Crushed 24.3

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Eidolon and Alexandria had settled into something of a rhythm.  Though his powerset was similar to Alexandria’s on the surface, the eerie noises and the dimming of the light around the areas his punches landed suggested he was transmuting the kinetic energy of his punches into something else altogether.  Between Eidolon’s strikes and Alexandria’s, Behemoth couldn’t quite adapt to the point where he was redirecting every strike, let alone the barrage of ranged attacks that the other capes in the area were directing his way.

The Endbringer staggered under the onslaught, but he was slowly adapting.  They’d managed to pin him for a minute, even costing him some ground by driving him back once or twice, but each successive minute saw him rolling with the punches more, advancing further when he found a second or two of mild reprieve.

His target: the command center.  Our flying capes weren’t working fast enough to clear the entire rooftop, and every shaker we had -every cape capable of putting up a forcefield or creating a portal, raising a barrier- was busy trying to slow down the brute.  The Chicago Wards, or most of the Chicago Wards were among them.

I tensed, but I couldn’t move without exposing myself to one of the lances of electricity that were crashing down around us.  The capes on the rooftop were protected by an arrangement of tinker-made forcefields, it seemed, but those wouldn’t hold.  Fuck, hanging around on rooftops was dumb.  I’d learned my lesson on my first night out on costume, had avoided being put in that position since, excepting the fundraiser, where we’d been on the attack, and the time Defiant and Dragon had dragged me up to one, just a bit ago.

The guys up there were tinkers and thinkers.  They were our communications, supporting roles, strategists and healers.  A few of them were long-ranged capes.  Not really people who could hop or fly down five stories to the ground and walk away unscathed.  Not without help.

I waited and watched as Behemoth engaged the other capes, tracking what powers he was using and when.  He was presently staggering forward when he could, otherwise holding his ground, deflecting and redirecting attacks.  When he was free to do so, he reached out with his claws, and lightning lanced out to tear through the assembled capes.

Golem, to his credit, was going all out.  Hands of stone and metal rose from the ground to shield defending capes and balk Behemoth’s progress.  I could make out Hoyden, leader or second in command of the Austin Wards.  She wasn’t on the front lines, but was defending the mid-line capes.  It made sense with how her power worked, as her defensive powers provided more cover from attacks at greater ranges.  She threw herself in the way of lightning bolts and stood between Behemoth and the wounded.  When lightning struck her, detonations ripped out from the point of impact, seeming almost to short out the currents.

“Come on, come on,” I muttered.

I could see Tecton creating fissures in the ground, no doubt intended to reduce the reach and effects of Behemoth’s stomps.  Annex was creating bridges so heroes wouldn’t fall into the gaps.

Dispatch, vice-captain of the Houston Protectorate team, zipped over to a group of wounded with accelerated speed, only to seem to pause, as though he and his immediate surroundings were only video footage.  Color and space distorted violently in an irregular area around him as he hung there, just an inch over the ground, one hand at his belt and another reaching for someone with intense burns.

A half-second later, the effect dissipated, and they were all moving.  Dispatch was carrying one of the most wounded, gloves off and the sleeves of his costume pulled up, dried blood up to his elbows.  Others were bandaged and sutured.  His name, I knew, came from his ability to pick out targets in a fight, closing the distance to them and catching them in his temporal distortion effect.  He’d have minutes or hours, however long it took the air within the effect to run out, to end the fight with his super strength, durability and the close confines of the bubble.  To any observers, it appeared as though he’d won the fight in a heartbeat.  Apparently the idea extended to medical care.

Revel, leader of the Chicago Protectorate and official overseer of Tecton’s Ward team, was stepping up to the plate.  Floating up to it, whatever.  She rose into the air, and caught one full current of lightning inside her lantern.  The sheer force of the blast knocked her back, and she struck a wall, pressed against it with her lantern held in front of her.

She began releasing spheres of light from the lantern, each larger than a human head, slow-moving but numerous.  Their trajectories were unpredictable, some striking friendlies, others carrying forward towards Behemoth.  Where they struck friendlies, they only exploded in brilliant showers of sparks.  When they touched Behemoth, they sheared right into him, cutting two or three feet deep before flickering out.

When she saw it was working, she only intensified the assault, spending the charge she’d accumulated to create fifty more orbs, before hurrying forward to intercept another stream of lightning that was flowing from Behemoth’s claw-tip.  It was impossible to actually get in front before the lightning appeared, to save the lives that Behemoth was taking with the initial moments the lightning appeared, but she was stopping the lightning from flickering to the fourth, fifth or sixth target.

That was what I was waiting for.  My limited experience with Endbringers had taught me one thing.  When someone actually found a way to respond, to cancel out the attacks or to deliver a measure of real damage, they changed tactics.

Some capes were already responding.  Captains and leaders were giving orders, and various barriers were being reinforced or thrown back up.  Some were trying to give the warning, but their voices disappeared in the midst of the chaos around us.

“Take cover!” I hollered, and my swarm carried my voice.

It was only two or three seconds later, as the second wave of spheres drifted to Behemoth and began to cut into his torso and groin area, that he responded.  His ‘mouth’ opened, the craggy spikes of obsidian ‘teeth’ parting.

And he roared.  A sound that was slow at first, growing steadily more powerful.

Sound was a bitch of a thing.  It could be muffled, but blocking it entirely?  We didn’t have Grue.

I fled, cranking my antigrav to ‘high’ and risking unfolding my wings to use the propulsion systems as I made my way to for cover, putting as many buildings between Behemoth and I as I could.

My swarm responded to my call, assisting the capes who weren’t fleeing fast enough.  They rose as a singular mass, a wall of tens of thousands, and absorbed the worst of the scream.  I wasn’t sure it was enough.  Even with some distance and a dozen buildings between Behemoth and I, I had no defenses as it reached a crescendo.  My sense of balance went out the window, my very bones hurt.

Closer to Behemoth, capes were bleeding from their ears, vomiting, passing out.  Organs and brains would be reduced to jelly as he continued.  My bugs weren’t doing much to muffle the noise or soften the damage, if they were helping at all.

But my focus was on the rooftop.  I’d been waiting until he stopped using his lightning.  There was nothing saying he wouldn’t use it now.  He could use multiple attack forms at the same time.  Still, he was more focused on picking off the defending capes, the ones who were suppressing the noise.  Was Citrine among them?  I could see the golden glow of her power in the distance.

Director Tagg had given me an effective ranking of two for every single power classification.  Ostensibly, it had been because he hadn’t wanted to underestimate me.  Was there a note of truth to that, though?  I wasn’t sure about the ‘brute’ or ‘mover’ classifications, but did my power over bugs afford me a versatility that let me cover the bases on other fronts?

They still hadn’t completely evacuated the roof.  The people who might have helped them down were disabled or otherwise occupied.  Getting them down was key, here.  The flying capes were more focused on assisting the capes near the front lines, helping the ones who could deal damage escape Behemoth’s implacable advance and avoid the kill aura that accompanied him.

The roaring made it impossible to hear.  Even seeing was difficult, as my vision distorted and lost focus.  I very nearly tipped over, until I turned to my swarm sense.  Not perfect.  Even they were suffering, scattered and dying, at close range to the roar.  But it gave me an orientation, a plane to compare the tilt and angle of my body with.

I looped to one side to intercept some of my bugs, collecting the strands of silk they’d woven in one hand, then made my way around to the back of the building the heroes were clustered on.  Flying capes were settled on the ground, pausing to recuperate from the roar.  I took a second, myself, to get my bearings.  My back against the concrete, I could feel the building shuddering in response to the roar.  But at least there was a small degree of reprieve, here.

When I’d caught my breath and reassured myself my insides hadn’t been vibrated to pieces, I flew to the rooftop.  My bugs swept over the crowd.  No Tattletale that I could see.  No Accord, either, for that matter.

Two capes approached me, not quite Caucasian but lighter-skinned than the Indian capes.  One had a costume with a spiral to it, the other wore armor with tiny faces that looked like baby’s heads.  Was he a villain?  They were rattling off something in French or Spanish as they reached out to take my hands.  Their eyes were wide with fear and alarm.

“I can’t carry you!” I shouted, raising my voice to be heard over the perpetual roar.  “My flight pack isn’t strong enough!”

They clutched at me, and one even pushed at another cape who’d gotten too close.

A little too much.  Too intense, here, too forceful.  I just want to find Tattletale.  I’ll find a way to help you once I’ve done that.

“Back off!” I said, raising my voice.

The guy with the faces on his armor shouted so forcefully that spit flew from his mouth, as he pointed to the ground beyond the building.  He approached me, trying to hug himself tight to my body.  I pushed him away and backed up, trusting the antigrav to hold me aloft.

One of the capes on the rooftop approached me, pushing her way through the crowd.  She wore a golden mask with a woman’s face, the mouth parted a fraction, with a black bodysuit.  It was softened a touch by the loose black cloth that draped down from her golden shoulderpads and breastplate.  The black didn’t look so dramatic as it might have, mottled a brown-gray by the loose dust that had accumulated on it.

“Weaver,” she said, her voice melodic.

“Arbiter,” I responded.  One of Rime’s underlings.  The one with the social danger sense, forcefield and sonic beam.  I supposed her forcefield wasn’t quite large enough or versatile enough to offer a bridge down to the ground.  “I’ve got other stuff I need to pay attention to.  Don’t suppose you speak French?  Or Spanish?”

“Portuguese,” she said.  “And no, but give me a moment.”

She turned to the capes, but a heavy crash interrupted her before she could speak.

A building had fallen, toppling, and Behemoth hadn’t done anything to precipitate it.  Nothing except the roaring.

Was that enough?  Was this building coming apart beneath us?

Where the hell was Tattletale?  My bugs flowed into cracks in the building, checking rooms only to find them empty.

“Hurry!” I said.  I turned my attention to my swarm.  They extended out beneath me, forming into neat lines.  My bugs were slow to move through the structure.  I had to use the cracks that already existed in the walls, ducts and vents that just happened to be open.

“Speak to me,” Arbiter said to the Portuguese capes.

The one with the spiral costume chattered out something I couldn’t even guess at.  Arbiter nodded.  In very broken Portuguese, she asked a question.  The spiral man looked at the one with him, gesturing.

In less broken Portuguese, she spoke again.

That prompted another burst of explanation, or what I took to be exclamation.  They sounded desperate, afraid.

When she responded, she spoke just as quickly and flawlessly as the two native speakers.  She’d picked up the language in a matter of three exchanges.

I bit my tongue as the roar abruptly intensified, jarring me enough that my jaw was slammed shut.  It wasn’t that he was roaring louder; one of the capes who’d been keeping the worst of the noise at bay had fallen.

Focus.  My bugs extended lines of silk to the ground, while others held it aloft and kept it more or less straight, allowing the lengths to be carefully measured, the amount of slack controlled.

“Weaver!” Arbiter said, raising her voice so I could hear her.

I turned around.

“I don’t quite understand, there’s a gap in translation, but he says he’s pregnant with his dead teammates,” she said.  Her voice cut through the noise, “They’re asking for him to be rescued next.”

Pregnant with dead teammates?

Suddenly the little faces on his armor seemed twice as creepy.  I really hoped that was a tragically bad translation.  Parahumans could be so fucked up sometimes.

“He gets rescued with everyone else,” I said.  “There’s no way to prioritize.”

“Right,” Arbiter said.

I secured the lines of silk on the roof’s edge and on the ground.  I then pulled off a shoulderpad and retrieved the strip of silk that had held it in place.  I folded it over the cord and stepped over the edge, letting myself slide down the length of the cord.  Both ends were tied, and the slack was enough that it should ease people to the ground.  I was okay with doing the test run, as my flight pack could handle the fall.

It didn’t break.  Good.  Better than nothing.  I flew back to the rooftop, and I could feel the roar rattling me as I made my way up past the more solid cover.

“Should be fairly safe,” I said, “Silk cord got warm, from what my bugs are feeling, but I’ve got six arranged.  One person at a time, delay by about… twenty seconds, at least, between trips, so the heat and friction doesn’t wear through the silk.  It’s not the strongest thread I’ve ever made.”

Arbiter glanced over the roof’s edge.  I followed her gaze.  The silk was barely even visible.

“You’re sure they’ll hold?”

“No,” I said.  I glanced over at Behemoth, “But I’m less sure this building’ll be standing in five minutes.  If a cape falls and dies, I’ll take the blame.  Better than having everyone up here die.”

“You’re not convincing me,” she said, but she said something to the cape with the spirals on his costume.  With gestures and careful explanation, she got him to step up to the front, pulling his glove free of his fingers, using the excess fabric to slide down the silk line.

My bugs checked it after he’d passed.  Warm, but not so much that I was worried it’d split.

“Go!  Go!”  Arbiter said, grabbing the attention of the capes who’d been standing back and watching.

In seconds, we had capes sliding down the lines.  Arbiter was careful to keep them from overloading or applying too much friction too fast to the makeshift ziplines.

Behemoth had stopped his endless roaring.  He was using fire, now.  There was none of the uncanny precision the lightning had, but the fire moved with intelligence, spread easily, burned hotter than it should have, and it was virtually impossible to stop all of it.  It slipped between force fields, between the fingers of Golem’s stone hands, and it ignited any fabric and wood it touched, set grass alight.

I had to pull back my bugs.  I’d managed to keep the vast majority from dying, some fires and casualties from the roaring excepted, but this wasn’t a place where they’d help.

Six more capes made their way down the line.  Arbiter used her forcefield to block some more agitated capes from making their way down before it was time.  She spoke in one of the local languages to the group.

“Thank you,” I told her.  “For helping keep this sane.  If it comes down to it, and the cords don’t hold, I’ll lend you my flight pack.  I can control it remotely.”

“Give it to someone else before you give it to me,” she said, without looking at me.

“Right,” I answered.  “Listen, I’m-”

A cape gripped the cord for his turn, only to turn out to be far heavier than he looked.  Arbiter placed a forcefield under him, but it didn’t do much more than slow his descent as he crashed through it.

Five cords remained, and there were too many capes here.

Fuck,” I said.

“He’s okay,” Arbiter observed.

But the others seemed more reticient now.

“What the hell is going on downstairs?  Are stairs too difficult?”

Arbiter shook her head.  “Government building, it’s set up to lock down in a crisis, which it did.  A rogue cape turned on the people inside, so the metal doors closed to protect others.  We’ve been reeling since.  Command structure’s down, our battle lines collapsed-”

“You’re talking about Chevalier.”


“Then where’s Tattletale?”

“I don’t know who that is.”

“Teenage girl, dirty blond, costume of black and light purple.  She would’ve been with a short man wearing a suit.”

“I saw them.  They went downstairs with Chevalier.”

I could feel my heart in my throat.  “Where are they now?”

“With other wounded.  We’re relaying them a half-mile that way,” Arbiter pointed.  “Far enough away that Behemoth won’t be endangering them anytime soon.”

Behemoth generated a shockwave, and one forcefield at the front of the roof flickered and died.  A tinker moved forward to try to restart it, and was struck down by a bolt of lightning before she could.

A wave of capes mustered the courage and slid down.  There were only eleven of us on the rooftop now, myself and Arbiter included.

I checked the lines, then cut one that was too frayed.  Four left.

“Four lines left,” I reported, before someone reached for one that wasn’t there.  My thoughts, though, were on Tattletale.  Injured or dead.

“Go,” Arbiter said.  “To your friend, your teammate, your partner, whatever she is to you, she’s important.”

I shook my head.  “You need me.  I can use my bugs to check the lines are okay.”

“There won’t be any major difference if you’re here or not.  Three more trips-”

A flying cape touched the rooftop only long enough to take hold of one of the people on top, then took off again.

“Maybe two trips, and we’re clear.  I’ll go last.  Go.

Another shockwave knocked out another forcefield panel.  A tinker was working on the generator, best as she could while hunkering down behind the sole remaining panel.  She said something frantic.  I couldn’t understand her, whatever her language, but I could guess.  It wasn’t her tech.

I hesitated, wanting to take the offer to escape.  Then I shook my head.  “I’ll stay.  Tattletale’s important to me, but so is doing what I can here.  I can check the lines in a way nobody else here can.”

Arbiter only nodded, her eyes on the ongoing fight.

I drew up decoy-swarms, placing them across the rooftop, and stepped off the rooftop, hovering and using the building for cover.  Arbiter raised her forcefield to fill some of the gap in the tinker-created field, crouching in the crowd of swarm-people.  Others followed suit.  I covered them as much as I could without obscuring their vision.

Seconds passed before Arbiter gave the go-ahead.  Capes evacuated the rooftop.

Behemoth’s lightning strike flashed through our ranks, right over Arbiter’s squatter forcefield, through two decoys and striking a cape.

The crash of thunder seemed almost delayed, synced more to the cape going limp than the flash itself.  The body struck the roofop, dead before it touched ground.

Had the decoys spared two people from being hit, or was it chance that the bolt had made contact with them?  Fuck.  Having more information would be key, here.

Behemoth was continuing to suffer blows.  His progress had all but stalled, but he wasn’t changing tactics.  Why?

