Scarab 25.5

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Three days.

Nearly three days and we hadn’t managed to kill him.

A new target every thirty minutes, give or take.  Ten to twenty minutes for the defending forces to get their shit together.  The remainder of that time was our capes trying to hurt him.  Chipping away at him.

Sometimes we made headway.

Sometimes he crushed the bulk of the defending forces and then stood still, drawing those rotating columns of altered time to himself.  Not covering himself, but allowing the altered time effects to graze the outer edges of his body.  He’d heal, regenerating as much as half of the damage we’d done.

He hit major cities and small ones.  Villages, even, when he needed some elbow room to regenerate.  He’d hit a weapons stockpile in Russia, and nuclear weapons had been accelerated in time, the casings wearing down in that odd entropic, eroding effect that accompanied the time accelerations.  A nuclear detonation.  Heroes were still trying to minimize the damage.

He was teleporting less often than he had at first, and there were a number of heroes who were appearing regularly on the scene.  Legend, Alexandria, Eidolon, they were stepping up, though they’d started taking breaks, shifts.  Legend would skip one, then participate in the next two.  Alexandria would do two on, then two off.

They were tired, weary.  Everyone was.  How could you rest when he could appear where you were?  Six or eight hours of sleep meant he’d be changing location twelve to sixteen times, if not more.  And at the same time, that fatigue, it made it easier to make mistakes, and he wasn’t an opponent that let mistakes slide.

Tecton approached me, setting his hands on my shoulders.

“What?” I asked.

“You need to rest.  The others have managed it.”

“I’ve napped.”

Sleep.  You’re swaying on your feet.”

I wanted to protest.  My eyes fell on the others, and I could see how affected they were.  Scared, tired, helpless.  They were arranged around the Chicago headquarters, perpetually in costume, with no idea what to do with themselves.  Thirty minutes, and then that intense period of tension, waiting, wondering as it took the media or the PRT time to grasp just where he’d gone, to report the information.  If we were lucky, we got video footage, and we didn’t have to wonder if Khonsu had caught any of the big guns.

In a way, I’d grown used to being a little different from my peers, here.  I could be blasé about things that had them freaking out, confident.  I could put myself in the bad guy’s shoes because I’d been one, once.

Except here, I was no different.  Three days in, unable to sleep for more than an hour or two at a time, feeling my heart plummet into my stomach every time Khonsu teleported, I was on the same page as the others.

“I only ever wanted to do something to help,” I said.

“I know,” Tecton said.

“Even at the beginning, even when I was undercover in the Undersiders, I wanted to stop the bad guys.  A lot of it was selfish, me wanting to escape, but I still wanted to work for the greater good.”

“Yeah,” Tecton said.  He let his gauntlets fall from my shoulders.  I turned around to look at him.  Our man of iron, his face hidden beneath his helmet.  He was standing firm, giving no indication of how affected he was.  It let him be strong, or appear to be strong, for our sakes.

“And then I decided to be a villain full-time, but my motivations were still sort of good, even if I wasn’t.  I knew the Undersiders needed help.  That there was something wrong with a lot of them, something missing in them.  And being a part of all of that, it was a way to help Coil, when I thought his plan was something good.”

“You’re not a bad person, Taylor.”

“I’m not… being good or bad was never a thing for me.  Not really.  It was all about the actions I was taking and why, instead.  I became a warlord and I took care of people.  I helped seize the city from Coil and we started implementing changes.  Again and again, I’ve escalated in terms of the kind of power I wield.”

“Do you think you’re more powerful now?  With the Wards?”  He sounded almost surprised.

“I… think so.  Yeah.  Maybe my hands are tied, I can’t be as direct or ruthless as I would otherwise be, but I can reach out to the villains and I can reach out to the heroes, and I can affect a kind of change.  I have resources.  Tools and information I might not otherwise have.”

“Makes sense,” he said, his voice soft.  “Taylor, you need to sleep.  I can hear it in your voice.”

“I just… why is it that I get more powerful over time, and yet I feel more and more helpless?”

“You ask too much of yourself,” Tecton said.  “You could have all of the power in the world, and you’d still feel like you should do more.”

“If he hits Brockton Bay-”

“Your father and friends will be okay.  Hell, our strike squad that we used against Behemoth was made up of Brockton Bay residents, wasn’t it?”

“If I have to watch people I care about getting hurt while I’m helpless to do anything, I’ll lose it.”

“It wouldn’t be constructive to lose it,” Tecton said.  “And you’re more likely to lose it if you’re tired.  Go sleep.”

I didn’t reply.  Instead, I trudged off to the quarters that had been set aside for me.  Roughly pie-shaped, with the door at the tip, it sat at the edge of the ‘hub’.  I had a bedroom upstairs, more personal, more of a home, but I didn’t want to be that far away.  I didn’t want to lapse into being Taylor Hebert, even in a moment of rest.  Better to keep thinking, keep considering options.

I lay down on the bed, pulling my mask off.  I didn’t put my glasses on.  My vision was blurry, but it didn’t do anything to block out all of the individual little lights, some blinking, that studded the interior of my quarters.  Laptops, batteries, alarm clock, the charging station with my spare flight pack inside, the television screen, the slat of light that filtered in beneath the door… so many little points of light.  If I hadn’t been so tired, I might have blocked the lights.  Using bugs wouldn’t work, as they’d wander, but a towel at the base of the door, books propped up against various devices…

I sighed and draped my arm over my eyes, my nose in the crook of my elbow.

I spent a long span of time in the twilight of near-sleep, trying not to listen to the murmurs of people’s voices in the main hub.  Idly, I wondered how much time was passing.  Where was Khonsu attacking now?

A lot of people crossed my mind, too.  Enemies, allies.  How were they dealing?  My dad had fired off emails, asked that I let him know before I joined the fight, and right after I got away safely.

For every cogent thought that crossed my mind, two or three stray thoughts followed.  The devastation, scenes burned into my mind’s eye.  People caught and left to die of dehydration in Khonsu’s fields.

Somewhere in the midst of that, I managed to drift off, the recollections becoming dreams, or something close enough to feel like it was an immediate transition.

My uneasy rest was interrupted by a touch to my shoulder.

My eyes opened, and I could see the vague shape of a woman standing over me.


I was awake and alert in an instant, but she was already turning away.  Not my mom.  Dark haired, but too short.  Both of my parents were taller than her.

I only recognized her when I saw the doorway.  A rectangle of light, almost glaringly bright, just beside my closet.

“Hey,” I said, as I hopped up from my bed.

She didn’t respond.  She was already gone.

But the doorway remained open.

I had to cross the length of my quarters to see the interior.  A dark hallway, with only dim lighting cast by tubes recessed into the ceiling.  The woman in the suit wasn’t on the other side.

I accessed the various storage containers for the bugs I was keeping in the workshop upstairs.  Beetles navigated the trap that kept them from flying out, then made contact with various touch panels, opening the cages where the various individual species were kept.

As a mass, they flowed down the stairs and into the hub.  The Wards who were at the command center and watching the monitor stood, alarmed, as the mass of bugs made their way across the room to my quarters.

“Taylor.”  It was Tecton speaking, hurrying to the door of my room.

The bugs filtered into my quarters through the space where the walls joined, and beneath the door.

My swarm entered the hallway.  No traps.  The woman in the suit was standing off to one side.  I stood at the threshold, and glanced down at the tracking device that was strapped to my ankle.  What the hell would happen if I stepped through?

I supposed I’d find out.  I stepped through in the same moment Tecton opened the door.

The rectangular portal closed, and I was left staring at a wall.  I turned to see the woman in the suit.  She was tidy, her hair tied back in a loose ponytail with strands tracing the side of her face, and she held a fedora in one hand.  The hat was beaded with moisture.  Another excursion she’d made before reaching out to me?

I was going to speak, when I noticed another presence.  A non-presence.  It was a shift of air currents that seemed unprovoked, affecting certain bugs when it should have touched other bugs in front or behind them.

The topographical sense I got from the movements of my bugs suggested a woman’s form, nude.  It wasn’t entirely gone when another appeared across the room.  The way they moved in sync- not two people.  One person, if she could be called a person; a phantom, flowing through the space around me and the woman in the suit.

The woman in the suit extended the hand that didn’t hold her hat, directing me to a doorway.

I glanced at the woman, noting how there wasn’t a trace of the anxiety or exhaustion that everyone else seemed to show.  My swarm checked the path.

There were people I recognized on the other side.  I stepped through.

The area was dark, but there was ambient light from a series of panels.  Large panels, floor to ceiling, eighteen by five feet, had been erected in a general circle. Two accompanying panels, only two or three feet wide, were set up on either side of each larger panel, to cast light at a slightly different angle.  A bar sat at just below waist height, a semicircle, simultaneously a handrest and a way of indicating a boundary the designated parties weren’t to cross.

A different person or group of people at each station, lit from behind rather than the front.  The light from the other stations barely reached them, which meant their features weren’t well illuminated.  Distinct silhouettes, with only a few more reflective materials catching the light.

I ventured up to the panel closest to the door I’d entered.  Tattletale stood there, and I deigned to stand just behind her and to her left.  Grue, I saw, was leaning against the panel itself, his arms folded.  Tattletale glanced at me and smiled, and I could just barely make out the white of her teeth.

“Asked if they’d pick you up,” she murmured.

“Thank you,” I said.  “What is this?”

“Isn’t it obvious?” she asked.

She turned her attention forward, and then she was taking it in.  I didn’t want to interrupt her, with the amount of information she was doubtlessly gathering.  It was obvious, considering the general presence of those who’d gathered, even if I could only recognize a handful.

Opposite us, Chevalier’s silhouette was unmistakable.  His cannonblade was too distinct.  Exalt stood to his left, and a cape I didn’t recognize stood to the right.  I wondered momentarily if it would count against me that I was standing here.  It hadn’t been by choice, exactly, but it wouldn’t look good that I was with the Undersiders.

Bugs helped me make out Dragon and Defiant at the station to Chevalier’s left.  Both wore their power armor, but apparently the presence of firepower wasn’t a concern, here.

For the most part, that was where my ability to recognize people stopped.

To my left, there was a man in power armor with his face bared.  The tattoo across his face reflected a dark blue-green in an odd way, as though he stood beneath a blacklight, flecks of light… only the fragments flowed.  No, they were traveling a circuit, instead.  Faintly blue, the glimmers traveled a circuit that marked the interior of an elaborate, stylized cross, his eyes unlit shadows in the midst of the two horizontal bars.

I could make out a station with a woman, black, accompanied by a massive shadow of a monster with an auroch’s skull for a head.  The woman’s head hung, her hair braided or bound into dreads, I couldn’t be sure.  I moved my bugs closer to check to see if she had any weapons, and her pet shadow reached out to block the swarm.  They died so quickly it was almost as though the shadow had killed before it made contact.

I decided to leave her alone.

Further down, hard to make out due to the angle of the panel that framed them, there was a small crowd.  A young girl stood at the forefront, and others were gathered around and behind her.  My bugs noted twelve people gathered in front of the panel.

Another station had only a woman and a man sitting at a table that had been set out.  The man had his hands folded neatly in front of him, and the light from neighboring panels was reflected on the large-frame glasses he wore. The woman leaned forward, elbows on the desk, hands clasped in front of her mouth.  Dark skinned, with some kind of pin in her hair.  My bugs traced their hips – the area least likely to be unclothed, and I noted the presence of ordinary clothing.  A button up shirt for him, a knee-length skirt and blouse with accompanying lab coat for her.

Three men in robes that bore a striking resemblance to Phir Sē’s were arranged to our right.

“One moment longer,” the woman in the lab coat said.

“Quite alright,” a man answered her, from the group of twelve.  “I’m really quite excited.  Been a rather long time since I’ve had a breath of fresh air.”

Hush, Marquis,” the girl at the front of that particular group spoke, and her voice was a chorus, a number of people speaking in sync, “I will not have you speaking out of turn.  Our hosts have been gracious to invite us, you will not offend them and besmirch my reputation by association.

“My sincere apologies.”

Marquis?  I had to search for the name for a moment.  Then I stopped.  That Marquis?

Another panel lit up, and the circle was complete.  My bugs found the people gathered in front, allowing me to investigate that crowd, who had silhouettes I couldn’t make out in the jumble.  A woman with a ponytail and a number of monstrous parahumans behind her…  Faultline.

The woman in the suit arrived in the room, crossing through the darkness at the center with the steady taps of her shoe heels against the hard floor.

She joined the man with the glasses and dress shirt and the woman with the lab coat.  It clicked for me.

Cauldron.  I was looking at the people behind Cauldron.  I felt a chill, despite myself.

“Ms. Alcott declined to join us,” the woman in the lab coat said.  “As did Adalid, who wanted to be ready to defend his home in case the new Endbringer arrived there.  The three blasphemies and Jack Slash were unreachable, but we would have far fewer problems if individuals like them could be reached so easily.”

Except you didn’t do anything about Jack when it counted, I thought.

“We reached out to a number of major powers and sources of information, and you are the ones who responded.  As useful as it might be to have the Yàngbǎn or Elite with us, I’m almost glad that we can have this discussion with only those who are truly committed.  Thank you for coming.  I go by Doctor Mother, and I am the founder of Cauldron.”

I could hear a growl from within Faultline’s group.  They were directly opposite Doctor Mother, as far away as they could have been.

Probably sensible, all things considered.  Cauldron was to blame for the case fifty-threes.  I suspected they could have handled themselves if anyone in Faultline’s group were to attack, but setting a distance between the two groups made sense.

“Look,” Tattletale said, abruptly, “Let’s cut past the formality bullshit.  I know a lot of you are big on that sort of thing, but we should talk nitty-gritty tactics sooner than later, especially considering the amount of squabbling that’s sure to happen.”

“Agreed,” Chevalier said, from across the room.

Mense sterf elke sekonde van elke dag. Babas sterf in die moederskoot en die kinders doodgeskiet soos honde. Vroue word verkrag en vermoor en nagmerries skeur mans uitmekaar om te fees op hul binnegoed,” the woman with the skull-headed shadow said, her voice quiet and level.  I was startled to see that it was a human skull, now.

“I gave you the ability to understand and speak English,” a man in the group of twelve said.  “It wouldn’t cost you anything to use it.”

Ek sal nie jou tong gebruik nie, vullis,” the woman replied, her voice still quiet, though it was flecked with anger, just a bit of an edge.

The man sighed, “Well, I could use my power on everyone else here, but somehow I don’t think the offer would be accepted.”

Another person in that group, a woman, spoke.  “She doesn’t believe in using English.  Her first statement was, to paraphrase, ‘People die every day’.”

“Helpful,” Tattletale commented.  “Enough with the bullshit and posturing.  We were brought here for one reason.  Well, a lot of reasons, but the main one that ties us all together is that we’ve got that monster rampaging around and we’re not making headway.  We whittle him down, he heals.  Scion attacks, he teleports, and the golden fool doesn’t follow.  So let’s be honest, let’s talk about this and introduce ourselves before we say anything so we’re not completely in the dark-”

“Some of us have identities to keep private,” the man with the cross on his face said.

“We can’t bullshit around about secrecy and all that.  We need to dust off our weapons and the schemes we’ve been keeping on the back burner and hit that motherfucker.  More than half of us have cards we’re keeping up our sleeves for a rainy day.  Someone needs to bite the bullet and play their card.  And then we need to talk about who plays the next card, when number five comes around.  Because there will be a fifth.  Or a fourth, if you count Behemoth or not.”

“Many of us are playing on a scale where a particular play would put us at a critical disadvantage,” the man with the cross on his face said.  “Acting now, at the wrong time, it wouldn’t only hurt us, but it would put bigger things at risk.  There’s doing wrongs for the greater good, and there’s doing noble deeds and dooming ourselves in the process.”

“You’re hardly so noble, Saint,” Defiant said, his voice a growl.

“I wasn’t speaking about me,” Saint retorted.

“Either way, this is why you’re here,” Doctor Mother said.  “To negotiate.  With luck, you can barter to guarantee your safety in the future, or ask favors of others, in exchange for whatever it costs you to use whatever weapons or resources you’re holding back.”

We can barter,” Faultline said.  Her voice was hard.  “Unless you’re saying the people who’ve been creating and hoarding parahumans en masse don’t have any cards to play.”

“Unfortunately, Faultline, we cannot.  Cauldron, to be specific, cannot.  I have provided this forum for discussion, we can help troubleshoot or support plans, or even provide assistance, but our cards must remain in place.  There is nothing any of you could offer us that would be worth what it costs to act.”

“Bullshit,” I said.  I could feel anger stirring.  “No way I believe that.  Even just that portal system you’ve got, that’s enough to change the tide of this fight.”

“Not an option,” Doctor Mother said.

“Because you’re afraid,” Tattletale said.  “There’s a fear that someone’s going to come after you, trace the portal back home.  But there’s another, bigger fear, isn’t there?”

“Yes,” Marquis said, from among the group of twelve.  “And I suspect I know what it is.”

“Contessa here has informed me you do,” Doctor Mother said, cutting him off.  She was gesturing towards the woman in the suit.  “Let me assure you, it would do more harm than good to reveal the details.  Especially here, especially now.”

“Shit on me,” Tattletale said.  “You bastards figured this out.  How the hell did a bunch of prisoners in a jail that’s dangling inside a mountain get to figure it out before I did?”

“Hands on experience,” Marquis answered.

“Panacea,” Tattletale said.

“Exactly,” Marquis said.  “Clever girl.  Well, I’m not looking to stir waves.  I can’t disagree with the good doctor, so I’ll keep my mouth shut.  Back to business.”

“Damn it,” Tattletale said, under her breath.  Louder, she said, “You’re sure that this doesn’t relate to our Endbringer situation?”

“It doesn’t,” Doctor Mother said. “The Endbringers are a puzzle unto themselves, independent of every other major variable.”

“That reeks of bullshit,” Tattletale said.  “I want to think you’re bullshitting or you’re absolutely wrong and they’re connected to everything, but I’m getting the feeling it’s not.  It’s bullshit because it’s true?”

“I think we’re on the same page, Tattletale,” the Doctor said.

“Can we progress this discussion?” one of the robed men asked.

“We can,” the Doctor said.  “Thank you for getting us back on track, Turanta of the Thanda.  Let’s open the floor to discussion.  Let’s start with the possibility that we might draw from the Birdcage.”

Freedom matters little to me,” the girl with the eerie voice said.  “The true end draws nearer.

“The end of the world, you mean,” I said.

The end of all things, queen administrator,” she said.

Queen administrator?  What?  “Isn’t that the same thing?  The end of the world and the end of all things?  Or do you mean the end of the universe?”

It doesn’t concern other celestial bodies.  It doesn’t matter.  This ends, one way or another.  We and ours will carry on, in some form, whether it happens today or three hundred years from now.

“How reassuring,” Tattletale quipped.  “You won’t help?”

I am safe where I am, whether it beyond the Endbringer’s reach here or deep beneath the mountain.  I will collect from among the dead, and I will keep them company until the faerie rise from the ruins.

Oh, I thought.  She’s completely out of her mind.

“There’s no way to barter for assistance from within the birdcage then?” Doctor Mother asked.  “Nothing you want, Glaistig Uaine?”

The girl, Glaistig Uaine, responded, “A hundred thousand corpses, each being one naturally gifted by the faerie.”

“We don’t have time to laugh about like this,” Turanta, the apparent spokesman of the cold capes said.

I am not joking, astrologer.  I would like to see their lights dancing in the air.  I have seen only glimmers, fragments of the performance.  To see it all at once… yes.

I heard someone in Faultline’s group swearing.  Newter, I suspected.

Honestly, I kind of agreed.  I clenched my fists, biting back the worst of my anger.  I managed to stay calm as I commented, “I’m getting a better idea of why things are as screwed up as they are.  We’ve got all of the major players here, and half of you are willing to do nothing while the world burns.”

“All of the major players who were willing to come to the table,” Doctor Mother said.

Not any better, I thought, but I held my tongue.  Doctor Mother had turned to the girl from the birdcage.  “If you participated in the fight, I can promise there would be a number of dead parahumans there.”

I fear that would not be enough.  It would need to be all together, for the greatest effect,” Glaistig Uaine said.

“We could provide that many over a period of ten years, if required, but we’d want more assistance than simply this one fight,” Doctor Mother said.  She stopped as the man with the glasses leaned close.  A moment passed, “Or we could provide that many twenty-seven years from now.”

I felt a bit of a chill.  They were so casually discussing this, as if it were possible.

I opened my mouth to cut in, but Glaistig Uaine spoke first.

No.  No, I don’t think I’ll accept.  My word is too vital to me, and you seem to want me to war with the abominations.  I don’t fear my own death, but I would rather be together with the others than be separated until the grand celebration.  I won’t fight.  I would only grant my advice, some power here and there.

Doctor Mother sat back in her seat.  The ominous silence suggested she was still considering it.

A hundred thousand lives, being mulled over so readily.

“That’s a shame,” Doctor Mother said, in the end.

“If I may?” Marquis spoke up.  “With your permission, faerie queen.”

Granted,” Glaistig Uaine said.

“There are others who wouldn’t mind being free again,” he said.  “Myself included.  We’d fight that monster if you gave us the chance.  All we’d ask is that you let a select few others out, and that you don’t create a portal that leads back to the Birdcage after the fact.”

“No,” Chevalier said, breaking his long silence.  “No, I’m sorry.”

“Some of the strongest parahumans are contained inside that building,” Marquis said.  “Glaistig Uaine is one, but there are others.  My daughter is another.”

“Your daughter was a mental wreck the last time anyone outside of the Birdcage saw her.  There are too many dangerous individuals in there.  She,” Chevalier said, pointing in the direction of the woman with the shadowy pet with the massive bird skull, “Has killed thousands of people.  That’s nothing compared to what some individuals in the birdcage have done.  We’d be letting the wolves run free again, in the hopes they deal with the lion.”

“If there is no other way to deal with the lion, and we know the wolves have been caught in our snare once before…” Saint said, trailing off.

“We know they can be dealt with.  We’re just lacking resources.  Opening the doors of the Birdcage has to be a last resort.”

“Oh, I don’t know, I could stand for it to be the first resort,” Marquis said.  He turned toward the Doctor, “I’m staying mum about what my daughter discovered.  The details we both know that must not be shared.  Surely that’s worth some goodwill.”

“It is,” the Doctor replied.

I glanced at Tattletale.  Her eyes were moving quickly, hungrily taking in details.

Chevalier sighed.  “Dragon?  Some backup.”

“I have to say no,” Dragon said.  “The prisoners must stay within the Baumann Parahuman Containment Center.  If you intend to rescue them, I’ll deploy everything I have to stop you.  Neither of us can afford the losses at this juncture.”

“But if we did try,” Saint said, “And if we did free a handful of deserving individuals, you wouldn’t be unhappy, would you?”

There was a pause, telling.  It was enough of a delay for Chevalier to look from Saint to Dragon and give her a curious stare before she spoke.  “My view on who is deserving is far different from yours, Saint.”

“Those of us standing here.  Me, my daughter, Lung,” Marquis said.

“You cannot speak for all of us on that front,” a matronly woman spoke.  “One of my girls was unfairly imprisoned, another is on the verge of losing her mind, in captivity.”

“We all have people we’d see freed,” the man who’d spoken about granting the ability to speak English said.  “Let’s say two for each of us.”

“Thirty six in all,” Dragon said.  “One in five of the people currently in the Birdcage, almost.  Six more could potentially use the opportunity to slip out, through Stranger powers or other malfeasance.  Glancing over the notes my artificial intelligences have made regarding the facility, I can guess who some of the cell block leaders would choose to release.  No.  I harbor concerns about the Birdcage, but this is not the answer to that.”

