Interlude 24

Last Chapter                                                                                               Next Chapter

Hero ushered him into the headquarters.  “This is the last one.  I’d like you all to meet Chevalier.”

There was a chorus of replies.  Mumbled greetings with one exceedingly enthusiastic response from a girl in the crowd.  It was almost mocking.

Chevalier ventured inside, a touch hesitant.  Not afraid.  He’d told himself he’d never be afraid again.  No.  But this was unfamiliar territory.  The others were difficult to read.  Nine youths.

His eyes roved over the group.  Five girls, four boys.  His addition made it an even split.  Intentional?

The costumes ran the gamut from professional to homemade.  They varied in the degree of color, in seriousness, in combat readiness.  There was a boy, also, who had a professional looking costume, black and green.  It was a costume that had no doubt cost money, with leather and a utility belt, a leaf emblem over his heart.  Around him, Chevalier could see a vague nimbus, as though he could see only the brightest and darkest parts of some landscape that the boy stood within.  It was a subtle thing, an image that Chevalier could make out in the same way his perspective on something might alter if he had only his left eye closed, as opposed to his right.

A girl beside the boy with the leaf costume wore a less expensive looking costume, but she’d apparently gravitated towards him, a hopeful lackey or a romantic interest.  In the same way that the forest seemed to hang in the periphery of the boy, an older woman loomed just behind the girl.  She was kindly in appearance, like a next door neighbor, with hands burned black from fingertip to elbow.  The old woman was moving her lips as though she were talking, but the image was silent.

He started to turn his head, but the image changed.  The effect ran over the girl’s skin, as though she were standing right in front of a glacier, the light refracting off of it.

No, the black hands on the older woman… a result of fire?  Magma.

The girl caught him looking at her and frowned a little.  He averted his gaze.  She likely thought he was staring for other reasons.

At the far end of the scale, opposite the two professional, serious looking young heroes, there was a girl with a shield and sword.  Her helmet sat on the table beside her, a homemade piece of equipment with ridiculous mouse ears at the sides.  It wasn’t a great helmet either; it didn’t offer enough peripheral vision, was more decorative than protective.  She stood off to one side, but two others had gathered near her.  She was grinning, the one who’d stood out from the rest with her over the top welcome.

And the images, the glimmers, they showed the mouse-ears girl laughing.  For her companions, there was a strange writing system patterned on one boy’s skin, and the other boy swirled with a smoke that wasn’t there.

The images weren’t an unfamiliar thing, but this was the first time he’d been confronted with so many in one place.  It was distracting, unnerving.

What were they supposed to be, the glimmers?

The remaining two members of the group were a boy, a clear vigilante of the night in appearance, with a costume that was black from head to toe, and a girl dressed in urban camouflage.  Chevalier’s attention fell on the girl; her white and gray jacket was short enough that it didn’t reach the small of her back, a blue tank top with a shield emblem on the front.  Her scarf, a complimenting shade of blue, was wrapped around her lower face, bearing the same emblem.  She sat in a chair, elbows on her knees, toying with a knife.

Odd as it was, she was more grim than the boy who was trying to look dark and disturbing.

“Take a seat,” Hero said.  He laid a gentle hand on Chevalier’s shoulder.

Such a minor thing, but it felt somehow critical.  What clique did he identify with?  What direction would he take?

He glanced over the rest of the group, at the images that had changed, and his eyes fell on the one with the knife.

In that instant, the knife disappeared, and there was a flare.  The images were suddenly distinct, glaring, an image appearing in a flash, so brief he might have missed it.  A cluster of children, blood, their faces stark with fear and in one case, pain.

It faded as quickly as it had appeared, and the girl held a gun, now.

She’d caught him looking.  Meeting his eyes, she changed it again.

The image that flickered was of her, holding a gun with a silencer on the end, pointing it.  Her expression was one of desperation.

She’d changed the gun for a machete, apparently unaware.

He made his way across the room, and seated himself in the chair beside her.  She didn’t even glance his way, her attention on the weapon as she ran her thumb alongside the flat of the blade.

“Army girl doesn’t even speak english, you know,” the boy in the nice costume said.

“She speaks some,” Hero said.  “It’s fine.”

“I’m just saying,” the boy said.

“I think we all know what you’re saying,” Hero answered.  “You’ve made arguments about what you want the team to be, your desire to be taken seriously.”

Chevalier watched the exchange carefully.  His eyes fell on the figure behind Hero, and he tried to focus his attention on it.  It moved with glacial slowness, a four-legged creature with legs so long that the ‘window’ around Hero didn’t even show its main body.  Finger-like appendages at the base of each leg carved diagrams and ideas into the ‘soil’ beneath as it walked.

“We’ve got the serious part down,” the girl with the mouse ears said.  She drew her sword, thrusting it into the air, “Huzzah!”

“So bogus,” was the mumbled response.  “As if her group has the majority.”

“I’m sure you’ll figure it out,” Hero said.  “A lot of you have been through a lot, and some of you have only just stopped.  Stopped running, stopped fighting, stopped dealing with a long series of crises.”

Hero’s eyes briefly fell on Chevalier.  Chevalier lowered his eyes to the floor.

“The important thing to remember,” Hero said, “is that you’ve got time.  You have time to figure out who you want to become, time to figure out what this team will become, time to breathe.  To be kids again.”

Hero paused, glancing over the room.  He sighed.  “And you have zero interest in that, I’m sure.  You’re in a hurry to grow up, to be heroes.”

“You’d better believe it, boss,” the mouse girl said.

“Just be careful,” Legend said, as he strode into the room.  He was accompanied by Eidolon and Alexandria.  “This is about training, not thrusting you into the midst of trouble.”

“That comes later,” the mouse girl said.

“If you decide you want it,” Legend answered.

The sheer presence of the heroes here was changing the energy of the room.  The listless teenagers had perked up.  They were paying more attention, more alert.

It was no longer one more act in a long sequence of hoops and events.  This was the main capes of the Protectorate, all here in one place, for them.

“Well,” Hero said, clapping his hands together.  “I’m not good at the formalities.  Being in charge isn’t my thing, as much as those three like forcing the job on me.  So what do you say?  Let’s crack open the soda bottles, cut the cake and celebrate our inaugural Wards team.”

The mouse girl’s team cheered and whooped.  Nobody else really joined in with even half of the enthusiasm, but there was more of a response than there might have been before the rest of the Protectorate had showed up.  Chevalier even allowed himself a cheer, joining in with the clapping.

It was exciting.  Exciting and a little scary.  Like stepping out over a chasm.

As the others made their way to the table, Chevalier stood from his chair, then glanced down at the army girl.  “You want cake?”

She raised her head.  “Yes.”

“What do you want to drink?  I think there’s cola, ginger ale, sprite…”

“The brown drink,” she said.

“Coke, then.”

He left her sitting in the chair, paying far too much attention to her weapon, and grabbed two paper plates.

“I’m curious why you sat next to Hannah,” Hero commented, as he served himself some cake.

Chevalier glanced at the girl with the weapons.  He felt uncomfortable, “People are making it a bigger deal than it is.  It was just me sitting down.  I didn’t put much thought into it.”

“Maybe,” Hero said.  He laid a hand on Chevalier’s shoulder.  “But it’s good that you did.  She could use a friend.  Might make a world of difference, in the long run.”

Chevalier shrugged, stepping up to the tray and placing a slice of cake on each plate.

“We’re all ignoring the obvious reason,” the girl with the mouse ears said, getting in Chevalier’s way as she reached for a plastic fork.  “He thinks she’s hot.  He wants the poontang.

Hero cleared his throat in a very deliberate way.

“Don’t be juvenile,” the leaf-boy told her, from the front of the line.

Chevalier shifted awkwardly.  The girl with the mouse ears was in his way, and he couldn’t move down the table to get a drink.  She wouldn’t budge until this was resolved.

“I got the vibe she and I are similar,” Chevalier said.  It was honest.  The images he’d seen, of the girl…

And it was apparently the wrong thing to say, because mouse-ears was only more insistent, now.  She smiled, cooing the word, “Similar?”

“You didn’t figure it out yet?  Chevalier’s the vigilante that went after the Snatchers,” the leaf-boy said.

Hero turned around, and his voice was a little hard, “Reed.  That’s not your story to share.”

“It’s okay,” Chevalier said.  “They’d find out eventually.”

Mouse-girl looked confused.  “The Snatchers?  Are they supervillains?”

“No,” Chevalier said.  He used the distraction to push past her and get to the area where the two-liter bottles of soda were lined up.  He poured the drinks for himself and Hannah.  “They were ordinary people.  Bad people, but ordinary.  Except maybe the leader.”

“Maybe?”  Mouse girl asked.

“I didn’t give him a chance to show me.”

Her eyes widened.

Chevalier felt strangely calm as he spoke, “Not like that.  Alexandria caught up with me at the very end.  When I was trying to decide what I’d do with him.  She told me she’d stand by and let me kill the guy, if I really had to, but I’d go to jail afterwards.  That, or I could come with her.  Come here.”

Hero frowned, glancing at Alexandria, who had gathered at one corner of the room with Eidolon and Legend.  They were looking at the kids, talking, smiling.  “I’m glad you made the right choice.”

Chevalier shrugged.  I’m not sure I did.

He was still angry.  Still hurt.  His little brother’s absence was still a void in his life.

“Maybe now you can stop asking questions,” Reed told the mouse girl.


Reed sighed.

“Everyone has their baggage,” Hero said.  “Sometimes it’s in the past, sometimes it’s in the present, other times it’s fears for the future.  But this is a fresh start, understand?  I’m pretty mellow, believe it or not, but I’m going to be upset if I hear that anyone’s holding any of that stuff against a teammate, or if you’re letting it hold you back.  Understand?  This is a second chance for everyone.  You’re here to support one another.”

There were silent nods from Chevalier, Reed and the mouse girl.

“Good.  Now go.  Eat cake, drink soda, be merry.  And when the party is done and us adults are gone, with you kids left to your own devices, check the empty room, the one that isn’t assigned to any of you.  I stocked you guys with video games and movies.”

“No way,” Reed said, smiling genuinely for what might have been the first time.

“Yes way,” Hero said, returning the smile.  “But we’re not going to tell the higher-ups, are we?  It’s a bit of a secret, and you don’t betray that secret by letting yourself slack on the training or the schoolwork, right?”

Reed’s smile dropped a little in intensity, but he nodded.

“Go on,” Hero said, still smiling,  “And don’t get me in trouble.”

Reed hurried back to his chair, as if getting there sooner meant the party would end earlier, speeding up his access to the treasure trove Hero had hinted at.

Wordless, Chevalier managed the drinks and two plates as he carried them over to Hannah.  He gave her a plate and a cup, and she smiled without thanking him.

“A toast,” Alexandria said, stepping forward.  “To the first Wards team of America.”

“To second chances,” Hero said.

“A brighter future,” Eidolon added.

“And to making good memories,” Legend finished.

“Memories,” Hannah said, under her breath, nearly inaudible as the room clapped and cheered.  She was looking down at the machete that she’d placed across her lap, the paper plate with the cake balanced on the flat of the blade.

Chevalier didn’t respond.  His eyes were on the phantom images, barely visible.

The screen displayed the list.  Chevalier scrolled down, his expression grim.

Marun Field, December 13th, 1992.  Behemoth.
São Paulo, July 6th, 1993.  Behemoth.
New York, March 26th, 1994.  Behemoth.
Jakarta, November 1st, 1994.  Behemoth.
Moscow, June 18th, 1995.  Behemoth.
Johannesburg, January 3rd, 1996.  Behemoth.
Oslo, June 9th, 1996.  Leviathan.
Cologne, November 6th, 1996.  Behemoth.
Busan, April 23rd, 1997.  Leviathan.
Buenos Aires, September 30th, 1997.  Behemoth.
Sydney, January 18th, 1998.  Leviathan.
Jinzhou, July 3rd, 1998.  Behemoth.
Madrid, December 25th, 1998.  Leviathan.
Ankara, July 21st, 1999.  Behemoth.
Kyushu, November 2nd, 1999.  Leviathan.
Lyon, April 10th, 2000.  Behemoth.
Naples, September 16th, 2000.  Leviathan.
Vanderhoof, February 25th, 2001.  Behemoth.
Hyderabad, July 6th, 2001.  Leviathan.
Lagos, December 6th, 2001.  Behemoth.
Shanghai, April 23rd, 2002.  Leviathan.
Bogotá, August 20th, 2002.  Behemoth.
Lausanne, December 30th, 2002.  Simurgh.
Seattle, April 1st, 2003.  Leviathan.
London, August 12th, 2003.  Simurgh.
Lyon, October 3rd, 2003.  Behemoth.

“Stop,” Chevalier ordered.  The artificial intelligence halted the scrolling.  The scroll bar wasn’t even at the halfway mark.

Brighter future indeed.

He rubbed at his eyes, suddenly feeling very weary.  Nothing worked out like it was supposed to.  The Wards were supposed to be a safe haven for teenaged capes, buying them time to prepare themselves, to train and figure out what they needed to figure out.  Somewhere along the line, some Wards had joined the fight.  Locals, defending their homes, naturally.

As the ranks of adult capes were whittled down, more had attended the fights, as if unconsciously acknowledging the need, or as if they were under a subtle pressure to do so.  Just like that, the ideals and ideas that had helped form the original Wards team had eroded away.

He swept a hand in front of him, and the ship read the gesture, a new image appearing on the monitor.  The two screens on either side showed Behemoth’s attack on the city.  He hadn’t ventured far from where he’d emerged.

Chevalier only glanced at the screens from moment to moment, his focus more on the infrastructure, the resources at his disposal.

San Diego, absent.  They’d lost too many members, abandoned by those who’d lost faith in the Protectorate, with the remnants cannibalized to support other teams in need.  San Diego was more or less stable, so there’d been little pressure to resupply them with new members.

Except that Spire, San Diego’s team leader, hadn’t felt confident walking into the fight.  There’d been the human element, the fears, the concerns.  He’d had cold feet at the last second, decided not to come.  An integral part of their defense, gone, forcing them to adapt.

There were so many elements like that.  Little things.  He’d heard so many complain about how the Protectorate handled the attacks.  How they were disorganized, inefficient.

Maybe he’d shared in that sentiment, to a degree.  That had changed when he’d participated in his first fight, when he’d seen just what it meant to be in the fray, against an enemy that couldn’t truly be stopped.  But still, he’d harbored doubts.

Then he’d taken command of a team, and he’d seen the process of trial and error, as they learned their opponents’ capabilities, saw how Leviathan or the Simurgh could keep tricks up their sleeves for years, before using them at a critical moment.  Even now, they didn’t fully understand the Simurgh’s power, how long it might take someone to recover, if recovery was even possible.

And now he led the attack.

He drew in a deep breath, then exhaled.

Focus on the presentHe’d lose it if he dwelled on the pressures, on the fact that every attack to date was another added pressure, a set of losses to avenge, a step towards mankind’s fall.

Vegas was absent too.  They’d turned traitor, walked away.  Satyrical had turned down the offer for a ride to the battle, claiming they’d make their own way.  It was disconcerting, to think they had access to transportation in that vein.  Teleporters?  A craft that could and would carry people halfway around the world fast enough?  Disconcerting to think they had access to resources like that so soon after defecting.

But not surprising.

Brockton Bay, in large part, was sitting this one out.  Hannah wasn’t a true asset against Behemoth.  Besides, the truce was in worse shape than it had been even in the beginning, and the portal too important.

He allowed himself a moment to think of Hannah.  They’d dated briefly, then separated.  It had been a high school romance, and they’d both been too busy to really pursue things.  What had been one or two dates a week became maybes, then had ceased to happen at all.  He’d graduated to the Protectorate, changed cities, and they hadn’t said a word on the subject.

Chevalier had seen her grow, though.  That was what he kept in mind to assuage his disappointment over the way things had gone.  She’d come into her own, confident, intelligent.

In a way, he was glad she wasn’t coming.

He turned around to face Rime and Exalt.  He could see the shadows, as he now thought of them.  Rime’s younger self accompanied her, sitting on the bench beside her, arms folded around her knees, face hidden.  The real Rime was sitting on the bench, a fold-out table in front of her, a laptop open.

And Exalt?  His ‘shadow’ was barely visible, impossible to make out.  When it came to the fore, though, Chevalier knew it would look much as Hannah’s power did in its transitions.  Phantom images.

He’d raised the subject of the images with others.  When his proximity to Eidolon had started to give him migraines, he’d confessed about the images.  He’d feared a kind of schizophrenia, but Eidolon had reassured him otherwise.

It was a piece of the puzzle, but that puzzle was still far from complete.  Until they had more to work with, it was merely data.  Glimmers of memories and dreams, the conclusion had been, after long discussions with Eidolon and the parahuman researchers.  An effect of the thinker power required to manage his own ability, tied to trigger events in some fashion.

Except now he was wondering if he’d been misled.  Eidolon was a traitor, one working for a group that clearly had some deeper understanding of powers.  Maybe it had been in Cauldron’s interests for Eidolon to lie about this.

“Record numbers.  Lots of capes are coming,” he said.  Rime and Exalt both looked up.

“But…” Exalt said.  He seemed to reconsider before finishing his sentence.

“But we’re disorganized,” Chevalier finished it for him.  “People we should be able to count on are gone.  Plans we had are falling apart because those people aren’t there.

Exalt nodded.

“PRT wants us to play this up,” Chevalier said, “I’m supposed to involve you guys in leadership aspect of things.  If you’re willing, I’m not going to dwell on it.”

Exalt arched an eyebrow.

“You’re team leaders.  You’ve got the experience, at least to a degree.  But I don’t want to dwell on peripheral stuff.  We’re focused on the fight?  All right?”

Rime and Exalt nodded.

“I’ll lob a few of you some softball questions, then we get right to it.”

“Right,” Rime said.

The ship altered course, Chevalier felt his heart drop.  Silkroad’s power wasn’t giving them any forward momentum anymore.  They were close.  Landing in a minute.

“You ready for this?  Being leader for the first time?”  Exalt asked.

“No.  Not for one this important.  Everyone who’s paying attention knows this is a crucial one.  Maybe even the point of no return.  We lose this, we lose New Delhi, and there’s no going back.  We’ll never get to the point where we can consistently beat those motherfuckers, never recoup what we’ve lost.  I screw up here, and the world will know.”

“They can’t blame you,” Rime said.

“They damn well can,” Chevalier retorted.

She frowned.

The ship descended, four legs absorbing the impact of the landing almost flawlessly.

He turned to the swords, set into the floor of the craft.  There were two.

In truth, there were three.  The largest was thirty feet long, running from the ramp at the back to the cabin at the front, almost entirely set into the floor.  There was no decoration on it.  Only mass, sturdy craftsmanship, and the mechanisms necessary for the cannon that was set inside the handle and blade.

It would have been too heavy for the ship to carry, except he’d already used his power, drawing it together with a second blade, an aluminum blade a mere four feet long.  Lightweight.

His ability to see the ‘shadows’ about people was an extension of this power.  He could see the general makeup of the two weapons, the phantom images, the underlying physics, in lines and shapes and patterns.

It was about perspectives.  Relationships.  He’d drawn them into one blade, with the appearance of the larger, the properties of the smaller.

The third blade was decorative, with a ceramic blade, gold and silver embellishments and inlays in the blade.  The thing was ten feet long from end to end, and again, it had the cannon set within.   Combining the first blade with this one proved more difficult.  He granted the weapon the appearance of this blade, gave it the cutting edge, but retained the lightweight mass and the durability of the largest weapon.

Fine balances.  He adjusted it, tuning its size for convenience’s sake.  The heft remained the same, as did the effective weight as it extended to the rest of the world.

His armor was the same, only it was too large to bring on the craft.  A veritable mountain of construction grade steel, as light as aluminum, with the decoration of a third set.  It had required some concentration, to maintain the balances he’d set, but he was confident he could fight outside of the kill aura’s range.

He glanced at Rime and Exalt, then nodded.

The ramp opened, and the three of them emerged.  There were heavy thuds and the sound of metal striking metal as the other ships landed, forming a ring, with the doors and ramps pointing inward.  A fortification to guard the arriving heroes.

The Protectorate and Wards teams were gathering, with a degree of organization.  His new Protectorate had gathered into the general positions they held at the conference table.  Rime to his left, Exalt to his right, their teams behind them.

And he couldn’t help but notice the gaps.  San Diego, Vegas, Brockton Bay.  Three of the more prominent teams in the United States.

Defiant, Dragon and Weaver were among the last to arrive.  They joined the unofficial capes who’d filled the void that should have been occupied by the San Diego capes.

“The ships have all arrived,” Chevalier said, breaking the silence, starting his speech.

It was only after the Yàngbǎn were out of sight that Chevalier could breathe a sigh of relief.

“You know your roles,” he said, to the capes who remained  He searched the rooftop, and found who he was looking for.  “Mr. Keene, walk with me.”

The dark-skinned man nodded assent, falling in stride.  He wore a neat suit with a PRT pin, official identification on a lanyard around his neck.  Morgan Keene was the PRT’s liaison and ambassador to unofficial teams across the world.  Chevalier could see the glimmer of a power there, suppressed but there.

The fact that the man was a parahuman employee of the PRT wasn’t so unusual.  The fact that it was a well-kept secret was.  The power was out of sync, however, which was stranger still.  Since Chevalier had chanced to make Morgan Keene’s acquaintance, years ago, the man’s shadow had changed.  The core elements were the same, but the appearance of it had changed enough that he’d wondered if the man had managed a second trigger event.  He would have assumed so, except there was no intensity to corroborate the idea.

It left him suspicious, but it wasn’t a suspicion he could act on.  In an ideal world, Chevalier hoped to replace Mr. Keene.  In reality, the situation was too chaotic, and Morgan Keene too entrenched in things.

“You’re upset about the Yàngbǎn.”

“I don’t like surprises.”

“I sent you a number of emails, three voice messages.”

“Can we trust them?”

“No.  But they’re still an asset.  Alexandria wanted them on board.  When you installed your new administration, they said to keep going.”

Chevalier sighed.

“Our thinkers are on board to advise with the concentrated defense.  I’ve coordinated the foreign capes, Arbiter’s handling some of the translations.”

“Okay.  And our… less legitimate thinkers?”

“Accord and Tattletale.”


“Rime set them up with access to the PRT databases.  Connection is slow but remains strong.”

Chevalier nodded.  “I’ll talk to them.”

“Of course,” Mr. Keene answered.

Chevalier made his way to the downstairs room.  He paused at the entrance.

Tattletale’s ‘shadow’ peered around with a dozen eyes all at once, each set different in design, in appearance and apparent function.  A mosaic.  Accord’s was a glimmer of an old computer, the edge of a desk that wasn’t there.

It wasn’t as meaningful as it had appeared to be at first.  They were only figments of ideas that had been codified and collected in times of stress.  Ideas imprinted on a malleable surface during trigger events, or moments when trigger events had been on the verge of occurring.  As an individual’s power waxed and waned, the images grew more distinct, shifted between the images personal to the cape in question, and the stranger, dream-like aspects that seemed to relate to the powers.

“Accord.  Tattletale.  Do you have something constructive to offer?”

“Yep,” Tattletale said.

“Your defensive lines are a disaster waiting to happen,” Accord said.

“Straight to the point,” Tattletale commented.

“A disaster?” Chevalier asked.

“I’m wondering if you’ve done this on purpose,” Accord stated.  His eye moved critically over Chevalier.  “You’re going to fight the Endbringer in a melee.”

“Yes,” Chevalier said.

“And you’ve picked the new Protectorate team with the idea that they would support you.  The core team is all ranged.”

“Yes,” Chevalier said.

“Ego?” Tattletale asked.

Chevalier shook his head, then thought for a moment.  “Perhaps.”

“Well, ego’s a part of the job.  Question is, can you live up to it?”

“I can try.  But more than anything, I’m not going to put people on the front line if I’m not willing to go there myself.”

“Foolish,” Accord said.  “Everyone has their place in the grand scheme of things.  You do yourself and everyone else a disservice if you try to put yourself where you don’t belong.”