Did he have a strategy?  The Simurgh was supposed to be the tactician, Leviathan had the brute cunning.  Was Behemoth harboring a certain degree of intelligence?

I didn’t like that idea, but I couldn’t think of a good way to explain just why he was willing to stand there and take abuse.

Flying capes evacuated two more.  Arbiter gave the go-ahead for more to use the ziplines.

That left only the two of us here, and I had cover, at the least.

Lightning lanced past us, burning much of its initial charge on the forcefield.  It danced through the ranks of my decoy bugs.  Arbiter was left untouched.

“Damn,” she muttered.  “Damn, damn, damn.”

“Fuck waiting for heat to dissipate, just use the zipline,” I said.  “Hurry.  Second one, it’s least worn, coolest.”

She half-crawled, half-ran to me.  I handed her the strap that I’d used for the test run, and she looped it over the line.

I followed her to the ground, my hand on the armor at her collar.  I probably didn’t have the lift to keep her from falling, but I might have been able to soften the blow.

Not that it mattered.  The zipline remained intact, and she touched ground with a grunt.

I found Rime, casting wave after wave of crystals at Behemoth.  He was using shockwaves and fire to prematurely detonate or push away Revel’s spheres, and Rime’s attacks were suffering from a similar angle.

Rime was second in command, wasn’t she?  Or was it Prism?

Rime would be more receptive to listening, either way.  I used my bugs to speak to her.  “Command center evacuated.  Can relax front line if you need to.”

She didn’t respond to me, but I could make out her orders as she shouted the words, “Fall back!  Stagger the retreat!”

I exhaled slowly.

“You’ve done your duty.  Go to your friend.  Figure out what’s going on,” Arbiter said.

I nodded and took off.

Through my bugs, I spoke to Tecton, “Back shortly.

He mumbled something I couldn’t make out.  It might have been ‘okay’.

As I got more distance, I felt safe to withdraw the wings again.  I picked up in speed, putting Behemoth and the fighting behind me.

I found a temple with wounded inside.  The exterior was opulent, the interior doubly so.  Now it was a triage area.  There were more burns here, crushed limbs, people coughing violently.  It wasn’t damage suffered from direct confrontation with Behemoth.  It was secondary damage, taken from the fires and smoke of burning buildings.

And inside one curtained area, there were the wounded capes.  I approached, folding the wings away and moving forward with antigrav and the occasional touch of foot against ground to propel myself forward further.

I stopped by Tattletale’s bedside.  I’d found her within instants of the temple falling in my range.  Her lips moved as she recognized me, but no sound came out.  My eyes moved to the tube sticking out of her throat.

“You really gotta stop doing this,” I said.

She only grinned.  She reached over to the bedside table and retrieved a pen and notepad.  Her grin fell from her face as she wrote something, then tore the page free, handing it to me.

he’s going easy on us.  all Endbringers are.  but Behemoth holding back, even from moment he arrive.  taking more hits than he should.

“We already knew that they’re holding back for some reason,” I said.  “The way they space out attacks, they could accelerate the timetable or coordinate their strikes if they wanted to fuck us over.”

Another note:

they want to lose I think.  set themselves up to fail.  but not fail so bad they risk dying.  levi was after something, noelle I think.  but why didn’t he show up closer to downtown?

“I don’t know,” I said.  I felt a little chilled at the idea that this was the Endbringers pulling their punches.

big b wants something.  not at india gate.  somewhere past it.  why not come up right underneath it?

“I don’t know,” I repeated myself.  “It doesn’t matter.”

matters.  looked at past attacks.  pattern.  small pattern.  behe attacks nuclear reactor, appears some distance away.  attacks birdcage, appears in rockies, no sign he was close or beneath cage.  pattern says he wouldn’t emerge this close if he just wanted to attack india gate.  He attacking something north of it.

“Just tell me, is there anything I can do?”

I was trying to find his target.  accord was trying to find way to stop him, coordinate counteroffense.  accord dead, I useless.  get me computer?  maybe I can help still.  Ppl here not helping.  scared of me.

Accord was dead?  What did that spell for the Undersider-Ambassador alliance?

No.  I couldn’t let myself get distracted.  There were more immediate concerns.

“Computers are probably down,” I said.  “I think there’s too much electromagnetic energy, no cell towers, no radio, no internet.  Armbands aren’t working, and I’d expect them to be the last thing to stop working.”

She spent an inordinate amount of time writing the next message.

I shifted my weight from one foot to the other while I waited for her to finish, then accepted the note and read it.


Each letter had been traced over several times, and the entire thing had been underlined twice.

I glanced at her, and she was scowling, already writing the next message.

“I’ll see what I can do,” I said.  “You’re a distance away from the fighting, maybe a phone works.”

But she was already handing me the next piece of paper.

you go.  find it.  find his objective.

“There’s other capes better for that than me.”

get help then.  but you can use swarm.  search.  we win this by denying him his target.

I frowned, but I didn’t refuse her.  I started to leave, then hesitated, turning back to her.  I opened my mouth to speak, then saw the note.

go already.  I ok.  I get healer another day.  not worried.

And I was gone, flying over the heads of the wounded as I made my way to the front door.

The availability of healing made for an interesting, if ugly, dynamic.  Capes like Tattletale, capes like me could be reckless, we’d get our faces slashed open, our backs broken, our throats severed, blinded and burned, and we’d get mended back to a near-pristine condition.  Tattletale still had faint scars at the corners of her mouth, regenerated by Brian after his second trigger event, but she’d mended almost to full.  I’d had injuries of a much more life-altering scale undone by Panacea and Scapegoat.

If we died, we were dead, no question, unless I gave consideration to Alexandria’s apparent resurrection.  But an injury, no matter how grave?  That was something that could be remedied, it lent a feeling of invulnerability, an image of invulnerability.  So we continued being reckless, and we would continue to be reckless until something finally killed us off.

Was there a way to break that pattern?  Could I afford to?  My ability to throw myself headlong into a dangerous situation was part of the reason for my success.

I looped back towards the main confrontation, finding the thinkers I’d helped off the rooftop.  Some were moving to assist allies, others were fleeing.  One pocket, at a glance, seemed to be trying to form a second command center.

I moved towards the cluster of them.

Two Indian capes, one Caucasian.

“English?” I asked.

“Yes,” the Caucasian said.  “Just me.”

“Trying to enlist help.  Names and powers?”

“Kismet, balance thinker,” the Caucasian said.  He wore a white robe with a hard, faceless mask that had only slits for the eyes.

“And the other two?”

“As far as I can tell, Fathom and Particulate.  Best translations I can give.  My Punjabi isn’t strong.”

“Their powers?” I asked, with a restrained patience.

“Displaces people or things to another dimension, filled with water, brings them back.  Particulate’s a dust tinker.”

What the fuck is a dust tinker?  Or a balance thinker, for that matter?

“Okay, I’m going to find others,” I said.

“Wait, what’s the project?”

“A mission.  Finding whatever it is that Behemoth wants.”

“We’ve got others on that already.”

“Nobody’s reported back,” I said, “Or at least, nobody’s formed a defensive line or put safeguards in place.”

“You’re sure he’s after something?  They’ve attacked cities just to kill people before, and this is a dense population center.”

“He’s after something,” I said. “He’s got a direction, and a friend told me he’s targeting a point beyond where the heroes are searching.”

“We’ll help look,” he said. He rattled off a few lines of Punjabi to the capes in his company.  One of them, Particulate, I took it, removed what looked like a fat smart phone from one pocket.  He peered at it.  Some sort of scanning instrument.

“Hey, either of you have a phone?”  I asked.

Kismet nodded, then handed me the phone.

“Can I keep it?”  I asked.  “I can get it back to you later, probably.”

He made an exasperated noise.  “I thought you wanted to make a call, not keep it.”

“It’d be for a good cause,” I promised.

He sighed, “Take it, then.”

I wound silk around it and then had bugs carry it off in Tattletale’s direction.

“You think it’s a cache of nuclear weapons, or what?”  Kismet asked me.

“I don’t know,” I said.  “Go look, towards India Gate.  I’m going to round up others.”

“On it,” he said, before speaking another line of Punjabi.  “And kid?”

I hesitated in mid-air.

“Thanks, for the escape route from that rooftop.”

I didn’t respond, taking off.  Rude, maybe, but taking the time to respond was stupid, when there was this much going on.  Making me wait while he thanked me was similarly dumb.

I waited until the phone reached Tattletale’s hands, then drew closer to the fighting, and the capes who were closer to the battlefront.  When Rime was in my power’s reach, I contacted her.

Tattletale thinks she has a lead on Behemoth’s objective.  Mobilizing thinkers to find it.

I was nearly drowned out by the chaos of the fighting.  Behemoth was standing partially inside a building, and it was blazing, pieces of it falling down with every heavy impact the heroes delivered.

“Say again,” she said.

I repeated myself, speaking the words aloud under my breath, to gauge the proper way to form the sounds with my swarm.

“Good,” she said.  And that was all.  She was fighting again, trying to freeze the building so Behemoth was encased.

I found two more thinkers and gave them directions.  We’d search the area beyond the Rajpath.

Behemoth generated a shockwave, and I could sense the heroes reacting to it.  The only cover here was cover heroes like Golem were creating, and the concussive shock traveled through the air, knocking capes off their feet or out of the air.

I grit my teeth and pressed my back to a building as it rolled past me, fell over at the impact.

The Endbringer strode forward, using the momentary break in the attack to cover more ground.  Unfortunate capes who’d been pushing their luck were left trying to run for cover, only to be caught within his kill aura.

Rachel rescued one or two, though the heroes might have debated the nature of the rescue.  Her dogs seized people in their mouths, running, dropping them at a safe distance, before moving in to retrieve more people.  Some of the rescued individuals were left slowly climbing to their feet, no doubt bruised from the dog’s teeth and dripping with drool.

One dog, a person in its mouth, was struck by a bolt of lightning.  It fell, sprawling, then slowly climbed to its feet.  I could tell with my bugs, that the person in its mouth was no longer alive.  Still, it dutifully carried the body to safety and deposited it on the ground, before limping back towards the battle.

I belatedly remembered to pay attention to my team.  Tecton was busy erecting barriers, raising the earth in shelves with his piledrivers. Annex was reinforcing everything, fixing other people’s work, providing loose cover for ranged heroes to hide behind, and delaying collapses.  Powerful.

Grace, using her strength to carry the wounded.  Wanton was venturing into more dangerous ground with the safety of his telekinetic body, returning to human form to help the wounded and trapped, then retreating with the same form, moving on to the next person.  Cuff was helping a tinker.

Golem was forming barriers, limiting the movements of Behemoth’s legs, and shoring up the building the Endbringer was wading through.

The constructions weren’t doing enough.  We needed to change tactics now that this wasn’t working, sort of like the Endbringers did.  If not constructions, then maybe destructions.

Tecton, pits.  Have Annex cover them,” I ordered.  “Think controlled collapses.

I couldn’t make out his response.  I hoped that didn’t mean he couldn’t make out my statements.

You’re in charge until I get back.  I have other orders,” I added.

I returned to collecting thinkers and other stray capes, taking only a minute before heading for our destination.

There were heroes and PRT officials at India Gate, and lined up across the Rajpath.  A handful of thinkers and tinkers were here.  Not ones I’d sent, but official ones, directed to scan and search for whatever Behemoth might be after.

Search north,” I communicated, sending moths and butterflies to pass on the message.  I didn’t wait to see if they’d listen.  I kept moving.

I zig-zagged across the landscape, scanning every surface with my bugs, as the fighting continued in the distance.  Behemoth wasn’t quite visible from this vantage point, but the cloud of smoke and the lightning suggested it wouldn’t be long.

How many capes had he killed?  How many more would die?

I crossed paths with Particulate, who had apparently been filled in by Kismet.  He handed me one of the scanning devices, and I took off.

Damn tinkers.  Their stuff was making life so complicated, now.  Too many things to keep track of.  Antigrav, propulsion, sensing things with my bugs, paying attention to what I was sensing with my bugs, coordinating people, with sectors for them to cover, and now tracking the stuff with the scanner.

Not that it was impossible.  I was managing everything but the bugspeak without a problem.

The scanner showed me only gibberish at first, with sixteen bars divided into eight individual pieces, each of which could be any number of colors.  Each rose and fell as I moved and as I turned the scanner.  Moving past Particulate, I noted that the rise and fall of the bars was linked to my relation to his scanner.

We were triangulating.  Or did we not have a third?  Kismet was somewhere out of my range, at present, as was Fathom, so I couldn’t be sure.

The bars rose as I pointed in Behemoth’s direction, a mix of blues, greens, yellows and reds.  Was it tracking energy?

I turned away, and found another bump, almost all white, the rest yellow.  Nothing tracked in any significant quantity at Behemoth’s location.

It was something.  I circled around until the bars reached a peak, every single one of them topping the charts.

Nothing.  I used my power, but I couldn’t find anything more complex than a desktop computer.

Then it adjusted.  The bars each dropped until they were only four or five high.

Was Particulate doing something on his end?

It dawned on me, as I tried to narrow down our target, that this was big.  Something that topped the basic readings just by being within a mile of it.

And I found it.  My bugs could sense an underground chamber.  Concrete walls, impenetrable to earthworms, and no obvious entrance.  I looped back to communicate to the others.  The English-speakers, anyways.

Then, as the faster and the closer thinkers caught up with me, I approached the site.

Particulate and Kismet joined me.

This underground chamber was different from the one I’d seen closer to Behemoth.  There was no ramp leading up, nothing to suggest an elevator.

“Not sure how to get through,” I said.

“Smart of them,” Kismet said.

“I know, but it doesn’t help us.”

Kismet said something to Particulate, and the tinker drew a gun from a holster with an excess of care.

Then he fired.  There was no beam, no projectile.  There was only a corridor, three feet across, carved into the earth, and plumes of dust.

We backed away, Kismet coughing as he caught some of it.  Particulate, a tinker with a narrow, overlong bald head, said something in his language, almost musical, humorous.  He glanced at me, his eyes covered by goggles, his mouth covered by a fabric that hugged every wrinkle of his lower face, as though it were a micron thick, and smiled.  I could see the contours of his teeth and gums behind the strange fabric.

“Battery,” Kismet said, stopping to cough, “is dead.  Three shots.  Tried two on Behemoth, didn’t work.  He likes that it was useful.”

“Damn,” I said.  If they had worked…

I didn’t waste any more time.  I handed them a length of cord, then disappeared down the hole.  My feet skidded on the smooth, almost glassy surface, but my flight pack gave me some lift.

Now that I was lower, I was free to feel out the surroundings, and mentally map out the entire complex.  It took time, but the others were slow to descend to the lower corridor.

Was there a whole undercity beneath New Delhi?  Some kind of subterranean realm of corridors and rooms, large and small?  Did the good and bad ‘cold’ capes accidentally dig into each other’s corridors at any point?  Collapse sections of each other’s undercity?

Geez, it wasn’t like the city wasn’t large enough already.

I was drawing a mental picture as my bugs spread out.  There were people here, but they weren’t doing anything special.  Sleeping, cooking, fucking, smoking some sort of pipes… no.

And in the midst of it, as Particulate adjusted his tracking device to further narrow the sensitivity, we closed in on a void.  A part of the underground chamber my bugs couldn’t touch.

Particulate said something, arching his eyebrows as he looked down at the scanner.

“A lot of energy,” Kismet translated.

“How much is a lot?” I asked.

Particulate spoke without Kismet translating for him.

“More than Behemoth has given off during his entire stay in New Delhi,” Kismet said.

I stared at the little scanner and the white bars.  “There’s no way in, as far as I can tell.”

“There wasn’t a way into this base either,” Kismet said.  “Maybe they have a way to enter and leave.”

“Okay,” I said.  “We know where Behemoth’s target is, even if we don’t know what it is.  Let’s retreat, communicate with-”

But Particulate was already moving, tampering with the gun that had created the corridor.

“Stop him!” I said.

Kismet reached over, but Particulate was already tossing the gun to the point where the floor met the wall.

It started flashing rapidly, increasingly bright, and Particulate bolted.  It was almost comical, as though he’d been taught to run by a textbook.  His hands were out flat at his sides, his arms and legs bent at rigid right angles as he sprinted away, almost robotic in the movements.  He shouted something in Punjabi.

Almost comical.  When you saw a bomb disposal team running, as the joke went, you ran to keep up.  The same applied to any tinker and a device that flashed like that.  Kismet and I ran after him.

The gun exploded, silently, without fire or light or electricity.  There was only a roughly spherical opening carved into the area.  It was wide enough to lead into the tunnel above and below us, and had sheared through the five or six feet of solid earth that separated each floor.  At the far end, I could see where it had cut into a corner of the previously inaccessible room.

We approached, and I could see a cape inside, or a parahuman, if ‘cape’ applied.  He was disheveled, with dark circles under his eyes, his skin pale, his beard and hair bedraggled.  His clothing, by contrast, was opulent, clean: a rich indigo robe, a sapphire set in a gold chain, a gold chain for a belt, and a golden sash.

