Extinction 27.2

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The setup was the same, but there were undeniable changes.  More people, and just about everyone was showing up in force.

Thirteen panels, glowing lightly to light the individual groups from behind.  Each had a symbol on it, now, representing the teams.

Rachel stood at the corner at the end of the hallway, her back against the panel.  Her hair was a little out of sorts, and she wore her jacket with the heavy fur collar.  With stray dog hairs sticking to every article of clothing, each individual hair and strand of fur seemed to glow luminescent.  Bastard sat beside her, and his eyes reflected the same light.

We entered the booth as a group, Tattletale leading the way, with Rachel falling into step beside me.  We settled into a similar formation as we joined the others.  The booth was framed by a railing, same as before, but there was a crescent-shaped desk on our side of the railing.  Tattletale had already laid out handheld devices, a phone and several documents.

She took her place at the center of the desk.  Our spokesman, apparently.

I glanced over my shoulder.  The others were present, Parian and Foil included.  Grue’s presence made for a dramatic effect, tendrils of his darkness coiling around the base of the panel.  He was making himself larger, moving the tendrils more.  It signaled a higher degree of emotion.

The logo was the name of the team, drawn out like a gang tag.

I took a deep breath, then looked over the rest of the room.  The other booths were crowded as well.  Every face was shrouded in shadow, the groups lit only by the glowing panels behind them.

It pissed me off.  I was surprised at how much it bothered me, at the vehemence of the emotion, the impulse to act, to react.  To yell at them and call them all imbeciles, because they were busy trying to protect their identities and be secretive when that was the lowest priority right now.

I managed to make myself stay still, instead.  If I was a little unhinged right this moment, then I needed to be calm, logical.

It wasn’t really working.  I couldn’t keep that sense of outrage over this trivial thing contained.  I settled for channeling it into my swarm, having them crawl in a slow rotation over me, flowing over and around one another.  It was the equivalent of drumming my fingers or pacing, if somewhat more mental than physical.

It barely helped.

Cauldron was present.  Doctor Mother stood behind their desk as Tattletale stood behind ours.  Contessa and the man Tattletale had identified as the Number Man stood with her.  Our god damned accountant, from our supervillain days, a major player in Cauldron.  They’d managed our bank accounts, just like they’d controlled virtually everything else from the shadows.

Chevalier was here, alongside Revel, Exalt, Golem and various team leaders from the Protectorate and Wards programs.  I saw the dirt, dust and bloodstains.  I looked as bad as they did.  Chevalier had laid his cannonblade across the curved railing, and the elaborate, heavily embellished weapon served to help frame the group.  The Protectorate logo marked the back of the panel.

I looked at Golem, and he averted his eyes, very deliberately turning his attention to the other groups around the perimeter of the room.  Was he ashamed?  Angry?  I couldn’t parse it.

The Guild, with Dragon absent.  Narwhal stood beside Defiant, both of them ridiculously tall.  Masamune stood beside them, not old but still stooped and frail, with a thin beard.  A D.T. soldier stood by the man.  I could guess which soldier it was.  The Guild’s icon, the spear-pole with the ribbon-like flag flowing from it, marked the panel.

“…and I’m not going to appeal to emotion,” Defiant was saying.  “I’m not going to tell you how brave she was, how selfless and noble.  You were watching us, before you pulled the plug on her.  I know that, and I know you saw all that.  No.  You don’t care.  So I’m going to talk about the facts, Saint.  You’re failing.”

Saint, standing in the booth opposite the Guild members, had been ignoring him, focusing on a computer as he typed ceaselessly.  At those last two and a half words, Saint paused for a fraction of a second.  The other Dragonslayers were situated at either end of the crescent-shaped desk, seeing to their own tasks.  The woman glanced at Saint, and that seemed to be enough to remind him to get back to the typing.

“Dragon could evacuate.  She could minimize damage, manually control the forcefields instead of relying on automatic overrides.  New York’s forcefields went up too early.  Golden beam sheared through, knocked it down.  A third of the city gone.  Dragon would have succeeded, you failed.  Two point two million estimated deaths.  I want you to know the numbers.  I want you to be aware of every single one of those deaths.  Believe me, I’ll remind you, and I’ll make sure everyone else knows as well.”

Saint reached up to his helmet for a second, then dropped his hand back to the keyboard.


“Don’t bother,” Tattletale said.  “He muted you.”

Defiant stopped talking, setting his hands on his spear instead.

All of the other major players were present, minus the Birdcage contingent.  The Thanda had six members in near-identical robes.  Their logo was a block of letters arranged in a five-by-five grid.  Moord Nag had a ring of skulls around a black circle.  Faultline’s crew had a wavelength, like a reading on an seismic monitor.

Looking at them, I was startled to realize Dinah was in the group, standing right beside Faultline.

Which didn’t parse.  I turned my head to look across the room at another little girl.

There was a nine emblazoned on the panel, well above her head.

I glanced back at Grue, saw how he was deliberately looking away, and connected the dots as far as why he was withdrawn and generating more darkness.

“We…” I started to speak, and found the pitch of my voice to be a little skewed.  Quiet, I continued, “We invited Bonesaw?”

“Cauldron did,” Tattletale said.  “Hard to see, but she’s restrained.”

“That doesn’t make me feel any better.”  Custom made organisms could erode metal or break glass.  She could have a breakable capsule that released a plague throughout the room..

“No,” Tattletale said.  “But Cauldron okayed it.”

“Fuck me,” I said.  My bugs stirred in much the same way Grue’s darkness was.  It wasn’t enough of an outlet.  I settled for gripping the railing in front of me.  “Fuck them.”

“Do you need to leave?” Tattletale asked, her voice just as quiet as mine.  “I could send Rachel with you.”

I shook my head.

No.  I was pissed, but I wanted to stay.

What the hell was Grue experiencing?  This was the girl who had cut him open and spread the still-living contents of his body around a walk-in freezer, complete with augmentation that would allow him to experience pain on a level that a normal human couldn’t.

For kicks.  Because she was curious.

We were joined by a group of the Yàngbǎn, in flowing uniforms that fit somewhere between martial arts outfits and army gear, with masks like multifaceted gems.  Faceless, with only numbers to identify them.  There were capes I knew to be the Elite: Nonpareil and Patrician, Agnes Court and Blueblood.  They were the opposite of faceless, taking great pride in their appearance and their powers.  The Elite were an organized crime syndicate, shutting down anyone who tried to use their powers for profit, unless those people worked for them.

I recognized Adalid, a South American cape, hero to the people, alongside Califa de Perro, who had one foot propped up on the desk, an elbow resting on his knee.  There was a man I assumed to be an interpreter beside them.  The representatives of the Suits were present as well, each with costumes stylized after different card suits from the original and newer decks – heart, club, spade, diamond, sword, wand, coin and cup.

I was surprised to see them.  The Suits were capes from the United Kingdom, and the United Kingdom had been obliterated.  The leader of the Hearts, Swords and Cups weren’t present, leaving me to assume they were among the ones who hadn’t made it.  The Suits managed different duties, classifying capes into groups for public service, fighting, intrigue, fast response and watching for malfeasance in other areas of the public.  I’d read the PRT’s pages on them when I’d been investigating possible vectors for the end of the world, only to discover that the Suits were barely treading water as a group, in terms of funding and membership.  Too many deaths to Endbringers, even before the pace had picked up, and the merchandising wasn’t working out, with the group accepting handouts from the PRT on a regular basis.  Not exactly the image they’d given to the public, of an elite group that was hipper, cooler and more effective than the King’s Men.

The King’s Men hadn’t made it, I noted.

The three blasphemies were standing at one booth, young women with masks depicting ruby-lipped faces, a smile, a frown, a snarl.  Alabaster white skin, white hair, white flowing dresses.  The frowning one held hands with the other two.  They were silent, still, and their very presence seemed to be bothering the nearby Suits and Protectorate members.

The final group was arriving, stationing themselves opposite Cauldron.  I glanced up at Cauldron’s icon, marking the upper half of the glowing panel – a stylized ‘c’, tilted upward at a forty-five degree angle.

That same mark, in different sizes and at different angles, marked the various members of the new arrivals.  Weld’s Irregulars.  Weld had altered his look, a little more edgy, a little less human.  Segments of his metallic flesh stood out like horns or scales, and the veins and crevices were deeper.

Strangest of all was that he was wearing another of the case fifty-threes, in addition to his thick canvas pants.  Tendrils encircled his arms and legs, wound around his fingers.  Loops of metal, in turn, bound the tendrils, locking them into place, or helped direct them into and through his limbs.  All of the tendrils led to the same point, to a pale girl’s face, with Cauldron’s mark on her cheekbone.  She had no body I could make out, no hair, only the tendrils.

I saw Gully, standing a little taller than she had the last time I’d seen her in person, a muscle-laden young woman with braided hair that trailed on the floor.  Sanguine, with red hair and red skin.  Gentle Giant, a placid-faced young man who stood head and shoulders above even Gully, and innumerable others.

The moment they were settled in, their icon appeared on the screen above them.  A three-fingered hand.

“We’re all here,” Doctor Mother said.  Civil, pleasant, unruffled even though the world was being dismantled.

Weld wasn’t so inclined to be polite, nor was he unruffled  He spoke with a harsh tone that overrode his faint Boston accent, “I’m trying to think of why I shouldn’t tell my Irregulars to murder you three right here.”

The Doctor didn’t reply.  She met his stare with one of her own.

The tendrils around Weld’s body tightened to the point that they bit into the metal.  I saw some people shift position

He continued, “I know what your Contessa does.  I know about Number Man too.  Hell, we know about the ghost girl who keeps you company.”

“We call her the Custodian.”

“Is she one of your mistakes, like us?”

“Yes,” the Doctor said.

“And did you brainwash her to keep her servile?”

“No.  For one, she has no brain.  Is this really necessary, Weld?”

Weld didn’t show a trace of hesitation.  “I think it is.  Everything seems to tie back to Cauldron.  To you.”

“You’re blaming us for this.”

“You’re the most likely culprit,” Weld said.

“No,” the Doctor replied.  “Our issue here is a lack of information.  We have four sources that can corroborate the same story.  One of those sources is in the Birdcage, where they’ll remain until we decide it’s time to free them.”

“There’s Bonesaw, who isn’t our most reliable source, and I’m guessing Tattletale is the fourth,” Weld answered.  He saw the Doctor respond and nodded a little.  “Convenient.  For those who don’t know, the Undersiders got their start working for Coil, who was linked to Cauldron by two degrees of separation at most.”

“You have done your homework,” Tattletale said.  “But no.  No ties to Cauldron here, aside from the rare clandestine meetings where we do rock-paper-scissors to figure out who plays a big part in the latest Endbringer attack.”

Weld shook his head a little, and then turned his attention to the Doctor.

I didn’t hear the question but a large part of that was the fact that I wasn’t listening.

“You knew?” I asked her.

“No.  I only figured it all out just before it happened,” Tattletale murmured, not taking her eyes off Doctor Mother.

“But they knew?”

“Yup.  Marquis did too, but they told him to stay quiet.”

I clenched my fists.

No.  I wasn’t going to be able to suppress this.

I could leave, stalk from the room.

Except why the fuck should I?  To spare these people’s sensibilities?

“You knew,” I said, interrupting Weld’s angry monologue about Cauldron’s monstrous parahumans.  I spoke loud enough for everyone to hear.  I didn’t care anymore.  “You knew Scion would do this?”

Doctor Mother looked my way.  “Yes.”

“And you did nothing.  You stood back and you let this happen,” I said.  I was aware that every set of eyes in the room was on me.

“It’s better that this happens now.  From what we know- and I do want to express that I’m eager to compare notes with the other parties- it was inevitable.  Now or later, Scion was going to go rogue.  If we waited until a decade had passed, we might not have the numbers or the powers we have now.”

“You knew,” I repeated myself, staring at her.  “We could have put this off.  Bought ourselves time to deal with other crises, to find an answer, a way to stop him or…”

I trailed off, lost for words.  To stop him.  That’s enough.

“We did try,” the Doctor said.  “We offered as much assistance as we could without hamstringing ourselves for the next part of this.”

The Number Man spoke, “All of the statistics point to a decline in population over the ensuing few years.  We were already in the midst of the breaking point. You experienced much of that yourself, Undersiders.  Enough capes in one place, and it becomes the equivalent of nitro waiting to blow.  Brockton Bay wasn’t managed quite so well as other clusters like New York or New Delhi.”

He gestured towards Chevalier, then the Thanda as he named the cities.