Chevalier shook his head, but he didn’t reply.  There would be no convincing this one.

Accord continued, “There are only two ways you could make this plan work.  The first would be using a sword long enough to reach past his Manton effect bypass, the second is to somehow within that range and survive.”

“Accounted for,” Chevalier said, a touch irritated.  He didn’t need this.  Not now.

“Usher,” Tattletale supplied.

“Ah.  I see,” Accord said.  “And if Usher were to be struck down by a chance lightning bolt?”

“We have fallback plans.”

Accord shook his head.  “I’ll develop better.”

Chevalier grit his teeth.

“I’m watching him fight,” Tattletale said, “And something’s off.  I’ve been watching old videos of the Endbringer fights, looking over maps, and it doesn’t fit together.”

“What doesn’t?”

Her finger tapped hard on the map she’d printed out.  “Location, pacing.  They’re toying with us.  Acting.”

“You’re crediting them with more intelligence than they have.”

“Are you telling me that because you really think they’re dumb, or because you don’t want to-“

Chevalier could sense the attacker by the movement of the shadows.  He whirled around, only to find himself face to face with a cloud of the ‘shadows’.

The Yàngbǎn, one of them.

An assassin?

He couldn’t even make out the figure, behind the layers of images.  Glimpses of twenty, thirty, forty trigger events.

Defying the truce, here?  Now?

He felt his anger stirring.  He adjusted the balances of his blade, maintaining the reach, the appearance, but he altered its interaction with the rest of the world, maintaining its lightweight feel as far as he was concerned, changing it in other respects.

“You lunatic!”

He had his sword out in a flash, swung.  A forcefield appeared, but the weapon breezed through it as if it weren’t even there.

It was, in all respects except appearance, and the ease with which he moved it, a weapon that weighed upwards of fifty tons, as durable as the heaviest weapon.  The cutting edge of the ceramic blade.

His opponent slipped out of the way, and images flared with life as he drew on a power to fly.

Chevalier couldn’t make him out in the midst of the shadows.  Did the Yàngbǎn know this would trip him up, slow him down?

It didn’t matter.  The attacker didn’t have offensive strength.  Two more attacks failed to penetrate Chevalier’s armor.  He advanced, swung, thrusted, and his opponent stepped back, narrowly dodging.

Chevalier pulled the trigger, but a power flared and the shot jammed in the chamber.

Can’t afford to expend resources on this.  Have to prepare for the fight.

He followed up with more swings.  Each missed by a hair.  His opponent was scared, frantic.

And suddenly his opponent was a distance away.  The images, the movement of the clouds outside, telltale signs of being stopped in time.

He advanced, felt another attack fail to penetrate his defenses.  Again, time stopped, his opponent used the window of opportunity to back away.

In between the following two pauses, he could see Accord and Tattletale change places, moving to the door, now barred with a forcefield.

They’d have to hold their own.  Chevalier assessed his opponent, as best as he could, through the storm of hellish images.  Each of them was fractured, broken.  Nothing to be gleaned from them.

But the opponent was sloppy.  Letting him get dangerously close between resets.  It was a question of letting him make a mistake, occupying his attention, so the thinkers would be safe.  A chess game, moving the knight to keep the king in checkmate.  There was only so much space in the room, and he could position himself to force the Yàngbǎn member to move further, to have less time to act, leaving more room for a mistake.

“No,” he could hear Accord murmuring, the word barely above a whisper.  He chanced a glance at the pair.  Tattletale had a hand on her holster, and Accord had stopped her.

He didn’t get a chance to see anything further.  He felt the strength go out of his lower body, a slow but incredible pain tearing through his midsection.

The laser.  How?

He had only a moment to adjust the balances in his power, so the blade and armor wouldn’t crash through the floor and tear down half of the building.

I missed the fight, he realized, as he woke in a hospital bed.

The ground rumbled violently.  He looked up to see Tattletale in the corner of the room, half of her attention on what was happening outside the window, the other half on a phone.

“He’s here?”

She turned to him, tapped her throat.  He could see the tube in her throat.

He sighed.

She approached the bedside, attention on the phone.  She held it out for him to read.

A notepad executable read:

hes here.  defenses crumbled in a minute.  rime dead.  melted off more than half his outer body and he still fighting.  last stand to protect hosp’l for evac and he cutting them down

Chevalier shut his eyes.  We lost.

Tattletale was already typing again.  Her expression was grim as she focused on the phone.

He tried to sit up, and found himself unable.  It was a pain concentrated in one area, but it was so immense that made his entire body react.  His ears buzzed, his vision wavered, and every muscle clenched, as he lay there, trying to ride it out.

She showed him the phone as he lay there, panting.

he still at full strength.  shouldn’t be.  he’s an onion, inner rings progressively tougher.  next 15% way tougher than rest combined.

“I know this,” he gasped out the words.  He moved the sheet to examine himself.  His breastplate had been removed, and his stomach had fresh incisions on it, with sutures holding them closed.

How long had he been out?

She showed him her phone again.

they stapled your gut up.  if outer body is like this then why does he have it?  useless.

He reached up to swat the phone away, felt a pull on his stomach and winced instead.  He knocked it out of the way with his other hand.  Still painful, but easier.

She drew it out of his reach, started typing again.

He turned himself over in the bed, nearly retching at the intensity of the pain, but he found himself on his side.  Even at the weight of aluminum, the armor on his legs and hands was heavy enough to help weigh him down, hold him in position.

She offered him a hand as he swung his legs down, trying to use the momentum to sit up.  He nearly fell, but she caught him, dropping the phone onto the bed in her haste to help him stay sitting upright.

His chest heaved, and he growled out each breath.  The growling helped, on a primal level, but that wasn’t saying much.  Just sitting upright was bad enough that he thought he might pass out.

“My breastplate.”

She handed him the phone, then crossed the room to where a bundle of belongings were gathered on a chair.  They’d cut off the layer of mesh that sat beneath the armor, and the cloth that sat against his skin.  She discarded each of those and simply brought him the armor.

It had held its form.  Good.  He glanced at the phone.

outer body is cosmetc only.  why?  because he supposed to scare us.  behemoth was fashioned.  unnatural life.

She brought the front portion of the armor, resting it on the corner of the bed.  She tapped the phone.

“I read it,” he growled.  “Help me put it on.”

She tapped the phone again.

“It doesn’t matter,” he said.  “It won’t change the outcome of this fight.”

She nodded agreement, then lifted the armor, bringing it to his chest.

There was a crash outside, a chorus of screams.  Chevalier grit his teeth.

“Back piece,” he said.  She gave him a pointed look.

“Please,” he added, growling the word.

She turned on her heel, crossing the room to pick up the armor, slowly, almost leisurely, as she typed on the phone with one hand.  She held the armor in the other as she made her way back, then took several damnable seconds typing out the message before putting the phone down.

“We don’t have time for your typing,” he said.

She only gave him a level, silent stare, as she moved the rear portion of the armor into place.  He reached for the clasps, but moving his left arm was too painful, pulling on the muscles of his stomach.  He used his right for what he could, then waited for her to finish.

Indian doctors rushed down the hall, pushing beds on wheels, four in a row.

He conceded to pick up the phone and read what she’d typed.

they regen slower as damage is further from center.  simurgh core not in human body.  decoy.  prob in join of biggest wing instead.  Is why body fragile n slow to heal.

His eyes widened.  “We destroy the center, we destroy him?”

She gave him a look as if he’d just asked if the sky was green, incredulous.  She shook her head.

“Why the hell not?”

She just shook her head.

“I don’t know why the hell not. Where’s his center?”

She pointed with two fingers, at her collarbone.  The base of the throat, between the shoulders.  Quite possibly the deepest set part of his body.

“Help me stand.”

The entire building rumbled.  For a moment, he thought the entire point would be rendered moot as the structure collapsed.

It took three tries to get him to his feet, with him holding a shelf on the wall with his right hand, her leveraging her entire body’s strength with her shoulder under his armpit.  He stumbled forward, catching himself on the shelf, and heaved for breath, feeling the strength threaten to leave his legs with every deep inhalation and exhalation.

But he couldn’t.  Couldn’t allow himself to.

Tattletale was pulling on a blue latex glove.  He watched her as she reached out and placed a hand on the space beside the incisions, where the burn had been patched up.

“What are you doing?”

She reached for the phone.

no tear inside u.

“I could’ve told you that.”

She shrugged, her eyes on the screen, thumbs typing on the onscreen keyboard.  She raised the phone.

can try.  prob wont work.  dense enough 2 fuck wit time n space there.

“Right,” he said.  “My Cannonblade?”

She sighed, making her way to the end of the room.  She collected his Cannonblade from the floor by the chair.  He’d made it as light as it could go in every respect, before he’d passed out.  Even so, moving his left arm to try to hold it made him seize up in agony.

For now, he was a one-armed fighter.  He gripped the handle in his right hand, then exerted his power.  He could see it grow heavier, even as the weight remained effectively the same in his hand.

He rested it against one shoulder, then managed a limping step forward.  He very nearly fell.

Another step.

He focused on his power, as a way to distract himself, planting one foot in front of the other, the armor squeaking in one point where a knee joint had bent as he’d fallen after fighting the Yàngbǎn assassin.  It was easier to keep moving than to stop and start again, so he moved forward with an almost machinelike rhythm, limping.

He’d never forgive himself if they lost this fight and he didn’t even fight.

Stairs.  He had to make his way down.  One mistake, a faltering step, and he’d collapse.  He’d probably be unable to stand, if it didn’t tear his stomach apart.

He made his way down, the stitches pulling against the fresh incisions with every step.

The building shuddered.  His mind a fog of pain, he reached out for the railing for stability, only to remember he was holding his sword.  It plowed through railing as if it were a meticulous sandcastle, raining pieces on the ground below.

He swayed, and for the briefest moment, he considered that it might be easier to fall.  Easier than making it down the next ten steps.  If there was a ten percent chance his stomach stayed intact, a twenty percent chance someone could help him stand…

But he took another step down, and somewhere in the midst of planting his foot, he found his balance.

Everywhere, doctors were struggling to evacuate.  Some capes were working to help, even injured ones trying to pull things together.  Still fifty or sixty capes to evacuate.

And the bodies… people who had died because he’d failed them.  Because he hadn’t been able to defeat the assassin, to take his role at the front of the battle lines, where he could bait Behemoth into the various traps they’d laid.

He had to suppress the guilt.  There would be time for blame, self-directed or otherwise, later.  He’d bury the mental pain like he was with the physical.

This is how Behemoth fights.  Indomitable.  Never slowing.  Always progressing forward, Chevalier thought.

He could remember who he’d once been.  So long ago.  Well before he’d had his first of twenty fights against the Endbringers.  Before meeting Hannah and the rest of the original Wards.

They’d been in a car crash, in the middle of a vacation.  Strangers had stepped in, crowding the car to help his little brother out, while his parents were reeling, moaning in pain.  They’d tried to get him out too, but he’d been pinned, the car handle had been scraped away in the collision, the interior handle protected by the child locks.  They’d left, and for hours, as the emergency services arrived and the rescue continued, he’d wondered why.  He’d triggered, caught in the wreckage, but had been too insensate to do anything about it, to even realize the full gravity of what had happened in the midst of the chaos.

It was only later that he found out they were serial kidnappers.  The crash that had broken his mother’s leg in three places had been orchestrated.  So had the collection of his little brother.

Three years later, when he heard about the group again, he put together a makeshift club and armor and set about hunting them down.  He appeared in the news in the midst of tracking down the individual members, and again and again, they had described him as relentless, to the point that it had very nearly became his codename.  Revenge had been all he had left.

Then, just as he was now, he’d been fueled by anger, by pain.  He could barely see, as black spots blotted his vision.  Revenge, again, was his only option, only it was the end point, rather than the beginning.

I told myself I’d never let myself be afraid again, he thought.

His left hand was nearly useless, so he hit the double doors at the front of the temple with his sword instead.  Wood splintered as the doors parted.  He trudged forward, ignoring the doors as they swung shut, bouncing off his armor.

Record numbers show up, and this is all that’s left?

Barely fifty heroes still stood their ground.  The back lines were sheltered by giant hands of stone, Hellhound’s mutant dogs collecting the wounded, carrying them around the side of the building.  Eidolon and Alexandria wrestled with the Endbringer, fighting in close quarters against the monster.


He shook his head, nearly losing his balance as he continued his forward march.  He could barely see straight, and it wasn’t helped by the phantom images that riddled the mass of capes.  Images he had called glimmers when he was a youth, that he called shadows now that he was an adult.

But Behemoth… the Endbringer was little more than a skeleton with extensive padding.  He’d never seen this much damage delivered.

Chevalier focused his power on his blade, making it as large as he could.  He continued marching forward.  There was no indication Usher was okay.  Rime was dead, and he had little idea about the state of the supporting forces who’d been intended to help him attack, who’d trained to assist him.

He extended his blade towards Behemoth, using it to gauge the distance for the kill aura.  Defending capes cleared out of his way as he walked forward, between two of the stone hands.  The shadow of his sword was warning enough.

One of Behemoth’s legs seemed less developed than the other, the toes missing, the bones less pronounced, the flesh thinner.  He reached the perimeter and slammed the weapon down into the earth with his one usable arm.

His steam nearly spent, he collapsed over the handle of the weapon, his hand still gripping the handle, and he pulled the trigger.

The size of the weapon and the effect of the firing pin seemed to help with the jammed mechanism.  That, or the transition to being closer to his largest blade had shifted something in a fractional way.  The shot blasted Behemoth in the calf of his weaker leg, and the Endbringer fell.

Again, he pulled the trigger, over and over.  Three, four, five shots.

He stopped before he spent the sixth.

He’d dealt damage, but it was precious little.  Flesh had torn at the leg, not quite as dense as it should be, by all reports.  Had the regeneration not finished rebuilding the complete structures?

Rendered effectively one-legged again, Behemoth crawled forward on three limbs.  Alexandria struck him from above, driving him face first into the ground.

Why was she here?  She was supposed to be functionally dead.

Chevalier could feel a sensation crawling through his body, an energy.  It didn’t invigorate, not on its own, but he could feel a kind of relief.

Usher was alive, and Usher’s power coursed through him.  With luck, he’d be immune to Behemoth’s power, or at least partially immune.  Nobody had received the benefit of Usher’s ability and been brave enough to venture into Behemoth’s kill range.

Chevalier pulled his sword from the ground, swayed, and very fell over.

Defiant caught him.

Old friend, Chevalier thought, though he didn’t have the breath to speak.

Anyone else might have spoken up, told him he didn’t have to do this, that it was madness.

Defiant was silent, supporting Chevalier, helping him right himself.  Defiant understood this much.  The need, the drive.

Chevalier took his first step with Defiant’s help.  The second was only partially supported.  The third was on his own.

He closed into the kill area, and he could feel the heat touch him.  It heated the armor, but didn’t reach him.  Usher’s power at work.  He tried to inhale, and found no air.  Choking, he forced his mouth shut.

Holding his breath, Chevalier brought the sword down on Behemoth’s shoulder, a blow from above much like Alexandria had delivered, followed by another.

His aim wasn’t good, the blows off target.  If his form were better, he’d be landing each strike in the same place, time after time.  Not so, with the blade this big, the margin for error so great.

With that in mind, Chevalier shrunk his sword as he closed the distance, shut his eyes as lightning crackled around the Endbringer.  With the scale smaller, the effective edge was that much sharper.  The blade bit just a fraction deeper each time.

He couldn’t stop walking without falling, couldn’t stop swinging the weapon in the same rote motion without risking that he’d never be able to raise it again, however light it might be.

His goal was the spot Tattletale had mentioned.  The core.

Behemoth swiped at him, but he was already shifting the balance of his armor, moving to block the blow with the flat of the blade.  The sound of the impact was deafening, and it wasn’t something Usher’s power protected against.  But Usher’s power was finnicky at best.  Unreliable.

At the very least, it was holding up here.

He found a measure of strength, then swung the cannonblade, driving it for the deepest part of the wound.

Behemoth lurched, changing position, and the painstakingly created notch in his shoulder shifted well out of Chevalier’s reach.  He let up on the intense heat, turned to radiation instead.  Heroes scrambled to retreat from the ominous glow.

Bastard, Chevalier swore.  He released a sound somewhere between a moan and a groan, exhaling the last of the air in his lungs, greedily sucking in air.

Something flew past him, shearing straight through Behemoth’s chest.  A wheel of metal, thin, with two bars sticking out of the center.  It cut through the Endbringer like he wasn’t even there.

Dazed, lungs fit to burst as he held his breath, barely coherent, Chevalier turned.  He saw Tecton with his piledrivers extended, Weaver just behind him, along with two of the new Wards: the white supremacist’s child they’d picked up in Boston and a boy in a white cloak.  They stood all the way at the back lines of the battlefield, by the temple, along with a character he didn’t recognize.  A girl in black.

His eyes settled on Weaver, surrounded by the nimbus of her power, which glowed with an intensity that surpassed any and all of her teammates.  When she stepped forward, it was like she was pushing against a curtain, only it was a membrane, a network of individual cells, each with tendrils extending out, so thin he couldn’t make them out, except by the highlights that seemed to rush down them as she gave conscious direction to her bugs.

Second chances, Chevalier thought back to his inauguration to the Wards.  He’d harbored doubts about taking her on board, but memories of that day had been a factor.  He’d needed a second chance.  So had Hannah.

Colin, even, though it came much later.

It was a good feeling, to see that coming into play.  He knew she wasn’t all the way there, but she’d taken a step forward.

It was a better feeling to watch as Behemoth’s shoulder shifted, attached by a mere hair.  The weapon had cut through his ribs, torn through the space where his heart should be.

That’ll do.

Alexandria hit him, and the arm came free.  Behemoth lurched, planting his one remaining hand on the ground, and came just short of collapsing on top of Chevalier.  He was only a few feet away, glowing with the radiation.

I’m dead, Chevalier thought, without a trace of the despair he’d imagined he would feel.

He tried to move, to raise his blade, only to find his armor refusing to cooperate.  It had melted, the joints and joins flowing into one another.  His sword wasn’t much better.  The ceramic properties he’d applied to the edge were heat-resistant, but the remainder of the weapon were growing more nebulous in shape, the hottest parts of the metal flowing down to obscure the edge.

He concentrated, and found his power beyond his reach.  Too tired, his stamina gone.

Trapped in a hot wreck of metal, an explosive death just a short distance away.  It had been his starting point, and it had been the end.

It would be the optimal time for a second trigger event, the thought passed through his thoughts.

Of course, the joke went that you couldn’t get a trigger event by trying to have one, so even thinking about a second trigger event was enough to banish any possibility.

Not so funny, in this moment.

His power worked best with similar things.  Differences made it slower.  It was why he had the same firing mechanism at the core of each of the three weapons he used for his Cannonblade.

Now, as the battle raged around him, he was nearly blind with the visor of his helmet melting, at his utter limit in terms of stamina and pain tolerance.  Behemoth delivered a shockwave, and Usher’s power protected him, his boots welded to the ground kept him from falling over.

He reached for his power, grasping at his armor, and he didn’t reach for anything familiar or similar.  He reached for anything, everything.  The ground, the soil, air.

Somewhere in the midst of that desperate struggle, he found his armor coming apart.  He wasn’t even willing it, not even forming any coherent idea of what he was doing, but his power operated of its own accord.

Free of the armor, he could move his weapon.  It was slag, barely a sword anymore, but the core still had some density to it.

He made it grow.

He made the sword grow, from ten to twenty feet in length.  It was more by the growth than by any action on Chevalier’s part that it extended into the wound.  The weapon penetrated into the scar Weaver’s crew had created, as close to the core as Chevalier could get it.

He made it grow to its greatest possible length, a full thirty feet, his head turned skyward to the monster that glowed silver and black.

Space and time distortion were supposed to protect it?  He’d fight fire with fire.

Flesh parted as the blade grew inside the wound.  He put his finger on the trigger, ready to fire.

Before he could, the sword’s tip touched the core, and everything went wrong.

His power abruptly ceased to take effect, and the blades came apart, in its three individual pieces.  They slid from the wound, falling down around him.

Behemoth lurched forward, and his wounded leg struck Chevalier, knocking him to the ground.  He could feel the gunshot break of multiple ribs shattering.

Supine on the ground, unable to breathe, but for tiny pants, Chevalier stared at the sky, unwilling to look directly at the ensuing scene, even if he could have managed to turn his head.

There was a horrible crash as a sweep of one claw shattered the stone hands.  Glowing silver, he loomed over the defending capes, scorched and electrocuted those who’d fallen within his instant-kill range.  One of Hellhound’s mutant dogs, Dragon.  Others he couldn’t make out in the midst of the clouds of dust.  Rendered to ash and melted armor in heartbeats.

They were the lucky ones, Chevalier thought.  The radiation was generally observed to be concentrated, limited to a certain range, manipulated to strike only those within a hundred feet or so of Behemoth, to saturate the landscape and render it uninhabitable.  These capes were close enough.  Their deaths would be slow, painful.

A failure.  Hopefully the ones in the temple had been evacuated, and the capes at the rear of the battle line free to retreat.

The ground rumbled violently, churning and smoking.  Behemoth was burrowing.

The fight was over.

Chevalier stared up at the shifting smoke of the sky above, struggling to breathe, not entirely sure why he was bothering.  Maybe he wouldn’t die of the radiation, thanks to Usher’s power.

Long moments passed as the rumbling of the earth faded in intensity.  The air was still filled with the screams and shouts of the various capes and doctors fighting to save the wounded, the dull roars of distant helicopters, carrying the evacuated capes away.

Chevalier watched as the worst of the smoke cleared, and he imagined he might have seen the glowing blur of the sun through the clouds.

Not the sun.  It was a figure.  Scion.

He would have laughed if he could.

Too late.

You showed up too late.

Scion lowered himself to nearly ground level.  His golden hair moved in the wind as he gazed over the battlefield.  His white bodysuit was smudged here or there on the sleeves, but otherwise seemed so pristine that it seemed to glow in the gloom.

No, part of that glow was real.  The faint light touched Chevalier, and he could feel his breathing ease.  It was reaching out to everyone present.

A consolation prize?  A bit of healing?  Maybe a helping hand against the radiation, for the others?

He managed a soft laugh.  The glow was making the pain easier to handle.  He could almost breathe, now.

He closed his eyes, and he felt a tear roll down from the corner of his eye.  He suspected he wouldn’t have been able to tear up without the healing.

Not sufficient to fix the broken bones, or the damage to his stomach, perhaps.  He opened his eyes to look at Scion, to ask a question.

But Scion was gone.

A noise rose up from those who remained in the crowd.  Gasps, cheers, shouts of surprise.

Chevalier forced himself to move, stared at the spear of golden light that had risen from the earth, just on the horizon.  Scion.

He held Behemoth in his grip, released the Endbringer to fall two or three hundred feet to the ground, struck his falling foe with a beam of golden light, as if to shove Behemoth into the ground.

Behemoth’s lightning crackled between them, catching Scion, but the hero didn’t even seem to flinch.  He hit Behemoth again, and this time the beam of energy didn’t stop.  With virtually every structure leveled, there was nothing to hide their view but the lingering smoke and dust, and even that wasn’t thick enough to hide the light.

The aftershock of it traveled across the city, quelling dust storms, blowing past the assembled heroes like a strong gust, faintly warm.  Even though the ray didn’t reach quite that high, the clouds of smoke and dust parted visibly above Scion.

Chevalier watched, staring, belatedly thought to count how many seconds had passed.

One, two, three, four

Behemoth generated a shockwave, but it was muted by the light, suppressed.

…eight, nine, ten, eleven, twelve…

Behemoth’s silhouette thrashed as he tried to move out from beneath the shaft of light, but Scion only reoriented the beam, keeping it fixed on his target.

sixteen, seventeen, eighteen, nineteen, twenty, twenty-one

The light ceased.  Behemoth was gone.  A plume of dust rose from the earth, at the very limits of their vision.

Scion plunged beneath the ground, heedless of the intervening terrain.

