Scarab 25.2

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“Sorry… I’m… so…”

He didn’t finish the sentence.

I could sense him slowing, using the bugs I’d planted on his costume.  I stopped and waited for him.

“It’s fine, Theo.  You’re doing me a favor.”

“Doesn’t feel like it,” he said.  He bent down, hands on his knees.

I waited for him to get his breath.

“I might throw up,” he added.

I backed away a step.  “Just getting the chance to run, it’s cool.  Not many others are willing to meet me at seven to run, much less six weeks in a row.  Grace is athletic, but she got sick of it fast.”

He mumbled something I couldn’t make out.


“I’m not athletic.”

“You’re getting better.  We just got a whole two blocks.  That’s not bad.  About as good as I was when I started.”

“Not fair to you, make you suffer for how much I suck.”

“It’s fine.  It’s nice to get outside.  Kind of a pain to have to get someone to come with if I want to go outside for no particular reason.  If I don’t get the exercise here, I can use the treadmill back at the headquarters.  Don’t feel obligated, if you’re not enjoying this.”

“I don’t.  I’m… it’s good.  I want to get fit.”

“Well, in that case, don’t worry about it.  We’re both benefitting,” I said.

He made it another few steps before he was hunched over again, still breathing hard.

I felt a pang of sympathy, suppressing a smile at the same time.  “Come on.  We’ll walk one block, then try running another, walk the rest of the way.”

He was still panting for breath as he obliged.

I found myself missing Brockton Bay.  It wasn’t the most beautiful city, or the most active.  Or the most anything.  There were already things going on around the portal, but it wasn’t a city with a lot going for it, and it hadn’t been even before the intense series of events had laid waste to the shoreline, set a water-filled crater in the northwest corner of the downtown area and left an entire swathe of the city so fucked up with random, horrifically dangerous effects that it had to be walled off.

Maybe I wouldn’t have felt the same way if I hadn’t grown up there, but I liked the balance in Brockton Bay.  The way there was everything I could want, as far as malls, shopping centers, theaters.  It was a big enough city.  Yet there was just as much room to wake up early in the day, when others weren’t out, and have Brockton Bay to myself.

Chicago wasn’t like that.  It was busy, and it was busy in a way that got in my way.  People were already up if I got up at six in the morning to go run.  Some were still up from the previous night, having spent the entire evening at clubs or whatever else.  Everything was taken to an extreme, it seemed, in drama, opinions and ideas.  It made it a little harder to sympathize with Chicago’s equivalents to the people I’d been helping in Brockton Bay.  A little harder to sympathize with anyone, really.

I was feeling cramped.  I wasn’t a social person at my core, and being here, like this, never allowed to be out and on my own, it rankled.  I liked time on my own, with the internet or a good book, even a bad book, to get my mind settled down, my thoughts in order.  It wasn’t that I didn’t like people, that I didn’t like company, but too much was too much, and I had no elbow room here.

Whether they knew it or not, the PRT directors had found a fitting way to punish me.  Hopefully it wouldn’t go any further than this.  I’d done as they asked, I was staying under the radar, and though I didn’t plan to stay there, I didn’t think they had any reason to make my life more difficult.  I had my suspicions that my phone and computer were tapped, so I was careful about what I browsed and how I communicated.

With luck, they would forget about me until I was active again.  With more luck, I wouldn’t have to worry about them much longer.  The Director from Toronto, the guy I hadn’t been able to place, had already quit.  Wilkins and West were still active, but the woman at the end of the table was under scrutiny.

There was stuff going on behind the scenes, and speculation was rampant on the Parahumans Online site.  Satyrical’s name had come up.  As far as  could tell, the Vegas capes had gone rogue, and they were apparently targeting the more corrupt elements of the PRT.

I wasn’t a hundred percent sure how to feel about that, but I wasn’t complaining if someone was taking down my enemies for me, especially if it was in a more or less safe, legitimate way.

“Hey,” Theo said.

I turned to look at him.

“When you were dealing with the Slaughterhouse Nine back in Brockton Bay, you fought Jack Slash, right?”

“Yeah.  Kind of.”

“Kind of?”

“He doesn’t really fight, unless he’s got his people around him and the fight’s unfair.  Mostly, I was chasing him around, trying not to get killed in the process.”

He frowned.

“Worried?” I asked.  “You’ll have help.”

“So will he,” Theo pointed out.


“I’m… I’m not good at this.  Everything Kaiser was, I’m not.”

“That’s not a bad thing.  He was an asshole.  You aren’t.”

Theo managed a weak smile.  It was hard to identify just how he would react in regards to things.  Backed against a wall, faced with a serious threat, he showed courage.  I’d seen him on patrol, and for all his worries, he did follow through.  He had against Behemoth, in what was almost his first time out in costume.  Talking about his family, though, I couldn’t pin down just what he’d say or do.

The feeble smile, was that genuine?  Had I hurt him, left him in a position where he wanted to defend his family but couldn’t because of what they were?

“I don’t fit the typical cape mold,” Theo said.

I resisted the urge to tell him I didn’t either, but I didn’t.  I remembered a tidbit of advice I’d heard Tecton giving, and listened instead.  “You’re feeling nervous.  Anyone would.”

“The running, I don’t feel the difference,” he said.

“Slow gains, but they’re there.”

“The training helps,” he said.  “The training feels concrete, like I’m getting significantly better.”

“You want to train when we get back?”

“I don’t have long before I have to patrol.  A short one?”

“Sure.  Come on.  Run one more block, throw up if you have to, then we walk back.”

He made a sound partway between a gurgle and a groan, but he followed me as I took off.

Running at first, then walking, we took a different route coming back than we’d taken on our way out.  The trees by the lake were aflame with autumnal colors, and I could see a handful of college students and older folk gathered, enjoying the serenity of the lake, the perfect temperature.  Tranquil.

That was something I could get behind.  I would have loved to sit by the lake, given the opportunity.  The trouble was, I never got the chance.  I was leashed to other people’s schedules, my excursions had to be in another person’s company, and nobody had really seemed keen on the idea of going out solely to go and sit at the lakeside.

As penance went, it was pretty light, but the overall effect of this restriction was wearing on me in a way that the jail cell hadn’t.

We reached the PRT headquarters, one of two in Chicago. It was squat, broad, and not terribly pretty, but it sported a statue on the roof that had been paid for by an old member, Stardust.

Once inside, we made our way up to the top floor, where the Wards’ rooms and the ‘hub’, as the others called it.  It was a label that made me think of prison, and that, in turn, pushed me to think of it more as a common area or a lounge.

“Gym?” I asked.

“Yeah,” Theo said.  “Let me get my stuff on.  I’ll meet you there.”

I tapped into the supply of bugs that were stored in my workshop, withdrawing an assortment of flies, beetles and cockroaches, depositing the ones that I’d collected during the ‘run’.  It wasn’t many, but I didn’t need much.  Enough or three or four swarm clones.

I stopped by the kitchen to collect some silverware, then made my way down one floor to where the gym was.

Golem arrived a minute after I got there, decked out in his costume.  It had changed from its first iteration, complete with a layer of spider silk and heavy armor over top of it.  He wore a mask with a neutral, almost solemn face, and fan-like decorations at his waist and shoulders, the spaces stretching between the slats painted white, a darker metal composing the frame and edges.

The image consultant was having fits, no doubt, but the first and most important goal was for Golem to be effective.  We were getting there.  Image would come later.

“Hey,” Kirk greeted us, stepping out as Golem arrived.  He wore a t-shirt and yoga pants, and was glistening with sweat.  His head was shaved, and his skin was a striking jet black.  “You guys sparring?”

“Training,” I said.  “Not sparring, really.”

“Can I watch?”

I looked at Golem, “Are you okay with it?.”

“I’m the one embarrassing myself, you mean.”

“I think you’re past the point where you’re embarrassing yourself,” I said.

“You can watch if you want, Annex.  Wouldn’t mind helping clean up,” Golem said. “I can’t promise it’ll be anything special.”

“Not a prob,” Kirk responded.  “Kind of curious to see where you’re at.”

We made our way inside.

The area was divided, with workout machines taking up one half, and an open area for sparring and dance and whatever else on the other half.  Floor panels, varying in the depth and degree of padding offered, were neatly stacked in one corner.

We moved to the open area, but we didn’t set up any padding for the floor.  My bugs flowed through vents and from the hallway outside, and they filled the room, covering every surface.

The bugs congealed into a human figure, and Golem took action.  His fingertips ran along the white ‘fans’ at his waist, then he jabbed one hand inside.  A hand of concrete lunged out of the floor to dissipate the swarm.

A little slow, but not bad.

Another part of the swarm congealed into a rough decoy, and Golem clutched it in a fist of concrete.  Faster this time.  The bugs seeped out through the gaps in the fingers as the hand retreated into the floor’s surface.

Each panel of the fan was a different material.  Concrete, steel, granite, wood.  Common materials were in easy reach.  Less common ones were a gesture away.  Two at once, this time.  Two figures to strike.  Golem caught one with his right hand, but I moved the other as he reached for it with his left.  He wasn’t quick enough to catch it, and the angle was poor.

I drew a butter knife from the pocket of my shorts, raised it above my head.

Golem was watching for it.  He dug his fingertips into the topside of one panel, his thumb into the underside.  Identical digits sprouted from the knife, forming half of a fist that had closed around the edge.  The knife became a club, one with no cutting edge.

I threw the weapon aside and turned my attention towards creating more decoys.

I feinted, now, misleading him about where my clones were moving.  He struggled but managed to deliver the hits.  Dragonflies and faster insects formed a more mobile body, and I avoided the strikes, right up until he started creating hands that sprouted forth from limbs that were already sticking out of the ground: branching barriers to limit movement.  I tried to simulate the general effect of the obstacles, and Golem took the opportunity to deliver a finishing blow, crushing another swarm-decoy..

“Hit them harder now,” I said.  Running, I tried to raise expectations for myself.  Here, I did much the same for Golem.

The movements became more violent.  A hand cupped around one swarm and then pulled it against the ground, melding back into the surface.  Bugs were squished against the spacial distortion field, and my swarm’s numbers were severely reduced.

Another was squashed against the wall, but the surfaces were different materials, and the hand couldn’t simply sink back in.  This time, there was an audible thud, eliciting a heavy rattling from the exercise machines on the other side of the gym.

I drew my swarm together into a rough shape, not a person, but something larger, a touch bigger than Crawler, smaller than Echidna, bipedal.

He hit it, and I reformed it.

“Hit it harder,” I said.

He hit it again, drawing two hands together as if he were squeezing it.  There was no substance to the monster’s body, though.  I judged that he wasn’t doing enough damage and simply reformed it.  The monster advanced on him.

I stepped a little closer, raising my voice.  “Come on, Theo!  Hit harder!”

Golem dropped a foot as one leg slipped into the concrete floor.  A facsimile of his boot rose out of the floor, complete with cleats.  The speed and force of it would have been enough to lift one of Rachel’s dogs, so I obliged by moving the ‘body’ of the swarm monster, raising it.

As the foot continued to rise, Golem’s leg disappearing up to the knee in the floor, he pushed one hand into the fan, causing a limb to drop from the ceiling right above the rising spiked platform that was Golem’s boot.  My creation was sandwiched between the two, and the collision had enough of an impact to make Kirk and I stumble.  I had to turn my head to keep the dust from getting in my eyes.

“Is that-” Golem started.

Before he finished the sentence, I had a second butter knife drawn, the tip pressed to his throat.

“Keep your eye on the threats,” I said.

“Not very fair,” Kirk commented.  “Playing dirty.”

“No,” Golem said.  His voice wavered, which was odd, considering I wasn’t doing anything that was actually threatening.  Something else had shaken him.  Had he taken the lesson to heart?  “I’s good.  That’s the kind of lesson I need to know.  It’s why I’m training.”

“Jack’s going to throw some scary motherfuckers at you,” I said.  “But he’ll be looking for an opening.  Always, always watch your back.  Don’t forget to watch your friend’s backs too.  You probably won’t die if you do, but you might wish you were dead, when you see what Jack and his gang do to them.”

Golem withdrew his arm from the panel, but his leg was harder to free from the ground.  By the time he was standing straight, the leg that stuck out of the floor had become more or less permanent.  In another area, fingertips stuck out of the floor.  There were also the branching ‘trees’ of hands that had formed barriers.  Without us even asking, Kirk stepped forward, his body liquefying as he flowed into the surface, smoothing it all out as though we’d never been there.

When he was done, he emerged to survey his work.

“Thank you,” I said.

“Interesting to watch.  Figuring out ways to apply his power?”

“Pretty much.  Tricks for his repertoire, building some familiarity with using his abilities, attacking to recognize threats and attack without hesitation when needed.”

“You really buy that Jack’s going to wake up from some cryogenic sleep just to fight some kid who didn’t even have powers when they last met?”

“Yeah,” I said.  “Believe it or not, with what I know of Jack, it makes perfect sense.”


“You’re on board, right?” I asked.  “With the plan?”

Kirk nodded.  “Seems a little crazy, but doesn’t hurt, given the stakes.”

“End of the world,” Golem said.

“End of the world,” I agreed.  “We’ll get as many on board as we can.  Either we avert it, or we soften the blow.”

“Assuming we can figure out what it is,” Golem said.

“Yeah,” I said. “You said you had patrol soon?”

“Eight twenty.  Then school after that.  I’ll see you this afternoon?”

“Yeah,” I answered.  I made my way to the common area and took the first unoccupied spot at the computer.  Grace was there, but she wore a school uniform, and had homework spread around her.

“Don’t say a word,” she told me, clearly annoyed.

“Wasn’t going to,” I responded.

I logged in, and was greeted by the customized desktop.

C/D: Endbringer

C/D: End of World

The first counted upward, the other counted down.

Three days had passed since the estimated arrival of either the Simurgh or Leviathan.  Behemoth had been early, but whatever factor pushed that to occur wasn’t at play here.

