Drone 23.5

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The waiting was the worst part.

My restlessness was cranked up to eleven, cooped up in the craft with Defiant and Dragon, waiting to cross half the world.  Dragon was focused on piloting the craft, unable to speak, in any event.  Defiant was busy communicating, which translated to being inaudible as he kept the vents of his mask closed.  From the images on the monitor, he was clearly tracking who was coming, our forces, the Endbringer and the high-risk areas.

I watched for a time, saw the cape count rise.  A screen filled with lines of text, noting the hero teams who had committed to the fight, numbers beside them to tally the total numbers.

For every group that joined, I felt myself growing a touch more nervous.  More participants in the fight was a good thing, but… so many small teams.  I couldn’t read half of the names of the groups on the list, but there was nothing to suggest it was organized.

I shifted my weight, sat, stood, stretched.


Being in a prison, I didn’t have the luxury of a full wardrobe, certainly not the bike shorts and tank top I tended to wear beneath my costume.  I had only underwear, and I needed to change into the new costume.  I could have waited, but I wanted to hit the ground running.

Worse, the boxes with my butterflies within were in one of the crafts that followed just behind us, carrying a full contingent of capes.

But Defiant was engrossed in the monitors, and that left me debating the merits of modesty over being ready.

I stripped down, pulling on my old costume.  They’d said something about painting it, but I wasn’t sure I wanted to wait for that.  I left the major armor components off.

The pack they’d given me, it was the wrong color to match with the armor.  I’d be sacrificing the ability to keep things inside my utility compartment, but I suspected this would make up for that.   There were built-in wings that folded at a juncture, like dragonfly wings with joints, and there were the ‘arms’.  The controls seemed to be worked into gloves I was supposed to wear beneath my costume.

I found that there was a hatch, but it was small, barely larger than my hand, and the space was shallow.  I sent bugs inside to explore, and found a series of fine switches.

“Redundant controls,” Defiant said.

I looked up.  He’d turned away from the monitors.

“If your glove gets damaged, you’ve got the controls built into the pack itself.  If the pack gets damaged, you have the gloves.  If both are damaged, you’re not likely to be in a state to fly.  It might take getting used to, but this will give you the ability to move faster if you need it, and it’s very possible you’ll need it this afternoon.”

“You built it so fast.  I wasn’t with Mrs. Yamada for even two hours, and you put this together?”

“It’s made using components and technology we already have.  Four antigravity panels, like those Kid Win had in his hoverboard,” Defiant said, angling his hand to indicate the general placement.  One at the very bottom, one above that, facing more back than down, and two more at angles on either side.

“Okay,” I said.

“That gives you lift, the ability to offset gravity or momentum in a given direction, but the acceleration is low.  Expect zero to thirty miles an hour over eight seconds.  It won’t carry you out of the way of trouble, understand?  It won’t stop you if you’re moving at terminal velocity, unless you’re falling a long way.”

I nodded.

“The wings are a modification of technology that was confiscated from a cape called Stinger.  Missile themed, not wasps and bees.  They’ve got a venting-exhaust system we repurposed.  It toggles between using either antigravity or propulsion.  They should give you an easier time orienting yourself, or more speed pushing yourself in a particular direction, but not both at the same time.   While the wings are intact, you should be able to manage zero to forty-five in about three and a half seconds.  That ends if the wings break, and they aren’t made to be durable.”

I nodded.  “It won’t let me flit around the battlefield, but it’ll give me some vertical movement?”


He continued, indicating lines with his finger.  “We built nineteen tracks into the device, that you’ll be able to control with the bugs you direct into the interior.  One for the on-off switch, doubling as an override for the glove handling, four for antigravity panels, eight for the arms, six for the wings.  You’re sure you can handle all that?”

“Multitasking is a strength of mine,” I said.  “If it’s anything like controlling Atlas, it’ll become almost subconscious.”

“I hope so.  You’ll want to learn with both the glove and the insect control.  There’s also limitations on energy and fuel, for the antigravity and propulsion, but not so limited that you’ll run out by the end of the day.  You have time to review the documentation Dragon put together.  Pay attention to the particulars of the flight pack’s vulnerability to electromagnetic radiation.  While the wings are deployed, one good hit will scramble it and render you flightless.  While the wings are withdrawn and the casing closed, it should be shielded against all reasonable EM sources.”

“I’ll have to stay close to the ground then, in case it gets scrambled.”

“For now.”

“Can I practice?” I asked.  “Not flying, but the arms, and moving the individual components…”

“The arms aren’t done.  Keep them out of the way for now.  Until I figure out a way to approach the internal design, they’ll have about as much strength as a newborn baby.”

I nodded.  “I really appreciate this, anyways.  You two went above and beyond the call of duty.”

“It’s not customary for tinkers to design things for teammates.  If they do, it’s on a relatively small scale, simple.  Kid Win making Gallant’s armor, for example.  Any device requires a great deal of upkeep.  Time is spent tuning, calibrating, repairing and identifying problems.  Each device created is something the tinker then has to take time to maintain, and mass production means the tinker becomes tech support more than an innovator.  Dragon and I don’t sleep, or sleep very little, but even for us, it isn’t effective.  Far better to invest our time into the artificial intelligences and the ships.”

“But you’re doing this for me.”

“We, I in particular, wronged you,” Defiant said.  “I know that even now, we’re not fully on the same page, but I now believe you did start out wanting to be a hero, and I may have played a part in your drift from that path.  I’ve put myself on the line to recommend you to the Wards, and I’ll dedicate the time and equipment necessary to get you on track.”

“Thank you,” I said.  “Really.  Thank you.”

“If you don’t mind,” he said.  “I-”

He paused, glancing at Dragon.  Then he continued, “I’m working on being more humble, but I think I will always have a certain measure of pride and an excess of focus, to the point that I lose sight of the periphery of things.  I’ll forgive your past transgressions if you look past mine, and if there’s any disparity in the two, I’ll make it up for you with this.”  He lowered his head to indicate the flight pack.  “And I’d ask you to spare my ego the reminder by accepting this without thanks.”

“I’ve worked with Rachel, with Bitch, I think I can do that much,” I said.

“When this is over, today, if we’re all still alive, I will maintain two of these packs for you, and you can switch to the spare if one needs repairing or recharging.  Some of it’s of Dragon’s design, but the maintenance will be left to me.  If you have questions, I’ll answer them,” he said.

And the latter half of the statement was left unsaid.  But let’s not talk of this any further, unless it’s about the technical aspects of the device.

He had already turned back to the monitor.  There were three screens filled with columns noting the various teams who were showing up.

“How long until we arrive?”  I ventured.

“Forty-five minutes.”

I nodded.  “We’re going to show up late, aren’t we?”

“Inevitable.  Dragon already has had every combat-ready craft on standby in eastern Europe for a week now.  They and the local forces will have to hold the fort until then.”


“The computer opposite mine is available.  Dragon is pulling up the documentation on the flight device now, if you need something to occupy yourself.”

I glanced behind Defiant, noting the terminal and the stool that was built into the craft’s cabin.  I took a seat, resting the pack on my right thigh.

Okay, so they’d found the time to pull together a flight pack with some antigravity and propulsion systems, I could believe that.  But the documentation?  Who had time to draw out 21 pages of notes on capabilities and limitations, on top of building the thing?

Especially when it was all drawings, rather than typed out words.

I wasn’t about to complain, but it did leave me reconsidering what Dragon’s specialty might be.  I’d thought I worked it out, but the speed with which she’d pulled this together…

My bugs found the channels inside the suit, and I set about experimenting with it, working through the various steps for moving the wings and the individual limbs.  Each ‘track’ inside the pack’s interior was a narrow corridor with very sensitive switches along the interior, so that any movement of even something as diminutive as a ladybug was capable of pushing them.

The sensitivity would need to be calibrated at a later point.  As it stood, any jarring impact would briefly lock all of the inputs in place, so they wouldn’t read the impact as contact from a bug and send the wrong signal.

I had to shrug out of the upper half of my costume to get the gloves on beneath my costume, but I managed to get everything set up.  There were too many straps and no room for them to slot beneath my costume, so I connected them over the costume’s exterior, beneath the armor, and cinched every strap tight, doing up the metal clasps once everything was comfortably tight.

There were four ‘arms’, each a little longer than my arms.  The control was a little simplistic, with only two switches for each limb.  I imagined it was similar to an artificial limb.  I folded them close to my body, so they hugged my lower ribs and the space just beneath my ‘breasts’, and then left them be.

The wings were just as simplistic, but had three switches each.  Two to move and reorient the wings, with a third to switch between the antigrav vent and varying amounts of propulsion.  I didn’t dare experiment with that in an enclosed space.

I read and reread the documentation ten times over, because there was precious little else to do.

“We’re landing in a minute,” Defiant announced.  “Estimated eight minute wait before the last craft from North America arrive on site and a cape by the name of Silk Road deploys a corridor.”

I nodded.

“We picked up your old team,” he said.  “Sent a craft.”

I turned around, surprised.

“Stipulations of your membership in the Wards dictate that you aren’t to extend contact to them.”

Oh.  Right.  Shitty.

“Keeping in mind that there are likely going to be cameras and cell phones pointed at you throughout this incident,” Defiant said, glancing at Dragon, “You’re free to do as you wish.  So long as you don’t do anything troublesome on camera, I don’t expect anyone will make an issue of it.  It might even help if you allow others to record you, so it’s clear you aren’t doing anything questionable.”

I glanced at him.

“Dragon’s suggestion, not mine,” he said.  “But I don’t object.”

“Thank you,” I said, meaning it.

“Thank me by staying out of trouble,” he said, brusque.  He glanced at Dragon, then back to me.  “And you’re welcome.”

She can communicate with him, but not with anyone else.  Why?

I nodded.  “Um.  You reminded me, when you said there’d be people getting camera footage of me.  Mrs. Yamada said I should start recording myself while I’m in the field.  I know we still have to talk about my costume, and it’s too late to make any updates, but I wouldn’t mind having it, especially for the next high-intensity situation.”

“We’ll see,” he said.

I nodded.

The craft set down, the doors opening.  My mouth dropped open in surprise as I took in the scene.

The area was a flat, open field with knee-high grass.  Settled on it were twenty of Dragon’s ships, with two to sixteen capes to each.  People were stepping out, stretching, meeting others and talking.  Almost all of them were from the Protectorate and the Wards.  Others included Haven, a villain group I didn’t recognize, and one of the corporate teams I’d seen before the Leviathan fight.

And the Undersiders.  I sensed them with the bugs in the field.

I felt a measure of hesitation.

Time to test out these wings.

It wouldn’t do to faceplant in front of all of these heroes.  I was tentative, as I sent a bug down a tight corridor with innumerable tiny switches.  Only one corridor, one switch.

A panel kicked to life, gentle.  I nearly tripped as I stepped forward and was lifted an inch or two higher off the ground than normal.

I sent the bug further down the corridor, directing more power to the panel, and I was no longer having an issue, because I was being lifted into the air.

I was starting to lose my balance, though, necessitating a drop in lift and some experimental firings of the left and right panels to keep myself upright.

I touched ground and extended the wings, activating the vents for the antigrav at the wing’s tips.  It made for a sudden, lurching adjustment, nearly flipping me over to the ground.

Not wanting to waste too much time, I made a beeline for the Undersiders, experimenting as I went.  Rather than fly, I used short bursts of the antigrav with kicks of my feet to get some air, landing on the noses and limbs of various Dragon-crafts, so I didn’t have to walk around.

“There she is,” Tattletale said, “And she’s flying.”

I settled on top of a head, swaying for a second as I touched ground and found my center of balance.  “Floating, until I get more practice.”

“Close enough,” she said.  She flashed a grin.  “Fancy.”

They were all present, Parian included.  Accord, Citrine and the woman with the water powers were all present.  I couldn’t recall her name.  Ligeia?  She had a costume, now.  Or an evening dress, rather, with a conch brooch and mask.

More than Parian, I was surprised that Accord had come.

Flechette, now Foil, stood off to one side.  She’d donned a black costume, which I was pretty sure was made of one of my failed attempts at a Tattletale costume, using asymmetrical belts, boots, armor and gloves to cover the areas where I’d tried to embellish.  Her mask was an opaque pane, like Clockblocker’s, but black, with silver trim at the edges.

“You’re wearing your old costume,” Grue said, finally.

“Haven’t had a chance to make a new one,” I said.

“No kidding,” Regent said, his tone dry, “Too busy making license plates, dropping the soap…”

“I can’t believe you went and became a hero,” Imp said.  “What the fuck?  How the fuck do you off a major cape and get invited to the Wards?”

“It’s complicated,” I said.

“Are you getting by?” Grue asked.

“Not as well as I’d like,” I said.  “But surviving.  Are you guys okay, leaving your territory like this?”

“Hey now,” Regent cut in.  He stabbed a finger at me.  “Aren’t you supposed to read us our rights before questioning us?”

Imp snorted.  Grue smacked Regent across the back of the head, a little harder than necessary.

“It’s all good,” Tattletale said.  She grinned, “Booby traps, some misdirection, I figure we can afford to be gone for a day.  We can look forward to going back home to see some bruised egos.  Regent’s dad among them.”

“You’re being safe?” I asked.  “I mean, we’ve taken on some monsters, but this is Heartbreaker, and the repercussions of a lost fight are kind of, well, permanent.  There’s no undoing his power.”

“Like I said, it’s all good.”  Tattletale shrugged.

“You with a team?” Grue asked, “Or with us?”

“No idea.  As far as I know, I’m independent,” I said.  “I’m not sure what that means, yet, but way I figure it, I’m going to do whatever works best in the moment.”

“Isn’t that how you wound up with us in the first place?” Tattletale asked.

I didn’t have an answer to that, so I shrugged.  My eyes followed Foil as she walked over to talk to Jouster.  He handed her an arbalest, and a quiver of needle-like bolts.

When she took the quiver, he gripped her wrist, speaking something in a low volume.  She nodded as she replied, saying something I couldn’t make out, and he let her go.

Wordless, they parted, him rejoining his team, Foil moving to Parian’s side.

I wanted to say something about that, but what?  I didn’t get the vibe she was a double agent, but I imagined there was something more to that.

I turned my attention back to the Undersiders, and my eyes moved to Rachel.  She was sitting on the ramp at the back of a craft, her dogs clustered around her.  She was stroking Bastard, using her fingernails to get in deeper than the base layer of fur.

Finally a chance to talk, and nothing to say.  The silence hurt me more than any accusations or insults.

“I don’t know how to say this gracefully,” I said.  I paused, noting the presence of a hero nearby who’d raised a camera towards me.  Whatever, I’d say it anyways.  “But you guys mean a lot to me.  I’m sorry I didn’t say it before, but I couldn’t without letting on that something was going on.  You’re my family, in a way.  As lame as it might be, I love you guys.”

My head turned from Grue to Rachel to Tattletale as I said it.

“Gaaaaaaayyyyyyy,” Imp drew out the word.  Parian and Foil gave her an annoyed look.

I smiled a little, despite myself.  “Fuck off.”

“Are you trying to get someone killed?” Regent asked.  “That’s totally a death sentence, telling someone you love them, tying up loose ends.”

“She’d be getting herself killed, going by the rules,” Tattletale said.

“Don’t say that,” Grue said, his voice quiet.

With a touch more seriousness, Tattletale said, “No dying, okay, Skitter?”

“Weaver,” I corrected.

“Skitter,” she said.  “Here, today, you’re Skitter.  Consider it a good luck charm.  And no dying.  I’ll say it as many times as it takes, until it gets through to you.”

I shook my head a little.  “No dying.  That goes both ways.”

“Way I see it,” Imp said, “She’s gone soft.  Real quick, too, getting affectionate, lovey-dovey.”

“Alternate costume, too,” Regent said, “White, light gray, baby blue…”

“Electric blue,” I said.  I was smiling now.  I used the flight-pack to slow my descent as I hopped down from the head of the craft.  I pitched my voice lower so I wouldn’t be overheard, and poked Regent in the chest.  “Fuck you guys.  I’m as badass as ever.  Recommending drugs to kids, strangling a ten year old, forcing bugs down my allies’ throats…”

“Killing Alexandria,” Regent said.

“Mm,” I said, and I could feel my heart plummet into my stomach.  All at once, I was left wondering just how many capes here were secretly blaming me.

“Asshole,” Tattletale told Regent.

I folded my arms, feeling a chill, the summer warmth notwithstanding.  “We may pay for that today.”

“I think we’re fucked in general,” Tattletale said.  “But no sweat.  We’ll-”

She snapped her head around.  There was an uncharacteristic emotion as she swore under her breath.  “Fuck.  He’s up.”

A second later, the ships each spoke in their identical voices, out of sync not because of any flaw in Dragon’s program, but due to their positions across the field, and the delay of sound traveling, a chorus, “Behemoth has surfaced.  Return to your craft as soon as possible.  Supplies will be provided while we are en route.  Individuals on the ground may or may not be left behind.

“See you on the battlefield,” Grue said.

“See you,” I answered.  I felt a tug of worry.  I had almost hoped he’d sit this one out.  He didn’t tend to do well when it came to facing down the real monsters.

I bit my tongue and started up the flight pack.

“Don’t hold back now,” Regent said.  I could see that he was watching the guy who was still training his camera phone on me.  Regent turned back to me and extended his arms, injecting fake emotion into his voice, “You know we love you too!”

I kicked off, just barely floating out of reach as he tried to fold me into a hug.  “Jackass.”

He was back to his casual, detached attitude in an instant, showing just a touch of swagger as he stepped back to rejoin the others.  He gave me a sloppy mock salute.  I shifted my ascent and set foot on the head of the craft that had been behind me.

“Just remember,” Tattletale called out, “You’re officially Skitter today.  Don’t be a hero.  No point to all this shit if you do something brave and get yourself killed.”

“Not sure about that,” I said.  “About being Skitter, not the getting killed bit.”

Heroes were rapidly retreating to the craft.  I didn’t have long.  There was so much I wanted to say, but… shit.

“Rachel,” I said.

She glanced up at me, her eyes almost hidden behind her hair.  I could see the hurt in her expression, a raw feeling.

“The letter, it helped.  All of the letters meant a lot to me, except Imp’s.  But yours especially.”

She grunted in acknowledgement, setting Bastard on the ground, then stood.

“And I’m probably going to get crucified for saying this, but I still consider you a friend.  Someday, after all of this has settled down, when you don’t need to be a villain anymore to take care of your dogs, and I’m okay where I’m at, I want to hang out again.  Throw the balls for the dogs, clean up dog shit, go for walks.  Whatever works.”

“Saying shit like that, you’re signing death warrants!” Regent said, his hands to the side of his head.  “Stop it, you lunatic!”

I shook my head, then turned and took flight.

All around me, doors were shutting.  If it weren’t for my bug sense, I might have lost track of where Defiant was.  So many Dragon-ships, no two quite the same.

I entered, and I could see Defiant standing in front of the monitors, his arms around Dragon’s shoulders.  One of them must have acknowledged my presence, because the doors of the craft began shutting behind me as I made my way inside.

Odd as it was, I hadn’t fully parsed that they were together before now.

I approached, quiet, and watched as the drama on the monitors unfolded.  The bugs from the field followed me inside, clustering around me.

Behemoth, nearly fifty feet tall, was still standing in the midst of a collapsed building.  The structure had no doubt fallen on top of him as he emerged, and the debris was ablaze, casting his gray skin in hues of red and orange.  He didn’t seem to care about the building.

Dragon’s A.I. were already attacking him, each from the greatest distance possible.  The camera shook, out of sync with the timing of the strikes, as the vibrations took time to travel to the distant cameraman.

Heroes were fighting, contributing pitifully little to the assault.  They were too distant to make out.

“Locals?” I asked.

Defiant turned, reacting as if he were surprised I was present.  “Yes.  Don’t ask me to pronounce their names.”

Sāhasī Pān̄ca,” Dragon said.

I glanced at her in surprise.  “You can talk, all of a sudden?”

There was a pause.  “…Little.”

“She felt she needed to be able to communicate,” Defiant said.  To her, he said, “And this is the last time we make a last-minute fix.”

“I’m sort of in the dark here,” I said.

Defiant declined to fill me in, staring at the screen.  His voice was almost pained as he muttered, “They’re too close.”

One Dragon suit was unleashing what looked like a freeze ray at the Endbringer, while another of the Dragon suits was turning a laser on the ground beneath Behemoth’s broad feet.  It wasn’t enough to take away his footing.  He set one ‘claw’ -a growth of obsidian-like black shards- onto solid earth, then half-loped, half-hopped forward.  With his claws and feet now on firm ground, he leaped.  The shockwave of his departure toppled the slipshod buildings around him in his wake.

The landing as he arrived flattened another set of buildings.  The heroes started to run.  They were too slow, when compared to the length of Behemoth’s legs, the sheer power he was capable of putting into the simple act of walking.  One by one, they fell within his kill range.  Two were scorched from the inside, a brawny-looking cape seized up with smoke billowing from his corpse as he struck ground, his arms and limbs still twitching in death.

One managed to escape, taking flight.  He got a full four city blocks away before Behemoth reached out.  He was struck out of the air by a visible arc of lightning that extended from a claw’s tip.

Four A.I. were continually bombarding him now, three using what looked to be freeze-rays.  The fourth alternated between destroying his footing and blasting burning buildings flat with some sort of concussive laser-drill, stifling the spread of the fires.  Heroes here and there contributed some inaccurate ranged fire, but seemed preoccupied with fleeing.

Behemoth hardly seemed to care about any of it.

Our ship lifted off.  Outside, the surroundings were taking on a rosy tint.  I could hear the cumulative thrum of the twenty-seven Dragon-craft’s propulsion systems operating in unison.  My bugs could track them all, the late arrivals included.

There was a shudder, and the rosy tint of our surroundings intensified, filling the cabin.  We started to move, and it wasn’t the ship moving us.  Dragon stepped out of Defiant’s embrace to approach the ship controls.

An instant later, the propulsion system kicked into motion, and we were moving far faster than before.  The shuddering of the cabin was so intense I had to sit down.

“India’s capes fall into two categories,” Defiant said, not taking his eyes off the screen.  He had to raise his voice to be heard over the movement of the craft.  “They term their capes ‘hot’ and ‘cold’, with very strict rules on who falls into a category.  Walk between the two groups, you get the worst of both.  Hot, it’s about flash, color, appeal, and engaging the public.  Villain or hero, they’re cape celebrities.  Cold, it’s… bloodshed, violence, assassination and secrecy.  Capes of the underworld.  The public doesn’t see or hear about the cold capes.  The media does not speak of them.”

On the screen, Behemoth wasn’t even slowing down.  Another arc of lightning lanced across the cityscape, setting a dozen fires.  The houses looked shoddy, dirty, and were apparently very flammable.  The flames spread quickly, and plumes of smoke were streaming towards the overcast sky.

“The capes that are getting killed, they’re-”

Garama,” Dragon said.  “…Hot.”