And above him, the energy.  There were two golden discs, and something almost alive seemed to crackle between them.

“It’s Phir Sē,” Kismet said, backing away.

“The glowing thing in the air or the person?”  I asked.

“The person.”

“Who’s Phir See?”  I asked.

Sē.  He’s one of the reasons the American girl’s PRT can exist,” Kismet said.  “When they talk about disbanding it, the PRT only reminds them that monsters like this lurk elsewhere.”

The man slowly turned to face us.  He wasn’t an old man, but he moved like one.

“Monsters?”  I asked.  “I’ve fought monsters.  Just tell me what kind of monster he is.”

“The kind that is too smart for all of our good,” Kismet said.  He’d frozen the moment the man set eyes on him.

Phir Sē spoke, “That is compliment?  Yes?”

“Yes,” Kismet said.

“Then I thank you.  Girl?  I recognize you from American television.”

“I go by Weaver, now.”

“I do remember.  You had much power.  You turned it down.”

“It wasn’t for me,” I said.

“You are more comfortable where you are now?” he asked.

“Now as in here, in this fight, or as a hero?”

“Either.  Both,” he stated.

“Honestly?  No on both counts.  I’m still figuring it out.”

He inclined his head.  “This is to be respected.  Making hard choice.  The challenge of the young adult.  To find identity.”

“Thank you,” I said, still wary.  Everything about Kismet’s reaction was telling me this guy was to be feared, so I had to step carefully.  “Can I ask what that thing is?”

“A weapon,” he said.  “A… how do you Americans say it?  Time bomb?  Only this is joke.”

“He makes portals,” Kismet said.  “Using them, he can send things back in time.  Something goes in portal B, comes out of portal A a few minutes earlier.  Or the other way around.”

“Or, as I discover, I make loop,” Phir Sē said.  “Weaponize.  Simple light, captured in one moment, redoubled many times over.  I move gate, and that light will pour forth and clean.”

I could remember what Particulate had said.  More energy than Behemoth had created since arriving in this city.  Only this would be directed at a single target.

“Clean isn’t the word you want,” I said. “Scour?”

“Scour,” Phir Sē said, he inclined his head again.  “I thank you.”

“Behemoth wants his hands on it,” I said.  “On that energy.”

“I want this on Behemoth.  Do great harm.  Even kill.”

“Shit,” Kismet said.  He backed away a step.  “This is-”

“Stay,” Phir Sē said.  His voice was quiet, but it was clear he expected to be heeded.

Kismet glanced up at the glow, then turned to run.

He wasn’t even turned all the way around when there was a flicker.  A man appeared just in front of Kismet.  A teleporter.

And his forearm extended through Kismet’s chest.

Then he flickered, like a bad lightbulb, and he was gone, leaving only a gaping hole where the arm had been.  Kismet collapsed, dead.

A teleporter who can bypass the Manton effect.

“Stay,” Phir Sē told us, again.  He hadn’t even flinched, but the space between his bushy eyebrows furrowed as he stared down at Kismet.

My heart thudded in my throat as I glanced down at the body.

Particulate said something, spitting the word.

Phir Sē said something in Punjabi, then turned to me, “Is rude, to speak in language you cannot understand.  He call me evil, so I not speak to him further.  But you understand, do you not?  You know what form this war take?  The danger we all face, from monsters like that, from others?”

“I don’t think many top the Endbringers,” I said.

“Maybe not so.  Maybe.  But you have tried being cold.  Killing the enemy, yes?  Because ruthless is only way to win this war.”

“I met some people.  I think they were your adversaries,” I said.  “Glowing eyes?  Reflective?  Like mirrors?”

“Yes.  Enemy.  They petty evils that walk this city.  Organize crime.  Slave, prostitute, murder, mercenary.  My side, we root out corrupt.  Ruthless.  Government prefer them to us.  Paint us as evil, pay them to carry on.  But you know what this is like, yes?”

“More or less,” I said, not breaking eye contact.  “And those guys, they’re ruthless in the same way you described, I guess?”

“More, less,” he said, as if he were trying on the phrase, “Yes.”

“You want to hit Behemoth with this… time bomb,” I said.  “But… I think that’s what he wants.  He’s holding back.  My thinker friend, she said so.  He’s taking more hits than he should, and I’m just now realizing he might be doing it because he wants to be ready for when you hit him with this.  He’ll push it out into the ground, or into the air.”

“Yes.  This is likely,” Phir Sē said.  “This is what he may want.  I hoped for the Second or Third.  This will have to do.”

“They’ve tried this stuff before,” I said.  “Nukes, gigantic railguns, tricks with teleportation and portals.  It doesn’t work.  You won’t do anything except get a lot of people killed as collateral damage.”

“We time this.  Strategic,” Phir Sē said, calm, as if he were talking to a panicked animal.  “Come.  Step in.”

Right, I thought.  Approach the temporal bomb.

But I did.  No use ticking off the guy with the murder-teleporter on call.  Particulate followed me as I navigated the way to the room’s interior.

There were television screens all across the wall.  Five showed the ongoing destruction from distant cameras.  Two showed grainy camera footage.  The last showed what looked to be an Indian soap opera.

“Thirsty,” Phir Sē commented.

The teleporter flickered into existence, then disappeared.  Phir Sē had a bottle of water in his hands that he hadn’t held before.  He turned our way, bushy eyebrows raised as a faint smile touched his face.  “Might I offer you anything?”

I shook my head.  My stomach was a knot, my heart was pounding.

Particulate said something, but Phir Sē ignored him.

“We watch the First,” Phir Sē said.  “He let his guard down, I strike.”

“I’ve seen an Endbringer fool another brilliant man who thought he had a surefire way to win,” I said.  “They’re cleverer than we think.  What if Behemoth fools you?”

“Then New Delhi pay for my mistake,” Phir Sē answered me.  “I have daughter there.  She join bright heroes, popular ones.  She pay for my mistake, if she still lives.  I live, down here, spend life mourning.”

He looked genuinely upset at the idea.

“You want to win?” I asked.  “You take that thing, aim it for the sky.  Deplete it, so Behemoth’s entire goal for coming here is gone.”

“Is a chance,” Phir Sē told me.  “To strike them harder than anything yet.  You tell me, is that not worth it?”

“Worth risking this city?  Your daughter?  The lives of the heroes here?”

“Yes.  Is worth.”

“No,” I retorted.

He looked at me, and I could read the unhappiness in his expression.  Not a condemnation or even him being upset with me.  Disappointment in general.

The woman in the suit told me there were people with their own agendas.  Monsters.  This is one of them, and he thinks we’re kindred spirits.

“I tell you because you are ruthless, Weaver.  Do not stop me,” he said.  “I die, focus waver, time bomb explode.  Aimless, no direction.”

“Indiscriminate,” I supplied a better word.

“Indiscriminate,” Phir Sē echoed me.  “India gone.  You die, even down here.

I raised my head, staring up at the two golden discs and the current that seemed to run between them.  I would have thought it would be brighter.

“Hero fall.  We wait,” he said.  “When fight cannot be won, I strike.”

I tensed as I watched the fighting on the screens.  They flickered intermittently in a delayed reaction to Behemoth’s lightning strikes.

“Very soon,” he said, his eyes fixed on the monitor.  “You stay.”

Last Chapter                                                                                               Next Chapter

353 thoughts on “Crushed 24.3

    • “I’ve seen an Endbringer fool another brilliant man who thought he had a surefire way to win,” I said. “They’re clever than we think. What if Behemoth fools you?”


      • People do use cleverer in conversation its just the people who write the dictionaries have not got the message yet.

              • And… umh… oh, I give up 😛

                Geko, just in case you read this, mind going over to the “glass” fanficion and leave a review? I managed only an extremely lame one and I need some awesomness on that page to counterbalance.
                Or explosions, whatever you’d like more.

                Thanks. And explosions (mine was really really lame, like “going around with a kid win tshirt on” lame)

    • > “Kismet, balance thinker,” the Caucasian said. …
      > What the fuck is a dust tinker? Or a ratio thinker, for that matter?

      Should “ratio thinker” be “balance thinker”?

    • >What the fuck is a dust tinker? Or a ratio thinker, for that matter?

      Should be “balance thinker” going by the previous line. Or the previous line should be ratio thinker.

    • “Revel, leader of the Chicago Wards”

      I thought Revel was the leader of the Chicago Protectorate and Tecton is the leader of the Chicago Wards.

    • >”The guy with the faces on his armor.shouted so forcefully that spit flew from his mouth, as he pointed to the ground beyond the building.”

      Random period between ‘armor’ and ‘shouted’.

      • ~Arbiter,” I responded. One of Rime’s underlings. The one with the social danger sense, forcefield and laser.~

        ~She leaped down, holding August Prince’s hand, and Arbiter took action. The heroine directed a sonic blast at Bambina with one hand,~

        WHich is it?
        Acid or laser?

    • continuity error: Kismet cannot make a pained face with a hard featurless mask.

      Well ok, he can, but it’s not much useful and Weaver should not be able to tell, unless the mask was quite small.

        • That would imply to me that Taylor thought Tagg was making excuses when he told his officers to promote her two in every category — that’s not how I interpret the situation.

          • Umh, I thought Tagg was definitely making stuff up just because he’s a dick and wanted maxiumum security and/or emergency means/weapons against the Undersiders.

            Don’t know if Taylor thinks like me however, since she’s such a sunny and trusting personality 🙂

            • Sorry, what I meant to say was that I thought the two-comma version was misleading and the no-comma version more akin to how we interpreted Tagg’s whole thing.

              • Ha! I fear we’ve bumped into some kind of regional language barrier here. I do interpret the two-comma version as the “Tagg is a jerk” one, and the no commas as a much lighter one.

              • Wait, when you say “Tagg is a jerk” you mean “the whole ‘two points higher’ bit was BS and the real reason was to make her uncomfortable by putting her in solitary with heavy restraints”? In that case, yeah, extra commas is more Tagg-is-a-jerk-ish.

  1. Portal cape guy… fuck it, I’ll just call him Wheatley.

    Anyway, Wheatley is a moron, but not for the obvious reason.

    Why in the hell is he targeting the Endbringer whose entire thing is manipulating all forms of energy with the Laser to End All Lasers when he could point it at the one that hangs out in orbit instead?

        • Am I getting the name wrong or saying the wrong person? Used to go by another name, I believe. Advocated nuking Leviathan, hitting Leviathan with a massive Rod from God to drive him into the ground, then activating a nuke on it, and then was talk about how massive lasers are capable using 70s technology and would be a good thing to hit the energy manipulator walking through the middle of the city with. And people mentioned joining spacebattles or stardestroyer or something.

          And now, lo and behold, we have a powerful cape trying to use some sort of temporal laser bomb on Behemoth who may take out New Delhi too.

          We tend to go back and forth when it comes to WMDs. I supported use of blood agents, like Arsine, against Leviathan, but I think it’s safe to say it wouldn’t do shit against him. Still, some nerve agents (Sarin, Soman, that kind of thing) would be good to hit Contessa with. At the end of the day, I can no longer recommend the use of chemical warfare against the Endbringers.

          Unless..hmm…well, it is worth a try. We’re going to need to dump as much weed as we can get on Behemoth. Just bury him under the stuff and hope he sets it on fire.

          Who knows? It might mellow him out a little. Just make sure there’s a Cheetos factory nearby.

          • That’s actually a pretty good idea. I mean, I doubt conventional narcotics work on crystalline entities, but fogging the Endbringers’ purpose is potentially a more effective idea than killin’ ’em. Plus, even if it doesn’t fog Behemoth’s head up *much*, anything you addict him to here will almost certainly act as an India Gateway drug.

          • I believe that part of Contessa’s power involves her never entering a situation against an opponent she can’t defeat to begin with. Like, there are a number of parahumans she wouldn’t be able to damage or escape from in a direct confrontation (really strong Brutes like Alexandria or flying parahumans with strong ranged attacks, for example), but she’s always following a “path to victory” towards a particular goal, which presumably entails never encountering the unbeatable threats.

            • I don’t know that her precognition goes that far forward. She can probably tell a fight is unwinnable and she’ll need to retreat, but Lung and his gang busted in on her and Doctor Mother while they were in the middle of a deal. If Contessa had known that was coming, she could have waited outside the room and intercepted them, preventing the interruption (unless of course Contessa/Doctor Mother wanted to display a show of force as a negotiating tactic).

              • Lung triggered then and he is able to go toe to toe with leviathan so it would make sense if contessa’s true aim of the meeting was to get one more cape to fight against endbringers

      • To be fair to Erish, there must exist upper limits to the amount of energy that Behemoth can redirect per second, or the speed of energy transferral it can react to, or the Yangban’s lasers would not have been capable of hurting it.

        I think Beheomoth’s plan with the laser is probably more subtle than outright redirecting it like a punch from Alexandria. I imagine it may take advantage of it’s dynakinesis, but this will probably be as part of a clever mechanism rather than outright tanking the blast and throwing it elsewhere.

        As for what he’s planning with it, a popular theory on SB atm is using it to kill Scion when he shows up. An interesting one, though I’m not quite so sure…

          • Detonating the moon, because that level of energy output would be a certain extinction event for humanity on Earth Bet, within seconds.

            Scion’s death would be awful, but it doesn’t make humanity’s total demise certain, and certainly wouldn’t do it within seconds.

            I really doubt that the laser has the energy output needed to blow up the moon, but I assume you were joking? A big whack at the dividing line between the dark and light sides, which is called the terminator, would still have some pretty terrifying effects though.

            • Half joking, actually. By detonating I was more thinking in the lines of large energy expenditure in the centre of the moon, leading to a… hiccup, so to speak. Some expansion and then gravitational pull reforms the moon. The most graphically dramatic scenario with only a moderate impact on mankind. Unless the expansion was big enough to haul significant amounts of debris to Earth, of course.

              But I’m wondering, what you’re referring two, since the terminator wanders around the Moon and isn’t connected to any special features. Or did you think of the dividing lines between dark volcanic maria and light highlands?

              Oh, a nice thought now… if the time bomb is kind of an annihilator beam, it might blast a small hole through the Moon. Unless it vaporizes the material, in which case… there’d be a giant plume of gaseous moon rock plus moon rocks hurling towards Earth.

              • “Half joking, actually. By detonating I was more thinking in the lines of large energy expenditure in the centre of the moon, leading to a… hiccup, so to speak. Some expansion and then gravitational pull reforms the moon. The most graphically dramatic scenario with only a moderate impact on mankind. Unless the expansion was big enough to haul significant amounts of debris to Earth, of course.”

                Unless the portal is getting opened directly into the centre of the moon (which I suppose is not impossible if Phir See’s range and accuracy are crazy enough) I can’t visualise any way you’d actually create this hiccup. From my reading the thing we’re talking about is a very powerful single-direction laser, so the closest thing to what you describe would be aiming at the moon and then “drilling” through to the centre, at which point it will either have attenuated (assuming it even gets there), or keep going for some arbitrary distance. But the main factor in the outcome that will have is the plume of all vaporised material from the massive hole you’ve drilled through the moon, not it’s passage through the center! You referenced this the last passage of your reply.

                “But I’m wondering, what you’re referring two, since the terminator wanders around the Moon and isn’t connected to any special features. Or did you think of the dividing lines between dark volcanic maria and light highlands?”

                No, I’m referring to the actual terminator, because a decent hit there could actually blot out the sun, as any plume created would be between the earth and moon. Look up Project A119, the discontinued american plan to nuke it as a stunt. Admittedly the effect might be mostly psychological unless you got a really good plume- I suppose hitting the closest point between the moon and earth might be strictly more practical in terms of getting the largest bodycount. Might depend on the yield and the dynamics of what a plume of a given size will do once it’s been made. Actually, thinking about it further, if the only places you can open at output portal are on earth, and thus you could only kinda skim the terminator with the beam, or hit it obliquely, then a straight on hit would definitely be more practical.

                “Oh, a nice thought now… if the time bomb is kind of an annihilator beam, it might blast a small hole through the Moon. Unless it vaporizes the material, in which case… there’d be a giant plume of gaseous moon rock plus moon rocks hurling towards Earth.”

                I’m pretty sure it’s just a really powerful laser, so I’d go for option B, see my reply above.

              • Well, I’m at least assuming it doesn’t work like a relativistic kinetic vehicle, which could have the same effect as shooting a watermelon – small hole in front with the back side looking decidedly worse. On the plus side, the moon nazis will be definitely gone.

                Depending on the power output, if it basically works like a laser, the first plume will largely mitigate the effects, obscuring the target, scattering the light. Of course the gaseous rock would soon break down to its elements and then plasma, but there’s some fun in that, right?

                Reading on A119 confirms my suspicion: you don’t need to hit the terminator. This side of the moon suffices, and hitting anywhere else would require some trickery. The terminator was just for visibility.
                As for hitting the terminator: If you can hit the Moon accurately, then hitting the terminator is almost definitely an option, though as mentioned above not necessary.
                The blotting out the sun part, though… no. Not feasible, unless you somehow damage the moon in such a way a few hundreds (at least) km^3 of dust settle in high atmosphere. The point of A119 was to make a visible plume, which would have been achieved by generating lots of dust being shone upon by the sun with a dark backdrop to make it actually visible.

