Cell 22.3

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The door slammed shut as the last of the heroes departed.  They joined the PRT uniforms and Wards who had gathered just in front of the elevator, leaving me and my lawyer to talk in private.

It should have been quieter, but things got more disruptive.  The moment the door was shut, a handful of seconds passed, and then everyone started talking.  Mr. Calle saying something to me, Director Tagg talking to his deputy and Miss Militia, Clockblocker talking with his teammates.

“This is more or less what we expected…” Mr. Calle was saying.

“Call him.  And let me know when he arrives.” Director Tagg, talking about my dad.

“She wanted to defect,” Clockblocker told the waiting Wards.  “Join Defiant and Dragon, go hunt the Slaughterhouse Nine…”

“You created pressure with the deadline, he’s trying to turn it around on you…” Mr. Calle said.

“I know he’s trying to turn it around on me,” I said.  I slid forward until I was sitting on the very edge of the chair, my elbows on the table, forehead resting against my hands.  “I didn’t think he’d be this stupid, and I kind of hoped someone would speak up, give a little momentum to what I was proposing.”

“People are stupid,” Mr. Calle said.  “The question is how we can use that.  If we-”

Some heroes simultaneously began to voice their thoughts, to the point that I failed to take any of it in.  It was too much.  Too much input, all together.  I couldn’t track it all.  I shut my eyes.  “Do me a favor?”

“You’re the client.”

“Five minutes,” I said.  “Five minutes to think, with some quiet.”

“Would pen scratches bother you?”

I shook my head.

Mr. Calle didn’t reply to that.  Instead, he started writing on a pad of yellow, lined paper, apparently unconcerned that I’d just brushed him off.

“…a hot button for her,” Mrs. Yamada was telling the Director.  “It’s a pattern, with the timeline we established.  Something happens to her father, and she escalates.”

“Yes,” the Director replied.  “But let’s not talk about that here.  Not while she could be listening.  We give Kid Win’s drones a chance to check us over before talking about any of that…”

“Hunting the Slaughterhouse Nine?” Vista was asking.  The Wards were lagging a short distance behind the adult members of the PRT and Protectorate.

“Yeah.  As in, step down from her position here, stop the guys who are supposed to end the world,” Clockblocker said.

“She didn’t kill any, did she?” Kid Win asked.

“Grue supposedly killed Burnscar, Piggot killed Crawler and Mannequin, they killed Cherish themselves, basically, Vista finished off Shatterbird after things caved in on them at the Echidna fight… no, Skitter didn’t kill any, I don’t think.  She was there, though.  Have to give her credit, she made a difference in that last fight with Mannequin and Crawler.”

“Which doesn’t matter,” Tagg said.  He’d overheard, it seemed, and stopped at the open elevator door.  “Because she also wanted us to condone criminal activity in this city.  Think about what that really means.  Your careers would be dead in the water once people caught on to the fact that you weren’t going after the real threats.  You’d be known for being corrupt.  Flechette’s actions threaten to taint this organization for some time to come..”

“Wait, wait,” Kid Win said, “Flechette?”

“We’re telling them?” Clockblocker asked.  “It’s confirmed?  It’s not a trick?”

“It’s not Regent,” Miss Militia said.  “The timing doesn’t fit.  No, it doesn’t look like it’s a trick.  She sent us an email and the details include only things she knows.  It feels right.”

There was a pause.

“What happened?” Crucible asked.

“Flechette is stepping down from the Wards program.  She is going to be assisting the Undersiders in the future, helping Parian,” Miss Militia said.

“No!”  Vista said, raising her voice.  “No!  She became a villain?  What… what the hell!?

“Vista,” Clockblocker said.  “She was in love.”

“She was still one of us.  Did you do something?”

I wasn’t sure who she was talking to, until Tagg responded, “No.  We didn’t do a thing to her.  Everyone that’s been in Brockton Bay over the past weeks and months has dealt with a lot, and I think this is her wrestling with something on her own.  I have immense respect for Flechette, and all I can do, all we can do, is hope she comes to her senses.”

“What about her parents?  Her family?”  Vista asked.

“I can’t talk about anything my patients discuss with me in my office,” Mrs. Yamada replied.  “I’m sorry.”

“She came from a broken home,” Miss Militia supplied the information instead.  “She bounced between her mother, her father and the surrogate mother who had attempted to renege on the deal they’d made and keep her.  With the number of times she changed between them and moved, I can’t imagine she has strong ties to the idea of ‘home’.  Even within the Wards… New York has five small teams, and she moved between them as she changed residences.”

“She didn’t say anything about that.”

“It didn’t matter in the here and now.  Her focus, her path, was school, her career with the Wards.  She didn’t have much in the way of roots, but she had direction.  I think that the events following the Echidna crisis left her more devastated than she let on.”

“Can I call her?” Vista asked.

“I don’t know if that would be wise,” Miss Militia said.

“Do,” Tagg said.  “Remind her what she’s leaving behind, tell her how you feel, then let her be.  Too much pressure and she’s liable to be stubborn.  Give her time to think, and you may sway her.”

“Okay,” Vista said.

“When you’re done, join the others in discussing battle plans.  I’d rather not wait for Skitter’s forces to strike.  If it comes down to it, we mobilize first.”

“We’ll be fighting Flechette,” Vista said.

Tagg nodded.  “Very possible.  If you don’t feel confident you can do it in good conscience, then I won’t make you.  In the meantime, I’m requisitioning capes from nearby areas.  If it comes down to it, I want to be ready for a fight.”

“And if they don’t give us the chance?” Miss Militia asked.

I missed Tagg’s response.  It was monosyllabic.

“If the Undersiders try to avoid direct engagement and attempt to come at us from another angle?  Media?  Revealing telling details?  Financially?  Through our families?”

“Oh shit,” Clockblocker said.

“They wouldn’t, would they?” Crucible asked.

“They would,” Kid Win said.  “Probably.”

“They would,” Director Tagg agreed.  “And I already have ideas in mind.  This situation is far from unmanageable.  Rest assured.  I’ll need to make some calls.  Miss Militia, are you up for another walk?”


Tagg stepped into the elevator, holding the door open.  It was too small for everyone to fit inside, but Miss Militia, the deputy and Clockblocker joined him.

Mrs. Yamada started to step inside, then paused while standing in the doorway.  “I’ll be in my office all day.  If any of you need to talk about Flechette, or anything else that’s going on, come see me.”

There was no reply.  There might have been nods, but I didn’t have bugs on top of any of the Ward’s heads.

The doors shut, and a few seconds passed, Kid Win, Crucible and Vista standing in the hallway with a handful of PRT officers.

“Fuck,” Vista said.  “Fuck this.  Fuck you, Skitter, if you can hear me.”

I waited to see if there was more, but neither she nor her teammates said anything.  The drones Kid Win had made were doing a number on my bugs, catching me by surprise when they opened fire with lasers, striking from the other side of the room.  It wasn’t easy to avoid them completely, when an exposed bug could get zapped, but keeping my bugs in hiding prevented me from seeing the drones themselves.

Miss Militia left the building, walking.  She wasn’t quite out of my range when she made her first call.

“Mr. Hebert?”

I sighed, then shifted position.

“Everything alright?” Mr. Calle asked me.  “Needed to get centered?”

“Was listening in,” I said.

“Listening in?”

“I can hear what my insects hear.  Tagg is confident.  He’s calling in more capes, and preparing for a fight.  He’s apparently not too worried about the Undersiders pulling something that isn’t a direct attack, but I don’t know what he’s got in mind, as far as trump cards go.  Miss Militia is apparently calling my dad, so Tagg can talk with him.”

“Wonderful,” Mr. Calle said.  “Anything else?”

“The Wards are upset over Flechette defecting.”

“Okay.  Something to keep in mind.  Now, this is difficult to say, but-”

Mr. Calle paused very deliberately.


“I would never recommend my clients do anything illegal,” he said.

“But you maybe suspect that if I had any leverage, I should exercise it?”

“I would never say any such thing,” Mr. Calle said.  He smiled.  “But now that you mention it…”

“There are options,” I said.  I thought about the areas of attack that Miss Militia had outlined.  Family would cross a line.  Something to shake their confidence in the coming conflict.  “Can you pass on a message?”

“That would be a mistake, I think.  I walk a fine line as it is, and I won’t have a hand in anything direct.”

I frowned.

“Let’s talk about what I can do.  First off, I think we should change things up.  As it stands, the Protectorate East-North-East holds Brockton Bay in a specialized state of emergency.  It’s a legal wild west, with very little precedent holding things together.  Director Tagg reports to his superiors, who report to the United States government.  This circumvents a great many of the usual checks and balances.  Checks and balances I think we should put back into play.”


“Contacting the District Attorney and bringing her to the discussion would tie Tagg’s hands, but it would also tie yours.  We’d be working entirely within the law, certain items would be taken off the table.  You couldn’t ask for condoned villainy, for example.  Charges would inevitably move forward against you, but these same things would tie him up in managing things.”

“Doesn’t seem worth it.”

“It depends.  It’s… pressure.  The Director is focused on a half-dozen things at once.  There’s a lot to be said for putting one more thing on his plate.  I know he’s not trained in the particulars of law.  He’d be forced out of his depth, made to consult others, made to wrap his head around terms he’s not familiar with.  It would mandate that you, as a minor, would need a guardian present.  Failing that, there’s a great many hoops they’d have to jump through.  He’s a soldier.  So long as this is a battlefield of some sort, he has a leg up.  We can make it something else.”

“Okay,” I said.  “We’d be adding pressure, turning things around so he’s the one on his heels, but I’m still not convinced it’s worth the price of admission.  Other options?”


“He doesn’t care about image,” I said.  “He said he figures it’ll get patched up with good PR in a matter of time, a few days back.”

“It won’t hurt him as badly, then, but he’s more likely to make a mistake if it’s not something he pays attention to.”

“An option,” I said.  “It sets a bad tone, though.  I’m really looking for cooperation.  I’m putting everything on the line in the hopes of getting it.  I don’t want them to be enemies, not any more than they are.  And I don’t know that just talking to the media is going to be enough to get the results I want.”

“It isn’t, frankly.  Are there points you’re willing to compromise on?”

“It doesn’t matter,” I said.  “Because he’s not willing to meet me halfway.”

Mr. Calle rubbed his chin.  “Okay.”

“So we need leverage, and it can’t be legal.  Going to the District Attorney or the media has drawbacks.”


“Then I need you to get in contact with Tattletale.  Only we’ll be above-board, mostly, about how we handle it.  She’s been arranging things for a while.  Now it’s time to figure out just how much clout she has.  We’ll hit them with the biggest card we have.  We’ll make a play for ownership of the portal.  Successful or not, it’ll distract them.”

“I’ll do what I can to get in touch with her, then.  My firm’s assets will be at your disposal, of course.”

I nodded.

He stood from his seat to make the call.  Apparently he didn’t find them much more comfortable than I did.  He paced as he waited for the phone to ring.  “Cecily?  Need you to pull some strings.  And route me to someone, best if it’s untraceable.”

It wouldn’t be a direct call.  That didn’t make sense.  I focused my attention elsewhere in the building.  The outlet that fed Kid Win’s anti-bug drones… I found the wiring in the walls and ordered cockroaches to start chewing through it.

Petty, maybe, but I didn’t want to be disarmed, not with the way things were going.

The heroes were returning, Sere and Dovetail entering the lobby.  I planted bugs on Dovetail as she made her way indoors, and as discreetly as I was able, I transferred the bugs to Tagg and Miss Militia, who were waiting.

“They’re moving,” Dovetail said, “… soldiers.  Arming civilians.  Squads no larger than five people, across the city.”

“Good,” Tagg said.

“That’s all.”

“Tell the others,” Miss Militia said, “Adamant’s getting a cycle retooled to handle more weight before he leaves again.  He’ll go with Triumph.  Log it all in the system.”

“Will do,” Dovetail said.  Miss Militia patted her on the shoulder as she made her way inside.

Miss Militia and Tagg remained in the lobby, by the hallway to the elevators.  They didn’t say much.  A few words on degrees of lethal force, but no camraderie, not even much in the way of small talk.

My cockroaches found their way through the wire, and promptly died as they came in contact with the live circuit.  A breaker blew, but Kid Win didn’t seem to react.

Hopefully the drones wouldn’t get a chance to recharge.

A few minutes passed, as my lawyer got in touch with someone, and started talking about media contacts.  Then my father arrived.

I could sense him as he got out of a truck in the parking lot, making his way inside.

“Mr. Hebert,” Miss Militia said, extending a hand.

My dad shook it.

“Thank you for coming in again,” Director Tagg said.  He extended a hand.  Again, my father shook it.

“My office?” Tagg asked.

My dad nodded.

My pulse was pounding as Miss Militia, Tagg and my father entered the elevator and made their way upstairs.

“She’s here?” my dad asked.

“In a room downstairs with her lawyer,” Miss Militia answered.

“She hired him herself?”

“I imagine she did,” Miss Militia said.  “With the speed he pulled things together, I suspect she may have more working in the background.  Crime does pay, if she’s paying their salaries.  They’re apparently top of the line, as parahuman defense attorneys go.”