“We need the ones with killer instinct,” Defiant said.  “The ones who fight for real, not for play.  The cold capes.”

Thanda,” Dragon supplied the translation.

“Question is whether the Thanda think it’s worth breaking the rules and emerging from the shadows,” Defiant said.

“Did last…  time,” Dragon said, her words bearing an odd cadence.  She approached me, holding an armband and a silver packet.

I accepted them, turning both over in my hands.  “Radiation pills?”

She nodded, holding up one finger.

“Take one?”

“Yes,” she said.  “Still.”

“Still?”  I asked.

But she just touched one side of my face.  One finger was under my chin, and I raised it, looking up at her, confused.

She let me go, leaving me momentarily confused.  I touched my face where she’d laid her hand and felt two bumps.

A camera?

“Dragon,” Defiant said, before I could ask any questions.  “Look.”

She approached his side, her arms wrapping around his armored left arm, metal scraping against metal.

“They’re not supposed to be here,” he commented, his voice low.

I turned my attention to the monitor.  “Who aren’t?”

“The Yàngbǎn.”

The focus was on a formation of capes.  They were lined up like musketeers, rank and file, each a set distance apart from the others.  The ones in front were kneeling, the ones behind standing.  Each wore a mask that covered their faces, flowing costumes with loose sleeves and pants, somewhere between a martial arts uniform and a military uniform, each crimson with a black design of horizontal and vertical lines at edges of the sleeves and pants.  There were nearly thirty of them.

All together, they directed lasers at him, aiming for his one red eye.  He blocked the concentrated laser-fire with one claw, and the flesh at the base of the obsidian claw began peeling away.

“Who are they?”

“The C.U.I.’s military parahumans.”

“Isn’t the C.U.I. xenophobic?”

“Yes,” Dragon said.  Her voice sounded funny.  It wasn’t emotion, but something was somehow off about it.

“Excepting diplomatic functions, this is the first time in over a decade that any of the Yàngbǎn have set foot outside of China,” Defiant said.  “We’ve tried to arrange for their aid in the past, but relations between our side and theirs are sour.  For years, they’ve alleged that the PRT and the Protectorate are fundamentally corrupt, the source of the problems currently plaguing the world.”

“They were right,”  I said.

“Yes,” Defiant said.  He didn’t sound happy about the admission.

Behemoth slammed his claws together.  The Yàngbǎn responded by creating forcefields en-masse, one for every person, overlapping with those to either side of them.  The shockwave of the clap ripped through them, shattering the first two rows of forcefields and virtually liquefying the unfortunate capes who no longer had protection.

The Yàngbǎn in the back rows were already dropping their forcefields, extending their hands forward, open palms aimed at their comrades.

The shockwave’s effects reversed in an instant, and the injured were whole, holding the positions they’d been in an instant before.  Here and there, the reaction had been a fraction too slow, and the Yàngbǎn members were only reversed to the instant the shockwave made contact.  They were thrown back and caught by the ones in the back row, blood streaming from their eyes, noses and ears.  One was saved much too late, and the process of being liquefied was only repeated, splattering the Yàngbǎn soldier who’d failed to react in time to rescue him.

Behemoth unleashed a rolling tide of flame, and the remaining twenty-eight Yàngbǎn fled, using a combination of enhanced speed and flight.  The remains of the dead member were left behind.

“I can’t tell if this is a good thing or a bad thing,” I commented.

“With luck, they’ve changed their minds and we have much-needed allies,” Defiant said.

“And if they haven’t?”

He didn’t reply.

More of Dragon’s craft were arriving, adding their attacks to those of the others.  I could recognize the wheel-dragon, using some sort of tuned electromagnetic pull to draw away the loose rubble from beneath Behemoth.  He sank nearly ten feet as the ground shifted around him.

He struck the wheel-dragon with a bolt of lightning, flaying off a few plates of armor and destroying the wheel.  It opened its mouth and launched cannon-fire at him.  The shells exploded into blobs of containment foam, fireproof, sticky, virtually impossible to remove.

But not capable of holding back something like Behemoth.

More lightning was unleashed, each doing successively more damage to the craft.  By the fourth blast, it wasn’t operational.  The fifth split it down the middle.  Insulation was little use against a dynakinetic that could redirect the natural course of electricity.

Ten craft were around him now, concentrating fire.  Cryogenic beams, containment foam and more served to slow him down.  Not stopping him.  No, that was too much to hope for.  His pace was roughly two-thirds the speed it might otherwise be, at a glance, his attention focused on the A.I.

Behemoth brought both hands together, but it wasn’t to clap.  Instead, he directed a stream of lightning at the nearest craft, easily twenty feet across.  It was splintered in an instant.

A second craft perished a second later.

Before he could turn his attention to a third, the stream of lightning shifted, curving off to one side.  Drones, the annoying little bastard spheres that had electorcuted me on multiple occasions, the same ones that had been built into the ceilings of the cells and prison hallways in the PRT headquarters, were in flight, deployed by a drone-ship like the one I’d fought in Brockton Bay, and they were channeling the lightning along a different path.

Behemoth wasn’t one to roar, but I could see the effort at work as he began to draw the lightning away from the remote drones, forcing it to take another path, beyond the route of ionized air or the electromagnetic charge that they were using to catch it and harmlessly redirect it into an area that was already rubble.  He was taking abuse from the airborne craft, unable to move without giving ground.  More containment foam and more ice built around him, tearing and melting, respectively, in response to his lesser movements.

They moved closer together, strengthening the bond, and the lightning was caught once more.

He gave up on the lightning and blasted the drones out of the air with a wave of heated wind.  An instant later, he resumed destroying the craft.  Three in as many seconds, and then a slam of one claw against a building.  The shockwave that followed leveled a whole row of buildings.

I belatedly swallowed a radiation pill and attached the armband.

The screen displayed text:  ‘Name?’

“Weaver,” I said.

The letters appeared on the screen.  I confirmed with a press of the button.

A map of my surroundings appeared, a landscape rushing by.  In one corner, the distance to Behemoth was noted, rapidly counting down.

I could see the runway an instant before the ship touched down.  The rosy glow was still present as the ship cut back on forward thrust.  The craft touched the runway belly-down, skidding to a near-stop.

The red tint that surrounded everything disappeared, and Defiant caught my arm with one hand, holding on to a beam in the ceiling with the other.

The ship activated one thruster, and the craft swung around.  The other thruster kicked to life, and we took off, still bearing some of the forward momentum from earlier.  We were moving in a near-perpendicular direction to the one we’d been traveling earlier.  Defiant let go of my arm.

When I looked back at the screen, nearly half of the city was on fire.  Black smoke choked the skies, a stark contrast to the cloudy sky of only minutes ago.

“Were they able to evacuate most?” Defiant asked.

“No,” Dragon answered.

Our craft touched ground, and I glanced out the window to see a sliver of what the monitors showed.  A sky choked by darkness, a city aflame.

The glow of his single eye cut through the smoke, and I was reminded of Lung.  Of that first night, on the rooftop, when one of Lung’s eyes had been swollen shut, the other open.  Lung, like Behemoth, had been virtually untouchable.

This was that same scenario, that same fight.  I couldn’t hope to win.  At best, I’d manage a distraction, a momentary handicap, but he’d recuperate, and given the chance, he’d murder me with a casual ease.

This wasn’t a rooftop, but there wouldn’t be an easy means of escape.  And just as I’d acted to stop Lung from hurting what I thought were innocent kids, I was acting here to save lives.

The same thing, but on a far greater scale.  The danger, the stakes, all scaled up by a thousand times, a million times.

The back of the craft opened, and Defiant led the way as we made our exit.  Spotlights cast much-needed light on the immediate surroundings.  The ships had settled in a ring formation, some posed above the others, as if providing a protective enclosure.  Weapons were directed outside, and one craft loomed overhead.  For now, we were as safe as we could hope to be.

Chevalier, Rime and the rest of his new Protectorate were all in one group, backed by their respective teams.

A nearby crash made half of the people present, myself included, nearly jump out of their skin.  It was somehow reassuring that Chevalier managed to retain his composure.

“The ships have all arrived,” Chevalier said, “I’ve received the data on the other participating teams, those not already fighting will reinforce as they’re able.  We should expect record numbers, we shouldn’t expect it’ll help.  Any news on the locals?”

“Gathering and setting up defenses at India Gate,” Rime said.  “It seems to be his destination.”

“The gate?  There’s nothing there,” Chevalier said.  “Only population.”

“If it’s not a soft target,” Revel said, “then we can play the long game, buy time for Scion to arrive.”

“Let’s assume it’s soft.  We made that mistake once, never again,” Chevalier said.  “Okay.  Listen up!”

He raised his voice, commanding the attention of everyone present.

“We’ve already notified you if we believe you have the capacity to engage Behemoth.  Anyone else is operating as search, rescue, and support.  Maintain a distance of at least a hundred feet from Behemoth at the very minimum.  Get any closer, you probably won’t have a chance of escaping if he decides to close the gap.  Be mindful of line of sight, because he can and will tag you with a lightning bolt, and it’s not something you can dodge.  Assume every structure will fall down in a heartbeat, and know that there’s no good place to hide and wait for this to be over.  Keep moving and move smart.”

The crowd of heroes was utterly silent.  I could see the Undersiders on the opposite end of the enclosure.  The spotlights behind them rendered them little more than silhouettes with glowing edges.

“There’s no sugarcoating it,” Chevalier said.  “The fact that you’re here, today, knowing the state things are in, you’re the biggest damn heroes I’ve worked with.  I’m not going to make any big speeches.  Better we get out there and save lives.  Hit him hard if you see the chance, keep an eye out for whatever his goal might be, communicate with other groups as best as you’re able.  Stay spread out so he can’t wipe too many of us out at once.  You work best with the people you know, so form your own teams, stick with the people you’ve operated with before.  Go.”

Heroes, already gathered in their groups, mobilized.

I started to approach the Undersiders.  Defiant’s hand on my shoulder stopped me.

I could see Tattletale and Accord stepping off to one side, talking.  She gave me one glance, offered me an apologetic half-frown, and then continued walking.

“Why?” I asked.

“The Chicago Wards,” he said.

“What about them?  I can function better alongside the Undersiders.”

“Dragon thinks you can contribute just as much or more with the Wards group, and they’re the team that wants you.”

I glanced at the groups that hadn’t departed yet.  Some were getting geared up, another group had a cape touching each member in turn, turning their skin to what looked like stone.  On the far end, past those other groups, I could see Tecton, Grace, and Wanton with three others I didn’t recognize.  They were looking at me.

“It’s the smart choice,” he said, “But it’s your choice.”

And, giving evidence to the statement, he departed, entering the Pendragon and freeing me to decide without his influence.

I sighed, then activated the antigrav panels to give myself some forward thrust, speeding me up as I moved to join Tecton’s group.

“Yep,” he said, to one of the newbies.

“You’re leader, I’m recon?” I asked.  “Like it was in New York?”

“No, you’re leader as long as this fight lasts,” Tecton said.

I must have looked surprised, because he said, “You’ve been in two of these fights, right?  If we count Echidna?”

I nodded.

“I’ve only been in the one, and I was never the shot-caller.  That was a partnership between Raymancer and me, and he’s gone.”

“My condolences,” I said.

He nodded, but my focus was on the other members of the team, trying to account for the resources I had available.  Grace had changed her martial arts outfit for something with more coverage, a chainmail mesh like the PRT uniforms wore.  Wanton still wore free-flowing clothes, but he wouldn’t stay in that form.

The other three… A girl with bands of metal running down each of her arms and legs, with heavy gauntlets, boots and a breastplate, a mask etched to look like a feminine face, with white lenses over the eyes.  Her platinum blond hair had three individual braids, two draped over her shoulders, with the ends bound in more bands of the blue-black metal.

There was a guy in a cowl, with another metal mask, who reminded me a bit of Shadow Stalker, but he wore white, and carried no weapon I could see.

And the last one… heavyset, with armor that seemed too generic.

“You’re a rookie?”

“All three of those guys are rookies,” Tecton said.  “They cannibalized our non-core team members to supplement other groups, and-”

“It doesn’t matter,” I said.  “I guess you three are getting thrown in the deep end.  Names?”

“Cuff,” said the girl in blue-black armor.

“Annex,” the cowled one told me.

“Golem,” the last one said, his voice muffled by his helmet.

I frowned behind my mask, perplexed.  “You named yourself after the little bastard from The Lord-”

“No,” he said.  I could hear him sigh from behind his helmet.  “I’m thinking of changing it.”

If not from the trilogy, then…  I fixed the pronunciation, compensating for how his muffled voice had modified it.  Right.  Golem, from the myth.

“I get it, nevermind.  Listen, we’re going to move out, and you’re going to explain your powers en route.  You know who I am?”

There were nods all around.

“You’re still okay with following my orders?”

Again, nods.

I saw the Undersiders moving out, along with the Ambassadors.

“We’re supplementing and supporting the Undersiders for the time being.  You okay with that?”

A touch more hesitant, they nodded.

“Then let’s go,” I said.

Last Chapter                                                                                               Next Chapter

517 thoughts on “Drone 23.5

  1. The last chapter of this arc. Thanks for reading.

    I figure I could do a loooong series of interludes, just to drag it out. 😉 Or we’ll just do one or two and cover the Endbringer in the next arc. Probably that. Sorry, but I mis-gauged, and the Chevalier interlude will have to wait until the end of arc 24.

    Vote-count on Topwebfiction is getting pretty low (relatively speaking – 145). I’d be much obliged if you could take the time to vote.

    Also, for those who didn’t catch the mention elsewhere, advance notice that you should hear a bit on Worm in the Epiguide podcast on the 10th or 11th. Will post a link when I have one.

    • Chevalier gets an interlude for this chapter. We’ll probably hear about Heartbreaker’s fishing trip later.

      • Well if Chevy is getting his interlude later then that makes it sound like he’ll be alive after the BEHEMOTH fight.

        “So who wants to bet that after this Behemoth thing wraps up we will get to hear about Heartbreaker fishing Cherish out of the sea and getting Butcher instead?”
        I can just picture the Undersiders watching via binoculars, and Alec eating popcorn.

        • Dunno, the interlude could be a flashback, we’ve had that before. Chevalier could die, I wouldn’t discount it.

          They moved Cherish farther into the sea, I doubt that she’s gonna be brought back, it doesn’t feel like it’d do much to the story. Plus remember that it was bonesaw who put her in there, what’s to say that she isn’t going to live for however long in a manner as to what Grue got from bonesaw, I doubt she’s going anywhere/able to go anywhere.

        • …okay, I can see some remote resemblance, but honestly I wouldn’t have made that connection.
          Agreed. There’s currently a Kickstarter for the first book. And considering the author tentatively put the length of the comic at 7000 panels… It will be a long runner. If it reaches the 200k stretch goal she’ll be able to do it full time, though, with 20 panels per week; about 1k panels per year.

    • “Heros here and there added potshots here and there”
      Is it meant to be written this way or is simply a typo?

    • ” “Yes,’ Defiant said. He didn’t sound happy about the admission.”
      You’ll want a ” after the ‘Yes’.

    • it’ll become almost unconscious.” The word you’re looking for is either subconscious or reflex, I think. Whilst her powers do operate while unconscious, it’s the subconcious that takes over the little things, like breathing when you aren’t thinking about it, and reflexes that are involuntary responses that we’ve trained to stimuli.

      mistake once, never again” Missing punctuation.

      • “Unconscious” is often considered a substitute for “subconscious” as in “the collective unconscious” and “I bit my nails unconsciously.”

        There are slight nuances of difference, but they’re used interchangeably and that’s not inaccurate.

      • Yeah, ‘Electorcuted’ is a lesser known hero – a senator with electricity powers. She rather vainly wanted to call herself ‘Electorcute’ but it was already taken…

    • His claws and feet all on solid earth, he used all four limbs to leap, and the shockwave as he thrust himself forward toppled the slipshod buildings around his departure point.

      Somewhat awkward. Needs a “With” at the very beginning.

  2. Reading this chapter I am thinking…
    How much worse it will get before (and if) it starts getting better ? How many will die ?

    • Nay. The usage is correct. We, I in particular, are subject pronouns. Additionally, I is included within we, therefore it’s proper to use plural object structures in the sentence.

      • Though to be completely correct the second comma in the second sentence I just wrote ought to be a semicolon.

        • You would also need to reduce the first sentence fragment, “Nay.” into the adverb to the later subordinate sentence fragment, “The usage is correct.” as well as give it a complete idea to properly be a full sentence itself. One method of doing so would be including a portion of the sentence being replied to, written out like, “Nay, the usage of ‘I’, in ‘I in particular’, is correct.”

              • @_@. What creeper?

                Just ping me or Mishie next time. We *are* sort of mods there. <_<

              • I’ve noticed a lot of DLP ‘regulars’ in the chatroom tend to like pushing boundaries and being jerkish from time to time. In this case, IIRC, it was someone asking for information Rika and I had already provided in passing, then getting upset/insistent when we/Rika weren’t willing to (re)supply the information on request, which only made the whole thing more uncomfortable.

                And, in very ‘DLP’ sort of way, they then refused to accept that no means no and the fact that a simple ‘I don’t want to say’ should be enough. Others have done this with the casual throwing around of insults, pushing things too far and not giving people an easy out when they express discomfort with it.

                It’s part of the tone of DLP’s community, which is a damn shame. If someone wants to start a different channel, I’m totally down, and will hang out there. Whether I’m hanging out there instead or hanging out there too depends on how much the attitude recurs – I recognize that the community is established and any actions on my part aren’t liable to have much effect, but I suppose my company is a sort of clout I can throw around.

              • Hey wildbow, having been fully brought up to speed about what went on by someone who decided to come and tell me, wow man, you have my sympathies, that sounds awful. : (

                If you’re still looking for a new channel, #spacebattles would happily shelter you under it’s somewhat stylishly dishevelled wing, and we don’t tolerate that kind of crap. I can talk to some of the people who run it, I talk to them often enough anyway, and they could probably set up some kind of #parahumans channel, we have a specific channel for creative writing that got set up a whole ago. Or I can just recruit some of the SBer fans of your story who are more technically minded and get them to set one up- one of your biggest fans on the site runs an IRC for his Eclipse Phase game, so it shouldn’t be an issue.

                Not advocating you do this or anything, not especially bothered personally, just saying the offer is open, and SpaceBattles would definitely be willing to help out.

              • Nae, it made me so uncomfortable that I don’t want to even see him. I mean, I tried coming back when this chapter was first posted, thinking hey, maybe just maybe he realized that no, it’s not fucking okay… And the VERY FIRST MESSAGE that gets said? “So hey, anyone know anything about where Rika lives? I’m talking like her home address, that sort of thing”, to paraphrase him.

                I don’t think I’m going back there anymore.

              • Ah, right, you’re talking about an individual, that’ still awful, but not quite as bad as I’d feared. I was talking about a troll forum of “elite Harry Potter fanfiction critics”*, who occasionally read other stuff, and like to go on vendettas against people/authors for various imagined slights, whose acronym is DLP.

                Them having decided to do it with Worm would be bizarre, but not like, outside the realms of the possible, if you get what I mean.

                My sympathies are with you, anyhow, no one deserves that, and yeah as Naeblis said let’s ban the little creep.

                *(Yes, they really do honestly consider themselves this, with a straight face.)

              • @Rika: Tell me who this guy is and I’ll ban the fucker. I don’t want people in the channel getting creeped out and leaving. 😦

                Yes, DLP, as Wildbow puts it, tries to push the boundary of what’s consider alright, but most of that stuff stays in the main channel, and #parahumans is relatively very…mellow.

                I repeat, if anyone has a problem, please take it up with the mods. We can help. 😉

              • @Rika, @Wildbow
                From Zombie:

                Wildbow: You’re a great dude. Your story is good. You’re welcome to the channel at anytime. You have moderation powers, you’re welcome to use them. /kick or /ban is your friend if you feel like defending the honor of one of your readers that reside within the channel.

                Rika: You need to remember there is /ignore in the channel. Use it against those you don’t wish to speak to. If it’s not enough, ask the mods.

                I’m sick and tired of people reacting about the attitude of DLP. This is how the community is. But #parahumans is made up of #parahumans, not DLP. There are maybe five DLP members in IRC right now. Half don’t even speak to you.

                Everyone is welcome to DLP IRC. But you must abide by the rules of the moderators of #parahumans. First steps. I will give ops to a couple people from #parahumans to even out the balance of perceived power. Rika is getting added to ops. So is someone else others decide.

                Finally, Blanket warning to established or new DLP members. You fuck this up. Your ass is mine. You won’t be allowed back onto the server. I can make it happen. This isn’t /b/. This isn’t something awful. We are not the sum of all b/tards and goons. Act better or get the fuck out.

                PS: I suggested Clarvel as an op alongside you.

              • As much as I appreciate the defense, Admiral Skippy, the DLPers as a whole aren’t bad and I would appreciate it if you apologized to them, even if you don’t see eye-to-eye. Yes, they can be a bit… over-the-top, but unlike the saying, “one bad banana spoils the bunch”, I don’t think the same applies to DLP as a whole; This -one person- (and I need to stress that because it WAS just one person) was the root of this, not because he was a DLPer.

                Yes, they have their quirks and mannerisms that you have to adapt to, get to know them so you know what is serious and what is joking, and what level of seriousness to take them with… But the same holds true for any person. Several of the DLPers are friends, or if not friends at least good acquaintances. As Zombie said, they aren’t /b/ or goons, even though people conflate them all together. There are good people there.

                On that note, thank you, Naeblis, Zombie, Wildbow. I think I’m still not going to return, at least for awhile more; not until I’ve properly composed myself, at the very least.

              • I’m sorry if I inadvertently made this into a bigger thing when you’d rather it’d gone away, Rika, that was thoughtless. And sorry to any DLpers who don’t live up to their forum’s reputation/past activities, and felt hurt, that’s never a good outcome. I was mainly working off of the popular perception and anecdotes from others, plus what little I know of their shenanigans, but it’s not like I’m a DLP expert, nor would I want to be! Naeblis certainly seems to have reacted maturely and laudably, so good for him.

          • Nope. My use of a declarative to create a one-word sentence is perfectly allowable even within formal writing.

            Nice try though.

            • Actually Don, the use of ‘No.’ as you used it is a one-word interjective statement, NOT a proper sentence. A sentence must contain an expressed or understood subject (thus why ‘Go.” as an imperative works, because it’s understood the imperative subject is “you”) and a predicate that contains at least one finite verb (as with the prior example, “go” is the finite verb). While it can be written as the initial word of a sentence (such as, “Ouch, that hurt!” or “No, I won’t!”) it is not, in and of itself, a sentence proper.

          • Whoa. Just noticed the drama – this thread went way off the topic of grammar, didn’t it?

            Sorry some guy creeped you out. (That said, my grammar was not incorrect – declaratives, interrogatives and imperatives all allow for single word sentences).