Again, Scion rose from a point beneath the shattered surface of the city.

Again, he held Behemoth in his hands.  Thinner than a skeleton, the Endbringer was little more than a stick figure from Chevalier’s vantage point.

Only this time, with a flare of golden light to accompany the movement, he tore the Endbringer in two.  The legs came free of the pelvis as two individual pieces, and Scion obliterated them with a pulse of the golden light.  The air that reached the crowd of wounded heroes was cool, this time.

In Chevalier’s peripheral vision, people were emerging from within the temple.  Chevalier didn’t spare them a direct glance.  If he was seeing what he thought he was seeing, then he wouldn’t take his eyes off the scene for anything.

Behemoth slammed his claw into the glowing hero, and the shockwave tore him free of Scion’s grip.  Scion followed him with a glowing sphere of light, and Behemoth redirected his fall, generating an explosion in mid-air, hurling himself towards the assembled crowd.

Eidolon stopped him with a violet forcefield that spread across the sky, a solid obstacle to arrest Behemoth’s momentum, stopping him dead in his tracks and leaving him suspended a hundred feet up in the air.  His one intact claw clutched the edge.

Scion followed up with another shaft of light, and the forcefield shattered in an instant.  Behemoth was slammed into the road, three streets down from the gathered heroes outside the temple.

The Endbringer glowed, and the swelling light was too intense to look at.

Just seeing it, there was no question of what he was doing.  A final act of spite.  Turning himself into a bomb.

A stream of darkness poured from one of the helicopters, filling the street Behemoth lay in.  For an instant, the Endbringer was almost entirely obscured.

Scion fired one more beam, and the darkness was obliterated, swept away.

The silhouette of the Endbringer flickered, then disintegrated.  There was no detonation, no destruction to the landscape.  Only the cleansing light.

The beam dissipated, but its effects hung in the air, canceling out noise, stilling the air.

Slowly, the crowd took up a cheer, a cry of victory from everyone with the breath to spare.

As noise returned to the landscape, the stilling effects of Scion’s light fading, Chevalier closed his eyes, listening.  With the noise of the helicopters and distant fires mingling with the shouts and hollers of joy from the defending capes, he imagined he could hear the whole world cheering alongside them.

Last Chapter                                                                                               Next Chapter

679 thoughts on “Interlude 24

  1. So. Longest chapter yet, at 10,015 words. I am very tired right now.

    Sorry for typos/clumsy wording here and there. Thank you for reading.

    That is all.

    • TYPO Thread:

      “Three years later, when he heard about the group again put together a makeshift club and armor, and he hunted them down. ”

      Something is missing here a word? A comma?

      • >The first would be using a sword long enough to reach past his Manton effect bypass, the second is to somehow within that range and survive.”<
        You're missing a word between 'somehow' and 'within'.

        Chevalier pulled his sword from the ground, swayed, and very fell over.
        You're missing another word between 'very' and 'fell over'.

        • “somehow within” remains uncorrected. Normally I’d pass it off as a speech error from the speaker, but in this case that’s Accord and I think that would be physically painful to him.

      • There was a horrible crash as and a sweep of one claw shattered the stone hands.

        “as and” doesn’t work

        He focused on his power, as a way to distract himself, planting one foot in front of the other, the armor squeaking in one point where a knee joint had bent as he’d fallen, after fighting the Yàngbǎn assassin.

        The last comma is unnecessary and it messes with the flow of the sentence.

        Wow! That was amazing. Good riddance to bad rubbish.

        And with luck we won’t be seeing a #4 any time soon…

      • Even though the ray didn’t touch reach quite that high, the clouds of smoke and dust parted visibly above Scion.

        extra word?

      • “Chevalier pulled his sword from the ground, swayed, and very fell over”
        I think you meant ‘nearly’ instead of ‘very.’

      • As noise returned to the landscape, the stilling effects of Scion’s light fading, Chevalier closed his eyes, listening. The noise of the helicopters and distant fires, mingled with the shouts and hollers of joy from the defending capes, he imagined he could hear the rest of the world cheering with them.

        I think there’s a word missing somewhere in the last sentence.

        • the second is to somehow within that range and survive.”

          still there, don’t know if you’re still editing these older chapters, what with pact and everything, but at least when you look back once you get a book deal, you can catch this one

      • “*This was the main capes of the Protectorate, all here in one place, for them.”

        *These were

        “Images he had called glimmers when he was a youth, *that he called shadows now that he was an adult.”

        If this supposed to be a fragment, keep the ‘that’; otherwise, get rid of it.

      • “Accord continued, “There are only two ways you could make this plan work. The first would be using a sword long enough to reach past his Manton effect bypass, the second is to somehow within that range and survive.” ”

        Should be, “to somehow get within”.

        Also possibly “The first would be to use a sword…”, or “The first would be by using a sword…”. I’m not so certain of this one though.

      • “and very fell over” : I guess a “nearly” is missing
        “unable to breathe, but for tiny pants” : that is probably correct, but “tiny pants” feels wrong here; it evokes clothes.

      • “the second is to somehow within that range and survive”

        Missing word before “within”

        Chevalier pulled his sword from the ground, swayed, and very fell over.”

        I’m guessing that “very” was supposed to be “nearly”.

      • “the second is to somehow within that range and survive.”

        Something missing there. On another note, wow. Chevalier is one huge Badass, and Behemoth’s dead.

        …That can’t be good. Not in the Wormverse. It’s gonna get a LOT worse from here on out.

      • It’s been five years and many, many rereads. At the bit with the knight attacking the king, would you change that from checkmate to check? If it’s checkmate, you only need to give it once to end the game. Also knights can’t really give perpetuals, but that’s okay.

    • Wildbow, thank you for writing such an amazing story. I thought that one of the recent chapters was my favourite, but… This one takes the cake.

      It… It takes you along such a ride of emotion, feeling the exaltation, the depression, the anger, the sorrow, the despair, the crushing defeat, all alongside Chevalier. It was masterfully written, from start to end. I especially love how it seems to ramp up as it goes, gaining momentum until it culminates in the last bright gasp of life from Chevalier, before his effort is snuffed out like a candle’s flame by Scion stepping in.

      Thank you.

        • Yes, your style is getting way better.

          The last arcs did a VERY good job of conveying the confusion and directionlessness of Taylor, her hope, her determination. All without hammering too much with context.

          This one neatly compressed the last four arcs in one go.

          Mind you, you were good from the start, but your ability to convey a feeling is getting way better.

          Must be the neraly constant writing from the mountain of additional chapters accumulating… you know, we should probably lock you into a cell and force you to write non stop to see if the continent you’re on implodes with awesomness.

      • I’m always looking forward to each new chapter. This story has such a feeling of reality to the characters’ emotions that I don’t find in much fictional writing. Or even non-fiction, sometimes.

      • Thank you wildbow, thank you so much for writing this story, it’s been a great comfort and joy to me. This chapter is inspiring and uplifting in it’s peaks, and tragic and moving at it’s lows, and at the end one is just left with an overall feeling of grace and bitter-sweet joy. Chevalier’s history and journey, his heroic intervention and sacrifice, and then right when all seems lost, Heaven steps in and says “No, you’ve done enough. We’ve got your back now.”.

        You can really play your reader’s emotions like they were a musical instrument, you know that?

      • I’ve read this chapter three times now.

        It has become my new Official Worm Favourite Chapter, dethroning the Skitter vs Mannequin showdown.

        It’s just perfect, all of the pain, loss and impotency that were felt throughout the entire arc, changed into Victory in only three or four sentences.

        And the best part: We-Never-Saw-It-Coming.

    • “Behemoth clapped, and the shockwave tore him free of Scion’s grip.”

      Is this the sound of one hand clapping? One arm had been torn off by this point (and the next paragraph made a reference to Behemoth’s single “intact claw”).

      Similarly, earlier:
      “Alexandria hit him, and the arm came free. Behemoth lurched, planting one hand on the ground, and came just short of collapsing on top of Chevalier.”

      This should probably be “planting his one remaining hand”.

      • Wow. Just wow. This chapter was absolutly amazing. You really outdid youself this time. Rest now because you deserve it.

    • This is such a great story i hate that it will be over soon been distracting myself to slow down or would have finshed days ago. That said this sceen made me cheer out loud and scare my cat.

      • If it helps, Wildbow’s next serial ‘Pact’ is already completed and he’s onto a third one ‘Twig’. So there’s still plenty of Wildbow to read when you’re finished Worm…

    • Five years late, and I’ve made it to 24.I before I found anything: “Chevalier pulled his sword from the ground, swayed, and very fell over.”

      very nearly fell over?

      Amazing story, dude. I started it after seeing some of the top tier capes mentioned on r/whowouldwin and I’ve been so engrossed in it I’ve practically stopped playing video games, and I’ve advocated it to everyone I know who’ss interests it overlaps with.

  2. Said I’d repost on today’s chapter, so here it is!

    This was from IRC, Wildbow -being tame and holding back-. Was so good, just had to share.

    “La, la, la,” Bonesaw murmured a lullaby, as she stepped around the ‘altered’ babies that littered her laboratory. Each was plugged into a life support system, lone tubes that served to feed them food, water and oxygen, simultaneously draining their waste. Cherubs, she liked to call them… She traced a hand along the cryogenic chamber as she passed it.

    “Hush-a-bye, don’t you cry…” She paused to think of the words, reaching up to spin one of the infants who was suspended from the ceiling by the life support tube.

    “…creepy, little baby. When you wake, you shall have all the pretty little tortures…” she placed one child in the chamber, then injected it with a customized seed derived from Blasto’s work.

    “♪ Rasps and blades, shackles, flays,
    All the pretty little tortures,
    Hush-a-bye, don’t you cry,
    Become creepy, little baby,
    Hush-a-bye, don’t you cry,
    Become freaky, little baby,
    When you wake you shall have,
    All the pretty little tortures. ♫”

    Bonesaw hummed as she placed the cranial feed in the socket at the base of the skull, hit the button, and watched the chamber fill up with nutrient fluid.

    She moved on to the next.

    “♪ Little boy gray… ♫”

    • Well creepy but a little foolish to me without knowing Bonesaw’s backstory and plan. Otherwise it is just being evil for evil’s sake. If you’re so evil, eat this kitten, torture this baby.

        • Well I can tell you’re a franken-fran fan. While I find the 9 a bit sueish I love the concepts of them as characters, especially Mannequin. Was there ever a version of the story where she was, I doubt she could ever be good, but had a sense of morality even if was pretty screwed up?

            • You’re sadistic in the best way ever, though.

              Like here, where you magnificently trolled all the people who’d assumed that nothing good or heroic could happen in Worm and not be subverted, and that everything always had to get worse all the time.

              • No, because if he was then the plot wouldn’t have left Brockton Bay yet, Taylor would be two years younger and the sex scenes would have been more explicit, Tagg would have become the President of the United States, the food would be described in far more detail, and the fucking Boltons would be the secret power behind Cauldron.

              • Nonono!

                Skitter, one of (if not the) most liked characters is still alive! She’d have gotten the axe if Martin were calling the shots!

              • No. Wildbow is not.
                George is an excellent TV writer, but he can’t handle plot worth shit.

                “Where do whores go?”

        • What, how can you hate Bonesaw? She’s one of my favourite characters.

          Ok, she’s a wee bit creepy, but it’s disturbing only because she’s chaotic evil. If she was chaotic neutral she would be a lovely miniature franken fran 🙂

          Also, PG was wrong about the babies and the spiders it seems. And the veal.

          • Ah yes, because nothing says “See, some things don’t always get worse” with “Your newborn was kidnapped and implanted to be a semi-clone of Jack Slash while being experimented on by Bonesaw”

            • You’re way too negative, it says “your newborn gained SUPERPOWERS, and you did no have to shell out the money to Cauldron either”.
              Sure, the newborn in question is probably going to kill you, but hey, superpowers!

      • And as I put in the last chapter comments just imagine how these children will turn out with Bonesaw as their momma. They’ll throw food in resterants, and make noise in movie theaters, and chew gum in class. Also they’ll be unholy killing machines.

        • Hm…

          Time for weird, very unlikely theory…

          Bonesaw is not going to be able to keep control of the Slaughterhouse 9000. It couldn’t be done. Combined, the 9000 are far too powerful, with too many Thinkers and Tinkers and such to make it possible for Bonesaw and Jack Slash to control them and make them into little monsters.

          They’ll kill her, and being humans without the specific trauma of their lives, they won’t become a torture murder army like their parents.

          Wouldn’t it be weird if the Slaughterhouse 9000 is on the side of humanity for the End of the World? After all, they’re (mostly) human, too.

          Of course, what could possibly challenge humanity with a HEROIC 9000 might be an even scarier thought.

          • I think it’s more likely that Bonesaw and Jack aren’t going to try and control them at all. It’s just releasing a massive army of monsters everywhere. If some turn out to be good, who cares?

            • Yeah they have two options.
              1. They all attack one place at the same time. Something like the birdcage, attacking Cauldron would be a big twist, etc. Perhaps as a diversion so Jack can do something else. This involves a big cape showdown, but it might attract Scion, or they might just bomb them again.
              2. They attack every cape city at the same time with a team of 9 clones. This way they can isolate everyone since there is no help to send, and every city is on their own. They also can’t be easily bombed or destroyed. Even if Scion shows up, he can’t be everywhere.

              • Hm… wouldn’t it be fun if, like the Endbringers, the contents of Scion’s bag of tricks isn’t as known as it seems to be and he starts teleporting…

  3. Wow.
    You could literally write a book about Chevalier alone.
    As it is, is Behemoth really gone? And was it worth the cost?

    • I’m willing to bet that yes, it was worth the price. Or at least it’ll be spun like that.

      What will Cauldron do if their Terminus project is not needed anymore? If Endbringers are destroyed?

      As I said before, the after-fight party / wake is going to be epic. Hell, there should be cheering in the streets!

      I just hope that it can go normally. Jut once. Not interrupted by S9000. Not destroyed by Birdcage opening on Saint’s orders. Not shattered by Simurgh. Just a couple days of celebration. People deserve it.

      • Given the Endbringers are engineered lifeforms who have been treating armageddon like a game?

        Yeah, I don’t think Behemoth going down means we can let up on the ‘escape Doomsday’ plans just yet.

    • Hm…

      This would not have been the last time the defense was screwed up. Endbringer defense was screwed up by enemy action and a lot of other issues that could not have been reformed. This is what the defense looks like after maturing for decades. Humanity would probably be wiped out before they managed to develop the institutional capability to resist the Endbringers. That’s assuming it would even be possible for (para)humanity to develop a better defense with Endbringers constantly cutting pieces out of civilization while a precog is messing with our development to a hostile purpose.

      Really, almost anything could be justified for killing an Endbringer, and this is a problem given how humans work, because anything being justifiable leads to “something must be done, this is something, we must do this” kind of thinking where terrible plans get instituted that make things worse.

      And of course if they didn’t fight Endbringers things would be in even worse shape. The Endbringers would make every attack into something that kills millions of people until we’re no longer concentrated/populous enough for that to work.

        • But Simurgh didn’t plan on the homeless guy asking Scion to KILL Endbringers from now on either, so in the end it’s a wash. Simurgh got some extra capes killed but the next time it faces Scion it has the real possibility of dying now. Same with Leviathan, Scion is no longer content to let them escape when they try to as scene by digging Behemoth out twice.

          Now the question is did his showing up just then have something to do with Chevailer’s final act? Remember before Scion when he showed up gave a look of contempt to the Big 3, but there was no hint of that with Chevailer.

          Also could those shadows that Chevailer see’s actually be the passengers that Skitter (she’ll always be Skitter to me) has talked about?

          Finally it looks like Purity’s kid has triggered is now on the scene. It’s not definitely him but he fits the description of: “the white supremacist’s child they’d picked up in Boston”, and he is a Ward to boot.

          • “But Simurgh didn’t plan on the homeless guy asking Scion to KILL Endbringers from now on either…”

            How do you know she didn’t?

            • Scion’s whole incorruptibility by precogs might be the issue here, in the way of Scion’s behaviour and consequences thereof to be unreadable to Simurgh. In other words, Scion behaving the way he did changed the decision and behaviour of Kevin himself. Plus being in Scion’s presence when exclaiming and perhaps restrengthening the decision pretty much discarded all precog influence in my opinion.

          • I’m guessing that Scion knows the difference between a legitimate trigger cape and a Cauldron cape. And there is something horrible about the Cauldron capes that he can see.

            Or he can see the true nature of the person in front of him.

            • > Or he can see the true nature of the person in front of him.

              We had a really good conversation the other day on IRC about the nature of Eidolon — from what we could tell, he was basically a puppet. Standing straight, looking strong, but going where he was told to go and using the powers he was told to use to accomplish the missions he was set to accomplish. Subordinate within the Protectorate, subordinate within the Triumvirate, subordinate within himself to his passenger. A tragic, pathetic figure, despite all his power, with little going for him but his power … a power he is losing.

              …wildbow writes the most interesting characters, does he not?

              • You know what, the whole Cauldron thing notwithstanding, I feel a bit sorry for Eidolon. Everyone can’t stand him because he’s rude and doesn’t do rapport very well, but if I had the burden of having to drive off Endbringers any time Scion doesn’t deign to show up, I’d be pretty shaken too. From what we glimpsed in his conversation with Mrs Yamada (where she thought of him as a monster, wth?) he seems a very lonely man. Really, can’t someone give him some respect (I’m talking pre-Cauldron explosion obviously)? The only good thing someone ever said of him, is that he is one of the few guys who can pull of capes. Seriously?

              • Doesn’t willdbow do convincing human tragedy really well?

                I can see Eidolon pulling a heroic sacrifice some point down the line, possibly to save Taylor, when he realises she may turn out to be what he couldn’t be. Not sure what put that impression in my mind, but it’s gotten stuck there. I certainly can’t fault the guy, for all his flaws- being a hero has become his only life.

    • Yeah, this. Ever since Chevalier showed up with his cannonblade and I was trying to figure out what the heck his power was and why he chose that name, he was a character I couldn’t stop thinking about. Now that we’ve gotten into his head a bit? I could definitely read his stories. He’s determined, trustworthy without being overly officious, and most importantly in the Wormverse, clever with the use of his power. Anyone who isn’t tends to die a horrible death, don’cha know~! Now I hope we see more of him in the future.
      I do wonder what to make of his comment about Alexandria. Guess the PRT was aware that Skitter only made her ‘mostly’ dead? A good bug-murdering just doesn’t stick these days!

    • Well, Behemoth’s dead. That’s about the only thing gotten. Aside from that, the biggest assembled force of capes just got turned into a slow Denny’s lunch service.

      • Actually they got more than that but just don’t know/realize it yet. As someone up thread pointed out, with Scion killing the Endbringers now it throws a huge monkey’s wrench into Cauldron’s plans. Remember was using the Enbringers as the public threat for their covert operations with the PRT and the Protectorate.

        Now with the possibility that Scion will finish off the other two Endbringers the only credible threat that Cauldron could use is the S9 end of the world scenario. However releasing the info that: “the world as we know it will end in 2 to 23 years and nothing can stop it, with best case scenario being around 30% of the population surviving.” is just going to open a big can of worms that they really don’t want to open. The reason for that is the public will start asking questions and someone will let it slip that it COULD have been prevented if Jack Slash died in Brockton Bay. That in turn leads to the fact of how the PRT and the Protectorate sat back and let the villain Undersiders try and stop the coming apocalypse. That leads to why the PRT and Protectorate did it at the behest of Cauldron and what Cauldron is and it’s goals.

        So the whole Scion killing Endbringer thing just changed every power groups plans. Remember Skitter was warned that the various power groups were making their move at this event by Contessa, but none of them foresaw what Scion would do. Chase of Behemoth: Yes and plan for that, Kill Behemoth: No.

        • You may be right and Scion finishing the Endbringer may change everyones plans. If they realize it is because he changed his strategy that is. If they believe he only killed Behemoth because he was already so seriously injured the impact may be lessened.

          Your view of the publics reaction to the S9 end of the world scenario is for me at least a bit too optimistic. The questioning that could be started by it could just as easily destroy the Protectorate than it could harm Cauldron. And noone ever said Cauldron weren t masters of manipulating public opinion. So i believe if it comes to that the Protectorate is in way more danger than Cauldron could possibly be.

  4. WOW. Just, wow. You sure know how to write highs and lows, don’t you. I was worried the previous cliffhanger wouldn’t be resolved until Tuesday.

    Good writing. This is probably my favorite interlude so far, and one of my favorite sections of the story as a whole. I felt your description of Chevalier’s power and perspective was probably one of the best of the non-Taylor power users.

    I didn’t notice any spelling/grammar stuff.

  5. And here I was thinking that Norton’s command hadn’t taken. Well fucking done, everyone present. One down.

    I wonder what the other two Endbringers will do now?

      • Lends credence to “Endbringers are Scion’s creations”. His subconsciousness’s projections. Or something like that.

      • I’m more interested in why Chevalier’s stopped. A failsafe mechanism to switch off any Parahuman’s ability, when it actually threatens to kill Endbringer.

        And Endbringers always changed tactics and repaid any damage done to them tenfold. I wonder how the remaining two will respond. And of course what stops the 4th Endbringer from arriving, apart from our belief that number 3 is better then 4.

          • If that were the case, though, then why did Amelia say that she couldn’t fit the Endbringers into her understanding of how passengers work?

      • Works with my theory that Scion is the last survivor (perhaps the final trigger) of the last dimension that had capes.

    • Endbringer rules of engagement:
      Permanent bursts of terror. Inflict damage as heavily as possible. Retreat often. No more pattern to appearances.

      • Give TT another ten minutes to look at an Endbringer and she’ll tell you what created them and what acts as a killswitch? Nah, not going to be that easy.

        • Huh. Reading over it again… it certainly can be the rules for both sides, right?

          Originally I meant from the perspective of the Endbringers, though.

  6. Hooyaah! Thanks for awesome birthday present Wildbow! Hell of a thing to wake up to!

    So, Endbringers are artificial creations. At least partly designed to intimidate / scare people. Quite possibly to generate more capes. With cores that defy space-time. Not Cauldron creations, probably (their interludes don’t give me that vibe). Here goes my idea of them being soldiers / protectors /capes of the power-granting race defending said race from evil, mind-raping humans who breach the interdimensional walls and enslave innocent power-granters.

    Grey boy’s maybe? I don’t know why I think so.

    But with Behemoth dead (which no one could have predicted), things are about to change greatly. Either a new Endbringer will be created (possible, but hopefully unlikely), attack pattern will shift (very likely) with the possibility of both remaining Endbringers attacking at once (in different places) or something else will happen.

    Thinkers will go nuts trying to understand why Scion did what he did.

    Was it because Cauldron capes no longer controlled PRT? Contessa’s speech to Taylor (when she implies that Cauldron is basically withdrawing from the world) may reinforce that position. In this case I don’t envy Cauldron – they’ll likely be hunted down and exterminated if this is the conclusion people come to.

    Was it because heroes did enough damage to Behemoth / reached the core? This would imply that Scion didn’t know about the cores.

    So many interesting possibilities!

      • WE know this. Characters and organisations in-story don’t. They’ll have to come up with an explanation to the reason he changed his behaviour.

          • You’re not the first to suggest it. Another possibility: if he had arrived earlier, before Behemoth had been so grievously injured, he would not have been able to prevent the Endbringer from fleeing and escaping.

    • A possible thought:

      Scion will defeat and Endbringer when the defenders whittle them down enough. Either in the sense that the defense is worthy of their victory, or that Scion is able to finally get his hands on the core easily.

      • Damn this would be a good place for another Parahumans online style interlude. Just getting everyones reactions to this.

    • I feel it is important to state that I absolutely called Behemoth going down. I just didn’t think it’d be quite THAT easy for Scion. Dude didn’t even break a sweat.

  7. Chevalier is much more badass than I thought, and Behemoth is dead. He is the armored batman of the wormverse. But the big news is the list of past attacks, and how the world could have changed from them. Though I wonder if that is the complete list since there is only 27 attacks. I assume the other attacks were on fresh water supplies, oil fields, etc. I’m amazed New York still exists if Behemoth attack it.

