Interlude 23

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Lightning ripped across the landscape, following its own path, independent, breaking every rule that electricity was supposed to follow.  It danced over the outside surfaces of houses, running across concrete and leaving glassy scorch marks in its wake.  It touched objects that should have grounded it, channeling it into the earth, but leaped for another target instead.

The Yàngbǎn raised their hands, already reacting.

Twenty-third path, fifth benefit.  Reflexes.

Thirteenth path, third formForcefield constructions, barrier.

The forcefields absorbed the worst of the energy.

Cody was already moving to use the thirty-sixth path to rescue anyone who’d absorbed the remnants of the shock.  None.  It hadn’t touched them.  He was among the last of them to dismiss his forcefield.  The forcefields drained their reserves of energy, and weren’t to stay up for too long.  They’d been drilled on this.

Qiān chū.”  Three ordered.

They mobilized.

Fourth path.  Shallow flight.

Ninth path.  Short range electromagnetism.  They skated off of the little exposed metal that was available around them, car hoods and pipes, gaining speed to augment their flight.

There were forty-two paths in all.  Forty-two powers.  No, he corrected himself, there were forty-one now that Seventeen was dead.  More would die by the day’s end.

The hope, the plan, was to demonstrate the Yàngbǎn’s strength, to show that they had the answer, a way to defeat the Endbringers.  It wouldn’t happen today, but a solid demonstration would serve to bring others on board.

They hadn’t been asked.  The expectation was that they would give their lives for this.  He would have refused.  He’d dealt with an Endbringer before, and he still hadn’t recovered from that chance meeting.  He’d lost everything, been stripped of friends and family both.

Yàngbǎn qiáng!”  Five called out.

Yàngbǎn qiáng!”  The group responded in chorus.  Cody’s voice joined theirs, quieter.  His pronunciation wasn’t good.  In all this time with the group, he hadn’t even managed to grasp the fundamentals of the language.  Mispronunciation was punished, not by any reprimand, but in a subtle way.  They would speak to him even less than they were now, he would get less food.  Maybe for a few hours, maybe for a few days.  The thought bothered him, and the degree to which it unsettled him was more disturbing still.

Something so minor as that shouldn’t have mattered so much to him, but it was all he had, now.

There was a crash of lightning, and a building collapsed, directly in their path.  Flames and smoke barred their path.

Shèntòu!”  Three ordered, his voice nearly drowned out in the noise of the building settling.  They were still moving forward, not even slowing.

The forward group hit the barrier with localized vacuums.  Individually, they were weak, but with twelve all together, flames were quenched, smaller objects levitated into the air.

Cody joined the middle group in shearing through the remaining wreckage.  Thirty-first path.  The cutting lasers.  The first group was slowing a fraction, and Cody slowed his flight to hold formation.

The twelve members of the Yàngbǎn only accelerated, flying around the group members they had been following.  They turned solid, space distorting around them as they rendered themselves invincible and incapable of any action but their pre-existing momentum, effectively human bullets.  They tore through the wreckage, clearing a path for the rest.

He felt a rush, just being part of the unit.  Being a part of a maneuver that let them cut through a burning ruin of a building with the ease they had.

Some of that rush, he knew, was the second path.  Magnification of powers.  Two wasn’t present, she was too valuable to risk losing, but they still shared her power between them.  Each of them had a sliver of her ability to enhance the powers of those nearby.  It was the reason their powers worked to the degree that they did, a feedback loop in power augmentation across their whole unit.

There were more things feeding into his consciousness, other senses he wasn’t actively tapping into.  The twenty-third path, it enhanced his perception, particularly his awareness of others, the threat an individual person posed, and enhanced his reflexes, particularly when dealing with people who wanted to hurt him.  It was of minimal use against Behemoth, but it made him cognizant of the other members of the Yàngbǎn, aware of their breathing, the noises they made as they ran.

In this way, the group subsumed him, rendered him a part of something overwhelming.  For now, in the midst of this, the deep loneliness and isolation was gone.  Language was almost unnecessary, beyond the one- or two-word commands he needed to know for particular maneuvers and directives.

Zig-zagging down the streets, they naturally settled back into their established rank and file.  With every member of the group having access to the same pool of powers, placement in the formation was a question of experience and how expendable they were.  Cody was an essential defensive asset, no use if he was taken out of action, so he rested in the middle of the group, surrounded by people who could protect him in a pinch.

Rumbles marked the collapses of taller buildings as Behemoth advanced, somewhere a quarter-mile behind them.

The heat was oppressive.  Even as they got further away from the monster, the fire only seemed to get worse.  The smoke was the worst part of it, preventing them from seeing or tracking their enemy.  It meant they couldn’t see more than a hundred or so feet around them, and they didn’t have any idea whether they were going to walk straight into the monster’s path or wind up encircled by burning buildings.  Their flight depended on proximity to a solid surface.  It involved hovering five to ten feet off the ground while moving at fifty or sixty miles an hour.  They had another means of flight, but less controlled, one that risked putting them above the skyline, obvious targets for a lightning strike.

Was the Behemoth smarter than he looked?  Was the destruction seeded in a way that would spread?  Fires started where buildings were closely packed?

Cody could feel his skin prickling.  His mask was filtering out the smoke, but the heat, it was getting unbearable.

Zhàn wěn,” Ten said.

Zhàn wěn,” the group echoed her, their voices strong.  It was an encouragement, an affirmation.  Cody didn’t know what it meant.  He’d been with them for an indeterminate length of time, what felt like years, but he didn’t feel any closer to grasping the language than he had been on the first day.  He’d had help, briefly, but that had been stopped.

Every member of the group was permitted to speak freely, but virtually every utterance was vetted by the group as a whole.  If, like Ten, someone were to speak, and others were in agreement, deeming the phrase acceptable, then the response was clear.  If the statement was poorly timed, or out of tune with the group’s line of thinking, then it was ignored, followed only by a crushing silence.

Cody had never experienced the adrenaline rush that Ten was no doubt experiencing over the simple act of getting a response from the squadron.  The group had never deemed his statements acceptable, because his pronunciation was poor.  He was a member of a tight-knit crowd, yet utterly, completely alone.

Tíng!” one of the members in the rear called out.

They dropped to the ground, their landings practiced, wheeling around a hundred and eighty degrees by planting one foot on the ground and sweeping the other out.

His forcefield was up before he even knew what the threat was.  Individually weak, strong in formation: a makeshift bubble of overlapping forcefields twenty feet over their heads.

The glowing projectile swiftly grew in his perspective, giving him only a second to brace himself before it crashed down on the wall of forcefields.

The wave of heat was intense, even on the other side of the barrier.  It seemed almost liquid as it spilled out over the edges.  In seconds, they were surrounded in flame.  The forcefields sealed it off, prevented superheated air from burning them alive, but the viscosity meant it was resting against the forcefield.


They’d drilled on abstracts, on possible situations.  Attacks from any direction.  Attacks in various forms.  He’d never really considered the ideas behind dealing with magma, but he had the tools.  Being a member of the Yàngbǎn meant being constantly drilled.  They took your power, all but a fraction of it, but every member of the group had that same fraction.  Every member was expected to know how to use every power, to know when and to do it in unison with the rest of the squad.

A small handful of individuals in the C.U.I. hadn’t been brought onto the group.  Null, the cape who made the Yàngbǎn possible, was independent.  He couldn’t be a part of the whole.  Others included Tōng Líng Tǎ, who had a power that was too slow to use, not worth the fractional decrease in power that came with including her in the network, Shén yù, the strategist, and Jiǎ, the tinker that supplied the C.U.I. with its devices, including the simulations for the drills.

It was those drills and simulations that allowed him to react a precious fraction of a second faster as he responded.  It kept him in sync with the others in the group as he joined half of them in letting his forcefield dissipate, simultaneously reaching out to apply another power.

Thirty-second path.  Nullification waves.

The effect was short ranged, and he could see the shifting in the air as it extended, passed through the gaps in the forcefield where the magma and heated air were only just beginning to leak through miniscule gaps.

The waves generated by thirty-two served to stabilize.  It stalled things in motion, warmed up cold things, cooled warm things.  It silenced, stilled.

The magma cooled with surprising rapidity, but then, the power was affecting the inside at the same time it affected the outside, rather than trying to cool the outside to a degree that would extend inward.

Path thirty-two.  It made him think of Thirty-two, the member.  The source of that particular power.  He snuck a glance at her.

She was one of four outsiders, four people not native to China.  She’d been his closest ally.  Something more.

Dǎpò,” Seven ordered.

Like the others, the maneuver was a practiced one.  The last forcefields dropped, and the group mobilized.  Odd-numbered members of the squad crouched, legs flexing, while even-numbered members, Cody included, reached out.

Path fourteen.  Vacuum spheres.

The odd-numbered members of the group pierced the barrier of cooled magma, and the vacuum spheres scattered the shards.

Another sphere was already in the air, aimed close to them, if not at the exact same spot.

Without even thinking about it, he trained a laser on it.  Others were doing the same, or following suit.  The glob of magma, still mid-air, was separated into loose pieces, no longer as aerodynamic as it had been.  It expanded, fell short, disappeared into the cityscape between them and Behemoth.

Each action Cody performed as a part of the unit was validating, affirming.  It was a series of small payoffs for the drills he’d gone through for over a year, with smaller groups and the Yàngbǎn as a whole.  The drills had been intense, with one new situation every one or two minutes, like flash cards, only they were holograms, color coded polygons and shapes with just enough mass that they could be felt.  If they failed the scenario, the offending members of the squad would be named out loud, the scenario shuffled back into the list of possibilities, so it might repeat in five minutes, or two hours.

Cody was well aware of what they were really doing, between the six hours of drills and the twelve hours of schooling that combined lectures on the C.U.I. with traditional education.  He knew why they only got forty-five minutes in total to eat for their two daily meals, only five hours of rest a night, why every minute of the day was scheduled.

He’d always told himself that he wouldn’t be a victim, that when the time came and he was indoctrinated into a cult, he’d recognize the targeted isolation, the practice of tiring him out so he’d be more amenable to suggestion, more likely to conform.  He’d told himself that he would rebel and maintain his individuality.

So stupid, to pretend he had that degree of willpower, in the face of crushing social pressure and exhaustion.  It had taken him nearly five days after he left the basic training and joined the official team before he realized what was going on.  The saddest part of it was that he was fully aware they were brainwashing him, indoctrinating him, and there was nothing he could do about it.  Despite himself, despite the pride he’d once had as a person, he wanted acceptance.

They were a poor surrogate, a surrogate he hated, in a way, but he had nothing else.  His family was a universe away, his friends had turned on him, gone mad.

There was a crash, and a shockwave ripped through the area, momentarily clearing the smoke.  Cody instinctively raised his forcefield.

Behemoth was there, standing amid leveled buildings, fighting some flying capes who strafed around him.  He had built up some steam, and lightning coursed over his gray flesh, illuminating him.  Only one or two of the metal ships were still fighting.  Other craft, airborne, seemed focused on evacuating, but it was a gamble at best, as shockwaves and lightning struck them down.

The smoke filled the sky once more, obscuring Cody’s vision too much for him to see any further.

Behemoth clapped again, then again, each collision of claw against claw serving to extend the damage one step further, clearing obstructions out of the way for the next.

The Yàngbǎn backed away, spreading out inadvertently.  Cody could feel the benefit of the second path fading, the enhanced powers the others granted slipping from his grasp.

“Tā shì fúshè kuòsàn,” Three said.  He said something else that Cody couldn’t make out.  Something about leaving.

The group moved out, flying low to the ground, and Cody was a fraction of a second behind, pushed himself to make sure he was in formation.

“Radiation,” Thirty-two said, her English perfect, unaccented.  It was for Cody’s benefit, and the benefit of the other two English-speaking members of the group, who might not understand the more complicated words.  She got glances from the other members of their squad, but continued speaking.  “He’s using the shockwaves to spread irradiated material across the city.  We’re retreating, okay?”

Cody nodded, but couldn’t bring himself to speak as the group took flight.  It was unnecessary, wasn’t worth it when he accounted for how the others would react and respond if he used English.  Thirty-two would be shunned for doing so, there was no need for him to join her.

An explosion of smoke bloomed out in front of them.

Not smoke.  Darkness.

The Yàngbǎn collectively dropped into fighting stances, ready to use any power the instant it was called for.

Villains stepped out of the smoke, and it was only then that the benefits of the twenty-third path belatedly granted the Yàngbǎn their ability to sense these people.  The power had been blocked by someone or something in the group.

They were Westerners, by the looks of them.  Cody’s eyes narrowed as he studied them.  A guy with a demon mask, surrounded by the same eerie darkness that formed a wall between the group and Behemoth, a young girl with a horned mask, a stocky guy or girl with a thick fur ruff on their hood, and a girl in black with an opaque pane over her face and a crossbow in her hands.

The other group was also mounted, but clearly distinct in style, even if they’d shuffled together with the other group.  The boy in medieval clothes with a silver crown, the girl in a frock, two grown women in evening gowns.

They were all mounted on mutants.  He had to reach for the name.  The guy from Boston, Blasty?  Blasto.  He was supposed to make horrific mutants.  Maybe he was here.

The Yàngbǎn edged around the group, wary.

“Jesus,” the man with darkness shrouding him said.  His power was billowing out around him, more darkness.  “What the hell are you doing?”

He’s getting the benefit of the power boost, Cody thought, but he didn’t speak.

The others were shifting uncomfortably, but the one with the white mask and silver crown, and the two in the evening gowns… they seemed to take it more in stride.

Something about them, it tugged at a memory.  Not a strong memory, but a brief encounter at some point… it gave him an ugly, twisting feeling in his gut.

He blinked, and the girl with the gray, horned mask was right in front of him. He resisted the urge to react.  His teammates, he knew, were raising their hands in anticipation of a fight.  They were distrustful.  They’d been taught that foreign heroes were dangerous, unpredictable.

Thing was, they were right.  As a rule, capes were fucked up.  People were fucked up.  The Yàngbǎn, Cody mused, resolved the situation by stripping capes of their humanity.

She turned around, as if she hadn’t just appeared in front of him.  “Shit, you weren’t kidding.  It gets stronger as you get closer to more of them.  I can do practically anything, and they don’t react.”

“No idea,” the man in black said.

“They’re Chinese capes,” a woman in a yellow evening gown said.  “They probably don’t speak enough English to answer.”

Something nagged at him.  Cody searched his memories.  Between the crossbow and the boy in the renaissance era clothes, he couldn’t help but think of the game he’d played with his friends before everything went horribly wrong.  But the evening gowns, those masks…

Accord.  The bastard who had taken him, who had traded him to the Yàngbǎn for money.

The anger was refreshing, startling, and unexpected.  A splash of scalding water to the face, as if waking him from a dream.

“Thirty-six!”  It was Thirty-two calling.

“Thirty-six?” the girl with the horns asked.  “What?”

It was Cody’s name.  His new name, rather, but he’d never quite identified by it.  He turned and realized he’d dropped out of formation.

“Let’s go,” she said.

He glanced back at the woman in yellow.

“I can guess what you’re thinking, but it’s not worth it,” she said.

Every step of the way, I got fucked.  Fucked by Krouse, fucked by the Simurgh, fucked by Noelle, fucked by Accord, fucked by the fucking Yàngbǎn.

The woman in yellow spoke.  “Whether it’s answers, or revenge, or something else entirely, you won’t find any of it here.”

Others in her group were looking at her in surprise, or as much as one could, when wearing masks.

“Do you know how easy it would be to kill you?” Cody asked.

Three gave an order in Chinese.  Incomprehensible, but Cody could guess.

“If you killed me,” the woman in yellow said, “He’d barely care, and you’d spend the rest of your life in a hole that Ziggurat made, if they didn’t just paralyze you from the neck down and leave you alive to borrow your power.”

Ziggurat?  Oh.  Tōng Líng Tǎ, the earth mover.

She’d said she didn’t have answers, but this-

The ground shook violently.  Behemoth was still active.  Lightning was arcing through and around the dark clouds of smoke that were rising at the edges of the city.

“If it’s alright, we should go,” the darkness man said.  “Things get much worse, I’m not sure how much we can help, and I’m losing my mind waiting like this.”

There was a whistle from someone in the group, and they were gone, the mutant quadrupeds breaking into a run.

And Cody was left standing there, staring.

Three snapped something, and Thirty-two translated, “He’s saying we can send you back, if-”

“No.  It’s fine,” Cody said.  He turned and fell into formation.  The disapproval was like a weight on him from all sides.  He withered a little.  How many weeks, months or years would it be before he was allowed to hold a conversation with his comrades?

More heroes were running by, now.  A group of young heroes, a cluster of religious capes with halos and crosses worked into their costumes, and a fresh wave of mechanical ships.  The reinforcements had arrived.

Eight said something, but the accent was too thick for Cody to make it out.

He’d been stirred from a delirium, a state where the days had blended into one another, where the sole defining moment of his week might be if he were acknowledged by the other members or rebuked.  It wasn’t Behemoth who’d shaken him from that point.  It was the woman in yellow.

Anger twisted in his gut, and it wasn’t going away.  He found himself holding onto it, embracing it.

As if it reflected the violence within Cody, the city was burning, shattered and gripped in chaos.  Thousands were in the streets, running between flimsy looking buildings crusted with signage, or lying dead, struck down by shockwaves created by a monster half a mile away.  Women, children.

They passed injured, and didn’t spare a second glance.  A family of five were caught in a ring of burning structures, and the Yàngbǎn didn’t even spare a second glance.

We’re military, not heroes.

The goal was to fight the monster, to support the Yàngbǎn and support the C.U.I. in any way possible.

Three changed course, and the rest flew after him, setting down.  Their destination was a flattened building, with a group of dead, maimed and dying Indian capes lying in the debris.

Cody exercised the twenty-third path to find out what Three surely knew already.  There was nobody nearby.

Three reached down, and others around him joined in, making contact with one of the dying.

It took nearly a minute, to attune everything the right way.  But the effect took hold, and the injured hero disappeared.

Five looked to Cody and pointed at the next one.

Lowest rung on the totem pole.  If I didn’t think Null would rescind my powers, I’d kill you here and now.

Reluctantly, still stewing with anger, he obeyed, kneeling by the body.

The forty-second path.  Teleportation.  He could see the destination in his mind’s eye, like an annoying spot of light in the center of his vision, gradually getting more detailed and focused.  Each person that joined his side to assist sped the process along.

The wounded hero flickered and disappeared.

By the time they were done, all three bodies had been removed.

Qiān chū.”  Three ordered.

They moved out.

As they traveled, he could see the streets choked with evacuees, a virtual tide of people, rickshaws, bicycles and cars.  They’d reached bottlenecks, points where they couldn’t advance, and the evacuation wasn’t proceeding.

Was this an extension of Behemoth’s strategy?  The major streets were unused, either because the Endbringer could see them, unleashing waves of electricity and shockwaves to strike down anyone who tried those routes, or because buildings had been felled and they were impassable.

The heroes who weren’t helping with the evacuation were establishing perimeters, staggered lines of defense.  Here, Indian capes were setting up turrets on high ground, guns the size of cars, drilling them into the roads and rooftops.  Another block over, there were civilians who weren’t running.  They’d gathered, and were talking in low voices.  They radiated a different degree of power, on par with the capes on the rooftops.

The Yàngbǎn squadron slowed down as the cluster of capes grew denser, the buildings more solid and further apart.  There were trees here, but the heroes were cutting them down.  Each squad seemed to be executing a different plan, a different setup.  What appeared to be force-field fences were being erected in between each group and Behemoth’s estimated point of approach.

There was one group with heavy ranged weapons.  An area was being cleared, set up with devices.  Another area had been marked off with chalk, but it wasn’t clear what they intended to do.  Tinkers everywhere were setting up.  A kid with red armor and lenses had two odd-looking cannons set up on one rooftop, each the size of a city bus.

It painted a picture, formed a script of sorts, for the story that had yet to take place.  The idea that Behemoth would change direction from where he’d initially started off wasn’t even a consideration.  They weren’t consolidating forces, gathering together for one good strike, but were arranging it so one would follow after the other.  The capes he’d already seen were the ones that had gone forward to support, to find the injured, trusting to mobility or evasion to slip away.

And here, this far in, a dozen countermeasures were being set up, if not two dozen.  This would be the staging ground, without the crush of flammable buildings all around them.  Each countermeasure would occupy Behemoth for just long enough that the heroes could manage a barrage of attacks.

The Yàngbǎn reached the center of the network, landing on the rooftop with the most capes.  The makeshift command center.

He only had to take one look, and he knew.  Something vital was missing.  They had any number of ways to stall, and each one would cost them a little.  But for all of that, he couldn’t make out anything that looked like it would end the fight.

