Interlude 22

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“…you can call me Weaver.”

The broadcast ended.   A hush took hold of everyone present, a silence that deepened when someone muted the television.

The spell was broken by one of the kids.  Ephraim.  “She’s going to be a hero?”

“She’s going to try,” Forrest answered.

Charlotte looked around at the collected residents of the Boardwalk.  It was customary, now, to have a block party every third night of the week.  A mass-barbecue, a bonfire on the beach, or some other big meal that would bring everyone together.  Community.

Skitter’s community, though Skitter was gone, in more senses than one.

Taylor had turned herself in, early in the day, and word had spread.  They’d hooked up a television, the biggest they could get their hands on, and set it up beneath a waterproof tent for good measure.

For the better part of the day, they’d watched.  People had stopped by, glancing at the latest news.  Any update, however large or small, was met by shouted alerts, by hollers and speculation.

Charlotte had taken the day off school, taking only the time necessary to see the little ones off and to bring them back.  She wouldn’t have been able to focus, anyways, and the schools were still being lenient.

And now, finally, this.

“It’s done,” Charlotte said.  “For better or worse.”

“For better,” Forrest said.

“I’m not so sure,” Charlotte said, lowering her voice so others wouldn’t hear.

“She’s a hero,” Forrest said.  “This is where she’s supposed to be.”

“Maybe,” Charlotte answered.  She couldn’t help but think of how scary Taylor had been when she’d dealt with the ABB thugs.  How easily the girl had slipped into her role as a leader of the territory.  “But even if it’s where she’s meant to go, they won’t necessarily accept her.”

“Doesn’t matter,” Forrest said.  “It’s out of our hands.  We’ll wish her the best, give her some moral support if they let her get fan letters, and handle our own business, so she doesn’t have to worry about us.  And speaking of handling our own business…”

Forrest directed a pointed look at the kids who were sitting around Charlotte.

“Right,” she said.

“I’ll be along to see to the lads,” Forrest said.  “Just have to clean up first.”

Charlotte nodded.  Bed time for the littlest ones.  She rose from the bench.  “Show’s over, come on, it’s time to go to bed.”

There were groans and grumbles here and there.  Charlotte knew who it was without looking.  She identified Mason, set a hand on top of his head, and pulled him closer to her as she walked back to their place.  “Be good.”

Mason mimicked the exact same groan he’d given a moment ago.

“So dumb,” Kathy was saying.  She was one of the older children, looking after Jessie and Aidan.  “I never had to go to bed this early before.”

“It’s easier,” Charlotte said.  “And we can all use an earlier bedtime.  It leaves us in better shape to face tomorrow, don’t you think?”

“I wasn’t talking to you,” Kathy said.

Kathy and Mason were the most likely to fight, to challenge her.  When she was hurrying to get them out to the bus stop for school, it was Mason who would decide he’d suddenly forgotten how to tie his shoes, or who would drag his feet to force her to seize his hand and pull him along.  He needed that attention in moments of crisis, however small.  Kathy was the opposite.  Charlotte hadn’t uncovered the details, but the girl had been burned by someone in authority, and rebelled against it as a matter of habit.  Kathy wanted to be independent, but she was too young.

“You were complaining about something I said.”

Kathy glared at her.  “I could stay up, watch TV for another hour or two, and then go to bed.  I’d be quiet.”

“And what if you were too tired to look after Aidan and Jessie?”

Kathy scowled, but she didn’t reply.

Jessie wet the bed most nights.  She never came to Charlotte to let her know.  More than once, Charlotte had found the girl sleeping on the floor when morning came.  Aidan had nightmares that left him screaming and wailing well after he’d woken up, refusing to listen to her.  More than once, he’d actually had the nightmares while sleepwalking.

It was hard to deal with, frankly.  She’d taken to setting her alarm for one, three and five o’clock in the morning, rising from bed and checking in to make sure the kids were alright, that Jessie’s bed was dry.  It was embarrassing to admit, but there had been four occasions when she’d been terrified as she had run into Aidan, standing in the bathroom or sitting at the table in the kitchen.  Each time, he’d been gripped by whatever terrors it was that found him at nighttime.  Half the time he fought her, the other half the time he just screamed, bloodcurdling.

Kathy, a little more than half Charlotte’s age, took it in stride, almost thrived on looking after the younger ones.  She had endless patience with Jessie’s nighttime accidents, and virtually every time Aidan’s screams woke her, Kathy was already at his side, speaking calmly, waiting until he’d relaxed enough that she could hug and cuddle him.

They made their way inside, and Charlotte was sure to close the shutter just beyond the front door.  Aidan watched carefully as she fed the chain through the ring at the base of the door and the small gap in the floor.  She locked it, then tugged it for good measure, demonstrating how secure it was.

“Safe,” she said.

Wordless, his forehead creased with the sort of worry he shouldn’t have for another fifteen years, Aidan turned and walked away.

“Girls in the bath first, snacks after,” Charlotte said.  “Boys, cookies and milk before your bath.”

The O’Daly clan had collected their kids, most of their kids, finally.  It left the number more manageable.  Kathy, Mai and Jessie made their way to the bathroom.  Aidan, Ephraim, Ethan and Mason found stools at the kitchen counter while Ben, the oldest of the boys, got the cookies, glasses and milk out.

Charlotte checked on the girls to make sure that they were getting along okay, then shut the bathroom door and got her laptop out.

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♦  Stickied Topic: Alexandria Discussion (July 14th) Goes Here
♦  TopicAlexandria Dead
♦  Topicchevalier’s ‘new PRT’ vs. endbringer
♦  Topic:  What the fuck happened?
♦  Topic:  Skitter
♦  Topic:  The Endbringers, Thread XXXIV
♦  Topic:  Dragon Suits: Continued Escalation of Cape Militarization?
♦  Topic:  Weaver
♦  Topic:  Undersiders
♦  Topic:  Alexandria died
♦  Topic:  Issues with recruiting villains
♦  Topic:  Portal confirmed ok by Chev 2011-07-14

“She’s famous,” Charlotte said aloud.

“Because she was on TV?” this from Aidan.

“Because she was a bad guy, and she turned around and decided to be good,” Charlotte said.  “And because she helped beat Alexandria.  It’s controversial stuff, and I think people are going to be arguing about it for a long time.”

“She’s not a bad guy,” Ben said, taking a seat beside the other boys.

“Was too,” Ephraim said.

“She was scary and mean,” Ben said, “But she’s not bad.”

“They’re the same thing.”

“It doesn’t matter,” Charlotte says.

“She got us pizza,” Ben said.  “That’s all that matters to me.”

“That’s sound enough reasoning,” Charlotte said, smiling a little.

She left the laptop to visit the bathroom, calling through the door.  “Five minutes, then out!”

She could hear another grumble from Kathy.

They’d do better if left to their own devices.  Kathy would be happier with something to do, even if it was washing the hair of the younger girls and ensuring they brushed their teeth.

She returned to the kitchen, collecting the plates and glasses and putting them in the dishwasher.

A car horn outside caught her attention.  It wasn’t easy to get cars in and out of the area, with the streets still under repair, and the vehicles that were around were construction vehicles, which didn’t work this late at night.

The horn sounded again, and there were shouts in response.

She was still staring at the door, straining to make out something telling, when Ethan approached her.

“Do you need me to run an errand?”

“No, Ethan.  Now might not be a good time.”  There was more noise outside.  Voices.

“Okay,” he said.  He looked disappointed.

“If you want some fresh air, I can let you upstairs.  You can sit on the balcony.”

Ethan frowned.  “No.  No thanks.”

“Just give me five minutes,” she said.  “Ben?  Lock the shutter after me.  I’ll come through the door downstairs when I return.  Let Kathy and the girls know I’ll be back.”

Ben nodded.

She didn’t raise the shutter all the way, stooping beneath and holding it partially closed.  Ben wasn’t strong enough to lower it on his own, and the outside didn’t have any real handholds.

With Ben’s help, she still managed to press her hands against the broad strip of metal and push it to ground level.  There was a sound of the chain rattling through the gaps.

People were active, gathering in clusters and crowds.  The focus of attention?  A news van.

The news crew was surrounded.

“…word out,” the reporter was saying.  “People are going to make a lot of ugly assumptions.”

“Just go!” someone shouted.

“Turn the camera off and leave!”

The reporter, a tall, blond man with a broad jaw, only smiled.  “I’d almost think you guys had something to hide.”

“We want to be left alone,” Charlotte said.

“Not going to happen,” the reporter said.  “This is blowing up.  People are going to want to investigate every last scrap of dirt.  Even if I left, others would come.”

“We’ll tell them the same thing we told you,” she said.  She saw Forrest approaching, making his way through the crowd.  “That we had school and work all day, that everyone here is working on rebuilding, and we’re tired, we’re not interested in the scandal of the moment.”

“Working hard?” the reporter asked.  “What if I offered, say, two hundred bucks, to whoever gave me the most information?”

“We’d tell you to fuck off,” Forrest cut in, before anyone could take the deal.

“World wants to know.  What is she really like?”  The reporter asked.  “Two hundred dollars, your face on camera.  If you love her, don’t you want people across America to hear something good?  Best support you can give.  If you hated her, well, the opposite’s true, isn’t it?”

“You’d twist our words around,” Forrest said.  “Edit it to take the choicest bits.”

“That’d be dishonest.  It’s not the way we work at channel twelve.”

“No,” Forrest said.  “I think that you’re primarily interested in what gets viewers and ratings.  Maybe you’d stick around for two hours, interview everyone you could, and then take the most controversial and extreme statements.  Only way we don’t play into your hands is if nobody opens their mouth.”

He raised his voice a little at that final statement.

“That so?” the reporter asked.  “Three hundred dollars.  That’s, what, two or three days’ pay, with the kind of wage you earn here?”

Forrest didn’t respond.

“Okay,” the reporter said.  “Well, there’s nothing stopping us from sitting around, is there?  And if someone decides that they’d like to earn a little cash…”

“They’d have to be pretty stupid,” Forrest said.  “Property values are set to soar here, and the way things are organized, just about everyone here is slated to earn a property or a share of a property somewhere down the road.”

“And you’re saying that has nothing to do with the fact that you all worked for a supervillain.”

“I’m not saying anything one way or the other,” Forrest said.  “Except that the numbers don’t add up.  Three hundred dollars now, or get a share of a place that could be worth millions, a few years down the road?”

“People are enterprising,” the reporter said.  He smiled.  “And I can be discreet.  The public needs to know who’s protecting them.”

He turned, returning to the passenger side door of the van, then paused.  “We’ll be parked on the beach.  We can blur out your faces if we need to.”

It took them a minute to get their camera packed away and leave.  Sure enough, they made their way to the beach.  Charlotte could see the headlights illuminating the sand.  Then they went out, and the van was effectively invisible.

“Guards,” Forrest said.  “Take shifts.  We’re not giving them anything.”

“You’re wanting to protect Skitter?” someone asked, from the crowd.

“I worked for her,” Forrest said.  “Most of you know that.  In a way, I still think I work for her, even if she isn’t here anymore.  A lot of us owe her.”

“She brought us as much trouble as she stopped,” the person said.  Charlotte could see it was a tall man who’d hidden a receding hairline and bald spot by shaving his head.  There was only stubble, now.

“She made it possible to rebuild, Scott.”

Everyone’s rebuilding.  We got a head start, that’s all.  You’re saying that’s worth it?  Mannequin came here because of her.  Burnscar came here because of her.  Or didn’t you hear?”

Forrest folded his arms.

Scott said, “My sister-in-law works for the PRT.  Wears a uniform.  She said the Slaughterhouse Nine were here because they were recruiting.  They picked a bunch of people across the city, trying to recruit them, and Skitter was one.  Obviously.  So it’s her fault the people died here.  The help she gave?  She was probably guilty.”

“We don’t know that for sure,” Forrest said.

“Bullshit.  You were there, that first time, when Mannequin was in the warehouse on Shell.  He was wagging his finger at her.  Why?  He was there for her.”

“I was there,” Forrest said.  “Remember?  I stepped up.  I dragged that bastard to where we could tie his head up.  I smashed his head with a concrete block.”

“And I won’t deny that,” Scott answered.  “I would’ve been right there with you if I didn’t have my wife and kid to protect.  We both saw how it played out.  Going by what my sister-in-law said, you wouldn’t have had to do that if Skitter had been somewhere else.”

“I would have,” Forrest said.  “I know Skitter.  Taylor.  Weaver.  Whatever you call her.  We’ve talked, talked a lot.  I’ve heard her side of things, and I know you’re off base.”

“You’re saying my family’s lying?”  Scott asked, raising his voice a touch.  “Or maybe you’re blind.  Can’t see what’s going on because of your own basic, underlying bias.”

Scott approached, moving through the crowd.  He was clearly irritated, a big guy, undoubtedly a dock worker, breathing just a little harder than normal.  Charlotte found herself biting her lip and backing away as he drew closer.  Her stomach twisted as he passed her, as though it were a towel someone was wringing out.  Not an unfamiliar sensation.

For a moment, she could imagine him in her face, hooting, hollering, a vein standing out on his bald head.

The wrenching got worse at the idea, until it felt like everything below her shoulders was being crushed.

The crowd around her was too much, now.  Too evocative.

She fled, pushing her way through the crowd.  For every part of her that wanted to follow the discussion, there was another part that could hear the discordant music blaring, could hear the yelling, smell the sweat, the smoke and incense.

She’d seen what people were like when everything else was stripped away.  Not everyone, not always, but often enough.  It was easy to descend to that level.  Taylor had offered security.  Strength, and the ruthlessness necessary to cut out the cancer.

It wasn’t rational to think this way.  Charlotte knew, generally speaking, that the people here were good.  The bad ones had been scared off, or cut out of the deals that kept everyone else loyal.

On a less rational level?  She hated the idea that this place could devolve into that.  Into what the Merchants had become.

She was upset, she wasn’t thinking straight, and she couldn’t afford to return to the kids like this.  Ben and Kathy would look after the littlest ones for five more minutes.  She could keep walking, burn off this nervous energy and get in a better headsp-


She jumped, swiftly backing away.

It was a man.  Thin, with glasses, reaching out-

Groping, greedy for a handful of flesh.

No.  To get her attention.  Nothing more.  His hand dropped to his side.

“Are you a reporter?”

“I- do I look like a reporter?” he looked anxious, and the expression was unrelated to his question.

“No,” she said.

“I was asking around, for someone who knew Taylor.  Someone told me to look for a girl about your height, with long, dark hair, like yours, with kids around her.  I was going to ask some more, but then the crowd came, and I decided to hang back.”

So he is here to ask questionsBut he said Taylor instead of Skitter.  “You really aren’t a reporter?”

“If you know who they were talking about, maybe you could point me in the right direction?”

Charlotte frowned.  “They were talking about me.  What do you want?”

“I’m her father.  Danny.”

Oh.  She could see the resemblance, now that she knew to look for it.  Both he and Taylor were above average height, both were narrow.  She must have gotten her hair and mouth from her mom, though.

“Okay,” she said.  She forced herself to relax a touch.  He’s safe.  Mostly.  “O-”  She exhaled as she spoke, and her breath caught.  She was still a little out of sorts.

“Are you okay?”

She shook her head.  “Yes.”

“You’re sure.”

“A lot to deal with, all at once.”


She glanced up at him, saw how troubled he looked.  “Do you drink tea?”


“We can do coffee,” she said.  She reached into her back pocket for her phone.  “Stand still.”

He looked confused as she turned the phone his way.  The flash went off.

“What’s going on?” he asked.

“Protocols,” she said.