                Incidentally, if Phir Se can open portals anywhere… pointing the laser at the dark side would be possible. Though I see no reason for him to do that.

        • That’s assuming that, unlike noted in the chapter, Behemoth doesn’t want to portray the heroes’ attacks as actually being ineffective. He’s taken far more hits than he could have was specifically/explicitly noted.

          • That’s certainly not impossible. However, if he could easily redirect that level of energy upon being hit with it straight on, then he wouldn’t just be holding back by not using all of his abilities simultaneously, or emerging further away from his targets, or allowing himself to get hit more than he needs to, he’d be a god.

            It wouldn’t just have been going easy on humanity due to in it’s fights, as we already know- it’d quite possibly be able to nearly completely wipe Earth Bet humanity out as a species, on it’s own, within days, if it decided to. It’s entire history within the wormverse would have been a total charade on a far greater level than it having held back a bit, a far greater level than we have concrete evidence for. That doesn’t fit with my image of the Endbringers, and there’s little direct evidence for them being that much more powerful then they act.

            But I respect that you may feel differently, and it’s not impossible I suppose.

            • I believe the limit on Behemoth’s redirection power is not how much energy he can redirect but how many sources of energy he can redirect at one time.

              • Possibly a limit on the number of sources; definitely a limit on the number of types of energy. That’s how the Triumvirate hammers him: Alexandria with kinetic, Legend with light/heat, and Eidolon with [something else]. While Behemoth can render himself immune to one or more at a time, he can’t stop all of them at once (or even back to back if I remember correctly, suggesting it takes time to switch).

        • Even if he doesn’t redirect it, it will still cause more damage than Behemoth can, and its not like it’s going to kill him! They’re the freaking Endbringers, they’re basically unkillable by defination!
          I reckon that the plan is to get hit by the death laser then escape, leaving a collosal crater where half of India used to be. At most, it’ll drive Behemoth off like Scion does, only with more collateral damage.
          Still, creative use of time travel. I always liked the idea of looping energy to get insane levels of power.

          • We have no reason to believe that the EB’s are actually unkillable, though. Indeed Tt mentioned that they try to avoid dying in battle, even when they’re trying to lose, which is reasonable evidence for their mortality. They’re just ludicrously difficult to kill, and I suspect they might be reformed in the places they go to heal if they were killed. But if the sun suddenly went nova, I wouldn’t expect the Endbringers to survive any more than the Earth.

            I mean, the core of leviathan’s body is apparently only as dense as boron- which is pretty dense and probably ridiculously tough, but not like physics-breaking tough or anything.

            • IIRC, it’s only boron-dense a certain few percentages deep. Get a little deeper and it’s twice as tough as that. A little deeper and it’s twice as tough as -that-.

              • Oh, woops, misremembered, thanks for clarifying.

                I have to admit I was wondering on that one, because Boron’s not really that dense!

              • Talk about breaking physics. How is that even remotely fair in the eyes of the multiverse? How the fuck are you supposed to kill something that sounds like it is denser than a blackhole at it’s core? Best we can hope for is for Doormaker to open a door into the Sun and send Levi and his siblings through then hope to god they don’t figure out how to use that energy source to rip a way back to home.

    • He’d need some serious Thinker and Blaster support for that. To work out a full firing solution, on Her, would be tricksy as fuck.

      On the other hand, he probably HAS serious Thinker support.

      Of all three, I reckon the one Endbringer that this weapon would really be useful against would be Leviathan.

      • A theory I have on getting around the Simurgh’s precognition to actually hit her: time your shots based on what Scion is doing. She can predict whatever you do, but can’t predict Scion. Fire whenever he moves his left arm or something, and not even you will know when you’re going to fire until you do. The second you do she’ll know, and know where it’s going to land, but that only gives her a few seconds at most to react instead of [as much time as she goddamn wants]. Obviously this depends on Zion actually being present at the time, but if you can get your sights on one any precog should work.

    • Phira Sē really should save that shot for the Smurf, when in battle, the side which screws up least wins, kill the enemy saboteur first instead of the guy who can most likely use it against you.

    • You know what though? According to Dragon, the Simurgh seems to absorb sunlight and use that as energy. I’m thinking if Phira Se hit her with his beam, she might eat it all up.

      Anyways, when he says “I hoped for the Second or Third” he’s talking about Leviathan and the Simurgh. But knowing that the Simurgh is a precog, I don’t understand why he’d hope for her, cause I would think she would simply dodge. But yeah, I imagine he didn’t want it to be Behemoth because he has a good chance of manipulating it.

      • He is a time traveler, his power probably messes with pre-cog powers. Makes me wonder what the Simurgh’s top load is, what forms of energy she can absorb and redirect.

        The entire thing is fascinating. Takes the entire Endbringer game up to another level with the additional details.

        This one does not ever strike at the direct target initially, they all want to be driven off and to fail, but only after causing damage (though not as much as they could).

        I can’t wait to hear the story of what happened with the giant rail guns.

        The arc tightens. Makes sense, knowing when the series ends.

        But I’m back to reading and wondering, especially wondering what others have done in the way of analysis. It seems as if what Tattletale is intuiting is not common knowledge. But I wonder what Cauldron knows. Who else they are fighting. What else is going on. What probability are the passengers trying to evoke as the final one.

        Going to be a heck of a ride.

  2. Interesting thing I noticed: the “next chapter” link appears about 30 seconds before the chapter itself does- it’s a bit frustrating, actually, because it tricks me into thinking the new chapter is up when it’s not.

    That said, whoooo boy. India has some scary capes. Not surprised, but still.

    And Behemoth is pulling a bit of a Batman gambit here. He’s counting on Phira Sē to blast him with his time-loop light bomb so he can power up with it or something (generally using something like that on an energy manipulator is NOT a good idea). Great. This is going to work out well for everyone.

    At least Tattletale is still alive! For now!

  3. It got worse the series. Observations: Damn, Rachel’s dogs can walk off a fucking lighting bolt. No wonder she survived for two years on the street on her own against heroes and other villains. When the cape said Battery is dead, I thought he was talking about Battery and briefly thought she came back to life. So we have another monster who has a bomb that may destroy the city. Hell, he might freaking destroy India, and this is the reason BEHEMOTH came to town. With enough bugs, she could flood the chamber and make it hard for the teleporter to find her while using the same tactics she used against Lee. Then she can try either escape to warn everyone or try to kill him now and detonate it underground/deny BEHEMOTH what he came for. We also have some new stuff to add for crapsack world. Nukes, plural have been used and the world probably has less living space.

      • Silver lining of Endbringer attacks:
        1. Less chance of wars since the world has a common enemy to focus against.
        2. Less human presence means the environment is healthier/better off.
        3. No global warming since BEHEMOTH is taking out oil fields.
        4. Gives governments/parahumans/organizations perfect excuse for terrible actions because they figure its worth it if an Endbringer is offed.

        • Point 3 is invalid: He’s taking out oil fields by burning them. If anything, he accelerates global warming.

          • Well it might push the wormvers into alternative energy sources. For all we know every car we’ve seen so far is actually electric and Taylor never commented on it because she thinks it’s normal.

            • Yeah, I don’t think a world economy that suffers periodic catastrophes as city after city gets knocked off the face of the earth is going to be able to afford expensive alternative energy sources. Nuclear’s a possibility, the price is usually right, and I might be able to see wind if there were large subsidies to help it stay competitive with coal and natural gas. Barring parahuman intervention though, I doubt anyone has seriously begun developing solar.

              • You’re still missing the major point: No arab oil fields. That means the oil prices skyrocketed, probably beyond our current level, and only might have dropped if other fields, for instance off-shore or arctic, had been explored. On the other hand, fracking is only now financially feasible due to the high oil price. Bet might have started developing this technology earlier.
                Furthermore, you got tinkers. If you approach solar power as an engineering problem you gain a wholly different perspective. Have some companies buy tinkers, have them discover and develop the underlying principles of efficient energy transportation and storage and gear the industrial infrastructure to the appropriate tech and you could cover half the Sahara desert in photovoltaic panels in a decade or two. Or any other desert with sufficient sunshine for that matter.

                On the plus side, energy generation is largely decentralized, making it less of an attack vector for the Endbringers. For that same reason you may want to avoid damming big gorges and limit yourself to smaller ones not immediately killing hundreds of thousands of people in case of attack.

              • There’s a few documentaries, some better than others, that gives a what if scenario where events cause oil prices to go up skyhigh and the consequences of it. The average person can’t afford to drive, there are more deaths in the winter because alot more people can’t heat their homes, and industry will take a dive. The wormverse probably already went through something similar and was forced to look for alternative sources much earlier. I don’t buy the Tinker possibilities though. Tinkers can change the rules but Mannequin proved that anyone who could really help the world is a target for the Smurf. With the oil fields gone, I figure everyone is forced to start making super efficient electric cars. The US still has the strategic oil reserve which is supposed to be able to last for a few decades though. Nuclear power plants are big targets and the Smurf caused a leak in one during her first appearance. So I think people are more reliant on coil in the wormverse thanks to the Endbringers.

          • I wouldn’t expect burning oil fields to do more damage to the environment than we do by pumping the oil out and burning it. He’d only get the oil near the surface and the stuff coming up until the machinery is slagged, whereas we extract as much as we can from subterranean deposits and burn it on the surface.

            • Really? I’d have expected an oil field to behave similar to a coal vein in that respect. Meaning, it burns underground and incompletely under oxygen deprivation, not only producing a lot of dangerous gases (Carbon Monoxide, for example), but due to it’s inaccessibility it’s near impossible to put out. But I could be wrong.

              • IIRC an oil field (as opposed to a coal mine or coal seam) should not be able to burn for long, unless it’s tapped and burning at the wells’ ends. (which is easily fixable with explosives or parahumas, myrddin would have excelled at it)

        • I reckon point 2 is invalid, too. I’m pretty sure Behemoth disaster areas were earlier described as “radioactive wasteland”, that’s not particularly great for environment.

            • It has. Radiation is generally more of a selective pressure kind of thing, I think. Unless you get roasted or some equally killing dosis of it, you’ll just be likely to have grossly missformed or dead offspring, unless your error correcting parts of cell biology are top notch.

        • Gonna have to disagree with point two as well. Behemoth leaves county sized chunks of land radioactive wastes, and Leviathan sinks ISLANDS. Smurf, admittedly, probably doesn’t do much to harm Mother Earth.

    • Many hundreds of nukes have been detonated over the years in the real world, thanks mostly to nuclear testing programs by the U.S., Russia, France, and the U.K. before the test ban treaty. I think the net result was to increase cancer rates by one or two percent for a generation while the radioisotopes gradually fell out of the upper atmosphere. A few nukes aren’t an environmental catastrophe, really. Hiroshima and Nagasaki are perfectly inhabitable now, for instance. Nuclear reactor disasters are actually much worse, since the reaction isn’t over all at once, but continues for many years.

      • Funnily enough a recent study garnered some interesting results in brain cells only possible due to the terran surface tests of nukes.
        In short: It was assumed/theorized the brain cells in humans were all set at birth, with no further post natal cell division. Since at the height of (non subterranean) nuclear testing C-14 levels in the atmosphere had doubled, proving appropriate C-14 levels in human brains (via consumption of plants grown during that testing, the resources of which were metabolised) shed new light on that. Namely there’s some cell division… though not much and not equally distributed or anything.

      • Don’t know how much this matters in the scheme of things, but the nukes dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki were small fry. The first hydrogen bomb ever dropped was three hundred times as powerful, and they’ve only gotten stronger since.

  4. So… Predictions:

    1) Time bomb misses, Scion dead.

    2) Skitter has second trigger impact (very strong feeling of being trapped, very strong feeling of failing, very strong feeling of helplessness).

    Comments: This weapon is terrifying. More of a laser than a bomb though. Still terrifying.

    • Oh, hell. I think you’re right. Big B is going to try and kill Scion. Fffffff-

      Also, at that point, a laser is a bomb, more or less, I think, just one delivered efficiently.

    • Alternatively, the bomb works perfectly. Behemoth is dead. The world rejoices.
      And the other two Endbringers stop going easy on everyone.

      • Frankly, I still have my suspicions that if you “killed” an Endbringer via conventional means then it’s body would just reform over time in the places they go to heal the damage they sustain in battle. This is linked with my theory that the Endbringers seen on the Earth Bet end of things may be projections or appendages, rather than the full creatures themselves. Another scenario is that the force behind them could relatively easily make and send more.

    • I don’t think you’re even considering the full range of options.

      -Behemoth is there to tank the weapon because it actually could kill either Simurgh or Leviathan.
      -Behemoth absorbs (enough of) the blast, uses it to kill various indestructibles (Alexandria, Scion, etc).
      -Behemoth manages to make the laser fire downwards, and blow a hole through the earth. The world is slowly doomed.
      -Behemoth is working in concert with Simurgh on this, which indicates any number of other possible consequences.

      • >Behemoth is working in concert with Simurgh on this, which indicates any number of other possible consequences.

        Well, we know that the Simurgh has already made a move via Cody, IMO to neutralize Tattletale so she couldn’t identify Behemoth’s real target ( and incapacitating/killing the defenders’ field commander and chief tactician surely was a bonus), what would be interesting to know is wether Behemoth knows of Simuyrch actions or if she also uses her fellow Endbringers as pawns in her scheme.

        • Maybe it wasn’t to stop Tattletale. Maybe it was to ensure that Taylor would be the one to be there.

          Perhaps Taylor has been the Simurgh’s favoured pawn all along.
          Dun Dun DUN.

          • Fortunately, that’s pretty much impossible. All the Undersiders have had extensive contact with Dinah (or at least her predictions) which means the Simurgh couldn’t of known where they’d be now back when she was setting up her Rube Goldberg machines of doom.

  5. Well at least the guy about to destroy India is polite, I’ll give him that.

    Interesting. The Endbringers want people to unleash nukes and Rods from God and giant lasers on them. They turn the weapons of humanity back on them.

    • Possibly. There is an alternate possiblity, albeit one that is unlikely. What if the Endbringers WANT to lose for some reason. Wish to cease to be, and thus, well, at least two of them seem to be targeting someone who at least MIGHT have done some serious damage to them. This could be a strategy to take out the only things to stop them, or it could be some elaborate attempt at suicide-by-cop. Unlikely, yes, but just thought I’d throw that out.

      • The Smurf is a precog with a grand plan. The Endbingers have a purpose, and ‘victory’ is not necessarily part of that purpose. Tattletale says that they’re holding back, even though we can’t beat them while they do. Correct me if I’m wrong, but, while fighting Leviathan she deduced that they were getting stronger with each confrontation. Maybe they’re drawing it out to become strong enough for…SOMETHING…down the line.

    • They are trying to teach people the horrors of weapons of mass destruction and war, but no body has figured it out yet.

      • I think they’ve figured out that message. They just think mass destruction and war are so horrible that there’s no option but to blow up the people using them. So… yeah. -_-

  6. Hey Wildbow,
    Long time lurker, first time poster here. I’m breaking radio silence to let you know how in awe I am of your ability to escalate a situation.

    • Hello metalshop. Yep, here in the comments, we enjoy Wildbow escalating things. Like this time Wildbow went out for coffee. And then the coffeeshop was being robbed. By European criminals who were just pretending to rob it because they were actually going to blow it up because they were mercenary terrorists. From space. Who hate caffeine and all caffeine users because of an intergalactic space religion referring to caffeine as “the space devil’s stimulant”. Whose actions aren’t approved by the space pope, who is reptilian. Who only finds out about the attack 100 years in the future, at which point he sends a robot back in time. A nude robot. That looks exactly like Steven Seagal. Who doesn’t bother to steal clothes, he just jumps through a window and starts kicking ass until it’s found out he’s somehow the father of the lead terrorist who was also sent back in time to try and kill his mother, who is himself from further in the future but with a sex change and another time machine.

      Welcome to the comments, metalshop.

      • Maybe not live, but I need to add to the WMG page that I think the Smurf took steps to allow Cauldron to remain secret/never attack because their existence gives them more tools for her to use and they do alot of damage for all their greater good crap. Noelle, the 9/Greyboy, Siberian, Shatterbird are just the ones we know about.

        • Not to my knowledge, but I think people would have noticed if a certain segment of the cape population wasn’t getting autokilled by Behemoth or drowned by Leviathan.

            • Yeah, but if someone got within range of Behemoth and didn’t instantly die, it would have been commented on even if everyone else didn’t know anything about Cauldron. So unless the Cauldron capes are conspiring with the Endbringers somehow to avoid getting killed, or no Cauldron cape has been in an Endbringer fight at all (which we know isn’t true), it seems unlikely that the Endbringers afford them any more consideration than they give everyone else.

              • Alexandria did note how often she’s gone up against the Endbringers and survived, even though they tried to drown her. That’s what made me suspicious. Doesn’t hurt that we find out how much they’re holding back.