Cody could see the heroes react as the Yàngbǎn landed, and he could see the way others looked to one small set of people for cues.  The top-level guys, the leadership of the Protectorate.

A a man in gleaming armor extended a hand to Three, who’d stepped away from the group.  “We didn’t expect the Yàngbǎn.”

Three looked over his shoulder, and Thirty-two stepped forward.  Three murmured something, and she translated.  “Your PRT was very persuasive, Chevalier.”

“I suppose we can count that as a good thing.  You read the briefings and plans we sent out?”

Thirty-two continued to translate, “We did.  With your permission, we’ll return to the fight with Behemoth shortly.  But we’d like to make a proposal.”

“I know what you’re going to propose,” Chevalier said.  “I’m sorry, it-”

“It’s somewhat counter to our usual offer,” Thirty-two spoke quickly to match Three’s attempted interruption.

Chevalier fell silent.

“Your heroes here are scared.  They want to help, they are good people.  We’re offering another way.  They can help without risking their lives.”

“I think I understand.  You have to understand why I’m saying no,” Chevalier said.

“Our group shares powers.  Time and time again, the West has refused them.  We would rehabilitate your criminals, and share their powers among us.  They are divided in strength, but we have the ability to magnify powers.  You can feel it now, being close.”

“Yes,” Chevalier said.

In the distance, a column of lightning cut through the wall of smoke above the city, as big around as an apartment building.  Cody could feel the vibrations shudder through the building, as sturdy as it was, though the lightning was miles away.

“We might each have only a share of a power, reduced effect, range or duration, but we regain as much as a third of that power back with this magnification, depending on how many are together.  A full third of forty powers at once.  If any would volunteer, we would teleport them to a safe place, where we would borrow their power for this fight only.  We would send them home when the fight was over.”

Cody could see the reactions of the capes on the rooftop.  People were exchanging glances.  Considering it.

A part of him wanted to scream, to warn them, whatever the cost to him might be.

“I see,” Chevalier said.

“For years, we have boasted of the strength the Yàngbǎn offers the world.  But we are small, and too many citizens with powers flee or fight rather than cooperate.  Today, we hope to show our strength.  We have extended our support, and we ask for trust in exchange.”

“Your support is welcome, and that’s why we couldn’t ever ask you to make this leap of faith,” Chevalier said.  “I understand your motives are pure, but if some accident transpired, and a good cape didn’t make it back, it would mean war.”

Cody hadn’t missed the way the hero had stressed the words.  A warning for his people, more than a statement for Three.

“We would be exceedingly careful,” Thirty-two translated for Three.  “Rest assured.”

Cody was watching the negotiations continue, Chevalier looking more and more uncomfortable, when he saw him.

Accord.  He was accompanied by a girl in a lavender and black costume, and a dark-skinned man in a suit.

Cody had to hold himself back to keep from striking the man.  It would be suicide, and no matter which power he used, Cody couldn’t be sure he could guarantee a kill.

He could see the moment where Accord saw the Yàngbǎn.  Cody could see the reaction, as if the man had been slapped in the face.  Accord’s shifting mask gave away his reaction, and then his expression set, his body language neutral, as if nothing had happened and nothing was wrong.

The girl beside him smiled, and brilliant green eyes settled on Cody, stark contrasts to her pale purple costume.

He hated not knowing anything, being cut off by language barriers and the rules of the Yàngbǎn.  Who was the girl in lavender?  Where were Alexandria, Eidolon and Legend?

Every question left him more uneasy, increasingly angry, and Accord was the person who had put him in this situation.

I’m a slave, and he’s the one who put me in chains.

“May I interrupt?” Accord asked.

“If the Yàngbǎn will excuse me?” Chevalier asked Three.

Three nodded.  “As you will.  We can wait.”

Cody suspected Chevalier had been hoping to end the conversation, rather than postpone it.  He stared at Accord.  Do they know what you do?  What you are? 

There was a crash, a clap of thunder, and a rush of hot wind.  The cloud of smoke around Behemoth’s battlefield was growing, and it wasn’t just a matter of perspective, of Behemoth getting closer.

Capes flew off, joining the fray.  The Yàngbǎn remained.

“What can you tell us?  Do you have a plan?” Chevalier asked Accord.

I’ll kill him.  I’ll kill him.  Somehow.  I just need a chance.

It was too much, like being asleep for months and finally waking up, only to discover that the only thing inside him was rage.

“…optimal timing,” Accord was saying.  “I’m still working out the particulars.”

Krouse thought he was smart too.  When I’m done with you, I’ll find him and kill him. 

“What do you need?”

“Contact information for your various squads.”

Cody virtually twitched with a need to move, a craving to fulfill some deep-seated desire for revenge, but the group around him wouldn’t afford him the chance.  Each member of the Yàngbǎn was simultaneously a prisoner and a guard, some more of one than the other.

Chevalier nodded.  “You’ll have it.  Rime?”

A woman in blue limped forward, “I’ll handle it.”

The girl in lavender glanced at Cody before falling in step with Rime and Accord.

Had she sensed his emotion?  She hadn’t said a thing.

“He just reached the first perimeter,” someone reported.  “Tore through our skirmishers.  Some teenagers were killed.  Eidolon and Legend are fighting, but they’re not in good shape.  We didn’t expect him to move this fast.”

“The Triumvirate’s missing a key member,” Chevalier said.  “Our more mobile capes should move out now.  Meet him at the first perimeter if you’re fast enough, hold at the second if you aren’t.  Maintain cover where possible.”

Qiān chū.”  Three ordered.

The negotiations were over, it seemed.

But he could feel the tickle of new powers taking hold.  The three they’d collected from the shattered building were joining them, like it or not.

The first power was an easy one to grasp.  He could feel his body surging with some added strength, and that strength swelled a step further as the power-enhancing auras took hold.

The second was a tinker power, he was almost positive, or it was a thinker power with a focus on guns.  Nothing useful.

The third… another thinker power.  His vision clarified a step.  The ability to see through smoke?

No.  The ability to see through surfaces.

He was disappointed, and he couldn’t be sure why.  What had he wanted?  What did he want, in general?

Even now, he was alone.  The Yàngbǎn wanted to collect capes, to prove themselves.  The heroes wanted to stop Behemoth.

Cody didn’t care about either.

He entertained the notion that helping Behemoth go loose would almost be better.  It could mean the end of the Yàngbǎn, Accord’s death.  Even Trickster’s death, if they had decided to show up.

Except there was no reasonable way he could do that.  Not for a lack of wanting to, but because he couldn’t hope to oppose the Yàngbǎn and the heroes at the same time.

Needed an opportunity.

The Yàngbǎn passed through the worst of the smoke, into the blasted, shattered ruins of the city.  In the moment they joined the fight, Cody held back.

They sensed he was gone, but they couldn’t disengage, not as Behemoth gathered up a ruined section of building and melted it down, hurled massive globs of melted plastic, metal and stone at them.

The process took a minute at the best of times, with help.  His destination couldn’t be a distant one, and he couldn’t hope to behead the Yàngbǎn on his own, not with the members they’d kept in reserve, the precious ones, with powers they couldn’t afford to lose, like Two’s.

He nearly lost his concentration as a massive crash knocked him off his feet.

The fight’s only beginning, Cody thought.

The teleportation took hold, and he found himself back at the building the Yàngbǎn had just left, three stories down.

The command center.

Accord, the lavender girl, and Chevalier were leaning over a table with computers arranged along it, papers strewn out across the surface.

It brought back memories of the moment everything had turned upside down, the computers, the interrupted tournament.  Finding themselves in another world…

If he needed a push to act, that was it.  The biggest one first.

The laser didn’t cut the armor.  It was capable of cutting granite like a hot knife through butter, but it didn’t cut the armor.  Chevalier turned, drawing his sword, a six-foot long beast of a weapon.  The armor glowed orange as the laser concentrated on his belly.

“You lunatic!” he shouted, charging.

Cody switched tactics.  A forcefield-

The sword shattered it with one swing.

He flew out of the way as another swing came within an inch of decapitating him.

A laser with one hand, a vacuum sphere with another, pulling Chevalier off balance.

Again, it didn’t work.  The man barely reacted as the vacuum sphere caught his legs.  He aimed his weapon, and a combination of danger sense and a nullification wave stopped the shot in the chamber, disabling the gun.

The x-ray vision was barely penetrating the sword or armor.  Cody had to duck, back up and rely on his enhanced reflexes to avoid Chevalier’s attacks.  He had forty-four powers and not one was letting him beat, what, a swordsman in a suit of armor?

It was the lack of the power boost.  The Yàngbǎn were only strong as a group, granting the aura to one another.  Here, now, he was feeble.  Forty powers, and not one of them sufficient.

Always second best.  Always alone, Cody thought.  No.

Keeping the laser trained on Chevalier, he used his own power.  Perdition’s power.  The thirty-sixth path.

Chevalier was moved back to where he was seconds ago.  Cody backed out of the way, kept the laser trained on the hero, and the instant his opponent got too close, he used his power again.  It barely set Chevalier back two seconds, but it was enough.

Slow, steady, inevitable progress.  Time was one of the fundamental forces of the universe, undeniable.

Accord and the girl in lavender made a sudden attempt to run to the door.  Cody created a forcefield to bar their way.

They reached for phones.  He used a vacuum sphere to pull them away.

It took nearly a minute to cut through Chevalier’s armor, using the time reversals to effectively put the man on hold while he put some distance between them, and the laser to cut.  The man folded over the second the laser pierced flesh, cutting straight from the front of his stomach to his back.

Obstacle gone.

“Reckless,” Accord said, sounding more sad than afraid.  “Lunacy.”

“I don’t care what you think.”

“I’d hoped your placement with the Yàngbǎn would temper you.”

Cody lashed out with the laser.  Accord’s right arm was lopped off.

Another cut, for the right leg.  Accord screamed as he fell.

The girl in lavender hadn’t reacted, only stared down at the two dying men.  She clicked her tongue, “Tsk.”

“He’s asymmetrical in death,” Cody mused.  “There’s a justice in that, isn’t there?”

“If there’s irony here, it’s the fact that his desire for order led to this,” the girl commented.  “We just lost our strategist and our field commander, so there’s going to be more chaos than ever.”

The windows briefly rattled with the shockwave of one of Behemoth’s attacks, halfway across the city.

“Tsk.”  the girl said, again.

The anger still burned inside him, not sated in the slightest.  Did I end it too quickly?  Maybe I should have drawn it out more.

He glanced at her.  She was staring at him.  “Can you use that computer to find someone?  If they’re here, or somewhere else?”

“I can,” she said.


She raised an eyebrow.  “Oh, I can tell you that without looking.  He bit it.  Some freaky monster calling herself Noelle freaked out, made clones of him.  They ate him alive.  Literally.”

He blinked.  “When?”

“A month ago, Brockton Bay.”

The details fit.  Cody nodded slowly.  He wasn’t sure how to feel about that.

“Sorry, if he was your friend.”

“He wasn’t,” Cody snapped.  He felt off balance.  This was so unexpected.  How was he even supposed to react to that?  How long had it been since he’d really made a call on his own?

Slowly, he spoke, as if sounding out the ideas as they came to him, “No.  I suppose that’s good.  Thank you.  I’d tell you I’ll make it quick, but… you worked for him.  You probably deserve it.”

“Nuh uh,” she said.  She’d backed away, gripped the edge of a table.  Her entire body was rigid.  “I’ll give you my phone, you can call any one of my buddies, tell them it’s Tattletale.  They’ll tell you we were constantly fighting. Only reason we haven’t offed each other is that it’d be mutually assured destruction.”

“Trickery.  No, knowing him, knowing the kind of people he associates with,” like Trickster“there’s probably contingency plans.  I won’t fall for that.”

“Spare me, maybe I can salvage this mess.  I mean, you’ve still got to live on this planet, right?  We can’t let Behemoth win.  Not today.”

“I’m dead anyways.”

“Because of the Yàngbǎn.  I could help.  I’ll figure out a way for you to escape.  Hopeless as this feels, there’s a way out.”

“No,” Cody shook his head.  He felt so lost, so tired, so unsatisfied.  There was one major enemy left to eliminate, one more group who’d wronged him.  The Yàngbǎn.  He already knew he wouldn’t get any more satisfaction from it.  He knew he’d likely die in the attempt.  “No, no point.”

“Fuck,” she said.  “There’s definitely a point.  Just… give me a second, I’ll think of it.  Shit.  Sucks I don’t know much about you.  Don’t suppose you’d give me a hint?”

He raised a hand, pointing at her.  “No.”

“Think about her,” the girl who’d called herself Tattletale blurted out the words.  “What would she think?”

He hesitated.

Her?  The first person that popped into mind was Thirty-two.  The Yàngbǎn member who’d tried to teach him Chinese.  They’d been close, had been friends, before the group segregated them, because they were more malleable as individuals than as a group.  Members of the same team, but never given a chance to talk with one another.  Always in arm’s reach, never together.

The second person he thought of was Noelle.  His first love, the betrayer, the monster.

He shook his head, which only intensified the ringing in his ears.  When had that started?  With the shockwaves?  During the fight with Chevalier?

Or before all that?  Before the Yàngbǎn.  Had it ever stopped?

He thought of the Simurgh, thought of all of this in the context of him being just one of her pawns.

His head hung.

Always a pawn.  Always the expendable one.  Kicked off the team, traded away to Accord for the team’s safety.

“There’s…” he started to speak, then trailed off.  She didn’t interrupt him.  “Who?  Which her are you talking about?  Which her?  Be clear.”

He approached Tattletale, gripping her throat, feeling the added strength of the newest additions to the Yàngbǎn.

Tattletale’s voice was strained, “Honestly?  I figured I’d toss it out there.  There’s bound to be someone important, and saying her gives me a fifty-fifty chance.”

“I hate smartasses,” he said, and he squeezed, feeling her windpipe collapse in his grip.

She fell to the ground, and he watched as she struggled for air that didn’t come.

The faint screaming rang through his head as he watched her struggle to climb a chair, taking ten, fifteen seconds to just get her upper body onto the seat.

She found a plastic pen, collapsed to the ground with it in her hand.  When she flopped over onto her back, it was broken.  She’d caught it between her body and the ground.

This’ll have to do as a surrogate for Trickster, Cody mused, watching.  Had Noelle felt anything like this when she’d killed and devoured innocent people?  A kind of despair, mingled with helplessness?

Anger was all he had left, the drive for revenge the sole thing keeping him moving.  Feeble and misdirected as this was, it wasn’t it.

Tattletale drew a knife from her belt, used the edge to remove the nib and the ink reservoir from the plastic case of the pen.

When that was done, she stabbed herself in the base of the throat.

She’s giving herself a tracheotomy, Cody thought, watching in fascination, even as he reached out and took hold of the plastic pen case.

He watched her expression as he crushed the plastic in one hand.

And he felt nothing.  Even the paradoxical grin that appeared on her face, in contrast to the frustrated slam of one hand against the floor, it reminded him of Trickster in an odd way.  Yet it added nothing to this.

Think about her.  What would she think?  Tattletale’s words struck him.

He thought of Thirty-two, and without even deciding to, he used his own power on the pen case, returning it to the state it had been in seconds ago.

He handed it back to Tattletale, then stood, his back to her, as he concentrated.

As goals went, it wasn’t much of one.  He’d barely talked to her.  As far as kindnesses went, hers had been minor at best.  But he’d save Thirty-two.

It took two minutes to carry out the teleport.  He didn’t have much time before the Yàngbǎn found a free moment to contact Null and rescind his powers.  Maybe they were calling already.  Maybe the electromagnetic radiation in the area would block the call.

He’d find a way, regardless.

He felt his power take hold and teleported.  Back to the battlefield, back to Thirty-two.

Chest heaving as she greedily sucked in air through the plastic tube she’d jammed into the hole in her throat, Tattletale feebly crawled over to Chevalier.  Her strength was depleted before she got halfway.

She stared across the room at Accord and Chevalier’s bodies, straining to see if either were breathing.

She managed the only utterance she could, without the ability to bring air from her lungs to her mouth:  A click of her tongue.  “Tsk.”

Last Chapter                                                                                               Next Chapter

534 thoughts on “Interlude 23

    • “to which unsettled him” Missing a word?
      ” incapable of moving, virtual projectiles.” I get the idea but it might read better as incapable of being stopped or something?

    • “a feedback loop that fed into itself” – a bit redundant. A feedback loop feeds into itself by definition.

    • Not a typo, but when Cody first notices the Undersiders, there’s no mention of them being on dogs. Then when he spots the second part of the group, they’re said to be ‘also mounted.’ Just seemed a bit inconsistent to me.

    • They turned solid, space distorting around them as they rendered themselves invincible and incapable of taking any action, human bullets.

      I assume you meant “incapable of taking any damage” here? If not, I’m not sure I understand the description.

    • Not exactly a typo, but…

      “Tattletale and Accord made a sudden attempt to run to the door. Cody created a forcefield to bar their way.”

      This seems odd when Tt has been referred to as “the girl in lavender” for the entire rest of the piece up to now, and Cody doesn’t learn her name until later.

  1. And that means collapse of the PRT is even more accelerated. Or, the best case scenario, Undersiders / D&D take over for Chevalier.

    Or Tattletale dies.

    And, in any case, this means was with Yangban. Which means was with China. Which means World War.

      • When you say that, it reminds me of a Walking Dead-related meme I’ve heard of: “If Daryl dies, we riot.”
        Sound apropos?

    • Actually, the fact that most of the Yangban are in the fight when this happens will likely help their case. And if Tattletale survives, she’ll probably clear things up.

    • Psh. He just had a little laser punch through his gut. Or maybe chest. That bit wasn’t clear. Somewhere in his torso. Cody’s goal was to disable him; he didn’t ensure a kill. I think Chev’s odds of survival are pretty decent. Maybe his interlude will be about him trying to run the PRT from a hospital bed.

      • However he is out of the fight. Which means our best bet for a commander is Skitter.

        What do you think Tattletale was grinning about?

          • And she really should stop doing it. Jack slashed her face, Miss Militia jammed a gun in her mouth and the reason Cody was dragging out her death, before sort-of saving her, is because she reminded him of Trickster, something Tattletale was very probably aware of.

        • How bad things are for Chevy depends on what the laser hit. If it hit a vital like the heart, or lungs then yeah he’d be dead. Accord is probably dead. But if he isn’t does anyone else think he’d chop off his remaining limbs to make himself symmetrical?

    • Despite what endgame says, we have gotten a number of flashback POV chapters detailing past events, so it doesn’t really matter if Chevalier dies as far as seeing a chapter about him goes.

  2. I love how many comments I have seen saying the Yangban couldn’t be that bad, seeing as they fought immediately and didn’t wait around to kidnap people. Guess that was pretty far off.

    • Well they are in their own way trying to help. They have figured out what Taylor remarked earlier that Capes tend to be born of loners and outsiders and freaks and that getting them to work together is like herding cats. Their solution might sound and look extreme, but considering the stakes and threats involved they probably seems justified to those making the decisions.

      No that I think it is good or very moral idea, but in their opinion their own minds they are probably the heroes.

      • It’s better than “Heyotherdimensionwhatyadoinyouneedthosewarorphans? No? Coolwe’lljustgiveempowersoopsthepowersnotgoodwellofftotheinternmentcampyougo!”.

        They have a lot more style too.

        • Is it really any better? Instead it is just buying or kidnapping capes, stealing their powers, and brainwashing them into a complete inability to conform. At least the Cauldron tests had a CHANCE at surviving as an independent entity. I would rather run that risk than be subsumed into a hivemind that I almost certainly won’t be freed from.

          • Yeah, I’d hate to never have a chance to survive as an independent entity. Fuck Cauldron and their keeping people locked away just to be experimented on, their lives solely in the possession of people who will use them and control them and see them not as people but as persons.

            Yangban is exactly as bad too.

            • China is also a very conformist and autocratic culture. Always has been. Not a lot of democratic goverments in it’s long history. That might work well with the culturally chinese, but as we see they are trying to “recruit” non Chinese, and all it takes is one non broken person to fuck everyone over.

          • Does it need to be reiterated that Cauldron takes people from other dimensions by the hundreds? Face it, human beings brutalizing each other has been happening since forever, but this is the first time that we’ve visited pain and suffering onto other dimensions. I think the very concept makes them irredeemable. We’re dealing with people who practice colonialism, slavery, and marginalization on a fucking quantum level.

    • I agree completely, the Yàngbǎn are pretty evil, and what’s worse, I suspect that ultimately they won’t prove to be a necessary evil.