“I can’t believe this is all real.”

“It is,” Miss Militia said.  “It’s very real.”

“And very real blood will be shed tonight,” Tagg said, “If we can’t rein her in.”

Rein me in.

They exited the elevator and made their way to Tagg’s office.

“These,” Tagg leaned forward, and my bugs could hear something move.  “Are the charges as they stand.”

I didn’t sense it, but my bugs could hear papers rustle.  I might not have identified the sound if I hadn’t had the context.

A few long seconds passed, and I could hear the rustling again.  The turning of a page.

I clenched my fist.

“Problem?”  Mr. Calle asked, covering the mouthpiece of his phone.

“My dad’s here.  They’ve got him in Tagg’s office, and they’re filling him in on their version of events.”

“Right.  Let’s put a stop to that.  I’ll be back.”

Phone still pressed to his ear, he picked up his briefcase, tapping on the door three times with the side of his shoe.

A PRT uniform unlocked and opened the door, and my lawyer strode out.  It shut behind him.

Upstairs, my dad turned another page.

He was reading through it all.  All the details I’d gone over with my lawyer, only without my feedback, without my voice to point out the places where they were going a little overboard, naming charges they could throw at me, without checking whether they could stick.  Not that the difference was that big, comparing what I’d actually done to what they were accusing me of.

I heard the sound of him flipping through the last few pages before he dropped the pad on the table.  “Okay.”

“She’s in a lot of trouble,” Tagg said.

“This isn’t news to me,” my dad answered, his voice quiet.

“If the charges went through, she would face being charged as an adult.  The three strikes protection act wouldn’t mitigate things.  I’d say the worst case scenario is execution, or indefinite detention in the Birdcage, but the best case scenario for her isn’t much better.”

My dad didn’t reply to that.

“Her power means we can’t keep her in a conventional prison.  She’s too flexible, too versatile for us to use any of our current means of keeping her from using her ability.  Even today, contained in a cell, she’s been literally ‘bugging’ us to track our movements and listen in on conversations.  We had our tinker put together a countermeasure, but it’s not perfect.”

Again, my dad was silent.

“I have two daughters.  Four and six years older than Taylor,” the Director said.  “I can’t imagine.”

“I can’t either,” my dad said.  “Like I said, it doesn’t feel real.”

“I’d like you to come with me the next time I speak to your daughter.”

“She didn’t listen to me before, she won’t listen now,” my dad said.

“I didn’t ask you to come because I thought you could convince her,” Tagg said.  “You don’t have to say anything, as a matter of fact.”

What was he up to?

My lawyer had reached the top floor, and was striding between cubicles and desks.  He raised his voice to ask a question I couldn’t make out, and someone answered him.  He altered his course slightly in response, walked with more purpose, directly for Tagg, Miss Militia and my father.

“I’d like to talk to her alone,” my dad said.

“We can arrange that,” Tagg said.

I clenched my fists.  Using my dad as a pawn?  Damn right I was going to escalate.  Which, I suspected, was exactly what Tagg was aiming to achieve.  This was something to put me off balance, just like we were looking to do to him by way of leveraging control of the portal.

My lawyer knocked on the door and then opened it without waiting for a response.  “My client would like a word.”

“Of course,” Tagg said.  As the four of them exited his office and made their way to the elevator, I turned the two words around in my head.  Had he sounded sarcastic?  Did he simply expect me to interrupt?

I couldn’t say.  I could only wait as they made their way downstairs.  I was stuck, my back hurting where my arms were in a more or less fixed position.  I stood, stretched as well as I was able, tossed my head to one side in an attempt to get my hair out of my face.  When that didn’t work, I bent over and lowered my face to my hands to tidy my hair.

Then I sat, stewing in unidentifiable emotions.  Trepidation, dread, fear, guilt, shame, anger, relief… none I could put a finger on.

“Did you know?” Miss Militia asked.

“Me?” my dad asked, by way of response.

“Who she was?  What she was?”

“Yes,” he said.  I could feel alarm sing through me, inexplicable, but jarring.  Then he seemed to change his mind, “No.”

And the emotion that hit me at that was just as strong as that misplaced sense of alarm.

Damn Tagg.  Damn him for bringing my dad into this.

The four of them stopped outside of the cell.  Miss Militia used her phone to unlock it, and Tagg gestured for my dad to enter.

I saw him hesitate as he stepped into the room, dark sheet metal, a reflective pane of one-way glass, the metal table bolted to the floor, my handcuffs, locked to the table in turn.  Me, with my hair in some disarray, a touch damp from the shower and ineffectual toweling, from sweat, in my black uniform with the word ‘villain’ marked clearly across it.

I could see it, his expression changing, the disbelief he’d professed to becoming something else entirely.

His feelings were as mixed as mine.  I could tell just by looking at him, by imagining what he’d been through, the person standing by, dealing with the aftermath of everything I’d done.  His frustration, his confusion, pain, and embarrassment.  His loneliness, disappointment, his fear.

And, somehow, as though it were too much to bottle in, it seemed to boil over in the form of one singular emotion.  I could see his jaw shift as he clenched his teeth, met my eyes and looked away.  The sudden agitation that seemed to grip him, as he opened and closed his fists.

Tagg and Miss Militia had reached the interior of the room on the other side of the one way mirror, while Mr. Calle stood in the hallway, speaking on the phone.  I stood from the chair as my dad approached, his body language making it all too clear what he was about to do.  Miss Militia took one look and reacted, turning around to hurry back out of the room, to intervene.  Tagg said something, two words I couldn’t be bothered to decipher, and she stopped in her tracks.

My dad raised his hand, palm open, and I closed my eyes, lifting my chin to take the hit.

It didn’t come.  My dad wrapped his arms around my shoulders instead.  I squeaked, and I couldn’t say whether it was because he was squeezing me too tight or if it was because of an overflow of emotion similar to the one he’d just displayed.  I stood there, unable to return the hug with the way I was cuffed to the table, unable to speak around the lump in my throat.

When minutes passed and we hadn’t exchanged a single word, Tagg and Miss Militia stepped out of the observation room, signaling Mr. Calle.

“Let’s talk,” Tagg said.

I broke away from my dad.  Blinked where there were tears in the corners of my eyes.  I didn’t care if Tagg saw.

“I’m waiting on a response from my colleagues,” Mr. Calle said.  “There’s no reason to speak further, unless you’re capitulating.”

“No,” Tagg answered.  “But I’d like to go over the main points.”

This was why he wanted my dad here, I thought.

“You’ve informed me that your teammates, many of whom are known murderers, are going to declare war against the PRT in three hours and twenty minutes, without word from you.”

My dad took a seat to my left, watching me carefully.

“Yes,” I said.

“You’ve described them as unpredictable.  They’re undeniably dangerous.  You think they’ll hurt people.  They’ll pull out all the stops, to get you back, and to hurt us.  The good guys.”

“Yes,” I said, not taking my eyes off Tagg.  “But I don’t think you’re a good guy, Director.”

“I don’t think you’re a good person either,” Tagg said, “and the court of public opinion is likely to agree with me before they agree with you.”

“Let’s not resort to name calling this early in the discussion,” Mr. Calle said.

“Right,” Tagg said, “It wastes time, and you have very little.”

“Neither of us want this to happen, Director,” I said.  “Neither of us have time, and neither of us want a war.  Except maybe you do.  Maybe you think you’d win, and it’d be a bump in the PRT’s ratings.”

“No,” he said, “I think, like any altercation, both sides would lose something.  But let’s talk about your terms.  You want amnesty for your criminal friends?’

I was acutely aware of my dad watching me.

“Yes,” I said.

“You want to depose me, raising Miss Militia to my place, and in the doing, force the PRT to relinquish all ideas of humans governing parahumans, to help keep those with incredible power in check.”


“And you wanted me to allow you to become an official vigilante, leaving your group behind while you worked to hunt down psychopaths with powers.  I’ve explained why that can’t happen.  I’m not sure if you intend to change your demands, or-”

“I’ll go to the Birdcage if I have to,” I said.  “Because the rest of it, I believe in it enough to make the sacrifice.”

“Taylor,” my dad said.  The first words he’d said to me since the breakfast we’d had together, on the day I’d been outed.  “Why?”

“Because we’re losing.  We’re so focused on the little things, on petty squabbles and factions and vendettas, that we’re losing against the real dangers.  The Class S threats.  The fact that the world’s going to end in a year and eleven months.  Did you hear about that?”

He shook his head.  “I… I read the letter you left me, at Annette’s grave.  Realized it was probably what you were trying to write, the night you left.  Before you changed your mind.”

The night I left, so long ago.  When I’d first met Coil.

“A lot of what I did, it was to stop the man who really wanted to take over the city.  Who would have been far worse than any of us Undersiders.  And I did that because he had a little girl captive.  Dinah Alcott.  She could see the future, and she says the world ends in two years.”

My dad shook his head, “No.”

“Yes.  The heroes know it.  It’s a big part of why the PRT is falling apart.  You’ve heard about that on the news?”

“I… some.  But I haven’t paid much attention since I found out that you-”

“That I’m a supervillain,” I said.

He flinched visibly at that.

“Interesting,” Tagg cut in.  “That you call yourself that.  You say you’ve had justifications for what you’ve done, but you call yourself a villain.”

I wanted to hit him, for cutting into my conversation with my dad, for polluting my attempts to explain things.

“I am,” I told him.  “I’ve done bad things.”

“Left a trail of devastation in your wake.”

“Yes,” I said.  “And I’m willing to pay the price.  I’ll go to the Birdcage, a place you described as a literal hell on Earth.  A place where people just as scary as the ones I’ve spent the last few months fighting stay.  A place where some of those very people are currently imprisoned.  Lung, Bakuda, Trickster.  They probably want to inflict fates worse than death on me.  But I’ll do it.  Because I really truly believe the world needs the PRT, or a PRT, one without lunatics like you in charge, and maybe bringing me in helps keep a handful more capes in the roster, keeps my friends secure where they are, so they can help.”

I was heated, my words angry.

“Your friends,” he said.

“My friends.”

“That’s the rapist, Jean-paul?  Alec?  A murderer.”

“Regent.  He was the son of a supervillain, screwed from the get go, and yeah, maybe some shady stuff went down, way back then.  I think he’s… not in love, but he’s close to Imp.  Somewhere between love and friendship, maybe.”

“Imp.  She’s the one who makes it a game, to psychologically and mentally torture gang members who step foot in her territory, until they have mental break downs.”

“Yes,” I said, through grit teeth.  “It’s more complicated than that, she’s been through a lot, but yes.  And I heard directly from people who were grateful to her for scaring off the real rapists and murderers.”

He didn’t pay me any mind.  “Who else is there?  Hellhound.”

“She prefers Bitch,” I said.  “But she’s Rachel to me.”

“Who had her monster dogs chew up innocents who’d gotten in her way.”

“It was a bad time for her.  Weren’t you just excusing Flechette, because we’ve all been through some shit?  I know Rachel as the person who takes care of wayward souls, grown men and children who are lost in a way even we can’t fathom, with the things we’ve been through.”

“And Grue?  Do tell me how you see him.”

“I liked him,” I said.  “If I’d stayed with them, maybe he and I would have tried to make it work.”


I met my dad’s eyes.  His forehead was creased with worry.  My power was buzzing around the periphery of my consciousness.

I found refuge in the bugs, paid attention to their movements as they avoided the remaining drones, found my center, so to speak.  Calm.  He wants me upset.

“Romance,” I said.  “He was my rock, when I needed a rock.  And I was his, when-”

“When he snapped,” Tagg cut in.

“It wasn’t like that.”

“He was the stable one, until he wasn’t stable,” Tagg said.  “Until he killed Burnscar.  Yet I suspect he’s the one in charge, now that you’ve left?”

“Yes,” I said.  “And with the dozens, hundreds of people I’ve tried to take care of or whose lives I’ve saved, I trust Grue to look after them and keep the peace.  I wouldn’t give him that responsibility, with all the time and effort I’ve invested in them, if I didn’t trust him.”

“Very generous,” Tagg told me.  “And Tattletale.  Where do I even start?”

“With the fact that she was my best friend.  That she’s maybe our best bet at understanding what’s going on?  Understanding the Endbringers and what they’re doing?  Understanding powers?  Finding the Nine before they bring about the end of the world?  Understanding how the world ends?”

“All of this, from the girl who used her power to convince her brother to kill himself, before fleeing, spending years on the streets, stealing wallets and using the account numbers to take whole fortunes?”

“All wrong,” I said.

“And who planted the seeds that led to Panacea breaking down and mutilating her sister.”

“Those seeds were planted a long time before we talked to Panacea,” I said.

This was what Tagg had wanted.  He’d devastated my defenses, bringing my dad into this.

“Nonetheless,” Tagg said, leaning back.  “So, Danny Hebert, what do you think about your daughter’s friends?”

My dad glanced at me, then looked at the Director.  “I know less about them than either of you.”

“That’s not important,” the Director said.  “I just want you to answer one question for me.  Assume we’re both right.  Me and your daughter.  Assume that they’re everything we described them as.  Do you really want them in control of this city’s underworld?”