He continued, “You yourself took part in the chain reaction of events that followed the attempted ABB takeover.”

I didn’t move.

“Cause and effect.  A local gang leader by the name of Lung was arrested by Armsmaster, the leader of the local Protectorate team.”  He paused very deliberately, very knowingly, before continuing, “A subordinate member of the gang goes on a rampage, escalating violence and forcing another local cape to advance his plans for taking over the city.  He already has the very talented Dinah Alcott, and he recruits the Undersiders and the Travelers to remove enemies from the board and bring them into his camp.  The latter group of heroes sets the seeds for a later fiasco, the Echidna event.  Conflict and the dormant Echidna’s presence lead to Leviathan attacking, which leads in turn to the Nine visiting.  I could go on, naming the Undersider’s actions in regards to seizing the city and stopping Coil, but you know the story.”

“You’re saying all of that stemmed from one arrest,” one of the female members of the Suits said.

“No,” the Number Man said, and he managed to sound only a little condescending.  “I’m saying that parahumans as a whole are chain reactions waiting to happen, and we were already approaching a critical point.  Every year, the percentage of parahumans in the population increases.  At that same time, the odds of a cataclysmic event happening somewhere are increasing steadily.  Imagine a situation like the Echidna event that turned out more unfavorably, or a Nilbog who wasn’t content to stay in one place.  We have the blasphemies, Sleeper, and the Ash Beast, even the Slaughterhouse Nine, all as living examples of this concept at work. The world already stood on a precipice, and I’m not even mentioning the Endbringers in all of this.”

I glanced at the blasphemies.  They hadn’t moved an inch, even as they were mentioned.

The Number Man paused.  “There was an exceedingly good chance that we would have only sixty-six to twenty-five percent of the forces available if we waited ten years.”

“Fourteen years from now was the breaking point,” Dinah spoke up.

“Fifty-three to two percent of the forces available, then,” Number Man responded.

“Yes,” the Doctor said.  “We weren’t helping it along, but we’re not overly upset.  In fact, we consider this a best case scenario.”

I saw Contessa tense even before my swarm moved, expanding, drawing out lines of silk-

A slam interrupted me, jarring me back to reality.  I turned to look at Chevalier.  He’d struck the desk in front of him.

“Don’t,” he said.  It took me a second to realize he was talking to Doctor Mother.

“A poor choice of words,” the Doctor said.  “What I mean to say is that a very large number of powerful capes remain active and alive, ready to combat the threat.  We’re situated to respond to this somehow, both offensively and reactively.  At this very moment, we are managing a large-scale evacuation.  We consider it a priority to keep Scion unaware, so we are evacuating the landmasses on the opposite end of the globe in hopes he won’t be able to respond or act.”

“Evacuating people like you did in New Delhi?”  Tecton asked.

“Mm.  No.  Different earths, closing portals behind us as we go.”

One of the Thanda spoke, “Then you were capable of this evacuation before?  Moving hundreds of millions to safety?”

“Yes,” the Doctor responded.

Why?” he asked.

“Because of Scion.”

“Because you knew,” I repeated myself for the third or fourth time.  My fists were clenched.  “You had an idea this was going to happen.”

“Yes,” she said.  “Everything we’ve done has been to build towards this eventuality.”

A silence hung in the air.

I looked over the room.  Moord Nag and the South American capes had interpreters rattling off the particulars of the conversation.  The Protectorate, the Irregulars, Faultline’s crew, the Suits… all bristled with anger.

Hell, I did too.

Faultline spoke, “So.  It all comes down to this.  Millions or billions die and you get to step in now and be the big damn heroes.”

“We have no intention of doing so.  In truth, as much as we’ve stockpiled countermeasures, gathered information and planned ahead, we fully expect to fail.”

“Fuck,” Tattletale muttered, just beside me.

“All of the war crimes, kidnapping people, human experimentation, creating monsters, creating psychopathic monsters, letting millions die… and you think it’s for nothing?”  Faultline asked.

“It’s very, likely,” Doctor Mother said, unruffled.

“Then why?” Weld asked.

“Because we decided in the very beginning that we don’t want to be left wondering if we could have done more, in the moments before humanity ceases to exist,” the Doctor said.  “Why did we make you into what you are, Weld?  Because it was an option, a step forward.  Why did we keep it secret?  It improved our chances.  Why did we not tell you about Scion?  Because it improved our chances.”

I stared down at the roughly circle-shaped patch of darkness in the center of the room.  “You made sacrifices, you made sacrifices on the behalf of others, and you made the hard calls, but it was all for something greater.  I bet you think you won’t have any regrets at the end.”

“It’s been some time since I lost sleep because of a heavy conscience,” the Doctor said.

Weld gripped the railing hard enough to make the wood splinter explosively.

“I know what that’s like,” I responded.  “I’ve walked down that road.  Maybe not so ugly a road, but I’ve gone that route.  All the way along, I told myself it sucked, but I wouldn’t do it differently.  I did everything I did for a reason.  Except now, having reached the point I was working towards, I finally do regret it all.  The last two years, the way I treated my teammates, leaving the Undersiders… I’d change it all in a heartbeat.”

I turned my eyes to Golem, then the Undersiders, and then to Doctor Mother.

“Maybe I will regret it,” the Doctor said.  “But I’ll run that risk.  If the world ends regardless of our efforts, the only one left to judge me will be God.”

I shook my head a little, but I didn’t answer her.  We’d dragged this on long enough.

She seemed to agree.  “Let’s talk about the situation.  Tattletale, if you would?”

“Me?  I’m flattered.  Let’s see… Scion isn’t human.  All of our powers stem from the same source.  It’s this big alien bastard that we keep seeing when we have our trigger events.  Except each of his cells is coded with just a fragment of his brain and a technique he uses to manipulate his environment, protect himself or attack others.  He spread powers around Earth as part of a way to stress test them.  He wants to leverage our brains and imagination to figure out ways to make the most of these abilities or innovate new ones.  With me so far?”

“No,” Gully said, from her spot beside Weld, “Not at all.”

I nodded my head in silent assent.  Not that I didn’t understand.  It was just a lot to take in.

“Okay, well, it gets worse, so follow along.  After distributing all of the powers he could, he left a chunk of himself still active, still alive, and he kept all of the good powers, the abilities he needed to ensure this whole process continues.  Except something went wrong, and the process is fucked.  How am I doing?”

“Minor errors,” the Doctor said, “But roughly on target.”

“Great!”  Tattletale’s grin was visible in the gloom.  She rubbed her hands together, clearly enjoying herself, despite the circumstances.  She wanted a scene where the detective reveals it all.  This is just… a little weirder.  “Okay!  Let’s see.  The process is fucked, and he’s a daddy with no little ones to take care of.  They’re dying or dead or something else went wrong and he’s been looking for a purpose.  He got that purpose when a guy called Kevin told him to go help people.  He got a new purpose when Jack told him to start murdering.”


My dad’s face crossed my mind.

The dead I’d had to ignore while rescuing others were a jumble, too numerous for me to even piece together in my mind’s eye.

“If it were mindless destruction,” the Doctor said, “It would be acceptable.  We could convince him to abandon this, or hope he burns himself out on this Earth’s remaining inhabitants, after we evacuate everyone we can.  There’s another problem.”

She touched something on her desk, and the various panels behind each booth changed.  They were video screens, three times as tall as they were wide, and each showed the same clip of Scion’s rampage.

“United Kingdom, first target struck.  Obliteration,” the Doctor said.  “Eastern coast of Canada and the United States, damaged, but casualties were a third of what they were in the initial strike.”

She paused.  Faultline took the opportunity to interject, “Not following.”

“The third attack was against Mali, followed by Burkina Faso, Ghana, Togo, and all down the coast of Africa.   In this attack, he selectively murdered specific individuals.”

I watched the scene.  Scion flying with a speed like an arrow shot from a bow, narrow lasers blasting from each hand.  He came to a stop a short distance from the camera, canceling the laser assault.  The image panned over to look at the city as Scion hovered there in the sky.  A major population center.  Capes were already taking flight to stop him.  No, not capes.  People in civilian clothes with powers, many heavily tattooed.

He glowed, and the glow flared.

The camera dropped a short distance and struck something solid.

“That blast we just saw,” the Doctor explained, “Was a calculated strike.  The city was left mostly intact, but Scion killed specific people, targeting anyone who had already hit puberty.”

“How?” Tattletale asked.

“His perceptions are finely tuned,” the Doctor said.  “He’s aware of his immediate vicinity, and in absolute control of how his power is expressed.  He left… what was the number?”

“An estimated four hundred and thirty thousand,” the Number Man said.

“Four hundred and thirty thousand orphans.”

He didn’t kill them all.

Why is that scarier than the alternative?

“In Russia, his beam started fires.  He cut off every escape route, then began setting fires from the outside in.  It took him thirty-five minutes to start the fire, and he waited for fifteen minutes while the flames spread and everyone within was cooked.  Heroes that attempted to stop the attack were killed.”

“He’s experimenting,” Tattletale said.

The Doctor nodded slowly.  “Following a very distinct formula.  He’s reversing what he did at the outset.  Saving children, stopping fires.  The man who initially gave him the orders is hospitalized, or we’d ask about the instructions he provided.  It might give us an idea of what Scion is going to do and the patterns that might emerge in the course of this… experimentation.”


He didn’t have to learn to be dangerous.  He was capable of obliterating us all in a matter of days.

“We’re bringing the girl who was in contact with Scion here,” the Doctor said.  “Provided she survives.  Scion is too close for us to access her at the moment.”

“I only want to know two things,” the Dog King said.  “What do we do, and how do I protect my people?”

There were nods from around the room.  I found myself joining them.

At the simplest level, that was what we all wanted.

Those of us that weren’t monsters, anyways.

“We run,” the Doctor said.  “Save as many people as we can.  Muster your forces.  Strategize, think outside the box.  If you have ideas, run them by the group.”

“Let me start, then,” Faultline said.  “Simple answer.  Talking to him got him to be a hero before, and talking to him made him do this.  Let’s talk to him again.”

“And say what?”  Tattletale asked.  “Stop, pretty please?”

“No,” Faultline retorted.  “I want to find another option.  We’ve got a planet full of thinkers and tinkers, let’s gather intel, figure out just what it is he wants, and see if we can provide it.  Get him to leave.”

“It’s not that simple,” Tattletale said.  “That faerie kook who’s going on about queen administrators and all that crap?  She was a big hint in me figuring this stuff out, and she’s under the impression that this all ends with this Earth and every other Earth being obliterated.  We don’t want to give him what he wants.”

“Then we trick him,” Faultline said.  “Before he gets too clever and before he wipes us out.  Tell him to, I don’t know, fly to the edge of the known universe and back?”

“You try that,” Tattletale said, injecting a note of sarcasm into her voice.  “That sounds brilliant.”

“Any idea is a good thing,” Chevalier said.  “We’ll emphasize protecting and preserving the people we can save.  Can you give us access to your portal network?”

“Yes,” Doctor Mother answered.  “Of course.  We’ll be observing you at all hours.  You only have to ask for a door and we’ll connect you to our central hub, provided you aren’t on the same continent as Scion.”

She took a deep breath, then sighed audibly.

“I don’t ask you, any of you, for your help.  I don’t ask for your assistance or cooperation.  I only want us to share resources, provide solutions.  Contessa, if you’d please ungag Bonesaw?”

Contessa nodded, then strode across the room.  She worked something away from Bonesaw’s face, then returned to Cauldron’s booth.

“Hello,” Bonesaw’s voice was eerie, childish in a way Dinah’s wasn’t.  She craned her head around, clearly unable to move anything below the neck, looking at the panel behind her.  “I’m not with them.  Honest to gosh.”

“There’s no reason for her to be here,” Defiant said.

“There is,” the Doctor said.  “Contessa believes it is the most economical way to get what we need.  Tattletale?”

“I’m really having mixed feelings about that whole ‘Tattletale’ thing you keep doing,” Tattletale responded.  “It’s like calling for your dog, which is irritating, but you keep giving me chances to do awfully fun stuff.  You want me to dismantle Bonesaw?”

“Feel free,” the Doctor said.  “Our goal is a remote.”

“I’m playing nice now,” Bonesaw said.  “Promise.”

“Gotcha,” Tattletale replied to the Doctor.  She turned to the little girl.  “So.”

“This is cheating,” Bonesaw said.  “I’m not trying to be tricky or anything.  I just want to stay alive, help out.  I don’t want the world to end.  The remote’s just collateral.  Once I give it up, you have no reason to keep me around.”