      Even with that though, I hope Cody and 32 might get out and get away. He’s a monster now, but he’s also a broken and hurt child utterly at the end of his rope, and the monster is one that the Yàngbǎn made.

        • I’d argue that the Yangban aren’t as bad as Cauldron, except we don’t know what Cauldron’s ultimate goal is, or what the Yangban would have done with a power like Doormaker’s.

        • I think Cauldron is still worse. Oh the Yang Ban are bad. But I suspect Cauldron has been actually speeding up the destruction of the world. Accidently but they’ve committed so many crimes to try and save the world.

      • I got the impression that they are connected to Cauldron from Lung’s interlude, and now I’m guessing that Dr. Mother might have created Null.

      • I don’t know, the Yangban are pretty bad but I don’t think I’d say they were WORSE than Cauldron. About equally bad, probably.

        • The main reason I say they are worse than Cauldron is that Cauldron has demonstratably contributed to saving the world multiple times already. So at least there is an upside to having Cauldron around, whereas Yangban does fucked up shit and doesn’t have anything to show for it.

          • Except now they’re fighting Behemoth, so I’d go with just as bad as each other. They’re both evil, but they both want to save the world.
            The thing is though, I think they both have selfish reasons.
            Cauldron want to save the world because it’s end would be bad for business.
            The Yangban presumably want to save the world because its end would be bad for the Chinese government. Although, does anyone get the feeling that “take over the world with an army of indoctrinated power sharing capes” is somewhere on their to-do list?
            So I’m going to go with equally evil, but in different ways, for different reasons, but fortunatly both groups want to stop the Endbringers.

            • Yeah, sure the Yangban showed up to fight Behemoth, but showing up to fight doesn’t compare against the big three of the Triumverate actually running the Endbringers off at least some of the time. Once the Yangban manage to make a huge difference in multiple Endbringer fights they can start trying to say they have provided as many advantages to the world as Cauldron.

              Until they can justify their evil with results the Yangban just don’t measure up to Cauldron to me.

              • Justifying evil with results? Guess Cauldron has some work to do before they can become the righteous bizarro versions that you’re talking about.

                Seriously experimenting on people in internment camps=/=saving the world. There is absolutely nothing about Cauldron that couldn’t be done humanely. And no the Triumvirate hasn’t really done dick against the Endbringers except serve as a road bump to them until Scion strolls to further the illusion that superheroes are any use at stopping them.

      • Oh, I completely forgot about the smurf having a role in this. I doubt it will come to war since neither country would want it/can’t afford it. I’m guessing China has to come clean and lose alot of respect/credibility or , considering they distrust parahumans so much they mentioning removing their humanity, I think they’ll throw them under the bus and claim they went rouge. Either way both countries are weakened and the BEHEMOTH fight becomes even harder. Well played Smurf.

        • The Yangban just officially broke the truce, theant87.

          The one that says all the villains and all the heroes don’t mess with each other during Endbringer defense or it’s the offender’s ass. The Yangban of China just broke that truce…with Tattletale in the room!

          • But NO ONE wants a world war. Which means China has to explain why this happened. They can say he went rouge, but if Tattletale lives she can clue people in that he was one of the Travelers and American originally which raises questions/suspicions on them. People will start to look into them more, and their methods might be discovered. If that happens they lose credibility/respect, no one will want to work with them, and the parahumans in their own country will react. So they can either fess up and take the fallout or declare the whole organization rouge. They claim they were shocked and disgusted with their actions and had no idea. China and America, in our universe anyway, are too important to each other economically.

            • I’m getting tired of this “for the greater good of the world” crap. All the time, they can’t actually expose real wrongdoing because it would be bad for the world. Yes it fucking is, but you know what’s worse? Everyone doing that because they know no one will expose them because it’ll be “bad for the world.” Like HSBC financially aiding North Korea, Iran, Sudan, drug cartels, the mafiya, Al Qaeda and Hezbollah affiliates. And getting away with it. Not prosecuted because it would be “bad for the world,” specifically the part of the world that relies on a bigass bank for their economy.

              So, oh orderly people, what do your laws and rules mean if they aren’t applied equally?

              If you’re just going to let them get away with this kind of shit anyway, then don’t bother having the laws or the rules or the truce in the first place. Not like it’s stopping or punishing violators anyway.

              Except maybe that fat clown guy with the blue face paint, but nobody likes him anyway. Go away, John Leguizamo!

              • That is the point Skitter/Weaver has been trying to pound through the collective heads of the PRT/Protectorate. You can’t have the “Greater Good” for a society if there is rampant injustice for the individuals that live in that society. All they are did is build a house of cards and Echidna pulled it down exposing it for the lie it was to the Cape community. So what do they do? Learn the lesson and do better? Nope, try and rebuild that house of cards for the “Greater Good” and it is about to get pulled down again.

              • As a former member of the Shadowknights of the Rouge Isles in CoV, I’m glad that constant mistake is being picked up on by other people.

                The Rouge Isles, of course, being an unincorporated archipelago where the natives speak a dialect of English called Typonese.

          • Yes, they did.

            Except in point of fact Cody is the one who broke the truce, and he did it acting on his own, and Tattletale knows this (she saw that Cody was out for Accord’s blood, and that Thirty-two tried to talk him out of it). So Yangban/China isn’t doomed yet.

        • Or they could just say that only /one/ of them went rogue. Which (if he actually succeeds in killing at least some of the other Yangban) would actually be true.

          • Ah, yes. The Yangban, superhero group of China, can just admit to not having perfect conformity and discipline publicly.

            I was holding down my Sarcasm key when I typed that. Did it show?

            • Don’t worry – pretty sure it’s like capslock, and you’ve had it on for every post I’ve ever seen.

            • So, their options are 1. Tell the truth, as you said, it doe sn’t look too good, 2. Claim the whole group went rogue, even worse for disipline, 3. Say it was official, not too good for international relations, or 4. Deny everything, kill all witnesses and blame Behmoth for the deaths. That one might work, maybe they’ll try it.

              • Option 5- Blame the Smurf. Hey it worked for the PRT with Alexandria!

                From here on anything bad that happens is the Smurfs fault. Someone dies? Smurf’s fault. Someone goes crazy? Smurf’s fault. Someone spills a drink? Smurf thought those pants were ugly.

              • The sad thing is that a) blaming the Smurf is a pretty reasonable excuse in the Wormverse and b) the moment people get smart and start abusing that excuse it will be impossible to track down the real Smurfbombs

              • @AMR:

                The sad thing is that a) blaming the Smurf is a pretty reasonable excuse in the Wormverse and b) the moment people get smart and start abusing that excuse it will be impossible to track down the real Smurfbombs

                Which just benefits the Simurgh even more!

          • But the trick is Tattletale was there and noticed how Accord reacted. A few interviews with his employees clues her in on what he did, who Cody was, and what their methods are. China kidnapping American villains, brainwashing them, and forcing them to fight looks VERY bad. They might not be able to sweep this under the rug by claiming just one went rouge. They can try it and risk everything being outed like Cauldron or declare the whole organization wen rogue and claim deniability saving face and some of their reputation. Either way, they are severely weakened and another strong force against the Endbringers is weakened. I image the Smurf saying “Just As Planned” and laughing her winged ass off right now.

            • Actually the bigger problem for them is kidnapping down hero’s and villans at Endbringer events. Remember they have been to them in the past according to the last regular chapter, so you can expect that they have kidnapped someone that fell before like say at the Leviathan attack in Japan when Lung fought him to a standstill. Think that might also be one of the reasons they have stayed away from Endbringer events over the years because they don’t want “their members” to be recognized. Got to get them brainwashed and speaking Chinese thoroughly before letting them interact with others again. Less chance of being recognized that way doncha ya know.

        • Dammit, there has to be a joke to be made about a communinst Chinese superpower team and the repeated misspellings of rogue as rouge (=red) in this thread…I just can’t see it. Help?

          • If he’d really gone rouge, he’d have pronounced the Yangban thought correctly?

            Seriously, he may have killed Yangban as we’ve known it just by leaving a living witness to what he did. It’s simultaneously proof to their Chinese supervisors that their methods didn’t work well enough and casus belli to literally the globe. Concessions are likely to include restructuring Yangban materially.

            • My money is on Chelvair surviving actually. It’s a nasty gut wound, but either cybernetics or a healer could likely bring him back.

              • Yeah. It’s a belly wound, and it was made by a laser, which means odds are good it cauterized. Mind you, he’ll likely need surgery and there will be complications later, but he’ll likely survive.

                Now if it grazed the spine, he might find himself out of armor for good and stuck on desk duty for a while. Heh, he and Piggot can bond over their war wounds…

  3. Well, fuck. Accord is pretty much dead from blood loss in a few minutes, Chevalier might still be alive if his armor has a way to medically help him, and it’s unclear if Tattletale can still breathe. So they lost their leader/strategist, the CUI will either have to fess up to their monstrous methods or risk war and that isn’t mentioning how many will survive this little rebellion. But yeah he’s dead one way or another. Ask Alexandria how things go when you attack an undersider. Accord and Chevalier I can live with especially considering Wildbow confirmed we will still have a Chevalier interlude which implies he survives. But Tattletale suddenly dying would be a little cheap in a interlude but I have long given up on predicting this story. So any bets on what Weav…Skitter will do?

    • Not a clue, but if Tattletale dies Cody better hope that Behemoth fries him before the bugs find him.

    • “Chest heaving as she greedily sucked in air through the plastic tube she’d jammed into the hole in her throat, Tattletale feebly crawled over to Chevalier.”

      That suggests to me that Tattletale is still alive, and not currently dying. Chevalier? Harder to say. Accord? Yeesh, double limb loss seems pretty brutal. Shock trauma could do him in even before the massive bloodloss had a chance to do the job.

      As for what Taylor’s going to do? I can’t even begin to guess. She’s going to be insanely busy with Behemoth but on the other hand it would take much concentration or effort to bug-murder the hell out of Cody. Not sure she’s in the right frame of mind for that yet, especially if Tattletale lives, and given that Behemoth is in the area and the Yangban will want to kill Cody too (possibly), she may have to wait in line.

      • EEESH people.

        LASER! It cauterizes! It can stop ze bleedingz!

        Cody basically Anakin’d Accord and gut-shot Chev with lasers. Life may suck, but they aren’t dead yet, potentially.

        But with the leadership dropping like flies there’s going to be a definite need for some organic C3 (Command, Control, Communications) due to the EM interference from ye olde Behemoth…

        • If only there was someone highly mobile, able to communicate with everyone in several blocks, highly multitasking, who can apply powers outside the box…

          Well, Glenn, how’s leading the battle against BEHEMOTH for PR?

          • Hahahahaha!

            That’d be awesome! Give the cult the power of increased thinking! Either it’d screw them over hard that way, or they’d wind up with all his distracted thoughts on trying to fix everything that messes with them all the time.

          • That was my thought, too! 🙂 What would a couple dozen people all trying to solve all the problems around them look like? They’d tear themselves apart. Self-destruct. Collective suicide. 😛

          • Except they would also have to take Tattletale as well since if they left her that would be a witness left behind and besides they would love TT’s power.

            • I was going to make a joke about them all getting migraines from hell, but… they actually really would love it. It’s a general-purpose thinker power that can be switched on and off at will. Turn it on when you can’t figure out what to do, turn it off when you need to concentrate or you’re getting intrusive thoughts.

              Tattletale herself, on the other hand, could probably escape their secret prison in a week, even paralyzed from the neck down. Remember that she does everything we’ve seen while using her power for about an hour a day…

      • Well it depends on what Dragon does. I assume she know about this thanks to the armbands and healers are on the way, but if she does tell Taylor it could distract her and the 37 Butcher clones ARE useful. If she says something she risks every bug Taylor comes across being given an order to hunt and eat them alive. Though I think Taylor is professional enough to wait until after this fight before going to war if Tattletale bites it. There is still the possibility of LIzardtale healing her.

        • Taylor should know about this already too – Tattletale would have carried some bugs with her just to maintain a secure line of communication.

      • Now, when you mention shock trauma killing him, do you mean from the lost limbs, or because he’s asymmetrical now? Or both?

    • Had a feeeling this was coming:) There’s no proof that Chev survived. The interlude might be done post mortem:) Suprised that Accord is dead though. Wonder if the Accordion’s will get subsumed by the Undersiders and stop wearing their Victorian dress.

  4. Sorry, but I hated this chapter. The deaths of Chevalier and Accord are way too contrived.
    No guards for either of the two leaders in the field?
    Tattletale and Accord not being able to think up a plan to kill a single parahuman?
    If you need Chevalier and Accord to die, you should think of a better way to do it.
    Also, this chapter affirms my hatred of all things Travellers. Especially Cody and Trickster. Both were characterized, in my opinion, terribly. They’re some of the most selfish and frustrating characters in the series.
    The Yangban was quite interesting. Fascinating way to form a team and work together.

    • Well actually, I don’t think Chevalier is dead, since you did say he has an interlude coming up. But Accord might be. I think I might have been a little too harsh in my assessment of this chapter. I stand by the clumsy execution of their injury/death(s) by Cody, however. Felt too contrived.

      • Tattle tale survives, the end is not very clear, but the fact ist hat she can breath, but not make any sound due to the colapsed windpipe, remember, tracheotomy.

    • I don’t think Accord’s death can be contrived by design, even he randomly slipped on a banana peel and into the path of a truck it would be a beautiful, beautiful thing. Bravo! Bravo! Gimme a gag reel of that shit!

      And I think that the Travelers being dominated by a couple of shitheels was the point, no? To show what happens if a punk with no perspective is given superpowers and taken away from home. To contrast with the Undersiders.

    • I disagree about it being contrived. First, as far as Chevalier goes, he is the leader of the Protectorate, which by default should mean he’s one of the more powerful capes around. Then you consider the fact that all other competent capes nearby would be focusing their efforts on beating Behemoth, on top of the Endbringer truce means that nobody would bat an eye at him working alone with two villains to come up with a strategy for the battle. In addition, the Perdition power is shitty to deal with from the start, even if you aren’t dealing with another 40 1/40ths powers.
      Then you have Accord, who has been explicitly stated to suck ass at split-second strategy being unable to deal with a problem within a few moments of it manifesting. Finally, there’s Tattletale. Her only real combat method is her ability to talk people into doing what she wants. Not only did she clearly have insufficient information on Cody to be able to really do anything with him, but he was also somewhat crazed, and getting anywhere was unlikely with what little she did have.

          • He didn’t have the amplification going, so it was 44 powers, each at 1/44th strength.

            Also, 23 said the amplification increased each power to 1/3 of its original strength, not increased it by 1/3 from 1/44th. That’d be 1/3 * 44 = 14 2/3 total equivalent powers.

    • Cody teleported in, remember? Kind of defeats the purpose of most guards if you can teleport. Besides, anyone who could be a guard would be out preparing/fighting the Endbringer. Thinking up a plan takes time, even with super-thinker-powers. Additionally, they would have to have something prepared to deal with the threat. Probably that would require resources not immediately available. Tattletales actions seemed to be the best way for her to survive the encounter, even if she is somewhat incapacitated by it. She can still write and sign. (Does she know sign language?)

      I thought Cody and Krouse’s selfishness and “frustrating-ness” made them some of the more believable characters in this story. People have flaws and often don’t bother trying to fix them.

    • It did feel incredibly contrived.
      I mean Cody is now alive, after being assumed dead since the traveler’s interlude.
      Accord was going to kill sundancer for intruding during a meeting, but cody letting loose monsters that wreck his town? Yeah, just gonna sell him.
      One of worm’s biggest strengths is that everything makes sense and you can follow how things come together.
      This though? It came completely out of left field, no rhyme or reason for it, it just kind of happened. It feels like the chapter was simply ‘I want to kill off/put these characters out of commission for some time, but have no good ideas on how to do it’
      Especially because we’ve seen cody get beaten twice by trickster, and that was when he had full power.
      Chevalier is one of the strongest capes, so how does he get beaten like a little bitch when trickster one easily?
      Especially because Cody should have 1/40th of each power, meaning that his ace in the hole, the time shenanigans shouldn’t work like normal, it should be working at 1/40th the power. During the traveler interlude, it should to only set people back a couple seconds, so it shouldn’t be setting Chevalier back 2 seconds, it should be setting him back .05 seconds.
      The entire chapter reeks of bad, rushed ideas.

      • Hmm, except that Accord muses in his interlude how he sells capes to the Yangban and since it was a moderately left-field comment, it stood to reason something would have come out of it. Then, in the previous chapter we got the yangban using time-reset powers just like Cody’s ( and we knew from Lung’s interlude that they steal people’s powers). This was enough for at least one poster,Trusting I believe, to connect the dots and he got lots of praises for his deduction.
        We have no idea how powerful Cody’s power was before. We only see him use it on Trickster just after he got it and was learning how it worked and then we see an Echidna clone confronting Trickster who unlike Chevalier has the advantage of being able to use his teleportation to negate the effects of the time lopping. Indeed, it’s actually commendable that Chevalier was beating the shit out of Cody, despite the latter’s 40 plus powers, who had to resort to resetting time.

      • I was rushed when I wrote it, was dog tired after getting less than 5 hours of sleep, and I don’t feel it’s the best writing I’ve put out on a technical level.

        That said, defending some points:

        Cody being dead was never explicitly stated. It was heavily implied, on the other hand, that Accord had sent him away to the Yangban, in Accord’s chapter. (killing is messy, fitting good customers into the Yangban is orderly and good business).

        Cody recieved a great deal of training with the Yangban. He’s fitter, his reaction times are better, and that’s without the additional powers, the enhanced strength and agility, the reaction times and enhanced speed. Even at a fraction of what he’s got, it’s a significant upgrade. His power is one that doesn’t suffer as much for being reduced in effect, because (as 32 says) – every power gets reduced in different ways, and his power wasn’t reduced substantially in terms of the time window.

        As far as the other powers, it’s not 1/40th. Even if you assumed an even divide among the surviving members, he’s granting himself the power boost.

        This was planned from some time ago. I knew that Cody was the most affected by the Simurgh (after Noelle), as, like Noelle, he was already unstable/in an emotional state before the whole business started out. I knew he was in the Yangban, and that this would be his moment to act. As for what his action was, that was what was decided late, on little sleep.

        This is a chapter I’d rewrite before publishing, but the events would stay the same in large part.

        • Fair enough.

          To take a moment to draw on your blogpost on reaction being proportionate to impulse – or disproportionate – as a way of illustrating qualities?

          90% of the reader complaints read (to me) as saying Chevalier went down too easily, without displaying the adaptability and skill befitting top-rank cape (as distinct from complaints about him going down at all), with a side order of ‘if it took minutes, why didn’t anyone intervene?’

          The latter issue is pretty straightforward – there’s presumably an enormous mess going outside which is outside the scope of this update, with all kinds of possible reasons for comms going down ranging from the expected (Behemoth and the EM spectrum) to the terrifying (Hello, Saint!) and more I’m sure I’ve not thought of, any one of which would explain why people blamed the radio silence on something other than Yangban assassinating the HQ element.

          The former just means a minor rewrite to either show both Chevalier and Cody being more active (Chevalier enlarges his sword, Cody time-warps just the sword, disarming Chevalier, Cody exploits Chevalier’s desire to protect the squishier Tattletale or Accord, etc. etc.), or (if you want anticlimax) some more clearly justified weak point or surprise on Chevalier. I think he got glass in his visor back against Echidna? His armor clearly isn’t perfect coverage, and if Cody’s resetting him regularly, it’s easy to justify pinpoint deliberate targeting of a weak point that would take a golden bb in normal combat.

          Anyway, looking forward to seeing how the next arc goes. Sleep when you can.

    • Not really one of my favorite chapters either. Cody’s an uninteresting dick (I’d blame Simurgh but he was characterized a dick even before that), and killing off Accord like that is just lame. He was a good villain, deserving of some drama and maybe a dying monologue.
      Did like the Chinese group power though. Very communist in both the good and the bad.

    • Chevalier not having guards seems pretty reasonable given that: (a) he’s at some sort of Command post rather than in the thick of the fighting, (b) they had little reason to expect anyone to be insane enough to attack the Protectorate during an Endbringer attack, (c) as the world’s premier superhero, Chevalier can generally be assumed to not *need* guards, and (d) anyone powerful enough to serve as backup to Chevalier is better utilised in the field against Behemoth anyway.

      Accord’s power tends to be more the pre-planning variety and he just didn’t get the time or opportunity here. (He may have started thinking about contingencies when he saw Cody, but was probably pretty focussed on the Behemoth issue).

      And I don’t know if you noticed, but Tattletale only had about fifteen seconds to talk and she *still* managed to say the right thing to survive a surprise teleport attack from a guy with 36 powers.