Again, my dad looked at me.

“No need to double-check with your daughter.  I’m wanting your honest opinion, as a man on the streets, from someone who has to live in this city without any real say over what happens in the cape-on-cape fights and politics.  Do you really want them in charge?”

“No,” my dad said.

I did my best not to show it, but the word was like a punch in the gut.

“I’m sorry, Taylor, but-”

“Are they really that much worse than the ABB?  Than Empire Eighty-Eight?”

“With them, we…” my dad trailed off.

“With them, we could pretend things weren’t bad!” I said, “But they were worse.  You know they were worse.  The people you worked with, the addicts, the people without money…”

“Does it matter?” Tagg asked.  “You don’t have your dad’s support, what makes you think you’d get anyone else’s?”

I grit my teeth.

“No,” my father said.

“Hm?”  Tagg raised his bushy eyebrows.

“No.  I think you’re wrong there,” my dad told Tagg.  “She has support.  When you attacked her in the school, there were people who stood by her.  If I’m being honest, I don’t get it, I don’t want those people in charge, but I don’t want any villains in charge.  I don’t understand the politics behind this, or the context, but I trust my daughter.”

“Of course you trust your daughter.  The curse of being a parent, I know it well.”

“You wanted my opinion,” my dad said, his voice a little firmer, “You get my opinion.  Others believe in her.  I trust her, even if I don’t know enough to follow what this is all about. Even if I barely feel like I know her right now, I can look her in the eye and know that’s the same girl I’ve spent the last sixteen years with.  With some of the worst qualities of my wife and I, and a lot more of the better ones.”

“I wonder how long that opinion will hold,” Tagg said.  “Because we have, what is it?  Three hours and a handful of minutes?  Then the war she set in motion hits this city.”

“It can be avoided,” I said.

“If we cave in to your extortion,” Tagg said.  “Except you think too small, Skitter.  It’s a common flaw among teenagers, however powerful they are.  They attend high school, and all they can see is the school, their peers.  Tunnel vision.  You’re the same.  You’re focused on this city, but you don’t see what happens elsewhere.  You don’t see the ramifications.”

“Which are?”

“You’d be strengthening the PRT a little in the short-term, but the long-term?  Letting villains take charge, taking the humans out of the PRT, condoning villainy?  It would doom us all.  What you’re threatening us with?  It’s only one fight.  And maybe it’s ugly, but it’s one fight.  If they kill us, if they become monsters of the Slaughterhouse Nine’s caliber to defeat us, then we win.  Your side wins the battle, loses the war.  If you don’t go that far?  If you leave us in a state to recover?  We pick ourselves up and we lick our wounds, and then we rebuild.”

Tagg cupped his hands, moving them as if balancing a scale.  “One fight, one set of casualties in one area of one medium-sized city, compared to consequences that reach across North America?  Across the world?  It doesn’t measure up.”

I glanced at my lawyer.

“You don’t have an answer for me?” Tagg asked.

“I have one,” I said.  I hope.

Mr. Calle looked at his phone, then gave me one curt nod.

“What?” Tagg asked.

“It’s in the news,” Mr. Calle said.

Tagg and Miss Militia simultaneously reached for their smartphones.  I was probably as tense as they were, as they thumbed past the security screens and found news sites.  Miss Militia was a few seconds faster than Tagg.

“What did you do?” she asked.

“It’s all legitimate,” I said.  “I’m pretty sure.  Legal enough.”

“What is it?” my dad asked.

“Property,” I said.  “I expect a great amount of property just changed hands.”

“Who’s Sierra Kiley?” Miss Militia asked.

It was all I could do to keep from smiling with joy.  Of all the people to serve as a public face, Tattletale had found Sierra.  Someone I owed, in many ways.  Someone who’d, maybe, followed recent events and rethought her initial doubts.

“No idea,” I said, maintaining my poker face.

“I don’t understand,” my dad said.

“Quite simple,” Mr. Calle told him.  “I believe the PRT has become aware that properties in a wide area around the portal in downtown Brockton Bay, previously under the control of various individuals and groups, just exchanged hands, finding itself in the hands of one singular individual.”

“And that one individual is in thrall to the villains who control this town,” Tagg said.

“I resent the notion,” I told him, and I allowed myself a small smile.  “But it would be amusing, if it were true.  You might even have to rethink what you were saying about how narrow my worldview is.  I mean, that’s a whole other world.  Anything but narrow, when you think about it.”

“You’re not as clever as you think you are,” he said.

“Probably not,” I said.

“You’re playing out your hand.”

“And you’re bringing my family into this.  Remember how our little feud started?  You crossed the line.  You made the call to out me, because you wanted me in custody.  Congratulations, you got me in custody.  You broke the unwritten rules, because you think that you don’t have to obey them, since you aren’t a cape.  Except you’re forgetting why they exist in the first place.  The rules keep the game afloat.  They keep everything afloat, at the core of it.  We all know the PRT is a sinking ship.  You don’t agree with what I’m doing?  Fine.  But at least I’m trying to keep it afloat.”

“And you?” my dad asked.  It took me a second to realize he was looking at Miss Militia.

“What about me?” she asked.

“You’ve been quiet.  Are you here just in case my daughter turns violent?”

“No.  She’s not violent.  Not in that sense.”

“You don’t have anything to say?”

“As grateful as I am for the right to free speech,” Miss Militia said, “I’m grateful for the right to silence as well.”

“Then you don’t agree with your Director?”

“I didn’t say that.  What I’m saying is that there’s no right answer here, and I’m glad I don’t have to be the one to make the decision.”

“Isn’t that cowardly?”  I asked.

“No.  It’s human, to not want to make the hard choices,” she said.  She raised one boot off the ground and placed it on the corner of her chair.  “And it’s good strategy to conserve your strength.”

“We’re not fighting,” I said.  “We’re not going to get tired.”

“Physically?” she asked.  “No.  Emotionally?  Mentally? Yes.”

“You’re anticipating the fight,” I said.  “You don’t think there’ll be a consensus in time.”

She shook her head, then used one hand to fix her hair, tucking it behind one ear.  “No.  I don’t think there will be a fight.  I hope there’ll be a consensus, but it’s not necessary.  Your ploys with the portal, controlling the territory around it, it’s clever, it’ll take a lot of time before we can pass legislation or conduct a thorough enough investigation to justifiably seize it.  But I’m not worried about that, either, nor am I concerned about the damage Tattletale could do in other areas.”

“Then why do you need to conserve your strength?” I asked.

“Because we’re dealing with the devil,” Miss Militia said.  “I’m angry at you, Taylor, and half of that is because you put us in this situation, a set of circumstances where we’re liable to lose either way.  Because I agree with the conclusions you came to, how the PRT is needed, the need for compromise, and because I can’t condone how you approached those conclusions.”

She shifted position, and the black-green energy of her flickered from her right hip to her right hand, appearing in her hand, amorphous and shapeless, as if searching for a form to take.  When she didn’t grasp it, it darted to her left hip, and the metal of a cutlass clinked against her seat.

“But I really hate you because we had to call her,” Miss Militia intoned.


Tagg looked at his phone.  “Assuming she’s on time, it’ll be less than ten minutes.”

“Her?” my dad asked.

“You’ve played your part,” Tagg responded.  “Go.  It’d be better in the long run.  Wash your hands of this, leave.  Your daughter’s in custody, she’s going to one prison or another.  You can go home and know that it was inevitable, and that this was the best outcome.  It takes a few years maybe, but you lament your mistakes, and you eventually make an uneasy peace with what happened to your daughter.”

“And if I stay?”

“You won’t have any of that peace of mind,” Tagg said, and that was all.

My dad looked at me, “I think you’re wrong.  Everything before this, it was the times where I thought I had to walk away, look away, times where I thought things were inevitable, that I regretted the most.”

He took my hand.  “I’ll stay.”

“Thank you,” I murmured the words.

Our guest didn’t arrive right away.  It might have been fitting, in a dramatic way, for her to appear as we finished our dialogue, but things weren’t so carefully orchestrated in the real world.

“Those things they said you did?” my dad murmured.

“Mostly true,” I said.

He squeezed my hand for a moment, but it wasn’t reassuring.  Something else.  Concern, maybe, channeled through a simple gesture.  Concern for me, for what I’d become.

I wanted nothing more than for my dad and I to talk for a month straight, just to hash things out, to form some kind of balance, some semblance of a connection like we’d once had.  Instead, there was only this, like the father-daughter relationship distilled.  Not enough communication, barely any familiarity, both of us flooded with very different sorts of fear, confusion, and frustration.  I imagined it was much like the bonds that had kept primitive families together in an era when living from week to week was a challenge.  Basic, crude, but almost primeval.

She arrived, minutes later.  A woman, tall, in a suit, carrying nothing with her.  I sensed her at the periphery of my range, walking with a steady, strong stride.

I was reminded of the Siberian, almost.  The way she moved with the confidence of the indomitable, the way that she was almost careful as she moved among people.  Except that where the Siberian was only careful among her teammates, this woman was careful with everybody.

It took her five minutes to reach us, walking through the crowds, using the pedestrian crossings.

But the person I found myself comparing her to, as she approached the PRT building, wasn’t the Siberian.  It was me.  She reached her home ground, and people started to recognize her.  They reacted, moving out of her way.  Showing respect.  Showing fear, in some cases.

Three of the Wards were in the elevator when it stopped at the ground floor.  Kid Win was taking his drone recharge station apart, which meant it was just Clockblocker, Crucible and Vista that crossed paths with her.

The Wards took only a moment to recognize her as she entered the elevator, and the two native Brocktonites left, pulling a protesting, confused Crucible after them.

In a matter of a minute, she was opening the door to the cell.  A woman, the sort who could be forty but looked like she was in her late twenties.  Hispanic, insofar as that was a descriptor, with darker skin and long, straight black hair.

But more than her description, the part of her that hit me was her presence.  Almost without thinking about it, I got out of my chair, standing, the chains of my cuffs pulling taut against the lock on the table.  My lawyer, Miss Militia and Tagg all stood, my dad a step behind them, bewildered.  The only one not in the know.

“Chief Director,” I said.

Deputy Chief.  I’ve stepped down from my position, but I still have to train my replacement,” she said, her gaze piercing through me.  I couldn’t even tell that one of her eyes was a prosthetic.  “And seeing to some leftover crises.  Hello, Ms. Hebert.”

She extended a hand.  As though driven to accept the handshake by a peculiar gravity, I extended my own hand and shook it.  Her firm grip could have pulverized me.  I might have been less intimidated if I were trapped in a small pen with an angry bull elephant.

“And Mr. Danny Hebert,” she said.  She shook my father’s hand.

Tagg stood from the chair at the table and moved over one left, leaving the seat for his superior.  “Since you’ve made up your mind about staying, you’ll need to know.  This is Deputy Chief Director Costa-Brown of the PRT.”

My father nodded.  I was getting the feeling he was almost shell-shocked.  To find out about the end of the world, the situation his daughter was in, and countless other things, the name of this woman might not have even processed for him.

“Otherwise known as Alexandria,” Alexandria said, taking the chair opposite me.

Last Chapter                                                                                               Next Chapter

283 thoughts on “Cell 22.3

      • Flechette’s email includes “only things she knows” s/b “things only she knows.” Probably.

        Unless you mean to imply that they their test is reversed because they expect Tattletale to have Flechette’s innermost secrets already, and Regent to screw up the email by including more than Flechette could possibly know, in addition to things only Flechette should know?

        • Both are acceptable to mean the same thing, though the first is more vague and can have alternative readings. Clearing it up would be most appropriate.

          • They don’t mean the same thing, really. The first means the email did not contain things Flechette is not expected to know; the second means that it contained things another (implied Regent) is not expected to know.

          • “Only things she knows” contains “things only she knows”, though, and thus can substitute vaguely for the latter. Again, it is best to replace it (either with the latter, or to rearrange the original to only things she’d know) to be more precise, but it still is acceptable.

      • “She extended a hand. As though driven to accept the handshake by a peculiar gravity, I extended my own hand and shook it”

        Is she not still cuffed to the table?

        • The cuffs aren’t the arrest style cuffs where the wrists are bound close together, but the type that have a longer chain so they can be attached to things like tables and the like while not preventing movement completely.

      • Only noticed this on my 2nd read, but I believe this line is in error.

        “Lung, Bakuda, Trickster. ”

        Trickster isn’t in the birdcage was he? Perhaps it meant to say ‘Teacher’ ?

    • “But I really hate you because we had to call her” Miss Militia intoned.

      Missing a comma! (Hope this ins’t a repeat)

      • “No,” he said, “I think, like any altercation, both sides would lose something.”
        -like in any altercation

        To find out about the end of the world, the situation his daughter was in, and countless other things, the name of this woman might not have even processed for him.
        -Something’s missing from this sentence,

  1. Costa-Brown’s arrival is actually a source of optimism for me. Her being here means that there is someone with authority over Tagg present and able to broker a deal despite Tagg’s intransigence.

      • I don’t think it was that Cauldron wanted Skitter in charge, so much as they wanted to work with the person in charge of Brockton Bay (who happened to be Skitter at the time).

