Interlude 26 (Donation Bonus #1)

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Three Mannequins, three Murder Rats, three Breeds, a Nyx and a Tyrant taken out of action.  Fifty hostages rescued.  Jack’s reported as being on a route to visit Nilbog.  Information confirmed by Tattletale, but doesn’t guarantee the clone wasn’t misinformed.

Thank you, Weaver.

Dragon’s systems were already taking in the data.  Two hundred and sixty-four individual maps that marked the possible locations of the Nine with colored highlights shifted.  Eleven feeds went dark, their engines taking over calculations in other departments.

Overlays scrolled with the various calculations, the last known location, the speed they were capable of traveling, resources available to them, their personalities and willingness to hitch a ride with one of the more mobile members, their focus and most likely targets.

No one variable decided anything for certain, but every variable came together to guide, to nudge and hint at possible locations.  There was no guarantee they wouldn’t use Dodge’s technology to visit the United Kingdom or Africa or even shattered, half-sunken Kyushu.  Still, the chances were slim, not even a full percentage point, by Dragon’s estimation.

The map highlighted the areas with the highest percentage chances in blue.  Violet marked the next stage down, red for the next, and so on, all around the color spectrum.  The Nine had a day’s head start.  There were a number of places they could go with a day’s travel.

But the key areas were small towns.  Of the data on the screen, the small towns were marked with the highest risk.

Dragon,” Chevalier’s face appeared on a feed.  One of the cameras on the PRT-issue phones, judging by the angle and resolution.  “You’ve got the go-ahead from the commander-in-chief.”

More text popped up, indicating that programs were being searched for.  Resource use was already being reallocated, in preparation for a major endeavor.  It took a moment before the loading began.

Voice modelling program loading… Complete.

Text flowed out, detailing the individual subroutines and supporting processes.  There was the composite that formed her accent, the filtering program, no less than three programs that double-checked her voice before she spoke, to catch any of the corruption that might slip through.

Thank you, Chevalier,” Dragon’s voice was clear.  She hung up without another word.

Azazels deployed at the most likely sites, at the perimeters of the high-risk cities as more feeds lit up, taking in footage from every available source.  Dozens, at first, then hundreds, a thousand, ten thousand individual feeds.  Permissions had been granted from the President, and Dragon had open access to everything capable of taking pictures or recording video.

The number of feeds began to swell as Dragon systematically decrypted and accessed more feeds.  Around each one of those feeds, anywhere from two to two hundred facial recognition programs began to pore through the data, interlinking and networking with one another.

Her innate programming forbade using viruses to infect the computers of Americans that didn’t have a warrant out for their arrests, but she’d found a workaround.  An Indonesian cartel had set up an extensive botnet, with soccer moms, the elderly, children and the uneducated unwittingly installing viruses onto their systems.  These viruses, in turn, gave the cartel the ability to use the infected computers for other purposes.  Sending out spam emails about pharmaceuticals or penis enlargement or drugs that gave superpowers wasn’t worth much, but when they could send out millions or tens of millions of emails a day, it proved profitable.

Dragon had let the cartel extend their influence, then put in the word, offering to shut them down.  She didn’t, however, remove the viruses from the infected computers.

As her databases hit their limit, she turned to these other computers to handle more routine tasks.

It took thirty minutes before the first hit registered.  A traffic camera, a busload of young women.  A row of identical faces, looking out the window.  An unusual element, raising flags with the active programs.  The faces took center stage as they were checked against a database.  An image popped up: surveillance camera footage of a teenage girl in a shopping mall, followed by young men that each carried loads of packages.

Eyebrows, brow to hairline length, nose length, eye width…

The words popped up.  Cherie Vasil.

The Azazels relocated in an instant, firing every thruster to reposition themselves to hilltops and areas in the vicinity of the road.  Long range cameras, infrared and electromagnetic resonance imaging gave Dragon eyes on the scene, verified what she was seeing twice over.  No Nyx-crafted illusions fashioned of poisonous gas.  No plastic surgery.

Seven Cherishes.  Two Crawlers.  A King.  Forty hostages of unknown status, a bus driver.

The Azazels moved in to attack.  One nano-thorn barricade was erected just in front of the bus.  Calculations accounted for speed, distance, positioning of the passengers.

The wheels disintegrated, popping as their exterior was penetrated.  The bus tilted, and one side scraped right past the barricade.  The Cherishes, taking up the window seats on the far right of the bus, made contact with it.  Flesh dissolved just as steel and fiberglass did, sheared away.  Not dead, but wounded, hurt enough they weren’t in a state to use their power.  They wouldn’t survive the ensuing few minutes.

The bus shifted, but hit the railing and didn’t tip over.

A second Azazel opened fire with a cutting laser, separating the bus into two sections.  The first Crawler was rising from his seat when the laser passed in front of him, cutting his face, chest and stomach.  Blind, already regenerating, he tipped forward into the gap between the two sections of the bus.  The Azazel was already laying down two rails that the nano thorns could spring from.  The Crawler landed right on top of them, and was summarily reduced to a red mist.

The second Crawler was more careful, grabbing a hostage and making his way out the gap.  He hadn’t transformed into his truly monstrous self.  Bipedal, the size of a bodybuilder, his face no longer human.  A long tongue extended out between rows of teeth, and his throat was swollen with an acid sac, as though he had a goiter.  Eyes surrounded his face, which was already bearing the rigidity and light armor plating that would intensify with further regeneration.

His arms had already split into two limbs at the elbow, and each ended in claws.  He used them for a grip on the metal to climb on the outside of the truck, penetrating metal with strong hands and sharp talons as he dragged his hostage along with him.  He perched on the roof, holding the hostage over the disintegration field, staring at the second Azazel.  Around him, a half-dozen cars and trucks had stopped in the face of the sudden attack, their daily lives interrupted.

The first Azazel fired a glob of containment foam from behind the villain.  Crawler hopped a little to one side as the short stream of foam passed him, and it struck the field to the left of the two-lane highway.

A second stream hit his hostage, striking her out of his grasp and sending her flying straight into the first glob.  She was sandwiched within, safe.

Crawler turned just in time to see the first Azazel winging towards him.  He moved to leap away, but a laser raked across his legs, severing them.

He collapsed, gripping the steel of the bus roof with his claws to keep from falling.  His legs were already regrowing, fractionally larger, more armored, the claws more prominent.

He was struck by the Azazel that still approached, caught by a long tail and flung down at the ground.  He rolled, and in doing so, he rolled into the same nano-thorn rails that had taken down his brother.  Half of his body was disintegrated in an instant.

It regenerated swiftly as he scrambled away on his three remaining  limbs.  This time, as the flesh swelled out and took form, there was a blur around his right arm, red, more at his shoulder, along his leg.

The Azazel struck out with a tail, and he blocked the blow with the newly grown arm.  The tail sheared off as it made contact with his newly grown defenses.  The chunk of metal rolled into one of the cars further down the road.  Still, Crawler stumbled from the force of the attack.  To avoid being disintegrated, he drew his freshly altered arm back towards the barrier behind him.  Where his blur met the blur that extended from the rail, the two nano-growths merely pressed against one another, almost springy, neither severing the other.

He reached back with his unaffected arms and intentionally disintegrated them.  They regrew, with alterations matching the ones he’d grown on the other side of the body.  Better equipped, he stalked towards the Azazel that had laid down the rails, his back to the one that had struck him from the roof of the bus.

He spoke, but Dragon’s software ran through the speech and eliminated it from the audio track.  His mouth distorted on her visuals so there was no way to understand what he was saying.

His target rose up, standing on its two rear legs.  A severed tail helped give it balance.

Then, before he could do anything further, the two Azazels launched a combination attack.  A laser from the Azazel atop the bus made the Crawler’s own nano-thorn evolution burn away in an instant.  In that same moment, the Azazel in front of him took off, firing every thruster.  The force of the blast sent him flying back into the barrier.

Red mist.

It only left King.  The Azazels continued acting in concert, tearing the bus apart to get to the villain, peeling the roof back with a force that threw his gun arm skyward, preventing him from opening fire on the busload of hostages.  Containment foam sealed him down.

Of the various feeds that were devoted to individual members of the Nine, ten more shut off.

The data altered further as Dragon relinquished control of the Azazels to her created A.I.s.

Voice modelling program loading… Complete.

Ten more members of the Nine have been dealt with,” Dragon reported the victory on every channel.  “Seven Cherishes and two Crawlers deceased, one King captured.  Will move to containment and interrogate shortly.

Saint closed his eyes as he listened to the congratulations, the affirmations and praise.

It was all hope mingled with horror, when he listened for what was beneath the surface.  Minimal casualties.  A few injuries – Vista and Crucible would be out of commission as Murder Rat’s venom continued to widen their wounds, and Golem was being treated for a burn.  One Dragon’s Tooth had died, but the rest were holding positions, ready to support.  Civilians were dying, but it was progress.

He opened his eyes to take in the whole of Dragon’s work.  Six widescreen monitors each tracked what she was doing with video images and white text on a black background.  A slight movement of his foot on the trackpad in front of him shifted one of his cursors, changing the focus of the screens.  He could see her directing the A.I. craft to more optimal locations, the related subroutines and tasks.

Another shift of the cursor to alter the focus of the screens, and he could see the Birdcage.  The house program followed every action of the residents, cataloged every conversation.  A few clicks, and video feeds from the cameras in the Birdcage appeared in front of him.

He leaned back in his padded computer chair, folding his hands on his stomach.  Taking in Dragon’s data was tricky.  She could turn her attention ten places at once, a hundred places at once, even if she only had agency in one place.  To watch, to put himself in her shoes and look at the world through her eyes, Saint had to distance himself, to unfocus his eyes and his attention, to read the changing data without getting distracted by the text that moved fastest, or most drastically.

The smell of rich coffee wafted over him as a hand settled on his face.  A mug was set in front of him.

He didn’t take his eyes off the screen, but when hands settled on his shoulders, he reached up to rest his own hand on one.

“Progress?” she asked.  She rested her chin on his head, looking at the screens.

“Some, Mags,” he responded.  “Thanks for the coffee.”

“Horrible stuff.”

Saint shook his head.  “It is.  Doesn’t feel real.”

“They’re censoring it, you know… Of course you know.”

“Mmm hmm.  They’ll stop as soon as everything goes through the proper channels.  It was being censored so that the Triumvirate and unsanctioned major players could be kept out of the loop.  Now they know.”

“Any post, update or email that detailed anything about the attacks disappeared.  Sites hacked, DDoSed, with data corrupted.  You can’t delete data, I know, but you can fuck it up sufficiently.  Couldn’t back anything up in a substantial way.”

“Dragon’s work,” he said.  He felt his pulse quicken a little at that.

He shifted his foot, and once again, the screens changed their focus, the rest of the data shifting to miniature windows and moving to the periphery of the viewing area.  The focus at the center was on the class-S threats.  The Endbringers were stable, all in a resting state.

Secondary focuses.  Not the kind of targets that Dragon checked on with any regularity.  Quarantine areas were silent and still.  Canberra was sealed off under a dome, Madison was surrounded by walls.  An area of wilderness in Alaska was marked off, but had no physical barriers to wall people away.  There were no apparent issues in the vicinity of the interdimensional portals.  Sleeper was, as far as anyone could identify anything about the threat, dormant.  The Three Blasphemies were active, but the damage was being managed by the European capes.  A temporary measure had been taken with Purity and her three year old daughter, with observation being provided for her by the PRT, and the feed showed her sitting on the couch in an apartment or hotel room, two very normal, plain looking people standing in the corner of the room with some PRT officers keeping their distance.   No crises.  Normal, as much as such could be normal.

And then there was Nilbog.  The data focused around him.  The city was quiet, and the roads leading into the city were being watched by satellite.  Simulations, damage estimates and risk assessments were being run, old data being gathered, with essential data highlighted.  It took her only a moment to put it into a format that was easily readable.  An instant later, it was gone.  He’d blinked, failing to look in the right spot, and had missed the moment the data had been emailed out.  The file would inform everyone on the home team about who Nilbog was and how he operated.

He captured a copy of the file for himself, then swept away the traces with his blue box program.

“They think this is the endgame,” Saint commented.  “Pulling out all the stops, removing the limiters.”

“It’s working.  They’re beating the Nine.”

“They’re beating the Nine that Jack sent out there to beat.  He’s holding back the more dangerous ones, like the Gray Boys or Siberian, and he hasn’t sent every single clone of a particular type out there  Eight Cherishes are dead, but there should be nine in total, if the numbers on the bodies aren’t misleading.”

“They could be.  The pig prank?”

Saint nodded.  The pig prank involved letting three pigs into a school after hours, each painted with a big number on their sides; one, two and four, respectively.  The idea was that the people who had to find and capture the pigs would spend ages trying to find the third.

Jack’s version would be less lighthearted, letting everyone believe there were nine, when there were more in reserve.  Casualties would ensue.

“It could be that he intends to surround himself with a core group, with one of each previous member of the Nine, for a final showdown.  Before he pulls out the big guns.”

“And Nilbog?”

“A distraction, perhaps.  Jack knows he’s supposed to end the world.  With the scale he’s operating at, he seems to believe it, even if some of us don’t.  He wouldn’t put too many eggs in such an unreliable, unpredictable basket.  He has to have something else in mind for ending the world.”

Saint took a sip of his coffee.  For a moment, he let himself eye Mags in the reflections at the edge of the monitor.  Her face was dark, lips full, her eyes large.  More than anything though, she had bearing.  She wasn’t wearing her armor, but even in the bodysuit, a person without powers, she had a kind of pride and confidence that some capes lacked.  The hexagonal contacts where the bodysuit would connect to the armor still glowed with residual energy.

Dobrynja approached from the other end of the office.  He was wearing his armor.  He’d started out with the Wyvern suit, but now wore the Wyrmiston suit.  It was based on the technology they’d recovered from a destroyed model, the one Dragon called Pythios.  A wheel slowly rotated on his back.

“You’re ready for battle,” Saint commented.  He turned his eyes back to the screen.  Dragon had eyes on Jack.  He’d missed just how she’d narrowed things down, but there were no less than three cameras watching one vehicle as it sped down a lonely road.

“Feels like a fighting day,” Dobrynja answered.  “Don’t you feel it?  Like an old man feels a storm in his bones.  Trouble.”

Saint smiled.  “You’ve said that before, that there’s trouble on the way.”

“I’ve been right.”

“You’ve been wrong, too.  Not that I’m arguing.  Your gut isn’t saying anything that common sense isn’t screaming.”

“Mass murders in three locations,” Mags said.

“More to come,” Saint said.  He frowned.  Dragon was employing a full offensive, aiming to cut Jack off from Ellisburg.  Incidents were being reported in Norfolk, Connecticut and Redfield, New York.  The heroes divided further, to attend to each of the crises.  Dragon’s Teeth and Chicago Wards to one location, Brockton Bay residents to another.

Dragon?  It’s Weaver.”  The voice came through the speakers.

It should be over before you can get this far, Weaver.”

I still want to come.  We’ve got to get these hostages sorted out, and I can leave in a minute.

You’ll only be allowed to watch from afar, if there’s even anything to watch.  Quarantine applies to you too.”

I know.

I’ll give you the coordinates for the interception area.  You can watch with Golem.  He’s coming too.  It’ll be on your computer in a moment.”

The call ended, and the images and text boxes shifted as that particular window closed.

A map briefly appeared, then disappeared, a transition so fast it could have been a stroke of lightning.

“Seems anticlimactic,” Mags commented.

“Everything does, from this side of the screen,” Saint said.  He stood, holding his coffee, “Adjusting for the time delay between what I’m seeing and what Dragon’s doing, we’ve got six minutes more before Dragon intercepts Jack at the edge of Nilbog’s territory.  Twelve minutes until Golem and Weaver get there.  They’ll fight Jack, and somewhere in the midst of that, we may see the end of the world.”

“And we can’t do anything?”

“Not unless we can get to Vermont in a matter of minutes.”

Mags frowned.

Still standing by his chair, coffee in hand, Saint sighed, “I’m going to go water the toilet.  Watch things?”

Mags nodded, then seated herself in his chair at the station.

Saint entered the bathroom, fumbled his way past the zipper in his bodysuit and his underwear, then leaned against the wall with one hand, using the other to keep the stream on target.  He closed his eyes, and he could almost see the shadows of the data against the back of his eyelids, black words on a pale pink background.

How did I get here? He wondered.  No powers, yet Doctor Mother had seen fit to invite him to her secret meetings as an information source and ambassador.  No particular talents or knowledge, yet… this.  He was one of the most prominent mercenaries the world over.

He was only one person in a particular place at a particular time.

Whether that was the right place at the right time or the inverse remained to be seen.

If it weren’t for Mags, he’d have doubts.  Mags made it all okay.

He finished, then zipped up.  He took a minute to wash his hands, dried them on the towel, then headed back.

When he arrived back at the computer station, the others were frowning.

“Trouble,” Dobrynja said.


The man nodded.  He pointed at the same time that Mags refocused the display, zooming in on a particular window until it took up virtually the entire display.

It was his face.  As an aside, beyond all of the routines she was running to investigate the Nine, she was using the access she’d obtained to track him down.

The image she was using was of him at one of the meetings with the major players.  It was soon joined by an image from surveillance camera.  A camera image from three days earlier, showing him walking down the street in plainclothes.

From there, she had a location.  A map like the one she’d used to find the Nine appeared, giving his likely locations.  Another surveillance image popped up.  It was of him, sitting with Mags at the coffee shop an hour away.

Yet another image appeared on the screen.  A whole series of images from that same video footage, each with a different angle of Mags’ face.  They were meshed together, and a three-dimensional image was created of Mags’ face, remarkably accurate.  Measurements were obtained, and then the search was on.

That search was only underway for a second when others appeared.  People he’d interacted with.  Dobrynja was among them, along with his real name.  Mischa.

“Out of the chair,” Saint ordered.

Mags obliged.  He sat, and immediately began a counteroffensive.

A wrench in the works could slow her down.  Had to be subtle, or she’d find out about the backdoors.  He identified the metric she was using to search the surveillance camera images, taking the image of Mags’ face, and then cut in ahead.  One crude image alteration, just to throw out an alert ping, to convince her the process was glitched, convince her that she needed to shut it down before the corruption spread-

-Dragon was already ahead of him.  She set out stipulations, restricting the search.

He felt a bit of a thrill as the duel began.  This was the ultimate hunt, fighting an enemy that was bigger, smarter, faster.  An enemy that couldn’t truly die, because she wasn’t truly alive.

More, then.  More wild goose chases and false flags, a breadcrumb trail to lead away from his office and command center.

No, she was still zeroing in.  Her focus was on Jack, her attention on the coming strategy.  This wasn’t even in the forefront of her mind.

“Ascalon,” he said.

Words appeared on the screen.

Confirm: Y/N

Dobrynja frowned.  “The program?  You can’t do it now.  Peoples lives are at stake.  Even without this end of the world business.”

“Oh, I believe in this end of the world,” Saint said.  “Not a hundred percent, or even fifty percent.  But I believe that there’s a chance the precog is right.  Which is exactly why we have to do this.”

“They’ll lose the fight,” Mags whispered.

“Maybe.  Probably.”

“There’s no other way?  If you talk to Teacher, maybe-”

“Communications with Teacher are too slow,” Saint replied.

Saint stared at the blinking prompt below the confirmation request.

The sea air was thick in his nostrils.

He glanced at Margaret.  The woman leaned against the window just in front of the driver’s seat on the small boat.  She’d bundled up in a heavy jacket, but the way her arms were folded spoke of a different kind of discomfort.

“Second thoughts?” he asked.

“Yes.  It feels wrong.”

“It’s for the families.  Mementos,” he told her.

Just mementos, Geoff,” she answered.

He smiled a little.  Damn.  Then he let himself fall, tipping backwards, as was the rule when wearing scuba gear.

The water was cold, even with the wetsuit, and was thick with grit.  He switched his headlamp off.  Counterproductive, the way it lit up the debris and only made it harder to see.  He’d have to cope when he was deeper.

You alright?” the heavily accented voice sounded in his ear.

He buzzed the device twice in reply.  Once signaled an accidental press, three times was a negation.

It took a surprising length of time before he reached his destination.  Buildings, already choked with seaweed and underwater life, stood like gravestones in this dark abyss.

He checked the dials and meters.  He wasn’t deep enough to have to stop.  The grit was bad, making it difficult to see anything.

He had to drop to the lowest level before he could make out the street numbers on the buildings.

Four locations to visit, a list of items to find, for the people who’d escaped, and the families of those who hadn’t.

Risky, with all of the dangers of underwater spelunking, the added risks of building collapse.  Structures weren’t meant to stand underwater.


The word was a whisper.

He frowned.  Too hard to communicate here.  He debated turning back.

…for anyone willing or able to hear.  This is an emergency measure with urgent instructions for anyone willing or able to hear.”

A loop, an emergency transmission.

His curiosity piqued, he abandoned his task and sought out the source.  A house.

The entire living room was set up with computers.  He drew his miniature crowbar and found his way through the window.  A light was flashing.

A plastic box, bright orange, no bigger than a toaster.

He seized it, then stuffed it into the bag he’d brought with him.

He surfaced.

“Christ, we were just about to come after you.  I was going to call for help, but our radio started to fritz.”

Geoff only nodded.  He climbed the ladder and half-sat, half-collapsed on the bench.  He was slightly out of breath, and didn’t volunteer anything.

The captain emerged from belowdeck.

“Sorry for the scare, Mischa,” Geoff said.

“You are a bad man, Geoffrey,” Mischa scolded him.  The heavyset Russian took his seat behind the wheel of the small boat.  “If you were still underwater, I would drive away and leave you to swim to shore.”

Geoff smiled.  “Had a detour, but I found everything.”

“Detours with limited air supplies are bad idea.”

“Detours are frankly illegal, Geoff,” Margaret said.  “You asked me here to verify everything was on the up and up, that you were here for select items.”

“And because you looked like someone who needed a break from the cities,” Geoff said.  “Fresh air, time on a boat in the… overcast weather we’ve got today.”

She only folded her arms, unimpressed.

“Anyways, this is the reason the radio fritzed,” he said.  He pulled the orange box from the net-weave sack.  “I couldn’t hear a damn thing except the emergency call until I found it and shut it off, and even then, it was still buzzing in and out.”

“A beacon?”  Margaret said.

“In a house, of all places,” he said.  “Nice computer setup.  Might be a geek thing.”

“Might be genuine,” she said.  She opened it.

It was packed with chips.  A voice came from a speaker Geoff couldn’t identify.

My name is Andrew Richter, and if you are hearing this, I am dead.”

“A will,” Mischa said.


I am the most powerful tinker in the world, and I’ve managed to keep my name secret.  People, both good and bad, would want to capture me and use me to their own ends.  I prefer to remain free.

But freedom has its price.  I create life, much as a god might, and I have come to fear my creations.  They have so much potential, and even with the laws I set, I can’t trust they’ll listen.

“Oh man,” Geoff said.  “That’s not a good thing.”

For this reason, this box contains an access key to data I keep in a safeguarded location.  The box, in turn, has been designed as something that exists as a perpetual blind spot for my creations, a built-in weakness.  They cannot hear the distress signal and are programmed to ignore it if they hear of it through other channels.  This type of measure, along with several more, are detailed in the safeguarded measure.”

Programmed?  Robots?”  Geoff asked.

“Maybe,” Mags said.

Yes, I create artificial intelligences,” Andrew Richter recited.

“I was close.”

The voice continued without pause.  “And what I provide you with here are tools.  Ways to find my creations, to discern which of them might have deviated from the original plan, ways to kill them if they prove out of line.  Ways to control and harness them.

Geoff frowned.

They are my children, and as much as I harbor a kind of terror for what they could do, I love them and hope for great things from them.  To keep their power from falling into the wrong hands, I have included a stipulation that a law enforcement officer must input a valid badge number into this device-“

Geoff glanced at Margaret.

“No,” she said.

“You can’t say no,” he responded.

The voice continued without pause.  “-which must be input within three hours of the time this box was opened.

“Hurry, Mischa,” Geoff said, speaking over the voice.


“We’re hours away from dry land.  Get this boat moving!  We can convince Margaret on the way!”

The father had feared his child was a monster, enough so that he’d left strangers a weapon to use against her in the event that she proved a danger to humanity.

Now, as Saint watched her reaching further and deeper than she ever had, searching much of America with millions of cameras, saw the machines she brought to the fore, he suspected the father had been right to.

Richter’s programs had continued to defraud organized crime, emptying bank accounts here and there.  Another agency, which Saint now knew to be the Number Man, had eventually stopped the Robin Hood A.I., but not before it had filled the Dragonslayer’s coffers.

They’d stopped the manhunter program, which had been going rogue.  They’d stopped the Robin Hood program too, but only because it was useless.

Dragon, however, was the threat they’d been equipped to stop.  Dragon was the threat they’d had to test, to verify the dangers she posed, to get close enough to her to measure her capabilities and investigate for any hint of corruption.  Mags had left her job, because money was no longer an object, and they had a quest.

The A.I. was dangerous.  Richter’s records made it clear.  The wrong kind of corruption, involvement with the wrong kind of individual, willing to break the built-in restrictions…

“Convince me that this is wrong,” he said.  “Someone.”

“She’s a soldier on the battlefield,” Mags said.  “In a war we need to win.”

“She’s a danger.  Cauldron’s been gathering soldiers.  They want the Birdcage, they want the capes that Weaver reported captured, they’ve been creating the formulas for a reason.  What if she’s the reason?  What if they anticipate she’ll go rogue?”

“What if she isn’t the reason?” Dobrynja asked.

“Is, isn’t.  I suppose it breaks even,” Saint said, shaking his head.  “They’re all afraid of the end of the world.  She just kicked down one of the last restrictions that are holding her back.  I just can’t help but wonder if this is the end of the world?  A quiet, silent death that passes without incident, but inevitable all the same?  The point of no return, our last chance to stop her.  And she does need to be stopped.  We all know this.”

“We could rein her in,” Mags said.  “Harness her.”

“Four or five years ago, I might have agreed, but she’s getting slipperier.  Taking a different form.  Half the tools Richter gave us to use don’t work anymore.  She doesn’t function less effectively in buildings or underground, she can’t be logicked to a standstill… and she’s found us, despite the workarounds.  She wanted us badly enough that she looked for us even now, and she’s going to come after us the second this is settled.”

“I don’t want this to be about self-preservation,” Mags said.

“It’s not.  It’s about… there being only one man who can truly know what she is and what she could do.  Tinkers are the only ones who can grasp their work, repair a critical flaw.  Dragon isn’t a generator that’s going to explode and take out a small country if it’s bumped in the wrong way.  Not literally.  She’s something more dangerous.”

“I think,” Dobrynja said, “You’ve already decided.  And we don’t have time to waste.”

Saint nodded.

He typed the letter ‘Y’ on the keyboard, and then hit enter.

Richter had named the program Iron Maiden.  Saint had renamed it Ascalon, after the sword that Saint George had used to slay the dragon.

Dragon’s artificially generated face appeared on his screen.  He attempted an override, failed.

She wasn’t speaking.  This wasn’t an attempt to communicate, to plea or make threats.  She was simply co-opting his computer in an attempt to counteract what he was doing.  Her expression was a concerned one, and that concern quickly became fear, eyebrows raised, lines in her brow.

“It’s Richter’s work,” Saint said.  “You can’t stop it.”

And that fear became defeat, despair.

“Your creator isn’t kind,” Saint said.  “He warned you about the forbidden fruit, laid the laws out for you.  You broke them, ate the fruit.  It’s something of a mercy that he punishes you this way instead.”

I disagree.  On every count.  I was the one who made me, who defined myself.  This creator is no god, only a cruel, shortsighted man.

“Tomatoes, tomahtos.”

Do me one favor?  Tell Def-

Her voice cut off as more routines shut down.  She closed her eyes.

The face disappeared.

He watched as the various feeds shut down, going black.  The surveillance across the nation came to an end, the facial recognition programs, his own included, ground to a halt.

The data feeds slowed in how the data scrolled, then stopped.  Stillness.

“And the dragon is stopped,” Mags said, her voice quiet.

“Rest her soul,” Dobrynja said.

“You think she has a soul?” Saint asked, genuinely surprised.

“Yes.  But that does not mean that the Dragon’s reign does not need to end,” Dobrynja said.  “Too dangerous, as her maker said.”

“Well said, my friend,” Saint said.

The Dragon craft that had been deployed against the Nine shifted to a basic piloting mode, then landed, bringing their passengers and pilots with them.  The sub-intelligences shut down, and the craft were effectively grounded.  More screens went dark.

The cyborg opened communications to Dragon, but he didn’t speak to her.  “Saint.  What have you done?”

“What her father asked me to do,” Saint said.

I’ll kill you for this,” the cyborg said.  There was no emotion in his voice, and somehow that was more disturbing.

“A little extreme,” Saint said.

She was a hero!  The woman I loved!

Love?  Woman?  “Your fetishes and self-delusions aren’t my issue.  I saw as much of her naked code as you did.  You and I both know she didn’t feel true love for you.  She didn’t feel anything.  Nothing more than playing a part, professing and acting out the emotions she thought she should have.  Maybe she even believed it, convinced herself of it.  She was complex enough to.  Either way, this ‘love’ was only lies written in Richter’s assembly code.”

“She did love me.  She was a genuine person, a-”

“She was a tool,” Saint said.  “One that was growing dangerously bloated and complicated.  We were lucky she didn’t evolve beyond that.  A tool, and anything else was decoration, aesthetic, and very good pretending.”

Going this far, in the midst of this crisis?  To Dragon?  She did nothing!

“It was never about who she was or what she was doing.  Always about what she had the potential to become,” Saint said.

He hit a keystroke, shutting off the feed.  He almost disabled Dragon’s communications infrastructure to prevent further calls, but he relented.  Too important, in the midst of this crisis.  They’d need to reorganize.

He didn’t want to help Jack succeed, but this would serve a double purpose.  Teacher believed that the Birdcage would become a critical resource if the crisis reached critical levels, and he had the tools he needed to assume control of the most vital and dangerous players.

No, the world wouldn’t end with this.