      I don’t think Cody’s characterised terribly, he’s just not a likeable person. IMO, he’s characterised perfectly as the self-centred prick he is. Some people are.

  5. – whoa. Definitely wasn’t expecting a living Cody.
    – now we know why Accord likes the CUI so much. The Yangban’s methods must be like catnip to him
    – interesting, the parallels between his current situation and Tricksters 🙂
    – fucking Cody. I actually used to be on your side, you goddamn muppet
    – goddammit, Simurgh. Just … goddammit.

    We might as well face it: barring a Scion best-case, humanity ain’t winning this one. I have to assume Project Terminus is a plan for the evacuation of Earth-Bet to some parallel with no Endbringers.

    • Yeah, Cody’s kind of a got a second trigger event power in just generally screwing things up in the worst possible way doesn’t he?

      As for humanities odds against the Endbringers? I’m not counting humanity out out of that fight yet. It’s humanity vs. humanity that seems like the losing battle at this point.

  6. If there’s irony here it’s that if she survives this, the girl who calls herself Tattletale can no longer speak.

    Also, damn you Cody & fuck you very much Smurf.

    • Well since I am confident Accord will bleed out in a few minutes, Lizard tale and the other may opt to work for/with the Undersiders and heal Tattletale.

        • The Yangban would loooove Lizardtails power — unless of course, irony ensued and the Manton Effect kept them from using it on themselves or each other.

          • It seems like healers are immune to healing powers, so lizard tail would be of questionable use. Unless they can fit him in with 40+ extra powers while keeping his own.

    • Even without superhero healing I think she’ll be able to speak again with normal medical attention. They can open up the throat again, it’s not like he cut her tongue out or the like. There are plenty of computers in the command room she can contact Dragon with if she can drag herself to them.

  7. I understood most of the pinyin yayy!
    Though there were some I didn’t recognise. Maybe dialect stuff.

  8. So after this can we claim the Smurf as the true big bad of the Wormverse? We have to add magnificent bastard at least considering Noelle, the breaking up of the PRT, Leviathan almost cloning himself, and now this.

  9. Accord almost certainly dead, and I guess that was one way to wrap up his storyline. I’m guessing the remaining ambassadors either bite it here or get folded into the Undersiders.

    Chevalier is also almost certainly dead, which is batshittingly bad for everyone involved. Protectorate definitely needs to bumb up more recruits, and hopefully let Weaver out of the prison stint.

    TT will probably live, and probably won’t be that worse off. Given what has already happen, TT’s death here would be one of the most anticlimactic ever.

    Also, Wildbow, your Chinese is not bad!

  10. Well, okay. It’s an interlude, so it’s not like something real bad can happen right?

    Oh fuck you!

    Leave it to a Traveler to fuck over absolutely everybody ever. Is it too late to hop back to Aleph, pull the Ballistic, Sundancer, and Genesis back through by the ears and make them help fix their own shit? Or atleast tell them “Listen, your buddy just ensured the deaths of millions, are you gonna help out or just sit there playing goddamn vidya?” Go doom your own dimension you fucking punks.

    Chevalier must’ve been surrounded by atleast some bodyguards or teleporters. So there’s a good chance Tattle’s on her way to a field hospital. But a shameful part of me wishes she bite’s it so none of the other Undersiders have to die.

    PS: I’m still totally rooting for Yangban over Cauldron. Death to America!

    • Dude. Seriously. From what we’ve seen, there is NOTHING to recommend the Yangban over Cauldron. NOTHING.

      Both groups imprison, brainwash and torture people. Both groups kidnap people. Both groups fuck around with superpowers in really unwise ways. Both groups treat humans as expendable, meaningless components. The Yangban aren’t there to save the world, they’re there to kidnap more capes to torture, brainwash and steal the powers from.

      • But the Yangban have style. That tips the scale for me.

        Besides, I’m kinda invested in CAULDRON BLOOD FOR THE BLOOD GOD right now. Gimme a break.

        • Consider the following:
          The Yangban do not, under any circumstances, have more style than the Contessa. Fit lady in suit with fedora? Kicking everyone’s ass without any of the more overt, special effecty superpowers?

          Also, really dude, the Yangban are not meaningfully better than Cauldron. They are here to kidnap more capes, torture them into submission, and steal their powers. That is all.

          • I forgot about Contessa, shit!

            And really, I don’t really think that the Yangban are any better. But the scale is a bit different. I get the feeling that the Yangban is a more isolated, experimental organization that is a known danger for. Cauldron is ingrained in the very fabric of the western cape community. If one is a cyst on the worlds superheroes, the other is terminal cancer.

      • Most of what you accuse the Yàngbǎn of doing could also be said to some degree of for example any normal real world military drafting people, drilling them and sending them of to war.

        Yes I am aware that for example the US military of today is not much like the process shown in “Full Metal Jacket” and that you would have to go back a lot further in time to find a place where the methods used by the Yàngbǎn would be considered normal, but considering that the fate of humanity is on the line and even our China does not put a big priority on the welfare of individuals it doesn’t seem too out there.

        • The army does not permanently strip you of your capabilities, remold your entire personality and literally brainwash you so badly that you don’t have the capacity to re-enter civilian life. The Yangban is pretty damned clearly not some kind of parahuman militia.

          • I don’t think that it has been said that the power-sharing thing is necessarily permanent.

            There is a slight element of ‘brainwashing’ going on in the process of turning civilians into soldiers in real life. Stripping away trappings of individuality and making everyone ‘uniform’ and easily interchangeable and to some degree expendable is a huge part of the process. Problems with re-entering civilian life are not unheard of either.

            They just take things to the extreme.

            If you add the fact that most people who get powers tend to be screwed up in some way or another and present some potential for mayhem if allowed to run around uncheked, this seems a lot less evil.

            • Lung escaped the Yangban. Now that we know how they work, how does anyone like the idea of China having 40 people who could all become 1/3rd as strong as Lung was against Leviathan? Not a fun thought. So either the power sharing is temporary or he escaped almost immediately.

              • I’m not sure. With the power, they would probably also get his condtions on it. And how would their brainwashing interact with his Need to feel, trapped, angry, challenged or whatever else the Trigger exactly is?
                It could be that the Yangban hivemind would be incapable of using his power.

          • I dunno. They certainly try. Sometimes it unfortunately works. In my years in the military, I met more than a few people who had, for instance, lost the artistic talents they had before joining, entirely changed their personalities to fit in to the point that none of their old friends wanted anything to do with them, and/or become so broken that they utterly failed in attempts to transition back to civilian life. The second one is true of nearly everyone I met in the military, come to think of it.

            The modern U.S. military is nowhere near as bad as the Yangban, certainly, but I think the primary difference is nothing but scale. The U.S. military applies these techniques lightly to a large number of people because they only need to induce slight changes to each individual to effect large changes upon the whole. The tragedy is when a certain percentage of that large number is especially vulnerable to these techniques and winds up conformed beyond recognition or recovery.

            • i’m not endorsing the process but…. the conformity training is to make sure that all soldiers have the same capabilities and will use them reliably. that being said, if the yang ban were all voluntary, they wouldn’t need any “cult-like brainwashing” , just constant team building exercises. (that’s why most modern armed forces are strictly voluntary. if you didn’t want to be there, you wouldn’t be worth the trouble to train)

          • “The army does not […] literally brainwash you so badly that you don’t have the capacity to re-enter civilian life”

            Remember Rambo 1? The guy can’t even buy a sandwich without shooting down a helicopter.

      • Every sufficiently large fighting group needs to treat humans as expendable.
        I prefer Cauldon though as it only uses volunteers (well, as much as “You’re going to die of your wounds unless you join us” can be considered voluntary) and seems to have positive aims.

    • My response, also. I think wildbow just likes lulling us into a false sense of security, and then WHAM. Out of nowhere. If they’re not dead, they’re at the least out if the fight, which is monumentally bad. Not sure why they’re alone, as I see a few things fundamentally wrong when leaving an important hero alone with two villains, but who knows.

      I was thinking of the Yangban as kinda monkish, Avatar style, for no real reason, and then I get this gem. Ingenious to show how capes have permitted every aspect of life so well. Yes, even something as out there as cults.

      • Chevalier could literally dice Tattletale and Accord, no problem. They’re both pure Thinkers. He’s a beast at melee or at ranged, and nigh-indestructible in his armor.

        He IS the bodyguard in that situation.

    • Tattletale needs to start avoiding parts of Endbringer attacks. No, not the whole of them, just the interludes. She has come THIS close to death in both of the Endbringer interludes.

  11. When the Undersiders showed up, was anyone else thinking “RUN AWAY YOU FOOLS!”. Hopefully Taylor’s instructions to them will be to man the fallback position in Canberra. (Yes, I’m aware that’s on a different continent.)

      • Depends on response times I guess. Has Wildbow mentioned more about what happened in Canberra? It is my hometown and I want to know! Is Australia still a sovereign country, or did it get too fucked up to continue to work?

        • My god, the Simurgh attacked the centre of Australia’s government! Now, the only politicians still in power could be inept and corrupt!

          • Sorry, I really couldn’t resist. But, well, Australian politics doesn’t exactly inspire much hope for the future.
            For me, anyway. Not sure about any other Australians here (if there are any).

          • Well, if she’d attacked anywhere else in Australia, the wildlife would have gotten her before she could do much damage.

            • At this point, I’m viewing australian wildlife quite similarly to Chuck Norris. Expect the part about existing, I guess.

              Seriously, no wonder it is former penal colony.

              • Honestly, I suspect the only reason they invented the drop bear was to distract from all the real wildlife that will kill you dead.

  12. That was… startlingly rough, and not the respite / stall that I’d expected from an interlude.

    Yangban power duplication and reinforcement, cult-like conditioning… that makes sense. Does mean that they’re terrible at multiple objectives – the whole unit has to be together to fight at anything resembling full strength. 40… is a low number, given the population they have access to. So few they trust, even with brainwashing? Interference from Cauldron or other countries’ military capes?

    Glad Tattletale made it out – maybe – but Accord and Chevalier down? The Yangban implicated in an attack on every other hero out there, in the middle of an Endbringer attack? Things are about to go sideways in the worst possible way. Field command is dead, Dragon isn’t naturally speaking (and did Wildbow have that pun in mind all along?).

    This is the kind of thing that starts a literal war with China. They sent military capes, one of whom promptly fought on the side of Behemoth. India has to take that as an act of war. Heck, every other government almost has to. There’ll probably be a way to talk people down… probably… but a lot could go very, very wrong first.

    So, the Yangban’s effort at better PR, at showing they have the solution, at showing they have a way to rehabilitate criminals… is going to go down as an enormous failure, I’m guessing. They’d have to outright kill Behemoth to make up for this… and no one’s going to trust them at their backs again any time soon. He may well have been successful at killing the Yangban as we know it.

    Also, hey – Simurgh long range planning strikes again! India-China war seems like a bonus prize for her earlier attack, but I’m sure she’ll take the credit graciously.

    Tattletale’s power, given time to talk… is fittingly remarkable. Pity she doesn’t have a keyboard with her, since it doesn’t look like she’ll be contributing any insights on Behemoth until she can get healed or get access to writing.

    Wildcard benefit for the fight – looks like 32 – the one with the nullification waves – is going to be back at full strength shortly. Assuming Cody can free her, cause Null to cut her loose as well. And her power really does seem tailor-made for a Behemoth fight.

    • Chevalier interlude doesn’t mean he lives – though he could, either crippled or healed. Scapegoat seemed like he could heal most things, given time, if he could survive taking the wounds himself and passing them on to someone.

      Chevalier interlude could just be a picture of the reforms he had planned, of the problems he was keeping a lid on… a way of dramatizing how, exactly, things got worse when he died.

      Accord, I think, may be gone. Tattletale will live, probably survive this fight, but may well not be much help during it.

      • Scapegoat seemed like he could heal most things, given time, if he could survive taking the wounds himself and passing them on to someone.

        If I understand SG correctly, his chief limitations are (a) it can’t be something that would kill him in six hours or less and (b) he can’t repair what’s not there.

        …and apparently my current state of sleep deprivation is such that I can’t remember if Chevalier’s wounds were of the kind that would be disqualified by (b), even having read the chapter within the last hour and change. Pretty sure (a) would be a problem, though.

        • If it didn’t kill Chevalier outright – and it may have – Scapegoat could have medical assistance standing by for when he takes the injuries.

          Also, because things aren’t bad enough yet already…

          Who could probably screw Dragon up in the middle of this complete clusterfuck? Saint. What was the last idea for him? For Teacher to pay him to screw things up at an important enough time that the Birdcage would be opened. Who’s in charge of contacting Saint last we saw? Trickster? What was he doing last we saw? Watching TV, something which is almost certainly giving live footage or commentary of what’s going on with Behemoth.

          That’s right. There’s still at least one more Traveler card to play – could be this Endbringer fight, could be the next (Simurgh or Leviathan – they don’t seem to come in strict rotation).

            • So… who thinks we’ve heard the last of Sundancer, Ballistic, Oliver and Genesis?


              Because, at some point, we’re going to get that interdimensional war, the way things are going.

        • It’s always possible that there’s more healers out there that either work under the Protectorate or can be paid by Tattletale.

      • another reason i think the yangban fields so few amount of capes is the overlap of skills. so, not really 40-42 capes, but 40-42 capes each with distinct powers

        part-way in cody mentions that he joined “the official team”, which (to me) implies there are perhaps maybe a few subgroups which arent really used. i’d guess they might be something like reserves.

        if the forcefield-capable cape dies, on their next outing they pull up the #2 shielder from the reserves and that person becomes part of the new rotation.

        • The “Official Team” would actually the ones that the process worked on. We have no idea how many capes are in the process of having the minds scrambled. Remember Lung is proof that the process is not 100% successful. Then there will be a percentage that goes insane, a percentage that manages to commit suicide and other reasons they do not make it to the “Official Team”. Some might be they have powers that can’t be used in the field or they were highly visible/recognizable capes before they were kidnapped.

    • This was only one of the Yangban’s teams. They’re offering a token show of force in hopes of not looking bad for not helping fight. We don’t know if this is supposed to be an elite team, a standard one, or a “misfits” group. I would suspect a misfit group, based on the already stated Chinese lack of concern for individuals and desire for greater positioning — militarily, economically, and politically.

      • Where’s the evidence for that? There’s textual evidence to the contrary – Cody speaks of there only being “[a] small handful of individuals in the C.U.I. hadn’t been brought onto the group.” And it’s always “the” group, not ‘this’ group. They sent ‘almost 30’ of them by Taylor’s count last update; by Cody’s count he had 44 powers (less three for the recently added Indian capes) and that makes 41. That says 3/4 of the Yangban was deployed here, and 41 is the whole Yangban, apparently, and almost the whole of C.U.I’s government parahumans.

        • Also evidence this wasn’t a “misfit” team is that they were planning to speak to the PRT/Protectorate from the beginning and the Team Leader either doesn’t speak English, doesn’t speak it well, or doesn’t want to. That is why they 32 had to be there, she is the team translator who speaks both fluent Chinese and English.

          Also Cody was sold to them a few years back, however as demonstrated by what they did to the fallen Indian hero’s they kidnap capes at Endbringer events (violating the Endbringer truce btw). What would make anyone think they haven’t done this before? Remember in Lung’s Interlude he mentions that they were at the Leviathan fight in Japan. There would have been plenty of Japanese and Western capes for them to kidnap there.

          From their actions the Yangban do not care what your ethnic background is (they are not racist in that way), all they are concerned about is what type of powers you have that can be used by the group and that you are malleable enough to be subsumed into the group.

          • It will be telling at the end of the fight if the Yangban deliver the “kidnapped” Indian capes back to their country with first aid, healing, or somesuch, with a “we were able to save them, and they contributed to saving your countrymen”, or if those capes simply vanish into deepest darkest China.

            • if Cody’s actions are considered the fault of the Yangban as a whole (very likely), then I can see them giving the Indian capes back as an attempt to salvage the situation, otherwise I shudder at their eventual fate

          • > Also Cody was sold to them a few years back

            He wasn’t. When Trickster called Accord from Boston, Dinah had already been kidnapped — and Dinah was kidnapped on April 14th. It’s only just now July 26th. He’s been a part of the Yangbang for barely over three months.

            • By the time Dinah’s kidnapping was revealed, he had been with the Yangban for seven months. Oct. 2010 to May 14th 2011, going by the timeline. Eight months and a bit, now. Still not a few years, but considerably more than barely over three months.

            • I’d have to go look, but I think Coil’s source was Tattletale, not Dinah. Dinah hadn’t yet been kidnapped.

              Either that or I had a brain fart.

              • The line I was looking at in Migration 17.8 was “He just got someone working for him, and this person can see the future. And she says there is a way to help you. Definitely. Chances are low, but he says he’s confident he can maximize them.” The combination of “can see the future” and the word “chances” made me think Dinah, but given that Coil is willing to lie without compunction or shame, and given that Krouse doesn’t say anything about Coil having two thinkers working for him … that’s possible. Why Coil would tell that specific lie about Tattletale’s power I don’t get, though.

              • 50, 000 words one archive comment at time may just have been a bigger one. But in all seriousness my actual daily vocabulary has improved and my comprehension of English has been expanded for real. This project of mine turned out to be a real Behemoth of a task…

              • You’re probably aware of it already, but in 17.8, Trickster tells Noelle Coil has a precog in his employ, implying he has Dinah already. Don’t mean to badger you about inconsistencies, just maybe something to address in the edit?

                Unless of course Coil just lied / prematurely counted his chickens.

  13. I kinda feel bad about unmasking Cody last chapter as there woulda been alot more “omfg cody is still alive ?!?!?! posts” but wow I figured Cody would make a break for accord just didn’t she chevy getting it too !

    poor TT though she keeps getting speech related injuries first from jack and now from cody !

    • Think maybe its’ part of the Smurf’s plans? To have the people most capable of possibly slowing down &/or figuring out the Endbringer’s origins and motivations so suffer ironically?

  14. Yikes, this chapter had me on the edge of my seat. I hope Tattletale surviving until the end of the interlude means she’s going to live. Her dying offscreen would feel rather unfitting. Hopefully the PRT has a healer in the rear lines, near the command center.

  15. Oh GODDAMMIT CODY. You had one job! ONE! If there’s residual chaos from Behemoth’s departure, you can act out then. You definitely could have escaped then, and gone after Accord later. The Yangban deserve it, Accord possibly deserves it, but all those capes who were relying on him for coordination? And don’t you dare blame this on the Smurf. Once you can’t hear her song, she has no power over you. There was still time, there is always still time for you to fulfill the Simurgh’s plan. Until you die, and then you have foiled every last permutation of your role, and then you will have been a force for good. And why didn’t you notice the lack of any other Travelers? I get that Trickster, your so-called enemy, They would have been good to know about, wouldn’t they? Then maybe you could have learned about the F**KING PORTAL back to EARTH ALEPH!

    Thank you, Cody, for doing the one thing that could make me hate you, even after everything the Yangban has put you through. Good to know where we stand. Godspeed.

        • And please ignore the link in my name, I wanted to bring it up during a GoT discussion in Drone 23.5.

        • Also, I don’t think my reasoning is that Rube-Goldberg. (Barring typos, of course – for example, some squiffy logic is created because I conflated two sentences about Trickster and the rest of the Travelers, respectively) If Cody could have used his teleport power at any point, all he needs to do is break off from the team when Behemoth’s on his way out and everybody’s celebrating. Heck, he could have used the Perdition-power at any point on himself to double back. But no, he chooses now, of all times, to indulge his revenge fantasy.

              • FYI people are still influenced by the Simurgh’s song even after they stop hearing the song. Refer to the last PRT director that Skitter killed along with Alexandria when he talks about Lousiana

    • To take one of the Nostalgia Critic’s lines (Rocky IV, for the curious):
      “Damnit Cody, I asked you to do two things!!! Shut up, and not start an international incident, you didn’t do either!!”

    • Actually, he couldn’t have escaped then gone after Accord later since he had every expectation that his powers would be revoked within minutes of his escape.

      It’s unclear whether he’ll get to keep his original powers when that occurs, but this is his one good chance of getting Accord, especially given that Accord is currently in a known location and without his usual army of superpowered bodyguards…

  16. This was bad.

    Beyond the current battle how bad is it?

    Accord won’t be able to make his plan to save the world a reality.

    Glenn build his new Protectorate image around Chevalier. With him gone all that will be for naught.

    If Taylor had a bug in the room and was listening or someone else saw or heard what was going on they might assume that this was an attack sanctioned by the C.U.I. leadership and react accordingly. This might lead to a battle between the Yàngbǎn and everyone else especially if it comes out that the Yàngbǎn have been picking of dying capes to add to their collective. The justification that they only picked those that were dying anyway would probably fall on deaf ears.