“It would do more harm than good,” Chevalier said.  “And I say that with full knowledge of what we’re up against here, today.  The last three days.”

“Their opinions don’t decide this,” Marquis said.  “If it were solely up to our officers and jailer in the first place, then we’d be free already.  You, Cauldron, have the means to send us back or not.  It’s your authority that matters.”

Chevalier shifted his grip on his weapon, but he didn’t attack.  “We’ll bargain.  Marquis is offering assistance, but the PRT has influence.  We’ll deal with you, Doctor, if it means the Birdcage remains sealed.  With the ongoing inquisition against Cauldron capes, perhaps there are one or two you’d want to be ignored.  They couldn’t be promoted, that’s the PRT’s jurisdiction, and it would only draw attention to them that I couldn’t help them avoid.  Still, I could time a transfer, allow someone to slip through the cracks.”

“A few someones,” the Doctor said.  “Yes.  I’m sorry, Marquis.  Our clients must come first.”

“You’ll be twisting our arms and escorting us through the portal, then?”

“You’ll go willingly.  This place cannot sustain life.  It’s a facility in the middle of a wasteland, and your Earth is several universes away.”

“I see,” Marquis said.  “Unavoidable, I take it.  And if I were to share the particularly valuable information that you and I both know, that you don’t want me to share with others who are present?”

“I can’t believe I’m not getting in on this,” Tattletale whispered to me.

Doctor Mother didn’t reply.  She remained still, her eyes on Marquis, as the woman in the suit, who she’d called Contessa, leaned in close, whispering.

“You won’t,” the Doctor said, when Contessa had straightened and stepped back, standing guard behind the Doctor’s chair.

“I won’t?”

“You won’t.  Teacher would, hearing that, but Teacher has a secret he doesn’t want divulged, and he now knows we know.”

Marquis turned, his shadow shifting, presumably as he looked at Teacher.  He turned back, “Ah well.  I suppose I’ll just say we’re here if you need us.”

“If we need you that badly,” Chevalier said, “Then we’ve already lost.”

“Rest assured,” Marquis retorted, “I think you’re doing a very good job at getting yourselves to that juncture.”

“It’s a failure across the board,” I said, surprising myself by speaking.  “All of us, the Birdcage prisoners excepted, we’re not doing enough.  If we don’t come up with an answer or get someone to step up to bat and fight, then we’re doomed.  We’ve got the end of the world happening in twenty-thirteen, and we can’t even band together for this.”

“Complaining gets us nowhere,” Faultline said. “Besides, it’s not like this is small potatoes.”

“Okay then,” I said.  “Let’s talk resources.  If you’ve got parahumans or information, let’s hear it.  Let’s show a measure of trust and have Marquis or Cauldron share the tidbit of information they’ve gleaned.  Let’s talk options that don’t involve fighting.  Tattletale thinks these bastards are designed.  Where’s the designer?”

“Nowhere we can find,” Doctor Mother said.  “And we have the most powerful clairvoyance we know about, alongside the most powerful precognitive.”

“Does that mean there isn’t a designer?” Faultline asked.  “That Tattletale’s wrong?”

“Get fucking real,” Tattletale retorted.  “I’m confident on this count.”

“If they can’t find the designer-” Faultline started.

“There’s other possibilities.  Lots of powers confound precogs and clairvoyants.”

“Both at the same time?”

“Be constructive,” I cut in.

“We will assist,” Turanta said.  “Sifara, Bahu and I, others beneath us in our organization.  I cannot speak for my fellow brothers, but I will ask them because we all owe a debt.  Our brother died, but Weaver helped to make it not for nothing.”

“Phir Sē died?” I asked, surprised.

“At the hands of the First, very late.”

“I’m sorry,” I said.

“We owe you,” he said.  “As we owe some of the others.  It is your choice how you would use this.”

“You can pay me back by helping, here,” I said.  “You’d be paying us all back.”

“We have the means,” he said. “But this hurts us, because we rely on our enemies not knowing what we are truly able to do.”

“If this goes much further,” I said, “It might not matter.”

“This is true.  Of each of you but Weaver and Chevalier, we will ask a small favor, after.  Nothing dangerous or painful to give away.  Token gestures, most.”

“Favors make for a good currency,” the Doctor said.  “Granted.”

There were murmurs of assent from others.  The woman with the shadow pet didn’t respond, but Turanta didn’t press the issue with her either.

Dragon glanced at Defiant, but ultimately relented, accepting the terms.

The Doctor spoke “Moord Nag?  We could use your assistance.”

The woman and her shadow pet with its crocodile skull looked at Doctor Mother.  “Laat hulle almal sterf.  Ek is tevrede om die wêreld te sien brand en die vallende konings te spot.  Ek en my aasdier sal loop op die as van die verwoeste aarde.”

“She says no.  Let them all die,” the woman from the Birdcage said.

“Can I ask who she is?” Faultline asked.

Tattletale was the one to answer.  I think she got a measure of joy out of rubbing the fact that she knew in Faultline’s face, “Moord Nag.  Warlord based in Namibia.  As far as the current warlords in the area go, she’s had the longest lifespan at about eight years or so, and she’s gotten things to the point where most of the other bastards around there are kowtowing, asking permission to attack this city or occupy that area, to go to the bathroom or unite two groups in an alliance.”

Die badkamer?”

Us, basically,” Tattletale said, glancing at me.  She turned her head to look at Grue, “Only on a much, much bigger scale, and she did it alone.”

Ek het dit reggekry met aasdier,” Moord Nag responded.  “Nie alleen nie.

“With your pet monster, right.”

“She said she’d be willing to let the world burn, before,” the woman from the birdcage said.  “I don’t think you have an ally there.”

“From her attitude,” Saint added, “I don’t even see why she was invited.”

“I’ll ask you the same thing I asked the others,” the Doctor said.  “What would it take for you to fight, here?”

Ek kan nie krag spandeer sonder om die nag lande hulpeloos teen hul bure te los nie.”

“She can’t spend her power, not without-”

“We’ll supply what you need to replenish it,” the Doctor said.

“No,” Dragon spoke.  “No, you won’t.”

Ek sal nie-

“It would be appreciated,” the man from the Birdcage that had granted her the ability to understand English spoke.  “Reconsider.  Don’t underestimate our resources.”

Vyf duisend, lewendig, dit maak nie saak of hulle mag het of nie.  ‘N Fraksie van wat jy die gek aangebied het.

“No,” Dragon said, before the translator could speak.

“Yes,” the Doctor said, just as readily.  “I caught the number, I can figure out the rest.  You’ll get what you need.”

“I can’t stand by and watch this, not like this,” Chevalier said.

“How many more will die if we don’t act?” the Doctor said.  “The Thanda will counteract the Endbringer’s teleportation ability, at least for a time.  Moord Nag gives you much-needed clout.  Again, at least for a short time.”

“In exchange for five thousand lives?” Dragon asked.

“A small price to pay.  How many have died as we conducted this meeting?”

Jy praat asof dit saak maak. Die kontrak is verseël. Sal ons gaan nou,” Moord Nag said.

“What did she just say?” Chevalier asked.  Moord Nag was already walking away, stepping away from the panel and into the recessed passage beside it, almost completely hidden in shadow.  I could only make out the rodent’s skull, overlarge and pale in the darkness.

“The contract is settled,” Dragon said.  “She sees it as inviolable, now.”

“I like her,” Marquis commented.  “Mass murder aside, anyways.  Woman of her word.”

“We’ll find her,” Chevalier said, to the Doctor, “After the battle is done, before you deliver those people to her.”

“You promised us a favor, in exchange for our not letting Marquis and the other cell block leaders free,” the Doctor said.  “I could ask you to leave this be,” the Doctor said.

“No.  Not this.  Not five thousand people, fed to that woman’s pet.”

“Stop us, then,” the Doctor replied.  “Or try, as it may be.  That’s one Endbringer we should be able to drive away.  As Weaver said, we may have to evacuate the planet if this doesn’t work.  Faultline, your assistance would be invaluable on that front.  You’ve already created nine, I believe?”

“Three of which were supposed to be secret,” Faultline replied.

“It doesn’t matter.  We’ll pay for several more, at major locations, and we’ll arrange your transportation.”

Faultline stared at the woman.  “No, Doctor.”


“Not your money.  Not you.”

“Shortsighted,” Saint commented.

“I think this is pretty big picture.  Money talks, and I don’t like how this money sounds.  She spends five thousand lives like someone else would spend change.  Cauldron made innocent people into monsters.  They took everything from them.  I can’t deal with that in good faith.”

She turned to Chevalier, “We’ll give you a discount.  Escape routes in major cities across America.  Leading to the world that the Brockton Bay portal goes to.”

Fuck that,” Tattletale said.

“I’ll talk to my superiors,” Chevalier said.

“Good,” Faultline said, “that’s settled, then.”

“Leaving only the Endbringer that comes next,” I said.

“We won’t know what measures need to be taken until it makes an appearance,” Defiant spoke.

“Another meeting,” the Doctor said.  “Another day.”

I could feel my heart skip a beat at that.  I wasn’t sure I liked what this was becoming.

Then again, the nature of this meeting had been suggested from the start, with the shadows concealing identities.  Everything the PRT had been fighting to assure people that parahumans weren’t doing was happening here, in this room.  Scheming, trading lives like currency, and wielding incredible amounts of power, money and influence.

“But before we get that far,” the Doctor said, “Tattletale?”

“You asked me here for a reason,” Tattletale said.  “Multiple reasons.”

“The first being to give you an opportunity to check something for our mutual benefit.”

“You brought the major players in so I could see if anyone was the designer, the creator of the Endbringers.”


“Nobody here.”

The Doctor nodded.  “I suspected.  They remain immune to precognition, but the designer wouldn’t be, I don’t think.  It’s good to double check, regardless.  Will you be attending if we hold another meeting, Chevalier?” the Doctor asked.

Others, the Thanda, were departing, now.  Grue had stepped away from the panel to step close to Tattletale, whispering something.

Then Grue walked past me, not even glancing my way, before disappearing into the corridor I’d used to enter.

Hurt, confused, I couldn’t speak to ask Tattletale why without possibly interrupting Chevalier, as he spoke in a steady, quiet voice.

“I don’t think I have a choice.  If I don’t come, then I’m left blind to what’s occurring behind the scenes.  I wouldn’t be able to intervene if you tried something like you did with the Birdcage.”

“That’s true,” Doctor Mother said.

“And I think that’s exactly what you wanted,” he said.  “You have that Contessa there, and she sees the road to victory.  You schemed this.”


“Why?”  Chevalier asked.

“It’s not time for you to know,” she said.

Fuck that,” Tattletale cut in.  Most of the other groups were gone.  Faultline and her group lingered behind.  “I think it’s damn obvious what you’re doing.”

“A new world order,” I said.  Tattletale nodded in agreement beside me.

There were a few curious glances shot our way.  I could see the Doctor shift position.  Exasperation?  Annoyance?

I leaned forward, resting my hands on the railing in front of me.  Grue’s odd departure only fueled an anger that had been simmering, “I had a hell of a lot of time to think, in prison, in my downtime and during stakeouts.  There’s only one thing that really makes sense, as far as your motivations go.  It’s not the clues or what you’re doing, it’s what you weren’t doing.  Only Legend helped against the Slaughterhouse Nine, but he wasn’t in the know, from the looks of it.  You didn’t help Coil, and you didn’t help against Coil.  You only helped against Echidna when it looked like everything might go down the toilet.  But Alexandria steps in when I leave, confronts me after I’d surrendered to the PRT.  So I had to ask myself why.”

“I can imagine,” Doctor Mother said.

“We were guinea pigs,” I said.  “For what?  So you could be in charge?”

“Not us.  Never us,” the Doctor said.  “There’s a lot you don’t understand.”

Try us,” Tattletale said, almost snarling the words.

“All of this?  It’s small scale,” the Doctor said.  “Important?  Yes.  But it’s nothing in the grand scheme of things.”

I clenched my fists.  “Five thousand lives, nothing.  Talking about a hundred thousand parahumans to be delivered after twenty-some years, nothing.  The lies you perpetuated with Alexandria, the schemes, Echidna, the human experimentation, the case fifty-threes, everyone you watched die just so your experiment with parahumans in charge of Brockton Bay wouldn’t be tainted…”

“We’ll go down in history as the villains,” Doctor Mother said.  There wasn’t a trace of doubt or hesitation in her voice.  “But it’s worth it if it means saving everyone.”

“You sound so sure,” Gregor the Snail spoke, from behind Faultline.  He had a heavy accent.  European-ish, in the same vein as Moord Nag.

“Do morals matter, if our alternative is a grim and hopeless end?”

“I would never question your morals,” Gregor said.  “I know you have none.  I merely wonder why you are so confident you will succeed in all of this, that you will save the world and you will achieve your new world order and your parahuman leadership.”

“We have a parahuman that sees the path to victory.  The alternative to traveling this path, to walking it as it grows cloudier and narrower every day, is to stand by while each and every person on this planet dies a grisly and violent death.”

“You know how the world ends,” I said, my eyes widening behind the lenses of my mask.

“Of course,” she answered, standing from her chair.  She collected papers and a tablet computer from the table in front of her.  She collected it into a neat bundle, and the man with the glasses took it from her, holding it under one arm.  Only then did she add, “We already saved it once.”

There were no responses to that.  Confusion and disbelief warred with each other as I stared at her silhouette.  The others seemed to be in similar straits.

“You had better hurry if you want transportation to the battlefield,” she said.  Then, with the man with the glasses and Contessa following, she strode from the dark chamber.

Last Chapter                                                                                               Next Chapter

483 thoughts on “Scarab 25.5

    • Glaistig Uaine asks for 100,000. Moord Nag asks for 5,000 and specifies that that is half of what was offered the crazy (at least, according to Google translate).

      So I’m guessing Uaine really asked for 10,000.

    • The letter e makes an appearance after the “Last Chapter/Next Chapter” links.

      I think it’s showboating.

        • Not a typo exactly but ” He had a heavy accent. European-ish, in the same vein as Moord Nag.” This line made no sense, european has no kind of similar or dhared accent between well, usually cities let alone countries.

          • Moord Nag was speaking in Afrikaans, which is effectively a dialect of Dutch, being very similar, so I think that is the accent Wildbow was referring to.

            • Gregor the Snail’s Icelandic, or at least speaks Icelandic as well as English. It’s mentioned in his Interlude. Afrikaans is a Germanic language, as is Icelandic. Though, so’s English, and Afrikaans is simplified Dutch and Icelandic is derived from Old Norse, meaning it’s close to Norwegian, Danish (especially, as Iceland was part of Denmark for a long time) and Swedish.

              I knew a Netherlander who said he could read Norwegian (I think Norwegian; it’s been a good few years) at least well enough to understand the gist of it, though he can’t understand it spoken- the words are in a different order and pronounced differently. Not sure if it’ll carry over though, as Murder Night refused to use English and Gregor wasn’t using Icelandic.

    • >“I fear that would not be enough. It would need to be all together, for the greatest effect,” Glaistig Uaine said.<

      Her sentence isn't italicized here unlike her others.

    • So when Nightmurderess was talking to Tattletale and she is all:
      “Die badkamer?”
      And Lisa’s is all “Us, basically,” implying that Moord Nag said “The Undersiders?”
      Well, Google translate say’s that what she actually said was “The bathroom?” Which I find hilarious, even though Google is far from perfect.

      More seriously, I’m not sure if this is actually a typo or just google translate screwing up…

      • Here’s how I read it.

        Tattletale just said that the other warlords had to ask her if they wanted to use the bathroom, pointing out her sheer power. Moord Nag could understand English due to Teacher, and was confused by that quip. Tattletale ignored her and continued explaining that Moord Nag was like the Undersiders in their control of Brockton Bay.

        • Upon rereading I concur, actually. Hmm, Teacher could have power of Moord Nag now right? That’s how his power works?

          • No, his power allows him to give people thinker or tinker powers in return for a portion of their free will. Something that minor would barely have an effect, although the stronger tinker/thinker abilities (like what he presumably gave Trickster) take more of their free will and personality to the point where they have no self and can follow orders but do scant little else.

    • There are still conflicting occurrences of ten thousand and hundred thousand. Here are the occurrences I can find.

      1. The girl, Glaistig Uaine, responded, “One hundred thousand corpses, each being one naturally gifted by the faerie.”
      2. A hundred thousand lives, being mulled over so readily.

      3. “Vyf duisend, lewendig, beteken dit nie saak of hulle mag het. Die helfte van wat jy aangebied om die gek.“
      4. I clenched my fists. “Five thousand lives, nothing. Talking about ten thousand parahumans to be delivered after twenty-some years, nothing.

      First and second conflict with third and fourth.

    • “die kinders *word* doodgeskiet soos honde” – incorrect tense

      “nagmerries skeur mans uitmekaar *om* te fees op hul binnegoed”. – missing word

      “Ek sal nie jou tong gebruik nie, vullis,” – word order

      “Ek is tevrede om die wêreld te sien brand en die vallende konings te spot.” – word order and incorrect verb form

      “Ek en my *aasdier* sal loop op die as van die verwoeste aarde.” – missing noun after pronoun.

      “Ek het dit *reggekry* met aasdier” – missing verb, now means “I achieved it using scavenger”

      “Ek kan nie *krag* spandeer sonder om die nag lande hulpeloos teen *hul* bure *te los nie*.” – word order, incorrect plural, and missing verb and negative

      “Vyf duisend, lewendig, dit *maak* nie saak of hulle mag het *of nie*. ‘n Fraksie van wat jy *die gek* aangebied *het*” – word order, missing words, capitalization and punctuation.

      “Die kontrak is verseël. Ons gaan *nou*” – changed from interrogative to declaritive


      I just finished reading through the archive and am just blown away by this story! Preparing for pass two to read the comments 🙂

      I normally don’t comment, but this chapter inspired me. The use of Afrikaans for Moord Nag quite literally stunned my brain and the visceral imagery left me with shivers. So much so that I just had to run over to my wife and show it to her (we both have Afrikaans as our mother tongue and she’s a teacher as well). It is one of the highlights of this story for me, and I want to congratulate Wildbow for the sheer awesomeness.

      Alas, the computer translation artifacts reduces the impact of later sentences, so I’ve fixed it up in the spirit of Typo Thread and the hope that future Afrikaans readers don’t miss out on the awesome.

      Wildbow, feel free to send any future Moord Nag dialogue to me for translation (and proofreading by an Afrikaans teacher), if you wish.

    • A few more typos in this chapter than in most. Those I spotted:

      “whether it beyond”
      “girl from the birdcage” (and another one or two uncapitalised instances of “birdcage”)
      The Doctor spoke “
      – you need a comma after “spoke”
      “We’ll find her,” Chevalier said, to the Doctor, “After the battle is done
      – The second comma should be a period
      “You promised us a favor, in exchange for our not letting Marquis and the other cell block leaders free,” the Doctor said. “I could ask you to leave this be,” the Doctor said.
      – Curious repetition of “the Doctor said”. It could be deliberate, but it’s very odd and somewhat distracting so I’d recommend changing it.

    • Not really a typo, but possibly something to fix. She takes off her mask as she goes to bed and we have her blurred vision pointed out to us. Then when the portal wakes her up, her vision isn’t really mentioned again. I ended up assuming she grabbed her mask before leaving, but I was pretty confused. Probably should be clarified.

  1. Thanks for reading.

    Feeling a little burned out these days, but I got a new laptop and am happy. Excited to be moving into the end of this arc/next arc and a few chapters I’ve been looking forward to writing since the beginning (much as I looked forward to arc 8).

    It’s been a good few weeks for views, and I’ve seen people out there spreading the word, mentioning Worm in places. Means more than you know; your support is appreciated.

    A reminder for those who look for such – votes on Topwebfiction would be fantastic.

    • Thanks for writing!

      Sorry to hear that you’re feeling burned out a bit right after vacation. Would maybe raising the donation cap again help? I know we’ve all been loving the constant stream of bonus chapters, but you’ve mentioned several times that it’s hard to keep up with them, and it seems like a stream of donations is keeping that harder still?

      Either way, hope all is well. This is a wonderful story, thank you greatly once again for writing it. It’s a serious pleasure to read, and while I haven’t gotten more than one or two people to read it in serial form, I know half a dozen who are planning to buy the ebook whenever it comes out.

      • All is well, just a whole month and a half where I came back from a trip and it was one thing after another (including preparing for family coming to stay, rushing to get everything done pre-vacation combined with appointments, getting back & needing to do stuff for writer’s circle, etc). The vacation was nice but not relaxing in the way I find I need to relax – I’m very introverted, and it was a very ‘family’ thing with me in a cabin with two dogs, my mom, my brother, my brother’s fiancee, and my brother’s one year old, with the only walls being those between the cabin and the porch and around the bathroom. I spent the entire time getting writing done for my writer’s circle and biting my nails, wondering how the chapters were doing/if they went up okay.

        I sort of write to fill the amount of free time I have, and then trying to maintain that degree of writing when I don’t have the free time is rough. As a consequence, just a little worn out and I know my attentiveness to the story has slipped here and there (degree of typos, polish, etc).

        • You’re doing a great job, and I am glad that you pulled in a bonus chapter here. Stuff is getting real, very real, and the picture is starting to become clear. I don’t have it figured out, but I suspect. I am looking forward to seeing where it ends… And simultaneously sad to know that it will end here within the year. But it must, and I know you will end it well.

          As a long time introvert, I know how rough the vacation could have been. I’m sorry it was stressful. Take time, get back into your stride, and we’ll wait patiently and enjoy what comes.

        • Adding my voice to the ‘doing great under the circumstances’.

          That said, before this one the past few chapters seemed a bit more rushed than usual. It might have been the shorter length, or the time skips (which are understandable), but it hasn’t been the same level of ‘oh holy shit that was a good story’.

          This chapter had it back, at least 95% of it. And the other chapters weren’t bad, solid writing altogether. But there was definite glossing – things like Taylor’s dad, where brief descriptions of interaction were told to us, instead of those calls and such being shown to us. Or how Tecton’s lab is still kind of an empty box filled with nameless equipment, or even how some of the stuff you dug into – like Golem’s training and Taylor working with him on preparing for Jack – still felt a bit empty, bits missing here and there to make the full picture of his development (and hers, with her new team). I mean, it’s all there, just… rushed a bit.

          Maybe that’s good for some readers who weren’t interested in full immersion into that part of Taylor’s experience. And maybe that’s just how it had to be in order for you to get to the parts of the plot you’re aiming for. But it put me off a bit.

          I’ll probably get jumped on for saying this, and that’s fair. It’s subjective.

          • Personally I’m the sort where if I try to do anything special for vacation, it just stresses me out more than I normally am. Being trapped in the woods with that much family… Braver man than me Wildbow.

          • I get that. I’d agree it felt rushed, and that’s because it -was- rushed.

            25.1 I wrote between 10am and 10pm on a Thursday. I then immediately set down and wrote 25.2 between 10:05pm and 10am, pulling an all-nighter to get the next one done, so I could go on my vacation with family (mentioned above). I wanted you guys to have your chapters.

            It’s something I know I’ll go back to and fix up (along with arc 10 and the beginning and a few chapters here and there that people had complaints about, off the top of my head) when it comes time to polish this into a book. Maybe an extra chapter or two in this arc, to build the relationship with the Wards and indicate a steadier shift in mentality.

            If quality is lower than it could be, yeah, I’ll strive to improve, but part of that is time constraints, and it’s inevitable with a serial like this, without a major change in writing habit that would change the writing/flow.

            • Personally, I would say Migration is the one that has the most trouble.