              • Alexandria did seem pretty surprised in her interlude when BEHEMOTH appeared, and Leviathan would have drowned her without someone coming to her rescue. I figure Cauldron knows more than anybody else, but they might be still be in the dark as well.

              • Cauldron isn’t working for the Endbringers. At first my thought was that somehow the Cauldron formula screwed up the Endbringer’s IFF.

                Now, with how they supposedly use powerful attacks and nuclear bombs and so on back against humanity, it’s possible they’re letting Cauldron capes survive for the same reason. Human-made weapons that more often do more harm against humanity than the Endbringers themselves.

              • It even accounts for why they haven’t shown up while the Slaughterhouse 9 was causing all kinds of conflict. They want the Slaughterhouse 9 to survive because humanity is its own worst enemy more than even unkillable giant monsters can be.

            • Wait, I thought Coil triggered when fighting Nilbog. Cauldron had a plan for him but like Skitter, Coil was unaware of the plan. Or so I thought.

              • Coil mentioned during his interlude he owed a week of his time (implied to be to Cauldron), so this is the supporting argument for Coil being a Cauldron cape.

              • And I’m also pretty sure that Calvert told Piggot that he hoped to trigger when facing Nilbog and the fact that it didn’t happen then was proof he’d never get powers. Hence later purchasing “an expensive ability”, his own words, from Cauldron

        • Is it time for me to mention my theory that the Endbringers are here specifically to kill the symbionts, and if you don’t have one, even if you do have superpowers, you are incidental to their purpose?

      • It’s been explicitly stated that the bulk of all cape deaths within a given Endbringer fight are Cauldron capes.

    • I think the Endbringers have been screwing Cauldron’s primary & secondary means and strategic strongholds to force them to using their tertiary means in such a way that when they move into the engame to execute their final plan to achieve their goal, it will backfire spectacularly.

      • The Simurgh did empty a Cauldron prison during the Migration arc, apparently seriously inconveniencing them.

    • Yah yah yah, it was explicitly stated that Taylor didn’t leave until she was sure the phone was in Tattletale’s hands.

      I can’t think of anything interesting the Tatt’s lotto could do once she can send texts again though – any speculation?

  7. Hmm… Another way this could go wrong. “When fight cannot be won, I strike”.

    Scion arrives, Behemoth either dies or flees immensely sensing the intent to kill. Pihra Se has no one to attack with his bomb and no way to dissipate it.

      • Radiation bloom would still be pretty f*cking bad.

        That’s the problem with energy weapons – they discharge continuously as they travel to their target.

        • And the energy doesn’t go away once it hits your target. If his weapon is strong enough that an undirected attack will destroy New Delhi … a successful directed attack will destroy New Delhi. The only difference is the energy will radiate from wherever Behemoth is/was instead of from the underground bunker. So you might get a slightly different pattern from a semi-buried explosion as compared to a ground-level explosion, and it might take a little longer as Behemoth cools and radiates whatever energy he absorbed, but it’ll still be very bad for anyone nearby.

          That’s assuming it is a directed energy attack and not black-hole shenanigans as other people have been theorizing.

  8. >>Pregnant with dead teammates?
    >>Suddenly the little faces on his armor seemed twice as creepy. I really hoped that was a tragically bad translation. Parahumans could be so fucked up sometimes.

    This made me laugh, hard. I mean, sure it’s not funny if you’re that guy, but the sheer fucked-up-ness of being at a Behemoth hid and having a guy scream at you in a foreign language that he’s mpregnated with his team, it’s worth something.

    Here’s hoping Chroniton Torpedo owns the shit out of Behemoth, ‘cuz if it doesn’t, that’s gonna be two very circumstantial strikes against Weaver. She brings all the wounded capes to the Cauldron boogeyman, who softballs her team in a way she’s never been known to before, tells her “we have no business anymore”… sounds almost like she’s completed the last of her assigned tasks, ya know? And now this, conning good capes into breaking a supposed monster out of prison to nuke everyone except Behemoth? Of course, that’s not quite how it happened, but everyone who could vouch will be dead.

    • He wasn’t imprisoned. He was in his secret underground Bond-villain base preparing a weapon that can destroy cities.

      • Hmm, yup, you’re right. I’d figured secret government containment vessel but that doesn’t match with the teleporter, for some reason when I saw that scene I assumed he’d done the arm-through-chest thing with one of his own portals in the future.

        • I have the impression they entered a part of New Delhi’s cape-created underworld. This area is for the “anti-hero” capes (cold “good guys”). Phīr Se is a monster, but an anti-hero monster who deals with corruption and the cold bad guys, and then gets branded something like, oh, terrorist or similar.

          • Sometimes what determines if someone is a hero or a villian isn’t their goals. Rather it’s how far they are willing to go to achieve those goals. Phir Se has a good goal. Get rid of an Endbringer. Even if it takes a city off the map it probably would save more people than not, as BEHEMOTH won’t ever attack again. The problem is that he is still willing to use it when there are a lot of surviviors. Not to mention taking out a lot of key capes for dealing with the other Endbringers and S class threats. And Taylor is probably right and it won’t work.

    • Nurse, get this man in the armor to a hospital, ASAP! Now hang in there, I need you to breath. Come on, you’re doing good. Now when we get to the hospital, remember to push. Everything’s going to be fine. By the way, do we need to make a new hole, or are they coming out the anus?

  9. I am not sure what to make of the fact that the Endbringers are officially holding back in some ways. It makes it appear that they have a purpose other than simply trying to kill everyone.

    Maybe they are just pruning the weak branches away in an effort to encourage growth. That which does not kill them makes them stronger? A gigantic cosmic training exercise full of tough love to prepare Earth and its capes for the real danger…

    I liked the bit where Taylor reflected on her own power classification, but I don’t think she really thought it through. Wondering how she could count as a mover while flying around with a jet-pack seems a bit slow.

    At the very least she has accomplished her objective of finding the thing that Behemoth wants and can communicate her findings back with her bugs. I am not sure though that it is really the energy from the shot that Behemoth wants and not something else about it.

    • My bet is that the Endbringers are forcing trigger events in noncapes, and forcing already existing capes to get closer to their trigger event frame of mind and use their powers more and more.

    • If you go by that route, I would argue they’re pruning the population of people lacking the potential to trigger. Have everyone be a parahuman and the trigger requirement will be pretty mellow.

      • Or they are cultivating the fields, shaping humanity in the way they want it.

        Damn it we got another piece of the puzzle, but not the one that makes you go “Oh it’s a sailboat!”

    • My working theory is that the Endbringers are a response to Cauldron, that either their artificial power creation or dimension-traveling triggered a response. The Endbringers show up and threaten some target that capes will protect; actually destroying the target is almost an incidental goal (just to show the need to take the threat seriously), the real purpose is to kill Cauldron capes.

      I’m not sure I really want this to be true. Cauldron works better for me as sociopaths with good-ish intentions than the ultimate source of all misery; they’re already indirectly or directly responsible for a lot of evil, I’m not sure I want to be able to trace most of everything wrong with the world back to them.

      I suppose one way to disprove this would be the geographic distribution of the attacks. If the Endbringers attack, say, China as often as they do the U.S., that would be mild evidence that Cauldron isn’t their focus. (Not entirely conclusive, since we have no idea what areas Cauldron is surreptitiously active in, but it tells us something.)

    • My theory is that the Endbringers are a response to the power-givers (we really need an official name for them. I’ve always preferred ‘dancing gods’).

  10. Can a swarm be multiplied by this power? By the power of making gates in time?
    If he multiplies light by making it rebound … it is weird. I am still trying to understand how it works.

    • You know how lasers are made by reflecting light back and forth between two mirrors, with the business end of the laser being a polarized mirror instead of a normal opaque mirror? It’s like that, but the two mirrors are two halves of a time portal. He points the past end of the mirror at the present end, and the light between them grows exponentially. And anything that can go through a time portal unharmed (assuming, of course, that Manton effect applies) could be multiplied like that.

      • If you use a photon it can`t go back in time and appear right here right now again. Paradox.
        Same for insects, if they got into the portal to come back before this moment in time they didn`t hit anyone before entering. Paradox and breaking of casualty if this happens.
        But a laser is possible: a photon excites a gas in a process that results in the liberation of two other photons that come back in time and create other photons …
        I can`t remember the exact process, will read it again and try to figure how powerful this laser can really be.
        Of course, if this guy can break the casualty principle … he really could multiply anything and, for instance, hit a guy with a knife before throwing it than simply keep the knife and not throw it.

        • I think it’s more likely to be the closed loop variety of paradox. A leads to B leads to C leads to A. Time is a dimesion like any other, except most people can only move along it one way. His portals are 4 dimensional. I think it’s neat.

        • The way I understand it laser emits light A which hits portal and gets sent back to the start; you now have light A plus the newly emitted light B which go through the portal, then light A + B + C, etc. Basically the same effect you get with a laser but much more perfect and with no upper limit because the portal replaces the mirror(s).

          Alternatively, if time shenanigans are involved and the light is being sent back in time to or close to its original emission you could end up with A, then A1+A2+B, then A1+A2+A3+B1+B2+C, then A1+A2+A3+A4+B1+B2+B3+C1+C2+D. Much more exponential, but I have a harder time visualizing how the light makes it to the present time.

          Finally, @Eduardo. “Paradox”? Really? In a world where matter can get several times denser than physically possible, people can see the future, and Legend can fire lasers that BEND?

  11. He’s taking an awful risk with that. As Grand Moff Tarkin would say, this had better work. (And if it doesn’t, it’s really going to be spectacular. I just hope he can target it right.)

  12. Dang.

    This is a . . . genuinely hard problem. I’m assuming Taylor will stick to her conviction that he’s playing into Behemoth’s hands and try to stop him or the weapon without killing him. Futzing with his aim or something risks making the exact same mistake he’s making (“assuming that the Endbringer hasn’t anticipated something like this”) — it’s a safer call than letting him fire it, I guess, but only *sort* of. I wouldn’t *think* she could use his power against him at the moment, since I’d guess any bugs that tried to go into the portal would incinerate before they even got through. (It’s a pity, since I’d like to know whether Taylor’s perceptions and cognition would start being trans-temporal if she managed to get some of her bugs back in time.)

    The only options I can *think* of are persuading Phira Sē to back down, which is plausible given that Taylor is turning into quite the social/psychological hacker but seems unlikely across cultural barriers without any real shared experiences, or pulling something out of her hat using another cape, which seems hard since Kismet is down, Particulate is a relative unknown, and Fathom is . . . off somewhere?

    I wonder if Theo can stick his hands in light and make light hands elsewhere.

    So her spare resources are herself, flight, a weak pair of extra hands, whatever swarm she has with her at the moment, Particulate, Fathom if Fathom shows up or comes in range of bug communication, and arguably the teleporter. (She can probably leverage the teleporter somehow, being Taylor, though I’m not immediately sure how. It is notionally possible, anyway.)

    Fathom seems like she might have some potential, but it’d take a LOT of water to make even the slightest difference, wouldn’t it? Hrm.

    • Leviathan and Simurgh are still dormant, right? Assuming that Phira’s gun is still on the proverbial mantlepiece by the end of the Behemoth fight, he can fire it essentially anywhere. Why doesn’t he fire it at Leviathan, while it’s dormant? Boil it alive?

          • Especially with teleportation. I suspect he has a distance limit.

            Otherwise he could be teleporting his weapon to the targets.

          • Losing an ocean would be so much worse for humanity then killing Leviathan would be. The steam would block out the sun causing an ice age, massive floods and storms, huge tidal waves in every other ocean, insane ecological damage, burning entire islands to death, and depriving us of one of our greatest food sources in an ice age.

            • I don’t think the laser has THAT much energy, or it wouldn’t be able to be fired anywhere on earth. Behemoth throwing it off target to use against the city would not really be a worry- it would kill everyone in the city and most of northern India within seconds just as well whether it was on-target or off-target, if it was that powerful.

              You’re also underestimating the effects of an energy release that flash boiled an ocean, rather a great deal. It would be an extinction-level event within the scale of minutes or hours, not days.

              • It would only take minutes or hours but the results would last for years. But yeah I doubt it would have that much power. More likely it would just cause a ton of steam and do nothing.

    • If she fuzzes his aim and the shot goes wide, what are the chances of it hitting the moon? I mean, mathematically speaking not so big, especially if they shoot somewhat southish, but narratively?

        • Yeah, good then Weaver isn’t engaging Contessa but B. My point was more, if somehow the moon is impacted on the visible side, putting the nice pyrotechnics and message and stuff aside, there’s some likelihood of orbital impacts. A nice side effect so to speak to killing an Endbringer. Instead of a single big disaster every few months it’s just one more (medium) strain on the parahumans and humankind on a global scale.

        • Really? Nobody else got that hearts pun? Well, I appreciated it. “Shooting the moon” is a gambit in hearts where one deliberately acquires all the penalty cards in the game, i.e., every heart and the queen of spades. If you succeed, you get no points and everyone else gets 26. If you fail, though, you get up to 25 points and everyone else gets off scot-free.

          • And since either Contessa or Doctor Mother would be “the queen of spades,” it’s impossible to “get” (defeat, in the Wormverse) either of them. You try to shoot the moon and you end up dead.

    • The only options I can *think* of are persuading Phira Sē to back down, which is plausible given that Taylor is turning into quite the social/psychological hacker but seems unlikely across cultural barriers without any real shared experiences, or pulling something out of her hat using another cape, which seems hard since Kismet is down, Particulate is a relative unknown, and Fathom is . . . off somewhere?

      Two capes that come to mind are Tattletale (presumably via text message or video chat) and Arbiter. How much time does Weaver have, and does she have a cell phone (or operable wristband)?

      • We know there are a number of thinkers and other capes who Taylor asked to search north, who may be close on her heels. The next move in this game might come from one of them, rather than a previously named character, or have a previously named character working in concert with them.

  13. I’m going to be optimistic here. Assuming Tattletale’s right, the Endbringers want to lose. I think Taylor might be able to talk PS down, he seems to have a lot of respect for her. The Simurgh was obviously trying to stop Tattletale from doing something by using Cody to try and kill her.

    So maybe Tattletale getting Taylor to go search for what Behemoth was aiming for, wrecks the Endbringers’ plan by stopping PS.

  14. I almost wonder if Phir Se’s success is Behemoth’s goal.. not to die, but to sell the attack, because Phir Se’s success would come with all sorts of baggage. It’d demonstrate that industrial scale ruthlessness is what’s needed to win these fights, demonstrate it visually, in a way that would be very hard to argue against. Humanity doesn’t do so hot when it cranks the ruthlessness up to 11, it’d be like an alley-oop to the Simurgh.

    Though I’m still thinking that Behemoth wants all those parahumans there. It seems like his methods (given the broad powerset he has) are chosen to ensure opposition, to draw it in like moths to the flame. Still partial to the idea that they’re farming parahumans/powers.

  15. And the hits just keep on coming.

    – man, Tecton’s team is the shit. Golem in particular is representing like a boss.
    – interesting discovery Tattletale made there. If the Endbringers are playing to lose, does this mean they are slaves to some other party?
    – alternatively, are they acting as a gom jabbar for humanity, a proving ground for some greater threat? Trying to turn humanity into parahumanity? Trouble with that theory is look at the number of paras they kill.
    – On the other hand, it works if both of the above theories are simultaneously true
    – Dust tinker, huh? Specializes in tech that can turn things into dust. Guns, bombs, perhaps forcefields.
    Phir Sē is Hindu/Sanskrit for “repeat.” Nice one, Wildbow.
    – of course, given that it is possible to occupy BEHEMOTH’s redirection abilities in such a way that some attacks actually connect, theoretically the time-looped laser could do some real damage.
    – That said, there is absolutely zero chance that he’ll actually penetrate the exponential Matryoshka density of an Endbringer’s body deep enough to matter. It might have done some damage to Leviathan but for the other two, it’s a wasted effort. His plan is a bad plan and he should feel bad. Too bad he’s so busy having fun being a Bond villain with his own mini-Cauldron and mini-Gatemaker/Contessa pet assassin to realize it.
    – which raises the question of what Skitter will do, especially given that she can’t hurt him much because breaking his concentration will save BEHEMOTH the inconvenience of personally destroying India

    • “- Dust tinker, huh? Specializes in tech that can turn things into dust. Guns, bombs, perhaps forcefields.”

      Tell it to the cleaning lady on Monday. Because the cleaning lady? She cleans up dust. She dusts.

      “But why Monday?”

      Because she has the weekend off, so Monday, right?

    • Actually, he may well do so, only for it to be worse than the original Endbringer. Because with the portal trick, he could have generated a black hole. Which would be ideal against superdense matter.

      Also, my personal hypothesis is that Endbringers are Scion’s psychic projections (like Syberian was Manton’s). They are also fighting evil / destroying dangers to humanity. Just in the most aggressive way.

      • Once the black hole consumes (if it indeed does) BEHEMOTH it should evaporate relatively quickly with lack of containment, right? I mean, I don’t know the size of the black hole, and if it’s small enough its consumption rate < radiation rate. It might even be safely dropped. If consumption rate ≥ radiation rate… don't drop it.