        • I think it has something to do with Skitter — it wasn’t until Accord had a chance to evaluate her that she was considered a possible replacement to Coil — but it could be as simple as “Accord thought Skitter was capable of taking charge of Brockton Bay and holding it”.

          • I can’t recall if Alexandria was “in” on the deal with Coil or has any stake in the Taylor the way Cauldron did. And if Alexandria doesn’t know why does Accord? From the interlude about Alexandria I get the impression that she is being manipulated by the NumberMan and Doctor Mother; that the terrible things she does for Cauldron are rationalized as being the only way to perfect the formulas and turn the tide on the Endbringers. What should Alexandria want to get out of this situation? Her plans should actually be accelerated by Taylor’s demands as she seems to want to put Parahumans into leadership positions.

            • Alexandria was part of the whole “Coil is our best chance” thing with Cauldron; we first heard about it through her discussing it with Doctor. I think that’s all we know so far.

    • There is an additional factor at work, here. Costa-Brown is a cape. And former Director current Deputy Director of the organization that Tagg says ‘shouldn’t have capes in charge’. This is an obscene amount of leverage brought to the table for a ‘nobody’ that is in a ‘nowhere city’.

      Things just got QUITE interesting indeed. Good show, suh.

      • At least Tagg has FINALLY realized he’s out of his depth. (would have italic’d the ‘finally’ instead of capsing, but, no guide to what tags work in comments and no one on IRC knew either. x_x)

    • Too complicated to predict what will happen. Alexandria thinks the atrocities she was a part of were for the greater good, and probably thinks like Taylor does. The world needs the PRT, and they should be focusing on the S-Class threats. On the other hand we still do not know what the ultimate goal of Cauldron is, and what part Taylor would play in it. Taylor definitely screwed over that plan with this stunt, so I am not sure how she is going to approach Skitter. Then there is the whole crimes against humanity thing, and the fact that her organization is killing people to keep this secret that WILL be outed at some point in the future. The public isn’t going to like what they have done and the fact that “heroes” kept people who have arguably spread as much death and suffering to innocents as the 9 scott free. Once this stuff comes out, it will blow watergate out of the water. The PRT might be dissolved not matter what they do, and Alexandria/Eidolon/Legend would have warrents out for their arrest. If there aren’t any, than the PRT looks even worse for allowing such people to get away with their crimes, and be seen as hypocrites for not allowing the deal with Skitter. So with all that in mind, I can’t honestly predict what she will do.

    • I just think it’d be funny if Alexandria shut up Tagg’s stupid mouthhole with something like, “Are you seriously fucking kidding me? You brought me here for this? Agree, you assclown. Agree till it hurts. You dumb as whale shit excuse for a Director, you’re going to play hardball on this with the world at stake?”

  2. First sensible comment: Alright. Not entirely sure what’s going on with the portal, or WTF Alexandria is going to DO, but… this should be interesting.

  3. I’m actually curious:

    “…a hot button for her,” Mrs. Yamada was telling the Director. “It’s a pattern, with the timeline we established. Something happens to her father, and she escalates.”

    To what extent is this a reflection of Danny getting hurt early on in a couple situations where everything was going to pot and to what extent is this real? I find it plausible that Yamada would draw that conclusion (and I don’t think she’s wrong about the existence of the pattern) but I’m curious about its validity.

    • I think this is really interesting. The only situation I can think of right now is Danny being involved in the explosion at the debate, and from the PRT’s limited perspective this shortly led to Calvert/Coil’s death and Echidna’s release. Was there anything else?

      • First would be Shatterbird — after which Skitter took down Mannequin and then led the team in attacks on the Slaughterhouse Nine.

        Third might be Tagg filling Danny’s house with PRT agents after the incident at the school.

      • Rereading this chapter, I think Tagg only asked Danny to go because he thought he would no longer be useful as a weapon against Taylor.

    • There’s a bit of an information inbalance and deficit, with heroes knowing a lot less about what happened in those situations and Taylor not knowing what they think happened.

      Then again, with Tagg there’s always an information deficit.

  4. I find it interesting (and disturbing) that Miss Militia and Tagg think that whatever Alexandria is going to do here is going to be something that Danny wouldn’t want to see.

    I mean, whatever it is, it’s unpleasant enough that it’s actually making Tagg show something that in a dim light could almost pass for basic human decency.

    • > I find it interesting (and disturbing) that Miss Militia and Tagg think that whatever Alexandria is going to do here is going to be something that Danny wouldn’t want to see.

      …I hadn’t even thought of that. What on earth do they think is about to happen? What could possibly be happening that’s more disturbing than threatening Taylor with Birdcaging, other than maybe beating her to within an inch of her life right there in the interrogation room?

      • Telling Taylor to do what Cauldron wants or she’s gonna “disappear” her by hauling her off to Doctor Mother for experiments and killing her father to dispose of witnesses?

        • Nah, at that point Miss Militia would rebel, Cauldron would be outed by Tattletale, and they would accomplish her goal of getting rid of Tagg. Not to mention Taylor agreed with her at the Echidna fight that the world needs the PRT to fight the Endbringers. Doing that pretty much guarantees the PRT gets destroyed, which Alexandria does not want. I am very unsure do to how complicated the situation is just how things will go. But my best guess is Alexandria has to realize that the PRT is a sinking ship, and that Cauldron/her crimes will be outed at some point in the near future which means she will probably be forced to go on the run. Alexandria, in her own fucked up genocide way, wants to help the world. Accepting the deal, as confirmed by Dinah telling her to give herself up, improves the chances of saving it. So I think she will accept it, then Tagg does something stupid that either outs Cauldron, forces Miss Useless to do something, or causes him to mysteriously disappear.

      • They might just be ruthless enough to hire Cauldron to de-power her. They claim they have that capability, after all.

        • Or the opposite. Taylor DID agree with Alexandria and she WAS a part of their plan. Maybe they offer her those power boosters that Eidolon was taking or they found a way to induce 2nd trigger events. I can see them offer to work with her to try and hunt the 9. It would be a huge twist, and we would see her interact with the big three, harbinger, and maybe contessa while they both plan to screw the other over if the world is saved.

      • I think the very fact it’s Costa-Brown and it’s revealed that she’s Alexandria might be the very first thing he doesn’t want to see.

  5. – Things are just ramping up and up and up.
    – Glad she got to meet her father again and that he’s still down with her
    – so Alexandria is here to, what? Talk Taylor into giving up? Out-Think Tattletale? Act as a supreme physical deterrent against the Undersiders trying anything?
    – I am now waiting for Raymond Chandler’s man-with-a-gun to show up (in the form of Behemoth attack or whatever) and scatter everyone’s plans to the four winds

  6. Woop de fucking doo. Alexandria. That’s Tagg’s big hand? Here’s my hand, Tagg. It has this amazing thing in it that will truly change everything. It’s called my middle finger, and I know you’ve never seen anything like it before.

    From the way she’s talked, I honestly think she’d be on Skitter’s side. Hell she even owes Skitter a little for making that point about the PRT.

    Ah well, Tagg, like they say about one of the Carolinas, “Keep fucking that horse.” Just keep on screwing it, Tagg. Maybe THIS time it’ll work out right for you. You Cold War reject. Someone needs to take you aside and shove 99 red balloon animals up your ass to balance out all the worthless hot air in there. Also, your wife is fat and ugly and your daughter is an easy lay for horny Frenchmen.

    While we’re on the subject of Tagg, here is the official Tagg theme song: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UrgpZ0fUixs

    Also, Miss Militia, nice to see you’ve come a long way from being a scared little girl conserving her strength and waiting to make her move while soldiers blow off the heads of your friends. Classy. Geez, you think Skitter’s wrong because of how she got to the conclusion? Don’t make me have to go put on a Flag Smasher costume.

    Oh Danny boy, nice to see that even when you’re not exactly well-informed, you’ve at least cowboyed up a little bit and are sticking around for your daughter. Just a little disturbing that you’re about as well-informed as someone who fled the city.

    • Honestly I can’t see how this is a trump card. She isn’t in charge anymore, is a an accessory to genocide with many remaining heroes barely keeping themselves from attacking her, her organization is killing people to protect Cauldron which should make her an even worse villain than Taylor in Tagg’s eyes, and by past statements would agree with Skitter’s idea on the greater good. Either Alexandria is about to do something stupid/out of character, or Tagg made a deal with Miss Militia to try and use this situation to out Cauldron.

      • Maybe Tagg’s just the last guy to know anything about the PRT and Cauldron? It’s possible the reason Miss Militia didn’t like calling in Alexandria is because unlike Tagg, she knows Alexandria’s a lot more in favor of this kind of deal.

        • Wasn’t he there for the meeting with Mr./Mrs. Dragon? I suppose it’s possible Miss Useless didn’t bother to tell Tagg that Alexandria would be more likely to support Taylor’s plan, and just hates that she has to use her help.

          • That just means he knows that Alexandria is Costa-Brown, not that the Triumvirate is in thrall to an extradimensional cabal of mad scientists.

  7. Tagg is really quite sure that Alexandria won’t agree with Skitter… Her history implies just how much she thinks of having normal humans in charge.

    “Calle was saying..” Missing period to the ellipsis.
    “Dinah Calvert. ” Alcott.
    “I’ve invested in them if I didn” missing comma.

  8. And the first words out of Taylor’s mouth would be:-

    1. “How’s the eye?”
    2. “Been in contact with Cauldron lately?”
    3. “Kneel.”
    4. “First things first, fire the Douche beside you.”
    5. “Go fuck yourself you mass murdering piece of Cauldron shit!”

  9. 1. I wonder who alexandria’s replacement is. Know it’s a girl…piggot?
    2. Chance that calle has a power=?
    3. Is calle’s name pronounced CALL or CAI-YEH? He is Latino, so the second one seems correct.
    4. Would be a great time for an s-class threat to show up.
    5. Was murder included in the list of crimes that Danny read? I mean, was it updated in the past hour or so?
    6. Will yamada ever spill anyone’s secrets?
    7. Just because they bought the land around the portal on this side doesn’t mean that they own the land on the other side.
    8. Dad dies eventually, leading to second trigger event for Taylor.
    9. Could calle work for cauldron?
    10. Skitter feigns pregnancy to get her into a lower class jail.
    11. Dock workers might rally under Danny to support Taylor.
    12. What would happen if music head Simurgh met suicidal cherish?
    13. Are we ever going to get an uber pointless Atlas interlude?
    14. Do parahumans recurr through time? Demigods, gods, etc.
    15. Could cauldron have a way to send their creations back in time to lead to legends of monsters?

    • 1. Wouldn’t be Piggot. Even though Regent didn’t take her, she’d still likely be considered compromised.
      4. It’d be too convenient.
      6. You remember Eidolon’s evaluation of her, right? I don’t think so.
      9. I don’t think so, but you never know.
      10. Eh, I don’t see that as likely. Especially because they’d probably be able to find out the truth real easily. And they’d suspect a trap from the start, anyways.
      11. I’ll bet a lot of workers already support Taylor. If the lunchroom scene is anything to go by, it’s possible that anywhere from 16%-33% of the city supports her. (Accounting for the fact that younger people are probably more likely to be in favor of a villain, than hold to traditional opinions. On the other hand, the Undersiders have also helped a lot of adults.
      13. That’d be kinda, ehem, pointless, so I wouldn’t bet on it.
      15. The powers in the Wormverse seem to be limited enough to keep full-on time travel off the table. Not even the Endbringers or Scion get that.

  10. Ho boy, the action just doesn’t stop now does it?

    Now for more thoughts
    -Good to see Danny taking Skitter’s side, despite everything. While I assume the plan was to get Danny to go against her daughter, I don’t think Tagg was banking on it, so this might not put that big of a hiccup in his plans. Its also nice to see Danny sticking around, and he might finally be apart of the action for once

    -The Wards and MM seems to exist in limbo right now in terms of their loyalty. They make it pretty evident that they seriously do not like Skitter, but at the same time really can’t stand the PRT or Tagg in particular. As of what happens to them, whether they stay or leave, is really going to be up in the air. If the Undersiders do attack and Flechette is with them, would be really interesting to see how it plays out

    -Yay, Sierra’s back in the story! Always felt her send off (quitting without so much as a word or real scene) was lacking. Really hope she stays relevant to the plot from now own, since it is technically her that owns the land around the portal now. Maybe she can join up with Forest and Charlotte and become the Three (insert-name-of-bug-that-is-related-to-“Musketeers”)

    -I’m confused by Tagg’s move to call in Alexandria. At first I thought that they may have been bringing in Contessa, given her description, but Alexandria? What real purpose does she serve? Why did they “had to” call her, despite MM and the Wards obvious objection and hatred for her? How can she get involved with the discussion, not like she was that involved to begin with. Is she there to try and discredit Skitter, through some nasty words or rebuke claims against the PRT, like their involvement with Cauldron? Maybe she is also just there to talk Skitter down, maybe draw parallels between herself and Skitter, both trying to achieve peace/ safety/ moral goals by doing really bad things. Although, in the end, Skitter tried to defend Alexandria, and Tagg might not know about this. Any ideas as to where this might go?

