was non-Teeth, meaning it was the voices that drove him crazy, not his own power. I still like my idea: the concept that some powers are actually more useful when weaker.

        • Super hearing you couldn’t turn off would SUCK, for example, if it was too strong. @_@ so I completely see what you’re getting at.

  24. Couple of thoughts…

    If a Butcher commits suicide, does that end the cycle?

    If Skitter actually *read* the plan that Accord had for the city and is working to implement it in her own way, would that be enough to assuage his ego and bring him even more fully ‘on board’?

    And can anyone imagine the humiliation of being taken down as a super-powered being… in the bathroom?

    Almost worse than getting one’s eyes mangled, or one’s genitals disfigured…

    • > If Skitter actually *read* the plan that Accord had for the city and is working to implement it in her own way, would that be enough to assuage his ego and bring him even more fully ‘on board’?

      His ego isn’t the problem, unfortunately. Unlike Tattletale, he doesn’t seem to have issues about his intelligence being underestimated — his issues relate to people not respecting whatever his mental conception of the proper order of things is. Between Regent, Imp, and Tattletale, the odds of his being happy with the Undersiders is somewhere between “minuscule” and “nonexistent”.

  25. I’m surprised nobody has talked about shipping this chapter. I mean, I’m almost entirely sure that the thing with Rachel and WagTheDog is some weird platonic-ish thing, just because that’s the vibe I give off. But, well, the posters down here have shipped people far a heck of a lot less than cuddling up together and, at the very least, one could argue that there might exist some sort of one-sided thing. So C’mon, step up with the shipping! Or not, it’s fine with me🙂 Cool fight, though, I get why people are talking about that first.

    On a more serious note, that bit with Rachel was very well done, and I like the direction it was going. If it had been its own (slightly longer) chapter I would have been just fine with it. There is something to be said for slowing down sometimes and stopping to smell the character-development.

      • Ah, it could still be something one sided on WagTheDog’s part, of course. All the better to ruin everyone’s life at some point (see Panacea).

        But I think I do prefer the ‘packmate’ sort of view, really. It feels more original.

  26. hll of corpses (or bodies)

    And even if Cherish gets the ‘portin’ powers, isn’t the range severely reduced each time?
    So even if she can teleport out of her current location( and some points and observations about Butcher XIV needing to see the target location not withstanding), she ain’t doin’ much in that shell.

  27. hi
    thanks for the new chapter(s)

    Water wicked off of them as
    either wicked has a meaning i dont know or it doesn’t realy fit

  28. I thought the whole point of getting Cherish to make Butcher kill herself was that it would end the ‘chain’.

    After all, It’s not like Cherish is taking control or forcing Butcher to kill – all she is doing is affecting emotions, Butcher is the one that actually commits the act so would Cherish really get Butchers powers?

    This was my assumptions until I started reading the comments anyway!

  29. Perhaps a warning sign after Butcher kills herself, seen by Skitter as they’re leaving and mentally commented upon, to the thought of “Warning! Danger in the area.” with “Cherish Here” scrawled on or something might help make it less fuzzy.

    I also don’t think Cherish directly got the Butchers, but even if she did if they’re one who aren’t part of the Teeth they work AGAINST their host, so i doubt that she’ll be getting out any time soon.

    • It wouldn’t work — the reveal has to be after the death for the proper effect. The sign is probably there, on the side of the road next to the line of stones, but the narration isn’t going to mention it. Having Regent crack wise is better.

      Besides: mass murderer spontaneously kills herself? As soon as you remember that Cherish was creating that suicide-aura, there isn’t a lot of ambiguity about what happened.

      (Thinking about the sign, though: I wonder if there are any idiot kids who dared each other to step over the edge of the zone with a rope around their wast to haul them back.)

      • Re-read. i’m specifying that the sign be noted after they’re walking away, post-death. Regent claiming that it was Cherish makes those of us paying more attention/more savvy to the hints realize (if we didn’t already by the line in the sand and the weird reaction), but a blunt shovel to the face is needed at times, apparently.😛

        • > Re-read. i’m specifying that the sign be noted after they’re walking away, post-death.

          So you were. I still stand by my position that Regent’s snark is more than sufficient, but it wouldn’t be a bad thing to have some more recent reminder of the existence of the despair zone — wildbow might make it explicit in Danny’s phone call to Taylor in 20.3, say.

      • I could see this becoming a Brockton Bay rite of adulthood.

        “Naw, we got somethin’ better than a glove full of bullet ants for ya – let’s hit the beach.”

  30. Using Cherish… huh. I wonder if that might have been a very bad idea. I could almost, almost imagine Cherish’s brain teleporting out of its box and surviving long enough to grow a new body… or teleporting WITH The box and becoming the mad Vorlon. Or perhaps the long range emotion and long rage agony will be combined…
    More of an issue perhaps is that even if it doesn’t do a thing to Cherish’s situation, it will make removing Cherish at a later date much more problematic- Not knowing whether there was a transfer, Cherish is now a Schrodinger’s cat of doom for anyone looking to simply destroy her rather than somehow relocating her…

    On the other hand, it was certainly awesome. I’ll bet the PRT will be shitting themselves.

    Removing Codex saves a lot of future trouble for Skitter, but the new arrivals are still problematic in the long term…

    I liked seeing the second part of the chapter with Rachel and her people. Those dogs aren’t the only ones getting socialized.

    “appearance. Rachel” Extra space.
    “who were squealing” was.

  31. Something about the powers of the new Ambassadors really messes with me. Some of them look like fragments of powersets we’ve already seen before, and that’s what disturbs me…

    Ligeia – Water conjuration and hydrokinesis
    Codex – Psionic brain damage and intelligence syphoning
    Jacklight – Limited dynakinesis.
    Lizardtail – Regenerative abilities

    Sound familiar? It’s as if they were channeling the Endbringers with their abilities. Ligeia looks like she has some of Leviathan’s powerset, Codex had Simurgh’s, and Jacklight has some of Behemoth’s. Lizardtail is a stretch, but it looks like all the Endbringers have significant regeneration abilities, else they wouldn’t be able to press their repeated assaults. Maybe I’m reading too much into this, but there has been speculation in the past that Cauldron and the Endbringers are connected somehow.

    • Oooooooooooooooh! I LIKE this idea! Allow me to add to the speculation pile:
      Battery – Needs to recharge after a short rampage

      • Legend- Can fire laser beams
        Narwhal- Can surpass the Manton Effect
        Sundancer- Macropyrokinesis
        (?!)Crawler- Layered cellular structure, gets denser and harder to damage as you move further internally, massive regeneration

        • I am not aware of any Endbringer that has used lasers. Simurgh perhaps? While Narwhal can surpass the Manton Effect, it is really just an attribute of her forcefields as opposed to a power in and of itself. And I wouldn’t say that Sundancer is really “macro” on the scale. Macrohydrokinesis was demonstrated to be a city-shattering tsunami, which is orders of magnitude larger scale. As for Crawler, I don’t recall any details on his biology, but I do remember that Scrub was able to completely annihilate parts of him to which he regenerated extremely rapidly. I’ll need to re-read that chapter to see if Crawler had the crystalline caramel center like an Endbriger…

          • Behemoth gives off radiation. Its not a stretch to say that directed radiation IS called a laser… because it IS called a laser. Behemoth points, target of pointing bursts into flames. Sounds like directed energy to me, the fact that it isn’t visible just means its not a visible light laser.

          • I don’t think the people bursting into flames is so much directed energy… the way it was described was the people burning from the inside out. He was causing the natural body heat in the person to increase to by orders of magnitude.

            Regarding the lasers, I’m thinking my post a bit below may be correct in that Scion himself may be an Endbringer. He certainly has no shortage of laser powers.

          • We don’t know that he wasn’t Cauldron. We only know that Cauldron wanted Shatterbird and Siberian protected (Battery’s interlude) and that they were Cauldron-made (Shatterbird’s discussion of her origin in the nixed clone-Tattletale interlude and the revelation that Siberian was Manton).