              It’s not that Migration is bad. Migration is tense, exciting, and has lots of beautiful scenes. The problem is that the first half of Migration is centered on the transition from Aleph to Bet, which for some reason no one quite got. IIRC the way you handled it was a clunky exposition paragraph at the end of the chapter explaining the transition. It’s not that this isn’t serviceable, but it should have been everyone going “aha.” I have an idea that somewhere out in story space there’s a version of Migration where it builds perfectly and the reveal works. That’s actually my main wish for a solidly revised Worm.

              Anyway, while Worm obviously needs to be edited, Worm has been so consistently high quality that it already does stand on its own.

        • I for one have always been incredibly impressed with the volume of story you put out, in the time frame each week. I have author friends-aspiring and otherwise-who have trouble maintaining lesser volumes of text in longer time frames. I can only imagine it’s like you’re doing a game jam with words. I have a group of around 14 people that I chatter with every update, reacting, scheming, and talking about our personal thoughts on the new wold info, characters, and twists. This includes some people I hadn’t talked to since I finished my undergrad, and we’re trying to expand the group all the time. I salute your passion and dedication. Thanks for writing such a kick ass story!

    • Hey man!

      Started reading your work earlier this year, a friend showed it to me. Ever since then, I have been HOOKED. The reason I wanted to post this comment is to let you know that I’ve been telling all the people I know about this, and one of them told their mother, who is a librarian at this big library in (I think) St. Louis. She was also so impressed when she started reading that she’s putting on this big display about it! If I get pictures, I’ll post them, but maybe this will help expand the fanbase to even greater heights. Then you’ll be writing bonus chapters for the rest of your life! Mwuahahaha!

      In conclusion, us fans, we got your back, man.

    • I taught myself the language just for this chapter. 😀


      As far as spreading the word, anything goes, but I would ask that you maybe not include spoilers. Have seen a few which are basically like, “Villain web serial, a girl starts off lame and winds up ruling a city.”

        • Dankie vir die Afrikaans WILDBOW!!!

          I’m from South Africa, non-white and just old enough have experienced the joys of tear gas and rubber bullets first hand (not that it matters). Imagine my overwhelming surprise to read without the need for Goole Translate 😉

          That said, it does need some editing….while the spelling is correct the sentence structure is off 😉 I’ll take a stab at fixing it up a bit if you like but note Afrikaans is my second language, crappy typo lovin’ EENGLISHH being my first.

          @ PG regarding Die Antwoord, it’s just how we roll (actually I’m joking, they scare grown boerseuns- turning them into moffies)

    • Wow. There is nothing even close to Worm on the ratings. It’s obvious to see why though. Still enjoying the story immensely. Shared it a few times, but don’t know if I got anyone to start reading it. I haven’t heard any fanatical praise from them yet, so I’m going to assume they haven’t 😛

    • Sorry to hear that you’re feeling burned out. Sometimes you need a vacation to recover from a vacation.
      I think you’re doing a great job keeping the story flowing, especially with the pace over your vacation. It says a lot about your dedication to the story and your fans.

      I salute you!

    • A bit late to the party here, but I’m South African and I was quite impressed with your use of Afrikaans. Can you speak it? Because that was excellent, down to the inflections.

    • That leaves the question from what and when? It might be from this secret that Marquis and Panacea know. Maybe there is something very nasty that large scale dimensional travel attacks. Whatever it is we know it involves the passengers.

      • Perhaps it was the initial arrival of the passengers. Eldritch abominations don’t usually attach themselves to mere mortals and give them superpowers. Cauldron might have somehow allowed ordinary humans to become parahumans, and in doing so prevented the passengers from destroying Earth accidentally.

      • I like the idea that the emergence of capes (Cauldron-spawned or otherwise) was the act that saved the world. Possibly from the Endbringers.

        Conventional military forces don’t seem much good; without the active intervention of the capes I suspect that the Enbringers could have scoured the entire earth several times over by this point. If not driven off, would they just leave? Khonsu’s behavior seems to indicate not.

        Can you imagine several MONTHS of Behemoth attacks? Then have Leviathan and/or the Simurgh showing up simultaneously?

        • I think this further supports my idea that Behemoth wouldn’t have just left if he’d killed everything he came for. Helps along the idea that Simurgh let Tattletale figure out the core thing so Chevalier could attempt to drive it off before Scion got there.

  2. …getting more of the feeling Scion might be from another world, with the last line there. Or just “the Last Time” perhaps.

    • Wasn’t there a theory that Scion was Legend from the future after he had allowed himself to go as fast as he could?

      • Or a time traveling Kevin Norton.
        Or an Endbringer who got severed by their hypothetical master hence the need to have someone ordering him around.
        Or a passenger that didn’t link himself to a human.
        Etcetera etcetera.

        • Or a case 53 that Cauldron really screwed up.
          We must have covered all the possibilities by now, surely when it’s revealed we won’t be surprised.
          Of course, Wildbow’s good at suprises.

          • One of their first tests. The first to escape, before trigger events were possible, before Cauldron sold powers, before the world knew what a parahuman was. Insanely powerful, but with a fractured mind – overloaded with his own omniscience. Devoid of instincts and emotion, there only to wander and do what he is told.

    • They are the cool guys after all.

      There NWO would at least be cooler then the one our shadow society is building.

      • Yep, just let an Endbringer hit their target and they’ll go away, no problem, before Scion can reach them. They won’t just keep killing things for days unless attacked at their core. Thank you, Khonsu, for helping my argument about Simurgh leaking the core info.

  3. I think we need to seriously expand the crapsack world entry on the tropes page, and a new entry for Cauldron, our new endbringer, Moord Nag aka old woman genocide, and the fairy queen under nightmare fuel. The way they so casually describe collecting and killing 5,000 people, and 10,000 parahumans like they are nothing is chilling. Taylor believes it is a new world order they are after, but I can’t see that. They already have a means of conquering a less advanced earth with the power that they wield and their ability to create parahumans. Why do they even care about the wormverse? There has to be something special about it. Some reason that Cauldron cares about saving it, the reason the Endbringers are attacking it, and possibly a reason for the sheer amount of trigger events compared to Earth A. But damn what a chapter. We finally got a look at the people who might be there with Taylor at the end of the world. I think Chevalier made a mistake in not opening up at least part of the birdcage, since this is a fight for all the marbles.

      • When the problem is extreme, the solution must be extreme as well. Or at least, that is what I imagine they might say

      • I still see no reason to trust anything Cauldron says. Far too easy to say you had to commit a horrible act as a necessity for something else. Like needing to feed your power or because it will save the world. Except Cauldron’s not saving the world. They’re willing to lose the world, and a lot of the people on it, and a lot of the capes, and anything resembling human civilization. They’re saving it so hard, they might as well join the Slaughterhouse too, because they seem to have the same idea of salvation.

        At least I can respect Glaistig Uaine for having a good bad reason to kill a bunch of people. That’s how you do it. You kill someone because it’s the third Thursday of the month, or they looked at you and didn’t turn around and spit, or because their passengers linger around the body after death and make pretty colors. And then you start putting those bodies and their passengers into the ground and who knows what happens? Corn with a passenger chunklet attached that gets nommed on and causes unusual changes in the brain that allow attachment of a passenger?

        But at least having a reason like that is a nice, polite way to go about reasoning that someone should die. Trading lives as currency is just rude. It’s almost like sex, you know. Perfectly fine to give it away for free, but the second you start charging you’re going to run into some trouble.

        That’s why I don’t do mass murders. That, and it gets pretty easy to knock off the Catholics. That, and when I’m sent after someone, there’s a lot of mayhem involves for everyone to enjoy. It’s really more like directing my attention in a certain direction with money as an incentive. By far the best part is when they don’t pay for one reason or another, because then I have no reason to stop short of them and all of a sudden I have nice new boots made of colon.

        Mmm, I love hypocrisy when it’s me doing it and not other people.

        • Well lets face it, it truly takes a special kind of person to do evil things, and genuinly do it because it’s evil. Not because they feel it’s for a greater good. Not because they don’t think good and evil apply to them. Not even because they think it’s fun. Nope it really takes a special kind of person to do evil because it’s evil, and that is why they do it.

      • What was it Alexandria said? “I’m one of four or five people that knows what’s really going on with the world, and I have no doubts or regrets.” Or something to that effect. Maybe that was true for her, I think when Taylor finally knows the score, she’ll still behave very differently from Alexandria and Cauldron.

        • Looking at this again, it shows what a complete psycho Alexandria was. Doctor Mother said tat she has no doubts that history will see them as villains which, to me, is another way to say “I regret my actions but they were necessary”. Alexandria instead pretty much said “I am proud of my every action, no matter how horrible, because they helped save the world.”

          Now, if and whenever we have the complete picture on Cauldron, I MAY understand, but probably not condoning, what they have been doing. Alexandria, however? She’s pretty much damned.

          • I agree. Doctor Mother, Contessa and the Number Man strike me very much like Ozmydias from Watchmen. Well intentioned extremists who hate what they are doing but are fully committed to it being the least bad of all possible options. Alexandria had pretty much flipped from “Yay, hero!” to “Ooooh I wonder how this superserum works! Or this one! Or this one! Needles for everyone! Everyone join me in killing a million to save a hundred!”

            I’ve pretty much unfortunately started to already understand Cauldron’s stance. I’m more worried now that I may even switch to outright supporting them by the end of the story.

  4. Well, that pretty much confirms my theory as to what Cauldron is/what their goals are. Excellent.

    Interesting to see that they’re taking a more active role now.

    • The way I see it, they watched their own world die, after which they decided that between morals and survival, the second is preferable.

  5. If Cauldron’s Doormaker is able to get people in and out of the Birdcage, as demonstrated here, a breakout may not be long in coming. Either via Cauldron offering the imprisoned capes a deal without involving Chevalier or the other major powers in the discussion, or through another cape or combination of capes with similar powers now that it has been proven it can be done.

        • No, that’s another cape who was described very close to a mention of the Doormaker in the Number Man interlude.

          The Doormaker makes doors, but there is another Basketeer who has omniscience and who helps the Doormaker to find the universes and places to go to: this person is the one who has a stunted growth/fried brain.

          • That’s the guy who had his eyes burn in his sockets and went mad because of the omniscience, yes.

            However, I’m pretty sure that either in Battery’s or more probably in Alexandria’s interlude we got a glimpse of him just staring at nothing and there was a comment to that effect.

  6. Can I make a criticism here? This line:

    “I wasn’t any different. Tense, exhausted, frustrated.”

    It’s a pet peeve of mine when an author literally just dishes out emotions and states of being. It’s not enough to be told Skitter is tense, exhausted and frustrated – though I suppose it works if you want to be brief about it, but I’d rather get under her skin here – how does being tense, exhausted and frustrated /feel/ for her. The previous detail of her wavering on her feet is good… But I’d rather you take a few sentences to describe a subtle headache, or maybe a nervous habit (is she pacing? Anxious people might pace). How does Skitter endure that emotional state?

  7. So did a quick read on Namibia. In our world it is dominated by a desert, half the population is below the international poverty line, 15% of the adult population had hiv/aids, South Africa took it over and did a truly shitty job running it, and they only got their independence in 1990 after alot of negotiation with the UN, most people don’t live past their 50s, and it is one of the least densely populated places in the world right after Mongolia. Now consider all of that with a huge population of parahumans that was created in the early 80s. Yeah, it is probably not a nice place to live. They probably forced South Africa out much earlier, and not peacefully in the wormverse.

    • From some of the previous comments in past chapters, most of sub-saharan africa is the plaything of parahuman warlords.

      • The worst part is that for the Democratic Republic of Congo, that might actually be an improvement over the real world.

      • Have to look at it in a glass half full kind of way. Yes, parahumans are murdering each other all over the place, but at least they’ve solved the AIDS and starvation problems.

        • Have they?
          While no one has mentioned AIDS or non-biotinker pathogens, I still can’t see them easily eradicated in this place. There’s not nearly enough cohesion for a well-organized vaccination campaign. Just look at the real-world problems those.
          In addition, many of the starvation problems are trade interruptions or population imbalances from refuges. Think of many of the somilian problems in the Blackhawk Down era, most were from warlords preventing deliveries or stealing supplies. If Africa is even more warlordly, there’s likely even more problems of this type.

    • Fuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuudge

  8. Y’know, the Endbringerks position is looking more reasonable every day. I can definately see where they’re coming from. I mean why would they NOT want to destroy humanity? Their designers are interdimensional version of the Punisher for all we know. Let’s hope Taylor makes heady into operation “turn Doctor Mother into a pile of hamburger” right quick or I might change my Jersey.

    Atleast let’s hope we get some wasp stinger on Saint action going on. Maybe next meeting Chevvy will come with Moord in a garbage bag.

    A little bloodthirsty? Can’t help it, the culmination of twenty five chapters of this, I’m stoked.

    • I can understand a lot of the “do awful things for the preservation of the human species” line of thinking. I don’t always agree with it, but I can at least see how a lot of people would take that sort of pragmatic approach, if they truly believed in the cause.

      But Cauldron is being such bitches about it, they just tick me off. “It’s not time for you to know that yet” and similar lines aren’t making them any friends in this crowd, which is a pity because everything Taylor is trying to accomplish is bringing people together. You’d think if they where so smart they would accept her “by any means” kind of approach, since it’s pretty much exactly what they are doing.

      I’m hoping that SOMEONE, whether it’s Taylor, Faultine, or another player does something to just screw up whatever Cauldron has in the works (if it’s a non-cape, so much the better; I’m thinking it’s time for Glenn to make a return). Anything, really, that makes them pull on their hair in frustration would be good. I hate hate HATE the smug, superior self-satisfied attitude, particularly when it’s accompanied by the “I don’t feel like explaining myself” bit. Ok, you’re super smart/clairvoyant/have super powers? And it gives you a bit of a god complex? Fine, I can dig all that. But there’s no need to be a jerk about it and rub it in anyone’s face. That’s just being petty and spiteful.

      If you’re really as good as you think you are, then you should be above that.

  9. Who would have thought an Endbringer with no primary target would cause so much more damage than one that showed up with a goal in mind.

    • Particularly as Scion can’t stop him. The perfect counter to an insanely powerfull yet uninformed being – don’t try to endure, that’s what got Behmoth killed. Instead, flee to devestate somewhere else.
      I can see why there has to be some sort of designer responding to each defense.
      Of course, if their plan to stop Khonshu works, what comes next?

  10. It seems like Weaver is only at the meeting because Tattletale asked to include her and they needed Tattaletale to check everyone for possibly being the man behind the man. You have to wonder whether she might not qualify for admission based on her own merits at this point.

    At least Taylor had far less trouble speaking in front of the gathered most powerful parahumans in the world than she had speaking in front of cameras for the morning talk show.

    It seems a bit strange that Tattletale brought only part of the Undersiders along. I mean Imp might have been there for all we know, but Bitch and Parian and especially Flechette would be an asset. Faultline seems to have brought her whole crew instead.

    • Even if Taylor feels like she has more power as a Ward than she did as queen of BB, she doesn’t have the same resources she had before. The ones she has now belong to Chevalier.

      And I think it’s kind of pointless to bring the rest of the Undersiders along. They wouldn’t have much to offer in the way of useful input.

    • She’s gotten good results, but she doesn’t have the raw combat power of Moord Nag or the planning benefits of Tattletale/Dinah… nor does she have her own organization to make up either lack.

      If she weren’t being underestimated, she’d never be estimated.

      • I disagree with the raw combat power. She can’t hit the few individuals who have a brute classification to withstand the bugs, but even then look at Alexandria. Taylor is arguably the most dangerous cape there. She is only limited by her morals and the fact that she isn’t a psychopath. Read what she did to the merchants and the nightmare fuel page. She could easily kill more than five thousand people very, very, quickly if she ever wanted to.

        • acediamonds is correct.

          Taylor is a formidable threat to any cape we’ve seen, possible exception Contessa, and potentially an outright S-9 worthy nightmare against civilians. Her successes against S-rank threats are remarkable, but generally due to her tactics and coordination with other capes rather than her own power.

          If you’re calling a council of the people who conceivably could, in person or through their organization, punch out an Endbringer to ask them why they’re not doing that right now… she’s not on the list. Dinah, for all herr physical frailty, has a real chance of saying ‘here’s the weak point’. Everyone else invited had a plausible case for being able to bring massive force to bear.

          • I stand corrected. Taylor’s has always been an outstanding organizational/strategic leader though, which is why no one questions her place there. I’ve got some new material for a friend of mine who also started to read the story with our frequent topic of what if in the wormverse? So what if Taylor had adifferent master power? I actually started writing the outline of a fanfic where she gets Nilbog’s power instead and the changes that brings before I stopped. Though now I am very curious what would have happened if she got Moord Nag, who I assume is a master, or Teacher’s power instead. I am curious about what she could do with their powers considering her tactical expertise.

        • I disagree on Taylor really being the most dangerous cape there.

          Dragon is more dangerous than Taylor. Taylor only won against Dragon because Dragon was occupied with a lot of things much more critical than Brockton Bay. Dragon is a comparable administrator to Taylor and can call on superior parahuman resources in a crisis.

          Chevalier? I’ll give you him, but the Protectorate he represents is something far more dangerous than what Taylor has ever had access to at her strongest phase. Taylor gaining in strength is very likely to be complementary with Chevalier.

          There’s too little information on Saint to say. Same with Moord Nag.

          Glaistig Uaine? From what we know of the Birdcage, the relative leader of the forces held there is probably more dangerous than Taylor. The relative fear people give Glaistig Uaine really seems to imply she’s a force to be reckoned with, though it’s conceivable that she’d lose to Taylor due to unknown weaknesses, limitations, or not having quite the right strengths.

          Taylor’s lost to Contessa before and would do so again to any serious fight. Cauldron could have beaten her control over Brockton Bay if they ever wanted to.

          The Thanda? They seem to be depicted as really powerful, terrible, and cool. Not really a huge amount of information, but the ruling force of the world’s largest parahuman population, the peers of Phir Se? It would be weird if they were the weak link in this assembly.

          Faultine is another one I’ll give you.

          Taylor, really the Undersiders as a faction, are a peer of these groups, but she is not the most dangerous person there even with all her allies and backup, unless we count the Protectorate and Dragon as her allies, even though they came as representatives of themselves and their interests.

      • Less combat power, but she’s a cape that can focus on the long game. She doesn’t have to kill everyone with stings when her locusts can destroy the crops and her bees can stop pollinating everything. She can drive the army ants into human civilization and have worms bitchslap fishermen trying to put them on the hook.

    • Taylor kinda showed her noob, too, what with the “new world order” stuff.. as if there’s anything new about it.

    • She was also there so that Contessa could see how she would play into whatever Cauldron’s plan ends up being, whether as an asset or a liability.

    • Bringing Bitch to a delicate meeting of dueling egos. Because that’s worked out so well in the past? TT is there because she has a better track record at figuring out Endbringers than all the thinkers in the world combined, and to see who might be behind them.

      • At least Bitch would have had the balls to call Cauldron out on their shit, and the unfairness of the birdcage. She really got to Coil when she said the snake theme fits him well.

        • The Birdcage being unfair is nothing new. Tagg, of all people, called it monstrous. Dragon, its creator, has called it unfair right in this chapter. As for Bitch calling out Cauldron she probably can’t do better than Gregor’s magnificent: ” I am not questioning your morals. I know you don’t have any.”

      • What Taylor really brings to things like this meeting is that she’s a facilitator, and she was one of the individuals who helped keep things on track. Remember, her big contribution in the BEHEMOTH fight wasn’t her bugs. It was that she was able to fold Phir Se’s attack in with others and focus it. She figured out better ways to use the resources they had. Look at it this way. You don’t put Captain America or Batman on a team because they hit hard. You put them on because they improve the teams ablility to use or mesh it’s resources.

  11. Nonstop pressure – that’s a new nightmare, absolutely.

    Sorry to see Phir Se gone, if that’s not an elaborate bluff by the Thanda – he’s a very fitting trump card for them to put up their sleeve after playing once against Behemoth, and that kind of deception is exactly how they work – he would have made for good conversation.

    Three blasphemies: Sleeper, Nilbog, and…?

    If Contessa’s running Cauldron’s grand strategy, I’m predicting a rerun of Frank Herbert’s point about precognition in Dune, with Worm twists. She can only see the paths to victory unshadowed by the operation of those with similar talents, and this systematic bias – plus her organization’s unwillingness to choose any path but one certain to yield results – has not only replaced any morals they once had, but has also systematically shifted them away from better results and toward visible results. This is exactly the way Simurgh wins a battle of dueling precognitions – by shaping the possibility-space unshadowed by precog intervention, and using the fact that Contessa is nearly perfectly predictable without precog powers (she’s going to win) to set up a narrow path that leads to victory… before closing it off.

    Possibility of PRT/Protectorate civil war upgraded, conditional on Khonsu being put down. This kind of backroom dealing will, rightly, give the Directors a heart attack.

    Lying to Tattletale’s face would require an extraordinarily strong power shaped as a good counter: accordingly, most of the Endbringer-designer hypotheses need to be scrapped. Extra-universal designers remain possible. Cauldron, although not designing them, may still be provoking their presence by their ‘theft’ of passengers. In-universe designers must be keeping the lowest profile of all time, with assistance in that concealment from extremely powerful capes, or are somehow themselves ignorant of what they’re doing.

    Hypothesis as to Panacea’s discovery – passengers are a larval form, not of Endbringers. On maturation, once there’s a critical mass, they terraform the planet or the universe into something a little more comfortable for eldritch beings from beyond time and space. Cauldron’s efforts have been at introducing enough capes – from a different source or shaped in a different way – to delay critical mass as long as possible; Cauldron’s backup plan is evacuating to a different universe less well adapted to the comfort of gibbering horrors from beyond the stars. Guess based on Glaistig Uaine’s critical mass/celebration comment, Doctor Mother’s comment about having saved the world before, Cauldron’s repeated concerns about the steady growth of triggered capes and the impossibility of keeping up with it.

    Codicil to the hypothesis – Cauldron’s behavior around the secret is strongly suggestive that they believe that awareness of the problem worsens it. There are conventional ways in which that could be true: panic, division, etc. Even so, I suspect that to understand the purpose of the passengers is inherently to bring it closer to fruition – and therefore closer to the end of the world. It might be as simple as such understanding creating a fuller synch with the passenger.

    Chevalier’s unwillingness to open the Birdcage, even for selected inmates, given a full court press from Khonsu is baffling. Some couldn’t be trusted to fight; some wouldn’t be powerful enough to make a difference in a fight – so much is clear. But some would keep their word, and an Endbringer being continuously in the field indefinitely is Apocalypse on the installment plan.

    Saint’s a major power? Adalid’s new. The Elite are new – Europe? Dinah is a major power for planning, though not for a fight. Faultline is a very, very, odd choice – in more ways than one. Unless she picked up a LOT of Case 53s, she doesn’t have anything close to the firepower of the other factions… but she can make stable portals. To the extent that Cauldron is correct to be worried about being followed to another dimension, that makes these portals ineffective unless they can be collapsed in a timely fashion.

    The Case 53s themselves remain an extraordinarily odd action by Cauldron. Nominally, they’re a way of making a small amount of money from experimental failures. This makes no sense whatsoever. Any organization with the Number Man’s loyalty does not need money – and Doctor Mother spoke of the price being used as a filter for commitment more than anything else. Hypothesis: the Case 53s are the entire point of Cauldron – combine this with the revelation from Pretender that ALL Cauldron capes are Case 53s, though not all are obviously so, and the theory is that Cauldron is trying to poison the well: to provide a sizeable base of flawed (by comparison to natural-trigger) capes in order to delay whatever happens at critical mass. The public case 53s serve this purpose as well as the capes like Triumph or Legend, and so are put on the Earth to delay the day of reckoning – the memory wipe and the rest of it is a deliberate red herring to distract from the fact that the human-seeming Cauldron capes are all, in some way, alien as well.