“Which is,” Defiant commented, “Exactly what you’d say if you were Jack’s sleeper agent, biding your time to deliver the worst possible attack at the worst possible moment.”

“No,” Tattletale said.  “She’s being honest.”


“The murderous little tot had a change of heart.  A partial change of heart.  Let’s be honest.  You’re not going to turn away from the art of your powers that easily, are you?  You’ll still crave to do something interesting, and maybe that interesting is at the expense of others.”

“It can be at the expense of bad people,” Bonesaw said.  “Does that work?”

“No,” Chevalier said, Defiant echoing him by a half second.

“Besides,” Tattletale said, “The only bad person that concerns us is Scion, and you can’t touch him.”


“Drop the act,” Tattletale said.

There was a pause.

A voice that wasn’t nearly so childish, so perky, sounded across the room.  “Okay.”

“Better,” Tattletale said.  “You’re in the middle of a metamorphosis.  Something triggered that change.  Love?  No.  Friendship?  Friendship.  Someone outside the Nine.”

“Yes.  It’s not that big a deal.  I realized Jack’s been playing me because that woman,” Bonesaw jerked her head in the direction of the Doctor, “fucked with my head.”

“Which is why I’m handling this and not her, I guess.  And because this little show builds the idea of solidarity between our factions.  Multiple goals, I’m sure.”

“An illusion that’s strained when you mention it to everyone present,” Doctor Mother commented.

“Whatever.  Bonesaw.  Boney.  Bones.”


Riley.  You’re going through some changes.  Let’s-”

“Can we cut the jokes?” Chevalier asked.  “There’s a lot going on out there.  We’ve wasted enough time already.”

“Then go,” Tattletale said.  When he didn’t budge, she added, “I’m having a conversation with Riley here.  She’s figuring out who and what she is, and we’ve got a bit of a snarl.  Her art.”

“My power.  That’s all it is,” Bonesaw said.

“You’re attached to it.  You feel a bit of pride in what you’ve made, even now that you’re apparently turning over a new leaf.  I’m afraid I’m going to have to tell you to get real.”

“I’m not that attached.  Or proud,” Bonesaw said.

“Sure you are.”

“No.  I mean, like, I think about my friend and I imagine messing with him and it’s like… I don’t want to do that.  I enjoy his company.  So I think about the other people and put his face over theirs and-”

“And you still do horrible things.  Let’s not pretend you weren’t screwing with Nilbog or palling around with the rest of the clones.  You made them possible.”

“I had to.  I-”

“Chevalier was right.  We don’t have a lot of time.  Stop equivocating and listen.  You’re a monster.  Maybe the worst one out there.  But when it all comes down to it, you’re just like that big golden bastard out there.  You’re Jack’s pawn.  Everything you ever made, everything you ever did, the strongest parts of you, the little vulnerabilities, custom tailored by him.”

“No,” Bonesaw said.


“The friend I made, this new me, it’s-”

“Calculated.  By Jack.  Don’t tell me he doesn’t plot things for down the road.  Hey Golem, talk to me.”

Golem’s voice sounded from the other end of the room.  “What?”

“You thought Jack had a thinker power.  Why?  What?”

There was a pause.

“Because he’s like Weaver.  He reacts like someone that is way too aware of what’s going on.”

Acts like me?

I’d made the comparison myself, but I’d tempered that, held back as I formed that conclusion.  Hearing it in such a blunt way stung as much as a slap in the face.

“And you sent in the D.T. guy because-”

“Because Weaver surrounds herself with bugs, and Jack surrounds himself with capes.  The non-cape is the only variable we haven’t seriously tried.  The competent non-cape.”

Tattletale nodded, “Thought so.  So let’s think about that.  He’s got a thinker power that lets him manipulate parahumans, or read them, or gauge how they’ll react.  He uses it, probably unconsciously, to constantly maintain the edge.  And he gets bored.  You’ve seen him get bored, haven’t you, Riley?”


Yes.  And when he gets bored, he sets up scenarios like the game in Brockton Bay, the test with Golem coming after him, whatever else.  It usually falls apart before it comes to a head, because Jack is chaos incarnate, people cheat, Jack cheats, and so it goes.  So tell me, do you really think he wouldn’t let you have a little slack to see how you’d operate?”

Bonesaw didn’t respond.

“Yeah.  Exactly,” Tattletale said.  “Your art?  It’s his art.  Your power and everything you do with it, it’s stuff he’s shaped.”

“That’s not true.  I come up with my own ideas,” Bonesaw sounded almost defiant.  She’d also, I noted, forgotten the original message, saying her art wasn’t important to her.

“His ideas.  Everything’s tainted with Jack.  And you know it better than I do.  You can think of all the little scenes and conversations.  How your favorite projects were the ones your family applauded.  The ones Jack praised, above all.”

Again, Bonesaw was silent, unable to retort.

“You want to face the new you?  Here it is.  It’s not an easy change.  It sucks, even.  The magic’s gone, now.  Your power won’t be quite so fun.  Just the opposite, maybe.”

Still, there was no response.

“This is the real change,” Tattletale said.  “Being reduced to nothing, starting anew.  And you get to carry all the shit and all the hate that you earned being an unholy terror before.  You deserve to carry all that shit and deal with the hate.  You’ve got a steep uphill climb, before you even get a trace of respect or trust.  You understand?  Putting your buddy’s face on possible victims isn’t even close to redemption.”

I could see Bonesaw’s posture change, even in the midst of her restraints, her shoulders drawing forward, head hanging a bit.

Fuck me, was I feeling a pang of sympathy?  My feelings were still off kilter, undefined, unpredictable.  It was scary, like stepping off a ledge with my eyes closed, not knowing what was on the other side.  Except the feeling recurred constantly.

Be rational.

Let’s not push the lunatic too far, I thought.  That’s rational.

But Tattletale had let up a fraction.  Her questions and attack were calculated, based on cues from her power.  “You want trust?  Give us the remote.”

“Fuck that,” Bonesaw said.  “Fuck no.”

“You have to trust us before we’ll trust you.  Give us the remote.”

Bonesaw didn’t move.

I saw Contessa lean close to Doctor Mother.

“It’s done,” the Doctor said.  “We’ll have the remote shortly.  Thank you, Tattletale.  Next order of business is the Birdcage…”

I looked at Tattletale, who was still staring at Bonesaw.

I could see Grue as well, tense, the smoke tendrils churning around him.

And Parian, her hair and frock stirring as if there was a wind blowing.  She’d lost her entire family, either to the Nine or to Bonesaw’s warped plastic surgeries, making their faces identical to some of the most hated people in America.

They had derived satisfaction from this.  An attack on someone who’d attacked them, fair and just, acceptable, not quite torture.

Not physical torture, anyways.

I’d had my head cut open.  I’d seen Grue change, becoming a shell of his former self.  Hell, I’d been traumatized by what she’d done to Grue.  I wasn’t about to begrudge them that.

But I still felt a measure of sympathy.

“To be clear,” the Doctor was saying, “We didn’t invite the Birdcage residents here tonight because we knew it would be hard to impossible to send them back, all things considered.”

“And because you’d lose our cooperation,” Defiant said.  “Saint hamstrung us at a crucial juncture, he abandoned a number of people in this room to die when we were going after Jack, effectively delaying us, and he’s supplanted Dragon, doing a criminally ineffective job at managing her duties.  He’s done all of this to free one man from the Birdcage.  For selfish ends.  If you accommodate him-”

“You’d intentionally obstruct us?” Saint asked.  “Out of spite?”

“I promised I would kill you,” Defiant said.  “I will.  Anyone who allies themselves with Saint gets the same treatment.”

“I’m terrified,” Saint said.  “Not of you, but of your shortsightedness.  The end of the world is nigh, and you have a vendetta.”

“I’m inclined towards tunnel vision,” Defiant replied.  “For now, a great deal of my focus is turned towards one task.  Denying you what you want.  There are six blocks on the Birdcage that Dragon set in place.  Dragon is incapable of opening them, because she didn’t want to be coerced into doing so.  I imagine Saint is here because he wants the keys to the blocks.”

“Yes,” Saint said.

“Then if everyone here accepts that the Birdcage should be opened to let a select few prisoners out, I will give you the key.”

Slowly, hands raised around the room.  Countries all around the world had prisoners in the Birdcage.  Countries all of the world had stories, horror stories about the people who had been sent there and what they’d done before.

But things were dire, and we needed firepower.

I raised my own hand.

“Then I’ll provide the keys.  Two stipulations.”

“I can guess what these stipulations are,” Saint said.  “You want to wake Dragon up?”

I saw Tattletale tilt her head at a funny angle at hearing that.

“No.  You’re as singleminded as I am, and you’ve turned that focus towards being her enemy.  We need the access you stole from Dragon as much as we need my keys, and you wouldn’t give the access if it meant helping her.  Two things.  You step down, and Teacher remains in the Birdcage.”

Saint snorted.

“No?” Defiant asked, his voice level.

“Hardly a fair bargain.  Give me time, and I can find the keys.  It’s just a matter of time before I dig through the code and find it.  You want to goad me about the lives I’ve cost?  Know that your stubbornness is doing the same thing here.”

“You and everyone else here just agreed we should open the Birdcage,” Defiant said.  “But you’re the only one here who wants to be in charge, the only one here who wants to free Teacher.”

“We need information if we’re going to fix this, and he’s our best source of Thinkers.”

“Weak thinkers,” Tattletale said.

“Thinkers, all the same.”

I could see Saint’s head turn, the cross on his face glowing as he scanned the room, searching the shadowy figures for signs of body language or gestures, for signs of agreement or disagreement.

I could see just as well.  Nobody was jumping to agree.

His only chip was his monopoly on Dragon’s technology, and he now had to choose between agreeing to Defiant’s terms or refusing and making an enemy of everyone present.

“A compromise,” Saint said.

“No,” Defiant cut him off.  “You’re unable to use Dragon’s full complement of resources, and many people in this room are aware of the fact.  Many came close to losing their lives.”

“All I want is Teacher free.  I’ll step down, if you have someone to replace me.”

“There are options,” Defiant said.  He looked to the Undersiders.

“Then that’s settled,” Doctor Mother said.  “Select the people you want, and we’ll create the doorways.”

“That would greatly simplify matters,” Defiant responded.

“Any other business?  Suggestions?  Options?”

“Yes,” Faultline said.  “Again, being pretty simple here, but you guys are going way over our heads here.  If we’re opening the Birdcage…”

“There’s less dramatic measures,” Defiant said.  “Amnesty?”

“In a time of crisis,” Faultline said.

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

“Good,” Doctor Mother said.  “Many of us have things to see to.  Do what you can.  Use the doorway or ask for one of us if you require it.  We’ll see you all have a means of communicating shortly.”

People began preparing to leave, gathering stuff together.

“No,” I could overhear Contessa saying, “I ask myself several questions before I go anywhere, and one pertains to strangers.  Stay behind.”

Imp appeared next to her.  She walked back to us with a very dejected appearance.

My eyes turned to Bonesaw.  She hadn’t moved or spoken.

I felt another pang of sympathy.

But not quite enough to act on it.

Not enough to forgive her, not this easily.

Not her.

It was strange to enter a prison as a visitor and not an inmate.  Very similar in some ways, down to the pat-down, different in others.

Free to leave.  Free to wear clothing.

The place was ramshackle, an ancient building of stone slabs that had been modified to serve as a prison.  Ten inmates to a room.  Innumerable guards.

I took a seat and waited.  I didn’t feel calm.  I didn’t feel confident.  My feelings were still in a state of flux, and I couldn’t pin them down.  I felt like I could scream or cry at any moment.

But, more than any other time, I wanted to appear confident here.

The door opened, and four guards led a prisoner to the chair opposite mine.  We were separated by a pane of bulletproof glass.

Her eyes glared at me, cold.  Not the eyes I’d known, no act, no hiding behind a mask.  This was her.

“Hi, Shadow Stalker,” I told Sophia.

“Taylor,” she replied.

Last Chapter                                                                                               Next Chapter

444 thoughts on “Extinction 27.2

  1. Nothing quite mucks with my ability to get a chapter done as much as family and visiting. There’s been a lot of that this summer, and I had to get tonight’s chapter done with houseguests occupying a fair chunk of my best writing time. No fault to them (some of my favorite people) but it did make tonight’s chapter a last-minute finish. That said, I’m sorry for typos and unfinished sentences.

    Thank you for reading. Worm’s not doing so well on Topwebfiction, and your votes would be much appreciated.

    • More evidence that you tend to perform well under pressure. Very interesting chapter.