    • No, “I” is correct. Think about it without the interjected “in particular – which makes sense? “I have wronged you” or “Me have wronged you”?

  3. It says that Taylor wondered what dragon’s specialty was, but didn’t she already deduce that way back when? Was she wrong when she decided that dragon’s specialty was, or am I remembering something wrong?

    • She theorized that Dragon’s specialty was using/understanding the tech of other tinkers. Still doesn’t know for sure, though.

    • 16.5:

      A thought dawned on me. It was a half-formed thought up until the moment I devoted some attention to it. Then it clicked. Tinkers had a knack, a specialty, be it a particular field of work or something they could do with their designs that nobody else could, and I knew Dragon’s. She could intuit and appropriate the designs of other tinkers.

          • We don’t. Supposedly it’s something one assumes others know, so talk is unnecessary. Weaver’s confused by the time scale involved and assumed a connection to Dragon’s speciality, not ‘biology’.

      • Let us not forget that Taylor saw the biological core of one of Dragon’s avatars when she and the Undersiders attacked the PRT. She also knows about the remote control weakness that Saint sold to Tattletale and learned a lot about Dragon and her problems from being around them.

        At the very least she should have picked up that dragon is some sort of cyborg that at some points controled remote bodies from afar.

        Except for Defiant and Saint she probably knows more about Dragon’s true nature than anyone else perhaps even including Tattletale.

        If she is given a few more hint she might be able to iece things together. Especially now that Dragon can commincate verbally again. I envison some sort of Girl Talk in their future if everyone survives.

    • Taylor figured it out when going up against the suits, it’s improving on other Tinkers designs. Here she’s reconsidering that because of Dragon’s rapid production of gear and notes. Which is because Dragon is an AI with a handful of lesser AIs and a factory to churn out her stuff.

      • A factory doesn’t suffice, those installations are mostly specialized in their production. I’m thinking/suspecting she has either multiple factories at least, or some measure of 3D-Printing or various scales CAD manufacturing.

          • I was just casually looking at the tags when I noticed Theo, and after looking at the others I discovered Golem was suspiciously absent.

        • I think the time frame is a little small for him to slim down, bulk up, realize he was born in the wrong body, and make the big switch, y’know?

        • Was Kaiser a “race” racist or more a “idiology” racist? If “race” the he could posthume have not much a problem then.

          • the first were all, IIRC, neo-Nazis. Kaiser would hate it if Theo is heroing around under the name “Golem.”

            • Allfather was a neo-Nazi, was part of the original German group, can’t remember the name at the moment. Kaiser, his son, was brought up as a race purist, and with the ideal that caucasians are superior by virtue of genetics, though he didn’t seem to specifically uphold the Aryan mentality that one would see in neo-Nazi belief.

              From my understanding, Kaiser might not even recognize that it’s a religiously charged term and simply attribute it to the fantastical, since, at least in today’s day and age, we think of various material golems and Gollum over the mythological roots of the entire concept. If he would make the religious connection, however, then I would agree with the neo-Nazi continuation.

              • Ah, ok. Had forgotten that. Thought Kaiser was just a racist.
                Golem is a good theme anyway.

              • Gilgamesh would be a more appropriate name if following his father & grandfather’s theme he can manifest metallic constructs (though with his personality, those constructs should be defensive in nature).

        • I was under the impression that it was at some point revealed that Kaiser was never much of an actual beliver in the ideology and just used it to maintain his power.

      • in most fantasy settings, a golem is usually a rather large minion summoned by the caster, usually out of the hardest materials locally available… so lots of fantasy stories have rock golems.

        if golem = theo, and he has a pedigree of being able to control metals…

        i’m suspecting either a master (obvious) + shaker (for the spontaneous metal creation) combination;

        or he’s like trainwreck and packs the metal around himself… breaker?

    • Wait.. Theo is one of the rookie Chicago Wards?

      Also Regent is incorrect, saying ‘I love you guys” before going into battle is not going to get you killed, showing pics of your spouse/GF/BF and/or talking about retirement plans before going into battle is what will get you killed.

  4. So we finally get to see how Behemoth is fought…

    It’s interesting how each Endbringer is implacable in its own way. Leviathan is quick, and every one of his casual movements is life-threatening on its own. The Simurgh has some form of total knowledge, whether it’s telepathy, perfect precognition, or straight up omniscience (Scion excepted), and if she decides to mess up your brilliant plan to stop her from doing what she wants, she can cut you off before you even get started.

    Behemoth, doesn’t seem to have either of those advantages. He can’t casually cause the kind of damage Leviathan does; he seems to need to focus on things, if not for very long. And he certainly doesn’t seem to have Simurgh’s abilities. He’s just so big and so diverse in what he can do that by the time you could have conceivably done any damage, you’re ash in the wind.

    I don’t really know why I just said all this. I just felt the urge to gush about the Endbringers. Kudos for coming up with them, Wildbow. They’re amazing.

    • Behemoth has range, which is something Leviathan doesn’t have. If ‘Moth can see you, you’re probably dead. He also, just by nature, turns off a lot of capes’ abilities. With the Simurgh, you lose if you’re caught off guard or react too slow, and let her sing at you, or anyone, for very long. Leviathan plays a mid-range game where his goal is to keep you busy until his endgame comes into play. But Behemoth is more about sustained damage and making it as costly as possible to stop him. Left to himself, Behemoth seems the least likely to do long-term damage with any given action, but he just keeps going, and any attempt to stop him is almost more painful than letting him continue.

      • Well I think he could do alot of long term damage through earthquakes. He travels under ground and causes all sorts of seismic activity, so I am willing to bet if nobody stopped him he would have some massive earthquakes leveling new delhi, and any place near a fault line could potentially be incredibly destructive over a massive area.

  5. Tecton is putting Weaver in charge. Wise man. Shows humility and self-confidence at the same time — being willing to defer to expertise even in the face of institutional opposition.

      • Well, consider his experience. He saw Taylor fight Echidna and win, and during the first phases, she was badly injured and blind, yet wouldn’t let that stop her.

        • I just reread the Echidna fight. I wish I could have gotten a peek inside the Chicago Wards’ heads when they realized she had been blind, and what that says about her.

    • Do anyone else that she is going to direct the Undersiders and the chicago wards at the same time?

      • Hope Taylor doesn’t get in trouble for going to the Undersiders. Although this really isn’t the time to be worrying about image. Like she said they need the ones that can actually fight. And the Chicago Wards chances of survival just went way up.

        • I don’t think she will, especially since it was pretty clear there was no funny buisness going on, but ultimately she won’t care. And if Taylor is half as heroic in this fight as I expect she’ll be, and Chevalier lives through it, then I’d expect he will personally bitch slap Glenn or anyone else who comments on it six ways to Sunday if they try to make a thing of it.

    • My estimation of Tecton has definitely gone up, and hopefully Taylor may have found herself a home, if most of the aforementioned Wards live through the fight and no unexpected shenanigans occur.

  6. Also, even though everyone else is already cheering it: hahahaha Regent.

    I like that his formal invocation of death flags improves the story whether or not anyone actually dies. It’s perfect!

    Imp is also being just plain marvelous.

  7. Another quick fix… the cost will come due at some point, and I fear Saint will be the one calling it in. If Taylor learns what Dragon did to herself – for her – she’ll try to make things right somehow. If possible.

    The jetpack with extra arms… that gives her a melee option once it’s finished (not that she should use it that way, generally) and an entirely horrifying new level of locomotion: multitasking = inhuman multilimbed coordination. Eight-legged costume for the Weaver – not actually making her less nightmarish, right now.

    Yangban joining the fray… and they have 30 capes with sufficiently standardized powers that they can work in firing lines, with drilled power combinations? All of them seem to have lasers, force fields, flight, invulnerability (limited), and time-reversal, perhaps more? No way is that a group of natural triggers. They have something, or someone, who can hand out powers the way an army issues equipment – by the numbers. Cauldron, with the supposed enmity a long-laid smokescreen? A rival mad science group? Someone whose power is to mass-produce powers? Someone whose power is to absorb powers from other people (a duplicator included)?

    And now we have a sense of where she might end up – Chicago. Assuming her team-for-the-day survives, anyway, and it looks like there’ll always be a sense in which she’s with D&D and the Undersiders.

    Taylor might have done better in India as a ‘cold’ cape. No PR issues, at least.

    Getting Foil harpoons – 200 feet of silk thread tied to a quarrel, molecularly bonded to the quarrel and the quarrel bonded inside Behemoth – followed by Clockblocker touching the line is the best combo I’ve heard anyone think of – repeat as necessary from different angles until he’s well and truly stuck. Expect it’ll work about as well as Armsmaster’s visor/nano-halberd did – which is to say, not well enough. There’ll be other combinations. Still wonder what the strategy is with Behemoth – Simurgh seems to be rotate people in to avoid excessive exposure. Leviathan seems to be pin him and focus-fire him to end it quickly. Behemoth… slow him down and wear him down? If there is a weakness, Tattletale has a decent chance of finding it.


    All this, and still prologue to what’s to come. Looks like an interlude or two, and then things get real.

    Typo – not to extend contact to them? Not to have extended contact with them, perhaps?

    • Regarding the Yangban: I think it was mentioned in Lung’s interlude that they have a cape who can switch people’s powers. They were going to take Lung’s power and give it to the rest of their team, or something like that.

      • Switching is one thing… but 30 people, all with the same powers… implies replication of powers somehow. China did not just happen to have 30 people with the same laser power trigger; let alone all the other powers that squad had.

      • Insane Theory #1: the Yangban share powers through a hive mind collective type thing. At some point during the fight, Taylor has to join the collective, and winds up controlling the whole lot…probably never happen, but just imagine: if…

      • It was implied but we don’t really know what Lung meant by ‘take away most of his powers’. My personal theory is that the other fans are right and they’ve got someone who can share powers across a team, probably diminishing them somewhat in the process (much like Grue and the Butcher both have diminished copies of the powers their ability lets them grab from others but also diminishing the person the powers are borrowed from– so a lot like Grue, really).

      • What I got from that was the Yangban were brainwashed into total loyalty, then a cape takes away their power to redistribute it, in watered down form, to everyone.

        Scary possibilities. Imagine what the PRT or Undersiders could do with that.

      • What if ‘switching powers’ means switching what powers you express, not whether you have powers or not? That is, someone has the ability to take a para human and remap what powers they have to a standard template?

    • That plan was before we had confirmation that anyone that gets too close to him simply dies unless you are invulnerable. I think his main weakness is he can only focus one or two things at a time, and he might have to see something coming to redirect it’s energy. I say that because Alexandria managed to hit him and knock his head back a little in her interlude. Foil should be able to hit him, and clockblocker freeze the string, and it should hurt him, but then BEHEMOTH sets his eyes on them and instant lighting bolts on them.

      • Snipe and move – broken buildings offer lots of cover, and hit while he’s looking the other way. Not sure Clockblocker’s got the range to cover string that reaches outside Behemoth’s aura of death to non-invulnerables, and you’d need a string (unless Foil’s power covers the string as well as the quarrel) long enough for the team to be out of range.

        • The main issue with that is mobility. If they get within the hundred mark Clockie might be able to do his thing. They need a way to move them quickly and without being spotted though if he suddenly starts moving toward them.

      • If only there was a hero that could create body doubles that would distract Behemoth to no end. Perhaps made out of something radiation resistant, like cockroaches? But an impoverished city like New Delhi most certainly would not have any massive swarms of cockroaches, now would it?

        • Seems useful enough to try at the very least considering the lack of options. Depends on just how big B senses the world around him and to what degree. I was surprised at the one eye considering he spends of the time underground. Worms and other creatures who live underground have poor eyesight or no eyes at all. So I’m guessing he might see through his body somehow using his power and the eye is just to help him direct said power.

          • Well we know that Levi was fooled by them. Also Grue’s darkness works on all forms of radiation so it’ll help blind him as well (what was the range on the darkness?)

    • Also – Theo as Golem? The others are all tagged, but Golem is missing… and Theo is present.

      Already triggered? So we can rule out his triggering being the end of the world… but it’ll be interesting, either way. And what an interesting perspective he’ll have on Taylor.

    • I think “not to extend contact to them” is fine. When they talk about Weaver being recorded immediately afterwards, I think they were implying that because she would be so heavily watched/monitored, speaking with them was fine as long as it wasn’t any funny business.

    • Chevalier doesn’t know why Behemoth is there – as he puts it, ‘just population.’

      Behemoth is there for a reason, count on it. And figuring out what it is… will not be calming.

      • Or he could simply be there to kill millions of people, and destabilize India. While the Smurf almost certainly has a goal for every attack, and Leviathan came to Brockton Bay for Noelle, the majority of their attacks might simply be to show up and kill as many people as possible.

        • But he’s heading for a specific location. If it were just to raze the city, he’d be meandering through it, shooting off beams and setting fires.

      • Talk/interact in general as THE senior cape fighting the Endies (Protectorate aside).
        Being able to talk is quite handy in such a scenario.

    • Time-frozen threads would be dangerous to other capes – but Weaver can cover them with butterflies, making them clearly visible. Hm, Parian might be able to control the threads, getting them into position.

      …Just as long as Behemoth doesn’t use the razorthread as a tool to slice off the horns obscuring his vision.
      How feasible is it to blind Behemoth, btw? Shooting goo on his horns etc?

  8. ” folded them close to my body, so they hugged my lower ribs and the space just beneath my breasts, and then left them be.”

    What breasts? Taylor dosen’t have any XD

        • Glenn: “In image, we give you an A.”

          Taylor: “That’s good, right?”

          Glenn: *tosses her a padded bra* “Not in the least. We’re going to need at least a B out of you.”

          Taylor: *Sends Bees after Glenn*

    • Aaaaaaaand, has been edited.

      “folded them close to my body, so they hugged my lower ribs and the space just beneath my ‘breasts’, and then left them be.”

      Oh, Taylor.

  9. Some great funny moments. Grue’s dope slap of Regent, Regent being a jackass, and Imp was hilarious. Someone tells her, maybe for the first time ever, that she loves her and she is family? Gaaaayyyyyy! Then the sad moments start. Raymancer died a nasty death from radiation poisoning off screen, and Dragon’s simple no was incredibly sad because it confirmed offstage genocide is currently happening or about to happen with half the city on fire with a population of over 20 million. Still Tecton stock went up in my eyes for recognizing that Weaver is very suited for leading the team. BEHEMOTH seems to have to focus on single thing at a time. Similar to most people being unable to tap their head and rub their belly at the same time, they need to keep him distracted. Maybe Taylor can reuse her plan against lung. A swarm of bugs going for his eye, and trying to burrow into it. Eventually they might be able to start hurting him, which means he will simply turn on the heat over himself but keeping his attention on a swarm of bugs means he isn’t focusing on the capes. But the Chicago wards need a name to differentiate themselves.

      • They might be keeping the relationship on the downlow, or they simply are too used to Imp. Let face it, bringing it up to her will probably encourage her to use it more and more to annoy them unless Grue dope slaps her too.

      • They were. “‘…aaaayyyyyyy,’ Imp drew out the word. Parian and Foil gave her an annoyed look.” They just didn’t say anything about it since it’s not really the best time to discuss PC-ness.

    • Well, imagine if Raymancer had been here for this fight after a grueling battle with radiation poisoning. He’d blast Behemoth, only to get irradiated. His last words would be “Not again!”

  10. I love seeing how different parts of the world treat their superpowered folk. India’s “hot” and “cold” capes is a fascinating concept that stands out to me even in the middle of larger events.

    Also, interesting that Theo seems to have gotten powers (assuming he’s one of the new Wards, and considering that Theo is tagged and “Golem” isn’t I think it’s a safe bet to say that he is). I had thought that his trigger event would end up having something to do with Jack’s end-of-the-world thing, but I guess not.

    • Hot and Cold capes is a pretty good idea, if perhaps not a totally accountable one. Between them and the CUI I’m starting to think that the western world simply does not know what the fuck it’s doing. Because a hella lotta problems have been cause just by the structuring of their super-society alone.

      • Well there was a evil conspiracy that was secretly directing things and every country has it’s flaws. The CUI probably has more than it’s share of skeletons in their closet. Though I have to ask Wildbow if there are other S class threats in other countries which could have affected other’s cape population. If the US hadn’t had to deal with Echidna, the 9, and Nilbog, they would probably be in a much better position disregarding the boon of Cauldron being outed. Makes me curious where sleeper is located.

          • 1: Every time unknown S class threats come up, I get a shiver. At least now I can blame this one on the cold.

            2: Someone make a better sleepwalking joke than I can come up with from the roaming remark.

          • New info on the mysterious sleeper. Russia is damn big place so I could see why he might stay there if he wants to hide. Unless like Nilbog he doesn’t need to hide. He is just so dangerous they leave him alone. If Sleeper is a he anyway.

      • Well, if you take the Meisters and the Gesellschaft into account as other non-US entities, it makes sense to have the countries handle the problem/aspect of parahumans differently.

        Incidentally, Wildbow: Gewerkschaft (union of labors and workers) might be a good opposing name for the Gesellschaft. Though Meister (master craftsman) and Geselle (journeyman) already have a funny undernote…

    • > I had thought that his trigger event would end up having something to do with Jack’s end-of-the-world thing, but I guess not.

      It might have to with him being told. Imagine his thought process: he cuts a deal with Jack Slash where he lets Jack go free in exchange for fighting him two years in the future. Then, right after being abandoned by everyone who cares about him, he discovers that letting Jack go free means that Jack destroys the world right on the two-year deadline.

      Betting Golem has a mental power.

      • That might be cool, though as others have said, forming metal golems and controlling them would fit with his lineage, and it’s sort of a mental power given that high level masters like Taylor seem to get a multi-tasking upgrade to go with it.

  11. Anyone else wondering what dragon lost this time in exchange for speech? She really is Colin’s better half in every sense. I also believe her second superpower is giving perfectly timed hugs.

    I wonder if Taylor is being tactical, sentimental, or both by playing undersiders backup. Accord and Tattletale working together may find some weakness after all. Isn’t that scary. Also, as stated above by randomsoul2, the 50 foot tall monster doing it;s best bull impression in the New Deli china shop may not notice approaching bugs. Chain lighting may disprove that idea, but I’m hopeful Taylor will strike another telling blow after her track record the last two fights.

  12. “Yes. Don’t ask me to pronounce their names.”

    And I’ll just file thaaat into the Shut the Fuck Up Colin files, aaaand there.

    Also, I love how Taylor’s first instinct when told she’s not supposed to interact with the Undersiders is to do exactly that. If Chambers give her shit for that I hope Taylor starts pelting his Rob Ford ass with moldy Timbits.

    Know what else? Fuck it. I like the Yangban better than the PRT/Protectorate, they got style, they’re right about things and wrong about things ration is 1/0, and they don’t have to worry about getting stuck with a shitty name. Who the hell dresses up like a warrior woman but calls themself Cuff?

    • They’re also fascists who kidnap people, brainwash them and steal their powers before distributing said powers to others. They really want to be Cauldron Lite and I can’t help but wonder what their true purpose is in helping.

      • I’m guessing they are trying to take over the Protecterate’s role now that it’s been proven corrupt. Basically trying to get non-china nations to make their own Yangban

        • Not to mention that if they drive off BEHEMOTH, India is going to owe China big-time. And they’d show that their the new big guns in terms of Cape power.

      • We really don’t know much about their methods other than they use stressing techniques, which the PRT does too on a much more informal level, and brainwashing isn’t that much worse than the shit done in the west.

        I’m just hoping the story treats this as more of a grey/grey issue and avoids the kneejerk narrative assumption that a east Asian world power that isn’t Japan is corrupt, and dystopic, and eeeeeviil that channels a sneering resentment alot of idiots have for non-western countries being successful. I see that descriptor far more describing our side of the pond in this story.

  13. Well, folks, this year’s BEHEMOTHIMANIA has started with a bang, as the Chinese Cape Patrol made their first appearance in over a decade outside their home turf. Given the bruising they’ve already taken, they may need to tag in one of the other stables and take some time to recover before they rejoin the fray.

    For the upcoming round, though, the highlight is the moment you’ve all been waiting for: Weaver finally steps back into the ring for the first time since she made the heel-face flip. Our commentators are still trying to interpret Behemoth’s seismic rumblings, but we’re fairly certain that when she landed, he said something along the lines of “Meh, I could take her.” Bookies have responded by dropping the odds in favor of Behemoth below triple digits for the first time since he took the world by storm nearly twenty years ago as a talented rookie with a penchant for pyrotechnics.

    Meanwhile, rumors are coming in that reigning champion Scion is stopping to grab every single folding chair in his path on his way to New Delhi to join the fray. His agent refused to comment, but she did recommend we cue up the Curbstomp Song for Scion’s arrival.

    No matter how this ends, I think this is gonna be one for the ages.

    Tune in next time, as we continue our coverage of BEHEMOTHIMANIA 2011!

    • *Puts on a black outfit and a cowboy hat*

      I think we’re in for a slobber knocker tonight, folks. This very evening, in the squared circle that is New Delhi, we’re going to see a 1 on 450 man handicap match between Behemoth and the rest of the world. I think it’s fair to say that Behemoth still has them outnumbered. Scion is on his way to the building, but we know for a fact that several old and new faces are joining us here for this momentous occasion. We’ve seen Defiant and Dragon, Weaver and the Undersiders, Accord and the Accordions, the Wards, the Protectorate, the Yangban, Kaientai, the Acolyte Protection Agency, Doink the Clown, the Shockmaster, the Oddities, Degeneration X, the Four Horseman, Kamala, Steve Richards, 2 Cool and Rikishi, the Dudley Boys, the Boogeyman, the Hurricane, the Blue Meanie, the Brooklyn Brawler, Macho Man Randy Savage, Flyin’ Brian Pillman, Latino Heat Eddie Guerrero, Chris Benoit, Umaga, the Junkyard Dog, Earthquake, Andre the Giant, Owen Hart, and the Big Bossman are all here, and I didn’t even think some of those guys were still alive!

      Unfortunately, Hulk Hogan, Kevin Nash, and John Cena could not be here tonight. Hogan and Nash refused unless they were paid 6 figures, and Cena was told he would have to learn how to sell for the match.

      Still, Behemoth had better watch out or this might be the night that he gets beat like a government mule and winds up running like a scalded dog.

      • A) Who would want to Doink the clown? Ick.
        b) I’m pretty sure Skitter is supposed to be one of the 4 horsemen. Not sure who the others are just yet.
        c) How well do Bitch and the Junkyard Dog get along?

        • Hey maybe BEHEMOTH is afraid of clowns you ever think of that? Notice he’s never fought Circus? Ever think that maybe there’s a reason for that? Doink is probably just what we need right now.

        • A. Who doesn’t want a guy like Doink on their side? Just look at him, man: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8cqDYiQg-cM
          That guy’s a barrel of laughs.
          B. I’m not sure they’d let a woman onto that team. Which is a shame. Women can kick as much ass as the men.
          C. Probably pretty well. He was big into chains and dogs and headbutting people while on all fours.