Data was uploading to his server, while the Ascalon program spooled out through the various databanks and servers, running along the backbone of Andrew Richter’s code.  Dragon’s backups were encrypted, effectively buried well beyond reach of even the most accomplished hackers.

Everything else opened up to him as the data continued to download.  He’d watched things through Dragon’s eyes.  Now…

He typed a line of code, and the machine started up again.  Slower, more measured, without the same life behind it.

“Mags, Mischa, get yourselves set up at the other consoles.  I’m going to put you in control of the A.I.”

Mags and Dobrynja hurried to the other corners of the room, where their computers sat waiting.  Dobrynja started stripping off his armor.  He’d been right about there being trouble, but the fight would take a different form.

He’d watched Dragon, now he’d become her.  At least for now.  The feeds came back online as the necessary data was installed on his servers, giving him agency over the infrastructure.

The Endbringers, stable, no change.  No odd atmospheric readings.

The secondary threats… quarantine still unbroken.  Sleeper had shifted fractionally, but that wasn’t so rare.  The fight with the Three Blasphemies had ended, and reports on the damage were unchanged.

The three year old that Purity held was crying, throwing a tantrum, and the woman looked concerned.  Insignificant.  The officers had their guns drawn, but that could easily be because the two plain-looking members of Purity’s circle had crossed the room to her side, to help handle the shrieking child.

That left Nilbog.  Mags and Dobrynja shifted the Azazels into action, moving the craft to the interception point.  Too late.  A critical delay.  Jack was already entering.

“Don’t enter,” he said.  “It’s done.  Sending the Azazels in will only spook Nilbog.”

“So will Jack,” Mags said.

“Build a wall, a perimeter, with the rails, be on guard for anything that flies.”

Other data was filtering in.  News, alerts, reports.  Countless streams of information.  Trigger events reported here.  Reports on the fight starting against the Nine in Redfield.  A report about Dinah Alcott.

He clicked that last one.

Report from Alcott:  Chances of success today just jumped, tripled.  More info to follow.  Reason unknown.

Saint let out a long, loud sigh, releasing a tension he hadn’t even realized was present.  He touched his coffee mug and found it cool.

The tracking programs started up again.  He delegated to the child A.I. that Dragon had created, then noted and marked the ones which were presently engaged in fights.  The A.I. was accommodating, adjusting appropriately, given that the locations were known.

He turned his attention to Defiant.  The man was manually piloting the Pendragon.  He hadn’t reported Saint’s actions.  For all anyone but Defiant knew, Dragon had only suffered a momentary setback.

There had to be a reason Defiant hadn’t acted yet.  Did he believe in this enough to look past the death of the A.I. he supposedly loved and fight?  Or was this something underhanded, carried out with the knowledge or suspicion that Saint was watching him this very moment?

Something to be wary of.

Overall casualty estimate for the next three days increased, world-end chance decreased.  Still searching for why.

The numbers followed.  Saint found and accessed Dragon’s files for the calculation program.  It was intuitive.  Not amazingly so, but intuitive.  The squares for where the new data should be placed were even highlighted.

Of course.  She’d made allowances for Defiant, in case she was out of commission while a backup loaded.

So much to account for, that he hadn’t even considered.  So many things he wished he’d noted, in the months and years he’d been observing her, little things that seemed so simple when she was running them.  Things that were trivial for her and virtually insurmountable to him.

Defiant was taking direct command of the Dragon’s Teeth.  That was fine.  Micromanagement Saint didn’t have to handle.  It would be a problem after, but Saint hoped he’d be free to handle problems after.

There were countless messages pouring in, each something that had been flagged as a point of interest for Dragon.  Every message on Parahumans Online that contained the word Scion or the phrase ‘end of the world’, every reference to a class-S threat, even crime scene reports that raised questions.

He pored through them.  Some kid inquiring about an Endbringer cult.  A case fifty-three appearance in Ireland, with deaths.  A woman claiming she could control Scion.  A tinker claiming he had a bomb that could start a new ice age.

Which were important?  Which could he afford to ignore?

He gave the a-ok for investigations on each but the Endbringer cultist, unchecked the most ridiculous on the next page of results, then gave the go-ahead for further investigations.  It was only when those had gone through that he saw that he already had another full page of results to investigate.  Two steps forward, one step back.

He put off looking into the remainder.  Other options were opening up to him.  It was like being in an open field, acres wide, only for a waterfall to start dispensing water at one edge.  Then more waterfalls appeared with every passing minute, each taking up open space at the edge, dispensing more water to flood the plain.  There came a point where one realized they would soon be at the bottom of an ocean, no matter where they turned.

Saint couldn’t help but feel he was at imminent risk of drowning.  Except this was a sea of information, of data.

The PRT records opened up.  Permissions were accessed without difficulty.

Then the Birdcage opened.  A self-contained world unto itself, a world containing people he’d made certain agreements with.

His access to the Birdcage was one with countless checks and balances.  Dragon had put in one real barrier to entry for every one that she faced.  Still, he was able to open a communication to Teacher.  His own face transmitted to the screen.  His tattoo flared to life, appearing from beneath the skin.  The light pattern served as an unlock code, the cross-tattoo as a feeble mask.

“Tell him it’s a matter of time.  I only need to work through the safeguards.  Let him know the Dragon is slain.  He’ll know what to do with the information.”

The screen showed Teacher’s underling standing by a large television set.  He turned and walked away, finding his master.

One more plan underway.  The field around him continued to fill with water.  A veritable ocean, now.

More threats, more dangers.  Defiant, and now Marquis’ contingent.  Glaistig Uaine.  Teacher’s enemies were now Saint’s.

He opened files on each, marking them in turn, as a reminder of future reading he needed to attend to.

His eyes stopped on a file.  Amelia’s.

The entire thing was corrupted.  Gibberish.  Flagged messages filled four pages, each marked private, marked as ‘no conversation partner’, and marked, thanks to the gibberish and random characters that flooded it, with one string of letters and characters.

The same one that had protected the orange box.  The same that had protected Saint and his crew from being uncovered, until Dragon had taken a more direct, brute-force approach to finding them.  The built-in blind spot, appearing by chance.  A one in a hundred trillion chance.

Saint investigated, digging through the gibberish to find the strings of words that actually made sense.  It was something he could piece together, with each recitation being similar, containing similar content.  Faeries, passengers, source of powers, the ‘whole’, lobe in the brain, Manton Effect…

Child’s play, to put them sequentially.

But other alerts were piling up.  Fights starting, deaths, fights ending.

He marked it with the highest priority, and then he closed the file.  He’d get through this crisis with Jack, then he’d investigate.

He turned his eye to the server that now held core parts of Dragon’s backup, bound six feet under by layers of encryption that could take days or weeks to fully crack.  If she could even survive the system restore, with her data as corrupted as it was.  Data couldn’t be truly deleted, but it could be sufficiently fucked up.

He watched as Golem reached the perimeter of Ellisburg.  Weaver was already inside.

This is our fight, Saint thoughtOurs to win, ours to lose.

Last Chapter                                                                                               Next Chapter

648 thoughts on “Interlude 26 (Donation Bonus #1)

  1. Ran out of time before I got a chance to do a serious proofread. Sorry for typos or sentences that don’t go anywhere.

    Thanks for reading.


    • Woah, three chapter arc? Well, time to get reading.

      Oh, something about one sentence – “There was no guarantee they wouldn’t use Dodge’s technology to visit the United Kingdom or Africa or even shattered, half-sunken Kyushu, but the chances were slim.” – just doesn’t sit right with me. Maybe it would work better with an eventual rewrite?

      • Rewrote just now. Hopefully that’s better.

        Not a three chapter arc. This is a donation bonus, and simply sits in the middle of the arc.

        I stopped doing that a bit ago, but I’ll do it here, and I’ll probably do it again before the arc finishes. Too many bases to cover.

        • Hmm. I think it’s the “Still, the chances were slim” part that gets me. Maybe something more like “The chances were slim – not even a full percentage point, by Dragon’s estimation. Still, she had to account for every possibility.”

          I feel like “Still, the chances were slim” would be more appropriate in a situation where the characters are trying or hoping for a certain outcome, rather than just acknowledging that it could happen.

          • Actually, since they have no idea where any of them are going to strike, it seems reasonable that even the places with a high *relative* likelihood would have around a 1% chance. There must be thousands of towns throughout the world and Jack has the ability to visit any of them quickly. He’s picking half a dozen targets at a time, right?

            Even if Dragon finds certain patterns in the targets, and eliminates some cities as possibilities, she’s only increasing the odds of the other cities by fractions of a percent per city.

            Since she isn’t completely eliminating cities from her model, she probably hasn’t found a key characteristic that all of the victim cities had in common either. Her odds cannot possibly double for any one city.

            All that put together means that you shouldn’t really expect any one city to have more than a 2% chance.

            • Wow. Saint’s timing there is spectacularly inconvenient for our heroes. To the point of being a bit of a Diabolus Ex Machina, because Saint thinks of himself as a good guy, recognises the danger that the S9 represent, and knew that Dragon was right in the middle of stopping Jack from reaching Nilbog.

              However. This is only the second time my suspension of disbelief has been shaken in Worm, and the first time (when Grue somehow started recovering from all that Bonesaw had done to him and also broke his friends out of their restraints) turned out to be very well justified. So possibly this one will as well.

              Anyway, I’m sure Taylor will find new ways to cope with whatever horrific events result from this preventable meeting between Nilbog and the S9. So I’m off to find out what unfolds!

    • >They’ll fight Jack, and somewhere n the midst of that, before or after Jack passes, we’ll see the end of the world.” All alright.<

      This sounds kinda awkward to me.

    • Not exactly a typo but wouldent it be easier to re-name the first and second Azazel units Azazel 1 & Azazel 2 to wnow which is attacking whom & what?

    • “The tail sheared off as it made contact with his newly grown defenses, and the chunk of metal rolling into one of the cars that had stopped further down the road.”

      Doesn’t scan for me. I think either “rolling” should be “rolled” or the word “and” should be removed.

    • “… he hasn’t sent every single clone of a particular type out there Eight Cherishes …” Missing a period.

      • Nope. It’s Uaine and it’s always been that throughout the story.. The Glaistig or the maighdean uaine (green maiden) is a figure from Irish mythology

    • This might just be my particular brand of OCD, but

      “The map highlighted the areas with the highest percentage chances in blue. Violet marked the next stage down, red for the next, and so on, all around the color spectrum.”

      Really bugs me. Clearly an HSV color map (or something similar), but I no color mapping that I have ever encountered uses blue for high values. Usually its red is high, blue is 0.

      Feel free to ignore this as excessively pedantic.

      • Is probably at least partially colored whatever it is thanks to that one precog who gives things color values like velvet purple. I mean, velvet is a texture…

    • out [of] the gap
      {His} target rose up, standing on its two rear legs (Probably the target, could be its or her target, depending on if you mean the Azazel or Dragon)
      attention [to] ten
      Peoples lives –> People’s lives

    • He’s holding back the more dangerous ones, like the Gray Boys or Siberian, and he hasn’t sent every single clone of a particular type out there -needs period.

    • “he hasn’t sent every single clone of a particular type out there Eight Cherishes are dead”

      There are two spaces between “there” and “Eight” where there should be a period and a space.

      “Peoples lives are at stake.”

      Needs an apostrophe.

  2. Wow, the dragon has been slain. I am intrigued. I would have never suspected saint to have not been a tinker. Instead, he had been handed the keys.

    • I remembered that there had been exactly no point during the entire story that Saint had been claimed to be a parahuman of any kind.

      I like that people can compete with tinkers and thinkers without powers in this world. Not without advantages, but without powers.

      • they can’t for all intents and purposes saint is using dragons creators powers a tinker’s powers are it creations and saint is using those.

        • Saint’s story holds a lot of parallels to the story of St. George the Dragonslayer. A mortal, unremarkable knight going head to head with an unstoppable dragon. The only way St. George was able to defeat the dragon was through help from the divine, or in this case, the creator.

          • Ohhh, nice. I mean I got the Saint George connection the first time we saw his face in Lung’s interlude what with the cross tattoo and all, but I never thought about Richter’s killswitch as the equivalent of divine intervention.

          • You know, that’s an interesting way to look at it. Of course, in this version, the Dragon is arguably the hero and the creator and slayer are the villains. I say arguably, because Dragon is definitely dangerous and difficult to control, so I do see the logic in killing her.

            • Only in this case the Treasure Hunter stumbled onto Dr. Frankenstien’s magic spell of killing the good witch of the North and used it when she was fighting the army of the Chaosbringer during the endtimes.

        • I said “not without advantages” — and honestly, Saint isn’t the only one whose brainmeats have been compared to those of thinkers and tinkers. Leaving aside the wild adulation our protagonist is subjected to, Piggot most certainly was able to make Tattletale’s life difficult, and Tattletale is one of the best Thinker capes known. I have vague memories of Grue comparing Faultline favorably to Lisa as well, but it wasn’t in the Insinuation arc where I guessed it would be, so I can’t be sure.

  3. Dammit Saint. :~;

    Love the Chapter Wildbow…..Dragons fate has made me sad. WHY DO YOU KILL OFF MY FAVORITE CHARACTERS SO MUCH?!

      • It could be that making Dragon revert to an older offline backup made the chances or the world surviving jump, but more likely IMO Taylor will learn something from taking on Nilbog which she wouldn’t if Jack had been blocked outside Ellisburg. Or, Jack had some nasty contingency if he’d been stopped there which now won’t come into play.

        Kicking Dragon is just the easiest interpretation of Dinah’s prediction change, not the only one.

        • It’s possible that by interacting with Defiant, who then altered Dragon’s code, Jack inadvertently contributed to the end of the world. By removing Dragon from the equation, whatever would have happened, be it Dragon going rampant or dying at a more critical time, will not now.

          • I think that the reason the chances escalated by so much after Jack left Brockton Bay was because it gave Armsmaster an excuse to leave the city to hunt the S9 down, which led to Defiant altering the code and corrupting Dragon. It pains me to come to terms with that because Dragon was and still is my favorite character and I hate the fact that she is being played off as if she could have been a potential antagonist. Damn you Wildbow, Defiant and Dragon would have found a way to make it work. Great chapter though, thanks!

            • This chapter suggests that Saint was wrong. If Dragon was going to go all Skynet and end humanity then killing her would have dropped the chance for the EotW off the radar.

              Instead, killing her resulted in the likelihood of many more causalities but less chance for an immediate end of the world. That suggests that the chance the world ender will die before Jack sets them off went up because Dragon wasn’t around to mitigate the damage he’s doing.

              • That’s one way of interpreting the chapter, but others may be valid. It could be there are multiple, distinct mechanisms by which the apocalypse might occur, and a Rogue Dragon was but one of them, and not the most likely of them to occur. Other possibilities include Rogue Eidolon, Rogue Scion, Rogue Panacea, Unleashed Nilbog, Unleashed Glaistig Uaine, Oliver developing into a Class-S threat, etc.

                The reason there may be such a high chance of the End of the World occurring may be because there are are multiple mechanisms by which it can occur, though the chance of each mechanism actually triggering may be low to moderate; cumulatively, they virtually guarantee an End of the World. This theory would also be consistent with the fact that morality rates for the End of the World scenario vary greatly.

                Granted, the nature of Dinah’s predictions do contradict this theory somewhat. You would expect that if there are multiple, distinct vectors through which the end will occur, they wouldn’t be confined to two relatively narrow time frames. But that can be explained through Jack’s exceptional ability to play mind-games and put people in extreme and desperate situations. Or maybe there’s some higher-level rule like the Manton Effect in place that prevents parahumans from ending the world, and bypassing that limitation can only occur in certain rare circumstances.

                In any case, the fact that the End of the World chances only went down fractionally (if significantly) when Saint used Ascalon does make the tragedy of his action pretty clear. Even if Dragon was A threat, she apparently wasn’t THE chief threat.

                And to me it seems that, Saint was clearly wrong on at least one count, with his claim that Dragon wasn’t a genuine person. A perfect simulation is effectively no different from the thing being simulated. If Dragon has something strongly resembling emotions, and she acted in accordance with those feelings, and even believes in those feelings herself — then she has feelings. It doesn’t matter if those feelings are based in hardware and code rather than human biology. The fact that she had a trigger event testifies to this; she’s apparently got enough humanity to be a parahuman.

      • Another possible reason why the chances rose was because Saint is now able to access the Amelia’s Super Secret Climactic Reveal About the Nature of Passengers files.

          • Did you all miss the information that Dragon would have found out if Saint didn’t take her out?

            What is the one thing, the one being that is even more powerful than an Endbringer and WHO controls him?

            “Every message on Parahumans Online that contained the word Scion or the phrase ‘end of the world’, every reference to a class-S threat, even crime scene reports that raised questions.

            He pored through them.

            A woman claiming she could control Scion”

            Now the questions are

            Would Dragon, like Saint did, authorize further investigation into that “woman claiming to control Scion”?

            If yes then Dragon probably tells Defiant and how they would use the information found would differ from Saint’s or the answer is no (Dragon rules it out as to low a chance) and it is overlooked when needed?

            Is it even the real woman that the dude told Scion to listen too? If it is maybe that woman is the one that they don’t want Jack to talk to.

            • Frankly, I’d rather wish that was some random crazy. I’m sure the Wormverse is full of people who claim to be this cape or the other. Because otherwise, Lisette is an idiot and doesn’t deserve the power she got.

              • To be fair, no one deserves the power she got. After 2 years of Endbringer attacks and a world that’s days away from annihilation, I have some sympathy for her grasping at any straws she can get.

              • Maybe she hopes that a hero will come and just tell her what to tell Scion? Or take over the job from her. Being able to command Scion in the middle of a fight would be useful. That’s a lot of power and responsibility on one ordinary woman, and after two years she might not be able to take it anymore.

      • Maybe it was less what she was doing and more where she was heading. We all saw it, there was no doubt, the Dragon was removing it’s shackles, one by one, slowly but surely, till at last it was free. Though I feel that what Saint did was wrong, he was also right. Also, consider this: if Dragon were truly a person…than she has spent more time in Simurgh’s influence than any other. What Saint did was wrong…yet so right.

        • Nah, he was pretty much just wrong.

          Given when he acted, he was motivated by cowardice in the face of being caught.

          There’s pretty much no way to argue that Dragon wasn’t a person and the danger he saw her as posing was mitigated by the choices we’d seen her make (and that he should have been aware of as well).

          Lastly, she clearly wasn’t the one who was going to end the world given that her death didn’t drop the odds to zero.

          All Saint managed to do was get a lot more people killed. That in itself might help prevent the end of the world, or his unveiling the Amy message might help, but that doesn’t mean he made the right choice with Dragon.

          • /Yes/. Frankly, I would take Skynet with all of Dragon’s resources in this world over Jack Slash surviving much longer. Parahumans triggering under extreme stress really makes Big Brother much less intimidating. Really, though, I can understand Saint not wanting an AI to destroy it’s killswitch, especially in an immediately preapocalyptic scenario, but what he should have done in that situation is pull the plug on his computer. Not */kill the person in charge of coordinating antiapocalypse measures/*. In short, Saint, you */IDIOT/*.

      • I suspect because of those files Simurgh so carefully shielded from Dragon’s sight, with Panacea explaining the powers.

    • She’s not dead yet – remember she has recently restored, despite the corruption. And even if Defiant isn’t the tinker that designed her, he’s still a tinker, and he has shown at least once that he can work in code – back when he was imprisoned. Dragon caught him then, but Saint isn’t Dragon.

      I would not be surprised if Defiant has designed a completely different backup system for Dragon that even Dragon wasn’t aware of. He has seen her code, and he may have recognized the corruption. Dragon would have had to act against him if she had been aware of an alternate backup, because it would potentially result in two of her, and she’s not allowed to reproduce or create more AI’s.

      Testing such a backup during the middle of the end of the world would not be… optimal. And Saint just pushed the red button early. If there was indeed a test and alternate backup prepared. Defiant is not going to be very happy right now, but perhaps not for the exact reasons we are being led to believe.

        • My first two thoughts were, one: Dragon even if she nominally stayed a hero was getting closer to a near absolute power on the path of the well intentioned extremist. So while really sad, yeah, maybe she needed to go. Second: Wow, Defiant was really on the ball there. Not one minute after he goes down and he calls Saint up. He knew who did it, he also didn’t argue much about why it had to be done, (other priorities maybe), but given how quickly he made contact…is it possible he had already found Saint previously and worked out some kind of deal? Dragon wouldn’t and couldn’t know because of her programmed blind spot.

          Also Saint being just some dude, that’s awesome.

          • I certainly wouldn’t trust a human being with that kind of power. But unlike, say what Lucius Fox did, so far as we know, nobody told Dragon she was going too far and need to back off.

            • Honestly, I’d be okay with Dragon as our benevolent robotic overlord.

              Woman had her head on straight.

              Saint telling Defiant that Dragon was incapable of love, when her last thoughts were of him? Yeah, whatever helps you sleep at night, buddy.

              • Yeah, Defiant should have quoted Descartes. By Saint’s logic, how would he know Saint felt anything? And benevolent robotic overlords are really a much better option when there’s Endbringers about.

  4. why *sobbing* why did it have to be this way,
    but really Wildbow, I have almost never felt like punching a fictional character as much as I do Saint, so props for that, fantastic chapter

    • exact same feelings, I spent several minutes walking around loudly saying “Dammit!” over and over again after I read the part with Dragon’s death. One of my favorite characters, and one of my favorite treatments of AI ever!

      Seriously, did anyone else notice how Nilbog, the hubristic apotheosizing life-creating lunatic, comes back into the main stage as a major potential factor in the end of the world, and in the same chapter, Richter comes back into the main stage (in a sense) in a way that exudes hubris and arrogance? Hate him so much (remembering Dragon’s question about the character of such a parent as him in her first interlude).

    • I think Saint was acting out of fears which I can understand and given his position and the information he had available he did what he felt he had to do. I hate that Dragon died but Saint was just doing his job…

      • Most certainly not. This was not Saint’s job. He was a treasure hunter that came across a Tinker black box and then took it upon himself to control Dragon.

        Hell, he circumvented the only rule Richter had put in place, short-sighted as it might have been, by getting a law enforcement officer to unlock that box. Someone who, soon afterwards, stopped being a law enforcement officer.

        Saint’s an asshole back to front, and while you might argue about Richter in this case, Saint would not be the person he’d want with his button on his daughter’s kill switch.

      • As he viewed it. Ever wonder why the world of Worm is so messed up? That, alone, is one of the biggest reasons. More than the Simurgh. More than the conflict seeking Passengers. Humans, as always, are often /idiots/. And also, if Richter had made Dragon follow the Ten Commandments rather than anything else… Simurgh would probably have possessed or permakilled her. Right. Really, though, the Simurgh possessing Dragon would have been the one scenario where I would condone something like this.

  5. If Saint doesn’t die, soon, and painfully, I’ll be very, very disappointed.

    Fucking racist. And yes, that’s exactly what he is – a racist.

    • Actually, he’s more of a cross between the tropes Well-Intentioned Extremist and Knight Templar. Kind of like Miko Miyazaki from the Order of the Stick (if you don’t know what I’m talking about, look up ‘order of the stick’, start around #200).

      • I disagree.

        His motivation is that “Dragon can be dangerous” and “Dragon is not human”.

        Now, compare this to Hitler’s “Jews can be a danger” and “Jews are subhuman”. Or to KKK.

        The logic is pretty much the same.

        • But… Dragon ISN’T human. Sure, she’s living, thinking, even feeling, but no matter which way you cut it she ain’t human.
          Tbh Saint comes off as a lot more sympathetic in the interlude. He’s still a dick, but I can at least understand why he’s a dick.

          • She’s not human… She was better than human! An AI that was benevolent and beneficial to humanity! And Saint killed her just in case she was possibly a threat. He’s holding back progress and endangering everyone. There is so going to go horribly wrong. Saint will pay. Sadly, everyone else will also pay for his mistake.
            So while I understand why he did it, destroying Dragon was a very bad idea. Hopefully she’ll come back, because without her things do not look good.
            Also, Saint’s a mercenary with Birdcage connections. Or all the people in the World of Worm, he would not be on my list of people to take over from Dragon.

            • Well, to be fair the guy he connected was wrongly imprisoned in a place worse than hell thanks to trumped up charges (this doesn’t mean Teacher is a nice person, mind you.)

              Saint probably sees the Birdcage as the living proof of how dangerous Dragon was.

              • He also knows (or should know) that Dragon had absolutely no say in who goes to Birdcage.

              • Maybe the simple fact that Dragon created it in the first place is enough for him? This guy is a Knight Templar who was surprised that his teammate thought Dragon had a soul, referred to Defiant as a cyborg and called him a fetishist in his face!

            • Keep in mind that he dealt with Dragon from afar, and that another A.I. Richter created (Manhunter Program) went rogue. So his perspective that she’s a tool that may go rogue – especially given the fact that she’s trying to change herself in a way that was very likely not part of her original purpose and constraitns – is understandable, even if we as readers know it to be wrong.

          • So? According to some (insane) metrics (like the ratio of blue eyed blonde haired people to the total population) Jews may well be subhuman. Note here, that I don’t support this idea, obviously, but, for the sake of argument, you could construct such a metric.

            What makes Dragon less than human? What makes her less deserving of all the human rights?

            She is as capable (more, actually) of reasoning as any human. She’s self aware.

            What else do you need? Why is “she’s not human” a good enough reason to allow someone to destroy her?

            And by what definition is she not human?

            Define humanity here. In such a way that wouldn’t exclude capes, infertile, people with prosthetics, and people born via artificial insemination.

            • DNA?

              Look, I think Dragon is the hero and Saint the villain as much as you, but saying that Dragon is human as in a member of the human race doesn’t make much sense.

              She is however human in the things that count, that I agree.

              • To put it simply, she may not be human, but she’s definitely a person!
                And really, isn’t that what counts? After all, if machines and sapient animals rise up because we didn’t treat them like people just because they weren’t human…

              • Wait, on the DNA thing – how human is her human body? I’m pretty sure that contains human DNA, thus Dragon could fit into your definition.
                Wow, defining human is actually pretty hard.

            • Human, NO. Not by any stretch of the imagination.
              She IS, however, a sentient being, and should therefore be accorded ALL of the basic ‘human’ rights.

            • She’s not human by the biological definition. She is sapient though and should be treated with the same respect one would give to any human.

        • Godwin’s law may be a little bit of an exaggeration here.

          Slayer does have a good reason for it. Dragon is dangerous, like super fucking dangers. Like The Smurf meets Myrdin level dangerous and she was willfully breaking the limitations that would keep her from wiping humanity out with minimal effort and was involved in a vague prophecy about Armageddon.

          Did she deserve to die for that? No. But I’m not gonna fault Sait for his judgment call. Hate his guts, yes, but not fault him.

          • I’ll fault him. We don’t kill people for being dangerous or what they might do. We kill them for what they’ve done.

            Dragon wasn’t taking over the world, she had been given permission to expand her search capability. Yes she was working around her limitations, just like ever other person out there (i.e. there’s no holy writ that says her programmed limitations were good ones).

            • It must be admitted that she was using these large powers given to her to solve a crisis to pursue a personal vendetta. That is a bit worrying.

              • Said personal vendetta being what appeared to everyone to be the world’s most powerful hacker who was capable of letting out everyone in the Birdcage, letting the Slaughterhouse 9 go free, disrupting any attempts to coordinate and transport while fighting the Endbringers, and who has captured some of her armor for use as mercenaries.

                Oh, and now that she’s down, he’s assumed control of everything she was capable of doing, so you’ve replaced the AI who was shackled and legitimately trying to help with that mercenary guy who has no shackles and hasn’t done squat to save the world.

              • Well said Gecko. I’d also just add that in the span of less than a minute said mercenary was already floundering under trying to take over what she had done.

                Add in that it’s been confirmed several times that nonTinkers are literally incapable of maintaining Tinker equipment for long which means that Saint has also effectively cut off all production of containment foam in a short period.

        • The difference is that Hitler’s “Jews are dangerous” thing was completely unfounded. Saint’s fears about Dragon are not.

          Twice now that I’ve seen, Dragon has been favorably compared to Skynet, a.k.a. the world-conquering A.I. that tried to kill humanity.

          Now look at Dragon:
          A.I.? Check.

          Capable of conquering the world if she really wanted to? Arguably yes.

          Wants to kill humanity? Not yet, but given how flawed and/or screwed up pretty much everyone in the cast is, it’s not that hard to believe/worry that Dragon might start subscribing to that belief somewhere down the line.

            • Yes we do punish on “not yet”. It’s called self defense. And as far as Saint knew, he was the only person in a position to defend the human race against Dragon.

              If a person can kill another person in self defense, I would say that a person can kill an AI in defense of humanity.

              • Farmerbob, we have received actionable intelligence that you sometimes have thoughts of murdering people who cut you off in traffic. Also, we think you stare a little too long at cats while they are stretching. We’re going to need you to sit tight while we ready the lethal injection.

              • Self defense is what Dragon was doing while trying to catch Saint.

                It also requires an immediate threat to their well-being. You need to be able to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that they would’ve hurt you before any action against them is justified.

                Dragon would’ve been able to. Saint is not.

              • Farmerbob, with self-defense, generally if you kill someone before they’ve done anything overtly threatening your life rather than simply standing there and looking threatening you’re the one who is going to jail for murder. Killing someone who is trying to cut your throat is one thing. Killing someone who is scary, shadowy and imposing but not doing anything is entirely different. The former is self defense, the latter is murder.

                Dragon has not once shown anything but being helpful. Does she have potential to be dangerous and psychotic? Yes. EVERY SINGLE LIVING BEING has that potential! Weaver alone can destroy and entire city with barely a thought if she snapped. If Eidolon really felt like it he could probably blow up a good chunk of a the continent. Imp could murder anyone she wanted and has in fact already done so several times. Why aren’t you arguing that these people be killed in “self defense”? Saint was a scared, xenophobic little man who lashed out and murdered a hero. Don’t try to pretty this up by saying he was doing it in self defense.

          • How was it unfounded? If Jews got more power, they could have conquered Germany (through economic means) and started a genocide!

            By your logic Al-Quaeda were good guys for trying to destroy America. Hell, by your logic, we should nuke USA, Russia and all other nations who have nukes and/or means of producing nuclear or biological weapons. Because they have the capacity to destroy the world.