      • Tagg’s a moron? Mind=blown

        But really, unless Tagg has a super secret plan that is not even remotely evident now, it makes no real sense to bring Alexandria in. A superior who may actually support the other side? Might as well bring in a gun to shot your foot while at it. One really, REALLY far off possibility is that Tagg is somehow banking on Alexandria siding with Skitter, spill the beans on Alexandria/ Cauldron, and death via association will set in.

        • I suppose it’s not impossible that he brings her in as an example of why capes should not be in charge of the PRT. If Alexandria does side with Skitter, Tagg could conceivably spin that to show that cape+authority=evil.

          Or probably something else entirely, because wildbow is an evil genius.

          Wildbow, you forced me to start writing a superhero story. You beautiful man you, I’ve been too uncreative lately.

      • Hey. hey. Maybe he knew about Alexandria. Maybe he’s Doormaker? I mean, he’s certainly deaf, blind, and dumb enough to the real world….

    • I think that Vista’s outburst is the result of not knowing the full story. Taylor did not engineer Flechette’s defection, despite signalling that she did. Then again it is on par with the story for the Wards to hate Skitter based on incomplete and/or wrong information.

    • May not be Tagg’s move. Miss Militia, for all she’s being a good soldier, disagrees with him.
      And bouncing things up the chain of command is just what you do in the military.

      Besides, tattletale is capable of having global consequences.

      Alexandria is here because of her superintelligence. She’s here to negotiate something that makes sense to everyone.
      1) Tagg’s gone.
      2) Not-Superhumans in charge. NON MILITARY humans in charge. (this is really what Skitter’s been asking for…)
      3) “Staged PR Fights” with the Undersiders (and covert, strong help against other villain incursions). Let the PRT show that they’re winning sometimes, guys! But don’t do it so anyone gets hurt, and let the Undersiders keep their rep.
      4) Taylor gets assigned to Dragon. Full Time Teammember. (possibly on alpha-testing duty for now).

      This is my call, if Alexandria wants to keep everything as good as when she stepped in the door, or possibly make it better.

      Evil Me says: Alexandria has just found her replacement.

      • > Evil Me says: Alexandria has just found her replacement.
        Umh… that’s what good me said… evil me was more “special Skitter experimented on by Cauldron Interlude by Franz Kafka”.

        Maybe I should stop watching weird movies before going to bed…

  11. I’d like to point out the part where, in discovering Flechette’s defection, Vista asks Tagg if he did anything, and the indication that gives as to the general opinion of their local director.

    • Well I think we can safely conclude Vista will probably never join Skitter and co. The others I could still see happening. But truthfully I think it is inevitable, and worm is it got worse the series, that Cauldron is outed/the PRT gets shut down. Which will simply cause all the heroes to split into independent teams without government oversight/resources. I could see Clockie, Kid Lose, and Vista deciding to form their own team independently in a mirror of the old big three.

      • Oh, yeah, Vista’s not gonna join the Undersiders. But she clearly doesn’t like Tagg’s methods, and wouldn’t put it past him to have done something to aggravate Flechette to the point where she would leave.

        • I think Vista might hate Skitter for being a villain but still doing good while she’s stuck unable to do anything worthwhile as a hero. even her friends turn out to like her better, and go to her- Which ruins Vista’s ability to Team Mom it up, taking away her societal role within the team on top of everything else.

  12. My first thought is “Are Tagg and Miss Militia even cleared to know this conversation is happening?”

  13. Also, Worm got a small mention over at Grrl Power as a story on the guy’s wishlist over there. Something about preferring to read it on his kindle.

      • I love that webcomic. Its makes me laugh, it’s original, and the main character is quirky. But yeah, it updates so slowly I think it will be years before we actually get to any conflict.

        • Hey we had that already math and anvil ok we didn t actually see it but it happened and what about the bank.
          Though granted it takes its time.
          You read that too PG is there no save haven in the internet?

    • Though if it were fixable, it’d be nice if in the mobile version of the site (at least with Apple products), you could tap the top of the screen to insta-scroll to the top, like with most other sites and apps. Can’t really complain though, because it’d only be saving me a few moments of scrolling.

      • Atomic Web. I have mine set with gestures that instantly scroll to the top, bottom, and bring up a neat scroll bar. It’s full screen, and you can lock it in landscape position.

  14. Awesome, wasn’t really expecting a chapter today!

    Ok, so they brought in Alexandria. Here’s the thing, she is the strongest para human working for the PRT the Undersiders have absolutely nothing they can do against her in terms of damage. The only possible exception is Grue because of his power mimicking, but powers he copies aren’t as effective as the original. So they might be hoping to use her as the trump card, give her permission to go lethal and go to town and the Undersiders lose. The part that’s not pretty will be Taylor’s reaction to that I’m guessing.

    Of course, hopefully, they are underestimating Alexandria’s past history and this is all about to go wahooney shaped on Tagg. Because as others pointed out, Alexandria could have plenty of good reasons to want to work with Taylor.

    • They discovered Siberian’s weakness, she made Lung her Bitch, she figured out a way to cut Noelle in half/kill an Eidolon clone, destroyed so many dragon suits that Dragon decided to retreat, and gave the 9 a black eye. Tagg practically admitted that he outed her because they couldn’t beat them. Going by their record, Alexandria has to know that she might not win the fight if she took them on.

      • Yeah, that, and Tagg’s comment about the possibility of the Undersiders becoming a threat of S9 (at least pre-S9000) pretty much answer the question from the thread last week about the Undersiders’ threat level. Definitely an A, with even the possibility of becoming an S.

  15. I wonder if we can get some idea what other villains around the country are thinking and their relations with local PRT groups after Skitter’s outing. That might come up if the next Endbringer attack is within the scope of the story, but I’m interested to see how the greater world views that particular fuckup of Tagg right now.

    • I still can’t believe how stupid Tagg is. He knows how dangerous the Endbringers are and has personally seen the aftermath. They NEED the villains help to fight them and he broke the unwritten rules. He may have actually broken the truce completely and no villains show up. I wanted Taylor to ask him if any Villains have decided to to use his tactics by outing heroes/going after their families when he mentioned Alaska.

      • Ooh yeah. Tagg like to talk about precedent, but what kind of precedent does it set when the PRT publicly outs one of the most recognizable capes in the country?

        • They are rules for a reason. Taylor and the Undersiders might not go after families, but it would be bitter irony if another villain killed his wife.

  16. Alexandria is certainly going to make a difference.

    The presence of her dad might prevent Taylor from mentioning some things that cauldron would not want to become public knowledge, but she could at the very least subtly remind her of them.

    Start with some small talk. Ask her about they eye being replaced and how she looks much better now than the last time they met. Stuff that is just a harmless enquiry about her health, but contains the reminder that Taylor saw her in her most vulnerable state like she truly is, with fire having purged away all her coverings disguises. Remind her that it was Skitter who spoke up for her at the end and also that Skitter saw clones of her and legend die.

    The threat from Alexandria is far less than Tagg probably expected.

    A worse factor might be that Alexandria has some truth detection powers going if I remember correctly. This would make it hard to play poker with her.

    If worse comes to worse there is still one trump left to play for Taylor. She sensed Alexandria’s reaction to the other world that was no Earth Aleph, something that she likely wants to keep secret…

    On the plus side. Alexandria can overrule Tagg, she is less likely to be opposed to parahumans in charge of the PRT on principle and she still has cauldron’s agenda going on in the background that seemed to require a city run by parahumans….

    With a little luck something interrupts them before the deadline can run out. A threat from the other side of the portal, an A-Class threat approaching or something.

    • > A worse factor might be that Alexandria has some truth detection powers going if I remember correctly. This would make it hard to play poker with her.

      Not powers — just talent. Eidetic memory makes it easy to learn skills, and reading and interpreting microexpressions is a skill.

      • Since there are no universal gestures that indicate people are lying, it has to be through her learning ability. Study a person’s reactins long enough to get a sense of when they’re lying, same as learning tells in poker. That’s also why any shows that bring on some person who can supposedly read people just to study a clip of someone in an interview is lying to your face.

        Even a lie detector test can be fooled by strategic use of the human ass.

        No, not kidding on that one. Apparently, squeezing your butt muscles during the control questions throws off the readings enough so that if you have a reaction to the questions you lie on, it won’t stand out enough to give you away.

        Alternatively, you can believe the lie yourself, just be a really good liar, or be a sociopath.

  17. After this chapter Tagg has officially taken Armsmaster’s title of biggest asshat in worm. He is still in the running for stupidest “good guy” as well. Most evil “hero” is either Alexandria or Eidolon after the number man interlude showed some of the extent of the crimes they are accessory to. I will wait until next chapter before I declare Miss Militia the most useless hero in the story.

      • Biggest Jerk/Asshat: Tagg
        Most Evil Hero: Alexandria/Eidolon
        Most Useless Hero: Miss Militia when she didn’t help the Undersiders fight the 9.
        Weakest hero: Kid Lose, with Dovetail close behind.
        Craziest hero: Shadowstalker is till reigning champion
        Most deluded hero: Assault
        Her most feel sorry for: Panacea, with Vista pretty close after losing another ward.

        • Kid Win wouldn’t get weakest hero IMO. I think once he finds his niche he’ll be pretty good.
          And how could Garrotte not get the ‘saddest’ award?

      • And then of course, the horrific thought process of shipping Tagg and Piggot. Would that make them ‘Taggot’?


    • I feel like Alexandria’s loyalty to Cauldron is in many ways parallel to Taylor’s loyalty to the Undersiders — she’s caught between her moral instincts and those she sees as her allies. The major difference is that Cauldron is generally evil (chaotic, netural, or lawful I’m not sure) where the Undersiders are generally chaotic neutral.

  18. Interesting.

    As an aside, how revealing is it that Tagg’s first move to rally the morale of his Wards is to warn them that a deal like this… could slow down their careers. Because that’s what this REALLY means, in his words – potential career dead ends. Not an appeal to their duty, or their cause, or the people they could save… an appeal to their career hopes. How very odd.

    Miss Militia is perfectly confident that there will be no war – implying that Alexandria is going to broker a solution. MM hated having to call A in – because MM believes in the system, despite its imperfections, for ‘nothing touched by human hands could be’, but there’s a reason she wears the flag, and proudly. Alexandria subverted all of that for more than a decade, and whether she comes as Costa-Brown or Alexandria, MM has to feel a particularly deep betrayal there. Made worse by being complicit this time around – MM was part of calling in Alexandria, and there’s going to be another (in MM’s eyes) corrupt bargain as a result of that. MM likely even knows that she’ll benefit from this – as Armsmaster said, she was always better at the politics, and her otherwise puzzling silence through all this makes a lot more sense if she knows she doesn’t need to take action to stop a war, or rein in Tagg, or indeed protect Taylor. All she has to do is watch the country she loves and the system she’s sworn herself to… be betrayed just a little bit more. And she hasn’t been able to find a better solution, mostly because she agrees with Taylor (and nearly every other cape involved) that this can’t go on as it is.

    What sort of solution? Alexandria will spend whatever she has to do whatever she must – Skitter most definitely included. Short of finding out that the misfiled prayer to Dragon from Panacea was ‘don’t send Skitter here and I won’t kill the world’ (in which case we’ll find out after things go to hell), Skitter’s unlikely to go the Birdcage – too much potential use in her. And how interesting was it that Skitter recognized herself in Alexandria, in the ripples around them as people recognize them? Alexandria… may need an apprentice.

    Pretty sure the Wards don’t love Skitter, not even Clockblocker (though some certainly ship that). Respect her, oh yes. Fear her, yes indeed. She’s undefeated when she stays to fight, elusive when she doesn’t, and even with her captive this feels like she’s calling the shots… like they’re losing. Again. The Wards have taken better than 85% casualties in the three or so months covered and the Undersiders… just keep rising to power. Demonstrably, if they go up against the S9, the Undersiders all live, and the S9 experiences… attrition. This is a recipe for nightmare fuel.

    That 85% Ward loss rate alone would cause considerable stress. Aegis, Gallant, Kid Win, Vista, Clockblocker, Shadow Stalker, Browbeat – 7 team members, initially. Casualties since then? Aegis, Gallant, Browbeat, Shadow Stalker, Chariot, Flechette – arguably Weld, but let’s leave him out of this calculation: 6/7 = 85.7%. Casualties to the Protectorate team proper: Armsmaster, Battery, Dauntless, and very nearly Triumph. Let’s not even talk about what happened to New Wave, which is functionally annihilated. The Wards alone will have been through 70%+ casualties in about three months: these are the people they’ve been growing up with, for years, their childhood friends, the only proper peers they have, and their foxhole buddies all in one. And they’ve been taking… casualties. People have held together through worse in wartime, and the remaining Wards are managing, but that alone would make them more than jumpy. Besides, the Undersiders (in the Wards’ eyes) can claim credit for Shadow Stalker, Flechette, Glory Girl, and Panacea (possibly Armsmaster, but let’s err on the side of caution). Leviathan, with Defiant, Gallant, Aegis, Browbeat and Shielder is worse – well, no shame in not being as big a threat as an Endbringer. No comfort, either. The S9, bogeymen that they are… fall short on the cape count. (In fairness, if you start counting civilian deaths, the Undersiders are a very distant third to Leviathan and the S9). The Wards have no reason to love Skitter, and every reason to offer her that admixture of fear and respect that Machiavelli prescribed – and they fight her anyway. Because they’re heroes, and that’s what they do.