        • Holy cow, Skitter/Weaver is totally Pestilence. Also, the Four Horsemen (or just the Horsemen) would be a great name for a cape group. Who are War, Famine, and Death?

    • I would be really over. The second main character, who could carry the story with his glittering personality, is dead to. Poor Atlas…

      • The rest of the story will be Regent and Imp making smart-ass comments and acting like dicks.

          • I think that would make it the first series to kill off the main character and not experience a drop in readership.

            (Note: Please don’t kill Taylor! Even the awesomeness of Regent and Imp Snark The World To Death isn’t worth that!)

              • The funny thing is I can only make that joke because I know Wildbow’s not going to jump the shark like that, or that if he went for Interludes till the end they’d be the most amazing interludes ever and still wind up worth it.

                Funny the kind of faith over a million words of awesome storytelling can buy you no? : )

    • I wouldn’t be at all surprised if legend came, but I don’t think that eidolon will come, as he is probably still working for cauldron behind the scenes, maybe in a way similar to contessa. If he does show it will most likely be in order to strengthen his waning power.

      • Eidolon better show, because if he doesn’t show and Scion doesn’t show then the local capes are probably going to lose pretty hard.

        • Bubbles that slow time down and control of Gravity might be very helpful in finding a way to hurt him.

  14. Taylor is in a position where she might actually be useful. Plenty of capes with powers to exploit in new ways. Hopes she can mange to keep most of them alive.

    The part about looking for the goal of Behmoth and communicating it to the rest of the gathered heroes seems like it is taylor-made for Taylor.

    The Yàngbǎn who have come out of the woodworks to help could either be good as in they have come out now that Alexandria is out of the way and the Protectorate shows signs of being reformed or it could be bad as in now that Alexandria is out of the way and they seem ready to take on the Protectorate. The fact that they jump into the fray and don’t let the others exhaust shelver first makes me seem hopeful.

    The Yàngbǎn seem to be practising some sort of power-communism. Combined with what we learned from Lung it almost seems as if everyone has everyone’s powers. It seems like it would make everyone in their group a mini Eidolon, but I expect that there are downsides to the process.

    Other than that, what exactly is Theo doing here? Is he Golem or somebody? Controlling metal/iron golems would fit his family legacy. If he can play Master to a bunch of pseudo-welds from a distance that would make him a formidable asset even against an Endbringer. Lets hope he doesn’t get picked up and absorbed by the Borg/Yàngbǎn after this.

    Also: RIP Raymancer, we would mourn you, but I expect many others will end up joining you soon.

    Finally, I know the Thursday episodes are supposed to be treats and mostly for interludes and that regular Thursday chapters are not something to be taken for granted, but I am going to be upset if I have to wait till Saturday for what happens next.

      • If you want to know what happens next I can make an educated guess.

        Lots of capes die, and Taylor figures out some way to turn it around. Then things get worse.

        • There’s potential for dark comedy here too – Accord figures out how to deal with Behemoth but no one will listen to him. Taylor independently figures out the same thing and gets everyone on board to enact *her* plan. Accord then dies of a rage-induced aneurysm.

          • And has meticulous plans for his own funeral that involves suggestions on the invitations to come up with equal numbers, perfect patterns of flower arrangements, and the exact shade of mahogany for his exactly-weighted coffin. He even allots precisely 2.34 seconds worth of time, per guest, for crying, but women whose makeup is messed up MUST go fix it or they will be forcibly ejected from the funeral.

            Which is all ruined when Imp shows up.

  15. Shouldn’t Foil and Parian be tagged? I mean, Accord was tagged and he played no bigger a part.

  16. So, the Yangban.

    What the fuck is up with that? When Lung said they’d take away his powers and give him new ones, I wasn’t sure that was possible. Definitely seems like they’ve done that here.

    And Theo- holy shit. Guessing he’s Golem.

    • Also, I think the combination of Tattletale (finding out info about Behemoth), Accord (coming up with a plan to use what Tattletale discovers) and Skitter (implementing Accord’s plan by directing everyone on the battlefield with her bug arrows) could actually be pretty damn devastating.

  17. From a friend:
    Stop fucking with your girlfriend’s programming, defiant!
    Just cause she says she wants it doesn’t mean you should!
    The irony of that statement should have been enough to prove it!

    • It’s interesting to note that Colin is starting to sound more and more… mechanical and programmed and methodical even as Dragon is starting to sound more and more ‘human’. Could this ‘bleedover’ be part of what’s causing Dragon the logic fault issues? In addition to the other problems, of course?

  18. I’m still excited by the slim chance that Grue’s power works on Behemoth. I also can’t wait to see what Tattletale finds out about him, after she got knocked out so quickly in the Leviathan fight.

  19. Alright, Weaver, you call down the Thanda and we’ll reap the whirlwind.

    Interestingly enough, looks like Weaver found herself a team. They want her. And three of them are red sh- I mean newbies. Hopefully Cuff won’t try something too off herself, though I suspect Annex may have something to do with China’s presence in India. I wonder what Golem’s gonna pull out here. If he does what I think, disposable minions are always helpful. The problem is once they decide they’re no longer disposable. Just better make sure one of the golems doesn’t come out half-baked. Still, if Weaver makes it through this, ought to be some fun stuff with her as part of a hero team who they defer to in S-class situations.

    Glenn’s not going to like that, by the way, but I don’t exactly see him out there fighting off Behemoth with the power of atrocious plaid. You want a funny interlude? Regent and Imp meet Glenn. Laughs all around.

    Yangban also looks interesting. A military unit of capes. Either they have enough people with similar powers to form a whole unit like that, or they have some way of creating uniformity in powers. The fact that they called the PRT and Protectorate’s true colors doesn’t mean they’re all nice and fluffy puppies and all that. Problem is, if they have some of power sharing, then either one of their members is of critical importance, or they all grow weaker as each one is killed, or they have to constantly head to the back to get recharged every once in awhile during the fight.

    • Alternatively, they may grow more powerful individually but lose cohesion as the ‘groupthink’ is beaten upon?

      • Actually, interesting question: If your powers get shared amongst the group, what happens when you die? Does the group lose your contribution? Will the total power grouping lose whatever fraction had been invested in you? Do they get stronger as they recover what was being used by you?

          • And since Trusting seems to be right, it does not function that way. They have some way to take powers from captured, unwilling individuals and spread them to other members of the Yangban. The Yangban that go fight are probably soldiers picked for loyalty and ability imbued with the powers stolen from supers.

            In other words, they’re pretty much doing what Cauldron does, just with a slightly different method and using passengers already in their rightful person, as well as a few Cauldron capes.

  20. Only small mentions of it so far, but I was impressed with Colin at the top of the chapter. He ate his crow like a man, and made an admirable start at crawling out of the d-bag penalty box.

    What a shame that after waiting for so long for the Dragon/Skitter conversation, now that they finally meet she is mute! I think that if Taylor had Tattletale’s power, Dragon would have already been outed as an Electronic-American…or now that i think about it, isn’t she an Electronic-Canadian? Anyway, I wonder how much longer it will be before Taylor figures it out anyway.

    Great chapter, and I eagerly await the next installment. Thanks for writing!

  21. Skitter…Weaver…Taylor. WELCOME TO CHICAGO GIRLFRIEND!

    Now some REALLY important things to remember.

    Cubs = BAD
    White Sox = GOOD
    Blackhawks = GREAT
    Bears = McCaskeys must die!
    Bulls = Maybe some day

    Also, while you’re here, take advantage of Chicago’s food! Beef sandwiches, hot dogs, the only decent pizza in the country.

    And remember, we didn’t stamp out organized crime in the 20’s and 30’s. That’s a TOTAL myth!
    The gangsters simply set up in government because it was more lucrative! Whenever someone restates themselves by mentioning crooks and politicians in the same sentence you can be CERTAIN he’s talking about Chicago.

    Just bring warm clothes. Summers are nice, but winters are a bitch-and-a-half.

    I’m a guy. But I’m told that shopping is AWESOME here. It’s up to you to decide.

    And I don’t even wanna THINK about the sort of nasties you could dredge up out of the Chicago River (no, that color isn’t natural, and no I don’t know what causes it…, and NO I don’t WANT to know).

    Remember, if you’re in the suburbs, most of the greedy ones with ticket-chucking cops begin with a “W”. So stay out of them. They’d just be ITCHING for a chance to cause you problems.

    Also, we’re all set to become a concealed carry state. $150 for a 5 year permit.

    Also, most of the news agencies in Chicago don’t *lean* left. They use high-thrust-ratio rocket packs. So take your news with a grain of salt (hell, invest in a brine block!).

    Vacations to the Wisconsin Dells are nice and relaxing (about to take one myself). And Chicago Comicons are pretty freakin awesome.

    I’d stay out of the casinos though. They’re just havens for suckers.

    Also, do yourself a favor and stick to the jet pack. Rush Hour doth sucketh mightily.

    • Eh, Traffic is worse in L.A. Lived in Chicago for 2 years before moving back to the land of eternal summer. Freaking seasons are wierd man.

    • CUBS = Just adopt the Cardinals and save yourself pain. St. Louis isn’t that far away, and the red will blend in if you’re at Wrigley when the 11 time World Champions come to town.

    • The main problem with Chicago is its tendency to get conquered by a super powerful Epic, turned into steel, and run with an iron fist.

  22. It feels like Weaver has been given a kill-squad of sorts. I’m not sure what the powers of the newbies could be but the name Cuff makes me think she can probably contain things maybe through creating metal bands.

    Annex might add to peoples powers in some way.

    Golem I have no idea. Creation of a golem out of metal and thin air (assuming he is Theo).

    Grace is practically invincible.

    Tecton specialises in geologic forces, which Behemoth manipulates to a certain extent.

    Wanton can remove himself from a situation whilst continuing to do damage.

    If my conjecture is correct the Chicago wards seem very well suited for combating Behemoth, even if only to adapt to the situation and support capes more capable of damaging him. Even if I have gotten the new guys powers wrong (which is likely), Grace, Tecton and Wanton would still be effective Vs. Behemoth.

    I’m not going to assume that they will be able to take him out (a little too farfetched) but I can definitely see their squad being highly useful in this coming fight.

    • I’m hoping that Skitter takes command of the Undersiders as well, and that Accord recognizes her ability and lets her direct his ambassadors too. With all of those guys being directed by a Thinker specializing in multitasking, situational awareness, and utilizing individual elements to their fullest potential, they’ll likely be used in the best way they can. Not to mention they’ll also have Tattletale’s insight.

  23. “Welcome back, to ENDBRINGERBRAWL 2013! There is a palpable sense of tension in the air today as the Capes assemble for what is sure to be the highlight of the season. And we are getting reports of a record turnout, even the Yàngbǎn, who if you remember haven’t played outside the C.U.I. before, are expected to be out in force. Meanwhile, discussion rages through the Indian Cape community about whether the Thanda will be making an appearance for this historic occasion and-… news just in…”

    “Is it that time, Bob?”

    “You bet it is, Jim. Ladies and Gentlemen, ENDBRINGERBRAW is proud to present the Blow From Below…”

    “The Roar From The Core…”

    “…The Thunder. From. Down-Under… BEEEEEEEEEEHEMOTH!”

    “What a showman, Bob, this is one Endbringer who needs no time to warm up, which is fortunate because Canada’s own Dragon is laying on the cold with long-range freezerays, perhaps hoping to wick away some of his energy stores and leave him with less to work with.”

    “Oh that’s a clever tactic, Jim. They’re going to be grateful of that in the long run, and… OH! Cape down, cape down! Behemoth is in fighting form today, just like every day. A quadrapedal leap to close the distance and a burst of entropic heat from within his Zero Manton zone, a one-two punch that’s sure to give the New Delhi Heroes something to worry about.”

    “That’s right Bob, get within thirty feet of Behemoth and unless you have parallel biology, energy absorption or enough toughness to swallow a stinger missile you’re out of the game.”

    “And what a surprise! A fine early-game showing from the Yàngbǎn, demonstrating their trademark coordination in a Musketeer laser firing-line attempting to blind the Tremorous Titan, but oh, I think we’ve seen this move before- YES! A flesh-disintegrating sonic handclap from Behemoth! Cape down, cape down, cape- well would you look at that?”

    “Amazing, Bob! A shield wall and a last-second… is that a time reversion? Antientropic field? Biokinesis? Well whatever it is the Yàngbǎn made it out with their line intact and only two Cape Down’s, you can bet Behemoth’s not going to be happy about them damaging his numbers like that.”

    “It seems they’ve already got the message, Jim. The Yàngbǎn are in retreat, and who wouldn’t after the look on the big guy’s face? Yeesh!”

    “Fortunately for them it looks like Behemoth’s still preoccupied with the Dragon armours, but even those fine examples of prime Canadian engineering are no match for his gigawatt lightning bolts. We’re only a few minutes in and already conditions are sweltering here in New Delhi, with Scion as yet nowhere in sight, who can say where this matchup will go? Stay with us, we’ll be bringing you more live ENDBRINGERBRAWL 2013 coverage after this message from our sponsors, Weaver-brand Organic Spider Farms and The Parian Collection.”

    • Strong opening show from the big guy, 5 Capes and 4 Dragon Suits down inside a minute, and the best anyone can hope to do is slow him down a bit!

      See now the former villain turned hero Weaver, taking the world by storm these last 6 months. Against Leviathan, she was relegated to SAR, and history seems to be repeating itself. Less full-circle I’m sure, and more a way of keeping her busy til she comes up with something awesome, like before.

    • “This is Sigh Cho Gekko, the on-the-scene reporter for Endbringerbrawl 2013. Guys, I don’t know why you want me down here, you can pick this fight up from space. I don’t mean satellite either, this is the kind of brawl visible to the naked eye from the secret nazi base hidden on the moon.

      As you can see behind me, the Yangban are running scared like a duck in Chinatown after Behemoth gave them the clap. No word yet on why they’re here, but the smart money is because India is just that damn close to China. I know, total mystery, right?

      It’s not rainy, by the way, the lightning is just being thrown out and controlled by Behemoth. It reminds me of the time someone tried to use an orbital killsat on him and he directed the attack into the heroes attacking him. So it’s not bad weather, I’m just wearing the rain slicker because for some reason the special field reporter uniform consists of a white circle inside a red circle inside a white circle inside a red circle, and so on and so forth. I have integrity, and I’m not going to be a shill for Target, no matter how friendly their customer service.

      Now, the city isn’t actually evacuated yet, so we’re seeing massive casualties and ramifications felt all over the world as tech support in the U.S., Canada, the UK, France, Germany, and Spain has gone offline. I’m getting a message here from the Yangban media liaison who would like viewers to know that China is prepared to handle the IT needs of the decadent imperial Western powers, and my lucky numbers are 3, 7, 9, 42, and 69.

      Needless to say, the Chinese, parahumans, and Indians have all made one of the classic blunders in fighting a land war against an Endbringer in Asia.

      We’re going to take a break from the killzone here, as we like to call it in the field, and go interview some people way on the back lines. I think I saw Weaver running around earlier, and she has a good track record at surviving these things so I’d rather be closer to her. This is Sigh Cho Gekko, back to you in the studios, Bob.”

  24. I like the mental image I get of Behemoth’s glowing eye sort of hovering and shining through the smoke above the city.

    Regarding the Yangban, my theory is that either A) there’s a secret chinese base contianign something nasty nearby, which is Behemoth’s target, B) they’re planning on making a power play and stomping the remaining capes when Behemoth leaves, or C) They’re planning on forcibly poaching powers from downed capes during the aftermath.

    • If they were just there to picke up the weakened survivors for their own nefarious purposes they probably wouldn’t have been among the first to confornt him, but instead made a fashionable late entry to save the day. Their initial barrage speaks either of honsty or complete disregard for the lives of their soldiers on the part of the C.U.I.

      Perhpas they were just motivate by a genuine desire to not see the world destroyed and think that now that the corrupt Protactorate is out of the way they have chance to make a difference and score some political points.

        • Going by Wildbow’s track record in the Wormverse “Everywhere is evil. Everywhere is good.” seems to be a theme.
          Taking into account how he/she dealt with many usually disregarded elements and tropes… I trust it will be done well. Horribly well.

  25. In spite of all the other shit hitting the fan, I have to call attention to Colin finally manning up and taking responsibility. I really think he’s grown a lot from who he used to be.

    …He’s going to die isn’t he

  26. So, after the first “Weaver” arc, I think I am done. At least for a while.

    I like Taylor as a villain, someone that spits on the system because it is broken. Taylor the Superhero is just not a story I am very interested in this far, it just makes me frustrated to see her bow to the PTR or go to jail. In fact, I have a irrational feeling of betrayal from Taylor abandoning the Undersiders. They are where my loyalties still lie.

    I still think Worm is excellently written, but the direction of the story in this arc is just annoying me too much, and Taylor on a “bad girl redemption arc” is just not my thing. Of course, it is not my story and so I have no real input on how it unfolds. Still, I am going to take a break from reading it. I will likely check back in a month or so to see how things are unfolding, but it does not look hopeful. It is not good when most of the chapters end with me feeling like Taylor should just kill everyone in the room and go back to the Undersiders.

    • I do get what you mean. I sometimes take a break when the story is getting too depressing (particularly if it’s heading for nasty cliffhangers) and then resume reading once the story has hit a less stressful patch.

    • If I were you I’d stick through the Behemoth Arc at least. I imagine that’ll mostly be fighting anyways and hopefully Taylor will follow TT’s instructions to be Skitter.

    • Eh, I’m liking a lot the story’s direction so far, and the “bad girl redemption” is definitely one of the best points. Expecially because I do not read it as a redemption, or Taylor as a “bad girl”.
      She’s a hero. High time she started to be one, instead of an heroic villain.

        • Umh… please do not take this as a snide remark, because it’s not, but genuine curiosity.
          Why did you read worm so far then? Taylor, labels aside, is a very convincing hero from the start.

          • That really depends on you definition of hero. Taylor has never been a classic “superhero” in the vein of most comic books, both because of her power and her outlook. That is the hook for the story. The idea that a supervillain is really doing a lot of good (and some evil) while still being a villain was what drew me here in the first place. What hooked me was the idea that Taylor finally found somewhere to fit in among the villains, not the heroes. Without it, I would never have come here and read the story.

            What I enjoyed about Taylor was mainly the villain aspect of her character: her need to act outside of the system, her dislike of authority, her ruthlessness and the creepy way she use her power. It was an interesting view into why an mostly nice and ethical kid like Taylor could become a super villain for reasons that are at least not completely self-serving (though there are certainly self-interest involved in her choices). The characters I enjoyed the most where the Undersiders.

            Once Taylor is no longer a villain or part of the Undersiders, and is confined by the system she was fighting earlier, this becomes just another superhero story. I just do not find those appealing, and this direction of the story is the least appealing and interesting way for it to evolve IMO.

            But of course, this is a matter of opinion. Other may enjoy the this direction of the story. I told myself to give it an Arc to try and see where the story was going, and I have.

    • I don’t think Taylor is on a “bad girl redemption arc”, because that would assume that we’re meant to believe the PRT are totally or even mostly in the right, and they’re clearly not.

      I think prison and many of her restrictions are stupid top, many of us do, and I miss the Undersiders- but that’s the point! We’re meant to feel frustrated for Taylor, to chafe against her incarceration and restrictions just as she has, to feel worried for her, and feel some of her heartbreak having her loved ones taken from her! That’s how good a writer wilbow is, and how emotive a character Taylor is, that we end up feeling that!

      Taylor did an incredibly difficult, brave thing, because Dinah told her it would improve the world’s chances, and because she wanted to save the PRT, because horribly broken as it was, humanity still needs it. She’s imprisoned and restricted and being bullshitted to, even made to feel guilty for things she shouldn’t, she’s had her loved ones taken from her, and she knew that was close to the best case scenario when she surrendered. And she did it anyway, because it was the right thing to do, not for her but for the world. That’s the hero she is.

      I also predict that one way or another, by the end of the next arc the situation on that front will be rather different, so maybe try staying the course a little longer?

      • I feel I have to clear something up:
        I do not think Taylor is a “bad girl”, just that she is having a “bad girl redemption” arc, where the main character is put into some kind of system (juvie, psychiatric care, camp or reform school) that she hates/dislikes, then sees the error of her ways slowly when she sees that all the people in the system are not so horrible, learning to trust them, make friends and in the end conform to normal society. I DISLIKE such arcs with a passion, and Taylor is playing through one now.

        As I said, I enjoy Taylor as a villain. A heroic villain, or a more ruthless villain, both were good. Taylor as a hero, on the other hand, I have never really liked.

        • I don’t think she is on such a “bad girl redemption arc”, or will end up repudiating everything or even very much at all of she did before, and I spent quite a bit of time outlining that. Since you’re responding to a position that is not my own and seems to be mostly of your imagination, I don’t see a fruitful path forward for further discussion.

          Have a nice day : )

          • I did read your outline above, but found it pretty much uninteresting. I know what is happening in the story, I just dislike it, and find Taylor’s reasons for doing what she has done both unconvincing and unappealing. Nor do I trust Dinah or her predictions to the extent Taylor seems to do.

            I did not really find any need to respond to what you had written, other than to clarify my initial point about the arc Taylor has been placed on, with her going through most of the tropes already.

            I do however enjoy being insulted, so thanks for that.

            • Insulted? I’m kinda perplexed by that.

              I say that I thought you’d mischaracterized my argument, and we should leave things were they were, and you take it as a personal insult? What comment did I make about you, that could constitute an insult?

              That’s just, erm… Wow.

              • Two possible things that could be taken as an insult

                1. Saying his position is based off his imagination

                2. Saying Have a Nice Day

        • She isn’t seeing the error of her ways though. She’s showing them the error of their ways.

        • Belatedly (I’m only just now getting around to reading my comment notification emails): I think I see what you mean about the “bad girl redemption arc” thing — it’s not the traditional take on it, because her ‘redemption’ is chiefly attributable to her own personality reacting to the removal of her prior influences, rather than her personality being reshaped by her new influences … but I see it. For my own part, though, I didn’t enjoy Taylor as a villain because I never read Taylor as a villain, so my frustration with these PRT-Taylor chapters welled from the same spring as Taylor’s: Weaver’s not kicking ass the way Skitter kicked ass. Which puts me in a position where I expect things to grow more to my liking in the future, and you (I expect) in a position where you do not.

          And I’m sorry about that. I know what it’s like to watch a serial I enjoy metamorphose into something I don’t enjoy at all*, and I see no shame in letting go. I hope wildbow will surprise you in a month when you return, but if he doesn’t, I hope the fun you had will quell the disappointment.