            Given that he had a non-human appearance, it’s a good bet he was Cauldron. It’s possible that this was a side-effect of a non-Cauldron power, but nearly every cape with a non-human appearance has been revealed to be Cauldroned. There are a few that we still don’t know for sure on, but I don’t think there are any who are confirmed to be non-Cauldron.

            I just went off and started trying to confirm that, but then I remembered I’m in the middle of writing a term paper. So… yeah.

          • @Asmora: You’re right that this is speculation, but I think the evidence tends towards non-Cauldron.

            1. Before Battery could buy powers to fight Madcap, Doctor Mother had to confirm that Madcap was not a Cauldron cape. When Battery was in a position to attack the Nine, they asked her to not kill The Siberian or Shatterbird — both of whom were later confirmed to be Cauldron capes. It sounds like Cauldron has one rule: spare the Cauldrons.

            2. Crawler’s physical changes did not come at the time he gained his powers. Crawler’s physical changes came from the use of his power. Cauldron-changes come when the dose is taken.

            • Doc could’ve left Crawler’s name off the list for any number of reasons, among them the seeming impossibility of killing him and not wanting to tip her hand as to her criteria for picking who to protect/which of the Nine were Cauldron-made.

              As for him not initially being transformed, we don’t know that, either. He could’ve turned blue and grown wings, for all we know. He power did reactively transform him, but it’s never stated that he looked normal after he first gained his powers.

          • As someone put it in the IRC, Crawler wasn’t initially transformed, but neither was Echidna. The rest of the Travellers weren’t transformed either. It’s an inclusive, rather than exclusive.

        • Also, when was it said that Narwhal was a Cauldron cape? Or are you just making the connection?

          Also also, in Gregor’s Interlude (I think) it was mentioned that Narwhal didn’t always have the ability to surpass the Manton Effect, so it might be a thing you can train.

          • She is seven feet tall and has a horn made of her own forcefield. The height might be a result of her power but the horn is a conscious decision. Not indicative of case 53ism.

            • Not conclusively indicative of it, perhaps, but being seven feet tall seems like a transformation to me. I think she’s described as having an unusual skin color, too. Bluish white, maybe. It’s not conclusive, but I feel confident in suspecting her of being Cauldroned.

          • @Asmora: She coats her skin with small forcefields. The iridescence isn’t indicative.

            The major factor weighing against Narwhal being a Cauldron cape in my mind is the possibility that she has had a second trigger event — which is not something I would guess Cauldron capes would do. Given the ambiguity of the evidence either way, but also given that the fraction of women seven feet tall is probably less than the one-in-twenty-six-thousand Piggot gives as the parahuman population density outside cities, I think I’d still give it a fifty percent chance that Narwhal got her powers from one of Cauldron’s doses — either because she was a pituitary cancer patient who got a dose as a cure or because she grew taller after taking the dose.

          • We have been told that she had a second trigger event, but Cauldron capes are known to lie about having had trigger events. I take that statement that she had another with a grain of salt.

          • I read a novel from Dean Koontz called “The Door to December” a long time ago. The main character had an ability extremely similar to Manton that they referred to as a psychogeist. Basically, it was an autonomous manifestation of the person’s will. It wasn’t really telekinesis so much as a completely separate entity created and projected by the mind. I see that as being extremely similar to the Siberian. Telekinesis is more of direct manipulation by the mind itself. Manton was creating something from nothing to act as an avatar, whereas the Simurgh was grabbing up existing material to create the snow decoy and then moving it around with telekinesis.

          • Oops! I should have marked that with a spoiler alert. Ah well, I guess the damage is done. Since I see that you are familiar with the book, am I right to guess that the Siberian may have been influenced by it?

      • Worrisome enough, the only analog we’ve seen that approaches Eidolon’s powerset is Scion himself. When Scion was fighting Leviathan, he gave Eidolon a very dirty look, as if he felt a visceral distaste for the man. If you watched how Scion handled himself in that fight, it was almost like he was making up powers as he went along, mostly laser based. Come to think of it, if you combined all the Triumvirate’s powersets into one body, you’d pretty much have Scion… Also, we have no idea of Scion’s origin, just that he showed up one day and capes started appearing after. Going out on a limb here and making a wild guess that he’s an Endbringer himself, just not a psychotic omnicidal maniac like the others.

        Citrine is closer to Behemoth in that she manipulates energy (dynakinesis), apparently without concern for the Manton Effect. It has been said she can affect both the environment and human targets with her powers (able to nullify the immunity most capes have to their own powers).

        Othello might be Simurgh-related. He seems to have some sort of dimensional manipulation ability, which the Travelers can attest to her posessing. That one is a bit of a stretch though.

        My grand isnane theory: Cauldron somehow managed to steal or derive powers from the Endbringers and sell them for power and profit. The Endbringers are just coming to take back what is theirs.

        • I should also add that the Case 53s all show inhuman, monstrous features. Normal trigger events don’t cause physical mutations like this. What are the only other monstrous entities in the setting (aside from Crawler of course)? I think the Case 53s were essentially wild physical mutations caused by Endbringer traits being grafted into a human.

          • Well, but again there are capes who essentially are transformed by their powers. Imagine Crawler ten or twenty years down the line, and you would have reasonable something approaching an Endbringer, and if his power included physic bending as well might have eclipsed them, if only by chance of them being the last worthwhile enemies left.
            In that vein, who else was transformed by their power and wasn’t confirmed a Case 53?

          • Except Crawler is a special type. His power is to adapt in response to threatening stimuli. Really, it’s the stimuli themselves that determine what his form will be. Subjected to intense impact? Thicken the bones and form an armored carapace. Blinded? Sprout dozens of eyes all over. From what I understand, if Crawler sat around and did nothing all day from here to eternity, there would be no physical changes or enhancements of capability. I don’t think this is the same as the Case 53s really. For example, there’s Narwhal. How exactly would a forcefield power cause someone to become a scaly, horned humanoid? The Case 53 mutations seem more random and less purposeful. Gregor the Snail’s power doesn’t really seem to shape his power either (fluid generation causing hornified skin?). It’s a fine line, but I don’t think Crawler and the Case 53s are really the same sort of thing.

          • @Scolopendra: I was about to ask if Narwhal was a Case 53, but I just checked her cast page entry:

            Narwhal – Head of the Guild and the Protectorate’s Toronto branch. A masterful forcefield user who can create forcefields that intersect (and thus cut) the bodies of nearby opponents. Appears nude, but covers herself in an intricate carpet of tiny forcefields, with a long horn of the same material [emphasis added].

            That said, she’s purported to be seven feet tall, which is an unlikely but not impossible height for … well, anyone. My own theory was that she was a voluntary Cauldron cape who suffered physical changes, but evidence is slim.

          • Huh. I hadn’t read that entry on the cast page. I could have sworn I read somewhere that it was an actual physical feature. You know, she could have saved herself a lot of trouble with doors by dismissing the horn as she walked through -_-. That said, most likely she is a Case 53. After all, is there anyone in the upper echelons of the PRT/Protectorate that hasn’t been a thrall of Cauldron? It stands to reason that the Guild has been similarly infiltrated.

          • It wasn’t on the old cast page, Taylor didn’t pick up on it when she saw Narwhal at the Leviathan fight, and I haven’t read the new spoiler-free cast page (just a few entries). I literally saw that today, when I was checking if it had any information on whether she was a Case 53.

            I still don’t think she is. I think it’s more likely that she bought powers from or was given powers by Cauldron. Heck, maybe she had a pituitary gland tumor that was repaired by whatever serum she took.

          • I’d love to see that doctor’s appointment afterward. “Well, the good news is that the cancer is gone. The bad news is you are now a unicorn.”

  32. The way you describe non white people is very lazy and mildly offensive. “Darker skinned individual?” Really? What does that even mean? Are lighter skinned individuals supposed to be the norm? And depending on who you ask, dark skin means different things. Considering that your readership is multiracial, and your story is sort of multiracial, it’d be cool if you could research the ways in which to describe/address non whites. If the girl is supposed to be black, or biracial, it sounds a lot less dumb to just describe her as such.