      “All I want is Teacher free. I’ll step down, if you have someone to replace me.”

      “There are options,” Defiant said. He looked to the Undersiders.

      “Then that’s settled,” Doctor Mother said. “Select the people you want, and we’ll create the doorways.”
      Gee, I wonder who Defiant has in mind to take over Dragon’s tech from Saint??

      Voted. Thanks for the reminder.

      • Most likely Tattletale. Replacing Dragon takes some level of technical skill, and Tattletale’s power would provide the extra bonus of auto-prioritizing and helping her learn the system fast.

        • Alternatively, a bug-based interface that leverages Taylor’s seemingly unlimited multitasking. Ommatidium, Wildbow. Hinty-hint-hint. Heh.

          … Ignore me. I am only a tree.

          • The problem goes beyond controlling a thousand things at once and to perceiving a hundred things at once. Or perhaps “only” a hundred and a dozen, respectively. Going through the massive amounts of information is probably the hardest part of being Dragon, and aside from Tattletale’s power she has experience viewing and absorbing large quantities of data.

              • If Tattletale uses her powers constantly, that would become an issue.

                Thankfully, once she gets the hang of the computers, Tattletale wouldn’t need her power so much. Meanwhile, by that time Taylor would still be struggling, especially since she’s starting with less technical knowledge than Tattletale, and she’d continue to be worse unless Defiant and Bonesaw worked a way to transmit all that information into Taylor’s head much more effectively. Again Tattletale has experience with this–Taylor doesn’t.

                Speaking of experience, Tattletale has plenty of experience being mission control, especially compared to Skitter. I think that Weaver’s skills are better-spent in the field than in the control room, while Tattletale’s are the opposite.

    • Further typos:

      “The leader of the Hearts, Swords and Cups weren’t present” – “leaders”, not “leader”
      “the Undersider’s actions” – apostrophe after the s, not before it
      “It’s very, likely” – stray comma
      “he’s our best source of Thinkers.” – I think “thinkers” conventionally isn’t capitalised these days

    • nor was he unruffled –> needs a period

      A Thanda somewhere in the beginning shouldn’t be italicized

      Didn’t Moord Nag understand English? Why would she need an interpreter?

      “It’s very, likely, –> superfluous comma

      Countries all of the world –> Wut?
      Anyway, great chapter. Tattletale gets to show off (and maybe figures out that Dragon is an AI), entities are now more or less common knowledge, Taylor is reminded of her role in things, Saint gets rekt and Shadow Stalker is finally getting her comeuppance. It’s four o’clock and I’m reading on.

  2. “Narwhal stood beside Defiant, both of them ridiculously tall”
    Didn’t Narwhal die in the Leviathan attack? Sorry if I’m missing something obvious, I’m posting this before having finished the chapter.

    • The issue is that Sophia is an unrepentant sociopath without any apparent ability to give a damn about the suffering of other people, who last we saw expressed a poorly articulated predatory philosophy that practically mandates that the people dying to Scion be left to die.

      She’s unlikely to cooperate, to say the least.

      Well, unless Taylor threatens her life or offers her something. That might work.

      • Somehow, I feel that the teenaged narcissistic sociopath will feel a little bit less into that nietzchean stuff after finding out that it ended up getting her mind-raped and her ass kicked incredibly embarrassingly. Finding out that you are, in fact, the prey, tends to drive the predatory philosophy right out of most people.

        • Or it drives them around or further around the bend.
          The story line wasn’t clear as to whether or not Taylor was in costume. That’s something I would like to know. It helps set the tone of their greetings to each other.
          Taylor, addressed Sophia as Shadow Stalker even though I am positive that Sophia is not in costume. Sophia addressed her remarks to Taylor.
          I’m thinking that Taylor is there to try to find a reason to forgive and possibly to recruit her. Sophia is too bugnuts psychotic to be of any use. She is still showing me that she has if anything gotten WORSE while in prison. (Surprise, surprise.) I think Taylor is going to be disappointed with this meeting.

      • I think getting her powers made her into the sociopath he is today. Since it’s been proven natural triggers can fuck up your head. Case-in-point: Rachel.

        • My own question is why even bother trying to recruit a sociopath like her, who is all but guaranteed to stab you in the back? If her power was somehow useful there could be some justification, but shadow stalker won’t do anything against scion. Nor does it bring the sort of utility that teleportation, healing, etc does.

          Makes no sense at this point why they’re even bothering.

          • Mentioned down below but her power is perfect for infiltrating places. My guess is either the birdcage to get Panacea, Cauldron’s base for their secrets with a teamup with Faultline’s crew/The irregulars, or to rescue our fair Dragon from Saint.

          • I think she was trying to forgive her. Since she couldn’t get herself to forgive Bonesaw. look over the last couple of line from the previous scene and it should be clear what she was intending to do with shadow stalker, at least the way I read it.

            • This. She felt empathy for Bonesaw but couldn’t forgive her since she’s arguably the greets monster this side of the Endbringers. So she decides to see if she can forgive Sophia.

          • I think Taylor might be desperately trying to search for closure. She lost her dad without being allowed to even say goodbye to him, so that’s one story thread ever denied seeing through to the end.

            She could be looking for someone else to have a positive story end to in order to fill the void. The shit between her and Sophia seems incredibly petty in contrast to the situation and it might be healthy for her to try to get some closure.

            • No way in hell Taylors gone here without an ace of five up her sleeve/ I wouldn’t be surprised if she sends her on a Brockton bay search and rescue mission. Priority targets Danny and Emma…. Or maybe she just went there to deliver on final massive raspberry to Sophia

          • I could see them wanting her power for some reason. There has to be some creative application of her power we haven’t seen; there always is.

            • She shadows across multiple dimensions. So, open portal to various dimensions, find the ones that she isn’t in, search for shard and kill/tinker with it?

          • Sometimes the jokes get referenced and spread around the meme-a-sphere. Like one I’ve heard before, “How tall are you, private?” “Sir, 5 foot 9, sir!” 5 foot 9, I didn’t know they stacked shit that high!”

            Though more well known is “I bet you’re the kind of guy that would fuck a person in the ass and not even have the goddamn common courtesy to give him a reach around.”

  3. A new Legion of Doom Meeting! Love that we got to see Weld again, and Garrote is back. Now what happened to Glory girl? We also got to see Shadow stalker. A prisoner of the Yangban or is she still in juvie?
    Saint continues to perplex me. I still think he is an evil asshole who killed an innocent and truly good person just because she was an AI. I have to question what his line of thinking is here in regards to Teacher. Why him? I am curious about Teacher’s ability in a general sense if Saint wants him out so bad. Does he have only a limited pool of powers to give? Say he can turn people into 3 types of thinkers, and 4 types of tinkers, or is it truly random? I think he can do it to people against their will based on Lung’s threat and the fact that no one wants to lose their free will, though what control he has is suspect if Lung would have just killed him if he did it to him. His group think might also imply a hive mind of sorts. Similar to Regent, his power can be used for some sick shit so I can see that in regards to being mentioned as a monster and he seems to have control issues but I can’t see why he is considered dangerous. I can imagine him using his power on important people but it would be obvious he did with how his “students” act. Lung outright admits he lacked muscle so why was he so dangerous? I guess you need Wildbow’s beautiful brain to figure that out, though I hope we get to finally see him in action in some form.
    Considering the 9 clones are now on their side, can we see a Mannequin/Weaver Team up?

    • The Teacher-Saint connection may be deeper than we thought. We’ve only seen the one extreme of Teacher’s brainwashing, complete servitude, and we don’t know what a partial job looks like. Could Saint have bargained with Teacher in the past for thinker levels and there’s some compulsion to serve him as a result? His power is temporary but even after it wears off it might result in some kind of compulsion towards servitude similar to Regents “I used my power on your once, it’s easier to do so again” deal.

      This loss of free will could also explain his single mindedness and lack of self awareness regarding Dragon.

      Goddammit, Protectorate. DON’T RELEASE TEACHER. If there’s a fucking dirty fuckin’ snake who’ll betray people in the fact of the apocalypse it’s bound to be him.

      • Possible but it’s hard to believe either would be stupid enough to get near each other. Saint has suits made by the best Tinker in the world and could easily kill him, while it seemed that Teacher could use his power on anyone around him if he turned all of his cell block into his “students”. So both would probably communicate through phone like Saint did with Tattle. Six cellblocks, 600 prisoners, so with deaths he probably has under a hundred minions. It could happen but my guess is that Saint wants to use Teacher to make him a thinker. He puts a remote control bomb or something on Teacher, give a trusted partner the remote, and then Teacher uses his power on him to help him manage data better so he can do more of what Dragon used to. If he doesn’t have any free will, or double crosses him then boom. Saint ain’t the sharpest tool in the shed from my perspective. He has simply been lucky by finding anti-Dragon software, and gone up against the one opponent that he can perfectly predict, spy on, and fight with every advantage. I don’t think he has alot of experience going up against anyone else, besides Dragon, which is a BIG weakness.

        • It’s very possible that Teacher and Saint met long before the former went to the birdcage and before people knew enough of how dangerous he was to frame him. And consider that if we take his reaction to Richter’s message in mind the guy is gullible as fuck.

          I seriously doubt even a brainbomb would stop Teacher from enslaving Saint, all he has to do is tell Geoff exactly what he wants to hear.

          • Saint has had a hard-on for Teacher for some time now. Originally I meant it in the sense that he’s been trying to get him out for a long time, but it’s possible he’s got it bad, got it bad, got it bad. He’s Hot for Teacher.

        • Saint will be stepping down.
          “All I want is Teacher free. I’ll step down, if you have someone to replace me.”

          “There are options,” Defiant said. He looked to the Undersiders.

          “Then that’s settled,” Doctor Mother said. “Select the people you want, and we’ll create the doorways.”

          Looks like either Tattletale or Weaver or both could do a better job of managing Dragons duties.

          • I’m guessing Tattletale. Her power would give innate advantages; Weaver’s just makes her good at multitasking, less important if you can prioritize as well as Tattletale can. Not to mention that I believe Tattletale has more of a background in computers, and significantly more experience as Mission Control.

      • My feeling is that the only reason Defiant agreed to let Teacher out is that when Saint is there watching he says “your free to go”…then kills him. Technically Saint got what he wanted: Teacher free of the Birdcage and Defiant is vindictive enough to do it too and he caved awfully easy on that point.

        • Damn Saint, why the hell do you care so much about Teacher? Is he secretly your brother? Your Boyfriend? The only guy who makes those amazing little crabpuffs?

          • Maybe Teachers power can function over distance or by seeing someone’s face. He may have Thinkerized Saint just enough to keep him under his control without him knowing. Maybe provide a very small boost to Saint’s intellect, which would help him do his thing with the computers.

            Alternatively, maybe he thinks Teacher’s the innocent person who was put in the Birdcage.

  4. …well, I don’t know what’s going on. Is the Shadow Stalker part a timeskip or something, or is Shadow Stalker one of the ones being recruited to gamble on against Scion?

  5. This is my first post. I’ve been reading since Arc 13. I wanted to say that this is one of the best stories I’ve ever read. The way you’ve grown as a writer is amazing. I’m a dedicated troper, able quickly figure out the plot and twists in most media, but you keep me guessing, keep me intrigued. I recommend Worm constantly, both in real life and on other forums. Anyway, thank you Wildbow for an amazing story. I can’t wait to see where this goes.

    • Thank you, Wait, for saying so. Appreciated.

      I like it when a long-time lurker pokes their head in. Reminds me that for every commenter, there’s 20-100 readers who are shy or something else.

    • Wait…why ARE you here? By gum I’m making it my business!

      Well, you’re probably here to join the comments section, at least for one post. I’ve noticed that new posters don’t seem to stick around as much.

      Where this story goes is straight to the end. Wildbow has grown bored with our ugly faces and our dull personalities. He wants us to leap to our doom now that we’ve helped dig up his proverbial ectomorphicons for him.

      Well, best to buckle up, grab a bucket of popcorn and hotwings (new idea: hotwing-flavored popcorn!), and prepare thy mind for a literary ass-kicking.

      Worm: Prepare to be skullfucked by awesome.

      Oh, and welcome to the comments, WaitYAmIHere.

      • “I’ve noticed that new posters don’t seem to stick around as much.”

        Well then… allow me to take that as a challenge. Also, thanks for the welcome.

        “…skullfucked by awesome.” My favorite way to be skullfucked.

          • Maybe wildbow will make it the tagline for an arc instead?

            Arc 3x the final chapter “Prepare to be skullfucked by awesome.”