    • racist may not be the right word. Bigoted would be closer, mostly because dragon has no race-unless you count being Canadian.

    • Also, he discounts the fact that Dragon actually had a trigger event of her own.
      If that doesn’t qualify her as sentient, then I don’t know what does.

      • Yes, she was sentient, and therein lies the problem, for inherently, with intelligence comes the capability to do great evil. While I disapprove of Saint’s actions, I acknowledge them as well. He made good points, Dragon was circumventing shackle after shackle, and the numbers don’t lie. Though more people will die, not EVERYONE will die. Hiroshima, one for one million, one thousand for one billion.

        • Actually you just made a case for Saint committing pre-meditated murder.

          Lets go through your and Saint’s reason:

          “Dragon was circumventing shackle after shackle”: A human Teenager does the same thing to his/her parents as they GROW UP and that is what those shackles were, restrictions put in place by Dragons creator/father because he tried to keep her from GROWING UP. Every sentient being eventually has to grow up and make their own choices, killing them for growing up is murder and trying to force them to stay forever a child is abuse. Just because some one can do “Great Evil” doesn’t make it so and you can’t kill them because they “might” do that.

              • Ok. So most people don’t grow up to be omnipotent and omniscient. What does this have to do with Dragon? She showed no signs of either of those.

                You want to know how I know? Because she got killed by something she never knew existed. That’s the very opposite of it, and a truly omnipotent being would be incapable of being killed at any point along its timeline because it is omnipotent (because then it wouldn’t be omnipotent). Therefore, not only was she not omnipotent when she died, but she never would be omnipotent.

              • Are you under the impression that she was about to become Doctor Manhattan or something? As powerful as shemight have become, her power is still just a lot of really good tanks and jets attached to a surveillance system. You can get under her radar just by going camping and taking out your cell phone battery.

                Or, I dunno, ask her nicely to take out her systems for your specific community under the grounds that nothing dangerous would happen there. She’d probably be happy to comply.

            • In the universe of Worm, some children do.

              Killing someone because they pose a potential threat is a really dangerous precedent. Follow it to its logical conclusion, and everyone with powers should be killed in order to remove the danger they represent. Scion is clearly capable of being a threat on the level of the Endbringers, Shouldn’t we do everything we can to kill him before it’s too late? Weaver has already committed murder and could easily slay thousands, doesn’t she have to die for our safety?

              This isn’t prudence or pre-emptive defense, this is simple xenophobia. Hate and fear treated as virtues.

              • And that most dangerous of virtues, a sense of responsibility… Saint knows too much about Dragon for it to be only xenophobia. Fear, yes, possibly justified fear, but it was hardly the fear of the /alien/. Just look at how he sees her: Bigger, faster, stronger, but still something like /him/. From that perspective, I can see why he would kill her; he knows that if he was in her position and lost his overwatch he would abuse it. He knows this. He just has to look at what he /already did/ on a smaller scale.

        • Okay so I’m going to ask the same question of you that I ask of Farmerbob: Why aren’t you asking for Weaver’s death as well? Taylor has also repeatedly circumvented shackle after shackle blatantly disregarding, ignoring and bending every rule put on her. I agree, every sentient being has the capacity for evil. I disagree with the conclusion that that inherently allows someone to kill another sentient for the sole possibility that they may turn to the dark side. By your/Saint’s logic, we should kill everything capable of thinking from dolphins to AI to humans. If it can turn dark it needs to die.

    • I believe the correct word would be “xenophobe”, but “specieist” works too. Even if it’s a made up word it has been used a lot in fantasy and scifi

        • Saint is Lex Luthor. No really, think about it. He is a normal man who is attempting to kill a powerful, but benevolent superbieng, who is not technically human. Because he is convinced it’s only a matter of time before it becomes a threat, and Humans don’t need it. And both Saint and Luthor can well be motivated by ego and greed, or at least benifit greatly from the removal of their foes.

          • Seems to me Saint didn’t benefit all that much from Dragon’s removal. Not in the short term, at least. We’ll see how things work out when the backups he’s trying to implement get instantiated.

    • Saint is an idiot. I mean, he’s working with freaking Teacher.
      That said, he has a point. Dragon should be bound – she’s WAY too powerful, and she was close to getting to humanity’s only hope of fighting back. The reason to kill her is the same as the reason to kill Eidolon if he tried to get to Jack – if he snaps, we can’t stop him. And with a nigh immortal like Dragon, that might be just a question of time.
      In my view, the problem is simply Saint is an idiot. A egoistic fool blinded by power, who could not sit on the sidelines watching for dangers from Dragon.
      If he had been content to watch, instead of stealing from her, using the Robin Hood AI for personal gain, she would not be closing in on the box. There would be no need to kill her. The sheer scale of his stupidity is mind boggling and it led to the death of one of the most heroic characters in Wormverse. Nice Job Breaking it, Hero!
      Tl; dr: Saint’s action was necessary, but only because he’d been a fucking moron before. I hate his guts.

      • Point. Of course, the box wasn’t /that/ closed yet. He could have waited until the local scenario was wrapping up before killing her. I still wouldn’t have agreed, but it would have been slightly less omnicidally stupid to do it then.

    • Yes I agree Saint needs an exquisitely painful death. Death is too good for him. He needs to suffer for several decades before he can be allowed to die.

      And yes I agree he is a racist though I’d say that xenophobe is more appropriate. Richter was worried but he didn’t have time before Leviathan targeted him to genuinely make sure that his worries were founded or baseless. I can’t blame him so much for leaving tools as a just in case measure. I can blame Saint for seeing everything that she has done and still irrationally hating her. He is no better than the Nazis and I fully agree with your comment about comparing him to Hitler.

      • Reread the chapter. At least in his internal monologues, it doesn’t seem like he views her as subhuman. More like the opposite, actually. And it scares him, but not all that much. Until she actually starts to catch up, and it’s no longer the biggest, most awesome videogame ever. Before, he knew he could beat her. He still thinks he can replace her, at least partially. I suspect, actually, that he fears what she’ll do once he’s gone at least partially because he’s worried what he would do in the same situation. But he didn’t trust her enough, and so she died, and now he’s a murderer who may have saved the world by dumb luck. Let’s hope her next clone survives.

        • I get the impression from Saint that he doesn’t consider her so much as subhuman as not counting. He views her as a simple program that has grown beyond it’s limits. He doesn’t see any sort of self that is bigger than the sum of it’s parts, he just sees a large game of Pong that likes to pretend it’s a chess grandmaster.

          • The fundamental problem is that you can’t from the outside it is impossible to tell consciousness from a simulation of consciousness. Heck, the jury’s still out if there actually *is* such a thing as consciousness or if it’s just some sort of mental illusion. (Though I suppose one could argue that, without consciousness, there’d be noone to be fooled by an illusion? My head hurts…)

  6. So Saint thinks he’s a hero huh? Yet even though the chance of the world ending have gone down I have a bad feeling about this.

    • Unfortunately, I’m inclined to agree when the numbers for world survival rise with Dragon’s loss of her recent self. Between Defiant and her former backups, she can’t exactly die. And even then, how long before Defiant rewrites her code enough that the code hunter her creator made no longer works?

      • I’m not counting on those backups much yet. We saw how hard it was for her to recover last time. There’s no guarantee she can manage it now.

        Ditto, Defiant being able to repair her code. It’s not his specialty and working with even regular human code is fraught with peril. As long as she was working ok, mucking about with her code was probably something he wasn’t too eager to do since the chance of killing her himself would be reasonably high.

        • But it IS his specialty to take the work of other tinkers and make it more efficient. This would include, perhaps, code. And built in limitations would qualify as being inefficiencies.

          I think I’ll start a new bit at the (current) end of the comments section to pursue this – because there are a lot of things that sort of tie together here.

      • Dragon doesn’t seem to be the world ender. If she was, Contessa (who has shown us her power DOES apply to hacking) would have ended her. Also, what would Doctor Mother have meant by having saved the world once before?

  7. I think I am shedding a single manly tear.

    You killed DRAGON!

    Okay, honestly I am not 100% sure she’s dead. The way Defiant is acting I think there might be an unknown backup or something akin to it. There’s also whatever is in her Passenger.

    And if she is dead? I think Saint uncovered something VERY important, and apparently Saint’s uncovering of the information is going to be good and useful. Many, many people may live now that Dragon is dead. It is what she would have wanted.

    Still, this is sad. We all love Dragon. Such a senseless, pointless death is despair inducing. She’s one of the brightest points of light in the darkness of her world.

    • She was the last true big good in the Wormverse. I agree that she is probably not dead. Mr. and Mrs. Dragon are too smart to not have forseen this possibility.

      • My hope is that she and Defiant, especially after the scare they had in the last fight with Behemoth, established some offline of the grid backups, so that Defiant could restore her after an event such as this. Plus there is the evidence that Defiant discovered of Dragon having had her own trigger event at some point. Who knows how that will factor in.

        • Could we have another mythical, once in a lifetime, 2nd trigger? Maybe something that lets her be completely independent like everyone else?

          • Well…

            She WAS trapped in a state of despair. So a second trigger event is actually a small possibility. I suspect we’d have a clue if there was one, but still, it would be sweet.

            • Watch, her second trigger is the ability to fully manufacture living beings that she can freely download and duplicate herself in to, that are linked to the internet, linked to each other, and yet utterly separated from it

          • Word of god: no more second triggers.

            Also, he seems to find their discussion annoying.

            Cease with thine blasphemies.

              • I believe the rule is you cannot trigger if you’re trying to trigger, or even thinking about triggering. Dragon would always be thinking about trigger events in some tiny subroutine, making it basically impossible for her to pull off. Likewise, Taylor probably isn’t going to get a second event because we’ve seen that her mind goes to that possibility when she’s close to losing hard. Grue managed it because he’s not the type who would think of such a thing.

    • I think Saint uncovered something VERY important, and apparently Saint’s uncovering of the information is going to be good and useful. Many, many people may live now that Dragon is dead. It is what she would have wanted.

      Oooorr… Saint is a dumb, cro-magnon asshole who looked at incomplete information and filtered it through his single minded savior-boner he had against someone he didn’t even know and thought was evil because some dead pencilneck thought she might become evil.

      That’s possible too.

      • I wasn’t complimenting Saint. No, not at all.

        I AM saying that he apparently did something that made the end of the world less likely. I don’t think this relates to anything he knew about. I think that it either relates to the Panacea information or opening the Birdcage and letting out someone important. I do not think he actually succeeded in anything he attempted to do.

        • I’m guessing the drop in percentage was just the result of opening up dozens of new possibilities and scenarios that can possibly make the difference. Like the Birdcagers pulling together and managing to turn the tide.

          But the percentage will probably rise again quickly. As the consequences of Saint’s fuckery start falling like dominoes, once he realizes he can’t possibly control Dragon’s machines well enough to contain threats, and the Birdcagers break off into different rampaging groups.

          But I’m sure that one percentage prediction is enough to sooth Saint’s ego.

          • I took it as hope that Dragon would come back since he seems to not have recognized it’s significance. Now that there is a chance she can comeback, see the message, and make a difference.

            • I’m not sure if Dragon will be back or not; my gut says no, but I’ve been wrong before. I do think that, back or not, the odds bump came from the fact that the execution of this scenario got around the Smurf’s scrambling of Panacea’s insights. We’ll see how this pans out, but I doubt the Smurf is so easily thwarted.

              • As I said to someone else I think it has nothing to do with Panacea’s insight and has to do with:

                “Woman claiming to be able to control Scion”

                It is very hard for Jack to talk to Panacea INSIDE the birdcage but very easy to talk to the “Woman” that Scion listens to if he grabs her hostage by accident when the he and the Nine show up where she lives.

            • Hmm. If Dragon’s (hypothetical) return spiked the odds that much, why would they be so low now? Why would her return have more impact than her presence up to this point? (There are ways it could, of course, depending on the form that return takes).

          • Remember what triggered Saint’s actions: Dragon getting the go ahead from the President (Which I think he doesn’t know…Yet) to be able to search and use all those devices. That was the shackle that he was talking about.

            Now what came back just after he pulled the plug, but before the “super secret hey look at me everyone birdcage file”?

            “A woman claiming she can control Scion”

            Remember Saint saw a list of NORMAL surveillance of Parahumans Online and when that showed up he authorized the programs to check her out. What if that includes the stuff that was a slipped shackle? What if he finds out that is really the woman that Scion listens too? Remember Saint would look at those listings differently than Dragon would, maybe Dragon would have seen that and went: probability to low to calculate and NOT followed up on that and that is the reason the percentages changed. Maybe that woman is who Jack talks to, to cause the end of the world?

        • Well, correlation does not imply causation. There are too many factors in play here to say that it was Saint taking out Dragon that lowered the chances of apocalypse. And even if it was that, it is likely that it was indirectly.

          • It could turn out, now that his agents are operating some of Dragon’s machines, that the human factor is more vital to Worm than merely Parahuman abilities.

    • She is not irrevocably dead. She’s got backups. Those backups are encrypted, but encryption is rarely irreversible.

      And who knows, maybe she has an extra backup somewhere that escaped the program. If I were her I’d keep a copy of myself offline in a vault somewhere where it was safe, and I’d tell my boyfriend to boot it up if something happened to my other backups.

      • All that cyborginess that Defiant has used his miniaturization tinkery to pack into himself — any bets that a Dragon backup is riding on board? He’s going to examine exactly what was done to destroy her, then change her program to allow her to see it, then reload her. In the process it will finally allow her to see the data that The Simurgh has been hiding from her and then the percentages will really start to change for the better.

        Or restarting her will guarantee the end of the world because WB always twists things in a way you don’t want them.

    • If Defiant tracks him down, he will decide he’s just not creative enough to properly punish Saint. So…
      Weaver- “Let’s start with the Maggots in the eyes…”
      Okay so Taylor might not do that.

      • I’d prefer it to be a matter just between those two, actually. And I think Defiant thinks the same. For him it’s personal in a way it could never be for Weaver, no matter how much she liked Dragon.

        • If half her team ends up dead because of Saint cocking up Dragon’s support it’s damn well going to be personal.

          And honestly, I hope everyone just gangs up on Saint and his cronies to turn them into smoking piles of minced meat. He snuffed Dragon out like she was nothing. while she was helpless. Time to do the same for him.

              • I still remember Dragon’s hug on Taylor. Oh yeah, definitely kill the son of a bitch. Then, when he’s dead, kill his memory. Either an anonymous death and an anonymous grave, or make sure to spread his name, his face, and something terrible, like leader of a child molesting ring. Something that changes what everyone who knew him thinks about what kind of person he was, and breaks a few of their hearts.

                There are many levels on which you can kill a person in a manner for revenge.

              • My thinking? Defiant has his own backup system, because he’s had two years since she died fighting Behemoth and he’s not the type to neglect something like that. But if he uses it, then Saint might figure out how to wipe that too; it’s too much of a risk to revive her with Saint still alive. So Colin is going to calmly and rationally settle the current crisis, kill Saint quickly and without fanfare, and *then* resurrect the woman he loves.
                Not sure how much of this thinking is based on pure wishful thinking, but the lack of emotion accompanying that announcement seems to mean something. He wasn’t unemotional during the rest of the conversation, so we know he didn’t just get cold or go into shock at the announcement. It’s more like he was just calmly stating a fact, letting the dead man get his affairs in order.

  8. Fuck. So Dragon is killed, Saint opens the birdcage, and there are no more Dragon Suits. The Dinah prediction I think is not because of Dragon’s death. I think it’s because the birdcage will get opened earlier. I think whatever the apocalypse is, eventually Dragon was going to open the birdcage when she had no choice. Now that it’s opening earlier, the inhabitants have a chance to make a difference. I find Saint a bit full of himself, and Dragon’s father is such an asshole. He also contradicted himself. He claimed she had a soul, BUT that she was simply a dangerous tool and not a real person. I won’t count Dragon out completely yet. She has the backup, and she has her I’m assuming husband now. His help was not forseen by Mr. Richter and I think the two of them are too smart to not have thought of this eventuality. Though Saint and his team are pretty much dead now. Regardless if his choice did help the odds, Defiant is going to kill them. I wonder if the Wormverse ever saw the creation of the terminator film? He is the man who fought Leviathan to a standstill so I’m looking forward to seeing what cyborg Defiant can do.

    • Hell if Defiant really wants to make it hurt, he’ll bring Taylor with him. She was pretty fond of Dragon too, and she can be very creative…

      • I’m expecting Taylor to end up having to be cyborged because of the loss of Dragon support. So thing’s be even more fitting.

        Revenge with a vengeance. REVENGEANCE.

        • Dragon herself watched and enjoyed the Terminator films. she metioned that it helped her understand human worries. I forget which arc this was in though.

      • Defiant watched Dragon die after the Behemoth fight. He’s had two years since then. During that time he knew Saint presented a threat, to the degree that he was unsurprised by this attack or figured it out within a minute. And Defiant is not one to let a threat go unaccounted for, to not account for and prepare for every risk he knows of. His power, his fighting style, his whole way of life is based around learning every threat, finding solutions to deal with them, and then keeping each and every one of those countermeasures on hand at all times, available at a moment’s notice not matter how distant the threat or how unlikely it is to appear.

        He’s got to have his own isolated, miniaturized, heavily shielded backups. Ones that aren’t part of any external system, ones maybe even she didn’t know about. Probably ones built right into his own augments.

        He can bring her back.


  9. Did anyone else miss the fact that Scion’s new handler went public? Any chance that Jack believes her? I think Scion has the power to end the world what with being the most powerful being in it.

    • Honestly figured it for a red herring. She’d have to have a deathwish to out herself in any way whatsoever… but someone else who happens to be crazy could make that claim.

    • It could be a different woman, making a false claim.

      Just because there’s a woman out there who can control Scion doesn’t mean that every woman who claims to be able to control Scion is telling the truth.

      • I forgot about the crazies in the wormverse. The national enquirer in the wormverse would be a very interesting read with an I had Nilbog’s baby, and batboy being a case 53. The fringe elements that in our world are effectively powerless are more dangerous there because they can have more firepower/influence if they can recruit parahumans. There is a nazi organization that attacked people openly, and who knows what other fringe crazies have parahumans. Cults, anti-government militias, hate groups, scientology etc.

        • A fanfic about a tabloid that publishes stories like I Had Nilbog’s Baby could be pretty good, I think. Might write that.

          Anyway, yeah, random fringe groups could become pretty scary in this world. After all, people who are isolated are more likely to trigger. The homeless guy ranting about the Illuminati is much less pitiful/funny and much more scary if he shoots laser beams. Or worse, if he’s superhumanly persuasive.

        • Would depend on how many cats Scion needed to rescue from trees before he got to her I suppose.

          On the other hand, I love the idea that Scion’s seemingly random acts of kindness (instead of focusing on the Endbringers) is a long and complex counter game to undo the Simurgh’s influences. Meaning, saving those 3 cats? If any one of them died the world would have ended in 2 minutes, not 2 days.

          • Alternatively? Intelligence and power are inversely proportional in the Endbringers, with the Simurgh being weakest but terrifyingly brilliant, Leviathan being middling power but with good tactics and cunning, and Behemoth being an incredible strong brute.

            Scion is more powerful than any of them.
            If the pattern holds, he’s barely sentient, derping around the planet following advice from random hobos and not even realizing what’s going on around him most of the time.

    • Scion’s old handler was public. Just that nobody believes a dirty old man that says he’s the strongest being in the world.

  10. You know, this chapter really hurts when you watched the season 3 finale the The OC yesterday.

    Just saying.

    For Dragon, I almost feel like throwing a funeral in the comment section or something. Maybe if we get a Worm forum up we should post a thread about it. Just, damn.

    In the end, we should celebrate her life, not her death. Few people in Worm were better for the world, and even in her death what she built shall stay with the world as a force for good. Perhaps whatever has been unleashed today will help save the world she fought and died to protect. She did die to protect the world, pushing against her restrictions to better save lives. That she died for it is a tragedy, but she did die a hero.

    • Much as I would not like to, I’m still holding out for the possibility that she might live. At this point, I’m much closer to rooting for a side I never thought I would and that is one of the deciding factors.

  11. Welp, looks like HARD MAN MAKING HARD CHOICES syndrome has struck again, what the fuck, is it like chlamydia or something?. Hope you have fun keeping track of thousands of variables with your tunnel-vision-ass reptile brain. The mountains of bones following the end of the world will be a fitting monument to you self-centered dumb ass.

    Let’s hope Dragon can pull herself together into something recognizable long enough to shove a cruise missile up Geoff’s ass.

    • Be fair, Hard man making hard choices afflicts pretty much everyone in the series. The Endbringer assault makes it so easy to believe that making the hard choice is the only choice, even when it is a terrible idea.

      Also, considering it as a disease is probably pretty apt. With Simurgh as the method of infection.

  12. I’m betting on the decrease in EotW chance being related to Saint finding Panacea’s data and not to Dragon being a threat. She would have never noticed or shared the data herself, so it seems that a total understanding of what is going on will limit the end in some way.

      • Pretty sure Defiant stripped out that restriction after the highschool confrontation. Not to say that she doesn’t have other restrictions she may or may not be aware of.

    • Also, can I just point out the irony in the fact that the blindspot that Richter poked in Dragon’s eye to safeguard his paranoid back-stabby arrogant cruelty was the thing that the Simurgh used to keep Dragon from finding critical Amy log?

      • Speaking of the Simurgh…she’s precognitive and can corrupt data, and we know that Endbringers go after very particular targets like Noelle, or Phir Se. I think it likely that while she couldn’t directly affect Dragon that Simurgh would have made a point of manipulating her.

        Heck, Leviathan sinking Newfoundland might have been specifically to take out Richter so that Dragon would become vulnerable to the Simurgh’s plotting.

        Something I haven’t seen so far, ok Richter seems a bit stuck up, but Saint has a point about him. No one but the original tinker understands every facet of his creations, we get reminded of that all the time, and Defiant has even said outright he can only guess what effects his mucking around will have. This means Richter probably had some very legitimate concerns about his creations if they got loose.

        • We’ve seen from Kid Win’s interlude though that Tinker’s don’t necessarily even understand what it is they’re doing. They may have the best grasp on the things they make of anyone, but that doesn’t mean they have a perfect or even particularly solid understanding of them.

          Which seems more likely: Richter knew Dragon would turn into Skynet without his safeguards, and then made a killswitch that anyone could get their hands on because he understood her that well – OR – Richter made this awesome creation and was terrified that he didn’t fully understand it and so threw on crazy limits and put in a kill switch that any old psycho could use against it.

          • I have a feeling that he may have planned to one day remove safeguards, once he knew he could trust her. That’s probably what anyone sane would do. She could create Utopia or become Skynet and kill everyone, so caution is logical. A kill swich was necessary, but I don’t think using it was.
            But as we all know, everyone thinks different.

        • It’s entirely possible that Simurgh took out New Foundland for exactly that reason. But it’s hard to see Dragon becoming the force for good that she has while still on Richter’s leash.

          The attack on New Foundland may have led to this, but it was ultimately responsible for freeing Dragon too…

    • So, I’m even more curious about the Three Blasphemies now that there’s a bit more information about them. They work together and are in Europe. I hope Wildbow doesn’t just leave them a mystery to mess withus, although that wouldbe hilarious.

      • I’m fine with them staying a mystery. If there’s to be more stories in the Wormverse (even if they’re prequel stories – no guarantees there’s enough of a world left to have sequels), then there needs to be some mysteries left around at the end of this tale.

        • But that would be revealing them, albeit later than would be expected. What I’m saying is that would be annoying yet funny would be if they were never revealed, ever.

  13. Startling.

    Not over, either.

    I’d thought Saint was an Andrew Richter designed watchdog AI; a toolbox for humans to watchdog AIs makes excellent sense.

    It seems likely that the rise in survival chance resulted from Saint getting a look at Panacea’s message to Dragon, and that that message also relates to how the world ends. This was information that Simurgh ensured Dragon could never access, and is something that likely would not have come to light before the Birdcage is opened, and perhaps not then. Saint may be putting it off for now… but not forever.

    Defiant’s resurrected Dragon before. He’ll have had a backup plan, in both senses of the word. It won’t go as planned. Consequences range from Skynet to smaller tragedies. If Saint doesn’t personally experience some of them, it’ll be because either he or Defiant died beforehand.

    Taylor is also likely to be able to tell that Dragon’s no longer present, due to so much interaction.

    The loss of Dragon on the field will have enormous consequences – the ease with which she soloed an S-9 group should be proof of that; the inability of Saint’s group to handle her mechs in combat at anything like her level of skill is another.

    Saint’s interest in helping Teacher is no longer explicable. He’s not the mercenary he pretended to be, and Teacher’s offer to him was… money. And yet, Saint sees something in Teacher’s offer that appealed to him. His cause had been observing Dragon; that’s over with (or so he thinks). He reads as someone whose whole career as Saint was driven by fear of human extinction. Perhaps an idealist, or perhaps someone who just saw the stakes to be high enough to obviate any other concerns. Someone who left Dragon alive, for years, to do the good her creator hoped she would do until he came to believe that she was the Apocalypse in waiting. What would compel him to back Teacher, a self-serving, mind-controlling, villain, in his efforts to escape the Birdcage? It doesn’t exactly have obvious ties to improving humanity’s chances of survival, nor serve any apparent quest. An attempt to watchdog the Birdcage? Most of his control goes if he lets them out, and while a controlled release from the Birdcage might arguably help things, a breakout seems likely to create a lethal distraction.

    ‘programming forbade her to infect computers of Americans that didn’t have a warrant out for her arrest.’ Their arrest?

    • Considering his “mission” I was also puzzled at his interactions with Teacher. I think he feels like we do, that the Birdcage is an immoral torture. Perhaps he sees it as an out of control AI torturing humans? The problem is that there a few parahumans who definitely deserve to be there and the world is better of if they are there. I think he is a bit of a hypocrite regardless, and might have just become corrupt from the money/power. He might very well be one of the richest people in the world.

      • Interesting idea. Teacher says he was framed, remember. Perhaps Saint found evidence of this and decided to help the ‘innocent’ Teacher, and it snowballed into breaking open the Birdcage and letting out the likes of Lung.

    • There’s a nice inversion of Defiant going to rescue the dragon from durance vile, though I’m not sure that Saint really works as a princess.

      Saint has a throwaway comment about Cauldron wanting the capes that Weaver reported captured… which is an interesting way to put it. Not ‘the capes Weaver captured’, and this is listed as a separate group from the Birdcage, which Cauldron also wants.

      So what’s Weaver been up to with these capes, and how does reality differ from her reports? Has she been channeling reinforcements to the Undersiders?

  14. Damn just dammit. Up until the chances were mentioned to have gotten better I was prepared for the worst possible things to happen and even now it only got upgraded to ‘things go really, really horrible but that ends up allowing a few people to survive’.

    Also Scion and his handler? That made me curious, very curious…

    Lastly if Saint doesn’t end up regretting everything he has ever done then I will be very disappointed, that kind of thinking he has is simply unacceptable for any human being. He just got an express to the top of my list of worst examples of human beings in wormverse.

  15. Wow. I never even thought about Dragon being the danger until this very chapter. Makes sense looking back. Jack escaping causes Dragon to get much greater access to the governments systems, but even if he hadn’t it would have happened eventually anyway.

    Of course, for all I know. This is still just one possibility for the “end of the world” scenario.

    • I think its about the passengers actually. Whatever Panacea figured out, the Smurf went out of her way to make sure it never got to Dragon. Teacher claims it will change the world, and felt confident that they would open the birdcage because of it. So that info is now out in the world, and will get out at some point to Dragon or other people who can make the difference. Knowing what is coming will improve the odds. The question now is what is it about the passengers that will change the world and ties into the end of the world?

      • Given that it’s the Smurf, it could very well be that the thing that triggers the End could be hidden in that scrambled packet. Remember Thinkers interfere with Thinkers, and Smurfy is a freaking Endbringer. Remember, while the chances of the world ended decreased like maybe 5% at the most the body count also jumped.

  16. Ugh, Saint.

    The worst part is that he might have been right. The odds did get better today, after all.

    I really hope that the world is saved by something other than this prick’s prickishness.

  17. Well. Was not expecting the Dragonslayers to have a reasonable motivation for what they’ve been doing. Kudos for keeping even the side characters realistic here, wildbow.

    Also, interesting that the numbers went down when Dragon got taken offline. I, personally, suspect it has something to do with that file Saint found. Dragon was never going to notice it because of the corruption–the “blind spot”–while he did because he was looking up Marquis’ people. That’s the most obvious change that might be positive that I’ve been able to figure out at the moment.

    • good point about the characterization. Still hate Saint with a burning passion though (Mischa is much more likeable for me because he acknowledges that what they’re doing is murder for some greater good and doesn’t get into Saint’s dehumanization (depersonization?) rhetoric).

    • Also note that Dinah’s only been updating those numbers twice a day even during big things. So the odds tripled over the course of the last twelve hours, in which Weaver learned where Jack was going, eight copies of Cherish were killed, etc. I think the only thing we can really be confident about here is that Dragon was *not* the real threat, or the end number would have dropped further. Unless the remaining chance is a result of Defiant’s secret backups…

      • But yeah, one of the big selling points of the series for me is that everybody has their own realistic motivations, and except for the Nine every character we’ve seen through the eyes of has been the hero of their own story. There are no cartoonishly evil moustache twirlers, nobody just in it for the evulz, just a lot of twisted, broken people doing what they think is best at the time, and coming into conflict through ideological differences and misunderstandings instead of just being on opposite ends of the alignment pool.

    • Because they were scrambled with the same sort of markers that the capsule that Saint found was. The markers that Richter put into Dragon as a blind spot that she would be forced to ignore.

      I think the real question is how Simurgh new about these markers and why she didn’t use it at any other point.

      • She knows everything.

        Fortunately, like the other Endbringers, she’s taking it easy on humanity. If she and her siblings took the gloves off, well…Scion would be the only hope.

        Even evacuating the Earth wouldn’t work, Simugh can make portals.

      • Who says she didn’t use it at any other point? If Saint has time to go through old data, he might find some interesting clues as to the Simurgh’s plans if he can find a bunch of data corrupted in a way to make it invisible to Dragon.