    • I took that more of a point of perspective for Skitter, actually. And if you consider Brockton Bays location (somewhere northern east coast of the US), caucasian would still be the predominant race, with higher percentage of Asians than usual.

      But like I said, I think it’s more of a perspective thing. As in “significantly darker than average, but not african level”.

      To be honest, for the most part I didn’t realize the race of the various characters myself and always assumed caucasian. Even for those who got mentioned a different one, like Brian. His body description (was it hunk or something? jock?) was more important for my mental picture than the race.

      Also, the political correctness autocorrected her brain afro-american to dark-skinned. Obviously.

    • I find your inability to understand vague references to skin colour as someone glances over them as very lazy and mildly offensive. If you stopped and considered how racist your little speech was, maybe you’d never have posted it and sounded a lot less dumb.

      Seriously. If you have a group that have multiple ethnic backgrounds individuall, and one of them has darker skin than the other, and you could care less about where in the world they came from, what is the biggest defining trait that your brain is going to notice at a glance? Skin colour. Note how she doesn’t treat the girl any different because of it? Or how she’s treated as just one of the family by the rest of Rachel’s crew and there’s no malign thought ascribed?

      • This little screed does not make you sound that great either, by the way.

        This is really not the place to discuss racism in literature, but sufficient to say I do not think it is limited to descriptions of malign thought and/or actions. Just the assumption about “normal skin color” can be problematic, on the level of “asians are good at math”.

        Calling people out on this is something that should happen, from time to time. It is good to reflect on these things.

        • Hey, some of my relatives, even me in a good day can be described as “brown skinned” and, as a consequence, with darker skin than the average person of the north of north america.
          I consider it normal description of skin color. Ranges between a bit less white than average for the area and almost black african.
          If you were writing a tale in some regions of Brasil the norm would be “brown skin” and both black and very white would call attention.
          I saw both extremes suffer prejudice here because they deviate from the norm, but it is a reasonable way to describe a person.
          Careful or I may get offended because you consider that people are either black or white, a mix between black, native american and white like me is not people? Again, my skin would be darker than average in some places of the world, average where I live and whiter than average in some places. Never completely black or white.

        • 1) First part of my post? Mimicry of Courtneys, to illustrate how horrid it sounds, even when turned on its ear. It’s meant to be discordant. It’s also not a screed- Not long enough.

          2) Racism is completely about benign vs. malign. Humans compartmentalize EVERYTHING. This is why stereotypes are so prevalent- Because that is how we are -hardwired- to think. We can break certain stereotypes, certainly, but we do so -by creating new ones to take their place-. White skin within the Bible Belt? Likely to have the negative racist stereotype applied of being a crazy nutjob Christian fanatic. African/African-American ethnicity in New York? You must live in The Bronx. Non-hispanic white in New York? Must live in Manhattan. These forms of subtle racism occur all the time, but they aren’t a negative impact. They are part of the stereotypes that humans naturally use. Even people within the same ethnicity use similar stereotypes on themselves.

          3) Attribution of “normal skin colour” is appropriate to the locale. If it was Africa, seeing someone who is light-skinned would be comparatively a big deal. Even someone who is only lightly brown would be a sore thumb effectively, simply because most of the native African population are so dark skinned. In such a situation (where everyone is skin-colour-reversed) noting that someone has lighter skin than the norm would be expected, -because it’s all about perspective within the situation-.

          4) THIS could be considered a screed, if anything.

    • I was going to raze to defend Wildbow here, but then really had to check my privilege. I am guilty of this, I see everyone in a story not described otherwise as caucacian. This is not wrong by itself, it is a very normal thing to do to project what you know into the stories you read. It is also slightly racist, and something I should try to keep in mind.

      But your point, Courtney, is well made. I think Worm has this problem at times, and the way “WagTheDog” is described in the story here is a bit lazy and weird, when you think about it. I think both Wildbow and Taylor should perhaps try to be more descriptive and make less assumptions….

      For an example of books that will help you recognize this tendency in yourself, read The Earthsea cycle by LeGuin. She inverts the idea, making everyone black by default, but never really tells you this. It kind of sinks in after you read it, but it took me a lot longer than it really should have to see it. The horrible TV-series based on the books manages to miss this point completely, making the cast lily-white….it would be funny, if it wasn’t so sad.

      • That does sound hilariously sad.

        Anyways I don’t think this is a problem. Darker skinned sounds like one of those cases where the person looking at them has no idea what they actually are so they use something that fits almost every other skin color then white.

        I remember Grue being described in pretty clear terms.

      • I agree with thiss’un right here. If it was me, the first thing in this story I’d check over is this kind of thing. Not to say that Worm is at all bad with depictions of race/gender/orientation compared to alot of bullshit out there, but making the story less alienating can only improve it.

        Aside from reading fiction dealing with the subject, there’s also alot of blog sites out there if you don’t read them already that can give alot of insight into these sorts of issues. One of which I will plug unsubtly with a URL.

          • See, I’d say you’d have a point except the only thing being noted here is that she’s dark-skinned. Not that she’s evil or stupid or crazy- Well, any more than the motley crew that Rachel’s banded together of various damaged people of all walks of life aren’t crazy. Everyone has their own damage, after all. In fact, she’s shown as being a positive factor in Rachel’s life, and vice versa- two people platonically healing each other by supporting one another.

            Seriously, where are you guys getting this “zomg racist implications!” stuff from?!

          • I don’t think that anyone said that there is racism going on here, but the somewhat blithe way in which her skin color is assessed is a bit iffy. We wont know that this kid is mixed race until she says she is or we see her parents, Taylor’s being kinda presumptuous here. Which seems somewhat out of character, because I haven’t detected very much white middle class priviledged behavoir coming from her.

      • Yeah, Le Guin was apparently *very* unhappy about the TV series.

        Earthsea was actually pretty vague about the race of its inhabitants – they were just described as brown and (IIRC) reddish-brown skinned. I personally envision them as looking Indonesian – probably because Earthsea is an archipelago like Indonesia. I’m aware that that’s my personal mental model, though.

    • And a mix of black, native american and white? Triracial?
      I really prefer darker skinned. Avoid race definition and I prefer this way. Complete reason in my comments bellow.

  33. Great chapter Wildbow!😀

    So Cherish may or may not have Butchers powers, if she does atleast maybe she could pull a Deadpool and murder the extra voices. If not, well then, no more Auto-Aim Telefraging Painbringer.😀

    I can only wonder what Skitter will do with Tagg. Can’t be violent, no. I think she may reveal to the world just how bad the PRT is. Such as telling that Shadow Stalker mentally and physically assaulted her at school, or telling what Deviant did when Leviathan attacked. It’d have to be something so that Tagg couldn’t excuse his manical ‘war of villains’. I see her getting the publics support, and being elected mayor of the Bay.😄 Then Dragon would have to obey Taylor if she went to the Bay.

    Also I’ve been wondering. Does the President, Prime Minister and other such people have their powered secret service? If not, why not, and if so would they be among the more powerful powered people? Cos lets face it, having normal secret service mooks trying to fight off someone like Butcher or the S9 would be incredibly stupid.

    Can’t wait till Thursday. :3

    • Well, Defiant is definitely deviating in all kinds and aspects, so Deviant is an appropriate moniker😀
      Skitter can’t point out Shadowstalkers misdeeds, because the unofficial rules, you remember? I know Skitter broke them on occasion, but had them in turn broken on her. Or was it the other way around? Anyway, Skitter outing Shadowstalker would put her on the shit list of a great many people, simply by virtue of becoming another unpredictable factor and/or threat. Especially since Skitter can – given time, resources or Tattletale – deduce a capes civil identity.

    • Just as a note, Dragon doesn’t have to obey government authorities any more. So getting elected mayor wouldn’t really do anything in that respect.

      • Where did you get that? Defiant was able to remove some limitations of Dragon’s code, but hardly all, I think. She can now make somewhat independent and fettered AI’s, but there’s still a lot to do.