    Yes, Simurgh outdid herself with that move.

    On an unrelated not I find it strange that the Yàngbǎn only have 42 different powers/members (plus a few who stand apart). Unless they have other ‘collectives’ of powers this seems a bit low when you consider that in North America every major city has at least a dozen heroes and that China has a lot more population. It seems especially strange when you consider that this collective includes several capes from aboard.

    • Well we don’t know the state of China in an Endbringer world and they might have some powerful capes who can cause alot of chaos. Plus Lung already knew how they operate so every parahuman in China might know of them, and decide to never work with/go near them. If you know that is the fate that awaits you if you get captured then quite a few parahumans there might be very anit-goverment or decide to go suicide by cop.

      • That is nothing a bit of propaganda shouldn’t cure.

        Make the Yàngbǎn out to be patriotic heroes etc and at least some should want to join. If even only fraction of the total Chinese cape population joined there should still be more of them.

        There should be hundreds or even thousands of capes in the Yàngbǎn not a few dozen.

        • Actually, that offer they made would also do a lot to gain recruits if they made it to small groups of heroes who weren’t the brains of the operation. In the face of Behemoth, with people wanting to do good but feeling so scared, I could see them nabbing recruits.

          Of course, with what Ben Franklin said about giving up a little liberty for security, they’d probably be in the field getting murdered by the next Endbringer to show. That, or perhaps locked in a coffin with some tubes in them to pump in food and pump out waste.

        • But the thing is we don’t know what the parahumans can do. There might be parahumans that can take over/disrupt their propaganda, or take over TV/radio stations for a short time. There has to some propaganda going on but parahumans are going to notice how the Yàngbǎn are acting including the lack of individuality. They might be wise to their methods and the majority of them might have banded together to oppose them. Parahumans can give any kind of oppressive government a very hard time depending on their power. I really want a world map. For all we know, parts of china have broken off.

        • I get the feeling that the Yangban are focused on obviously strong, militaristic powers…probably ignoring anything without obvious direct utility. I mean, who would have thought bug-control would be badass before Skitter? There are probably lots of capes who didn’t make the cut.

          Alternatively, perhaps the Yangban is just the public, military group. There may be a separate healers collective, and a separate ninja/spy/assassin collective, etc.

          • They do explicitly explain the reason for not including Ziggurat is that her power is too slow to manifest, and not worth the marginal decrease in power of adding her to the network.

            Any of the other groups are going to be handicapped, perhaps fatally, by the absence of Two – her power magnification feedback loop is absolutely critical in making the Yangban a credible threat, and the reason she couldn’t be hazarded on a battlefield.

        • Propaganda doesn’t work that well. Most of China’s population (and North Korea’s, and so on) are well aware of the government’s habit of lying to the population.

        • And many people are well aware how slanted the media can be. The thing is, just being aware of it doesn’t render you immune. Just like Cody *knew* he was being indoctrinated into a cult, but it wasn’t enough to save him from it.

          When you’re exposed to the same messages again and again, even if you’re sceptical of them, they still sink in. Google ‘priming’ for just one example.

    • Despite how devastating her power is being reiterated over and over, I just didn’t see how it could be so dangerous in comparison to the other Endbringers, Walking-Breathing-Apocalypses. And then, she causes the worst possible thing to happen at the worst possible time. Congratulations , Simurgh, I now fear you. Yay.

    • It’s probably because the yangban is repulsive. They admit that their own capes flee the country or fight them rather than participate. It’s exactly what I’d do.

    • Yeah, I agree… even if they’re very fussy about the powers they absorb, and even if the majority of Chinese capes want nothing to do with the Yangban, you’d think they could rustle up more than forty-odd people with combat-applicable powers.

      I guess they must have a pretty high mortality rate, though – they seem to be willing to throw away all of these ones on one Endbringer attack.

      • high mortality rate? pshaw. they have a government with to respect to human rights or preventing the end of the world. what are a few casualties when you can just torture someone until they break through?

  17. On the one hand, I have to respect Cody taking revenge on Accord. On the other hand, he did kinda fuck up there. Again. That was kind of the point of Simurgh, though.

    And it appears I was right before I was wrong about the sharing being similar to the Avatars. I guess I underestimated how willingly Cody would join his abusers, but shit happens. Probably took his power unwillingly, like the Indian capes, then make sure they know they can get their powers back, and new ones, if they just join up.

    The power sharing isn’t quite like the Avatars, in that it actually gets weaker spread across them. But, powers spread between them all, so that when one dies, they all lose strength. Lose a member, no longer have that power.

    I take a kind of personal offense to that. Let’s hope the Undersiders don’t get Yangbanged.

    And they’re kidnapping the dying to grow more powerful. Same shit as Cauldron, just different names and methods. Reminds me so much of fascism versus communism. Radically opposed ideologies, both often used by strong personalities to use people for a revolution. The whole “feeling good as part of a group” mess was even similar to some lessons done on fascism. Like that book and movie, The Wave.

    Luckily, I’m not cheering for the humans on this one. Come on, Behemoth! Fuck those fuckers in the fuckhole! Pound their guts into paste! Burn them until their bones crack and their screams catch on fire with silent green flames! Tear their dreams asunder in your claws and haunt the survivors’ nightmares with your eye!

    “Thing was, they were right. As a rule, capes were fucked up. People were fucked up. The Yàngbǎn, Cody mused, resolved the situation by stripping capes of their humanity.”

    Statement like that, I just have to say, they’re wrong. Sacrifice your humanity and what are you saving? People are fucked up, so one of the best ways to deal with it is to top them. Go all out. Re-elect the rotting corpse of Abraham Lincoln, give everyone an axe, and send them to a disco! All plans lead to the Simurgh, so fuck the plans!

    • [[ Same shit as Cauldron, just different names and methods. Reminds me so much of fascism versus communism. Radically opposed ideologies, both often used by strong personalities to use people for a revolution. The whole “feeling good as part of a group” mess was even similar to some lessons done on fascism. ]]

      They’re opposed, in the same way that they’re both competing for the same thing. Fascism, especially Nazi National Socialism style, and government communism (USSR, etc), both encourage the subordination of the individual to the state/ideology. They’re opposed in that they are competing for the same type of supporters, and the same eventual prize.

      Part of why so many are now having such a visceral reaction to the Yangban, because they show the same callous disregard for humans and abusive authority towards others. Two sides of the same coin, and so forth.

      • The traditional symbol of fascism is a bundle of sticks, alluding to the idea that, where an individual stick may easily snap, a bundle of sticks will flex together and remain strong. So yeah.

        The thing is, there *is* a lot to be said for genuine community spirit. Humans are social creatures. We need each other, and we’re capable of more with each other’s support. But that’s not something that can be mandated from above, and especially not for the benefit of the leadership at the expense of the community. Solidarity is something people have to genuinely feel. They can’t just be told to.

        I think the Tibetan Buddhists may have been closest to it with their ‘rather than deciding how things should be and telling people to make it so, let’s takr a little time each day to practice feeling compassion’ approach.

    • to be nit-picky, its just fascism vs fascism or despotism under a thin veneer of fake communism. full-on agree they are the same as cauldron ,just not in possession of sufficient resources to avoid starting a trans-dimensional war.

  18. Took a little while for me to remember who Cody was. And he just had to go and mess things up again.

  19. And the wormverse becomes even more crapsack and we find out why the Smurf is the most feared of the Endbringers. Damn it Cody!

  20. awful chapter. =\

    you keep killing off heroes for no reason. it’s not realistic anymore. it looks like you want to ruin your characters and story for the fun of it or because you think it adds depth.

    very disappointed.

    • Considering this chapter is seen from the view point of a very mentally ill Cody (I count simurgh influence and cult indoctrination as mental illness here) It’s a bit much to say he killed anyone for sure.

      Obviously tattletale lives through her own tracheotomy. She wouldn’t have performed it otherwise (thinker, remember?).

      Chev got gutshot by a laser, but frankly gutshots don’t kill that quickly anyway, even when performed with a weapon that DOESN’T cauterize the wound.

      Accord may well die, since lasers have a harder time cauterizing limb removals than they do puncture wounds, but he was hardly a major character, and his murder was hinted at the moment the yangban showed up using Cody’s power.

      Frankly, if you’ve read this far, what did you THINK was going to happen in an arc where they are fighting the deadliest endbringer? Well written, Wildbow.

      • I should also note that there probably aren’t really any spare hands for guards, seeing as how anyone who can is gearing up to fight Behemoth. Considering that they were C&C, help will probably get there moments later. Command and Control doesnt go silent in a battle unless something has gone HORRIFICALLY wrong.

    • Shouldn’t an enemy like the Simurgh have a high body count at the worst times? I mean, that’s what it says on the tin.

    • I found it rather interesting and the most appealing aspect about Worm is that the ‘heroes’ ofttimes are criminal and the ‘villains’ are often times the government.

      And this is a freaking Endbringer. An entity that can devastate cities, countries, worlds, realities. What do you expect, sunshine and lollipops?

      Note: This can apply to both the Sim and the Beh

    • How is it not realistic? The story is set in a world where the heroes are vastly outnumbered by villains and cities are attacked multiple times per year by unstoppable, insanely powerful monsters. The miracle is that the hero groups are still as populous as they are.

      Speaking of the endbringers, you caught that, far from being ‘for no reason’, this was part of the Simurgh’s plan, right? She’s been setting up the Travellers like dominoes waiting to fall since the very beginning.

    • Accord and Chevalier are crippled for sure, but I dunno that either are dead yet. People survive losing limbs, and survive getting shot.

    • Yeah, I found that bit odd too. He sends Chevalier back in time, but apparently the cuts in his armour aren’t reversed even when it goes so far as to remove memories?

      Or maybe the weakening of Cody’s power (remember he’s not with the rest of the group for reinforcement) means it just changes position and nothing else, and Chevalier just couldn’t break the loop. Which makes it stronger in this circumstance.

      Still, could do with some in-text explanation.

    • Cody’s backing away the whole time, using the resets to figure out how to best kite Chevalier. So he loses 2 seconds of damage every time Chevalier gets to melee in exchange for buying some space, but gets to try different dodges until one works and buys him some more uninterrupted laser time, rinse and repeat as necessary.

      Could be clarified in the writing, but it’s there – and consistent with the Chevalier reset resetting his armor as well.

    • Cody’s power is a defensive one, that’s why he was such a small fry before getting 40 other powers. Every time he warps Chevalier back any injuries inflicted in the last 5 seconds disappear, but any damage done earlier than that remains. On the flip side, every time Chevalier is about to land an attack, Cody uses his now superhuman reflexes to send him back five seconds. Now Chevalier is still planning the same attack, and Cody knows it is coming and can dodge/counter attack, or just keep moving further away and hammering Chev with lasers.

  21. Why isn’t there a Rube Golberg Hates Your Guts for Simurgh on the TV Tropes page yet? It’s pretty much her MO.

  22. I took a while to recognize Cody too. Knew I should know him, but it took a minute to click. Man…fucking Simurgh. I wonder how many other times she set up an assist for the other two Endbringers?

    I figure the reason high command didn’t have bodyguards is because of the truce. With the truce in place why would you need them? Plus the scariest thing is that 45 foot tall Endbringer out there, and you know where he’s at. It’s too bad, I know I was looking forward to the complementary effect of an Accord/Tattletale team up.

    Wow though Wildbow, I really freaked to for Tattletale there, at least she’s alive for the moment.

    • A better question than why Chevalier didn’t have guards, is why he isn’t commanding from the field. He’s one of their heavy hitters – why isn’t he out there taking on Behemoth?

      • To make sure the 2 villains doing mission control do not off people incovenient to them,and then claim it was a necessity,so no one could prove they violated the truce?

  23. Wait, wait!

    The Armbands!

    Everyone should have been wearing their armbands.

    If they did and they were working properly lost of heroes were just hearing a massage along the lines of “Chevalier down, Accord down, Tattletale down” and asking themselves questions like: “Wait, what? They are supposed to be over there in headquarters and the enemy is all the way over there in the opposite direction.”

    On the plus side this might prompt someone to check up on them and render first aid. On the minus side it will be a blow to morale and put Taylor through the same thing that happened during her first Endbringer fight.

    • Speaking of this, why didn’t Tattletale or Accord try to call for help with the armbands? They tried using their phones instead, so all Perdition needed to do was knock them away (that’s ignoring the question of whether they could get a call out in what’s quickly becoming a radioactive wasteland).

      It’s possible that Dragon is down, and that’s why we didn’t see any response even though it took a minute to take down Chevalier.

  24. I’m a little confused on how 1/41st of a laser power, or a vacuum power, or whatever power, does much of anything at all. From what I understood, the 2nd Path stacking was giving them back “a third” of what they lost, meaning within formation all 41 powers are at about 1/3 strength. But Cody left formation, meaning all his powers should drop to 1/41st strength or so again, making them pretty much completely useless. Even his own power should never have been able to generate two seconds of displacement at 1/41 strength (two seconds would be more consistent with his power at 1/3 strength).

    It basically read like he had all the powers at 1/3 strength during the fight with Chev, even though the 2nd path wasn’t explained to work that way. Color me very confused.

    In unrelated news, considering how easy it has been in the past for various Capes to find healing for everything but the most ridiculous injuries, I will consider it gratuitous angst if Tattletale’s is anything more than temporary.

    • It’s very much possible that the energy needed to reverse time increases as you reverse more time, meaning reversing 6 seconds takes a lot a more than three times what is needed to reverse two seconds.

      I did think his laser and nullification waves were pretty good even without the power amplification, but it’s possible the original powers really ARE that powerful. When the yangban use it, it’s hella scary (I mean, they cut through a building, and a huge chunk of friggin’ magma Behemoth chucked at them, and cooled down another huge chunk of magma in seconds). Besides, it still took him a lot of time to cut through Chevalier’s armor.

      All his other powers, meanwhile, were pretty much useless. The forcefield got hit by Chevalier, who hits very, very hard, so we don’t know how good it actually was, and he wouldn’t actually need a lot of strength to crush Tt’s windpipe. I mean, not compared to how strong some supers are.

      • Also, 1/40th power doesn’t necessarily mean hitting power. How many powers lost something like range or recharge time instead? Or for the laser power, perhaps the original could fire multiple at once.

  25. Man, the Yangban are scary motherfuckers… slick uniforms though.

    Oh noes, Chevalier! And Accord too! Damnation, I liked them both. Wildbow, you are the GRRMartin of supers, you know that right? ‘Cept you Red Wedding us whenever an Endbringer shows up.

  26. I think it’s utterly fascinating how wildbow can come up with an incredibly capitalistic organization like Cauldron in the US and have it be utterly reprehensible, and then turn around and make an incredibly communist organization like the Yangban in China and have it be every bit as reprehensible as the first.

    What’s the lesson to take away, here? That human nature is fundamentally corrupt? That any set of rules which attempt to outline acceptable behavior without having interpersonal respect as the foundational principle is bound to devolve into a horror show?

    …That Simurgh is practically all-powerful? No update has ever made me as terrified of her as this one does.

    • lets be completely honest here. all EITHER one cares about is themselves and power. they just CLAIM to be different. would NOT be surprised in the SLIGHTEST if they are at LEAST sharing SOME notes, or are BOTH part of teh same larger organisation.

  27. Well, I have to say, I spent a bunch of time during this chapter gaping at the screen with my mouth open. And another good chunk of time just repeating “no, no, no, no, no!”

  28. This chapter had a very different feel to it from most. It was disjointed, confusing, and sometimes aimless. Unlike several other people, though, I don’t think that’s a bad thing here. It seemed to pretty well capture Cody’s state of mind. When he took down Accord, it was utterly anticlimactic for the reader, but it was the same way for Cody. He’s spent months yearning for a shot at revenge. Two brief, impersonal swipes with a laser later, it’s done, and nothing has actually changed for him. He’s still just as fucked as when Accord sold him. Then he fucks with Tattletale, then arbitrarily decides to spare/save her. The reader has no real idea what made him change his mind, but neither does Cody. He’s so broken and out of his mind at this point that he’s basically just along for the ride as his impulses, conditioning, and pent-up emotions play themselves out.

    On another note, I love the fact that he mistook Regent for an Ambassador. That’s what he gets for wearing frou frou shirts and a silly crown.

  29. My first post here love the story
    This has been bugging me
    Skitter has power over insects
    The endbringers are insect like in a number of descriptions
    Does skitter have or will she power over the endbringers?

    • Ah, so you’re that guy. I presume you’re staying at that place and that if you’ve ever fired a weapon, it was that gun. You know, you might be wanted by the cops. It’s true, I’ve often heard people tell police officers to arrest that man. I don’t know if there’s any relation or if that’s just your alias, but I think we’re all going to be keeping an eye on that place from now on. And don’t you even think of doing that thing with that lady in that place, you hear?

      Come to think of it, you’re that guy who keeps driving like crazy too. A lot of people talk about that asshole that cut them off in traffic, or that maniac that nearly crashed into them. As often as I hear that’ll show em, I figure you do a lot of flashing as well. Either that guy is a guy of many names, or that family of yours is crazy. Well, no matter what you’re doing with the that car and the that cave, I hope you enjoy your time here making that comment about that story.

      And that’s my welcome to the comments section, that guy.

  30. Random thoughts….

    1) Take the Endbringers out of the equation, who’d be the next big bad Yangban or Cauldron? Would either/ neither/ both need an army of capes to take down? Would we see the same level of response from both hero and villain factions in doing so?

    2) What’s to stop an Endbringer from popping over to Earth Bet or better yet luring them all there?

    3) Why isnt it possible for the PRT to follow the Yangban example minus the brainwashing and “volunteer”-or-die” approach. Yes, you’d never know who was coming to the party, yes you’d have lag time in terms of actual response during a fight but while they not winning they seem to be doing a better job of stalling ‘Moth

    4) Re- imagining Lungs power in the Yangbang….power build with no upper limit. It might take everyone longer to get there but they WOULD get there.

    • 5) Oh, given what’s happend to Cody does that mean that all the other Travellers are also tick tocking away? With Trickster in the Birdcage that’s a disaster bound to happen. What is the impact for the others who went home?

      • Concerning point 1, Cauldron is the bigger potential threat. Besides being able to make new capes via their potions they seem to have a greater understanding of how these powers actually work. The Yangban would/could be considered in the same category as the Slaughterhouse 9. They both replenish their members through coercive techniques and the process to get a new member is not 100% effective. They both can not make new capes on their own either. The major difference is that the Yangban works always as a unit the S9 is way more unpredictable.

        • Oh fucking hell.

          Oh motherfucking damn. Paint a shitstained badger pink and toss it on a Doberman.

          You know what would be even worse than the Slaughterhouse 9 using all those stolen tinker toys and tinkers to build themselves an army of clones?

          If the DNA of the Yangban power sharer was in that database too. Or if Bonesaw just gets a hold of that person when they make their big arrival.

          • fuck. never even thought of that. lets Hope against HOPE the 9 stay Clesteogrammed for the next 2 years. additionally. let us PRAY that the PRC ( im referring to teh CHINESE government here) wasnt MONUMENTALLY STUPID enough to start abducting capes exposed to teh smurfs influence en-masses. THAT would be a CLASSIC example of someone doing something monumentally STUPID, thinking they are being smart.. and if she has the power to open portals between worlds, i sincerely DOUBT the other side of that gateway is ANYWHERE near safe, even if the LOCAL flora and fauna is controllable. and then? after bet, the refuge AND Alph are giant graveyards?

      • Fortunately no the rest of the Travelers aren’t ticking time bombs. They’ve all interacted with Dinah, and she even directly read the future to direct their actions during the Crawler attack. Interference from another precog means any Rube Goldberg plans the Simurgh had for them have been thoroughly derailed.

        • Although they could still be emotional time bombs due to her psychic influence; they just aren’t guaranteed to go off at the worst possible time or even ever go off now.

  31. I just had a terrible thought: “Cut Ties” Taylor is still maintaining ties to the Undersiders even if indirectly, this is going to turn out horribly for her personally with Grue, Rachael ant Tattletale crippled permanently in some way or her Dad being assaulted when the Undersiders are out of town right?

  32. Who wrote that post that Skitter was becoming a general? Because I think you’re about to be proven right in this fight. My money is on Skitter acting as the coordinator the entire fight as D&D save Chev and Accord.

    • Awhile back I posited that Skitter’s power made her into a Battle Commander and was what was going to be what makes the difference at the End of the World fight. Think about it she controls an army of bugs, basically she acts as a hive Queen. The power that lets her do that also lets her “see” how each cape should be used just like her bugs. It’s a logical outgrowth to her powers.