It made sense that they wouldn’t maintain the schedule they had been.  Since the Simurgh had arrived, roughly three and a half months had passed between each attack.
These coming days and weeks would speak volumes.  Were the Endbringers going to alter their tactics?  Would the schedule continue at its accelerated pace, with Behemoth appearing in seven to ten months?

Something else altogether?

My eyes fell on the second clock.  The countdown.


“No joke?” I asked, the second the elevator doors were open.  Cuff was waiting on the other side.

“She’s here,” Cuff said.  “Not here, here, but she’s showed up.”

I was in full costume, my flight pack on, an insulated box for my bugs tucked under one arm. my phone in hand.  I was chilled to the core of my body, my lenses fogging up from the adjustment from outdoor temperature to indoor temperature.

I didn’t need to ask who.  I knew well enough.  It was a question that had been lurking on everyone’s minds.  Which one, where?

I pulled off my mask as I followed her to the common area, and reached out to accept the glasses my bugs were already fetching to me, putting them on.  The same images played on each of the screens.

The Simurgh, her silhouette barely visible in the midst of the clouds.

“What city?” I asked.

“Not a city,” Tecton said.

Sure enough, the camera angle changed.  Water.  Coastal?

No.  Too much water.

Ocean.  She was attacking the ocean?

It clicked when I saw the text at the bottom of the screen for one news report.  BA178 under siege.

Of all of the sensitive locations in the world, the Simurgh had chosen a passenger airplane.

“Are we-” I started to ask.

“Can’t,” Tecton said.  “No solid ground, and none of us fly.”

“I fly,” I said, but I could already guess the follow-up answer.

“Vehicles and tinker equipment aren’t going to cut it.  Too easy for her to interfere with,” Tecton said.

“Order came down from the top.  Natural fliers only,” Wanton added.

“We’re too late to join in anyways,” Grace said.  “I can’t imagine this’ll be a long, drawn-out, knock down fight.  We got almost no warning.  It’s like she dropped straight down from where she was and picked a fight with the closest target.”

I thought of Armstrong’s insistence that we capitalize on our victory, mass in numbers to allow for another decisive victory, instead of showing up in smaller groups, with inevitable attrition.

All this waiting, all of the restlessness, watching the countdown clock tick well beyond the estimated date, and we couldn’t even fight.  I wasn’t sure how to feel about that.

I watched on the screen as Legend, Alexandria and Eidolon engaged the Simurgh.  She avoided the worst of their attacks, primarily through the only cover available – the airplane.

Half of the screens were showing the same video footage, though they were different channels, different organizations.  The other half were showing information.  The flight route, the people in the plane.

If anything here was special, the only one who knew would be the Simurgh.

My teammates didn’t talk much as we watched the fight progress.  In one instant, it seemed, the dynamic changed.  The heroes began trying to attack the plane, and the Simurgh started trying to defend it.

For eleven minutes, she managed, using her telekinesis to move the craft, her wings and body to block it from being damaged.

A fire started on the body of the ship as Eidolon tore into the Simurgh with a reality warping power of some kind, complete with lightning, fire, distorted light, and ice.  The Simurgh cast the craft aside in the following instant, letting it flip, burn and tumble before hitting the water and virtually disintegrating.

That done, the Simurgh ascended, rising into the clouds.  A few capes tried to follow, but Scion wasn’t among them.

“How long was the fight?” I asked.

“Not long enough for Scion to show,” was all Wanton said.

“Forty minutes?” Tecton asked.  “About forty minutes.”

I’d spent more than half that time hurrying back to headquarters, hoping I wasn’t missing my ride.  Now this.  It was a farce.

“Now we wait,” Grace said, “And if we’re lucky, we find out what she just did.”

That was it.

It was almost a letdown, more than a relief.  I couldn’t say she’d been softballing us, because it was the Simurgh.  For all I knew, this was the most devastating attack yet.  We wouldn’t know until later on.

Virtually no casualties, the planeload of people excepted.  Nobody was reporting anything about heroes dying, but it had been clear enough from the footage that this hadn’t been a serious loss.  Barely forty capes had been out there, and I hadn’t seen any die.

Yet I felt irrationally upset, if anything.

I turned and walked away.  I let the strap of the incubation box slip from my shoulder to the crook of my elbow, caught it with my hand, and then transferred it over to the arms of my flight pack.  It meant I didn’t have to stop or bend down to set the incubation box at the base of the stairs.  I didn’t go up to my room or my workshop, though.  I made my way downstairs, instead.

I was grateful to see that Mrs. Yamada hadn’t left yet.  Her things were packed, but she’d settled into the office, and was reading a small book.  A television was on in the corner, muted, showing what was happening with the Simurgh.


“Do you have a minute?”

“Of course.”

She stood and crossed the room to close the door.  I hadn’t realized I’d left it open.

“It was about the best we could hope for, going by what we know now,” I said, “And I feel worse about it than I did about New Delhi.”

“You’ve been preparing for this, anticipating it, for some time.  Mentally, you were preparing yourself for more losses, steeling yourself.  That takes a lot out of you, and you were robbed of a chance to do something.”

My phone buzzed.  I glanced at the screen.  My dad.  I sent him a message letting him know I was fine.

“Sorry,” I said, putting the phone away.  “It was my dad.”

“Don’t be sorry.  It’s a good sign if you’re reaching out to your dad, or vice-versa.”

“It’s bad manners,” I said.  “But okay.  Back to what we were saying before.  I’m almost feeling… disarmed?”

“Disarmed.  Good word.”

“I’ve been sort of enjoying the peace, the fact that the Protectorate are dealing with the meanest bastards around, the Folk, the Royals, the Condemned.  But I was telling myself it came down to the Endbringer fight.  That I’d participate, I’d wake up, fight.”

“Isn’t it better if you don’t have to?”

“No,” I said.  I stared down at my gloved hands.  “No.  Not at all.”

“You came from a bad place, and, like we’ve talked about, you reinvented yourself.  Maybe a lot of your identity is rooted in your concept of yourself as a warrior.”

“Maybe,” I said.  “But whether it’s true or not, it doesn’t change how I feel.”

“I expect a lot of people around the world feel the same way.  It’s very possible she calculated things to achieve this effect.”

I nodded.

“What do you think would be a best case scenario, Taylor?  If everything went the way you were hoping it would, deep down inside, what would happen?”

“New Delhi would happen,” I said.  Except without the severe losses.  We’d lose people, some place would get damaged, but we’d kill another Endbringer.”

“Is that realistic, do you think?”

“No,” I said.  “I know it isn’t realistic.  We went decades without killing one, and it’s stupid to imagine we could kill two in a row.”

“What’s a more reasonable expectation?”

“That she’d show up, and we’d fight, and we’d drive her off without too many casualties.”

“In either of these scenarios, do you envision yourself playing a role?  Maybe as big a role as you played in New Delhi?”

“I’m… Sort of?”

She didn’t seize on anything there, nor did she ask a follow-up question.  I took the opportunity to reflect on it.

“Yeah,” I eventually said.  “Maybe not as big a role.  Again, that’s unrealistic.  But I want to help.”

“If the Simurgh wanted to deliver a hit to morale, this would be a way to do it,” Mrs. Yamada said.  “After New Delhi, a lot of capes were hoping to make a difference, to be heroes.  Her choice of venue, the short battle, the narrow focus, it denied everyone the chance.  Not just you.”

“I need to be stronger,” I said.  “I’m supposed to be one of the people that’s around for this prophesied end of the world.  Except I’m not getting chances here.”

“Can you talk to your superiors?  To Revel?”

“I’ve hinted at it, that I could stand to sidekick around on patrols.  Nobody’s taken the deal.  Not with me.  They took Golem, but the adult capes like him, because he’s polite to a fault, works his ass off, and his power is good.  I’m good, but I wind up being a partner more than a sidekick.”

“You’ve been training with Golem.”


“You’re due some of the credit for his forward strides, I’m sure.”

“I’m not-” I started, then I made myself stop.  Too much emotion in my voice.  Calmer, I said, “I’m not looking for reassurance, or for compliments.  I’m just…”

I struggled for a way to end the sentence.

“Let’s use the ‘I feel because’ line.  Frame your emotions better.”

I drew in a deep breath, then sighed.  “I feel spooked, because something’s coming and it’s going to be ugly, and I’m not prepared.  I feel less prepared with every day where nothing happens.”

“I imagine your teammates feel spooked too.  You’ve mentioned what they’re going through.  Golem is likely going to be baited out by Jack Slash at some point in the future.  Cuff has limited dexterity with her right hand, to the point that she’s having to relearn to write and type.  I’m not discussing anything confidential, to be clear; only what you’ve mentioned to me in our previous sessions.”

I nodded.

“Golem has your support, I know.  They all do, in some respect.  In terms of what Cuff is going through, I know your team is dividing the workload in helping her with paperwork.  That says a lot.”

“Supporting each other.”

“It sounds trite, but I think there’s a truth in it.  You have legitimate fears about what comes down the road.  But keep in mind that you’re not alone in this.  Maybe you’ve hit a ceiling for the time being, in your own growth and development.  But you can still progress, if you’re helping your teammates, assisting them in conquering their demons and improving their abilities.”

“Yeah,” I said.  “It doesn’t feel like enough.”

“It may not be, but it’s constructive.  Perhaps you’ll feel less disarmed if you focus on the tools and, so to speak, the weapons at your disposal.”

“Maybe,” I answered her.  “But I hate feeling helpless.”

“Part of the reason you feel that way is because you’re waiting for opportunities to come to you.  You waited for the Endbringer, so you could flex your talents in unimaginably high stress environments.  It’s good, I think, that you waited, that you had a moment to breathe.  I think you should strive to retain that peace, because it may help you enter a better headspace.”

It was similar advice to the parting words Glenn had left me with, but they opposed on one front.  Mrs. Yamada would have been happier in general if I maintained this indefinitely.  Glenn would be wanting to see me acting.

It was time to act, whatever Mrs. Yamada said.

“Thank you,” I said.

“You feel a little better?”

“Not really,” I admitted.  “I’m not even sure I understand all my feelings.  But I feel like I’ve got more of a plan, now.  I appreciate it.”

“It’s what I’m here for.  Or at least, I’m here for one more hour, and then I fly back to Boston.  I’ll be around next Friday, after I finish another circuit.”

“Cool,” I said.  “I’m glad you were here today.”

“I am too,” she answered.

When I stood from my chair, she did too.  She stepped forward and gave me a hug.

I wasn’t sure how normal that was, but I’d remarked once on how few hugs I got, and how some hugs I’d given or received in the past had been meaningful moments for me, and she’d asked if I wanted one from her.

Somewhere along the line, t had become something of a habit, as we ended our sessions.  I gave her a little smile as we parted.

I made my way back to the common area, and seated myself at the computer.  The others were still following what was happening on the larger monitors.  The defending heroes had frozen the plane’s half-submerged wreckage and they were preparing quarantine measures.

Whatever the reason for this particular attack, I doubted it would be clear anytime soon.

Instead, I seated myself at the computer, and logged myself in.  The timers ticked away.

Once I’d updated the timer for the recent attack, it read:

C/D: Endbringer

C/D: End of World

Inching down steadily.

Mrs. Yamada had been right, I mused, as I found the files on the local kingpins and warlords.  I was doing myself a disservice by waiting for opportunity to come to me.  If I was going to do as Glenn had suggested, and make a calculated play, I needed to act, rather than hope for another chance like we’d had in New Delhi.

Looking at the others, I wondered if it was best to manipulate them or get them on board.  Manipulation was almost kinder, because it absolved them of guilt.  Simply making sure we were in the right place at the right time, luring a local power into a fight, with  a plan already in mind…


Chevalier’s Protectorate, ups and downs aside, was more about honesty.  I wanted to tap into Skitter’s strengths, her ruthlessness, but I also wanted to be a hero.  That was at the core of what I had achieved in New Delhi.

“Tecton,” I called out, as my eyes fell on a portrait of a supervillain with a mask of an upside-down face.  An established power, located at the city’s edge for nearly ten years.

Too established?  I didn’t want to set another ABB fiasco in motion.  There were advantages to being open.  The ability to ask questions, get feedback.

“What is it?” he asked.

“There’s something I want to talk to you about.”

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309 thoughts on “Scarab 25.2

  1. In lieu of Wildbow, as was asked by him to do so in IRC earlier last week, as he is currently on vacation and cannot request it himself-

    Please vote for Worm on Topwebfiction since the votes are falling off. Thank you!

      • Hahahahaha.

        Perhaps you are right, Anonymous. But providing the convenience of a reminder and a link certainly helps those who would be minded to vote regardless, thus (to my mind) absolving any guilt incurred through the request.





          P.S. CAAAAAAAPS

          • Just throwing it out there – many readers will avoid looking at the table of contents so as not to spoil how near the end they are. I am not one of them but its generally good to avoid posting any foreknowledge in general. 🙂

    • > Would the schedule continue at its accelerated pace,
      > with Behemoth appearing in seven to ten months?

      This is PROBABLY meant to be “Leviathan” and not “Behemoth”.

      • I don’t think so. I think the implication was that the Simurgh and Leviathan would take their turns, and then Behemoth would be back like nothing had happened. Felt like speculation on whether or not Behemoth’s death would stick.

    • “No,” Golem said. His voice wavered, which was odd, considering I wasn’t doing anything that was actually threatening. Something else had shaken him. Had he taken the lesson to heart? “I’s good. That’s the kind of lesson I need to know. It’s why I’m training.”

      “I’s good” should maybe be “It’s good”?

    • Somewhere along the line, t had become something of a habit, as we ended our sessions. I gave her a little smile as we parted.

      *it had become something of a habit

    • >“New Delhi would happen,” I said. Except without the severe losses. We’d lose people, some place would get damaged, but we’d kill another Endbringer.”<

      Missing quotation mark.