    • Look at the dates, and the fact that he mentions that the scroll bar isn’t even halfway down the page.

      It’s not the complete list. It’s only current up to oh-three.

      • Well damn, the world will definitely be celebrating then. One down, two to go. I think Scion could kill Leviathan but I the Smurf fooled him far too easily during the Travelers arc. She is too intelligent and crafty.

        • Actually I think this time the Smurf got played. She set it up for the capes to take massive damage with a slight chance of getting Behemoth to leave as evidence by Chevailer’s last act. He actually defeated Behemoth as per the standard rules between Endbringers and Capes: Behemoth was retreating. What she never in all her crazy, wildest plans thought was that Scion would actually kill Behemoth. Remember every other time Scion shows up he did just enough damage to get the Endbringer to retreat and he let them. This time he didn’t. Eidilon didn’t need to stop Behemoth from digging down as he did because Scion would have dug him out a third time. Scion for whatever reason listens to that homeless guy and from now on will kill all the Endbringers. I think the Smurf just had all her plans blow up in her face just like Cauldron did.

          • And plot device wises leaves WB free to add and craft more stories about attack in any future works of course.

  8. Worth the wait.

    In-universe too, I’d imagine.

    I’m pretty sure what Chevalier was actually seeing was the passengers, or at least a version of them his mind could comprehend. Still trying to figure out exactly what his own power is, because I can’t help but think that using it to make really nasty swords is almost wasting its potential.

    • I think Chevy’s power is that he can distort space and time to combine conceptually similer things into one, and then pick and choose how to express the differing traits. So he merged a fifty foot fifty ton steel cannonblade, one that was five feet of aluminum, and one that looked good. Then he could have a really light fifty foot badass looking sword.

      • What I personally don’t understand is how mixing the proprieties of separate objects is tied with the ability to see trigger events/passengers.

        He says it’s a natural extension of his power but, and maybe I am just dumb, I can’t see it.

        • He needs a perception that goes a bit sideways to the regular one, a view that is slightly multidimensional. Like…
          Well, if a sphere intersects a plane and you’re on the plane (and can see only two dimensionally, thus only the plane, not the sphere), you’ll see a circle, right? The sphere is there, but you’ll only see a circle. If the sphere moves, deeper into or out of the plane you’ll see the circle changing radius and perhaps colour if the sphere was multi-coloured.
          I get Chev’s power this way: He can layer multiple things, like a bundle of spheres in the simile, and chose which parts of the spheres will intersect the plane, thus be perceivable to us. Only with a few more dimensions.
          So for Chev to use his slightly multi-dimensional ability he needs to see how/where he stores and interacts the parts. And if can see a bit beyond our dimensions, then he can catch partial glimpses at the supposedly grossly multi-dimensional passengers.

  9. well, uh.. that was a curb-stomp battle if i ever saw one. happy to see chevalier survived. dragon rebooting in 15 minutes with a GDI NOT AGAIN~!

    strongest man on the world listening to the radio and passing away with a biiiiig smile on his face?

        • It would be hilarious as all f*ck if he triggers from the guilt. Becoming time-travelling (via natural powers or Phir Se possibly) Scion in the process.

          Hell, it would explain why Scion chose him in the first place.

              • Not necessarily considering the state he is in when they meet. Hell give in a full cleaning session and different clothes I doubt Lisette would recognize him at all. Same applies for himself. Add to that superpowers that change his body, a different aura about him, different habits and way of holding the body…

                Well easily not recognizable at all.

  10. I guess better late than never with Scion. Hopefully the survivors will have enough time to recover, grieve, celebrate ect. before all hell breaks loose again, but this is Worm so I wouldn’t give high odds of that happening.

    • I had a wild thought of why Scion doesn’t just drop everything or goes and does something small like stop a car accident before heading to an Endbringer event in the past: What if he has a power that is similar but stronger than Dinah’s?

      IF (big word) Scion can see the future in such detail it might turn out that preventing the death of a little girl or boy from a burning fire is more important to the future than the deaths of the capes or civilians by the Endbringer due to his absence.

      So maybe he has to juggle what he does and why at this event he HAD to go away from Behemoth twice before showing up.

  11. Winced so hard when I saw the mouse-ears with the mock sword-and-board, knowing what end she came to. A little at seeing Hero, too, it looks like the Triumvirate lost their better half to the Nine. Chevalier, too, lives up to the name.

    Smiled pretty fuckin’ hard when Scion tore down Behemoth’s lame, godmoding, sore-loser skeleton like it was made of pipe-cleaners.

        • Right…right…the S9…the group Scion doesn’t bother to do anything about and hasn’t been ordered to kill who now are almost guaranteed to not be attacked by any Endbringers…that group of people growing their own army to be raised by Momma Bonesaw full of superpowered beings like Siberian and Numbers Man.

          Yeah, pretty bad end lined up.

          • I wonder if the S9000 are even going to be that powerful.

            I mean, powers come from passengers and every passenger gives the person a unique power even if the effects are similar/the same to other powers.

            With these mass of clones, they can’t all have the same powers if they have powers at all. Though I assume they will since I think Bonesaw has been able to induce trigger events before.

            Or will the passengers get confused that suddenly a person genetically identical to the master/host/whatever and give powers to the clone as well? Giving the same powers to different people, like how the Yangban does it, seems to make it weaker, spreading the same passenger across every person.

            So maybe we will just have a bunch of weak clones running around, trying to zerg rush everyone. It’s still pretty bad since a lot of the stronger capes have been killed but it’s not impossible to defeat. Hell, Taylor will be an absolute beast in that kind of fight.

              • I’m going to assume that was because of crazy almost Endbringer level power stuff. Endbringers break most power rules anyway.

                And well, most of the clones had slightly different powers from their originals.

              • See? You answer your own questions. Passengers, as Endbringer level power stuff (and S9 collectively being an S-class threat), would empower each clone with a similar power. Kind of like how Cauldron’s formula gives people different powers even if they take the exact same formula as someone else.

                So one Siberian creates a horde of invincible naked little girls that tear the flesh from people’s bones and the next one projects a 50 foot tall naked woman that can only feel shame.

          • I wonder if Jack’s rule about epidemics and other not-hands-on murder is about keeping the suffering they inflict down to a sufficiently dull roar that Scion can’t pick it out of the noise?

    • This is response to Psycho Gecko’s post at 1:36.
      I love such an idea. That could make the 9 more interesting. Their clones will probably have similar but different powers. Now I’m trying to picture alt 9 clones abilities. An alt Jack Slash could push his cutting ability through his body making him more of brute, and limiting his range for example.

    • I actually cried a little bit when I realized who that was. Funny that’s the first thing to actually make me cry in this story.

      Bonesaw needs to die. And go to hell. And not one of the ones she’d enjoy or end up running either. One of the hells that she’s actually hate being in.

    • Oh god I didn’t even realize that was Murder Rat until now! I just…fuck Bonesaw. No one needs to die more in this story than her and Emma. Painful, awful, horrible, drawn out, torturous deaths. Fuck Bonesaw.

    • This interlude actually made me a little more okay with what happened to Mouse Protector. She was kind of a jerk. I mean, not “actually deserves to be turned into a Bonesaw-mashup with someone she hates” jerk, but still kind of a jerk.

      • I didn’t really get that impression. But of a joker and an extrovert but she didn’t seem to be nasty or mean at any point. Worst you could say is she was a bit oblivious to other people’s feelings. Which is exceedingly rare in teenage girls. 😛

  12. I almost can’t believe that something went right for once. Of course, this could also mean that “the most powerful man in the world” was right all along, and Scion wasn’t giving it his all. I’d like to think that the heroes weakening Behemoth to this extent made it possible, though.

    • The fact that Scion was following his orders literally and only fought to drove them off is worrying. That means bad things could happen if someone gets to the most powerful “woman” in the world. I wonder how Cauldron will take this. One of the reasons they cite for their actions is it’s all to beat the Endbringers and all their efforts were for naught now.

      • Moreover, they could be interpreted as counter-productive even, given that as soon as they stopped being in command, Scion started to kill.

      • If only there was a conspiratorial underground group capable of monitoring where Scion goes all the time and following him back to his handler, finding where she lives, and using a body snatcher or some other means of coercion.

        “Hello, this is Doctor Mother. You’re to follow her orders from now on, Scion.”

        • Trying to coerce somebody who can only contact a physical god in person and who would therefore have to be near said god to give him any orders will work great, right up until her first order is “break me out of here and keep me safe from these people”.

          And there’s nothing Cauldron can do to stop it, unless Scion (with all his other abilities) is incapable of telling when somebody is being possessed by a cape. Given the amount of damage he could do if the answer is “yes, and he doesn’t like people trying to bullshit him,” testing that isn’t really a good risk to take.

          • And Batman can beat up anyone in his immediate presence. So obviously he’d have no problem taking the mask off and letting the Joker and all his other enemies realize that Alfred, Lucius, and any close girlfriends to Bruce Wayne CAN’T beat them in a fight.

            • Aside from the fact that if Batman did that, he’d obviously already have a plan that would let him do it safely…

              Batman doesn’t have godlike power.

              Scion does.

              There’s a pretty big difference in personal capabilities there.

              • Superman doesn’t make his identity public because at the end of the day, he actually wants to be Clark Kent and is smart enough to know that if the connection between them was made public then everyone would treat Clark Kent like he was Superman.

                Also, you can give Superman orders from a distance while using hostages to control him. Scion has to be given orders in person, by the person that you’re trying to use to control him.

                If you can put together something that can keep Scion from wrecking all your shit and flying away with your erstwhile hostage, both of them none the worse for wear, then you can probably put together something that renders him irrelevant and thus don’t need to control him in the first place.

              • Superman is actually weaker than Scion(at least the reasonable Superman, if you mean the ones who are omnipotent then GTFO) and he has both a very clear weakness and unlike Scion he actually thinks so instead of just having to save the person right in front of him Superman would have to be sure to steer clear of any kryptonite(or magic) while searching for all the hostages AND following along whatever the guy blackmailing him wants to avoid them being killed.

                Way better odds Scion has, still not enough to be sure but not something to be attempted except as last resort.

        • I’m pretty sure that Cauldron can’t track Scion. It was kinda the point – no recording device worked in his presence (couldn’t detect him) and he was immune to powers / precog / scrying.

          Otherwise Simurgh would have mindraped the Most Powerful Man in the World already.

          Plus, I’m fairly sure he’ll be able to tell if someone’s possessed.

          • If only we had a distant piece of machinery capable of tracking things on the Earth’s surface visually…ah well, not like they have satellites in the Wormverse, right?

            • I bet people are fucking shit scared of screwing around with even basic spaceflight with the Smurf lounging around up there.

              • Their TV and internet must truly suck in the Wormverse then. No GPS either. Military logistics wouldn’t work as well. No satellite weather tracking.

              • There are satellite phones, and Dragon has satellites, so they have some capability. I don’t think the presence of Leviathan has stopped international shipping, in comparison: they keep on the low-down when they’re “hibernating” (Simurgh’s interference notwithstanding).

            • Wait I thought that was partly how they were tracking him? A blend of witnesses and long range sight. Granted due to his powers it doesn’t work all the time but that was how they knew(or better thought they knew) he was on the other side of the world and not going anywhere closer.

              • Err… I meant in terms of simple things like a spying glass or such and more importantly heroes capable of somewhat keeping up with Scion in either actual travel speed or just with REALLY good eyes. Maybe a combination of the two.

                That along with more normal witnesses allows one to somewhat keep track of him, not enough due to his powers but at least most of the time they know roughly where he is and last seen heading.

            • Those don’t work either. Here is how it is described:

              “They can’t follow him with cameras or satellite, I heard. Have to rely on eye witnesses and global communication to track him.”

              • I think we had that confirmed either in the Marquis Interlude or the Dragon Interlude, actually. Dragon uses one to transmit data between wherever her core programming is housed and her suits.

                Also, the first of those two Interludes confirms that the Simurgh can and does fuck with satellites when she feels like it.

              • In other words, the times where satellites would be the most critical you can’t actually trust them…

            • Sure, but you can’t really tell what he’s doing. He doesn’t act with a plan, just stopping crisis after crisis. He heads to a city? What’s to say he isn’t stopping robbers and healing cancer patients? He likely was anyways.

        • If they could have done that safely, they would have done so to Norton ages ago. He is a homeless person, beneath notice. Lisette, by contrast, is presumably well-off enough that her disappearance will be noticed by friends, family, coworkers. The fact that Norton was around long enough to give Scion the kill-order means that either Cauldron couldn’t find him (arguable, but unlikely IMO) or they discarded the “control Scion” plan.

      • Good thing Scion can’t be tracked. Technology doesn’t work and I don’t think precognition or similar powers operate either.

  13. Yes, yes, “Congratulations”…for the first time ever, the heroes actually did something to make an Endbringer run away.

    Well, that’s the extent of their contribution. Good thing Scion is around to actually defeat the things. Now the world can survive long enough for the Slaughterhouse 9 to wipe out all life. Yep. All civilization gone. Scattered pockets of humanity. And the Slaughterhouse 9 army running around, one bigass group ruling the wasteland.

    Today was not a good day for the future of the planet.

      • Yeah, but I think Behemoth may have had an “OH SHIT” moment when Taylor’s team started throwing death shurikens around and Chevalier started picking at his core. I wonder if Foil’s power would stop functioning as soon as it hit that core…

        • Maybe. But how long would it take for him to be able to do anything if reduced to just the core? Because if the core can’t defend itself and takes a while to regenerate, stick it in a box and either throw it into space, or call up Faultlines crew, have them make a portal and dump him in another dimension that is just a room with a moose.

        • Agreed. Immediately after Chev found his weak spot the coward turned tail. I’m wondering if all the other times the heroes have forced a retreat they accidentally came close to the cores as well. The death shurikens were awesome by the way. I hope that Foil would be able to keep functioning even at the core but since it seems to fuck with reality even more than normal who knows. She does seem to be the only one who has actually been able to cut through the deepest layers of an Endbringer so there is a chance I suppose. Though a snowball in hell probably has a better shot of it unfortunately.

  14. Before I read the comments:

    That was amazing.

    That was incredible.

    Chevalier is amazing. Love the guy. Hope he’s alive. Also Defiant. Defiant is exactly everything that is best about Colin, distilled to its essential core.

    And hells yes, it’s amazing that Behemoth is dead.

    More later.

  15. Yay victory, but now they have to deal with the aftermath. So many heroes died. The heroes are even more outnumbered, and will be shorthanded in many cities. I wonder if Taylor will get a pardon after her role in this fight, and whether she will move to Chicago to becomes the Wards leader.

      • I doubt they are going to get off scot free. The head of the american heroes was attacked during a fight against the Endbringer, and the US/the rest of the world won’t look too kindly on that. They also lost over half of their force. They can claim traitor all they want, but there will be repercussions. Thought I don’t know what those will be.

        • But this is the battle where an Endbringer was slain. By Scion, sure, but they’ll count it. They’ll probably say that the capes pulled off a daring plan that obliterated so much of Behemoth’s body mass that Scion was able to deliver the killshot this time. A daring plan made possible by the cooperation of the Yangban, who were told that would be their way to get back into the good graces of the Western capes.

          • Despite their traitorous actions everyone else will say. I agree that they will probably get away with alot, since no one wants a war. China will send out a scapegoat or write many members of them off as traitors. The real worry will be what Tattletale was able to figure out and if Cody and whats her name spill the beans on their other actions.

          • And they’ll say that or something like it because it was at least arguably true. Everyone involved has a lot of grist for the propaganda machine to grind if they choose to do so.

            I could see the Yangban being persona non grata in a lot of places with the rumours that would surely be flying around though. A knife in the back to an ally during a battle looks very, very bad.

  16. This one is for you Regent. Behemot is gone and the heroes are reduced to a fraction of a fraction. Next attack The simurg and Leaviatan together, place your bets.

  17. You kow what I’m looking forward to? Finding out what Tattletale figured out by watching Scion. Seriously, no other parahuman has been shown to have anything close to his level of power. Is he an artificial construct like the Endbringers? Was he supposed to be the first Endbringer and something went wrong with his ‘programming’? It seems likely that he was ‘patient zero’ for powers, so where did he get them? It seems likely to me that he and the Endbringers must have had a similar source. Was the goal of the Endbringers to cause mass trigger events, and Scions purpose was to give humanity enough hope so that they keep fighting?

    I really do not trust that guy.

    • Explorerbean said it up above, this might prove he was only following his orders literally to drive off the Endbringers and not kill them. He might as well be a robot if that is true.

      • Robot seems an apt description, but if I might be permitted to stretch the metaphor a bit, you have to wonder about the motives of whoever, or whatever, built him. The only creatures with power levels that even approach his are the Endbringers, and we know that they are artificial contsructs.

        The Endbringers seem like they were built to seem more easily defeated than they actually are. Scion could actually be part of that deception.

        • Well he WAS the first being with powers to appear, and parahumans started triggering in large numbers soon after. I theorize that once Earth A had a portal opened to it, parahumans started triggering there but they are rare in that universe. The question is why are they rare there? The main difference is Scion. We truly don’t know anything about Scion.

          • If I remember correctly, Aleph has its own Scion, coming forth at the same time as Bet.
            And in Gimel a sad looking naked golden man drifts a few dozen metres above the surface, unseen by anyone.

            • I don’t think so. Trickster comments how all of their capes are pretty weak compare to those from Earth Bet. That wouldn’t be true if they had their own Scion. Heck, Ballistic, who has a fairly powerful ability but nothing groundbreaking, expects to be top-dog there.

            • Aleph and Bet diverged thirty years ago, when Scion appeared on Bet but not on Aleph. I think Aleph capes only appeared after Haywire poked a hole between the worlds. Anyone remember anything to confirm/deny, maybe from Migration or some of the early chapters that mentioned Haywire?

              • I just looked it up. Funnily enough, in the parahumans online interlude was a datadump under the name of Robby. And in an earlier interlude Haywire was mentioned to have opened a portal to Aleph, not the other way around.
                Which makes me think, the whole Aleph/Bet naming was a diplomatic deal to further assuage fears by Bet of an invasion by Aleph. So I retract my earlier comment, and concede the parahumans “infecting” Aleph with powers, in a trickle-down effect.

              • It was said that Scion can’t by scried or precoged. So I wonder if Lisa won’t be able to learn anything by looking at him. I also wonder if Grue could copy anything off of him.

              • This was likely the first chance ever she had to actually get a glimpse at him. As for gleaning information… I can see it going either ways. Perhaps none, some or a lot.

              • It’s still a thinker power. That might have some bearing on whether it glitches when used on him.

      • I would not reccomend it.

        Gasoline tastes awful, leaves your tongue and throat sandpapered, and gives you the mother of stomachaches.

        Not that I’ve tried to drink it for a bet in order to score a date or anything, mind you.

  18. So…my guess is that Simurgh wanted Behemoth to escape before Scion showed up, because she would know ahead of time that he was aiming to kill. So she set up Cody and the Travelers. Accord gets pissed, Cody gets shanghaied to Shanghai, joins up with the Yangban, cuts down Chevalier, wounds Tattletale, and kills Accord. Chevalier wakes up late in the battle to receive Tattletale’s know-how about the core while she’s conveniently incapable of shouting it out to everyone or saying it into an armband so people would know sooner.

    After they get out of bed, Tattletale helps Chevalier dress and he walks out to confront Behemoth and show that he’s capable of injuring the core. This scares off Behemoth before Scion shows up.

    Problem was, Scion got there too fast for Simurgh’s liking.

    • Wrong on one point, I think, but it’s a damn crucial one: Cody was almost certainly also supposed to kill Tattletale.

      Knowing that, now look at how things would have gone with her dead.

      It would have been a very different battle, and Behemoth would have both won and escaped before Scion got there.

      • No, Behemoth would have been destroying the crap out of the hospital, then probably gone after Phir Se (whatever his name is) and been caught by Scion. The only way he’d leave before all that is if his core was threatened like that.

        • IIRC, the only reason anyone else knew about Phir Se was because Tattletale was still alive to tell Weaver roughly where Behemoth was heading.

          If Cody had killed her, she couldn’t have done that, and Behemoth would have been able to keep heading towards his real target with no-one else the wiser.

          Not to mention that Phir Se’s beam would probably have ended up being wasted, instead of slagging most of Behemoth’s candy coating.

          And then in this chapter, without Tattletale there you don’t have Chevalier coming out to fight and you don’t have him exposing the core, so Behemoth can probably finish killing everyone and leave before Scion gets there. Although this chapter wouldn’t happen in the first place, because everybody would probably have died when Phir Se fired his lazor. Except for Behemoth, who would (again) have been well on his way towards the mantle by the time Scion arrived.

          • If Tattletale wasn’t there for this chapter:

            Chevalier gets out of bed, goes to fight Behemoth. Dies. Heroes and Behemoth fight. Fighting takes a lot longer than Chevalier attacking Behemoth’s core. Heroes die. Behemoth attacks hospital. Hospital dies. Behemoth starts looking for Phir Se. No matter how much he gets distracted along the way, Scion shows up. Behemoth dies.

            • Not this chapter, Taylor only knew about Phir Se because of Tattletale so entirely possible it would either miss/be useless or more likely Behemoth wouldn’t be distracted and so turned all that power against the city annihilating everything so he simply goes away way before Scion arrives.

              At least I think that is what he is saying.

              • Precisely.

                With Tattletale dead, this chapter never happens, because Behemoth wins and leaves back in 24.3 or 24.4 instead.

              • So Behemoth gets to Phir Se, who has had less time to charge up, and maybe actually hits Behemoth. Does less damage. Or Behemoth takes it and effectively pulls another move like the big fissures where the city is wrecked all over the place, lots of people die, capes die, but the fight isn’t over.

                If the Endbringers left so quickly, then why are entire countries wrecked by what an Endbringer did when it showed up to fight?

              • Err… Phir Se was already charged up for a while. I am talking about Behemoth using all that energy that was in story said to be capable of blowing up India and well… Blowing up India.

                At the very least the damage would be so big to take the top in terms of most damage an Endbringer ever did.

              • Because if the defense is botched, they can wreck countries pretty quickly.

                Or if Scion doesn’t show up and the heroes can’t do enough damage before the Endbringer gets what it wants and leaves.

                And in this instance, Behemoth could probably have flattened New Delhi within minutes at most if he’d been able to turn Phir Se’s lazor against it, while killing every cape in the blast radius.

              • A moving Behemoth not tripped and with a limb missing might only get hit on a single limb, or halfway, or something.

                And the time it takes to destroy an entire country is generally significant, especially since Behemoth hadn’t moved on from New Delhi this entire fight despite all the damage he did. This entire fight, the whole length of it, was in one city. Countries usually have more than one city in them.

              • Psycho Gecko go to sleep you need it.

                But I will try to simplify as much as possible.

                Narration states there is enough energy there to blow up India*.

                Narration implies Behemoth if not distracted could channel it.

                Conclusion: Behemoth, if not distracted, blows up India.

                Before you argue anything about details do you understand this trail of thought?

                Probably an exaggeration but most certainly enough to blow up a sizeable part of it and have horrible consequences for the remaining

              • Narration is Taylor’s voice, so of course she knows everything there is to know abojt energy weapons creaged by temporal portal.

                Narration also states that Behemoth didn’t harness the energy even when he was hit with it.

              • Fine if you think you know better than the main character AND the character who prepared the attack both which think it is entirely possible Behemoth could do it then there is nothing I can say to change that sort of conviction.

              • Your main character, for all her intelligence, is a teenage girl.

                At the very least, I know what it’s like to have a penis. So yeah, there are things I know better than the main character, who has been wrong in the past.

              • *Talks about the /guy/ who did the attack in the first place presumably knowing more than us and is answered with machist answer based on the main character*
                Don’t even know why I am bothering to reply.

            • We’re not sure Scion could of killed him without the damage the capes had done before or not. We won’t know till he goes after the other 2.