She typed out a text and sent the text, picture included, to Tattletale.

“I worked for her.”

“Oh.  Oh.

“Come on.  We’ll, um, we’ll hear soon, if you’re okay to come inside.  But I have to head back that way anyways.”

He nodded.

“Why aren’t you with her?”  She asked, as they started walking.

“Things turned ugly.”

“Oh.  Alexandria?”

“I only just found out about Alexandria.  Maybe I shouldn’t say, but things don’t seem to add up.  What people were saying before, what happened, and what seems to have happened after.”

“Yeah,” she said, though she didn’t quite understand.

“All the way through this, I told myself I’d trust her.  That she was the same child my wife and I raised for the last sixteen years.  That things were muddled, but she was the same person deep down inside.”

“Isn’t she?”

“I’m not so sure anymore.”

The phone vibrated.  Charlotte checked.

A-ok.  Treat him well.

“You’re clear to come inside,” Charlotte said.  She used her hand to indicate a change of direction, leading him towards the beach.

“All this secrecy?  It’s necessary?  I thought she left.”

“We still have enemies.  People who’d hurt her by hurting us.  We have to stay safe.”

He fell silent.


“I haven’t really been thinking along those lines.  About the greater scale of things, my life being at risk because I’m connected to her.”

“You learn,” Charlotte said.  “You learn to think that way.”

“Why?  I mean.  I don’t have a choice, but you- you could walk away from this, and you haven’t.”

“I can’t walk away from this,” Charlotte said.  “I’m probably more tied up in this than you are.”

“How’s that?”

She glanced down the beach.  The people who were watching out for those who might talk to the reporter were far enough away.  Still, it would be a bad idea to use her flashlight.  She reached into her pocket and pulled out a glove, pulling it on.  “You’ll see in a minute.  Hold my hand and don’t let go.  Neither of us want you to get turned around in here.  Not much room to get lost, but yeah.”

She could barely see him in the gloom.  There were no lights on the beach.  Still, when she reached out for his hand, he took it, holding tight.

Carefully, Charlotte led Taylor’s father into the storm drain.  Her gloved hand traced the wall.  First right.  Skip the next right, with a few seconds of nerve-wracking isolation in the darkness, then follow the wall… one right, turn left at the t-junction.

They ascended to the cellar, first, and then up to the living room.

“It’s a house?” he asked.  He looked even more bewildered than before as he took in the particulars, the living room, with young girls clustered on one couch, boys on the other couch and the floor, the appliances, the stacks of boxed-up food that had yet to be unpacked.  “Children?”

“Orphans,” Charlotte said, keeping her voice low.  Both Mai and Ephraim could break down in tears at the slightest reminder of their departed parents.  “I’ve been looking after them.”

“You can’t do that.  Not like this, without certification, others checking in.”

“I know,” she said.  “It’s only for a little while longer.”

This is why you can’t leave?”

“Part of it.  There’s more.”

“This is what she was doing, all that time?  Taking care of these children?”

“That was only a small part of it.  She mostly paid me to look after them and make sure people got the food they needed.  She looked after everyone.  When they were all in the worst situations they’d ever faced, struggling for food, worrying every hour if they would be attacked or preyed on, she stepped up.”

“You’re trying to defend her.  To justify what she did.”

“Only a little.”

Ethan approached.  He gave Taylor’s dad a curious look.

“It’s Taylor’s daddy,” Charlotte explained.

“Danny,” Danny said.

“Oh,” Ethan said.  He looked down at the floor.

“Do you want to run an errand for me?”  Charlotte asked.

Ethan nodded, still not making eye contact.  Charlotte could see how he’d set his jaw, so stern for a little man.

“Go tell Forrest that Skitter’s daddy is here.  And if anyone approaches you to ask you questions, you don’t answer, okay?  No matter how nice they seem, don’t say a word, and blow your whistle.  There are reporters out there we don’t want to talk to.”

Ethan nodded.

“Don’t take too long,” she warned.

The little boy, no older than eight, ran off, opening the front door and unchaining the shutter.  A moment later, he was gone into the night.

“Is that okay?” Danny asked.  “A little boy going out alone after dark?”

“The area’s safe, the people know each other.  It’s a community, and the community will look after the kids.  Besides, he’s got a whistle in case he gets in trouble.”

“It almost looked like he was asking for an errand.”

“He was.”

Danny gave her a curious look.

Charlotte walked around the kitchen counter to get into the kitchen, starting the water boiling for the coffee.  She still had a habit of keeping the kettle full for Taylor.  “Ethan’s bottling up a lot of hurt, but he’s convinced himself that big boys shouldn’t cry, and nothing will convince him otherwise.  For now, I’ll let him take five to twenty minutes longer than he should when I tell him to go do something, and I won’t say a word if he comes back with red eyes and a runny nose.  If he needs to find a quiet place to cry on his own, that’s okay.”

“There has to be a better way to handle it,” Danny said.  His eyes were still roving, as if trying to find and identify Taylor’s signature touches on the surroundings.

“There probably is.  But for now, it works for him and it works for me.  The other kids-” she lowered her voice a fraction, “They all have their individual needs.  Some get aggressive.  Some internalize it, have nightmares or wet the bed.  Others withdraw.”

Danny sighed.  “Kids are hard, aren’t they?”

“Yeah,” Charlotte said.  Then she changed her mind.  “No.”


People are hard to deal with.”

“Maybe you’re right,” he said.

“You should really be with her.”

“I was there,” Danny said.  “I told myself I’d stand by her, and then… all at once, it wasn’t her.  I’ve seen her in a crisis, after her mom died.  She was one of the people who withdrew.  When she was bullied at school, she withdrew.  But there?  At the PRT headquarters?  That wasn’t her.”

“It was,” Charlotte said.  “Maybe you lost sight of who she was becoming, somewhere down the line.  I don’t think anyone would fault you, with the secrets she was keeping.”

“No,” Danny said.  “I don’t think it was her, not really.  For just a minute, she became a monster.”

“We all have a monster somewhere inside us,” Charlotte said.  “Like I was saying about the kids.  Sometimes it’s aggressive, sometimes it finds other forms of attack, and other times it’s a cowardly one.”

Like mine.

Danny sighed.

“You don’t agree?  I’m still off target?”

“I don’t know.  I think maybe you’re right.  I’ve got my own demons.  But… whatever monster that was, it was a big one.”

Charlotte didn’t have an answer to that.

There was a knock on the shutter.  Then it raised a fraction.  Forrest stepped inside, growled and made threatening gestures as the kids practically leaped off of the couches and swarmed him.

He gave Danny a funny look.

“Taylor’s dad,” Charlotte said.

“Nice to meet you,” Forrest said.  He waded through the cluster of kids and, straight-legged, he leaned over the kitchen counter to shake Danny’s hand.  “Right, rugrats!  If you stand up to pee, get yourselves into the bath, pronto!”

“I can pee standing up!” Mai said.  “A girl at school showed me how.”

“Then… if you think action figures are better than dolls!”

“I think army men are better than dolls!” Mai said.

“Then let’s go with those who’d rather be a baseball player than a princess!”

“I-”  Mai stopped short, shrieking as Forrest swept her up in his arms.

“I get the point,” he said.  “As penance, I’m letting you ride on my shoulders.”

Mai squealed in glee.

“With a blindfold, in case the menfolk are bashful.  Move along, tykes.”

Ben, Ephraim and Aidan made their way into the bathroom, followed by Forrest, with Mai sitting on his shoulders.  Forrest practically had to get on his knees to get through the doorway without hitting Mai’s head on the doorframe.  The door shut behind him.

“Coffee will be done in a few minutes,” Charlotte said, making sure things were set up.  She moved to the living room, and beckoned for Kathy to come closer.  Kathy scowled but obeyed, sitting beside Charlotte as Charlotte set to brushing out her hair.

“I couldn’t recognize my own daughter,” Danny said.  “Every step of the way, I’ve wanted to help her, but I didn’t know how.  Did she say anything?  About me?”

“No,” Charlotte said.  She could see Danny’s face fall.

“But,” she said.  “She acted on it.  When it came down to it, she wanted to spend time with you, even if it meant that all the rest of this was harder.”

“When it came down to it,” he said, “She chose her friends over me.  She chose to fight, to go all out, instead of making a concession and possibly coming home at some point.”

“Bigger things,” Charlotte said.  “I- the rest of us feel a little betrayed too, but we’re little more than specks, with the sheer scale of the stuff she’s focused on.”

Danny sighed.  “I came here to make a decision.  To work up some courage.  But I feel as conflicted as ever.  Worse, if anything.”

“A decision?”

“Taylor has to join the Wards, if she’s going to join an official team.  Her lawyer got in contact with me, to let me know that there’s certain procedures.  She needs a parent, guardian, notary, or a person in authority to vouch for her, and it has to be someone who’s otherwise free of connections to superheroes or supervillains, someone that knows her and can testify about her character.”

“Do it.”

“I’m wondering if I should.”

Charlotte gave him a hard look.  He took it without flinching.

“My number one instinct is to keep my daughter safe.  If she went to juvenile detention, it would… it wouldn’t be good, but it’d keep her out of the line of fire.  It’d stop her from going down this reckless path.”

“She’d hate you,” Charlotte said.  “She’d still love you, but she’d be angry.”

“She would be safe,” he said.

Charlotte didn’t have much to say in response to that.  She turned her attention to the girls, instead.  “Five more minutes of cartoons, then bed.  I’ll fix your hair in just a second, okay, Jessie?”

Jessie nodded.

“I could, if it would make it easier,” Danny offered.

Charlotte felt that twang of alarm at the notion of a relative stranger touching ‘her’ kids.  She could rationalize that this was Taylor’s dad, but…

Jessie made the decision for her.  Standing and approaching Danny, before sitting beside him.  Charlotte tossed the man a hairbrush.

For long minutes, they worked on combing through knots and tangles.  Kathy made sure to grunt with every one.

The boys exited the bathroom, each with a towel wrapped around them, while Forrest carried a squealing, giggling Mai under one arm, a sock tied over her eyes, her hair now dry and combed straight..

“You’re better than Char,” Jessie said, as Danny finished.  She hopped down from the armrest of the chair, before scampering off to the bedroom.

“Traitor,” Charlotte muttered, after Jessie was gone.  Kathy followed the girl, taking Jessie’s hand after catching up.

There was a pause.

“If she needs you, you should help her,” Charlotte said.

“I’m just not sure what helping her entails,” Danny replied.

Charlotte rose to pour the coffee.  Her phone glowed with a fresh text.  She stared down at it.

“Shit,” she said.

“What?” Danny asked.

“Company,” she answered.

“Enemies?  Danger?”

“Worse.  Allies,” Sierra said, from the doorway.

Charlotte turned to see her friend, Sierra.  The girl still had her red hair bound in dreads, but the rest of her was all professional attire.  Nice shoes, slacks, a blue dress shirt, and just a little makeup.

Sierra approached, arms reaching out to hug Charlotte.  Charlotte welcomed the hug, murmuring the words, “I missed you.”

But her eyes were still on the doorway.  Tattletale stepped into the front hallway, followed by Grue and the pairings of Imp and Regent, Parian and Flechette.

A superhero, here?

After a brief pause, Bitch entered as well, glowering, looking fit to murder something or someone.  Her appearance was at stark odds with the puppies that followed her, each at the end of a differently colored leash.

Danny stood, eyes widening as he recognized the people entering the room.

“Long time no see, Danny,” Tattletale said.

“Lisa,” he answered.  There was no warmth in his tone.

“Tattletale while I”m in costume, please,” she said.  She flashed a grin, and he didn’t return it.

Grue extended a hand to Danny.  It took the man a second to accept it.  He watched the group warily.

“What’s going on?” Charlotte asked.

“Need to watch your phone,” Tattletale said.  “I sent you a string of texts.”

“I was busy.  Looking after the kids, and talking with Danny.”

“Right,” Tattletale said.  She made her way to one couch, then lay down.  “Damn.  Hell of a day.  Not enough sleep, already feeling like shit, and then this gets dropped on us.”

“What’s going on?” Charlotte asked, again.

“You mean what’s going on here or what’s going on in general?  Generallyour commander-in-chief just defected to the white hats.”

“Here,” Charlotte said.  “Why are you here?  We’re just getting the kids off to bed.”

“Loose ends,” Tattletale said.  “A few here, a few there.  Skitter’s gone, and she’s liable to spend time in prison before she joins the Wards, and she won’t be able to visit for a while, even after that.  I want to get this as done as we can, so I can sleep for a few days straight and wake up feeling better.”

Charlotte frowned.  Tattletale had taken up one couch, Grue was sitting in another, and she didn’t want to sit next to him.  She was forced to stand, but standing and being a part of the conversation meant standing in a place where her back was to Bitch, to Parian and Flechette, who were sitting on stools by the kitchen counter, and to Regent and Imp, who were rifling through cabinets and drawers, in search of snacks.

“I have to ask.  Why the puppies?” Charlotte asked, glancing at Bitch.

“Tattletale said to.”

“That’s not exactly right,” Tattletale said.

“It’s what you said,” Bitch responded, sounding irritated.

“I recommended puppy therapy,” Tattletale said.  “Everyone loves puppies, so maybe it’s a way to deal when we’re feeling a bit lonely?”

Bitch looked at Charlotte.  “You miss her?”

“Um.  Yes?”

Bitch bent down, grabbing a puppy with one hand, then thrust it into Charlotte’s arms.  She started to withdraw her hand, paused, then said, “It’s a loan.”

“Of course,” Charlotte said.  She held the puppy close, scratched it behind the ear.  She knew better than to argue the point.

“You?” Bitch asked Danny.

“No, thank you.”

“You don’t miss your daughter?” Bitch asked, narrowing her eyes a little.

“I do, I mean, I think I’ll see her soon, probably, but-”

“Then take it.  For now.”

He surrendered in the face of her blunt approach, accepting the puppy.

“The kids,” Charlotte said.  “They’ve already settled in bed, but I think they’d love to have a visit with the puppies.  Tell them it’s just for a little while, they can cuddle, but they have to stay in bed.  Oh, and they don’t know how to play with dogs, so be sure to teach them the ground rules, okay?”

Bitch nodded, then marched off with her new mission, the puppies leaping and falling over each other to keep up.

“Parian?” Tattletale asked.  “Supervise?”

Parian nodded.  She got down from the stool, and was joined by Flechette in heading to the back room.

“Well handled,” Tattletale said.  “She-”

She paused as the children in the other room started squealing and shouting.  Bitch’s barked orders could be heard over the racket.

“-doesn’t know how to handle this.  We’re sort of forging new ground, but I think time’s the only thing that’s going to mend this wound.  I think she’s hurting more than anyone, right now.”

Charlotte nodded.

Danny, though, said, “Isn’t that a little presumptuous?”

“I can do presumptuous,” Tattletale said.  “Just trust me on this count, okay?”

Regent and Imp approached from the kitchen, finding spots on the floor of the living room to sit, just to the left of the television.  They had arms full of snacks, including the little gummy candies Charlotte had been planning to give the kids in their school lunches.

She’d figure something else out.  Best not to get distracted.  The puppies would suffice as a treat for the kids right now.

Damn it, they’re going to ask to keep them, Charlotte thought.  She scratched the puppy that now slept in her arms.

Grue stretched a hand in the direction of the pair, an unspoken request for one bag of snacks.  Imp replied by hurling a small bag of chips at him, with the same sort of movement that might accompany throwing a baseball.  It banked off of his helmet and fell behind the couch.

Grue grumbled, but he turned around to grab it.

Forrest arrived from the bedroom, pausing a second to take in the crowd in the living room.