    Plus, and Skitter may not notice or appreciate this since she apparently has enough proprioception (and I use the word advisedly) with her bugs that she doesn’t even notice them as a foreign presence anymore, but being swarmed under by biting stinging crawling bugs is something that the Wards have all lived through, and in all probability all of them have nightmares about it. Regularly. Triumph certainly must, though he’s no Ward.

    • “As an aside, how revealing is it that Tagg’s first move to rally the morale of his Wards is to warn them that a deal like this… could slow down their careers. Because that’s what this REALLY means, in his words – potential career dead ends. Not an appeal to their duty, or their cause, or the people they could save… an appeal to their career hopes. How very odd.”

      I just wanted to quote it. On a completely unrelated note, I will quote Hedey, I mean Hedley, Lamarr from the movie Blazing Saddles:

      “Men, you are about to embark on a great crusade to stamp out runaway decency in the west. Now you men will only be risking your lives, whilst I will be risking an almost certain Academy Award nomination for Best Supporting Actor.”

    • Y’know, I’ve really started to lose sympathy to the Wards. Not that they’re bad at all, but that there’s only enough to go around.

      If I have to choose between the biracial lesbian couple who have lost loved ones and are willing to buck the system for a chance at love and the pack of wishy-washy white kids skulking in their high tech HQ and blaming everything on the Undersiders so they can nurse their victim complex and avoid facing up to their own faults…

      Where was I going with this? Oh yeah, shut the hell up Vista. You’ve had the lucky break to end all lucky breaks only a few arcs ago, and it’s partially in thanks to the person you’re cussing at half a building away. Atleast nut up like Clockie and do it in person.

      I might be being a bit unfair, but these kids remind me of shitty YA protagonists who spends half the story sitting around in a sympathy echo chamber instead of, y’know, doing things.

      • > I might be being a bit unfair, but these kids remind me of shitty YA protagonists who spends half the story sitting around in a sympathy echo chamber instead of, y’know, doing things.

        I think we have a new entry for the “problems with the Wards organization” list.

      • You might 🙂
        We rarely see what the heroes are doing, that does not mean they’re idle. According to their interludes they were really swamped with hero work, even if the city is getting better they’re probably still doing double shifts.

        Besides try to view it from a 13 year old point of view: her friends and comrades keep gettin either offed or “turned”. She might not have liked Shadow Stalker but that’s three in a row nonetheless, and all connected to Skitter in some way.

        • But it’s never going to occur to Vista that there’s a reason all this is happening other than “oh, those evil Undersiders” does she ever think that Stalker may have brought things upon herself? Or that Flechette made her own decision and wasn’t turned like Skitter is the goddamn Emperor or something? Acknowledge that the horrific serial killers with a master manipulator at the helm may have had a bit more to do with Panacea and Glory Girl than the teenage bank robbers?

          Weld and now Clockblocker are the only Wards who seem capable of seeing past their nose and thinking about things professionally. They need to balance their view of the Undersiders with both the good and bad. See them as people making decisions instead of Sith Lords or some shit. They have no business acting as arbitrators of justice when their vision is clouded by fear and paranoia.

          I know she’s 13, but for Christ sake, why has no one tired to set the Wards straight on this? Oh right, Piggot and Tagg are jackboots who like their soldiers nice and indoctrinated.

          • As you said, indoctrination plays a part.

            But I find she’s actually quite sensible in blaming Skitter.

            Look at it her way:

            Regents almost suicides Shadow Stalker.

            After the big echidna fight in which Skitter had a long semi-private discussion with Weld he retires.

            Then Flechette, who has probably vented about the evil Skitter turning her friend Parian, to the point that she’s all Darth Vader now… get seduced by the dark side too.

            Seriously, not having the full picture I would blame Skitter too.
            Once is happenstance, twice coincidence, four times is definitely enemy action.

          • Most of those conclusions are ones reached by only looking at the situations at the moment, filtered through bias, without any attempt at getting at answers or questioning what she’s told like Clockie did. Basing your view on things entirely on your fears and preconceptions doesn’t seem even remotely sensible to me.

            If she actually blames Skitter for Weld leaving I’ll be particularly annoyed with her for not talking to her friend, and anyone who believes that someone was seduced to evil like in Star Wars should be slapped upside the head.

            It’s not like she has nothing to blame Skitter for, but I find this crap pretty disappointing coming from someone who’s supposed to be empathic and smart.

          • She’s basing her assumptions on avaiable data I’d say.

            And you remember Flechette’s various rants about Skitter seducing Parian? That is the opinion of what Vista would percieve as an informed (as in, her girlfriend, ofc she’s informed) and senior teammate and (maybe) friend. It would weight a lot.

            Weld is mainly icong on the cake but it’s another doubt piled on top of facts, informed opinions (from her point of view), and quite sensible deductions (with the data she has avaiable).

            Btw, let’s not forget that Tattletale is a recognized mistress of mindscrew, and Skitter was considered a very good mindscrewer too.

      • I’ve got a lot of sympathy for the Wards. We mostly see them when they fight Skitter – and by this point, they’ve got a deeply conditioned flinch reflex there. Clockblocker’s recognition of Skitter at the high school comes when she’s cornered and she smiles… because he recognizes her recognizing that they’re afraid she’ll pull some surprise out of nowhere. Again.

        As, indeed, she does.

        We really only see them fighting twice without the Undersiders in play, either as foes or allies – against the Travellers, over the corpses the S9 left as their calling card, and Flechette’s abortive patrol with Shadow Stalker. Taking those as a pattern? The Wards spend long hours patrolling and stopping unpowered crime, and every so often fight villains… and the villain fights are usually what Tattletale was calling ‘high-powered games of cops and robbers.’ The Travellers didn’t kill anyone, though Ballistic and Sunfire surely could have. But normally, they just don’t take casualties: given tinker and other cape medical support, if they lose someone, it’s usually to high school graduation.

        These days they’re taking a staggering casualty rate, and despite all those sacrifices… they’re still losing. The Undersiders have the city. Remember when patrol was long hours hanging out with friends or at least peers, doing good work? Remember the last time Shadow Stalker went on patrol alone? Wonder if you’re next? And they still go out. Point being, they do ‘nut up’ – regularly, and go out and fight the good fight. An expression of sorrow at a friend’s betrayal – and it was a betrayal, Flechette’s turn to Parian wouldn’t mean so much if she wasn’t giving up so much: her friends, her purpose in life hitherto – is hardly inappropriate.

        The Wards are heroes. Children also, some of them more than others, and embedded in an organization and society that is far from perfect… but heroes nonetheless. People who do their best to be their best selves (with occasional success), who take their powers and pledge them to the protection and service of mankind. There’s a reason Taylor wanted to join their ranks – they are heroes, and not just in the cape sense of the word. Of course, in the world of Worm, the heroes – and all humanity – are slowly losing the fight. But the heroes don’t give up – that’s one of the ways you can tell they’re heroes. And that’s something I find sympathetic, and indeed admirable.

        Isn’t that one of the reasons we like Taylor so much – her stubborn refusal to give up?

          • Surprised and grateful.

            Also looking forward to getting this on kindle come the day, cf. Shadow Unit.

        • I’m with wildbow — great comment, agreed on both points. The only time I can think of in-story that doesn’t fit the pattern you described was the final takedown of Bakuda and Lung, presuming the Wards were even present for it, and we don’t have any information on how that fight went down.

          But yeah, I’m absolutely agreed. The purpose of the Wards was not to turn children into stone-cold warriors capable of going toe-to-toe with the most dangerous supervillains on the planet, but to be a place to gather tomorrow’s superheroes and give them training on how to be superheroes. And honestly, the classes Clockie hates so much are a crucial part of that, because you don’t stop criminals by beating them up, you stop them by arresting them and getting them convicted of the crimes they committed, and there are specific legal requirements you have to meet to attain that objective.

          Nearly everything the Wards have had to do since the story began has been them going above and beyond what has been expected of them. Because they are heroes, and when they are needed, they step up, ready or not.

          • We do know that Clockblocker and Vista got the credit for stopping Bakuda’s superbomb with their powers – but that fight almost certainly had MM, Armsmaster, Velocity (missed his death to Leviathan in the initial post – nothing on screen, but he’s on the memorial), Assault, Battery,and Dauntless as the front line, with the Wards handling thugs… and Lung was probably still blind. That’s risky, but not that risky.

            Remember Taylor wading through unpowered ABB thugs after her confrontation with Lung in the warehouse? That’s more likely what the Wards were up to in that fight.

        • Yeah, pretty damn good assessment of them. Looking back this is pretty much spot on. Though my main worry is how much the PRT is fucking up their development, it seemed pretty clear to me that neither Piggot nor Tagg gave a pale shadow of a shit about fostering the next generation of heroes.

          The Wards are just pawns on the chestboard to them, and they’re becoming afraid and paranoid because of their mismanagement, or perhaps they like them that way, make the enemy seem like some dark and terrible, so they’ll be less likely to ask question. Something that I still think they should be doing, Tagg’s going to be leading them into dangerous situation after dangerous situation until they either stop letting him or they end up dead.

          On a macro, non-street fighting level I have reservations about calling the heroes in the right so long as Cauldron is still around. The organization would have to be obliterated before they can build a superhero organization that truly lives up to that title. I’m still on the fence on whether the PRT ought to be burned to the ground too. Yeah, yeah Endbringers. But I can hope that whatever happens by the end will make the PRT unnecessary

          I also should note that there have been several instances of heroes referring to themselves as soldiers, and from the PRT’s methods leads me to believe that they actively want superheroes to operate as qa hardened, unquestioning army.

          • > On a macro, non-street fighting level I have reservations about calling the heroes in the right so long as Cauldron is still around.

            For a moment I was wondering if there were any capes who left the Protectorate/Wards prior to Echidna because they figured out that it was in the thrall of Cauldron.

          • Sorry, s/”For a moment I was”/”Now I’m”. Originally I was going to have something about how many individual members of the hero teams are heroes, but you specifically acknowledged that in your comment already so I cut it.

          • >Yeah, yeah Endbringers. But I can hope that whatever happens by the end will make the PRT unnecessary.

            Scion’s still under orders to kill the Endbringers now, right?

        • You happened to say the right combination of words to break through some cynicism temporarily.

          As the CoH community used to say, “A hero never quits.”


          *holds up a torch*

    • The biggest oddity of it is that, well…they know that everything is going to end. Tagg is trying to play the long game, which would actually be…well, not shrewd, exactly, but a decent call – if there was a long game to play. But there isn’t; he can’t can’t count on the PRT bouncing back in two years because he simply doesn’t have two years to bounce back in.

      That’s part of why the mention of careers is so odd. What does it matter if, in the long run, the Protectorate/PRT lose credibility for working with villains, and this shuts down the careers of all involved? As someone once said, in the long run, everyone is dead. He was talking about how thinking only of the long term is foolish and too easy a task, but in this case it’s a bit more literal than that.

        • No, he clearly believes in it – he was trying to play hardball to get Dinah to give him information. He just doesn’t get that things have changed; he’s consciously aware of the impending apocalypse but isn’t allowing little things like ‘facts’ to change his behavior. To quote another someone – “No. Not even in the face of Armageddon. Never compromise.”

          I’d almost want to make a comment about the whole political theory of this – that the idea of sovereignty, the idea that nation-states have the monopoly on violence, simply no longer works.Instead there’s a mutual ‘unwritten rules’ consensus, the codes of conduct that make it possible for capes to come together in the face of larger threats. Governments, military – they can’t handle that truth.

  19. Definitely an interesting chapter, though the end leaves me wanting more.
    I’m not actually sure that Miss Militia should be considered useless here. For the majority of the chapter, she’s being criticized by commentators for not being more proactive in the negotiations. But why should she be? She knows that Alexandria is coming in, someone that outranks both Tagg and Herself. As she says, she’s conserving energy for the real discussion, after Alexandria arrives. (Interestingly, MM comment about a deal with the devil, could apply equally to Skitter and Alexandria)
    Historically, story wise, she has actually been one of the more effective capes on battles. When skitter clockblocker-trapped elodionclone, MM was the one to kill him (With a Rocket). We know that she has a strong respect for the rule of law, and I could easily see her getting orders on how to deal with the S9 that precluded cooperation with the Undersiders. (been a little while since I read that section though) And while we are getting frustrated at her refusal to make deals with Skitter, She is a hero and Skitter is a Supervillan. Some things just don’t happen easily.
    I suspect that MM is coming around to some of Skitter’s conclusions, sine she does mention sharing the same concerns about the PRT and the Future.

    Though Skitter doesn’t know, what Alexandria’s entrance most reminded me of is Grue’s observations of her during his interlude. The fearless stride and sense of certainty about her, even when she is traveling in crowds/ pedestrian areas.