      • >I tried to simulate the general effect of the obstacles, and Golem took the opportunity to deliver a finishing blow, crushing another swarm-decoy..I was in full costume, my flight pack on, an insulated box for my bugs tucked under one arm. my phone in hand.<

        Either that's supposed to be a comma or you forgot to capitalize the 'M'.

    • “Enough or three or four” For.
      “heart? “I’s good. ” Not sure if that’s Theo’s tongue stumbling or a typo.
      “arm. my phone” Caps.
      “I said. Except without” Missing quotation mark.
      “the line, t had” It.
      “with a plan” Extra space.

    • with a plan <– random double space
      “Are you okay with it?.” <– extra punctuation

      Not typos but stuff to consider editing:

      Wouldn’t mind helping clean up,” Golem said. <– consider "help cleaning" instead, as it sounds like Golem's wanting to assist the others and not the other way around

      I made my way downstairs, instead. <– feel like the italics on 'downstairs' aren't really necessary since the emphasis is implied through context already

      A fire started on the body of the ship as Eidolon tore into the Simurgh <– What ship?

    • “Jack’s going to throw some scary motherfuckers at you,” I said. “But he’ll be looking for an opening. Always, always watch your back. Don’t forget to watch your friend’s backs too. You probably won’t die if you do, but you might wish you were dead, when you see what Jack and his gang do to them.”

      I think “You probably won’t die if you don’t” is what was meant.

      • Technically, it works (“do” applies to “forget” rather than “watch”), but it’s confusing and the proposed change would be clearer.

        Also, apostrophe is in the wrong place in “watch your friend’s backs too”. It should be after “friends”.

    • “Once inside, we made our way up to the top floor, where the Wards’ rooms and the ‘hub’, as the others called it.”

      Where the Wards’ rooms and the hub… were? Or maybe replace “where” with “to” or “toward.”

    • –Enough or three or four swarm clones.
      Enough ‘for’.
      — It had changed from its first iteration, complete with a layer of spider silk and heavy armor over top of it.
      ‘over top of it?’
      — Wouldn’t mind helping clean up.
      help cleaning up.
      –“I’s good. That’s the kind of lesson I need to know. It’s why I’m training.”
      I’s is not a recognized contraction.
      –“New Delhi would happen,” I said. Except without the severe losses. We’d lose people, some place would get damaged, but we’d kill another Endbringer.”
      missing a quotation mark.
      –Somewhere along the line, t had become something of a habit, as we ended our sessions.

    • h or three or four swarm clones -> for three
      happen,” I said. Except -> Said. “Except
      here along the line, t had become -> it

    • I tried to simulate the general effect of the obstacles, and Golem took the opportunity to deliver a finishing blow, crushing another swarm-decoy..
      — two periods.

    • ‘“New Delhi would happen,” I said. Except without the severe losses. We’d lose people, some place would get damaged, but we’d kill another Endbringer.”’

      There’s a missing quotation mark before “except”

    • “Somewhere along the line, t had become something of a habit”

      Should be somewhere along the line, it had become something of a habit?

    • ‘Enough or three or four swarm clones.’ –> for three or four swarm clones

      ‘Had he taken the lesson to heart? “I’s good’ –> It’s good

      ‘“New Delhi would happen,” I said. Except without the severe losses. We’d lose people, some place would get damaged, but we’d kill another Endbringer.”’ –> needs a quotation mark before ‘Except’

      ‘Somewhere along the line, t had become something of a habit –> it had become a habit’

      I’ll stop nagging now xD thanks for the chapter! Timeskip here, if I’m not mistaken?

    • “As far as could tell, the Vegas capes had gone rogue” … missing word there.

      “I’s good. That’s the kind of lesson I need to know. … missing t in the I’s.

      [First comment after sacrificing two weeks, so excited! 😀 ]

    • Somewhere along the line, t had become something of a habit, as we ended our sessions. I gave her a little smile as we parted.

      missing i in it

    • “I’s good.  That’s the kind of lesson I need to know.”
      Shouldn’t this be “It’s good”?

  2. Simurgh’s attack.

    What the hell.

    The most obvious explanation is that Simurgh chose this flight because (a) arranging for its destruction is the best she could do in terms of damage while (b) staying alive to fight another day. That’s the explanation everyone is hoping is true.

    …anyone want to lay odds on it?

    • It’s possible that this is the beginning of a new series of small attacks.

      Instead of hitting a city once every year or so, the Endbringers could hit a soft target every week.

      • Wasn’t it mentioned that every time the capes start to win/stall the Endbringers, they change tactics? And this way, it decreases the chance of Scion taking one of them out.

      • I`m concerned that that`s the case and Leviathan starts sinking random ships and simply make it too dangerous to move from continent to continent and shit just start a long guerrilla warfare campaign. Definitely wanted to make the heroes destroy the plane or else she would`ve crushed it herself. Maybe wanted to be seen wrecking the plane so people know it wasn`t just a freak accident it was a freaking endbringer. There`s really nothing anyone can do about her wrecking a plane above the middle of the ocean.

    • It crushes morale. Not only does t keep everyone tense to the point of snapping, when it does occur, most of them are rendered completely useless from lack of mobility, and the rest are rendered such by her playing keepsie with the plane until they were effected, leading to the plane having to be taken down. A full, complete, and total victory for Simurgh, and the same, but loss instead for the heroes.

    • Betting that someone related to someone important was on the plane. She was attempting to either sing them crazy or just kill them to hurt that important person, whoever they may be. Personally, I’m betting that it was Scion’s lady friend.
      Either that or she was actually targeting one of the heroes that she knew would come to attack her.

    • Someone aboard was capable of making the world a better place, this was a surgical strike to deny humanity an asset with the extra opportunity to create more disaster dominoes, to demoralize the heroes and yet stay out of Scion’s radar.

    • I think she knows better than anyone about Scion’s new kill orders and is playing the long game here. She has to know about the End of the World after all. Was it ever stated how long is too long before you are considered “corrupted” by the Smurf’s scream? Damn, I feel those poor bastards on the plane. Especially when they realize the heroes are trying to kill them. My guess is one of the passengers triggers in the ocean, and becomes a future threat at some point. I say three to one odds that she is limiting her attacks and playing the waiting game for the end of the world.

      • By the time those the “heroes” were trying to kill them, the passengers would most likely have been too far gone to care, their families however….. lets just hope that none of the warped passengers got messages out after the 40 min mark, that may just set the recipients up to create hindrances and calamities at the worst time at the worst possible moment.

        • So I’m confused here about the effects on people. The travelers were manipulated, but were sane with the exception of Cody. While Noelle lost her sanity due to the formula. But Tagg’s flashback was describing ordinary people who acted like crazed killers. So do parahumans have an extra resistance or what?

          • I suspect that the Simurgh chose to leave the Travellers sane because she knew that they would do more damage that way.

          • From tag’s comments it sounds like most people she affects are actually perfectly sane, until they get some trigger and go murderous. Sometimes they can even flip back and forth between these modes, as he mentioned an extended guerrilla campaign by the first victims. If anything parahumans are more vulnerable, as they tend to show the signs if they have been affected. Cody/Noelle, and the original attack by her caused some european patahuman to degrade until he assassinated a country leader, but it mentions that his companions had noticed changes in him before the assassination.

          • There’s been mention of a “maximum safe exposure time” too. How they determine what that time is though is a bit questionable. Probably through empirical evidence, which means it’s as likely to be “the time the Simurgh picked for them to think was safe” as anything else.

            That said though, there probably does need to be some limit on how quick she can scramble you. If it was 1 second of exposure and you’re her pawn then the stories become less interesting. Same as if Behemoth’s insta-kill radius had been 50 miles. Without some hope of opposing them or limiting them, there’s no real conflict.

          • Nah, people flip out in the short term and kill each other. Then the Simurgh goes away and they calm down, but have been touched by her influence and can be part of her disaster dominoes.

            Even knowing what was going on, it was hard for the proto-Travelers to resist the urge to riot.

          • Trickster started out helping the protagonists in the final fight with Noelle, but switched to helping her. That is not exactly a sane decision. Also, Ballistic in particular complained how Trickster had been making increasingly bad decisions for some time.
            Also, don’t forget that the Simurgh plays the precognitive nudging game, tweaking people enough to make bad decisions that will cascade later, but not necessarily enough to be diagnosed as insane.
            The only class of parahumans who are known to be resistant / immune are people with precognitive powers themselves. Otherwise, parahumans are probably just as susceptible as anyone else (a guess, I admit).

            • Not just precogs. A couple of other types of Thinkers, like Coil (rare but noteworthy), and more significantly anyone immune to powers can’t be psychically influenced or predicted by her precognition, so Alexandria, Scion/Zion, and Hatchet Face/Hatchet Clones are all safe.

          • It was shown in Migration that nobody is safe from the Simurgh, not even animals. The PRT will kill parahumans who can’t escape her song. As for the Travelers, the Simurgh didn’t make them violent, necessarily. She made Trickster feel like he needed to save Noelle so he would give her the serum at all costs. She made Noelle afraid of being a burden to Trickster so she would only drink half of the serum. She also likely affected the others in some way, but my point is that she doesn’t always make people like Mannequin, where they attack people mercilessly, or Echidna. Sometimes she just influences someone in a way that will cause them to give even the tiniest push towards something catastrophic.

      • How do we even know the people on the plane were even affected? The Smurf likely knew the plane would go down and wouldn’t bother.

        I’m guessing the plan here is to erode confidence of the heroes,put the questionable insistence that they have that Simurgh victims are beyond help and is a justification for mass murder into the limelight. Undermine the new protectorate before it starts.

        The smart part is that she doesn’t need to do much deceiving, the heroes would have slaughtered those people either way, she’s just letting everyone in the world see it.

    • I was guessing that Lisette was on board.

      Or… Kevin? Keith? Can’t remember for sure what his name was at the moment. The previous most powerful person in the world.

      Other possibility, I suppose, is that now that Scion is actually fighting to kill the Endbringers, she’s testing things like his response time. Since she can’t directly predict what he’s going to do, she has to use more indirect methods to build up a predictive model she can use.

      …alternatively, given that the attacked flight was over the ocean, this was somehow a combo with Leviathan.

      As for Theo… well, there is one possibility I just thought of for how he could trivially deal with Jack Slash. Problem is that it would require that he be able to violate the Manton effect, and would be hard to test in any way that isn’t incredibly cruel. Namely, see if “bone” is on the list of materials he can play with.

      And still waiting for Taylor to start making more use of things that aren’t insects, spiders or centipedes. Now that she has something resembling peace and a budget, it’s the perfect time to start experimenting. Heck, just get somebody to go to the zoo or the aquarium with her (I’m almost certain Chicago has both) and see which of the exhibits she can influence.

      For signaling purposes, it might be worth it for her to pick up some fireflies and learn Morse code.

      And for “heavy hitter” purposes, she might want to import some coconut crabs.

        • Just be glad that mantis shrimp can’t breathe out of the water.

          Unless there are some bio-focused tinkers on Protectorate payroll, anyway, in which case that can be remedied.

          • I seem to remember it being stated previously somewhere that Bonesaw was the only (known?) bio-tinker in existence.

            • Of course, there’s other bio-manipulation powers out there, e.g. most healing-types. Panacea has quite a bit of talent in bio-manipulation.

              • It’s the other way around. Panacea’s power is to manipulate biology and she uses mostly for healing.

            • Correction, Bonesaw was described as the 1# Medical Tinker in existance.

              Obviously, there are other bio-tinkers around like Blasto. They just seem less common than other kinds of Tinker.

              • Maybe because there aren’t a whole lot of applications for medical tinkers powers on the field unless you’re willing to put yourself under the knife like Bonesaw, so most end up as rogues or support staff.

            • There are others, like Blasto, but my impression is that Bonesaw is referred to as The biological tinker is because she is so much more famous and dangerous. Just like how flying brute powers are called the Alexandria Package.

        • Way back when in the first few pages she explains how she has experimented fully, but it’s a fairly brief description and most of the other things she can control (crabs, worms, maybe shellfish?) are not exactly useful. Except for having delicious crab dinners every night.

      • I don’t think that Lizette was on board, Scion seems to be able to sense when his contacts need him- he turned up at the place he first met Kevin, right on time. There’s no way he could have timed that without knowing that Kevin wanted him there. I imagine he can travel much faster than his normal speed if he wants to (someone speculated that his low average speed was due to him constantly saving people along his route), so if the Smiurgh attacked Lizette*, then I’d expect to see him there shortly- certainly within enough time to kill her in retaliation, even if she got Lizette first.

        (Note that I don’t think she even can, because Lizette should be covered under Scion’s effect that fucks up pre-cogs and thinkers trying to scry him.)

        • That’s a good point, Simurgh probably doesn’t even know about Lisette or her predecessor who’s name I forget.

      • For Golem I doubt he can bypass the Manton effect but it`d be hilarious if Bonesaw`s augmentations made him vulnerable. Nah likely he`s got plot armor on that weak spot.
        Still Golem could probably do a hell of a lot of day to day stuff with cloth if he can use that. Will admit don`t really remember the explanation of his powers.

    • Hell no. But I do think she chose an airplane because it was much, much lower risk than a stationary target. Besides, depending on how full the flight was, that’s, say, more than 400 pawns gained maximum (assuming the airplane was a 747-400, the model BA has the most of). Not too shabby for a hit-and-run strike. (assuming packed to capacity, no casualties, with some late-night math (all of which is to say “could someone check that total, please?”))

      • Or the propaganda effects. Maybe a setup for her next attack where she needs that to influence someone.

        • Yeah this could well have been a terror attack. Show that she can drop out and attack anywhere, and leave when she wants. Morale and PR take a hit because they had to kill the hostages. And she doesn’t even need to have needed anyone on the plane. Because everyone will assume that someone must have been important, or it has to have meant something because it’s the Smurf. And they will all run around in circles trying to figure it out.