“Okay, let’s get down to business,” Tattletale said.  “Forrest, Charlotte, we’re backing you up, on Taylor’s behalf.  As of now, the Boardwalk doesn’t fall in just one person’s territory.  Parian, Grue and I will each have a hand in protecting it.  As of tonight, it should be the safest place in the city.  That’s all already handled.  You’ll have our numbers, in case of emergency, but you should only use it if there’s real trouble.  Supervillains attacking or something like that.  This all goes more smoothly if we don’t maintain any obvious connection between our groups that can be exploited.”

Charlotte nodded.

“Sierra is working under me.  She holds the property and presents our legitimate face to the public.”

Charlotte glanced at Sierra, who nodded.

“Property?” Charlotte asked.

“Everything we own in Brockton Bay, through a series of dummy corporations, is officially in her name.  That includes the areas in the Boardwalk that Coil once controlled.  From now on, you can contact us through her for all of the basics.  I know Skitter arranged a way for those who contribute to the restoration of the Boardwalk to earn shares of property.  Sierra will see to that.  In a pinch, you can also talk to her about funding, big projects, and the like.  But I don’t think it’ll come to that.”

Forrest frowned.  “Why not?”

“Skitter arranged for her territory to be taken care of,” Tattletale said.

“She left us some money.  For food, to pay people.  Not a lot, but things should be sustainable by the time we run out.”

“There’s more,” Tattletale said.  “She had a lot of money to spare.  Some from illicit activity, more from the properties we acquired and sold.  That’s going to you.”

“Wait, us?”

“To the Boardwalk.  She mentioned getting the ferry up and running again, a new set of storefronts, and pushing for more residential areas.  Duplexes, apartments, condos…”

“How much?”

“More than enough.  Part of the procedures for joining the Wards includes a full background check.  They’ll find out she had a lot of money, much of it illicit, and they’ll empty her accounts.  It might not be a problem, but I recently changed to a different bank, so to speak, and they’re liable to find Skitter’s end of the paper trail.” Tattletale said.

Charlotte nodded.

“Something to use to take care of yourselves.  And the kids,” Tattletale said.

Charlotte thought to what Scott had said.  Had Taylor blamed herself after all?  Was this a way of making amends?

“Part of the measures we’ll have for defending the Boardwalk will be the mercenaries I have on retainer,” Tattletale said.  “Non-powered individuals, though they have experience fighting capes.  They’re going to train your people.”


“In hand to hand, first aid, firearms and tactics for fighting bigger threats.”

Ethan reappeared in the front hall, hands jammed in his pockets.  His eyes went wide as he took in the supervillains sitting in the area where he’d been watching TV not twenty minutes ago.  Charlotte stood and ushered him towards the bedrooms.

Behind her, Forrest said, “That seems like it’ll cause more problems than it solves.  People are resentful.  There’s already cracks forming.”

“Discipline will help with that,” Grue said.  “Time will help with the rest.”

“It’s not perfect,” Tattletale said, “The rest, we can figure out.  What’s important is getting the foundation laid out, and being ready.  Shit’s going to go down when villains start making plays for the interdimensional door.”

Charlotte studied the people who were sitting around the room.  Concern, worry, anxiousness.  “Are we going to make it?”

“Have to,” Tattletale said.  She turned her head.  Bitch was returning from the back room.  She had only one puppy with her.  The wolf cub.  “Taylor won’t forgive us if we don’t.”

“You should know.  When I was there,” Danny spoke up.  “Alexandria offered her a hell of a deal.  Two years of juvenile detention, and leaving the rest of you alone.  It wasn’t everything she’d asked for.  She said no, said she trusted you to handle things on your end.  I don’t want to be offensive, but I couldn’t understand it.  Still can’t.  But I thought you should know.”

“She was prepared to leave us to our own devices when she surrendered,” Tattletale said.  “But if she believes in us to that degree, that’s another reason we can’t fail.”

There were nods all around.

The discussion continued, but fatigue caught up to Charlotte at the same time that the details seemed to grow even more trivial.  Bitch, for her part, was focused, listening intently, while Danny seemed reserved, not quite a part of this.

Was this influencing his decision?  Which way would it, if it did?

It was midnight by the time they finished.  Exhausted though they hadn’t fought anyone, weary Undersiders rose from their seats on the furniture and floors to make their way to the front door.

Charlotte accompanied Bitch to the bedroom, making her way to each bunk bed to collect a puppy, despite whispered protests and whimpers.  A tiny heartbreak, each step of the way.

I’m going to have to get these kids dogs now, she thought, swearing to herself.

“Puppy therapy,” she murmured, on her way back to the front hall.  Bitch was clipping the leashes onto the puppies.

“Mm,” Bitch grunted.

“Does it work?”

“Yes,” Bitch said.  “But it’s not enough.  I haven’t felt like this since… Brutus and Judas.”

Brutus and Judas?  Charlotte didn’t recognize the names.  “That’s natural, isn’t it?  We’re people, we need other people close to us.  A dog is… fantastic, but it can’t fill that void.”

Charlotte could see a crease in between Bitch’s eyebrows, but the look didn’t reach her eyes or mouth.

“Did I say something wrong?”

Bitch shook her head, but she didn’t reply.

“If you wanted to bring the dogs back, the kids would love it,” Charlotte said.  “And… I’m thinking we’ll have to get at least one to keep.  I think it could do them a lot of good, and they’d give the puppies more than enough love and care.”

Bitch’s silence extended for long seconds.  She looked down at the puppies.  “Maybe.”


Bitch shrugged.  She glowered at the ground, “She wanted me to go to the other side.”

“First I’m hearing of this,” Grue said.

“Through the portal,” Bitch said. “Police it.  Keep that side safe.”

“There won’t be anything over there for at least a few weeks or months,” Tattletale said.

The glower deepened.  “That… sounds good.”

“All on your own?” Charlotte asked, “But-”

“Me and my dogs,” Bitch said.  Then she seemed to think of something.  “Maybe.”

“We’ll figure it out,” Tattletale said.

With that done, the Undersiders departed.

Danny met Charlotte’s eyes.


Danny shook his head.

“Could be that she did it for you,” she said.  “I think even Tattletale was surprised she went over to the other side.”

Danny didn’t reply.

“Good luck, either way.”

“You too,” he answered.

“We survived,” Forrest said.

“We survived,” Charlotte said.  “You’ll be by in the morning?”

Forrest nodded.

She waited until he was gone, then closed the shutter, being careful to lock it.

Then she ascended to the top floor, past Skitter’s room, with the now-empty terrariums and the armor stand with her old suit.  She reached the top floor, where Skitter’s belongings had been collected and boxed.

I’d meant to show this to Danny, to see if there was anything he wanted to keep or to send to her.

She lay in her bed, Skitter’s old room, but sleep didn’t find her.  She was still awake when her alarm buzzed.  She rose and made her way downstairs to the bedroom.  Checking on the kids.

Jessie’s bunk, dry.

No food under Mai’s pillow, or at the end of her bed.  The girl had taken to hoarding food.

Others were asleep, though Ethan’s eyes were open, staring.  She pulled his covers up a bit, and he smiled in the dark.

Aidan was awake too.

“I want a dog,” he whispered.

“I know,” she whispered back.  “No nightmares?”

“Not any really bad ones since… five nights ago.”

“Five nights ago?”

“Had a good dream.  A big dream.”


He shook his head.  “Can’t really remember.”

“Okay,” she whispered back.  “Not a big deal.”

“But you told me to draw things or write them down after a bad dream,” he said.  He pulled a pad of paper from the gap between his bunk and the wall.

She looked at it.  It didn’t look like much of anything.  Two scribbles, circles and dots.

“These big things… Fish?”

“I don’t remember.  I think it started as a bad dream, and then became better.”

“And these dots or circles?”  They only covered part of the page.

“Planets and stars.  I only remember because that’s how I usually draw them.”

“What do you mean, you only remember?”

“Forgot.  Even faster than I usually forget the bad dreams.”

She frowned.  The way he described it, it put her in mind of something.  The day Skitter had rescued her.  Someone had had a trigger event, and both Skitter and Tattletale had reacted.

The way the two had forgotten, and the things Tattletale had mumbled about while she was recuperating…

“You don’t have superpowers, do you?” she whispered.

Aidan shook his head.

“You’re sure?”

“Yes,” he said, in a very solemn manner.

If it wasn’t a trigger event, then what?

“Five nights ago?”

“I know because it was the night Skitter stayed out all night.  I woke up a bit after she came in.  I was drawing while she made noise in the kitchen.”

The night Skitter had been outed.  Where had she been, and how did it connect?

If not a trigger event, the potential to trigger?

So many questions, and Skitter was no longer here to answer them.

Last Chapter                                                                                               Next Chapter

369 thoughts on “Interlude 22

        • If this is the typo-thread than…

          – “My sister-in-law works for the PRT. Wears a uniform. He said the Slaughterhouse Nine were here because they were recruiting.”-

          Should be she.

          • “Why? I mean. I have a choice, but you- you could walk away from this, and you haven’t.”

            Danny speaking, should be “don’t have” or “I have no”.

          • I would find that rather funny, my sons names are Alexander and Aiden. Not quite the same but same pronunciation.

      • “You?” Bitch asked Danny. She approached, and Charlotte couldn’t help but notice

        I think Danny moved or backed off between She approached, and Charlotte notice, looks like part of the line was missing.

      • “Don’t take too long,” she warned. … italics?

        General: it helps to note when a person leaves a scene. Near the end, Charlotte spoke to Danny, then to Forrest, and only by bigger context it was clear Danny left inbetween.

      • “First post” == “Typo Thread,” got it.

        “her hair dry and combed straight..”
        Needs either one more or one fewer period.

        • I know this is a complete ‘necro’ edit comment, but this always sticks out to me:

          She shook her head. “Yes.”

          Shook head = NO.
          Nodded head = YES.

      • Necro Typo thread

        “Loose ends,” Tattletale said.  “A few here, a few there.  Skitter’s gone, and she’s liable to spend time in prison before she joins the Wards, and she won’t be able to visit for a while, even after that.  I want to get this as done as we can, so I can sleep for a few days straight and wake up feeling better.”

        Shouldn’t it be “I want to get this done as soon as we can,”

  1. So Danny didn’t make the connection between Lisa and Tattletale after all. Interesting to know.

    Also: Char is sharp.

    Also: Oh shit, did Emma have a trigger event in the cafeteria?

    • Wait, no — if she had, the other parahumans in the cafeteria would have noticed. Unless she triggered after the escape was complete…?

          • Note: not saying Greg gave aiden his dream. That is most likely eith Taylor, charlotte, aiden(himself), Jessie, Forrest, or Kathy, assuming that Atlas didn’t trigger.

          • If I had to choose between Greg and Emma, it’s Emma. No contest. Remember, triggers are from seriously traumatic events. Not just feeling frustrated that you were right, and she treated you like that anyway. I mean, in a pinch, it might do for a trigger, but the consuming terror the ruling crime lord of the city has every reason to have a vendetta against you, and even indirectly threatened you with a centipede? That seems a bit more likely. Just going on those two, of course.

          • @Freak King: I’m pretty sure people lie to and totally blow off Greg on a weekly basis, if not a daily basis. Emma, on the other hand … she (a) became an instant pariah the moment that everyone realized that she was the bitch leading the charge in a bullying campaign against the single most terrifying cape in Brockton Bay, (b) had every reason to believe that Skitter would come after her for revenge, and (c) had no allies who would possibly stand with her against Skitter, now that Shadow Stalker is gone.

            Isolation. Extreme emotion. Utter suckitude. This is trigger event material. Being duped ain’t.

          • I thought the same thing about a possible second trigger, haha! I wrote up a giant wall of text in response to this theory and posted it as a separate comment a little ways down.

      • No one did. But he had a … view of what they were like. I’d say she got it right the second time, someone became “attuned” possibly him, in a second gen Cape type of thing, to trigger later. It would be interesting if being close to her original trigger event mentality made taylor more of a beacon to activate others.

    • The first thought that ran through my head when I read the word “dream” was SLEEPER.

      Oh shiiiiiiii-

      • so if im reading this right Aiden reacted to someone triggering, but that only happens around the person triggering so Aiden would have to be around them so how could it have been emma or greg? it sounded like he had a bad dream so wouldn’t it have been one of the kids around him? or someone in the building? I’m confuse.

        • Thing is, we generally only have other parahumans react to people’s trigger events. So a disturbed boy who frequently has horrible nightmares, aka already triggered, got this dream. Also, seems to be in close proximity.

          • kk, guess its what people are speculating either he has powers that aren’t very prominent, idk bout that though since kids tend to have much more powerful powers like bonesaw, vista, or panacea and I don’t see how he could miss that unless he was lying to Char, or he was reacting to Skitter doing something/getting a second trigger. Overall it will probably be something epic and surprising as is all of Wildbow’s writing. 🙂

            • That’s a disturbing thought, since he usually wakes up screaming and can’t be consoled. Doesn’t exactly bode well for the future. On the other hand, he said he hasn’t had any bad dreams since the good dream/possible trigger. This, however, seems too optimistic, so I’m thinking not an unconscious precog.

          • I think it’s possible that Aidan triggered. Long term emotional stress can cause a trigger, as seen with Parian’s prolonged feelings of isolation, Taylor being bullied, Lisa feeling ostracized after her brother’s death. In this case it might be trauma and too many restless nights. Lisa apparently triggered while she was sleeping, so it could’ve happened to Aidan. Additionally, when witnessing someone else trigger it seems to hit the witness harder, at least for Skitter and Tattletale (11.6). I think it’s possible that that’s what Aidan meant when he said that Skitter made noise in the kitchen. She might have been reeling after witnessing his trigger event.

            Brian mentions in 3.3 that, “You know that myth about how the capes that get their powers young are exponentially more powerful? Vista’s one of the kids who keeps the myth alive. ” So early trigger doesn’t necessarily mean stronger powers. Aidan’s hypothetical power might simply mean being able to sleep easier or dream control, something that’s not really easy to identify as a super power. Maybe it’s some kind of danger sensor that give him comfort while he sleeps, since he knows he’s not in actual danger in his dreams.

            The only problem would be why Taylor wouldn’t check to see who triggered, if she did witness Aidan’s trigger. Most capes don’t remember the vision, but do they even remember having one? Or witnessing one? Miss Militia’s interlude suggests no: “Already, the memory was fading. Had it even happened? As hard as she struggled to retain it, it was eluding her. It was like a dream that escaped her when she woke, but so slippery that even the idea that she’d dreamed in the first place was quickly retreating from her mind.” However, during Scrub’s trigger Taylor seemed to hold on to the idea of the trigger event for a little while.

              • So since Aidan “woke up a bit after she came in” I guess it’s still a possibility that his dream/trigger event ended before Taylor got there, but he didn’t wake up until after. Or maybe it’s a red herring or maybe I should just finish reading this story since it’s already completed.
                Good work by the way! This has been a fascinating read so far. Very difficult to put down.

      • Didn’t wildbow (or someone quoting wildbow) say he was holding back Sleeper for the sequel or something? I’m pretty sure I read that somewhere.

    • How did you come to the conclusion of Emma triggering?

      On Aidan, I’m ambivalent. He may or may not have triggered, but let me please expand on that part of my thinking process.

      The obvious possibilities for any person in relation to powers can be broken down to potential or not, triggered or not (regardless of induces or natural), and aware or not. This leaves eight unique position, partially subset to each other.