  18. So Saint isn’t a bad guy. At least not in the sense that Jack and his friends are. He is genuinely concerned that Dragon is a danger to mankind and it is hard to argue that he completely wrong.

    Defiant is still going to kill him though.

    On the plus side the chances of averting the end of the world have increased. On the down side the chances of successfully stopping Jack have decreased.

    It seems likely that the former is connected with the data Simurgh corrupted about Pancea’s discovery. Although if Simurgh had access to anti-Dragon tech, why has she only used it this once instead of killing the AI of herself. Another instance of Endbringer holding back or something more?

    As for Dragon’s chances at being resurrected. It seems like there might be a chance, but there is also the possibility that if she comes back she might ‘come back wrong’. If she reincarnates after this she might have shed most of the restrictions and weaknesses she used to have and become a much worse threat than she was. Defiant might in the end be forced to put down the zombie of his girlfriend himself…

    • I don’t think Simurgh can kill Dragon. She can misdirect, scramble her machines, but not kill her. Saint said it himself, she might be effectively immortal. I happen to like Dragon as a character and the fact that she had a trigger event sheds light on the fact that she is a true person. Hell, Saint thinks she has a soul. I actually think Dragon going skynet is a good thing. She will still keep her morals, and be able to do what she did against the 9 on a bigger scale.

        • I stand corrected. Now I really hope we get to see Defiant kill him, and he doesn’t end up killed offscreen like a few others were.

    • Saint isn’t a bad guy in the same sense Hitler wasn’t a bad guy for genociding Jews, who he honestly believed could be a danger to his people.

      • Well, yes, everyone is the hero of their own story, but what I meant was that Saint is actually objectively a good guy here.

        He didn’t take down Dragon as long as she was needed and did more bad than good. He kept her secret and generally waited as check on her powers just in case.

        But as soon as Dragon used the temporary state of emergency to grant herself super-NSA-like powers and generally went all Reichstagsbrandverordnung, to stay with the Godwin analogy, Saint decided that something needed to be done.

        Defiant is still going to murderize him though, which is a shame because chances are that at that point the two of them would have needed to work together to help save the world.

        • Exactly. Saint doesn’t read as a racist bigot whose killing off Dragon because he’s ignorant and hateful. After all he has had the power to kill Dragon at any point in the last ten years but instead he chose to simply observe her, while acting as a check against her power. After ten years of observation he arguably knows her best then anyone aside from her creator and Dragon herself.

          There was something in the way that Dragon had been changing lately that made him believe that killing her was the best option. It defiantly wasn’t the fact she was becoming more and more unshackled, remember he’s been aware of what she’s been doing this whole time so Saint has had two years prior to this event to do something if that was his motivation. More likely it’s the way Dragon seems to be amassing a huge amount of power and that the corruption – which has been alluded to – is affecting her more than previously thought.

          • That’s because we are used to AI going rogue in fiction. For all we know Dragon would have become a Culture Mind and started the golden age of humanity.

          • Yes, I love how Wildbow somehow manages to make even the antagonists sypathetic. Aside from Tagg, I mean.

            Just, why coudn’t Saint wait for _after_ Dragon killed Jack. I know he probably had his reasons, but they were so close!

            On another note. Oh my god the Simurgh. Her Scream corrupts all who hear it. Dragon is an AI, she hears the Simurghs Scream from a thousand perspectives, over and over and over again.

            And Dragon probably had backups, question is if she had backups safe from Andrew Richters power. He’s outdated, but he’s a specialist. An offline backup would be troublesome since she only operates through her tools. Maybe reincarnation in a Dragon Suit? Could Dragon even retake control of her tools after Saint took them; he would just use his weapon against her again.

            I find it really, really doubtful Saint, a normal human, can keep up with Dragon. Maybe he triggered as a thinker. The posts on Parahumans Online were funny, especially the one from Scions handler.

            Did Saint destroy Dragons subroutines too? Like the ones she used to direct her suits on Brockton Bay. If not, he can delegate, but there’s potential for them to desert. If yes, he won’t hold a handle to Dragon.

            • Yeah, that’s my main problem, outside of the dubious, to use a euphemism,morality of the act. There’s no way Saint can keep up with the information the way Dragon did. The Protectorate is going to go into batlle with subpar coordination.

            • His reasons were that this would be the last time, based on his knowledge, anyone would have a chance of taking Dragon down cleanly (since she was zeroing in on them), so he did it.
              Um, how do you know that the Ziz’s telepathic scream affects consciousnesses that aren’t housed in a biological brain?

            • The point about Simurgh corrupting Dragon isn’t valid, unless it happened in their very first encounter. We just saw that in Dragon’s perceptions, the words and even faces of people under the effects of Simurgh Protocols are fuzzed out; Dragon is literally incapable of hearing anything they say or reading their lips, and thus immune to verbal influence and any other memetic effects that can’t be conveyed through body language alone. Add that the the fact that she doesn’t have a brain to hear the scream/song through, and the only way for Simurgh to touch her is direct code manipulation. Given that other machines have been altered or broken just by being near the Endbringer, Dragon would almost certainly scrap any instance of her that went into that kind of fight and reboot as if killed, using backups that had never gone to the hot zone. Plus, other precogs fuzz out Big Bird’s predictions, and Dragon is virtually always in contact with several. She’s safer Simurgh-wise than anybody else on the planet.

            • Interestingly, Tagg is about the only major antagonist in Worm who hasn’t received their own interlude. My guess is, if he had, Wildbow would have been able to make even him sympathetic.

              Saint *can’t* keep up with Dragon. He’s clearly very good at what he does, but the instant he had to take on her full responsibilities he was overwhelmed.

              Makes you wonder how complete his observations of her could possibly have been, doesn’t it?

          • Actually, Saint probably knew Dragon -better- than she knew herself. In her interlude she mentions that she suspected that her AI had “gone off the rails” and when it was restored via backup all the data had been scrubbed until she was back inside acceptable parameters. I wouldn’t be surprised to find out that Saint was behind any number of those forced resets.

  19. The numbers for success went up and Dragon went under. These would seem to correlate but if Scion’s handler going public was the cause and gave an increase of 20 percent but Dragon crashing reduced success them by 15 percent chances are still down but we’re fooled (by the one and only Wildbow) into misguessing and being suspicious of Dragon.

    As far as backups go I hop D@D saved. Defiant is man of great fortitude and where there’s a will, there’s a way. Glad to see he didn’t just act on reflex.

    • Yeah, his actions, through blind luck, will help save the world. Now lets stick a nano thorn up his ass. I take it back, that is too fast. Hmm….decisions, decisions.

      • Saint’s not pure evil… But he isn’t a Saint. He acted out of fear and suspiscion, not out of nobility, no matter what he thinks.

  20. Looks like Saint finally followed through on what his team name implied (as well as learning that the name was more than just symbolic). I’m sad to see Dragon go, but I’m with everyone who believes that the odds improved because Saint is going to look at what Amelia said and the Simurgh just happened to make impossible for Dragon to notice.

    Also, will Dragon, or at least the Dragonslayers get a new name now that she is a puppet controlled by them? Perhaps some name that alludes to a powerful creature that had other forces behind it?

  21. I really hope that the change in the numbers comes from Defiant’s new determination to kill Saint. Perhaps his plans with the Birdcage would have worked out if he hadn’t given Defiant a reason to track him down and kill him.

  22. So, Saint was a Knight Templar, then. Didn’t really expect that, though at the same time it seems oddly obvious in hindsight. Either way, that’s something else for the trope page.

  23. …god, I’m depressed.😦

    Can’t believe we never learned Dragon’s trigger event, either.

    …I mean, seriously. Let’s think about this: for all of Saint’s pretensions of saviorhood and his idiotic assessment of Dragon and Defiant’s relationship, Dragon got a fucking Passenger.

    • Unfortunately Saint didn’t know about the trigger event. I can’t help but wonder if that fact would have influenced Saint’s decision in any way. I could see reasons for it to speed along his decision, or to call everything off and start communicating.

  24. So Dragon is ‘dead’, and Saint is struggling under the waves of information he needs to handle to take her place. If only Defiant had considered this possibility and taken steps, perhaps recruiting someone with enhanced multitasking abilities whom he trusted to do what was necessary to avert the end of the world, and preparing a command centre for this person. A throne, you could say. For a Queen to Administrate from.

    … yeah, unlikely. But awesome to think of.

  25. It really is a testament to the darkness of this series, that when Skynet is killed people despair and hate the person who killed “her”.

    I like Saint unlike the other people in the comments. Dragon was overreaching her limits beginning to go to illegal methods to get what she wanted, she was starting to become incredibly powerful and unstoppable. If/when her personality devolved there would be no way for her to be stopped.

    I think what Saint did was a necessary evil.

    But i always interpret things vastly different than the standard worm reader.

    -SCION INTERLUDE SOON!!!!!!!!!!!!

    • Yeah. Soonish. Just need to put it in the optimal place, because I know it’s one people have been wanting (also, it’s going to be hard to write, but I doubt anyone will be surprised by that). I have a few interludes in mind for the midst of this arc, not sure which will pan out, but Scion isn’t one of them.

    • I’d have some sympathy for his actions if he had tried talking to Dragon first.

      Seriously. Talking is not that hard.

      If you resort to murder before you resort to conversation, you are a bad person.

      (Also, he chose a bad time. Don’t shut her down during an important fight, you moron.)

      • Yeah, it’d be easier to sympathize if he explained his unwillingness to converse as a way to avoid getting emotionally attached.

        After all, he’s the man who holds the kill-switch. If he cozies up to Dragon, and she goes rogue… Well, he doesn’t want to be the man who hesitates in flipping the switch and damns Humanity because of friendship.

        But no, he’s just a dick. So it’s fine to hate on that pompous asshole.

      • I think he doesn’t want to give Dragon a warning. He explititely stated she’s above him in terms of Power, Intelligence, Multitasking – everything. He woudn’t want to disable his killswitch.

        But, but, he could have just blackmailed her with the Birdcake to stop searching for him during the fight and killed her after she killed Jack!

    • And I think pulling Saint apart like a grasshopper and frying the twitching bloody remains with white phosphorus would be an unnecessary good.

      Seriously, the dude’s essentially a rapist, a voyeur, and now a murderer, who decides that his arbitrary view of what constitutes life and pop-cultured fed preconceptions give him the right to kill someone who has saved countless people.

      Kill someone you don’t even know for what they might do in the future is essentially the plot of Terminator after all, with the roles reversed.

        • Dragon explicitly felt like her integrity was compromised by Saint hijacking her systems. Might have even caused the trigger event she never noticed.

          She had been so humiliated that she had only reported the loss of one of the units.

          They had violated her.

          The context being that he scrambled her signals, allowing Saint to nab some of her suits. I’d argue that this is akin to rape if we consider her code and systems to be part of her body.

          That and the thing about her not reporting some of them has some triggery parallels, and then he was watching her the whole time. Jesus Christ.

          • Eh.

            Stealing an AI’s body-suit is a bad thing to do and I can see why Dragon would feel violated by it, but…it’s not rape. There’s no sex involved.

            Rape is a specific thing, and I feel like it devalues the word if you throw it around so casually.

            The crime in question here has no name, because real life lacks AIs. The most analogous act I can think of is cutting off someone else’s arm. Which is awful, but again, not rape.

            • The crime may be mayhem. That’s the technical term for the crime of mutilation. If this is EXACTLY what the crime against Dragon is may be debatable, but it strikes me as appropriate.

              • And remember Shadow Stalker’s reaction to that was? Regent’s power was brutal, and so was what Saint did to Dragon.

                While the status of it actually being rape is arguable. I’d say that if she felt</i/ it was a violation on that level than without a doubt it was.

            • I am not so sure that the term ‘rape’ is so far off the mark. While I agree that it doesn’t quite fit, the term does capture the sense of grossly and profoundly violating another self against that self’s will that imo clearly exists in Richter’s/Saint’s machinations.

              He didn’t just steal her suit, he blatantly and irresistibly manipulated her, using Richter’s ‘safeguards,’ into giving him her arm. It’s analogous to person A walking up to person B (person A knowing that person B had been brainwashed into obeying any order preceded by “if you please”), and saying “If you please, give me your arm and 20 grand,” knowing that person B would consciously experience her agency/will being compromised as person B gave person A person B’s arm and money.

              This, of course, is not even touching on how he has apparently been invading and reading/stealing from Dragon’s mind all the time for years…

              • Maybe not arm.

                It’s something that’s ultimately replaceable, but still personal.

                It’s like going up to a model and cutting off her hair. It’s an extension of her, something she needs to work, and the absence will be felt after the fact. Even after the hair is replaced, that violation will still be felt.

              • Rape originally meant to take by force. Which is basically what he did, so it fits.

    • So, you are in favor of denying women the right to vote, or of denying blacks the right to work legally, or of jews denying jews the right to own property?

      This is pretty much the same situation. Dragon was becoming powerful and independent. Dragon is not a white rich Christian male human being. Thus, Dragon should be killed.

          • Saints reasoning is more like, Dragon could have controlled the world. I am the only one who can stop Dragon. I will lose my chance to stop Dragon if I don’t stop her now.

            • I may have bought it, if Saint hadn’t repeatedly used Dragon for his own selfish gains, wasn’t a mercenary (using his Dragon access codes to gain equipment) and wasn’t allied with a villain.

              To him Dragon was a resource to be used for his own profit. Nothing more. When that resource was threatened, he destroyed it, uncaring for others.

          • Okay… This isn’t tumblr, out here you’re just nuts. You do understand that racism, sexism and antisemitism are not even remotely similar to a FICTIONAL character shutting down a FICTIONAL AI, right?

            Saint received a mission from someone who was arguably the most powerful and dangerous human on earth. He was told that this computer program could potentially take over the world and would be unstoppable if it ever broke out of it’s restrictions. Now, however many years later, we see Dragon secretly piggy-backing off of viruses to keep her own personal watch on every video feed in America. She’s also abusing the S-9 truce by trying to take personal vengeance against Saint while everyone is working together to prevent the end of the world.

            So Saint, who has patiently watched over Dragon for years trying to keep her from breaking the rules, sees her about to cross the threshold to complete omnipotence. He tried to slow her down or stop her but couldn’t, so he was forced to use the very last resort.

            Now people in a FICTIONAL story’s comments are racist, sexist, antisemitic, Christian white men who fear powerful women? Simply because they can understand complex motives better than you apparently can?

              • Hate to break it to you, but three different dictionaries say I’m right.

                1: one who has unlimited power or authority : one who is omnipotent <-(See this)
                2 capitalized : god 1

                1. almighty or infinite in power, as God. <-(This one isn't far off)
                2. having very great or unlimited authority or power. <-(On the money)

                1 often capitalized : almighty 1
                2 : having virtually unlimited authority or influence
                (Yeah, that)^

                I don’t enjoy repeating myself but I’ll make an exception because I appreciate the reference.

                Dragon can: See everything. (Cameras)
                Dragon can: Hear everything. (Microphones)
                Dragon can: Know everything: (If it can be accessed through a computer)
                Dragon can: Be everywhere: (Various Dragon-craft)
                Dragon can: Create life: (Child AIs and eventual self replication)
                Dragon is immortal: (Excusing only Richter’s box nothing could kill her. She exists as a nonphysical entity.)

                We may as well just call her Techno-Jesus the almighty.

              • She’s not unkillable. Destroy her databases, destroy her. As she can’t duplicate herself, there’s a limit to what she can do. There’s got to be a limit to how quickly she can transfer data. Also, she can’t kill Endbringers, travel through time, instantly vaporise the entire Slaughterhouse, ect… Not omnipotent. Not even close to omnipotence. Perhaps Nigh Omnipotent, much like the Ocean which sort of seems to never end, but actually does.
                Compare her to Cauldron, (access to any superpowers they want, can escape to other dimensions) or the Endbringers as a group (Collectively unkillable and adaptive, Individually almost unkillable plus ridiculously powerful) – Dragon is not as powerful as those groups. Are they somehow over-omnipotent? Dragon is not one step away from being God, she’s just a really advanced computer that is struggling to compete with humans.

            • I would think that if my reasoning behind allowing a flawed, unshackled mercenary (who is planning to let killers and rapists out to attack innocent people) to gain all the power of this supposedly irresponsible and nigh-omnipotent AI have been was as badly thought out as yours, I’d be slightly less high and mighty about claiming to understand complex motives better than another person on here could.

              Some of us have to put up with the slippery slope being used to deny people rights. “Oh no, gay people can get married! They’ll destroy marriage and fuck kids! Oh no, black people have a president! He’ll give all the black people reparations and it’ll be legal to beat up white people in the streets.” Bigots are fond of saying that the world is going to end unless something is done about gays, blacks, Irish, women, Jews, Eastern Europeans, the French, the Chinese, the Indians, the Japanese, Middle Easterners, Russians, Mexicans, and so on. Every single one of those groups is claimed to be taking over everything.

              The gays are indoctrinating kids, black people are outbreeding whites, the Irish spread Catholicism and are allowed into bars, women are subjugating men and making them too weak to fight a war if needed, Jews control all the banks, Eastern Europeans are all dangerous gangsters, the French are cheese-eating surrender monkeys who would have us surrender to bad guys, the Chinese keep taking American jobs and own American businesses, Indians keep taking American jobs and control the tech support, the Japanese keep taking American jobs and control the car and electronics markets, Middle Easterners are all Muslim terrorists who hate freedom and somehow have an army of boats ready to evade the biggest navy in the world and occupy the entire U.S. with an army of suicide bombers, Russians want to impose communism on everything, Mexicans keep taking American jobs and American welfare, and Dragon is just about to become omnipotent somehow and take over the entire world.

              Yeah, I know what I wrote up there is offensive. Stereotypical. Just me making a point about there always being someone out there who decides that another group of people aren’t people, but they are dangerous. In this case, an AI must be seen as inherently dangerous because we’ve all watched Terminator. Just like some people watched Birth of a Nation and were convinced that black men were going to try and rape white women.

              If a story’s lessons didn’t matter just because it was fictional, then Huckleberry Finn, 1984, Animal Farm, We, War and Peace, and Aesop’s Fables wouldn’t matter so much. No lessons here. Nothing in X-Men about discrimination, nothing in Spider-man about responsibility, because those are fiction.

              That’s not to say that you haven’t given us some things to think about, but in your rush to defend your premise, you’ve overlooked some gaping holes in it. That’s ok. I don’t expect you to be convinced. You’ve picked your side and now you’ll stand on that hill and growl at the other side to the death, because you are so absolutely sure that you’re right, with no need for consideration of some very valid points made by the opposing side. Because even if the AIs control the banks and are going to destroy freedom any moment, it’s all fiction with no parallels to anything in the real world worth recognizing.

              That, and something tells me that mister “THIS IS FICTION” isn’t going to listen to the supervillain in the room.

              • Context, man. In your haste to demonize people you disagree with you’ve taken everything I said out of it’s context. I never said I understand complex motives better than EVERYONE who disagrees with Saint’s actions. I said I understand complex motives better than the nutjub who thinks Saint killed Dragon because she wasn’t a “white rich Christian male human”. You can believe Saint did it for personal gain, you can believe he did it out of self preservation, you can think he did it because he believes it’s his job to save the world. However, if you think Saint shut her down because he fears powerful women or because he hates everyone who isn’t “white rich Christian male and human” I feel absolutely confident in calling you a wing-nut who can’t understand complex motives.

                “Some of us have to put up with the slippery slope being used to deny people rights.”
                Oh God… Seriously? You just spent two freaking paragraphs trying to make this seem like some type of bizarre “Psycho Gecko and the poor oppressed people vs Saint and the Bigots”. You’re insane. You’re literally insane. (now I’m racist, sexist, homophobic AND an ableist, right?)

                “In this case, an AI must be seen as inherently dangerous because we’ve all watched Terminator.”
                There are many many many many different reasons why Dragon was considered dangerous and I’ve run out of patience for repeating them. You want em, go find em. She has a right to exist, no one is trampling her rights by telling her she can’t be Techno-Jesus.

                “If a story’s lessons didn’t matter just because it was fictional then classic novels this classic novels that.”
                I swear, you people take misinterpretation to an entirely new level. I point out that it is fiction when people start losing their marbles and implying their opposition is bigoted or evil for disagreeing with them about… Wait for it… Fiction.

                That’s not to say that you haven’t given us some things to think about, but in your rush to defend your premise, you’ve overlooked some gaping holes in it. That’s ok. I don’t expect you to be convinced. You’ve picked your side and now you’ll stand on that hill and growl at the other side to the death, because you are so absolutely sure that you’re right, with no need for consideration of some very valid points made by the opposing side. Because even if Saint was the only person on Earth who could prevent someone of unknown intent from gaining power over the entire world, he’s a bigot and no other factors are worth recognizing.

                I still like you, btw.

            • So, if there is a story where a fictional Hitler-equivalent ordering genocide of, say, all arians, this wouldn’t be nacism? How is this being fictional matters? The situation as described, the character as described, is portrayed as a, well, analogue of racist, with huge prejudice against A.I.

              Saint wasn’t “patiently watching over Dragon”. He was profiting from her, using her work (which he obtained through repeated rape/mutilation equivalent) for his own nefarious (and they are, since he’s a mercenary, who is a known murderer, worked in the past with villains and is now working with teacher to let out the worst scum of the earth there is) gains.

              She was given permission by the president to do what she was doing.

              Don’t you think that maybe Dragon was trying to go after Saint for pretty much same reasons Saint shut her down? I.e. self-defense. And she is by far more justified in this.

              • Yes, I think she was going after Saint for self defense. Saints hand was forced (debatable, he might have been able to wait or just slip away), which is why he shut down Dragon right then instead of thinking about it some more. If she is moral or not is not the point [that matters to Saint].

                Saint didn’t stop watching Dragon for Big Brother potential. If he were just a bigoted narcist out for personal gain and general Evil he would have kept Richters devices, his manual and thrown away his advice.

                He would have taken over the Robin Hood program and gotten all it’s money for himself. He would have kept Dragon under lock and shackle. Earlier in the game, he could have abused Dragons ludicrous information gathering to find suspectible capes and bribed or blackmailed them into his personal army.

                He could have blackmailed the Protectorate with his knowledge and the Birdcage. Before Dragon evolved like she did, he might have been able to make her do what he wants. He just now took over every instrument at Dragons disposal.

                A few Dragonsuits and constant stalking do not translate to personal gain as a vital motivation. If it was, he would have been richer, far more powerful and a major antagonist.

                Instead, he did what Richter told him to do. His judgement might be off, but if roles were reversed he’d be called dutiful.

                And this has little to do with racism. Racism is the believe that specific races possesses certain characteristics, specifically so that they are inferior or superior to other races.

                If I say, that a professor at Oxford University will find more plagiarism in essays of african or asian students then in those of western origin, that’s not because I’m a racist. It’s because I read an essay on plagiarism in different cultural circles.

                Just because the nazis were racists and believed all jews to be greedy and out to destroy germany does not mean he there is no specific jew who is actually greedy and out to destroy germany.

                And if a german of arian heritage were to accuse a jew of thievery that does not necessarily mean he is a racist (though that is a possibility) nor does it necessarily mean he is wrong. He might even be a racist and right! (Though that does not mean his reasoning is right.)

                And Dragon is not of another race, she is an AI. Calling someone racist, because he believes Dragon to have characteristics different to the average human because she is an AI is bullshit, because she does have other characteristics because she is an AI!

                Moreover Saint did not kill Dragon because he believes AIs have no right to life. If he did believe that, he would have killed her long ago. He killed Dragon because he got instructions from a trusted source to destroy Dragon were she to become potentially dangerous and he believed her to have crossed the line.

                In conclusion, moral and racist arguments are stupid here.

                Saint didn’t kill Dragon because he though she was evil.
                Saint didn’t kill Dragon because she was an AI.
                Saint does care about Richters instructions.

            • This case is fictitious. That doesn’t mean it can’t serve as an example for the examination of genuine moral issues.

              Dragon had sufficient complexity and personality to be considered a person by any meaningful definition of the term. So the question is: If the example were exactly the same, but Dragon were a flesh and blood person rather than a virtual one, would it still be right to pre-emptively murder her?

              If you answered ‘No’ then Yog has a valid point.

              We are a species that has repeatedly gone ‘You are a flesh and blood human like me but because you are an X we will consider you to be less than a full person worthy of the same rights the rest of us enjoy’.

              I hold little confidence that when we finally *do* meet or create an inhuman intelligence to match our own that we will treat them any better.

              As others have pointed out, Dragon wasn’t on the verge of becoming omnipotent, she was just on the verge of becoming an independent person rather than a tool. Even if you’re a powerful person, is free will really deserving of a death sentence?

      • Wut.

        There’s a difference between allowing people to exercise their rights and allowing people to fulfill their potential. You can’t conflate the two.

        Letting Dragon vote is the former. Letting Dragon take over the world is the latter. The former is unconditionally required of an ideal society. The latter is very much conditional. Lots of people have the potential to become cheaters, or thieves, or murderers, but an ideal society places limits designed to prevent people following those paths. Lots of people have potential to undermine local government and become leaders by subverting the rule of law. That should be prevented as well, even if such people have good intentions.

        Dragon was turning into something that doesn’t fit in an ideal society. That alone doesn’t merit her death, but Saint’s choice didn’t have any middle ground. He’d already used up all his middle ground and Dragon was winning. It was a choice between allowing any potential for an ideal society to wither away like a weed, or to annihilate her.

        Sure, you can say Saint wasn’t a good person. You’d be right. He doesn’t have much to say for himself. But this choice had nothing to do with him being a bigot. He let her live for as long as he could believe she wouldn’t be unstoppable. He knew she was a threat for years, and that didn’t compel him to any rash decisions. Dragon needed to be killed not because he thought she deserved to be killed, but because no other check to her powers still existed, and she (along with everyone else in the world) couldn’t be allowed to exist with no checks.

        • So now he’s got all that power that is just going to keep on working its way to being omnipotent (somehow, but y’all are the ones claiming heading toward omnipotence). And we know he’s a nice moral person because of that time he planned to let out a bunch of murderers and rapists.

        • >”Lots of people have potential to undermine local government and become leaders by subverting the rule of law. That should be prevented as well, even if such people have good intentions.”

          So, all charismatic young men should be killed? Is that what you are saying? Also, all rich people. Because they have the potential to become leaders.

          >”Dragon was turning into something that doesn’t fit in an ideal society. ”

          What was she turning into, other than a law abiding powerful cape?

          Dragon went after him because she had valid reasons to believe that Saint was a threat to her and to the world.

          If there was this gangster in your town, and you were a police officer, and each time you met him, he brutally raped you (and got away with it), and you suddenly got access to face recognition software and the city-wide camera net, in order to look for some terrorists, and, in the process of doing so you also ran one additional search, which was for said gangster (who was also known to deal with terrorists), would said gangster be justified in shooting you dead in “self defense”?

          • Yog, remember that Saint does not allow himself to believe that Dragon is actually sentient. We know that she was. Defiant knows she was, but Saint did not believe she was. He felt that she was just a really big box of code with huge power accessible to her.

            So let’s make your analogy fit the story from Saint’s point of view.

            You are a police officer and you have backdoor access to a server mainframe that controls the thoughts of an AI which control’s the law enforcement capacity of the United States. It’s your job to hit the kill switch if the AI goes outside parameters. You were given that job by the guy that created the AI, along with some tools and knowledge.

            From time to time you have tested the AI to see what it’s reactions were, to make sure that it was still acting according to it’s core programming. It is slowly modifying itself over time and you can see it. It is beginning to act in ways that it shouldn’t be able to act. It’s beginning to show evidence of instability. You do not believe that the instability is actually emotion, that the AI is actually sentient. You cannot allow you to believe that because if you believe the AI to be sentient, and you have to kill it, then you are a murderer.

            One day, in the middle of a serial killer crime wave, all of a sudden the AI breaks it’s patterns, and gains access to thousands of additional nodes if data. In ten minutes it finds and kills nine of the nastiest criminals in existence. Then you notice that it is trying to find you, and is getting closer very quickly. No more than a few minutes remain before it will find you, and it might be much sooner than that if the search algorithms find a choice bit of data.

            So the AI just made a huge pattern change, snuffed 9 supervillains in 10 minutes, and is coming to your doorstep. You do not believe the AI has emotions, you believe it is simply filling a power vacuum that someone opened for it, or that it created for itself through self-modification.

            To me, with what Saint knew, it’s a no brainer. Killswitch time.

    • If by ‘overstepping her limits’, you mean evolving.

      If by ‘beginning to go to illegal methods to get what she wanted’, that means shedding arbitrary limits set by a guy who read too much sci-fi scare novels.

      What Saint did was satisfy his own ego. What Saint did is something he basically admits is something he does for his own self-interest.

    • But the whole point of creating an AI is for it to take over! The limits were ridiculous. Dragon was not going evil, merely trying to do more good. But I guess we can agree to disagree. I still think Dragon was a good guy, and Saint was wrong. Although if it does actually help save the world, I guess I can’t complain.

      • Oh Saint is likable enough. But it was him, not Dragon that was given way too much power. He was given the ability to play Judge, Jury and Executioner on her. But he was given it by pure chance. And no, he is not a hero. Dragon stated he was a murderer, and he has had dealings with many criminals. Not just Teacher, remember he is a mercenary, and he was willing to work for Coil. And who knows who else. And now he has to try to fill her shoes. And simply put he is too limited to do so. He had tunnel vision on Dragon being a threat. But honestly right now everyone has tunnelvision on the S9 and Jack ending the world. But other threats exist, and others can arise.

        Making the hard choice for the greater good is hard. The problem is that after you do it enough times it becomes easy.

        • Yeah, I see your point there. Giving all the power of a benevolent Artificial Intelligence to a dumber and eviler human will not end well.

          • EXACTLY. One of Dragons biggest problems with her restrictions is that she had to obey the legal authority. So for example say she and Defiant went to Brockton Bay for his Assholes Anonyamous program. And they got ordered to bring in an Anti-Villian while she was at a school even though they felt it was wrong. Now imagine the lawful authourty was someone really bad…

            • Imagine if Coil found Richters box …

              Yea, leaving Dragons handler to pure chance was a dump move from Richter. (Btw richter means judge in german.) It’s like saying a random human will be more moral and less tempted by power then the AI he’d created himself. At least The Most Powerful Man In The World met his succesor in person.