          • ^ This. Also, she has forced the heroes to kill a bunch of civilians publicly. Imagine her doing this five more times; cruise ships, planes, tiny far away islands like Nauru. Pretty soon, the PRT will have to become jackbooted dictators because no unpowered person on Earth will be willing to side with them any more.

    • I figure it’s very likely that the Simurgh has taken her “turn humanity against itself” to not a higher level, but a more precise level than the atrocities she “forced” the authorities to commit earlier. Do we know who was on the plane? Maybe someone important? Maybe a non-asshole celebrity or a renowned activist or something. And the heroes just killed the entire plane on the assumption that they were beyond saving.

      The Smurf is obviously using the tactics the heroes us to fight her against them, but more out in the open. Manipulate the heroes into killing hundreds of people, screwing with international tensions, and generally getting them to kill more people than they save.

      And like always, they’re going to just keep falling for it.

      • Here’s my guess at the reasoning for the Smurf’s choice of target.

        “Shit, I can’t take her. If I try she will hold me up long enough for Zion… Okay maybe if I attack a target on the water? No, she can sick crabs on me. I don’t want crabs. A target over the water? Well I can attack that passenger jet. It’s not much, but I’ll take it.”

    • All reasons behind the attack people can give are probably true (omniscience (or a close equivalent) as Simurgh has does tend to do that), but as of yet (as far as I can tell), no one has raised the question of how resistant to Simurgh Pretender is while possessing Alexandria’s body.

  3. Awesome chapter, loved the ending. Could there be a future for Taylor/Theo?

    Well I’mma sleep now. Zzzzzz

    • Not likely but if Theo does develop a crush on Taylor, would he turn into his father when he finds out that Taylor has “gone black”?

      • I’m pretty sure that everyone on the planet knows that Taylor and Grue are romantically involved and the Grue is black.

        Also, Theo’s trying his hardest to avoid being anything like his father.

            • He’s probably one of these people that hates white people while being white himself. (take ths with a semi-sarcastic tone)

            • “…she’d been swayed, convinced of his way of thinking. She’d tried to change her outlook since the divorce, but she had seen a great deal in her ten years as a member of his team. It was impossible to look at the city now and ignore the fact that too much of what made it an uglier place to live and raise a child in could be traced back to the same kinds of people. Sure, the whites had criminals too, but at least they were fucking civilized about it.”

              This is from the woman who had just previously been thinking about how heavily Max had steamrolled Theo’s personality.

              • Reading Purity’s interlude, I think Max steamrolled Theo’s personality in exactly the same way Emma, Sophia, and Madison steamrolled Taylor’s personality. He was beaten down, not warped … and then his encounter with Jack, much like Taylor’s encounter with Lung, revealed to him that he still had some fight after all.

                Also, Max Anders worked long hours as the President and CEO of Medhall Co. — and may well have followed them up by working long hours as Kaiser, Lord of the Empire Eighty-Eight. It’s not unlikely that Theo was raised by people who didn’t agree with the white supremacist ideology — or who, if they did, didn’t care enough to lock him away from materials that undermined that ideology — and that Max’s role in Theo’s development was as a chronic (though not continuous) source of torment, nothing more.

                (Aside, since I went to the effort of looking it up: Crusader’s interlude in Arc 18 says Heith, Theo’s mom, died in a turf war fighting the Teeth, and 20.1 says the Teeth were decimated and driven out of Brockton Bay “nearly a decade ago”. Theo would have been less than seven years old, in all likelihood; how much less is impossible to say.)

  4. So Taylor’s applying her talents at creative power application on her new team now huh. Good. They need that.

    Also Smurf is a dick as always.

  5. So Theo is taking things seriously and trying to become stronger, and the vegas team is attacking the corrupt PRT. Perhaps Cauldron has simply written the PRT off at this point and no longer cares? We got some new names of the “meanest” of parahumans. The royals probably have a roaylty theme, and I wonder if the folk is the old gang the fairy queen of the birdcage used to lead. The Smurf attacks an airliner, then after I’m assuming twenty minutes, the heroes decide they have been too long in her range and kill them all. A calculated ploy to fuck with the moral of the world, or does the Smurf want Skitter to act? Consdidering Cuff is having trouble with her hand, I underestimated the number of healers the PRT has acess too. I though Scapegoat would have made the rounds after the fight. Good chapter, look forward to Weaver’s plan.

      • It sounded like the heroes were trying to destroy the plane for a good while so I think it is a bit less than that now that I reread it.

    • The problem with Scapegoat is that he has a lot of limitations to his power. And it works best if he can transfer it to a target. No army of evil clones this time.

  6. I like the way the Simurgh attack played out. It answered a question for us (what the next Endbringer attack would be like) while at the same time putting us in a head space close to Taylor’s own. We’re isolated from the attack, we don’t get to the see the action and most terribly of all we don’t know what was important on that plane!
    The ending was nice too. One of the things I love about Worm is that people actually do communicate sometimes. Taylor talking to Tecton at the end? Just perfect.

  7. Poor Theo.. getting oneself back in shape after packing on the pounds? Not fun. Fighting Weaver’s best representation of a S9 engagement? Also not fun, but lifespan-enhancing 🙂

    Simurgh attack: nightmare fuel for travelers, expect tourism to decrease in general. Nice way to encourage the unpowered to imagine themselves wedged between two unstoppable terrors, one much the same as the other from their point of view. The imagery, humans and human technology tossed about like a bauble, fought over one way than the other, could be stirring if released, and not in a good way.

    • I’m picturing the scene from Superman Returns here:
      “Remember, air travel is still the safest way to travel folks!”

      Statistically it’d be true too. Even one plane downed by the Smurf every 3 months wouldn’t come close to equaling the number of auto fatalities that occur each year.

      • Planes are more popular for human transport these days, but 80% of cargo still moves by sea. Lot of room for Leviathan to fuck things up, especially if ‘lil sis will finger some targets.

  8. Looking at the dates … the Simurgh attacked sixty-three days post-estimate, give or take?

    And I think the Simurgh’s target wasn’t the plane, but the rest of the world. She might only be able to influence people within her range, but that doesn’t mean she can’t predict people’s natural responses (the swan tattoos come to mind). A lot of people will be like Taylor, as Yamada noted. And this might have bumped Taylor’s schedule up.

    • Makes sense. How many other capes are there in the world with a plan similar to Mr. Portal from India? They might want to rush forward with it after this attack. Hell, all the Smurf has to do is attack one more plane, and air travel might very well collapse whenever there is an attack is coming up.

      • This is the simurgh’s greatest strength – there is absolutely no way for anyone to know for sure what her plan is. That’s freaking scary. Maybe the fact that it’s scary itself is her goal? Are you reacting to counter her or are you just playing into her hands? Or is that what she *wants* you to think? It’s one big horrible mess of second-and-third-and-etc guessing.

  9. I think the Simurgh is probably doing a mix of upscaling and downscaling with her attack. Surgical strike to the plane rather than hitting a city is essentially her normal play scaled down, with the side benefit of no evacuation for the affected. We know her song is limited in range, but I don’t think her prescience is; her upscaling is in focusing more on dealing damage outside her immediate blastzone and the reach of those she can lay her whammy on. No quarantine can stop that kind of fallout, and it’s just the kind of escalation you’d expect after her BFF got taken down.

  10. 153 day timeskip. Simurgh fight skip. Theo getting a clever costume redesign skip. Theo getting the whole team on board with facing Jack Slash when the time comes… skip.

    And that’s just the skips we know about. Brockton Bay could have changed beyond recognition in this time. Imp v. Heartbreaker? Grue’s recovery? Each of the Undersiders could plausibly have gone through much indeed by now.

    At least now we know what Satyrical’s line about saving civilization from itself means.

    And it also looks like one of the warlords of Brockton Bay is going to war once more – this time, to claim Chicago in the name of her Ward team. Going on the offense in a way which, apparently, the Protectorate almost never does – they patrol. They hit targets of opportunity. They react.

    Expectations are victory – and some chaos and collateral damage. The former may not excuse the latter, and Director West will not have forgotten about Taylor, though he may have been more focused on the Vegas team. Nor will full Protectorate members be entirely comfortable about being upstaged by a Ward team. Institutionally, there will be tremendous conflict between the impulse to hang her out to dry for cleaning up the city in a blitzkrieg campaign… and taking credit for her cleaning up the city in a blitzkrieg campaign. But her team? They will conquer, and find it sweet. If they’re very lucky, they won’t take casualties in doing it, either.

    Next Endbringer is either Leviathan… or Behemoth, back from the dead. Or, of course, the mathematically probable FOURTH Endbringer. Though, if one shows up, the fact that they returned to the three-Endbringer schedule is persuasive evidence that Behemoth is truly gone… for the moment. Whoever built him… can rebuild him. They have the technology. Better… faster… stronger.

    Theo, as trained by Weaver… is going to be interesting. He hasn’t moved toward full immersion yet, but rather toward rapid in-and-out strikes – as much about what he leaves behind as what he does with his hand while it’s in there. He could be quite remarkable, in time.

    He’ll need to be.

    • I’m guessing it’s Cuff and Taylor’s favorite water controlling bastard next. If there is a fourth endbringer, I predict it will be similar to nilbog. It can make self-replicating/powerful minions and drop them into cities. It will take an army an enormous amount of personnel, resources, and casualties to clear a city of such things.

      • I think the 4th endbringer (if there is one) will probably be fire based, if you assume they are following the western elements (Simurgh = Air, Leviathan = Water, Behemoth = Earth). Call it Salamander. It might even have minions as you suggested – fire sprites that it releases to spread the fires further or something.

        • Actually, considering the elements, Behemoth seems at least as much Fire as Earth — sure, he’s tough, but all the Endbringers are tough, and Behemoth’s whole shtick is about giving the middle finger to the second law of thermodynamics and turning any kind of energy into any other. Sure, he tunnels into the Earth … but he tunnels down to the Earth’s core, i.e. the most massive source of heat available this side of outer space.

          Taking that as true, though, I have no good idea of what an Earth Endbringer would be like. Maybe gravitational powers?

    • The timers… don’t fit. The 153 day estimate was based on the fact that it reset to 150 days after the attack, and was 3 days overdue before. That would put this on 12/26/2011 – not the best time for autumnal coloring in Chicago, nor likely to have perfect temperatures for lake viewing.

      But… if the Simurgh attacked at an interval that wasn’t 150 days-ish, why on earth would Taylor reset the timer to an interval that was wrong?


      Suspicion is that the timer was meant to reset to 105 days (the text does still have the three and a half month reference), which would put this at 11/11/11 – 105+3 days. Slightly more plausible.

      • Look at the dates for the End of the World timer. The Simurgh was very, very late. At 593:19 she was 3 days late, then she attacked at 534.

      • Re-reading it, the three and a half month reference was with Taylor noting that they didn’t know if that was the schedule now that Behemoth was taken out. Adding two months or so to the clock might well bring it back into the old schedule for two active Endbringers, and the new prediction could be based on that. Someone want to run the numbers on the partial schedule we got from Chevalier’s interlude and see how far apart the attacks were with just Behemoth/Leviathan?

    • I have to agree that I don’t really like all those extreme skips. I much prefered the old passing of time, especially during the calmer times. Also it could be quite helpful in order to get us more acquinted with Taylors new team mates. We know next to nothing about all but Golem and Tecton.
      Wouldn’t you agree that just more day to day stuff would be interesting? What does an above average exciting patrol look like? What does Taylor do all day? Who are the various Chicago badies behind those names.

      I really miss the Undersiders…

  11. You know what we need?

    Some more Sveta.

    Come to think of it, Taylor could probably use swarm clones to at least chat with her without having to worry about the tentacles. Seems like an idea Mrs. Yamada might have, as far as getting two of her patients to help each other.

    …of course, then Taylor inevitably finds out exactly what happened to Glory Girl. That probably wouldn’t go well.

      • Imp would not be immune to Sveta. She is only able to vanish from memory once she can no longer be sensed (for example, if she moves out of line-of-sight). Even assuming Sveta glanced away while she had Imp in a deathgrip, the fact that she’s still holding onto her is almost certainly enough to remain aware of her presence.

  12. So, Simurgh attacked this time. Does this mean that the next attack will be Leviathan? I want to see round 2 with him.

    • It means the next attack will be Leviathan.

      Or Cyber-Behemoth.

      Or introducing Endbringer 4.

      Basically, it just means ‘not Simurgh’ for the next attack.

          • There would be a lot of interesting changes if Taylor went against Leviathan again. The Endbringers have been said to learn how to handle people they’ve fought before, like how Behemoth was able to keep the Triumvirate away with relative ease in New Delhi since he was familiar with their tactics and they apparently didn’t change their general approach from “go fast and hit things hard”. Since Taylor first fought Leviathan, she has gone through 3 other S-Class threats (the S9, Noel, and Behemoth) and has picked up a lot of really nasty tricks. Leviathan may have a plan for dealing with what he knows she can do, but at this point, I’m not sure he could adapt to her faster than she can come up with new stuff.

            • If we’re assuming that the Endbringers don’t share information, then the sum total of Leviathan’s knowledge of what Skitter (now Weaver) can do is “hit me with insects”, “track insects stuck to me”, and “hit me in the tail with Armsmaster’s halberd”.

              I’m pretty sure that Weaver can come up with something not on that list.

              • Taylor’s real strength is her brilliant mind, her ability to bring people together and her greatness as a commander which comes from those factors yet also draws on that mysterious other element that military historians get very excited about. In different circumstances, she could plausibly have been a Napoleon or an Alexander, or at the very least a Lucullus or a Tilly.

                So really, Leviathan is faced with the unenviable prospect of not just having to second-guess what she can do with her powers, but what she could potentially do with the powers of every parahuman who turns up. Look at what she whipped up in the Behemoth fight without a team that knew her properly, having spent most of her time on the sidelines and then being thrust in when things were going to hell. This time, Chevalier will know that he can trust her, and what she’s capable of- can you imagine the banquet she could line up for Leviathan with ten or twenty minutes planning time and a list of what powers are available?