      First of, I do not know or remember if power inducement is based on the potential for powers or if any “blank” human can get powers artificially. A quick perusal of Alexandria’s and Battery’s interludes indicate nothing of that sort, but there might be selection bias at work.
      The awareness is to determine if in the case of powers the individual being aware of them. They could delude themselves or be afraid and deny everything to any outside observer. It is largely a perceptional identifier for readers, i.e. outside of story context.

      Be that as it may, the system stands. A person can have potential or not, have powers or not, and be aware/showing them or not. Aidan, well, we essentially know nothing about. The way it is phrased and based on previous tidbits we know of, his dreams seem to be partially about passengers. We know of two cases in which a triggered individual sees the passengerscape: During their trigger, or when someone in proximity triggers. This lends some plausibility of Aidan having triggered sometime past (probably five days ago).
      Going on a hunch based on the living arrangements and what not I’d say he has potential and triggered naturally, without artificial help.
      That leaves only the awareness, which we can only infer. If he has powers, does he know and lies, is he deluding himself, or is he unaware, having triggered during one of his night terrors?
      Since he’d be the first (shown) individual capable of viewing the passengerscape without having a power, prior probability suggests him having a power.
      Now, does he want that power? He has first-hand experience of capes, powers and cruelty at the hands thereof. Suppose he is mortally afraid of capes, essentially, barely bearing the one he interacts with? It is entirely reasonable he’d suppress his power and delude himself of the results being bad, or rather less bad in comparison, dreams.

      This is all in line of what we’ve seen. So my deduction is, Aidan has a power he’s either afraid or unaware of, and the power is detecting capes or “births” of capes, so to speak.

      • But other capes already recognize trigger events when they see them, likely why it was mentioned explicitly that he had this dream a night Skitter was out. Perhaps he’d get an anti-power effect, like Hatchet-Face.

        We also know the 2nd Gen, capes getting an easier trigger applies to kids who are adopted by capes or spend lot’s of time with superpowered adults. Perhaps because the passengers are more aware of people connected to capes?

        • Perhaps I phrased badly:
          Skitter’s out, Aidan triggers, sketches his passengerscape since he does that with his dreams anyway. Has trigger dreams thereon.

          • Right. Perhaps he sees future events. So he saw Taylor before she arrived and therefore she wasn’t there to sense his trigger event. If that is the case I hope there is more to Aiden’s power than prescience

            • My idea was rather he sees the dreamscape or whatever you want to call it of currently triggering individuals. If this indicated the powerset somehow, we don’t know, and Aidan doesn’t either, probably.

          • Then his nightmares could have also been future events(implying that he triggered far earlier than thought).

            • @freak king
              Or he sees the trigger events of people far away. His power could be cape detection, in a similar vein as Noelle could smell and distinguish the capes and potential.

      • I could see it either way. I don’t think he has a reason to lie about having triggered, and most superpowers are unsubtle enough that he should know. That said, your arguments are compelling. That also said, people could be having the passenger-visions all the time without us knowing, being as they wipe themselves from our memory.

        > How did you come to the conclusion of Emma triggering?

        Quoting my earlier remark: Emma (a) became an instant pariah the moment that everyone realized that she was the bitch leading the charge in a bullying campaign against the single most terrifying cape in Brockton Bay, (b) had every reason to believe that Skitter would come after her for revenge, and (c) had no allies who would possibly stand with her against Skitter, now that Shadow Stalker is gone.

        Isolation. Extreme emotion. Utter suckitude. This is trigger event material.

        • I hardly disagree on Emma having the sufficient traumatic experience to trigger. She even got about double the exposure to capes that Taylor did (assuming the bullying lasted half a year she was in cohorts with Sophia, then add a few months she was close enough to Taylor to matter after she triggered), so if she got potential, she might have triggered.

          My point was, how did you jump to Emma, actually? If Aidan was dream witness of a trigger event, why Emma? Was she even remotely close to Skitter’s HQ? (Perhaps I’m missing something…?)

            • If by that day you’re referring to the cafeteria, well, anyone in that crowd. Being in the midst of the build-up of a cape fight, just after having a glimmer of hope; remembering not helping or standing up to Taylor’s tormentors, perhaps even being among them; a delayed breakdown after the cafeteria… a lot of people are feasible. Every new face in school, because this was their first real pants-shitting moment, every survivor who had a hand in Taylor’s bullying, and everyone who was already stressed and this was just another factor.

              This was from a meta point of view. Of course the narrative is likely to favour a known face to trigger, because the reader doesn’t need to be introduced and stuff, but Wildbow writes unpredictable/twisty enough to make me, if not disregard, then at least doubt the meta point of view.

          • I figure in order of most likely to least likely to trigger.
            1. Emma- I agree with Packbat that she must be going through ALOT of fear, stress, possibly bullying, or worse. Her triggering from Taylor would bring things full circle and I would be interested in what she will do with powers.
            2. Greg- I still find it odd that he figured out her identity so easily, probably felt bad for accidentally playing a role in outing her identity, and I could see him trying to escape into the cape life.
            3. Char- She went through the merchants without triggering, so I doubt it is her. But it is possible she triggered and has a very low key power.
            4. The unnamed girl who had a partially shaved head, supported Skitter, and had a look of hatred as she grabbed Defiant. That girl must have had quite a story to tell if she blames heros that much and I could see her triggering after Skitter KILLED Alexandria. I am interested in what her story is.

            • > The unnamed girl who had a partially shaved head

              Sheila, if I recall correctly. One of the three witnesses the guard picked.

            • Okay, my counter argument is a bit meta, so please bear with me: Emma is too convenient to gain powers. She is set-up as an arch rival, former friends, now embittered enemy. It seems to cliché for Wildbow to do.
              Greg is boring from my perspective, plus we already had a crippled hero (he was in a wheelchair, right? Or did he “just” have ADHD?).
              Char is too interesting as a non-cape to have her trigger. But I can still see her gaining a (relatively) minor, but helpful power, so I don’t know.
              You had to throw one out of left field, right? The punk, well… Sure, why not. Only reason not to have her is because she is rather blank as a character so far.
              If someone triggered, I’d put my finger on one of the children.

          • Char is wondering if it’s something *like* a trigger, but not a trigger, based on the fact that Aiden saw something and isn’t a para human already.

            We’ve seen that Skitter/Weaver and her Passenger are ‘close’, in the sense that the passenger keeps doing stuff when Taylor is otherwise out of it or her powers are ‘off’.

            What else was Taylor doing that day other than the cafeteria? Wasn’t that the day that she went to her mothers grave and had a big introspective epiphany?

            What if her Passenger got even ‘closer’? Close enough that other sensitive folks, like Aiden, are starting to pick up on something?

            It’s pretty much what I would expect if the passengers turn out to be Cthulhu-esque beasties….

  2. A most excellent interlude. and it’s nice to see the Undersider’s endeavoring to live up to Taylor’s example without her there to guide them.

    • I particularly loved Bitch deciding her new team role is “therapy puppy dispenser”. I was laughing so hard.

  3. I was very much expecting a Calle interlude, as he goes to deliver the full details of the deal Taylor made to the Undersiders. This one is, I think, better than my idea. Things on the Boardwalk keep on as they were keeping on, predatory news crews, villains wanting the portal, Skitter joins the Wards, possibly some time in juvie, oh my, what interesting possibilities we have.

    • If you were in the IRC, you’d know that Calle is being saved for a time where he can better provide an interesting perspective on things. As it is, his part in this all was wrapped up and done by the time the interlude would have started. Certainly there would be something that could have been written, but it would have been, basically, just so much empty fluff at this point in time, compared to what Wildbow has planned. :3

      • I didn’t even know there was an IRC channel for Worm? Can you post what the channel is, and the server?

        • If you don’t have an IRC or don’t know how to use one:

          Go here: and download the latest version of YChat/X-Chat 2.

          Once it’s downloaded open it up, type your name in the “Nick Name” field and click the button that says “+ Add”. It will open a “New Network” in your “Networks” list. Type in whatever name you want for the Network(I suggest “Worm” or something, but it doesn’t matter).

          Select the Network you just created and click the “Edit” button. Click on whatever server is in the “Server’s for ____” list and select “Edit”. Type in “”. In the “Favorite Channels” box type in “#parahumans”. Then click “Close”.

          Select the newly created Network and click “Connect” and it’ll bring you to the IRC.

      • I have never had much luck in trying to connect to/make sense of IRC conversations. In this case, it seems to be more fun to try and guess which way the story’s going without being told one way or the other ahead of time.

        Also I kind of just wanted to see more of Calle. Dude’s got stories to tell, and I want to hear them.

      • Whenever I hear you guys talk about the IRC I think of you sacrificing a chicken to a divining pool or something…

        • Ever since the Harry Potter fanficcers threw their titty tantrum over the notion that someone on the internet is a troll, that’s what it takes sometimes.

          • Eh, Gecko, there were a few people trolling and measures were taken to ban mibbit. I admit, it wasn’t classy, but #parahumans is relatively sane compared to the rest of the channels.

            You guys are welcome to join the chat and discuss Worm. :3

            Info for those who don’t know:

            channel: #parahumans

            And please don’t use mibbit. It’s a shit client and it sucks. And if you /have/ to use it, at least take a few seconds to change your nick to something other than mib908901wtf.

      • Perhaps your new job Rika could be to inform the rest of us of any info from the IRC. Please? Pretty Please?

        • Or you could get off your butts and download an IRC client and join us when we get up to our wacky hijinks- Or, y’know, talk to Wildbow directly, which is simply thrilling.

    • Note that Calle’s name is the conjugated form of the Spanish verb callar, meaning to silence( it could also mean street, but that’s unlikely). This is likely to hold some degree of truth, knowing that he is Latino and knowing his occupation.

  4. Skitter and her army of super kiddies…flash forward some 16 years and…
    I think we all know what comes next.

    Also, just out of curiosity, how many people have been following Worm since its debut?

      • I’m talking ever.

        She’s probably going full martyr here. That’s the tone I’m getting from this chapter anyway, and the way Bitch talked about her role in the future; why does it matter what Skitter tells her to do if she can amend it once they’re through the portal?

  5. At

    “I’d meant to show this to Danny, to see if there was anything he wanted to keep or to send to her.

    She was still awake when her alarm buzzed. She rose and made her way downstairs to the bedroom. Checking on the kids.”

    There’s some… confusion as to scene changes. It’s all in there – Danny leaving, events moving forward – but it’s a bit too much of a blur for me to process properly.

  6. – nice touch giving us a bit of the forums :p
    – Oh Danny, I feel your pain
    – Soooo … who triggered? Perhaps it is the boy and he just happened to manifest a very subtle power.

    • Hopefully its not prescience. For some reason the image of dreaming something to do with fish, Taylor and stars makes me think that she’s going to fight Leviathan in space. >_<

      • He could be the Undersider’s long awaited tinker, which could also put him out of harm’s way.

        • Oh lord I can’t even imagine what sort of useless tinker specialization they’d get stuck with. Aquatic technology? Building and maintaining aquariums? Or something awesome but impractical like space habitation?

          ,,,With aquariums…

  7. ” Stickied Topic: Alexandria Discussion (July 14th) Goes Here
    ♦ Topic: Alexandria Dead”


  8. Taylor has to find a way to contact her friends.
    If she is sent as a minor to a low position in the Wards program this may not end well.
    And again, if they send her to work under someone like Tagg or Piggot … this someone will live a short life.
    Yep, Danny saw the big monster.

    • It’d be a pretty big waste of resources to just throw her into a random Wards group as the fresh meat. Not saying leadership or anything, since that’s pretty much out of the question, but I can see her being given some leeway, given the strangeness of the situation.

      • I can see her being thrown at the Brockton Wards in an advisory role. They wouldn’t like it, but the only way that pack of wastrels is gonna move on and improve is if they have the person who kicked their asses on a weekly basis help train them.

        • That’s an interesting thought. I know someone in the last chapter, can’t remember who, said that she’d have to move due to a conflict of interest, but given that the Undersiders are going to be given something that amounts to a truce, that may be in the cards.

          Given the fact that I ship Taylor and Clockblocker HARD, I approve of this scenario completely, of course.

          • Yeah, I get that. Won’t stop my wild, wild imagination from dreaming up their blatant sexual tension, though. 😛

          • I don’t remember an OFFICIAL breakup, not even a very strongly implied one. She would just be cheating on Brian.

          • Meh, it was pretty well over. At least officially. Feelings still there and all that, but they each viewed it as over, in my reading of it. Maybe you picked up on something else.

          • That’s my second favorite ship after Brian, but I always saw them as becoming best friends if she had joined the wards instead of couple based on their personalities at the time. I kind of doubt it would work now, they have both seen/done too much for them to ever joke around each other. I think Taylor/Brian officially broke up due to doubting their relationship had a future. Though it was rather obvious to me that neither one of them wanted to break up and still cared very much for each other. Grue’s statement that he never made her happy made me feel for the guy. I can picture Grue and Bitch somehow forming a bond over how close each was to her and maybe becoming sort of friends.

          • Not to nip the concept in the bud, but it’s only IF she joins and official team that she goes to the Wards.

      • Personally, I want her with Chinese-food boy and his group, from the echidna thing, so they can finally ask if she was actually blind the entire time she was with them.

        Also, there’s a finite number of wards we know, and I gueeeeesssss they could could put her in Brockton bay.

        It just seems that could blow up on so, so many levels.

      • The only real solution is to put her under the charge of Dragon + Defiant. This would be the sensible thing to do because if she is bullied due to her past …
        Actually, imagine her walking into a new group of wards. I can just imagine a reaction similar to what clockbloker feels when he sees her.
        Most of the wards are basically kids her age placed in a program where they basically get a scholarship in exchange of doing some police work, now imagine how they will feel when working with someone that killed Alexandria, faced the Nine, among other things.
        And if a stupid director decides to make Weave suffer so that she will break and show her true collors, things can get dark very soon.

      • From their perspective, they need to put her in the Wards — even if she’s the deadliest cape in the world, her knowledge of police procedure is essentially nil.

        • Send her to deal with the Dragon Slayers together with dragon and defiant. This is the kind of job that she knows how to do very well.
          Besides, I believe that she can learn police procedure from the big guys.

          • See that is a perfectly rational/logical argument about the wards program. So it obviously has no place the PRT. Though I hope that will change in the future with Jessica and Dragon getting much more say now.

          • Actually that’s only part of the procedure.
            1: Insert foot (hopefully with some footwear) deeply into enemy’s colon (choice of entry vector up to the kicker).
            3: Remove foot (hopefully with footwear) from colon.
            4: If footwear is lost, repeat procedure until footwear is recovered.

        • Dont really see that happening….
          Putting a known killer amongst a group of teens doesnt make sense. One will take a poke at her and have a finger chewed off for the trouble. She’s no push over and once the “OMG I’m here” moment is over more likely to be in “Let’s go play Tagg with the S9” mode. Skitter’s bad ass enough to warrent adult supervision by heavyhitters. More likely to see her on the D&D taskforce where her tactical skills can be put to good use.

          • Yeah, I can see a dumb teenage hero trying to make a name for themselves by trying to bully Taylor. I’m hoping she gets put into the Brockton Bay Wards so that we can see the “OH CRAP” moment when someone like Crucible tries to pick a fight with Taylor and the rest of the Wards scramble to save the idiot from themselves.

            • That would actually be a feasible tactic: Enter Weaver into the wards, let someone rile her up in the hopes she’ll flip and break her probation and off to Juvie she goes.

              Quick question: I guess there is some kind of cape juvenile detention centre separate set aside from regular, right?