        • Well, yes, it probably should. It’ll produce sh*ttons of radiation (including EMP pulse that would likely destroy India’s, Chinese and probably Russian electronics) and will act as a multi-gigaton (likely) nuke, but it is likely to dissipate. The blackhole itself should be very, very small as it is, otherwise Taylor would have felt the gravitational pull.

          The point is – superdense matter that the Endbringers are made of is the ideal target for such a weapon. The denser the more effective the attack would be.

          • What strikes me as odd was how most were kind of surprised at the superdensity. Shouldn’t they have already known that and not needed Tt to tell’em that? If we take Big B for instance, he’s 45 feet (about 14 metres) tall and if he had a humanoid density he would have weighed what, a few tons at most(1)? But if he’s super dense (let’s go with gold or something as an average) he ought to weigh 90+ tons. And in regards to how the underground would react to such different weights, well… the footsteps alone should’ve been some indicator as to something being amiss. Unless the Endbringers are a bit self conscious about their weight.

            Human density: 1.055 g/cm^3; Human volume: 75 litres; Human height: 175 cm
            Based on this with somewhat quadratic expansion an 8 times size is 64 times volume. Density unchanged brings it to 5 tons

            • Well Behemoth is the guy that not only won the Superpower Lottery but also emptied the slot machines on his way out of the casino. He can manipulate pretty much ANYTHING. The heroes probably assumed he had some sort of control over weight/gravity. Eidolon can do it why not Behemoth.

              • Because the same still goes for Leviathan and Simurgh as well. Take Leviathan: Super dense. Five times human height, thus 25 times volume, thus about 40% weight of Behemoth or 36 tons. Significantly different to two tones if they had regular human density.
                The gravity assist doesn’t count in my book since, if you had a power and was/were an Endbringer, would you only use it passively? If they have gravity manipulation generally, they’d throw it around.
                Though it could always be they push themselves up with their powers, respectively – Simmy with her telekinesis, Levi with his hydrokinesis and B with his dynakinesis. Pretty distant method, though.

              • Actually, no. Behemoth can control Energy. Gravitation/Weight is a Force, which he can’t control.
                Unless perhaps he controls potential Energy, but frankly I’m having trouble imagining how he’d do that, apart from indirectly by flinging things up.
                Furthermore, any application of his Power requires concentration, so even if he could float, he could do nothing else during that.

            • Ugh, how did I make this mistake? It was supposed to be cubed, not squared.

              So 8 times size is 512 times volume, which makes it about 40 tons. Or 7900 tons when density of gold. Pretty hefty, if you ask me.

              • I’m quite aware of that, hence my correction. Thank you for reminding me of my blunder, though, I’m not sure I would have caught it without your pointer. I’m also chronologically challenged and move continuously back in time, so I have no idea why I will commit this blunder but for causality.

            • Hypothesis: the deep tissues aren’t actually denser, just stronger. Diamond is less than twice the mass density of graphite, but a hell of a lot harder to crack.

              • Well, yes. It’s also a crystalline structure, I agree. But ostensibly the nanotech could crack those bonds. If we take heavier elements, or somehow reduce the distance between the elements forming the crystals, they ought to be harder to crack. At the same time you also increase the density, i.e. number of atoms/molecules per volume. You simply can’t avoid getting denser than advertised.
                Unless you propose new elements that top current crystal bond strength by significant magnitude with them being so far apart the structure will be less dense than it seems to be.

              • Sorry to crush your alternate hypothesis: This again clashes with the comment of Tattletale and affirmation by Wildbow of them turning denser and denser the closer you get to the core.

                Hm… I don’t have the time now to calculate it (need to get up early tomorrow) but if I’m correct we can approximate the density of the Endbringers to a certain degree. To quickly circumscribe what I’m thinking: Endbringers get denser the deeper you cut them. If we know their weight to a certain degree and by guessing at their volume based on roughly humanoid shape and scquare-cube law applying to the respective size compared to standard humans we can get a rough overall density of them. Let’s just randomly put that at 3 g/cm^3 (three times the density of water, a tad above of that of aluminium) or something. For ease of calculation the Endbringers are spheres of determinate volume and weight, and get denser the closer your are to the middle. The median density is 3 g/cm^3. You can calculate the actual density depending on Depth (= Radius – X) with… something. My Google Fu gave me:

                Rho(Radius(HFS)) = Rho(Overall) * (1 – [ (Alpha * Radius(HFS) ) / Radius(Overall) ] )
                Alpha = 0.13 for some obscure reason. I’ll put it at 1, since I don’t know what it is for and hence ignore this factor.
                Rho(Overall) = 3 g/cm^3
                Radius(Overall) = sqrt(75000 cm^3 * 8^3 * 0.75 / Pi) = 3027.75 cm

                but the Integrals scare me.

                So… How dense can we get? At 10cm from the core… Okay, that’s 2.99. Obviously the formula is BS, since what I assumed to be Rho(Overall) is Rho(Center).
                Probably some integrals necessary to get that done. And then we can calculate how many licks it takes to get to the centre of tootsie pops.

              • So far I kinda read it as “they are able to manipulate weak forces and/or molecular bonds to make them stronger as long as it’s their own body” otherwise something that separates stuff at the molecular level is going to make some kind of effect. The Siberian too.

                @Packbat: alternate alternate hypotesis: the innermost core is filled with chocolate cream.
                R’lyeh brand.

            • Let’s also not forget that Behomoth at least can control kinetic energy. He probably uses that almost constantly to help himself move.

    • If Taylor doesn’t think she can stop it, I imagine her next step would be to minimize the damage and maximize the gain. Maybe try to convince Phir Se to get other capes in the loop, to coordinate the way Alexandria and Citrine were? That and put herself on guard duty, there’s a juicy window of opportunity here for someone to snuff Phir Se and screw everyone over but good.

  16. So… I tried doing science to this thing. It resisted. in the end I don’t think I nailed it, but here are my guesses:

    Let’s assume that the portal’s exit point is stabilized at “one meter away, dt time units before”. So, this would work like this probably, maybe:

    You set up the portal. For the first dt interval of time, the light that goes into it, will come out from the exit portal and dissipate. Let’s say that the light’s intensity is I(t). So, I_exit(t-dt)=I_entry(t). Let’s say that he has some sort of reflective containment, so the light coming outside doesn’t go fully to waste, but is, instead, contained to be later reused. I_entry(t)=I_outside(t)+integral(I_exit(T)*exp(-(t-T)/t0)){from -dt to t-dt by dT}, where t0 is the time needed for the exit’s light intensity to decrease e times. Let’s say that I_outside(t)=C0, i.e. a constant. So, we have the integral equation of

    I_exit(t-dt)=C0+integral(I_exit(T)*exp(-(t-T)/t0)){from -dt to t-dt by dT}

    I’m pretty sure, from a purely physical standpoint, that this is a divergent function, that’s basically infinity at all points.

    However! We have to include screening functions. Light ionizes the air it passes through. It creates plasma. Plus, the air also passes through the portal, increasing the pressure and density of the matter between two portals. Again, assuming some sort of containment (because otherwise it won’t make any sense at all, really), what we have there is a very dense (as dense as a solid or a liquid at least) optically dense (i.e. fully screening all light coming through it) fully ionized plasma.

    So, instead of increasing the intensity of light past some point, it’s going to be heating up the medium between the portals. To what degree? That’s a hard question, very much so. Well past fusion at least. Plus, there’s a light pressure further condensing the plasma…

    Basically, it may well be that what Taylor is seeing there is a small black hole, and the light she sees is Hawking Radiation generated by it. The black hole would be kept stable by its radiation being fed back into itself.

    As to to the yield… Gigatons at the very least would be my guess. Probably more.

    • Well keep in mind that parahuman powers run on their own physics. His power might have a built in breaker effect to, hopefully, minimize some of the side effects if India suddenly disappears.

    • The fact that Weaver can see the portals means there is no such reflective surface (A surface that only reflects light coming from one side but not the other is fundamentally impossible anyway). From the fact that Weaver isn’t blasted away, we can assume that dissipation is negligible (i.e. the entry portal parallelizes the light’s momentum, making it laserlike). this means that if dt is the time needed to traverse the distance between the portals, any short pulse of light will double in intensity after dt of it’s proper time. However, since the portals are looped, this can happen infinitely often before any time passes for Weaver. So yeah, theoretically the energy would be divergent (maybe a black hole would form and destroy the portals “before” the energy reached infinity?)

      • not sure about it being divergent. if it is a plasma based singularity then the hawking radiation will be the only thing that can escape it’s own generated gravitation feild. It would be akin to a macro-sized molecule with the energy regulated by einstien-newtonian principals. the blast would be the chunk of light normalizing into a correct path all at once. i guess it would be like a small chunk of a neutron star rather than a black hole. or the light could fold into a meta/dark matter chunk depending on how light handles being constantly collided with itself. It wouldn’t be a gigaton effect. it wouldn’t be explosive in any real effect i can see, it would be canceling effect i think. but i’m really just spit balling. I loose coherence once we push into obscure space warping forces and energies

        • “I loose [sic] coherence once we push into obscure space warping forces and energies.” — Yeah, you and just about everyone else, johnwedd.

          Everyone except Psycho Gecko, really. He’s already incoherent.


          • > Everyone except Psycho Gecko, really. He’s already incoherent.

            Of course, for a given system of quantities and for a chosen set of base units, he definitely is NOT a product of powers of base units with no other proportionality factor than one.

            Wait, I’m not sure I am either…

  17. “big b” reminded me of something, the idea that Cauldron was the “big c” that Marquis lost his lover/wife/? to. The Doctor’s power is supposed to be terrifyingly powerful, at least the Number Man thinks it such, and it’s likely associated with the creation of the formula. Amelia’s power could be something she inherited more from her mom than her dad.. and wouldn’t it be rich for her to end up with not one but two supervillain parents?

    • Wait wait when did Number Man comment on the Doctor’s powers?

      I though the consensus was that, since she didn’t react to Lung’s trigger event and had to support Contessa as she staggered, the Doctor was a perfectly normal human.

      • My takeaway from the scene with Lung triggering was that the Doctor had the capacity to deal with it. She wasn’t called out as having a terrifying power by the Number Man per se, that’s an inference on my part. The Number Man groups the Doctor with himself and Contessa as people that their test subjects only try to attack once. It could be there’s other countermeasures than their personal combat ability, but it’s explicitly called out that many of the cells had no wall or forcefield to restrain the prisoners, and that the prisoners try to warn each other not to make the mistake of attacking the Number Man, Contessa, or the Doctor.

        Also, the Doctor is the only one who handles the 5th floor and below, if there is a below. Which is probably crazy shit like people who are made out of sin, or terror, or who otherwise embody concepts like that. If the Number Man and Contessa think the Doctor is on another level than them, I’m willing to trust their judgement.. though I’ll admit that doesn’t prove that she’s parahuman.

      • She is either a normal(ish) human or something much weirder than a parahuman (my personal theory).

      • Yeah, that’s part of why I think it’s such an apt euphemism, the sort that Marquis would employ if he wanted to give an honest answer to a question that he couldn’t answer without endangering his daughter’s life.

  18. Fun idea:

    Behemoth is moving towards the Loop Laser because that is an *actual threat* to him.

    The fact that the Endbringers don’t do surgical strikes on their targets is because they’re not allowed to, either by some controlling agent or by some sort of systematic weakness, something similar to the Manton effect.

  19. What an odd way of building a dimensional-warp warhead. Using it as a potential energy accumulator would have been way simpler. I.e. have the two portals in a vacuum tube with a weight perpetually free-falling between them to accumulate practically infinite relativistic momentum and kinetic energy. I’ve done this in DnD before – the DM did not like it.

    Doing it with light actually does not work at all, even with pulling the light back in time to start again. Why? The Rayleigh criterion dictates that any radio wave, microwave or laser beam will spread and become weaker and diffuse over distance; put it through effectively infinite distance and it will effectively dissipate entirely. Simply put, beams of light slowly widen over time. Put one beam in perpetual trajectory through 2 portals like this and you’ll have losses unless you can fully contain it. Your “time-bomb” thingy will start glowing as light escapes and if it glows more than its surroundings (i.e. energy output is more than energy input) then it is losing energy regardless of any temporal shenanigans.

    The second reason this doesn’t work at all is that light cancels itself with destructive interference. Put nearly-identical light through the same space with small phase differences and you won’t have more light – you’ll have less. For example, emitting two identical waves at half-wavelength difference and the two of them will precisely cancel eachother, resulting in perfect darkness. This phenomenon appears in real life when you try to transmit beamed power from multiple emitters at the same receiver. Regardless of how many emitters you have turned towards your receiver, the power input caps very early due to destructive interference and any additional power is lost; you could have an infinite amount of transmitters only managing to beam the same power total as a dozen transmitters or less.
    In this case, thanks to temporal shenanigans, you have exactly the same light, looping over the same distance perpetually. Due to destructive interference ANY amount of light you put in would perfectly cancel itself. You don’t have a bomb but a hole you can waste energy on.

    • See my calculations above. The point is – even if one photon from the exit portal reaches the entry portal, you still end up with infinite amount of photons momentarily. Because of temporal shenanigans.

      Also, destructive interference doesn’t work like this – it only cancels out the interfering waves locally (both spatially and temporally). Not globally. Otherwise conservation of energy would be broken.

      • A finite rate of power acquisition makes sense if he has to consciously act on a portal to allow more energy through—like, he starts by saying, “OK, sending that beam of light back in time,” and now as long as he does that there are effectively two beams of light, and then he says, “Wait, upgrade, let’s send both beams back.”

        There are still some information theoretical issues, granted.

        • It would depend on both how time travel works and how acasual he himself is.

          If we assume that he can control what passes through his portals, then he would still end up with singularity (though not super-dense plasma). If he sets it to “incoming light” or something like that, due to the nature of time-loop, the amount of incoming photons will be infinite / maximum physically possible “from the beginning”. Because the “time-cloned” photons would be there hen he opens the entry portal.

          It’s all very mind and universe bending.

          • Right. I’m proposing that he can’t set it to “incoming light”; he can look at a beam of intensity X and say, “OK, I want to loop that intensity X beam for a while.” And then later say, “OK, I’ve been looping an intensity X beam, but I can see an intensity 2X beam, I want to loop that.”

            Basically, I’m proposing that he can’t *start* by looping the beam infinitely because when he starts, there’s just a single beam, and all he can do is turn it into two beams.

            (T=-5s: he shines a flashlight beam past point A to B.
            T=-2s: he looks away.
            T=0s: the flashlight beam doubles to 2x intensity.
            T=180s: he sends the flashlight beam back in time from B to A.
            T=190s: he looks over. He sees a 2x intensity beam. He looks away.
            T=200s: the beam doubles to 4x intensity.
            T=380s: he sends a 2x intensity beam back in time.
            T=390s: he looks over. He sees a 4x intensity beam. He looks away.
            T=400s: the beam doubles again.
            T=580s: he sends a 4x intensity beam back in time.)

            There’s still some issues, since it doesn’t seem like he actually has to look away, and “I can send a continuous beam into the past but I have to know how much I’m sending” is a weird limitation. But if his power works like that, then it’s actually a finite effect.

      • If they’re all the same photon, I would expect that when the first one hits a target, the rest wink out of existence. My thought is that this is just an effective way to capture and store the output of some source of energy, to deliver it all in a focused burst.

      • Yep, destructive interference is limited under natural situations. But if that one photon is run through a given volume an infinite amount of times, it will cancel itself perfectly because the chance of it coexisting with itself at any given point in time or space becomes 1. And if a single photon will cancel itself perfectly, any amount of photons will cancel themselves perfectly. The way to deal with infinities is to solve against a limit, mathematically or theoretically. In this case, doing that should result in perfect cancellation within the volume of the bomb itself.
        If you don’t have a perfect destructive interference then the system will collapse long before the energy actually becomes infinite. Energy = mass = gravity = bent spacetime. As energy contained arbitrarily increases, the curvature of spacetime follows. Before we reach singularity levels, there will be enough bending for the photons to no longer be aimed at the portal and escape.
        In fact, given the dimensions of the system, we can calculate how many times a photon of a certain energy (say, the average for visible light) has to coexist with itself at most until it escapes. That will be the maximum number of photons the system could hold in ideal conditions regardless of their source and it is non-infinite.
        The problem lies with whether “non-infinite mass/energy” equals “enough mass/energy for its gravity to shatter the planet due to tidal stress”

        See why I’m advocating the destructive interference theory over the arbitrarily-high-but-not-infinite theory? 🙂

        • PS: the space inside the system is actually a vacuum. At that kind of energy levels, bound matter cannot exist – plasma or otherwise.

          • Quark-gluon plasma? And yes, there will be plasma. If only generated by photons ionizing the air between the portals.

            Also, I don’t agree. Destructive interference doesn’t violate energy conservation. So it doesn’t resolve the problem of the time-loop. Even if it “perfect”, the problem is that it still doesn’t violate energy conservation. The energy has to be regained somewhere. And you are still dealing with increase in energy after each loop.

            The problem with the stiuation is that there is no “first” loop. It is a loop.