                So yeah, I think the Endbringers are wise to change their tactics. The Spider waits for them.

              • I’d be amazed if the Endbringers aren’t communicating *somehow*. They take turns on their attacks – that implies at least a bit of coordination.

                Not that that matters much. Taylor’s pretty damn adept at coming up with new tricks on the fly.

  13. Interesting thing there about Taylor not getting active duty much because the full heroes see her as more of an equal than a minor. She’s faced as much in her short career as some of them have in their whole time.

    • That’s generally what happens when you fight 4 different S-Class threats and come out on top (unless you count Leviathan which left her badly hurt). You can’t maintain the “she’s just a kid” attitude anymore with someone like that. Also, I would like to think the actual heroes, not the stuffed shirts at the PRT, are getting savvy enough to know that underestimating Taylor’s capabilities usually leads to grievous eye trauma and/or death.

  14. Wow. That’s a pretty awesome way to give Theo some more oomph. Beware the hands! Who knows from where they might reach out to grope you! Pray to your gods you never find yourself wearing metal, plastic, wooden, concrete or “who knows whatelse”, armor.

      • EYELASH PUNCHU — wait, are eyelashes alive?*

        What about DEAD skin? . . . hey, I wonder if Jack eats things that are not alive.

        * answer: yes, eyelashes are alive, but they live only to kill

        • There’s Jack Slash sitting on the toilet. Whistling to himself. Dropping the Fat Man over Japan, if you will. He goes to wipe, but suddenly the toilet paper forces its way into his throat! He’s choking, can’t breath, it is getting all wet and soggy mixing with saliva and mucus inside him. It’s not coming out! The horror! The double-layered quilted horror!

          And from that day on, Theo is Golem no longer. He is Cornholio. He needs TP to kick your bunghole.

      • There may be some inherent restrictions on his power. The least rigid thing we’ve seen him work with was silicon in the last chapter, I think. And the size of whatever he creates is partially dependent on the size of what he’s working with, so even if he could use hair or cloth it depends on if it’s “all the hair/cloth” or “each individual hair/thread”, as the latter isn’t very useful. Still, most people will be wearing something he can use, even if it’s just the soles of their shoes (try to walk on THAT!).

        • I imagine a good number of capes wear cups… Best be careful what it’s made out of. I’d hate to be in the middle of a fight and realize my protective wear had a deathgrip on some important stuff.

          On a more serious note. If Golem had a reason and a willingness to go ‘no holds barred’ with a villain who was wearing some type of armor/helmet could he perhaps take off some limbs or maybe cave in a skull by sticking a hand through the interior surface of said armor/helmet?

          • Here you are, business as usual, casually causing mayhem, death and destruction, and suddenly your helmet becomes a giant fist crushing your skull. Yeesh.

          • Hell no need for lethal force. Growing arms wrapping around the limbs would be plenty of restraint.

            Now I’m reminded of Nico Robin.

            • “Hell. No need for lethal force.”

              Repeat after me.


              The gloves are not only off, but you can see the chainsaw-enhanced brass knuckles that carve “fuck off and die” into your brain pan.

              • I meant for non S9 threats. For the S9 bring everything. Hey I wonder what the mesh that Bonesaw put around organs is made out of? Because if it’s something Theo can affect…

              • Jack looked at Golem, smiling. Golem smiled back, and shook out a thin metallic cloth. Jack was confused, then as Golem shoved his hand through the mesh, the knife wielding psycho toppled over slowly, his heart crushed.

              • Well, I don’t think he could affect the mesh directly, but I recall that Bonesaw often has mechanical surgery spiders clinging to her at times. I could see him manifesting limbs from that and crushing Bonesaw with it. One of her nastiest tools would instantly become a liability. Or perhaps one of Jack’s knives could end up turning on him. If anything, I get the feeling Theo would make Mannequin his bitch.

  15. Ya know, I love epic struggle as much as the next guy, but I’m happy it seems like were getting back to capes v capes, instead of more end bringers for a little bit. I am wondering what the public’s current view of weaver is, and what the hell is up with dragon. All in due time

  16. -Hey, Tecton. If I wanted to beat up one of the local supervillains, thus showing up everyone by ruthlessly crushing someone who has eluded capture for years and is probably more powerful than I am, who would you recommend?
    -I mean, theoretically.

    • The downside is that this could actually piss the Protectorate, especially the Chicago team off. She’d be talking the Wards into doing something dangerous behind their backs.

      I guess Chicago is a lot quieter than Brockton Bay. Just look at how many fights the BB Wards got into with the Undersiders and the ABB.

      • No, it’s that the Chicago power balance between heroes and civilians is still intact. The story started with Taylor beating Lung and ending the balance between the ABB, E88, The Undersiders and the Protectorate.

        • Well, that and the CPD quite simply don’t take shit from ANYONE.
          They’ll pull a SWAT unit with kill orders down on a misbehaving superhuman in a heartbeat. If you’re a civvy, or someone who’s relatively vulnerable? Tune up time!

              • I am unsure of that since trigger events follow their own rules according to the TA chapter. Someone theorized much earlier that torture is a bit more dangerous in the wormverse since you could have your victim trigger, though bonesaw mentions she has seen trigger events happen so I guess it depends on what your power is. It might also make it hard to cover things up if you attacked someone so badly that they triggered. Plus police departments do change based on circumstances and tragedies. So lets say a cop somewhere finds someone he doesn’t like, beats them, they trigger, and then said victim takes revenge on him and others in the station for allowing it too happen. If such a thing happened more than twice other departments will make an attempt to crack down on such behavior so it doesn’t happen to them. Makes me wonder what happened to Rodney King in the wormverse.

  17. What this chapter needed was a training montage complete with soundtrack like “Gonna Fly Now” or “Eye Of The Tiger” and maybe some courthouse steps to run up.

    Perhaps they can construct some huge speed punching back for Theo to train his giant concrete fists against.

    Some wax-on / wax-off, a bit of miscellaneous push ups and perhaps a scenes with Taylor and Theo running by the beach, Taylor running backwards spurring theo on to do harder. All the while the contdown makes appearances to show the passing of time.

    ♪ Getting strong now ♪

  18. Leave it to an Endbringer to make something rather small so much worse than it would have been otherwise.

  19. I’m curious why the Simurgh started to try defend the plane. Maybe she was hoping to kidnap someone and the Heroes cottoned on, then decided to deny her it? Or at least realised that everyone in that plane was gone now or…

    It’s a weird fight. Very weird.

    • I think she was playing mind games with the heroes. Not trying to influence them with her song or anything, just trolling them. Hey can we get a fan art of the Smurf with a Trollface?

      • Doesn’t really seem to be her MO though. She doesn’t troll, she sets people up for a fall. I’m just wondering how defending rather than just letting them tear apart the plane works here.

        We’ll probably find out later!

          • I doubt thats it, Media of the heros destroying the plane would only be negative if people where ignorant of what she does. They are not they Know Simmy fecks with peoples heads and how dangerous she is. Now the person who losses loved ones sure I can buy that, but the world. No I think people would be verrry understanding.

            • On the other hand, the heroes destroying the plane would only be positive for people who uncritically accept what the authorities say about Simurgh victims. I think that the rhetoric “anyone within x yards of the Simurgh is unsalvageable, always and forever might be somewhat questionable.

              • Man, they have walled off major towns and forced Simurgh victims to get identifying tatts, I don’t think that anyone’s minds are going to be changed by the deaths of a couple hundred people.

              • I think they had to change that up, though. Wasn’t there something in an interlude about people protesting that kind of stuff by getting the same tattoo?

                Who would have thought that people wouldn’t like the idea of keeping people walled in and given special tattoos to signify they are dangerous saboteurs who want to stab the motherland in the back?

                It’s not like that has any parallels to anything that happened in history, and certainly not in Europe during the 1930s and 40s. After all, that could NEVER happen here, in a democracy where the balance of power can be shifted by one big terrorist attack.

                Now I have to figure out how to make a Nazi joke.

                Knock knock, “Who’s there?” Ann. “Ann Who?” Anney who, I guess there’s no Jews hiding around here. I’ll just be on my way.

                *pulls out the lame joke horn*
                Wah wah waaaaaaaaah.

    • Time she spends attacking the plane while singing to the passengers is time she spends singing to the heroes defending the plane. Time she spends defending the plane after having converted the passengers is time she spends… singing to the heroes trying to put the plane down.

      Me, I’m curious how they arrived at their time figures on how long it’s safe to be in the Simurgh’s vicinity, and how they can be at all sure of them. Or certain that the Simurgh never improves.

  20. Prediction: next Endbringer attack will be Simurgh, slightly early, attacking more seriously without staying long enough to get killed by Scion.
    Just because their whole M.O. is switching it up, and we can’t have Leviathan appearing when he’s expected to.

    • Heck if the Endbringers are switching it up and doing lightining strikes, Leviathan can just swim up or down the coast staying in location long enough to hit his target with a tidal wave, then move on. Damage is less concentrated, but more widespread, and it’s harder to mount a defense.

  21. One other effect of the 3 month time jump? It lays to rest the lingering question of “Is Taylor actually pregnant?” (instead of missing her periods due to stress and undernourishment).

    It wasn’t something that was being seriously debated but the idea had been floating out there.

    • Okay so the “Taylor is pregnant theory” is done. But we still have the “Imp is Pregnant” theory.

    • At the third month a fetus should weight around 30 grams and be around 10 cm tall.
      She should notice, but it’s still not impossible, just improbable.

      • True but at the third month she should have noticed not having had her period. And the timeskip doesn t sound like that much of a stressful time so at least the idea could have come up in which case Taylor would have checked.

        • Timeline doesn’t fit for pregnancy. I think it would have been mentioned if she’d been with any guys prior to Grue and all that, due to her troubled social life.

          I wonder if it was just the increased stress, physical activity, and lack of fat, or if there may be a link to her power. The Bug Queen isn’t popping out eggs of her own.

  22. Man the Vegas guys love to rack up the crowners don’t they? I’ve been wondering for a while what Satyr’s power is. I figure it’s got to be similer to Lisa’s in terms of effect.

    • Maybe he has the power to use music to force people to have sex?

      He starts playing the pipes and all of a sudden a Director having a photo op with his dog gets put on the front page instead for bestiality.

  23. Going to bring up something that Notes said up above. Heroes react. Villains are proactive. This tends to be the case a vast majority of time in Superhero fiction. And a lot of the time when you see a hero try to be more proactive it’s a bad thing. But does it have to be? I mean law enforcement has operations going to try and bring down criminals. They don’t wait around for a gang of bank robbers and hope they can catch them while they are at the bank. They try to track them down, set traps, catch them before they strike again. They put operations in play. Outside of Dragon and Defiant hunting the S9 I can’t think of too many cases of that.

    I do think the Vegas team must have been one of the more proactive teams in the Protectorate. If you think about the kinds of foes they faced, if they didn’t head them off at the pass the damage would be just as bad as not catching them at all. I can also see a lot of con vs con with them.

    • I can get behind the “react only” attitude when it’s when dealing with the less harmful criminals. The Flash villains with whom you would look like a real asshole and a bully if you just broke down his door and started beating him up, or if the villains are saaay…. running a fucking refugee camp or disaster recovery zone.

      But for truly evil villains who have no problem hurting people? It’s time to be proactive, psychos like the Joker and the Red Skull should be hunted to the ends of the earth, like dogs. You don’t sit around with your thumb up your ass while the S9 are skulking around.

      But I assume that the quibble for the heroes isn’t morality, it’s that the PRT prefers that everything be done from a position of power and dominance. They need to look like they’re in control at all times, and they do that by sitting pretty and letting the bad guys come to them unless they’re trying to blow up the city or something.

      • The problem with being proactive with some villains is that the law is very narrow about arresting people just for thinking of a crime. There’s very little that can be done until the crime is actually attempted. If he’s staking out a jewelry store, what are you going to bring him in for, loitering?

        I know that’s somewhat of a point brought up in Linkara’s review of Justice League: Cry For Justice.

        The part he forgot was that a lot of villains don’t exactly pay for their crimes. If they get away with murder, you can still hunt them down for that murder. If they are just planning something after escaping from jail, they still have whatever crimes put them in jail and the jailbreak on top of that. It would seem to be completely legal to be proactive in hunting down someone like Joker and Red Skull then.

        The problem arises from the masks, costumes, and facepaint.

        If you swing around the street until you find someone dressed as Red Skull and beat him up, you may have taken down a villain…or you may have beat up some guy cosplaying. You might have taken in someone who was going by the name Red Skull and was looking real hard at a nuclear power plant as if thinking…but it may be some new guy who took up the alias and mask after the old guy retired. Can’t really charge that guy for it.

        Might be a different guy under the Joker makeup too. He’s used lookalikes before (The Killing Joke, for instance). So if you are proactive, you may have a case as there is no statute of limitations on murder, but unless you can actually confirm that guy at that time who is just standing around is the same villain who committed those crimes, then you’re just beating up someone in a costume who hasn’t done anything yet.

        We’ve even seen lookalikes in this story that could confuse a proactive hero. Dragon would look awfully silly taking in that expendable girl who replaced Taylor while she was busy getting ambushed by Coil.

        • Being proactive presumably means going after villains who are *already* wanted for something, not just punching anyone who loiters around a bank in costume.

          Similarly, you’d want to be cautious about going in lasers-blazing after any person walking down the street dressed as the Red Skull. But going after someone dressed as the Red Skull surrounded by the Red Skull’s known henchmen in a base of operations paid for with the proceeds of the Red Skull’s crimes? That’s a little different.

          And honestly, if someone’s walking down the street dressed as the Red Skull, I’d expect the authorities to at least check it out, in exactly the same way as I’d expect them to check it out if someone were walking down the street with what appeared to be an assault weapon or a bomb. *Could* be completely legit – but you still check to be sure.