      • That was my first reaction too – Taylor is *so* far beyond the Wards now. But I figure it has to be done for PR reasons – an ex-villain has to be seen to be earning her way fair and square. To do otherwise would be like dropping Madcap straight into the PRT or something…

  9. Hope Gecko saw that little byline right before the midnight mark, heh heh heh.

    And this… this was just a friggin’ closure smorgasbord. I wish we got some syllables out of Flechette, but whatahyagonnado.

    The next time someone refers to Worm as GRIMDARK I’m going to point them to this chapter, and then pelt them with used q-tips.

      • Used Colostomy bags I find to be fun. They sometimes hold special surprises. Plus with proper application the victim my need one themselves which adds a certain serendipity to it.

      • Wildbow had Genoscythe the Eye Raper as a placeholder for the POV descriptor until the update dropped.

        I can’t effing believe you missed your own in-joke…

        • I wasn’t actually set up to read when the update occurred. I was delayed elsewhere.

          Also, I don’t hunt down the update in the Table of Contents, so I likely would have missed it anyway.

          That said, at least now we know who it was that triggered in this update.

  10. I was really struck by the change in Rachel. She was being actually quite nice to Charlotte and the kids. She didn’t even say anything about Charlotte’s ‘dogs aren’t as good as humans’ comment.

    I hope Taylor finds a way to stay in regular contact with the Undersiders. For all their sakes.

    • The puppy therapy thing was as much for Rachel as it was for the kids. Rachel even admits that losing Taylor hurt as much as losing her dogs, her only family at that point did.

      I find it interesting that she understands that leaving was something that Taylor had to do and compares it with dyeing and not something like a betrayal.

      • Taylor can always write a letter to Tattletale/Email if she ever trusts Dragon to read to Bitch. I think Bitch rationalizes it as Taylor doing her best to protect her pack no matter the cost to herself. I see her being her violently protective self with anyone who messes with Weaver’s hive.

        • As rationalizations go, that one seems pretty spot on too.

          Interesting question though of would Taylor write a letter to Rachel? Not would she want to communicate with Rachel, but would she even try to do so in a way that Rachel’s just not setup to deal with.

          • Might be easier to simply record a movie and send it to her, since reading isn’t her forte. Then again, writing to her might encourage Rachel to try and learn to read for Taylor’s sake.

    • Yeah, she’s still the Bitch though, walking up to people, demanding they disclose their feelings and forcing a puppy into their arms whther they want it or not.

      • My favorite scene in this update! Puppy in yo face! Everytime I immagine that it looks hilarious and heartwarming at the same time.

    • Wasn’t Taylor the one who suggested puppy therapy to Rachel?

      Its amusing to consider how far she might go in internalizing this strategy.
      Rachel’s mind: Okay, I’m trapped in a social situation. I can’t tell if these fuckers are mocking me or sincere. I’m getting frustrated.
      Do I a) attack
      b) shove puppies at the problem until it goes away.

    • I read that as Rachel beginning to wonder if maybe Charlotte was right. Until recently it wasn’t even a question – the dogs were the only ones who would accept her.

  11. Well it’s good to know that things are being delt with. Hopefully things will keep going this niceily for a while.

  12. Assault used to be a villain as well right? If so, skitter wouldn’t be the first to switch in such a way.

    • Assault hid his origins. Skitter would be the first to publicly switch — the first to set a precedent for villains to become heroes.

      • There is also the fact that Assault was supposedly a nice villain who mostly adhered to the code.

        Skitter was definitely a non-nice villain whose last act it was to take out one of the strongest heroes alive and who also happened to kill two PRT directors.

        • “who also happened to kill two PRT directors”
          … you say that like it’s a footnote. I like it!

          • Could be a used when her new boss gets on her nerves.
            “I have experience creating openings for hopeful new directors, I can get this team a new one if I really want to.”

  13. Interesting. Taylor spending time in prison, but not the Bird Cage. Opportunities for Sophia and Taylor to interact, I suppose. The challenge there being how to deal with the brat without violating whatever agreement gets her into the Wards rather than the Bird Cage.

    Danny is understandably angry, yet for the sake of the story, I can’t see him NOT signing the paperwork. He’s naive in a lot of ways. Like how he thinks Taylor will be safer, in the long run, in Juvie.

    I’m glad Bitch is taking some time on the far side of the portal. She needs it, though I absolutely love her approach to puppy therapy.

    Finally, more information on the passengers. The idea that they are tied to the subconscious (I’m wondering if Wildbow goes with a collective subconscious for all of mankind) and react to stimuli that are powerful enough to damage a person on that level is…appealing. Almost like the superpowers are scars where the subconscious got fused with a passenger or something. That they are often tied to celestial imagery brings to mind not-actively-hostile Cthulhu types.

    Hopefully she mentions Aiden to Lisa. If someone else (assuming Cauldron doesn’t already know this) figures out that natural trigger events are somehow traceable, that could be…bad. If Aiden is the only one with the potential to do this, he’ll be in some serious kind of danger. Idle speculation: Endbringers are subconscious nightmares made flesh? They seem attracted to areas of great stress, so it seems a reasonable suspicion.

    Another good chapter Wildbow. I look forward to Tuesday!

    • I doubt Taylor will spend too much time in prison for real. She might spent some month(s) or so away from the spotlight, but having her sit in a cell doing nothing would be waste of resources.

      A smart move would be to use her time away from the spotlight to put her under house-arrest in some training facility. Have some drill instructor train her up physically a bit, have her get some counselling by that psychiatrist we have already seen, have her get comfortable with her new costume and equipment, use her powers to create some more spider silk for other people’s costumes. get her to learn whatever codes and procedures and ways of doing things there are among the heroes etc.

      Then once she is up to speed release her for the next big thing (Endbringers or whatever). They can justify it to the public that they cut her sentence short to allow her to risk her life fighting Endbringers or something.

      I am not saying that this will happen I am just saying that this would be the smart thing to do. They obviously plan to have her fight as a hero at some point in the future and instead of simply wasting the time in the meantime by putting her in a box they might use the time productively.

      The alternative would be to have her go undercover instead to go after cauldron or whatever….

      • “I’m glad Bitch is taking some time on the far side of the portal. She needs it, though I absolutely love her approach to puppy therapy”

        Hello I’m Dr. Bitch. Puppy therapy is an excellent way to prevent concussions, broken limbs, and other bodily trauma. Now who would like treatment?

      • I’m not sure Taylor COULD go “undercover”.
        She’s one of the most recognizable non-S-class threat villains on the planet right now. And she’s had her civilian identity blown.

        That’d be like having President Obama trying to go undercover to infiltrate Al Quaeda…with GWB as his sidekick…

    • I seriously doubt anyone will be making the connection of Aidan’s dreams to passengers. For that a person would need to have decent knowledge about passengers and Aidan’s dreams. Lisa is heavily into the passengers, but know nought about his dreams. Charlotte is aware of his dreams, but likely doesn’t know of passengers beside the most rudimentary “power source for powers”, if at all.
      So, if the connection will be made, it will be to late. For instance, when Bonesaw already got her hands on Aidan.

      • She remembers Taylor and Lisa reacting to Scrub’s trigger event, and what Lisa said about it, and she’s clearly related the dreams to what she heard then already.

  14. Well, seems like everyone going into a sort of a “holding position” until the next big event. Skitter’s territory is being consolidated, nobody right now seems that poised to make a move, and even the current disputes and cracks in the community are all things that are going to be snuffed out soon enough. Can’t really see to much happening on the Undersider side of the story, other then maybe a couple battles with smaller time villain and headaches for all involved. Great to see everybody relatively upbeat though. I thought that some of them (especially Bitch) would be especially depressed/ angered, but it seems that everybody is relatively nonchalant and pretty understanding of Weaver’s turncoating. However, I think the interaction between Danny and the Undersiders was a bit on the short end, there could have been some great conversations/ interactions

    This combined with the fact that Weaver now might need to spend a stint in prison along with the other bureaucratic procedures means we might get a semi-lengthy time skip. No real point in covering the story if Weaver’s in a regular jail, filling out paperwork, and all other major players not having that much to do for the time being. Danny’s reluctance to vouch for Skitter means that he still has plenty of reservations about this whole thing, and his own arc may not be over yet, but the plot kinda demands that we move forward soon.

    Also, in terms of Weaver’s now hero status, I would have kinda thought that she would go directly to the Protectorate alongside D&D, instead of the Wards. Given the circumstances and her capabilities, it might be more beneficial to move her up the hero-ladder. Also, does the story ever mention how heros without a secret identity go about their lives? I mean, we seen how villains in similar circumstances operate (Skitter herself, Faultline’s crew), but what about heroes like Weld or other C53s heroes? Also in regards to Weaver’s new position, TT kinda hints that Weaver will stay in contact, but how will that be done, and what will happen to Weaver’s own relationships with the Undersiders? (both professional and personal)

    Finally, with that last snippet about Alexander, it pretty much hints that something bigger is happening with Weaver’s passenger. Possibly instead of affecting things on a greater area, her powers are going up on the evolutionary path? Might not be simple brains, but the primitive brain that she affects, and the human species still have leftovers from that time.

  15. I have a theory!
    Dreaming about the space trigger blobs means you’ve been near parahumans long enough so you could trigger, so then later on when you actually do trigger you see the blobs again.

    • Could work. The wormverse still does not know how Trigger events actually work after all. There is the five year old mentioned in Toronto who I assume is a 3rd generation. Trigger events seems to happen to people close to others who had them. Sophia created Taylor, so it is very possible Taylor has created others without even realizing it. Greg, Emma, Aiden, or another one of the orphans who caused Aiden to see things. I’m kind of hoping for Emma just to see what would happen. Go hero/rouge/villain?

      • The “whole proximity/exposure breeds potential” dynamic is an excellent tool to both increase the ratio of capes in dense urban environments as well as have associates and already introduced non-capes gain powers.

  16. …I heard it, I heard it, I heard it on the X.”

    Welcome to Outlaw X, bringing you all the news you’re not supposed to know. Today was a hot day in super news. First off, stock trading in pork futures was thrown off today due to a transtemporal conflict between the Bacon League and the Union of Flying Rabbis. We’ll have that casualty list for you later, but it’s safe to say the fat’s in the fryer.

    Also today at 12:00 pm Eastern time, a Canadian chicken wearing a helmet was mauled by a killer attack Komondor. Police officials in the town are reminding citizens of the safety tips used when facing down trained killer mop dogs, “Don’t turn around. Uh oh. Herr Komondor’s in town. Uh oh.”

    In U.S. news today, Alexandria, the world’s strongest ranked Bitch class parahuman, was terminated with extreme prejudice today by Skitter. Bitch class, as we all remember, generally involves getting people to do what you want by pushiness, and typically involves generating a protective shell against reason and compassion, but comes with the same drawback as Thinkers: they hate being around others of their same class. Skitter is herself ranked as a Bitch 1, but sources inside the Brockton Bay PRT say “Oh god, the spiders are in my pants, please get them out,” and that she was being treated as at least two power levels higher in every rank. Whether or not this meant the removal of all frying pans in the PRT building so they couldn’t be used as melee weapons is unknown, but at least one former guard says the precautions are generally in line with a one-week low-level mother-in-law visit. Either way, now is a good time to price gouge the PRT on that headache medicine.

    On a side note, the Mad Hyphenator is on the loose again.

    Returning to our story out of Brockton Bay, Alexandria is dead. It is truly a sad, sad day for America. After all, the hero who so often valiantly fought the Endbringers is dead. We all remember the times she tricked Behemoth by flying backward rapidly and crashing into things whenever it swung its fist at her. She was really good at making it look like he actually hit her. Or how about that time that she made Leviathan lower its defenses by letting it shove her face into a toilet bowl while flushing it and calling down a tsunami wave? And let’s not even get started on that time she tried to take Simurgh lingerie shopping, or as it’s known in the history books, “The Lace That Launched A Thousand Ships”. Yep, Alexandria was great at wasting the time of the Endbringers without actually hurting them, allowing them to kill thousands of people at a slightly slower pace until Scion showed up to actually give them a fight.

    And what of her killer? A press conference held today told us that she is, to paraphrase what she said, “Got to be fucking kidding us,”. It’s a truly bizarre turn of events to turn from the righteous path of villainy to a sold out existence of harassing simple drug kingpins and innocent until proven guilty serial killers, but it was almost the only way her story could go. The Outlaw X betting pool for the next crazy Skitter thing to happen is available on our dark website. Currently the heavy favorite is…hold on, let me find that paper…”Rape Behemoth Anally”.

    Well, that ought to be interesting, but a lot of underdogs have won out, including, “Be a teenage girl named Taylor”, “Get caught peeing on a public road”, and “Intimate with more than one female teammate”. We’d like to thank Clockblocker for the tip that led to that last one. Just goes to show you that even a hero can come in useful sometime.

    We have to go to commercial, but when we come back, we’ll have Crimson Claw on to answer the age-old question, “Just how DO you wear a lobster as a codpiece?” and perhaps a new one that’s been bugging us all for weeks now, “So who did your sex reassignment surgery?”

  17. I’ll be… I totally forgot the update of today. Numbnuggets. Meh. Breakfast and coffee first, with a new podcast on the shopping trip for buns. Hmmmmm buns… and then reading this interlude 🙂

  18. I was about to post this in an earlier comment thread theorizing who could’ve triggered, but then it turned into a ridiculous wall of text. Thought it’d be better to post it separately, rather than totally wreck the preexisting discussion. 😛

    (@ Packbat) Haha, My brain jumped to the same conclusion about Taylor’s second trigger event. To be fair, in favor of that theory is the two scribbles Aidan drew, which may represent the passengers. If you look at the archive of trigger events (, all of Taylor’s visions have included two giant creatures. The rest are singular entities. Aidan might have been drawing Taylor’s passengers.

    Arguably, capes who witness other trigger events may just be seeing their own passengers rather than other people’s passengers. But if Aidan didn’t actually trigger, he doesn’t have his own passenger yet. He could have possibly witnessed Taylor’s passengers at work, in absence of his own. We don’t really know anything about potentials and their reaction to trigger events to say whether Aidan saw his own passengers or Taylor’s.

    Further in favor of Taylor having a second trigger event could be her behavior in Imago. We already know that her bugs will try to react with hostility even when Taylor, cognitively, is trying to remain calm. This is based on when she was bullied in the bathroom and when she was bullied by Emma at Arcadia. There is obviously a difference between Taylor and her passenger in behavior. A second trigger might mean the passenger(s) has greater influence over its host. In Imago, few times she mentions moments of weakness, being ready to cry. I think that’s Taylor, responding to her loss and stress.

    However, she also shows increased aggression, possibly from her passengers. She changes tactics completely against her enemies, making the first move. She comes up with violent strategies to humiliate the PRT, the Fallen, and the Teeth fairly quickly. Maybe it’s a response to the stress she’s under and her resentment of the PRT. Maybe she and her passenger are cooperating to basically wreck everyone’s shit, and that’s why she can come up with effective, violent plans. The Numbers Man theorizes that Jack Slash is so effective/enduring because he and his passenger are in sync. Maybe something similar was going on in Imago.

    But when she walks into the PRT building to turn herself in, her bugs are trying to go nuts while she remains calm. This part of the plan, peacefully turning herself in to her oppressors, probably didn’t fly with her passenger.

    “I pushed my bugs back, told them to go still. It had been months since my power and I were this at odds. Months since I’d been in the bathroom of Winslow High, telling myself I didn’t want to fight, that I didn’t want to retaliate against the bullies.