            • Supposedly he referenced Genoscythe the Eyeraper, a villain I was certain was going to be created and encountered, by using it as the placeholder for who was having an interlude, but I missed it.

              While he seems to be going out of his way to bring in stuff like “Meh, I could take her,” and the Garrote/Weld ship, I see little chance of being referenced in there for me. Now that I said that, possibly a slightly higher chance, but this sentence lowers the chance again.

              • Maybe he’ll just fuck subtlety and have an psychotic gecko show up? Actually that sounds pretty cool. Can you do that wildbow?

              • … what about Newter? Newts and geckos look somewhat similar, Newter climbs all over walls like a gecko, and he has the hallucinogenic bodily fluids for the psychotic part. He’s obviously the Psycho Gecko expy!

              • Wildbow especially won’t put a me in there. It’s because of something he said a long time back that wasn’t actually about me or directed to me, but nevertheless also explains why I don’t have a forum expy.

                Also, I don’t wall crawl and you’d have to already be crazy to want to lick my bodily fluids. Ok, so you don’t have to be, I know people have some fetishes out there. Who am I to judge what girls do with cups?

                I am also no gecko. I did use Tokay as an alias once, but that’s about as far as it went.

                I suppose if anyone wanted to learn more about me, they could follow the link in my name, perhaps hunt down Psychonomous Gex!: The Rise of Psycho Gecko, that sort of thing. Of course, be prepared for something much different than you see over here if you do so. Much much different. To quote Scary Movie: “There was blood and ass everywhere!”

              • “Wildbow especially won’t put a me in there. It’s because of something he said a long time back that wasn’t actually about me or directed to me, but nevertheless also explains why I don’t have a forum expy.”

                Is there a story there?

                If so, I’d like to hear it.

              • There is a story there, and that’s the entire point. The fact that my ongoing struggles against the forces of truth, justice, and the American way are chronicled elsewhere on your internet means that Wildbow won’t have me dropping by for a cameo or a cross over.

                I think I’m remembering right, but it was because of potential issues when all this gets published. He wouldn’t want someone suing over using their “character” or otherwise trying to claim they are entitled to the inevitable Worm Fortune. Though I have been called worse things than a character.

                It was a long way back that it was mentioned, way before that big gang of heroes coming after me, long before Moai and the fun in Memphis, before even the space marines and the temporal parodyox.

                Plus, Wildbow doesn’t share my sense of humor, so it’d be tougher for him to pull it off.

              • So, next best option: in the Worm TV series, ‘Psycho Gecko’ will be the name of a rogue radio signal hacker who (from his hidden underground fallout shelter provided by Coil in exchange for passing intel to him) occasionally pops up on the air/TV waves to throw out color commentary on the going ons of the city (and possibly to throw out blown up versions of actual storyline events).

  6. Looks like at least what Scion is doing can be dealt with for now.

    And Cauldron set it up. Every point along the line when they intervened led to this. Hubris anyone?

    • It’s obvious that they haven’t said everything, and Doctor Mother might be the biggest monster in the entire story if what she said about sleeping at night is true. Especially with Number Man’s interlude who basically said there is no such thing as morality, get back in your cell. I thought he got that thought from Jack but now I’m not so sure.

      • Yep they didn’t tell everything but Doctor also has to know every time that they bring Tattletale into one of these conferences they are letting information slip out because of her power and yo know she used her power on the Doctor, or at least tried to.

      • Number Man got the “no morality thing” from his power. He sees everything in numbers and he’s convinced that they’re the only real, factual thing in the world. Worm is FULL of people who got fucked in the head by their power.

        Actually, I don’t know what to think about Cauldron now that they’ve revealed they only HOPE to manage to save the world and that it’s likely to fail. Because on one hand it takes guts to become a monster just because there’a tiny chance that doing so will save humanity. On the other hand, well, it makes them even more monstrous than before.

          • They’re trying. If I had a choice between a chance at saving some fraction of the world from a nigh-omnipotent mass murderer and not committing crimes against nature with a few thousand people, I’d pick the first option every time. The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few.

            • Yeah, but at least before they sounded pretty confident that they could save the world, whereas now it’s more like flipping a coin and hoping everything goes right. And it seems that Doctor Mother did it more so she could put her mind at ease than because she believed it would work. As I said above, I’m somewhat ambivalent on this new revelation.

              • I’m guessing that they sounded confident before because the situation wasn’t so obviously apocalyptic. Now that Scion is murdering cities and whatnot, it’s harder to pretend to be confident, and there’s more to be lost by lying that way.

            • Well. good thing we’re not dealing with strict binary choices here. There isn’t a whole lot to suggest that things are on a YOU HAVE TO COMMIT WAR CRIMES IT’S THE ONLY WAY level.

              I mean, take Moord Nag, what the hell did bringing her on board do? Get one more weapon against the Endbringers? That’s nice I suppose, but in the end someone who can hurt Khonsu slightly more isn’t worth dick, and who’s to say that they couldn’t work out a way to fight Khonsu the same way Weaver, Eidolon and Phir Se put together a tactic against Behemoth.

              There’s this weird association of ruthlessness with effectiveness that doesn’t really have any strict grounding in reality outside of case by case basis and very few of the ruthless actions undertaken in this serial have led to read results.

              • I’m a bit fuzzy on individual choices, but the general strategy is sound.

                I’m not a Thinker, and I don’t live in the Wormverse. If the Number Man, Contessa, and whatever other precogs and reality-calculators say that knowing about powers and making more heroes (and somewhat villains) gives the world a better chance of saving more people, more power to them.

              • The very next Endbringer attack went after Moord Nag; we can safely assume she hurt them. Hard. (Why Eidolon coudn’t just copy her or Phir Ses power – we’ll never know).

                Tjhe part about ruthlessness =/= effectiveness is so true, always ticks me of. We had something like that before with Shadowstalker monologuing ’bout “Predators” and stuff. So dump.

              • >Why Eidolon coudn’t just copy her or Phir Ses power – we’ll never know<

                You know that's an interesting point. Aside from the fact that Eidolon doesn't really choose his power, have we ever seen him copy the EXACT same power of another cape? Maybe his shard doesn't allow it. So, he can have gravity control but not Topsy's gravity control, he can have forcefields but not Narwhal's forcefields, etc.

          • You had respect for them as saviors? Hahahaha. Oh wait, you’re serious. Let me laugh even harder. BAHAHAHAHAHA!!

    • Cauldron may have been trying to manage the events, but what I got from the timeline in this chapter, was that EVERYTHING in the story leading up to this point was triggered by Armsmasters arrest of Lung. The only reason Lung was arrested that night was because of the attack he suffered at the hands of a brand new player on the cape scene, on her FIRST night out. Taylor triggered this situation unknowingly and is caught up in trying to manage consequences.

      • Which is essentially what Number Man said. He may be have been trying for a bit of not-so-different Hannibal Lecturing, but the general points are sort of true.

        • Well, before anyone starts inclining toward swallowing Number Man/Cauldron’s Hard Person Bullshit, we should consider just who caused Lung’s trigger event.

          … It was Contessa.

          • I thought my wording made it clear that I don’t really buy Number Man /Cauldron’s bullshit.

            And, uhm, sure Contessa caused the trigger event but she had nothing to do with Lung ever since. It may even be argued that since she’s affected by trigger events they’re a blindspot to her power (she must have an achilles’ heel, dammit!) and she genuinely couldn’t predict that beating the crap out of him would have ended with him getting an overdose and triggering.

            • I concur. I was arguing with Number Man more than any actual commenter. He claimed that everything happened because of Armsmaster and Skitter’s actions with Lung. I’m arguing that Cauldron(‘s actions) literally *created* Lung to begin with.

              • I think it’s pretty clear that he isn’t actually arguing that. The Number Man is simply using this chain of events as an example of how the increasing number of Capes makes it more and more likely for something catastrophic to happen.

              • @murskafin: Hmm. I wonder who is responsible for making something like half of the capes currently in existence. Perhaps by selling formulas. In vials even.

      • If we’re going by this logic far more people are responsbile before Taylor, Sophia, the Protectorate, the PRT. You could say that it all comes back to Cauldron if we consider the entire superhero institution in North America a product of their actions.

        • I think that’s the point.

          Once capes proliferate, any given action could lead to some catastrophe. The number of possible-event-chains that end with a wrecked city becomes large, and eventually one of them occurs.

  7. So we’ve got an interesting implication here. That Scion isn’t just playing Donkey Kong with the planet but actually doing something. It really doesn’t look like he’s out to actually exterminate humanity now. But whatever he has planned might not be very nice.

    The question is, is he still experimenting? Deliberately doing the exact opposite of what he did before to see what happens? Or does he have an actual plan?

    Oh, and Shadow Stalker. Don’t bother with her Taylor, go see Amy, your soulmate awaits!

    • “Weld wasn’t so inclined to be polite, nor was he unruffled He spoke…”

      –> Period: “unruffled. He spoke”
      “We have four sources that can corroborate the same story. One of those sources is in the Birdcage, where they’ll remain until we decide it’s time to free them.”

      “There’s Bonesaw, who isn’t our most reliable source, and I’m guessing Tattletale is the fourth,” Weld answered.

      –> Tattletale it’s the third….didn’t list a fourth yet.
      “And say what?“ Tattletale asked. “Stop, pretty please?”

      –> Partially bolded.
      “Countries all of the world had stories, horror stories about the people who had been sent there and what they’d done before. ”

      –> “…all around the world…”

    • The Three Blasphemies were uppercase when mentioned in a previous chapter, and they’re lowercase now. Which is correct? I kind of like the capitalization, but I am a mere mortal.

    • Technically not a typo, but…
      “…and he recruits the Undersiders and the Travelers to remove enemies from the board and bring them into his camp. The latter group of heroes…”
      Since when were the Undersiders and Travelers heroes?

        • So have the Undersiders, and yet the whole “fighting the Protectorate” and “taking over a city” things make them villains.

          Fighting Class-S threats doesn’t make you a hero, it just makes you corageous.

    • “I could go on, naming the Undersider’s actions”

      The non-possessive form of “Undersiders” ends with an S, so the apostrophe should be after the S rather than before.

  8. “A D.T. soldier stood by the man. I could guess which soldier it was.” Yes yes yes yes yes. *Fingers still crossed that he becomes a major character*

    So, if Scion is repeating every order he’s received, but in reverse, when is he going to building Endbringers instead of tearing them apart?

    Shadow Stalker… Her personality makes me want to see her dead more than perhaps anyone else in Worm.

    We finally meet the Blasphemies, now we’re left to wonder what they do.

    Dragon is still alive, just in sleep mode (I told you people, but no one listens) and Saint has a secret plan with Teacher. Also, like him or not you have to give the guy credit for his work ethic. I wonder who they’ll pick to take the helm now. They’ll probably pick Weaver or someone important, but I think they need to go get themselves a Korean pro-gaming team to take over Dragon’s controls. Game over Scion, surrender at 20, noob.

    • Not only the Blasphemies but the Wormverse has a new S class threat with Ash Beast. Worst people in worm in my opinion:
      1. Doctor Mother
      2. Jack Slash
      3. Bonesaw
      4. Shadow Stalker- She would have done alot worse if she had a more destructive power and could get away with it.
      5. The Merchants
      6. Nilbog: Not higher only because of how batshit he was similar to Bakuda.
      7. Bakuda
      8. Empire Eighty Eight
      9. The rest of the 9.
      10. Tie between Coil and Saint.

      • What about the Yangban? Or Heartbreaker (sure he never showed up and died offscren and squandered his potential, but everything we know about him classified him as a grade A monster). Heck what about Number Man?

        The man may be a badass but goddamn was his interlude scary. He believes morality and ethics are lies we tell ourselves to the point that when the poor guy who tried to escape asked him if he realised what they were doing to him, not only did he start to clinically list everything they had done but when it was made clear that the prisoner meant on the moral level, he looked like he had no idea what he meant. The guy considers/ed Jack Slash, number 2 on your list, his best friend. He not only beat the crap out of the escapee (and made him back down by threatening to shatter his skull and let him die a slow, agonizing death) but proceeded to coldly destroy his personality, telling him he had no name but only a number and that he had no family now, that that man was long dead. My God.

      • You forgot Emma as well. Sophia was an evil, psychotic bitch but Emma was the one who knew the meaning behind the flute, intentionally brought up a dead mother and tried to convince a teenager that her only remaining parents secretly hated her. Yes Sophia is one of the worst people in Worm but Emma is far worse than her in my opinion.

        The rest of the 9 have got to rate above EEE. Those guys may have been racist neo-nazis but they at least had some amount of restraint and didn’t target maternity wards.