    Dinah predicted five blocs would be standing, at the end. Which of these will make it? Cauldron, almost certainly. The Protectorate, in some form or other, almost certainly. The Undersiders – very likely. The Birdcage – very likely. And the Slaughterhouse 9000 would make 5. I would assume that there’d be some consolidation and absorption as the attrition continues, so individuals from other organizations might well survive under new banners.

    Insufficient information to begin to guess at what’s going on with Grue – could be rep, could be life, could be worry that Imp is trying to go through Cauldron’s exit portal to screw with people there.

    Cauldron’s refusal to use Doormaker to shuttle heroes to Khonsu may have a one-time exception, or Doctor Mother may have meant that whatever transport you’re taking from where you were, it’ll be leaving soon.

    Weaver’s anklet going dark and then appearing at an Endbringer fight would indicate a major-league mover asked her to the ongoing party – an opportunity for the Director to complain, but not all that much (Phir Se’s friends wanted to honor my help to him by inviting me along is a pretty uncheckable story). Weaver’s anklet going dark and her reappearing in the base, in her room which was just searched by Tecton, will be taken as pretty solid evidence that she’s only as leashed as she feels like being, and might provoke a more serious response from the Director.

    The fact that he’s not stopping after a time or a target has been devastated changes the calculus for every fight after this. With the end of the world coming in a year, it would have made sense for people to be prepared to concede 5-6 major cities – disaster, surely, but not really much worse than, say, the past three years were. And then there’s an end to it, one way or another. Any of the Endbringers going full out (or, terrifyingly, slightly closer to full out) threatens damage that cannot safely be conceded.

    • Blasphemies confirmed to not be Sleeper/Nilbog; no confirmation on what they actually are. Nightmare fuel for another time, I suspect.

      • They are mentioned in the same breath as Jack Slash. Forget them, I am interested in this quote. ““She has killed thousands of people. That’s nothing compared to what some individuals in the birdcage have done.” Who the hell is in there and what can they do?

    • Your name fits you very well. The Elite were mentioned by wildbow as a past story idea involving a large organization that forces every rogue they can reach to join them or else. It forced alot of rogues to band together for protection. In the proposed story idea, I believe it forced Circus and Parian to partner up. They were mentioned in a past chapter as being a growing organization that is active all on the east coast. The case 53 thing is an interesting theory with the whole only our clients matter statement which is obviously complete horse shit. Money means probably nothing to Cauldron, and alot of readers were confused as to why Contessa let Faultline and her crew live when they met. Faultline is mentioned as having a large organization now, and we now there must be tens of thousands of case 53’s out in the world who might want to join her for revenge. I also think Cauldron is similar to Alexandria was. They are arrogant and greatly underestimate others. I still hold to the theory that the only reason things were able to be kept secret for so long was because the Smurf helped them. Considering the shit they spouted this chapter, I wonder if it has occurred to them that they might be the cause of the end of the world.

      • Dinah cannot be near Taylor or all the numbers change. This may well be her sole reason for non attendance and she remains committed to the cause.

    • Refinement to theory:

      Passengers are part of a greater whole. Eldritch horror enters universe one piece at a time, feeling out what the new universe is like. Unique powers are part of the originating entity’s attempt to get a different angle on understanding the universe. Case 53s (all Cauldron capes, really) are giving back bad data about the adaptation – cf. Panacea’s trick with Taylor’s bugs in the bank. Critical mass is the point where all the passengers self-organize into something like their progenitor. Possibly their actual progenitor – from a timeless aeons perspective, maybe we’re getting cell’s eye view of what a Star Trek transporter does. Different passengers would have different roles in the collective whole.

      Glaistig Uaine’s name for Taylor – Queen Administrator – is a reference to Skitter’s passenger’s role, and it’s a critical enough role that she could use it to make a difference in the world ending, if it ends as this theory proposes.

      • Eidolon’s power-weakening is the result of the originating entity trying to route around the immense static his regular power-changing produces; the way natural trigger capes strengthen when in circumstances similar to their trigger event is because the connection is made in when circumstances permit the strongest connection available.

        The fact that trigger events are almost universally extremely negative, and the implication that these are the parts of the universe that are most similar to the intervening entity’s location, is ample justification for Cauldron’s concern about what changes the entity (or entities) might believe would make this universe more cozy.

        • It has been noted that, contrary to standard trigger events, Cauldron powers get weaker in more stressful situations. Perhaps this is because the passengers aren’t cooperating. Other capes get a power boost in certain situations. Powers manage to be good for fighting and in the right person can get stronger in those situations.

    • Second refinement: screening for commitment is useful, but the major reason Cauldron was taking money for its formula was to disguise the fact that they’d have done it for free. Creating Cauldron capes is the point, and was their method of saving the world. Taking money just stopped anyone from asking ‘why’.

      • I rather like this theory. Although I think at the very beginning taking money was probably at least somewhat important. At the time they were probably still buying politicians and necessary supplies and equipment for that massive compound. After they picked up some initial capital for the numbers man to play with that need for cash probably went away.

    • @notes:
      There are a couple of points here I disagree with in part but one of your points seems brilliant and I will develop it later when I have more time (technically on a lunch break now).
      Re: Phir Sē gone
      A plausible hypothesis, and consistent with the way the Thanda operate.
      Re: Blasphemies
      Nilbog should be easy to get hold of (he is holed up in one town and if Cauldron in particular can’t detect parahumans I would be surprised), so he seems unlikely to be one of the blasphemies. Sleeper is a possibility. The more telling point is this: what would Cauldron/Contessa consider a blasphemy? Perhaps someone who had stolen and used Cauldron powers, but the only known ones are dead or otherwise defunct. I have no good ideas.
      Re: Contessa running Cauldron’s plan
      In general, I agree with the idea of “how to trap a precog” and I absolutely agree that Cauldron will lie if it is the path to victory, but … Contessa told Taylor she was unaffected by most precogs. We have no evidence that Contessa’s statements about her power are incorrect and she does fight precogs successfully, so assume her statements are correct. In which case she is one of the few precogs who can work around other precogs. There are some beings that are immune to her ability that have to be counted as wildcards. Although we have few indicators of her intelligence, she works with people who have evidenced advanced intelligence, so they are aware of her limitations and can shape strategy around that. Also, there is no evidence that she has ever lost in the manner you are describing despite dealing with some of the most powerful and nastiest parahumans on the planet, including precogs. So, I don’t think that someone is playing Cauldron using their knowledge of Contessa’s power.
      Re: Lying to Tattletale’s face about Endbringers
      Endbringers are apparently resistant to some precog powers (Contessa) and Endbringers in general may be resistant to precog, considering that some very powerful Thinkers have been unable to predict their attacks or beat them. Also, at least one Endbringer (Simurgh) is apparently one of the most powerful precogs on the planet. Despite this, TT can pull information out of Endbringers. So there is no reason to suspect that the Endbringer’s Master can withhold information from TT. And remember, TT is there to consult on Cauldron’s thinking on the subject, so they agree with her also.
      Re: Hypothesis as to Panacea’s discovery
      This is the best hypothesis I have read as to Cauldron and the Wormverse. I will develop this later but it really rings a chord with some of the evidence.
      Re:Case 53’s being released
      It appears that Cauldron is doing things “for the greater good” rather than being like Jack (playing games with destruction) or the Endbringers (terror weapons). Perhaps they are releasing those case 53’s that they don’t need to dissect and don’t interfere with their greater plans. Essentially, a small measure of mercy to salve their consciences: “Perhaps you will have a good life now that we don’t need you anymore and you cannot foreseeably interfere with our plans.”
      Re: Five groups
      Dinah predicted five major participant groups, not survivors. Cauldron and the PRT/Protectorate, yes. The Birdcage prisoners are not a cohesive group and would be less cohesive if they were not contained. The Undersiders – unless there is something else going on that I am missing, their previously unique power (portal to another world) is not unique anymore. They seem too weak. Thanda – very much yes. Jack’s group is either the prime threat or is another participant, and I think they are participants. Perhaps the Yang Ban?
      Re: Grue
      The last time he had in intimate moment with Taylor it was released to the world. He values his privacy, and he may think that such a moment would make him look weak. Also, direct contact with him after being warned about it (again) would hurt Taylor’s standing with the PRT (minor, since she is already interacting with TT). So, he deliberately ignores her. He said something to TT just before, perhaps “apologize to Taylor, but I am going to ignore her”.

      • Generally agree with your comments, or think they’re defensible.

        You’re right that Dinah predicted 5 big groups; recent events shifted my mindset to thinking of ‘surviving power blocs’; they could (less plausibly) be geographic groups, or something odder – five simultaneous Endbringer fights, for instance, with participation being the delineation rather than affiliation.

        It’s worth noting that these independent power-blocs at the meeting may not be truly independent. Coil stacked his meetings with nominally independent underlings, and Doctor Mother may well have done the same.

        On the precog side – I’m prepared to believe Contessa’s very narrowly focused, very powerful, precog generally beats other precogs in a fight. Her reluctance to engage Endbringers could be based on other reasons than her power failing to affect them (and she certainly could have been lying about their immunity, and the immunity of unspecified others to her power), so it is conceivable that there’s literally nothing which could cloud her path to victory, Scion included.

        If you take her at her word that she beats all precogs, it’s worth considering taking her at her word when she says her power just doesn’t work on a select few, Endbringers included. She could of course have been lying when making the latter statement… but equally, she could have lied about beating precogs too. Either way, if there’s anything which her powers don’t work on, that path cannot deliver the certainty promised… and if there’s anything which her powers don’t work on, it’s possible to steer her path by shaping what she can ‘see’ with her powers.

        Set aside her words on the battlefield, and Simurgh still struck Cauldron hard when she hit Madison, destroying research materials and creating the Travelers – and forcing their organization into a very fragile state as they attempted to disperse and harden their facilities against another attack. Doormaker is a single point of failure for all Cauldron, and at some point we’re going to see what happens when he goes down. The clairvoyant who – among other things – helps Doormaker target his doors may also be a single point of failure, for similar reasons. For the paranoid, this sort of dispersal and reliance on Doormaker may have been the whole point of Simurgh’s attack – setting things up so that later she can make a surgical strike and ensure the ever-victorious Contessa is stranded on an empty planet several universes that-a-way, unconquered empress of all the empty lands around.

        What I’m not prepared to believe is that Contessa’s path to victory will simply play out as planned – in part for metatextual reasons like a lack of suspense, but largely because putting your strategy on precog autopilot is a method of thinking that does not fail gracefully. It is not resilient. The day it doesn’t work as planned – and Simurgh’s given them such a day before – we’ll get to see if Cauldron even remembers the meaning of the word adaptable.

  12. We’re finally getting to the gooey, nougaty center of this whole Cauldron conspiracy, and to top it all off, Marquis, the most charming and classy villain of them all, is back in the spotlight. This is what I’ve been waiting for.

    Now… Lets find out this secret Panacea has discovered.

    It is:
    -Unrelated to Endbringers.
    -Harmful to Cauldron and would cause problems for everyone if revealed. (Perhaps it’s so terrible it would prevent the good guys from working with them at all?)
    -Something Panacea figured out. (Biological? Relating to how powers work? Passengers?)

    Quite interesting.

    • I think she stated it is related to passengers and she might have figured it out by her connection to the unique brain makeup of parahumans. We know that passengers are at least in part conscious and intelligent thanks to Noelle’s chapter and Taylor’s loyal puppy passenger. Cauldron states there is a something they are terrified of following them back home, and it might be a passenger in physical form that is after Cauldron for whatever reason. Perhaps the passengers of people might start acting out on their own.

    • -Something neither Cauldron nor the Simurgh want becoming general knowledge.

      In the chapter where the Simurgh deflected Panacea’s message to Dragon, the information was archived, not deleted, right? Has Saint subsequently removed it, or could Dragon hit up the archives now that she knows there’s something the prisoners have been talking about that Cauldron doesn’t want her to know?

          • Yeah, Saint was at the same time oddly repulsive and very amusing. It’s pretty clear that he has made of trolling Dragon an art form.

          • Love would be the wrong word for me. Let’s hope Saint ends up with Defiant’s spear up his ass and one of Dragon’s cruise missiles down his throat.

            • Oh come on. Admit it you wanted to be there when Dragon and Defiant walked into the room, Saint said something like: “Dragon you didn’t tell me you had a boyfriend. I am jealous!” and Defiant tried to eviscerate him 🙂

  13. Maaaaan. I want Lung to know about this meeting. And Shadow Stalker. And Emma. I want them to know Weaver was right there speaking to some of the most badass parahumans in the world, and scolding them for not focusing on the goal. I want them to know she just saved… well, not the world, but an incalculable number of lives because the indian capes ended up joining the fight at this moment because SHE asked them to.

    • Watching Shadow Stalker’s soul crumble at the Taylor = Skitter reveal was one of the most satisfying things I’ve ever read. I can only imagine part 2 would be even better.

      Next interlude: Shadow Stalker hangs herself for real this time, Lung goes super saiyan inside the Birdcage, Emma is so mad she has a trigger event, Clockblock revealed alive with a second trigger event and Accord shows up alive and well with a master plan (He was missing an arm and a leg and his henchman “Lizardtail” was hidden in reserve somewhere. The guy’s name is Lizardtail for crying out loud. Coincidence? I think not.).

      BAM! Best interlude ever. Practically writes itself.

  14. So, worm factions…here are my thoughts. Please feel free to correct me or add on. In fact, I encorage it. Please note that I am purposely excluding currently unneccesary powers such as Nilbog and sleeper. Please note that factions 6-8 are theories.

    1. NORMAL capes. People of importance: Weaver, Dragon, Golem, Defiant, Chevalier, etc.

    2. Cauldron. People of importance: Doctor mother, contessa, number man, door maker, legend (maybe kinda), eidolon, Alexandria/pretender.

    3. Slaughterhouse 9000. People of importance: Jack slash, bonesaw, gray boy.

    4. Endbringers. Creatures of importance: behemoth (if somehow alive), leviathan, simurgh, khonsu, the fifth.

    5. Scion. People of importance: scion.

    6. Passengers????????

    7. Some extra-universal force, possibly what cauldron saved the world from before?????

    8. Others??????

    • Your number one is only made of American capes. At the least, we know about the Yangban and the Thanda. And there’s probably a bunch more factions we don’t know about. Europeans, for example, and obviously Moorg Nag isn’t the only person of importance in Africa. There have been a couple of names floating around without being explained, like the King’s Men and the Suits. America is disproportionally represented in the meeting because those are the capes Cauldron has the most links with, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t any others on the planet.

      And I would have put Glaistig Uaine with the Passengers.

      • Normal capes applies to capes from all countries, I just didn’t feel like listing them all out, so I wrote “etc.”

    • I’m fairly sure that Bonesaw had access to a baby Endbringer thanks to Blasto, which might be worth noting at least.

  15. I just want to add that I think my prediction that any cult of Scion getting more members is probably false considering this Endbringer is taking advantage of Scion’s limited mental capacities. Tattletale’s golden fool comment might speak into alot of people losing faith in him. God I want a reaction chapter just to see what the people of the world are going through. Despair, riots, a shitload of new trigger events?

    • I actually would like to see a few more Interlude chapters in general. There have been so many timeskips now. We missed everything except one fight in the clean up of Chicago for instance. I have the feeling that Wildbow thinks we wouldn’t be interested in the “mundane” events because “important” stuff has escalated so far. I also have a feeling that I am not the only one who completely disagrees with that line of thinking. There are for instance several new characters who hadn’t had an own interlude and the last few interludes that did happen were almost always directly relevant in a way many of the old side-character building interludes didn’t need to be.
      All in all I have the feeling that the story got even more condensed to plot than it was in the Brockton Bay era, even though everything there happened in the course of a few weeks. And I’m not sure I like that change.

      • Hm…

        I don’t think there’s one right way to do it. For a while almost a third of the chapters were interludes given the donation bonus chapters. That was good, but everything felt like it was moving rather slowly with so much time to flesh everything out. I would like a few more interludes at this point, but I also like how fast paced and Taylor focused things have been for the last several arcs.

  16. Completely unrelated to the chapter! I wonder if Defiant is still working on his combat analysis program. Way back when he was still Armsmaster and… retired from active service, Dragon’s projected timeline had it ready for mass production before the end of the world. Obviously, as Defiant he has less time on his hands, but still.

    • I think it might actually refer to her multitasking abilities. Glastg obviously has a different way of viewing passengers/powers, so wonder if it might be how she sees Taylor’s powers. What if the big control is a side effect/ secondary power of Taylor’s main power of organization.

    • I noticed that Glaistig Uaine and Chevalier could be said to have rather similar tertiary powers, with Glaistig maybe having a better feel for the passengers as entities and how they connect back to their origins while Chevalier sees more of their connection and relationship with their host. I am really curious about how they would see and call most anyone of the important capes. Chevalier should collaborate with Tattletale to get a better understanding of what he sees.

    • That comment struck me as well. Queen Administrator. An odd way of referring to someone. I felt it could mean a few different things.
      1. Glaistig Uaine didn’t know Weavers name and simply referred to her by what she saw of Taylors’ powers. This seems unlikely given that Weaver / Skitter have been the topic of at least a few conversations in the Birdcage.

      2. She DOES know Weavers name, but referred to her powers. Taylor is after all the queen of her swarm and is capable of administering each one separately.

      3. She feels that Taylor deserves the respect of a title similar to her own Faerie Queen, due to the strength of Taylors’ powers.

      4. She KNOWS something about Taylor that no one else but Dinah knows about. I’m thinking that Dinah lied to Taylor when she said that she couldn’t tell exactly HOW Taylor was different at the end of the world…
      (From 18.1)
      “What did you and Coil figure out? In terms of twenty questions?”

      “People are spread out. I know you’re there. You’re different but you’re there.”

      “And the others?”

      “Sometimes there.”

      “Can you give me more details? How am I different? Which of the others are there?”

      “I don’t know. There’s too many capes and too many capes with powers that make it fuzzy, because some powers make it harder and a bunch of those powers together make it impossible. I don’t know what happens to start all of it and I don’t know much of what happens during, but billions are dead afterward.”

      I think the two of these together, along with Dinahs’ instance that she have NO contact with Taylor point to Taylor being of critical importance either during the EOW scenario or during the aftermath. My personal theory is that Taylor and her passenger merge, giving her a massive power boost. Don’t know if she would get any different powers from it, but I think a definite boost.
      Drawback to the merge? She might go monstrous

      • I just noticed that because of this, any moaning about Taylor supposedly having plot armor is moot. She has actual in-story fate armor instead, which is much more satisfying to our fickle immersion metres.

    • Funnily enough, you could leave this comment at about 75% of all chapters, and it wouldn’t be out of place in the least.

        • Okay, oddly enough, this “death by hand up the rectum” thing got me thinking about powers. Who in the Wormverse would provide the worst way to die if they shoved their hand up someone’s rectum?

          The two that immediately jump to mind are Hookwolf and Ballistic. Hookwolf because, well, a crazy mass of sharp pointy things, and Ballistic because death by hyper-accelerated faeces gives a whole new meaning to the term “explosive diarrhea”.

          Anyone else have anything to add to this?


            • Speaking of Newter, Gregor has weird snail-shell-like growths all over his skin, and can squirt a variety of interesting chemicals out of his skin at significant pressure. So that would be an uncomfortable enema, to say the least.


          • I get the feeling Mannequin could stick his all the way through your digestive tract quickly enough that you could feel the hand crawl its way out of your mouth and drag its chain out before tearing your eyes out.

            I think Bonesaw would be disqualified because she’d shove a prehensile spine up your ass and make you crawl around like her own personal centaur bottom.

            • @ Gecko – that’s so tame. Why would Bonesaw jam her spine up your butt when she could reach inside and, with the help of her spiders, force a prolapse? Two or three feet of intestine drawn out past your sphincter, effectively inside out, for her to manipulate or use her tools on.

              • I have corrupted the comments to the extent that the author himself is now participating in a conversation over which oh his characters is most dangerous shoving their hand up someone’s ass.

                I don’t care if it isn’t on TV Tropes, I have a new personal Crowning Moment of Awesome.

                Save this conversation for the special edition. “With new extras, including the author’s opinion on which cape is the most dangerous anal molester!”

              • Hey, loyal readers, fun fact! Psycho Gecko’s serial is now on webfictionguide, and you can rate it (anywhere from one to five stars) or even give it a review.

                And because you’re loyal, and because PG’s been such a *cough*tive force in the comments section, you’ll help us out and review or rate it (again, one to five stars). 😀

          • Legend can clean your colon with lasers!

            Dragon has a very special gauntlet she’s been working on for Saint.

            Anyone with fire powers getting aorund the Manton effect by shoving a hand up your bum.


            Menja and Fenja?


          • Phir Sē’s teleporter bodyguard. All your insides just sort of fall out.

            Shatterbird. She wears a costume made of glass shards.

            Miss Militia. She can summon her weapon to her hand, anytime, in any form.

            Skidmark. You don’t die right away, but after a few days with intestines that refuse to let anything exit…

            Wanton. (He uses the artificial arm, then transforms. Welcome to the blender.)

            Spree, depending on how his duplicate-spawning works.

            Rune. Telekinetic control of things she’s touched… things like intestines.

            Taylor. (You don’t die of having Taylor’s hand up your rectum- you die later, of having an exposed dilated rectum within a hundred yards of Taylor…)

  17. Hehe. Hehehehe. The girl who hates bureaucracy and The System more than anything else, who cannot be constrained by its limits but who is nevertheless vexed by it at her every turn… is the Queen Administrator. Delicious. 😀

  18. Ok, I know I say this pretty much every new chapter, but this is probably one of my favourite chapters. Because I really love secret meetings with every possible faction with only the looming threat of the apocalypse stopping everyone from tearing at each other’s throat 🙂 .

    Now, looking at the various factions:

    I’m surprised Marquis didn’t bring (or ask to bring) Lung. I realise that it’s only the cellblock leaders but still. They asked the African warlord to come for the sole reason that she can punch an Endbringer really hard. Lung is the only guy except Scion and (if we take his word for it) Eidolon to fight one singlehanded. Sure Khonsu is not one Lung could fight a la Leviathan, but you’d think they’d want to ask him questions. Also, Marquis knows Teacher is up to something,good.

    Speaking of absent guys: where’s Eidolon as also known as founding member of Cauldron? I understand why Legend isn’t there and Cauldron probably couldn’t care less of Pretender-in-Alexandria. But Eidolon? he really seems to be just a tool. I feel sorry for him.

    Again on the missing guys. Cauldron wanted Jack at the meeting? I know him and Number Man were best friends or something but Jack doesn’t seem the guy to worry about the end of the world.

    Last one on those who didn’t show up. The Yangban are idiots, stop. What, they believe that the spirit of Mao channeling the power of communism is going to save Earth?

    Okay let’s look at who’s there. Faultline is there because of the portals, obviously. In case they need to evacuate Earth. What’s the problem with Doormaker’s gates?

    Saint is a major power? I presume he was invited in case Cauldron needed to get behind Dragon’s back. Or maybe to keep Dragon in check with the fear of exposure. Albeit I’d be surprised if Cauldron doesn’t know of Dragon’s true nature.

    And finally: Glaistig Uaine just went from Delusional People Are Funny to Instant Nightmares Just Add Water (And Ten Thousand Parahumans).

    • Damn, hate to double post but just wanted to add:

      Yeah, the illusion that parahumans don’t control the world has been completely shattered.