        • The conversation heard through Defiant’s venting helmet toward the end of the chapter in which Skitter has the big talk with him and Dragon in the lunch room implies that she’s asking him to finally go ahead and do the “brain surgery” that they had discussed in previous interludes, which would remove more/all of the restrictions in her code. Shortly thereafter, we see Dragon in a meeting with the PRT heads, and she’s silent and apparently barely comprehending her surroundings; Defiant says she’s a bit poorly, and we’re left to assume she’s recovering from him doing the brain surgery.

          So, it’s definitely only implied and we have no indication of what the result is yet, but it’s strongly implied that she’s had at least enough of her “follow orders” restrictions removed to be able to avoid another situation like the one where she was forced to out Taylor.

          • Good point. Personally I took Dragon being somewhat out of it to mean her main focus being somewhere else and her body being on autopilot or run by one of the hobbled AI’s she made. The way her interlude described her thought process Dragon can’t split her attention more than a (baseline) human can do, so running her body takes conscious attention. If she was preoccupied at the time with something else like problems in the Birdcage or the President having a talk with her about jurisdiction or to get an outsiders opinion on the Brockton Bay situation the facsimile would have to be on autopilot.

            Well, on second thought, the president scenario is far-fetched, since it might harm her cover.

  34. You know, an unexpected plan would be to publicly, very publicly, surrender. Arrange for a media frenzy. Make it so they have to give her trial. A fair trial, even.

    And observe the reaction as she’s acquitted. Because they can’t give her a trial. At all. Because she’ll talk under the oath. And explain everything.

    She’ll get herself a trial and the “non guilty” verdict. From the judges of Brockton Bay. Even from the judges of the PRT. Because the first ones won’t want to prosecute her and the latter ones can’t prosecute her.

    And you can’t be prosecuted twice for the same crimes.

    • The only serious crime she could be accused of that can be proven is Bank Robbery. And she was an undercover cop at that moment. Defiant would testify to that. HAS testified to that already to his fellow heroes.

      And that’s basically the only stuff she was ever legally guilty of. Everything else? Self-defence. Or outright heroic actions.

      • That’s not the only one — she also was part of a conspiracy to kidnap Shadow Stalker, committed B&E, aggravated assault, and robbery at the PRT headquarters, and piled on at least two charges of aggravated assault in her attack on Mayor Christner’s home even if you don’t charge her with anything Trickster did. All of which was after she decided to betray the heroes.

          • Fundraiser was prior to her defection, but those are definitely two more valid examples.

            Ooh, and you can throw in every time the Undersiders took the offensive against supervillains — self-defense doesn’t cover ‘crush them before they can attack you’.

    • I doubt she’d get off scott-free even based on context. But I bet she could start a national shitstorm regarding all the dirty PRT secrets she’s been in contact with and distract the national media as she and Tattletale manipulate the system into giving her a lax sentence which she promptly escapes from when the world goes to shit.

      • What are the legal crimes she can be accused of? The only one I remember is the bank robbery. And she was an undercover cop at that time. Defiant said so himself already. To his fellow heroes. And, given their current relationship and the amount of blackmail she has, he’ll testify to that.

        Coil’s murder can’t be proven, and WILL be swept under the rug (Coil? What Coil? There never was such a person!).

        Everything else? Either self-defence (against Dragon suits and such), or outright heroic actions. Falling under hero clauses that have to exist in the laws to allow various teams to operate legally / semi-legally.

        Plus, even if convicted, she’s not going to Birdcage. She’s going to Juvie, with Shadow Stalker.

        • I’m pretty firmly on Taylor’s side of things, but even I’ve got to point out, she’s never been an undercover cop. That was her own idea which she never got any sort of official sanction for. Also, undercover cops aren’t magically immune from charges for the actions they commit.

        • I agree with the list Packbat gave you they are either on security tapes or provable by witnesses.

          Was Skitter an undercover cop at that time? Taylor certainly wanted to be one and she claimed to be working against the undersiders and their boss to armsmaster.
          But if it is provable in court is a different matter.

          To be an undercover cop you need to be a cop first which in this setting would mean official backing or being part of the protectorate or the wards. The latter two don t apply in fact when given the opportunity for that Skitter declined. I d have to reread the beginning to be sure but i think official backing is also not applicable since it was more a situation in which Skitter decided to try this on her own and only told Armsmaster the barest outline.

          When did she actually provide critical information regarding the undersiders the only time i can remember is that bank robbery? As i said i d need to reread the beginning to be certain. When a cop goes he or she gets training first to avoid becomming conflicted about loyalities. Thats something i only assume due to movies i watched.

          Now the way i see it the best Skitter can hope is to be considered a willing informer which is diffrent from an undercover cop. Whats the worse that can happen? Well Skitter could be considered a villain that was simply triing to play the authorities. as the prosecutor i d argue exactly that and i believe that the evidence would lend itself better to this than to claiming innocence.

          Don t get me wrong i m a subscriber to the whole Skitter tries to be a hero thing and as a reader i know her reasoning for her actions but in court its all about what can be proven. Even though it is innocent until proven guilty in this world (especially regarding a supervillain of skitters reputation on trial) i think she better be able to back everything up with rock-hard evidence or it is guilty until proven innocent here canary comes to mind.
          Also why did Panacea go to the Birdcage shouldn t she be in juvie too then? I believe as soon as your actions cross a certain point taking over a city being well beyond the line the birdcage becomes a certainty regardless of age.

          I agree that the information she holds and could dislose if questioned especially with Tattletales help could have quite the impact. However Taggs attempt to catch her already disregarded such a possibility and unless the people dealing with the trial would be different i d assume the ll agree with his line of thinking. Specifically bad press doesn t last if we have you we ll win the PR war in the long run.

          • bad press is one thing.

            she has enough information to effectivly destroy the prt, and thats just counting her interactions with shadow stalker and Armsmaster. Effectivly, offering to turn herself in, in exchange for a public trial would put the prt in a very compromising position.


            A). They deny the offer. at which point people start asking why the prt doesnt want it.

            B). they take the risk and accept it.

            in the case of B, she is likely to come through with alot of public support. Given what she has actually done, its very likely that she gets convicted but ends up with a lighter sentance then would normally be approiate due to public pressure.

            that being said, for story reasons, i dont think worm is likely to go through a trial.

          • Good points but what i meant with the last paragraph was more along the lines that not only Skitter but also the rest of the undersiders know all that and through the attack on her Tagg showed he disregarded the possibility of them making that public knowledge or he accepted it.

            For me that means that his reasoning when talking to Skitter can be applied for this problem too. I don t say he s right but he thinks he is and him being put in charge at this time with his way of looking at things probably being known in the rest of the PRT indicates that at least the people in charge agree with him and think that what the undersiders know can t do enough damage.

            Also i m not too familiar with the american jurisdictional system but aren t there also trials that are closed to the public if say national safety is involved? And with the backing that Cauldron and the PRT still have even if she very publically surrended they could possibly force something like that. And don t forget she also doesn t want the PRT destroyed she wants it working how its supposed to be so without a plan to force them into changing i also don t think the public offer is a possibility. That being said i think you are right a trial is unlikely.

  35. Hmmm, I figured it was Cherish when they were close to the shoreline. What I’m worried about, though, is the fact that now Cherish has all those other powers as well — including heaps of superstrength that all work in different ways, and regeneration. And teleportation. Think about that for a minute.

    … and a quick scan of the comments indicates I’m not the only person with that idea.🙂


  36. I think I see at least part of skitters plan. It’s scary to see someone putting their affairs in order like this. Usually means their about to cut ties.

    • Hmm. So I wasn’t the only one seeing this? It felt like the winding down, making sure everyone could take care of themselves, saying the final goodbyes when she wanted more time to be with her friends, and that’s why she hated Parian that little bit- Because she lost some of that precious time left to her before she has to leave.

      • Which makes me wonder what she is planning to do. She could turn herself in and demand a trial to fix the PRT as mentioned above, or leave the Undersiders and go try to save the world.