        • I’m honestly torn. On the one hand, I agree with all your points about Emma. On the other, she’s just so damn pathetic. She is so lacking in power, intelligence, and skillful evilness that the only person she can torment is the one who literally told her all her weaknesses. Does she even deserve a spot on this list?

          If Emma died here in Scion’s attack it’s no more than she deserved. She was nothing but an empty shell, lashing out at others to make herself feel in control.

  9. You know, generally being so sure of yourself that you never have a bad night’s sleep over horrible acts and that only God will judge you are the kinds of things psychopaths say.

    Interesting to see Bonesaw’s been affected by Jack and now Tattletale. I’ve been fascinated by the concept of redemption a time or two. I remember Miss Francine and the Freakshow, for instance.

    You know, the part I think they should really all worry about, if Scion IS reversing everything he told, was that order to kill the Endbringers. We may not have seen the end of Behemoth yet.

    • Bonesaw has a real chance here. For one, she was provably a victim of Jack, first and foremost, especially with her birth name known. Secondly, she is also provably seeking redemption. Third, she is powerful, and probably the best medical parahuman short of Panacea, they NEED anyone of her caliber. Fourth, everything is going to hell in a handbasket, if they stop for vengeance, there may be nothing left.
      Without all those factors, she’d likely be executed anyway, just to be on the safe side.

      As for reversing his instructions, I suspect it’s not quite that simple. Scion, as Warrior-Worm, is quite intelligent, only missing the human context, why one course of action is superior to another. He’d approach the situation as a scientist.

      • He is systematically testing hypothesis reversal. Saving people from fires didn’t provide him with emotional feedback. How about burning people to death intentionally?

        Scion is basically an AI with no meaningful restrictions trying to teach itself emotions from the ground up. And he’s using an adult male human-construct body as an emotion interface to do it, which means that he’s going to be directly interfacing with the fight-or-flight instincts of a male human for guidance. Without any social conditioning as a child to guide him.

        Yes, humanity’s screwed. He might approach things scientifically, but he’s trying to feel some sort of emotion, and apparently doesn’t care what the emotions are. The adult human male brain without any social conditioning is going to provide the greatest emotional responses either when fighting, or when reproducing, because that’s just the way humans with dangly bits are wired from the factory.

        • Humans, and I believe most organisms, tend to feel the strongest emotions when reproducing. Solution: AlexandriaxScion.

          …Did I seriously just suggest that.

          • Scion was presumably monogamous for a few million years if not more. I doubt he’ll go for xenophilia. At least not without prompting by Jack, who we never saw get into any sort of sexual torture of his victims. Which is awful odd, considering the extent that he would go to in order to hurt people. Wildbow probably needed to keep the naughty bits out of the writing to avoid having to add a disclaimer to read it, or something.

            • Seeing how we got two near gang-rapes on screen, I’m sure that wildbow would have alluded at Jack’s sexual crimes (or lack thereof) if he wanted to.

              Thinking on it, Jack is the kind of guy who would consider rape as…”too obvious”. As in, it’s easy to be considered a monster when you’re a rapist so he purposefully avoids it? Or maybe wildbow realised that making Jack a rapist on top of everything wouldn’t have helped most readers’ image of Jack as a monodimensional mustache-twirling villain (one I don’t agree with).

              • Rape would make him more ordinary, just another wacko with power pursuing his desires. Jack wants to be much more horrific than that.

              • I don’t think Jack had much of a sex drive.

                Hard to see where he ended and his passenger began, after all, and passengers don’t have normal sex.

            • Well, yes. I didn’t give that idea much thought, and was building off the previous person’s idea that Scion’s emotions would be based off of a male human’s.

              If I had given it more thought, I probably wouldn’t have posted it.

    • Well, based on what we have seen of a lot of capes, constant use of power seems to damage or submerge humanity. Doctor Mother seems to be some sort of thinker or she would not be able to control Cauldron and effectively utilize Contessa and Numbers Man, I’d say. Cauldron is a huge rat’s nest of secrets and skeletons in the closet – for it to have remained so low key for so long with the huge impact it had on the world means that someone with thinker powers of analysis was controlling things, and recruiting the right people to help.

      • The leading theory is that Doctor Mother isn’t a parahuman — cf. Interlude 22 (Bonus #1):

        The bodyguard had stepped away from him, freeing him to raise his head. She’d staggered, and was being supported by the black woman.

        Contessa was affected by Kenta’s trigger. Doctor Mother wasn’t.

        • Or perhaps Doctor Mother is a thinker and was incapacitated, but still far more in control of her mental and physical condition than a non-thinker would be. My impression is that Contessa is mostly a normal human biologically, her power is entirely mental. If Doctor Mother’s power has some impact on her physiology, she might easily be incapacitated, but still the most capable person in the room physiologically.

          Or perhaps Doctor Mother is a projection similar to Siberian, and wasn’t close enough for her real body to be impacted by the trigger event.

          • See also: theory that Doctor Mother is the tendril-body-extrusion-thing (a la Scion) of the Counterpart or Third Worm. That would make her immune to squiggly visions and give her plenty of thinker power.

          • Or maybe Dr. Mom hadn’t triggered yet.

            Or maybe, maybe, she is not a parahuman. Thinkers aren’t the only smart people, you know.

            • No, thinkers are not the only smart people, but Cauldron is a tiny organization with huge capabilities, extremely secretive, and very effective in their own way. There aren’t enough hours in the day for a normal human to run something like that, even if they are a genius.

              • Dr. Mom isn’t running it alone.

                Is Dr. Mom a clear abbreviation of Doctor Mother?

  10. Woops, seems I’m using the full name accidentally. I try to throw some people off the trail elsewhere. Let’s be fair, no one wants me to drag those controversies back here, or to my story.

    If I’m right, though, the other entries may change after this comment.

    I’m fully prepared to be wrong.

  11. Cauldron still isn’t coming completely clean. They admit to a lot of superficial truths but not directly. They are using Tattletale to tell their story, in some ways, because if they told the story, they would be feeding Tattletale more information about what they are still keeping hidden just by talking on topics near to what they want hidden.

    Tattletale’s got to be recognizing this. I am not sure why she didn’t call them on it. I think her comment about being used by the Cauldron as an interrogator clearly indicates that she knows what Cauldron is doing, and wants Cauldron to know she knows.

    I’d love to see some of Tattletale’s internal dialogue when she’s dealing with Cauldron.

    • I think she’s waiting to get the entire story before outing Cauldron to he world. Do it a bit at a time and they can deny or brush it under the table, spill all the beans at once and there’s nothing they can say or do to save themselves.

    • I figure she knows, but can also see that any other avenue is nonproductive because Cauldron would just clam up and nothing gets done at all. And they know she knows it.

        • LOL, and Contessa can account for that weakness of Tattletale’s and use it against her. But Tattletale can recognize what Contessa is doing and compensate for it, and be countered in turn.

          No wonder some thinkers do NOT work well together. I’m going to get a headache just thinking about it, imagine living it.

          • Ahh… The ole I Know You Know I Know loop, maybe if Lisa chains it for long enough, Contessa will forget about Imp next time.

            • I doubt it.

              I imagine Tattletale would be able to find something, albeit something different, if she tried…but then Contessa would probably see a way to avoid that…and Tattletale would work around that…and this really does get irritating.

    • Tattletale LOVES getting her ego stroked. It’s her biggest flaw. That she know it and even basically admits it in this very chapter doesn’t change it. She wants to be the smartest person in the room. Heck, her trigger event is all about her not being stupid and able to connect the dots in time.

  12. The world is always doomed.

    There is a character, in exalted, Chejop Kejak. A Sidereal, an ancient and powerful seer of the future, his Motivation, his guiding principle, a 4000 year old master of Creation, is to Justify Past Sacrifices.

    You see, the Sidereals make decisions. They get together, scry the future, and they make decisions based on that. And they make /bad/ decisions. This is a part of the game; The more sidereals are gathered in one place, the more likely they are to make a horrendous mistake. One such mistake could be seen in the decision to kill the heroes of Creation, for fear that they would be corrupted and plunge the world into darkness. They had two real choices; To try to redeem them, or to kill and replace them. The former was uncertain; The latter was certain. If the Solars were killed, they would be replaced by the Dragon-Blooded; Creation would be lessened, but safe.

    Of course, their scrying isn’t perfect. As a direct result of their actions, the population of Creation was decimated- one in ten surviving- vast tracts of land were consumed by the wyld chaos beyond the edges of the world, half of the solar shards were corrupted, and now the other half are free and have no reason to trust them.

    Their theme is one of sacrifice; Sacrifice something for just one more second of reality. It’s a worthwhile trade, for them.

    And that’s the thing. You sacrifice, and you sacrifice, and you sacrifice to save the world, and then, in the end, you find out that you’ve sacrificed too much to keep going. By playing it safe, by making sacrifice plays, you have ended up filibustering yourself into an unwinnable position.

    For anime fans, see the entire third story arc of TTGL.

    Worm is a world that rewards brash, impossible plans, and refusing to give into sacrifice. Skitter spent the past two years, giving up everything she had in the hopes of averting the apocalypse, and it happened anyway. Did she make a difference for some people? Maybe. She’s made her own life miserable, though, all of those sacrifices, that ultimately ended up being the wrong choice.

    Because that’s the thing about thinking that ‘nearly perfect scrying’ is the same as ‘perfect scrying’. People get cocky when they think they have perfect awareness. And they fuck up.

    Cauldron is awful because they decided that they would plan how to make these sacrifices, and they became so self-assured in their nearly perfect scrying that they couldn’t imagine how these choices would end up being for the worst. They believed themselves omniscient, and thus, all of their acts were justified. That doesn’t work unless you really, truly are omniscient.

    Do we want to see them redeemed? Maybe. Maybe it’d be better just to see them crushed, to see their plans fail, and someone else succeed. I can’t help but wonder, though; There has been a constant attrition on the capabilities of Capes. Why wait so long? And I think that the Sidereals are behind that once again.

    See, the Sidereals really thought they could run things best. They were so damned clever, and they could see almost everything coming. Surely they would be the best people to be in charge. But it just isn’t enough.

    It’s perhaps not a strictly realistic world view, that the heroic and noble thing to do is also the right thing; compromise is very much writ into our modern view of realism. But I think that there is always room to be a little bit better. I think that in fiction, we reach for that beautiful world, where we respect nobility, where we respect humanity, and where we respect each other’s capacity to understand and be great. I think that’s where we learn to do that in real life. I think that Worm is, has been, and always will be, that kind of story. For all the horror and the grinding despair, it has been a story where heroism triumphs.

    Think about a group of criminals who became a family.

    Think of a sociopath who died to save someone he loved.

    Think of the man who stepped back from the precipice of madness and obsession to see that there was someone beautiful in his life.

    Think of a hurt, bullied girl who could shake the pillars of the world.

    Think of all the lonely and hurting people who are so justified in feeling anger towards the world but who just goddamn want to make people less lonely and less hurt.

    The world doesn’t play fair, and it keeps kicking you while you’re down, and the great thing about humans is that the best of us keep getting back up and asking for more. It’s not about not falling down. It’s about getting back up.

    • Who was the sociopath that died?

      You can be inspirational and all, but what I see is that Worm may be all about people getting up again. It just does little to justify why. Everything has to be a massive deadly threat because the world they live in isn’t one much worth living in.

      You can plan something out all nice and brilliant, but at the end of the day you have to give people a reason beyond just brilliance and art to like something. Like, hell, give them something that brings joy to them, even if it’s in a sick and twisted way. You can make a world where they have to keep getting back up, even if they don’t have a reason to, or you can make a world where people want to get back up and do so all on their own.

      • I’m not quite sure what you’re saying. Even now, I don’t think I see the world as the kind of hellscape that isn’t worth fighting for. There’s still books, ice cream, friends, and families … still lives to live, and people to live them.

        So long as there remains anyone left to draw breath, there is something worth fighting for, in my opinion.

      • Regent. He was a classic sociopath thanks to an extremely abusive childhood. But he ended up sacrificing himself for someone he loved. That’s still a hell of a moment. And he saved her. That’s pretty awesome.

        And the thing is that heroism is a compulsion. It’s a sickness, sometimes. People who find themselves compelled to keep standing up, to keep fighting, past the point of endurance, even when they’re not appreciated. They don’t always get happy endings- Weaver lost the romance in her life, she’s sacrificed so much to save people, she has experienced unimaginable pain, but she has saved countless lives through tremendously heroic actions, as Reveen states below. But she keeps doing it.