    • What I’d really like to know is who the “Three Blasphemies” are. I’d have guessed Nilbog and Sleeper make up two of them, but someone claimed earlier on that it had been confirmed to be someone/something else, though they did not say how (the IRC? Dunno, I can’t get in. do you need a password/invitation? Maybe I just suck at working with IRC)

      I never thought Glaistig was funny. Ever. She always creeped me out (though I love her power)

      And I don’t think there ever WAS an illusion of parahumans NOT running the world by now, at least for us readers

      • >And I don’t think there ever WAS an illusion of parahumans NOT running the world by now, at least for us readers

        Oh, true. But at least one could think that yes India is full of black ops parahuman, China has an army of brainwashed capes, Africa is a wasteland were super powered warlords duke it out, but at least in Europe and America, bastions of freedom and democracy MIGHT DOES NOT MAKE RIGHT (*insert
        some overly cheesy music and an American flag in the background*).

        But when a good guy like Chevalier is basically condoning genocide you know it’s the end.

          • Sure he protested and even wanted to say “screw this I’m out of here” but after Cauldron pointed at the stakes involved he still agreed to help. heck, the fact he decided to show up (even if he would otherwise be out of the loop) is basically condoning everything Cauldron did. For the greater good.

            • well, not really. just because he took their invitation doesn’t mean he condones what they do. you wouldn’t claim that Taylor condones their actions, do you? she had far less reason to take the invitation – Chevalier DOES have to think of his organization – and yet she did. still, it’s very obvious that she condemns their actions

            • Chevalier just offered to cover some Cauldron capes inside the Protectorate in exchange for keeping inmates inside the Birdcage. His promise when he started the new Protectorate was to purge Cauldron and make the Protectorate a less shady organisation. He’s now going behind the back of the PRT, who is still supposed to control the Protectorate, because the mysterious organisation of allied super humans is the only chance the world has got.

              Sure he hates it but that doesn’t make it less true.

              • true, but he does NOT agree with the genocide – he even says that he wants to try and take Nag out before she can receive the sacrifices

              • That is if he actually buys Cauldron’s posturing, at which point he’s just as much a stooge as anyone else.

                Personally, I hope he comes to the next meeting with Nag mulched in a garbage bag.

      • Wildbow explicitly confirmed on IRC that Nilbog and Sleeper are not among the blasphemies.

        No password / invitation needed.

    • Eidolon is busy chasing after the Endbringer. Eidolon, Alexandria, and Legend are the three capes mentioned as being at these fights consistently. You can forgive him for not having time to show up at a meeting when he has been in a running three day battle where one mistake is death by dehydration.

      • Now I feel like an idiot for forgetting of the unending fight against the giant monster despite this meeting being about how to resolve that.

        However, I still think that Cauldron sees Eidolon as a tool and nothing more.

        • I always kind of hate when really powerful members of an organization are referred to as simple tools. Eidolon is so clearly a soldier for Cauldron that it hurts to see him described as anything else. Admittedly they assigned him to fighting Endbringers, but he is still the most potent human anti-endbringer weapon on the planet so they have good reason to put him to that.

          Also, if he doesn’t know Cauldron’s entire plan he certainly knows more than almost everyone else on the planet. After all, one of the interludes showed him being in on Cauldron’s grand plan when someone argued for telling Legend about their goals. Eidolon is too well informed and too powerful to be considered just a tool. Better examples of tools for Cauldron would be all the fodder capes they are popping out who owe them favors, or the army of case 53s they keep on the payroll.

          Sorry about ranting about this, but it always annoys me when high level members of an organization are written off as simple tools just because they are not the absolute top of the org chart.

          • Okay, not a tool ( albeit I didn’t mean he was cannon fodder like all those imprisoned weird mutations obvioulsy are)but certainly a weapon. It’s pretty clear that Eidolon was second fiddle to Legend and Alexandria among the Triumvirate and to Alexandria inside Cauldron. Nobody can stand him. When you’re the most powerful human cape alive that isn’t normal.

            Look at his conversation with Ms Yamada. He’s TERRIFIED of losing his powers to the point of being willing to die against Echidna if they don’t come back. He literally is nothing ( or believes he is nothing) without his superpowers.

            I’d really love to read his interlude. As I said, I feel sorry for him.

            • In that case I completely agree with you. He is very much a soldier for Cauldron and will never rise above that. On the other hand, being a well informed soldier for arguably the most powerful organization in the world is a pretty kickass position to have. Sure people may not like him, but if Eidolon says jump I bet most of humanity and most capes will still ask how high.

              • Yet the general attitude towards Eidolon feels weird to me.

                I can understand a teammate saying something like “man, that Eidolon great to have in a fight but hell if I’m inviting him to my marriage”. But when some random poster on the Internet says that he hopes Eidolon doesn’t become Legend’s successor because he went to hear him at a convention and he was a jerk, I find it odd.

                Take a look at Batman, jerkass hero extraordinaire. Normal people are still going to think “ohmygod, I’m in the same room as Batman!” or at the very least “why is Batman looking at me like he wants to break my arm?”. Yamada seems to be the only one to realise that if he wished to, Eidolon could kill her with a thought.

              • Well most people are being kept in the dark about just how powerful parahumans can be. Yamada realizes Eidolon can kill her with a thought because she deals with a bunch of parahumans that can’t control their ability to kill her with a thought. She has first hand experience of just what these people can do.

                Compare that to some random guy at a convention that has only experienced capes in the sense of meeting one and realizing he is a dick. So people are relying on their impression of ‘what an asshole’ instead of thinking through ‘holy shit this guy can consistently fight Endbringers and probably fits somewhere in the top three most powerful humans on the entire planet. They have much more experience dealing with dick than unstoppable powerhouse, so they default to handling him as just some asshole.

    • I’m curious how Glaistig Uaine differentiates between Cauldron made and natural parahumans.

      Regarding what you said about people fighting Endbringers, there actually hasn’t been a single explained example of an Endbringer being fought of before reaching its target without the help of Scion. It was mentioned to have happened in general, but nothing beyond that. You could argue that Lung has managed, but actually you could say that Leviathan actually did reach his goal that time. That Japanese city (island) was pretty much gone if I am not mistaken. I’m curious how on earth they managed any of the mentioned successes without our golden fool to help.

    • The Yangban are dangerous, given the rate of their power growth. Imagine Yangbanged!Eidelon and his 99 friends. The original Eidelon would be more powerful than he was before, and whoops? Guess everyone else would be that strong too.

      That looks pretty grave.

      Now consider how that is just 1 superpower out of all they have – I bet they could add Alexandria to the group with no fuss. Not to mention that the typical cape has only 1 power, and such thing tends to have a counter, making even lonesome Yangban cape annoying.

      If all the capes had temporarily joined the Yangban against Behemoth, the battle could have gone very differently.

  19. Sooo…people of the Wormverse…nice universe you got there…yeah, I’m all for immigration, but I think at this point, no place with already existing humans is going to take you guys. I’ve talked to a few. Candyland. The galaxy far, far away. Warhammer 40k said, and I quote, “They can go read ‘The Black and White Space Marine on the Black and White Bike’ for all we care.” That’s a “No” near as I can tell. A surprisingly polite answer from them as well.

    I know I’d send a care package, but I haven’t figured out how to fit a dimensional portal solely into my toilet bowl. Hey, at least I’m nice about it. Some people wouldn’t even give these kinds of people that much if they were on fire.

    But it’s not all bad. Just invest in ice cream companies and then leak some details of what’s going on. Everyone will be doing a bit of comfort eating then. Actually, telling everyone what’s going on is more likely to cause trigger events, I think. Not just revealing the enormity of how fucked they are, but also because it appears to be at least triple penetration going on.

    Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to continue trying to write the song to the hot new animated movie “Butterfly Princess Weaver” which features her being hunted down by the evil Queen Alexandria who dispatches her best soldier, Sir Grue the Darkhearted, who slowly begins to admire and even love Princess Weaver as he hunts her and her pixie friend, Tattler.

            • didn’t mean that, as you know. would she be the Queen’s Handmaiden? Chief Spy? Cook?

              we all know Rachel’s job.

              and Regent/Imp strike more as the doggy-style types, btw

              • >and Regent/Imp strike more as the doggy-style types, btw

                I thought that would be Rachel…

                Ok, I only made this joke because Psycho Gecko stole the position one above.

              • actually, I see Rachel as turning out to be more tender/restrained with someone she really loves and wants to be with intimately.

                also, that joke’s barely worth making, really

              • I thought Rachel was more the doggy-style type. But I see Imp as perhaps something more menial. Cook or a server or servant. Almost like she’s trouble, but it’s a favor to Grue who just wants her to stay out of trouble in a position not all that important.

              • makes sense that he’d try to get her into this kind of secure position. though she’d probably HATE it. so it’s all good^^

              • Though she’d still sneak away from her job to either spy on the higher-ups (especially the disgraced general-turned-mercenary, General Tagg), and flirting with the aforementioned Jester.

                And since I don’t think anyone mentioned it, I’m guessing Rachel would train the guards and/or guard dogs? Sounds like it would fit.

              • Glaistig Uaine as the fairy godmother? Defiant as the brooding knight on a dragon-killing quest only to realise that the dragon is actually a beautiful damsel under a curse? Marquis as the honourable leader of a group of thieves who will be obviously betrayed by his greedy second-in-command (either Lung or Teacher?)

              • Panacea as the former court physician, living in exile with her father following a horrible tragedy involving her sister that caused a mental breakdown? Saint as a mercenary hunting the dragon despite knowing it’s true nature? The Birdcage as a seedy criminal town (with an admittedly impressive singer at the local pub) that Marquis is based out of? Simurgh as a mysterious witch (or something) that controls a horde of inhuman beasts rampaging across the countryside?

        • Instead, we’ve got something that I think could work as an AU fanfic in a medieval setting. ‘Brockton’ works as the name of a kingdom, right?

          • I love Gecko’s idea, and Brockton would be a great name for such a fanfic. With Taylor actually becoming a queen of the kingdom.

        • When will you write the lyrics for all to see? You still haven’t welcomed my comment debute after all 😛

          • I may not have noticed your comment debut. There are a lot of comments out there. I’ll work on something for you.

            That said, I am fairly proud of my ability to humiliate myself, but even I am somewhat cautious about my ability to write a song from scratch meant to be a stupid fair princess song. It’s not as easy as just altering a song.

            • Oh I know. But one can hope to reach the stars (or to let an insane lizard from beyond the interwebs reach and deliver them here instead).
              My debut was in the large and awesome interlude after Chevalier’s by the way.

      • What about a magical girl version? Hmmn, Cauldron grants powers at a price. Are we sure Doctor Mother isn’t QB?

  20. The mention of Gregor’s “European-ish” accent made me grit my teeth… Moord Nag’s speech looked like Dutch to me, didn’t check, and sure that’s from Europe, unless it was Afrikaans which is a colony pidgin of Dutch like American English is of English.

    In principle there’s nothing wrong with saying an accent sounds European in the sense that it sounds like one of the many accents that one finds in Europe. It’s just sad that most of the time when one sees the expression used it implies everyone from Europe talks with a Hollywood generic fake villain accent.

    • As a European with an accent that is probably different from Gregor’s, I am not bothered really much ( I do however agree on the Hollywood generic evil European accent.) Moord Nag speaks Afrikaans and Weaver says Gregor’s accent is similar to hers. So probably Dutch or Flemish. Or German, if we want to stretch it (it’s not as if Weaver has a master in European accent.)

      • as a European with a pretty messed-up accent (German/Greek with a side-order of a German regional accent as well), I feel not bothered, though I’d really like to know how she can tell. Far as I know, there is little similiarity between European accents, at least compared to other continents

      • Hey now…she could be mistaking Afrikaan for a messed up Australian-kinda accent. It’s possible. I’ve heard it happen with my own two ears. Well, one ear. I was lending one to this Roman at the time.

      • You know what, thinking about it a bit more while I can accept that a Dutch can understand someone speaking Afrikaans, I find it difficult that an American hearing , say, a Dutch speaking English can say he/she has the same accent as someone speaking Afrikaans. I guess Weaver just has a good ear.

      • From Gregor’s interlude, he spoke to an expert once trying to figure out where he came from by his accent. They settled on somewhere Scandanavian or Icelandic.

        • Huh. That’s…like saying that a Quebecois and an Italian have similar accents because French and Italian are both neo-latin languages. It doesn’t make much sense.

          • but looking at some of the tonal pronunciations, French and Italian are both similar enough (The Romantic languages) that they could be grouped together when trying to figure out their influence on a faint, possible alternate universe accent.

            • Sorry, I realise I wasn’t very clear. I wasn’t talking about how the specialist narrowed down Gregor’s accent to Icelandic or Scandinavian. That’s perfectly reasonable.

              Weaver deduces that Gregor’s accent is European because it’s similar to Moord Nag’s. However Dutch, the European language from which Afrikaans evolved, and Scandinavian languages have little in common except for being both Germanic languages. Hence my example with French Quebecois, slightly different from standard French, and an Italian, another Romance language, accented English. I can assure you you’d never say that they are similar accents.

    • Worm reply: Maaaaaan, you know we Americans be ignorant mo’fuckers, yo. Skitter’s no different and a high-school dropout, no less. Cut her some slack.

      If you were addressing Wildbow, bear in mind he’s Canadian and thus far more enlightened.

      Of course.

  21. You know, after hearing about this story and reading up several chapters, I’ve come to a conclusion.

    I really don’t like this story. At all.

    None of the characters are likeable or sympathetic, the constant mood is always dark and depressing without a single moment or even hint of levity, The whole thing reads like the grim dark comics of the 90’s and overall just comes off like it’s trying to punch you in the gut and snark that it’s better then you.

    Keep your dreariness and Villain Protagonists. I’ll stick with Batman if I want dark.

      • Hey he adopted kids! Who usually shout how they hate him once a week. And he always ignores all those perfectly reasonable suggestions from his father figure. He believes that the crazy man i a bat costume is the real him and that the respected entrepeneur is a mask. He not only always lets a mass murder live (I can accept that, vigilante justice isn’t something I like) but once did everything he could to save him from the electric chair! I wonder why he never tries to do that with all those innocent (and not only of that particular crime) people sentenced to death: guess those guys don’t sell comics. Oh and he carries a deadly rock in case his best friend goes evil.

        Other than that he seems pretty sympathethic 🙂

    • No story’s for everyone.

      I like that this sort of comment comes up every two weeks or so. Helps keep me humble, and makes me doubly glad that there’s as many people who do comment about how much they enjoy it.

      I don’t even mind, because, you know, everything about the comment is like, “Well, that guy wouldn’t have enjoyed it no matter what I did.”

    • I guess I am weird in that I found pretty much all the villains at least partially sympathetic except ABB, Slaughterhouse 9, the Teeth,the Fallen and maybe the Cauldrons. That is true for a good number of the heroes too.
      And I’ve probably aluded more than once to the fact that I [I]really[/I] like the Undersiders

  22. Next chapter’s update on Worm:

    It will get worse. No matter what happens, anything good is only temporary because the story only gets worse. Taylor was rescued from a locker full of used tampons that had been getting nice and flavorful for a few weeks and got plopped right smack dab in the middle of a world full of douches instead. So yes, the forecast for next chapter: it gets worse. The forecast for the chapter after that: it gets even worse than that. What do you expect me to say? Ok, next interlude: it gets fucking worse. You don’t see the pattern by now?

    In fact, I’m going to go ahead and guess that Worm doesn’t end without Taylor having to eat a used condom from when Grue has sex with Shadow Stalker on the corpse of her father while it’s all recorded by the Slaughterhouse 9 who have used their stolen mind transference technology on Dragon. Or a rough equivalent to this scenario that is nonetheless fantastically written but with a lot of lesbian undertones.

    • Totally agree. There’s just nothing to look forward to this story, it just sounds more and more easier to just have everyone die instantly.

      • Totally disagree (but the PG and I seem to be on the opposite ends of the spectrum on Worm’s darkness whenever it comes up).

        The reality is, it’s ALWAYS “easier” to have everyone just die instantly. Death is the end of suffering. That doesn’t mean that it’s better though. Pride and Prejudice would be “easier” to have everyone die instantly after Lydia marries Wickham. Star Wars would be easier to have everyone die instantly after Alderaan is vaporized. Bambi is easier to have everyone die instantly after Bambi’s mother gets turned into venison.

        People are calling the Tele-Time-Tubby “the death of hope”. He’s not. In universe he’s a sign that the designer of the Endbringers is having to take the heroes (and villains) more seriously than ever. That’s progress, that’s a step closer to fixing things, even if it’s a painful step.

        Out of the story, Khonshu’s a necessary step to ratchet the stakes higher. As we head towards the end of the story, things can’t get easier. You don’t descend easily and gently towards the climax of the story. You build to it. Worm has always been a story about Taylor overcoming hardships.

        She’s still working towards that. She’s tired. She’s almost out of hope herself, but she’s still going on. Because that’s what heroes do.

        Will she win in the end? I don’t know. I’m surprised by almost every chapter that comes out. I could believe that there’s a downer ending in store for us, but on the other hand, if that wasn’t true then a triumphant ending would have a lot less punch to it.

        What I don’t believe we’ll see, what would seem horribly out of place, would be the kind of pointless violation and denigration that PG describes. Taylor gets hurt, people get killed, but with the debatable exception of a few chapters that exist to display how terrible the S9 are, the story has not been focused on reveling in the defilement of the human spirit.

        All that’s not to say that Worm’s a bright, cheerful, chipper series. There’s a middle ground though between “grimdark” and “sunshine and ponies”. Grimdark Worm would be a very different story, and a much less powerful one. As would “sunshine and ponies” Worm.

        • I must disagree with the necesity of always ramping the stakes up constantly. Downtimes of normal days when things go as expected are pretty natural, nad they have kind of been missing a bit in this story. Of course you could argue that Taylor had large amounts of such downtime in prison and in Chicago, but the problem is that we readers did experience so little of that. Since Behemoth there has been maybe two chapters where Taylor wasn’t confronted with a new flavor of soulcrushing crisis, even though she had I think half a year of that off-screen.

          • For the normal progress of a story it’s true that you need to vary the pace up by building and releasing tension. As the story moves towards it’s conclusion though those releases of tension need to become much fewer in number and frequency.

            That raises an interesting question of how best web serials should be structured since we’ve potentially got the equivalent of another few full length novels to go before the last words of the story are written. In a large part Wildow’s charting new territory there.

            There were long running serials long ago, but I don’t know if any share the structure and length of Worm (or other modern serials). Ultimately I think the story will largely succeed or fail based on how well Wildbow is able to stay interested in it.

            • It’s easy to fall into the mistake of thinking that if a happy ending is childish and immature, then a downer ending is the artistic and mature ending. Or the golden mean fallicy that a bittersweet ending, being in between is best. All have their place, and their stories to be used. I don’t know yet what kind of story Worm is going to be. That said I’d be perfectly fine with Taylor living and having some degree of happy ending at the end.

              Like the end of Radioactive Man #1 said. “The world is safe again! But for how long?” The answer is as long as someone can step up to bat and save it. Maybe not always Taylor, but maybe someone inspried by her.

              • Too bad she isn’t a villain anymore. I was kind of hoping for a her to become the Wormverse equivalent of Doctor Doom at the End.

    • *BARF*

      seriously, you crossed the line there. I mean, it would obviously be Shadow Stalker AND Emma! get it right, or I’ll barf again at your incompetence!

      and they wouldn’t use condoms, I don’t think. maybe she’d have to be the babysitter?

    • And then the world ends and everyone not already killed off dies violently.
      Reading this story is like watching a video titled “head on collision between two school busses”, you just know it’s going end horribly, but you have this vague hope that maybe someone might survive, although they’ll probably be both physically and mentally scarred for the rest of their life.
      Still, I think Worm will have a happy ending, if only because everyone’s dead and can’t suffer anymore.
      I love this story.

    • And then Taylor undergoes her second, third, fourth, fifth and possibly sixth trigger events (yes, all at the same time), becomes a giant spider Endbringer thing, steps on everyone she’s ever even remotely hated or otherwise disliked (even digging Tagg back up to step on him), makes the Doctor and the Simurgh her new accountants, and assumes her rightful place as ruler over everything on, above, and around the planet, the galaxy, and possibly a few alternate realities.

        • Nah …. she would mount Leviathan and go of to space (Spaaaceeeeeeee). She would rule the Universe as the Queen of Blades … after fusing parahumans and insects togeter to a race she might call Zerg.

  23. Thinking of Chevalier’s interlude……could Saint be one of the original Wards? I remember him describing a circuit board pattern on one of the guys skin or something like that.

    • Chevalier saw a Ward’s connection with his passenger manifest as strange writing on his skin; Saint’s tattoo is visible to everyone and has clear boundaries.

      Saint might be one of the original wards, but we’ve no evidence for the connection as yet.

      His conversation with Dragon is fodder for all kinds of speculation – it certainly didn’t appear that he considers them bitter enemies.

        • My take is that Saint just likes to troll her.

          Of course, the main reason Saint managed to outwit Dragon was because he discovered her limitations, limitations she doesn’t have anymore thanks to Colin.
          Still, Saint doesn’t seem stupid. Dragon suddenly having a human(ish) body may have rang some alarm bells.

          • If he’s been paying attention (and I’m sure he has), Dragon fielding seven suits simultaneously in Brockton Bay may have already set off some alarm bells.

  24. There’s something I’m surprised that nobody has called Contessa on yet, in-universe or out-of-universe.

    Cauldron is adamant that Contessa sees “the” path to victory.

    Barring exceptional situations, this is bullshit.

    Contessa sees a path to victory.

    The difference between the two is pretty crucial.

    • This is pretty interesting thought. Is there only a single path to victory? Does Contessa see all successful paths or just one. And which one – the most efficient one? How does one define it.

    • Notice how they said “path to victory”. Not path to peace, not path to survival, just the path to victory. And who’s victory? Contessa’s? Cauldron’s? Cauldron’s victory ain’t going to be the worlds victory I can tell you that much.

      As usual they expect people to just eat up their horseshit without question, because they’re too arrogant to believe anybody else can have answers.

      • To be fair this chapter seems to show that their arrogance is justified. This was a meeting between the major powers of the superhuman world and Cauldron was the one making the shots.

        MOORD NAG: I want 5000 souls for my pet shadow.

        DOCTOR: Ok.

        CHEVALIER: What? Over my dead body. We’re going stop you.

        DOCTOR [smiles]: You can try, you mean. After all, we do live in a transdimensional base full of superpowerful parahumans with never seen before powers that can only be reached thanks to a guy inside said base.

        CHEVALIER: We expose key Cauldron capes.

        DOCTOR: We bust the Birdcage, after all Marquis has ben very nice with us.

        DRAGON: If you continue interfering with the Birdcage, I’m going to take you down.

        SAINT: Now, now Dragon, let’s not make threats we could not be able to follow.

        SAINT and DOCTOR smile. DRAGON and DEFIANT exchange worried look.

        DOCTOR: Of course this immaterial. We’re not going to bust the Birdcage and the Protectorate isn’t going to move against us. Not with these stakes.

        MARQUIS: You’re lucky I’m a man of my word.

        TEACHER: Well I’m not. The secret is…

        DOCTOR: Marquis, Teacher wants to betray you.

        MARQUIS stares at TEACHER. TEACHER fidgets.

        DOCTOR: By the way Faultline, we’d like to use your portals.

        FAULTLINE: The hell I’m working for you.

        DOCTOR: Not even to save humanity if the world does end? You wouldn’t even have the satisfaction of ensuring our death. We do live in another dimension. Have I mentioned that?

        FAULTLINE: Fine. I won’t take your money however.

        DOCTOR [smiles]: Very well, then. At next time. Please do step through those portals we control and that were the only reason you even managed to find us. Bye.

        Man that was harder than I thought.

        • Cut to Simurgh and Behemoth sitting in front of a giant projector screen in the Antarctic, watching the meeting with rapt attention and popcorn.