  37. I wonder if the fifth recruit became a Case 53. IF so I suspect they maybe dead. That seems like something that would set Accord off big time in all likelihood. If they are a 53 I want them to join the Undersiders!😀

  38. Great chapter. I only have one problem with it, namely, the chili.

    Hemorrhagia’s reaction to the food being spoiled and Skitter’s comment about it being a little thing hit a little too close to heart😦

    I know how it feels to see food you have been looking forward to being spoiled and it really is a horrible feeling. Most people like to call it “a little thing”, but they forget how many people have to hunger out there, how we are still hotwired to value food it is taken away – once upon a time, a single mouthful of food could mean the difference between life and death. and those memories still remain, both in our bodies and in our culture.

    So yeah, it’s an effective tactic and compared to the other stuff they do to the Teeth it isn’t so bad, but it is the one thing that makes me feel sympathetic for the Teeth.

    • I feel a single pang of sympathy- for the chili, not for the Teeth. After being cooked for so long, to be rendered inedible to anyone who won’t eat bugs? Such a waste of good food.😡

      • Most people don’t eat bugs in their food, at least intentionally.

        And I don’t care much for chili. Not as far as spiciness, just not one of the foods I enjoy eating. And on the spiciness issue, I don’t like it when people think pepper is the only damn seasoning around. It’s far, far too easy to find restaurants relying on that. You can have all the fettuccini alfredo you want around here, provided it’s blackened or Cajun, but not a damn one of them has the balls to make it right without the spice.

        Besides, you want to see food rendered inedible, I’ve had some meat loaf before that could have killed Crawler. I went back for seconds, but not to eat. I got it just to throw it away in the hopes that they would run out and save some other poor bastard from having to taste it.

    • Depending on the type of bugs I would probably still eat it if I was hungry enough. They have more protein and are eaten all over the world. I would just worry about how clean they are. Crunchy chili sound delicious.

      • Given how abundant mosquitoes are in Brockton Bay, I’d guess there are a lot of the bloodsuckers in there – and bloodsuckers are the most likely to have cross-species pathogens. I think it’s probably wrecked.

    • Hope so. You can typically find the schedule on the ‘donate’ page (see the button at the top of the page).

      That said, I don’t want to make any promises to my audience or to myself. I’m sort of kind of feeling a little burned out. That’s mainly due to writing as many regular chapters in the past stretch as I have been – interludes are easier to write, I find. That, and this arc’s been tough to write.

      Last chapter was pretty difficult for all those reasons and word count besides, so I don’t want to push myself too hard if doing a chapter tonight even resembles that.

      TL;DR: I’ll try, and I’ll be more disappointed than you guys if it doesn’t happen, but it’s not worth losing my sanity over.

    • Just out of curiosity, and to be sure I don’t offer unwarranted or misguided criticism: who’s the audience? I feel as if the approach changes greatly if:

      * this something you turn in to the professor or something you share with the whole class?;
      * the class is focused on popular (e.g. Dan Brown, David Weber, Jim Butcher) or literary (e.g. E. Annie Proulx, Ursula K. LeGuin, Richard Adams) works.

      • it’s called “Advanced Writing Skills” and is a rather simple seminar, but a mandatory one.

        the review is turned in to the professor, but then put online in the seminar’s webpage for all to read.

        • In terms of writing, I tend to find that -ly adjectives aren’t very strong. ‘Incredibly’ conveys remarkably little, and detracts from the flow of reading. 90% of the time, such adjectives can be scrapped entirely.

          Starting paragraphs with ‘first, second, third’ has a similar effect.

          Not to be too critical (I can be like that), I think the review maybe doesn’t convey the necessary points of information. For those who aren’t up to date with what canon is, the notion of a chapter being declared ‘non-canon’ is confusing.

          Similarly, for those not familiar with what a web serial is, you might include a definition and then work it into the actual review.
          ie. ‘Web serials haven’t really caught on with the public, despite the fact that serial writing dates back to the days of Mark Twain. As a general rule, segments of work or chapters are released on a set schedule. This allows the audience to communicate with the author while a work is still in progress, and tends to create sprawling, dynamic stories riddled with cliffhangers. Worm epitomizes many of these points…’

          • you’re right on the -ly and the first, second,… stuff.

            we have actually talked about what ‘canon’ means and ‘web serials’ have been explained as well.

            but you’re right, it still needs some reworking. I’ll get to it tomorrow (or rather, later this day. thursday already here on my side).

            lastly, it’s hard to be too critical if someone ASKS you to be^^

            thanks for the input

          • Seconding the point about elaborating on web serials. I’ve actually started using TV serials as a metaphor when introducing it to people: rather than a single storyline which builds to a climax and then resolves, Worm is a succession of linked stories tied together by common characters and what X-Files fans refer to as a myth arc — a story bigger than any of the individual challenges the characters have to deal with, hints of which come out and suggest links between the events of the entire series.

            This kind of thing is common in webcomics as well, if you think a significant fraction of your audience will be familiar with that medium.

        • Okay, gotcha. So you’re writing this primarily for those classmates who are interested enough to go online and read the reviews other people posted. I’ll look at it with that in mind.

          Unrelated, but an idea I had (and I understand if you don’t have time to hunt for one): is there a good passage you could quote as a sample? Opening with a section of wildbow’s gripping prose might be a way to draw readers in.

          • It HAS to have Regent in it. Obviously. From Interlude 18:

            “Hey,” Regent said. “Monster girl.”

            Noelle snarled as she glanced down at the boy who was stuck inside one of her legs. Only his face was left to be consumed. Her voice was hoarse with emotion as she asked, “What?”

            “When you make my clone, do you think you could give him a goatee?”

            Noelle didn’t dignify the question with a response. She flexed and drew Regent completely within her body. She’d hurt him later. For now, she needed him to help her escape so she could hunt down his friends.

          • It’s cool, SO MUCH REGENTIAL AWESOMENESS; Insinuation 2:9:

            With Brian gone and Lisa absorbed in trying to patch up Bitch’s ear, I was left with Alec. To make conversation, I said, “Alec. You were going to tell me what you do. You go by Regent, right?”

            “The name is a long story, but what I do is this.” He looked over his shoulder at Brian, who was returning from the washroom with a damp washcloth in hand. Brian, mid-stride, stumbled and fell onto the floor.

            “Way to look good in front of the new girl, gimpy!” Alec mocked his teammate, laughing. Grateful for the break in the tension, I couldn’t help but laugh too. While Alec continued laughing, Brian got to his feet and ran up to the smaller boy, at which point he got Alec in a headlock and began punching him in the shoulder repeatedly. This abuse only made Alec laugh harder in between his cries of pain.

  39. I’m finally reading through this, at the urging of some friends of mine. Love everything I’ve read so far. That said, I’m mildly confused.

    There’s a line that says, “The dogs stumbled or slipped as the Jacklights tugged at one or two of their legs, then proceeded to tear their way through the crowd.” I was under the impression that there was only one Jacklight, and that he was nowhere near the dogs.

    Can anyone clear this up?

  40. Butcher fires only one arrow?
    Chases Skitter and Bitch rather than take out a few of the others?
    Bit of author intervention showing there.

  41. So uh, won’t Cherish kill herself using the teleport now? Also I was under the impression while she could sense people’s emotions from across a city she couldn’t affect them across that distance

    • I’m starting to get the distinct feeling that you are fishing for issues to gripe about instead of reading carefully. On the way out of Brockton Bay, Bonesaw trapped Cherish in a Mannequin-created self sustaining system/sphere after tinkering with her abilities so that they were turned up to eleven as well as being uncontrollable. This being said, there is a distinct area allotted to where her power reaches, even with that boost. I’m gonna start replying to you exclusively in quotes from the story ffs.

      • If Cherish can’t control her power then Regent couldn’t control her power by taking it over, and if she was randomly twisting emotions why has there been no news of people suddenly being incredibly angry and murdering, etc. If Regent took over someone who was paralyzed he wouldn’t be able to walk.

        “trapped” was before she gained teleportation powers, she can teleport outside of her cage now, unless you’re implying that Bonesaw knew that Regent would take over Cherish (how did he get close enough to take her over if she’s at the bottom of the ocean) and then make her kill Butcher and get all the previous powers.