            • Your argument rests on the assumption that Scion could still have killed Behemoth successfully without all it’s ablative-armour-flesh having been burned off, it having been mostly de-limbed, and it having had it’s core exposed and partially compromised. Otherwise, Behemoth wrecks the hospital, kills Phir Sē and blows up New Dehli and it’s environs, killing vastly more heroes than happened in the real timeline, and then gets away merely wounded.

              (Even if Scion does kill him him, the Protecotorate is still destroyed, as a side note.)

              You’re of course welcome to that assumption, but you have no way to prove it, and quite frankly it seems a stretch that runs contrary to the themes of Worm as a story.

      • As I said back in that Interlude, Cody is such a fuck-up that even the Simurgh isn’t immune from his ability to fuck up everything.

          • I’m pretty sure Tattletale being alive and able to rattle off crucial bits of information about Behemoth’s plan for this fight, the nature and motives of the Endbringers, and where the Simurgh keeps her own chocolatey center probably wasn’t something going according to the Smurf’s plan.

            • If Tattletale doesn’t reveal it, then Behemoth guaranteed gets killed. If she reveals it, he maybe gets away.

              Our author has had somewhat of a chess analogy in mind.

              • Aside from the points I’ve made elsewhere, I’d like to repeat this: Tattletale told people where the Simurgh’s weak point was, so they could attack it for massive damage.

                No way in hell is that part of the Simurgh’s plan.

              • And I’m sure that in chess, no master player ever sacrifices a powerful piece to pull off a gambit that defeats their opponent.

              • Yeah as much as I would love to agree with you and how it really makes sense to me I would be so sure about that… This is the Simurgh we are talking about, I am pretty sure she knows how to somehow turn it into her advantage to the point we don’t even know what she plans anymore.

              • Sacrificing a piece needlessly, though, is just stupid, and there was no need to sacrifice Behemoth here.

                And nothing prevents the Simurgh from still finding a way to turn this to her advantage, but that’s just because she has plans for every letter of every alphabet. Being able to immediately move to Plan B, Plan Theta or Plan Daled doesn’t change that Plan A didn’t quite work out.

              • “Sacrificing a piece needlessly, though, is just stupid, and there was no need to sacrifice Behemoth here.”

                The point behind the core was to force Behemoth to retreat before Scion could kill him because his core was actually threatened. Behemoth was never meant to be sacrificed. The core knowledge was the sacrifice. And do I need to point out the glaring flaw in the above quote from you?

                Ok, I will.

                As far as anyone knew, Simurgh bringing in otherdimensional monsters and buildings to chuck at heroes and civilians was needless and stupid and there was no need to do it. That’s the point of all these machinations. They don’t look like much at the time, but luckily time keeps on moving and these effects ripple through to the future to cause all kinds of things to occur.

                You sound like someone who forgot Simurgh is notorious for doing things that don’t look so bad at the time and turn into Mannequin later on.

              • There’s a difference between that and simultaneously giving up the game piece most effective at removing the other side’s best pieces, giving the other side a reason for hope when you’ve had them demoralized and off-balance for years now, and having somebody reveal how best to kill you.

                Unless this sets up a chain of events that leads directly to Scion’s death, there is no possible way for it to be a good thing for Team Simurgh. Her gains in this battle would be in spite of the above items, not because of them.

          • Actually Scion killing Behemoth didn’t go to plan. Remember the Smurf screwed with Cody’s head long before Scion got his orders to start killing Endbringers. Matter of fact that order didn’t happen until after Leviathan hit Brockton Bay, so the Smurf couldn’t have put any more mind screwed people into play even if she knew about that order (which seems unlikely since Scion can’t be tracked even by her or she would have showed up in that city of the homeless guy to take him out.)

            Nope the Smurf got caught flat footed this time and Scion now will kill her if she appears instead of just beating her down. All her carefully crafted plans based on Scion NOT killing Endbringers just got dumped in the toilet. Same as every other power group that used the Endbringers as an excuse *cough, Cauldron, cough*.

              • Or it could be that things went just a little wrong with her plans. Like the damage slowed BEHEMOTH down just enough he couldn’t wrap up before Scion got done with all the disasters she’d set up to keep him busy. She may have been planning on him leaving before Scion ever showed up. But loosing a leg, getting skeletonized, and then loosing an arm? BEHEMOTH was slowed up just enough to keep him from making his escape.

                The Smurf may the a powerful precog and telepath, but she isn’t infalliable. Just like Tattletale she can be mistaken. Of course we have no way of knowing at this point if this is or is not part of a plan.

    • Tinfoil Hat Mode:-

      1. Zion missed Behemoth’s core by a mere millimetre and when it’s main structure fell apart, the core made contact with the foot Rachael & Foil cut off. Four months from now, Behemoth grows back to normal and the End of the world gets back on schedule.

      2. Behemoth really is dead but his powers are divided and passed on to the remaining 2 Endbringers. Leviathan can now bypass the Manton Effect and manipulate the water held within human bodies and the Smurf receives the radiation & killing aura.

      • Hum… The first wouldn’t really fit in here I would say. The second is possible if Scion is present in all fights from now on…

      • 1a. core remainder lands by bitch and is eaten by one of her dogs. dog becomes infested and turns into a dog-behemoth hybrid. bitch, not knowing what’s going on, viciously retrains the suddenly problematic dog and eventually has a pseudo-endbringer trained to hurt, hold, maim, and kill at her command.

    • That seems silly and also quite stupid, given that we know that several key points in the fight which led to it progressing the way it has were the result of actions undertaken by individuals who are likely clear of Simurgh’s influence due to extensive interaction with precognitives.

      • I’m not the one relying on mere human precogs to be capable of outdoing an Eldritch Abomination created to be the most powerful precog and telepath in the entire world without any evidence that they are capable of doing so other than the fact that human thinkers can sometimes mess up other human thinkers in a story where a Thinker named Tattletale and a Thinker named Skitter worked together for a long time in dangerous situations without ever screwing up each other’s powers.

    • I like the theory, except I think Scion is immune to Simurgh’s power, so she couldn’t have accounted for him going for the kill.

      • I think she can’t accurately predict him, but this doesn’t mean she won’t be able to guess he’ll come and plan for it. These plans wouldn’t incorporate any direct prediction of him, but might be going in the direction of “Person A, B & C will act this way. Now, how will they act if Scion is there? (Power supplies answer) Interesting…”

    • Everyone seems to assume that the events as unfolded went against Simurgh’s plan. Given the lack of actual teamwork between the Endbringers what if it was part of her plan?

      The death of Behemoth has given everyone (false?) hope that this whole thing can be won. What are the negative consequences?

      For the first time in many years people in power will start to plan for a world after the Endbringers are defeated. This will affect the truce.

      Nobody will want to sacrifice all their assets in the last Endbringer battle only to have to little left once they are defeated and everyone starts turning on each other. Leaders who would have put everything on the line will start holding back reserves for the inevitable conflict and general jockeying for power following the defeat of the last s-class threat.

      Muggles who have so far tolerated capes and the damage their fights cause might reconsider keeping them around afterwards and make plans to prevent them from going out of control after everything is said and done.

      In short, by sacrificing Behemoth Simurgh might very well have dealt a huge blow to the already strained cooperation to defeat the Endbringers. If the endgame is at hand the sacrifice might be worth the short term advantages overt the next few years.

      Just throwing the idea out there.

      • It’s simple timing as to why the Smurf had her plans shot to hell. The Smurf has not been seen since Scion got his marching orders to start killing Endbringers and she has no way to know ahead of time when he would start killing them. She might have known all along that Scion could kill them, however that doesn’t tell you when he would start and she has to put her pieces into place long before they are needed ie Cody. Remember she messed with Cody’s head years before Accord sold him and that happend prior to the Leviathan event where Scion showed up and didn’t kill that Endbringer. Since Scion didn’t kill Leviathan and she didn’t appear between then and Behemoth she didn’t have anyone mind screwed in place that could mess up Scion killing Endbringers. This move caught everyone, including the Smurf, by surprise and it completely changes the ball game.

      • Sorry, but I think it will be quite the opposite.

        The war on the Endbringers has gone from an impossible cause to a war that could be won.

        Yes, sacrifices would be necessary, and many would die. But if the Hero Killer could die, then the others could as well.

        The endbringers have been roaming around for years, and finally, one of them has been slain! Almost every cape in the world will want to be a part of that.

    • Cody didn’t kill Tattletale because the ringing in his head abruptly stopped. Meanwhile, Scion is flying about dealing with who knows what. Anyone else think he could have had a hand in saving Tattletale’s skin? Also, I agree with the Sandman. If Tattletale had died, the heroes would be screwed.

  19. Great chapter, but damn is it depressing.

    Not the outcome, mind you. At long last, an Endbringer has been defeated – probably, unless he was just a projection like Siberian. But most likely, defeated.

    However, the cost. So many lives lost, with the heroes pulling out all the stops. Chevalier’s last sacrifice at the end. And all for nothing. Behemoth just shrugs it off.

    And then Scion shows up, and defeats Behemoth like he was nothing. A great outcome, but it’s sad to think of all the lives just now wasted in the battle.

    • Definite Crowning moment of sadness. Despite all of their blood and sacrifice, New Delhi was still destroyed and millions were killed. One can hope that their actions weakened him enough for Scion to kill him. I just know the PRT will be saying that anyway for morale purposes.

      • I don’t think they weakened him meaningfully.

        But they bought time. If they hadn’t fought so hard, Behemoth would have left before Scion/Zion arrived.

        • Nah. I’m pretty certain that Scion was only going to show if there was a genuine opening to kill Behemoth, and he only saw that because the heroes managed to fuck him up so bad.

          • No, Scion was going to show up and kill Behemoth regardless. Remember the Kevin Norton interlude, where Scion was told to *kill* the Endbringers next time he meets them?

            The sad part is that the heroes, despite all their efforts and even unheard of international cooperation did nothing. Behemoth’s core is far stronger and more durable than the exterior. So Taylor and Phir Se’s plan was pointless. They did no real damage.

            Thus, Scion fought an essentially fully healthy Behemoth. And won without effort. That’s what is depressing.

            • The heroes didn’t do nothing. They kept Behemoth in New Delhi long enough for Zion to arrive.

              Plus they saved a bunch of civilians. That matters rather a lot.

            • They held Behemoth off long enough for Scion to arrive. If they didn’t, Behemoth would have quickly done his kill millions of people business and left.

            • The fact he was told to kill doesn’t mean he could have done it from full strength.

              And I wouldn’t be so sure they did no real damage. The fleshy outside, having legs, having arms, all help him move and use his powers. Sure, destroying them is far easier than killing him, but if they hadn’t been destroyed he could probably have *outrun* Scion by diving underground.

              If Scion can kill them easily, without aide, in their element, he’d have taken out Behemoth before he ever had a chance to surface; the moment he was told to kill.

    • Unless Scion is wiser than he looks.

      Don’t look at it as Scion shows up and defeats Behemoth like he was nothing.

      Look at it as Scion shows up after the heroes have wheedled it down to about twenty percent of what it was AND exposed crucial weaknesses that Scion could target most effectively and efficiently. Once he stopped with the pro-wrestling moves, that is.

      After all, this was the baddest anyone had ever seen any of the Endbringers, let alone the ‘Hero-Killer’ beaten down…

      • It is entirely possible that he did know about the attack(either since the beginning or at least earlier than his arrival implies) and considered that waiting gave the highest probability to ultimately kill Behemoth.

        Or maybe he hit the Simurgh on the way so that she wouldn’t interfere…

      • What if Scion didn’t know about the cores? He would have needed to brute-force the issue, which seems entirely possible to him, but the insight to cores gave him a shortcut?
        Alternatively, maybe only attacking the core directly, exposed of all “flesh” let the attack be effective.

  20. Huh. Was not expecting that outcome. Wonder what we’re missing.

    Another person with the ability to sense power being freaked out by Skitter. Interesting.
    Grue managed to cancel Behemoth’s final spite. Awesome.

    • Also, contact with the core seemed to short out Chevie’s power. That could support the “Endbringers are passengers”/”Enbringers are baby passengers” theory. If that is the case, then you have to wonder what effect one of them dying will have on the Passengers’ interactions with the world

    • I don’t know that he was freaked out precisely, but definitely impressed. Also, his description of how he could only see the threads when she was sending out *conscious* instructions gave me a theory about how she coordinates fights so well. A great deal of our mental activity is subconscious. If chevalier could only see the threads when something conscious is happening, how much was going on that he couldn’t see and that even Taylor herself isn’t fully aware of. She can only control and consciously read bugs and other simple animals; could her subconscious mind be capable of reading more complex animals, including people? If so, it could account for her apparently spontaneous ability to coordinate just about anyone on the fly and pick out the weaknesses of her enemies. It may even incline people to follow her instructions on the one hand, and prepare those enemies to be defeated on the other.

      Just a thought.

  21. Hey Cauldron! Sit yo ass down and watch for a fuckin’ second, you might learn something. THIS is how you fight giants monsters, go play yo crack-ass boo-shit Joseph Mengele games on someone else’s behalf, either that or go get a damn job!

    Sooooo… I’m thinkin’ Weaver’s going to be moving up in the world. Just a pivotal figure in the fight that destroyed Behemoth, no biggie.

    • Could this be the start of a cauldron civil war? They used the Endbringers to justify alot to themselves, despite the fact that they did things before they showed up. Scion just proved it was all bullshit and their actions were meaningless except to create monsters like the 9 and Echidna. Legend at least might decide to turn coat. Contessa can’t catch him, though the number man with a sniper rifle could be a problem.

      • Or Cauldron tries to a preemptive strike. They are not stupid, they know that Legend is not loyal to the “cause” and that Behemoth’s death may push Legend to completely sever his ties with Cauldron. Of course, since, no matter how badass, I can see lots of logistical problems in Number man or Contessa attempting to take down Legend, it would be up to Eidolon. Is Eidolon really that bad? (Lots of people in and out of universe seem to think yes.)

          • Hum… As a nickname ‘Nobody’ would refer to what, someone like a ghost? Maybe just a mind that somehow survives without a body just using whatever it wants as physical link…?

            Why would he/she/it like Eidolon anyway?

  22. For some reason, I now think Scion is an unadulterated Passenger that has entered the Earth Bet universe — the only unadulterated Passenger to do so.

    • Maybe it’s an invasion. The Endbringers cause a bunch of trigger events, more passengers show up, take over.

  23. Oh god that was… Wow. Just wow.

    First you give an interesting backstory to Chevalier(also explaining better how he lost the fight) which follows to him still alive in the present(yes he deserves it damn it) then he rises and Tt gives him information so that he can maybe actually kill Behemoth(in a walk that just screams badass). The fight was a thing of beauty, kept me on the edge of my seat the entire time, his ‘last’ moments were awesome. But wait Scion arrives and apparently heals the people there? Yes goddamn it, anyone who is still fighting close by that point deserves it.

    And yet, it is not over. You follow up by Scion actually fucking killing Behemoth in full view of /everyone/. That was simply amazing to that point that I can’t properly say how I felt. Honestly this has gotta to be the best interlude you did.

      • This arc in general has been of excellent quality. Aside from one or two bits, almost every chapter has been one of my favourites, or otherwise kept me on the edge of my seat through the rest of the week.

      • I second Chrrno, and wanted to add that this is the best interlude ever in no small part because of the masterful way you built up to this moment through the series as a whole. I’m guessing the vast majority of readers (including me) thought there was basically zero chance that Behemoth was going down. It’s a moment of triumph that noone saw coming. And not through any sort of author cheatery either – that takes serious skill.

        Mad props to you, Wildbow!

    • Oh and Eidolon protecting people there was very nice.

      I kinda feel sorry for the Wormverse’s people though since the other ball will drop at some point. Hopefully they will at least be able to enjoy this victory and maybe plenty of useful side-effects(retaliation against Cauldron maybe) for a while.

      • Exactly! I was pleased with Behemoth’s death, of course, but it just gives me this sick feeling in my stomach. I feel like a major theme of Worm is “it got worse”. But here, they actually straight up won. Yes, there were huge losses but they actually won.
        The question now is how is this ultimately the worst thing ever and sadness and darkness forever.

  24. The other thing about this interlude: now we see why Chevalier lost the fight with Cody. Chevalier’s interdimensional sight combined with the Yangban’s power-share thing meant that he was fighting practically blind. And then he got distracted.

    • Yeah.

      Thing is, I had this in mind from before I started the arc. I -was- rushed in writing interlude 23, but the key elements were there, and the framework to set this up were among them (was it worth it? I don’t know) – so I was taking the criticism that came with it not being my best chapter with the idea that I’d try and resolve some of it here, when another chapter basically bridges the gap.

      So yeah. I do know I need to rewrite that chapter, regardless.

      • I think leaving the Cody interude as it is wopuld be better.

        For all the fight with Chevalier I was all “aaah, so that’s why that happened”.

        It’s really cool, and while you do noy usually wait that long to explain “weird” points in story I think it’s worth it considering the whole work: it adds yet another dimension to the chapter, other than the tension buildup and release and the power discovery via shadows.

        • Maybe, but it’s not necessary, there could be just some little foreshadowing with Cody noticing that Chevalier looks uncomfortable or slightly sick while near the Yangban.

        • I second En. Some delay berween an oddness and it’s explanation adds potency, so long as you do come back and explain it – which you do. Abrams could take a few tips from you in that regard. -_-

      • It wasn’t well-explained, but it doesn’t need to be, necessarily. All that really ought to be changed is to do more to give the impression that something is wrong in the fight, that Chev isn’t responding quite right for some reason. Then we can wonder what the heck was wrong for a while (rather than wondering if it was just poorly thought out and inconsistent) until you get around to explaining it.

  25. “Chevalier pulled his sword from the ground, swayed, and very fell over.”

    Should be:

    “Chevalier pulled his sword from the ground, swayed, and very nearly fell over.”

  26. I guess that giant Phir Se lightbeam did catch Scion’s attention!

    Quick, someone build a Scion Signal!

  27. Interesting. A much more interesting take on Chevalier’s power – which, as Cody put it, really does look like a just a guy with a sword and armor. Seeing the universe from different angles, and changing parts of the world by changing perspective. Not dull in the least.

    Mouse Protector ended up a toy for Bonesaw. It… wasn’t pretty. Check the recruitment attempt of Panacea if you really want to relive that. Mouse Protector + Ravager = Murder Rat.

    Scion putting down Behemoth is a game-changer… if he stays put down. No guarantee that another Behemoth doesn’t show up – something made them, made them to be scary. So they’re not incomprehensibly alien beings – their maker knows us well enough to know how to terrify humans. To WANT to do so. Why? To induce capes? To break the world? Whatever it is, it’s knowable – and the knowledge of what they want may lead to who – and that might lead to an ending.

    Chevalier looks like a good head for the Protectorate. Hopefully, he’s not going to die of cancer shortly.

    The fact that the list of Endbringer attacks includes NYC – one of the very few cities in Worm that we know from on-screen events is still up and thriving – is one of the most heartening parts of the chapter.

    Adamant’s presence in the tags is interesting, particularly since Brockton Bay didn’t show. Morgan Keene’s cape identity? We certainly haven’t seen the last of him.

    I think I recognize Rime in the first Ward gathering – the one with ice, and an old woman burned by magma (her trigger – her need for ice?). Couldn’t recognize Defiant, though Chevalier’s thoughts about how he and Hannah and Colin had needed a second chance implies he was there. The vigilante looking serious boy?

    Personally, moving the hypothesis that the Endbringers are Scion’s id projections down, since there’s a purpose to them… and moving up the hypothesis that they’re this-universe’s antibodies, reacting to the extra-universal intrusion that capes are. Possibly channeled through some individual, who’s drawing on the powers of this universe as opposed to some other one, a cape (perhaps subtly) different from every other cape. Scion? Doctor Mother? Someone not yet seen? Personally think of Scion as the last survivor of another universe – which would explain his traumatized state. Doctor Mother fits on many levels… but not the apparent evacuation plan. Unless that’s a plan to remove the capes – the infection – to another universe and then leave them there?

    “he conceded to pick up the phone” is awkward. ‘gave in and picked up’, maybe?

    • No Grue in the tags? The darkness from the helicopter sure looks like him – which leaves the called out actions in the last defense as Tattletale, Chevalier, Weaver/her Wards, Eidolon, and Grue.

    • Dragon down… she can pass it off as a robot suit, maybe. Isn’t she supposed to never leave her apartment? Still, major potential issues. Especially if Saint has been waiting for a reboot.

    • Betting that next few Endbringer attacks are going to be very focused on finding the core – Tattletale has an idea for Simurgh already – on the theory that Chevalier did something, and then Scion showed up. Coincidence? Maybe. But any competent AAR is going to flag that as a possible necessary condition for Scion to pull off a kill.

    • Chevalier’s space/time warping Cannonblade failed when it came into contact with Behemoth’s core, Contessa cannot perceive the path to victory against the Endbringers, possibility of connection:- the way the ‘passengers’ interact with the universe and the way the Endbringers interact with the universe is completely different making them intangible to each other, Scion is not a parahuman, his powers come from an entirely different source and therefore can kill the Endbringers.

      • Very plausible. An argument for the Scion/Endbringers all being from this universe, perhaps? Taking different approaches to dealing with the Passenger invasion?

      • Or perhaps the passengers refuse to kill the Endbringers. Scion (probably) wouldn’t have that problem because he (probably) doesn’t have a passenger.

        I don’t trust the passengers at all. They seem sinister.

    • AAR is also going to show that there were three decisive attacks on Behemoth – Phir Se’s blast, Chevalier’s sword reaching the core, and Scion finishing things.

      Weaver’s teams (especially Foil) get credit for setting up the first two, and arguably thereby the third. Weaver’s also particularly of interest as her return to the front is the clear turning point of the battle – before her return from Phir Se, the defenses are collapsing, Command and Control are in shambles, and Behemoth is fairly casually clearing the field. Afterward, things looked like they were getting worse (from the narrow perspective of defeating Behemoth – yes, it is entirely possible that killing him was a bad idea), but those efforts did serve as (seemingly) necessary preconditions for the first true victory against the Endbringers yet, Pyrrhic though the cost may be.

      All three attacks are likely to get studied, and replicated if possible: there’s a clear line of necessity between them. Without an open core, could Scion have done what he did? Maybe, but why take chances? Without a skeletonized Behemoth, a fresh Foil-wheel assault, and an Alexandria followthrough, could Chevalier have reached the core? Without the leg-cutting chain and the Eidolon cylinder, could Phir Se have skeletonized Behemoth?

      All of which suggests Endbringer doctrine is going to focus on a pin, strip to core, pierce, pray strategy going forward. With an awful lot of thought for what to do if Scion doesn’t show up once a core gets hit. Still, if one can be killed, they all can be killed. Even if another ‘Behemoth’ shows up, the perception of the Endbringers as unstoppable has been shattered. They may be practically unstoppable… but everyone knows it can be done now.

      side note: take the name ‘passengers’ literally. Postulate wrecked universes, refugees trying to find a home in this one. Assume Scion made it bodily (but not in mind), and natural trigger passengers are refugees; the cauldron formula passengers are… call it parahuman trafficking. Something Scion has reason to despise, but he can’t exactly go around killing the Cauldron capes, even if they did intercept some of his friends from back home and chain them into service, for they’re well and truly bound to the passenger now. Still not sure how Endbringers would fit into that paradigm.

    • note also that Chevalier walked into the instant kill range with only the hope that Usher’s power would keep him fighting.

      That’s courage.

      • SO MANLY! THE MAN has balls of Adamantium, nerves of Chobham Armour, blood of liquid aphrodisiac and a heart of pure Neutronium!

    • Do love the fact that Behemoth has finally answered a question for the ages: “What is the sound of one hand clapping?”

      Answer: not enough to get Scion to back off.

      He can generate sound by hitting his chest or similar, so it’s not necessarily a typo… but it is funny to see him clap after the Foil-wheel/Alexandria combo literally dis-armed him.

      • *chuckles*
        The usual compliments for your insights aside, I had a thought.