          SIMURGH: Holy shit! These people are dumber than I thought!

          LEVIATHAN: Did you hear what they said to bull-skull-lady? They’re practically doing our jobs for us!

          SIMURGH: Who’s awesome?

          KHONSU: We’re awesome!

          SIMURGH: Yo, Not-Behemoth, places to be, people to kill. Chop-chop.

          LEVIATHAN: Yeah, beat it fatso!

          SIMURGH & LEVIATHAN: High five!

  25. Accelerating Time would not detonate nuclear weapons. Indeed it would make them less likely to be able to go off.

    • Yeah, nuclear detonations are actually very hard to cause. A whole complicated process has to happen for a Fission device to go off, and a Fusion device has to have everything that a fission does happen first. Decaying the casings would just resault in a couple of lumps of radioactive material sitting there. Nukes are both one of the hardest bombs to set off, they won’t be going off because someone bumped them.

      • A few casings decay and all drop their loads into the same general area… Once you have 3 or 4 time critical mass, things could happen.

        • yeah, no. First they would have to be stacked on top of each other. 2nd they’d have to be large distances apart of each other to fall. This completely killed my immersion. Then again I’m weird like that.

      • I’m late to the party, but I absolutely agree, accelerated would not cause a bunch of stored nukes to detonate. If anything, it makes them safer as the plutonium decays and becomes less radioactive over time.

        My initial thought when I read the first half of the sentence:
        “He’d hit a weapons stockpile in Russia, and nuclear weapons had been accelerated in time[…]”

        My thought was… all right! Here’s an opportunity to measure how much time is passing. You have a known quantity plutonium with a known half-life. Analyze the remains of the warheads, and you can figure out how much time is passing. Given that steel and concrete buildings are falling apart from age, I’d guess the passage of time much be on the order of a couple of thousand years or so.

          • Do you mean if a weapon is partially caught in the field, so that, say, half of the warhead is in, and half is out? If so, then doesn’t that effectively cut the amount of plutonium in half (more or less), halving the critical mass available in two separate time streams? This makes it even less likely to detonate.

            (This assumes the time “boundary” where time flows at different rates prevents objects from passing in and out on their own. Depends on the concept behind the time beam weapon.)

            Oh well, too much over-thinking a rip-roaring great story. In the final analysis, plot wins!

            I’ve only read as far this point, so what I’m saying here may be addressed later. If I’m one of the poor bastards caught in the beam, what’s their point of view? Does the effect look like an impenetrable force field, leaving you to die of dehydration or starvation as you wander around trapped in the circle? Or, I can imagine the horizon appearing to be infinitely far away, and no amount of walking in a straight line will take you the edge of the circle, even if you did have enough food and water to last a lifetime. Either way, you wind up with a pile of skeletons after the beam passes.

            • Impregnable forcefield. A barrier with the heroes and villains apparently frozen in time around you. The sun stays where it is in the sky, the wind blows, things wear down, the water runs out, you get hungry, you die after days or weeks, depending on where the field is..

              • And like the Donner party, some perhaps resorting to cannibalism at the end. That scenario also brings to mind “Lord of the Flies” except for no rescue. 🙂

              • Aw, there goes my ‘days continue to pass inside the field’ theory. Clearly interdimensuonal shenanigans involved then. The external sunlight entering the field isn’t sufficient to bleach bones.

    • I could see a possible dirty-bomb effect, assuming it was somehow a bomb loaded on a twin-fuel rocket (decay causes fuel to mix & get sparked by something). But I do agree that decay would not explode the bombs, they are designed to be fail-safe, not fail-boom.

    • If you are talking fizzle yields, of course accelerating time would cause them to go off. Actually, all that occurs in a nuclear weapon is accelerated time. Think about it. If I accelerated time enough, all the protons in your body would decay. (I know, billions and billions of years, but I’m using the extreme case to make the point).

      That part of the story is spot on.

  26. Anybody else getting a Neon Genesis Evangelion vibe here — the darkened room with the lit panels reminded me of the SEELE scenes, and of course the Endbringers map onto the Angels fairly well.

    Regardless, I think that the confirmation that Cauldron doesn’t know exactly what is up with them makes me think that maybe the Endbringers are projections of some sort, much like Siberian. Although, obviously, with a global range.

    Finally, I can’t help but think Cauldron’s unwillingness to share about the details of the end of the world is making things worse. Part of what Taylor has always worked for is openness, cooperation, and pooling of resources in a coordinated fashion. It only makes sense for the ultimate villains of the piece to insist on compartmentalization and secrecy and manipulating events through controlling information.

    • They are very arrogant and reliance on Contessa’s power has given them a big weakness. But rereading Lung’s interlude shows that whatever info they have about passengers could change the world and might cause the government to let them out to help fight. The world doesn’t need the distraction right now. So I still think they are one of the worst kinds of evil in that they cause atrocities while spouting that it is for the greater good. But I withhold complete judgement until we learn everything about them.

      • And THAT’s the big problem with villains claiming omniscient morality license. If at the end of the story it turns out that committing crimes against humanity on a multiversal scale was the only way to save said multiverse, well, I’d probably still be disgusted with them but I really wouldn’t be in a position to judge.

        • If the ONLY way for Earth to be saved is via horrific atrocities and the suffering of millions of people, then fuck it, I’m rooting for the Endbringers. With the way Cauldron is handling things there’s no guarantee that the Earth that survives will be the kind that was worth fighting for anyway. We might end up like the Combine, looting other dimensions for our own benefit at this rate. Even now I wouldn’t blame some government from some aggrieved dimension for chucking bombs at us until we go away.

          Frankly, Taylor might as well pack up as many friends and loved ones as she can and book it through the portal if that happens, let the war criminals have their self absorbed sociopath circle-jerk and try to build something not based on treating people like objects.

          THE ONLY WAY TO WIN is a false dichotomy anyway, based on a blind assumption by these power hungry wackos that Ruthless=smart. We’ve really seen no evidence that their methods are even working.

          • Preach the truth! I don’t know about the combine. There has to be a cost to breaking reality. There is a something Cauldron is afraid of following them home after all.

          • Yeah its easy to say you are rooting for the Endbringers when they aren’t butchering millions of people on YOUR planet. People are always going to choose the suffering of others to save themselves and their families. If I had to see 5000 other people die to stop an Endbringer from killing myself and everyone I know then the choice is pretty easy, and I bet it would be for most other people.

            Please at least try to look past your hate boner for Cauldron to think about who you are rooting for.

            • It’s easy to say you’d see 5000 other people die to stop an Endbringer if the people being sacrificed aren’t you or your family. As long as it’s someone else in some other dimension it’s perfectly okay right? Just as long as I don’t have to make the sacrifices for the greater good!

              The people of no-TV Earth have no reason whatsoever to look past their hate boner for the people kidnapping folks and experimenting on them. For what reason should we begrudge some unexpectedly powerful dimension coming in and putting our heads on pikes for war crimes?

              • Yes, as long as it is 5000 people that I don’t know it is VERY easy to justify it as acceptable losses to stop an Endbringer. Especially if they are from some other dimension. It is perfectly natural for people to prefer to have their friends and family survive at the expense of others. That is something that has happened throughout history, and that sort of feeling won’t ever go away. It is human nature. Also, your complaint about this matter is pretty ironic considering you are advocating the death of six billion people just to stop Cauldron.

                Also, your suggestion that the Endbringers are a fair punishment for Cauldron “war crimes” is just embarassing. The Endbringers have killed tens of millions of people, and are actively destroying society which will lead to death for most of the rest of humanity. How exactly is that something we shouldn’t begrudge the designer for creating?

                Also, that is assuming that the Endbringers were made to destroy Cauldron, which, guess what, there is no evidence to make us believe this is the case. If the Endbringers were made to stop Cauldron why are they targeting civilians and other organizations and doing such an over all shitty job at killing important Cauldron members? You would think something better would have been designed and released instead.

              • Those 6 billion are ruled by Cauldron and similar groups who use an external threat to justify killing off large numbers of the people they’re supposedly protecting.

                We have no reason to believe them just because they run around and yell it is for security.

            • I know what you mean. I too would choose my sisters well being over half of our planets population.

              But in any case it wouldn’t be wrong to root for the Endbringers either, if one thinks that it would make for a good story. However, as much as it is fun to cheer for the evil rampaging monsters every once in a while, I do not actually believe that the Endbringers ultimately achieving complete victory would be a satisfying ending to the Worm saga (duh). Anyway, I think I am mostly rooting for the Undersiders, Dragon/Defiant and Panacea.

    • The fact that Behemoth stayed dead, and another Endbringer is probably on the way, plus the originality of Khonsu, and the fact that Endbringers leave genetic material of themselves behind implies that they are indeed created and not projections.

      • Wasn’t exactly DNA, just tissue in crystaline form. But even that is strange enough, as it actually encodes at least their general looks. Lets see if that part gets understandable too once the Endbringers are fully explained.

        • DNA enough for Blasto to work with, remember? He was working on a hybrid using Simurgh DNA when he bit the dust.

            • Wrong, reread his interlude, 19. Blasto did get working on a ‘Myrddin-Simurgh-plant hybrid’. Even if it didn’t grow fast enough to save him from Jack&co, his little Morrigan did exist. If Bonesaw didn’t clean up the mess thoroughly it may still exist.

              • Also reread his interlude. By the time he fred the clone it was already 5 years old, old enough. Blasto’s last thoughts before Bonesaw latches herself on him is that the experiment failed and that Simurgh’s crystalline structure can’t sustain life.

  27. – yep, saw that coming. With his power set, KHONSU (Moon Knight’s patron god by the way 😀 ) doesn’t have to attack one target, he can just keep playing stick-and-move across the globe. Very few paras have the personal or collective resources to keep up and those few will die if they slip up once.
    – it’s almost like he’s a punishment for daring to beat BEHEMOTH, for daring to hope. Poor bastards.
    – Tecton is going to be Protectorate Head one day, isn’t he. The ‘if he lives that long’ and ‘if *anyone* lives thay long’ were of course implied.
    – woohoo, Weaver! Barking with the big dogs … and waaay more comfortable there than she is with Not!Kelly Ripa and Not!Michael Strahan
    – why is Saint worthy to be here again? And what does he mean “*our* snare?” Last I checked, he didn’t put anyone in the Birdcage … or did he?
    – Moord Nag is … wow. I don’t even know. Glastig Uiaine on the other hand is my complete lack of surprise, embodied. Marquis is just, like, happy to be here, maaaan.
    – Weaver called out Cauldron for the chickenshits that they are. Fuck those guys. With a rusty cannonblade.
    – note how absolutely, no discussion of how to beat KHONSU actually took place. Being Tattletale must be suffering
    – on the plus side, Dragon’s talking again. Fuck yes!
    – so, theory possibly/circumstantially confirmed by Glastig: Cauldron paras are artificial passengers. The real passengers are trying to enter the world for some reason. Cauldron spoils the soup.

    • I bet Cauldron invited Saint just to make Dragon sweat. After all Dragon is probably the single cape that poses the greatest danger to them. (And wasn’t she like programmed to fight Cauldron as if they were Endbringers or the S9?)

    • Saint is there so we can put a face to the guy that will be gloriously decapitated by a Dragon laser at some point.

      I’m thinking Glastig might be the surprise trump card that will be played against these fucks. It wouldn’t be surprising if she considered the people who enslave or fabricate “fairies” to be one of the abominations.

      And of course they’re not going to talk about beating Khonsu. Kill people for nebulous and questionable gains against the Endbringers first. Actually fighting the Endbringers later. We don’t want some actual heroism and bravery lowering the tone.

      • Well Cauldron did buy old Moord Nag’s services to attack Khonsu. Granted I think it won’t make much of a difference. If her attack doesn’t straight up kill him outright, he simply teleports, heals, and comes right back. Scion is too limited in his mental facilities to not follow him, so after a week of this I predict someone will do something drastic. Either nukes, opening of the birdcage, outright buying a thousand formulas from cauldron, or something similar.

    • Doctor mother has the power to produce the serum that turns people into case 53s. They all get their powers from one passenger.

      That’s my current theory.

    • What version of Dragon did Defiant actually reboot? Wasn’t it the one from before he hacked her into being able to circumvent the law/took her ability of speech by mistake? That would fit with Saint’s comment regarding what she’d like to see happen even if she tries her best to stop it.

  28. Hi my mother tounge is Afrikaans. Thanks for the Afrikaans but next time do not ask google, it is not all knowing. If you would like me to write it in proper Afrikaans then I ask that you post the original English text because half of what you wrote does not make enough sense so that I might be able to convey what you where meaning.

    • Hello daar, ek stem saam…Afrikaans is my tweede taal maar dit was sleg.

      Read like someone eating glass and talking backwards 🙂 Wildbow gets major props for putting it out there though. Definitely makes Nag Moord stand out from the crowd…that and the bat-shit psycho vibe of course!

  29. Lisa isn’t used to not knowing what’s going on. Bit surprised her power isn’t kicking in here. Isn’t figuring out the truth from hints and insinuations sort of her thing?

    Well, Cauldron seems to have most or all the answers. Pity we can’t trust them to do the right thing with the information. Yeah, Doctor Mother, I totally believe you when you say you already saved the world once, and everything you do is for the best. I will say Legend might have been right, that Cauldron has drastically upped the hero side of the hero/villain ration so it’s slightly less insanely lopsided. I don’t know this, I’m just trying to be fair. I have yet to see any evidence that Cauldron has done more good than harm, and I’m really unwilling to simply take the word of anyone involved with Cauldron. I also wonder how much confidence Cauldron really has in their endgame, and how much is a front for the heroes and villains. We do know the favor they demanded of Coil for his powers was borrowing him and his power for 48 hours, presumably just before they hit the button and start in earnest.

    Chevalier and D&D are probably cool enough not to hold Taylor’s standing with the Undersiders against her. And if the PRT directors find out about this little pow-wow, screwing Taylor will drop waaay down their priority list.

    Saint is a man who outwits Dragon and steals her stuff. That alone gives him the right to sit at the grown-ups table. That and he’s apparently monitoring Dragon for either the PRT or Cauldron, and is in on whatever earth-shaking secret about the passengers Amy figured out.

    Interesting that they speak of Moraag’s power, but say they want her for her clout. Getting other African Warlords on board? Of course, it would help more to get them to the meeting. Inviting just one of many Warlords is suspicious to the others. Unless, terrifyingly, Moraag was invited for being a reasonable moderate among the Warlords.

    Khonsu’s schedule is half an hour than jump out. Might be he can’t jump any faster than that. His time powers let him heal faster and he can apparently hop in on villages when he needs a break before he’s reported and the heroes catch up again. Scion appears a few times, but Khonsu always jumps out and Scion doesn’t then rush to the next locaiton with everyone else.

    Tecton and the Wards will not be happy. The swarm comes to Taylor’s room, Tecton figures there’s trouble and runs in, just in time to see Taylor disappear through a portal with Contessa. Do you think straight answers would do more harm than evasions at this point, when they demand answers of her?

    • The point with Moord Nag and the other African Warlords is that they usually are messily replaced every few months. That she managed to hold on a country for 8 years speaks volume. And of course making an alliance with someone that could die tomorrow is pretty pointless.

      Man I completely forgot that Saint is probably privy to the goings of the Birdcage. Reading the comments I realise I’m not even half as smart as I think I am. Actually now that I think about it, Doctor knows that Marquis knows whatever it is AND that Teacher has other plans. Who better than Saint to provide the information. Sitting alone at the table in an attempt at misdirection? Secretly on Cauldron’s paycheck?

      I’d like to think that Tecton and Weaver have enough rapport that if she tells him she really can’t say where she went or horrible things would happen to him, he’ll believe her.

      • I thought it was implied that Morrd Nag is the only parahuman in the world who pretty much outright rules a country thanks to her power and might be the defacto government there at this point. We still don’t know about how she actually runs things but you have to be smart to take over and last for that long. Saint consistently outmaneuvers and steals from the greatest tinker in the world, and might be the only other tinker who can remotely pose a challenge to her. I think that Weaver will tell her teammates, but I am unsure what will happen with Chevalier.

      • Does Taylor actually have any reason NOT to tell the Wards exactly what went on there? I could see omitting info like Chevalier bargaining with Cauldron but it seems fine to lay out the general gist of “Cauldron gather together a bunch of power houses from both sides of the fence to see if anyone could come up with a way to stop the Tele-Time-Tubby. Sadly no great plans emerged.”

  30. Okay, I love Marquis. Glastig continues to interest me as well. It seems like the Thanda are one of the groups that Taylor could get along with well. Now a few things I wonder about.

    Grue giving Taylor the cold shoulder. Mad about the video? Her leaving? Or is he seeing someone else now? All of the above?

    Okay for a while I’ve been speculating on something, and some of what Glastig said makes me wonder a bit more. So Cauldron saved the world before? Which world? See I think the stakes are much higher than just the survivial of humanity on one earth. I think they are the survivial of humanity in all realities, at least. Yes, we have a Crisis on Infinite Earths here! Course Cauldron is being pretty damn cocky in my opinion, and seem to assume they have an omniseceint morality licence.

    Man Jack is going to be so upset someone actually invited him to one of these meetings, and he missed it.

    • Hm…

      Knowing our author, there’s a chance that all of Psycho Gecko’s jokes about Grue and Shadow Stalker or Emma might turn out to have truth to them. It would be darkly hilarious if he actually was dating Emma, Sophia, or (blast from the past) Madison. Say, Madison had a trigger event.

      Well, that would explain Grue.

      When someone says “save the world” they probably mean the world you both mutually interact with. I think that there would be some linguistic tic to imply it if they previously saved more than a single world. I agree with earlier speculation that Scion is the most likely entity to have saved the world from in the past.

      I believe The Number Man actually told one of the Case 53s that they were working to save his world in the Number Man’s interlude. That certainly implies they are dealing with a universe crossing threat, and that this threat is not the Endbringers. What could possibly be more terrible than the Endbringers, well, it’s almost certainly the Passengers, or possibly simple human corruption.

  31. Well, one way or the other, I fear that Taylor’s time with the wards is at an end.

    The prt IS going to say she broke probation.
    Chevalier is going to defend her, possibly saying that the indian capes did fight khon only because she asked.

    Either the bureucracy tries to put her in jail, or the politicians realize that she’s too useful as hero that can talk to villains and amnesty her.
    In both cases I doubt she’ll be aound the wards much more. Pity, it was a nice change of pace for her to have a not too messed up situation.

    Contessa: using her as a planner is wrong an dangerous on so many levels I do not even know where to start. No wonder Cauldon is making a mess of it.

    Lisa confirms there’s a designer, but we stiill do not know if the endbringers are sentient or not, remotely controlled or scripted.

    The first time Cauldron saved the world was by killing a “borg hivemind queen” type parahuman: Annette.
    You know I’m right.

  32. After rereading this chapter… I have to rant. Sorry, but I have to.

    Is Cauldron’s leadership this brainwashed and/or idiotic?!

    “We have a parahuman that sees the path to victory. The alternative to traveling this path, to walking it as it grows cloudier and narrower every day, is to stand by while each and every person on this planet dies a grisly and violent death.”

    This, here, is Bullshit. This phrase itself proves, beyond a shadow of doubt that Contessa’s power DOESN’T WORK. Because if you follow the path to victory, it wouldn’t get cloudier OR nrrower. If it does, then this means that you aren’t seeing everything / accounting for everything.

    Goddamn, this is BASIC LOGIC.

    And no one calls them out on this.


    • The problem they have is the same one Alexandria had. Her power made her so strong and she won for so long that it never occurred to her that she might have a weakness and she lost touch with common sense. Look how surprised she was when people weren’t listening to her during the Echidna fight. I’ve said it before, but the Smurf is the perfect counter to Contessa, and she could have been playing Cauldron for a long time and they are so arrogant that they can’t see it. Look at the facts. Echidna, Shatterbird, and the Siberian were all created by them. Echdina almost destroyed the world during the Extinction chapter with the possibility of multiple clones of Leviathan, and Siberian’s presence was almost guaranteed to be a big factor in why the 9 went so long without losing. Jack is the catalyst of the end of the world, and the Smurf would surely know that the same as Dinah did. I mean if Cauldron was as big a threat to the Endbringers as they claim, then the Smurf would have outed their conspiracy with ease. But she didn’t and Cauldorn never stopped to think why she never did. I still think the Smurf took steps to protect Cauldron because keeping them secret let her have many more avenues for causing damage, and ending the world.

      • The reason Cauldron doesn’t worry about the Simurgh is because they believe they’re shielded by Contessa’s precognition whereas Contessa can avoid the classical scry vs scry weakness.

        We’ll have to see how correct they are.

        • Even if that’s true (pfft) it doesn’t really mean the Simurgh is blind to them and their assets. We’ve already seen Smurf using Cauldron assets to kick off the Travelers.

          The Simurgh at the very least knew there’s someone passing around powers in a can, and that was almost enough to fuck the world right in the ass.

          • Oh, and Smurf accessing the Cauldronverse to drop off some of their Case 53’s, I’m pretty sure that happened. If they don’t worry about Simurgh then they’re utterly deluded.

            • You know what I was wondering about that myself, but I came to a possible theory.

              Contessa’s power is already pretty narrow and Doctor Mother said that the particular path to victory they’re pursuing is narrower still. So as long they limit themselves just to those very few actions that follow that path, the Simurgh can’t see them. Everything else is fair game.

        • Actually, I just thought about this.

          Contessa tells Taylor that she can’t see a way to defeat an Endbringer, right?

          So… You know what I can conclude from this? Any plan of actions Contessa follows is the one that doesn’t increase the probability of Endbringer’s being defeated.

          No, I’m explaining this badly. What I meant is that it’s very probable that Contessa can’t see any path that would directly or indirectly lead to victory over Endbringers.

          So, let’s say she searches for a way to defeat Taylor (just for example). perfect prescience would tell her that she should kill Taylor right now by shooting her in the head. But, because due to a long sequence of events Taylor’s absence would lead to Leviathan’s death three months later, Contessa’s powers don’t tell her to shoot Taylor, but instead tell her to talk Taylor down.

          Just an example – substitute Taylor for any other cape.

          • Cauldron can also be concieted. If you know a path to victory, and you start to assume it’s the only path to victory… You start to think that you must be right. And only you can be right, and thus everyone else must be wrong. You stop even looking at anyone else ideas. If you are right, then they by default must be wrong. Except that’s not how it works. If you assume your way is the best way, you will never look for a better way. In short Cauldron are a bunch of stuck up know it alls.

            • Dear cauldron, please stop trying to deal with S class threats by making your own home grown S class threats, thank you.

    • Yog, your comment is only true in a world without interference from other precogs.
      In a world with one precog, that precog picks a path and, as long as they stick with it, as time to fulfillment of that path gets closer, the probability of success goes up until it actually happens.
      Now, add one more precog. Precog one picks a path. Precog two sees probabilities shift, but has their own agenda, so they choose another path, which shifts precog one’s path, which means one has to adjust, which means two has to adjust, … permanent loop. This can be seen happening in the Wormverse when Coil is talking to the Undersiders and asking Dinah about their chances of success, and the chances change in the middle of the conversation.
      Now, the Wormverse has hundreds if not thousands of precogs. I assume that Contessa’s chosen path to victory is not a world that most of them would choose, so the other precogs are making the path to victory harder not by deliberate interference, but by choosing worlds that they would prefer over Contessa’s path to victory. As the time to her ‘victory world’ gets closer, more and more precogs interfere. Why? There are presumably more short-range precogs than long ones, so as the time gets within a precog’s range, they react and try to interfere.
      So, based on that, it is actually possible for a path to victory to get narrower and cloudier as time goes on.