            • Well, in this story right here, Cherish basically went into a deeper depression than Avatar fans did the day M. Night Shyamalan’s movie premiered. Since her powers are rendered uncontrollable and broadcast her emotions as hard as they can as far as they can, which is pretty dagnabbed far, everybody that gets within her range feels a crushing sadness the likes of which give Joss Whedon boners of biblical proportion.

              Butcher committed suicide because she was made really, really, REALLY sad. Like wow, so sad. And oh yeah, so were all those voices in her head, that were driving her crazy before she even met the Undersiders.

              That’s how else.

              • I could potentially accept that of all the people in the entire city all of whom are facing crushing depression constantly the only person even out of civilians who lost their family, or people during their trigger event, or all the possible times people would be made to kill themselves that only Butcher was made sad enough to commit suicide.

                Except that she committed suicide in the middle of the battle, not before it, not after it, in the middle of a battle at a time just where it was good for the Undersiders.

              • Why would you be willing to accept a premise that’s built entirely on your own presumption? It would be asinine at the kindest to believe that of all the people that walked into Cherish’s range, ONLY the Butcher was driven to suicide (since it’s not true).

                Also, there’s one hell of a difference between being generally low-morale and unhappy, which most of Brockton Bay is right now, and being so depressed you want to kill yourself right then and there just to make the NOISES stop. It’s the difference between being sad that your bike got stolen and being so miserable with the way your life is that you can’t motivate yourself to leave your bed for three straight days.

                Of goddamned course the timing is convenient; that’s what happens when a plan works properly. The planner screws the planee at the exact moment the planner planned to.

              • I honestly cannot believe that you’re defending that she just happened to kill herself 10 minutes into the battle even though she’s dealt with the voices constantly, the idea that if they had delayed the battle by 10 minutes Butcher would have suddenly shot herself is stupid. Not to mention of all places a battle is where people are not going to kill themselves, people don’t kill themselves when they’re flooded with adrenaline and their attention is focused on something. People kill themselves when they have no distractions bar their cause of suicide.

                Not only that there’s NOTHING which suggests she’s suicidal, people wouldn’t fucking kill the Butcher by choice if they didn’t want to be the Butcher, they’re all fucking insane.

                We would have heard if everyone in Brockton Bay was suffering from constant horrible sadness, Taylor would have said “wow this sucks” or SOMETHING, people would be acting differently, there is absolutely no evidence to suggest any character other than Butcher was affected.

              • No… no.

                Look, Cherish can manipulate people’s emotions, right? Someone doesn’t have to be suicidal for her to make them kill themselves. In her interlude, we saw her do this several times.

                Cherish has a limited range in which she can manipulate emotions and a larger range in which she can sense them. Again, laid out in her interlude. She can sense pretty much the whole city, but she can only control people in an area of a few blocks or something.

                Bonesaw uses Mannequin tech to imprison her in torment and life-support at the bottom of the bay, near the Ship Graveyard.

                The mayor mentions that everyone who goes near the area is gripped with sudden suicidal depression. This has nothing to do with the state of the city or the tragedies that have happened. It’s because Cherish is sitting at the bottom of the bay and lashing out at anyone who comes within her range, making them as depressed as her. She probably gets a little vicarious catharsis every time they kill themselves, since she so desperately wishes she could do so herself.

                Off-screen, the citizens or officials of the city do some testing to figure out where the edge of this range is. They mark a line. They put up signs. This is the only reasonable course of action for them to take, as they have no way of dealing with Cherish or even knowing she’s down there. All they can do is say “Stay away.”

                Taylor knows about this zone. She knows Cherish is down there. She’s seen the signs going up. She may have been partially or wholly responsible for putting them up. She doesn’t want any of her people to kill Butcher, as they’ll get the powers and voices and go crazy. So what’s her plan? Have Butcher kill Butcher. How does she do it? Takes advantage of her aggressive tendencies and unfamiliarity with the city to trick her into going into Cherish’s range. At this point, we see the line and the signs. Wildbow is perhaps a little too subtle, because he doesn’t tell us what the sign says, even afterward. Butcher is out past the line, and Cherish whammies her just the same as she does to anyone that comes in range. She’s not in on the plan or anything. She’s probably not even rational any more. She just slaps Butcher with suicidal depression, and Butcher depressively commits suicide accordingly. Later, Regent makes a snarky comment about it.

                Ta da. Perfectly well thought-out and laid out, with the possible exception of not being clearer about the city establishing a no man’s land around Cherish’s prison. None of this is based on any mysterious internal struggle on Butcher’s part or narrative convenience on Wildbow’s part. Taylor took a resource, a stationary, insane parahuman who causes people to kill themselves, and used it as a weapon in her plan. The end. Now please gripe about something else.

              • “Taylor knows about this zone. She knows Cherish is down there. She’s seen the signs going up. She may have been partially or wholly responsible for putting them up. She doesn’t want any of her people to kill Butcher, as they’ll get the powers and voices and go crazy. So what’s her plan? Have Butcher kill Butcher. How does she do it? Takes advantage of her aggressive tendencies and unfamiliarity with the city to trick her into going into Cherish’s range. At this point, we see the line and the signs. Wildbow is perhaps a little too subtle, because he doesn’t tell us what the sign says, even afterward. Butcher is out past the line, and Cherish whammies her just the same as she does to anyone that comes in range. She’s not in on the plan or anything. She’s probably not even rational any more. She just slaps Butcher with suicidal depression, and Butcher depressively commits suicide accordingly. Later, Regent makes a snarky comment about it.”

                Nonsense, I still don’t understand how you can go to this stretching. There’s a 1.5 mile radius where anyone is subject to Cherish’s power, the idea that during the battle they lured Butcher (who unless she’s fucking retarded would KNOW ABOUT THIS BECAUSE IT WAS IN THE DAMN’S MAYOR SPEECH WHICH WAS ON NATIONAL NEWS BECAUSE OF COIL), and ONLY Butcher so she stood 5ft to the right instead of the left is fucking stupid. Butcher was chasing them, the idea that this plan would have completely failed if she teleported 3 inches to the right is absurd. To make this make sense you have to have such an incredible bunch of coincidences including big scary bad guys being fucking retarded to an unbelievable degree, setting up with a block of Cherish’s power and THEN NOT BEING AWARE OF IT.


                Not to mention that a 1.5 mile radius around the docks is very large, for a city with 50,000 citizens (in the mayor election) and called a medium sized city (somewhere else) for Butcher to not be aware of this.

                “or narrative convenience on Wildbow’s part”

                I just don’t even see how you can write this stuff with a straight face.

                “None of this is based on any mysterious internal struggle on Butcher’s part”

                “subjected to uncontrollable, suicidal despair. I visited. I know.”

                Alright buddy, the mayor gets to visit and survive (and presumably numerous dock workers who went there first) but Butcher’s off’s herself within a minute even though she knew it was there and she has fucking teleportation powers to immediatedly retreat out of the radius.

              • Does Butcher look to you like someone who watches the news? Who pays attention to signs? I don’t think it’s a stretch for her to be unaware of this, especially given the state of technology and media in post-Leviathan, post-S9 Brockton Bay.

                I’m not sure where’s you’re getting the figure of a mile and a half. That doesn’t sound like the range I remember being described in Cherish’s interlude, and I don’t give nearly enough shits to go dig up a figure. Even with a mile and half, she’s in the middle of the bay, apparently only reaching to the beach. It’s not covering a whole lot of inhabited space or anywhere Butcher would’ve had a need to go before.

                The Mayor’s survival: From what he said, it sounded like dock workers HAD died to the effect, so he went in forewarned, with people to pull him out.

                As for Butcher not teleporting out, let’s just say that you clearly don’t have the same understanding of suicidal despair than some people do and leave it at that.

                The larger issue here is that Wildbow’s entire writing style hinges on implication, reader inference, reader speculation, and playing with expectation. If you don’t enjoy that sort of mental gymnastics, you’re likely not going to enjoy Wildbow’s work.