        Namely, the core issue of Endbringers being foreshadowed, actually. Do you remember the chapter from Noelle’s perspective? In the whole Echidna fight she put forth more mass and volume than her actual mass and volume justified. Then, when we see it from her perspective, she mentioned the feeling of a core from where she pulled all the material, and endless reservoir.

        And this chapter we’re being told Endbringers have a core as well.

        • Yeah, she did have a core. By then, Tattletale had already said similar things about Leviathan – the density, but not the core proper – so some of it was foreshadowed still earlier. Even so, we don’t know of any other cape with a core like that. Maybe Crawler.

          She got that way by drinking half a Cauldron formula – specifically, the formula half without the balancing half. The balancing half left Oliver as a minor shapeshifter (or just physically optimized – went from fat to fit, and so-so to handsome) and smarter than before. Using the balancing portion is what cut down on the ‘deviations’, the inhuman-looking Case 53s. In short, the balancing portion is what keeps the Cauldron capes (mostly) human.

          Are all Cauldron capes based on making Endbringers, instead of whatever trigger capes are? Put another way – did the Simurgh make Noelle Echidna, or did the Simurgh just find the worst case of what could have happened from drinking a formula dose?

          Doctor Mother just decided to minimize use of the balance formula in the hopes of getting stronger capes. Does that imply many more Echidnas on the way? More Endbringers, even?

          • Huh. I assumed some homogeneity in the formula vials, i.e. both Luke and Noelle drank half the potency but still the same mixture of components and the subsequent differences being due to barely scratching the threshold for any changes.

            So you’re implying Endbringers and Cauldron capes might be partially the same, or the formula might be the reason or an alternate way to creating Endbringers…? If this is the case, then Cauldron could both be the reason for Endbringers’ existence as well as a virtual fortune of information regarding them. And if the lack of Balance did actually create Endbringers… then there’s reason to assume some many universes have their fair share of them. Well, I at least would do the experiments in alternate universes with instant retreat options.
            But then Tattletales of Endbringers never having been human to begin with doesn’t fit.

            • Noelle was gradually being eroded, as the creature grew. She doesn’t seem to have been *becoming* it.

              The Endbringers may never have been human, but that doesn’t mean they didn’t *hatch* from human hosts.

        • Hookwolf’s Interlude, it’s mentioned that he also has a core that creates his hooks and blades and stores his human bits to keep them safe.

  28. Now.

    Does this qualify as a ‘Meh’ or do Endbringers fall into a different category since they definitely require an ‘All Hands on Deck’ sort of confrontation?

    • Well…

      And Endbringer is dead. In a particularly nasty, brutal, rather sadistic example of curb-stompery.

      I’m willing to bet, somewhere, in some format (maybe binary for all I know), we got a “0100110101100101011010000010111000100000001000000100100100100000011000110110111101110101011011000110010000100000011101000110000101101011011001010010000001101000011001010111001000100001” (“Meh. I could take her!”) somehow.

      And, from the looks of things, Behemoth knew almost instantly that he fucked up BUT GOOD! I mean, he almost immediately turned tail and tried to make a break for it.

      Not that it helped him at all…

      Alas, poor Behemoth. We slew him Horatio!

    • Behemoth is now dead. D. E. D. Dead. Not driven off, as the status quo for Endbringers dictates. Dead. Weaver coordinated the most devastating anti-Endbringer offensive ever, and then Scion finished him off (!). I’m fairly certain this is the greatest bit of hope the Worm-verse has ever had. Yes it leaves open the chance that the S9000 can swoop in and cause their end of the world. What’s coming will come on that front, esp. since we don’t know when/where they will return. But we are down an Endbringer. The Id, so to speak, of the Endbringer trio, no less (assuming Smurf is the Superego and Levi is the Ego).

      TL;DR, this is a different category.

        • One hopes that now that the S9 are an army instead of a bunch of roaming super villains they won’t fall under Scion’s radar anymore. At the risk of tempting fate, I don’t see the S9 , mo matter how many, being a threat to Scion (albeit we still don’t know what Grey Boy *insert foreboding music* can do.)

  29. And… BOOM goes the dynamite. Scion actually killed one of them. I wonder if the other two will step back now, to a level before the Simurgh showed up, or continue attacking every 3.5 months. They might be able to make do on less than a year’s worth of “sleep.” I guess we’ll find out.

    • I’m kind of assuming the next Endbringer attack will be both of them. It’s unprecedented, but Scion just killed one. It’s a moment of hope – and while I’d like to think that even with things as they are the ending will manage to be bittersweet/Earn Your Happy Ending at least, I don’t imagine that’s going to be just yet – so if we see another, I think something’s going to go horribly wrong. It will either be too soon, there’ll be a new one, it’ll be both at once, it’ll coincide with the S9000, or something along those lines.

  30. I am amazed. There is no joking around with Zion anymore… i would love to see this in a visual medium. The whole scene with Chevalier facing Behemoth is too well written to not bring forth imaginations of the confrontation. Cheers to this.

    • On the subject of visual mediums, I’d say this would be happening in or at least near the fourth season finale, if it were a TV series.

    • Although if this were visual the nuances of how Chevalier’s power works would be lost. There are some things that can only really be done well in words.

  31. Just thought I’d point this out, since no one else has mentioned it: Lyon was attacked twice. Is this an editing error on Wildbow’s part, attributable to the fact that he was rushed in writing this monstrously huge (and yet it felt like one of the shorter reads to me) chapter? I sincerely doubt it, given that Lyon is the last entry. Thus, we require WMG as to what the deal is there. Was there something in Lyon that interested Behemoth, but he was driven off before he got it on the first trip, so he came back for it? Did he decimate the city the first time, then get upset because they rebuilt it too quickly and thoroughly?

    Despite the fact that it isn’t a sudden realization, but rather one that’s been building virtually since the beginning of the story, the moment when you realize that the Endbringers that have been devastating the world for decades HAVE BEEN FUCKING WITH US THE ENTIRE TIME is a seriously vertiginous moment. Hundreds of millions of people killed, countless homes destroyed, trillions of man-hours of building and art and every other human endeavor ruined… and they were just messing about. They could’ve done MORE damage. They could’ve coordinated their attacks. They could’ve struck softer targets. They were SMART, or at least directed by an intelligence. That’s some horrifying shit, and yet you don’t even realize it until after it’s too late.

    Speaking of too late, I am not convinced we have seen the end of BEHEMOTH. If they were some sort of projections/creations, I’m not sure whatever entity was responsible can’t just make a new one. If he does return, that will be the true coffin nail for the morale of humanity. “Even killing the Endbringers doesn’t stop them? Fuck it. I’m outta here. I know there are other Earths. I’m finding a way to get to one.” Whoever winds up controlling the Brockton Bay portal will be in a very central position.

      • What seemed slightly off to me was Leviathan in Naples. I would have thought that Behemoth would have done more damage to a city built right next to a volcano. (The very same volcano Pompeii was built right next to btw, we know how well that ended)

        Guess Leviathan ks’ed Behemoth on that one 🙂

        • And now I’m imagining the Endbringers bickering over who gets to attack what cities.

          “Brockton Bay isn’t near any fault lines, you twerp! Ugh, Simurgh, back me up on this one.”
          “Actually, I want to attack Brockton Bay.”
          “You want to attack everywhere! It’s not fair…”
          “I wish Dad were here to sort this out…”

          (I leave it up to the reader to decide who “Dad” is in this analogy. One of the top heroes, maybe?)

  32. Oh shit son, did I just read that? Endbringer Down! I repeat, Endbringer Down! Holy shit, the whole world is going to be partying after this.

    Chevalier is an unbelievable badass, here’s hoping Usher’s power really did protect him, this guy needs to return. And I knew it, Behemoth was the one to be Crushed. Gotta think that a lot of people are going to be wondering why Scion never did this before, though.

    • Behemoth was never down 2/3 of his armor and 1 1/2 limbs when Scion showed up before, regardless of the kill order. The sheer difference in mass and leverage might have had something to do with how Scion was able to keep fishing him out of the ground.


    Seriously from the moment Chevalier (perhaps one of the most badass and certainly the most heroic superhero in the story) started to don the armor, I was cheering and shouting like crazy. AND THEN SCION TURNS UP AND RIPS AND BEHEMOTH IN TWO! YES!

    Ok, calming down now. Uhm, I presume that the Dragon that got killed was just her cyborg body and that Dragon the AI is alive and well. (Albeit it’s gonna be difficult to explain how shr mysteriously resurrected now that she doesn’t have the “it’s just a robot suit” excuse.)

    • She’s had humanoid robot bodies before. Just better, higher tech iterations explains away the dead robot body.

  34. Something minor I just noticed, but still interesting: Madrid is on the list of places hit by Leviathan.

    Madrid is pretty damn far inland, especially given that every other location on the list as well as the ones not on the list that we know he’s hit (Newfoundland and Brockton Bay) are right on the coast.

    What could he have been after that would have required going that far away from the ocean?

  35. Well, that was interesting.
    Once it was clear Chevalier could see some kind of image influenced by passengers I immediately thought of Cauldron and how artificial capes parahumans could be detected by that. And then there is Eidolon, preventing exactly that with giving false advice to Chev.
    Well done, sir, well done.
    A pity Chev didn’t figure out some broad categories, though. And interesting to see once again another proof for Taylor’s other half being different from others.
    And was there some implication of him detecting or verifying if some had second triggers? It certainly read so… A pity we didn’t see him taking a look at Grue.

    • I think he might only be able to tell people had a second trigger if he saw them after their first trigger but before the second, and then again after the second trigger. So even if he did see Grue he might not know for certain… although Grue hasn’t been keeping his new powers secret so anyone who noticed the change could tell he had a second trigger event.

  36. Holy crapola what an interlude.

    Behemoth is dead and Chevalier isn’t. Thank goodness. I’d hoped we’d see more of earth’s knight in shining armor, even more so now that we’ve seen this new ability of his. Seeing trigger events/passengers? Spectacular. Although Tattletale is a little horrifying now. She has her own personal multi-eyed, spectral, 4th dimensional being following her around everywhere…

  37. Wow!

    I thought this battle would end up with a defeat after the last arc was supposed to be over in the last chapter, but this actually seems like a win for everyone.

    In fact the only two new named deaths other than Behemoth were one of Rachel’s dogs and Dragon who I hope has a backup.

    I also note that despite being a chapter focusing on how badass Chevalier is Taylor and her friends did manage to get another moment of awesome in. Tattletale figured out some major stuff about the Endbringers, Grue apparently used his powers to block Behemoth suicide bombing (that was him wasn’t it?) and Taylor somehow figured out a way to combine the powers of her team to score another mayor hit.

    There was also a wealth of new and probably important information and a few new questions in this chapter.

    We met the first Ward team. We apparently had seen some of them before. The cheerful mouseketeer girl ended up being one of Bonesaws victims if I remember correctly. Who are the others?

    Morgan Keene – Who is he? He seems important but doesn’t have a tag.

    Chevalier is not the first person who can perceive passengers to note that Taylor seems to have a very strong one. – What is up with that?

    I hope that in the after action report people will acknowledge the crucial role Weaver played in co-ordinating capes and their powers to hurt the Endbringer in ways they have never managed before.

    Despite the overall uplifting nature of this chapter, I can see some downsides:

    Because the heroes have hurt Behemoth more than they ever did before, they will probably attribute Scion finishing him of to that and not realize that Scion’s rules of engagement have been changed to kill…

    The other Endbringers might learn of the changes and stop holding back. The apparently were designed as terror weapons, so they are bound to hit hard to regain some of that terror.

    One minor thing is Dragon’s secret. If she does survive due to backups her true nature will be harder to conceal from those close to her.

    • I maintain that Taylor’s passanger isn’t stronger then others, it’s closer. I think that Taylor will eventaully fully merge with her passanger in the biggest Oh Crap moment yet.

    • Nah, Dragon’s gonna be just fine. I’m pretty sure that she could pull off being a human mind stuck in a machine now that she has had her body destroyed publicly. Just one more feather in the hat of the best tinker in the world.

  38. Cauldron: Protectorate has done it’s job and is no longer relevant. We have no more interest in you, Skitter.

    Behmoth is killend, as Protectorate held the line with Weaver in charge.

    Cauldron: …. So of a bitch…

      • My guess is that Contessa’s powers lets her to get the tactical win. I.e. she wins the present engagement in the most efficient way. But that way may have long-term negative consequences.

  39. So… Apparently Scion has healing as part of his powerset (honestly, what can’t he do?). The question then becomes “Why hasn’t he healed Kevin?”.

        • yeah, but it was a general effect that was affecting the survivors of what’s essentially a war. Maybe if Norton broke an arm in Scion’s presence he gets the feel better (not healing) aura,too. Otherwise, Scion has no idea if Norton is sick.

            • Hmm. Ok, forgot that part. Still re-reading this chapter it’s pretty clear that Scion didn’t mend Chevalier’s ribs or his suture. He simply took the pain away. Real healing, apparently, is not part of the Scion package.

              • What bugs me on this is, wasn’t it said Scion can’t be tracked or recorded? Because: “Shocking the world, caught on camera in a scene replayed innumerable times, he answered in a voice that sounded as though it might never have uttered a sound before.

              • It’s entirely possible that Scion’s power/Scion himself is capable of discriminating between a tourist or journalist’s handheld camera, and long range technological or parahuman surveillance, and allowing one while disallowing the other. Indeed it seems the likely answer.

            • Also he had admitted that he had chosen to not be around Scion for a bit. Getting sick in the between time?

        • Kevin said something along the lines of “kill the endbringers, work with the good guys more”, he didn’t say anything about helping Kevin more, and Kevin may not have considered himself a good guy, he was terrified that Scion was softballing the Endbringers simply because Kevin hadn’t spelled out what he meant. Which looks to be the case, and Kevin blames himself.

    • Maybe it is mere pain relieving, not healing, for instance. Or the effect requires activation instead of a passive always on, thus only the recognition of obvious damages to the body would make him emit the healing aura.

    • Because Kevin did not specifically ask him. We already seen that Scion tends to take orders to the letter.

      Seems the most plausible answer, the alernative being: he did. It’s not like Kevin can notice his own hp bar filling up after all.

  40. Wildblow. I consider myself to be a very well read and well watched person, I have over my life absorbed a VERY large number of “Exciting” fictional moments.

    But I have never in my life been more enthralled, enraptured and gripped by anything as much as this chapter.
    Thank you.

  41. Anyone notice the boy that Jack spared is with Weaver in the last stand? Or that this kill is days/weeks after they announce Alexandria was Simurphed, and they had a chance now? This may cause some _confusing_ theories to spawn.

    • If you’re talking about Golem/Theo, then yes we noticed. I think the clincher was 24.3? 4? When Weaver noticed his practiced wariness. And once the news about Pretender hits the net, the question of Alexandria should be cleared right up.

  42. Definitely not what I was expecting, what with the battle from Chevalier’s point of view, but I’m glad you did. He has an interesting perspective and power, and seeing the start of the Wards’, and how it was supposed to be a haven instead of a mini Protectorate, makes a lot of sense. But more than that, it was just…really…exciting, I suppose. One of your most exciting, thrilling chapters. The way Scion came to save the day at the very end was great, but personally, I wonder if maybe he came late was because he can’t stand up to an Endbringer for that long. He has to wait for some massive damage to be done first, perhaps. Oh, I don’t know. Just thanks, wildbow, for such an amazing chapter.

  43. There’s a deliberately drawn parallel between Chevalier and Behemoth. I wonder if it’s an artistic thing or if it’s causally relevant.

    (I don’t know how it could be causally relevant! Leave me alone! Maybe Chevalier’s passenger just had a totally touching intimate moment with Behemoth’s core.* Maybe Chevalier’s personality resonated backwards in time to define Behemoth, or maybe Endbringers are made out of the nightmares of future PRT heads, so Behemoth was always Chevalier’s just like Leviathan was Alexandria’s and Simurgh was Weaver’s.)

    * this would make Scion a touching, beautiful representation of mitosis, helping the fertilized Behemoth core in its initial division, or possibly of spermicidal foam.

  44. After sleeping, another thought came to mind.

    The Simurgh’s power appears to be the most insidious, but it can *only* seem to work *if* the victim is unaware that they are being manipulated. Once individuals become *aware* of the manipulation do they have any chance to resist it (sort of like classical mind control) if they wish to. This could explain why Cody had the sudden ‘about-face’ on Tattletale, and why Simurgh’s timebombs haven’t completely destroyed the world yet.

    Bear in mind with this sort of guess that some individuals would *refuse* to believe that they are being controlled like this, which would pretty much make them forever locked in step with their ‘hidden directive’ whereas other individuals with a more… “sense of self” might be able to shake it off easier.

    • I don’t think that’s the case. The Travelers knew they were being controlled, but the Echidna incident still came to pass. My theory is that Scion did something to disrupt the Simurgh’s hold on Cody specifically, which would suggest (in line with what we know about him) that he has some way of countering her power or its effects.

      • Nods. She doesn’t need to mess a person who resists her influence on mind or probability directly, either. Some of it might be making others make your life so miserable you go nihilistic. With multiple attacks, you get a lot of room for interactions, and she’s long range planning.

        • Presumibly it isn’t 100% infallable though. Otherwise we’d have a boring invincible villian. She may just be smart enough to anticipate that she can’t predict everything, and know when to pull out Indy ploys.

  45. A world-reaction interlude would be interesting right now. I can see stunned disbelieve first (I can easily see the first reporter on ParahumansOnline being permabanned immediately for trolling before the info got confirmed). Then cheering. Tons of tinfoil hats will pop up to explain what happened.

    Also, if I had to guess Tattletale just earned herself full immunity and PRT protective detail. Because she was able to tell where Behemoth’s core is. And can guess the same for Simurgh / Leviathan. This means she’s an irreplaceable asset that needs to be protected. At all costs.

    • It’ll be interesting to see how open the New Protectorate is about the fighting, Taylor mentions that there’s not much footage available, which suggests a persistant cover-up by the old Protectorate. Chevalier might have different ideas. Weaver’s PoV was fully recorded, so if they want to provide footage of what Endbringer fights really look like, they can make that happen. Though.. so can Saint, theoretically, and he seems like the sort of jerk who’d post the whole thing to Youtube for lulz, to see if Cauldron or the cold capes kill Weaver for it.

      • Well Taylor figures that at least part of the reason the PRT didn’t want to show too much of the endbringer fights is because they don’t want people to know just how powerful and dangerous some capes can be. But this time they can spin it. They can just say the cape wasn’t normally that powerful, but a couple of Yangban members were just offscreen powering them up.

        If the PRT has someone who is supposed to identify and recruit newly triggered parahumans, they should fire whoever is in Brockton bay. They missed Taylor, Lisa, and honestly Brian proved damn invaluable with his radiation blocking.

  46. Neat. It was the Chevelier retrospective of how the fight ended.

    Better “Something flew past him, shearing straight through Behemoth’s chest. A wheel of metal, thin, with two bars sticking out of the center. It cut through the Endbringer like he wasn’t even there.”

    Very good. Iterations.

    I think I need to just go back to reading. I am at an out of data point again. 😉

  47. Not sure if anyone has thought of this yet, but I had a terrifying idea. If the endbringers are-my favored theory-unbound passengers in the worm verse, it is possible that scion may at some point now start killing capes, or the parts of their brains with powers. This is unlikely, but possible.

  48. I hope Wildbow gets some amusement out of how often I am wrong about future events. I know I do.

    – Chevalier sees passengers and Miss Militia remembers her trigger event. Them being so simpatico? Not a coincidence.
    – fuck yeah, Grue!
    – leaf-boy is Myrrdin, huh. Given his apparent wealth, I bet he was a Cauldron cape
    – notice that, despite the situation, Scion *still* took the time to troll Eidolon by destroying his force field. He *really* hates that guy, huh :p
    – he never saw Scion’s passenger. Heh. If any. Alternatively, Scion *is* a passenger. A ‘driver’?
    – Wildbow completely rollercoasted us there. First everything is fucked. Then Tattletale cracks the core. Then Chevalier gets within inches. Then the power nullification at core shuts him down. Then everything is fucked again. Then Behemoth flees. Then Scion shows up. Then …
    – I assume Tattletale will be broadcasting these insights to every surviving cape on the planet? She goddamn well better.
    – Oh Cody, you so sucky. I’m grateful though. Who knows, maybe even Accord is still alive too even if … marred.

    • Myrddin wasn’t a Cauldron cape. Tattletale checked in Scourge 19.4.

      The idea of Scion trolling Eidolon by cracking his forcefield as a side-effect of smacking down Behemoth is really funny (“What? You were holding a forcefield and I destroyed it? I’m sorry, I didn’t notice, I’m too busy KICKING ASS LIKE YOU WISH YOU COULD!”).

      • Good to know about Myrddin. I liked him and hold the completed unfounded theory that had he not got a bad case of slashed throat he would have become the Protectorare new leader instead of CHevalier. But this is based solely based on the fact that he was the earliest big non-Triumvirate non-Brocton Bay cape we heard about.

        As for the Scion-Eidolon spat I just had an image of Eidolon fantasizing beating the crap out of Scion only to realise that he’d probably no-sell whatever power he comes up with.

          • Too bad Scion doesn’t do trash talk.
            “Hey Eidolon you know what being the second strongest means? Your the number one LOOOSER!”

          • Ahaha. That reminds me of an episode of the Justice League Unlimited cartoon where Lex Luthor is trying to hide from a godlike Amazo and the Atom shrinks him to sub-atomic level…only for Amazo revealing he can see him perfectly fine and that he is holding him in his hand.

    • There was a lot of speculation when Golem first appeared and one of the most prominent theories was him being Theo, especially in conjunction of Theo being in the tags, but not Golem. So no big surprise there from the update reading audience. For the archive reading audience, though, the Boston cape comment might be the first hint at Theo being Golem. So, well done Wildbow. Once again, hat-tipping is in order. *tips hat*

  49. Aftermath:

    There doesn’t seem to be an Interlude coming up soon, but I still would like to see some reactions from across the board. Everyone below a certain age has grown up with the Endbringers hanging above their heads like a Damocles sword. The whole idea of hope for the future must be a novel concept for a whole generation. (even if it isn’t entirely justified)

    I would like to see Weaver being invited to a PRT After Action Review along with the surviving team leaders on the basis that despite being theoretically just a ward on probation, she pretty much co-ordinated several major successful attacks throughout the battle.

    I wonder if they are going to ship her back to prison after this (and how her fellow inmates would react) or if they work out some sort of pardon in light of recent events.

    Foil turned out to be a major asset against the Endbringers and I hope the PRT is kicking themselves for letting her go. I also hope that Parian survived to reward her lieutenant appropriately after this.

  50. 1. Quadumvirate with the addition of pretender.
    2. Anybody figure out who ALL of the original wards are?
    3. This story is about Taylor, right?
    4. I feel that Scion will eventually lose. Who might beat him? I doubt it would be the Endbringers, so I am leaning towards the S9, specifically Gray Boy, Cauldron, or the “normal” capes, specifically Weaver or Dragon.

    • 2. Of those that were described we have Miss Militia, Chevalier, Rime, future Bonesaw patient, RazorSmile identified leaf-boy with Myrddin but I am not sure what’s the reasoning there and I like to think that the boy sitting near M.M. is Armsmaster what with Chevalier calling Defiant old friend.
      4. Yeah, I also had similar suspicions regarding the much hyped Gray Boy.

        • Upon reread, leaf-boy is actually named as “Reed.” Clearly, I was very very sleep-deprived first time around. Still, I bet he’s a Cauldron cape.

      • I don’t think the boy near MM is Defiant. There’s no reason to believe that, and the reading that “Defiant has something to atone for” means he had a past like Chev or Weaver is obviously a brainfart. He had his second change when he became Defiant, not when he joined the Wards. And the pseudo-Batboy besides MM doesn’t smell like a tinker to me.
        My guess is that uh Leafboy and others were just new characters, some of whom might be long dead like Hero.