          Disguises and body doubles *do* make it complex at times, and people won’t always make the right call. Just like now, so long as they make a call that is defensible under the circumstances the should *generally* be okay.

          Honestly though, I wouldn’t be surprised to learn that wearing the costume of a known villain isn’t a crime in and of itself in the Wormverse…

      • And about the proactive heroing…the Slaughterhouse 9 have flaunted another problem with it. They surgically alter people to look like them. Kidnapped by the S9, forced into surgery with no anesthesia to look like the mass murdering crazies, trying to get by in life but you’ve lost your girlfriend or boyfriend because you look like the S9, you lost your job because no one wants to buy from someone who looks like the S9, and all of a sudden here comes a superhero to wreck your shit?

        • So going in guns blazing is out. But what about tracking? Sting operations? It’s not really effective in law enforcement to just sit around and hope you catch a serial killer while he’s killing his victim. Investigations occur. Proactive means more than throwing the first punch. Was anyone trying to track and hunt down the S9 before they struck again before D&D?

          If someone cosplays as the Red Skull in a universe where he actually exists they are too dumb to live. He is a still active mass murder.

          • The problem with catching a serial killer killing his victim is that he’s not classified a serial killer until he’s killed in three separate instances. The label’s appliance is based on a failure to stop the killer a few times. They may have caught lots of potential serial killers while they were attempting the first one, but their success prevents the label from being applied. They can even get him for having a real plan to kill someone. Can’t be idle musing, but if he’s got the weapon picked out, writes in his diary about what he wants to do to someone, and has the blueprint to her home, they can get him. Problem is, even wiretapping all the phones won’t get you the knowledge of the extent of his plot if that’s the evidence.

            And IRL, not only are there people who enjoy the Nazi look for some crazy sex, but there are even Waffen SS reenactor groups in the U.S. (And that one congressional candidate getting exposed as a member of one, complete with photos with him in a Nazi uniform, gave me a schadenfreudegasm) There are even these idiots that walk around brownnosing Hitler, forgetting that they’re supposed to be loyal to one of the countries that kicked his butt so hard it made his finger twitch while he was cleaning his luger.

            So yes, there are probably Red Skull cosplayers even in a universe where he lived, just as there are Nazi reenactors and cosplayers in universes where regular Nazis really existed.

            • Man those guys are stupid for dressing up like the Red Skull. Forget about the Superheroes. Dr. Doom, and Kingpin dislike Red Skull on general principle. And Magneto really hates him.

              I dunno it just seems like there should be some way for Superheroes to actually head off trouble rather than waiting for the body count to start going up.

              You know, it occurs to me that the Chicago Protectorate is really loosing out not using Taylor for survalliance. I mean she can litterally bug anywhere in a few block radius. Not sure how you’d get a warrent for it though.

            • Big difference there is that the Nazis (as in the WWII German variety) were a threat seventy years ago. If someone sees you wearing a Nazi uniform they’ll think you’re probably a dick but they’re unlikely to think you’re about to start murdering people.

              Dressing up as Jack Slash and walking down main street with a knife is a different thing entirely.

              • Yes,being surgically altered.

                Its not like supervillains cannot use decoys that are unwilling/willing but unable to be connected with them ,just to humiliate the police,or draw the heroes attention.Even if the only legit reason to dress like that is insanity,plausible deniability still exists “the villain forced me to wear a mask,it has a bomb that explode if I take it out or stop walking the predestined path” “I am an actor,going to play on an reenactment of Captain America’s heroics (I implied Captain America/Red Skull on this one because they both fought on WWII )” “Lol,I am just trolling,but as I carry no weapons you cannot really arrest me” “I am a fan of hero x and,with other fans,we gather on one place dressed as people from his villain’s gallery…mine is pretty realistic,isn’t it?”.All these make attacking someone on costume a legal Snafu,you could be sued for assault and have the media on a field day,in the first case you could even murder a total innocent.

              • LoL, I swear you’re an even more prolific commenter than I was. xD

                I’m not really sure what you’re arguing for there. Is it “Don’t go after known criminals because there could be cases of mistaken identity”? That’s obviously not tenable.

                Like I think I said earlier in the thread, there’s no perfect solution – so long as you do your due diligence and a jury is likely to say “under the circumstances, an average person would have been reasonably confident that the person in question was really [whoever]” then that’s about the best you can do.

                As an aside, I’m fairly sure by now that the Wormverse would have passed a law against just rocking down the street dressed as supervillains.

              • That law would arrest Parian’s family,pushing her to supervillainy.A mere “hands up,show me your face”could solve troubles,but …it could be a trap.It is the best solution baring hostage situations.I always support case by case,because no general rule can attribute for anything.

                And the world you are searching to describe me is not “prolific”its “annoying”:p

              • LoL, nah. I said prolific and I meant prolific.

                Im not a lawyer but I would be very surprised if there aren’t already laws in place to protect people forced to commit crimes under duress.

                If you rob a bank because someone has a bomb strapped to you and will detonate it if you don’t, the courts aren’t going to treat you as though you had voluntarily committed a crime.

                And if someone surgically alters you to look like a supervillain the courts wouldn’t hold you responsible for that infraction either.

              • Court…yeah,but against the S9 lethal force is authorised.You see the problem now?

              • I understand the problem. That’s why I said you have to do your due diligence. And they did – they went “wait, something’s wrong here” and they held off on going in guns blazing.

                There’s not a perfect solution here. You just have to make the best judgement call you can under the circumstances and hope it was the right one.

                Im not sure why we’re still arguing. You already agreed that these decisions have to be made on a case-by-case basis.

      • As we all know, I am not in the Wormverse, nor do I have an analog there.

        Plus, if anyone’s been bothering to read, I’ve been busy in Memphis. Seriously, I pull off a brilliant plan and nobody pays attention?

        That’s it, Canada is going on my shit list. It’s a list of people and places who have gotten on my bad side and whose sewer systems I am going to find a way to spontaneously and forcefully reverse.

    • Well Psycho Gecko always did say that Wildbow should develop a personality in the comment’s section, and when Wildbow goes on vacation and no more Gecko…

      Do we know that they’re different people? Has anybody here seen them at a party together?

  24. Well, the Endbringers are not playing with their food, they are being forced to attack it.

    The alternative explanation is that the smurf held off attacking as long as she could and then picked a target that would get destroyed before Scion showed up and killed her.

    That may well be what is going on instead.

    Keep wondering how Scarab fits into this.

  25. A solid chapter, and I’m glad to finally see Taylor happier, within a Ward headquarters, and without the silly butterfly rules. My first posts in these comments were arguing that this was the way forward, and finally we’re there. Just a shame we had to flatten New Dehli and get Glenn to fall on his sword in the process, but we got there.

    Satyrical and his team taking on the old fascists in the PRT is interesting. I’d assumed the conflict of the arc would be between them and Taylor, combined with a climatic fight with a big villain where she uses novel tactics to win, then goes to the media. (My other idea for her big push was her recruiting some young villains, and showing how broken the PRT approach was in the process, but that doesn’t seem likely to happen.)

    This seemed straightforward, but now I think things will be more complicated than that. I think there’s going to be something complex to do with the villain that Taylor goes for, or with the PRT, or something that kinda subverts her relatively early victory against the villain/rotten elements of the PRT, and then the climax is dealing with this complicated thing. Otherwise the bad elements of the PRT starting to be defanged only two chapters in doesn’t make sense, it’s dissolving narrative tension too early.

    • Last interlude suggested that Satyrical’s team will be taking support from Cauldron, completely unaware about how Cauldron ties into the PRT’s corruption. Which is yet another thing that suggests that Cauldron is almost done with the PRT.

      Now we’ve got a situation where a team is fighting against what they believe is corruption and crypto-fascism, while being backed up by the very people partially responsible for much of the PRT’s bullshit in the first place. More complicated indeed, Weaver and the Vegas team clashing might be inevitable, all the while Cauldron will be trying to slip back into the shadows.

      • Good analysis, that could definitely be one angle via which complications arise.

        A small quibble; Cauldron wanted control of the PRT and Protectorate, for sure, but do we actually know if they especially wanted the excessive authoritarianism and corruption? Because usually we humans can usually manage that fine by ourselves! 🙂

        I can kinda see the problems with the PRT arising independently, and Cauldron just not caring that much either way until now. I mean, it’s entirely possible they still don’t particularly care, and are supporting Satyrical and his team mostly as a way of keeping them “on retainer”, so to speak, for if and when they need them for something they actually care about. If we look at Pretender and Satyrical’s conversation, that’s kinda the gist that I got. Satyrical seemed to be pursuing goals different to Cauldron’s, which his team had already been working on for a while, and Pretender agreed to funnel support to them and suggested future cooperation.

        • I’d say that alot of Cauldron’s methods in some part echo and influence how the PRT does things. A couple examples.

          -The PRT’s “norms must be in charge” policy was deliberate put into place by Cauldron and Alexandria, as a smokescreen to keep people complacent so no one goes sniffing after Cauldron. The attitude that capes must be controlled and contained by baselines has caused so many problems it isn’t even funny.

          -The ability to create capes means that the PRT doesn’t have to scrimp and scrape to get as many parahumans on their side as possible and keep them. It’s why they had no qualms about throwing Panacea away like garbage, or denying the Wards therapy that could make them more effective. Why bother giving a shit about individual trigger capes when new ones can be made easily?

          -Both the PRT and Cauldron put their emphasis on control, superpowers must be under their command and they have little tolerance for anyone who acts outside of their influence or contrary to their desires. This could well be intentional, capes controlled by the PRT can be made into Cauldron assets without too much trouble.

          This doesn’t mean that Cauldron and the PRT are buddy-buddy, but there’s alot of overlap in the latter’s flaws with the former’s methods.

          • These mostly seem good, though I’d stress that there’s a distinction between Cauldron’s objectives having led to problems in the PRT as side-effects, and problems in the PRT actually being a goal of Cauldron in and of itself.

            The making more capes thing seems odd though, do we have any reason to believe that the PRT at even the director level, let alone the lower echelons needed for policy-making, would be aware that they could get replacements quickly via Cauldron? I think you may be looking for calculation as an explanation here when the simple cupidity and callousness of unchecked large organizations can suffice.

            • It could be just something suggested to the PRT brass by all these Cauldron capes coming forward to join the heroes. It artificially skews the numbers to make them think there is less of a problem with recruitment and less of a need to enforce standards for treatment and strive to enlarge their recruitment pool.

              Would Armsmaster have been so quick to write Taylor off as an enemy if Battery and Triumph weren’t around? If there were no squeaky clean, conventionally attractive Cauldron recruits, would the PRT have so readily chased Rachel into the shadows instead of try reaching out to her?

              Speaking of, the presence of the Cauldron capes might overly white-wash capes in the eyes of the public. Making it easier to write off kids like Rachel as “the bad guys”. I find it strange that trigger capes ending up like her isn’t a well known social problem and this could help explain why.

              • On the whole bit about Cauldron capes skewing the numbers, awhile back I had something where I figured they also threw off the number of triggers caused by Endbringers.

                After Leviathan’s attack, we only had one known trigger. That was Imp and her brother was personally fighting the thing. I don’t know if we have the numbers on how many actual triggers the Endbringers themselves cause, but it’ll likely be less than people think.

                Cauldron probably advised people that showing up in the aftermath of an Endbringer attack gives them a convenient excuse for explaining where they suddenly got their powers from to the PRT.

              • Well reasoned, but again, even in the absence of Cauldron capes, I find it pretty plausible that an organization like the PRT could be that callous and stupid by itself. The overall explanation is probably a “little from column A, little from column B” kinda thing.

              • Certainly considering how people like Tagg and Piggot would probably be shitheels either way, but it does give the PRT a convenient excuse, and might help prevent trigger cape outreach programs, shelters, watchdog groups lobbying for better treatment from popping up.

              • Fair point, as I’ve said, I think it’s probably a combination, but it was well thought out. You certainly don’t need to sell me on an aggressive outreach and therapy program for young triggered parahumans being desperately needed- I’m totally your guy on that. Hell, even offering new parahumans a decent bursary with their anonymity protected just to stay as rogues rather than becoming villains would probably help a lot, and save money in the long run.

  26. Woohoo. Endbringer messing with peoples heads 🙂 My guess is she wanted a 3ds and a copy of the new animal crossing! Once she grabbed it off the plane she split 🙂

  27. New reader, just finished catching up. Howdy. Man do I love this series.

    My thoughts on the Simurgh’s latest attack: she is smart enough to have multiple goals and to set things up so she wins regardless of the result of the attack. If the plane survives, she has potential recruits for future action – a few of them would no doubt escape through some contrived coincidence. If the plane is shot down, she causes all of the morale and public image damage others have discussed, and she prevents everyone on that plane from completing whatever destiny they may have had. As a result, we may never have flying cars, a cure for cancer, a working moon base, and God knows what else. This doesn’t even touch on second and third order effects based on how this impacts the passengers’ families and every other person they would ever come into contact with. Also, what are the odds that in the midst of the wide ranging aerial combat, she managed to circle around enough times to effect the passengers and crew of one or more ships on the ocean below, unnoticed by all? In a few days, the world could have another Exxon Valdez disaster and no one will know why.

    Take a look at what she did with the Travelers so far. All of the damage caused by Echidna’s attack, including the public revelations by Evil Eidolon (or maybe More Evil Eidolon). The near assassination of Chevalier, which increased the damage caused by Behemoth’s attack and drove a fresh wedge between the Yangban and the rest of the world. The death of Accord, which removes his plan to end world hunger (he was a dangerous psycho, but his plans could have been an immense benefit to the world). Trickster is in a key position to interfere in any escape attempt or plan to release inmates from the Birdcage, to ensure that things go as badly as possible. Cody is still in the Yangban, in position to keep screwing things up. The rest of the Travelers go home…allowing the Simurgh to send her special brand of terror to a whole new world. Maybe she can even spark off that interdimensional war. Not bad for a handful of victims.