            Also, don’t forget photon pressure. Any particle that will randomly go in the area between the portals will be both ionized and accelerated immediately. Potentially to relativistic speeds. Which would create a current (because electrons will be accelerated more due to their lesser mass, thus creating difference is speed and the current), which will in turn create plasma self-confinement (due to magnetic field ala Z-pinch).

            So yes, I think that “super-dense plasma with optically screening effects” is what will result from this.

            • Assuming the energy levels are low enough for quark-gluon plasma. Infinite or even just arbitrarily high energy levels say otherwise IMHO. If you have a temperature higher than about 10.000 yottakelvin, you don’t get any sort of matter because there’s no strong/electroweak separation.

              • PS: there’s no “first” loop for an outside observer. For an inside observer time is still linear (for a given meaning of linear) and the loops are ordered. Subjective causality is the solution to any paradox.

              • Well, I didn’t really expect to have to look up any SI-approved scientific prefixes on Worm based on the assumption of “10^±18 ought to suffice” yet here I am.

              • True. But I don’t think (hope) it’ll go quite that high. There is one assumption that needs to be made – that portals are two-way. I.e. that the matter from the “next loop” can interact with the matter from the past loop. I.e. if you open such a portal into a solid body, you won’t be able to enter such a portal (instead of entering it and getting insta-pressurized at the exit).

                I think what ill happen will be something like this (from the linear loop-to-loop viewpoint):

                1) N photons and M gas molecules enter the entry portal

                2) N+dN photons (where dN is an additional part produced as a result of the first loop, either directly or through secondary re-emitted photons absorved by gas molecules) and M+dM air molecules (moving slightly faster due to a little bigger light pressure) enter the entry portal.

                3…large iteration) More and more photons and gas particles enter the entry portal. Gas particle move a little bit faster with each iteration (due to higher pressure and being pushed by light pressure)

                Gas molecules start to get exited and ionized both by collisions with each other and by photons they interact with

                4 (just as a development stage, not an iteration number)) Plasma is ignited. Collective effects start appearing. Volume charge starts playing a role. The number of photons entering the entry portal stabilizes from iteration to iteration due to all photons either being lost outside the portal or being screened by dense plasma. Plasma is a particle beam, with both nuclei and electrons moving in one direction, but with different speeds due to photonic pressure. This (the difference between creates current inside the plasma which makes it into something like Z-pinch, serving to self-confine it. With each iteration the density of the plasma becomes more and more.

                Primary method of adding new energy becomes by particles, not by photons, whose number is stable. The density and the termperature of the plasma increases more and more.

                At some point the density becomes high enough that new particles become unable to enter the portal and start getting bounced back.

                5) The number of particles becomes stable from loop to loop. The particles start the loop at the exit portal with a very high speed. They decelerate as they come closer to the entry portal, but the density slightly increases (very roughly think of it like a waterfall falling on a rock). This produces bremsstrahlung which is located outwards (in R direction perpendicular to the portal axis of the symmetry mostly). With each new iteration the initial speed is higher and higher (due to kinetic energy transported from the previous loop).

                Backscatter will appear, with particles moving in the opposite direction after being bounced away from the entry portal (this is assuming, for simplicity, that the particles can’t enter the exit portal and come into the “previous” loop).

                I expect somewhere here the fusion will start occurring.

                6) relativistic effects will start becoming relevant

                7) Heavier and heavier elements will start to be generated through fusion.

                The system will be heavily relativistic at this point, with the exit stream of particles likely being something like 0.999c. It is likely that we’ll be dealing with quark-gluon plasma by now.

                Quite possibly (almost certainly) somewhere between 5 and 7 you’ll see spontaneous pair generation.

                Possibly, this is just a speculation here, because frankly physics would cry rape long before this, the things will proceed like this:

                8) Backscattered flux will start screening more and more of the incoming flux, with the energy being dissipated near the entry portal but not in it. At some point all energy will be lost during the loop.

                Black hole may or may not form.

                The result will, by necessity be a situation in which no particle or photon exiting from the exit portal enter the entry portal, at all, in any way. Because even if one does, it increases the sum total energy of the system due to temporal cloning.

                So, what we should see, is a white hole around the entry portal.

                Or, if particles and photons can move in both directions, which actually may be true from the description given, then the situation becomes much more interesting and would probably indeed result in a “ball of energy between two portal” being fed from both.

                The whole situation really hurts my brain.

    • >”The Rayleigh criterion dictates that any radio wave, microwave or laser beam will spread and become weaker and diffuse over distance; put it through effectively infinite distance and it will effectively dissipate entirely”

      I’m assuming you mean the redshift; the Rayleigh criterion is about resolution in optical apertures. Redshift does mean that any photon will dissipate; However since it also multiplies exponentially (a lot faster than it dissipates), the energy still diverges.

      >”if it glows more than its surroundings (i.e. energy output is more than energy input) then it is losing energy regardless of any temporal shenanigans.”

      Energy conservation is derived from temporal displacement invariance via Noether’s theorem. Temporal displacement invariance is violated here, and so energy conservation does not hold (It’s also why redshift can cause light to lose energy without it going anywhere).

      >”The second reason this doesn’t work at all is that light cancels itself with destructive interference”

      No. wherever there is destructive interference, there must also be constructive interference. Specifically, no matter how much unpolarized light you focus on one point, the power input does not cap. Admittedly, while it is not possible to circumvent this with a real experimental setup, the two temporal portals might be able to. If they are at such a distance that a given photon’s wavelength fits between them n+1/2 times, they would perfectly cancel. given white light, however it is not possible to do this for all wavelengths. The end result would be that some wavelengths are completely filtered out, while other (very specific) wavelengths are intensified to infinity. The redshift also causes any photon to not completely destroy itself, even if the distance between the portals is n+1/2 wavelengths.

      • There’s another interesting question – are portals two-way or one-way? If two way, situation becomes even more convoluted. if one way, we invariably come to the singularity problem.

    • The whole discussion was extremely entertaining, seriously. It’s almost a pity Wildbow does not do sci-fi, even if he sucked at it (which I find unlikely) I’d read it only because of discussion like this one.

      And ultimately I’ll have to go with Yog’s last remark. Once you pass a certain speed and/or energy the universe is probably making it up as it goes.

      Storywise I’m kinda hoping the guy who’s been chargin’ his lazor for who knows how much gets to actually fire it.
      Because if the passengers themselves are non-holographic it could possibly inconvenience them.
      Also, PG is probably squeeing at the thought of a weapon like that.

      • Agreed, the discussion was very entertaining, even though I couldn’t follow the integral parts. (I hate integrals with a passion!)
        The current scenario has a few outcomes, though, all of which interesting and occur in combinations:
        1) Time bomb fired (Y/N)
        2) Behemoth defeated (Y/N)
        3) Destruction of various scales (S/M/L)
        4) Collateral of various scales (S/M/L)

        The worst case is YNLL – all for naught and half of India destroyed. Funnily enough the best case is Big B’s defeat without the time bomb and only small scale destruction and collateral deaths.
        Usually I would have included a Zero setting for destruction and collateral, but let us be honest here, Worms minimum is 2 on a scale of 0-10 in how bad it can turn out. There’s no way it will turn out fine.
        And Scion’s Death would fit under collateral.

      • It’s not bad, but even if it destroys the world, I’m disappointed it won’t get the Slaughterhouse 9. Very important it kills them. Because if it doesn’t, they’d come out of the portal to find all resistance to their actions gone and a clear shot to the portal to another earth.

        I will say this, though, time must be doing some interesting things. It’s already going to be acting a bit different for light, going as fast as it does, then you add in the temporal portals.

    • Nope, just make a distance between portals = integer number times lambda and the beans of light will always be exactly on phase. Problem solved.
      The worst is the breaking of casuality.
      To really work not breaking casuality and with the light not dissipating it must be a laser created by the excitation of the atoms in air and the light does not disperse because the portals focus it every time it passes through.
      But, if this is true, it is really an infinite energy laser. And the plasma all around it would be dangerous.

  20. I have read the purposed explanation of the time bomb above. As well as the one in story. I notice I am still confused.
    “He makes portals,” Kismet said. “Using them, he can send things back in time. Something goes in portal B, comes out of portal A a few minutes earlier. Or the other way around.”
    Suppose the portals came into existence simultaneously.
    Let that moment be marked t=0
    Let the moment Weaver walks in be t=t1
    Suppose that while t=(0,t1) anything at B gets moved -∆t on the t axis, and to A in space(x,y,z), and is directed at B.(so no diffusion)
    Suppose the distance between A and B is L.
    If ∆t>L/c, where c is the speed of light, then anything that makes contact with B while t=(0,t1), will be sent back and back again until it reaches t<0. At which point it will escape the loop. Notice no multiplication, only gathering across the t axis.

    If ∆t≥L/c, the same happens, except that all the energy moves forward trough time. Gathered across t and released at t=t2(some future point when the loop breaks) Still no multiplication, only gathering.
    So no, this does not work without

    • say ∆t=L/c; then a photon at A moving towards B at t=t1 will take ∆t to traverse the distance and then pop up at the exact same spot (in space and time) where it started (Multiplication: there are now two photons moving towards B). If ∆t=L/c, the photon gets multiplied by an infinite amount before anything else happens. This seems to be the case discussed in the other comments, and it leads to an infinite amount of energy. If ∆t < L/c then the photon only gets multiplied finitely often. The amount of energy the bomb accrues could probably be adjusted by increasing/decreasing the difference between ∆t and L/c.

      • I’m okay with believing that maybe the light only adds to itself with each cycle rather than doubling. It’s still cycling back in time ~300 million times per second over. . .how many days?

        So maybe the bomb only has destructive energy on like a national scale instead of galactic. Hey, that fits with what he says too.

  21. Brains shouldn’t start to hurt until you try to solve both for internal causality and the external temporal paradox. 🙂

    It isn’t impossible once you accept causality is a very human idea and only bears a passing acquaintance with the truth. How many times have we reloaded a saved game in a PC or console and ran the same sequence of events differently? If the computer game doesn’t “crash” when you revert time then why should the laws of the physical universe?

  22. Wild when I think you can’t throw a sucker punch, bam !!!!!! I get hit I really did not see this coming. I’m going to start calling this “My Sucker Punch Donation”. 🙂

  23. Can there be capes formed from events other than triggers and cauldron in this series? For example, if Phir Se ray gives off gamma radiation when it hits Behemoth, is he gonna go Hulk?

    • No. The source of powers is some sort of extradimensional Lovecraftian entities (one, perhaps two entities per cape). They attach themselves to humans, changing their brains and thus granting them powers.

      • btw, I do not think that’s what’s actually happening, but even if I’m right the only non-passenger way to obtain superpowers would be to run afoul of a tinker and get modified.

  24. This chapter was awesome, both delivering emotionally and completely changing the tempo. I love wildbow’s ability to hit me with new twists I didn’t see coming!

    I wonder if Brian is dead or merely injured.

  25. So, Kid Win.

    Last chapter the only time Weaver was near a lot of capes was with the indian ones and the dead tinkers, and we had a kid win tag.

    This chapter she’s near fighting or injured (but still alive) ones and no kid win tag.

    I bet it’s because Kid Win has built a sub-orbital plane and he fled away looking for scion, to bring him to the fight in the nick of time, save everyone, and get his moment under the spotlight.

    Any other theories on where Kid Win is (and doing what)?

      • Sorry, that wasn’t meant to sound hurtful. I wish everyone would survive, but this world doesn’t care for that. I much rather want to go with your hypothesis, but the other seems more realistic, narratively speaking.

          • Ah yes, it was a joke, bordering on sarcasm. And maybe an exercise to make up a good ending for a change with all the wild speculation that always flies around.

            Comickry, despite having “comic” as part of your handle, I hereby present you with the title of “no fun guy”. Density warping powers optional, and likely to come with unforeseen consequences.


            • Erm, don’t you think that might be a little harsh to Comickry? We all have different senses of humour you know. Some people might find that title a little hurtful.

              (If you were about to reply telling me you were only joking, consider what we’ve just discovered about the aforementioned commenter’s ability to detect that kind of humour, as opposed to taking it seriously, and possibly in this case hurtfully.)

              • umh, I did end the sentence with a smiley to indicate that I was indeed joking. Isn’t that usually enough? (In case it was not: my apologies, I do try not to be too caustic, despite my natural inclinations, really)

                And I suppose the reference was a bit too obscure, even if it’s from a superheroic web serial.

              • I prefer caution in these kind of situations, and a winking smiley is probably more ambiguous than a generic one, for someone who finds it hard to detect humour.

                In any case, we should get back on topic.

              • It’s not hard for me to detect humour per se, but lacking visual or acoustic cues makes it harder. Especially since most jokes are rather concise. I recognized the jovial undertone in En’s original statement, but wasn’t sure if he was actually joking or only half joking, half hoping. Not wanting to entirely disregard his idea or accidentally crush his spirits, I chose to amend my initial comment.

                Incidentally, Comickry: Mimicry of comical.

              • Tired of having a drooping sense of humor? Then you need new Pieagra! When the time is right, just rely on the little blue cream pie to the face.

              • *πcks the blue pill* ;D

                On a side note: The pies thrown in those old time movies contained plaster to make them more aerodynamically predictable. Allegedly, being hit in the face with plaster hurts.

    • Kid Lose, until he actually wins a single fight he can’t be called Kid Win, was probably part of a line of defense with giant lazer batteries. With them destroyed he is a Tinker without any tech. I’d have him doing search and rescue if he still had his hoverboard.

    • He’s going to come in with a device that will bottle Pire Se’s laser and shoot in single precise beam that only kills the target, and thus really earn the Win part of his name. I mean he can’t be planning on calling himself Kid Win when he’s 35 now can he?

    • I lost a lot of nerd cred for having to look that up to my shame. Ereshkigala proposed doing something similar to the eye of harmony. As discussed up above with the changes in energy policy due to oil fields burning, the world needs new energy sources. His power essentially grants an enormous amount of free energy to use. Using his power to power India if not the world is a much better use of it then this stupid plan to attack BEHEMOTH. I so want to know what country built giant rail guns and used nukes and where they were used. Could the wormverse have a shattered moon in it’s future?

      • Don’t worry, a lot of people are selective about their doctors. I’ts like with Enterprises or James Bonds.
        You still can have full geek points if you only consider a subset… you probably gain geek points if you limit yourself to one.

        • I like to put it this way. You can tell who the real fans are because they are the ones who don’t consider any part of a franchise good despite always talking about it.

          Oh as for Doctors, 3 and 9. Not as picky about Bonds or Enterprises.

          • If I had to pick a Doctor..well, I love them all, but: 4 (my first), 3 (so dapper on-screen and kind when I met him) and 11, because he channels 4 sometimes to my delight.

            Also…I’m happy to say the show is the best thing in entertainment 🙂

            • I’m sorry, but you are very wrong. Clearly the best doctor is not from that show, it is actually Doctor Mother.

        • Jean-Luc Picard and Sean Connery, of course.

          I like the fan theory that James Bond is a codename that goes along with the designation of 007. It helps to explain the changing actors and the franchise continuing so long with different focuses and varying amounts of comedy and camera perving of the male body. It worked so well until Skyfall went and fucked things up on that account, too.

          As for Doctors, Doc Brown is pretty good, but I like the potential of Dr. Acula. And that guy Dr. Doctor is a trustworthy news source about people infected with diseases that cause attraction to Chinese people named Yu.

          • I’m the only one who likes Kathryn Janeway the most?

            (Sean Connery is, of course, unbeatable. And I agree with the LegacyCharacter interpretation.)

            • She’s probably more popular than Commander Sisko, if anyone even wants to count the head of a space station in a franchise with trek in the title. He also had the misfortune of going up against Bablyon 5.

      • That’s okay, my friend, there’s so much out there to be a fan of you can’t cover *all* the bases 🙂
        As for the giant railguns, I’m guessing the US, given that, I’m pretty sure we’re currently the real-world leaders in deploying said technology.

  26. If the Simurgh *did* point Cody at Tattletale, is Taylor already screwed or do we think that Contessa (or someone else who interacted with Taylor or TT after Cody’s actions) counts as enough of a precog to shake up the course of events?

      • The big question in my mind is by whose will it was that Cody un-broke the pen Tattletale needed to trache herself? It could have been a result of Tattletale pushing her power to the limits, coming up with the one thing that would resonate in Cody’s mind at the moment where his actions would decide if she lived or died. It could have been the Simurgh going for a bonus round with Phir Se’s Chronoportal Surprise.

        Fun note: I was playing a game of Supreme Commander 2 the other day, and almost lost to the computer. I built a nuke, but launched it untimely, with a handful of hostile gunships near the silo. One of them manage to tag the nuke, and poof, half my base went up, including my entire wall of shield generators and laser/SAM turrets.

        Come to think of it, that dust tinker just up and deciding to bomb a hole in a structure with a massive power source inside it was kinda off.