    I am finding amusement in poor Crucible. Dude has got to be so confused.
    “What is enchinida?” “Classified”
    “Why happened?” “sorry, can’t tell you”
    “Why did you guys just run terrified from the Chief Director?” “Can’t tell you. They’ll kill us. Just run.”

    • I so dearly want more Crucible. He, or she, or it, or they, or whatever this character is — I want to see more. And not just because the TV Tropes page entry for Crucible consists of one sentence of description and one trope — the whole conversation with the “Classified”-chorus makes me really want to know who this person is.

  20. Dinah Calvert… eh, guess he forced her to marry him. Or at least that’s what I got in my moment of confusion.
    (Do we even know her age? I just realized I’ve been assuming “around ten”, but without any kind of basis.)

    Well, it could be after all. Coil did have the money to arrange a marriage someplace where it would be legal (according to wikipedia children are given in marriage at 7 routinely in some places).
    And he should do it because? This is harder… oh, I got it. While thinking about how to “reward” his employer with the peculiar tastes, and maybe feeling a bit whimsical he asked what chances would be to avert the end of the world if the two of them married, and the answer was positive enough to go with it.
    Might be because she now inherits enough money/stuff/blackmail material to organize one of the armies she mentioned.
    Oh, and before everyone’s too much disgusted, even if he married her it does not mean he has touched her at all (besides patting her head ofc). And yes, this clarificaton would have been more useful at the beginning of the text.

    Speculating on something more relevant: this is out of character for Cauldron. So far it has been pretty clear they must maintain an hands-off approach on the events in Brockton Bay. It does not fit and it’s not because of the portal thing that forced their hand, Tagg called Costa-Brown in before knowing that.

    Alexandria present is either to try and nudge things towards overt conflict or to put Skitter out of the local picture and smooth thing over like she required. Both would fit with their (inferred) masterplan.
    In both cases Cauldron might try to recruit her. Either to pair her up with Harbringer (they could name themselves War and Famine at that point), or to try a Kafka-esque experiment.

    So it’s again down to a coin toss. Miss Militia’s coin is still in the air too.

      • I always give the benefit of the doubt, and take everything as intended at first.
        I have an overactive imagination and I’m really good at finding excuses, I mean, plausible explanations.

        But the foremost reason is that the voices tell me to write stuff to screw with your head 😉

      • According to her TVTropes entry, she is.
        By-the-by, does anyone else think she should be moved out of Coil’s section.

        • You could make a strong case for her belonging in Others, for sure. The only reason I listed her for Coil is because that’s where she was when she was introduced.

  21. “If the Undersiders try to avoid direct engagement and attempt to come at us from another angle? Media? Revealing telling details? Financially? Through our families?”

    “As it stands, the Protectorate East-North-East holds Brockton Bay in a specialized state of emergency. It’s a legal wild west, with very little precedent holding things together. Director Tagg reports to his superiors, who report to the United States government.”

    What if the Undersiders ignore the Brockton Bay PRT and its members completely and proceed to attack key members of the Senate Sub Committee for Parahuman Affairs, bribing &/or blackmailing them to bring political pressure against Tagg instead? Alexandria may be untouchable with her “Hero” rep and Cauldron landmine but Tagg should be expendable in their eyes right?

      • Oh c’mon, isnt it obvious that US senators are already bought by multiple parties before, during and after their time in office? I meant that they haven’t been bought by the Undersiders yet.

    • YESSSS. But at this point, its too soon. Flechette’s interlude wouldn’t introduce us to anything new. Hopefully there’ll be one before the end of the story? Though from what Wildbow has said, it seems the story is already wrapping up, so…

      • Even though we just saw her in the last interlude, it’d show us what the Undersiders are up to, as well as her thoughts on them now. Of course, the next arc will definitely be showing that anyways, and it would be more of a surprise without a heads up. And then we could even maybe get to see Flechette interact directly with Skitter. What I really want to see, though, is more of Emma and Shadow Stalker now that Skitter’s identity has been revealed.

        • Hahahaha. I just turned on the tv, and they were showing a list of the most popular girls names of 2012. What were the top two? Sophia and Emma.

  22. Alexandria… Hm!

    I expected the higher ups to get involved at some point, but she appears personally? Hm!

    Also, good to see Taylor making with the social fu! The land shuffle around the portal is a nice way of turning up pressure, without committing to anything horrible, or crossing any lines. Heh, Sierra. Who’d a thunk it?

    And Danny… Oh Danny. You are such a good man, a good father, and you put it best… Some of the worst qualities and more of the better ones.

    Oddly enough, I’m seeing that Tagg is really a paper tiger when you get down to it. He’s a jerk, true, and he talks tough, but he’s not going to cross any extreme lines. Especially not now Alexandria’s here.

    Miss Militia… A lot of people calling her out for lack of spine, or being useless, but no. This is a tricky situation, and she’s right in that there doesn’t seem to be ANY good choice that won’t compromise her and her team in some way. There is someone else available to make the call, and so she’ll let them do it. Honestly, Taylor holding her up and supporting her as a leader kind of bound her hands… If she supported Skitter, then it would look self-serving, and she’d lose the respect she needs to lead. If she supported Tagg, then she’d be giving up on solving problems that she AGREES with Taylor need to be solved.

    Miss Militia is thinking ahead. By staying silent, she can react the way she needs to to the new situation, wait until the choice becomes simpler and more visible. She keeps herself a viable resource for when it is best for her to act. Save Taylor? Well, she could try, but Taylor’s determined to martyr herself one way or the other, here. Boot Tagg? Why? If it was done with corruption, then it’d just be undone later, and MM would lose the ability to influence future issues. Support Tagg? Gh. No. Guy’s an ass. And he’s WRONG. So when the PRT crumbles, she’d lose influence from those who remembered her supporting Tagg.

    Heroes are better at being reactive, than proactive. Villains? Vice-versa, generally. That’s one of the big genre conventions, and the Protectorate’s bought into it wholesale… Which is one of the reasons they’ve suffered so in the previous crises. One of the reasons the wards don’t get the training they need to optimize their tactics and power combinations.

    But it’s all moot, since Alexandria’s here, and the ball’s in her court now, and I do NOT know which way it is going to go. It is going to be a surprise, a likely glorious surprise either way! Wildbow, you are GOOD at this. I cannot wait until Saturday!

    • I agree with you on MM. I don’t think she’s useless; she just know when her actions wouldn’t have any real effect in the long run.

    • In regards to MM i disagree.
      You are talking about her losing support if she acted. That could be true enough if she did one of the things you listed however you are forgetting that the same is possible with nonaction.

      If i was skitter and hoped for a bit of moral support in this situation i d pretty much reevaluate my trusting in her after her doing and saying exactly zip so far. Same if i was in her team for gods sake he is talking about wanting to shoot a 16-year old girl or taking Dinah whos age i don t know atm prisoner because she refuses to do what he wants and there is not so much as a word against it? I m not sure i d trust her to have my back if i witnessed that.

      Well i hope you are right regardless and she would have done something if he had attempted to make true his threats or we simply haven t heard or seen her prepare something but when that something comes it is awesome and just because i d much prefer the MM i was picturing before Skitter was imprisoned.

  23. I’m torn between thinking that the concept of eminent domain is a lot more ugly and powerful than Taylor seems to think, and then thinking that, well, maybe that’s only a problem for little people with no money, which the Undersiders aren’t, really.

    ….It’s a really cynical morning, I guess.

    • Then we fight cynicism with cynicism. I mean, there’s no Iraq war in the Wormverse, but the U.S. has been screwing over other countries for a long time. It’s practically an American tradition.

      So with an entire other world at stake and a very limited number of portals around, I figure the rest of the world is going to put a lot of pressure on the U.S. to not seize it. Other countries want to get through there too, and I figure they’d rather work with supervillains than the U.S. government.

      • I had a similar thought when the government almost condemned the city. I thought at the time that Taylor would have a 2nd trigger event that made her VERY powerful, and she declared the city her own country after doing something big for the world at large. The US refuses to recognize it, and then all its major allies recognize it, and now she has to run her own country similar to Doctor Doom.

  24. Man.. seeing Taylor raise her chin and close her eyes to take the hit.. if Taylor hearing Danny say he didn’t want her friends running things was a punch in the gut, seeing her expecting violent retribution from him must have been a kick in the nuts. Though I wonder how little Danny knows, he was supportive, but didn’t show the kind of support I’d expect for a guy whose daughter has gone to bat the way Taylor has.

  25. Maybe skitter will manage to escape through the portal….time jump…comes back with new uber bugs from some part of the other world’s slightly(I think) different ecosystem.

    • Imagine if she raided the jungles of the other world…

      ALSO (and I’m sorry for just bringing up stuff from other chapters, since I just started reading recently), I know at the moment it’s not possible, but what ever happened to that Darwin’s spider suit she wanted back in 1.2? I know she got the spiders from Coil, so whatever happened to making the suit?

      • Not nearly enough spiders. Takes tens of thousands to produce sufficient silk, and even with the black widows, she’s been using a lot of them to make cords to bring into fights.

        • Ah. Yeah, I did consider the possibility that she just hasn’t been able to breed a large enough supply of them yet. Though it would be cool if she eventually did set up that spider workshop she once mentioned – but with the Darwin spider instead of black widows. I was just curious since it had been about ten arcs since any mention of that.

  26. There is someone missing in this game. Dragon.
    IF Alexandria wants to do a little job in Taylor`s mind and/or deal with her by sending her to Cauldron the only escape will be if dragon gets into the game.
    Of course, sooner or latter Dragon/Defiant will talk with Taylor.
    Oh, by the way, like another guy said in the last comments section:
    Better yet:
    Puta que o pariu, isto esta ficando cada VEZ MELHOR!!!
    %%######%%%%, this is getting better and better!!!

    • Dragon might still be recovering from Armsmaster’s hack. She might still be impaired enough not to be able to speak.

      • Or she may be seing it all through the security cameras of the building and one of her much improved armors may be coming soon.

    • Or, if she wasn’t consciously controlling what it turned into, her passenger is. I like to think it was Miss Militia who was making the point, though. Clever!

  27. A thought I just had on why Sierra was willing to re-enter the picture: Skitter turning herself in changed her mind about the morality of working for her cause.

  28. Skitter is not religious; she has already said so.
    She’s also not very philosophical. Not that she’s had much time for introspective musings on justice and morality.

    Yet, all of her decisions in the story are based on keeping up this facade of hers – that she’s a good and moral person.

    Except she’s not? Why does she believe this so intently when she’s already admitted in the past before, that her “strivings for goodness” were just a skin she wore over her real desires. When she joined the Undersiders, she wanted to oust them out to become a Hero, but that dream died the moment they became her friends and she realized how much she liked being with them. She continued to try and justify to herself that she could turn them in and that she was doing everything she was for some “greater good” – but she didn’t. She harassed, bullied, and injured people and continued to do so in order to preserve her new found freedom and friends. Not to say that Skitter doesn’t deserve those things, but it’s undeniable that she’s not a “moral” person. A “moral” person; whose morals are unshakable and founded in some kind of philosophy or religion, would have if not turned in the Undersiders, been level with them close to the beginning. Some moral people wouldn’t even try to backstab the do-badders (why? Well duh. Look at Skitter early on in the story, betraying her friends made her into her worst enemy personified – Emma).

    So why does Sktiter, in this chapter still, a million or so words in, cling to the false pretense of morality when she bows her head and says she’ll submit to prison/birdcage for her crimes? Why does Tagg say she is a “moral” person? She isn’t.

    Tagg is an idiot. Skitter is thinking about the world at large, it’s why she’s negotiating with him instead of killing him where he stands. But he’s also right. Skitter is just a teenager with tunnel vision. Her entire morality is not based on some grander thing, but her father. Her morality is her father’s approval. “What would my father think if I killed Tagg right here?” That’s her driving morality, besides the fear of becoming a backstabbing bully, which she has already become in many ways.

    Is Skitter aware that her moral trappings are so flimsy? I don’t like how easily she talks about the Undersiders in this chapter in the conditional tense. Is she going to forsake her happiness and friendship for something she doesn’t even really believe in? That’s my interpretation anyway. I hope she wakes up to her real desires, or at least can use her new-found spine to grow a philosophy worth giving up all those material things for. Right now it’s just frustrating that she’s doing all these “good” things, like turning herself in, submitting to punishment, and sacrificing her life, under false pretenses that she should at least be aware of? Or is my interpretation of Skitter incomplete?

    • I don’t think her father comes into it.

      Are you familiar with Jonathan Haidt’s Moral Foundation theory? He breaks down moral instincts into eight kinds (which I have copy-pasted from his Wikipedia page):

      * Care/harm: care for others, protecting them from harm.
      * Fairness/cheating or Proportionality: Justice, treating others in proportion to their actions, giving them their “just deserts”.
      Liberty/oppression: characterizes judgments in terms of whether subjects are tyrannized.
      * Loyalty/betrayal or Ingroup: relations to your group, family, nation.
      * Authority/subversion or Respect: for tradition and legitimate authority.
      * Sanctity/degradation or Purity: avoiding disgusting things, foods, actions.