          * Dominic Deegan: Oracle for Hire. I enjoyed it when it was about a misanthropic (but fundamentally heroic) village fortune-teller using his wits, miscellaneous cantrips, and a minor gift for seeing the future to deal with a succession of oddball problems. When said village fortune-teller was retconned into a legendary master mage destined to fight against world-threatening trans-dimensional horrors using a suite of prophetic powers that would make a hypothetical Bonesaw-hybrid of Accord, Tattletale, and Dinah look like Kid Lose? Meh.

        • Smeh. I think half the point of Worm is that both ‘hero’ and ‘villain’ are overly simplistic labels that are imposed by society and that do very little to sum up the complexity of an individual human being.

          I don’t see it so much as a ‘redemption arc’ as an arc where Taylor starts to realise how complex the world actually is. It’s not so simple as ‘heroes good, villains bad’ and it’s ALSO not so simple as ‘villains good, heroes bad’.

          Taylor’ s not ‘going over to the side of the angels’ because there isn’t one. She’s doing what she’s always done – making the best choices she can in an imperfect world.

          In short: as long as Taylor continues to be Taylor this’ll be worth reading, regardless of what label she wears this week..

    • I can follow your reasoning. There’s internal continuity. Though personally I’d view it as one of the stretches one has to bear for the fun parts. For instance, the early arcs didn’t quite catch me the later ones did, but due to having been slightly spoiled beforehand I knew there were parts ahead I would really like. So yeah, if it will help you to wait for more interesting chapter to be published, wait for them and then you can read the backlog of not-so-captivating one leading up to the fun parts.

    • Somehow I think that Taylor will give “defying the system” a new meaning when she gets out of this fight and Glen complains about something like:
      Why didn’t you use only butterflies?

    • It’s never quite so simple as conforming to the PRT. She’s not going to do that. Even while she’s playing nice with them, she’s trying to get them to change and she’s breaking the rules a little on her own.

      Wildbow’s too smart a writer to give us such a great insight into the flaws from the villainside to have Taylor ignore them to play nice.

      As for redemption stories, I am intrigued by more legitimate attempts at it. Unfortunately, I feel they tend to be overdone. Most people, when they get their hands on a bad guy character who might look good to the audience, play it out as redeeming them.

      That’s a good way to make them less interesting and it’s just not all that realistic because most people out there running around doing despicable things are doing so because they are convinced it is the right thing to do. A lot of audacity can go with that and it helps build the character, but for redemption they have to recognize they are wrong and they tend to have to just excuse the flaws of the other side because the other side is “normal” even when they were legitimately correct to point them out.

      Not that they’re all like that. Some villains know what they’re doing is wrong and just raise hell because it’s the best way to get what they want.

      All in all, I like how it went with Faith from the Buffyverse. She got in too deep, tried to protect herself, tried to run and hide and bury the worries in hedonism, but she was legitimately troubled by what she’d done. Didn’t want to face it because she was too scared of the punishment they’d give her or the one she thought she deserved.

      Bottom line: I’ll keep reading Worm. Redemption stories are not generally done well.

      • Real life:
        My granfather told me that many killers for hire that he met when young “changed their ways” and decided to become good religious people when old.
        Of course, fear of death and what comes beyond is not exactly a new reason for “redemption”. But really, it happens that some very bad guys decide to have a family and settle down when older. These are exactly the right guys to patrol your neighborhood.

        • I don’t put a lot of trust in anecdotes of people who all of a sudden changed their lives from being wicked, sinful people to being good, decent religious folk.

          I’m not saying no one changes their ways ever, but it’s either a much slower process than books and TV shows depict, or it is faster when, as Jim Cornette would say, “Only when no one else will take their calls.” Now you can rehab people, fit them into society, but that’s no guarantee that they’re changed. It’s still good, but it may simply be the difference between someone who will steal to eat who has food and a job and someone who will steal to eat who doesn’t have food or a job.

          Or maybe I’m just a cynical bastard. There’s compelling evidence for both arguments.

          • Nope, they probably didn’t becomes nice religious folk. Only folk afraid to die and go to hell because of their past sins.
            Besides, a family tends to make some bad guys settle down and steal in more profitable ways (like politics) instead of risking their lives like they did when younger.
            Anyway, after talking with the sheriff of the city where my grandfather passed his last days I got a strong feeling that it was the kind of place where a thief wake up tied to a lamppost … by his neck.
            Not a place full of nice people, but criminality was certainly not very high.

  27. Nobody mentioned Behemoth’s greatest weakness yet? “Line of Sight” limitations and Grue in the field should prove interesting – especially since Grue can leech physical powers… and it doesn’t get any more physical than Behemoth.

    As for Behemoth and dealing damage, he’s a 50-foot giant made of rock. Assuming density equal to rock average (3) and his being twice as thick as a human of the same height, he should weigh around 1000 tons. Even if he had merely proportional human strength, each one of his blows would pancake a building (average wrecking ball weight is merely 5 tons). Now, consider how he can jump around several city blocks at a time or force his way through the Earth’s crust and what that means for his actual strength and speed – he could simply jump around at half the speed of sound or so, each jump leveling a city block from the impact every few seconds. Within a couple of hours, a New-York-sized city would have been thoroughly flattened even without his energy projection.
    What I do not understand is why he surfaces above the city at all. All he needs to do is move about a mile beneath the city and start projecting as much heat and radiation as fast as he can. In less than a day, the entire city would have collapsed into a pool of radioactive magma but long before this happened every water main and sewer would have burst from explosive vaporization, the metal skeletons of all concrete buildings would have expanded far more than the concrete around them and the buildings would have crumbled, asphalt in roads and pavements would have melted and so on and so forth. And no hero could possibly engage him AT ALL.

    Now, as to fighting Behemoth directly, he’s not actually invulnerable – those lasers seem to deal at least some damage. Dragon could build a weapon to kill him them. For example, a 100.000 Kw nuclear reactor is the size of a small house and weighs 2000 tons (i.e. the reactors in a Nimitz-class supercarrier). Dragon could squeeze space similar to her Birdcage to make a 3000 ft x 3000 ft x 3000 ft space be small enough to fit a supertanker (no more than 50 ft across) and then fill up that space with thirty thousand reactors or so. Attach that cube in aforementioned tanker for the power supply. Attach massive real-tech ion thrusters using air as fuel into the tanker capable of lifting it – just a crude but extremely powerful air intake that leads the air into an electric arc to be ionized and then the ionized air through a 100-foot extremely powerful electromagnetic coil that acts as a magnetrohydrodynamic impeller. Then add to the ship a crude but extremely powerful 1000-foot laser and a few similar-sized railguns and 30 feet of steel all around the ship for some protection.
    Basically, it’s the simplest, most powerful weapon buildable with real technology of the ’70s and Dragon’s supertech only allows for an extremely powerful power supply to be added. The usual limitations of supertech (i.e. the tinker-exclusive maintenance) are negated by using RL technology and what you get is a 3 petawatt laser on a system capable of perpetual low orbit. “3-petawatt-laser” can also be read as “delivers the power of a megaton nuke concentrated on a few square feet… every second”. It’s a weapon that can literally level cities from thousands of miles away in a single blow with unlimited ammunition.

    • Behemoth close range on hit kill power that ignore manton effect don’t seem to be line of sight only his long range lighting throw type of abilities.

      As for killing him with conventionla weapons: Note that we learned that he and the other Endbringers get denser as you go deeper in. Just because you can hurt the outer layers as the Chinese barrage just did or as Skitter manged with her borrowed polearm against Leviathan does not mean that they would be able to do any damge at all as it goes deeper in. I guess there is some diminishing returns issue going on her with the damge dealt hitting an asymptotic limit eventually.

      • Two points;

        1) The useful stuff – limbs, eye, other sensory organs – are near the surface and at least the eye appears more vulnerable than the hands. Melting those away with a single energy burst won’t kill him but it will cripple him, making fighting him that much easier. He can’t hit what he can’t see or hear after all.

        2) Beyond a certain power, energy weapons don’t deal physical damage. A hit from a petawatt-range laser means you have high-energy photons penetrating deep into your mass and then spontaneously converting to matter and antimatter via the “pair production” phenomenon.
        It doesn’t matter how tough some creature or machine is – once pieces of material start spontaneously appearing on the inside of its brain equivalent and scrambling it, it won’t feel so hot. And once the delivered antimatter starts matter-annihilation chain reactions, it can kiss any delicate internal organs goodbye – because pieces of them will spontaneously dematerialize.

        Effectively, at that level real-life energy weapons combine the effects of Flechette’s projectiles and Scrub’s power at the same time on a dispersed microscopic scale all across the target’s mass. Fun huh?

        • It looks like you’re from Spacebattles or Stardestroyer.
          Regardless of that, mayhaps Dragon can’t move spatial distortions, making the Birdcage and it’s tech non-movable.
          The power supply, though… if you remember Coil’s coup at the city hall or what was it with the mayor, Kid Wins energy source seemed rather potent.
          And I’m probable wrong on this part, but when you’re firing a Petawatt laser you do get cooling problems. Not to mention having to develop/adapt the technology at what have you. I’m not saying it’s impossible, but perhaps you don’t want to show the possibility of such a “mostly mundane” weapons platform to the world at large.

          • You have to understand comickry, the default SpaceBattles response to meeting new life is always “How can we kill it?”. We don’t even use the plans that much any more, but it’s just our way.

            Don’t actually recognise eresh from SB, though that certainly doesn’t mean he isn’t from there, we’re a big family. But in any case, feel happy that he’s a fairly conventional thinker, by our standards. If he was a true Grade A SBer who really decided to cut loose, he’d have a workable plan to turn Behemoth and Leviathan into renewable energy sources, and make the Smiurgh into an asteroid deflection system.

            Don’t ask how. SpaceBattles finds a way.

            We designed a warship that fired multiverses as projectile weapons once, just for the hell of it.

            • It was not meant as negative critique, but rather an observation.

              For what it’s worth, I can see the mindset and certainly enjoy it from time to time. Of the examples you mentioned, given some measure to control/limit the Endbringers, I can see some scenarios on how to deploy them. Have Leviathan use his macroscale hydrokinesis to provide the drag and pressure for tidal power plants. Limit somehow Big B and run water pipes by him, heating/evaporating it thus powering a turbine. Only Simurgh is hard, since she merely has medium scale telekinetics or something. Given control over her, though… let her nudge people in the best direction, with them at least feeling, for the most part, as if they have free will.

              Reminds me of Sleeping With The Girls, written by someone on SB, with the forum responses to the Self Insert’s question on how to deal with randomly jumping fictional universes was not in the line of “preserve the timeline” but rather “weaponize everything, become the Outside Context Problem everyone fears”.

        • Possible confounding variables:

          1) IMO, he has no line-of-sight limitation, but just seeks out passengers belonging to capes most likely to work against Endbringer interests. What we think of as fumbling around blind is actually him searching for the just the right passenger-infected entity to kill.

          2) The Simurgh can appropriate and reprogram weapons, as well as scramble code…with her brain. Literally without even expending much effort–just a slight change of course.

          3) Given what we know about the Wormverse, this weapon would never get built. Even if Cauldron did it, I’d wager that the CUI and a variety of other entities know where their bases are and have some way to get to them, but don’t under some sort of truce. Building a gigantic orbital weapon would create some serious balance of power issues.

        • Yes, lets use a massive energy weapon on the being that controls energy and directs it at nearby enemies. After that, lets try drowning Leviathan and capturing Simurgh with a trapdoor.

    • “Basically, it’s the simplest, most powerful weapon buildable with real technology of the ’70s”

      “It’s a weapon that can literally level cities from thousands of miles away in a single blow with unlimited ammunition.”

      Oh wow eresh, that was a triumph. If you’re not an SBer my friend, then you should be, you will feel like you’ve come home.

      If you’re on the site already or are prompted to register, throw me a link to your profile and I’ll follow you.

      • I’m actually a resident of Weber Forums much of my online time. David Weber the writer that is – the guy that is writing one of the most successful and longer-lasting “hard” science fiction novel series. Battles there are fought with fleets of hundreds of fusion-powered, paragravity-propelled multimegaton spaceships each of which can potentially fire thousands of missiles at relativistic velocities. And that means a single missile out of the ungodly number being fired is capable of causing a 40-gigaton impact and subsequent artificial Fimbulwinter if it hits a planet by accident.

        And the guy’s future tech is accurate enough, if you ignore the required “one big lie” of FTL travel, that you got army people, weapons engineers, mathematicians and physicists arguing about the designs of his starships on a hard-science basis in the forums.

        • You should come to SpaceBattles, we always need more new blood, especially people who think technically. SpaceBattles and Honor Harrington go waaaay back as well, we have our own jokes about the series, and arguments about it that are older than most websites.

          • The first couple Honor Harrington books are online free to read, which is fun. The premise is napoleonic naval combat, IN SPACE!. Titular character is a commander vaguely styled after Nelson, serving her Wueen in the navy of Space! Britain, fighting Space! France. The setting is actually surprisingly well worked out, and other than the hand-wavey stuff the sci fi is surprisingly hard.

            A nice thing to read in your lunch breaks, in my experience.

          • Nooooo, don’t look him up! Non unless you have a couple months free.

            Seriously, it’s like having half a dozen worm to read all of a sudden.

            He’s good and prolific. It’s a killer combination against your free time.

    • A think the sheer heat given off by putting 30 thousand reactors in a small space would cause it spontaneously combust. Not to mention the massive resources needed to build said reactors then shrink them down without breaking them.

    • I think the worrying word there, when dealing with a dynakinetic, is ‘laser’. Yes, Yangban’s lasers got through and maybe your petawatt laser would get through. But if Behemoth *is* on the ball enough to intercept that incoming energy and redirect it outwards then you’ve just given him enough power to instantly fry everyone opposing him…

  28. – Defiant’s really coming around. Hope he survives
    – Tattletale’s on site. So is Accord. Good.
    – Lizardtail is not on site. Bad. His synergy with Grue would have been useful
    – “hot” and “cold” running supers. Heh.
    – more knowledge of how the Yangban operates. Further proof they have a way of transferring powers to suitable recipients.
    – these guys are going about it all wrong. Freeze rays? Energy beams? Naw, they need every Breaker and Shaker in the land. The space-folders and time-benders, the reality-warpers and the situ-changers*; that’s what needs to be in play here.
    – any of Bakuda’s gear left? Might come in handy
    – deeply worried about the imminent body count. I know people have to die; I just don’t _want_ them to

    *I really really like that term. “Situ-change.” It just rolls off the tongue. So evocative …

    • Considering what happened the last time they tried using Bakuda Bombs on an Endbringer, I don’t know if that’s the best idea. But hey at least Dauntless and the others left good looking corpses.

    • I think you’re probably on the right path there.

      Lung showed what happened when you bring an irresistible force to bear on the Endbringers. They simply resist it. Meaning they’re not playing by the same laws that govern the rest of Worm’s reality. They’re impossibly dense, but it probably goes beyond that.

      Doesn’t mean they’re unbeatable. Everything has a bad day.

      In the case of the Endbringers, I’m guessing that’ll be the day somebody figures out how to hit them with something that’s more “meta” than they are. “Fun with portals” is the first thing that springs to mind, but with as many different powers as there in the Wormverse, the GM in me just knows that there are an endless array of degenerately broken combinations available.

      • Oooh! Infinitely thin blades! Not simple monoblades, but by physical definition. Like, you can make portals between two places and can move the portals as if they are objects. Basing on the principles employed you can have two-dimensional portal panes, and two-dimensionality exists, see Noelle’s Vista-clones. Since the portal pane is thin as or thinner than the Planck length…

      • My favourite power in Mutants and Masterminds to make was a dimensional portal that I could move around at will, so I could slice anything in half. 😀

          • tunnel*

            Seriously, what the fuck typos? What the fuck? Am I going to misspell fuck next? This isn’t Shakespeare here. I don’t need a roomful of monkeys, but I expect one single damn primate could handle typing!!

      • Lung lost to Leviathan because his power cut out on him mid-fight (one popular theory being that it requires an audience to work – and Leviathan isn’t ‘person’ enough to count as one). The jury’s still out on whether Lung *could* have beaten him.

        Lung decided in the end that Leviathan is unbeatable. That doesn’t make it true, but believing it probably does mean that his power won’t kick in for him if he tries to fight Leviathan again.

        • I read that as it failed when Leviathan fled,aka stopped fighting.But really,unstopable force vs Leviathan would result in the same destruction around the battlefield,and Leviathan fleeing 10 hits before it could destroy him,having accomplished its purpose.You need something to hold the Endbringers in place,or to hunt them when they flee,first and foremost,as it seems that they are not invincible per se ,just enganging in highly effective guerilla warfare.

  29. Finally done with the archive binge. Took a week out of my life. No regrets.

    Will stick around ’till the end. No much other point to this post than conveying appreciation.


    • A week of your life? That’s nothing. Some of us have lost so much of our lives to worm that we’ve practically gone mad and started drooling all over ourselves. Can’t tell you who specifically, as they tend to keep to themselves. Hold up, have to wipe my mouth.

      Oh, sure you have no regrets so far. But you’ll get regrets. Oh yes. I guarantee you there’s more dark moments like with Blasto and the S9 on the way. And instead of getting done with that chapter and jumping to the next one, you’ll just have to sit and stew, like the Roadkill Special down at your local diner. Many a brave soul has tried to occupy their time in the comments section. Beware, should you stay here, they say you may yet be welcomed by the mad king of the comments, the lord of annoyance, the footman of the foot fetish, some fellow what called Psycho Gecko. Stick with me and I’ll make sure that doesn’t happen.

      Welcome, Gabe, to the comments section. Enjoy.

      • That does reflect a fear I have, how can one manage to live with a slow trickle of updates to find the ending of something like the current fight with Behemoth? I could be left in suspense for a month.

        Maybe we’ll be spared and in the next chapter Scion descends, oneshots the Endbringer with one beam and lethal intent and they all get to go home.

        (The pessimist in me expects though, that promptly after this Scion is revealed to be the first of Endbringers and we’ll just sink deeper into the pit of depresssion.)

  30. Fiuuu, finally made it. Discovered this by chance last week and read it nonstop. Kudos to wildbow for this excellent story (voted it on topwebfic).

    Also,Tattletale and Accord working together? BEHEMOTH is fucked!

    • Hello there, AMR.

      Behemoth hasn’t been fucked before and I doubt Accord and Tattletale are going to be the ones to pop it’s defeat cherry. If anyone’s going to do the fucking, it’s the one-eyed, rock hard monster from below. If Tattletale thinks she can fix it, she’ll find out she’s the nail and she’s about to get hit by the hammer. And by hammer, I mean Behemoth.

      Though I do hear when you’re fighting wild monsters that they really hate it when you stick your finger up their bum. It also riles up people, so they probably don’t want to try that unless they’re ready to receive as well as they give. Bound to be quite a shock. Thunderbolts, lightning, it’s very very frightening to me.

      Galileo! Galileo Figaro!

      Considering the Leviathan fight, the weakest of the Endbringers, I think it’s safe to say you’re going to get to stick around here and argue with the rest of us on the best way to kill an night invincible super monster from the depths. I suggest Foil’s power on a massive harpoon that has nanoblades built in. Embed it right in the middle of the critter, activate the walls, and watch as Behemoth is chopped up into various sections. Maybe 4, maybe 8, however many slices of Endbringer Deep Dish they want (In honor of Weaver joining the Chicago Wards).

      Welcome to the comments, AMR. Prepare for a bumpy ride.

      • I was being facetious more than anything else 🙂

        But seriously, why the heck the world’s major powers haven’t started filling Accord’s bank account with shitloads of money and a note like ” you’re the guy who solves problems as fast as they’re complicated,right? well, here’s the biggest problem of them all: stopping the Endbringers. Get to work.”

        • Because Accord has a record of essentially zero. Not to say his plans fail, its just that no one ever implements them. 😛

          • Ok, forget about world’s governments. But Cauldron? They have at least a business relationship with him. They have an employee who can make perfect calculations in his mind. Number Man working in tandem with Accord would probably help coming with feasible solutions instead of Accord’s more ludicrous ideas (giant bladed pendulums,anyone?). But,nooooo, they just let him hang around playing king of the mountain in Boston and Brockton Bay.

            • Now that could come down to Accord not being stable enough for Cauldron. They’ll take his money and give him capes but they don’t trust him to not fall apart at a crucial moment.

  31. As my favorite lich sorceror often says, there’s a level of power against which tactics simply don’t work. It doesn’t matter how clever you are when the bad guy can take your best shot without flinching and flatten you like a bug. Or, to paraphrase Dr. Manhattan, the world’s smartest man is no more a threat to Behemoth than its smartest termite.

    To do a chess analogy, give the world’s greatest chessmaster a King and a Knight and a beginner player a full side. It doesn’t matter how clever the world’s greatest Chessmaster is, he still loses dismally and swiftly.

      • Considering I’ve seen a very similar situation played out and the master chessplayer won…

        • A numbers versus experience and knowledge scenario in a game that’s all about strategy and tactics is not how I’d generally represent the idea of an unstoppable force that can’t be stopped by tactics, especially as it’s the heroes that are the numerically superior force here.

    • I don’t actually buy this argument. The most overwhelming force is only useful if it can be brought to bear on the enemy. The most sturdy defence is only useful if the enemy can’t find another avenue of approach.

      For your chess example, “If you leave right now you can rescue your family before your house explodes. Sadly that means you’ll have to forfeit the match.” should suffice to win against overwhelming force.

      Remember when Skitter was the unbeatable Warlord of Brockton Bay? In the end she was toppled not through force but through the tactic of making it clear to her that her goals were better served by surrendering.

      At this point I have no idea what tactic could possibly be viable against Behemoth. That doesn’t mean there isn’t one.

    • Kinda hard to take your favourite evil lich sorcerer’s argument when it was used against an oppoment who also used overhelming force,and when his only 2 loses (the reason he became a lich and his first fight at the end off the dungeon,even though he wasn’t going all out)happened due to smart,not force.

      We are talking about Xykon,right?

      Yes,there is a level of force no one can beat with smarts.Its called instictual time looped time travel…only one character,who is already here ,in another story,has it,but everything below is fair game.

  32. So, no one can seriously can expect Taylor to stick to a few thousand imported butterfiles for this fight, can they?

    I mean, with the full range of insects in the area, she will have hundreds if not thousands of times the mass of bugs, and be able to handle SAR, (well the SA part anyway), recon, communications, and continually swarm Behemoth with decoys. Simultaneously, if she really pulls out all the stops.

    There’s not even an issue of looking scary or hurting people in a scary way, because Behemoth is immune to poison and he’s the only one they’ll be fighting*, and Taylor has no need to cover heself in a big amorphous swarm, she should not be getting close to Behemoth, and that obviates the need for it.

    We can expect the PRT to have at least that basic degree of sanity, right?


    If not, then one begins to wonder if the all PRT headquarters were built with lead pipes or something…

    *(Unless wilbow pulls shenanigans.)