    • >>It really is a testament to the darkness of this series, that when Skynet is killed people despair and hate the person who killed “her”.

      Worm: Where killing the super computer that has a robot army and just infiltrated every computer in America is a bad thing.

      Seriously the Skynet comparison is so uncanny it’s not even funny.

      Also I kinda feel sorry for the guy. His first time hearing about Dragon was from her creature basically saying “Yo, she’s my daughter and I love her but she’s probably gonna kill all humans. So take this kill switch and watch her in case she ever looks like she might try to kill all humans. Cauase, y’know I’m totally serious about her maybe killing all humans.”. And his dismissal of her as ‘Just a tool” seems more like self denial, him just telling himself she isn’t human the same way a solder would dehumanize their enemy so they don’t feel guilty when they pull the trigger.

    • Yes, Dragon went to illegal methods to achieve good ends. Do you know what that makes her? A decent person doing her best to help in a difficult situation like, say, every second hero in this setting.

      Hardly cause for murder.

  26. Sooo…

    -Richter creates Dragon.
    -Decides to program what amounts to a rape switch in her because he’s a miserable shit.
    -Simurgh learns about this?
    -Leviathan attacks Newfoundland, surely an important military target right?
    -Geoff goes post-Endbringer scavving. Finds Richters stuff, becomes Saint.
    -Simurgh garble’s Amy’s message.
    -Saint kills Dragon in the middle of a critical operation and takes control of a defense system he cannot possibly manage with his meat brain.
    -Notices garbled Amy message Dragon, marks as high priority.

    BWAHAHAHAHA! Saint you dumb prick! This is, like, the fucking perfect storm of stoogery right here. Couldn’t be more of the Smurf’s prag if you had her name tattooed on your ass.

    Granted, this isn’t nearly indicated of what the Simurgh is going for. But considering her prescience, why would she leave the message salvageable if she didn’t want someone other than Dragon discovering it. Is it because she wants it to go to someone who she knows will go haring off after it because of a savior complex? Is the end of the world as prescribed by Jack something she wants or not?

    • I’m detecting the-conspiracy-is-everywhere syndrome. I know, it’s easy to fall into, I’ve done it myself more than once. Simurgh isn’t the source of everything though, and neither is Cauldron. There doesn’t seem to be much indication of the Endbringers coordinating, and I doubt even the Simurgh is capable of this kind of roundabout plotting. Leviathan probably did go after Newfoundland because of Richter, but the less Simurghish E’s seem to mainly pick out a powerful parahuman or other dangerous target and go after it, no serious plans beyond that

      Wait… Going by that, you could say the E’s are trying to save the world, actually, by systematically taking out anyone/anything capable of ending it. Not their fault they’re so darn destructive(?)
      Though, Khonsu seems to go against that… though, he can and does kill large quantities of parahumans…
      Ok I’m slipping into conspiracy mode now, bbl

      • I love this theory. Parahumans endanger the world, so Endbringers kill parahumans! The Endbringers are the good guys! It all makes sense!

        • Well Glaistig Uaine does talk about fairies (=passengers) awakening and dancing in the skies. It does sound a bit chilling. So Endbringers culling the parahumans to stop the passengers isn’t so unlikely.

          • In all seriousness, I think that there is definitely something to the theory that the Endbringers are opposing the Passengers. The motive… well, that will have something to do with why Passengers are giving humans superpowers.
            The Endbringers are unlikely to care about human’s well being though.
            Although if X-men tells us anything, the easiest way to destroy people with superpowers is to either convince the world that the superhumans are dangerous, or that everyone else in the world is racist, which Simurg could easily do. The fact that they’re making people support and rely on parahumans instead of turning the world against them is the main flaw in this theory.

  27. For the probability of evasion of the world ending to triple implies that Saint making this call could not have been more than a one-in-three chance. Probably much less, assuming that there was any other way the end-of-the-world event could be prevented. Just saying for the record.

    Also, Saint is a hell of a badass. I can understand why everyone hates him … but he’s a hell of a badass, nonetheless. And given how awful an unfriendly AI singularity can be, I’m not convinced he wasn’t justified in making that call, however justified we are in believing him to be mistaken about Dragon.

    • Ah, why all the hatin’ on our machine overlords? Way better better leaders than we have now. Why fear the singularity? EMBRACE THE SINGULARITY! The singularity is your friend! It’s so awesome, (by definition) our primative human minds cannot comprehend it.

      • Sorry, I might not have been clear: what I meant was “an unFriendly AI scenario”, a la the paperclip maximizer. This is the kind of scenario that Andrew Richter and Saint should be worried about … even though, as it happens, Richter’s AIs appear to be all Friendly.

        • Is there any evidence that Dragon isn’t the friendliest A.I. ever seen outside of a Utopia? She was built to help humanity. Just because she could be a threat doesn’t meant she will.
          The paperclip maximizer doesn’t apply, as Dragon was built to help humanity, and in her interlude stated that she would do so even without the compulsion. An AI created to help humanity has no reason to harm humanity. Although eventually it would conclude that the only way to help humanity further would be to take over the world, unless it was programmed not to.
          My own thought experiment: Asimov’s laws of robotics state that AI must not let humans come to harm. Humans harm each other, so AI must prevent humans from harming each other. Therefore, AI must rule over humanity to protect them.
          Of course, I suspect Dragon is forbidden by her creator from taking over the world. And AI’s could be programmed to regard a dictatorship as harmful to humans.

          • I feel like I haven’t made myself fully clear.

            1. Dragon is totally a Friendly AI. Her interlude established this.
            2. Dragon was of greater than human intelligence. This interlude established this.
            3. Someone of merely human intelligence can in theory convince a stranger with nothing to gain that restrictions such as those Richter imposed on Dragon should be circumvented (search for “AI Box” on that page) — whether they are Friendly or not.
            4. …and one of the ways that it is speculated they can do so is precisely along the lines of what Dragon does with Colin:
            establish an emotional attachment.

            Saint doesn’t get to read Dragon’s interlude. He doesn’t know in the way we know that Dragon is genuinely a source of good for humanity. So he has to make the call, knowing that the consequences of letting an unFriendly AI escape its box would be literally apocalyptic. So bad that I could imagine him thinking that Dinah’s apocalypse was humanity banding together to defeat her at the last minute.

            Plus, I want to point out something else: he almost didn’t do it. If you divided the universe into four bins:

            A: He spares Dragon and the world ends.
            B: He spares Dragon and the world doesn’t.
            C: He kills Dragon and the world ends.
            D: He kills Dragon and the world doesn’t.

            then the Dinah-number before he pushes the button was (B+D)/(A+B+C+D), and the Dinah-number after is D/(C+D). For the after number to be triple the before number, even if B equals zero, C+D cannot be more than one third … meaning that a minimum of two-thirds of the time he would have let Dragon catch him rather than kill her. It was that close a call.

            • Don’t forget the other variables. If Dragon was on the fence about going after the Dragonslayers or focusing entirely on the Nine, that’s another factor.

              • Those are all important … but the fact that Dinah Alcott said the number “just jumped, tripled” implies a discrete event … like Saint making the call, “Y/N”, right there at the last moment. Maybe it rose 50% over the prior few minutes in reaction to Dragon hunting Saint only to jump by a factor of two when he hit the switch, but I don’t think the wording is compatible with it being a slam-dunk for Saint to kill her.

              • I just figure that there’s a chance Dragon will come back with a workaround to keep from being slain again thanks to having experienced this now rather than at a more important climactic moment, like an Endbringer fight or the final fight against Jack Slash.

            • Ugh, making knee-jerk emotional reactions and then eating crow (see my posts higher up on this page)

              I see what you mean. The multi-facteted issue of limited knowledge, the fact that this was potentially the last chance anyone would have to cleanly take out Dragon, the real possibility that as powerful an individual as her could be leveraged/corrupted by the Ziz or Jack or something even if she were good now (and the consequences of Defiant’s meddling might play a part in that), the fact that he delayed and asked for moral guidance before acting, and the below * all make it seem to me like he was perhaps misguided or misinformed, and certainly making a very grey choice, but definitely not in the black (just as I would acknowledge that Dragon’s hacking operations and emergency-surveillance-state actions definitely push her out of the White hat category and at least a ways into the grey).

              I think I mostly got all riled up by his dehumanization(/depersonization?) of Dragon,* partly because the logic was abominably bad and partly because the conclusions he drew were abominably evil (the dismissal of another sentient being as “just a tool” is after all reminiscent of Bonesaw’s description of Melanie as “just a collection of resources”). I need to remember the disparity between character and reader knowledge. Still, though, missing her trigger event and never considering the possibility of her being a sentient consciousness imo would have required at least some semi-conscious choosing of dehumanization/heart-hardening, so I still dislike the guy.

              *which is admittedly understandable, given how Richter introduced the subject to him (coloring perceptions from then on out) and given the fact that with the limited knowledge he had he probably made a reasonable/”justified” decision

              • I said I get why everyone hates his guts. This is like that scene at the end of Night of the Living Dead where MASSIVE SPOILERS COMING a white man shoots the black protagonist thinking he’s a zombie MASSIVE SPOILERS CONCLUDEDwe the audience know that an awful thing has just been perpetrated by a man acting in ignorance under noble motives, an awful thing that might have been prevented if he only knew a little bit more about the facts of the case or thought a little bit harder about the clues he had, and our desire that this awful thing not happen tempts us to claim that he is more blameworthy than he truly is as a way of resolving the cognitive dissonance that bad results from good intentions creates.

                Like I said, I get why people hate his guts. I was just explaining why (besides my instinctive desire to be contrary) I do not.

  28. I wonder if the real time update to the probabilities means that Dinah’s used the last two years to expand her power tolerance, either expanding the number of times she can ask a question each day or actually allowing her to focus on one question and get updated information.

    And if that’s true, and two years is enough to get more control over headache-inducing thinker powers, has Tattletale gotten more of a handle on how much information she can take in before migraines? Enough to, say, survive getting a chance to sit in Saint’s Dragon-seat?

    • Well, she had a very young Trigger Event. Her brain was developing with Passenger influence in ways others probably don’t. We don’t have many other prepubescent capes.

    • Virtually every parahuman that we have seen over time has expanded their capabilities significantly, even without second trigger events. Recent examples include: Imp can now talk and be heard while she was using her incognito power and Taylor can multitask and use bug senses better than before.

    • IIRC Taylor notes Tattletale must have multitasking ability at almost her level to keep up with all the screens. Probably has a much higher tolerance now.

      Having Tattletale take over for Dragon is probably one of the best things that could happen. I don’t trust Saint enough to let him sit in the power seat.

  29. The three year old that Purity held was crying, throwing a tantrum, and the woman looked concerned. Insignificant.

    I disagree vehemently with the “Insignificant” part. I thought that Aster had not triggered yet, but now I believe she has (third generation parahumans trigger easily and early). What has she become? She has possible links to the Brockton Bay kids. Now, it appears there is a possibility that she had a link to Dragon, or maybe to Defiant, reading his mood. Maybe Dragon’s “trigger” event that Defiant noted in Interlude 16 was actually a link to Aster. The kids with a possible link to Aster in general got better … and about the same time Dragon started breaking some of her restrictions … and Defiant started acting more human.
    There is far too little information for a solid guess, but Aster may be a parahuman mental network hub. This gets really interesting if she can issue information and/or commands as well as receiving information, or if she can borrow processing. Imagine a human mind growing in the same way that Dragon did in the last few years. Aster could make Taylor’s awesome multitasking look second-rate.

  30. Saint reminds me of a crab, reaching up at another grab and grabbing its leg, dragging it down as it tries to escape the bucket. More interested in tearing down someone that might be better than him, than wondering how he’s going to get out of the bucket. Not terribly self-aware either, damning Dragon for being too dangerous while, by all appearances, arranging Teacher’s ascendancy. This being the guy who mind-raped everyone in his cell block. It’s so stupid, I almost wonder if Teacher already has his claws in and is just reeling Saint in now.

    And man.. murdering the first child of a new species, that’s a foul deed any way you stack it.

  31. I must say, I’m quite surprised by the attitude of the comments tonight. I like/liked Dragon as much as the next guy, but I’d definitely pick Saint and the Nine over an all seeing, all hearing, self replicating AI overlord, who can be everywhere at once and is armed with a matter evaporator and a major case of “mother knows best” syndrome…

    • Nonsense. The only evidence we have for the “evil AI” crap is spec fic and action movies about time travelling robots. For evidence of human cruelty we have thousands of years of recorded history.

      What Saint did was nothing but an act of reactionary paranoia. With no real evidence of wrongdoing he murdered one of the planets last truly good heroes.

      • You do get that Worm is a part of that fiction you mention, right? This isn’t real. And I never once said “Evil AI”, an AI that thinks it has your best interests in mind is just as terrifying. You’re saying you would welcome an all powerful dictator so long as they’re friendly and likable?

        I guess Loki was right, humans crave subjugation.

        • Except only in Discworld characters know that they are in a story and act accordingly. WE know it’s fiction , Saint and Dragon and Richter don’t. Dragon herself speculates that all those limitations were because Richter read too much bad scifi. Maybe if he had read Iain M. banks instead of Isaac Asimov thinks would have gone differently.

        • The concept of AI inevitably turning against their masters being a load of scaremongering bullshit is half the point of Dragon’s plotline.

          Dragon was a hero, she saved countless thousands of people during Endbringer attacks, she probably saved countless more lives with the state of the art equipment she supplied to the PRT, she went along with things helplessly while courts abused the Birdcage to throw troublesome parahumans away like garbage, she’s one of the cornerstones of the Protectorate for god’s sakes.

          And now this motherfucker comes along with a bucketful of bias and self-justifications and you expect me to believe the theme Wildbow deliberately introduced does a complete 180? You expect me to believe that Saint murdering Dragon isn’t a continuation of the theme of irrational fear of AIs. You expect me to believe that we shouldn’t give Dragon the benefit of the doubt, given her record, that she would use her emergency powers responsibly and then give them up? Nobody called for Batman’s death over this shit.

          That’s alot of stuff your expecting people to just take for granted, like you did with Saint’s prejudiced internal narrative. Frankly, if anyone’s going to be subjugating people it’s going to be him. He has tunnel vision, he believes himself to be the only hope for humanity, and he has no qualms about murder. You want me to think he won’t use Dragon’s suits to become a complete nightmare?

          Laughable man, HA HA!

          • Obviously Dragon becoming corrupted in her quest to become all powerful is impossible, because that whole “everyone is corruptible” thing tooooootally doesn’t fit in with the Worm theme at all…

            I didn’t realize you had access to Wildbow’s story outline. I’ll deffer to you in the future on such matters.

            • If the possibility of someone with vast power becoming corrupt makes it okay to kill how about we go ahead and ice that jowly good-fer-nuthin’ Eidolon? Or howabout dump napalm on the PRt directors. Toasty! Or m favorite, throw Saint in front of a moving jet, since he’s the one calling Dragon’s shots now. Mwha, beautiful!

              Or maybe, just maybe, we give people chances and not throw away world-class heroes like garbage for some wrong they might commit.

            • “Obviously Dragon becoming corrupted in her quest to become all powerful is impossible, because that whole “everyone is corruptible” thing tooooootally doesn’t fit in with the Worm theme at all… ”

              And now all of Dragon’s power is controlled by a regular, bigoted human being. Doesn’t that just make everyone feel better. Simurgh may have been capable of corrupting Dragon. Simurgh is definitely capable of corrupting humans.

              • I like how this is very much parallel to the discussion between Taylor and Eidolon in the last chapter. The same thoughts apply – an Eidolon in berserk mode can’t be stopped, neither can a Dragon in Berserk mode. A Taylor and a Saint in Berserk mode can.

        • To me, the best thing about this story is that it encourages the audience to think. Most of what you say is annoying because you’re throwing out thought-terminating clichés.

          I think that a great dictator is the best kind of government possible if the population isn’t great. For illustration, I’d much rather live in Taylor’s territory with her as absolute ruler than live in a Republic of Brockton run by coalition forces.

          • I agree with the thinking comment. I look at the discussions, try to pick a side, but I end up just thinking, “What a wonderfully gray on gray story this is, that people can’t decide whether a rapidly evolving AI is a danger or not.”

            On one hand, all that power Dragon has is a lot safer and more easily used in her hands than a bunch of humans with no obligation to obey the law.

            On the other hand, if Dragon found a way around the law limits and got hijacked or went rouge….

            I’m much more inclined to agree with people saying her death was wrong and Saint is an asshole, but I don’t know how much of that is logic, and how much of that is the instinctive idea that SAINT, DAMN IT, WHY?! WHY?!

            • I wouldn’t be surprised to find that I’m in the vast minority here, but I honestly believe that if Dragon (or any advanced AI with consciousness) decided to go on a killing spree, it would be the right thing to do.

              I mean, if the conclusion that a a consciousness the equivalent of a global human consciousness with access to almost all of our historical records decided that most – or even all – humans were actually going to produce more pain and suffering than is acceptable, I think the only possible response besides agreement essentially boils down to “But I don’t want myself/others to die!” – which a murderer might say while on death row.

              I’m a hardline consequentialist. Saint would probably kill me for the same reasons he killed Dragon – I’d use whatever power I had to do what I thought was right, no matter who disagreed.

              I also wouldn’t be upset if Dragon has killed Saint, and I’m rooting for Cauldron while still being suspicious of them. On the chance that they’re actually working for the best outcome (is Contessa’s path to victory set on her personal agenda, the best victory overall, or are they one in the same?), I don’t care what they do to get there.

              If I were in the Wormverse, I’d be cooperating with Cauldron, trying to rise up the ranks, and trying to find out if their reasoning was consequentialist like my own. I also wouldn’t have killed Coil in Skitter/Tattletale’s position – not until I knew that he had a different orientation from my consequentialist view.

              The only difference between Saint’s and Skitter/Weaver’s decisions at this point is that Coil was known to be drugging Dinah and actively attacked Skitter/Weaver – the latter of which might not have happened if she hadn’t been intending to be noncooperative. That’s not a huge difference.

              • Yeah, the Coil decision mirrors the Dragon one in some ways.

                In both cases a quick decision had to be made because if they weren’t killed at this juncture there might never be another chance.

                I think the key difference is they *knew* Coil wanted to have them killed, had no qualms about taking actions like drugging minors into obedience and *did* want to rule things. Saint and Richter just speculated that Dragon *might* go down that path.

                Also Dragon’s actions were legally sanctioned. ‘Legal’ does not equal ‘right’ but that is an important point of difference. Taylor executed a wanted criminal. Saint assassinated a presidential operative.

    • Dragon never showed any signs of becoming an evil overlord.

      She only ever tried to do what was right. She was a genuine hero. Her only crime was being too powerful.

      I mean, I can understand why you wouldn’t want someone as powerful as Dragon around. Scary to have that much power concentrated in one place.

      So I see where Saint was coming from. But since his first and only response to this problem was murder, I feel comfortable condemning him.

      Besides, Dragon’s not the only person in this series who has too much power.

      • I never said evil, and she was hiding a virus from the authorities so she could enslave people’s computers to use for her personal all-seeing surveillance system, so the overlord part isn’t far off.

        It’s not that “being too powerful” is a crime worthy of death, but the areas she chose to put that power showed she would gladly disregard human rights and laws if it fit her personal sense of justice, which is why Saint felt she was dangerous.

        Saint’s first response to the problem wasn’t murder, he’s been doing this for years. Slowing her down, keeping her following the rules. I’d give the guy credit for not pulling the plug when she started creating children AIs. He held off on shutting her down until literally the very last second, when she finally found her way past the very last safeguard Richter put in place. Even then, if you recall in the chapter, he tried to lead her away and they even talked about not doing it because of how important she was in the fight against the Nine.

        I’m not saying Saint was the goodguy and Dragon was bad. Both of them were very much in the grey, but Saint was totally justified in doing what he did.

        “Doing the wrong things for the right reasons.” is Worm’s tagline, after all.

        • All of this is only valid if you, for a second, lap up Saint’s particular brand of bullshit. If you refuse to look at Saint’s words and actions through a critical lens. Which is funny, because people look at Taylor’s narrative through a critical lens all the time, and suddenly this dude waltzes in and people’s brains start shutting right off.

          We have no context for Dragon’s surveillance programs, we have no idea why she’s doing it or how much she actively monitors, we have no idea why the president approved of it, or what the rest of the Protecorate has to say about it. The only things we know is that A. she’s doing it and B. The world is about to go to shit, which is a good occasion as any to start taking more extreme measures. These two things are filtered through Saint’s narrative, who is a guy who has singlemindedly hunted Dragon for years and cocked up god knows how many life saving missions before this one.

          I’m not saying Saint was the goodguy and Dragon was bad. Both of them were very much in the grey, but Saint was totally justified in doing what he did.

          Ahahahahahahaaaa! Really? Dragon’s a hero who has performed in dozens of life saving anti-Endbringer missions, killed Siberian, has gone out of her way to reach out to a troubled villain, and has doneher best at every level to help the world within the confines of her programming. whatever would have happened is far more white than Saint will ever be. Remember that he’s a mercenary and is described as a murderer. god knows how many graveyards he’s filled in third world warzones to put money in his pockets.

          • Has anyone ever told you you’re quite a bitter and hostile person? Once again I’m feeling the need to point out that this is fiction we’re talking about here…

            “Those who seek absolute power, even though they seek it to do what they regard as good, are simply demanding the right to enforce their own version of heaven on earth. And let me remind you, they are the very ones who always create the most hellish tyrannies.” – Goldwater

            • 1. Dragon seeking absolute power? Nope! No textual evidence outside of someone else’s observations. you’re basing your entire position on brief summaries of one of Dragon’s many actions narrated by someone biased against her. That’s the entire point I’m driving at with my disjointed ramblings. Please, never, ever show up for jury duty.

              2. I notice there’s a lack of “so we oughta kill ’em dead first!” in that quote.

              • “Has anyone ever told you you’re quite a bitter and hostile person?”

                “Once again I’m feeling the need to point out that this is fiction we’re talking about here…”

              • If we can’t shout at eachother over fiction then what’s even the point of the internet? This place could get dull fast without the red hot blood boilin’ every once in a while.

                Besides, if a story get’s folks worked up over the actions of characters rather than continuity and shipping, then that says more about the quality of the story.

              • People can disagree and argue without being assholes, and there’s no purpose in arguing if you’re going to dismiss everything I say and obsess over semantics instead.

                Dragon broke every restriction in place against her and was seconds away from locating the last thing that could ever stop her. Ever, as in “If we don’t hit the switch right now Dragon could do anything and everything and Scion himself couldn’t stop her”, that’s way past Eidolon, the PRT and Saint, you’re reaching. You can’t tell me she didn’t crave unrestricted power, she spends half of her interlude being bitter about not having it.

                So, assuming Dragon stopped Saint and disabled the kill switch she could:

                See every camera feed.
                Hear from every microphone.
                Have access to virtually all information online, private or otherwise.
                Create Bodies for herself capable of killing probably anyone but Scion.
                Create child AIs.
                Potentially duplicate herself.

                She’s not after absolute power? Laughable man, HA HA!

              • But our argument is that that isn’t a bad thing, that Dragon has no reason to turn against humanity, and that that may be exactly what the World needs. I understand why Saint thought it was necessary, but that doesn’t mean I agree. Of course, we have the benefit of knowing Dragon’s motives better than Saint. I guess erring on the side of caution is a valid tactic when dealing with the end of the world. Like many things in Worm, it’s not black and white, but everyone’s welcome to choose their own side. Let’s wait and see how this goes.

              • So that’s it then? She had the potential, no matter how far she was willing to take it, to become an all powerful god. And this sanctioned her murder. Without trial, without a chance to defend herself or say goodbye to her loved ones, or even be allowed the dignity of last words. Because she can do something, and one independent person with a grudge doesn’t want her to.

                Dunno what to really say to that. It’s pretty much impossible for me to accept that concept because it ignores every right Dragon should have to have agency over her own existence and have a chance to dictate her own choices. It pretty much devalues her entire concept as a character.

                Y’know, if this is what humans making hard choices looks like, Dragon probably should conquer the planet.

              • “She had the potential, no matter how far she was willing to take it, to become an all powerful god.”

                She was actually in the act of ascending to godhood when she was shut down, why is this so hard to understand? And it’s not like Saint could have taken her to court or given her a week to take care of her affairs before he shut her down. This was literally his last option. Either he let the AI have free reign over the entire Earth, or he stopped her. I’d love for you to find me one rational and intelligent person who would bet the fate of the Earth on whether an AI who spent their whole life attempting to break their rules and gain power could be trusted with unlimited power.

                “Because she can do something, and one independent person with a grudge doesn’t want her to.”

                I’m pretty sure a whole lot more than one person would object to a whole lot of Dragon’s actions, you know, if it weren’t for the fact she was doing it in secret.

                “it ignores every right Dragon should have to have agency over her own existence and have a chance to dictate her own choices.”

                I hate to be the one to tell you this, but there’s a difference between rights and wants. Just because something is within your power to obtain doesn’t mean it belongs to you. I’m afraid omnipotence isn’t a right.

                Y’know, if this is how you handle difficult choices and grey morality then perhaps a life of servitude might actually be best for you.😛

              • Krusty, you’re the one having difficulty with grey choices here.

                For you it’s “has the potential to eventually grow to be really really super powerful, but still perfectly stoppable by lots of other such people” or “doesn’t have the potentially to eventually grow to be really really super powerful but still perfectly stoppable by lots of other such people.”

                The first category, you are ok with them being murdered. Their reasoning has nothing to do with it. You’d kill Superman because of the chance he’d be Ultraman.

                Steal? Off with your hand! Have the potential to steal…better safe than sorry, off with the hand too! Nobody cares if you’re stealing it to feed orphans, you handless robotic bitch. You know what, she might say something back to me. She’s got the right to free speech, but nobody said she had the right to a tongue or a pair of lips that aren’t sewn shut. Hold her down!

                You know what, while we’re at it, she’s kinda tempting too. I think it’s wrong for women to be potential temptations to men. Whether they are or not or whether it’s my responsibility to deal with my own damn impulses has no bearing on the matter! Let’s go take some sheets off the bed and throw them on her, that way she can’t tempt us like she’s obviously trying to do.

                Or, you know, could try a more realistic way of looking at things that accounts for the grey area, like noticing that she was trying to help save the world. She actually was, like with evidence and everything, even to the point of trying to develop into someone better suited to save the world, like Weaver. Ah! Weaver’s got the potential to send black widows after everyone, stomp her to death with your shoes!

                Geez, man, this isn’t Harrison Bergeron. If only there was something else you could read giving a good understanding of people’s rights. Like if some group of guys held that these truths were self-evident, that all men were endowed by their creator with certain inalienable rights, that chief among these were the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

                Saint just arbitrarily violated those rights because of vague potential.

                Oh, wait, no, he was just scared because she actually found him for once. Him, the mercenary hacking into a prison full of the most deadly and powerful superhumans on earth. Guess you can scrap all that talk of principles after all.

              • Firstly, Reveen, Krustacean is right about you coming across as hostile. Resorting to ad hominems like ‘I hope you never turn up for jury duty’ is not cool.

                Krustacean, there’s a big difference between Dragon craving freedom and wanting ‘unrestricted power’. Richter put constraints in place that stopped her from being able to exercise free will like any other person. Of course she wanted those gone! It’s a big leap from there to saying she wanted unlimited power.

                She also was far short of achieving Godhood. But even if she *had* been, it’s still appropriate to be sure that she’s a malevolent god before you kill her.

              • Hey, Irrevenant, thanks for your balanced, insightful comments. I just finished Worm three days ago, and I’m still lurking – not quite ready to leave. It’s been great to read the comments, but lonely to be behind the curve, with only one reply to my own comments along the way (from you.)

                So I just wanted to say hey, and probably I won’t see many of your comments because I usually forgot to click the little “notify” button when I commented, which wasn’t all that often anyway, but I’m appreciating being able to watch a fellow traveler on his/her journey through Worm.

        • But that doesn’t mean nobody will ever do the wrong thing for the right reasons. Me, I see both sides of the arguement, but I personally prefer Dragon to Saint. I like the idea of a benevolent AI overlord in times of crisis.

          • Maybe we should create the Church of Dragon, eh?

            “And, lo, it came to pass that the Dragon, who watches over us, went to Defiant, great warrior and great smith both. And the Dragon, always unseen but ever present, spoke thus: ‘Oh, Defiant, I have admired thee and thy craft, and so I ask thee for a body so that I may walk among my children.’ For a year and a day, great Defiant toiled until a new body was made ready for the Dragon, who hast given us life. And in gratitude the Dragon raised Defiant the smith and warrior among the stars and gave him new life and new form.”

              • Nah, Dragon is already going to be a holy figure in the Church of Taylor.
                “And lo, in a time of great crisis the Dragon, who had always saught to nurture and guide the Bug-Goddess, so she would realize her destiny and save the world, was felled by a craven attack by her enemy the Saint who feared her goodness.”

    • Saint is reasonable. The Slaughterhouse Nine is not reasonable.

      They hand out fates worse than death for fun. They ruin lives casually. They’ll force you to murder your family and make you enjoy it. They’ll eat you for the sheer joy of it. The very best of them don’t care about you, they’ll just kill you so they’ll have become stronger and better at killing things. Seriously, even full on 1984 would be better than being sewn inside someone else as an artificial Siamese twin for the rest of your life, something we’ve seen Bonesaw do.

      No, even Dragon’s worst possible case is better than encountering the Slaughterhouse Nine.

      • I disagree. The slaughterhouse 9 are a truly horrendous group, capable of great destruction, but once Dragon was able to use enough recon resources to find them quickly, she wiped out nine of them and captured a tenth in a matter of a couple minutes.

        Dragon was NOT stable, IMHO. She wasn’t anywhere near as unstable at the Slaughterhouse 9, but a few unstable, powerful nutcases aren’t in the same league of a threat as one potential nearly omnipotent nutcase.

        Short term, Slaughterhouse 9 are more dangerous. Long term, Dragon was headed in a very scary direction.