        There’s a very interesting idea, that the heroic personality is very similar to a psychopathic personality; Someone who disregards rules and mores when they stand in their way, someone who is driven to take action, except that they’re the mirror image of a psychopath. They feel compelled to make sacrifices to help others. Is it noble, if you can’t control it? It doesn’t really matter if it is or it isn’t, because they’re damn well going to make those sacrifices. That’s the thing Weaver doesn’t quite understand when people say she’s like Jack; She’s his opposite, and so close in so many ways, yet so far in all the ways that matter.

        Something that strikes me now; Think about some of the hard choices made. She wouldn’t have had to make those choices if Cauldron had explained to someone, anyone, that Scion was the danger. Skitter wouldn’t have had to shoot a little girl. Because of a lack of information because Cauldron thought they knew best, Skitter’s gotta live with the knowledge that she didn’t have to do that. They made the hard decisions, but they’re not really the ones being affected by those decisions. So many of the hard decisions that Skitter has had to make are because Cauldron thought they should keep everything secret. So many of the wastes are because they wouldn’t spill the beans.

          • Aster. Theo’s sister.

            Oh, and she killed Tagg and Alexandria, too. And tried to kill Nilbog. And I think there are few S9 clones but I think we can count those as soldiers killed in a war.

            • Oh, right.

              Oh yeah, them too.

              I barely count the original S9 as people. In my mind, they fall into the same category as Echidna and the Endbringers in more ways than one.

              …Echidna and the Endbringers would be a cool name for a rock band in the Wormverse.

              • Not all the clones were killed by Taylor. Golem, Imp, Revel, the Thanda, Contessa and Number Man, Foil, Dragon all killed their share of clones. In fact, right now, I don’t really remember Taylor actually gave the final blow to any of them.

              • @AMR: she personally killed (a) Winter (by spidersilk hanging to be specific.) Shot a Nice Guy in the head. Shot
                a Cherish and a Screamer.

                All that and countless assists (like painting the crosshairs that let Foil take out Tyrant.)

      • Regent is the sociopath that died. Sure he only used his power on other sociopaths, but the way that he had to torture people to weaken them sufficiently to take them over practically forced him into a clinically sociopathic state.

        Being sociopathic to a degree can actually be valuable for some people. A police officer needs to be able to stand next to the husband with bleeding knuckles and the wife with a battered face, listen to them both say that she fell down and he hurt his hands trying to help her, and NOT pull out the big flashlight and beat the shit of the guy. This is one reason why it’s really hard to find good cops. They have to walk a really hard line, while exposing themselves to the worst elements of humanity.

        Regent was pretty much going to be a sociopath from the day he was born, due to his father’s tender loving care. The way his power worked nailed the lid on that, forcing him farther down the path. But he never flipped and let the sociopathic side completely take over.

            • I’ll freely admit to not having met very many sociopaths.

              He’s certainly unusual among public psychopaths. Most famous psychopaths are the horrible ones.

              • You know, I noticed that I have a lot of traits which some people might consider psychopathic .Hell , at this point I might actually be a rather high functioning sociopath .
                Is there any quiz or questionnaire I could take to check if this is true this?

              • Well, if you seriously think you could be a psychopath, and this concerns you, chat with a psychologist about it.

          • Agreed. Regent basically came off as the Dexter of the Wormverse. The sociopath who didn’t particularly like being one so he channeled things appropriately.

    • Very nicely put. I’d like to see a running tally of the number of HARD GRITTY CHOICES MAN that have actually resulted in positive results. Because from what I can see the greatest moments Taylor has had were things that were genuinely and even classically heroic. Stepping up to bait Echidna, talking down Phir Se, chasing down Jack Slash in the first S9 fight, shoving a polearm up Leviathan’s ass, trying to save Dinah, helping the rebuilding of Brockton Bay. And most of her most fruitless actions were the ones that are questionable.

      People in this setting talk a big game about the hard nasty choices but rarely do they actually amount to anything good. Remember that the tagline “wrong choices for the right reasons” can be read more ways than one. Namely making the wrong choices for the right reason.

        • People assume that Worm is a dark and gritty universe. But it’s not. It’s a grand, heroic universe where the people are just unfortunate enough to think that it’s dark and gritty.

          • I think it’s more of a fallen heroic universe. Where there really isn’t anything intrinsic that stops people from being fundamentally good, except for the situations and power structures organizations like Cauldron knowingly impose due to their cynical assumptions about humaity.

            It’s a more nuanced approach to a dark story than PEOPLE ARE ASSHOLES THE WORLD SUCKS GET USED TO IT ONLY THE STRONG SURVIVE which pervades fiction.

            • I suppose that’s mostly what I was saying; The universe doesn’t punish being heroic, it can even reward it, but the people in it don’t realize this; And so, they make the universe act like it’s dark and gritty.

              • Worms a dark setting. But the tone is much more optimistic than you’d think.

              • I’d say we have a good excuse for pessimism. Or, rather, a string of good reasons.

              • It’d be sort of interesting if Worm ends up deconstrucing the idea of neccisary evil and making the hard, morally dubious choice because its the right one.

            • ” there really isn’t anything intrinsic that stops people from being fundamentally good, except for the situations and power structures organizations like Cauldron knowingly impose due to their cynical assumptions about humanity ”

              “The entity allows for deeper connections to foster more conflict. The underlying instructions are already present from previous cycles, and can be left largely alone. These bipeds war with each other enough. It will only serve to assist the most extreme cases.”

      • Hm…

        There’s the “give dangerous parahuman drugs to teenagers” HARD DECISION that created the Triumvirate that’s basically saved the world several times and has created somewhere around half of all the heroes in Worm. That one is pretty big.

        Taylor’s sacrifices of her teammates to the Thanda, which led to Phir Se’s cooperation and probably saved countless lives due to Behemoth not using the time bomb it to destroy India.

        Letting a definite murderer and breaker of the Endbringer Truce, Armsmaster, get a new position as Defiant, well, that’s complicated and has ambiguous results.

        It seems that hard choices don’t really go in one direction in Worm.

        • Let’s consider this. I’m going to say that letting someone attempt redemption is a damn hard choice- but not in the way that is usually used in dark works. In fact, it’s typically the kind of hard decision that results in tragedy in dark works; The more likely redemption is to work, the lighter the work is. How many people, who have been offered redemption in this story, have grasped it and then taken advantage of the people who were offered it?

          Next, the choice of killing her teammate. It’s important to note that these were people who she’d just met; They were, technically, on the same side, but she didn’t have much sway over them- Someone who was her teammate, she could’ve stopped. But they attacked, and were going to get killed either way; The hard decision here was to take the blame for that death on herself, and to make it into a way to come ahead; The end result, ‘teammate dead’ was the same either way; This just saved everyone else.

          Finally, the ‘give dangerous parahuman drugs to teenagers’ hard decision; This isn’t really the reason people hate Cauldron. They saved the lives of a group of kids and made some of the greatest heroes the world knew; That’s pretty respectable. It’s also not really a hard decision; I may be unusual, but if some girl dying of cancer was offered a dangerous experimental drug that’ll save her from cancer, but might make her a Case 53, then I’d say that still sounds better to me, all things considered, than dying of cancer. I’d still rate Legend as one of the top ten great heroes of the world. The other two ended up being a bit more assholish- And are being punished accordingly, as befits this story. Cauldron is hated because they used people to test out dangerous formulas, and then keep them imprisoned forever, or hand them out to be conditioned as easily defeated nemesises to others. They are withholding information and cures for their own reasons, which do not seem very inclined to be good.

          How many of these were really hard decisions in the same kind of way that shooting Aster is? How many fo these decisions were causing a bit of guaranteed suffering now in the hopes that it’ll save the world in the long run? Because that’s what a hard decision is, the kind that lead to trouble- Taking a hard decision right now in the hopes that it might stop something worse from happening.

          Dinah’s power is kind of a magnificent way of demonstrating this; It’s all about statistics. People take actions to improve their statistics based on what she’s asked, and they don’t understand WHY these actions will improve things. They simply try to better their odds. A single revelation- The one who’s destroying the earth is Scion- is a massive advantage. Think about that. Dinah has only managed that particular kind of feat once- Figuring out where the safe places to hide from Crawler would be. And it was damned hard on her. I wonder if she’s improved on that any? It certainly seems to punish the fuck out of Scion, even- an entire year’s worth of power to look at a specific future. That’s rough.

          But, ultimately. I think that the kind of hard decisions are worth examining. But I know that offering someone redemption isn’t a hard decision in a heroic story. It’s only a hard decision in a dark story.

    • Heh. Sidereals.

      Get some Sidereals. Ask them “How do I stop being lonely?”

      1 Sidereal: Makes you a great profile at a dating site.

      5 sidereals: Send you out on a series of blind dates, spying on you to improve each subsequent date.

      20 sidereals: Get you a mail order bride.

      50 sidereals: Create a purely synthetic gynoid which is programmed to respond to your every emotion with a way to appease your loneliness.

      51 sidereals: The robot is now as heavily armed as KOS-MOS from Xenosaga.

      52 sidereals: She also transforms into a motorbike.

      100 Sidereals: Enact the canon plot to Evangelion. No you’re not lonely anymore! And neither is anyone else. Or individuals, either.
      – GreggHL on Sidreal plans

      Off-topic but too good not to sure. Sorry.

    • I hate the word “decimate”, had too many bad history with it(still wincing every time I see that “word”).I always used it in the context that only one out of ten is destroyed.Caused too much confusion when I said “The campaign against the horrendous invincible killbots are are a huge success, they only manage to decimate our numbers”.

      Sorry , gotta vent here.Carry on with your discussions.

    • Great speech.

      The problem is that Contessas foresight _is_ perfect. “I can see the path to victory. I can walk it without fail.” We can choose to just disregard it, we can say that Contessa only has limited influence. But for her to disregard the 0.001% of her loss is correct, since it’s nonexistant.

      It’s one of the reasons Contessas so frustrating to think about. The implications of her power + actions are so immense and can’t be handwaved away.

      • What, and we’re meant to just believe her?

        Maybe Contessa is full of shit? Maybe she doesn’t want people to know what weaknesses her power has? There’s already been several lines of speculation for the gaps in her power. Does her power let her see anything outside the path to victory? Consequences like Lung perhaps? What victory, out of dozens to hundreds of possible victories is she seeing and is it really the best one?

        This may be a little out there, but I have a feeling that the guys who have lied to people several times, will, in fact, prove to be dirty fucking liars.

        • Well, there’s the Number Man and Alexandria being ridiculously powerful Thinker class parahumans and being as high up in Cauldron as anyone but Doctor Mother and Contessa. You’d think they’d have noticed something was horribly wrong if Contessa’s abilities were so flawed. There’s also Eidolon’s powers to get any power he needs, and his SERIOUS ethical objections to Cauldron before it was explained to him. You’d think he would have tried a Thinker power to cut through Contessa’s shit any of the times he was going ballistic about it as mentioned in Alexandria’s interlude. If Contessa’s power is good enough to cut through no less than three major sources of opposing information powers, one of which could be literally anything, she’d basically be just as good as she says she is.

          I don’t trust Contessa at all by the way. She’s CLEARLY manipulating Alexandria significantly in her interlude. Both on and off screen we see Alexandria go through significant increases in her ties to Cauldron and willingness to compromise her ethics. We even see Contessa tell Doctor Mother how to manipulate Alexandria to her services.

          Really, Contessa seems to have two weaknesses. First, there are people her powers don’t work on. She admits this. This still puts her ahead of everyone else in the setting or the real world. The other is that she seems not to be able to predict Trigger Events or anything about them. This is a nasty weakness, but once again, no one else can do better than she can.

          I wouldn’t be surprised if Contessa turns out to be completely evil and manipulating all of Cauldron. However, she can’t be incompetent for the setting to work as presented.

          • An incompetent person can realize they’re incompetent. An ultra-competent person who has very minor weak points- For example, as you suggested, the people who she can’t predict, and trigger events- are rather large things. For comparison, the Sidereals were able to tell the future of everyone inside Fate. This unfortunately precluded the horrifying lovecraftian soul-eating elves, the wrathful imprisoned demon lords, the wrathful murdered yet still aware dead demon lords, and in point of fact, everyone with sufficient essence power. In other words, they had a weakness to everyone who was in the greatest position to destroy them. The Contessa has the same thing; She’s surrounded herself with people who can help counter her weaknesses, but her confidence in her own abilities makes her all the more dangerous to herself. When she fucks up, she fucks up royal; Take her specific method of taking out a group of Yakuza, which ended up creating a terrifyingly powerful Cape who is capable of going toe to toe with an Endbringer when sufficiently motivated.