    But now I was left to wonder if that was my subconscious or my passenger?” -21.7

    Evidently, the passenger approves of violence and destruction. We’ve seen Taylor as more peaceful and reasonable. Thus, her increased aggression in Imago may have been from a strengthened passenger and her own emotional weakness. If we assume her extreme anger comes from her passenger, this might also fit with the theory:

    “The anger, of all things, was comforting. It was something that pushed me to act, to move, when I wanted nothing more than to give up. I hurt everywhere, I had nobody left to rely on, and I felt drained. The fear, the hopelessness, it was seductive. It was urging me to give up.” -22.5

    Anger from the passenger, emotional weakness from Taylor. The anger is almost personified here. Anger in control of Taylor when she’s not in a good head space.

    Another minor point that might support this is when Taylor hates Parian after she accelerates Taylor’s plan by inviting Flechette and Miss Militia; maybe what would normally be a minor frustration is amplified to hatred with her passenger having greater influence.

    Danny’s comment made me look back at when Taylor attacked Tagg and Alexandria.

    “No,” Danny said. “I don’t think it was her, not really. For just a minute, she became a monster.”
    “I stared down at my hands, and I felt myself go cold, my thoughts crystal clear, singular.
    “Taylor,” my dad murmured, so quiet I could barely hear him.
    I sounded so calm, like an entirely different person was speaking….
    I’d promised myself I wouldn’t let the bullies win again, I thought. That I’d stop the monsters.
    But the thoughts sounded disconnected, false.
    No, this was revenge. Something simpler than any of that.”

    On its own, Taylor’s attack seems like someone hitting the breaking point and going wild. With Danny’s comment, it made me think about the passenger. Emotionally weak with the ‘loss’ of a friend, was Taylor seized by the passenger’s influence? Maybe her thought about the bullies was the vestiges of Taylor, and the rest of the quote was the passenger… not taking control, but doing more than just influencing her.

    One last point: there are at least two events where Taylor’s power seems to act independently. Most obviously and recently is when they weave silk after she is tranquilized. Secondly might be in 21.1, when Atlas is called down and Taylor isn’t sure why she brought him. Perhaps her passenger thought that Taylor would need a better vantage point for retaliation, when she was surrounded by the Undersiders disagreeing with her violent methods. Maybe this is evidence of her passenger having more strength, after a hypothetical second trigger.

    One flaw with the idea that Taylor became more aggressive because a second trigger strengthened her passenger: Grue had a second trigger and just became more broken. Maybe it’s like Charlotte said; some withdraw, some get aggressive, some internalize. It’d be an interesting reflection of their initial trigger events as well. Taylor’s first trigger makes her internalize and withdraw in response to the threat (bullies). Brian’s first trigger makes him get aggressive in response to a threat (mom’s latest abusive boyfriend). Their second triggers made them became aggressive and internalize, respectively.

    More obviously, Aidan “woke up a bit after she came in.” So theoretically: Taylor comes home from wherever she was, has a trigger event, Aidan dreams the trigger event, Aidan wakes up and begins to draw. Also; Taylor making noise in the kitchen? Is she still spazzing out from the trigger event itself?

    I guess the more important question would be: what powers did she gain, if she did trigger? Taylor lost one of her identities. Maybe her passenger just became more independent, giving her another, more aggressive ‘identity’ to work with?

    And, uh, in conclusion that’s why I think it’s possible that it was Taylor’s second trigger event that Aidan witnessed. Sorry for the wall of text. I probably made a lot of (false) assumptions, let me know what you think.

    • I agree with Passenger influencing Tylor, but it doesn’t necessary mean she had second trigger. Grue’s lack of aggression can be explained by Passenger being unable to effect strong influence.

  19. *de lurk*
    Just decided to make my first post to the comments.
    But what are first posts without content?

    Just a little picture of skitter. Couldn’t resist drawing it.
    I may even draw some more

    • Greetings, MrThorSir. You’re Thor? I’m tho Thor I can’t even thit down!

      Always good to see a new person join the comments. What’s a first post without Psycho Gecko here to welcome you?

      People draw on their various talents for appreciating Worm. Some people create a wiki. Others almost singlehandedly double the size of the TVTropes page. Some talk about it on a site for Harry Potter fanfics. There are those that draw pictures of Skitter leaping across rooftops with a knife in one hand and a gleam in her eye that says “Stabby stabby stab, I want to stab.” One guy even annoys the crap out of the comments section by welcoming people to it and by writing his own stories on it that are completely unrelated to the entire thing.

      We have yet to have a person who makes a motorcycle in the form of a giant beetle or someone who has written an entirely unique song about it.

      I’m working on a good song for Worm myself, actually, tell me what you think,

      I like big bugs and I cannot lie,
      you other brothers can’t deny,
      that when a girl walks in with mesothelaes
      that only look small from space
      you get sprung

      I have a lot more work left to do on it, but it’s getting there.

      Welcome to the comments, MrThorSir

      • *Gasp*
        Someone found out about my plans for the Skitter cycle. Now I have to kill everyone who could have possibly read this. Anybody got Jacks cell number?

  20. The pseudo-trigger is interesting.

    We do know that superpowers are sort of contagiousness in this setting and that spending too much time around a cape will make you more likely to trigger.

    The kids spent a lot of time around Taylor, so it seems reasonable that they should be primed/attuned/become more sensitive to triggers in general. Chances are that they are simply to young to trigger naturally even if they do have the potential, but they still feel it if someone nearby has a (second) trigger event.

    In addition to the obvious question of who and how, it also gives some broader questions. If the number of capes increases and proximity to capes does funny things to you like making you more likely to trigger yourself, we have some sort of self-reinforcing cycle or feedback-loop here. At the moment it is still going slow, but this is the sort of thing that can lead to run-away chain reactions. Once we pass a certain threshold everything will speed up and then things will very quickly go “Boom!”.

    Contagiousness powers are not a epidemic they are a potential nuclear explosion waiting to happen…

  21. Was the guy who blamed Skitter/claimed he would have helped Forrest EXCEPT for his wife and child the same ass who resented Skitter for helping clear out rat infestations?

  22. The fact that there was an actual list of possible people is worrying and Dinah mentioned there are other groups involved in the Apocalypse. I also look forward to seeing what other Villains/Rouge have of Skitter becoming Weaver.

  23. Charlotte, then.

    She really does panic easily – lives in fear, folds in a heartbeat the way she did in Sierra’s interlude… and still gets up every morning and doesn’t walk away. That’d be what we call courage.

    Forrest is a rock, and surprisingly good with kids. Interesting that he seems to have thought of Taylor as a hero to begin with.

    Scott wouldn’t have happened to have a rodent infestation back at 12.1? (ETA: and ninja’d while typing. Alas.)

    Those kids will have stories to tell when they get older and the paparazzi aren’t hounding them. There was an article some time back about some kids who had Marilyn Monroe as their nanny growing up, when she took a break and tried to get her head on straight. This would be like that… but with a lot more spiders.

    Same reporter as before – might actually make Taylor look good. Fits the spin he’d put on the last one… which is not to say he wouldn’t demonize her in a second if he thought that was where the story was.

    The individual are nicely characterized, and feel like kids – traumatized kids, but kids nonetheless. Mai is particularly charming.

    The prison assumption everyone’s making is… interesting. Calle is a very competent lawyer. The deal they struck was a plea bargain in its bones, with a lot of interesting side notes. It quite literally is not believable to me that he didn’t cover jail time in the terms. I could imagine a negotiation where the PRT said that they needed to have the appearance of being able to sentence her (and I can imagine Taylor feeling she needed to be punished, but please – the man will have had to deal with clients feeling guilty before, and will know how to do his job regardless)… put it this way, if the agreement permits the PRT or DA to send her to jail at all, it’s on terms and for durations that Calle found plausible and acceptable considering the circumstances. Most I can really imagine is a few months, and even then she won’t be permitted to serve even that in full before being pulled out “for good behavior” or due to “a greater need,” with all of that secretly agreed beforehand. At the absolute most, there’s a Simurgh or Behemoth attack due in, what, a month?

    Granted, most of the people talking about her going to jail are people I could expect to be unreliable narrators in this – even Tattletale, with her power down, could make this mistake… but it’s odd.

    Flechette’s so far outrun the news of her defection – at some point, it’ll catch up. And then things will get interesting.

    Puppy therapy is fantastic. And it’s very Rachel to just shove puppies at people. The little detail of Imp throwing the chips at Grue is a nice touch also.

    The real estate development side will be interesting. I don’t know how much detail you want to go into on that, but Skitter’s territory is plausibly about to experience shattering levels of development. Tattletale could plausibly have acquired just about everything for pennies on the dollar in the depths of the crisis; shunting Taylor’s share of everything (Alexandria thought they had at least $92mm in cash alone, much more in other things) into developing that area? The land’s already acquired, and putting what would have at least a nine-figure sum of equity (expect 50-60% leverage in construction loans, and hedge funds and investors the world over desperately trying to put in equity of their own) into developing an area that size… don’t get me wrong, large scale construction is expensive. But this? That’s more enough money to do some spectacular things… and more to the point, spectacularly profitable things. The area won’t be rebuilt overnight – but it could be under construction very quickly. The hardest part of doing it quickly would be having a solid overall plan (developing that can take years; getting things started once you actually know what you want can be remarkably quick, assuming you don’t hit regulatory or zoning speedbumps) – and Tattletale and Accord are well positioned to handle that. He’d probably enjoy doing some urban redevelopment as a palate cleanser.

    Point being, I’m racking my brains for an example of a redevelopment that large, with that few regulatory constraints, with land already in hand, with that much equity going in from a single source… Tattletale can very easily and very legitimately pull in BILLIONS in equity to do that. And how likely is legislation to seize those properties going to be when everyone from teacher pension funds to hedge funds has a piece of the redev upside? Call it money laundering on a mind-boggling scale. By the time it’s done, the Undersiders should have assets on the scale of some sovereign wealth funds.

    So, yeah – risking a shot at your piece of that for $300 simply means that no one there even begins to understand the scale of the opportunity there. Tattletale could literally afford to give every one of those couple of hundred people a million dollar condo at the end of the process… and it would be a rounding error in the total budget. (Seriously – call Taylor’s share just $100mm; assume a 10% coinvest, that’s $1b in equity, call it $2.1b in cost, value well north of that, with the land already in hand, and once you start using profits from one phase to fund the next? This is a low estimate of what could be done in the real world, please understand. Understand also that having serious Thinkers to draw on means all these numbers are wildly, wildly low. Short of having the Number Man oppose them, the Undersiders can make STUPID amounts of money by fixing the city)

    Granted, redeveloping the whole area would take more than two years, so some obvious potential issues with the business plan there. Some opportunities there too, though, in terms of diverting resources to build something on the other side of the portal so people have a place to evacuate to.

    Skitter’s militia will show up again at some point, I expect.

    The dream means something. The fact that there were two entities? The fact (unnoticed by me until now – thanks, Noise!) that Skitter sees two and everyone else sees one, for the ones we have records on? Those incline me to believe he noticed something about Skitter, rather than thinking he triggered. (If triggering’s contagious, and he caught it from Skitter, that might explain a similarity… but his retaining his memory doesn’t quite fit.) Current best guess? Wildbow is teasing the commenters who keep focusing on second trigger possibilities… but maybe being outed really did trigger something. Wouldn’t put much stock in it, but for the fact that Dinah had a very direct hand in that event. Or, of course, it just means he has it in him to trigger. We really don’t know.

    • A few interesting points about the “visions” people see when they trigger:

      -Miss Militia only saw one “Being”, while Skitter saw two. It might be evidence of a Second Trigger.

      -Battery and Noelle were both Cauldron capes, and they both had their “visions” from the passenger’s point of view. Skitter and Miss Militia both had natural Triggers, and they saw the scenes from their own point of view. Additionally, the “Beings” that Passengers are fragmenting off of are only seen by MM and Skitter.

      -Passengers can “move on” or “fragment” if there is a better candidate for their powers – As shown in this passage: “This one would fragment itself if others met the criteria; if there was time and opportunity enough then it would move to better candidates, younger or more able ones with a greater ability to affect the cycle”. We know that 2nd/3rd generation capes are more likely to trigger and have similar powers to their parents. I’m guessing this is the reason.

  24. I haven’t been around long, so I’m probably treading well-worn ground here, but if Taylor has twin passengers, and one of them is her bug passenger, maybe the second one is a social passenger?

    By this I mean that Taylor could be a social Thinker type who is able to communicate with other people in ways that serves her ultimate purposes or plans. Not a flashy power, or something like Accord’s obsession, but subtle and silent. This would give her stuff like:

    – figuring out Rachel, starting with impromptu exodontia at their first meeting
    – her leadership and guidance skills, like when she uses her bugs to act as ground control during crises and the fact that seems to be a competent leader type anyhow
    – getting people to listen to her and making lie-detectors go a bit wonky, like Armsmaster and Alexandria
    – social duelling; Panacea at the hospital? Emma at Acadia
    – the whole lunch hall scene
    – she’s a major supervillain and her dad has seen her Being The Monster, yet he’s still on the fence
    – I can’t find the bit where Jack tells Skitter he regrets not making her his recruit candidate, hrm. Anyhow, Jack’s also a social type, similar in ways to Taylor in this respect

    • In the Number Man’s interlude, he theorizes that part of what lets Jack navigate stick situations and beat the odds time and again is that he’s more “in tune with” (or possibly more controlled by) his passenger. Someone (can’t remember where) compiled all the passenger-related quotes a while back.

      We know that the passengers choose who they will effect, in natural trigger scenarios, because they see possibilities. They go with whoever well best help “the cycle.” Before triggers, they move as a collective–a trigger event is two passengers splitting off, one of whom creates the “passenger” in the brain.

      Meanwhile, we see more and more instances where Skitter does things without realizing it, possibly because of her passenger. It’s likely that, like Jack, she’s more in tune with her passenger than most.

      This means that she, like Jack, is also more important to “the cycle,” whatever that is. And we know that Skitter will be present at the Jack-induced apocalypse, and that Panacea mentioned something about the passengers “waking up [I think this has to do with birth–the passengers in their “larval form” are parasites that give superpowers to the host].”

      So…the plot thickens. Taylor’s charisma may be in part due to her passenger.

      • If you want the passenger descriptions, look for “pastebin”, it was dumped there (by Rika?).

        Your splitting of theory at moment of triggering is interesting. How did you come to that conclusion?
        Related: Could you point me to when/where Pancake mentioned the passenger(s) “waking up”?

        • I’m assuming you mean Panacea. Interlude 16, Donation Bonus #3:

          “They’re not faeries. Or souls, or psychic images. Our powers aren’t part of our bodies, exactly. I would be able to alter them or take them away if they were. What I saw when I touched glass-”

          “Glaistig Uaine.”

          “Her. I feel like I just got clued into a missing piece of the puzzle. They’re sentient. Maybe they’re sleeping, like she said. But they’re not dumb, and I think I’m getting an idea of what happens when they wake up.”

          Regarding the split: “But for this one entity, which existed as part of the whole, there was a target within that destination. When it came time for this one to depart, it would seek out a particular individual, and it would bond with that individual. This one would fragment itself if others met the criteria; if there was time and opportunity enough then it would move to better candidates, younger or more able ones with a greater ability to affect the cycle. This one would wait until the time was right, and then it would activate, come into the identity and role that had been ingrained into its being.

          All to serve this cycle.

          With the help of the collective, this one could see its objective. A single living being. This one encoded that being, the time and place in its very makeup. It would be ready.”

          Wildbow: Maybe put the pastebin link ( in the FAQ? “I’ve had an idea about trigger events, any way I can check the evidence? A: [link]”

          • Tattletale: “They’re like viruses. And babies. And gods. All at the same time.” Loki-L suggests, and I agree, that the passengers grant powers as part of their life cycle. It’s part of how they act on the host.