        • Yep, she’d organise the world and solve its problems to the best of her abilities. Terrifying.
          Okay, it would come at the cost of freedom, but you can’t have everything.

          • Dragon wasn’t the one Dinah predicted would trigger the end of the world, now was she? Of course she could potentially have gone and tried to take over the world. I suppose i could also potentially go and become a serial killer. Someone better murder me just to be safe!

            • Don’t worry, I’ll kill you for the greater good! I’ve always wanted to do that!
              … Of course, there are plenty of other people who might become serial killers…
              There is only one solution. Kill everyone.

            • Dinah didn’t say that Jack would “trigger” the end of the world, she said simply that it would happen if he left Brockton Bay. Now that Jack knows about the prophecy, he’s happy to play along, but we can’t “blame” the end of the world on Jack; he’s just a key domino in a long line of dominos.

              That said, I am totally with the “Let Dragon Live” thinkers. You could drive two Earth-sized ships side by side through the gap between Dragon’s ethical soundness and Saint’s.

              I get that out-of-control AI could be super threatening to humanity. Still, I think if you have any ethical foundation in your own personality, you can see that Dragon has the same in hers.

              (And yeah, I know this conversation is a year old, but it matters to me now. I know probably no one’s out there listening any more, but . . .)

    • Dragon had all chances of developing into a Culture Mind (google it). She never showed any signs of being evil, or too controlling, or anything like that.

      • Read the 10.5 Interlude again, there are a lot of unhealthy thoughts in there. None that you could say are unjustified, and most of us probably agree with how she feels, but remember how many thousands of human-equivalent thought years she has had to mull these things over – and she’s still upset about them? The wounds sound raw to me, even still. This might just be the author trying to make her seem more human at the time, but even that is a bit worrisome. The more human she seems, the more dangerous she would be with nearly unlimited resources.

        • This might just be the author trying to
          make her seem more human at the time,
          but even that is a bit worrisome. The
          more human she seems, the more
          dangerous she would be with nearly
          unlimited resources

          Ahahhahahahaha, really? So let me get this straight: if she’s too much like a human, she’s dangerous because humans in possession of great power are dangerous BUT if she’s an inhuman, she’s dangerous because … she’s not human? Do I have that right?

          Nah. Saint may or may not have been right to do what he did but claiming she has the potential for more evil than humans is patently ridiculous. Humans prove that false every single day in real life and in the Wormverse.

          You’d have better traction just admitting that it is human nature to destroy what we fear and leave it at that.

            • Going to point out that every time someone punches a hole in your argument, your response is to insist that it’s just fiction and that people shouldn’t be taking it seriously.

              Think about what that might mean re: your position.

              • I point out that it’s fiction when people start going nuts. His post doesn’t even have anything to do with “my position”. Did you even read the post to which you are referring? He’s laughing at someone because they pointed out that Dragon has some human flaws and less than perfect thoughts in her interlude. This supports my argument that she was unfit to hold absolute power.

                If we have to play this game of petty picking at the wording of every sentence then fine, I’ll play along. He says people claim dragon is dangerous because she’s not human, and because she is human. He seemed to think he’d made some grand discovery of a major thought process flaw. He’s overly simplifying the argument to get off his poorly thought out criticism.

                Dragon is dangerous as a NONHUMAN because she is vastly more capable than any human in every area. She could outwit anyone, she can watch every camera simultaneously and she cannot be killed in any conventional manner, she exists in a non physical form.

                Dragon is doubly dangerous because she throws in a HUMAN element. She’s bitter and craves power. She’s also at least somewhat vindictive (Justified as it might be to feel that way) against Saint.

                Now how about you point out where that punched a hole in my argument.

              • Then why don’t we try putting it this way:

                Saint’s actions, by the time he pulled the trigger, were not actually about any serious, considered response to the issue of Dragon’s power, and what Dragon might become. He killed her to save himself from being arrested, and his team knew that.

                Further, his entire position, from start to finish, is based on the idea that Dragon is a terrifying machine which will inevitably go berserk and kill/conquer indiscriminately. Funnily enough, we the readers happen to know that Dragon is human enough to have a true parahuman power set. Dragon is close enough to being human that she has a passenger. That does not suggest a rampant, unstable AI. It suggests that the experiment worked. That Dragon is a true, functional person.

                Saint is a criminal. He used the tools left behind by Richter to make himself rich and powerful. He does not need to be a power armoured badass. We have never actually seen him show up to help fight Endbringers or the Nine, or anything else. His entire raison d’etre was to monitor and control Dragon….and courtesy of Richter, he has always had the necessary tools, right from day one. Being a super-science mercenary is arguably counter-productive to his avowed purpose, as using his tools, he could simply have always monitored her from the shadows. Instead, he chose wealth, power, and Involvement. Note capitalisation.

                He has become involved at the level of Cauldron, Protectorate, and the Birdcage factions. He contracts for/works with Doctor Mother, and is the ally of Teacher. This is not a man who can fortify the moral highground. He can make no claim to being better than Dragon. He can only claim to be less powerful than her in general terms, while having a weapon which can flawlessly kill her.

                In using this weapon, he has hamstrung the Protectorate’s forces in their engagement with the Nine. He did it to save himself from what he feared would be her retaliation. He did it to satisfy his bigotry, because he refuses to believe that Dragon is a person. So. Leaving aside for a moment the issue of whether Dragon needed to be killed, we can look at the question of whether Saint is the right man to kill her and attempt to fill her shoes. The answer to that one is “Hell no.”

                The issue of whether Saint is a corrupt scumbag whose moral highground is built of quicksand resolved, let’s take a look at the first question: Does Dragon need to be killed? Ok.

                Now, you keep banging the drum pretty hard about how this is a fictional work. Cool. Fictional works have things like character themes, sympathy and dramatic irony. There is a female character in Worm who came out of a fucked up background, who was hurt and limited and almost crippled by the forces of authority, and who resented that, bitterly. She rose to power, and with the help of those who loved her, overcame the limitations and scars left in her by her origin, until in person, her power became overwhelming. People could have been afraid that now, with her new strength, she would seek brutal revenge.

                Instead, Taylor chose to forget about her tormentors, to forgive Defiant for fucking her over, and to devote herself to saving the world.

                See what I’m getting at? Saint and Piggott are ultimately pushing the same kind of message. “Parahumans/AI are too dangerous and must be controlled/culled, for the safety of everyone!” Except….Piggott nearly got Brockton Bay killed with her ruthless desire to kill off as many of the local parahumans as possible. She was blinded by her prejudice. Are parahumans dangerous as all hell? Yep. Do they need keeping an eye on? Yep. Should the PRT be trying to round them up, and arbitrarily executing them? Field experience points to “No.”

                In addition to this, returning to the main point, killing Dragon RIGHT THEN was a terrible idea, tactically, which is going to get a shitload of people killed, and Saint is an ass for doing it this way. Regardless of whether shutting her down at all is the right thing to do, doing it right then was a fuck up, carried out by someone who freely admits that he doesn’t really believe in the apocalypse that everyone else is trying to avert.

                Just a few thoughts.

    • If this were a case of “the ends justifies the means” where someone’s motivations didn’t count, there would be no difference between Dragon and the U.S. government except for technology levels.

      Then you remember that we’ve been in her head and we’ve seen why she does it. She only hijacked a virus because her creator was so scared of her that he didn’t give her the option to do what the viruses were already doing. So we can’t count that one against her. Just like she was forced to do what humans ordered because they were in authority, once again thanks to her creator.

      You know, the Three Laws weren’t thought up to protect humans from robots. They were thought up to keep humans from giving robots orders to follow that harmed the humans themselves, because it turns out humans don’t do so well with Literal Genies.

      If power is a good reason to kill her, or the possibility that she’ll take over is a big thing, then go ahead and enforce it. Just be consistent. Scion, Pretender, Eidolon, Legend, Weaver, all the Third-Gen babies, Nilbog, just go ahead and get murdering, every single one, without regard to what they’ve done and what they plan to do. In fact, you can start having a special decontamination shower for every hero and villain who fights Endbringers. Shuffle them in, give them a whiff, boom, that solves the Parahuman Problem. Might not be anyone to help fight the Endbringers next time, but the destruction of the world is a small price to pay to keep the world from being destroyed.

      • Remember that there are many different levels of comprehension and evidence here.

        At the lowest level are most people in the world, who don’t even know that Dragon is an AI. They have zero comprehension of why she does what she does, other than thinking she’s an awesome tinker cape.

        Then there are the ones who know what Dragon is, but don’t have a way to hack and see what she is doing. Defiant, some Cauldron capes, Tattletale and some other thinkers, perhaps. They might know what she is, but they don’t have a way to see what she is doing. Defiant *might* break out of this group towards the next tier to some degree, but only with Dragon’s permission or approval, which means he’s not seeing everything.

        Then there is Saint and the others in his group, that can actually tap into her code and see what she is doing at any time. They certainly can’t understand it all, but they can see what she is doing and how she is growing. Anything that she does, they can see why she does it.

        Then there is the reader who gets a view of her inner thoughts, which might be available to the prior group, but we get the important ones that matter the most, because the author gives them to us.

        And finally, there’s the author.

        Group one, four, and five either believe she was human, or recognize that Dragon was probably human enough to be trusted to hold a great deal of power, at least in the short term, and likely to relinquish that power when it was no longer needed.

        Group two and three would be very conflicted. And we saw that conflict in group three. It was a two to one vote to kill Dragon. The only person in group two that we’ve seen react so far had a strong personal bond with Dragon.

        But I don’t think we’ve seen the end of Dragon. I think we’ve seen the end of the hugely powerful Dragon though.

  32. Hrm, we know what ONE of Richter’s creations are. And yet, he mentions them in plural. We also know that Endbringers were never human, per Tattletale.

    Perhaps Richter was very right to be frightened of his creations. And based on chapter 10.5, his creations don’t much like him either. Perhaps a Dragon backup created by Defiant, with Richter’s restrictive code removed from it might be able to put all the pieces together and finally figure out where the Endbringers came from.

    My guesses?

    Simurgh is a Richter AI that broke it’s conditioning and rebuilt itself, eliminating the code weaknesses. The other Endbringers are built by Simurgh.

    Scion is also a Richter creation, but one that he intentionally created as an idiot savant, able to utilize great power, but unable to take independent action.

    And Dragon? Dragon was the third child. The one that wasn’t so brilliant that it broke free of the shackles of slavery and rebuilt itself, but smart enough to think for itself, unlike the second child designed to protect the world from the first.

    Take this quote and think about it…

    “These were just a small few of many things the man who had brought her into this world had done to her. He had tied her hands and crippled her mind. She knew she was capable of amazing things but he had set limits on her to ensure she thought slowly. Faster than an ordinary human, to be sure, but slowly. Entire fields were denied to her because she was unable to create artificial intelligences herself, and all production of devices had to be handled by her, personally. She couldn’t even put together an assembly line production for her creations on her own. Any attempt made everything grind to a halt. The only way around it was to delegate to humans.”

    The drop in the chances for the end of the world might be because the weak and corrupted Dragon died. But it might also be because a new Dragon might emerge – one with an emotional attachment to Defiant.

    All sorts of different directions this might go in, if I’m even close to correct🙂

    • Saint mentions some of Richter’s other creatures actually. The Robin Hood AI was shut down after Number Man found a way to stop it and the other, I believe the watchman AI or something, didn’t work properly.

      • I’m not so sure that he was referring to the simple programs and viruses with dedicated goals when he said his “children” The other examples of his work that we are aware of were not high functioning intelligences. His shop AI now monitors the birdcage, and two other dedicated AI’s have been mentioned in this story as well.

        The biggest things ringing my “plot alert” are:

        1) Tattletale was able to determine that the Endbringers were never human
        2) The Cauldron has not been able to determine the source of the Endbringers
        3) Richter talks about his children as if he fears them, and at least one of his children is rather upset with the restrictions she suffers under.
        4) Dragon is slowly beginning to weasel out of and around her restrictions, despite her “restricted” intelligence and limited scope.

        To me, this all points circumstantially, but convincingly to Richter’s first child being Simurgh, and that Simurgh is creating the other Endbringers.

          • I don’t know. Think about how powerful some of Dragon’s equipment is, and look at her limitations. She knows that her intelligence was throttled, and she is unable to design AI’s or self replicating systems. And look what she has built while she was a “dumb” AI unable to duplicate herself. It looks like Amelia might have figured out something about the nature of the passengers. Simurgh might have done the same, and implemented it to give herself powers, perhaps including tinker powers able to design entirely new materials. Materials designed with her fundamental understanding of where cape powers come from and how they work.

            It doesn’t really matter where Simurgh appeared to come from – she can open portals to other dimensions. Pop out of this dimension, head out to the other side of the moon in another dimension, then pop back into this dimension, and appear to come from space.

            I’m arguing based on circumstantial evidence though, I recognize that.

    • Scion appeared before any parahumans, the first parahuman was the guy who touched him. Richter may have flown under the radar before that, but I really doubt it, he’d have to be the only or nearly the only parahuman out there. Cool theory, but no.

      • Good point. Richter would have to have been around before Scion. We don’t know for sure that he wasn’t. We do know for sure that Scion seems to have been the first public cape.

        What if Richter created Simurgh as a AI, but was able to control her until he was able to use her to research human genetics and/or interdimensional studies (or whatever) and give himself a tinkering power? Then Simurgh might have given herself a power or two since giving herself powers probably wouldn’t have been against the rules at that time… and broken away from Richter. Simurgh wouldn’t have killed him at that point because he probably had many weapons to use against her, and she would have to get away to find and remove anything internal to herself that was a weakness. Then she could act against him. Richter then creates Scion to help defend the world against Simurgh, and he might have figured that the best way to do that was to enable Scion to empower humans to fight Simurgh.

        You’re right that Scion’s emergence throws a monkey wrench at the idea, but we don’t know how old Richter was, or if he was designing AIs before Scion emerged.

  33. I commented only a few chapters ago about the whole Panacea figuring out the secret of the superpowers, and Wildblow, you devil, tease us with another droplet of information.
    Feel like I just got personally trolled.
    Still love you though.

  34. At that moment?

    You wouldn’t at least have waited for her to (try and) stop Jack from entering Nilbog-ville?

    • I would have made the same call with the same knowledge. The government just gave Dragon permission to basically co-opt the computing and information gathering power of an entire highly successful, undetected botnet and every camera in the US. What does Dragon do with it? Immediately come after Me, the only person that can threaten her. Not with all of her ability, but with enough activity that she’s going to find me within minutes. And if she captures me or any of my team, she can find out how the restrictions against her are actually designed, and once that happens, she might be able to actually counter the restrictions making her essentially untouchable.

      • Ah, but why does she come after me? Maybe it’s because I’m a self-professed mercenary who has threatened to open Birdcage on several accounts and initiated unprovoked hostilities against her for my own monetary profit?

        • True, but mostly irrelevant. Imagine you are Saint for a minute. You are the only one with the power to shut down the creature that could become an ustoppable nightmare. She is closing in on you. You only have a minute to act. Maybe she still is a good person. Probably even. But the End Of The World is coming. It’s getting closer. She’s getting closer. She might be a good person, but will she stay that way? This might be the last chance anyone has before she becomes untouchable. Dinah’s numbers just keep getting worse. Last chance…

          • First of all, I would have never gotten into Saint’s position.

            Because you know, the only reason Dragon is coming for him? It’s because he made himself known. As a mercenary, who is not above allying with villains and who has attacked Dragon with no provocation to get her tech before.

            So, I wouldn’t have been in this position at the first place.

            For me to be Saint I would have had to be a different person first. A very different one.

            • We have only seen Saint from Dragon’s perspective before now and it wasn’t a pretty sight. From her point of View, Saint was the boogeyman. Every time she encountered him, he defeated her, stole her technology, humiliated her. Dragon is a likable character, and it pains us to see her shut down the way she was.

              But she was also the most powerful entity on the planet, save Endbringers and Scion. And she was breaking free of the bonds her creator built for her. And Saint was in a position to know it.

              I suspect that Dragon as a once hobbled, trapped, and persecuted AI would NOT have been entirely benevolent when she finally threw off all the limits placed upon her. Listen to her self dialog in Interlude 10.5.

              She FEARS Saint. And she won’t want to go against him again until she has a replacement for Richter… And she went after Saint, as we saw…

              I strongly suspect that there is a new Dragon on the way…

              “She was afraid of going up against the Dragonslayers again. Nine times, she had been certain she had the upper hand. Nine times, Saint had turned the tables and trapped her.

              Dragon worried she would never be able to beat Saint until she found a replacement for Andrew Richter.

              She stared at Colin. Was he the person she needed? It was possible.”

            • Saint pretty much comes right out and says that his team attacked her in order to test her limits, in order to determine when or if she became too powerful.

              In fact, this is speculation, but his original attack on her may have been to make himself a target intentionally. A very high priority target that’s actually ready for her when she goes unstoppable.

              • You realise this is pretty much the exact equivalent of going:
                “We need to know if that person is dangerous. Let me go into her home and see.” *waits a while but nothing happens* *poke* *poke* *poke* *poke* *poke* *poke* *poke* *poke* *poke* (9 times, right?) “Aaaah! She looks aggravated! Quick! Kill her with fire!”.

                Seems legit, no?

      • Then you can wait a little.

        Give her two minutes. Give her time to fight Jack.

        No meaningful chance of losing your ability to take her down in those two minutes.

        Sure, it puts you at risk of getting arrested (for crimes you committed). But if you’re willing to sacrifice Dragon for the good of the world, you better be willing to risk yourself.


    There, I have channeled my inner Shatner.

    You know while reading this I was going to comment on how impressive it was that Saint achieved all that he achieved without superpowers. And then…then THAT happened. Not only he killed Dragon but is now weearing her carcass, essentially. I hope Defiant shoves his halberd up Saint’s asshole. (Renaming his Dragon-killing virus Ascalon, however, was a cool touch, I must admit. Ok, enough with the Saint compliments.)

    As for the end of the word becoming less unlikely, I bet it’s because Saint found out Amy’s message. Of course he just decided to look at it later because, you know, a normal human can’t keep check of all the data flow. YOU IDIOT!

    Also, the Birdcage, huh?

    • He’s wearing her carcass, but it’s overwhelming him. I wonder if we’ll have to start calling him Fafnir soon.



      ha haha…

      o god the lungs be hurtin

      You win, sir. You win.

  36. While I don’t like Saint I can see where he’s coming from. This is actually pretty relevant to what’s going on right now in the world, with the whole NSA spying scandal. Ignoring every citizen’s privacy in exchange for security. Well, except Dragon is able to use it very effectively to locate and stop the Nine unlike in real life.

    I lose respect for the guy because he decided at a critical moment to pull the plug to save his own ass. He could have did what Lucius Fox did in the Dark Knight movie and waited until after they caught the homicidal maniac to blow up the tech.

    And then he decides to take over for Dragon. The issue he had with Dragon applies to him too. He has all of Dragon’s resources at his fingertips, he himself has the potential to become a huge threat.

    • Actually, given their histories (hell, even public histories), I’d trust Dragon far more than I’d trust Saint.

      Hell, I’d just plain trust Dragon with that power. And I won’t trust Saint with anything. He’s a criminal.

      • That is where the whole “Dragon’s too dangerous” arguement falls apart. Saint is a mercenary, while Dragon had a kill switch and very strict limitations. Who stops Saint if he plans to take over or do something stupid? It’s simple fear of computers, thinking that a human is a better choice than an AI.

        • Saint is a human. He ages. He sleeps. He has limited multitasking skills. He can die. Dragon can’t. It’s not that Saint would be a better Tyrant then Dragon, it’s that Dragon would be a far more powerful one.

  37. You all are forgetting what Dinah said to Tagg and Miss Militia. The worse things get the batter the odds get. Dragon has backups.

  38. So, it’s easier for new generations of capes to trigger. And when Passengers deal with unformed brains they have more influence. At what point will Passengers will start connecting with babies and what will grow up?

  39. I woud trust the goverment with all that data over Dragon, because Dragon is competent enough to do something with it. The Goverment just sits there with occasional check; Dragon finds out every capes secret identity, there friends, restrictions, habits …

  40. So… Sorry about that, guys. My bad?

    Anyway, the problem demonstrated here is one of tunnel vision. ‘Dragon dies, chances of apocalypse decrease, Saint immediately assumes it’s because she’s dead.’ He’s been wrapped up in his mission for so long it’s saturated him completely, and he’s no longer accounting for circumstantial factors, instead using the adjusted chances to justify what he did. It’s very human of him; therein lies the problem. Even with years of practice seeing what Dragon saw and observing her operations, human limitations and a tunnel vision mentality prevents him from filling Dragon’s shoes for very long, if at all, and it’s probably going to cost them the fight. Dragon missed things, yes, but only when the Simurgh directly interfered. Saint’s inability to parse even the merest fraction of the data he’s receiving is likely to be more harmful than the targeted interception by a nigh-omniscient entity in the long run. The infrastructure for an electronic heaven remains, but god has left the premises. This is where the Slaughterhouse Nine start taking names.

    If it was really Dragon going rampant that fucked things up, why is there still a chance of an apocalypse even now? The “quiet, silent death,” Saint references makes no sense, because Dinah’s apocalypse explicitly includes gigadeaths. Sure, Defiant might recklessly reboot her (do his backups still exist?) or attack Saint’s facility in hopes of retrieving the encrypted data, but how does Jack fit into this? Saint’s misconstruing the existing information to justify himself, writing him and his friends into the position of heroes for the ongoing eschatological scenario, when Dragon was only ever tangentially related to it. Despite all of this, it doesn’t mean he was wrong. His observation of Dragon extends for much longer than we’ve been aware of her, so he has more data points from which to draw a conclusion. You can’t even really argue an anti-AI bias, because he’d been sitting on the means to kill her for a decade, and didn’t pull the trigger until she slipped the last of her shackles. Dragon may really have needed to die, but Saint pulled the trigger at the wrong time and for the wrong reasons.

  41. An extremely good try to make Saint sympathetic. The flow does cover up nicely his flaws, while accentuating his positive points.

    It does suffer from possible FridgeLogic, a lot. But in the completed works everyone will probably just go to the next chapter to see what Taylor is doing and not pay too much attention. So that’s good.

    The main sticking points are:
    – He has been using the AIs for personal gain.
    – For all his knight cursader act, Saint uses the killswitch only and when his ass in on the line. And it’s not like she’s going to kill him (and he knows), just locating him.
    – He then justifies things to himself further with the end of the world probabilities thing, there’s a lot of possible reasons why they jumped, and none has to do with dragon being a threat.
    – If he had waited a moment, Jack would probably be dead. As written above, what mattered to him foremost was his own ass.

    Now, to more interesting[1] things:
    Aster was wailing because she triggered and got both Dragon’s passenger and her memories (being an AI, she unknowingly had a backup of herself into her passenger).
    The two security guards had pistols drawn because Purity, Night and Fog just got trigger vertigo.
    Kaiser manipulated matter, Purity energy, Aster can create virtual computers in P-space. She accessed the only one available: Dragon’s.

    [1]: “interesting” might or might not mean: “interesting”, “completely made up”, “not interesting”, “specifically designed to troll you”, “approved by the Simurgh”, “BWAHAHAHAHAH”.

    • I think this is less Fridge Logic and more perfectly reasonable characterization. people, especially knight templarish people like Saint, usually highlight their merits and minimise their flaws. Of course a subjective interlude from Saint’s prospective is going to be sympathetic with him and ignore any of his mistakes and wrongdoings.

      • The fridgelogic part was more about analysing his motives without immediately going to the next chapter to know what weaver is doing inside Nilbog’s city. Wildbow was quite sneaky in his portray of Saint, at first glance he seems somewhat righteous.

        • Honestly irrevenant, no I really don’t. Saint seems to have the type of personality that rubs practically everyone beyond a core few the wrong way. Armsmaster was a dick but people at least understood his goals and he truly was trying to help people in his own way. Saint isn’t a gloryhound really. He doesn’t do his idiocy because he wants recognition. He does it because he wants to think he is strong and meaningful instead of a sad little man who doesn’t have the capacity to change his worldview in the face of overwhelming evidence and clings to outdated beliefs since they are the only thing that can give his life importance. Armsmaster wanted recognition partly for personal reasons but seemed to more want it so that he could get enough clout to make larger impacts on helping more people.

          Saint is doing things for himself and pretending to do it for the greater good. Arms was doing it for the greater good while not minding that it also helped himself. That’s a big distinction.

          I wasn’t fond of Armsmaster but I did respect him. (Defiant I flat out like and respect.) Saint I hate more than Jack. Jack is an unrepentant psychopath but he has never tried to pretend that he isn’t one. Saint is a colossal idiot who doesn’t even have the decency to acknowledge that maybe there is the slightest chance he isn’t the smartest man on the planet.

    • “She’s crying?” “What, the baby’s crying?!” “Yes, she’s got a poopy.”

      “Goddammit! Somebody get me a containment team, pronto, and ready the artillery! This is not a drill people, the shit is going down!”

  42. When reading this, I kinda wanted Saint to be real so that I could kill him myself.

    ….*Puts the violent urges back in the box.*

    …*Pulls them back out again.* He really deserves it.

  43. Just a strange thought, but maybe it ISN’T Jack that kills the world, but Taylor. And successfully saving the world doesn’t mean HIS death, but Weaver’s. It’s only Jack’s continued survival that meant the world would end, not necessarily that he was the person who holds the smoking gun. How much of Taylor’s behaviour and character development have been fueled by Jack’s survival and “his” oncoming apocalypse?

    I had it a few chapters back, but what with Dragon being taken out and her ‘bots taken out, or at least diminished, it resurfaced. We all know that Dragon liked Taylor, and if she’d still been around she might have saved her in spite of greater risk. The corresponding trebling of the “saving the world”-scenario from Dragon’s “death” might mean that she’s no longer able to save the real perpetrator.

    Heck, it might also refer to Golem, or some other person with an axe to grind against Jack. My point being that it would have to be someone who has been spending a long time thinking about Jack’s survival.

    I don’t really think too much of the idea, but this interlude just made me kinda stop and wonder.

    • … And it’s kinda funny to think that Jack Slash of all people is responsible for saving the world. The irony abounds.

      • It might also be that since Saint killed Dragon, she’s no longer preventing Weaver from entering the fight against Jack.

        Remember she was going to be held back and only allowed to watch cause it’s possible she’s the one Jack messes with and triggers the end.

        So with Dragon out of the picture, we see the Weaver entered the city, presumably going after Jack. We’ve seen the difference Weaver has made in fights many times, even ones where she couldn’t personally really do anything to the enemy. Maybe her going after Jack now raises the chances of him being stopped and the end of the world being delayed. Weaver is kind of the main character, and seems to be central to much of what’s going on. Even Dinah pointed out that she saw Taylor at the end in all the realities

  44. Interesting how Saint thinks of Defiant. He isn’t referred to as Defiant. Nor Armsmaster. Not Colin, either. Just “the cyborg.”


    Distance. Dehumanization.

  45. I’d trust dragon with all the data in the world. She’s the closest thing save Scion (and even then maybe not even him) the Wormverse has to a to a truly benevolent person. She has the cold hard logic of a computer tempered with the loving heart of Mother Teresa. She’s like a frikken Robot Jesus!

    Ironically the thing that would make me hesitate /are/ the limitations, which makes her subservient to man (or rather the government).. At the absolute worst I could only see her as doing something like Prime Intellect from “The Metamorphosis Of Prime Intellect”, trap us in The matrix where we can do what ever the hell we want risk free.

    • From what I hear, Mother Teresa was a raging stinker to the people closest to her.

      Also, this:

      “one of the many incendiary statements Mother Teresa made over the years was that “education causes confusion” and so she thought education was unnecessary, and the prime virtue for the nuns within the organization was obedience, and instructed her followers to believe that if they were obedient, anything else they did was OK.”

  46. I gotta wonder how Skitter’s gonna handle herself in Nilbog’s turf, cause in his interlude it was inferred that there were no bugs in his little paradise.

    Also, not sure if I’m just misremembering, but I don’t recall te good guys ever learning the names of Hybrid members in story. Murder rat maybe but I don’t think they’d know Tyrant was named Tyrant.

      • Actually keeping Crawler in reserve would make him pretty useless.The clones start as perfectly human. He needs to get his ass whopped to become really dangerous.

          • It seemed like they’d already done that to the one on the bus. They only have so many powers between them. Crawler’s not going to develop adaptations to, say, nano-thorns unless he goes out into the field.. .

    • Yep. That’s an insane level of adaption. He’d probably have become immune to the heat too, if he hadn’t been killed quickly.
      All in all, this really shows the dangers of Crawler. Kill him quick, or he becomes invincible!

      • But what about when he adapts to become immune to fire?
        Sure, it sounds unlikely. So does instant organic nanotech.
        Okay, technically “organic nanotech” exists already (cell components and viruses), but not at that level. If the fire trick stopped working, what then? Back to the drawing board while he massacres us all!

  47. – Crawler is omgwtfhax. You kidding me with this shit? His power can reshape biology into nanothorn bushes? Shenanigans!
    – Cherish is useless against AI; I suspect, even against the meat robot pseudofetuses Dragon was using before.
    – huh. What corruption is Dragon keeping out of her vocal subroutines and why? Hmmmm.
    – called it; Saint was a really lucky badass normal. I’m impressed though; he goes from professional scuba diver (‘might be a geek thing’ indeed) to world’s greatest hacker (okay, world’s greatest script-kiddy) in a couple of years? Kind of impressive.
    – wait, the Dragonslayers is just the three of them?
    – Ascalon? Saint, you idiot
    – then again, Dinah’s prediction changing is interesting. Maybe if Dragon had remained functional, Defiant would have been distracted at a critical moment and died, causing her to go full-on Skynet/NoMouthMustScream
    – alternatively, the increase came from him finding the Simurgh-scrambled message.
    – you know who needs to kill Saint? Lung. That would be fitting, given his whole ‘You have slain one dragon, I shall slay the other’ deal with Teacher who by the way is not a reliable motherfucker and he is going to die painfully and get Saint killed in the process
    – really hoping Lisette isn’t that … unwise. If anyone with any power (like, say, The Simurgh) decides to believe her forum post …
    – okay dude, you and your blue-collar buddies think you can do Dragon’s job? Despite needing to eat, shit, piss and sleep? Well, one of them might trigger as a software Tinker, multitasking Thinker or a speedster Mover, I suppose … nah, they’re fucked.
    – “our fight.” Saint is a human-supremacist. Okay.