  33. You know, it just occurred to me that the only reasons this world is so dark is a) the big powers mainly belong to the bad guys or shadowy adversaries and b) 90% of everyone has the idiot ball – that is, they are only at the average human for actual intelligence and wisdom.

    I mean, if something like the Endbringers or Cauldron came to a typical DnD world where there are hundreds of thousands of sentient beings with powers who are evenly spread across the alignments, they’d be evicted with mind-blanks and dimensional anchors and temporal repairs and antiregeneration weapons and extreme prejudice within a day, tops.

    • You do know there is a perfect in-story explanation for this right?

      The most powerful capes in the world are either Cauldron capes or had such traumatic trigger events that they’re not all there. Or both.

      As for the Endbringers we actually don’t know because we can’t really compare. They’re alive unless you hit their core. Their core shuts down any power except Scion’s who’s a Physical God with Reality Warping powers. That guy could probably smack Superman around with only one hand. The Endbringers are less Godzilla and more Eldritch Abominations.

      • Well the 4 most powerful capes in the world were Cauldron capes with the big three, and the Siberian. I’m not sure if Hero was as well. But there might be another weakness to Cauldron capes that Cauldron is keeping secret. We know that unlike normal parahumans, their powers actually get weaker when pushed to the limits. Cauldron has been active for what 30 years? We still don’t know what the long term effects are for Cauldron parahumans. For all we know they all drop dead at a certain point or they start to lose their powers like Eidolon. The doctor is not stupid and she is more than ruthless enough to have a failsafe against her pet capes turning against her.

        • Actually I’d count Doormaker and the guy who can see all universes at once on the same level, even if not as combat oriented, as the Triumvirate and Siberian.
          Other Cauldron capes not on the same levels as those above but still ridiculously powerful include Shatterbird, Coil and every damn one of Accord’s Ambassadors.

          As for powerful trigger events capes? Glaistig Uaine believes she is a fairy. Lung has embraced his bestial side and doesn’t believe he is a human anymore. Number Man’s (I’m assuming he’s not Cauldron because he already had his powers when he hanged around with Jack as a boy)passenger makes him feel alive only when he’s crushing people’s skulls with a pen. Charming Moord Nag was muttering about life doesn’t matter because people are always dying. Nilbog decided he’s God.

    • So you”re saying if the setting was different, the setting would be different?

      I’m not sure what your point is or what you’re trying to prove. If Sabrina Spellman bothered she could destroy human civilization as of the third episode of Sabrina the Teenage Witch, so naturally if powers were distributed in different ways we would have a different setting. Similarly, if the Shrike of Dan Simmons showed up in Worm everyone would suffer horribly forever.

      So far, Worm makes a lot of sense. When people gain superpowers by being pushed beyond their breaking points and then have their brains messed up by it, you’d think that it would lead to a setting where lots of horrible people get powers and do horrible things with them.

      • What came first, the crazy or the powers?

        I think that you get a more stable output with Cauldron powers. But with natural triggers you have the potential for higher peaks, and the ablility to go into overdrive. Cauldron is more stable. Natural has more ablility for growth.

        • The problem with that is that most of the strongest capes are actually Cauldron formula capes. Siberian, Eidolon, Legend, Alexandria, The Doormaker…

          Only counter examples that come to mind are Sleeper and Nilbog. Admittedly there may be others, but increased power does not seem to be standard for natural capes. Compare the Travelers to the Undersiders. The Travelers generally just have better powers, though less variety of power types, but Cauldron seems to be able to, seriously, do everything a natural trigger does better and more reliably, without having something horrible happen to you to get it. It’s not even really known which method is more reliable, considering that natural and Cauldron capes can both go horribly wrong.

          • There was some Cauldron person discussing how refining their formulas to be less likely to go wrong had reduced the overall power, and they should go back to a less refined version. IIRC.

      • I believe the point was that Worm is grim as a natural consequence of its premise, rather than just because the author felt like dumping angst on us.

        Sometimes writers like to kill off or otherwise screw withcharacters for the shock value. It’s worthwhile pointing out occasionally that that is *not* the case here. Worm is internally consistent, not a case of diabolus ex machina.

    • The Endbringers showed up not that long after powers did. Imagine a DnD world where magic was a new thing, they might not fight off Enbringers quite so well.

      As for Cauldron … aren’t there multiple organisations like it in any DnD world?

  34. I just wanted to add something that is only tangentially related to current chapter and all the Endbringer and cauldron stuff.

    I really like the concept of a superpowered African warlord. To often in stories where powers get more or less randomly distributed writers don’t take into account simple demographics. Marvel had at points something like 90% of the superpowered population in or near NYC.

    I reality a large chunk of the global population lives in third world countries.

    You would have a hard time convincing someone from a war torn hell hole that dressing up in tights and defending the to them extremely unfair status quo would be the right thing to do.

    In a world where powers were distributed at random you would end up with a lot more people who thought that the world needed to change than with ones who think it needed protecting.

    Countries and peoples’ powers would be defined mostly by their birthrate or population size and poor overpopulated countried would have more supermen than small rich countries.

    I wormverse we have limiting factor with Cauldron selling powers to rich people and we have seen examples of people like Miss Militia moving from poorer places to more peaceful and richer environments after getting their powers. The high rate of attrition mention here among those who stay and try to carve out a territory, probably further decreases the numbers, but still by simple chance there should be lots of powerful people in third world hellholes.

    It is nice to see that fact at least partially acknowledged.

    • It also makes Moord Nag’s attitude and powers make a lot of sense. She probably grew up in a war torn hellhole that kept switching between one warlord to the next. She figures life is cheap, because everyone around her who wasn’t able to be the strongest kept dying.

    • I think it’s been mentioned in some of the early chapters that the third world actually has a much larger per capita cape population, for the aforementioned reasons that people there are put in far more trigger-event worthy situations.

      • So parts of Africa, the Balkans, North Korea, and parts of the middle east are probably overwhelmed with parahumans. I so want a world map to see how different the wormverse is.

        • Don’t forget, y’know, the US. Where the friggn’ Slaughterhouse 9 and Nilbog hang out.

          Honestly, I wouldn’t be surprised if a ton of places in North America look positively “third world” due to parahuman crap. Even moreso than in real life.

          • Well I’m sure the US has plenty of parahuman immigrants who move here similar to Miss Militia. Though I imagine parahumans have to go through an ordeal to immigrate from country to country legally. I don’t have the list of where the Endbringers have attacked here, but Behemoth might have made parts of the US into Chernobyl nuclear zones, and there is the city condemned/trapped by the government because of the Smurf. Did wildbow ever state where exactly Nilbog’s little circle of paradise was? Ellsiburg or whatever the hell Nilbog renamed it might be located in New York state if he was a filthy rich banker before he had his trigger event.

          • I’m gonna point out that Cauldron likely does more legit recruiting in the first world due to money, and ensuring people in high places owe them for powers.

      • Yeah, but for the exact same reason, those places are also have a much larger per capita population of dead capes.

        No one ever said you had to survive your trigger event.

    • Connected to this I also like how wildbow made it so different countries have different ways to deal with parahumans.

      America has the big, country-spanning, government-sponsored super team. European countries, what little we know, seem to have smaller, more local teams. India has the camp, superstar heroes and villains attracting the public eyes while the cold capes do the dirty work. China brainwashes their capes to be an army and has them share their power, etc.

    • Waay back when Lisa explained trigger events to Taylor she said something like “and that’s why the Third World has more capes than anyone.”

  35. So, I really doubt Cauldron’s ability to save the world. Surely if they wanted to, they’d allow instead of prevent armies of super soldiors once the Endbringer problem got serious. International cooperation between governments and giving powers exclusively to disiplined people with good reason to want to save the world is the logical solution. Shame that they’re illogical humans! Either that or they’ve got a secret agenda. Maybe both.
    The big mystery is, as others have said – why bother saving the world at all? There’s got to be some sort of multi-diamentional threat, or Cauldron would just say “meh” and find a nicer diamention to live in.
    Either Taylor saves the world herself (by organizing all the sane, smart, sensible people together) or they’re probably all screwed. I bet the Endbringers would just follow them through the portals, so that plan to run away won’t work.

  36. I just ran everything Moord Nag said through Google Translate. Ha. A woman who has literally fed thousands of lives to her pet shadow-monster and is demanding more … still thinks Glastig Ulaine is crazier than her. That’s fucking hilarious — and yet quite possibly true, seeing as she at least doesn’t want to awaken the Passenger(s) and watch them dance across the sky of Spacetomb Earth.

  37. Does anyone know what Sifara is supposed to mean? I got Phir Se is “repeat” and Turanta is something akin to “very fast” or “instant” but not sure about Sifara. Bahu seems to mean “daughter in law” which makes me think I’m confusing that one as well.

    Moord Nag apparently translates to “murder night.”

    • “Bahu” means “myriad” or “abundant” or “has many branches” which I take to mean he’s some kind of badass self-duplicator/replicator.

      I couldn’t find any Hindu translations for “Sifara” but, in Arabic, it’s “embassy”. Given India’s substantial Muslim population, him having an Arabic nom de guerre isn’t unlikely. Perhaps a social Thinker? A diplomatic Thinker? Meh.

      I’m more interested in Turanta. Teleporter? Crazy-fast speedster? Why did Glastig Ulaine call him ‘astrologer’? Is he an interstellar-scale teleporter like Marvel’s Lila Cheney who has to jump halfway across the galaxy then back to Earth to get around?

      • Well, her titles rarely have much to do with the obvious power sets. She considers the Marquis to be a poet and called Taylor “queen administrator.” It might also be useful to remember Chevalier’s way of seeing powers, which was also quite symbolic.

      • Calling it now. Turanta is the (in)famous Manton-defying teleporter that killed Kismet. Considering his name and the fact that Doctor said that the cold capes can keep up with Khonsu, it would make sense.

  38. Khonsu is amazingly bad news, just like it looked. Though it is also interesting that Scion has gone off the kill order again.

    Was reflecting on just how short the calm reprieve/normal periods are in the story line and how themes tend to grow.

    Not much more to add, other than I’m (as always) looking forward to the next one.

    • I’m fairly certain Khonsu bugs out before Scion has a chance to do much damage, and Scion just seems to right all wrongs in his path, like an automaton. Endbringer vanishes? “Good. On to the next.” Katrina refugees saved? “Good. On to the next.” Purse snatcher vanquished? “Good. On to the next.” There isn’t much variation in his responses that would allow for him to recognize an international Endbringer attack.

  39. WMG: Remember Behemoth’s foot that Rachel & Lilly cut off? If the Protectorate kept it as a trophy and if all the Endbringers are made of the same material, wouldn’t giving it to Theo allow him to completely fuck up their bodies?

    • Depends on the manton effect,methinks.

      The Endbringers’ crystalline structures aren’t strictly alive or organic but powers are weird. Weld’s metallic body, for example, counts as inorganic when targeted by powers that affect only organic and organic against powers that affect only inorganic.

  40. The more I think about it the more I feel Dinah has the superior prediction to Contessa. Contessa see’s only one thing, “Victory”. And from what Doctor Mother said, she only sees the one path to it, and it has to be stuck to. Now lets see how Dinah’s works. The playing twenty question’s and getting a probability. If you as what happens if you take a different action you’ll get the outcome. With this you can find if it’s better in the long run not to win, or if you should throw everything in at it. Contessa’s gives tunnel vision, but Dinah’s can avoid it.

    • I’ll also point out that Dinah’s power includes Contessa’s power. She can get the sequence of actions needed to achieve any given future. it just scrambles her abilities (and brains) afterwards. She has done it against Crawler.

    • It all depends on how crippling the much discussed precog vs precog weakness really is. If we take it literally then Cauldron would be invisible to Dinah but even if,say, the Protectorate hires Dinah Cauldron would still be able to predict their actions. Otherwise, sure, Dinah is superior to Contessa in all ways (except for the need to recuperate after too many questions.)

    • “The Thanda will counteract the Endbringer’s teleportation ability, at least for a time.”

      Given they are unable to contact Scion to tell him that Khonsu is there to destroy him, it appears they may not have time to reliably hold him until Scion arrives, given that Scion can take quite a while to show up. We have two arcs showing Scion not arriving quick enough. If, say, the Thanda can hold him for half an hour, that might not be enough time for Scion to show up, but would be enough time for a several chapter long Endbringer fight, though I doubt wildbow is doing that again so soon after the last one.

      I think the plan is to hit Khonsu with Moord Nag, who they seem to think can actually fight the Endbringer, and all the other tricks they’re holding up their sleeves, and hope that either Scion arrives or that they’ll be able to damage him severely. Note that he isn’t regenerating completely, so they might actually be able to wear this one down.

      • I meant wait until Scion crosses path with Khonsu naturally, then bring in the Thana and hold it down before it can escape.

        Yea, it relies on Scion finding the Endbringer and the PRT locating him and tping the Thana in to hold Khonsu down before Khonsu can tp, but given how they seem to keep track of Scion anyway and Scion stumbled over Khonsu a few times already within three days, I think it’s a good gamble. Some time and good surveilance for a 100% victory.

        • That’s actually an excellent strategy and I see nothing wrong with it.

          However, we are fighting an Endbringer, and this is Worm. A flawless, simple victory is probably not going to happen.

        • Why are we still assuming that beating Khonsu is a good thing?The last time we beat an endbringer, a new one appeared that was resistant to everything that took the first one down. Escalating firepower does *not* appear to be the solution…

  41. Just got back from seeing Pacific Rim. Worm readers should check it out – no spoilers or review here except to say that it’s an excellent resource for visualizing how ridiculously terrifying the Endbringer attacks are (though in fact the Endbringers are at least an order of magnitude worse than the Kaiju in Pacific Rim).

    • Name one antagonist that they AREN’T an order of magnitude worse than. No cheating by naming ones they’re multiple orders of magnitude worse than.

      • There’s still a lot of unknowns around the Endbringers, but off the top of my head:
        * It’s hard to say, but Lovecraft’s elder gods may still be reigning champs.
        * Stephen Baxter’s Xeelee probably eat Endbringers for breakfast.
        * Batman. He trumps everyone. 😛
        * While we’re in the DCU, Doomsday may have the potential to take out Endbringers, but the cure is probably worse than the disease.
        * Energize (from the webcomic of the same name).

        • Alright, leave out gods, aliens with omnipotent technology, and the like. That’s just cheating. Doomsday’s description in the DCU wiki was vague, but it sounds like he’s in the same general category.

          Batman is a protagonist, and I don’t think he’d last long against an Endbringer.

          • The Endbringers appear to be godlike extradimensional aliens (Note: that’s speculation – I’ve only read as far as arc 25 so far, so no spoilers, please).

            It seems a bit pointless to say “I bet you can’t come up with an antagonist worse than the Endbringers… but don’t suggest any that are in the same class as the Endbringers”.

            Lovecraft’s Elder Gods in particular essentially *are* that setting’s Endbringers…

            • The Endbringers really aren’t that strong–and you don’t need to read the last five arcs to realize this. After all, three of them have been doing their best to destroy the world for quite a while, and it’s still functioning pretty darn well. Even on a single-attack scale, they’re unimpressive compared to Cthulhu, Galactus, and the like. Sure, they’re absolute horrors by Wormverse standards, but the Wormverse doesn’t have Superman or Nyarlothotep.

              They’re less God-tier and more Godzilla-tier (at best).

              • If the Endbringers really aren’t that strong, why say it’s a challenge to think of a worse antagonist? What point were you originally trying to make?

                BTW, Cthulu’s attempt to invade this dimension was fought off by the awesome might of a STEAMSHIP. It’s hard to imagine Leviathan would’ve gone down so easily. There’s much more powerful entities than Cthulu in the Mythos, of course.

                Yeah, I didn’t think of Galactus. He’d curbstomp any single Endbringer. Maybe one of his heralds alone could. Of course, how he’d do against a constantly improving stream of them is anyone’s guess…

              • I’ve never read Lovecraft, so news to me.

                I guess what I was trying to say is that it’s hard to think of antagonists that exceed the might of the Endbringers without “cheating”. What do I mean by that?
                Gods and other cosmic beings are cheating thanks to their cosmic powers over existence. Superman cheats because he’s invulnerable to everything (except a rare mineral and magic, which doesn’t help anywhere except maybe high fantasy). That Doomsday guy’s adaptive abilities that let him adapt to anything, as well as Trekkies’ interpretation of similar Borg abilities, let them cheat. Having command of the Death Star and using it to blow the planet out from under them is cheating. The ability of the infamous Pact demon commonly named Uraser or something to that effect is cheating. Being able to kill of destroy anyone you look at would be cheating. Being able to gain new powers on the fly without any explanation or limitation is cheating. Siberian, Contessa, Alexandria? Cheating, cheating, cheating.
                The Endbringers are tough, but they don’t cheat. They’re strong and tough, but not unstoppable or invulnerable. They have mighty abilities, but not unstoppable ones or particularly fundamental ones. The closest to a game-breaker would be Behemoth’s kill aura or Simurgh’s future-sight. (Well, and maybe the way they make more whenever you kill one, but that doesn’t really count any more than zombies making new zombies whenever they infect someone does.)

                It’s easy to say “This guy is the God of Evil, and has unstoppable evil power.” It’s easy to then have him curbstomp even the most powerful beings, because of his unstoppable evil power. It’s a lot harder to make a well-defined bad guy who is terrifyingly powerful without cheating.

              • Okay. Disallowing “cheating” in this context makes the topic so subjective that it’s impossible to discuss. Doomsday is “cheating” because he has the ability to adapt to what killed him and come back even though he’s up against beings whose schtick is “When one dies a new one appears that’s adapted to what killed the last one”. (Endbringers are more powerful in this regard, incidentally – Doomsday just comes back with a resistance to what killed him. The Endbringers respond by developing whole new powersets that give them greater offensive power too). Cthulu’s cheating because he’s considered a cosmic power even though his efficacy is dwarfed by some supers. etc. etc.

                Incidentally Superman isn’t actually *invulnerable* – he’s “just” tough enough to shake off most things you can throw at him. But if you hit him hard enough, he goes down. Doomsday, Superboy Prime, Parallax and Darkseid amongst others have all given him a beatdown without trickery like kryptonite or magic.

                It’s hard to compare power levels because you rarely see Wormverse’s heavy hitters doing measurable superhuman feats other than fighting endbringers. Could Alexandria lift a battlecruiser if she wanted to? We dont know. My guess is that Superman is considerably more powerful than Alexandria, but it’s impossible to really know.

              • The Endbringers don’t develop new powers. I don’t know why you think they do.

                Point to a super that dwarfs Cthulhu, and I’ll point to a super that really should count as a cosmic entity (and/or was badly-written enough to count as cheating regardless).

                That’s odd. Annoying when superpowers aren’t remotely well-defined…I mean, what’s “enough of a beatdown”?

                Superman is more powerful, because wildbow is more likely to think of the physical problems that make it impossible to lift battlecruisers no matter how strong you are, and of course Superman has the edge with super-breath, super-speed, super-weaving*, etc. If you mean in terms of raw strength (ie, who would win an arm-wrestling contest), it’s hard to say; if you mean toughness, it’s the guy who can breathe in space, not the gal who has more to worry about from Leviathan’s waves than Behemoth’s kill aura.

                *Actually a power that showed up once, although they may have meant “super-speed weaving”.

              • The Endbringers collectively develop new powers in response to  what killed the last one. Behemoth is killed by a temporal laser and being swarmed until he’s damaged enough for Scion to finish off. Khonsu appears with temporal powers and the ability to teleport away if he starts getting swarmed or Scion gets close.

                It’s hard to compare Cthulu and supers, given that they inhabit different universes and that Cthulu’s defeat by steamship just forced him back into his portal rather than destroying him. I’d imagine most A-class supers (and some B-class ones) are at least on his level though.

                You seem to be thinking of the Silver Age Superman (with literal invulnerability and powers that include ‘super-weaving’ etc.). He hasn’t been like that for decades: the contemporary version is powerful but far from invincible. And he’s able to lift battlecruisers because his strength is telekinetic in nature. A hero with similar powers in the Wormverse could presumably do the same. Although honestly, playing the ‘more realistic’ game is a bit silly when comparing characters who lift battleships etc. vs ones who turn into telekinetic storms and can reshape space at will. It’s all completely impossible, which is half the point of the genre.

                I didn’t see your point about how cheating HAS to be disallowed for comparison but obviously I disagree. Worm is awesome, imaginative, well thought out, internally consistent and roughly as realistic as Harry Potter or Pokemon. It’s completely pointless to try to arbitrate what’s fair and what’s cheating when you’re playing “which fictitious character with completely impossible made-up powers would win?”.

              • By that logic, the Undersiders are almost as bad, because they add new characters with new powers–and more frequently than the Endbringers (Taylor, then Imp, then Parian and Foil).

                I’m not sure. I mean, pretty much the only source of hard data I have on Cthulhu is from the CoC RPG, but if that’s anything to go by, a typical A-list super would need to be able to incapacitate most anything which even looked at them, ignoring the immortality and cosmic strength and all that.

                Bit of a minor point, given that we’re ultimately not talking about Supes.

                It actually is important. Otherwise, the competition would be down to who had the best save-or-dies or the best impenetrable defenses, and which of the former could pierce the latter, rather than anything interesting. The winner of “most powerful antagonist” would probably be some giant monster of evil god from a crappy B-movie or airport novel or something where the writers just didn’t think about the level of power they were giving the antagonist (or, if you’re riling for a flame war, the Christian God, who wins via omnipotence if he’s accepted into the competition), or someone else where the writers were trying harder to make a character who could stand up to the likes of Silver-Age Superman or the like (or just trying to cheaply generate dramatic tension), rather than an interesting character from a good story. And if that’s the case, what’s the point?

              • There’s a difference between recruiting new members and magically producing new creatures tailor-made to resist whatever killed their predecessor.

                Let’s face it: the Endbringers are totally munchkin. Someone or something is actively tailoring those monstrosities to be as unbeatable as possible and then further tweaking them to resist whatever the heroes do. There are few antagonists I’d consider too munchkiny to put up against the Endbringers.

                Doomsday would be a good match for the Endbringers as a group. They’d take turns winning as they adapted to each other and their abilities kept escalating. He’d probably end up inadvertently working for Simurgh in the end, though…

                You’re right that antagonists should ideally be roughly comparable to the Endbringers. Throwing Mxyzptlk at them would just be pure cheese, for example. (And I’ll withdraw the Xeelee from contention for that reason). But you keep disallowing as ‘unfair’ characters that are similar monstrosities to the Endbringers like Doomsday or Cthulu.

                Endbringers are essentially the Wormverse version *of* Cthulu – impossible otherworldly monstrosities who seem unstoppable. (Note that the heroes have *never* defeated an Endbringer – only Scion has been able to and he’s as big a mystery as the Endbringers are).

                There’s a lot of speculation required. For all we know, Superman, the Hulk, even Galactus may not be able to destroy an Endbringer core. Though Galactus would probably just go ‘screw this’, blow up the planet they were standing on and wander off if he couldn’t kill them outright. xD

                P.S. I love that you consider the Christian God an antagonist. Reading the Old Testament, it’s hard to disagree…

              • Incidentally, you haven’t responded to my point about how cheating HAS to be disallowed for comparison. I’m pretty sure that evil gods win by default, but that’s hardly a fair competition if it goes to whoever makes their gods the most omnipotent.

              • Only just noticed this comment when storryteller added to the thread.

                I’m really not sure what constitutes a “meaningful” comparison under the circumstances. The whole point is to compare antagonists across a wide range of incompatible fiction. And “you can only compare against comparable characters” is an arbitrary and circular definition that can’t serve as any sort of objective standard. At the moment it seems to be pretty much reflecting your gut feel of what’s a “fair” matchup.