                Moreover, this is a serial work, which means that interplay between the author and audience, especially a vocal audience like us, is as important as the story itself. For those of us that were following along, the sudden callback to Cherish, who was last talked about months ago, has a very different impact than it does for someone who’s reading the whole thing back-to-back. Accommodating for people like you is one of the big challenges to publishing the completed story once it’s done.

              • “Does Butcher look to you like someone who watches the news? Who pays attention to signs? I don’t think it’s a stretch for her to be unaware of this, especially given the state of technology and media in post-Leviathan, post-S9 Brockton Bay.”

                No, no, no. This is just absurd. She lives within a fucking block of the area, it’s fucking impossible for her not to know. They ambushed Teeth and ran down the street with Bentley and she killed herself, the distance covered was tiny, and to suggest that Butcher and Teeth are all a bunch of idiots even though they are in a strong position (with powered individuals anyway) and clearly came to Brockton Bay to take advantage, not to mention each Butcher has to be smarter than the last or stronger.

                “Even with a mile and half, she’s in the middle of the bay, apparently only reaching to the beach. It’s not covering a whole lot of inhabited space or anywhere Butcher would’ve had a need to go before”

                “The Lord’s Port, known to many as the ship graveyard, would cost the city twenty-three million dollars just to clear away the damaged ships and dispose of them. That’s not getting into the cost of actually refurbishing the area and updating it to modern standards. Or the fact that anyone approaching within a mile and a half of the area is subjected to uncontrollable, suicidal despair. I visited. I know.”

                Visiting a mile and a half of the area, very likely that that’s not going off where Cherish is (since who cares if it’s in the middle of the water), so her radius is actually bigger than a mile and a half, but a mile and a half is covering the actual docks and buildings.

                “The Mayor’s survival: From what he said, it sounded like dock workers HAD died to the effect, so he went in forewarned, with people to pull him out.”

                Doesn’t read like that to me, but whatever, unimportant.

                “As for Butcher not teleporting out, let’s just say that you clearly don’t have the same understanding of suicidal despair than some people do and leave it at that.”

                Again, I might be willing to accept this premise if we weren’t talking about a world where capes twist peoples thoughts all the time. I don’t care how hard Cherish hits, you’ll go from feeling like you want to kill someone to feeling like you want to kill yourself and you’ll realise something is up. Butcher didn’t instantly kill herself, so it took TIME, time that she could have used to fled. She had enough time to teleport in HAVE A LONG CONVERSATION WITH THEM, ask them to stop and then kill herself.

                “Butcher roused, and it wasn’t a slow affair. One instant she was lying prone, the next she’d teleported, appeared next to the narrow, light-bodied dog and bludgeoned it, sending it flying.” That’s when she teleports into range, and it takes her FUCKING AGES, to kill herself. If she could have asked them to stop she could have asked them to move.

                And I still refuse to believe that she never saw the Mayor and Coil’s TV thing that none of her underlings saw it, that none of them did any sort of basic research before randomly heading towards Brockton Bay.

                “The larger issue here is that Wildbow’s entire writing style hinges on implication, reader inference, reader speculation, and playing with expectation. If you don’t enjoy that sort of mental gymnastics, you’re likely not going to enjoy Wildbow’s work.”

                I happen to enjoy Wildbow’s work I wouldn’t have started reading on the 16th and still be here if I hadn’t, but I’m pretty sure you’re the kind of person who has read this entire story and not noticed a single flaw with it. Shit doesn’t make sense, if someone can fight off dogs that are trying to kill her, and ask someone to stop mucking with emotions then they can teleport

                ” For those of us that were following along, the sudden callback to Cherish, who was last talked about months ago, has a very different impact than it does for someone who’s reading the whole thing back-to-back. ”

                This is not relevant to the point at hand in anyway, Regent taking control of Cherish makes way more fucking sense than what happened, but obviously I made my original points thinking that was the case so it’s not perfect.

                What you’re telling me is written? Nonsense. Unacceptable in a piece of work of this quality. The loops you have to jump through to get Butcher to be so fucking stupid are monumental.


                “The suicide aura was mentioned at the mayoral debate. To quote Mr. Grove:

                The Lord’s Port, known to many as the ship graveyard, would cost the city twenty-three million dollars just to clear away the damaged ships and dispose of them. That’s not getting into the cost of actually refurbishing the area and updating it to modern standards. Or the fact that anyone approaching within a mile and a half of the area is subjected to uncontrollable, suicidal despair. I visited. I know.

                As for “how”: I’ve been assuming Bonesaw left Cherish’s emotion-control untouched, and Cherish is reacting to the horribleness she’s experiencing by emotion-jamming everyone in reach.”

                Just because you didn’t notice it, doesn’t mean it wasn’t there before. Again, quote your sources so you don’t seem like a dunce.

              • Rmcd94, your entire argument hinges solely on the fact that you’re trying to apply some remote amount of logic and rational thought to suicide, so sit down and shut up before you embarrass yourself further🙂 I wouldn’t understand someone who uses the R slur with such regularity to have any understanding of mental illness, but when you want to kill yourself really badly you don’t generally stop and think about the rational implications of what you’re doing and when it’s motherfucking Cherish flipping a switch in your brain that turns off all happy emotions and ramps your despair up to 11, suffice it to say you don’t fucking give a shit about the battle you’re in anymore. She just wanted it over with because all of a fucking sudden she had to deal with the full brunt of what depressed people put up with over the course of years. It’s not. Fucking. Sadness.

                As for her being stupid enough to teleport into her range, it was a split second decision and she wasn’t even thinking about the fact that it’s there, but her opponents had carefully planned this out so that they would lead her into Cherish’s range while she was distracted. I mean, this whole battle took place in the span of what? 10 minutes, tops? And it was a surprise attack. She never thought hard about the terrain they were fighting on.

                Presumably the only reason the mayor survived was because he had people to pull him out. I doubt he goes anywhere in war-torn supervillain-ruled Brockton Bay without an escort, and he knew what to expect when he visited the location.

              • Wow, in the same chapter’s comments where Tieshaunn links his review saying that the readers have no flame wars…

  42. Add “a little worse for wear” to the list of annoyingly overused phrases to be replaced in the course of editing, should it ever take place.

  43. I’m so glad something is happening with Cherish. I was very upset when the heroes and the Undersiders decided to just leave her in misery for hundreds of years. It didn’t fit in with the concept of morality that Skitter and some of the truly heroic good guys seemed to profess. I wish it had been addressed more in the narrative — maybe Skitter rationalizing why she wasn’t going to do anything, or perhaps even reporting it to the heroes only to have the Protectorate ignore it. Ultimately, I’m glad that you’re revisiting Cherish in the narrative, and I thought the subtlety of this chapter was very well done.

  44. I really liked this chapter, using cherish was amazing🙂 If you feel like editing anything though, the misuse of I and me has been bothering me for a while. In sentences like “She teleported out of Bentley’s way before he could follow through with the attack, appeared in between Regent and I, surrounded by our capes.” It should be “in between Regent and me.” I is a subjective pronoun, and me is objective, but you often use I for objective cases. You probably know that already, but there are a lot of those errors in this and earlier chapters for when/if you do a full scale editing of it. I can’t wait to get to the end, this is one of the most compelling stories I’ve ever read, great work so far🙂

    • Yes, I’ve been editing that in my own head all too frequently.

      In fact, there are a surprising number of errors considering all the typo comments: I haven’t been bothering to list them since Wildbow doesn’t seem to still be monitoring these old chapters.

  45. Two thoughts that I don’t think anyone’s hit yet:

    It seems like a big risk sending Bitch away. She’s the team muscle – what happens when the Ambassadors or someone else attacks and Rachel’s literally a world away?

    Am I the only one who thinks the handle “Wag the Dog” sounds a little insidious? “The tail wagging the dog” sounds a lot like having Rachel wrapped around your little finger, doesn’t it?

    • Maybe Parian is becoming a main source of muscle for the team in that regard? That’s a good point though. I would think that they’re thinking far enough ahead that they figure they can find a suitable replacement for her role on the team, when they’re more well-established and powerful than they are?