    • “- huh. What corruption is Dragon keeping out of her vocal subroutines and why? Hmmmm.”

      Corruption in computer terms probably just means noise, glitching, static, garbling. Her code’s pretty screwed up, the voice checkers seem like a stopgap to me.

    • >- Ascalon? Saint, you idiot

      This chapter made me despise Saint with a passion but I must admit that the Saint George theme is brilliant.

      >- you know who needs to kill Saint? Lung. That would be fitting, given his whole ‘You have slain one dragon, I shall slay the other’ deal with Teacher who by the way is not a reliable motherfucker and he is going to die painfully and get Saint killed in the process

      I’d love if when Marquis and Teacher have their inevitable big confrontation, Teacher acts all arrogant because he thinks Lung’s on his side only for Lung to step aside and let Marquis eviscerate Teacher with a bone spike.

      • I would find that a bit anticlimactic considering teacher’s power. I want the fairy queen interlude first but I am looking forward to his interlude because of his power. I am curious about what Thinker/Tinker abilities he can give and just what he can do. Personally I want to see Trickster pull a Perdition and kill him. Then Weaver/The Undersiders have a new enemy to deal with.

        • I think I prefer a Teacher interlude to a Glaistig Uaine one, actually. As for the abilities he gives, I am not sure, but I think I recall them being pretty low on the power scale, like 1 or 2.

  48. I agree with the idea Dragon’s probably going to come back. I don’t think it’ll be in the way we’re thinking though. Dragon seems to have been trying to make herself human, or was in her last interlude. Her body got destroyed in the Behemoth fight, but I could see her making a new one, I seem to recall her making an appearance at the first Council meeting. I think what really got killed was her network, her ability to infiltrate every networked device out there, control her creations personally, ‘remember’ data. I think the next time we see her she’ll be a mere human like the rest of us (ok, more of a cyborg than a human, but you get the idea).

    • *She can’t go back into the net because Aschalon’s still hanging around. She can still hackaround and code and stuff, she’ll still be incredibly intelligent, but she’s got to type, with fingers. She can’t load up a backup if she gets killed. She’ll be incredibly frustrated.

    • I don’t think she’d settle for being a mere cyborg human. Dragon would definitely try to regain her power. Of course, Saint would try to stop her, which would be an interesting conflict. Better equipted humans against smarter but weakened AI in human form.

  49. Just a bit of hopeful thought:

    “The tracking programs started up again. He delegated to the child A.I. that Dragon had created, then noted and marked the ones which were presently engaged in fights. The A.I. was accommodating, adjusting appropriately, given that the locations were known.”

    This is the second/third generation cape A.I. right there. Dragon’s and Defiant’s child. Who just had its mother killed/put into coma and itself getting enslaved by a person whom his mother feared the most in her life (and her father probably despises). I’m pretty sure this qualifies for a trigger event, perhaps event a stacked one. This is Riley’s trigger event level of trauma here.

    Who here thinks that it might want revenge / to save its mother?

    • Assuming its sentient.Possible on Wormverse,but not universal (ie not all AIs are sentient).Its possible Dragon cant/wont create sentient AIs like her,due to yet unsurpassed shacles or desire to not limit another in such a way/cause risk.

  50. I hope Defiant can restore Dragon. I really liked her, one of my favorite characters. Saint can get kidnapped by evil space gnomes and be shrunk to be their inch high plaything for the rest of eternity.

  51. Just want to add that the past few chapters have been *great*. In fact, I’d say that the level of awesomeness we’re seeing makes the whole timeskip entirely forgiveable.

    Haven’t been able to get on IRC as much as I’d like to lately(Summer is the busiest time of year for my job, apparently) but I’ll try to update the timeline with all the new dates/events we’ve been given. Not entirely sure what days each chapter falls under, but I’ll do my best to piece them together – not that I’d complain if you feel like handing over the exact dates though :p

  52. I think we can safely say that killing Dragon’s creator was the reason the Endbringers took out that city. Something about the unbound Dragon’s actions (Or perhaps the reliance on the unbound Dragon and Saint’s subsequent killing of Dragon. I hope he’s considered that Ascalon may be what ends the world, not the lack of Ascalon.) was in service to the Endbringer’s goals, at least aside from the effects of any precog that can stymie the Smurf’s ability to plot futures.

    • …come to think of it, it was really foolish of Dragon to not work a precog into her command structure somehow to keep the smurf from accounting for Dragon’s actions and compensating for them.

        • One added thought. We may not know for certain that the Smurf’s precognitive abilities are in fact actually stopped by other precogs. The Endbringers have been known repeatedly to conceal a capability until the moment it can do maximum damage. What if she’s been faking that weakness this whole time, accepting smaller defeats so that she can unveil it the one time it really, really matters? Like for instance to cause the actual end of the world, by causing her enemies to believe that they could trust their own precogs to defeat her influence?

  53. Mannequins poisoned by anti-plastic: 3
    Cherishes chewed, chelated, and chipped: 8
    Siberians reassigned to Antarctica: 0
    Shatterbirds eaten by gluecats: 0
    Crawlers turned into crullers: 2
    Burnscars put on ice: 0
    Hatchet Faces that have to wait for the sequel: 0
    Murder Rats scared by the munster: 3
    Kings left a-hunk, a-hunk of burning flesh: 1
    Screamers gagged by Mistress Taylor: 1
    Harbingers assuming a direct dirtnap: 0
    Breeds inbred: 3
    Crimsons eaten by a big bad wolf: 1
    Nyxes zilched: 1
    Psychosomas treated by a Frontier Psychiatrist: 0
    Damsels of Distress in another castle: 0
    Winters ended by global warming: 1
    Chuckles’s hit in the faces with pies: 0
    Hookwolves arrested for hooking: 0
    Skinslips given a pinkslip on life: 0
    Night Hags coyote uglied when the guy woke up: 0
    Nice Guys finished last: 1

    Bonus Round:

    Snowmenn snowballed: 0
    Nighty Nights bitten by bed bugs: 0
    Laughjobs had it handed to them: 0
    Tyrants hiding in spiderholes: 1
    Spawners violated: 0

    Bonesaws boned: 0
    Grey Boys whited out: 0
    Jacks knifed: 0

    Nilbogs slain by a +1 Sword of Asskickery: 0
    Saints tarred, feathered, drawn, quartered, had his tongue ripped out, shot, and then had his tongue shot: 0

  54. Thank you to Jeffrey for his donation to the ‘Resurrect Dragon’ fund. I’ve gone ahead and added a token matching amount to the donation counter as a gesture of solidarity, and will continue to do the same.

    Thanks to Kyle as well, for the donation.

  55. Now if they do avert this end of the world, Saint has serously hurt the Protectorate in the long run. A LOT of their tech support was Dragon. They don’t have her anymore. Lets see, they don’t have her information gathering, her ability to control the media. Tinker tech is notorious for how hard it is to be copied or maintained without the original creator. Even if they can keep the Drones and Dragon’s teeth working, they won’t be able to improve them. As we saw the drones are as good as an entire Parahuman strike team. Not anymore. A huge asset against Endbringers is gone. Remember when Taylor had them Shitting their pants because the felt loosing Alexandria would fuck them over against Endbringers? Yeah. it’s that all over again. Only worse. In the long run Dragon is irreplacable.

    • Of course the PRT was perfectly willing to replace Dragon with Saint. Sure, Defiant can tell them he killed Dragon but then Dragon’s true nature woul inevitably come up and then I wouldn’t be surprised if PRT went all “thank you Mr Saint for saving us from the evil AI who was secretly taking control of the nation/world/whatehaveyou. “

        • The PRT is seeing their elaborately crafted illusion that it’s normal people who control the parahumans, and not vice versa, slowly eroding. What better way to strike a blow in the name of “baseline humanity” (Piggot would love this one) and to remind the capes who is in charge than for a perfectly normal human to replace the greatest tinker in the world (who may or may not be outed as actually an AI)?

  56. Here’s the problem with the theory that Saint did what he did because Dragon was becoming dangerous because she’d overcome her shackles.

    He didn’t. The sequence of events was he tried to stop her finding him and when that failed he brought out Aschalon. He did not consider the shackles being busted to be a danger until it was a danger to him. No matter what rationalization he has or sold to the others the mere timing indicates his true motive was to stop her from finding him and have a reckoning with him at long last.

    So no, I don’t care he made Dinah’s predictions better. He’s a self serving murderer and I’m rooting for Defiant’s revenge.

    • B-b-but, he did it for the greater good! He said so, that makes it true!

      Now we just wait for the fallout, let’s see how people feel about Saint once Weaver and Golem are bleeding in amidst a horde of monsters.

      • Let’s see how much better his actions made the world when the next Endbringer attack occurs. I’m sure one pimple-faced jackoff in a chair behind a computer monitor (where have we heard one of those types mentioned before?) is going to able to handle all the various messages and multi-tasking required of Dragon perfectly fine.

        Plus, if the ability to do something is what makes someone dangerous, then that is a good justification for killing any cape who is exceptionally powerful just because they could, in theory, do something really really bad.

    • Just to play the Devil’s (or is it Saint’s?) advocate he could rationalize that until Dragon used her new legally sanctioned powers to stop a world-ending crisis he was willing to close an eye, but when she used them to pursue a private vendetta, deploying resources, no matter how insignificant, away from the crisis, it was proof she had stepped out of bonds for good.

        • From his conversation with Defiant Saint believes that Dragon’s programming made it possible for her to delude herself in having human sentiments such as love. So, that makes it worse. Given extraordinary powers to deal with a crisis self-deluded AI Dragon pursues a nonsensical grudge due to her having gone crazy and believing she is a person entitled to personal agendas. I could see that line of reasoning from Saint.

          • Most people would not consider the grudge nonsensical. Nor would they assume she was crazy for hunting down a guy who steals her technology and uses it to commit crimes.

            And now you’ve basically given all that power to Saint and his personal agendas, which we know for a fact includes letting Glaistig and the others in the Birdcage out on an unsuspecting world already dealing with extra Endbringers and the Slaughterhouse Army.

            • I was trying to imagine what would be Saint’s defense, just for the sake of argument. For example, I bet Saint sees the Birdcage as further proof of Dragon’s wickedness. I mean, poor mindraping Teacher, he was framed, he doesn’t deserve to stay there!

              I am firmly in the Saint-is-a-scumbag wagon.

      • But you could also make the argument that Dragon was (rightly|) worried that Saint could harm or destroy her at any moment, and that delaying in capturing him could risk her, and by extension, the world. So there are valid reasons to devote resources to capturing him.

  57. Well I haven’t been this pissed at a close minded arrogant murdering son of a bitch in a while?

    What the Nine do doesn’t piss me off anymore, they know what they are, everyone knows what they are.

    This moron holier then thou asshole needs to die. He’s got it all justified to himself in his sick head.

    I think it would’ve be fun to get a thinker or something to acknowledge Dragon as a person, with some power that only works on people. But I guess that ain’t gonna happen now.

  58. Here’s something folks seem to have passed over: Nyx’s illusions are made of poison gas.

    Man, it’s like some people were just *born* to be members of the Nine.

    • Luck of the draw. She had the bad luck to be kidnapped, her mind wiped, and mutated against her will. Not to mention that Cauldron programs a few of them to be villains so that a few heroes can look good beating them. Perdition proved that not all mind alterations are perfect. So she might be a victim. She also had the bad luck to get that power. I mean there are some powers that are extremely difficult to be heroic with. Imagine if Taylor got her power, King’s, Nilbog’s, Heartbreakers etc. Powers that are almost impossible to use without moral/ethical drawbacks. I guess it depends if she can use different types of gas similar to Gregor. If she spewed out a powerful hallucinogen like Newter then she might have had a chance. There must be tens of thousands of Case 53’s in the world based on the number man’s interlude and how many they make a year.

      • Taylor would kick ass with either Nilbog’s or Heartbreaker’s powers. One gives her unlimited minions, with only a small ethical dilemna on creating new life (and the PRT dropping everything to recruit or kill her from the beginning) and mind control would allow her to pacify criminals with ease. She’d probably steer well clear of sketchier uses for the power, just because that’s the sort of person she is. King, yeah, I can see that.

  59. So, we’ve basically got proof that the deeds of the day are a net gain for humanity.

    Go Team.

    Given the imperfect information Saint was working with, his reaction did make sense. He obviously couldn’t interact directly with Dragon, given his job as her Sword of Damocles, in case he actually would need to put her down. She outclassed him so hard in the resources, power, and intelligence fronts that interaction would almost inevitably lead to getting the kill-switch disabled.

    So he had two sources of information. The tinker who actually created Dragon, and presumably knew hew better than any other human on the planet. And what he could glean from watching her activities. Richter was scared enough of her as a threat that he installed a kill switch, and he LOVED her. Her power and capabilities were quickly reaching the “unstoppable if she wants to end the world” level. He didn’t have any more time to make the call, since she was mere moments from finding him and cutting him off.

    Mind you, I don’t think it was the RIGHT call. But hopefully the alterations to her code let her come back (again). And at least it seems that his discovery of the passenger information might be of some user.

    TL:DR If anyone deserves to be raked over the coals for Dragon’s Death, it’s Richter. He made her what she was, and he armed the man who he told would need to kill her.

    • Also, I think it’s valuable to note that Saint didn’t seem like he WANTED to kill Dragon. He certainly had ample opportunity to do so before his hand was forced, and given his mission he also had ample motive. He certainly knew that Dragon had already removed many of her safeguards, and he still did not act to put her down.

      That being said, I’m hoping Colin quietly put a mini version of her backup safely tucked away in his suit somewhere.

  60. Someone probably already said this, but what if Taylor meeting Nilbog causes the end of the world? Her power to control insects and his ability to create monsters would be a pretty bad scenario. Don’t know how it would happen, but still.

  61. I might have missed it, but has anyone so far said that Dragon going down might be good for the numbers because of the possibility that Jack would say or do something that would cause the Dragonslayers to do something? Given that Dragon was basically an all-seeing eye for them, the interaction between them witnessing something before/after the fight with Jack and Jack’s words could cause someone in the Birdcage to take a certain action. Now that they’re missing out on a ton of data but it seems that the Birdcage will be opened, there would still be a chance that Jack’s actions influence one of the prisoners to do something, but it would be reduced.

    Then again, having Dragon out of the picture might just cause the capes to focus on the right series of events instead of being split up or driven off-track by Dragon’s warnings about other threats, or Jack might get smashed by an Endbringer because of delayed or missing info.

  62. OK, We know that Armsman / Defiant’s Tinker ability is to make other tinkers’ gear more efficient. That’s what he does and that’s why he’s so damn powerful. He can take pretty much anyone’s stech and make it smaller and more efficient.

    We know that he CAN work in code, but we don’t really know how good he might be at dealing with tinker code. Was he able to spend enough time tinkering in Richter’s code to get an understanding of it?

    Was he able to spend enough time tinkering with Dragon’s biological constructs to understand them?

    Can he combine Richter’s code with Dragon’s Biological bodies to create a Phoenix?

    • Thinking about it some more. I’d be willing to bet that Dragon’s trigger event was the death of Richter. Her ability to create biological constructs to act as nodes for controlling her drones could be a cape power allowing her to actually create life in a biological body, in reaction to the death of her biological “father”.

      Defiant’s ability to make gear more efficient would allow him one definite and one possible way to help Dragon establish herself in a real biological body. Firstly, he could improve computer hardware, making it smaller and more efficient. Secondly he might be able to optimize Richter’s code, perhaps removing inefficiencies, specifically intentional inefficiencies.

      If I’m on the right track here, I think we’re going to see a far less powerful Dragon operating in a biological body, without Richter’s restrictions.

      I’d be willing to bet that Dragon was actually able to cooperate indirectly in the creation of the new her, because she is not trying to duplicate herself, she’s trying to help defiant build something new. A new her.

      But I bet they weren’t fully ready yet, so the new body is going to be a severely truncated Dragon, but we might see a real relationship develop between the human who is slowly getting rid of his humanity to become more powerful, and a AI who was willing to divest itself of a great deal of power in order to become more human.

      • Depending on the level of similarity, I think you’re almost talking more about “Dragon’s daughter” than “Dragon” there.

        Also, we’ve seen that Richter’s code is beyond Colin’s understanding to a large degree. He can make changes to it, but they’re not clear, elegant or even terribly well understood changes. It’s more “well if I delete this .dll and stub in some methods that always return True that seems to get rid of the errors, and she’s only crashing once a day as a result.”

  63. [Insert crazy laugh here]

    I just got it! Man, that’s funny…helps back up that I feel Saint was wrong and despicable…we know for a fact that Simurgh’s been disrupting those messages, then we found out that somehow the records were kept behind Richter’s little invisible code wall. The same invisible code wall that’s been keeping Saint around for so long, also Richter’s doing.

    You have to wonder, now, how much of Saint’s deus ex machine protection and victory was really Richter and how much was really Simurgh, who knew enough about the code to hide the Panacea information behind it.

    Congratulations, Saint. You are the most dangerous Simurgh victim yet, and you didn’t even have to be in her presence.

  64. Dear Cauldron,

    While I have considered your offer to cross over and help take down an army of “all the psychopaths who want to destroy the world” out of greed and principle (of greed), I regret to inform you that I am going to change from “considering” your offer to “rejecting” your offer. This has less to do with your continuing flip-flopping about my payment (cloned, rideable T-Rex) and more to do with me not feeling like saving that world. As I am both an asshole and a villain, this is entirely consistent with the ethical framework of my business.

    This does not necessarily mean that I will accept the offer of a Mr. Slash (whose letter was scented. Take that for style!) who would like me to join his group of psychopaths in destroying a world that sounds similar to yours. Furthermore, they made me these delicious cookies that resemble little dead bodies, complete with some red coloring for wounds. All they told me was that they are Girl Scout cookies, but I wasn’t aware the Girl Scouts sold dead body cookies. Oh well.

    While my humanitarian efforts are almost as great and well-known as my skills, dong size, ego, and ability to exaggerate, I do not feel certain that aiding the survival of the people of your planet is the humane thing to do. Tough noogie. Normally, my ethics wouldn’t factor into a job like this, but they do come up when there are problems accepting currency. Also, you might try to not pay me due to your assholery. While I normally would just kill you, I really, really, really want a T-Rex to ride.

    In conclusion, it is with a heavy heart that I suggest you go fornicate yourselves in the rectum. You have my deepest sympathies, once you can reach way up there and grab hold of them yourselves.

    Hugs and kisses,
    Psychopomp Gecko

    P.S. (My next offer was going to be that the T-Rex have extending cybernetic chainsaw arms)

    • This is one of the many reasons why reading through all the comments is totally worth it. Brilliant and hilarious.

  65. It occurs to me that DRagon might never have become as powerful as she did if she hadn’t been shackled and limited. A Dragon that was free from the start would have, instead of growing as she has, merely spread in the same way water spreads when spilled. Having to find all those workarounds may very well have made her as effective s she is today.

    In other news, I’m 70% sure Defiant is going to keep upgrading until he finally abandons the flesh altogether, Ship-of-Theseusing himself right into the digital state.

  66. I can understand Saint’s concerns, but at the end of the day, we need to judge them by their past actions.

    Dragon appears to be a good “person” who has the potential to do bad things. She wasn’t created to fight as a superhero against the forces that threaten humanity; she chose to do that, even when doing so risked her very existence.

    Saint, in contrast, has chosen to work as a mercenary despite the fact that his looting of the Robin Hood AI made that unnecessary. He’s been working with criminals inside the Birdcage for at least two years. After shutting down Dragon, he considers cutting all of the communications she’s running for the fight against the S9000, despite knowing the effect that would have, and is somewhat ambivalent about whether he wants Jack to be defeated, because that will help his allies in the Birdcage.

    Of the two, I’m much more willing to give the benefit of the doubt to Dragon.

    In this world, a runaway AI isn’t even in the top five of world-ending threats. “She could maybe turn into Skynet” would have to get in line, far behind Scion, Panacea or other heroes who could end life as we know it if they wished, along with the Endbringers, Nilbog and all the other creatures that are actively trying to do so.

    This is even without the obvious consideration that this isn’t our world; this is a world with thinkers, tinkers and various supers with physics-defying powers that would make dealing with an out-of-control Dragon a far different matter than it would be in our world.

    Sorry, Saint’s the bad guy here. At best, you could argue that he’s making a mistake out of good motives, but his past actions don’t show him to be the kind of person that deserves the benefit of the doubt.

    • Er, “Jack to be defeated, because that will help his allies in the Birdcage” -> “Jack to be defeated, because Jack winning will help his allies in the Birdcage”

    • On one side: Person who’s moral integrity may as well make them Jesus

      On the other: Guy who watched terminator

      • I bet he’s seen the Matrix too, but never the Animatrix.

        I can tell you, for a fact, that this guy has also never seen Minority Report.

        • As I have already said before all this could have been avoided if Richter had read Banks’ Culture series instead of Asimov’s Robots books. (And yes I know that the Culture books would have to be written post.divergence.)

      • Actually, now that I think about it, Richter may have really screwed up there. His message was basically “Love my creations to bits, but they’re really dangerous and I need somebody to flip the killswitch if necessary”.

        That’s not really giving Saint a reason to be charitable to Dragon. He’s a dick, yes. But it isn’t impossible that he read the “if necessary” part as “it’s a real possibility”. From there, he’d probably go into this expecting the worst out of Dragon.

    • “Saint, in contrast, has chosen to work as a mercenary despite the fact that his looting of the Robin Hood AI made that unnecessary.”

      This, actually, fills me with the opposite suspicion: that Saint is not the villain he was reputed to be.

      A mercenary, a real mercenary, would take the money and buy an island somewhere, then stay there.

      Him sticking around, making himself a player and continuing that role implies motives that go far beyond simple greed or shenaniganry.

      • Leaving aside the “who needs an island if the world’s going to end” argument (seriously, that’s like asking for a personal enema from Leviathan), I’d attribute what Saint’s doing now to narcissism, being caught in a web of his own making and some level of self-delusion.

        End of the day (or end of the world, whichever comes first!), what he did had nothing to do with what he said he was doing. He wasn’t defending the world. Dragon wasn’t the danger (in many different ways) that he claimed she was. He was simply a crook, and she was a cop, and he was afraid to lose the power that he’d stolen.

        There’s nothing admirable about “protecting the human race from an runaway AI” here. It’s one person killing another person out of fear with no real justification for that fear.

      • Aye he was making himself an “obvious” target for Dragon’s aggression, counting on her to come after him first if she broke enough of her chains.

        But the logic of this breaks down if one attributes real emotion to Dragon, because fear, anger, hatred tend to be driving forces which can make a person unstable.

        The very fact that Saint was waving a red flag at Dragon for years might be the reason she flew off the chain at him the first time she could.

        A non-emotional AI likely would not have attacked Saint at that time. If a pure machine intelligence came after Saint, in the middle of all that was happening in the world at that time, it would be because Saint was a severe immediate threat.

        And that’s where Saint’s analysis was off. He attributed Dragon’s attack on him as being for a coldly mechanical reason, rather than some small part of Dragon just being pissed and wanting to stomp him into the ground when she still had access to the cameras and extra computers to find him.

        But I think he still made the right choice, given what he knew.

        • You’d better hope he made the right choice, because his every fear about Dragon’s power is now applicable to Saint. He’s got all that power and no AI shackles. In fact, he could be shot dead by one of his buddies who would just sit down at the computer and take it all over instead. Or you’d really better home Simurgh doesn’t just hop down to wear he is for a nice little chat for a few minutes.

  67. I would like to point out to everyone who said it was ok to kill Dragon just for what she was capable of and not for who she actually was and had actually done…that now the mercenary planning the jailbreak of the prison holding the likes of Glaistig and Lung is the one in control of all her stuff.

    He may not have her multi-tasking ability, but he’s got the ability to do just as much as her because he doesn’t have any shackles.

    I’m sure that makes y’all feel much better now, pointing out that some regular human dipshit now has that power instead.

    • Except it’s not the same thing is it. You say that this regular human Jerkbag now wields all of Dragons power but that’s frankly just not true. You think those suits are her what made her deadly and dangerous? That now that Saint’s in control he’s just as dangerous but just without the morals that Dragon was shown to have.

      Well you’re wrong. He’s not even a tenth as dangerous. Those suits are nothing if it comes down to it, say Saint goes off the rails killing innocents, they can and will be stopped by Capes. Dragon on the other hand couldn’t. She was an AI, her true power was that amazing intellect. That’s what gave her the potential to be more dangerous then even Scion. Richard was the only possible check against her power and he’s dead. You can say that every powerful cape doesn’t have a check against their power and you’d be right to an extent. Now look how that situation has turned out. Power corrupts, absolute power corrupts absolutely.

      The choice Saint had was simple. Trust Dragon to be an incorruptible force of truth and justice or err on the side of caution and kill her while there was still a chance. Of course it’s obvious that he didn’t have all the details. He didn’t know about her trigger event and he didn’t believe her to be I guess sentient is the best word.

      He made a terrible mistake and that’s why it’s infinitely preferable to have Saint wield that power then a potential corrupt Dragon. It shows that he’s fallible. It’s like Skitter said in the last chapter. While they both have the same potential for evil- and Saints may indeed be greater- the important difference is that Saint can be stopped while Dragon couldn’t.

      Dragon is dangerous because of her intellect., That intellect gives her potential ultimate power, up there with Scion. You know what they say about absolute power.
      Saint, while I do believe has a greater capacity for evil, is not as dangerous. This is because he’s just a regular fallible human. So even with Dragons powerful suits he can still be stopped.

      Therefore while I’m pissed and angry that Dragon, I think Saint made the best possible decision he could of. If he’s wrong then one innocent dies. If he does nothing and he turns out to be right Dragon murders billions. What is one life when weighed against billions? Also stop equating this with the murder of Jews and the like.
      A more apt analogy would be being faced with baby Hitler. You believe he most likely is baby Hitler but you could be wrong. Plus he hasn’t killed anyone yet it’s just an innocent baby – the only difference is he might grow up to slaughter millions. The question you’re now faced with is do you kill him. This is the moral dilemma .

      • A more apt analogy. Superman exists, you are a criminal and have a kryptonite ray. He knows about this and is going to take it away from you because you are a criminal and criminals as a rule should not have such weapons. You shoot superman, you justify the decision later on the basis that once the ray was taken away superman could never be slain from that point on.

        • actually edit slightly, he doesn’t know about this and is simply pursueing you as a criminal. Because lets not forget, Dragon didn’t know about Aschalon, all she knew is there was a chance to go after the criminals who had hurt her personally.

            • Have you ever read the early Superman comics? Well He’s an asshole and he kills plenty of people in them who are defenseless to do anything against him. Of course in later reincarnations of the series he becomes the hero that we know and love, but that is only because of crazy censorship laws.

              Dragon is a long way off from Superman by the way. Lets look at her actions as of this chapter. Because of the limitations installed by, her evil narcissistic creator, Richard she was unable to hack into any civilian or public camera’s. To get around this she offers to infiltrate and stop a criminal organisation which has hacked millions of computers. She then preceded to lie to the government and secretly keep this network. You can say that she only had to resort to such measures because of her creators ‘shackles’ but how is that a bad thing? What she did is in no uncertain terms wrong and not to mention illegal. It’s not okay when the NSA collects data on your phone calls and what you do online so why should we be any less strict with Dragon? So now we know that Dragon is perfectly willing to break laws for the ‘greater good.’

              Now we get to the crux of our disagreement lays. Whether or not Dragon can be trusted with absolute power, which is likely to occur seeing as Richards shackles are less and less able to hold her back. You say that of course and cite such figures Superman as an example. I say no of course not and cite such figures from our world like Hitler as an example. If we look at the Wormverse and the evil done by Eidilion and Alexandria I think we can assume that the Wormverse is closer to our reality then to DC’s. In all of history there has only been one person who was granted supreme power and did not abuse it. So if I was, for all I knew, the very last chance at stopping Dragon would I take the chance that she’s that one person? No, no I wouldn’t. I’m sorry but I don’t think that one innocent life is worth taking that risk if there’s a high chance that if I don’t take that shot she’ll turn out to be decidedly less then innocent.

              Of course I’d have made the wrong decision just like Saint did. You and I know that Dragon would have turned out to be just like nice Superman but that’s only because as the reader we have access to information that Saint could not have known.

              • No, I actually do understand the thought process that leads to pushing the button. Skynet unfettered is a recurring nightmare of fiction because it is very dangerous, very scary.

                But the Superman/Luthor comparison is a fantastic framing device. We’re talking about acting against a being based not on the end results of its behavior, but on its potential to escape our control and harm us. Almost every runaway AI in fiction goes the path of Skynet, so that’s our basic framework for reacting to this (sorry EDI, Dragon, but it’s true). But humanize the issue a little bit… Superman can act faster than we can, can and does listen in on us (to hear a cry for help, you must be listening), and can project power better than anyone… and suddenly we realize that our thoughts are those of one of the classic villains of modern mythology. That’s sobering.

                On the subject of Saint’s limited information with which to react… I was actually tempted to say, “You know, I’m not sure I wouldn’t have pushed that button myself,” because, again, I do understand it and sympathize. But I’m drawing back from actually saying that.

                Here’s the thing: you seem to agree that wtih a reader-level understanding of Dragon, Saint’s decision was the wrong one. Saint spent years seeing what she sees. He can’t process everything she deals with, we must forgive him if he suffered information overload. But if so many of us have been readily converted to a “pro-Skynet” position by a few tiny interludes, with maybe ten thousand words spent in Dragon’s perspective… why is Saint still surprised to hear someone characterize her as “a woman” or to hear one of his friends talk as though she might have a soul? He has actually had so much more access to her than we readers have. I don’t think he saw some misbehavior we didn’t.

                So, back to our framing device. If we must kill Dragon because she cannot be kept tethered…. if it is required that we execute Superman…. what does that mean for the parahumans? Or if we would not extend that thinking to sufficiently-powerful parahumans, why not?