  33. I am sorry to say, but this felt a bit too much contrived. I am assuming the fight between Chevalier and Cody did last some time, why did Tattletale not shoot him while he was focusing on avoiding decapitation by a massive sword?
    Even if she had not the gun, either her or Accord could have used the computers or the armbands to call help in.

    The rest of the chapter was very good mind you, just until said fight.

  34. Odd thought I just had:

    The Smurf broke Cody too well. Or he’s just so much of a fuckup that even she wasn’t immune from his ability to fuck up everything he does.

    Because between the screaming he heard in his head as he was watching Tattletale choke, Tattletale’s ability to figure out major secrets just by looking hard enough (like her analysis of Leviathan back in Brockton Bay, for example), and the Smurf’s previously demonstrated reaction to anything that might reveal something concrete about the major secrets of the Wormverse, I think there’s a good case to be made that the primary goal of Smurfing Cody was for him to kill Tattletale.

    • And yet in some small way, what Tattletale reminded him of, plus the small bit of Cody that was left that hadn’t been tortured away by the Yàngbǎn, made him spare her life, and choose love, and go to the girl that he cares about. The Smiurgh failed, if she was trying to kill Tattletale, and I think it’s very likely that she was.

      So you know what Smurf?

      You’re powerful. You’re clever. You can see the future to some extent. You can violate people’s minds and their destinies. But ultimately? You cannot make us be something that we don’t choose to be. Sure you can point us in a direction, can twist us, but there’s still that niggling little germ of unpredictability, our humanity, that you can’t take away without obviating the entire point of subtle manipulations in the first place.

      The Smiurgh is powerful, but love is stronger.

      • It has been stated that thinker powers interfere with other thinker powers. Cody would have killed Tattletale without pause, but using her power may have messed with the Simurgh’s hold on him.

        • That seems rather confused. The Smiurgh does not work by mind-controlling people, it works by giving them pushes and using it’s precog to calculate that push towards a given goal. Tattletale managed to appeal to the humanity that hadn’t been torn out of Cody, but it’s not like he was under the Imperius curse and she broke it.

          • By Simurgh’s hold, I meant the path she had pushed Cody to walk. What Tattletale did was disrupt Cody’s thought patterns, forcing him to think of another course of action. In essence, she gave him a push counter to the Simurgh’s goals. Her powers gave her the information she needed in order to give him just the right push, thus a thinker power interfered with another.

            • That’s not inaccurate, but ultimately it’s also true that Cody decided to spare her, because of his feelings towards Thirty Two, and the humanity that was left in him. Tattletale gave him the push, but she couldn’t have done if there wasn’t some love and humanity left in him. I think we agree, but we’re looking at this two different ways.

              Also, as for Thinker powers interfering with other Thinker’s that’s probably true in the sense that any two people can interfere with one another, but I think what you meant to refer to was that pre-cogs can interfere with the pre-cog of other pre-cogs, and TT isn’t actually a pre-cog.

      • Much as I hate to rain on this optimistic post on the power of love, it seems much more likely that the Simurgh had no idea Tattletale would be there at this time when she primed Cody. Remember, interacting with a different precog means any old predictions about you are null and void, and Tattletale has interacted extensively with Dinah.

      • Indeed. And look what’s reaction at Tattletale’s death-grin:

        “And he felt nothing. Even the paradoxical grin that appeared on her face, in contrast to the frustrated slam of one hand against the floor, it reminded him of Trickster in an odd way. Yet it added nothing to this.”

        So, the Simurgh fills Cody’s brain with Trickster’s smirk and that’s whom Tattletale , a girl who in the previous Endbringer fight discovered Leviathan’s peculiar biology with a glance, reminds him of. However something backfires and instead of finishing her off, Cody actually saves her. Hmmm.

  35. It’s never the villain you expect to be a problem.

    This started with Kaiser. A dramatic, motivated villain with a great deal of power, both personally and in his organization, an enemy who we knew would clash with the Undersiders… And never did. No, he died- offscreen, ignominiously, to the claws of Leviathan. Because sometimes something happens, and it can’t be predicted, and the fated encounter suddenly can no longer happen. Accord dies, as he lived- a man, nothing more, nothing less.

    Some of you may have read what I stated. Behemoth is going to die, I think, and so is Scion. Scion’s going all out on this one, and Behemoth is simultaneously the most, and least dangerous Endbringer- He can kill heroes in droves, but he’s the slowest, least mass-destructive threat- He neither can destroy an entire city, even an entire coastline within an hour or so, nor can he break down the social fabric in the special way that Simurgh can. The Undersiders, and Taylor in particular, can’t do a great deal against him, but it’d make a dramatically interesting change in the world to see both Scion and Behemoth in a mutual destruction state.

    Plus, Behemoth is very nearly literally described as Doomsday, but 50 feet tall. The huge rock outcroppings? The bodybuilder form? Come on. We all know that when Superman goes up against Doomsday, one thing happens.

    So, the Simurgh. That’s a pretty fucked up situation. It seems that generally speaking, the more active a person is, the worse the Simurgh fucks them up- Sundancer, Genesis, Ballistic, Oliver, they were always followers, they just went along with the tides, by and large. They never did much harm, aside from perhaps not doing enough to stop the others.

    But Mannequin. Noelle. Trickster. Cody. These were people who were active, planners, movers and shakers. Not, like, actual- you know what I mean.

    They were motivated. They wanted to do great things. They DID do great things. Simurgh can redirect your course, she can’t impart one to those who don’t have one. That seems like a very important thing. And once she’s directed you on your course, what can you do? Once, I was told a very interesting point about the terrifying thing about a black hole- Once you get close enough to it, even if you could somehow travel faster than light, it would be impossible to escape it, because at a certain point, every path away from your current path is taking you closer to the black hole. The curve of space and time is such that the only roads you can travel take you towards death. In the same way, once the Simurgh knows you, you’re fucked.

    So, what’s the deal? Do precogs allow you to break that fate? Would Dinah be willing to offer counselling to Simurgh victims? “If I do such and such, what are the odds of me doing something monstrous?” Something along those lines.

    But the real terrifying thing is, would you want to? What if the reason the Simurgh is so effective is because she makes you want to create chaos? Let’s take the analogy of pool- It takes a very specific shot, if you want to break a racked-up set of pool balls and send specific balls into specific places. But the Simurgh doesn’t necessarily want that. She just wants chaos and societal breakdown. She doesn’t need the lone gunman to shoot one specific government official, because any government official would be fine. She didn’t need Cody to specifically kill Accord, and cripple/wound/kill Tattletale and Chevalier during this specific behemoth fight. She just needed Cody to be a loose cannon.

    Humans tend to ascribe patterns whether or not there are actually patterns happening. We see highly motivated people meet the Simurgh, and then do horrible things, and describe them as guided missiles, but it’s much more horrifying- They’re bombs. The more mobile and effective they are, the worse the damage becomes. The Simurgh breaks them in some fundamental way, makes them desperate to justify their past sacrifices, makes them angry, makes them hurt. And then she sets them loose. It doesn’t matter what exactly happens, it just matters that they’re hurting. Chance and happenstance and cruelty make the rest go on.

    It almost reminds you of The Dark Knight. “You used to be a planner, and look where it got you.” She makes people like her, and that’s a horrid, horrid thing in a psychotic chaos-loving murderer.

    So, why are the Travellers particularly vulnerable? Why did they cause such chaos? She knew they were right there, where a batch of Cauldron Potion was. They had the potential to grab powers. She just wound them up, gave them a reason to use powers, a notably powerful batch, and dropped them off in a foreign world. Despair, power, loneliness, paranoia, and the potential for greatness.

    So, what do we learn from this?

    I really, really hope that Taylor isn’t around during any Simurgh fights for too long.

      • Well this was actually discussed with a friend of mine. Lets assume there is a miracle of miracles and she kills one of them. Considering that Scion is mentioned as being in music and might even be worshiped, I can see a cult of personality surrounding Taylor. She will be the biggest hero in the world, the PRT will gain alot of credibility for their decision to recruit her which might help with regaining new capes, and Taylor’s words will have HUGE power/influence. She can argue against the birdcage, change how the PRT operates, and probably get a pardon from the president. Then we get to see Taylor have to deal with the fame and acclaim while missing the undersiders. Then as everyone is full of hope…cue the apocalypse, the return of the 9, and a fourth endbringer.

  36. Shit shit shit.

    And with that out of the bag it’s prediction time:
    -Tattletale is probably going to be ok. In fact, I’m pretty confident that, while not happening immediately, she’ll get someone to heal her windpipe,too (Please wildbow don’t make me wrong)
    -Chevalier is 50/50 (To those complaining about the lack of bodyguards around the field commander, this is a situation where people like Kaiser and Lung fight beside the heroes and put aside their differences, so personally I can understand why they may have not found it necessary to have bodyguards. Healers,teleporters or even a live communication feed with Dragon,however…)
    Accord I peg as a goner (And as mucha as I liked Accord as a character, I must admit that “he’s asymmetrical in death” is a perfect one-liner. If/when his death is confirmed, would it count as Death by Irony on tvtropes?)

    • I think Chevalier will survive due to implied plot armor. I think Wildbow stated that we’ll see a Chevalier interlude next arc.

      • Or the interlude could be set in the past? I mean, personally I think Chev may make it as well, just because of the number of healers that are probably running around, but there are no assurances.

  37. One thing I’m wondering is who is 32? It is stated that she was one of the 4 “outsiders” on the team and then you top off that she is the selected translator for the team leader to speak to Chevalier. I have a feeling that her identity is going to be the big problem between the PRT/Protectorate and the Yangban. The way Chevalier spoke to the Yangban team lead it sounds as if the PRT/Protectorate know something about the Yangban’s practice of kidnapping people. However if 32 was someone that was a well known cape in the Protectorate and she was suspected to have died in lets say, the Leviathan attack on Japan with the body supposedly washed out to sea; there will be no way to easily sweep that under the rug and keep the PRT/Protectorate system. Not after what was exposed during the Echidna event. It would basically force the PRT/Protectorate to classify the Yangban as a Class S threat the same as the Slaughterhouse 9.

  38. “Aye, aye! and I’ll chase him round Good Hope, and round the Horn, and round the Norway Maelstrom, and round perdition’s flames before I give him up.”

    He lives up to his name in so many ways this chapter.

  39. More thoughts:

    – Tattletale is a badass.
    – Chevalier is also a badass. I wonder if his armor is, like, tinker-made action-figure armor that he enlarges to life-size, drastically increasing its toughness the same way Fenja and Menja did for their own bodies?
    – waitatick. If Cody was rewinding Chevalier, shouldn’t the damage he was doing also have been rewound? Or has Yangban training given him such fine control with his own power that he can rewind a person through time but leave their injuries intact?
    – Heh. It would be funny if the Yangban took Accord; he might actually like it. It would be even funnier if they then dumped him because his power would be useless to them.
    – where’s Dragon while all this is going down? Hell, where’s Skitter? I’d have thought she’d have bugs on everyone (especially Tattletale by now)
    – fairly safe assumption that Skitter and Defiant are going to step up and assume command

    • She might have had bugs watching, but not in quantities to do anything, and in his current state is Cody going to notice some mosquitoes flitting around?

      I hope she and Defiant take command, they might be able to salvage the situation.

      • I could see Cody trying that rewind crap on Taylor. “Meh, I could take her! She can’t escape my time lo-OH GOD WHY ARE THERE HORNETS FORCING THEIR WAY UP MY URETHRA WHEN SHE SHOULD BE TRAPPED”

    • He was only ever rewinding Chevalier a few seconds back as he got into a new position. While he was doing that Chevalier wasn’t taking damage, but all the rest of the time he was slowly accumulating it.

      • That doesn’t really make sense either. If that’s true then Chevalier had time to react, make decisions, and the decision he made was to chase Cody around, with him “teleporting” backwards every few seconds, for an entire minute. Chev is not that stupid.

        • Except you get rewound completely. Only the user of the power keeps his memories of what’s going on in the time period in which he was rewound. His gun jammed, what else could Chev do/ Turn away and run? That’s even worse an idea.

          • I must be confused. Either Chev gets rewound completely and all the damage to his armor is reverted, or else Chev isn’t rewound completely and has time to react, correct? I’m not seeing how you can have it both ways.

            • Having given it some more thought, my No-Prize explanation would be that he was leaving short gaps of real-time between backsteps, giving himself enough time to do damage that would partially stick through each iteration while relying on Chevalier’s disorientation to maintain his advantage.

            • He doesn’t rewind time for everyone. He rewinds Chevalier completely, but doesn’t rewind himself. So he gets two seconds to step back and repeat the process, until he gets enough distance to pierce the armor in a single go, dodging all his attacks properly. Think J’s fight towards the end of Men In Black 3, where he keeps dialing himself back and dodges the attacks that come along the same path each time- he learns the positions and just dodges them while closing the distance until he can clock the everliving shit out of the guy.

  40. A great chapter, though rather tragic.

    I find it hilarious if somewhat sad that people are still trying to defend the Yàngbǎn, or claim they have some grand plan to save humanity. They don’t. They’re a nationalist dickwaving organization built from the fear of a lot of old men in the CCP towards parahumans upsetting the status quo. They use brainwashing and psychological techniques very similar to those used on UN POWs in the Korean War, except worse.

    Ultimately, the fucking PRT have more idea of what’s really going on, far more moral capital, and are more likely to end up making a difference in the end. And that’s saying something.

    • Well, what do you mean by the PRT? The people who were ignorant of Cauldron’s atrocities, who think the Protectorate is nothing but a cadre of heroes, aren’t being dragged down, morally, at all. There were a very limited number of people in the PRT who were anything but honestly trying to help. People like Glenn and Chevalier are nothing but good guys. If you want to accuse Cauldron of being fundamentally corrupt, then yeah, but the only thing the PRT as a distinct entity ever did wrong was to consistently be a little overly judgmental, and thus to have grossly misjudged a lot of people’s intentions.

      • And put jackbooting psychos into power positions, and support a power structure that drives superpowered teens into the shadows, and allow people to be dumped into the Birdcage in show trials or even if the friggin ask for it, and limit the access to therapy for young heroes, and tacitly support every fucked up thing a hero or PRT goon ever did by refusing to own up to them in a grasping bid to stifle every ounce of bad PR.

        Don’t kid yourself, the PRT is rotten even without widespread Cauldron corruption.

        • and protect a sociopath from punishment for psychologically torturing a minor for MONTHS. repeat. under the PRT system, psychologically torturing a teenager to the point here they have a high-order probability of committing suicide or SNAPPING, gaining superpowers and going on a murderous rampage is ACCEPTABLE. and we ever get a figure of how many people shadow stalker murdered on the sly when she was “using tranquilizer bolts”, no matter WHAT the official records say? given she didn’t think TWICE about trying to kill Taylor in cold blood, i DOUBT that was intended to be her first on-the-sly murder. not countering anyone who she MIGHT of killed before she got BUSTED for trying to kill someone.

          • > not countering anyone who she MIGHT of killed before she got BUSTED for trying to kill someone.

            If I read Interlude 19 correctly, there’s no “might of” about it.

            The man struggled, and as much as Shadow Stalker was able to make herself immaterial, to loosen any grip or free herself from any bonds, she didn’t have the ability to tighten that same grip. He tipped backwards, off the edge of the roof, and a gesture meant to intimidate became manslaughter.

            Shadow Stalker stared off the edge of the roof at the body, then turned to look at Emma.

            “Is- is he?” Emma asked.

            “Probably best if you don’t come on patrol with me again.”

        • Y’know, the PRT have made a *lot* of wrong moves, but Canary’s trial and incarceration cannot be laid at their feet. The legal system is it’s own separate thing.

          Yes, they own the prison where Canary was sentenced, but what are they supposed to do? Go “Y’know, I know she was found guilty and sentenced in a court of law and all, but I don’t personally agree with the judgement so I’m not going to lock her up”? It’s not the place of prisons to second-guess the judgement of the courts.

          That was messed up, but not the PRT’s fault.

      • I’m talking about the PRT that lives with the legacy of Alexandira and Tagg, and was happy with sending Canary and other innocents to the Birdcage. Hell, the PRT who were happy building the Birdcage, rather than investing in rehabilitation and therapy. The PRT which has seemed often to care more about protecting it’s authority than helping people, at a systemic level.

        But I agree with you that broadly they’re on the side of the angels, even if they have issues. It’s a broken world is the wormverse, after all, and even the heroes have misery and blood on their hands.

        Since we mostly agree on the wider point, and I’ve even agreed that the PRT are probably overall good guys, and the PRT argument is one that’s been had in the comments over like the last three arcs, could we maybe to agree to disagree over some of the details? We agree on the wider issue.

        • Only if you believe if an organization can still be fundamentally good DESPITE widespread rights violations and gross neglect and incompetence, I don’t. A half rotten apple might as well be a fully rotten apple.

          Though of course there’s some middle ground, you can’t take three steps in this setting without hurting someone’s toes. But the biggest problem with the PRT is the inability to take responsibility and mitigate their crimes. No reparations or apologies. They expect the people who are screwed over by their policies to eat shit with a smile.

          Sorry, I don’t think they’ll ever be “on the side of Angels” until the organizaton is completely gutted and purged not only of Cauldron’s cronies, but of assholes like Tagg and Piggot who by all rights should be living in a box in some alley somewhere.

          • I don’t believe one can be fundamentally good, merely a net good when no better alternatives exist.

            And tone it down a bit, you’re looking like you’re ranting, and that will do no favours for your argument, trust me.

            • I also really don’t buy the idea that misdeeds can be made acceptable by a “net good”. If you punch someone in the face, but then donate to charity that doesn’t mean that it’s suddenly okay that you go around socking people in the nose. You still wronged someone.

              Allowing the benefits to mitigate the flaws of an organization just seems like an excuse used by the organizations themselves so they will be held by lower standards to me. And institutions really do need to be held to high standards.

              • But if the guy you just punched in the face is a giant dickweed and everyone who sees it cheers because of it, I’d argue that punching him in the face is a net good over the minor evil of the actual act of punching him in the face. 😛

                This said… There’s a guy who is rather popular that goes around trolling people IRL over in France, I believe it is. Things like crawling in a snail suit on a highway, that sort of thing. He gets arrested and fined, but keeps doing it anyways because people enjoy it. So, it actually fits rather well into your analogy that it’s something wrong that has a net positive over its negative, for him and the viewers that watch him, over the government and the people he inconveniences, on a broad level. That doesn’t mean I necessarily agree that it’s okay, but it’s seen by enough people as being okay, so thus is society’s eyes it IS okay.

              • Well, if the questionable action itself comes into a net good like Remi Gaillard, that’s a justification I can accept. But there are sooooo many shitty things that the PRT does for no sensible reason because they too lazy to be respectable and too arrogant to see how it would hurt them.

                Even it’s only one case like Taylor’s for every hundred people that are saved that’s still no good in my eyes. A government institution screwing citizens over is never acceptable.

              • But institutions do not need to be held to PERFECT standards. Look at real life: innocent people get put in jail sometimes. Foster children slip through the cracks. Bureaucracy is sometimes valued for its own sake, at the expense of productivity. No institution is capable of correctly handling every situation correctly. But if you ask yourself, “Did the PRT build the Birdcage because they didn’t want to do the right thing and attempt to rehabilitate inmates?”, the answer probably isn’t yes. They didn’t know how, and the Birdcage was the next best option. “Did the PRT want Canary in the Birdcage?” Not really, but the rule of law demands it.

                Armsmaster and Shadow Stalker made some pretty nasty choices, but they were punished for those choices, and it wasn’t like anyone was deliberately turning a blind eye, either. Piggot and Tagg made bad choices too, but those choices were in the heat of the moment, in unique situations, and it really isn’t fair to characterize the actions of a few who got too caught up in trying to “win” as the fault of the organization and not the person. It’s extraordinary that the PRT has managed to keep as few situations from escalating like that as they have, particularly with someone as corrupt as Alexandria in power. With Alexandria replaced with leadership like Glenn and Chevalier, whose priorities specifically involve preventing hotheads from getting traction in the PRT, you have a lot of reason to have faith that the Taggs and Piggots of the PRT are going to be weeded out, anyway.

              • HA! the ONLY reason Shadow stalker got ANY punishment was because the underside’s decided that she HAD to be. the PRC? did FUCK all, because daddy Dear was a BIG MAN in the city, and darling little sophie was an asset. wouldn’t do for it to get out they were employing someone who,, was a high-risk potential serial killer..