            El_Sock also notes that Battery and Noelle saw their trigger from the passenger’s point of view. MM and Skitter saw it from their own point of view. Also, Skitter saw two beings, while MM only saw one–evidence, as El_Sock suggests, of a second trigger.

            • The flaking bit had me confused for a time (I thought the powers were flakes shed by a single being, somehow interacting with the capes) when I read it in story first.
              The artificial capes having a different perspective in their trigger vision than regular capes is a good illustration and proof of something fishy going on there, and I also agree with the double passenger of Taylor being significant, but I’m just not sure in what regard. Maybe she always had two passengers, with only one connected, or always both connected. If we knew the trigger visions of Brian, we could ascertain if he saw two at his initial trigger, or only one. Noelle’s comment on the smell or what was it of Skitter, Grue and Eidolon (or was it Myrmidon?) being as different from capes’ smell is as those from people with potential supports the second passenger even more.
              The only problem, only slight one though, I see with the splitting/fragmenting passengers is, it seems as if it depends on the passenger. Some fragment if a better host comes up, thus supplying the second host with basically the same powerset, but with more power or control or something. But it also suggested jumping hosts. Perhaps even withdrawing the power from the first one.

              And now I’m wondering why three people with that characteristic were present. Based on the (paraphrase) saying or what it was: once is accident, twice is coincidence, thrice is conspiracy. But that might be explained just by “powers fighting powers” and stuff.

          • >Wildbow: Maybe put the pastebin link ( in the FAQ? “I’ve had an idea about trigger events, any way I can check the evidence? A: [link]“

            That’s not the best link to use, as it’s missing two excerpts from Trickster and Noelle. I updated my original here ( and added labels/line breaks in addition to the missing passages.

            >Also, Skitter saw two beings, while MM only saw one–evidence, as El_Sock suggests, of a second trigger.

            I’ve recently changed my theory about this after reading through the missing excerpts. I think the visions are from separate “phases” in the Cycle – basically, all of the visions take place in the far past. If I’m right, then the Cycle is:

            1. Miss Militia’s Vision – A Single “Being” made up of thousands of smaller Passengers reaches his destination (In this case, a world similar to Earth) and begins to die. The passengers flake off of his body and fall down into the world.

            2. Trickster’s Visions: As time goes by, the passengers begin to grow, forming into strange crystalline beings. Eventually two larger crystalline figures(Endbringers) are created. Once a set amount of time has passed…this happens.

            “The second they made contact, the entire world was turned to crystal in a heartbeat.

            Another heartbeat later, the world shattered.”

            3. Skitter’s Visions: The world is destroyed as both crystals hatch/grow to become two “Beings”:

            “Creatures that folded and unfolded through space, existing in multiple worlds simultaneously, too many to count, spreading out from the remains of a world.”

            The two beings decide on a new world to breed off of: In this case, Earth Bet.

            “It was my world, my Earth it was looking at.

            Coming to a consensus, it transmitted a decision. Destination.

            The reply was almost immediate. Agreement.”

            Once they reach it, the Two Beings begin to die(And the Cycle is reset). The falling passengers bond with parahumans in a Symbiotic Relationship. Eventually, as time goes by…Three Crystalline creatures emerge. In other words, Endbringers.

            Basically, my theory is that Passengers are going to destroy the world as part of the Cycle. Originally it was set to happen in 16 years, but something Jack is doing has accelerated it to 2 years.

  25. How can Taylor’s Dad be so imbecilic & self absorbed? Even after seeing what Tagg & Alexandria were like? Someone needs to smack him off his high horse. He feels hanging with other criminals in juvie instead of with heros her age would turn her from a destructive path. Idiot!… He should use his brain instead of feeling sorry for himself and blaming everyone else. Is he overlooking the fact that Taylor let herself stay bullied? She could have offed the bullies or let her friends mess them up for her.
    And where does he get off being critical about how they are caring for those kids? I didn’t read about Mr. Woa is me, volunteering to help.

    • Consider what Danny actually saw of Tagg and the decades of positive press Alexandria had.

      Also there’s the fact that, if she’s stuck in juvie, Taylor wouldn’t be out there tangling with things like the Endbringers or the Nine. As a parent would you EVER, under any circumstances, want your child to have to deal with something like the Simurgh? Or fall into Bonesaw’s clutches?

      Danny seems to know that the answer is “yes, under some circumstances, if they chose that, then it is what needs to happen”, but that is a terribly hard thing to accept in regards to someone you love, so I don’t blame him for being unsure of whether he should sign or not.

      • I think he’s making unwarranted assumptions about the integrity of the juvenile detention system anyway. People will know who she is, so Bonesaw could show up one day, or if the Simurgh starts messing with some place on the East coast of North America it might be worth a bit of someone’s time to see if Weaver wants in.

      • It’s better to be fighting the Nine alongside people who give a damn about her well being at her back, who will have firepower to back her up and will respect her than being thrown into an abusive environment with no friends, no bugs to defend herself, and the American prison system (ECH) being the only thing that will step up to keep her from being shanked.

        Frankly, if she lived through prison, her stint would only serve to reinforce the nasty “lessons” that she’s learned as a bullying victim and a supervillain.

  26. With the length of Worm, translating it to film would be really hard. After this chapter though I would very definitely love to it done. What prompted that thought was Danny’s reaction to Taylor’s rampage of revenge.

    In 22.4 we were with Taylor the whole way through. Her rage was perfectly understandable – Alexandria had just murdered someone she loved. For me, that made her actions perfectly reasonable too. She didn’t read as scary so much as righteously powerful.

    Then we get to this interlude and we get a sense of what that looked like from an external perspective, which is basically all we’d get in a film, and Taylor is terrifying.

    I can’t think of an actress her age that could pull off that scene, but it would be amazing to see someone nail it. Going back over the earlier chapters in my head, there’d be so many others that would be delightful to see too. Barring something like an continuing series though I can’t imagine how someone would ever adapt the story to film and do it justice.

    • I was thinking more of a TV series, actually.

      The first eight arcs (with some modifying (arc 1 being episode 1, etc.)) could be season one, ending with Leviathan’s attack for the last two or three episodes.

      Season two could be arcs 9-14 (I could see arc 9 fitted into one episode(maybe)).

      Season 3 can cover everything between that and the Echidna fight.

      And we’d be in season 4 right now.

      • If it were to be translated into a tv show, I’d say season 3 would end with arc 21, and Skitter turning herself in.

        • Nah, that would mean Echidna would have to be shoved somewhere in the middle, and her end really fits better as a season ender. (I’m using a roughly 22 episode season measurer, by the way)

  27. Character name switch?

    Jessie nodded.

    “I could, if it would make it easier,” Danny offered.

    Charlotte felt that twang of alarm at the notion of a relative stranger touching ‘her’ kids. She could rationalize that this was Taylor’s dad, but…

    Jessie made the decision for her. Standing and approaching Danny, before sitting beside him. Charlotte tossed the man a hairbrush.

    For long minutes, they worked on combing through knots and tangles. Kathy made sure to grunt with every one.

  28. Woohoo more updates 🙂 An interesting interlude. Perhaps we’ll get more puppy therapy in the future 🙂

  29. I enjoyed this chapter. Charlotte was a great POV character from the start, since we got to see the reaction from someone who worked under, but not within the Undersiders, as well as the mood of the people in Skitter’s territory (including an amusing parallel between the reactions of the people watching the news and us here in the comments reading the chapters). Then Danny comes in to talk about how he’s handling things, as well as the Undersiders stopping by to discuss things (and giving an outsider’s reaction to Flechette). Top it off with a snippet of Parahumans Online (for more social temperature taking) and some more mystery about trigger events, this chapter was great. I can’t wait for Tuesday’s.

  30. I’m referring to the fact that he seems to relate how everything is effecting him. (Danny) My kid would see a therapist after the other parent died if couldn’t talk to me. My kid would be going to a different school after ending up in a mental hospital because of the current one. What exactly would change after juvie? They referred to what happens during the “usual” procedures to join the ward program. If they really needed to, what would stop them from emansipating Taylor & placing her with a regular team of heros?

  31. Typos:
    “It was customardy, ” -> customary
    ” in more sense than one.” -> senses
    “Only way don’t play into” -> “Only way we don’t play into”

    Sorry if they’ve been posted before!
    Loving the story, especially the interludes!

  32. It strikes me as odd that nobody else came to the conclusion I did about who triggered:
    “Her stomach twisted as he passed her, as though it were a towel someone was wringing out. Not an unfamiliar sensation.” While I get that this is a normal response, it read (to me) like an extra-sensory power at work.

    I think, when Skitter turned herself in, Char stress-triggered at the thought of everything going to hell.

    • Huh – that would make sense actually.

      I think we know from some other reports that not all people who trigger have the vision with the cosmic worms in them, and even those who do don’t necessarily remember it afterwards. If her power is a subtle one or hasn’t manifested yet, it might make sense that Charlotte just isn’t aware of it yet.

      On the other hand this could be showing us a new aspect of how powers are gained.

      Perhaps Taylor had a similar trigger-prep experience when her mother died and then finally manifested when she was stuffed into the locker. Meaning people who try to force it generally fail because it’s not a single step process.

      • Charlotte having a trigger event was the first thing that came to mind when I read that bit too. And I still wouldn’t rule her out even if she didn’t have one then. With all the stresses she has to deal with Charlotte seems a very plausible candidate to trigger at some point.

      • I disagree. To me it read like a regular, stress-induced reaction. We know how the stomach can toss and turn if one is stressed and Char had enough reason to be stressed, so it seems reasonable to assume she didn’t trigger, or pretrigger for that matter.

        • I know, but getting superpowers from stress seems more interesting than getting an ulcer, which is probably what is actually happening, though given the way things tend to work out in the wormverse, either one would probably be equally painful and frustrating.

    • doubt it

      1. Claudron-born don’t always have the “Dreamquest”
      2. noone remembers it (even miss milita forgot it, her power just acceses memory while she sleeps and she remembers her dreams –> remembers her Dreamquest and remembers forgetting about it)
      3. when the merchant boy had a trigger it knocked out skitter and tattletale–> propably also the merchant boy<– would have been noticed in the middle of a crowd

  33. So, following Friedrich Wilhelm von Steuben’s Revolutionary War Drill Manual, Taylor’s territory is to become the HQ of the Brockton Bay Citizen’s Militsiya aka “Mook Camp”. Bonus points for the first words out of the Drill Sergeant Nasty being, “ALRIGHT YOU MAGGOTS LISTEN UP!! [Insert standard cliché Boot Camp prospects here].”

  34. 1. So, if danny doesn’t let skitter join the wards what do you think that she will do? I think that she will either find some way to join anyways, go back to leading the undersiders,wait it out and join the protectiate when she is 18, or become some sort of cigilante, like the old shadowstalker.
    2. Since skitter took out alexandria, does anyone, besides me think

    • Cont. (Stupid smartphone) that she will take over her leadership role in endbringer fights, once she gains some trust, of course.

      • ” She needs a parent, guardian, notary, or a person in authority to vouch for her, and it has to be someone who’s otherwise free of connections to superheroes or supervillains, someone that knows her and can testify about her character.”

        Danny is not needed. He would jest be the best one to do it.

  35. Excellent post. I could have never imagined you making an interlude that covered so many points of view that were requested by fan’s. I am glad that Danny got a chance to hear and see some of the good Taylor did.

    Plus I doubt anyone has be so scared to be handed a puppy before.

  36. Regarding all the posts about Aiden: TT triggered tossing and turning one night after weeks of stress and nightmares. Remember you get powers you need potential and a trigger. Maybe Aiden has potential and is close to triggering.

  37. Next, in Worm: “Meh, i can take her” followed by the grand opening of a can of whoopass. Stay tuned

    • Jack: “Meh. I could taker her!”

      Bonesaw: “You hear that?”

      Jack: “What?”

      Bonesaw: “I dunno. I…it sounds like…well…a giant can opener”

      *Looks up and sees a label “Whoop-Ass: 500,000 Gallons: OPEN WITH CARE!”*

  38. Actually, I really really hope Tattletale shows somebody the Real interrogation tape soon. If not the other Undersiders, then hopefully Danny. And really, Danny’s lack of understanding about the situation is driving far too much of his thought process right now (see also: “Juvie’s a Way Out Of This Situation! ™). Get that man a reality check, and it better not bounce!

  39. As to the Simurgh, I’d want to use a pre-cog to obscure her pre-cog and then shaped charge fusion weapons in the 20 megaton range to go after her while she was in orbit. Just saying how I would approach her.

    Leviathan, well, Armsmaster already has an approach, now it just needs to be adjusted to projectile weapons.

    • I’d approach her with a martini, Black Magic Woman playing over the jukebox. I smile and even flash my pearly whites, she sings driving everyone else around us insane, people clawing out their eyes, women beating their husbands to death with their newborn babies, dogs getting mounted by cats that have gerbils in their butts, I give her a lame pickup line (“Excuse me, are you a beautiful rabbit? Because I’d like you to chew my carrot all night”), laugh, say that was lame and I was just nervous and would she dance with me, she tries to murder me by turning me into a pile of frogs.

      Ah, the tumultuous dance of seduction.

    • Word of WIldbow is, Endbringers have been attacked with nuclear weapons, with success as their continued existence is sure to prove.
      Depending on altitude, you’d EMP vast swathes of countryside below the SImurgh.
      Armsmasters weapons were effective to a certain degree, until the deeper, physics-defying layers of Leviathan were the subject of attack. Those resisted.

      • Not disagreeing that they have been attacked before.

        As to EMP, you can shape that as well as the rest of a shaped charge fusion weapon. Those have to be hand crafted, and there is nothing to indicate that the weapons used in the past were above a 5k limit. Which is different than a 20m range.

        And unless you warped her precog, you would never have any of them get to her while she was in orbit. While she is in orbit you can use much larger ordinance than you can when she is on the surface. 50 or a 100 20 meg plus weapons on the surface would do more damage than the Leviathan attack did to Weaver’s hometown by a huge scale.

        I’m just looking at the effect of various powers, how much damage they do to the surroundings, what has worked to injure Endbringers or make them avoid or drive them off, and scaling.

        I agree that Armsmasters weapons were limited at the deeper levels. Others seemed to have more success there (our favorite really a villain but working as a hero, in love with a dollmaker cape, for example). But the deeper levels seem to be a matter of scale rather than impossible to strike. Look at Leviathan to be an engineering problem to be solved rather than a threat to be fought. Which makes it a matter of scale and approach and adjustment.

        And the goal would be to injure/immobilize Leviathan enough that he could be thrown off the ground into the air, then further up and then thrown into the sun. That you could do with tactical nukes used for propulsion rather than damage. And yes, that would do as much or more damage than Leviathan did in his last attack, even with .5 k nukes used for propulsion because of just how that would work, how close to the ground or in the atmosphere it would be.

        Anyway, most planners are allergic to the use of nuclear weapons in that fashion. Especially when they have capes and the capes seem to be working, more or less. Trying to implement a strategy like I’m suggesting would probably get you sent to the Birdcage, cape or not.

        And with the Simurgh, unless you blocked her pre-cog or fogged it, with the time to delivery, you would never reach her. By the time you hit where she had been in orbit, she would have moved. If you used non-shaped nuclear weapons you would get spherical explosions rather than directional cones. Those would also be a lot less effective if you are chasing a target in high earth orbit.

        Anyway, just thinking how I would go forward. I suspect that any planner on Weaver-Earth would go forward with various cape manipulating approaches instead. When in doubt, double down on the capes seems to be the approach they have.