  33. One wonders, each of the Endbringers attacking roughly once a year, how much time and effort the PRT (which seems to take the lead in Endbringer fights) spends on planning for the next fight. Dragon’s measures to slow Behemoth up are a good thing, but I feel like there should be more to the plan after they’ve been doing this dance for a decade or more.

    Plus, it feels like they’re throwing together a plan at the last moment, like with Leviathan. Chevalier even says getting more numbers than expected won’t be much help, presumably because they can’t coordinate well. Why doesn’t everyone know the basics of the battleplan and where they slot into it?

    • Amen, sounds like the Yangbang dudes are more organised and have a battleplan- how the PRT with all it’s military expertise couldnt come up with one is beyond me.
      Then again @ereshkigala has a point.

      • Presumably the Protectorate organizing in a more militaristic way would give bad vibes to the American people/government (look how much effort they put in the PRT charade). Whereas the Chinese government, if it is remotely similar to ours, probably couldn’t care less.

          • Also another thing is they can’t be sure ahead of time which villians are going to show up. They make a plan that hinges on having a lot of brutes, and all the villians they get are movers, the plan they had is no good.

            • They can’t even be sure which /heroes/ are going to show up. Remember, participation in Endbringer and other Class-S fights is totally voluntary for Protectorate capes. Even aside from sudden attacks of reasonable self-preservation, there are a dozen reasons any given cape might not be able to show, ranging from sickness or injury to simply being in a situation at the time that makes it impractical to transport them halfway across the world without delaying others. When you consider the non-Protectorate heroes, the rogues, and so on, compounded by the fact that every cape has radically different strengths, weaknesses, tactics, and training, I think it’s amazing that they manage to mount any sort of coordinated effort at all.

              • Gee, sounds almost like they could use someone in command with good tactical thinking, the ability to apply powers outside the box, and massive multitasking abilities…

            • Something that the Yangban with their brainwashed jack of all trades have no problem with. Just hoping they are not giving the “new” Protectorate strange ideas.

            • They are allowed to have more than one plan prepared though.

              And even if they don’t know in advance who’s gonna show, it should be possible to have some basic stratagems queued up like “Squishy ranged attackers, keep your distance as you attack and pair up with someone with defensive powers. Defensive types, play defence on the squishies. Anyone capable of actually *surviving* up close, get in his face and do your best to keep him distracted”.

              Coordinating was appalling too. “Oh, Taylor, you go gossip with your buds for a while. Once Behemoth shows up, go meet the team you’ll actually be fighting him with and get to know who they are”. Yeah.

    • Actually, Endbringer attacks occur roughly 3-4 times a year, and it’s mentioned that they’re increasing in frequency. The time between this attack and Leviathan was just under 2 and a half months in-story.

      The main issue is that they don’t know enough to come up with solid Endbringer plans – capes are /constantly/ dying, and no two capes have the same power. Heck, the closest time/place estimations made by “Cape Experts” were a month too late and an entire continent away.

      • Each individual Endbringer: BEHEMOTH, Leviathan and the Smurf (need to see about getting Leviathan a nickname, he’s got bad middle child syndrome) attack once, maybe twice a year. Then they rest and regenerate from cape-inflicted damage in their particular safe area. Each attack gives them a bit more information on how THAT PARTICULAR Endbringer fights.

        We see they’re applying a few of these hard-earned lessons in their more general strategies. Against Behemoth they stall, slow and contain while praying for Scion to show up. They dogpile Leviathan to take him out before he reaches tsunami level, and pray for Scion. The Simurgh gets hit in waves, letting them rotate heroes out of her powers reach while keeping the pressure up and praying for Scion.

        Aside from Colin, who created software to forecast attacks and predict the Endbringer’s movements, and whatever individuals collected the samples Accord stole from the PRT, I get the feeling no one is really planning, prepping for, or studying the problem of the Endbringers. Where’s the PRT think-tank where a dozen thinkers and experienced military officers discuss emergency plan 120(c) “Leviathan attacks a mid-sized coastal city with generous aquifer?” I’m not talking about exploiting wonderwaffen powers, though Clockie was sort of key to dealing with Leviathan and I wonder if while Myrrdin was alive he ever tried sending an Endbringer… somewhere else. I’m talking about covering the obvious angles and probable scenarios, and while you’re at it, the improbable ones.

        When Behemoth first attacked, Alexandria assumed he was a transformed human. No one knew differently before Lisa, a decade later. They also didn’t know about progressive layers getting tougher “until they destroy everything we understand of how molecules work.” The heroes treat the Endbringers, besides Smurfette obviously, as dumb animals. Yet Leviathan had a definite objective, as Behemoth does now. Leviathan is clearly smart enough to play rope-a-dope with Colin. The Smurf probably has a 30-year plan. Point is, despite sharing information being included in the Endbringer Truce, despite a decade of knock-out, drag-down fights they know next to nothing.

    • You have a high turnover rate in regards to capes surviving the fights. If one in four dies, after a year taking part in every Endbringer battle, your chances are of survival, with everyone having the same probability, are (3/4)^4 < 1/3. Less than one in three. That's a horrible attrition rate! And horrible loss of tactics, since, going on a limb here, most capes don't learn to fight in larger groups beyond their core, so whatever is learned during these battles is probably lost soon enough.

      What could help tremendously: Debriefing after every Endbringer battle.

    • He is lucky that he still has unfinished business with his father or he would not stand a chance to survive this.

      As it is with Rachel and Brian just having been subject of a fakeout, they are probably safe too. Aisha and Lisa are definitely in danger. The wards and ambassadors even more so. It could even see wildbow killing of Theo after building up everyone’s expectations like that just to screw with people…

      Whoever the victims are I fully expect at least one of Taylor’s extended team to be killed in the next arc and some more named characters outside that team.

      If it was a comic book there would be regent on the cover and a speech balloon informing us that “In This Issue A Cape Dies!”. The trade-paperback collection containing the issue, that comes out when the identity is no longer a secret, would feature Skitter/Weaver cradling the unfortunate victim in the standard Pietà pose, unless it is Imp, them Grue can do the cradling.

      • The Night [Insert Undertsider Name Here] Died!!!

        On a (very) slightly more serious tone, if Theo didn’t have Aster and Purity to worry about, I wouldn’t be surprised if he decides that suicide via Behemoth is preferable to whatever Jack will do to him.

      • I can certainly imagine Foil and Parian both dying, or one of them dying while the other watches, that would seem a good way to hit us right in the feels without major plot consequences.

      • I wonder how Wildbow does the deciding part. Is it purely narrative consideration, with a bigger plot in mind, or are the capes assigned some random survival probability and then run through a random number generator?

        • Maybe WB just trades notes with GRRM? I’m still laughing at TV watchers reactions to the Red Wedding. I read the books. And I laughed.

          • I thought they’d filmed it well, with the song and sudden dawning horror. Suspenseful, viciously violent, and I hope shocking to those who didn’t read.

            People’s reactions are just hilarious.

          • I know a guy who switched his TV-watcher brother’s laptop background with Walder Frey smiling just in time for the episode to start. He didn’t find out until 20 mins later. The story from the horse’s mouth is in my name.

  34. For planning against the Endbringers, things that are missing after over a decade of fights are;

    1) Quick transportation of large numbers of people. Seriously Dragon, 45 minutes to go from Chicago to India? NASA, our real world crappy, underfunded, short-sighted, bureaucratic excuse of a space exploration agency produced Scramjets capable of Mach 17 with an (unrealized) potential for Mach 30 even being limited to chemical fuel and the aforementioned crappy funding. That’s 25 minutes for the Chicago-India run. And our ’70s tech, chemical fuel ICBMs are capable of 6 miles / second in a HALO approach, doing the run in 18 minutes.
    Come on, gal! Put those nuclear-powered magnetrohydrodynamic ion thrusters in production and make craft capable of 5g acceleration with a maximum of 20 miles/second in a HALO approach so they can get anywhere on the planet within 15 minutes max. They are not even supertech – just too real life costly and potentially dangerous for anyone to actually build them.

    2) Orbital weaponry. Seriously, the US navy built lasers capable of 200-300 miles of range and enough accuracy to hit missiles and artillery shells going up to Mach 2 from those ranges – and the system was small enough to be mounted on airplanes.
    If Cauldron was really serious about stopping the bad guys and Endbringers, they’d use their ungodly amount of cash (Numbers Man is capable of any amount of cash), their totally secure base (building stuff in other dimensions since 1999) and their massive influence and superpowered help to mass produce the things then launch them into an orbital network. If a couple thousand of normal-tech orbital lasers and similar weaponry hit an Endbringer at once, they’d cause serious damage and the only Endbringer capable of retaliating would be the Simurgh – at which point you’d get her in open space with nothing to hide behind, no possibility of collateral damage and an excellent target for long-range, non-computer-controlled, cold-war-style nuclear artillery. Fry everything within 50 miles of her with a forty-gigaton nuclear fireball capable of melting mountains. No dodging, no defensive precognition, no using TK-wielded rocks for shield, no shenanigans and illusion shit capable of making you miss because even if you do miss by 20 miles, she’ll still be within the fireball that melts mountains.

    3) Rapid evacuation capability. Seriously, a helicopter capable of airlifting a 50-ton tank is also capable of airlifting 500 people and still costs way less than the building itself. Simply by demanding every building built has such airlift capability would almost entirely negate casualties by Endbringers. If we can build tens of millions of cars every year, we’re also capable of building tens of thousands of such helicopters.

    4) Life is not fair. DEAL WITH IT. Endbringers destroying a city every 4 months or so? Accept that a city will be destroyed every 4 months and build cities with 500.000 population at most. Even if a country like the old US of A eschews protections from Endbringers entirely, they will have 700+ cities. All the Endbringers would be able to do, even when focusing entirely on that country, would be to destroy 0.4% of said country each year. As long as you got a real growth of at least 0.4% per year to absorb the losses you could write the Endbringers off like another natural, unavoidable danger. Spread all over the world, the losses are going to be an insignificant 0.02% each year.
    I mean, freaking old age kills like 1.5% of everyone every year and demands perpetual support for 20% of the total population. It already costs way more than simply absorbing the losses of the Endbringers would.

    • I think the core problem with their response to the Endbringers is that since superheroes came first, that is what will be fighting them. But they haven’t realized yet that it’s utterly ineffective. The Protectorate wants desperately to cling to the failed, escapist public circus act of heroes and villains that they’re not only willing to turn it into a corporate PR machine and screw over marginalized people to keep it going, but also to compromise their ability to fight the Endbringers and cover up their incompetence with heroic melodrama.

      There’s also the fact that Cauldron is enabling this, actively supporting the propagation of cartoon bullshit while relying on overambitious contingencies to save the world.

      It makes me think that the Endbringer war has actually been going well for the US DESPITE their idiocy, because they haven’t had such a massive horrific loss on a scale that would give them a wake up call. Obviously Newfoundland and part of Japan sinking into the sea wasn’t big enough for them to wake the hell up.

    • 1 and 2 I can think of theoretical answers for. Number one might simply be a lack of resources and time spent. The chapter mentions that even Dragon, with her own unique nature, has to prioritize her time and resources. She probably has a huge budget, but there has to be limits. It might have been cheaper and more efficient to build more Dragon ships and she might not have run into someone with the tech to make those ships you talk about cheaper. I imagine that if she has any budget oversight, they would question building such ships when there might be a cape that has the ability to move a large group of people a great distance. Plus the wormverse is a scary place. I’m sure there are quite a few people who want more combat capable Dragon suits then great transports.
      Number two is obvious, no one wants another country to have such a weapon. They probably have a similar treaty prohibiting orbital weapons. Granted they should renegotiate in the face of the Endbringers and I would have thought the world might be a little more cooperative face with a common enemy of mankind.
      Number four is just unrealistic for the foreseeable future. Global warming will probably force New York to move if the ocean levels rise too much and no one in our universe is taking it seriously. Forcing millions of people to move will be almost impossible without the government becoming more authoritarian since everyone will say no. This also isn’t taking into account that the Endbringers aren’t just attacking cities. They’re attacking our sources of freshwater, oil fields, BEHEMOTH is turning portions of different countries into unlivable wastelands, and spreading out doesn’t really stop the Smurf’s attacks. I am curious about the state of the world just from the oil fields alone.

      • I agree with the orbital weaponry. Unless there’s some kind of treaty promising to glass the country using these weapons outside of Endbringer situations, no-one will or would allow this or be remotely comfortable with.

        But the Simurgh, well… okay, here’s a thought. Wildbow didn’t mention anything I’m aware of, but that might be a case of the narrator’s limited perspective, but what if there’s no significant satellites left? I’m talking about the SImurgh forcing every single one to crash, probably on people or installations right after Lausanne.
        This of course doesn’t prevent development of high powered lasers and installing them in complexes to use them against orbiting targets, like the Simurgh.

        • Both Dragon’s and Marquis’ interludes mention satellites (the latter case is, of course, where Simurgh interfered with the communication between the Birdcage and Dragon’s satellite). Probably other mentions elsewhere, those were just the “huh, sure someone mentioned using a satellite” ones.

      • Number four is worse than that. At least two of the Endbringers can do far worse damage than merely knocking over a city if left alone. The Simurgh creates enormous numbers of what appear to be hypnotically programmed terrorists on a delay timer. Leviathan sank *Japan* (and Newfoundland, but nobody cares about Newfoundland).

        So, no, leaving the Endbringers to ravage cities in peace and relying on outgrowing them is not practical.

    • Hey, you know who’s in orbit and can reprogram machinery with her brain?

      Let’s GIVE the Simurgh railguns.

    • I have to ask, how do you come to Gigaton Bombs? I remember the biggest one used being 70 Megatons, and there’s probably ways to increase that, especially since the Tsar was meant to be 50 Megatons, but aren’t there limits in how long you’re able to contain the explosion?

      • If I remember correctly (help me smart people) the problem is that after a certain point all the extra energy from a larger yield bomb gets funneled upwards by the atmosphere. You don’t get anymore bang for your buck, it just gets wasted by shooting into empty space. So your better off say going with 4 25 megaton bombs than one 100 megaton bomb.

        • Reasonable. Less resistance that way – Down is earth, reflecting concussive force somewhat. Around is air, limiting the speed at which pressure and energy can propagate. Up is less air, hence less resistance.

      • They attempted 100 megatons but therd were difficulties so they cut it down to 50. Tsar Bomba was still the biggest nuclear bomb even then.

        But it gets difficult, unleashing energy on a being that controls energy. Behemoth’s control isn’t perfet as Dragon showed in this chapter, but it is not a good scenario.

    • I doubt that you could get orbital weaponry into place, what with the Simurgh floating between you and orbit.

      Speaking of the Simurgh, her main power is to manipulate humanity into doing stupid or evil things. So you shouldn’t be surprised when humanity does stupid or evil things to combat her and her “family”.

      PS: I actually think getting to India in 45 minutes is pretty good, considering that they had no runway on either end and they were actually doing stuff inside the vehicle instead of being strapped down so that they’d survive the acceleration. That’s like 16 000 kilometres per hour. Which is what, Mach 13?

    • Couple of thoughts:
      1. In the Leviathan arc, it was mentioned that they only recently developed the techniques needed to detect an Endbringer attack with any time to prepare. This fight probably has the most warning the world has ever had for an attack. However, the hero’s response time seems slower this time ’round than we saw in that arc.
      Still, I agree that there should be more in the way of rapid response.
      2. No way in hell the Smurf would allow this to go through. Even if you managed to get such a weapon into orbit, when you fired it it would turn out that there is a fundamental flaw in the targeting system that means Boston gets bombarded while New York is under attack.
      3. The copter idea might be useful for evacuating in the event of BEHEMOTH. Leviathan comes with a massive storm, and the Smurf would find some way to subvert the evacuation methods.
      4. Good luck getting the world to agree to that.

      A big problem with dealing with the Endbringers is that they’re likely going to target anything that has a real chance of stopping them before it gets off the ground.

      • I think the bigger issue, even, is that there are three entirely different methods needed, and they don’t come on a set schedule. “Every four months or so” is handy, but they break timetables a lot. I imagine a lot of the sluggishness of people getting ready for BEHEMOTH is simply “wait that’s today?” when they’ve been predicting otherwise.

        But, yeah. Orbital platform would take out Leviathan. BEHEMOTH controls energy, it seems, and might well redirect some things. Either way, the Smurf would mess up the launch.

        Something no one in the story knows, of course, but that we do, is that the Smurf can alter things WITHOUT attacking. BEHEMOTH and Leviathan can’t. But the process of getting an orbital platform up and running would involve some communication that could be ruined horribly – tweaking the conversion ratio used to measure to something else almost, but not quite, close enough as to pass notice.

        • Another thing: Leviathan seems like the Endbringer that’s most easily killable with WMDs. Question is, do you actually want to do that? Because if Leviathan’s gone, the other two are going to be more active in return, if they keep with their schedule. Depending on which is the worst, even killing BEHEMOTH or the Smurf might not be desirable, if you can’t take down the other one, too.

          • Nope,thats not how it works,Endbringer schedule being more frequent coincides with there being more Endbringers.

    • The thing about going so fast is the negative effects it has on the human body. They may arrive 20 minutes sooner, but passed out and sore from the forces assaulting their bodies.

    • 1.) Dragon is an AI. Human passengers have to be able to survive accel/decel or you’ve wasted a trip. Shaving 27 minutes probably isn’t worth it if your passengers are turned to paste.

      2.) Yes, let’s just FILL orbital space with lasers, nukes, and Rods from God. We want the Doomsday weapons as close as possible to the Simurgh, who can scramble code, intercept signals and control machines. I can’t think of any way this could go wrong! Because, y’know, Smurf has always seemed like such a reasonable, responsible individual, someone we can trust with the power to end human life on earth. Why yes, I survived one of her so-called “attacks” how can you tell?

      3.) Still plenty vulnerable to 2 out of 3. Flying targets work even better for BEHEMOTH because he can see them for a good long time, and the Smurf can fly and rip them apart with her mind. Leviathan sits in his puddle and cries because no one wants to play with him, not his siblings, not even squishy humans. Still probably a marginally better idea than having everyone gather in bunkers that’ll keep an Endbringer out for maybe 0.2 seconds while being vulnerable to earthquakes, flooding and having people hang out near the Smurf.

      4.) Yeah, at the rate they’re going it’ll take a good long time to kill everything (assuming that is indeed their ultimate goal.) I give them points because they try and do things while capes stall them til Scion hurts them and drives them off. Who knows how far they’d go if nobody managed to stop them?

      • Simurgh already messed with a signal and tricked Dragon’s abilities. I’m SURE your standard government networks, what with their extreme cyber vulnerability, will fair much, much better.

    • I’d be a bit leery of orbital weapons with the Silurian floating around up there, but otherwise good points, especially if some sort of tinker-made inertial dampeners can be applied to otherwise conventional forms of transport…

  35. So much fun. I know this has to be an omg-what-are-we-going-to-do chapter, and I realize that SOMEONE we know/like is probably going to die soon, but, stepping back, this and the last update have just left me smiling. I love this story.

    • The bit with the honey bees is even more interesting, to me. Vibrating in a swarm to generate heat/co2? Sure, useless in most situations, but Taylor’s great at working out ways to apply things.

  36. Theres something about the thought of orbital superweapons being used on the Endbringers that just makes me smile. Although the Simurgh ruining that plan is a tad annoying…Can we get Mechas instead? Bring out the Gundams, Evangelions, Knightmares, Armored Cores and everything else I forgot about.

    • That’s pretty close to what Dragon’s already doing. But because she’s got style they are dragon shaped instead of humanoid shaped.

    • Lightning does nasty things to giant robots, which is part of the reason Dragon is limited in her ability to fight Behemoth.

      And you forgot Battlemechs. One of the biggest and strongest of them is even named Atlas. Still, I’d rather take one with long range weapons in this fight. Something like a Vulture, with range and speed, rather than a slow Fafnir or an Awesome with PPCs that would be useless against Behemoth.

    • Eva’s are not robots. An depending on which version of the story you’re reading/watching neither are knighmare frames now that I think of it.

      And you’re forgetting about labors, but I doubt they would fare that well against behemoth.

      If we stick to the classic kotestu jeeg would work (iirc the whole idea was that the cyborg piloting/being it had control over electromagnetism or some thing like that), and the mazinger of the “mars” serie (who’s basically devilman in space, with a giant robot).

      • Why do you think that Leviathan attacked Japan? If anywhere was going to produce a Tinker specilazing in giant robots that could fight the endbringers it would be Japan.

  37. Hmmm, what do we think the odds are on these two propositions, chaps?

    – Tattletale was repeatedly telling and emphasizing to Taylor she had to be Skitter for this fight for a specific, calculated, reason, possibly a coded message that she’ll come to understand later, possibly as a mental trigger to get her into a certain frame of mind/thinking of certain things.*

    -The two things Dragon attached to Taylor’s face were not cameras, or at least not only cameras.

    • 1. Possibly, Lisa’s worried about Taylor holding back. Not much of an issue, I don’t think – Endbringers are every bit of Class S as Echidna ever was.
      2. I’m fairly certain they were trackers/voice-activated distress beacons as well. Just to keep an eye on Weaver, and give her an escape route if need be. I’m having trouble thinking of what else would be practical enough to be that small.

  38. Wildbow, out of curiosity, are the yangban north, south or “in this universe it’s unified” koreans? (I do not ever know what c.u.i. means now that I think about it…)

    The standardization of powers is a nice bit to throw in, as is their sudden involvement.
    The first hints at someone or some organization that can convince passengers to “realign” to provide standardized powers, while the second… eh, good job keeping the tension high as usual 🙂

      • Oh, sorry. The only other time I’ve come across the name was in a pseudo-hystorical manwha and… well, that and the silly hats was all I could remember about those guys to be honest. (To my defence the author’s grasp of confucianism was thinner than mine)

        Then Lung moved somewhere with his mother, and it’s the place nearest to Japan. So I kinda took it for granted it was Korea.

        • The entry on Wikipedia certainly doesn’t help.
          But if I remember correctly, China did kind of grow in the Wormverse. It might have incorporated/annexed some of the neighbouring countries. Curious to know how the government dealt with the influx of immigrants and general migratory patterns following Kyushu and other events.

          • Oooh. That’s right. With Japan being torn to shreds from the Endbringer attacks, that meant the U.S. didn’t have it as an ally (with a large “defense force” and no official standing army) right there by China, with U.S. bases hanging around as well. More reason for China to expand without the dual pressure from the U.S. and Russia, especially after glasnost and perestroika.

            There’s still South Korea, but we seem to mostly use that for keeping an eye on North Korea.

            *stands on the Southern side of the DMZ, holds a boombox over his head, and starts playing “Never Gonna Give You Up” at North Korea*

            It’s of vital military importance.

            • You know, all things considered, the Perestroika may not have happened the way we remember it. May have come a few years earlier or later, depending on quite a few circumstances. May even have been bloody in more obvious aspects than our version, i.e. shots fired and stuff. Or going out on a limb here, if the Soviet Union had a few thinkers at opportune places it might have lasted or reformed significantly different.