              • Umm…. Guys, I think we can all agree here that the Ends do not justify the Means espicially when the Means are so inefficient and ineffective that they render the Ends impossible to achieve & creates more problems than they solve. And before this devolves into an arguement of weather what Taylor did as a criminal was justified, please note that she did achieve her ends of protecting the people under her care to the best of her abilities while the PRT only achieved screwing over the people that were supposed to be under their care with the best of their abilities.

          • Erm, why do you think this constitutes a counter-argument? I get that they have a new name, I was aware of this from the beginning. But you can’t reasonably expect their current leadership to have come from anywhere but the ranks of the PLA or CCP, even if those groups don’t exist anymore. There are no other power groups that would have been extant and could have formed a new government as secure as the one we’ve seen in the timeframe we’ve observed.

              • Don’t worry about it man, sorry, I’m from a debate forum, even when we’re having fun we’re still arguing, my experience kicked in. I didn’t mean to sound patronising or defensive, I’d just thought that you’d posted the link as a refutation. As it was, that was just me projecting from my normal online experience, and you were actually just trying to discuss, not debate. I’ll try to remember that the tone here is less debate driven in future.

              • Speaking of being master debaters, I’d like to take a moment to say sorry to Allora Gale for being a bit of an ass back during Imago 21.5 about archeology. I can get like that sometimes (what? Me an ass? Who knew!)

            • Well, unless one cape with the right power got close enough.

              Somebody with a power like Canary’s or Valefor’s, and both the imagination and ambition necessary to use it to take over a major country.

              …on a completely different China-related topic, I wonder if the Three Gorges Dam was still built on Earth Bet? You know, seeing as how it would be a massive “blow me up and you drown everyone downstream of Chongqing on the Yangtze” sign for the Endbringers.

              …and that leads me to think that Egypt is almost certainly a dead country on Earth Bet, since the Aswan High Dam is an even more massive single point of vulnerability.

              • Yes, another reason to want to see a world map. Considering the number of endbringer attacks, and the fact that there are more trigger events in 3rd world countries, the state of the world is probably very different. What’s the population in the wormverse? How many spots on the map are abandoned/unlivable? What countries didn’t survive? Do they have global warming with all the oil fields getting destroyed? I vote for a world map instead of a interlude.

              • Geez man, give Wildbow a break. Do you think it’s easy creating an entire alternate history?

  41. “They hadn’t been asked. The expectation was that they would give their lives for this”

    It may be just a group. One that was disposable. 100% of this particular group was disposable.

    Of course it may not. Wildbow has been reliable so far.

      • good point. FAIR chance that dragon and defiant MAY have been distributing hardened models, like how the ones for simurgh fights have a high-yield self-destruct ( especially since defiant specializes in miniaturization, cram in more shielding, passive and active, same level of capability).

  42. Frankly, I would hope not. “Hero gets captured” arcs are overdone, cliche, and they tend to annoy the piss out of me. In this series so far, Taylor has been captured or imprisoned at least 3 times (by the S9, Echidna, and her current incarceration). Having her get captured by the Yangban would just strike me as terrible writing that diminishes the main character for the sole purpose of building up the threat credibility of yet another world-class threat in a series that is practically choked with existential threats already. I’ve already been on that edge multiple times in reading this series where another imminent capture/imprisonment arc was going to cause me to cease reading because it would be entirely too asinine. It would get to the point where I would ask “what schlub is going to capture her this arc?” And honestly, it would be really, really difficult to consider Taylor or anyone else for that matter a badass worthy of attention if they are constantly getting forced into the role of “damsel in distress”. Maybe some people like that kind of thing, but I’m more of the type who gets irritated reading the same plot mechanism used repeatedly to show character development when there are so many other ways out there.

    • The funny thing is that Taylor could easily get away with annihilating the entire Yangban squadron, seeing as violating the truce gets you a nice kill order placed on you. So, she could kill them all for Cody having nearly killed Tattletale and have no repercussions fall on her, outside of the international issues it may cause.

    • Chill, guy. Taylor wins a *lot*. That she occasionally gets overwhelmed and captured hardly makes her a “damsel in distress”.

      Given that the alternatives are basically ‘Taylor never fails’ or ‘Taylor fails and gets killed’ I’m happy with the occasional capture…

    • Uummm…S9 and Noelle were threats that could capture basically everyone,and,in fact,captured lots of people other than her,and her incanceration was voluntary.Heck,it was evident she could escape any time she wanted,as Defiant,the only person who could counter her was not there,and everyone else she could crush.

  43. implications from cody and smurgh:

    Ok, so Cody just killed the head of the protectorate, and one of the capes who seemed to be doing something meaningful against the world end scenarios. He also likely would not have been able to pull it off without his reset power, as chavelear would have stopped him.
    For the current fight, Weaver may end up being the head tactician, since she’s the only one named one here with the experience, cred, and tactical know how to do it.
    This will not dissuade her critics form thinking she is still pulling some kind of long con with her 4th quarter conversion to the light side of the force.
    On the flip side, chavilear was one of a small number of people who knew the full deal of what went down, and his replacement may not want to integrate Taylor at all.
    Tattle Tale’s voice loss is a nice big ironic blow to her psychological offensive power. She is by no means taken out of the dangerous listings, but talking is kind of part of her. Changes likely abound. Likely the only reason she is still alive is that her thinker classification messed with the Smurgh’s pre-cog just enough to leave her breathing.
    No idea how long it takes for people to react to Cody’s actions, and if it will result in infighting with the Chinese during the Behemoth brawl. Might result in some of those powers not being returned.

    Now, normally, even if a war were to develop, the possible assistance of the Chinese would stall actual hostiles after the death of Accord and co, but if Scion is finally going to kill an end bringer, it’s the perfect time for a war to happen, as the PRT degenerates, and capes become less necessary for outright survival, and more weapons of war. That one depends of if Smurgh knows Scion is off the leash-she can’t read him, but maybe she can read his handler.
    The entire time rewind power has a huge impact on any conflict, and is a manipulation on the odds by itself.There may be some minor friction inside the group depending on how Cody’s significant other numbed love interest views him.
    Cody will probably make it out of this, and continue trying for revenge. WHEN (not if, lets be honest here) he finds out trickster is in the birdcage, he’ll try to bust it open just so he can kill Klause.
    What do the Accordions do now that their leader is gone?

    And as one small possible continuity error: How did Cody get off all his high level power access without the resort of his squad nearby to use the net power boost?

    I will probably think of more as the day goes on, but all this by itself is staggering.

    I shall now commence a slow clap for Smurgh [JUST AS PLANED], and a genuine clap for Wildbow. I congratulate you on making all the pieces to this puzzle fit together, and have this many ramifications from a flash point.

    I tip my hat to you.

    • Already got at least one more: If the arm band command system fails, weaver can still issue orders through bugs, and mitigate her range in the unlikely event the Chinese give her a bit of a boost.

    • Does Cody need to try and bust it open? Easiest way to get to Klause for revenge is to get imprisoned in the Birdcage. Of course thats assuming Saint doesn’t get it opened. And isn’t Klause one of Teachers thralls? Ironic that he actually has less free will than Cody now.

  44. Late comment due to me reading it on my phone last night and being unable to comment from it.

    HOLY. SHIT. That is all.

  45. I re-read the fight scene just to be sure, but yeah, it makes sense:

    Cody moves Chevalier two seconds into the past (so that means with his full power, he can move people a minute to two minutes into the past, since he only has 1/41 or so, we’re talking some 80 seconds though I’ve never seen a limit displayed, he’s only in a handful of chapters).

    In this scene, he moves Chevalier to one location and then backs HIMSELF up to have more room. It takes him a full minute to get far enough away, and rewind Chevalier to that one spot. so that he has the range that the laser becomes effective.

    Now Accord and Tattletale do waste that minute. I don’t know why, exactly, that they didn’t seem to get armbands — however there is electromagnetic radiation and maybe some villains haven’t received them yet. Chevalier might have been taking them to the computers to help oversee the entire field on monitors, so no one thought the armbands were necessary.

    And they’re non-combatants, so maybe they were hoping Chevalier would beat Cody and then they realized he was losing and it was too late to run.

    But it’s not that Chevalier got more damage over the time travels, it was that Cody got more distance between them so he could use the laser longer.

  46. You know with the Yangben’s “Recruiting” methods “Meh we could take her” gets a whole new meaning. Of course the brianwashing methods would probably remind Taylor of being bullied, and then bugs would eat the leaders of the C.U.I and Taylor would probably end up queen of China…

    • It was a hypothetical anyways. A major conflict with China would greatly increase the length of the story and so I don’t see it happening. Also it was a joke on the “Meh, I could take her.” bit.

      I saw the smurffs play, but not Dinah’s. I wonder why she’d want those two to be out of play.

        • Nope.

          Personally, I think the Smurf’s play was getting the Yangban and thus crucially Cody involved, and it only half-worked because between Tt’s power, 32’s kindness, and the small germ of decency left in him, he spared Tt’s life. The Smurf seems to find accounting for human compassion and love difficult, it’s vaguely reminiscent of Sauron not being able to conceive of anyone wanting to throw away the Ring.

          I think Dinah’s major play was making sure that Taylor will be in the fight as a Protectorate member leading the Chicago Wards, and we’ll see how that plays out.

          • *facepalm*

            I hate it when people don’t maintain a clear distinction between canon, headcanon, speculation, and outright guesses. Whenever I start blathering about how Theo isn’t actually a third-generation cape because his father and grandfather bought their powers from Cauldron, I always point out that my saying so is pure speculation, not canon (however well-justified I feel that conclusion is … which is only about 60%, to be honest).

              • @Admiral Skippy: No worries, it was clear. You said “I think” – that’s really all it takes most of the time.

  47. Wow, that was bizarre… Doubt anyone actually died except Accord and even that is iffy, the whole part after he separated from the others felt like the description of a dream so not sure anything even happened at all…

      • It had enough of an unreal quality that it wouldn’t have surprised me at the end to learn it was a psychotic fantasy or hallucination that Cody was having.

        However, I think we would have learned that at the end of this interlude; I don’t think Wildbow would do a cliffhanger followed by an “It was all a dream…” next chapter.

  48. And Tattletale’s knocked out again during an Endbringer fight. With the Smurf getting Cody to disable Tattletale and IIRC Levi taking out Tattletale just before she could tell anyone about her observations last time, they really ought to protect Tattletale better next time.

    If two Endbringers make a point of stopping Tattletale before she figure the Endbringers out, probably means she’s a reasonable threat to them.

  49. Was reading back through 23.5 and I just had a horrible thought.

    Theo doesn’t have powers yet. He’s here in the hopes that getting involved in an Endbringer fight will cause him to trigger.

    If I’m right about this, it could go bad in all kinds of ways.

  50. *waves a little flag* Go team Simurgh!
    Worm seems to be a big long list of ‘it got worse’ for humanity. Every win leads to something worse, every victory is phyrric. So screw it, go Simurgh! Go! Let’s apocalypse!

      • To quote warhmmer: “Burn the heretics!”. But considering this chapter, I wouldn’t put it past wildbow to reveal another evil organization that worships and follows the Smurf. Unlike the fallen who use their imagery for attention, these are real believers. You know unlike the brief devil worshipers hysteria that the US had, there probably is an ongoing paranoia about Endbringer worship. Instead of an upside down cross, they have bird feathers. Didn’t Tagg mention dealing with something similar that gave him his war mindset?

      • The S9 are my least favourite villians, I sort of hope Grey Boy kills them all off screen or something then we swap back to the Endbringers.

        • I don’t like them either. They are a bit too villain sue-ish to me. Look Jack Slash and the 9 kill thousands and always get away from heroes, police, and surely the army at some point for years. Look the 9 somehow despite being chased by Dragon manage to recruit new capes, take over the toybox instantly without a fight, and gain all their tech to escape. The Undersiders always have bad luck and they and Cauldron, until recently anyway, get all the lucky breaks. Plus their motivation/thought process for killing is boring and weak.

        • While I do understand the villain-sue accusation towards the S9 (Siberian, Crawler and even Bonesaw are sort of meh IMO), I also think that Mannequin was a genuinely creepy villain with a suitably tragic backstory and Jack…Jack I think is awesome.

          No, seriously: he is introduced dragging a dying assassin inside a house and terrorizing a teenager with smalltalk, he makes Purity, a Legend-type cape second only to Legend himself, back down by revealing he has found her weakness with the powers of observation, stops Tattletale’s attempt at psychoanalysis by giving her a Glasgow grin (and I’m a big fan of Tattletale) and reveals in his interlude that he has spent most of his life manipulating some of the most dangerous and powerful psycho of the Wormverse.

          He’s Worm’s answer to the Joker.

          • I always preferred Mannequin for the same reasons. He was creepy, tragic, and was a great counter against Skitter’s power. I thought, especially after she rescued the wards with grenades, that Mannequin would become her arch enemy. Ten clones of Mannequin are the only reason I’m interested in seeing the future clone wars.

        • I thought that S9 were really good as catalysts for character development in others. The horrific situations that Jack Slash puts people through allows them to change or bond with their teammates. The Slaughterhouse 9 are pretty much what turned the Undersiders to what they are now, they “helped” forge Taylor and Brian’s relationship (in the worst way possible) brought Taylor and Rachel together, launched Armsmaster into his new role and forced an end to Panacea’s arc.

          But as actual villains with plans other than a plot device? I dunno. They’ve done what they can to advance the other characters, and unless they’re just still around to launch the story into it’s end run there would need to be a pretty big shake up to their characters to make them more compelling.

          I think that’s one of Worm’s flaws, the relative lack of really compelling antagonists. More of the assholes the Undersider’s fought weren’t so much acting to complete their own goals, but as obstacles against Skitter completing her goals. The best villain by far I think was Piggot, followed by Coil. Echidna wasn’t so much a villain as a walking, talking disaster.

          • I’m not sure that you quite said what you meant, there. We certainly haven’t had a villain yet that didn’t have an agenda. Look at the antagonists we’ve had:

            Shadow Stalker (and Emma by extension) – deal with boredom and frustration by victimizing the insecure.
            Lung – take over the city with asians.
            Coil – take over the city with capes.
            S9 – entertain themselves through destruction.
            Piggot – maintain the image of the Protectorate as heroes and authority figures.
            Echidna/Travelers – undo Echidna’s transformation, get home to Aleph.
            Tagg – halt the villains’ forward momentum in BB at any cost.
            Endbringers – destroy the world, cause as much misery as possible in the process.
            Cauldron – profit, plan ahead to some endgame we don’t have details about yet, but which is certainly there.

            There’s no shortage of goals here. It might be more accurate to say that there aren’t many antagonists who adapt their goals in reasonable ways in the face of new information or situations? Or in other words, that they’re a little too implacable?

            It is absolutely true that every single person on that list (okay, not Burnscar, because her power was forcing the issue for her) has made decisions that would have made a normal person hesitate and wonder if they’re on the right side of the issue. Sure, there are psychopaths out there, who wouldn’t hesitate, but it isn’t really fair to label every antagonist in Worm that way. Wildbow has done a great job of justifying their perspectives in various ways, but he hasn’t really included much of people who change their minds about anything.

            Sure, there’s Rachel deciding she trusts Skitter, and Colin deciding his behavior was wrong, and Grue deciding he does have feelings for Skitter after all, but those are all major, plot-defining moments. There isn’t really anyplace where, for example, a villain stops thinking “Meh, I could take her” before they lose. Or where anyone decides to retreat based on new intel. Or where anyone acts to stop an ally from going out of bounds, morally. Or anyplace, ever, really, where a character’s long-term plans change because of nothing other than a change in attitude (Weaver notably NOT excepted, contrary to how it seemed up until a month ago).

            I’m definitely not saying that characters should be wishy-washy in order to be realistic. Compelling characters ought to be strong-willed. But in a world with as much tragedy in it as Worm has, it seems like people with life-changing epiphanies should be every bit as common as life-changing losses (in fact, to mirror real life, they should probably be co-incident), but instead we see life-changing events happen TO people all the time and epiphanies coming FROM people almost never.

            (I’m not trying to put down the story, here, at all. I love the writing and I think it’s creative and powerful. But this particular comment struck me and gave me an idea of something the story has been missing and I thought it was worth pointing out.)

            • I was more thinking that there are no actual people who are antagonists to Taylor as a person. Most of the big name villains have goals, certainly, but only a select few actually view Skitter as their personal enemy. Jack and Piggot both had that to limited degrees, Shadowstalker also, I’m not counting Tagg because he would’ve behaved that way whether it was Grue or Bitch there instead.

              The rest chug along forward towards their goals, and their conflict with Skitter is due to her getting in the way. Most of the villains see her in terms of an obstacle or a speed bump, and that’s what screws them over.

              What I’d like to see is a true Nemesis for Weaver. Piggot’s out, since they’re technically on the same side, and Shadowstalker is a chump. Jack would be most fitting, but a good nemesis echoes or contrasts the hero in terms of personality. I’d like to see a recurring enemy who Taylor fights on a more personal. Like Joker to Batman, or Darth Vader to Luke Skywalker. Don’t know if it’s too late in the story for a new villain to come in and eat screentime though.

              I think the other part of your post can be explained by the fact that so many of the antagonists are indoctrinated or otherwise deluded in pursuing their goals. The Protectorate was deeply mired in a violent and uncompromising attitude towards crimefighting that didn’t fit the situation, the PRT was dead set on never winning and never looking bad, Coil was too confident, and Noelle was too much of a bottle of neuroses and resentments to see reason.

              I think that’s a pretty recurring element in the story. The main antagonists are largely people that are too fixated on their side of things and are unable to compromise.

            • Or anyplace, ever, really, where a character’s long-term plans change because of nothing other than a change in attitude (Weaver notably NOT excepted, contrary to how it seemed up until a month ago).

              Jack Slash.


      Go Team Simurgh!

      And the crowd goes wild.

  51. If Tattletale would bite the dust in such a negligible way in an rather boring Interlude (in my humble opinion) of an insignificant side character it would feel indescribably cheap. Sorry wildbow but that wasn’t one of your good chapters. (in opposition of nearly the rest of the story)

  52. As much as I hate to say it, there always seems to be just too much misfortune in this world for it to be believable. The story is great, the characters are great, but they are ALWAYS ALWAYS fighting too hard. I do not find it believable and thus the enjoyment is muted.

    Sorry for this, Wildbow. I hope you take it into consideration, however.

    • No, it’s fair. Different strokes for different folks.

      Maybe I’m a bit of a pessimist, but I think there’s always been/will always be a hell of a lot of misfortune in the world. We tend to have the ability to look past it. Superpowers, by contrast, make it impossible to ignore that misfortune, and give unhappy people the ability to act on it.

      • Unless there’s a cape somewhere who just generates bad luck (much like in Super Powered’s with Nick’s luck manipulation), it’s an improbable amount of bad luck. All I’m saying.

        I do however trust your ability to make it work, so by all means continue to destroy everything and then suddenly come out with something I’ll berate myself for not noticing earlier. I’ve done it so often with this story I’m getting used to it 🙂

        (That might sound like sarcasm but it isn’t, oops)

        • Cape that generates bad luck? No. But we do have an Endbringer that is very good at seeing the future and very good at setting bad things up. As this chapter shows that counts for a lot. Also remember how shitty Trigger Events are and that they happen to already troubled individuals. Finally the PRT has been manipulated by Cauldron since the begining to shape it in a certain way. Yeah making things better is going to be an uphill battle, and things seem to keep getting worse. But hey at least they have an alternate earth to escape to! At least until it turns out that it has its own set of Endbringers or something.

          • Oh could you imagine if things get that bad? They evacuate everyone to Alt Earth only to find an entirely new set of Endbringers that they have no experience fighting.

            I’d laugh. Then cry.

            • And then the Earth Bet Endbringers finish crystallizing Bet and spawn a whole new population of Passenger Tesseracts, who all swarm Earth Alt…. 😀

    • There is certainly a lot more misfortune in the Wormverse than on the real world. But, far from being unbelievable, that seems like a natural extrapolation for a world with Endbringers and where the heroes are outnumbered and outgunned at every turn.

      I think a lot of us are used to supers universes like DC’s or Marvel’s where the heroes keep the darkness under control. The Wormverse’s heroes (with the exception of Scion who isn’t exactly on call) aren’t as powerful and are facing more deadly and unbeatable threats.

      I’d find it unbelievable if that *didn’t* result in a world where life was an ongoing struggle for most people…

  53. Just had a thought. What if the teenagers at the first defensive line referred to as “Some teenagers were killed.” were Taylor and the Chicago Wards, as people had speculated, but they didn’t actually die, just destroyed their armbands? Perhaps because they were warned/realized that Saint or someone else is trying shenanigans, and they need to go off-radar in order to stop them?

    • If that’s the case Dragon really should stop bothering to give Taylor those armbands. She’s just going to lose or wreck them.