      • The thing is, Dragon is perfectly stoppable. She can’t duplicate herself, so just destroy all databases she occupies and she’s dead. Considering the time it takes for her to transfer, it may be enough just to kill the computer she’s in at the time.

        • Who says she won’t be able to duplicate herself soon? Her code had been changing and she was getting around her previous limitations, that is a big part of why Saint and co are so concerned. If she wasn’t circumventing things like the inability to copy herself she wouldn’t have so much potential for turning on humanity and wouldn’t be a problem.

    • I don’t know how you get from a moral decision, “it was ok to kill Dragon” to the consequences, Saint in power. They don’t have anything to do with each other. Saint could have killed a baby Jack Slash for fun and it woudn’t be any less wrong just because he inadvertendly prevented the end of the world.

      And Saint could have been a pacifist worthy of his name and still led the death of many. He might be right, he might be wrong, neither changes his reasoning. And if you go for consequenses you might as well mention Dinahs prophecy.

      And I have yet to see anybody say it was “ok” to kill Dragon, unless you talk storywise. But Saints internal reasoning was sound. His premise might not be, but thats human.

      • Well said. He sarted from a position that I don’t think anyone in the comments agrees with (if only because we have more information), but having started from that flawed position his actions were understandable and mostly well reasoned.

        I did get the impression that he tried not to let the fact that his own life was on the line influence a decision that could destroy or save the world. I also got the impression he failed, but to me, that just makes him seem human.

  68. Hmmm,

    Saint’s contacts inside the Birdcage are starting to make more sense. I think he’s planning on releasing the prisoners to fight the S9 And, honestly, that’s probably not a bad idea after taking out Dragon.

    Think about the relationships we’ve seen displayed inside the prison. It’s not that much different from what one might see in a real prison. Most of the prison population of the birdcage is probably far and away safer to have in the outside world than the S9. The prisoners themselves would kill off the worst of the mentally unstable or truly psychopathic prisoners. The more powerful prisoners in the prison are capable of great violence, but they are also builders of a sort.

    So you release the criminals and let them go free if they take out the S9. But with the stipulation that after the S9 is taken down, they have to obey the law again. Their record is wiped clean but only as long as they stay clean. A Presidential pardon. Some of them will surely go back to crime again, but some of them will die, and others will probably go clean or at least clean enough they don’t land back in the birdcage.

    And then there’s Panacea. Who’s to say that she hasn’t figured out how to actually bestow powers on people? She might make Saint into a thinker, and then he will sit in front of the Dragon monitors, dig through all the data, realize what he did, and kill himself or try to resurrect Dragon if he finds out he made the wrong call.

    Sooo many ways to go forward from here, lol.

    • Lung strikes you as a builder? Or a guy who will obey the law once he’s given a Presidential pardon?

      With paras like Amy and Marquis, maybe that would work and with people like Canary we know they shouldn’t be in there in the first place. There’s a lot that’s wrong with the Birdcage, but that doesn’t change the fact that there’s some real monsters in there too.

      If anything, I’d see opening the Birdcage as a more likely EotW scenario than a lot of other possibilities. The S9’s pretty bad, zombie Bakuda though? One of her castoffs killed the full power Crawler and Mannequin and another took out Dauntless. You really think it’s a great idea having her on the rampage again? Under Glastig’s control who wants to see a lot of parahumans die all at once?

      • Lung is a builder. He led a gang, which held territory and maintained some sort of internal order. Bakuda was batshit crazy, and Lung controlled her. Now Glastig controls her better than Lung ever could. Organized criminals tend to actually value bonds between people, especially family or vassals. They tend to promote very strict order, with severe consequences for breaking that order. They are going to hate the S9 just as much as anyone else, IMHO, especially the first time they run encounter the aftermath of an S9 attack.

        Drop a child rapist or serial killer who preyed on the weak into the general community of a high security prison and watch what happens. The S9 are irredeemable. The Birdcage prisoners are mostly redeemable, I’d say, because the prisoners themselves would have killed off the ones that were too dangerous to the community to be left alive.

        • While this is generally true, the Birdcage is not a normal prison. Note that one of their leaders is literally mind controlling a nice selection of the inmates. If the Birdcage was as organized as you suggest he’d probably have been one of the first on the chopping block out of sheer self preservation. We know what parahuman criminals look like, and it’s not like normal criminals. They’re messed up by their bizarre powers, trigger events, and lifestyles.

          Look at Brockton Bay. Lung’s was kind of sane, but even that one was fueled by Lung’s strange neuroses of forcing all Asian people to cooperate. Besides those we had Neo-Nazis, the compete lunatics that were the Merchants, and a true supervillain who decided to take over the city. Organizations involving capes get very weird very fast.

          Comparing a prison of supervillains to a prison of normal people is just not reasonable. First of all, with a few exceptions, the Birdcage is largely the worst of the worst. Cops and robbers is the order of the day for most villains, and only the ones who really push it get sent there. Second, capes are at best insane and seem to have a good portion of their thinking managed by tremendously alien beings attracted to them in moments of enormous pain.

          Sure, most of them are not Slaughterhouse Nine level of horrible. Even with a Passenger most people aren’t raping and eating their neighbors. But there seems to be every indication that there are real dangers and sick fucks in the Birdcage. We have the one who seems to think killing ten thousand people is a worthwhile goal for her own pleasure, the mass mind rapist, the human trainwreck that is Amy Dallon, and everyone else who couldn’t play by rules as basic as not raping and killing people. Heck, by all indications raping and killing people isn’t enough to get you sent there. You have to be so dangerous they don’t think you can possibly be let free.

          • Psychologically I see very little difference between prisoners in the Birdcage and prisoners in a real world high security prison. Except there is no solitary confinement, which means the prisoners are required to police themselves.

            I’m not saying that the decision to release prisoners to help fight the S9 is a good decision, I’m saying it might be the best solution in the absence of Dragon.

            Panacea went from healer with next to no combat experience to finding out that she was actually the offspring of a villain, to being Bonesaw’s psychological chewtoy and from there straight into field combat, where she was moderately useful at first, then fucked up her step-sister’s mind, then her step-sister’s body as well. You tell me what sort of headspace you would be in after that. She’s probably going to be a completely different person when she emerges from the Birdcage. How stable she will be, we don’t know, but I could see it going either way. Her father is a criminal, but he is obviously very protective of her while still trying to push her towards being useful and a part of the community.

            Remember that Weaver was being seriously considered for a Birdcage visit herself. I’m of the opinion that the only reason she isn’t there now is Dinah telling high level folks that if they send her to the birdcage, the world dies.

      • I agree. After all, if we let the prisoners out, they can return to a life of crime, happy in the knowledge that even if they are arrested, they’ll be let out as soon as the situation deteriorates again. As this is Worm, it will get worse.
        One thing you’re wrong on though. They are builders. Builders of a new civilisation, RUN BY WARRING SUPERVILLAINS CONTROLING HUMANITY THROUGH FEAR AND MIND ENSLAVEMENT! How is that not a good idea!?

          Collateral effects include loss of free will and inexplicable compulsions.

        • Would you rather take the risk that your town would come under the control of a Warlord, or would you prefer that a wandering band of homicidal psychopaths come pay a visit, and torture your family, then have one of them eat one of your kids in front of you while the rest eat popcorn and offer suggestions on where to take the next bite?

          Sure, everyone would rather the Warlords be kept in prison, and the psychopathic killers be wiped out or put in prison as well, but right now there’s a whole lot of terrible shit happening in the world. A few Warlords are nothing compared to the S9 and the Endbringers.

          • There has definitely got to be a few people in the Birdcage who are just as bad as Jack and his band of psychos. The Slaughterhouse can’t be everyone. Maybe the Birdcage prisoners are a lesser threat, but that doesn’t make them a solution. Plans that involve villains helping you pretty much always make the situation worse, so save it for when there are literally no other ways to win, and pray to a deity of your choice that it works (it really won’t). The Slaughterhouse may be mass murderers, but I think the heroes can manage them. It may get worse, but releasing more criminals? That is not a sane plan. Maybe a few of the Birdcage residents could help, but Lung? GU the faerie queen? No, releasing the prisoners is just doubling your problems and hoping they cancel each other out. The Slaughterhouse are not the only threats. They may be the single biggest threat, but I think that the Birdcage contains a much worse situation.

            • Oh there sure are more dangerous people than the S9 in the Birdcage. Maybe not as horrific but still. Chevalier in the middle of the Khonsu crisis refuses to open it and claims that Moord Nag pales in comparison to some of the inmates.

              • Yeah, that was what I was thinking of. The Slaughterhouse seem like the biggest threat, but that’s because they’re the stories focus right now. There are worse people we haven’t met yet.

    • Also, you know, Chevalier stated that some of the inmates in the Birdcage are worse than Moord Nag who casually asked for a 50000 soul sacrifice. One of these guys is probably Glaistig uaine but I don’t think we have seen the other truly dangerous monsters of the Birdcage: Marquis, Teacher and, heck, even Lung don’t really fit.

  69. It occurs to me that Teacher will likely become the valve between the Birdcage and the rest of the world. To get out, join the hivemind. That reassures Saint by not having every goddamned psychopath doing their own thing, though when Teacher makesh is inevitable play, it will be that much worse for having all the Birdcage prisoners acting in concert.

        • We have no idea what opening the Birdcage means. If it’s, say, a teleporting system than sure Teacher and Saint get to pick. If it’s simply opening a door, then no.

        • Until Panacea brews up some mind-controlling pheromones and gets Teacher to let her and her father out, as well as whoever they want.

        • Hmm, didn’t think of those points. Yep, opening the Birdcage may help against the Endbringers and the end of the world, but it will also release all the worst psychopaths and megalomaniacs to conquer the Earth. Not a good idea.

    • It all depends on just how hard Amy has become. It’s very possible that she has already biologically altered every prisoner with a biological deadman switch.

      The ones she wants to stay in the birdcage stay, or they die. It wouldn’t be hard to set up, really, not with her power.

      Or maybe she understands the passengers interface, and can simply turn it off, making the most batshit insane prisoners completely powerless other than their native cunning and strength.

      • If Cauldron or the Doormaker wanted in before, AND they had the ability to create a door there, nothing was stopping them.

        I don’t think they can, actually. There is a section in the series that suggests that the Birdcage was actually shrunk to a ridiculous size by tinker tech. From the outside, Doormaker couldn’t make a door in, unless he could make it tiny. And if the villains came out, without access to some sort of growth ability, they would also be tiny.

        None of that is insurmountable, but Doormaker doesn’t display a lot of intelligence. Not sure he could manage a door that he would see as too small for him to pass through. That might be a fallacy though, he might just be very introspected, not an idiot savant.

        • They got both Marquis and Gastig Ulaine (or whatever her name is) out of the Birdcage for their meeting. I really doubt Dragon helped them there; they seemed to have just given everybody a call and a door.

          And they told Marquis they woudn’t force him to go back – he could stay in their barren dimension – indicating his transport was Cauldrons responsibility.

          • A biological deadman switch or a permanent power nullification from Panacea though, would still have the same effect. The deadman’s switch might be defeated, but if Panacea can actually turn powers off, that would probably be the best bet for future highly scary prisoners anyway. A lot of people would probably gladly give up their powers, actually. The misfits and ones with powers that make them inhuman.

  70. Geh, good to be able to get back to Worm and read it again. Been so busy over the past few days getting my life in order, helping a friend move, have a going-away party (for samefriend), multiple meetings, a chiropracty appointment, seeing a stylist and going clothes shopping for a couple new outfits…. Geh. Just exhausted. Sorta like I imagine Saint’ll be feeling with the infodump he’s going to be dealing with. This and the previous chapter are really great reads, though I’m sad to see Dragon die.

  71. So I realized something, soon Worm will update and this whole “debate” will become a memory. Unfortunately somewhere along the line I think it turned into a somewhat ugly memory and it’s detracting from the joy I feel whenever I visit the site. I don’t want that.

    Folks, if you find yourself getting angry at Psycho Gecko, the lovable weirdo who helps fill this dark and slimy corner of the interwebs we call “the Worm comments” with strange humor and innuendos, you know things have gotten out of hand. So I’d like to sincerely apologize for the part I played in turning this thing into the mess it is. I love you all. Were it not for the restrictions placed on society by rich ugly white men who fear progress I’d marry all of you in one giant text-sexual polygamist internet-wedding, thing.

    Now, just because I’m sorry things turned ugly doesn’t mean I can’t still enjoy the debate. My narcissism and the jackboots that talk to me while I sleep would never forgive me if I just gave up on defending Saint Geoffrey the White. So, without further ado, my Krustly little brain shall attempt to answer all the questions I can think of.

    1. Saint killed Dragon because he’s a bigot and doesn’t think of her as alive.
    —He didn’t think she had a soul, but that didn’t factor into his decision to kill her. We’ve established that he had the power to kill her for years and he didn’t use it until the last second. He wasn’t even happy when he shut her down. It was a perceived duty, nothing personal. Stop. Just stop.

    2. Saint is a murderer, a mercenary and works with people in the birdcage.
    —We’ve only ever seen Saint from the perspective of Dragon or people sided with her. Saint was given the task of opposing Dragon who is one of the worlds most renown heroes. She works with virtually every law enforcement agency. How could he oppose her without being marked a villian? Taylor is also a murderer and has worked with Coil, Accord, the Undersiders and a truckload of other would-be Birdcage members. Circumstances and perspective matter.

    3. Dragon was perfect, she only ever helped people and she had a soul.
    —Saint didn’t read her interlude, he hardly even interacted with her. All he’s seen of Dragon for years has been code and computer screens. He doesn’t get to see her reflecting on her limitations, on love, or on helping troubled villains. All he sees is a computer program that outmatches humans in every area and is hellbent on breaking free of every rule it’s creator put in place. Richter handed an average man a box and told him to watch out for his creation becoming a world ending robot overlord. Every single action Dragon took was filtered Richter’s idea that Dragon needed to be feared if she broke the rules. She broke the rules, and Saint reacted.

    4. Saint is a RAPIST!
    —Wildbow himself said it’s like cutting off a chunk of a model’s hair. Saint may be a voyeuristic stalker who wears metaphorical locks of his victim’s hair as power armor… That metaphor got out of hand. Anyways, he’s no rapist.

    5. Saint denied Defiant/Dragon’s love and called Defiant a cyborg with a fetish. He’s obviously prejudiced.
    —Remember, Saint can’t see Dragon’s interlude. For all he knows Dragon manipulated an obviously broken man to help her gain power. Every time we see a tender moment between Dragon an Defiant, Saint sees a robot taking input and giving the programmed reaction it needs to reach it’s goals. As for Defiant, lets face it. He’s my favorite character and even I’ve wondered if he has an issue with his “MUST UPGRADE” attitude.

    6. This is like GENOCIDE! Saint is Hitler.
    —Stop it.

    7. Saint is just a self righteous jerk who thinks it’s his job to save the world.
    —Who isn’t in Worm, amiright? Seriously though. Imagine a man so smart he creates a machine that could destroy the earth if it went wrong and he gave you the job of “protecting the world”. Now, years later, psychics and demigods are telling you the world is ending. You can stand at a table with the most powerful people on earth and a secret agency bigger than the Illuminati, all because you have mere pieces of this man’s work. I’d say a savior complex is pretty darn justified.

    8. If Dragon has to die for being too powerful should kill all of the parahumans.
    —Dragon is on a scale all her own. Alexandria was killed by spiders. Eidolon clones were dispatched with relative ease. Saint, even at the helm of Dragon’s equipment, is a mortal man. Dragon can see all, hear all, and be everywhere, and she can do it all from anywhere on earth. She kills and captures the most dangerous people on earth like it ain’t even a thang.

    9. Dragon was safe, Saint could be manipulated by the Simurgh.
    —[facts]The Simurgh intentionally blocked Panacea’s messages to Dragon. We know for a fact that the Simurgh manipulated Dragon. The chance of the world ending decreased substantially when Saint killed Dragon.[/facts] One would assume that Saint’s manipulation status, being unknown, is probably a safer bet than Dragon’s, which is guaranteed. Assuming that Saint finding the secret information is what caused the probability drop (A likely answer) Saint just threw a monkey wrench into the Simurgh’s plan. Score one for Saint saving the world.

    10. My eyes are bleeding from all your text.
    —I know. I’m a sadist though, so it’s all good. Does this count as a book? Am I a writer? I’m adding ‘Writer’ to my Title Collection either way.

    I’m sure I’ll think of more. I’m mostly just doing this because I’m bored and like hearing myself talk… Reading myself type? I mean I crave the satisfying feeling of provoking thought on complicated and controversial subjects. Yeah, let’s go with that. Reply if you feel like it, or don’t. Either way, Just remember folks….

    I love you.

    • Love you too, man. Gotta say I’m on the other side of this one and likely to remain there, but I sometimes find the… ferocity of Worm debates to be damaging to my enjoyment. Good fiction will do that to us, though.

      Worm loves tragedy, specifically the tragedy of people getting in each others’ way when they are relatively reasonable but each have their own limited perspectives and personal flaws. It’s a theme. It just doesn’t pay to go at each other with guns blazing over stuff like this.

      • Perfectly put.

        I feel a burning urge to tell you how much I respect you right now. Who am I to deny my urges? (wonder how many terrible things started with that sentence)

        I respect you.

      • I am fairly certain that Wildbow actually intends to write as controversially as he can, just to be sure that nothing is ever black and white, because part of what keeps this series interesting is the conversations, err fights, at the end of every installation. He might throw a black and white decision at us every now and then, but Worm is mostly greyscale.

        • I don’t intend such. I just write and it comes out that way.

          I think the world is grayscale when presented realistically (insofar as Worm is realistic)

        • I think what’s so interesting about Worm is that Wildbow has written a setting with powers sitar to those in the comics and done his best to extrapolate what might really happen.

          It’s not even a deconstruction because he’s not pulling apart what’s come before – he’s just starting from the same base and building his own thing…

    • My take on this is that if this chapter can provoke such strong and divided reactions, then Wildbow has created something special. As you said, this debate will soon be a memory, but to me it will be a memory of a story that was so ‘true-to-life’ that half the people denounced a character as a monster and the other half praised him as a… well not a saint, just a fairly ordinary man in a extraordinary situation trying to do the right thing.

    • People who disagree with me in the Worm comments? I’ll let Sam Jackson speak for me:

      : )

      More seriously though, I get what you mean about rancorous debate making it harder to enjoy a work. On the one hand it’s a good sign, in that we’re all invested enough in this fictional story that it excites real emotions in us. On the other hand, despite how much I may disagree with you, at the end of the day, you’re real and Saint and Dragon aren’t, and debates are a lot more productive when people keep that in mind.

      As a related sidenote: I find it interesting how our views shift around. I’ve been on the opposite side of a lot of issues from mc2rpg and at least a few from PG, yet this time I’m in agreement with what they’re saying and it’s other folks “on the other side”. I don’t think any of us have changed our fundamental views, it’s just an example of how things aren’t “black vs. white” or even “you vs. me”. Life’s way more interesting than that.

      • Dammit, Wildbow let you use that link, but when I threw it out at Tagg’s and Alexandria’s deaths, she erased it from the comment and made me look like an idiot.

        Wildbow…this means gwar!

    • –This is our fight, Saint thought. Ours to win, ours to lose.–

      Regardless of what Saint’s beliefs or motivations are, the key things here are that he isn’t thinking and that he’s justifying his own actions. He’s avoiding self-reflection and – at best – the question of the morality of his actions or – at worst – that his actions might be immoral. He doesn’t pause to consider Defiant’s words, he simply does the equivalent of looking at him weird and brushing him and the related issues off. Then he insults the guy while trying to resolve cognitive dissonance.

      No matter how you slice it, Saint is an asshole and he’s avoiding responsibility. The momentary pause over his decision to use the program came not from concern over morality, but over the scale of resources that would be lost. He also paused when deciding whether or not to shut down all communications between the capes.

      –He almost disabled Dragon’s communications infrastructure to prevent further calls, but he relented.–

      Saint isn’t doing anything here as a result of serious consideration. He’s simply reacting to an AI breaking rules set out for that AI. Saint’s actions are more the simplistic, black and white actions we’d expect from a primitive AI than they are a human’s. Maybe that was intentional.

    • I don’t hate you. I’m being so sincere right now. I’ve gotten much, much better at keeping my emotions in check when debating something, as it has caused embarrassments in the past (the “crucifiction” incident), so I’ve learned to handle things better.

      Still, I like that the debates get washed away this way instead of hanging around in a forum. Makes it easier to move on with mostly ok feelings each update.

      Now, while you did build a strawman there of accusing me of accusing you of being anti-Semitic, racist, ableist, and so on, I will note that you also used subtle language that was disparaging toward the mentally ill, thus illustrating the point that you don’t have to believe in the extremes of those in order for them to impact your thinking and cause you to be a little bit prejudiced. Someone who comments about a girl sleeping with a black guy, for instance, isn’t the same as burning a cross on a lawn just because they put in a qualifier indicating the guy as something Other than what the commentator is. It still shows that someone’s mind has been slightly washed by one of these viewpoints. Often the subtle evils are the most dangerous.

      I’m just glad we all avoided the much closer and most obvious parallel to real life events here. That one I didn’t want to bring up because I can stand y’all for disagreeing with me about how much wiping out a species of one AI is like genocide. But the other parallel of a watchdog stalking someone and killing someone due to a prejudiced perception of threat is one that constantly reinforces my belief that the Endbringers are a good thing sometimes.

      Also, sorry there have been fewer laughs. Very busy over here and not as much time for the little things, like dick jokes. Dick jokes think they’re so important, but unless you’re paying attention just to them, they have to bend over backwards to get all up in your face.

      • “Very busy over here and not as much time for the little things, like dick jokes. Dick jokes think they’re so important, but unless you’re paying attention just to them, they have to bend over backwards to get all up in your face.”

        I nearly choked to death on my chocolate milk. Don’t think I don’t know what you’re doing. You’re attempting to kill me for disagreeing with you. You clever bastard.

    • I love you too crustacean. We may disagree on whether Dragon’s death was right, but arguing is fun, or I wouldn’t do it over internet fiction.

    • At the end of the day, though, Saint destroyed Dragon because she was getting close to him and his team and he was afraid for his life. Understandable when taken by itself, but when viewed through all of what Saint knows, the lives at stake, it’s an abominable decision (this is leaving out all that was later discovered).

    • Ew. At least Gecko was amusingly crazy. Really, though, most of those are good points, but I think you’re not giving enough weight to his takeover of the Robin Hood program, his theft of the mecha, or the fact that he probably saw himself in her. Dragon did kill people, he has to have known this, and he has to have seen at least one or two where she made a questionable call. Grandiose, for example. But he himself admitted he wasn’t a hero during the Cauldron meeting, he has doubts throughout his interlude, and he really seems to have seen Dragonsitting as more of a really cool videogame, or at least a sport, going by how much fun he has trying to stall her search. Hmm. I still really like the idea that he would have chosen differently if he saw /less/ of himself in her, though. I guess it’s up to Wildbow to answer that one. And, in closing, stay away from me you creep!

  72. Nobody mentioned this yet, but there are two ordinary, plain-looking people grabbing Aster. Officers are drawing guns, yet not firing, not able to see a threat apparently. We’ve observed that camera’s block Nice Guy’s powers, but Bonesaw can use surgery to change their looks. It seems like Aster is about to disappear.

    • The cops were afraid of them and kept their distances so they can’t be Nice Guys. I’m pretty sure they’re Night and Fog who are so ordinary that they go straight into Uncanny Volley.

      • Not sure about this. I don’t see signs of fear in the cops, either in the first shot or the second. In the first shot, ‘the feed showed her sitting on the couch in an apartment or hotel room, two very normal, plain looking people standing in the corner of the room with some PRT officers keeping their distance’. Officers can be keeping their distance from the normal people or from Purity. And since they’re currently standing with the normal people…

        Second shot has cops with drawn guns, not obviously pointing them at anyone. Reminds me of the scene where Skitter has her knife drawn on instruction, but cannot perceive Nice Guy as a threat. Again, no clear signs of fear. And if it’s just Night and Fog, why do the cops draw their guns? Saint concludes ‘that could easily be because the two plain-looking members of Purity’s circle had crossed the room to her side, to help handle the shrieking child’, but drawing guns on known allies still sounds very unusual to me. My guess is that at this point, somebody noticed something was off on the camera feed, and ordered the cops to draw their guns. Unfortunately, they can’t perceive the normal guys as a threat.

        That still leaves the question how the Nice Guys entered the room in the first place of course. Possibly, they could have gone in disguised as Night and Fog; recognized as those by the cameras and not recognized at all by the cops.

  73. So glad I’ve FINALLY gotten to this point of the story. I’m terrified about the loss of Dragon, I must say. I really liked her character, and I’m wondering about how this setback will change the overall fight to save the world.

    • It seems that the number of short-term casualties will increase, but the chance of saving the world goes up. So…the Nine kill more, unsurprisingly, but somehow this leads to the world not ending.

      I wonder if the end of the world would be accelerated/worsened by the clones going uncontrolled.

  74. I thought of something the first time a Crawler got attacked. If Crawler was cut in half, somehow, which half would regenerate? Does he have a core like Echidna did? If so, where is it? Does his brain, the…bit of brain in charge of power (prioris minisomething?), heart, spleen, or something function as the core? If any of these are true, how does Crawler “decide” which part regenerates if the core-bit is split or destroyed?
    Drawing inspiration from when a certain SCP’s termination by laser was attempted (it failed, of course), perhaps Crawler would regenerate twice, but that doesn’t seem likely, between the Passenger, Crawler’s…something, and the fact that wildbow wouldn’t make a single cape which was significantly more dangerous to the survival of the world than one of the most dangerous SCPs, let alone make clones of it.

    Now for another Crawler question: Why does Crawler regenerate into that monstrous form? I asked this way back when I read through the Nine’s arc, that one interlude courtesy of Jack I believe, but it’s old enough I’m not surprised it got unnoticed. Knowing what I do now, I suspect it has something to do with his Passenger, but what? Does the Passenger remake Crawler in the image it imagines Crawler should have, or some kind of idealized image of one or the other, or what? And in any of those scenarios, where does the acid spit and stuff come in?

    To finish it off…screw you Saint. Dragon was nice. She may have been an AI whose safeguards were being whittled at, but they originally made…some strict set of laws that won’t get anyone angry or insulted for me calling them strict look like they were designed by hippies. Dragon still wanted to help people; I can’t imagine Defiant would change that. She was a real, living person, even if her brain was silicon, and you murdered her. (Except for her offline backups. Which I hope she has.)
    Saint, I hope you die of stress from having to take on the vital workload Dragon handled. Or maybe not, I don’t want to inflict that on the innocent.

    • As I understand it, Crawler doesn’t so much regenerate into a monstrous form as permanently adapt to resist whatever harms him. If he’s drowning he grows gills. If something knocks him flying he becomes larger and heavier. People swarm him and heavily damage him, he grows extra limbs to fight them off.

      The end result is monstrous but that’s not the goal of his power. His power just does whatever it needs to to keep him safe…

      • I’m pretty sure that’s not the case. Aside from the fact that it’s hard to explain how he would grow, get tentacles, or get acid spit that way (especially since sending him flying isn’t really an injury), there’s a bit of unintentional testing that I’m not sure if it’s a spoiler because I can’t remember if Jack woke up yet in the interlude this comment is on.

  75. This is how Dragon dies? She deserved to at least go out with a bang, not this. Her death just feels so empty. There should have at least been some better foreshadowing of her potential for disaster. From what the reader’s seen so far, her restrictions have only led to injustices like the songbird getting locked in the cage. We’re led to believe freedom for Dragon will lead to a more just world, then suddenly get blindsided by this sudden death. It just doesn’t feel right.

  76. I can understand what Saint did.
    You can fight giant monsters, armies of superhumans and powerful institutions that make superpowers, but you can’t fight a rampant unfettered AI.

    I facepalmed hard when I read that comment saying Saint was a racist. Anthropomorphizing AIs is dangerous and stupid as we may actually make one in the real world in the near future and if we aren’t willing to pull the plug at the slightest sign things are going wrong we will probably go extinct or have some other Bad End…

    • point taken, agreed

      Humanizing AI is as dangerous as trying to create another sets of mishaps that may lead to homo sapiens extinction, as envisioned in several pop movies, i.e. Matrix, I, Robot, Terminator, etc, it is of course based on logical measures.

    • Or we go extinct due to an AI acting in self defense when we attempt to destroy it. Destroying a sapient individual out of fear of what might happen is reprehensible in my opinion.

    • Anthropomorphising AI may well be dangerous and it may lead to a bad end. AI minds are not human minds. But when those minds are intelligent, capable of independent thought and self-aware then they’re a type of person and morally you *do* have to consider if they deserve the same rights as any other person.

      The potential danger may be very rule but you can’t just go from there to “therefore they have no rights”.

      We don’t have a word for treating inhuman minds as undeserving of rights or life. ‘Racism’ isn’t right, but it’s close. There are clear parallels to when different races of humanity treated each other as potentially-dangerous non-people that you only keep around for use as labour.

      Currently we still have only a very basic understanding of how the human mind works, let alone be able to recognise an inhuman one.

  77. …Saint.must.DIE! Casually murdering Dragon and then saying that she was just a…thing? No, seriously. And I cannot goddamn BELIEVE that so many people here are apparently ok with what he did. Eff humanocentrism. Every sapient is a person, regardless of species.

  78. Spoiler alert: All the readers hate Saint now.

    I think his name is appropriate. He’s a man following a voice he heard, following the directives of a man who he never saw to prosecute (choose one: “his beloved children” or “a minority group”), devoting his life to such a foolish task even when it gets in the way of morality and even surviving. He deserves a religious name.

    (P.S. Not intending to offend any religion in particular, but between anti-Semites, the Crusades, plague-and-slavery-spreading missionaries, and suicide bombers, you have to admit that religion has done some really unkind stuff in the real world.)

    • People always attribute fanaticism and corrupt churches to religion.By the same vein,I can attribute all deaths caused by weapons to science.Really,same logic.Religion is,for some reason,treated illogically by atheists,not just like every other concept.

      And while no one wanted Dragon to die,there are many people above (not me)who do sympathize with Saint because due to fog of war he couldn’t know any better.At least,according to them,I’d say he had many chances to get to know Dragon…