    • They’re Chinese. (Mainland China, presumably, not Taiwan China) I shudder to even think about what sort of fucked-up parahuman organization North Korea might have. I doubt they’d be willing to contribute in any way to a global defense against the Endbringers, though. Their Glorious Leader probably has some song and dance about how the Endbringers are actually under his control.

      South Korea, on the other hand, is probably represented in this fight, though their relatively small population means they’re unlikely to have very many capes. Same with Japan, Taiwan… most other East and Southeast Asian nations, really.

      I’m suddenly interested in whether or not there are Pakistani, Afghani, and Bangladeshi capes involved in this fight. Do their national tensions/conflicts with India override their desire to stop a global menace that’s way too close for comfort?

      Man, just think how tenuous the balance of power is in many places in Asia. One parahuman triggering on one side or another could totally change the landscape. If the Tamils have a cape and the Sri Lankan government doesn’t, there may not BE a Sri Lankan government by this point.

      Also, I want to see Mongolian parahumans. (“Oh, that guy? Uh, we’re not really sure. He seems to have the power to ride a horse around and just win at everything he puts his mind to. We’re just hoping he doesn’t decide to conquer 3/4 of the world.”)

      • Wormverse does not support 1 non cape man tyranies by its very rules,I’d imagine the glorious leader is dead.China is a bureaucracy that has found a way to standardise capes,so its different there.

  39. So the travellers had a time jumping member Cody who could jump a few seconds back in time and who Accord demanded be handed over to him prior to the Travelers heading to Brockton bay (and this member wasn’t with the travelers when they arrived in the Bay )

    We know Accord sometimes got rid of troublesome capes by shipping them off to the Yangban for a tidy profit and future favors

    and we now see Yangban members with the ability to time skip a few seconds back in time just like said traveler

    so theres still possiably two travelers on Skitter earth who have fallen under the power of other organizations …I wonder if we will see a Krouse / Cody reunion or if Cody might attack Accord during a endbringer fight .

        • I’m… surprised that people read it that way.

          Does the tone of the chapter change if you read it as Krouse waking up after being tazed by Imp (in the last chapter of Monarch) and standing over the bloodstain where Taylor delivered the headshot to Coil?

            • I thought Cody’d been killed, but that definitely read, to me, as post-Coil Krouse, too.

          • I read it that way for three reasons: first, I assumed that Migration was strictly about what happened to the Travelers before they came to Brockton Bay; second, I assumed that handing Cody over to Accord sentence and (b) not simple (and therefore require elaboration in the narrative); and third, I mixed up “the market, north end” with the mall (which isn’t on a beach — and yes, you mentioned the beach in 16.13, I just missed it).

            Reading it now, knowing it’s about Coil’s death instead of Cody’s (and knowing it happened near the beach)? It makes a lot more sense in all its details … instead of providing the only scene that made me think there was more to Krouse than his fixation on Noelle. I mean, seriously, he sentenced one of his squadmates to death with no emotional reaction besides lighting another cigarette? Fuck the bastard.

            (Incidentally, check the comments on 16.13 and 17.8 — there’s a couple minor continuity errors, nothing that affects the plot.)

          • I… don’t know? I only read the story once and at the time I put the brains and stuff into being the remains of Cody, since he had been handed over ‘to be dealt with’, which in my mind is an euphemism mostly for murder. He was a plot thread left dangling, so the remains were a neat way to tuck it into the weave of your story. Maybe I jumped to conclusions.

          • Well I didn’t read it like that originally but I’m guessing I read it after you already changed it. I just took it for granted that Accord wanted to kill Sundancer and after meeting Cody who he had already been told was the problem, he’d want to kill Cody as well. It seemed pretty obvious they were sending Cody to die. I’m actually far more surprised to see that he was absorbed into the C,U,I, guys.

    • Bah, I was keeping my realization of this a secret, because I wanted it to be a big reveal. 😛

      • I was looking for you in the Irc to toss the idea at a few times but couldn’t find you 😦 Packbat was kind enough to provide me with chapters (I am horrid remembering which chapters things happen in )

        sorry to hear about the antics in the irc that ran you off .

      • it was worth figuring it out and posting simply to get a “Damn you trusting, Damn you ” from a favorite Author 🙂 totally made my day

      • I m copy pasting all the praise as i’ll likely never get something in worm right ever again so i’ll be clutching tearfully at this moment forever 😛

  40. Mad theory time:
    Alexandria :
    She planed to be at Taylor`s side when Taylor snapped. Told Taylor about her weakness so that Taylor would try to choke her and she could kill Taylor alleging self defense.
    Every power in Worm has a weakness, Taylor`s is that she is a normal human and can be killed in seconds by someone like Alexandria at close range.

    He needs time to “charge” his power, than the power changes his body until the “charge” ends, when this happens he starts to revert to human form. Two years not using his powers and accumulating “energy” will make him very, very strong in his first fight out of the Bird Cage.

    Chinese army of superheroes:
    They are there to defend some kind of military/secret base that Behemoth wants to destroy/use in some way.

    What will happen:
    Four basic possibilities from Taylor`s point of view:
    1 – She fails miserably, loosing people and being more a hindrance than an asset in the fight.
    2- She and her group survive with average casualties including, perhaps, a loved person.
    3- She ends up controlling the Chigago group + Accordions + Undersiders in the field and doing something awesome against Behemoth.
    4- Side quest – instead of fighting Behemoth they end up learning some dark secret of the CUI and fighting the Yang… instead.
    A detail, Chigago group + Accordions + Undersiders = 18 capes (aprox). The CUI has 29 or 28 capes in the field. Not impossible odds for Taylor.

    Number 1 is unlikely, 2 is basically what happened against Leviathan. Taylor made some difference, but no big damage against the endbringer.
    3 depends on Tatletale + Accord and if Taylor will take the leadership from Grue.
    4 depends on what the chinese are hiding.

      • Not my idea, someone had already named them and I love the name. Specially because it would give Accord a heart attack.

    • Regarding Alexandria, I was just rereading her interlude. I currently am split on believing whether or not she actually died. On one hand, she was hoping for a double back in the late 80s or early 90s, and it’s reasonable to expect that she would have one at this point. The idea that Alexandria would lose her cool so quickly when being suffocated, especially to the point where she would not only freak out, but leave the vicinity of numerous capes who could potentially help her seems out of character. I mean, we were able to come up with some more or less halfway decent possibilities on how she could get save herself. I’m sure the great thinker Alexandria might have had one or two good ideas, and even planned for it in advance, possibly even tagging out for her double before her final return to PRT headquarters, allowing for the double to be killed so she could fake her death.
      On the other hand, there’s always the possibility that she got overconfident and simply freaked out in the face of her potential death. Dunno though, since it seems pretty unlikely that she’d even have missed the bugs gathering. Plus, the double would be a solid enough Chekov’s Gun. It’s really hope that keeps the idea that he actually died alive.

  41. Ya know, it’s always amazing hoe much some of the Slaughterhouse Nine-thousand could help with this. Jack could attack with Armsmaster’s knife from a distance. Imagine if crawler could immunize to Behemoth’s aura (though I would guess that might also be in the category of insta kill attacks even to him). Shatter bird could use all the glass in the area without repercussion. We have no idea if Hack Job would effect him. Burn scar could use all the fires. Siberian would be the PERFECT tank. Bone saw…….would find a way.

    Of course whatever they would ask for in return would similarly be horrific.

    The Doormaker, Numberman, and Contesta could also do quite a lot-even if it was just in a support role. Might be a good way to get some public support they are sorely lacking in as well.

    • I don’t think Jack’s power would work with Armsmaster’s nano-thorns. Which is good, since Mannequin stole a nano-knife in his introductory chapter.

      Otherwise I agree.

  42. To those worrying about the Simurgh taking control of orbital weapons, what happened to analog aiming? You know, what we used before computers and stuff were invented. Lasers are line-of-sight weapons. If you can see it, you can hit it, no targeting calculations required; just use an analog telescope in tandem with your big gun and you’re set. Ditto for railguns – sufficiently powerful railgun projectiles are so fast that they are effectively line-of-sight too.
    As for nukes, they don’t need computers either. Old-style nuclear artillery can be built around mechanical triggers, can be aimed with mechanical targeting systems like in the old battleships and can be fired as projectiles by sufficiently large railguns.

    You fight the Simurgh by relying on pre-information-age controls on simple but still powerful technology, by using weapons that will hurt a lot even if you can exactly predict their attack and arrange to dodge/defend and by using overwhelming firepower and relentless attacks – since she can neither go underwater nor burrow like her brothers, she’s actually the easiest Endbringer to engage with long-range weaponry.

    You fight Leviathan with overwhelming force and attacks meant to negate or ignore his speed.

    Behemoth is actually the hardest to beat IMHO – he can disengage any time by simply burrowing, is the toughest and directly strongest of the three.

    • They’ve already used nukes on Endbringers. They failed. The only thing to ever drive off the Endbringers so far are Scion and Lung. Use a laser on Behemoth all you want. The being is only capable of burrowing and controlling energy. I’m sure it’ll work this time unlike all the times prior.

      • Erm, in all fairness, there are clear upper limits on how much energy Leviathan can redirect, or to put it better, how quickly he can do so. Or redirecting the lighting from all the spheres wouldn’t have been a visible effort.

        And he wasn’t able to redirect or trivially ignore the Yangban’s laser fire, either- it was genuinely hurting him, a little. I suspect the lack of redirection would be due to the energy being transmitted too fast for him to appreciably bend it in time.

        So getting zapped with a petawatt laser? Yeah that could do some damage, IMHO.

        The real problem isn’t it theoretically being able to kill or seriously injure him. It’s the actual difficulty of getting petawatt laser built without every cape organization and government that’s not you pre-emptively going to war to stop you. Or the Smiurgh or one of the other EB’s targeting you whilst you’re trying to build it, because they’re not stupid. Not to mention the actual technical challenges, which might be insurmountable even with five tinkers helping. Or mean the thing would need to be a project on the order of the LHC even with their help, and absurdly tempramental and easy to damage or fuck with in numberous ways.

        Lastly, one has to consider if the Endbringers are even capable of dying to conventional means, or if their bodies just reform, as has been suggested. And whether killing them will do more than hasten an apocalypse in which firepower cannot offer salvation…

        • I always wondered how easily such giant lasers could be sighted on a swiftly-moving target in the middle of a city. Luckily, it’s India so the U.S. doesn’t care. Fire away, yeehaw!

          • The fact that Endbringers are normally attacking populated areas would also be a concern, yep.

            (I’m really not arguing in favour of the idea or anything.)

            Though depending on whether the firing mechanism was like an actual cannon or some kinda phased array thingy, you might be able to make it fairly accurate and fast tracking, it would be yet another technical obstacle to surmount, but probably not the biggest one.

      • Lung and Scion are not the only ones who’ve driven off Endbringers. I quote:

        “And they know what the difference is going to be, without Alexandria on the front lines,” Defiant said. He sighed audibly. ”Four times now, she’s been the deciding factor in beating the Simurgh back early. Once with Leviathan, when I was new to the Protectorate.”

        That Leviathan one might actually be her taking credit for Lung’s work, though.

    • The Smurf’s precognition works on the scale of years, not minutes. No matter how you set things up, she will never be in a position where you can get a good shot at her.

      Pre information-age technology is just as vulnerable to her tampering as post information-age technology. Lets take the telescope targeted satellite.
      First, you need to design and build it. She can exert her influence here, either by straight up destroying the production facilities, or by causing defects to be introduced. Depending on how the Endbringers pick their targets, any of them could handle straight up destruction.
      Then, you need to deploy it. This gives her all kinds of opportunities for manipulation. Discarding the obvious ideas of having it blow up on the launch pad or be destroyed in some other way, she could ensure that it is deployed in an orbit that will leave it in a bad position at a critical juncture.
      So, its been successfully deployed and crewed. She can use it to foment political instability. Think the Cuban Missile crisis, but bigger. And thanks to her interference, you can be damn sure that cooler heads will not prevail.
      So, its been deployed, and we’ve survived the political fallout, and its actually in position to target her. The operators line up their shots and open fire… on Scion. Because years back, someone they knew had a chance encounter with someone who once met someone who survived one of her attacks, setting off a chain of events that leads to the operators secretly being Endbringer cultists.

      All of this applies to ground based weaponry in equal measure.

      As for attacking when she’s dormant: they’ve tried nukes against the Endbringers. You seriously think that noone has tried attacking her when she’s supposed to be dormant?

      Now, we think that her precognition can clash with that of other precogs or powerful thinkers, giving us a chance to defeat her more subtle machinations.

      Basically, there are no simple solutions to a malevolent precog of this scale. When the malevolent precog in question is capable of telling the laws of physics to take a long walk off a short pier located at the top of a tall cliff, it becomes even more daunting.

    • Problem as I see it is that most people don’t have the knowledge we do about the Smurf’s powers. She can easily mess with communication efforts in the construction process, or attack before the work is done and wreak havoc.

  43. So, recently everyone has been going on about who Taylor’s new hubby is going to be, I’ve decided that she is going to have a second trigger during the Behemoth fight and become Shehemoth. She will then procede to hook up with Behemoth.

  44. OK, Golem, Cuff: Assuming at least one of you specializes in controlling metals, we’re going to talk for a moment about the joys of electrical grounding, Farraday cages and lead shielding.

  45. I… had a bad/kinky idea.

    Was it ever discussed if Cauldron may be the reason for the Endbringers? I can think of at least two scenarios:
    A) The general activity of Cauldron, forcing passengers onto hosts instead of them selecting according to their preferences, somehow lured a kind of antibody or preventive measure, namely the Endbringers.
    B) Cauldron tried on few occasions if they can trigger animals with their formula. Endbringers are the result.

    • I don’t know…

      While it is possible and even likely the Doctor may keep such knowledge from the Triumvirate, Number Man is part of the upper echelon and we get no such vibe from his interlude.
      Then again, from that same interlude we do know there is at least one thing the Doctor doesn’t share even with Number Man and Contessa.

    • I think that would be reversing cause and effect. I think the Cauldron was created to try to develop weapons against the Endbringers.

        • This prompted me to write up a thought I’ve had for a while, it turned into rather an long post haha.

          If Cauldron truly wanted the Enbringers stopped, then there would be forty triumvirate-level capes in the world, ready to respond to each Endbringer attack, rather than three of them. They could have simply abducted more people, and given them the unstable formula, until they’d gotten the required numbers of top-level talent. Use memory-wiping liberally, to ensure that the resulting top-tier capes don’t bear a grudge that they can remember, if they were abducted. They could also increase the tempo of their voluntary operations, being less discerning in who they picked, and again use memory wiping if necessary. This assumes there isn’t some bottleneck in their development chain preventing them producing much more formula, but there doesn’t seem to be. They might need some more staff to help with the increased tempo and the larger number of “clients”, but that’s hardly impossible. The few dozen resulting amnesiac triumvirate level talents would get noticed, but a cover could be invented*, and if stopping the Endbringers was really the most important thing, ultimately it wouldn’t matter, right?

          Now of course one immediately thinks, “But that would be monstrous!”, and yes, it would be. But remember, Cualdron already justified themselves to Alex and the gang as trading human misery for powerful heroes to fight the Endbringers. If that was genuinely their goal, why wouldn’t they take that trade-off to it’s logical conclusion and finish things? Can they really be happy with doing horrible things to hundreds of people to merely stall the Endbringers, which still kill millions in the process, but doing horrible things to thousands of people to stop the Endbrigners and save millions of lives is unpalatable? That simply doesn’t make sense, either they’re comfortable with doing horrible things for the greater good or they aren’t. Or, the whole thing is a ruse.

          In short, if Cauldrons primary goal was stopping the Endbringers, then they would have been stopped long before the story began. Maybe not killed, because who knows if that’s possible or what the repercussions would actually be, but stopped. Each Endbringer would be mobbed by a gang of Triumvirate level talents as soon as it arrived, and injured to the point of retreat before it could do much damage.

          Cauldron’s primary goal does not include stopping the Enbringers, and it’s not even enough of a secondary goal for them to increase their operational tempo to achieve it. Note, this doesn’t necessarily mean that they don’t believe they’re acting in humanity’s interests. It’s possible that they believe stopping rather than merely stalling the Endbrigners would have adverse effects, or ultimately be pointless when compared to other considerations. Alternately it would help humanity, but ultimately whilst they’re happy to stall the Endbringers, the beasts were far too useful as a threat to keep the Triumvirate in their camp. Or they’re they’re dicks and the EB’s are tangential to Cauldron’s true endgame, or are needed alive for it. We don’t know enough to tell between these possibilities, as of yet.

          As for some guesses at their true endgame? Well, we have little idea yet of what the Terminus Project could be. (I suspect killing Scion or doing something major with him might be a part of it, but this is just a hunch.) We also have reason to suspect Brockton Bay is involved in their endgame somehow. We can deduce this from the hope placed in Coil, and then the perception that Skitter could take his place in the scenario after his death, and then her surrender being seen as probably throwing that out the window. This strongly suggests that it was their leadership of Brockton Bay’s resident villains that was a key factor in their relevance to the scenario. The most obvious reason for that might be due to the portal, although BB’s potential relevance to their plan pre-dated it’s creation.

          *(One solution would be to mind-wipe and release everyone that didn’t become monstrous, and to speed up the doping and testing process so much that that other people wouldn’t realise they’d been abducted. This would probably increase the proportion of freaks, but that’s acceptable. Then, with the large numbers of people suddenly randomly getting powers and losing their memories, you might be able to convince academia that this was simply the other way that people triggered, other than trauma. The ones that don’t work out simply get disappeared.)

          • You’re trying to brute force the issue of the Endbringer and that is commendable. Your line of reasoning is sound enough, and still a doubt lingers: Do you see arguments for them not trying exactly that? Cauldron has a load of parallel worlds to chose from, perhaps settled with hunter-gatherer humans. They could easily abduct those by the thousands, run slight variations of the formula multiple times and see how they’ll develop. Cauldron oughtn’t really have any shortage of guinea pigs.
            Alternatively, they abduct all kinds of terminally ill people and give them formula. If they survive? Hey, high tier cape! If they die? Meh, write a fake report or something and no-one’s the wiser. If they’ll horribly mutate or something? Kill’em, repeat step 2.
            For all we know they’ve been injecting people with Triumvirate potency formula and only get mutated and dead subjects.

            • This is kind of my point, if stopping the Endbringers was really that important to them, then they’d be doing something along those lines, or what I outlined. Well done on the two suggestions for other sources of warm bodies.

              The story being how it is can mean two things. One is that stopping as opposed to stalling the Endbringers not to be one of their goals. Or as you highlighted it requires all these extra subjects to die or be mutated at a much higher rate than that which we’ve observed, which feels… Inelegant?

              • I think they might already be doing exactly what you suggest.

                if so, it’s obviously not working perfectly. Probably because they don’t have unlimited formula or unlimited manpower.

                Personally, I think the best anti-Endbringer and anti-evil-in-general strategy would be for Cauldron to give powers to as many truly good people as they can find. Use Thinkers to find people who would use powers well if they had them, and give them powers.

                But Cauldron is probably way too control-freak-ish to do something like that.

          • I’d imagine that the biggest issues would be creating the more “powerful” formulae and finding people they trusted even halfway to enough to give it to.

            And we don’t know enough about how Cauldron works to say they could do this. They obviously have some way of guessing the type and strength of the powers they give, but we don’t know how precise these are. We also have no clue idea how the formulae are made or what their interactions and reactions are with the Passengers.

          • You’re assuming there isn’t a big risk in using unbalanced formula.
            What if you end up with an insanely murderous Triumvate+ level cape that you can’t put down?
            Something for instance that has teleportation and a wide range instant death effect? Something like Siberian but without a controller? An antimatter creator? Or a long distance mind controller? Or just an unrestrained AI in humanoid form?

      • That was my initial thought, but the timeline doesn’t fit. Mid eighties Alexandria was our little cancer victim, if I get it right, and something like 1991 the first Endbringer roared its defiance to the world.

        • Does anyone recall which hit first, second, or third, or if one came in succession before the others showed up? I don’t know if it’s been mentioned, but it’s making me curious.

          Partly wondering because I’m curious if they were already here, or if they arrived. If here and inactive, why activate? If not, what brought them? I know we don’t know yet, but someday, wildbow willing, our guesses will be slightly less wild and haphazard.

          • i’m faairly certain behemoth was the first one, as seen in the alexandria interlude, otherwise they would not have been so surprised when he popped out.

            in extermination 8.2 leviathan was mentioned as the second of the three, which makes the smurf the final one and the one that probably really caught them by surprise…

  46. I was introduced to this work less than a week ago, and got hooked enough to read the entire behemoth up to its current point in that time frame. Thanks for writing. It is a fantastic work of fiction, and I will definitely be keeping up with future updates.

  47. Holy carp. The Behemoth.
    Nothing more needs be said. Well, I suppose I could say something about the meeting between Weaver and the Undersiders, but, well…
    Holy carp. The Behemoth.

    I wonder what would happen if Grue covered Behemoth with his darkness. (Posted after the discovery of what happens.)

  48. I don’t get Dragon’s speech thing. She can communicate with Defiant, so why not get a text-to-speech converter?

    “Did last… time,”
    Very odd that a pause in speech of an AI would coincide with a human relevant time-scale. Send all three words to a buffer and fire off when ready? Why doesn’t she have a backup AI like the ones in the suits to answer simple questions like this?
    It really seems to me that you’re treating an AI as an odd human rather than an intelligence that is further from human than an octopus is.

    ” I’ll forgive your past transgressions if you look past mine, and if there’s any disparity in the two, I’ll make it up for you with this.”
    Only a true Mary Sue can get away with murder and still have people apologising for harsh words and saying they forgive the Sue’s crimes.

    “For years, they’ve alleged that the PRT and the Protectorate are fundamentally corrupt, the source of the problems currently plaguing the world.”

    “They were right,” I said.

    “Yes,” Defiant said.
    No, they were not. More villains than heroes naturally and more heroes using Cauldron. They also aren’t known to be responsible for Endbringers.
    What’s the opposite of a Mary Sue? Something that warps reality in a way that makes people irrationally dislike them and make up bullshit about them?

    • I agree that Dragon’s inability to speak is weird. Text-to-speech should be trivial to enact. The scary thing is that it implies much nastier, more fundamental things are wrong with her than they want us to think. Don’t think ‘basically okay but unable to speak’ . Think ‘has had a crippling stroke and can barely think straight’.

      The ‘more villains than heroes naturally’ thing is kind of the point. The PRT don’t seem to get that. They’re not out there doing good things like establishing trauma counselling, helplines for new triggers, etc. Instead they’re playing cops and robbers, picking unnecessary fights with groups that have them outgunned and turning a blind eye to corruption and bullying even in their own ranks. (Hint: proximity to capes + trauma = trigger events. Turning a blind eye to one of your Wards being a viciously bullying high school students? There’d be no Skitter in the first place if it wasn’t for the PRT’s idiocy). The PRT may not have caused all the world’s problems, but the way they’re responding to them is making them worse, not better.