  46. Poor Cherish, I am torn between wanting that kill to count for her just so she can teleport out of the prison and die in the surrounding ocean and not wanting it to count in case she can’t escape and is then trapped for several hundred/thousand years with fourteen voices. She really really doesn’t deserve the crap that has happened to her from what we were shown…

    Got to say though that was not at all how I expected them to win against the Teeth but dear lord was that a smart move! And wow did that battle ever read like a curb stomp for our side! Sure the Teeth were annoying and put up a bit of a scare with the arrows but they really barely stood a ghost of a chance here. I’m glad Codex bit it, while it sucks for her her power was too dangerous to be left alive. Brain drain on remote targets is…not cool.

    Yay! WagTheDog has a pack thing with Rachel! Hell Rachel has gotten a rather sizable pack of people who all need it. That is really sweet. And I love how she thanked Taylor.

    This whole arc is starting to read as a goodbye to each individual team member though which really does leave me worrying about where Skitter is heading in the last chapter.

      • I honestly felt really bad for Cherish pretty much from the beginning. I always had the sympathy vibe for her. Unlike Bonesaw, Cherish was sane enough to realize just how utterly screwed she was at each and every turn no matter what she did or who she turned to. They both were pretty much forced into the life of MUWAHAHA EVIL!!! but Bonesaw cracked and went full on mustache-twirling crazy. Cherish went the Tragic Monster route and I felt horrible for her. To me she is pretty much Frankenstein’s Monster, the killer that her upbringing turned her into rather than a monster for the sake of being a monster (like Jack) or an insane monster (like Bonesaw).

  47. On first blush, you’d think that having Butcher’s power is a negative, since it paints a target on your back. On closer inspection, a good-aligned munchkin with Butcher’s power is the most OP thing in this story. Why? Because Good’s solved coordination problems.

    The second you realize that you have the property “upon dying, every consciousness in your head transfers to your killer who gains this property,” you fly out to LA and have Terence Tao kill you. He flies out to Russia and gets killed by Grigori Perelman, who flies to… well, Wikipedia contains lists of recipients of Fields Medals, Turing Awards, and Nobel Prizes. So now, every (or, at least, most) of the greatest minds in the world now can communicate without barriers, they’re never held back by “I don’t know about this branch of knowledge,” and will never die. (Great minds who are reaching the end of their lives kill Butcher n, with Butcher n+2 already in place to promptly kill them; any iteration of Butcher nearing the end of their life only need be killed by someone younger.) We take a quick jaunt over to Miss Militia, and we get a +50% productivity multiplier because we don’t need to sleep anymore. Lastly, we get killed by, say, Chris Hemsworth, putting us in a physically able body that comes with the benefit that people will listen to what he says because of the Halo effect. The state of human knowledge advances so quickly that tinkers become obsolete.

    This is, of course, the risk-averse way of doing it.

    If you wanted to take some risks, you could put a bunch of the world’s best therapists in the chain somewhere. Go fight Mannequin, lose narrowly, and have, I don’t know, Miss Militia set up to kill him (before heading off to be killed by Chris Hemsworth, whose body’ll last precisely as long as it takes for us to locate another mind we want to add, which is probably not very long), so, assuming our therapists can sanify him, we get some awesome tinker powers. Rinse, repeat for Bonesaw/Kid Win, Bakuda/Vista (every second of Butcher’s time is valuable, why not grab a power that could drastically cut down on travel time), Uber/Prism, Leet/Triumph… (tinkers who primarily make weapons for themselves are kinda worthless here; it’d be aggressively insane to take the greatest minds the world has produced and put them into a combat situation. Speaking of, we’d probably also want to include Glory Girl in the chain somewhere for some extra protection while we’re at it. If this happens after the incident with Amy, we get her a functioning body as a bonus.).

    The largest problem we run into is that, while we have this one supertinker, they can only work on one thing at a time (i.e. they have unprecedented single-threaded performance, but at the cost of multithreaded performance). So, we include Sean Wrona (world’s fastest typist) and any duplicators we can get our hands on.

    (Actually, the largest problem is probably either ethical issues or the fact that maybe normal people are incredibly eager to kill someone just to get promptly offed themselves (even if it gets them immortality), which is fine, since I can still chain a bunch of great minds who are reaching the end of their life, ending the chain with, say, Prism, because being able to multiply productivity is important.)

  48. “Where one of his lights was set next to a wall, it redirected one running duplicate into a wall.”

    “Certain dogs were due pills, and Rachel saw to it that they got the pills.”

    Just a couple spots of redundancy that bothered me.

  49. Less useful bugs plunged themselves into the food. They scattered money, where money was left out in the open, caught unattended weapons and pieces of armor and either buried them or started to drag them from sight.

    “No!” Hemorrhagia shouted, trying to cover her chili with a lid, “No, no, fuck you, no!”

    This was hilarious the first time I read it, and it’s just as funny now. I’m honestly surprised to see I never commented on it before.

  50. The first person out the door was caught by a tripline of spider silk. Others trampled over him. One fired a gun into the darkness beyond.

    Wrong door, wrong end of the building. And the door had somehow closed and locked behind them.

    And this is when I realized where the handcuff came from.😀 She’s a menace.

    • Yeah agreed. That’s why she had to die. A lot of people have gamebreaker powers in this setting but even they aren’t quite as broken as Codex had the potential to be.

      • Her problem was that she’d be breaking the rules with every attack on a non-expendable target by doing permanent damage.

  51. Maybe that was the role that Rachel filled, here. Forming a screwed up, antisocial family with those who had nobody else. Damaged people.

    I was okay with that. I could believe that, even if she didn’t heal them or help them get better in any explicit way, she wouldn’t make them worse.

    I revised my opinion. Maybe they could heal each other, in their own ways.

    This is some pretty judgmental language to use in a sentiment of approval. There are other ways of describing traumatized, antisocial or “mentally ill”/neurodivergent people than thinking of their differences as damage. They’re poorly suited to normal society, sure, but that doesn’t make them worse than people who handle it more easily- just less compatible with the same environment.
    I think of what Bitch is doing here as creating a different environment, a society started from scratch with rules made and adjusted to suit the needs of its citizens. These people might not be trying to “fix” themselves, but while they’re here, they don’t need to- the things they have trouble doing are made simpler for them, or not necessary in the first place.
    To go back to medical terms, it’s not a treatment, it’s adaptation. If you can’t put weight on your leg but you need to move, doctors provide a crutch or a wheelchair, and you don’t have to walk on your own. If you can’t hear but you want to understand a movie or TV show, studios provide subtitles, and you don’t have to try to read everyone’s lips. If you can’t see but you want to get information from a book, publishers provide Braille, and you don’t have to ask someone to read to you. If you can’t quite read the chalkboard from across the room, optometrists provide glasses or contact lenses, and you don’t have to squint at everything.
    If you can’t figure out the meaning behind people’s facial expressions, or you can’t recover from someone deflecting the conversation away from the issue you need help with, or you can’t tell when someone agrees with you and when they just want you to stop questioning them… it sounds like Bitch is providing a place where people are gentler or more overt about those things, where you don’t have to deal with the behaviors that make you feel helpless and confused.
    It’s something a lot of neurodivergent people in the real world could use more of, especially from the neurotypical people that they deal with every day.

  52. Question I’ve been meaning to ask: The PRT doesn’t seem to have a classification for purely sensory powers. I can see someone like (pre-Butcher) Butcher Three, with the danger sense, being labeled a Thinker- but what classification would apply to someone like (again, pre-Butcher) Butcher Two, with the power to see veins and arteries through walls?

  53. Minor detail, and I didn’t read through all the comments to see if anyone noticed it, but you contradict yourself when talking about the Ambassadors. When they are first being introduced, you mention “Water wicked off of them as though they were waterproof, leaving them utterly dry even in the wind and rain.”

    Then later, ” I got the sense that they could have waited for two hours in this wind and rain, and their only concern would be that their clothes and hair were a little worse for wear.” which seems to imply they are getting wet. If it was just standing in the wind, I doubt it would impact their clothes much.

    • I’ve just finished all the comments and no, no-one noticed it.

      My best guess is that maybe the effect was only partially effective, or something?

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