        • I understood that Colin second’s chance was when he became Defiant. Still, Chevalier calls him an old friend when he’s leaning on him (and no matter how Colin has changed , I don’t really see him being that nice and supportive with anyone), Colin and Miss Militia were on pretty good terms despite Hannah, justly, believing that he wasn’t leader material and as for the Batman look, Armsmaster was pretty much the cowl-type superhero of this setting.

  51. You know, I can see the argument that Scion didn’t need the help, and the final “screw you, heroes” of the core turning off Chevalier’s power definitely gives the impression that it was all for nothing until Scion showed up, but man, looking at it again, Behemoth was actually pretty wrecked at the end there.

    I’m not saying Scion *does* need the help, either. But it’s possible that, what with Scion being practically immune to the dynakinesis and the core’s super-invulnerableness, Behemoth might have been wishing for stuff like a full set of fully operational limbs there. They’re handy!

    • My reasoning for him needing the help is, it fits the Wormverse, if Scion will now only show up to fights where he can get the kill in. They still will pay a hard price and may lose more fights against the remaining two Endbringers, hope is there since a kill is a WIN, but the price will be much much higher short term.

  52. Why do I have this gut feeling that this is going to make things worse? Behemoth is going to need a new body…a worse one… [I operate on the notion the Endbringers (as well as Scion, probably) are extradimensional entities who are scouting/exploring our reality for unknown, presumably hostile, reasons using construct bodies, as they either have none of their own or unable to bring them here.]

  53. First off: excellent chapter, as always.

    Secondly: Chevalier for President! Anyone can run on the stabbing-giant-radioactive-monsters-while-already-gutshot platform has my vote. Who’s with me?

    • I don’t know about president, but I can see a Medal of Honor in his future. He certainly went above and beyond.

  54. Something flew past him, shearing straight through Behemoth’s chest. A wheel of metal, thin, with two bars sticking out of the center. It cut through the Endbringer like he wasn’t even there.

    Skitter’s idea, Annex to merge the metal bits together, Foil to grant it penetrative powers and Alexandria to throw?

        • I’d mused previously that they know they still had one weapon left that could definitely cut through Behemoth’s super tough skeleton- Foil’s power. I’d just expected them to try using it sooner after Phir Sē’s strike, whereas instead Taylor was smarter than me and realised they needed to retreat and regroup.

      • Wait, if Annex was the one to merge the metal bits together, and Chevalier recognized the ‘white supremacist’s child they’d picked up in Boston’ standing next to Weaver, wouldn’t that imply that Theo is Annex rather than Golem?

        • Chevalier sees Theo and a boy in white standing near Weaver and Tecton. I can’t remember exactly what’s Annex’s costume, but I’d bet it’s white.

    • The bars were Theo’s hands, I suppose.

      I’d like to imagine the bars ended with rather obscene gestures.

  55. This was simply amazing, if only because of how unexpected it was. I kept on waiting for it to happen. As awesome as Chevalier was being, I kept on waiting. Any moment he’s going to be killed horribly by the pen-stroke of Wildbow. And, well, when Scion arrived…for the past forever, people have been speculating that Scion might die or fail in his attempt, and so I kept on waiting.

    I half expected Scion would horribly die, and the end of the Interlude would be Chevalier screaming right before he was snuffed out, just because, well, things tend to take a darker turn in Worm.

    So it was seventy kinds of awesome when it didn’t. Great chapter, loved it.

    • Sometimes having it look like it’s going to end badly and then having the twist being things getting better is much more emotionally powerful than the other way around. Wildbow built the emotions masterfully for this.

  56. Good day everyone.

    I just completed reading through the archives on Thursday, so this is the first chapter that I’ve actually had to wait for.

    As you might imagine, “It was worth the wait” doesn’t even begin to describe my feelings.

    Wildbow: It doesn’t feel like much, and I know you’ve heard this hundreds (thousands?) of times already, but – thank you so much for this wonderful story!

    • Yeah, it is really strange to read through the archives in a rush and suddenly be down to an update every few days.

      I just went through that myself.

      Even better, the consistency of the writing and plot quality are just amazing.

      When you are reading in a rush you do not realize you have not felt the need to second guess the author and I missed that I was not being disrupted by logic flow problems.

      But once you are reading updates you will suddenly realize how much you trust the author.

      I do not know if Chevelier will make it. Or if Clockblocker is as dead as he looks. Or if Accord could not be salvaged.

      But I do know that in every case, the story will be better if it goes Wildbow’s direction.

      Can not say I give every author that trust.

    • Countpacula, I have been quite busy in another town doing terrible things to good people…in other words, I’m like Worm, but not as depressing. Oh, sure, it looks fine now. Right now. But anyway, that’s why I wasn’t here to greet you. I’ll make sure this goes up in the next updates comments too, so you get a proper headache.

      Now, countpacula, I think I know why you’re so hungry all the time. Those dots are so pale, it’s obvious they don’t have a lot of blood in them. And ghosts? Psh, you can’t feed a vampire on ghosts. Tried that once, but Casper got away. Still, at least you have the brides of countpacula. All it took was a few extra quarters to get three Mrs. countpaculas.

      You probably think I’m just here to whine because people had a cold day in winter while the icecaps melt, but I’m a thinker. I know that you don’t drink…whine. So there’s not a chance that a little chomper ball like yourself is going to latch onto me. Also, powered armor. Special neckpiece that reads “countpacula sucks…but not here.”

      Welcome to the collection of oddities, misfits, physicists, grammar nazis, war criminals, archeologists, tropers, sci-fi ficcers, crackficcers, crackheads, granddaddy longlegs, and chickens, both frozen and Canadian. And welcome to the wondrous experience in the magical land that is the comments section.

  57. So, what are the odds that Scion was already killing the other two Endbringers when he seemed to be running from the Behemoth fight? Pick off Leviathan near South America and then to wherever the Simurgh was floating, then New Delhi.

    More likely I guess is that the last two Endbringers change tactics. Every time they take a major hit they go after what did the damage and trash it before proceeding. In this case Scion, and maybe they’ll team up. Or, since the Simurgh is a telepath and indulged in preliminary communication when she first showed up, maybe now she’ll open negotiations. There are supposed to be five major powers at the apocalypse scenario. My guesses are S9, Birdcage Inmates, Weaver and allies, Cauldron and Endbringers.

  58. In the description of the initial Wards, are we missing a description of two of them?

    We’re told there are five girls and four boys, and we get descriptions of:

    Clique 1:
    – Reed/? – boy in a professional-looking black and green costume with a leaf emblem (glimmers: forest landscape)
    – unknown girl (Rime?) – less expensive-looking costume (glimmers: older woman with burned hands, glacier effect around girl)

    Clique 2:
    – ?/Mouse Protector – girl with a shield, sword and a helmet with mouse ears (glimmers: the girl laughing)
    – unknown boy (glimmers: strange writing system patterned on his skin)
    – unknown boy (glimmers: smoke swirling around him)

    Clique 3:
    – unknown boy (Adamant?) – black costume head to toe, vigilante of the night appearance (glimmers: unknown)
    – Hannah/Miss Militia – white and gray jacket, blue tank top and scarf with shield emblem (glimmers: cluster of children, blood, fear and pain; her holding a gun)

    Chevalier’s thoughts imply that he’s looked over everyone (“The remaining two members of the group…”), so I wonder if there’s supposed to be a description of two more girls, perhaps right before “There was a boy, also…”

    As to guesses on the unknowns, Adamant is tagged but doesn’t obviously appear in the present-day scene. When he showed up at Taylor’s school, he was wearing chainmail over a black bodysuit, and is known for brutally taking down thugs, so he could be the vigilante of the night in Clique 3. The glacier effect fits Rime, though the tag can be explained by her showing up in the present-day scene, and the glimmers Chevalier sees in the present-day scene are quite different.

    Reed had enough of a presence in the interlude I would have expected him to be in the tags, however.

    • Did you notice that M.M. changing the form of her weapon was what would set his super senses off about her? I think he was actually getting glimpses of the parts of her conciousness that are locked into her power.

  59. A big win for the world and one Endbringer down. Now all we need is a WWF announcement of the win and my day will be complete.

    My prediction for the future? The other two Endbringers stop holding back in their fights.

  60. As far as people know, the first metahumans showed up after Scion’s appearance. Furthermore, as far as we know, Endbringer cores have some relationship to the mechanism of powers in this world. (I’m surprised that people aren’t freaking out a bit more about that reveal when Chevalier’s power failed. It’s been the subject of speculation, but I take this as a pretty hard confirmation.)

    Scion arrives, prompted by his “handler” to kill Endbringers, and not to allow them to escape. A dramatic change in his behavior. And the first thing he does when he arrives is to heal people. I want to go back and read the Zion interlude, to see the exact wording used in the new set of commands. Because I somewhat wonder if the healing, his first act under the new paradigm, wasn’t something more than just healing. Maybe something akin to what he did upon his arrival and meeting the people on that boat.

    Even setting that little paranoid thought aside, I wonder whether killing Behemoth is going to change the way parahuman powers work, globally. Behemoth was the first Endbringer to arrive and the first to be slain. Perhaps Scion is doing something more than just killing big scary monsters under this new directive.

    • Well, two points: Kill’em dead, or rather “Stop them permanently“, and “Help people. Try to communicate with the good guys more.”

      So Scion might not necessarily kill them, but at least remove them from the equation. At least that’s how I interpret the stop them permanently. And the help people might be interpreted to mean the healing or pain-relieving aura.

      Of another note, Kevin looked up videos of Scion fighting. So either he can be recorded, just not by surveillance measures as Admiral Skippy ventured, or he himself is invisible to recording devices, but his effects aren’t. But I’m leaning to the former.

  61. So, we now know why Taylor is so OP.

    Her aura flare is brighter than the others, and her aura totem is abstract and full of lines.
    She’s a twilight solar! Of course she kicks everyone else’s ass, she’s using one cheesy stunt after another.
    Even if Alexandria was a Dawn caste… come on, twilight are the cheesiest of cheese (except maybe zenith with time to prepare and amass an army).
    And Racher is her lunar mate.

    As side, and more boring, notes:

    – Taylor’s aura totem is neurons, nice touch.
    – Dragon is confirmed “dead”. Good, now she can go in hiding an not obey anyone’s orders because no one know she’s Dragon.
    – Scion healed everyone. Everyone includes Alexandria and her brain.
    – Tattletale probably saw an extra-dimensional power interact with a weirdly-dimensional endbringer core, the power loses the confrontation.
    – Grue detects powers if they’re in his darkness, and covered Behemoth in darkness. He’ll likely tell Lisa what he felt.

    • She really seems like more of an Eclipse than a Twilight. Her power is all about coordinating things: Socialize and Bureaucracy.

      • twilight because of the aura with lines / abstract forms, sorry I was not very specific. Powerwise I’d say Zenith however, she’s more of an ordering beings around kind of person 🙂

    • A couple of thoughts:
      – Dragon had Defiant partially lobotomize her, so I think she’s safe from following orders already
      – I’m not thinking Alexandria’s brain will be easier to heal than Chevalier’s wounded gut and that was called out as being outside of what got healed. In other words I think it was more a Cure Moderate Wounds + Remove Radiation Poisoning than a Full Heal.

      • To nitpick: experience taught us to not be overly enthusiastic/optimistic with Worm, so when Chev described a lack of pain, my first assumption wasn’t a healing aura but merely pain relieving one. There’s some evidence of Scion healing people (his interlude), namely Andrew Hawke, terminal cancer, who later became both a cape and first dead cape on record. On the other hand there are cases of spontaneous remission. More data points would certainly strengthen the healing touch hypothesis, but aura… I would still be suspicious of.

  62. Anyone consider who Chevalier’s brother is? My first thought was Jack, then Grayboy and the other past and present S9 members. I also considered the possibility that the snatchers were working with Cauldron and that the brother might be an irregular like Newt, Gregor, or Weld, because they lack memories. Though I think that it may have been said at one point that the case 83s come from different worlds.

        • I know this is ancient but I wanted to share this.
          I had also considered Jack Slash. In 0.4 of Glow-Worm this is brought up:

          Case Study #1: Sunder Bros
          Take note for future week: matched powers. We come back to this.
          Brother #1 – Destruction caused to objects ripples out indefinitely, stopping at clear demarcations (images included in lecture notes). Weapon extension without limit (except convenience)
          Brother #2 – Weapon sweep extension – some range extension – wider arcs, shockwaves left/right of swing. Stomp to destroy ground in immediate area

          I figured that #1 could be Jack because of his interactions with Theo in interlude 11b. Twice he mentioned the butterfly effect, which fits with the indefinite ripples mentioned above.

          “If the flap of a butterfly’s wing can alter the course of a hurricane, what am I doing when I take a human life?”
          “How many people’s lives will you touch in these coming two years, because I’ve spared your life? Two hundred? Five hundred? A thousand? How far will the flaps of your butterfly wings extend?”

  63. “No,” he could hear Accord murmuring, the word barely above a whisper. He chanced a glance at the pair. Tattletale had a hand on her holster, and Accord had stopped her.

    Was this moment when Accord used his power to work out what course needed to be taken for Tattletale to survive?

    Or for the battle overall to be won, even?

  64. Typo: “somehow within that range and survive”
    Perhaps “”somehow go within that range and survive” or “somehow stay within that range and survive”?

  65. I tend to say things I don’t see elsewhere in the commentary, but this time there isn’t much. So, this is mostly me thinking out loud:
    1. Given that Chevalier doesn’t see normal humans with secondary images, the images are some aspect of parahuman abilities, so … perhaps Chevalier’s visions are brighter for those better connected to their Passengers. That would make sense in Taylor’s case.
    2. Yet again, Taylor came up with another power feat that could hurt Behemoth. She is one hell of a field tactician.
    3. The “core” analogy with Echidna and other capes is interesting.
    4. Why the heck did TT’s power tell her that destroying Behemoth’s core wouldn’t destroy him? She is occasionally wrong, and later evidence appears to contradict her. Perhaps what she meant is that it was impossible to destroy the core with their weapons. But that disparity is troubling, especialy given that TT has rarely recently been wrong.
    5. And now, Levy and Smurf stop playing and start doing surgical strikes and leaving before Scion can show up.

    … and …

    Yeah f’ing hah! Behemoth is gone!

    … troubling thought …

    Will he or something like him be back? It is looking like something unleashed the Endbringers on the Wormverse for a reason. That something is going to be pisssssssssssssssssssed off.

  66. I and Me and Interlude 24:

    Friday 10:40pm
    I: Just an hour and twenty minutes till the next update!
    Me: Dude, I’m dead tired.
    I: So? Update!
    Me: It’s an interlude man. The story is going to pick up again next week.
    I: So? Update!!
    Me: We gotta get up at 6:00am too.
    I: Fine. Jerk. Let’s hit the sack then.

    Saturday 6:00am
    I: Hey! Grab the latest chapter.
    Me: We’re in kind of a hurry here.
    I: Are we actually having this debate?
    Me: Pfff, no. What am I stupid? Browsing there now.

    Saturday 11:00am
    Me: Ok, we got an hour to kill, pop open the iPad and get to reading.
    I: Way ahead of you!
    Me: What is it?
    I: Chevalier Interlude! Cool! Guess we get to see how he buys it.
    Me: Ha! Told you.
    I: Shut up, it’ll probably have some good backstory for stuff later.
    Me: Yeah, yeah, backstory that you didn’t need to know last night at midnight. What’s it start with.
    I: Scene in the past. Oh, looks like Chevalier was one of the original Wards. That’s kinda neat.
    Me: Any other important characters?
    I: Miss Militia and a few I don’t recognize. Comments will probably have them though. Also looks like Chevalier can see passengers or something like that. Man that would have been a useful power. Sucks that he’d dead.
    Me: Think we’ll learn something unexpected from that in the story?
    I: Dude, this is Wildbow man. You seriously want me to try to predict where this is going to go?
    Me: Point taken. What’s next?
    I: Oh cool! A list of places the Endbringers have hit with dates!
    Me: Think we can put together anything from that?
    I: Hard to say, they’re spread all over the world. No obvious pattern from the names, but maybe the commenters will pick up something.
    Me: Ok, what’s next?
    I: Lead up to the fight. Lots of teams not there, and critical elements choosing to skip this one.
    Me: Oh, that’s kind of cool. It covers the base on why if they can guess more about the Endbringers now thanks to Defiant’s program they still didn’t “perfect plans” in place.
    I: Yeah, no plan survives contact with the enemy, and in this case humanity is doing a bang up job as its own enemy.
    Me: What’s next?
    I: Section with setting up for the fight. Chevalier’s talking with a guy named Mr. Keene.
    Me: Who’s he?
    I: No idea.
    Me: Commenters?
    I: Or a later chapter. Could be a new guy. Anyways, Chevalier’s meeting up with Tattletale.
    Me: Yay for Tattletale!
    I: Still holding out for the Worm merchandise aren’t you?
    Me: Yes. Yes I am.
    I: Well Accord’s there too.
    Me: So queue Cody the Cosmic Level screw up in?
    I: Not yet, Tattletale’s been watching the Endbringer fights and is pointing out what’s wrong with them.
    Me: 5…4…3…
    I: And there’s Cody. Man, I hate the idea of the Birdcage breaking up but if Trickster gets take Cody down hard it might, just *might*, be worth it.
    Me: So end of interlude?
    I: Nope. More details on the fight. Ah, Chevalier is seeing all of the Yang Ban’s passengers and it’s screwing him up. Man from his point of view this fight is ugly.
    Me: Well, this is where he kicks the bucket, right?
    I: Uh, nope. He just woke up in the hospital bed.
    Me: Wait, is this before or after the evac?
    I: After! Damn! New events!
    Me: What’s happening?
    I: Tattletale is talking with him, pointing out that Behemoth is crushing them. She’s also calling attention to the things that don’t add up. Like why he bothers with a body where 80% of it is meaningless. Chevalier’s not listening though.
    Me: Why?
    I: He’s getting dressed.
    Me: He’s going to go out to fight Behemoth? Is it despair or determination?
    I: Little of column A, little of column B, I think.
    Me: Think his death will crush the Protectorate?
    I: That’s an ugly thought, so let’s go with yes. On the other hand Regent went out like a boss, so maybe Chevalier will manage to pull something out too.
    Me: Psycho Gecko’s going to just love it if Chevalier buys it isn’t he?
    I: Oh wait! Tattletale just told him how their regen works – slower away from their core! Which also brings up the point of hitting them in their core!
    Me: Ok, sounds cool but chance that it works?
    I: I don’t know! But hell, even if it’s the equivalent of kicking them in the ‘nads that’s kinda cool!
    Me: Believe it when I read.
    I: Looks like Tattletale agrees, but she can’t explain why thanks to Cody.
    Me: {shakes fist at sky} CODY!
    I: Oh man, Chevalier is in crazy bad shape. He can’t even stand. Also Tattletale explained why it won’t work, Behemoth’s center is so dense it messes with space time.
    Me: Told you they were cheating.
    I: Pfff, that’s been common knowledge for ages now.
    Me: Still counts.
    I: Oh hey, guess who can mess with space time?
    Me: Chevalier! That’s how he makes his gadgets work! Told ya the way to beat the Endbringer’s was to “out-meta” them. Gotta hit them with something that’s as or more out of context than they are!
    I: So you think he’s going to win now?
    Me: Oh, now you want me to predict Wildbow? No thanks.
    I: Chevalier is all geared up and is having a flashback now. He’s remembering his brother being kidnapped by serial kidnappers, who he then hunted down after his trigger event.
    Me: So he’s the Punisher?
    I: Nope. He didn’t kill the last guy, he went hero instead at Alexandria’s urging. Oh and he smashed his way out of the hospital with the sword since his other hand isn’t working.
    Me: Would so love to see that in a film. I’m going to shut up now cause it sounds like the action is getting good.
    I: Ok. 50 heroes left. Against Behemoth. They’re screwed. Everybody’s gonna die. No, come on, that would be the crappiest ending to the story. But Chevalier, yeah things aren’t looking too good for him.
    I: On the plus side, Behemoth is as messed up as Chevalier’s ever seen him, so maybe Taylor did some good there?
    I: The crowd of heroes parts for him (gotta see this on screen at some point, seriously a student animation project, anything!) and the fights on!
    I: BAM! Blew Behemoth’s leg off! Mwahaha! Regenerate all you want ya chump! Ok, maybe not completely blown off, but effectively so.
    I: And he’s getting a “Anti-Death Aura” buff from someone named Usher! Sweet! Might have a real fight here after all.
    I: Oh and Defiant comes in for the assist. Gold star there for Colin!
    I: And into the Death Aura he goes, swinging all the way! A few exchanges and he’s stabbing for Behemoth’s core, and Behemoth turns on the radiation. Ouch.
    I: Shuriken to Behemoth’s neck from out of no where! Oh hell yeah! Taylor’s in the fray now too! Man how long are Tecton’s pile drivers? Cause….oh crap they’re in the death aura too now aren’t they? Buffs don’t fail us now!
    I: And we see Taylor in Chevalier vision, and she’s glorious!
    I: He’s thinking of second chances, man it’d be nice if he got one but they’re fighting a demi-god here and he’s in way too bad shape.
    I: Oh! Alexandria (or what’s left of her) for follow up the win, “disarming” Behemoth!
    I: And Chevalier’s accepted his death by radiation. Does he get to at least drive the indestructible jerk away and save the rest of the heroes I hope?
    I: Second trigger event mentioned, is Wildbow trolling the readers who bring up second trigger events every time someone stubs their toe? GOOD!
    I: Chevalier’s got no power left, but he reaches deep and finds some more – and his armor is sacrificed to pay for it. Ye gods, this is epic! Dude is going to deserve a dirge for the ages when this is done.
    I: And now he’s going reality breaker power vs. reality broken Endbringer nature! Go Chevalier Go! Meta his butt into the ground!
    I: Aaaand it didn’t work! His power shut off! Well now isn’t that interesting. Definite link between Endbringer and parahumans or just proof that they’re beyond forces of nature? Hopefully Tattletale was watching.
    I: Ack! And now Behemoth is rampaging on the remaining capes! And one of Rachel’s dogs! And Dragon!! Ok, she’s probably got a backup but still, damn!
    I: Wait! Behemoth is burrowing! Chevalier did it! He drove the jerk off! Not a huge victory, but still he saved people and that counts for something.
    I: And it looks like Chevalier might live? Cool!! Everyone that makes it out is a victory.
    I: And now Scion shows up. Huh, I thought he was going to be later than that. Wonder if he specifically waited till Behemoth left?
    I: And he’s healing them! Nice! Should cut down on the “blah blah radiation deaths after blah blah time” geekery.
    I: Wait, WHAT? Scion just went and scoop Behemoth up out of the earth???
    Me: Did I just read that right? Oh hell yes! Wait, this could still be ugly, what is Scion bites it here?
    I: Holy crap! Behemoth’s not getting away and Scion’s not letting up!
    I: Behemoth goes for the Self-Destruct Button…and Grue blankets him! And Scion ain’t even having that! Disintegration Beam of Doom!
    Me: Did…did Scion just annihilate Behemoth?
    I: Uhh…yes. Yes he did.
    I: You know what that means right?
    Me: Never listen to me again EVER.

  67. And now, some speculation. Given my history of speculating on Wildbow’s stuff, this is almost guaranteed to be wrong. First, the facts:
    1. Chevalier doesn’t see images around Behemoth. That suggests that it doesn’t have the same source of power as parahumans.
    2. And yet, the core disrupted Chevalier’s power. Not ignored, overwhelmed, or turned aside, but gone. So it can affect his power directly. That suggests it is the same type of ability, but much more advanced.
    3. I went back and read the introduction of Scion. The reporter didn’t ask who he was, the reporter asked _what_ he was and got the answer “Zion”. I am not a Hebrew or Wormverse scholar, but I think we can rule out the possibility that Scion was referring to Jerusalem or any place in or near it. So, he was being metaphorical, perhaps he meant the closest place to deity or the world to come?
    4. Grue had Behemoth in his darkness several times and showed no evidence of gaining powers.