    • Ok,Imma comment the same to each of your comments I find very strange from now on

      Are we freaking reading the same fracking story?

  49. Well here we go on yet another USA is better than everyone else crusade. Joy can’t wait. But onto this chapter:

    ““It’s not customary for tinkers to design things for teammates. If they do, it’s on a relatively small scale, simple. Kid Win making Gallant’s armor, for example. Any device requires a great deal of upkeep. Time is spent tuning, calibrating, repairing and identifying problems. Each device created is something the tinker then has to take time to maintain, and mass production means the tinker becomes tech support more than an innovator. Dragon and I don’t sleep, or sleep very little, but even for us, it isn’t effective. Far better to invest our time into the artificial intelligences and the ships.””

    Well for a start I’d like to point out that I don’t think we’ve seen one tinker be maintaining stuff for the rest of their team, they could easily maintain armour for the rest of their teammates. Or some weapons.

    2. On AI, it wasn’t around for ages, yet I never saw Dragon or Armsmaster maintaining a whole bunch of tinker equipment, it’s only recently they’ve added like 50 drones each with AI and without removing their tinker maintained armour, etc.

    3. You don’t need tinkers to be tech support, have a whole bunch of tinkers stick them in a room to create a jetpack or whatever, DOCUMENT IT, then mass produce. If something breaks bring up the documentation employ a couple of 1000 ordinary people to mass produce and work as servicemen. Step by step instructions and descriptions for everything. Or phone in Accord equivalent and he can just write down what to do to fix it.


    5. Maybe I missed something here but you said Eastern Europe and now it’s in India, why? Did Dragon’s tracking mechanism fail? Why? There doesn’t seem to be any mention even though Eastern Europe was explicitly mentioned numerous times. Europe is 3.1 times the size of India, that’s not really big enough to warrant saying Eastern Europe but not saying Northern/Central/Eastern whatever India. Just interesting choice there nothing really wrong about it.


    6. I didn’t say this before but excluding someone who can copy powers without any negative effects at all I think Accord’s power is the best power in the universe. It’s unbeatable. “I want to get more powers, solve this problem” Boom, his power writes up a simple step by step guide. “I don’t want to die, solve” Boom. Or FAR MORE APPROPRIATELY “I want to defeat the Endbringer’s or minimize their damage” Like fucking seriously, Accord isn’t exactly a no name secret hidden power person he fucking hands his report to everyone! Why the shit haven’t they offered a couple of million for him to do that analysis, why hasn’t he done it? Also solve the problem of people ignoring his reports.

    7. Has the UN seriously not organized anything for these Endbringer’s, like communication, when to attack, how to team up?


    9. Why aren’t they abusing Clockblocker, he could win the battle basically on his own. All you need is one personal teleporter, and some RC helicopters. Get them to hold up a wire, freeze it, teleport to wherever his range ends, freeze another wire, repeat.

    10. Speaking of RC helicopters, where the fuck are they? You don’t need tinkers weapons or power, stick a bunch of RC helicopters with machine guns in the fight and you’re doing a little bit more damage.

    11. I still think fighting is stupid and pointless, just let him kill people. He’s not doing that much damage, a couple of million people is not a big deal and now Scion’s gonna come kill him anyway assuming that the girl didn’t make him her sex slave or whatever. They’re losing capes that could be doing more important things, like applying Accord’s world hunger things, or erasing Slaughterhouse Nine or dealing with non-cape criminals, or dealing with cape criminals, or building up cape numbers until they can fight. Also how come it’s only the Americans who fucking go fight Endbringers, no one in Europe flies in, no one in the rest of the world flew in to Brockton Bay, I swear this story is seriously sucking the USA’s dick hard. De facto conquering Canada, having no other capes in the world with capable powers they all just suck balls compared to the USA. Also if this fight has more capes than ever before then they don’t really need to worry do they? Capes-who-are-willing-to-fight-Behemoth production is growing faster than Behemoth and other Endbringer’s are killing them. Meanwhile Endbringer’s aren’t getting stronger, it’s a war of attrition that mankind is winning. Why aren’t more villains there? The Undersiders showed that villains don’t murder and shit like that mostly so seriously where are the rest of the villains and rogues who just don’t want to be under the rulerships thumb. Speaking of rulers what about places where you said that 3rd world countries had been over thrown and capes ruled and stuff, why wouldn’t they send people? But moving on to a counterpoint why are so many useless people there? They help for rescuing but half the fucking people they end up rescuing will be the useless people mark my words. Regent especially, what is he going to do exactly?

    I have more to say but whatever too much

        • Oh,you are one of these idiots “m’lady”neckbeards,that explains it .

          (seriously,hope you were kiddin on this pic)

      • I just read this chapter, and I’m wondering where all of Europe’s capes are as well. He’s right about that much. The european project can’t afford the p.r. hit of not having a group of capes to send to deal with endbringers. Similar reasoning goes for any country that wants to be seen as relevant. Where are they? Why is it only the US?

    • Ok,you are not an obvious troll,like Daniel,so imma gonna answer ya seriously.
      0)Did you get the “USA are better”vibe from Skitter commenting “they were right”?or from Defiant agreeing?or perhaps from their high efficiency?Up till now,few parties has been shown to be purely bad in Worm,and none purely good.So USA might not be worse,but the story certainly does not say its better.

      1)Tinkering is very time consuming,and most capes are loners.We also do not know if some do create stuff for their teamates (bonesaw for example).What you propose is them sacrificing their free time to practically do anything else,and if we judge from Blasto and Kid Win interludes,that includes the great enjoyment of inventing new things.

      2)it happens offscreen.And the drones seem disposable.

      3)Tinkers work like artists,their way of inventing things is understandable only to them,so they cant really document it,they cannot even distinguish between obvious and nonobvious.Even if we assume what they do is not an extension of their superpowers,as it have been speculated,but possible with normal technology,it might be impossible for even the most brilliant of thinkers to document.

      4)28+China was willing to sent.There are a thiousant of reasons for why it doesn’t want to send more:its not worth the potential losses,it doesn’t want to reveal its hand to other countries,most capes are anti government and hunted there,something more complicated might be happening….

      5)Analysts (not Dragon) guessed eastern europe was more likely,no one was certain.

      6)No,he ain’t that good.He cannot do martial arts like the number man that well,his power doesn’t work for simple problems,he has a penchant for complicated solutions,and he only uses known quantities to solve problems,the Endbringers themselves are not exactly known.He is top tier,but Lung and Tattletale are too,and the Simurgh is probably able to outhink him.

      7)Assuming there is a UN in Worm.there is no reason to think It hasn’t.Communication happened fast enough,heroes are by nature hard to coordinate and they only have less than a few hours to reach the center of the fighting,lets to strategise,before the Endbringers leave.They cannot be aware of the destination until the attacks happen (or until a while before,after the fight with Leviathan where Dragon and Armsmaster designed the new prediction system)or even the exact day the happen,so they can program to at least have heroes on standby.Its a testament to how Endbringers affected the world that so many people actually manage to come that fast.

      8)no,they can’t,they are fodder.Most capes might be completely useless against Endbringers,but it pays to bring many,because you never know when one has a power that might be useful on an Endbringer,and because capes are actually highly trained in fighting irregular threats,unlike the normal military,who is meant to fighting humans.Most weapons are slow vs Endbringers,Except maybe BEHEMOTH ,who has an insta kill aura that can destroy them anyway,prolly longer than the range of their weapons.Weapons,assuming they hit are gonna do little to no damage (these things survive NUKES),and the armor they use,which in a normal battlefield compensates for their low speed or inflexibility,is a joke vs an Endbringer.The only use they would have is evacuating civilians,and thats only vs BEHEMOTH,as it will distract him by forcing him to do target practice.

      9)We do not know what Clockblocker’s range is,Leviathan is too quick and Simurgh is too smart.It might work vs Behemoth,assuming his range is longer than his insta kill aura(doubtful,he only got Echidna because the situation was close to his trigger event),but who says they ain’t gonna try anyway?And get killed for their troubles with only one hit which would damage him,but not kill him because no vital organs,so he could survive being sliced in half.Maybe it could cause him to retreat though.

      10)Lol,machine guns vs an Enbringer,sounds like a good way to Suicide,without doing damage,to boot.Assuming they do have bullets that can be shot from outside his aura AND not melt midair by the extreme radiation.Again ,survived.nuke.

      11a)You forgot,their attrition is intelligent.If left to their own devices,they a)cripple countries economically,b)destroy landmass (non replendishible,so attrition is happening)c)destroying necessary for humanity resources and d)accomplish nefarious side goals.Imagine if your suggestion was the standard response:Leviathan would get to Noelle,instant game over.They cannot afford to be cruel for the greater good.Also,considering the Endbringers retreat and they are not getting any weaker (so actually only humanity suffers attrition,whether it sends capes or not),its unlikely a greater amount of capes would do much more that the same amount spread on time rather than space,as you suggest…And they couldn’t transport so many capes fast enough to react to Endbringers anyway…more capes up the chance some can do something,but that is true over time,and causes less attrition thanks to the ones that can only drive it off,buying time for humanity until some plan/Scion can kill them.
      11b)Where is Europe,the villain/rogues,the warlords and the villains?On the team names Dragon showed to Weaver that were too fast to read all.Seriously,they are there,the story just doesn’t focus on them.Also,Protectorate sends 50% of extracountry help in Endbringer situations anyway.Thats not because MURICAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA.Thats because Cauldron,and because Eidolon.
      11c)sefrackinriously,do you hate America just to hate America?the author is Canadian,for god’s sake,and America is portrayed as quite flawed,no more or less that it really is,or would be in a cape scenario.Bad cops,corrupt government,etc etc.

  50. This is where I stopped reading, a few months ago. I’ve come back to say my piece. Maybe once I’ve had that out of my head for a while I’ll be able to come back and start reading again.

    I read up to this point with feverish devotion. I read well over a hundred webcomics and I check them every day, often multiple times a day. I let them all slide for the weeks it took me to read to this point. Every moment I had with the Internet I used to read this. I used my phone at work to read. It was bad enough that one of my subordinates commented on my distracted state, to my embarrassment.

    (I’m a slow reader.)

    I think the reason I was so caught up in this is the way tension is so well sustained. I suppose sustaining tension is more important in a serial like this than it would be in other forms. It’s very well done, in that way.

    At the time I stopped I thought I had done so because the story had changed, grown weaker. Now I think it more likely that it was some sort of literary fatigue. Too much sustained tension for too long, or something. It wore me out. Maybe someday I’ll reread the story and know better if it got weak around this point. Maybe others have already commented on this in a less biased-by-numb-exhaustion fashion.

    Anyway, I’ll get on to things I’m more definite about.

    There’s a problem with the treatment of sex in this. Specifically, the treatment of male desire for sex.

    There are places where desire for sex by a female is treated in a positive fashion. The circumspect phrase “things with boys” does a tidy job of demonstrating sexual desire and a kind of innocence at the same time. It’s quite charming.

    In contrast, the vast majority of expressions of desire for sex by male characters are predatory or otherwise involve violation. The three exceptions to this that I recall are themselves twisted in such a way that they almost make it worse.

    First, Grue’s desire for sex begins and ends with his role as a love interest for the narrator. We don’t learn about what he wants, we just learn about how he can supply what the narrator wants. That’s not really that bad, on it’s own. Most of this is, after all, a first person work. Some egocentricity is expected. And they’re kids, of course, so it’s understandable that the narrator doesn’t do as a good job of understanding the needs of her partner in intimacy as she does in recognizing the her own. Except that, so far, she’s not an unreliable narrator in any other way.

    (The narrator’s understanding and acceptance of her own needs is a strong point of the story. A real human being might be more fixated, might be more muddled in thought if not in their conception of themselves or their self-censored memories. But what could pass for narration and could also pass through a real human being’s mind-in-the-moment wouldn’t be fun to read for over a million words.)

    Second and weaker, Legend has a sexual partner and his homosexual relationship is (so far) blessedly free of any (TvTropes) Bury Your Gays crap. But there’s less expression of desire there than seeking for comfort. His present-but-not-actually-involved status on the top tier heroes team smacks a bit of (TvTropes) Pet Gay, but he’d have to have more screen time before he could fall into that pit.

    Thirdly, and most damning, Armsmaster’s relationship looks like it’s being presented as something positive. His desires for intimacy with Dragon are reciprocated. They each consent to their relationship with the other. But it reads like the kind of relationship domestic violence victims _think_ they’re in.

    Dragon was abused by her parent. She was made incomplete and then abandoned. She needs someone to complete her. She went looking for someone to replace her parent, and she loves him despite his obvious, villainous faults. Her man is fixing her. He has to hurt her to do it, and he does so — with maybe some guilt — for her own good.

    In other words, Dragon has some nasty Daddy Issues. Maybe this has already been pointed out. That’s all I have to say about sexuality in the story, I think

    Stereotypes are problematic as well. It could be a fine play off communism that the Chinese superhero hero team are all forced to be the same and assimilate foreign heroes, if it weren’t for all the “All Chinese are the same.” stereotypes that make that feel like racism at worst or naïveté at best. The caste-bound Indian heroes are a bit heavy handed. I think there were a couple other examples, but it’s not as freshly in my mind anymore.

    It can be difficult to celebrate a foreign culture without presenting a mockingly-simplified version of that culture. I guess it takes practice, so maybe getting it a bit wrong is understandable. I gather the author is quite young and not from a particularly cosmopolitan background, too. (In fact, the combination of what looks like a special interest in Asian cultures and a lack of weeabooism leads me to suspect the author has Asian heritage. So maybe it doesn’t look racist to the author, like it could look to some cis, straight, white, middle class, male American who thinks himself fair and somewhat ‘enlightened.’)

    (While I’m making barely-educated guesses about the author, I’ll suggest they are female, firstborn, with at least one sibling more than three but less than ten years younger.)

    There are a couple of places where a point of view character thinks of a subordinate in a “They just don’t know.” fashion more appropriate in an older but still child-aged sibling condescending to one younger.

    It was cool that the author respected Circus’ privacy regarding his or her gender enough that the character with the expository superpower couldn’t tell. But then clones of Circus ended up running around naked and the way the narration specifically left his or her physical sex unmentioned was garish like a bare bulb. It seems like either the character’s privacy should be respected and they should not end up naked in front of the camera of narration, or that the violation of the character’s privacy should be acknowledged in the narrative (preferably in some manner that adds meaning to the story, of course).

    Finally, somewhere in the about-a-million words that I read up to this point, it started to get a little obvious that the narrator gets off too lightly for the things she has done. Like, some degree of that is totally fitting to the genre. Not every story should be punishingly gritty, brutally just, or arbitrarily cruel.

    I don’t know what the narrator would be like if something precious to her like her pride or her security or her powers were taken from her. But it felt as though it was getting too obvious that wouldn’t happen. Jail lacked appropriate indignities.

    It is said that many authors lose the will to hurt their characters as they grow more attached to them. But maybe later chapters involved more authentic hurting for the narrator, deserved or otherwise.

    I hope that someone finds something in these twelve hundred words useful. It’s satisfying enough to me, though, just to take it off my To Do List.

    • “the narrator gets off too lightly for the things she has done”, I’m sure that’s just because wildbow hasn’t started being *really* horrible to her yet! bwahaha…

      btw, your guesses about wildbow’s gender and ethnicity are, uh, not entirely accurate. 🙂

    • I think your interpretation of Dragon and Defiant is a bit harsh. Certainly few of the relationships (and you forgot Regent + I’m, BTW) are what could be considered healthy, we’ll-adjusted relationships. But I don’t think that’s so much ‘a problem with the treatment of sex in this’ as it is a natural consequence of the fact that this is a dark (essentially superhero horror) setting about damaged people doing the best they can in a crapsack world. And that extends to the relationships.

      I agree that so far the portrayals of the Indian and Chinese capes are rather one-dimensional. However, I mostly put that down to the fact that we haven’t seen them ‘from the inside’ yet, like we have many of the other groups. All we really know about them thus far is Defiant’s capsule summary of them, and he’s not renowned for being the most tolerant and sensitive guy ever.

      As for Taylor getting off too easily? To an extent she does. But part of that is earned through her own effort and smarts, and a significant part of it was achieved through Coil ‘stacking the deck’ (not to mention the assistance of precognitives and super-intuitives). She’s been a bit lucky, but a lot less so than it would appear at first glance. One of the great things about this serial, IMO, is that the level of Taylor’s opposition ramps up and up and up, but it feels like the author has rare if ever had to resort to deus ex machine to get her out of it. The only possible exception that comes to mind is when the Undersiders were saved out of the blue by the Travellers after they crashed that big party (and in retrospect that one too can be put down to Coil’s abilities at work). Oh, and maybe having her blindness cured so conveniently (albeit not until after it had caused her a lot of trouble).

      I wouldn’t expect Taylor to be put into a brutal prison given the terms of her agreement with the PRT. And she *was* treated pretty poorly when Tagg first arrested her – it’s just that it’s hard to discomfort someone who can shunt their consciousness out into the swarm until the discomfort goes away.

      Long story short: There’s probably scope to be a bit more punishing on Taylor, but she cops a fair amount of punishment already – she’s just incredibly good at wiggling out of it…

  51. “You know we love you too!”
    Listen to your own advice, Regent. Otherwise you come off as an idiot. This is no time to start being honest!

  52. This has possibly been the most intense chapter yet…

    I was listening to Centuries by Fall Out Boy while reading this, and I’m pretty sure it made the whole scene about a thousand times more awesome (I think it fits well with some of Worm’s themes, too).

    Wildbow, you are a true master.

  53. Wow I am having a really hard time dealing with the fact I genuinely really really like Colin now! He has really become a true repentant mentor figure to Weaver! That is simply astounding that he has grown up so damn much. The jetpack thing is pretty sweet.

    I love the comments from Regent when they got together. I am torn between totally expecting someone to die now or simply them all living so that he can snark about them beating the odds yet again and Coil must be alive somewhere dicking around. Aww Foil and Parian! They should’ve had lines.

    I am…surprised that as soon as Taylor was told “You’re really not supposed to go talk to the Undersiders but if it happens in battle nobody cares.” the very first thing she did was go talk to them before anything started! Way to push the rules when people already dislike you kid. Real bloody smart there.

    I totally called her going back with the Chicago guys! So glad I wasn’t wrong about that! I liked Tecton. He was chill back when he didn’t have to be and he seemed reasonable. He scores so many more points now for specifically saying he wanted Weaver and for letting her LEAD his team!! I love that guy! It’s also pretty sweet to see that Theo got powers. I’m guessing he’s Golem. Own the name dude! Don’t change it, make yourself big!

  54. Cool, now Weaver can strike fear against her enemies with dragonfly wings!… Or Butterfly wings, depending on how you interpret them.

    Good thing she decided to go with the Wards, when she meets up with the Undersiders there’ll be a good chance she’ll end up leading both teams together.

    That reunion was too touching, I am deathly afraid that someone from the team is gonna die from Behemoth…

  55. “Fuck you guys. I’m as badass as ever. Recommending drugs to kids, strangling a ten year old, forcing bugs down my allies’ throats…”

    This is still hilarious. “Remember that thing about feeding bugs to people who weren’t my enemies? Last week I did it to the New York Wards and they had to thank me afterward. It was great.”

  56. “And I’m probably going to get crucified for saying this, but I still consider you a friend. Someday, after all of this has settled down, when you don’t need to be a villain anymore to take care of your dogs, and I’m okay where I’m at, I want to hang out again. Throw the balls for the dogs, clean up dog shit, go for walks. Whatever works.”

    “Saying shit like that, you’re signing death warrants!” Regent said, his hands to the side of his head. “Stop it, you lunatic!”

    Xabjvat jung unccraf arkg (naq jub vg unccraf gb), guvf vf fgvyy terng.

  57. Behemoth slammed his claws together. The Yàngbǎn responded by creating forcefields en-masse, one for every person, overlapping with those to either side of them. The shockwave of the clap ripped through them, shattering the first two rows of forcefields and virtually liquefying the unfortunate capes who no longer had protection.

    The Yàngbǎn in the back rows were already dropping their forcefields, extending their hands forward, open palms aimed at their comrades.

    The shockwave’s effects reversed in an instant, and the injured were whole, holding the positions they’d been in an instant before. Here and there, the reaction had been a fraction too slow, and the Yàngbǎn members were only reversed to the instant the shockwave made contact. They were thrown back and caught by the ones in the back row, blood streaming from their eyes, noses and ears. One was saved much too late, and the process of being liquefied was only repeated, splattering the Yàngbǎn soldier who’d failed to react in time to rescue him.

    a) holy shit that’s horrifying. Even the ones who reverted to being completely uninjured…
    b) ubyl fuvg gung’f gur guvegl-fvkgu cngu, rkpryyrag pbafvfgrapl
    c) ubj gur uryy qb gurl rira svtug juvyr gnxvat pnfhnygvrf? Qba’g gurl nyy ybfr n crefba’f cbjre jura gung crefba qvrf? Gung fbhaqf yvxr vg jbhyq znxr fgengrtvmvat n uryy bs n ybg uneqre.

  58. First semi-critical comment. #awkwardsauce

    When and if this gets published, the descriptions of New Delhi and nearby locations *really* need to be improved.

    As far as we know, this is the first time Skitweaver’s even left the country, this arc may even be the first time she’s been out of *Brockton Bay*! Yet Being-In-India doesn’t seem to register with her, and as a background aspect isn’t communicated clearly to the reader. She’s flying half-way around the world (jet lag? first super-long flight?). The temperature and humidity would probably be a shock coming from the North Atlantic coast to New Delhi. The people would be different, the roads, the buildings, the skyline, the road signs, the billboards…. The environment would be *weird* to her, something to decide to ignore to focus on more important things; not something she wouldn’t notice.

    So far, we have three Hindi terms for superpowers, one New Delhi place name, and a lot of very barebones descriptions. They land in “a field”; buildings are ramshackle and dirty; “half the city” is on fire. The fields, okay, urban American teenagers don’t know fields, but the city? New Delhi has a distinctive look to it, even by Indian standards; the few descriptions here border on problematic. And more fundamentally, what does it mean to the reader for half a city to be on fire, if we haven’t gotten a picture of what that city is like in the first place?

    I suspect you’ll do better with the Indian bugs, but based on past descriptions of her power, I would have expected her to be physically conscious of the difference in bugs upon arrival.

    Fine chapter overall, but this is the first time the limited descriptions have really hurt the story for me.

  59. [ROT13 for spoilers]

    Ertrag pbzcynvavat nobhg Fxvggre’f frys-qrngu-synttvat orsber znxvat uvf bja fgngrzrag bs “V ybir lbh thlf”? Evtug orsber lbh-xabj-jung? Jvyqobj, lbh purrxl fbq.

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