        • I’m no nuclear ordinance technician, planner or anything of the sorts. Ask Stuart Slade instead.
          Going out on a limb here, Leviathan is not a flyer. So getting him airborne would be very great, removes his abilities for attack to a certain degree. And his physics defyingness might be a sufficient substitute for ablative graphene or steel plate to get an old school Orion class going. I seriously doubt he’d stand still for that to work, though.
          The same reasoning goes for Smurfette, she wouldn’t hold still. Even if the nukes would be spread wide enough for the fireballs to cover every bit of space (highly unlikely, + the coordination required would give the planner the mother of all headaches), it wouldn’t necessarily kill her. Her flight makes her at the same time not a feasibly target for Orion propulsion into the sun, either.

          So, if we had someone like Rune, a remote fligher/lifter, and get Leviathan to orbit or beyond, great, I’m all for it! Preferably on a trajectory out of the solar system. Saggitaurus A is nice this time of the year, I heard.

          I… may have an idea how that might be possible, depending on the Wormverse mechanics. If Leviathan was frozen by Clockblocker and Legend accelerated pressing against him, would the Endbringer be lifted with the speed Legend would have had after that accelerating time (effectively the same effect when Superman doesn’t trisect people he catches with his Superspeed), the newtonian speed taking both their momentum in consideration, but still with no ill effects to Legend, or would our hero smash into Leviathan like the fist of an angry god (possibly killing himself at the same time). If it’s the first option, go for it.

          On a side note: I wouldn’t want any Endbringer in our sun. Take another one, preferable dozens parsecs away. So even if it goes nova, we’re reasonably far away. And yes, I wouldn’t put it past the Endbringers to be able to survive in our star. Behemoth for his love and tolerance of pressure and temperature, Simurgh for her ability of flight and Leviathan for his elemental manipulation. I know, only water, but the sun already got hydrogen, and somewhere probably oxygen as well…

            • Considering his speed is described as faster than any of the speedsters they have available, and his strength makes holding him down unfeasible, and his durability means that anything short of a point-blank nuking likely just wont work, the nuclear option just seems like a fantastic way to remove any remaining capes from the area.

              No, I would absolutely try to get someone to toss him into the sun. That would probably do the job.

              Alternate solution: Many, many bags of quick-drying cement.

            • Like I said, with the Endbringers I’d prefer to err on the side of caution. Personally I consider Behemoth the most dangerous of the Stooges, and he even is somewhat approachable if they know where he’ll resurface. A subterranean burst when he comes up and we’d see if he is affected. I’m not underestimating the danger and range of nuclear weapons, by the way, but rather not under-estimate the Endbringers.

      • Attacked with nukes maybe, but point blanc? I doubt it.
        Problem with the Simurgh is precog plus ranged TK allows her to destroy the incoming nukes before they get too near.

  40. >>“My number one instinct is to keep my daughter safe. If she went to juvenile detention, it would… it wouldn’t be good, but it’d keep her out of the line of fire. It’d stop her from going down this reckless path.”

    Yeah dude, ‘cuz your instincts have served you so well in the past. Man, I can understand him having a panic “oh shit I somehow need to get my daughter away from all this” reaction but.. if the guy knew his daughter he’d understand what a total non-starter that is.

  41. My record for predicting Wildbow is bad, but that doesn’t stop me from trying … so here it goes:
    The events with the kids in this chapter are important. I know some commenters made a big deal of them, but there are several aspects that seem to be consistently overlooked, but are important because they are different from all previously known triggers in three ways:
    1) Non-parahumans experienced the linkage to the superentities and agents.
    2) Multiple people were affected, apparently at about the same time. I say this because several of the kids had behavioral changes.
    3) The kids generally felt better – the bed wetter and the hoarder stopped their behavior.
    Now contrast this to how parahuman abilities normally work:
    1) It is rare that even parahumans remember experiencing the superentity and agent imagery (unless they are close to another’s trigger event). Remember that when the Merchant’s party caused a trigger the non-parahumans were unaffected. Here we have at least one non-parahuman experiencing the superentity / agent connection long enough to note it down and tell it to others.
    2) Triggers almost always happen one at a time and alone. Even Endbringer attacks rarely cause enough triggers at once to be remarked on, but here we have multiple people affected over a short period of time.
    3) Trigger events are traumatic and the people often end up more unstable, but the kids who are affected seem to be better.
    Also, Charlotte’s guess, if accurate, should scare the piss out of everyone because that means people who had no potential to become parahumans now have the potential.
    So, here’s my guess as to what happened and why. The why first:
    Not too long before this, two of the most powerful biological engineers in the world tampered with the minds of everyone in Brockton Bay.
    Bonesaw is the world’s only medical tinker and one of the foremost authorities on trigger events. She admits to trying to generate triggers. Now, look at what Bonesaw’s work did – it generated intense isolation by damaging the part of the brain that controlled recognition. Remember that the only common element of triggering is isolation … and an expert on trigger events is producing great stress and guaranteed isolation in a huge population. That sounds like an attempt to get multiple trigger events at once, which aligns well with Bonesaw’s goals and interests.
    Panacea reversed it, which is comforting except that she is, at the same time, (a) so freakishly powerful that she can off-the-cuff reverse Bonesaw’s work into a counter-plague, (b) has so little emotional control that she mutated her sister into a non-human form that even she can’t figure out how to undo, and (c) has deliberately kept herself from practicing on brains, so she has even less idea of what she did than she would have if Bonesaw’s plague had targeted other parts of the body. So, the reversal appeared to work perfectly, but anyone comparing the respective competence of Panacea and Bonesaw would call Bonesaw the more competent by far. So, I am guessing that Panacea messed up somehow, but in an inobvious manner. Note that (spoiler alert) she had some critical insight into agent behavior shortly afterword, which adds to the possibility that she can affect triggers and/or powers.
    So, I think that Charlotte’s guess is basically right – that getting caught between the two brain-tampering parahumans caused everyone in Brockton Bay to become potential parahumans. Normally triggers are not a self-sustaining reaction – I mean that one person triggering does not affect enough other people to cause other triggers. However, the S9 will be back in two years, causing great stress and death in a population that, if my idea is correct, can all trigger. So, one triggers, which sets off three, which sets off eight, which sets off twenty, which sets off … everyone in Brockton Bay in short order. And you wonder how the world ends in two years? A large town, all of whose inhabitants are recently-traumatized parahumans, would do the trick. With that large a population, the high end of the power spectrum would make make the currently most-powerful parahumans look like weaklings.
    The real problem with the theory is it doesn’t explain why the “gaining the potential to trigger” event is so different from actually triggering.

    • I’ll honestly admit your view intrigues me. Off the top of my hat I can’t remember what incident you meant when you referred to Panacea getting some data on agents after she dabbled the plague, but that might just be my memory hiccuping.

      We don’t know how many people were still in town when Bonesaw did her deed, but even with the recent influx of unaffected persons the trigger cascade might still hold true.

  42. Holy carp. This is a lot to take in. Most important: The nature of Skitter/Weaver’s deal with the PRT. Also important: Dan’s reactions to Skitter becoming Weaver and the new possible data on the nature of the passengers.

    More amusingly, Char’s statement about dogs not really filling the void.

  43. They’re letting a dangerous emotionally unstable multi-murderer join the Wards?
    Yikes. They are WAY more forgiving than I’d be. She killed a priceless asset that probably saved millions of lives and an innocent man.
    I’m not sure it’s worth having someone like that around, especially when she’s more suited to murdering civilians than stopping actual threats.

      • I try to consider his comments as satire. Because he can’t really mean them seriously…I hope…otherwise yeah there must be an entirely separate version of the story that he’s reading where the main character is an unrepentant sociopath who goes around killing people for fun.

        • Are we referring to my comments or someone else’s? ‘cos I was really just pointing out that this wouldn’t be the first time the Wards accepted an unstable murderer into their ranks.

          Totally agree that Taylor wouldn’t have got the gig if she hadn’t had a lot of leverage on her side, though…

          • No, I’m referring to Daniel. His comments on the past few chapters really didn’t seem to be following the same narrative that most of the rest of us read.

            I agree with your comments irrevenant. it’s not the first time they’ve accepted a murderer into their ranks though from what we’ve seen they seem to at least try to stay with somewhat moderate people. Somewhat. Taylor did have the whole approval of her territory and students thing going for her as well as general competence and extenuating circumstances.

            Not saying the leverage didn’t play a huge part. I’m just saying that she probably stood a chance of making the cut without it…just not a good chance.

          • Daniel’s.I might not agree with some commentators mostly (like mcp2rg’s lawful absolutism,at least early on)but at least else’s comments are well founded in the story.Daniel seems like the reincarnation of Tagg in his absolutism and inability to grasp the story,rather than just a person who disagrees with the opinion that Taylor is moral or think s someone else is.

        • If we’re talking about Daniel’s reply, I’m pretty sure he was talking as much about the perception as the reality. Letting ‘the warlord of Brockton Bay’ into your teenage superhero club is kind of a hard sell.

          You have to remember that, as evaders, we have an insight into the character that people inworld do not. From the outside, Taylor looks pretty damn scary.

          • If that was the first time he made such a comment,I’d agree,but almost all his comments showcase a lack of understanding to the story in general,rather than simply a different moral system.

            • This ^^. I’ve actually avoided replying to most of Daniel’s posts because they are just so nonsensically out there that I truly don’t know where to begin beyond saying “please reread this chapter…no please reread the entire thing since I think you missed…well everything…”

          • Actually I think that Skitter probably has a better perception in universe than we’d think. Her section of town was said to be one of the best areas at one point, her people were always protected from threats (even the S9 only rampaged there twice before being kicked out quite quickly), she is known in universe as being extremely protective of people she considers friends and tries to avoid collateral damage to noncombatants. The biggest score for my point has be a full third of the student body standing up to help her when she had nothing else in the school.

            The heroes see her as dangerous, unstable and prone to violence yes. But a lot of her more extreme acts weren’t seen by the public. To the masses, Skitter is creepy and powerful but also protective which is important to public perception. Plus we are viewing things through her perceptions which are filtered to view the negative first and foremost due to her abusive history as has been pointed out several times by Brian, Lisa and others.

            • (‘evaders’ should of course have been ‘readers’. Stoopid autocorrect…)

              Skitter definitely has a following amongst the ordinary people of Brockton Bay (as the encounter at the School demonstrated). I’m fairly sure the rest of the country (and the rest of the world to whatever extent they care) view her as a dangerous criminal.

              • I had gotten your meaning lol. Autocorrect has bitten me as well man.

                Dangerous criminal yes but, not a crazed inconsistent pyscho. Dangerous criminal can be marketed and redeemed with good PR. I don’t think any amount of PR spin would be able to help someone like Jack Slash. I’m not saying she has a golden resume, I’m just saying that her worst offenses probably never made it to light outside other powered individuals and the PRT. Even for some of the racier things, what sells better newspapers? “Villain feeds subjects while heroes sit around!” or “Villains fought amongst themselves with lots of property damage!” This isn’t necessarily a good thing, it’s just what tends to happen sadly. The mayor thing would probably be her worst big ticket media item but a lot of that story was probably hushed up because it would’ve made the good guys look bad.

  44. Well it’s nice to see that there is a potential avenue of attack against Contessa. Have some snipers/normal mercs in the vicinity and pray to god that someone has a trigger event to knock her off balance for a few seconds. Boom headshot. End Contessa. Not that this is in any way sure but hey it’s a plan! Probably like Plan C or E or maybe Q but still, a plan.

    I have to say I understand Lung’s thought about not needing to win but also not wanting to lose. There is a big and important difference.

    Lung got BIGGER than LEVIATHAN?! Holy shit…and dear lord he caused him to retreat? After fighting one on one? Wow. I know it’s been said before but hearing what he did and seeing what he did are two very different things. And Skitter beat this monster too…what is there for our hero to kill next? An Endbringer?

    And wow Lung almost joined the Protectorate? That’s a scary thought.

    Well it’s nice to see that Amelia has figured things out and appears to be somewhat put back together. She really should’ve taken the Undersiders up on their membership offer. She would’ve gotten along smashingly with Skitter/Taylor/Weaver. It is friggin hilarious how the same girl who beat Lung twice is now shown to have killed Alexandria. That really should make him feel better!

    It’s pretty cool that Weaver has Marquis’ respect now. And…I think…Amelia’s too?

    Hmm well Teacher has been tossed onto my growing pile of utterly-contemptible-assholes-who-need-to-die. Lung is conflicted enough that he just makes the assholes-who-should-probably-die-at-some-point pile. Saint has also made the former pile. At the start it was due to hurting Dragon but now there is actually bad stuff I can lay at his feat. Burying potentially world saving information just ’cause? Yeah dude needs to be killing painfully.

    Minor typo:
    “is it reassuring?” Teacher murmured. -> The first word is missing a capitol.

    • Hmm somehow my comments for this interlude and the other one got swapped…I thought I was more careful than this…

      I read a lot of these chapters at work and copy and paste my comments into an email so I can add them when I get home. Sorry about that.

  45. Okay, I’ve said it before but I’ll say it again: I love Char. She is has become so damn awesome. I wish she would go talk to someone about her fear of guys though because that is going to cause issues for her in the long run. I mean sure it makes my shipping her with Taylor sooooo much easier but it’s not healthy for the poor girl.

    And wow is she freaking smart! She hears second hand about stuff seen during trigger events and immediately manages to equate that to the kid either having had one or having potential to have one.

    I like Forrest even more now as well.

    You know I didn’t particularly mind the reporter before. He was a bit of a dick but not bad by reporter standards. But now…well now the slimy little dick seemed like a slimy little dick. I hope nobody talks to him and if they do they get kicked out of the territory.

    Puppy therapy: AWWWWWWWW!!!!! You feel bad? Take a puppy. Can’t sleep? Take a puppy. Daughter was actually a supervillain? Take a puppy. Lose a prized friend and boss? Take a puppy. Bitch is awesome!

  46. I thought it was funny that Charlotte said “but we’re little more than specks, with the sheer scale of the stuff she’s focused on” but Skitter/Weaver works with bugs. Kind of ironic.

  47. Taylor had turned herself in, early in the day, and word had spread. They’d hooked up a television, the biggest they could get their hands on, and set it up beneath a waterproof tent for good measure.

    I love the implications of this line. When Skitter disappears without warning, you don’t call her cell phone or call her friends or teammates to find out what’s going on. You don’t even need a phone. Just turn on the news and wait. She’ll show up eventually.

  48. Topic: The Endbringers, Thread XXXIV

    My thoughts immediately went to “does Endbringer porn exist in Earth Bet?” and I’m not sure I have an answer. It’s taboo, sure, but when has that ever stopped everyone?

    • Rule 34.

      Also, there exists erotic dinosaur romance novels here. Not between dinosaurs and dinosaurs but dinosaurs and humans…Yeah, there is most definitely Endbringer porn there. Probably a small niche but barring Word of Wildbow, it exists.

  49. After a brief pause, Bitch entered as well, glowering, looking fit to murder something or someone. Her appearance was at stark odds with the puppies that followed her, each at the end of a differently colored leash.

    I don’t know if I ever processed how hilarious this is before.

  50. She mentioned getting the ferry up and running again, a new set of storefronts, and pushing for more residential areas. Duplexes, apartments, condos…

    I can’t believe no one’s mentioned this. To Danny, the ferry was an impossible dream… but Taylor could do it, so she made it a priority. She’s not going to be able to do everything she wants for the city while she’s gone, but by god that ferry’s going to run again.

    If he was wondering if she’s still his daughter, that’s a pretty good clue.

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