    The Simurgh uses surgical strikes and plays the long game very effectively. The large scale damage she causes is most likely simply a smokescreen to conceal her real objectives. With that in mind, the apparent small scale of her latest attack may indicate it is far more devastating than her earlier appearances. Maybe she is through toying with us and is settling down to serious work. Her interference to prevent Dragon from getting a single message earlier illustrates a ‘less is more’ approach.

    Looking forward to Taylor’s new plan. Cleaning up Chicago by permanently removing a few longstanding threats would definitely make a splash. It would be even more interesting if she manages to convince one or more low priority villains to switch sides and follow her path into the Wards and the Protectorate. Sure there are some complete monsters out there, but one wonders how many villains could be converted to the side of good if any real effort were made towards rehabilitation, as opposed to putting them into the prison system until they have enough strikes to go to the Birdcage. The ranks of the Protectorate are desperately thin after a couple decades of Endbringer attacks. The idea that heroes=good and villains=bad and never the twain shall meet is short-sighted, shallow and destructive. A lot of the horrible things that happen in Worm are driven by a complete lack of hope. That trend needs to be reversed.

  28. Note: This is only marginally topical to this chapter. I am posting it here to avoid any possibility of spoilers and to get it read and critiqued.
    How does the world-killing crisis start? I have some thoughts, but little on how they link together.
    1. With the exception of Jask Slash and a few others, very few parahumans want the world to end. Heroes and villains together fight Endbringers, and heroes and villains together would fight any major crisis. If nothing else, all parahumans fight to defend their own turf and this crisis will spill onto everyone’s turf. Given the power levels involved, there are few things that could fight that many parahumans: lots of S-class threats at once, the superentities (not the agents, the agents’ creators), or … a lot more parahumans.
    2. Aster (daughter of Kaiser and Purity) may be a key and it is probably her trigger event that is the key. We know that Jack will come back for Theo. The only two people Jack has promised to kill in his arrangement with Theo are Theo and Aster, and Theo has already triggered. It makes sense that Aster would trigger eventually – she is third generation cape. Dinah said either two years or fifteen to sixteen, so either she is triggered by Jack or she triggers in her teens. The disaster is not a function of Aster’s relative maturity at the time, so her power does something irrespective of how she uses it (the way a toddler would use powers is very different from the way a teen would).
    3. According to hints from Dinah, this has something to do with Taylor.
    4. According to Dinah, based on what Coil was asking her, there will be five major power blocks involved. I am guessing PRT/Protectorate, Cauldron, C.U.I., Thanda (Indian Cold parahumans), and … the expanded S9???
    5. I theorize that the Bonesaw / Panacea brain manipulation that happened in Brockton Bay may have changed the population into a parahuman-trigger-bomb waiting to happen. The reasoning is too long to go into here, see my recent commentary in
    6. The world-killing crisis is considerably variable in magnitude and occurs over a period of time.
    So … possibilities:
    1. Bonesaw’s mass production of S9 clones would have happened eventually. Theo’s bargain with Jack just set the time (and she would have done it without Jack). The S9 rampage is what will cause the crisis. Given 10 clones each of some of the nastiest bastards on the planet, each with some variant power, some of them will come out significantly stronger than before. Problems: Given that one Endbringer could clean house on the lot of them together and Endbringers don’t cause the same level of crisis, this doesn’t seem big enough. Phir Sē and his pals could take most of them (and would be vicious enough to try). This also ignores Taylor’s involvement.
    2. Jack attacks and Aster triggers … as someone who automatically sets off other triggers in a wide radius. If my other guess about Brockton Bay is right, Armageddon ensues. Taylor has enough popularity there that she is the only likely guidance that a city full of new parahumans will listen to, and she is the only one who can multi-task enough to organize the result. Problems: Powers run similarly in families and that powerset is nothing like Aster’s parents. It is unclear how Aster can survive Jack long enough to trigger (unless she triggers on seeing him attack another person). My guess about Brockton Bay’s population is a long shot.
    2a. (subset of 2) Aster’s primary power, which is similar to her mother’s, is absorbing any power in a wide radius and reusing it, but in Aster’s case this includes parahuman powers. Her secondary power is creating new power sources, e.g. new parahumans. Her power may allow her to survive Jack or not – if she manages to trigger most of Brockton Bay before she goes then her survival is not necessary to cause the crisis. This fits with the “happens no matter how she uses her power” idea. Problems: Depends primarily on their being a lot of potential parahumans, e.g. my hypothesis on Brockton Bay.
    3. If my idea of Brockton Bay being a parahuman-trigger-bomb is right, Aster is only involved peripherally. When Jack shows up and starts his rampage, it is enough to set off the crisis. Problems: It seems unlikely that the crisis would have waited another fifteen to sixteen years without Jack.
    4. Aster or another victim of the S9 (or a bystander) triggers as a Nilbog-type (Master type) that can create new Endbringer-level threats. Problems: Taylor’s involvement? Not Aster’s likely powers. From a meta-analyis viewpoint, this seems too unrelated to the hints.
    5. In general, some sort of contagious parahuman-creation event seems most likely, e.g. a Teacher type who can create new powers, but with the added traits that the creations are equivalently potent (with some variation), are not under the creator’s control, and can pass on the powers. Then, if Taylor (or someone) organizes the core outbreak early and gives the new parahumans purpose and control, overall casualties are relatively low; if it blows up, well, if memory serves, the upper limit is 96% of the human race dead. Note: Cauldron is likely to try to stop such an outbreak with all the powers at their command – contagious parahuman creation overwhelms Cauldron’s abilities. Cauldron could try to use the threat to sell powers to the alternate Earth (the one with fewer parahumans) … until the contagion spreads there also. Hmmm … this works very well – contagious parahuman-creation starts; the PRT/Protectorate sees it as a Nilbog event on radioactive steroids and responds with great force; Cauldron sees it as a rival that must be stopped at all costs and starts killing; other major players, e.g. Phir Sē and group, see it as a threat and respond; but there is no way to contain such an event and Taylor is the only person with enough clout with enough of the major powers to get them to listen … or she turns into the de facto leader of the new parahuman group and wipes out the opposition. Be afraid, be very afraid.
    Currently, something like 2a with portions of 5 is my best guess (fits with the most known elements), but even that seems unlikely. Please help me out with clues, possibilities, or problems I have missed.

    • Not to shut you down or anything, but most of this sounds more like fanfiction than anything that would actually be written by the author. There’s way too many assumptions about how things work and an awful lot of iterative speculation that makes it impossible to say anything more than, “I guess wildbow could go that direction if he wanted.”

      Chekov’s guns are red herrings a great deal more often than they are plot clues. A more reliable way to eliminate possibilities is to ask how much character development it would require to make the possibility seem like more than a plot device. In my opinion, Aster would require a lot. She’s very young, she’s surrounded by nothing but highly tangential characters, and she’s barely ever been mentioned. It’s true that wildbow could do the necessary work to make her into a real character: he did it with Dinah, after all, all for the sake of setting up this prophecy, and it certainly wouldn’t be any more work than that for Aster. But we’re kinda nearing the end of the story and I question whether wildbow wants to take that kind of left turn in his character development again, so close to the end.

    • If we’re going to say it’s Aster, then I’d wonder if her trigger event could be Jack Slash killing Theo. Or, since she’s third gen, she could have triggered earlier due to some more minor event, and then have a second trigger event when Jack kills Theo. Then when she’s a teenager she and Weaver, respectively leaders of the Wards and Protectorate (and Greg is head of the PRT), take on S9K. With them are the vigilantes Defiant and Dragon (renamed at this point; maybe Matron? Naaaaaah), the Undersiders (now expanded into Tattletale’s Yakuza), and the prisoners of the Birdcage. Big battle, good guys win, phlebotinum explained, happy ending.
      Finish with the Scion interlude as an epilogue, as he flies around the world one last time before leaving, having completed some greater cosmic objective or some nonsense. Not that greater cosmic objectives are nonsense.
      Though I don’t know if that would really work to have Theo just die, and then they all wait another fifteen years for no particular reason.

      • Looking at Dinah’s interlude, I think Jack may have already done what he needs to do, just about, in guaranteeing the creation of the S9000. He’s the instigator and organizer of the S9, and probably was the one to direct them to the clone lab, even though Bonesaw is the one doing the actual work. What I very tentatively predict is going to happen (biggest weakness trying to anticipate WB, second biggest the predictability of things relating to Scion) is that when the floodgates of villainy open, the most powerful woman in the world is going to end up telling him something horribly open-ended like: “Not just Endbringers, kill the worst people, too.”

        Seeing as it isn’t possible to not have a worst person or group of people in the world…

        If Jack had died in BB, something would have driven her to it eventually.

    • Aw man, you know what this means. Someone is going to have to put you down MrMoray. Any volunteers?

      • Oh crap! I think getting other people to read Worm / Vurm in Swedish chef-speak is what “she” programmed me to do.

        • “We jest did,” Crusader said, cuss it all t’ tarnation. “Th’ autho’ities is jest gittin’ t’th’ ninth flore now, mah clones is lettin’ ‘em by. By th’ time we got thar, they’d haf him secured, an’ they’d be ready t’spray us wif thet foam, dawgone it.”

    • I think Gregor the Snail would work best with Swedish chef, honestly.

      I’m gonna try a few chapters with Taylor speaking in jive, see how it changes things. Slap mah fro!

  29. I’ve realized something. Chicago’s villians are Slackers compared to Brockton Bays. I mean Taylor has been there for three months with nothing major happening? Sheesh. Brockton bay had the ABB go on a rampage, Coil outing Empire 88. Lets not get into the out of towners. Hell by now the Undersiders would have beaten both the Protectorate and Wards up 10 times. 3 in their own headquarters.

    It also occurs to me that if Clockblocker and Kid Win died in New Dehli, Vista is the only original BB ward still active in the city.

    • Chicago’s villains aren’t slackers. Assuming that Worm Chicago is fairly parallel to our Chicago, most of the villains hold public office.

      • Pretty much. I mean, Taylor is the one who destabilized the power balance between the gangs in Brockton Bay by getting Lung thrown into jail, indirectly causing the ABB rampage. Before that, the local gangs must have been pretty content selling drugs and beating up the occasional person of color and stuff. There’s a reason the other villains were so displeased with the aforementioned rampage that they decided to step in and put an end to it.

        And the Undersiders only started doing high-profile jobs after she joined. Remember, the bank robbery was considered pretty crazily dangerous compared to their usual crimes, and that’s not even talking about directly attacking the Protectorate team.

        Basically, it’s only since Taylor’s arrival that Brockton Bay has been in a permanent state of crisis, and it looks like she’s finally decided to bring her unique touch to Chicago. 😛

        • I think the more fundamental source of chaos in that situation was Coil trying to take over the city (a plan which necessitated eliminating the other supervillains of the town).

          Now, I’m not at all sure that Bitch+Regent could take Lung in a fight (and that’s assuming Grue and Tattletale take out Oni Lee and the unpowered gang members … which isn’t entirely unreasonable, but…). Even assuming they couldn’t, though, I think Taylor should be dubbed a catalyst of the destabilization, not the cause.

          …admittedly, said amplification of chaos might be why Leviathan targeted Noelle, rather than some other target. And it was that destabilization on top of all that had come before that really pushed Brockton Bay over the line into “is this even a salvageable city?” territory.

      • Wow, I just checked — he was in the Los Angeles Wards and he only had two fights in a month (and one of them wasn’t even a real fight). What are the relative populations of LA and Brockton Bay?

        • Wow, only two fights in Los Angeles? Makes me wonder what kind of villain teams they got going on there. I’m thinking gangs of European nihilists who fake kidnappings, a superpowered porn-mogul in Malibu with ties to the police, and a team of parahuman avant-garde artists.

          The most dangerous being the purple costumed, latin-american pederast with ball rolling powers.

              • Stay out of Brockton, Vasil! *kick* Stay out of Brockton deadbeat!

                Get your ugly fuckin’ date raping ass out of my post-apocalyptic beach community.

                That’s totally how the shit with Heartbreaker should end. With either Miss Militia or imp doing the kicking.

          • > Wow, only two fights in Los Angeles? Makes me wonder what kind of villain teams they got going on there.

            Actually, Bobby has pointed out that Brockton Bay was in a particularly unstable state at the time the story started, for two reasons:

            One, on the macro scale: Coil was moving into the final phases of his take-over-the-city plan — a plan which required the established villains of the city to be driven out and replaced with those under his command, and which required that Piggot’s Protectorate and Wards teams be sufficiently humiliated to justify his replacing her outright (rather than merely taking over her position during her convalescence — and remember, her position was a bribe, so they wouldn’t want to take it away if they didn’t feel forced to).

            Two, on the micro scale: Lung had recruited the mad bomber Bakuda just in time for Taylor to kick his ass, and yea, his ass was verily kicked … leaving Bakuda, unsupervised*, to plot and scheme in that oh-so-very-explosive way of hers how to set him free.

            Put those together, and it’s not entirely implausible that Brockton Bay at the beginning of the story had a vastly disproportionate amount of violence going on, even before you consider that L.A.’s Wards team was probably large enough that rookies in the Wards didn’t get called out for most emergencies.

            * Oni Lee had seniority, but as Jack Slash said, he was also a total zero incapable of taking initiative.

          • Good thing Taylor is being careful in who she’s targeting for her big move. She doesn’t want to destabilize the city just so she can get in the news. So she needs to find someone impressive enough that taking them out will look good. But not someone so important that taking them down will cause a gang war. So basicly she needs the Undersiders after they kicked the Wards and Protectorates asses a few times but before they seized territory?