      I see Taylor’s morality as being based on, first, care for those around her; second, loyalty toward those who support her; and third, fairness or justice for herself and others — with liberty being seen as strictly of secondary importance, sanctity or purity as irrelevant or actively inimical to her goals, and traditional authority as a source of harm, betrayal, and injustice.

      She remained with the Undersiders because she felt loyal to them for the support they gave her, physical and emotional, and because they as a group (a) avoided causing harm to people during their heists and (b) during much of the early part of her tenure, were busy fighting the ABB — a task which protects people in the town from harm and brings justice to criminals. Remember how betrayed she felt when Grue didn’t want to go out and stop Purity from razing their old neighborhood? That feeling arose because she was projecting her own care/harm instincts upon him — instincts which he didn’t really share. (Look at her remarking on his care for his sister and how he saw it as loyalty to a family member.)

      She harasses, bullies, and injures a lot of people during the story — for reasons which are based on ideas of care/harm, loyalty/betrayal, or fairness/cheating. Lung and his gang? Murderous bastards who needed to be stopped for the safety of people throughout the town. (And look at Tangle 6.1: she hates fighting the recruited guys, hesitates to beat them up … unlike Grue, I may add.) The bank? She spidered the hostages to protect them from harm. And both at the bank and at the gallery, she participated out of a mixture of a desire to seek justice for the Undersider’s boss and out of loyalty to her teammates (initially more the former, later more the latter). After being outed? She went back to the Undersiders and went along with a limited amount of harm to people (mostly people whom she felt deserved it — for whom it was justified) to end greater harm (Dinah’s imprisonment) and bring a greater criminal to justice (Coil). And wherever she could, to the furthest extent she could, she helped people (care/harm) and tried to stop villains (fairness/cheating).

      Why do I say that Taylor is — despite the horrifying things she’s done — a moral person?

      Because there’s one thing conspicuously absent from the above list: actions taken for her own benefit. The only things she really did for her own benefit were pursuing a relationship with Grue and spending time with her father. And she gave up those things — particularly the latter — when there were more important things that urgently needed doing.

      Her priorities are to protect people, particularly those closest to her, and to seek justice for those who harm people. And she sacrifices to do it.

      That’s not a formal philosophy or an organized religion, but that’s morality.

      • I was gonna reply, but I think you made the point I was going to, and possibly better than I would have.

        • I don’t know — I suspect you wouldn’t have said a list of six items had eight items on it.

          (I really ought to start actually getting a good night’s sleep one of these days…)

      • You make some good points, I suppose you can be “moral” without having a cognizant philosophy, but I guess I feel like Skitter’s motivation is “guilt” and one of the large factors in her guilt is her father. It doesn’t seem like there’s a reason for her to be moral in this situation though, if she’s acting intrinsically good, why is that? I guess I’m expecting a clear motivation there, or at least a lack of concern for one from Taylor herself. None of the heroes so far have yet to appreciate this either, so I’m guess I’m concerned it’s something unconscious in the story, or maybe I’m just misinterpreting things.

        • I think that she’s not necessarily acting (at least not completely) out of guilt. Despite not having a firm religious belief or overarching (is that a word, and am I using it right?) philosophy, she generally acts in ways that she feels will minimize the damage done to others. Sure, there are times where she is aggressive or lacks compassion, but I believe she does care about people. And she feels that the changes she’s asking for would help pave the way to a better future; so much so that she is willing to sacrifice herself for them.

          As for the heroes not appreciating her motives, they have a greater concern for the sides that people align themselves with. They have constantly seen Skitter acting on the side of villainy (even when she wasn’t being THAT bad), and so they are reluctant, or outright opposed to cooperating with her.

        • The question really becomes what one means by ‘moral’. You seem to refer to someone with strong convictions, according to some arbitrary (well, really, what is commonly considered as moral, I guess) code of conduct. Skitter is compassionate and brave, but her convictions do not align with law.

  29. Don t we all do that? Have this picture of us or the person we would like to be and try to act like it? And Skitter thinks of herself as good however she defines that. Every person has his or her own set of definitions of what good means and most people think they are good even should they be arrogant, ignorant, hateful, racist, greedy or whatever other attributes or combinations thereof you can imagine even if other people are sure they are evil.

    She has done criminal and bad things sure you only have to read the list her lawyer brought and its not nearly complete to see that. But most of those she did in an attempt to either as you said yourself save her friends or achieve a goal that she thought of as desirable (freeing Dinah, saving the city from Endbringer or S9). Most people are selfish or at least selfcenterd and give their own circle of aquintances a higher priority in such considerations she is not different and that doesn t make her evil only human.

    I m pretty sure we could debate the definition of moral and most of her acts for a good long while since they are mostly subjective to one s own view. A ‘moral’ being founded in religion can go evil just as well as anyone else just look to the crusades for that. And i disagree with you about her moral being founded on her fathers approval for that she doesn t nearly seek enough contact with him or has her thoughts revolving around him. Her power having disconected her from humanity i could take as a reason for becomming more ruthless and less moral but i still believe she has a moral code.

    To have such a code you don t need to be philosopher or think about it constantly your actions need to show consistant intent which with the insight we as the readers have i d say is there. I don t say it wouldn t help her cement it if she found the time to sit down and reflect but i thought her at the cemetary did just that too and well.

    • I guess what I’m trying to say is that Skitter has been through a lot of shit. And a lot of that has been “automatic”. At no point was she ever really in a position to “do right” in the sense the heroes want her to. The moment she joined the Undersiders, her fate was sealed. Skitter wouldn’t betray friends like her old friends had betrayed her. And from there, it was basically a roller coaster – one ridiculous conflict after another. So little time has passed since this story started and finally, Skitter has some time to think. She’s railroaded by Dinah to turn herself in, or at least, “break from her friends” for some greater good – but this is the same conflict that we had earlier in the story. Taylor would not betray the Undersiders to give the PRT information on them and Coil. At the time, that was the greater good, however.

      Dinah asks her to abandon her friends and she does, with seemingly little hesitation or thought. Does she consider this not a betrayal of sorts? What makes this different from the earlier conflict? I guess I’m expecting her to have a reason for why she’s doing this that is more specific. If Taylor really cared about the greater good from the very beginning, she would have betrayed the Undersiders, no? To say that Taylor is submitting herself to life in prison because she’s a moral person is confusing to me, because although she has morals, they’re not anything close to the morals the PRT wished she had from the start. They want to imprison her; in effect, they are saying that her choices were unjustified and warrant justice. If Taylor isn’t cognizant of this, okay, but it’s where I’m coming from on this? Maybe I’m making a big deal out of this, but there’s something about this recent development that scratches me somewhere, like something’s off and I can’t place it.

      • She didn’t betray the Undersiders because she realized that even though they weren’t all that good, the PRT was full of assholes and manipulative and corrupt people as well. And she’s been able to steer the Undersiders in a more positive direction than they might have gone otherwise, and done a lot of good in the process. I think it was even stated in cannon that she’s sort of the morality chain of the group.
        And with cutting ties when Dinah told her to, she believes that Dinah is also working for the greater good, and that despite not wanting to, it will ultimately lead to them stopping Jack Slash.

      • > Dinah asks her to abandon her friends and she does, with seemingly little hesitation or thought.

        I think she was convinced for a while that she should leave — and not just because of DInah’s notes, but because the Undersiders are criminals, what she is doing with them isn’t what needs to be done to prevent or mitigate the upcoming apocalypse, and she was never happy with them. Loyalty is the only reason she didn’t leave earlier.

        • I thought she did actually care about her teammates. I mean, Tattletale was her best friend, and with her bringing up her and Grue’s relationship, I didn’t feel like that was just something she was saying as a game with Tagg.

          On a semi-unrelated note, have there been jokes about a game of Tagg yet?

      • Tactically, it makes sense for Skitter to turn herself in. When dealing with someone like Tagg, any other kind of action on her part would only lead to an escalation in violence. By making the first move in passive resistance, she maintains the upper hand.

        Plus, I think the keyword here is not betrayal, guilt, or morality. It’s trust. Skitter trusts Dinah. Those notes were written for her own benefit and she gets that. Skitter likely considered surrender as one of her options; “cut ties” just made her decision a bit easier.

      • “automatic” is an interesting choice of words. In split-second decisions there is no time for a conscious reasoning or to think through all implications you simply do as you instictivly feel like doing. That becomes influenced by your upbringing and training as i said i believe she still has a moral code and i think Packbat summed it up pretty neatly. And i think that is was is underlying this “automatic” response.

        The circumstances of the Undersiders then and now are different. Then she truly believed it was for the greater good to find the mastermind behind the Undersiders but by the time she found him the people she would have needed to act didn t trust her any longer and she had built friendships that for her outweighed the concept of the greater good. At the same time she still was working against Coil so in her own frame of mind still for good.

        Now she knows that the world will end and the majority of the human race will die.
        That is completly different from the shadowy greater good from earlier. Who would benefit from the Undersiders being put in jail? Possible future victims or capes that would have fought them? Thats hard to imagine but the majority of the human race diing now thats pretty firmly in the avoid at all costs column right there. And her believing in Dinah working for that is a great motivator to follow her lead.

        I believe you fell into that mindset of if you are at the side of the law you are right and good and if you are not on the side of the law you are evil and wrong. This story for me at least shows clearly that that kind thinking is flawed for Skitter is at heart a good person and just tries to do the best she can. She did not want to become a supervillain but that is where it lead her. At the same time just because someone is called a hero that doesn t mean he or she is or is right and just. Look at Alexandria helping abduct people from neardeath situations so they can be experimented on and you know what i mean.

        It feels weird arguing in favor of a supervillain in such stories i m normally on the hero side pretty firmly but thats just the thing those heroes aspire to be good just like i think Skitter does the heroes here often aspire a career which is more realistic but can lead them to follow people like Tagg for whom i have developed a deep hatred.

  30. Don’t you think Tattletale has enough clout to nip any legislation in the bud? Hell I see her giving politicians some of her own ideas.
    And can someone pls labotomize Tagg! If she gave Tagg crabs & lice could she still hear him? 😋It would be great if some capes & persons in charge would be on Skitters side.

  31. Typo check:

    She arrived, minutes late. A woman, tall, in a suit, carrying nothing with her. I sensed her at the periphery of my range, walking with a steady, strong stride.

    So you’re saying Alexandria arrived late?

    Or should that be “She arrived, minutes later.”

  32. So. They’ve decided not to use Taylor’s dad. Good choice.
    Typed too soon. Silly me. And: Holy carp, each side is pulling out its big guns.

  33. Wow, got here again with My wordage project and it has taken some time and effort. To think that the next eight arcs contain two and a half as many comments as all the preceding arcs collectively reals hits home.

    The other thing is I still Pick on things as I got through even though I have been through before. Each (cursory) pass through allows me to put extra snippets together and think of new questions. That can wait though, I have eight arcs and forty thousand comments to get through.

    …And yet, that task is dwarfed by Wildbow’s past and present ones.

  34. Hmm. Did anyone else notice that Tagg handled the Flechette situation much less ham-handedly than the Skitter one? If he genuinely had a “Villains are the enemy, give no quarter!” mentality, I doubt he would’ve been so sympathetic towards Flechette. He appeared to be showing genuine understanding and empathy there. Maybe he’s not completely hopeless after all…

    BTW, possible dialogue that went through my head reading this:

    Tagg (to Danny) : I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised at that opinion from someone who raised a supervillain.

    Danny: Yes, I raised a supervillain. A really good one.

    • He would act a hero being “corrupt”exactly like that with a fanatic mentality,only way to reconcile his black and white insanity is thinking like in a child’s cartoon:the hero who left was corrupt but he is intristically a hero,so he will eventually realize his mistake.

  35. “All of this, from the girl who used her power to convince her brother to kill himself, before fleeing, spending years on the streets, stealing wallets and using the account numbers to take whole fortunes?”

    you don’t know SHIT

  36. I wasn’t sure who she was talking to, until Tagg responded, “No. We didn’t do a thing to her. Everyone that’s been in Brockton Bay over the past weeks and months has dealt with a lot, and I think this is her wrestling with something on her own. I have immense respect for Flechette, and all I can do, all we can do, is hope she comes to her senses.”

    So this is how Tagg has gotten to a position of leadership over sane people with that us-vs-them mentality of his: he’s good at faking it.

  37. Ok, so apparently Vista and Miss Militia are going to join the Undersiders (sooner or later, one way or another).

    I mean, we all know what happens if you openly say that you hate Skitter. It happened to Parian, it happened to Flechette. The pattern is undeniable. 😉

  38. I though the one arriving was Contessa so even if I know Alexandria is really bad news, I don’t feel her as threatening now. Expectatives.

  39. How exactly is having only one in charge of all the land better than having many?
    After all it should be harder for the gov to talk with multiple people than just one.

  40. “All of this, from the girl who used her power to convince her brother to kill himself…”
    Say that to her face. I want to see Tattletale unleash her full power on you, Tagg.
    …maybe wait a week or two, though. No particular reason, she’s just…um…busy.

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