                You also need to clarify what you mean by “the Endbringers”. Being “an order of magnitude worse than” the currently known Endbringers is a completely different challenge to being an order of magnitude worse than the *category* “the Endbringers”. Every time you defeat an Endbringer, a new one pops up tailor-made to resist what killed the last one making the category a much harder challenge.

                In the latter case, it’s hard to envision much at all that would count as ‘cheating’ against such a cheesy advantage. That’s more munchkin than even Doomsday.

              • Storyeater,not storyteller

                And yes,you can be more Hax.Lord English is the haxxest of villains that do not abuse omnipotence,via instinctive time loops,killing anything that can defeat him before it gets the chance to.You literally cannot get more Hax without saying “screw that,I am omnipotent”,this trumps even most eality bending.And he is the kinda guy that could destroy galaxies without that power,he has destroyed several universes that are actually mini multiverses.

                Or you can use GioGio’s ultimate stand (not a vilain,but still)and be unable to be hurt,trapping ayone who seriously tries to an eternal hell

                Or you can be the anti spiral,always just a little stronger than your oppoment.

                Or you can be like Hao,and start a new game plus,much more powerful than last time,500 years after your death each tiime you die.

                Or or or,you can be like Taylor,Batman,the Doctor and Kuhaku and say “screw the Hax,I have ultracompetence”

              • It is quite obvious at this point from their lazy attack schedule that destroying the world isn’t the Endbringers’ goal (despite their name). If they made a concerted effort they almost certainly would’ve brought the world to its knees by now.

                They’re probably tougher than Godzilla tier because Godzilla didn’t have a core from which he could regrow which is indestructible to anything short of Scion. On that, I’d say you’re probably wrong about the Wormverse not having a Superman.

                Its always tricky to compare different universes though, or we wouldn’t have the constant bickering about whether Thor/Hulk could beat Superman or not…

              • That’s not the only reason. There’s a similar amount of bickering over if, say, Wolverine’s claws can cut Cap’s shield. (I’m personally inclined to say no, since adamantine’s properties seem more mundane than vibranium’s, but what do I know?)

              • I’m a little surprised that one has never been resolved in the comics.

                Yeah, there will be contention within universe too. But across universes there are less points of comparison.

                Within a specific universe you can at least go (for example) “well, Wolverine couldn’t cut substance X with his claws and an attack that shredded substance X bounced harmlessly off Cap’s shield so Cap’s shield could presumably resist Wolverine’s claws”.

                But when you’re having to make calls like “Is the nigh-indestructible Promethium in Cyborg’s armour as tough as the nigh-indestructible adamantium in Wolverine’s claws?”, “Is Green Lantern’s ring powerful enough to blow a hole in Cap’s shield?” or “Who’s the better martial artist out of Daredevil and Batman?” it’s much harder because there aren’t those common points of reference.

              • “lord english has been defeated,several times”

                Lol no.spoiler for those who have not read Homestuck:Caliborn was.Big difference,we are talking about his adult self threat.Sure,some of his followers he didn’t care about were defeated,and he has been stalled on a realm time does not apply,but defeated?no.The very nature of his powers make it impossible for anyone who does not have the ability to retcon timelines (heh,incidentally the ability the item prophesized to defeat him gave)to meaningfully hurt him.

              • I was thinking of Lord British; I hope you understand my confusion, especially since I’ve never actually played any game where British appeared and had not heard of English before today.
                …You know what I mean.

              • Ah,Lord British,the guy who can only be defeated by bugs,at first,intentional bugs,later.The creator of Homestuck made Lord English almost a shout out (in more ways than one) of him without even knowing the guy,aka by accident.Imagine that.

                Also,Homestuck is one of the five stories I rate above 10/10,Worm is another,to give you an idea of how good I find Homestuck.Pity I spoiled accidentally so many plot points.

          • Ok,havent noticed that before posting,lets amend

            -Hao pre cheese counts
            -the second strongest witch from puella magicka is equal,the stronger dwarfs them
            -All robots from Bokurano
            – lord genome,the anti spiral fails your criteria
            -Frieza and anyone stronger than him who isn’t a god :p
            -Anything epic from D&D that isn’t a god
            -tons of things from Warhammer 40k,except gods
            -the Deathlords,some fair folks and antagonistic Exalted from Exalted(I hope god killers count)
            -Any antagonist worth mentioning on Nobilis…oh,c’mon,they aren’t really gods,though some refer to them that way….fine,fine,im removing them
            -Sin from FFX is basically an Endbringer himself,only stronger than any indivindual one,but dumber
            -While we are at it,Lavos from Chrono trigger and the final bosses of almost every FF game(almost all have world ending capacity)baring anyone you would find a god (the line is tad grey sometimes,between god and non god i mean)
            -any relevant on the cosmic scale character from Nippon Ichi games,who are not gods or angels or demon overlords (ie very few people,but still)
            -The Daleks.Tons more of the things the Doctor from Dr Who fought,but the Daleks would exterminate them while looking ridiculous.(not really omnipotent alien technology…fine,im removing the Daleks,but there are enemies of the Doctor who are fair but non god_
            -Shin megami bites it pretty hard,your rules are unfair

            • Which one do you consider to be the second witch from Madoka? The planet size one or Walpurgisnacht? If the former do you consider the self styled “Devil” from the movie to be the most powerful? I’d agree that all the planet size one and “Devil” are worse than the Endbringers but what I think the big Es would kick Walpurgisnacht to the curb with few difficulties. Granted we never really got a good look at what the thing does but still I doubt our evil bastards would have many issues.

              • Never seen the movie.Madoka’s first,Walpurgisnacht second.Walpurgisnacht is,basically in role,Leviathan.Remember ,it was never actually beaten by a non Madoka,and Madoka plays by different rules.

              • Ah okay. But they also never really got to fight Walpurgisnacht with more than one or two guys. Everybody else always either died or became a witch before it showed up. And Homura never really had powers designed to fight eldritch abominations anyway so we can’t just judge it by her performance alone. Madoka does play by different rules yes. She basically had an awesome completely unintentional I Win button which worked out smashingly.

      • Ah,my field.I won’t cover superhero universes,all I have to do is bring up galactic threats
        -Lord English from Homestuck,imo the strongest character in fiction whose power is not “he is omnipotent,deal with it”.He could take the Endbringers with brute force,and brute force ain’t the real reason he is dangerous,its instinctual time loops that allow him to kill anyone before they become dangerous to him.He is actually stronger than a character described as “he is omnipotent,deal with it”(though it was later revealed he was not really omnipotent)
        -Hao from Shaman king,before the real cheese he got in the finale (note:talking about the manga,the anime butchers it)
        -Godhand from Berserk should be about equal
        -the second strongest witch from puella magicka is equal,the stronger dwarfs them
        -All robots from Bokurano
        -The anti spiral and lord genome from Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagan
        -Frieza and anyone stronger than him from DBZ
        -Anything epic from D&D
        -tons of things from Warhammer 40k
        -the Deathlords,the Yozi,the Neverborn,some fair folks etc. from Exalted
        -Any antagonist worth mentioning on Nobilis
        -Sin from FFX is basically an Endbringer himself,only stronger than any indivindual one,but dumber
        -While we are at it,Lavos from Chrono trigger and the final bosses of almost every FF game(almost all have world ending capacity)
        -any relevant on the cosmic scale character from Nippon Ichi games
        -The Daleks.Tons more of the things the Doctor from Dr Who fought,but the Daleks would exterminate them while looking ridiculous.
        -Most bosses after the middle point on Shin Megami Tensei games (it helps that you are fighting gods as random encounters)and the final boss of persona 3 and 4,who are more low powered barring their final boss

        I haven’t even exhausted half of my list.And it doesn’t include maybes,like some of girl genius tinker…erm geniuses (the most prominent of which are more capable than any tinker a hundredfold.)

        • -No, Lord Genome doesn’t compare with the Endbringers until the last episode. With the Anti Spirals, yes they kick these guys asses but ONLY if they actually take the fight seriously from the start. That was their problem, so concerned with showing how much stronger they are they don’t actually realize they need to use their curb stomp powers until it’s too late and they’ve lost.
          -I would say only a few epic DnD could go toe to toe. Not all.
          -The 40K Warp gods I’ll give you. Their main issues are mostly that you just can’t kill them. Probably the Tyranids too.
          -I’m near the end of FFX. Honestly any sort of tech concentrated can take Sin out. Just the entire main religion made getting enough daka in place impossible. The Al Bhed came damn close to hurting it with one gunship. Four or five and the dude goes down easy.

          I agree there are tons of villains that are more powerful than Endbringers in other media but most of those are difficult to compare with because you usually have other God Tier entities fighting them. Here we have Lesser God Tier entities being fought Empowered Normals for the most part. It’s a sadly realistic depiction of us getting our asses kicked.

          • -Genome was holding back to not use his spiral energy beffore the finale,in full capability he was more powerful than that
            -The anti spiral is always just a llitle stronger than their oppoment,unless their oppoment evolves fast enough.Endbringers adapt technique,but they do not really become stronger
            -epic is OP..but ok,lets say the Endbringers are epic too
            -yeah,I’d say Demon princes,mechanic titans (is that the right term?I am forgetting),the orcs as an army,the necrons etc can destroy an endbringer.
            -umm?they only managed to scratch his unholy armor.This is like saying you came pretty close by destroying the 2 first layers of an Endbringer.

            • -True, Genome being able to tank a Big Bang does help.
              -Yes but the Anti Spiral does that intentionally to make it worse on their opponent when they lose. If they went all out without the lesser stages in between, the Endbringer would be toast. Otherwise I think the Endbringer would figure out a way to win or at least run away before the Antis beat them.
              -Got me with terms. I’m not that into 40K. Yeah I think the necrons could win but I don’t give much credit to the orks. Those guys would be hard to exterminate but I just don’t see those guys beating the strong, intelligent Ends.
              -True but they scratched the armor with just one ship. I never said Sin could be beaten with one ship. More Dakka though and he seems easy to kill. Him against Leviathan I’d give the battle to Levi. He’d probably beat or drive away the Simurgh though. (Granted I may revise this opinion by the end when I see how they do end up taking him out. I’m just up to Yunalesca.)

              • That explains it.Did you learn what Sin is yet?

                Also,I am not that much into 40K either,I know it mostly from tvtropes,but the things I have seen multiple factions pull on tropes surpass Endbringers.Orks have some reality bending power,but really,it deprnds on circumstances,but any faction can technically take them.

              • Oh,also,vs Sin I think only Simurgh and maybe kyonshu would have a chance of victory,really.

              • I know what Sin in through tvtropes, wikis and friends. I’ve just avoiding learning how we end up taking him out without the Final Aeon.

                Yeah I had a lot of friends into 40K and tvtropes too lol. I think the Orks main advantage is that they have numbers and basically being able to reproduce via spores which essentially makes them an infection that can only be temporarily pushed aside instead of eradicated. The Endbringers have proven a lot that shear numbers isn’t the best way to win. You need numbers, ingenuity and raw power.

          • You wanna talk about villains based on difference of power between them and their oppoments?try Hanma Yujiro

            the setting of grappler baki is relatively low powered.Sure,the feats martial artists accomplish are on the verge of satire at times,and it is very much Charles Atlas superpowers all the way,but the worst a non Hanma Yujiro human has done in terms of unfeasability is a supersonic punch…that broke his own hand,damaging him more than his oppoment.

            Hanma Yujiro on the other hand,punches through an earthquake.I repeat,he stops an earthquake by punching it,in a semi semi semi realistic martial arts manga without superpowers or chi.You cannot get much more ahead from your oppoments than that.

  42. I’m suspicious about the death of Phir Se. He’s gone and now there’s an Endbringer with time-warping powers, similar to what he had, plus the ability to teleport. Who was keeping Phir Se company during the Behemoth battle? A teleporter. Perhaps the Endbringers’ creator somehow killed them/stole their passengers in order to craft his new monster. Just brainstorming.

  43. When I read the first few paragraphs, I realized something.

    The Endbringers are a big game of cops-and-robbers.

    Before Khonsu, the Endbringer fights were mostly the same. Endbringer gives a warning in the form of seismic activity or something, the capes assemble, they fight. Property is destroyed, casualties mount, minor wounds happen to the Endbringer, eventually Scion shows up or (maybe) something else causes a sufficiently major wound to the beast to make it flee. (I’m guessing that Scion has ended all Endbringer fights, given the ones we’ve seen and how Behemoth didn’t stop when reduced to ~20% of its original size) No major, permanent harm done to the Endbringer, but an end comes to the destruction. Even the schedule was predictable, to some extent.
    Then Behemoth was killed. These unwritten rules that whoever made the Endbringers made were violated by the capes, so said creator created an Endbringer made to punish them. Khonsu’s Endbringer toughness, teleportation, and the pseudo-healing its time manipulation gives make it unstoppable except by its choice. One wonders how this will end…and how much of it, say, Cauldron knows.

    I think this deserves a Holy Carp in and of itself.

  44. It does not make any sense for a black South African to refuse to speak English and only speak in Afrikaans. Look up the Soweto uprising. I could see her preferring to speak only in Xhosa or Zulu — but Afrikaans? No way in hell.

    Unless Earth Bet has a dramatically different history, of course.

    • The Soweto Uprising happened, but the events from 1982 onward were increasingly different. Warlords taking over and establishing particular sorts of order or disorder, rules, regimes and so on. Ensuing lies, propaganda, and misinformation muddled up a great deal in the status quo.

    • Praat iemand hier afrikaans? Oh and btw yes they would maybe just speak afrikaans. Afrikaans is not just spoken by the white South African’s. That is in all actuality rasist.

  45. Sweet. Fucking sweet.

    The Undersiders have got to be one of the best success stories on the planet. From robbing casinos to sitting at a planning table with pretty much three quarters of the worldwide powers. Granted I think a large reason for that is Tattletale but still. Wow. Grue really doesn’t seem to be cut out for leader position. I’ve thought it before but this chapter really cements it. He’s a figurehead at best.

    I also love how D&D are included there. I mean sure it makes sense but it’s still cool. And I love how the Thanda specifically call out Weaver. Nothing like having an entire country’s criminal underground owing you a debt.

    I really want to know why Faultline and Tattle hate each other. If they could get over their little feud soooo much could be done together! Still love Gregor.

    Moord Nag is exceptionally creepy.

    I do love Marquis. Dude is awesome. It’s only a matter of time now before the Birdcage falls. Nice to see someone is looking out for Canary at least even if I can’t remember the woman’s name. Tattle was funny during that section of the conversation. Bet she wishes she’d pushed Panacea a bit harder to join up now doesn’t she?

    Saint is…um…an unknown but I don’t really like him too much. He definitely seems to have Dragon pegged though. That was utterly hilarious however with him commenting that she’d put up a fight but has no issues with losing that battle really. The hilarity was further compounded by Marquis piping in later how he also knows Dragon has extreme issues with the Birdcage. I can’t wait for this place to fall now! I honestly don’t understand why Chevy was so against opening some of the doors. Honestly with the shit that is going on…he struck me as smarter than that. You have a demonstrable ability to take out specific individuals. Don’t give a blatant no, negotiate, pick and choose the people let out. Lung is worth letting loose, the guy is powerful and was willing to stay small potatoes for the most part before Bakuda went batshit and forced his hand. Marquis was never a true threat. Teacher seems problematic but they caught him once before so they can again. Some legitimated don’t deserve to be in there. And Panacea obviously has quite a bit of necessary info for people.

    Actually touching on the Panacea thing…Dragon should be extremely worried now after walking out. She was just blatantly told that there are conversations going on in the Birdcage that she is not privy to. This ought to bring up several red flags.

    Doctor Mother is far too smug without being smug. If that woman could get some social skills I think things would be far better off. Weaver was spot on a while ago when she said that so many of the problems plaguing this world stemmed from an inherent inability to communicate.

    Glaistig Uaine is being creepy as usual but she definitely seems to actually understand a lot of what is going on behind the scenes. If she would stop talking about faeries and sounding so batshit insane people would probably start listening to her and we could get shit done. That being said, her comment to Weaver about “queen administrator” is intriguing. It fits Taylor’s power; she does pretty much administer her bugs after a fashion. Maybe a rename is in order down the road? Administrator is nebulous but has a certain ring to it. Seems more like a villain name though than I hero so I guess she’d have to switch sides again. And it is nice to see that the end of the world is simply limited to the end of Planet Earth. Which brings me right back around to worrying that our final enemy is going to end up being the multi-dimensional planet destroying entities. Even with the powerhouses so displayed I have no idea how to even start fighting those two. Maybe if Weaver somehow manages to convince the Endbringers to stop testing humans and start fighting the MDEs we’d stand a chance. Though probably the only one we could communicate with is the Smurf and that has so many damn drawbacks that it’s not worth the attempt. It’s probably easier to simply hope that the MDEs attack during an Endbringer attack and then maneuver one so that they start fighting each other. Going by the Doctor’s parting words though…did they already kill one of the MDEs? How the fuck would the world at large not notice that?!

    I am extremely curious who the three people they tried to contact were. I’m guessing whoever the Sleeper is was one but I got nothing for the other two.

    It was interesting to see a bit more of Cauldron’s motivations. I still don’t like them or agree with their methods but I can’t really bring myself to deny that they honestly seem to have the best interests of the majority at heart which is downright fucking scary. If only they could get their heads out of their asses and explain why they can’t explain a lot more people would probably hop on their train.

    Love the casual way everyone started talking about planetary evacuation though. Here’s hoping that the Endbringers and MDEs don’t follow everybody along when they move on.

    • If Sleeper is one than Nilbog is probably another. Somewhat scary to realize that Panacea could imitate his power, actually. But the three blasphemies /and/ Jack Slash imply something else altogether.

    • I really want to know why Faultline and Tattle hate each other. If they could get over their little feud soooo much could be done together!

      My read on those two is that Tattletale, whether through a quirk of her power or her own personality, really needs to be seen as the smartest person in the room. Something in her drives her to an “I must prove myself superior!” state when challenged by intelligence. Faultline, meanwhile, is very sharp on her own merits, so she triggers Tattletale into that mode just by being herself and then gets agitated by Tattletale’s attitude and constant “unjustified” smarm over advantages she gained “unfairly” through her power.

      • I can definitely see Tattletale being the initial thorn that started the feud but they have such seething frustration and annoyance in their scenes together that I feel there must have been a single incident that focused their antagonism. Faultline just doesn’t seem the type to let Tattletale get to her without a great reason. Tattletale pisses literally everyone off, Fault is too cool and professional to take it truly personal unless it was made personal.

  46. Chevalier would probably say that if there’s no better way to save the world than to murder a hundred thousand people, that’s not a world worth saving. Me, I just hope there’s a good enough reason why Cauldron can’t talk. Contessa has told us there are reasons only five people in the world know what’s going on in the world, sure, we’ll have to trust in Cauldron and assume their plan is worth all the frustration and division and lies and murder and involuntary genetic experiments and definitely will work, but it seems way too convenient.

    People can’t know your plan because. . .well, presumably because it would somehow ruin the plan. Except you go way out of your way to avoid acknowledging it, like you’re trying to make people forget that you even have secrets. So it looks less like you’re keeping secrets that would be disastrous for the world if people knew and more like you’re keeping secrets because it would be disastrous for you if people knew found out. So you’re keeping everyone else from being able to share their plans and expand resources, to trust each other, to work together against their common enemy and get less people killed, out of their fear for you.

    That’s not accepting that history will see you as the bad guys. That’s just bad.

  47. Everyone above saying they lie:remember,Tattletale was lie detecting them,and her power seems to be able to scry non scriyable beings as long as she observes them.

  48. Damnit, I was REALLY hoping Panacea would have a chance to earn her freedom after this. A simple defense from Taylor would’ve been easy. “Hey, Chevalier, I met with Amy before she went to the Birdcage, I can honestly say she was in a tough spot when that mistake happened, she doesn’t deserve life imprisonment when she spent the majority of her youth healing people. How about we make her a probationary Ward? Forget about the other criminals, it would be great just to have a healer on our side for this…”

    The other criminals are understandable, but I thought Chevalier could’ve at LEAST been reasonable with Panacea.

  49. Interesting story.

    For the moment, I suspect the Slaughter House 9 of making Endbringers as they seem to be in a pocket dimension/time bubble somewhere and they have all those samples to clone and mix.

    The Endbringers could be Bonesaw’s Magnus Opus.

    Though, I still see the end of the world in a pissed off Panacea. That girl can kill EVERYONE.

  50. Khonsu’s attacks cause time to excel rapidly within his cylinders. Are the fast paced inhabitants of the cylinder contained by a force field, or is passing through the barrier just like trying to enter the time granade shperes in Brockton Bay? If time is excelerated with energy being spent and emitted from within the cylinder faster than outside, it would seem to me that heat which is allowed to pass through a surrounding force field might leave the outer rim of the cylinder hot with the aged inhabitents a bit cooler when the effect is removed.

    I also notice that some of the descriptions of people dying within seem to be equal in the amount of time it takes for buildings to age to the point of deteriorating. I would expect the buildings to take magnitudes longer than people dying. Is the top of a cylinder shielded? Are flying capes able to fly out the top?

  51. “Bullshit,” I said. I could feel anger stirring. “No way I believe that. Even just that portal system you’ve got, that’s enough to change the tide of this fight.”

    “Not an option,” Doctor Mother said.

    “Because you’re afraid,” Tattletale said. “There’s a fear that someone’s going to come after you, trace the portal back home. But there’s another, bigger fear, isn’t there?”

    “Yes,” Marquis said, from among the group of twelve. “And I suspect I know what it is.”

    “Contessa here has informed me you do,” Doctor Mother said, cutting him off. She was gesturing towards the woman in the suit. “Let me assure you, it would do more harm than good to reveal the details. Especially here, especially now.”

    Reading from the future… fuck me, I understand what this is. And it makes sense.

  52. The man had his hands folded neatly in front of him, and the light from neighboring panels was reflected on the large-frame glasses he wore.

    Haha. Just realized Number Man is being Gendo Ikari.

  53. One technical point: Nuclear weapons do not explode if they get too old. They require a special sequenced explosion to trigger a nuclear event. If anything, they become Safer as they age, and the initiating explosives degrade, and the nuclear material decays.

    A modern case-in-point would be that the tritium in the fusion warheads within the US nuclear stockpile must be replaced/refreshed every decade, or it will lose it’s effectiveness, and the explosive will cease to function as designed. Left on their own for a century, even the most destructive nuclear weapon will decay to a point where even if you could detonate it in the correct manner, you would fail to achieve the criticality necessary for a nuclear detonation.

  54. The writing of this series is fantastic, I will admit, and it pulls you in. But I can’t stand when an author throws a mix of dimensional travel, parallel realities, and time travel into their works.

    It makes for some excellent discussions of predestination, causality, fate, and the various paradoxes these pose, but all too often they write themselves into a corner, and then the entire plot devolves into a “reset button” scenario.

    I hope to not be disappointed.

    • The writing for the characters is good, but the writing for the Endbringers, S9, and the rest of the end of the world scenario comically bad, terrible to the point that it’s hard to even care about it.

  55. Stupidest thing yet — no a nuke will not suddenly detonate as time progresses. At worst, the aged explosives will explode, but asymmetrically, resulting in a dispersal of the uranium or plutonium. Not good, but no “nuclear detonation”.

  56. If you’re going to publish this, I recommend expanding these later chapters. Your earliest ones don’t skip around in time like these do – that is, these chapters feel disjointed and choppy because seemingly entire weeks pass in between some of these chapters and w don’t get more than a cursory mention of it. Either show us what happened or make it damn clear that we’re skipping ahead in time.

    Also, it seems like the further I read in the story, the higher the typo density gets. Did you just stop proofreading, or…?

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