            • Undersiders-circa-arc-7 wouldn’t be bad, no — but sticking with the Brockton Bay metaphor, my first thought is the Merchants pre-Leviathan. In Grue’s words: “You’re cowards that hold onto the areas nobody else cares about, making drugs and selling them to children.” The latter makes for a lot of public good in destroying them, while the former reduces the pressure on other gangs to fight for the newly opened territory.

              Neither of those really seem big enough to make a truly dramatic splash, though. I think if Weaver really wants to make waves, she needs to either pick a target that’s nationally known or do an Undersiders and defeat everyone.

  30. Hm.

    If the time gap is 167-8 days here … we’re now in January (July 26th [Behemoth] + 105 days [estimate] + 3 days [late at first timestamp] + ~593-534 days [End of World countdown change] = January 9-10). So I hope I’m a few weeks off, to at least see how Danny and Taylor interacted over Christmas for instance and everything else around there. They missed her birthday, after all. Gifts from the Undersiders or the Chicago Wards? Assuming that they celebrate Christmas the same way in Earth Bet.

    As an aside, can you imagine how awesome a haunted house staffed by the various powers we’ve seen would be? Just from the Chicago Wards, Weaver, Annex, Golem and Wanton could make a pretty good one (so much for “Using my power with my face isn’t that useful”, Theo). Mix in a few of the Undersides (Grue, Imp, Bitch’s dogs – if she’d let you). Add in Vista (“What do you MEAN it’s bigger on the inside? It’s not a TARDIS!”). See how much it would cost to hire Faultline’s Crew for Labyrinth! Have your staff get tuned in by Labyrinth so they can just walk through walls for that extra touch.

    • For some reason this makes me thing about what Halloween must be like for the Slaughterhouse 9.

      “Alright everyone, lets see your costumes!” Jack Slash said as the members of the most feared orginization in North America gathered.
      “Fairy Princess. Very cute Bonesaw.”
      “Thanks! Getting the wings to work and support my weight was really tricky! The Fairy Dust was easy though.”
      “Alan I see your going a pirate. One of the classics, got the hook and the pegleg.” Of course there was no verbal response from the Tinker, but a slight tilt of the head.
      “Siberian… Your going as a Doctor? Okay, whatever works for you. As for you Burnscar, your going as a Carrort? Really?”
      “Only costume that didn’t get burned down with the store.”
      “Fair enough. Moving on, Shatterbird I see you also picked a classic, The Witch.”
      “Actually I wanted to be the Fairy Princess, but Bonesaw called dibs.” It was clear from the glare Shatterbird gave the young Tinker that she was holding a grudge about that.
      “Well there’s always next year. Now Crawler, don’t tell you’re going as yourself again this year?”
      “No.” rumbled Crawler as he brought his head down. “Bunny. See the ears?”
      “Ah now I do. Cute. Hatchet Face, Going as Jason Vohress this year. So Freddy next?” Hatchet Face’s only response was a grunt. It was Bonesaw who spoke up next.
      “Hey Jack, what is your costume supposed to be?” Jack Chuckled as he gestured at the nice suit he was wearing.
      “Why I am the most devious and dishonest thing there is. A Politician! Now before we set out lets review the ground rules. Don’t eat any candy that has an opened wrapper. If they don’t give you a trick, you give them a treat. And at least one of us with Bonesaw at all times. We don’t want a repeat of last year.”
      “Oh that’s not fair! I only spiked the punch at one party! The Zombie Outbreak wasn’t supposed to spread that fast!”
      “Well it did, and zombies are just boring to kill for the rest of us. Now then, lets go make this the scariest Halloween ever!”

  31. I Seriously love this story I just read the whole thing up till here in the span of a week and I think it’s just pure genius. Skitter is so real and definitely not a Mary Sue and that’s what add to the whole thing. Thanks so much for writing. 😀 just voted for your story looking forward to the next chapter

  32. By Scion’s Golden Balls!! It’s time for some moments of randomness….

    1. Let me see if I got this right, Alexandria was outsourcing most of her thinking to her passenger or was it more of a case of allowing her passenger to process and filter all the data for her? It would have been interesting if her Passenger became the Driver, running autonomously like Weaver’s does from time to time. Guess it means that Pretender’s passenger allows him to control the meat puppet AND the passenger??

    2. This one’s for P.G…. if it’s called the “Alexandria package” did it mean that she had the biggest one of the lot??

    3. Morgan Keene = Numbers Man?

    4. Mist Born’s Brandon Sanderson writes about capes,97785/ …just from the intro: villains being dicks just for the sake of being dicks ….At this point I’d rather stick with fanfic

    • 1. You know I was wondering if the revelation that Alexandria let her passenger do most of the thinking explains her rather non-clever actions. We know that the passengers lean towards a pretty martial philosophy (powers in general being mostly apt for violence, Jack Slash’s particular attuning to his passenger, Taylor’s occasional homicidal urges, Number Man feeling alive only when he can use the fighting applications of his powers, etc.) so maybe Alexandria only saw the violent solution of a problem because that’s how the passenger thinks.

      3. Seems unlikely. Mr Keene was also present when the various Directors and Piggot were discussing reforms of the PRT with Defiant and Dragon and Piggot knows him enough to respect him. Whereas it appears to be implied that Number Man before the recents event of his Interlude stayed at Cauldron’s HQ all time.

    • 4. Thanks for the link — but yeah, I’m not gripped either. That said, I don’t read it as dicks-for-the-sake-of-dickery, but as demigods-competing-to-rule. (A minor distinction, admittedly.)

    • 1. A passenger that was not destined to her, so it’s probably trying to screw her over? Maybe when it detects that she’s confronting a “true” pairing with a very powerful passenger?
      Yeah, it would seem a possible read of it, but I doubt Pretender can extend control over to the passenger. I read his power as like Hijacker’s.

      2. No, the biggest one is the Campanile package of course.

      3. Seems unlikely, with all the work they do.

      4. Enough with the dick jokes already 😀

      • @en Re:4 No pun was intended. I didn’t even realise the implications. Subconscious at work I guess…but yes i,t’s time for them to end 😉

        • Interesting to know that’s going on in your subconscious all the time.

          Don’t worry. No matter how long they go on or even if someone tries to cut you off early on, all dick jokes come to an end eventually.

    • 2. Maybe you should be so worried that so many other capes seem to her package. Men, women, teens, possibly even children. And we don’t even know if animals have had it.

      4. At least I try to make it funny. Or I’m getting revenge on someone. Still, a world where power levels automatically create bulletproofness is an odd one. At least the protagonist realizes the most important thing: Everything dies. Even capes whose power is to be immune to bullets intended for him. A lot of ways you can work around that, though my personal favorite is to toss something they can breath in at them. You’d be surprised how many humans have to take in oxygen. Almost everyone I’ve ever met, in fact.

      Part of that little bit reminds me some of the discussion about the PRT being so paranoid over capes. People are really missing the point if they think it’s a matter of being afraid that one of these types are going to take power for themselves. They’re superpeople, but still people. Like it or not, not all people are outright dicks when they get a hold of a little power. Not sure if that makes things easier or harder, actually.

      The control is the more important thing. Not whether the world is better or worse, just different from what it is with them in charge, even if they’d still be in charge after a few changes. Don’t want to feel that all their dirty hands and handshakes with the devil were for nothing.

      • Human society is based off of a certain kind of power structure. Whether it’s a monarchy or a republic or a military unit or a raid in an MMO or a simple forum discussion board, society has to put people “in charge”. You have to have leaders – people to make rules, people to enforce rules.

        This isn’t a bad thing. When people don’t take charge, nothing gets done. Like at all. It also isn’t a bad thing when people in power try to prevent other people from taking over, for the most part. Railing against The Man is usually pretty stupid, especially if you don’t want to be in charge yourself.

        TV shows and movies have convinced people that everyone trying to protect their own position of power is a corrupt piece of crap with priorities that are completely out of whack, but the fact of the matter is that maintaining the status quo is the right thing to do 99% of the time. Upheaval is very rarely worth it. Even if it’s the only way to accomplish a goal, the cost includes the risk that some other jerk is going to conclude that whatever his goals are, are important enough to cause even more upheaval and undo everything you worked to accomplish.

  33. Back from vacation.

    Let me extend a warm thanks to Andrew F, David, Andrew M and Stephen for their donations. The tracker has been updated.

    • *Waves hello as a new commenter.* Welcome back Wildbow, I hope your vacation was great and that everything went awesomely for you.
      I’m all caught upwith your story (Twice over now). Sleep and I can now reunite. And it’s Friday so update tomorrow. See you then!

      P.S you’re not amazingly far off 30,000 comments.

      • Yes, that’s right. Sleep. Don’t hang around with us weirdo and make dick jokes, or engage in a chain of punnery (The chain of punnery of course being the thing you get beaten with for making too many puns), or join one of our many infinitely long debates on the balance of power or morality or who’s going to declare their lesbian love of Taylor (lesbian love of course can be shortened to simply “lesbians” such as “I’m in lesbians with you.”

        And yes, it’s completely normal for people on the internet to be so involved in the fictional love life of an underage girl. Now why don’t you sit down and have a seat. We have these chat logs here…have you been playing the MMO World of Lumberjacks long? Ah! Stop it, the chain, it hurts!).

        Perhaps you have a wild hypothesis about the nature of the Wormverse or the future of the story. Feel free to share it. I’ve set the bar pretty low around here (Loch Ness Monster=Leviathan?) so don’t worry about sounding stupid. That’s what I’m here for. I wow people with stupidity so profound that they become smarter. It’s all very Buddhist (If you’re lucky, you’ll get to go to a Nirvana concert when you die.)

        Anyway, ShawnMorgan, this has been your official unofficial introduction to the comments. Welcome to our grand old comments section.

        • Thank you gecko, any advice form you will be filed under ‘A Box of teabags’ due to them being P.G tips of course. Enduring the Chain of puns will of course require me footslog through the Longest yard and if you give me an inch, I’ll take a mile although maybe not Furlong as some of you guys are just out of my league.

          And if you haven’t already seen it P.G I posted a thank you with my first actual comment (That I erroneously put in the preceding chapter’s comment section. A thank you for keeping me sane.

          By the way when you wrote that ‘Mistress Bitch’ had a paddle to punish Taylor with were they going swimming? after all, it was obviously a Doggy paddle.

    • Welcome back! Hope vacation was goodly. Glad you were able to take one, especially with how hard you work.

    • Yay, you’re back!
      … Oh dear. That means you’re going to read the comments from last chapter now.
      … Um. Apologies in advance?

  34. A thought on the Brockton wards just struck me. Because of the time skip, wouldn’t Taylor be able to confirm Clockblocker’s status?

  35. “Would the schedule continue at its accelerated pace, with Behemoth appearing in seven to ten months?”
    Didn’t Behemoth die? It’s pretty hard for a bunch of ashes to attack anything. Or is Taylor just worried that it’ll come back?
    …On that note, why is Behemoth called a he, and Smiurgh a she?

    So. Skitter’s looking for trouble. I can’t help but wonder…how deep is Smiurgh’s game? She/It knows everyone knows it manipulates people, so it probably wouldn’t go for such obvious ploys. Hence, I suspect that Smiurgh wants some/certain people to think it wants them to feel helpless. Could Skitter be doing what Smiurgh wants her to be doing? Holy carp, this is a bit of a conspiracy theory…

  36. Sad we didn’t get to see Theo confess his identity, but the speculations in the comments are good enough. Theo is a bae. I wonder what his thought process was about being abandoned, or if reconciliation between him and Purity will ever be possible. Probably not.

    • *Shit

      I’m also glad to see skitter acting with transparency. This is what will distinguish her apart from what Trickster did.

  37. It’s surprising to me that Taylor has apparently been fairly passive over such a span of time. She tends to be proactive in general, and in this case she even had Glenn telling her that she’d have to do something soon to prevent to keep her momentum as an iconoclast going.

    I realize there are any number of reasons there could be for why she has taken her time (psychological hangups, her probation and other bureaucratic red tape, the inexperience of her team, a lack of clear targets) but I would’ve expected her past and present anxiety about her lack of progress towards her larger goals (and the obstacles preventing her from making that progress) would’ve been expressed more explicitly and in more detail in her internal dialog. It seems that it takes the Simurgh attack and the therapy to even bring the issue to Taylor’s conscious attention.

    It seems a bit off to me. I’m on my first read through now, but I’m hoping this incongruity is addressed in the next few chapters.

  38. “New Delhi would happen,” I said. Except without the severe losses. We’d lose people, some place would get damaged, but we’d kill another Endbringer.” You need a quatation mark before except.

  39. Somewhere along the line, t had become something of a habit, as we ended our sessions. I gave her a little smile as we parted.
    “t” should be “it”

  40. “Would the schedule continue at its accelerated pace, with Behemoth appearing in seven to ten months?”

    I think this should probably be Simurgh, as Behemoth is dead.

  41. First time poster (wohoo!) Found an error I think. Not sure if Its mentioned as I havent read all of the Comments for This chapter yet. But here goes;
    – in the last paragraph Im pretty sure Its supposed to be (enough For three or four swarm clones.) missing an f in secound Word.

    Enough or three or four swarm clones.

  42. Typo: “New Delhi would happen,” I said. Except without the severe losses. We’d lose people, some place would get damaged, but we’d kill another Endbringer.”

    Missing quotation marks before “except”

  43. List of possible edits:
    (1) As far as could tell (needs a subject there maybe?)
    (2) Enough or three or four swarm (enough for* three or four?)
    (3) I said. Except without the severe losses. (Missing opening quotation mark?)
    (4) Somewhere along the line, t (it*?)
    (5) with a plan already in mind… (extra space?)

  44. Taylor going after villains doesn’t sit right with me considering who her friends and love interest are. (I wonder if everything she does puts them at risk of being targets for retaliation, too.) Pretty hypocritical on the surface level but maybe she’ll find someone reeeeaaaally evil and there’ll be some interesting interplay.

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