  27. Second time poster – my first guess as to what would happen in a previous chapter was ridiculously off the mark, so I will mostly content myself with pointing out things that I think other posters have missed. But heh, speculation is still fun.
    1. Fusion – someone pointed out fusion effects within the looped beam, but once it is released it will fuse lighter elements it hits, until it is dispersed enough. Fusion bomb in Delhi, anyone? If the beam is so powerful that it initially breaks down nuclei instead of fusing them, it still causes fusion once it is dispersed enough. Unless Phir Sē can bring the targeting portal directly in contact with Behemoth’s skin, the intervening air will fuse. There is simply no way that a strike of that magnitude hitting anything material, even Behemoth, leaves Delhi with less damage than a major nuclear weapon. (Unless a cape with an unusual power steps in, and deus ex machina is not Wildbow’s style.)
    2. Skitter (OK, Weaver, but she wins by thinking like Skitter) is the absolute master of creating options and unusual solutions and she has been placed at the heart of the problem. Obvious first step: she knows the problem, has bugs in the facility, and can communicate the problem outward (she has before using bugs and phones). Can she contact TT and work on a solution using TT’s enhanced intuition? Other options: Skitter can track the teleporter the way she tracked Oni Lee. Which is somewhat useless unless she or another cape can disable him. Fathom is near, which means Skitter should be able to reach him. He can displace “people or things to another dimension” – what happens if he attempts to displace the portals, or what is between them? Can Fathom react faster than the teleporter and displace him? My bet is that Skitter will do something that is reasonably possible given the circumstances but that none of the commenters have thought of, because that is what she does continuously (which is awesome to read – thank you Wildbow).
    3. Speculation on the Endbringers: Assuming TT is correct and they are pulling their punches and telegraphing their attacks, the one thing that their delaying tactics are guaranteed to do is pull in more capes. Now, according to Bonesaw (I think, maybe someone else said it), humans aren’t supposed to have powers. I think the Endbringers and Scion are supposed to have powers. Perhaps the Endbringers and Scion are part of the super-entities’ scout team, and part of the scouting is to identify threats. Perhaps the Endbringers are from one entity and Scion is from the other, given their major differences in appearance and actions.
    4. Scion is said to have precog. Unless Behemoth has precog to counter Scion’s, it seems unlikely that Behemoth could actually catch Scion with the redirected time-looped light.
    5. Has no-one mentioned that Scion has been told to destroy the Endbringers? The “Crush” title could refer to what Scion will do to Behemoth, although I think it works on multiple levels. Crush could also refer to the fact that Phir Sē is waiting for the heros to be crushed to unleash his weapon. The Endbringer pact is crushed, the leadership is crushed, Delhi is crushed, …
    6. If Phir Sē waits until the heroes are crushed (his stated intention) but moves the output back in time, that means he doesn’t wait until the heroes are crushed … paradox or alternate timeline result. Similar problems occur any time he breaks self-consistency. In other words, what happens if he moves something back 10 minutes, sees the results 10 minutes ago, decides he doesn’t like it, and declines to perform the move at the end of the 10 minutes. For a version of this, see

  28. Again with the causality.

    You see a fight with a video game “Boss” is going badly so you quit and reload a previous save. Then you proceed to beat the “Boss” and go on without any more reloads. Is causality violated in the video-game world since you effectively performed time travel for that world? Yes for an observer outside the “reload” but not for your internal point of view – and the rules of the game themselves work just fine, causality or no causality.

    Now, substitute “boss” with “Behemoth”, and both the player and their character with some guy doing time-travel, and the game with a world where time-travel can be done. For the world itself, causality is violated and you have Paradox. For the time-traveler itself there is no interrupted causality for his point-of-view is internal… and only his point of view matters. And the world itself? If something as flawed as a computer game can have laws that ignore causality, why can’t a world?

    Ultimately, time-travel is no more “unnatural” and “paradoxical” than violating the laws of thermodynamics. You find actions whose cause is altered by the actions themselves hard to accept? It should be no harder than matter, energy or force suddenly appearing without a source.

    • If you are replying to my post, there is a significant difference between causality and internal consistency. One well-known example of non-causal but internally consistent time travel is in JK Rowling’s work. Her world violates causality (time turners) but not internal consistency (you can’t change what happens). For a more thoughtful exploration of that, see, around chapter 13, but start at the beginning or you will be lost. In your example, both the game world and the gamer world are internally consistent with their own rules and their own causality. When the time traveler is actually embedded in the world in question, they have the possibility of negating their own actions, i.e. breaking internal consistency. Breaking internal consistency is also a big no-no for authors, and I haven’t caught Wildbow with an obvious example of it yet. Therefore, I strongly suspect that Phir Sē’s power is internally (and world) consistent, but I don’t know how yet. I was merely pointing out the problem (physical and authorial) of such powers.
      As far as the laws of physics, as soon as you introduce inter-universal travel the laws are now breakable locally, i.e. within one universe, and there is solid evidence that all cape powers are based on inter-universal abilities. This comes from the various insights into the Passengers we have gotten from the story. So, no I have no quibble with breaking the laws of physics locally – at best, there are conservation laws that apply if you take all of the universes together, and there are some physicists speculating that, even within our universe, universal “constants” aren’t.

  29. With all the things they’ve tried to kill Endbringers with I wonder if they’ve ever tried the Bubbles approach to giant monsters. Asking them politly to leave.

    • Yep, they tried to communicate with the Simurgh. Lausanne happened.

      Mind you, it could be possible to communicate with them and strike a deal. (Whether their conditions could be met or not is another thing entirely however)

  30. Same problem here as the problem of time travelers escaping the end of the universe–as soon as it’s possible you have infinite refugees.

  31. Actually, you can’t escape the end of the universe with time-travel, only the end of a given planet, star system or even galaxy. That’s because the universe itself is a spacetime paradox; time and space are side-effects of the existence and interaction of mass and energy. Get rid of those and time and space cease to exist.
    In fact, new time and space is continuously created in the universe via Cosmic Inflation. Get any two reference points in the universe. Measure the distance between them and how it increases. Then measure their relative velocity. You will notice that their relative velocity is often less than the rate the distance increases, however paradoxical that may be. For reference points sufficiently distant -such as in different galaxies- you will probably notice that their relative velocity is under the speed of light (duh) but the rate their distance increases is 3-4 times faster than the speed of light.

    See? Spacetime is not internally consistent in the universe. Why should it be in fantasy?

  32. Your comment made me think of another interpretation:

    Coil’s power proves that the multidimensional shenanigans through which powers work include duplicating Earth Bet and discarding unwanted copies. What if the portal doesn’t link to the actual this-timeline future or past, but timelines which are similar but temporally displaced? Most of the time the difference would not be noticed, because if I jump into alternate-future through the portal then an sufficiently similar alternate-past me will jump out at the time I aimed for, but in this case presumably the similarity is broken (but not so much that the light will not accumulate over time).

    Let me try to work this out: suppose portal A points towards the future and portal B towards the past. When you see an object come out of portal A, you expect an identical object to enter portal B one time increment in the future; when you see an object enter portal A, you expect an identical object leave portal B one time increment in the future. In my interpretation, portal A connects to portal B+, which exists in a universe similar to the future of our universe, and portal B connects to portal A-, which exists in a universe similar to the past of our universe.

    Let’s suppose we make a nice gas-discharge lamp in a clear tube. Set up B to face the lamp. Then set up A to shine the light from B+ through the lamp into B. The universe, not wanting to calculate an infinite regress, picks a universe where the light emitted by B+ is similar to the light that, a moment ago, was entering B. Then it notes that twice as much light is entering B as was coming out of B+, and starts adjusting the B+ universe to have more light come through A. Which, of course, increases the light coming through B. The intensity of the light through B+ begins increasing at an increasing rate, trying to catch up to the light anticipated to be entering through B in the future … until that rate of increase is sufficient that the removal of the gas-discharge lamp doesn’t stop the positive feedback loop. (Presumably Phir Sē iterated the duration of the initial light input until the positive feedback was kicked off.)


  33. Director Tagg had given me an effective ranking of two for every single power classification. It had been ostensibly because he hadn’t wanted to underestimate me. Was there a note of truth to that, though? I wasn’t sure about the ‘brute’ or ‘mover’ classifications, but did my power over bugs afford me a versatility that let me cover the bases on other fronts?

    I’m pretty sure there’s a Chuck Norris Fact in that … something like: Once, a PRT Director told his officers to act as though Skitter’s superpower could imitate the battlefield utility of every other superpower, just so she couldn’t catch them off guard. After she was done catching them off guard, Skitter decided to prove there was no “as though” about it.

    • To be honest, her pain resistance could be considered a Brute aspect. It makes he able to take more damage/injuries than normal humans.

      • She might rate a Brute 1, at that. Going down the list, her bug decoys and bug eavesdropping would justify a Stranger classification, and being able to attack with bugs makes Blaster reasonable as well.

        Most of them don’t fit, though.

        • Taylor has a demonstrated ability to continue to operate at high functionality through severe pain. Just flipping through the table of contents, I come up with:

          – Cutting Bakuda’s toes at the end of their fight in Shell.
          – Most of the Leviathan fight in Extermination.
          – The Mannequin fight in Plague.
          – The administrative work and the fight with Triumph and Prism after being Fletchette-stabbed in Colony.
          – The fight against Coil after being bombed at the debate in Monarch.
          – …and against Noelle, immediately after, in Queen.

          The connection to her power is the way she concentrates on her insects to block discomfort.

          • Ah. I see what…you? I forget who said what I replied to. I see what that person means now. I don’t know if that really qualifies her as a Brute unless the PRT does fractional classifications. It doesn’t let her function at higher levels of injury than normal (if perhaps somewhat highly-trained) people; if you can achieve it with meditation, it probably doesn’t qualify as a power.

            • She’s got her bullet-resistant armored costume, too, which is actually a product of her superpower. Between that and her insanely high pain threshold, I think she probably does qualify as a low-rank Brute.

              Her shiny new flight pack (or Atlas, previously) gives her low-end Mover capability, too.

  34. This could be the end of Behemoth or the end of New Dehli. Either way, there are two words which will be able to describe the resulting kaboom: Holy carp.

  35. I find it kinda odd that Accord and Tattletale are the best thinkers (hence the ones in the command centre). Given the hundreds of thousands of capes in the world you’d think there would be some very interesting strategic level precog and thinker powers who would be there too.

    I find it VERY odd that the light has not (and is not) being scattered by the air (potentially frying everyone).
    Also, depending on how his time portals work there is either an infinite amount of energy in there (which there can’t be or the Earth would have collapsed into a black hole) or a quantity substantially less than that of the fuel of a mid-sized airliner or a quantity that is maximum (and probably huge) when the portal is first created and next to zero when finally used.
    Regardless of which possibility applies, the weapon does not work.
    And even if it did, I can see no particular reason it’s order of magnitude release would be nuclear weapon level instead of light bulb (ineffective) or supernova level (world destroying).

    • Now I am sure you do not read the comments,or you would have noticed the huge discussion about “how the crap does this work?”

  36. Quote: We were triangulating. Or did we not have a third?

    Maybe I’m understanding this phrase incorrectly but if I’m remembering my hazy memories of high school classes correctly triangulation is using two points to determine the location of a third. They’re two points, why would they need a third? It doesn’t make sense I’m afraid.

  37. And in today’s chapter, even more xenophobia and racism yay!

    Okay so apparently 27% of people in Portugal speak English, of all of those don’t you fucking think capes who have to be on a world wide scene might be able to speak English.

    AND IF THEY CAN’T FUCKING SPEAK ENGLISH WHAT THE FUCK ARE THEY DOING IN THE FUCKING COMMAND CENTRE? What the fuck is the point of two people who are incapable of communicating?

    “and it ignited any fabric and wood it touched, set grass alight.”


    “Geez, it wasn’t like the city wasn’t large enough already.”

    1,484 km² (16 mil)
    Delhi, Area

    1,213 km² (8 mil)
    New York City, Area

    Those numbers according to Google.

    Also I have to repeat how fucking short sighted and stupid Weaver is “oh no people will die oh dear good thing Behemoth won’t kill anyone else if we let him live :):):):) i am so smrt people should listen 2 me”

    For our next example of racism, the Indian who SPEAKS NO ENGLISH is named in ENGLISH.

    • And the supervillain who is trapped under ground in a major city (fucking retarded) who was broken out after like 2 shots (very easy to break out) speaks broken English, of course he does!

      • He chooses to live there, like the rest of the thanda. Besides, those shots were from an (attempted) Endbringer-level weapon. And as to the broken English…well, how well do you speak Punjab? Or Spanish?

    • First point: How many languages do you think Armsmaster and Eidolon speak? And presumably they have translators. It’s not ideal, but you take what you can get.

      Second point: …?

      Third point: “Large” is presumably not referring to mere land area. And while it is only a little (better than 10%) bigger tan New York in size and population, New York is a frikkin’ big city, more than 25 times the size of Taylor’s hometown. New Dehli is more than 30 times the size of Brockton Bay. I think Taylor is justified in calling it “big,” especially since she was saying there might well be another whole city underneath it.

      Fourth point: It’s less that and more “This guy is doing what Armsmaster was, if Armsmaster’s halberd would have given Leviathan a shot of power when it failed.” She doesn’t think there is any chance the time bomb will work, and if it is does fail to destroy Behemoth, Behemoth will have a huge source of energy, which is an even worse idea than throwing water at Leviathan or sending extra people in for longer to deal with the Simurgh.

      Final point: Translations. Kismet was providing a convenient translation for Taylor, who would be able to remember and pronounce English better.

  38. I wasn’t sure about the ‘brute’ or ‘mover’ classifications, but did my power over bugs afford me a versatility that let me cover the bases on other fronts?
    Let’s see. Mover, shaker, brute, breaker, master, tinker, blaster, thinker, trump, changer, striker, stranger.
    Mover and Brute are out, as Taylor noted. Shaker, arguably Tinker, Blaster, maybe Striker, and Stranger are covered, and of course she has Master and Thinker as her actual ratings. Breaker, Trump, and Changer, though?

    “…he says he’s pregnant with his dead teammates,”
    Like Glaistig Uaine, kinda. I wonder how his power works…

    I wonder how that teleporter struck with such accuracy. Does he have a camera he watches? Is there some sort of tinker-made demi-transparent rock? Does he have access to clairvoyance?

  39. Frack, I just realized–and this has probably been pointed out in the comments already and I missed it–Theo named himself after a Jewish folk tale. Way to stick it to the old man, Theo! Never change your name!

  40. A lot of the spellings for Indian words are wrong, and some of them loke “phir se” are legit words but sound lame as a name. Also, English is rather common in India, and I’d expect anyone who is educated to understand and speak in the language.

  41. Hmm, the Endbringers WANT to lose? And purposely set themselves up to lose but look superbadass and dangerous/deadly while doing so? The implications of that are…very, very, very, VERY scary. Are they training/testing humanity for something even worse? What is worse? The multidimensional world killing entities? I guess that would qualify but I’m still at a loss on how we can beat either group and if the Endbringers are training us to beat those two then they aren’t doing a very good job by killing half the people who could possibly be useful. And possibly an even worse thought, what if they are simply holding back because it prolongs the suffering they cause? Because then when they get tired of playing with their food humanity is fucked. No matter how I look at it, it is very disturbing that the Endbringers want to be beaten.

    Go Weaver, yet again finding the needle in the haystack that has the potential to turn things around! Now all she has to do is figure out how to talk the polite extremist down from a very bad idea. Or distract BEHEMOTH long enough that said bad idea becomes useful. Hell Alexandria managed to hit him a few times. I imagine it would be a lot harder to actually hit him with this bomb though since he will probably be able to see it coming.

    And now my exuberance that I have been holding back…TATTLETALE LIVES!!!! YAY!!!!

  42. “A sound that was slow at first, growing steadily more powerful.”

    I don’t quite understand this bit. Maybe it’s a typo, but I can *almost* imagine a “slow” sound, just… not really.

    “As I got more distance, I felt safe to withdraw the wings again.”

    Might be better to use the word “extend” or something similar, since withdraw, even though it’s accurate here, generally has a connotation of pulling in toward to yourself.

    Gettin real good. I’m not huge on Behemoth’s powerset, but Phir Sē seems crazy interesting.

  43. She spent an inordinate amount of time writing the next message.

    I shifted my weight from one foot to the other while I waited for her to finish, then accepted the note and read it.


    Each letter had been traced over several times, and the entire thing had been underlined twice.

    This is great.

  44. I guess it sounds cool when you translate it into English, but as a local superhero nickname, “Phir Se”… it’s a good thing he’s underground 😉 The romanisation here could do a bit of work too!

  45. My limited experience with Endbringers had taught me one thing. When someone actually found a way to respond, to cancel out the attacks or to deliver a measure of real damage, they changed tactics.

    This ties in nicely with the revelation in 27.y. Spoilers in ROT13: Vg bcgvzvmrf gurz gb jbex ntnvafg Rvqbyba’f cbjrefrg. Ur pna punatr cbjref, ohg ur pna’g pbageby gur punatrf, naq guvf orunivbe znxrf vg vasrnfvoyr gb svaq fbzrguvat gung jbexf naq yrna ba vg.

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