    So, my guess (part of this was previously posted) is that Zion and the Endbringers are scouts for the superentities approaching the Wormverse Earth. Perhaps not consciously placed – any power that includes time travel includes space for echoes of the future, i.e. events happening before causes. Zion would be from one entity, the Endbringers from the other. Zion has some sympathy with humans; the Endbringers obviously don’t. Here’s the refinement, not previously posted: only one entity is contributing to parahuman triggers and it is the same one that created Zion. So when the power of one entity, i.e. Chevalier’s power, comes into contact with the other’s power, the other uses its better knowledge of their shared abilities to simply shut off the part of Chevalier’s power that intersected its own. If that is the case, the superentities’ toys are breaking each other. Should get interesting.

    • > Zion has some sympathy with humans; the Endbringers obviously don’t.

      Fun idea, I could actually seeing this being the other way around. It’s the Wormverse, after all…

  68. Fridge logic not related to the interlude;

    If parahuman powers shut down on death (as we suspect happened with Clockblocker), how is Dragon still around? She was created by a tinker, wasn’t she? Also, Bakuda’s bombs and especially the temporal disruption effect that has semi-permanently trapped a few heroes.

    • The same way children can survive their mothers’ menopause, I think. Tinker powers design things, they don’t actually create them — the things are made out of the same brute (or possibly not simply brute) matter that everything else is.

    • The power of a tinker is in the making(designing), not the object. They (and other people) can build on each other’s designs just fine, as well, which is part of why Dragon didn’t know that she was actually the tinker she was pretending to be.

    • It’s because there is no continuous reality warping at play, but simply working with materials at hand. Like Heartbreaker’s power as well, he forces one emotion on his victims, but the positive/negative rewards centres in the brain are unaffected by him. Reacting, however, does have an effect, which is why the results of his power will persist past his death.

      In the same sense tinker powers allow them to intuit how things need to be put together without the intervening step of finding out why or how it gets to this effect. (Possible reality warping, as was speculated tinkers have to a certain extent, would be imbued in their invention if it is necessary to work.) This is why reproducible tinker tech has to be dumbed down for other people to actually reproduce, because they don’t grasp how easy seamless construction is and what not.

  69. Fridge logic moment about Chevalier:
    He has the ability to determine on sight whether someone is a parahuman (and based on the glimmers he sees, could reasonably determine who someone is, even when disguised), and was the head of the Philadelphia branch of the Protectorate.

    Did he actually never come in contact with Rebecca Costa-Brown, or was he in on the secret of Alexandria being in charge of the PRT?

  70. Very cool. Scion dropping in to finish the job as ordered was no surprise, but Chevalier getting up from his sickbed to stumble out and fight Behemoth was unexpected and read very well.

    Odd thought. After Scion of course, and perhaps Weavers’ leadership and Tattletales’ info, might Foil have been the MVP here? Her power seems to have hurt Behemoth badly at least three times.

    • Three? They cut off his leg with the chain, and almost cut off his arm with that thrown disk. That’s two.

      Not that Foil wasn’t pretty friggin’ effective, I’m just questioning your count.

      • I’m pretty sure the three major wounds AVR is referring to are the leg, the arm, and the complete skeletonization of Behemoth. Yes, it was Phir Se’s blast that did the damage, but Weaver coordinated it where Behemoth was stunned by the loss of a leg, the forcefield put in place, and the signal given to release the blast. I’d say that counts.

  71. I can’t wait to see some of Tecton’s footage of Weaver ghosting along on antigrav with her Regalia-of-the-Swarm spread out about her, a gown of insects over her armor and tatters of silk and spiders trailing behind her like an aura marking her passing. Spin that, Glenn! Hopefully Weaver can use iconic and terrifying imagery like that to sell Glenn on a more calculated image, perhaps even a deliberate dual image.. Weaver for day-to-day, and ‘classic’ for special occasions.. it’d be great for merchandising!

    • I’m hoping Weaver, Dragon or Defiant release all of the footage that Weaver took this battle. An extra crushing defeat for Cauldron and the truth (which all three are big about)

      • That would be nice, but considering how Behemoth screws up electronics do you really think that a spycam would survive?

        • Tecton stated that some of his systems were hardened, and was mobile in his suit throughout the engagement. With Defiant’s miniaturization techniques, even the tiny microphones could be shielded (assuming they weren’t electrodes to zap her with if she went off the rails).

    • I’m pretty sure at this point that if a hero whose power was coprokinesis managed to kill an Endbringer, their action figures would fly off the shelves worldwide, fecal powers and all. I don’t think he’ll have any issues marketing Taylor from now on if that video makes its way to the general public.

      • I’m aghast I actually understood what you were talking about with only coprokinesis as a word to go on, without needing the context.
        Also, agreed.

        …thinking of it, I can actually think of a trigger situation leading to exactly that power.
        More relevant to the issue, would the Manton effect prevent the power from acting on pre-excreted excrement?

  72. Okay, now begins the wait for other shoe dropping.

    Also, the list Chevalier browsed makes me wonder — when WILL the fourth endbringer appear? Four years from Behemoth to Leviathan, Six years from Leviathan to Simurgh… what year is it, anyway?

    • Erm, what reason/evidence do we have for a fourth one appearing?

      Honestly curious here, not trying to be annoying- if there isn’t any evidence, I’m quite happy to respect your opinion, I’d just really like to know if there was something I’d been missing.

      • Not saying Yea or Nay, just thinking aloud. What if we compared them to the four horsemen?
        I’d go with Levi for pestilence, considering the aftereffects of his visits.
        The Smurf would be War, sowing distrust that explodes at just the right time to set off something terrible.
        BEHEMOTH would be not death as you’d think, but famine. Poisoning the land and water sources, making places unlivable, and also killing in terrible ways. That would leave us to await Death, and if BEHEMOTH wasn’t death… the world is probably screwed,

          • And of course there’s Scion/Zion. The way, the truth, and the light, to quote about Dionysus. And maybe a few other fellows. The savior figure who appeared to save humanity and performed miracles, like healing the sick, walking on water, casting demons out of pigs, and making an ass talk. That last one also applies to Jim Carrey, come to think of it… Also seems to provide special abilities for those who follow him, such as casting out of demons, healing, walking on water, and infallibility.

            From around that period of time, if he holds to the general archetype, then we have the idea of a figure born of a god and a mortal woman. He may or may not have died and been resurrected. That part varied somewhat from version to version. Usually associated with light, and it’s hard to argue that the gold skinned man dressed all in white doesn’t fit that description, especially with his lasers. There’s also a tendency for such beings to fight enemies/demonic figures in space, just under the moon or so.

          • Confusing or not, I’m just thinking in a way that allows for a fourth to appear. I was actually aware of that from previous comment threads.

          • On the other hand, Simurgh is the Phoenix, Leviathan is the Dragon, Behemoth is the Turtle, so basically we could have the Tiger incoming.
            Beware, though, I ended up on a wikicrawl through Jewish and Persian mythology.

    • It is August 2011 (or maybe September, but I think this attack was ‘early’ rather than ‘late’). The Parahumans Online interlude gives the date.

    • Too bad the dates don’t line up with the Indian traditional calender, if this day fell on Naraka Chaturdashi during Diwali, Sicon would be worshipped as the living reincarnation of Krishna.

    • Don’t you mean “fifth”? We already have four (occupying the elemental niches of fire, earth, water and air).

      It was just our good fortune that the first one to show up was defective (or, alternatively, it was our bad luck that the next three to show up didn’t manage to find the right person to guide them).

      Oh, wait, that’s just my crazy theory…

      Will be quite interesting to find out what Tattletale thought of Scion, however.

  73. “The core elements were the same, but the appearance of it had changed enough that he’d wondered if the man had managed a second trigger event. He would have assumed so, except there was no intensity to corroborate the idea.”
    “His eyes settled on Weaver, surrounded by the nimbus of her power, which glowed with an intensity that surpassed any and all of her teammates.”
    See? Intensity equals second trigger event. Weaver had two events at once when she gained her power. That’s what I was saying back with Echidna’s ability to sense powers, when she said Skitter and Eidolon were as different from normal capes as normal capes were from normal people (or something similar). Vindication!

    • Not necessarily. It could mean that they have a particularly powerful parahuman manifestation or a very close relationship with their passenger. Whether or not these powers or access to the passenger are fully utilized is something else completely.

  74. So…
    As discussed in Interlude 20+1 the condition of next fight was met. Not it’s time to clean house in the PRT, waves of layoffs, Cauldron-afflicted personal will be fired. Or would be. It really depends, since probably no-one expected Behemoth to be even defeated, let alone crushed.

    • Actually, it occurs to me: in Imago 21.5, Miss Militia claimed that they were given an eighteen percent chance of success in a fight against Behemoth, or lower if the Protectorate fell apart — but in the past, the criterion for success was “Behemoth driven off without catastrophic damage”.

      It’s entirely possible that, when they were talking to Dinah, they tailored their questions to that understanding, and this result was part of the 82% bracket.

      It’s also entirely possible that they didn’t, that Dinah was calculating how likely it was that Behemoth would be defeated, and that Scion would have been unable to destroy Behemoth without assistance.

        • At the risk of sounding cold and soulless, New Delhi for Behemoth seems a good bargain. And I’d think that people who have been living with the threat of the Endbringers all that time (heck Dinah wouldn’t even know of a world without Endbringers), would probably agree.

          • It’s not a matter of whether this day was a win (it was) – the question is: did they word the question in a way that would say this was a win?

            “What is the probability that, if Behemoth attacks next, we can prevent him from destroying the place he hits?”

            They didn’t prevent him.

            • Plus Dinah probably couldn’t foresee this. It took Scion to take out Behemoth, and Scion is supposed to be immune to precog (which is why he can hit the Simurgh). Presumably, this branch of the future was beyond her sight. Which means all kinds of numbers might have just changed.

          • I would say that this goes a lot farther than just New Delhi being attacked. New Delhi is near the source of the Ganges River, which provides water for the most densely populated portions of India. 300-400 million people in India, in addition to those in New Delhi proper, will now need to relocate due to their watershed being contaminated with an incredible amount of nuclear fallout as runoff drains into the river. From a big picture perspective, Behemoth just displaced about 6% of the entire global population before he died. Not only that, he just contaminated a holy site to about 13% of the global population. The city of New Delhi was just the tip of the iceberg in terms of damage.

            • Given how poor much of India is, I expect many of those people will just drink radioactive water and die younger than they would have otherwise.

              Radiation is bad for you, but…it’s not the end of the world. The end of the world is the thing that’ll happen in two years, probably killing you regardless of whether or not you drank radioactive water.

              • Oh great. Behemoth just created an entire nation of Hulks. This will end well for everyone involved.

              • Except that Worm is not the Marvel universe. Radiation doen’t give you superpowers, it kills you, as Raymancer sadly proved.

                However, I can see the desperation of being reduced to drinking water you know is poisoned as good cause for a trigger event.

              • Well, to be fair, you could get bitten by a radioactive spider and have a trigger event in the aftermath.

                Or bombarded by gamma waves to the point where your body starts to fall apart, and trigger then.

              • Or we get a Tinker who’s ability relates to radiation or water purification. Let’s hope they can kill the Smurf before she messes him up.

        • Exactly. And tore the parahumans fighting him to pieces. All the criteria by which Leviathan was a win, this was a defeat.

  75. So, my collected thoughts after a second reading:

    – It was exhilarating, moving and made me cry out loud with joy at the end, but I and other people have gone over that in detail previously.

    -Chevalier’s back story was fitting and emotive, and why he put himself in Taylor’s corner makes a great deal more sense now. I’d remarked before that I respected him for how well he’d treated her, that respect has only grown in seeing the full picture. The faith he’s put in Defiant regarding that whole issue makes a lot of sense now as well. His incredible resolve and desire to put himself in harm’s way when his people are in danger are commendable for a leader, as well.

    -Chevalier is also a hero on the same level as Taylor, in the true sense of the word. Seeing a relatively normal man fight mano-a-mano with Behemoth whilst so badly wounded was moving and inspiring at the same time. Chev will be a hero to everyone who saw that fight, and to the world assuming the footage is released. There was something of Arthur, Roland, Conan, and Guts in Chevalier during that fight- wildbow outdid himself. The climb out of his hospital bed and the walk down the stairs was nearly as moving as the fight itself.

    -Are the Endbringers a test, and that was why Behemoth was pushed to attack further when he was wounded? Because he was programmed to, so that the humans would have the chance to beat him, if they’d risen to the challenge of hurting him? Also, do they need to fight the battle themselves, before Scion can step in and deliver them? This would fit with Scion killing one when they’d already seriously wounded it. Obviously Kevin Norton’s orders also have a role here- but planned serendipity is not impossible in a world of pre-cogs and powerful otherworldly beings.

    -Taylor’s situation should be improved a great deal if Chevalier lives, and he and everyone realizes the full scope of the role she played. The change of accommodations he promised will hopefully be coming soon, and possibly a somewhat more reasonable ROE. In their last discussion he promised he’d get her moved, and indicated future flexibility on the ROE, let’s remember. The Chicago Wards team should be a good home for her, as well.

    -Drama will not doubt ensue around Dragon apparently getting toasted, and quite possibly Alexandria’s possible brain healing, but others have covered that already.

    -I wonder if anyone we know and care about died in the last wave of capes Behemoth killed, other than Dragon’s psuedo-death.

  76. I dont know if people have mentioned this before. (I didn’t read every single comment)

    I think the reason that ZION appeared and killed BEHEMOTH is because Chevalier reached his core with his sword and poked it. After Chevalier hit the core BEHEMOTH gave off the weird power negation thing, and Scion immediately showed up and proceeded to kill the Behemoth.

    Also incredible chapter WILDBOW. <——– (deserving of all caps)

      • A few extracts from Tattletale’s interlude (considering how much she worked out so fast, you can understand why they took her out). She didn’t know about the cores, but she identified where he would keep anything organ-like, so that’s where the core will be. Summary, core of his torso:

        Leviathan, nonstandard cardiac, nervous systems: irregular biology. No standard organs or weak points. No brain, heart or center of operations for rest of his body.
        Irregular biology, no vulnerable organs: body divided into layers, extending down to hyperdurable core body, each layer down is slightly more than twice as durable as previous. Exterior skin is hard as aluminum alloy, but flexible, lets him move.

        Durable layers to body, no conventional organs, irregular biology: Tissues mend from the inside out, layers expanding to fill wounds and integrating into surrounding structures. Not human.

        Not human: Never was human.

        No vulnerable organs, hyperdurable tissues: simple organs exist at core of torso, where there is highest amount of surrounding tissues. Optimal thickness of layer and narrowness of body part at upper arms, just before shoulder joint, and upper thighs, just below hip joint.

        • As I understand it, Tattletale had one of her patented intuitive insights about Behemoth’s core when she realised that some parts of him (ie. the parts furthest from the core) were healing slower than others.

      • Just a funny thought: Scion actually shows up *immediately* after one of Rachel’s dogs dies in both the Levi fight and this one.

        (Insanity cap strapped on) Clearly this proves that Scion is Rachel’s long lost older brother.

        • Or, more seriously, we know that willdbow (like myself) is a dog lover, and even though he likes dark moments, and will happily torment and kill his human characters where appropriate, when a dog dies shit gets fucking real.

  77. I’d guess Keene has some kind of Trump power, or has had one used on him. There are a few other possibilities, but a second trigger event or buying another power from Cauldron (assuming that’s possible – they did sell powers, plural, to Gray Boy) would presumably increase the intensity as well.

    • Well, that is certainly one way it can be interpreted. But another would be Gray Boy buying multiple vials, but not using all on himself, like Accord was the partner of transaction with Cauldron, but not the recipient of powers.
      Incidentally, when Bonesaw monologuely talked to Blasto she mentioned Gray Boy after talking about security cameras… but also going over samples. It could mean she just came across the Gray Boy sample, but at the same time also be an indicator on his power – total control over surveillance perhaps. Or jumping from camera to camera, who knows.

    • Keene did the legwork to make the Yangban show up at the Behemoth fight, right? And the Yangban delivered one of the Simurgh’s payloads, Cody. I wouldn’t be surprised if that change Chevalier observed was Keene being Simurgh-afflicted.

      • That’s a fascinating thought. Chevalier’s ability has probably given him all kinds of information that he just hasn’t put together (most likely because he was discouraged from doing so), with the most obvious one being that he should be able to discern some difference between naturally triggered and Cauldron-triggered capes.

  78. This was amazing! Am I correct in thinking that Mouse Girl is Mouse Protector? And… wow. I was really holding my breath through the entire chapter, hoping that something would finally pay off, and when it did… man. Sorry, I’m not quite coherent right now.

  79. For me I think that the heroes exposing the core triggered some sort of response (or help for scion) from Scion that made him kill Behemoth.

    • It could be a combination of an exposed core (the first time as i far as i know) and the hobos “kill order” for Scion.

      • There are two PoV relevant here. Our outside knowledge says Scion only made the attempt at all because of the order and that it is implied the only reason he could do it so easily(maybe even at all) was because Behemoth was damaged to an extent no one else had ever accomplished.

        The reactions in Wormverse however are pretty different. Since they have no reason to think Scion suddenly changed his actions then the logical conclusion is that them doing so much damage to Behemoth and/or exposing his core is the reason he killed Behemoth here.

  80. I’m not going to get my hopes up, but something did occur to me when I reread this chapter. If touching the core shuts powers down, that does leave a way for Clockblocker to be alive. If the wires cut deep enough that his power shut down from that rather than from him being killed. Course he’d still have to survive being near BEHEMOTH, and the odds of that aren’t good at all.

    • Unfortunately, I think he may have already been clear of the wires when they dropped. (The text is possibly a little difficult to parse — it almost reads as if he passed straight through the mesh, from one side to the other.)

  81. I… kind of want to read an Eidolon interlude. I can’t help but think it would be tremendously interesting. Is that on the table somewhere down the line?

  82. This is yet another fantastic chapter after an entire arc of them. Probably my favorite yet. Chevalier is fantastic, and the final battle between the capes and Behemoth was great – I loved how at the very end Behemoth was starting to get his shit wrecked. Alexandria and Eidolon were still there, Skitter and her team were throwing instant death wheels around, and Chevalier showed up and even as badly hurt as he was, hurt Behemoth, badly. I think if the Heros survived and Behemoth survived, the next time he showed up he’d have been killed anyways.

    On that note, Go Scion! It’s great that the HEROKILLER is dead. Maybe he’ll come back, maybe someone will remake him, but as I mentioned above, I think the capes were about to turn things around even without Scion – again, if they survived. I imagine the next fight against Leviathan and Smurf will be brutal – but brutal for the Endbringers as well. Foil will wreck their shit with her powers, but also Defiant will be able to get close enough to use his Halberd – and he might even make a whole bunch of one offs for the fight so everybody gets one. All they have to do is expose the core and find a way to destroy it – Scrub maybe, or Foil again. Or just throw it through a portal.

    As for the core itself – I’m not sure it’s power nullification. Did Chevalier lose his powers entirely? We don’t know yet. But I think it’s just some kind of matter/space business. Grue covered the mostly exposed core with his powers and they seemed to work fine.

    I can’t wait to see the fallout and reaction to the events in this chapter. Damn do I wish we got another Number Man interlude now. I think he’s one of the few who could really grasp how much this changes everything. Alexandria is dead, but the Pretender is working for Cauldron for now. But that 23 year mark just changed.

    I’m also very interested in seeing the Cape reactions to the information in Skitter’s camera. Cauldron kidnapped hundreds of capes and flat out admitted it to her face. Contessa admitted her power. Skitter quite obviously was the one responsible for making the Phir Se bomb go off correctly, and cutting Behemoth’s leg off, and reorganizing and saving the day basically. I expect she’ll get some mad respect from the Protectorate now – any serious event you’ll want Weaver there backing you up. I also figure she’ll get a higher Thinker rating now. Whether it’s accurate or not, if it get’s people to listen to her in crisis situations, then it’s doing it’s job.

    • Grues darkness is kind of a cloud. Maybe the “darkness-particles” touching the core did not work. It could have a power nullification on touch. The sword as a unit lost is properties but the darkness mist just partly.

    • Was the core still exposed? Behemoth regenerates faster the closer to the core, so I could see him covering it back up in less than a second, assuming Scion didn’t scour the covering back off.

  83. This is how I feel about Scion, if Link=Scion.

    Scion is off getting cats out of trees and saving people from burning buildings while the Endbringers destroy cities and continents.

      • Hey in his defense most games you can totally just go and do those sidequests, and the villians and disasters will just patiantly wait for you. Grind to level 99 and get the best armor, or rush in at level 64 with okay armor, the situations always the same when you get there.

          • Wouldn’t that be fun though? A kind of game where the longer you take till you face the end boss the more damage he does, forcing you to either let him rampage until you’ve got the best armour or what not, or facing him with wooden sticks and half a wheel as a shield.

            • Well normally characters that you have to defeat to join you are fixed at a certain number of levels above you so that already exists to an extent…

              That said it would take a bit of a work to do it properly in a game, maybe have several sub-bosses through the game which have that happen and then the end boss takes the average? That way the players have more leeway in their actions, in normal mode the later ones would weigh more while in hard they would all be equal.

              Or maybe optional bosses/optional side-quests that have their time added to the total time but not to the number of such. That way you have to consider which bosses are actually worth fighting to get the reward even outside the normal go through the game.

              If a game with multiple characters you can also have the number of such influence the difficulty of enemies which means that a single character would actually be the most efficient(weak enemies+quicker levelling) except that the way the battles work means it is impossible for a single set of skills to win. It also ties with optional bosses in that they give ways for you to do more things with less characters.

              I imagine having a profile separate for each playthrough so that you can have either a limited number of deaths or bonus/penalties for the number is pretty much a must for this kind of game.

              And wow this grew big…

              • In Mass Effect 2 it was employed in a minor case. Just before the last (suicide) mission one was left to wrap things up, and depending on how many missions one did wrap up the more or less people of your crew died on that last mission.

                Incidentally, I still want to play it in such a way Shepard dies and only Joker survives…

            • That’s sort of the principle behind Ransack, the game the Travelers were playing, pre-Simurgh. The goal is to clear the dungeon and defeat the enemy overlord as fast as possible, while he’s stalling you (by placing traps and obstacles in your way, tough or hard to hit monsters, and monsters who can kill you – the optimal/most thorough manner of stalling). As you take longer, he builds his strength, gets more time to place obstacles, enhance or upgrade the end boss, etc.

              I want to make/play that game, heh.

              • Wildbow, if you haven’t tried it already, play Dungeon Keeper 1 & 2. It’s pretty much the exact situation as Ransack, except you are playing the Evil Overlord. They have it for dirt cheap at

              • “Keeper…one of your Imps does a great impression of you. He can even do the ears.”

                Let’s see…captured some heroes…toss them in the arena…ooh, except that fairy, I want to keep her. Ok, my dominatrix torturers of the dungeon, have at her! Hey, get your buddy out of the rotating torture rack that dips the upperbody under water. Playtime’s for play, worktime’s for work! Fine, I’ll just electrocute the little thing myself…Wait a minute, she’s a little fairy…clear me out a torture rack, we’re stretchin’ Tinkerbell out!

                “Keeper, your floors are lumpy. Order your minions to jump up and down.”

              • Yeah, that game ruled. Probably one of the most glitchy games ever released though. Intensely difficult towards the end too, particularly the horrendous final level where you have to not only defend against a complete onslaught, you have to fight your way forward to capture the staging points the heroes are using, lest you get overwhelmed. It’s a shame that EA bought out Bullfrog and killed the sequel that was in development 😦

            • Pretty much every modern American RPG does this, and many JPRGs have some sort of level scaling now as well. It has downsides, from a game-playing point of view it means the ‘game’ is set up more to tell a story at you, and how you choose to play has less impact on what actually happens.

  84. This chapter sure as heck did a lot to dispell a lot of the despair this series was sinking into. Simply incredible.

    Miss Militia wasn’t in this fight, but I’m sure she was watching from the Brockton Bay headquarters. I can only imagine her thinking back to how Tagg actually wanted the PRT to keep going after the Undersiders and comparing that though