  54. Well, some people have complained about this interlude, but to me, Wildbow, you’ve hit it out of the park yet again. Honestly, you never cease to amaze me. You’ve conveyed so much information here without ANY exposition. You’ve covered HUGE amounts of action without ever having it bog down. I managed to actually FEEL for Cody a tiny bit, angry pathetic loser that he is. And, you had me believing that Lisa actually was going to die, that her power had failed her in the most pathetic way possible, and then proved just how powerful she really is — while also showing just what a badass she really is, and why she deserves to survive through all of this.

    Oh, and I didn’t comment on the last chapter, but I loved the Yamada scene. So well done. So, well done!


    • Thanks, Hg.

      A bit of encouragement when the criticism is rolling in means a lot. Truly. Thank you.

      These arcs have been tough to write. Leading into the conclusion, trying to pay attention to and wrap up loose ends, conveying everything that has to be conveyed, even if it’s not necessarily what the reader wants right this moment…

      I know Packbat (I keep typing that Backpat) said that there was one chapter in Scourge that he didn’t love (with Tattletale talking about possibly opening a portal), which wound up making for a decent/good payoff in his estimation.

      Hopefully this winds up being along the same lines for those who’ve not loved it, and for those who still aren’t happy (with the writing if nothing else), I hope they can accept it was simply a bad day for writing and that I’ll fix it up in the final version.

      • Yeah I remember that chapter. At the time it just seemed to break up the Echidna fight and be all talky. Then it did pay off later. Come to think of it at the time I figured that was the end of the Travelers storyarc. And with this interlude that was proven wrong.

        And hey if you need to know what loose ends need wrapping up, just ask in the comments. I’m sure all us commenters can remember them between us. Just off the top of my head we’ve got the endbringers, Cauldron, the Slaughterhouse 9K, Pancea and Glory Girl, Heartbreaker, and the Passengers. Probably more.

        • Also the Irregulars, though I don’t know how far Wildbow was intending to take them. Did you mention Faultline? I think there was something about her crew as well in one of the interludes (her trying to extend her power to organics)

      • Well, I really liked this chapter, just to reiterate. In fact I may have enjoyed it on an adrenaline pumping level the most out of many of the recent ones, I really felt worried for Tattletale.

      • Honestly, I think it’s really cool that you can take criticism this well. There are alot of dudes on the internet who haven’t exactly mastered that, it makes me cringe whenever I see another writer I could’ve respected have a meltdown. If the story ends up that much better because you look back and fix it up, that would be awesome.

        I’m sure there’s a chapter or two I didn’t like, but I don’t really trust myself to think too hard about the technical reasons why they didn’t measure up for me. I only know that I didn’t like the Crusader interlude for rather spiteful Batserd-ish reasons.

        • Thanks Reveen.

          I won’t say I haven’t had pretty miserable days regarding criticism. The other weekend, I put off going to the cottage to devote more time to the chapter at the time, and the response was fairly mixed. That sucked a lot. To put in 20ish hours into a chapter and come across forum commentary that bordered on vitriol, waking up to email & a chatroom log filled with typo notifications, all pretty lousy. There were good comments as well, supportive ones, and in the long run they helped more than the people who posted them will know, but it’s easy to lose sight of that stuff in the moment.

          I don’t think I got much done that Saturday morning, and it was only later that I realized that part of the reason I was so bummed was that in skipping the cottage, I’d put off burying my dog’s ashes (she was put down last December, at the age of sixteen). I hadn’t thought it affected me, but maybe it was a factor. I’d sacrificed time to myself and time for something sentimental for the writing, only to have that writing received badly. Just… not a good day.

          But if anything gets to me, it’s the general undertone of entitlement that comes with a lot of the criticism. Stuff along the lines of ‘the author owes it to me to do this differently!’ – That grates. I’m producing the best thing I can, writing the sort of thing I’d want to read. I can’t please everyone. Have to keep that in mind, take the lumps and move on.

          Hopefully others can keep that in mind too.

          My writing output may lead some to think I’m superhuman, but I’m a mere mortal in the end. I have good days and bad, whether it’s in writing or in receiving criticism, interacting with my audience and being a great guy vs. coming off slightly jerkish. I hope people forgiving me occasional stumbles & faults and not losing sight of the good, or the fact that I’m writing a hell of a lot – there’s not many web authors out there who put out even half what I do.

          In the end, I’m trying to take a professional attitude, to act as if I already had the job I one day hope to have (writing full time). Dealing with criticism’s a part of that. I hope I’m doing ok on that front.

          • That entitled attitude seems endemic to some varieties of internet denizen who feel that artists are somehow required to conform to their personal whims in exchange for the privilege of them consuming the free entertainment the artists provide. I find it fucking infuriating as just another consumer, so I can’t begin to imagine how annoying it must be for you as an author!

            I can’t promise to never be disappointed by a chapter, though so far I haven’t in any serious way. But I can promise that whilst I’ll comment on both what I like and don’t like about a given chapter, (respectfully I hope), I’ll never act like you were under some obligation to me or “the fans” at large to do things differently.

          • I’d like to second everything Admiral Skippy said.

            That sort of entitled attitude makes me think of Neil Gaiman’s famous “George Martin is not your bitch” comment, which I always found both efficacious and hilarious

            • Hey, I loved this chapter.
              And I agree with all that AMR and Skippy said.
              Also, it is normal for people to feel bad when they read a chapter where bad things happen. IF the writing is good enough to make the intended emotion pass to the readers.
              The fact that so many people complain when a character suffers, the world goes to hell, or something similar means that you write well enough for us to feel the blow and this should be taken as a compliment.

              • With critisism one of the things that is always going to show up is wether or not it’s just bitching, or if it’s a legitimate complaint adressing a flaw.

                I like the interludes because by showing different POV’s from Taylor’s it broadens our perspective, and fills in a lot of holes.

          • I hope you don’t take my rooting for the Endbringers as part of it. It’s not so much a criticism of the story as it is a way of viewing the content. I often bring up the depression-inducing nature of the story, but I just hope that something works out eventually.

            After all, if it gets too bad for everyone, the Endbringers are still around to steamroll them. Because yeah, in a story with three giant monsters who go around destroying cities, mankind is still the biggest threat to its own existence. It’s a similar lesson to Night of the Living Dead, which also had a downer ending as our hero who bravely survived the night…was mistaken for a zombie, shot dead, and anonymously burned on a pile of bodies. Roll credits.

            As for the typos, I wouldn’t take those as a bad thing. They’re doing free editorial work on your story. Normally you have to pay someone for that, and whoever you do get eventually is going to be glad that others looked it over first. I don’t really enjoy it when I look back over my stuff and find typos that haven’t been pointed out in comments. Someone may think they’re doing me a favor, but having a work that’s full of errors looks a lot worse to readers than a comments section that most of them won’t read or participate in anyway. So just take it as them helping you.

            And most importantly, take care of yourself. If I ever hear you’ve stopped eating or something to write a gigantic Worm chapter, I’m going to buy a bucket of KFC, fly up there to Canada, and force you to eat it.

            • Pshhht. If you really cared, you’d fly to Canada, then buy the KFC (or better yet, components for an actual meal) and force me to eat it.

              • Oh, alright, Jim. If I’m ever near Grand Rapids, I’ll buy you dinner too…. 🙂

                (Although that is admittedly less likely, but I did pass through Kalamazoo once. Needless to say, I had Glenn Miller running through my head the whole way.)


              • Honestly, if you ever make it to Grand Rapids, I’d be interested in meeting you.

                That said, I can’t help but note that no one writes songs about Grand Rapids.

              • Just have to be wary, Jim. For all we know, our fans include the kind of crazies that would make us semen cupcakes, just to know a bit of themselves are inside us.

              • Well, I was about to say that if I’m ever in Canada or you’re ever in the UK, I’d do the others one better and cook you a nice meal plus my signature orange ice cream*, but now I’m worried you’re going to want my ingredients vetted before I start!

                *(Recipe of which is stolen from another chef, but they’re a better chef than me, so everyone wins.)

              • Well if we’re going by naval tradition, then as long as there isn’t a course on the menu called “Soggy Biscuit”, you should be fairly safe. 😉

              • Dammit, Jim! Now I’m going to have to write a song that has the words “Grand Rapids” in it! Curse you and my obsessive cultural integrity!!!!


          • PLEASE don’t take typo notifications as criticism.

            I love Worm and my response to spotting a typo is always “OMG, something I can help out Wildbow out with! \o/”.

            I can’t write like you, but I do have an eye for spelling and grammar and I love that I can contribute to this awesome work even a tiny amount by throwing that skill into the pot.

            So yeah. Typo reports = love, not criticism…

      • Yes, you’ve done well enough so far that I trust you going forward.

        It is easy to forget just how much each chapter moves if you haven’t read them in a block recently. There is a lot of turmoil and uncertainty, over and over.

        Though I am looking forward to the Chinese being outed. Chevalier obviously knew about their predilections. And using an Endbringer attack for poaching is rather heinous.

        And if they don’t get outed, oh well. Sometimes the bad guys really get away with something.

      • Dude, I hope/pray/trust I am not being lumped in with the ‘entitled’ fans, assuming I even register at all with my largely generic posts.

        Speaking for myself, you have earned a … massive amount of reader trust with your body of work so far and I would gladly follow you off any and all narrative cliffs. There is nothing wrong with the chapter that reading the next chapter won’t fix 😀

        • Ooops, I think that may have come out far more facetious than I intended. To be clear: I meant that this chapter is informative and excellent and raises good questions that will most likely be answered by forthcoming entries.

  55. I should say how much I really liked this chapter. I’ve read it about three times. I actually feel sorry for Cody.

  56. So I did a bit of rereading of Worm.
    Didn’t read through the whole thing again (that would take days) but I skimmed a couple of arcs I’d been a little fuzzy on.
    Just want to temper my previous criticism with generous praise:
    Seriously, this fic is amazing. Among the top 10 stories I’ve ever read, web-based or not. I rank this up with Dune by Frank Herbert, Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss, etc.
    That’s the level of respect I have for your writing. So I’m sorry if my previous comments came off as entitled. I meant only to provide criticism that was helpful in some respect. Sorry if it was rude or entitled.

    ❤ your story!!

  57. Well… That was certainly interesting. At first I kept thinking of Citrine being the one with Chev and thus wondering, why she didn’t use her power. It having been Tt makes this clearer, though.
    Sadly, I couldn’t read/comment this chapter prior to now, so… yeah. Keep up the good work 🙂

  58. Holy carp. Well, we know what happened to Cody pretty well now…although we now don’t know what happened to Tattletale…

  59. As part of my compilation of all the minor capes in Worm, I have guessed the known powers of several of the Yangban:

    1: Power Sharing??
    2: Power Amplification
    4: Flight
    9: Electromagnetism
    13: Forcefields
    14: Vacuum Spheres
    23: Danger Sense, Enhanced Reflexes, Probably 3+ Other Powers
    31: Lasers
    32: “Nullification Waves.” Female. Perdition’s friend.
    36: Time stuff. Perdition
    42: Teleportation

    Any I missed? Any that wildbow would like to elaborate on or new ones she’d like to state? Please?

    • Oh, and wildbow: If you see this, could you explain what Yangban is supposed to mean? Google Translate suggests “Model,” “Prototype,” “Sample Plate,” and “Templet.” Three of those are suggesting that the CUI intends something more; the other seems to be a basic description of the Yangban’s schtick.

  60. Look it’s the American in the group that does the most damage that thinks the most! WOW SO FUCKING SHOCKED! Seriously this is getting unfuckingbelievable.


    Stupid, stupid. Also not having body suits, what kind of homogeneity is this, they should all have a single face covering uniform, all should have contacts or some sort of surgery (sure to be people with powers capable of plastic surgery/body manipulation who are selling themselves) to make their eyes at least the same colour, maybe a voice manipulator as well so they all sound the same. The whole fact that 4 members speak english makes me want to cut my throat because of the fucking absurdity. Also why haven’t they got a heartbreaker or someone with mind manipulation or you know regular fucking hypnosis/mind fuckery like torturing them then giving them food for working with a team. Or you know there’s tons and tons of way to make humans loyal or mind slaves.




    • You should fix your keyboard, that or just give it up as a bad job and buy another since your capslock key seems to turn on automatically for a while. I know it is annoying when parts of the computer go bad like that but writing in all caps is the equivalent of shouting and as what happen in person people will either ignore you or get angry back so as annoying as it will be you will have to do it.

    • Um…once you tell me which parts are serious and which aren’t, I’ll respond.

  61. That’s Tattletale for you. Defiant to people wanting to kill her, manipulating people despite admitting it, and spouting defiance even when she can’t move.

  62. AGHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!!!!!!!!!!!! *alternating between running around in circles flailing arms and crying while rocking back and forth*

  63. 25,000 comments (plus) down, 25,000 (plus) to go…. at one word per comment or thereabouts at a time.

    and of course in typical wildbow fashion, I find something else to mull over as I trawl through, this time the perceptiveness of a commentator. I;d say which one but that would constitute a spoiler .

  64. Another Chinese nitpick:

    “Tā shì fúshè kuòsàn” (他是辐射扩散; I assume you were going for, “He (i.e. Behemoth) is spreading/diffusing radiation”) is grammatically incorrect, as “shì” refers to a state of being, not a state of doing. The word order is also wrong; Chinese, like English, generally puts the verb (here, “kuòsàn”, “spreading/diffusing”) before the object (here, “fúshè”, “radiation”).

    A more accurate translation is “Tā zài sànbò fúshè” (他在散播辐射, literally “He is (in the process of) spreading radiation”).

    Of course, nowhere was it said that Yàngbǎn members had to speak *grammatical* Mandarin (indeed, as was pointed out, Cody…can’t) 🙂

    • Thank you! I was struggling, second-guessing myself on that.

      I guess that confirms the author had worked out a language resource, rather than having a native speaker assist.

  65. Okay, so I really like 32. It would be nice to know who she was before being indoctrinated. Though she still seems to have more of herself than most of the others which speaks volumes for how awesome she is. I am torn between hoping Cody saves her or hoping that the group kills the psycho since she might be safer where she is…

    I really didn’t get what the Undersiders were doing when they ran into the Yang. Was Grue simply trying to contain some of the radiation with his darkness?

    Cody…congrats Smurf, you set TWO time bomb catastrophes instead of just Echidna. *Slow clap.* I really really hope that Chevalier is okay, the dude seems pretty cool. Accord probably deserved what he got but that still seems mean not even letting him die with symmetry.

    Tattletale was awesome as always. Yet again she manages to break someone and win a fight with a few simple sentences. That is seriously impressive and I really can see how people constantly think that she is the most dangerous member of the Undersiders.

    All in all I did like this chapter quite a bit. It gives a good perspective on another side of things and honestly it creates a bit of murkyness for the Yangban in general. I really want to subscribe to the whole “worse than Cauldron” line of thinking because I hate brainwashing cults but their way honestly might be one of the most successful if they can get enough people together. If they cut out the brainwashing part imagine how powerful a group of 100 to 200 capes could be sharing powers. The only limit then would probably become just how far the power enhancement extends because I imagine there is a critical mass to how far that range feedback loop is sustainable.

  66. Cody was wrong about one thing. He did fight the brainwashing.
    I really wish he had fought it with something nicer.

    The Undersiders really better keep track of Regent during this fight.

  67. “A a man in gleaming armor extended a hand to Three”

    Little typo. Also, how is it that his power can now turn back time but not undo the damage of the laser? In his first spat with Krouse, he hit him repeatedly, but none of the injury or pain stuck.

  68. Fuck. You. Cody.

    When the Travellers decided to go back to their homeworld, I sort of wished that they’d stayed so that they could join the Undersiders. They’d been through so much, deciding not to go home after everything seemed perfectly understandable.

    After reading this I take it back. The Smirugh had a lot of effects on them, something worse probably would’ve happened if they’d decided to stay. But seriously, fuck Cody.


  70. This is got to be the worst chapter yet. I love the story of Taylor, but anything touching on the Endbringers becomes so ridiculous it’s tiresome to read through them. Chevalier being taken down by Cody (who the author seems to have forgotten should have lost his powers once he left the presence of the rest of his group) is almost as bad as having the Indian military (let alone the rest of the world) sit this fight out. Particularly given the nature of this fight, conventional anti-tank weapons would have been much more effective, launched in the hundreds from miles outside of the Endbringer’s range and drilling meter deep holes in his flesh (with accompanying lethal shock waves). Once a few hundred of those had crippled him, a few penetrating bombs would have blown him to pieces. If the author insists that he’s made of invulnerable unobtainum, then the capes, who have orders of magnitude less firepower, are just being sent to die in futility, accomplishing nothing.
    As written, the whole thing just comes across as a farce.

    • Why should Cody have lost his powers?

      Yes, sending supers in waves to die is woefully ineffective. So too is long range tank fire or, presumably anything short of nukes and maybe not even them (setting off a nuke in the middle of New Delhi is obviously an option of last resort anyway).

      Essentially they’re throwing terrible solutions at the problem because they have no good ones.

  71. The concept of the Yàngbǎn’s power system is really interesting, Wildbow! What was the inspiration behind it? I’m also very impressed by your use of Chinese in the story. Do you know Chinese?

  72. Why doesn’t Chevalier’s armor reset when he does? It doesn’t seem like 2 seconds of uninterrupted damage would be enough to cut, and if he doesn’t always reset back to the same time then Chevalier has time to think up something better to do than chase someone faster than him.

  73. “They passed injured, and didn’t spare a second glance. A family of five were caught in a ring of burning structures, and the Yàngbǎn didn’t even spare a second glance.”

    Love your story, but I come to the comment sections for *this*. Seems like the same-ish sentence was written twice here.

    • I don’t mean my comment as criticism though… wouldn’t have expected anything else from that selfish bastard.

      I don’t love this chapter, but only because Cody is infuriating. He’s still very believable, either way, and the Yang-dgkskjck are a pretty cool concept.

  74. The chinese pinyin is cringey to read. I hope someone proofreads it. E.g. “tashi fushe kuosan” sounds vaguely like “he is radiation that’s emitted”. But it’s hard to tell without the actual chinese script. I feel like skitter trying to hear through her bugs.

    • It is hard to follow without characters to copy-paste to an app. Unfortunately I never thought to learn Chinese phrases for radiation emission. An oversight.

      I don’t know, though, is there much alternative to using the pinyin? All of this is spoken out loud. Putting Chinese characters into this would be very out of place, except maybe when *the characters* were seeing them written out. Even then, probably not a good idea unless a particular word or phrase becomes crucial to the story.

      I mean, Chinese is fundamentally more a written language with spoken languages attached, arguably. But this story is written by and for Anglophones, and English is fundamentally a spoken language with a written language attached.

  75. Like the substantial playing with Mandarin a lot here, but….

    Why would they use English-language numbers to identify members? Imp hears and understands them. Seems very out of place for any government group in China, nevermind a group that attempts to force its members to only use Mandarin.

    Having lived in the PRC, it’s weird seeing a mix of Chinese and foreign people in which the foreigners are expected to learn Mandarin and the Chinese members don’t all speak some English and try learn more. That said, it’s a government-sponsored cult in a parallel universe, so, you know, okay. I’ll bite.

  76. So, in one shitty, shitty move, Cody has killed or at least maimed:

    – The guy who was going to solve world hunger.
    – The dude with one of the most badass powers in this whole story.
    – Best girl.

    Great going, dude.

  77. I recently discovered Worm (through TVTropes). I read some recaps and I intend to start reading Parahumans 2 (or whatever its official title is), but I decided to read all the *Interludes* in Worm 1 first.

    Although it’s always interesting to see some of the early comments while knowing the general future path of the story, this interlude was especially noteworthy. It was a harsh chapter, sure, but it seemed fitting with (1) what I’ve seen of The Simurgh’s plans and (2) the general escalation that occurs in Interlude content throughout the course of the series.

    I’m trying to avoid spoilers, but many readers now know the end of the Behemoth battle. Perhaps the events in this chapter were an effort by The Simurgh to change that ending, given the fact that she couldn’t know the details of said ending.

  78. This didn’t feel right, Chevalier is one of the most powerful members of the Protectorate and Accord/Tt probably understood what was going on + the guy’s power were by his own admission fcking weak

  79. Beautiful, just beautiful!
    Anyone else hopes that Tattle and Chevalier are dead? I know that they aren´t, but still it would be nice to finally see some important characters die and not all those nobodies.
    I don´t get how Cody could laser Chevalier. After all the time reversal works on everything so also on wounds and broken armor as we have seen when the YangBan used their powers to bring back those that were pulverized by behemot.
    And I don´t see how Accord could die so easily considering his power and wealth.

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