    • Regent was not a sociopath, if he loved. Or at least not a high degree one; he does seem somewhat sociopathic/psychopathic. Holding the belief that psychopaths will sacrifice themselves for the ones they love is a very, very dangerous idea; true psychopaths do not love.


      Popular culture has massively distorted our imagery of psychopaths; it is not merely someone willing to torture someone else or break rules or to do horrific things towards people outside your social group (all things ‘normal’ humans are capable of). If Regent had been a sociopath, he would have displayed far more disturbed behavior towards his own group most likely.

      Psychopathy/sociopathy is characterized by shallow emotions, motiveless/causeless aggression, an inability to tell when other people are bothered by your actions(!) and glib charisma. I don’t remember Regent ever making an attempt to be charismatic or lie blandly about something he had been caught red handed at (can’t say I paid much attention to him, though, I prefer godzilla-mons). Making jokes, especially at your own expense is also not usually a trait of psychopaths, though they could pick it up from imitating the emotions of others of course.


      Regent seemed to possess some basic empathy skills to me, and simply has been extremely desensitized to it. On the other hand, I’d certainly agree he fits the profile of a fictional psychopath. Those are different. People humanize those all the time, mostly because people aren’t very good, usually, at empathizing with non-neurotypicals; they hear psychopath and they think ‘Oh, someone who doesn’t care about morals!’ but that isn’t it at all, a psychopath could be a ruthless enforcer of morals and just think that they don’t apply to them personally.

      A quote from a real life psychopath, I don’t remember the source:

      “I loved once. But then I got bored.”

      Psychopaths drop all ‘loves’ the moment they become inconvenient in any way. They aren’t bothered by death, though, or more like they don’t tend to think through the consequences, with reckless disregard for safety of self or others; so, his sacrifice if he was a psychopath might have been a ‘Well, for me it was Tuesday’ moment for him. Hardly heartwarming.

      • Don’t forget though that sociopaths are different from psychopaths. What it mostly boils down to is that psychos see things like love, feel it, then laugh and go about their merry business of fucking over everyone not them. Sociopaths see things like love, scratch their heads in confusion, then shrug and go about their merry business of fucking over everything not them. Psychos can feel but choose not to because they find it boring or useless while socios lack the inherent ability.

  13. Incidentally I just realized.

    Theo’s sister dying meant nothing. Because it wasn’t a parahuman trigger after all.

  14. Seeing Weld and Garrotte together like that was both incredibly creepy and incredibly sweet. They probably aren’t actually ‘together’ though. It was probably just the best way to have her around without endangering others.

    • Probably.

      But then, romance isn’t really in the cards for a boy made of metal and a girl made of tentacles.

        • Let me rephrase that.

          Chances are that romance is never going to happen for either a boy made of metal or a girl made of tentacles.

          • Gives a whole nother meaning to the phrase “I need to feel you inside me.”

            And hey Gully. That reminds me. Did anyone ever put up Tecton threatening no more help if the Undersiders said anything to hurt her feelings, on the TVTropes heartwarming page?

      • Unless “romance” is a euphemism there’s no reason they couldn’t develop romantic feels for each other and have a romantic relationship. Their bodies are inhuman enough that sexual activity and normal physical intimacy may or may not be possible, but we have no reason to think Weld doesn’t have genitals and Garrote easily could have female reproductive organs alongside the other loose organs she has in her body. They are probably both sterile, but lots of humans are incapable of having biological children.

        • For each other, possibly. But my original point was that they never would have prepared for it on a mental level or anything like that because no (normal) person is going to want to date a guy made of metal or a girl made of tentacles.

          And don’t assume I meant what I didn’t mean. All I’m saying is, they’d never expect to have love, no one would have expected it, and it’s going to be awkward until they get a hang of each other.

  15. Remember when the Endbringers were slowly and remorselessly grinding mankind down to the nub in an unceasing war of attrition that left millions dead and traumatised? Those were happy days.

    • Hah, boy, those Endbringers. They were kinda good-hearted about it, you know? They gave you a few months between attacks, and if you were really whipping their tail, hey, they said ‘gg’ and left. How about that?

      • They were really inventive and flavorful with their powers too. If you got killed by an Endbringer, you could sort of appreciate the personal touch. Like most big business, Scion’s really taken the heart out of the industry.

    • I mentioned this before: The Endbringers are not there to end humanity, they are there to kill capes…Think of them like fly paper but for parahumans.

      The reason to think this is simple: from Lisa’s Interlude we known that the Endbringers are NOT and NEVER have been human. That only leaves three beings capable of making them and one of them is presumed dead: The Counterpart. So that leaves Scion and the third entity.

      We also know that none of the Parahumans can not kill the Endbringers because their cores nullify a parahumans powers. That is why Chevailler was unable to kill Behemoth.

      So the question is did Scion make the Endbringers as a way to keep the Capes fighting and use the powers in new ways for him to learn? Or did the the third entity make the Endbringers to kill the Parahumans in a bid to stop Scion from learning from his shards and the Smurf being it’s version of Scion?

      • Perhaps remnants of alien races that have been fucked over by the space worm-whales in the past or those who are anticipating it in the future and have created the Endbringers as a way of interrupting their life-cycle, like myxomatosis in kaiju-form.

        • Except when you go back to Scion’s interlude you realize that Scion’s species mode of travel requires them to destroy the planet they are on, including there home world:

          Two remain.

          They spend time reorganizing themselves, shifting the sheer masses of shards they have acquired into forms useful for another task.

          Once they are reformed, they leech all of the heat and energy from countless worlds and concentrate it in a single reality. The energy boils the oceans of silt-choked waters, disintegrates the landmasses.

          Their bodies form into a large, complex shape, with only small fragments in this one world. The extensions of those same fragments extend into other realms, in concentrated, specific shapes, made for a purpose: to survive the next step.

          The energy is released, and the planet shatters

          And if that isn’t bad enough since they had to take the energy from ALL of their Home planets sisters across the multiverse, they all got destroyed too:

          The shattering is so extreme that it extends into other worlds, through the same channels that the fragments used to extend into other realities. Every single one of the remaining habitable worlds is destroyed in the ensuing blast.

          There is no one remaining to go after the entities after they visit a planet and then leave and that is what Cauldron and the capes don’t know: If Scion decides to leave Earth Bet he will suck the energy from all Earth’s and thus they would probably all still die even though it is only one entity now.

          • There’s at least one race that managed to fight them off after realising what the entities actually were. It’s why Scion put safeguards so that parahumans couldn’t use their power against him and why no one remembers trigger events.

              • @insomeone

                Yes it is clearly stated that when they forced Scion and his counterpart their planet blew up.

                The cycle is cut short by a forced exit, as the shards are rooted out and destroyed by the natives of this civilized world. They meet, they bind and again they share ideas. Richer perceptions, complex technologies and more are fashioned in the unity of three larger creatures. It is through differences in the greater entities that a richness is created, new derivations, new connections that none would be capable of on their own.

                The planet is expended, the offspring are cast off in every direction once again.

                Remember that the only way that Scion and his counterpart know how to travel through space is by sucking up all the energy from every version that is habitiable of that planets reality into the one they are in. What that means is that they turn all those planets into cold, barren rocks first by sucking the heat out of the planets core. Then to get their fat asses of the one version they are on they blow it up and the shockwave travels through their connection to all the other versions of that planet blowing them up. That is what it means to “Expend” a planet.

          • He will destroy all of the Earths that they were connected to. In the initial setup for their visit to Earth Bet, Scion and Counterpart, chose those realities with enough population, discarding others. This means that both Earth Aleph as well as Earth Bet. Earth Gimel might be safe from that, but maybe not.

            • Earth Gimel will not be spared since it has life on it already. Go back and reread the passage from the interlude, the only planets that are possibly spared are BARREN, that means no life at all including plant life.

              It also states that every habitable world was destroyed when they left and Earth Gimel is habitable so again it falls into “be destroyed” category.

      • So the question is did Scion make the Endbringers as a way to keep the Capes fighting and use the powers in new ways for him to learn?

        Huh. Interesting notion. I doubt it will turn out to be true but … it would explain why no one can see the Endbringer Maker. He’s invisible to precogs and technological spying. Oooohhhh boy.

      • Constructs such as Dragon are not and have never been human. All the Endbringers have to be to meet that criteria is constructs of an enormously powerful parahuman. I agree that, given their power and construction, there is probably something unusual about their creator, but they have been shown to be in direct conflict with all other major players here multiple times, so it seems unlikely that they are playing on the same team with any of them.

        • Dragon was not a construct it was an AI program and nothing close to what an Endbringer is and any Parahuman that was that powerful wouldn’t need to hide behind a construct (and where did he or she hide those others that popped up after Behemoth was destroyed?) nor would he or she be able to duplicate all those different powers. Not even Bonesaw who is the best tinker of the flesh or Panacea who can mould flesh (remember how hard it was for her to make Atlas?) could make something like an Endbringer. Also the Endbringer’s no matter how they were made are made of living flesh not just parts as dragons robot body.

          Nope all the evidence shows that no parahuman has the power, wealth and facilities big enough to make 5 or 6 Endbringers.

          • The assumption that because nobody has shown the ability to do it so far means that it cannot be done is deeply flawed. Shards are clearly not equal. They are varied to great degrees. This is not to say that I agree with the Endbringers being simply a larger and more powerful version of Siberian, or anything like that- But I do think that it COULD be.

  16. Dinah’s power was grossly misused. They asked the right questions, but they only payed attention to if the numbers were high or low. Didn’t they ever question WHY the odds of Jack catalyzing the end of the world were so high? I mean, after he left the city, there was almost a 90% chance he’d live for two years and catalyze theend of the world. There were no sharp declines no matter how much progess they mad on weakining the nine and he wasn’t a particularly powerful cape, even with his awareness.There was really a 90% chance all of this shit would fall into place the way it did, really?

    This was either orchestrated, or the numbers are bullshit and there’s only one future.

    • I think it’s pretty clear that there was almost a 100% chance that Scion would eventually attack humanity – it was just a matter of time, and Jack was only the first human who would find himself in a place to influence Scion’s thoughts. Eventually Scion might have simply decided to start experimenting on his own without human influence, or some other human would have made him think to experiment with destruction as an emotional catalyst.

      • My point was that there was an 89% chance that Jack, even with constant pressure and precogs working against him. Would end up making it to when he did, go where he decided to go, drawing the attention of Scion, AND saying just the right thing to set him off at a roughly exact time. The more you think about it, the more these events seem like they were either lined up or they were destined to happen and Dinah’s probabilities are faked by her passenger as a handicap, Like how L33ts failure probability was faked by his.

        • Or because Contessa was working on her Victory Road. There was only an 11% chance that they EVER throw the prediction off because both sides are locked into a predestination route through the use of precognitives.

        • Remember that Jack had some sort of nebulous thinker ability that allowed him to compensate and plan for the actions of other capes, even when he wasn’t really aware of what they were doing. Precogs are capes. Trying to stop Jack was damn near impossible, or he would have been stopped years ago. It took Grey Boy to stop Jack, and we still aren’t certain if it was an accident that Grey Boy hit him with the field, (if he was just stopping foam with it and accidentally hit Jack), or if he chose to attack Jack at that moment to take advantage of Siberian not being in contact with him.

        • I’ve said something similar, except I think it might just be a writing thing, using too high numbers for the purposes of tension. But an in-character reason why the numbers are so high would be welcome.

          • See my point below, but those numbers where a percentage on the act happening at that certain time not if it occurs are not. Dinah stated that it would eventually happen that the end of the world occur the capes could only delay it, never stop it.

            • I’m not sure what you are replying to, so I’ll just go with broad strokes, maybe it’ll hit the target:

              The numbers for Jack causing the end of the world were high. 90+% if I recall. That number, especially when that event was still two years in the future, seems too high without some serious railroading.

              Scion going nuts fifteen years in the future is than if Jack doesn’t get to him in the meantime, which is a separate issue.

              • Your reply was backing up the assertion made the Dinah’s probabilities were faked because it seems that Jack was going to do what he was going to d no matter what. They only way for her numbers to be faked is if it was 100% certain Jack was going to get to Scion in 2 years and I’m pointing out that no it wasn’t certain and the numbers are not fake. It was only a 90% probability that Jack got Scion at the 2 year mark. What everyone has overlooked is that Jack didn’t get to Scion at the 90% probability mark of two years. Also the reason the number was high is due to the fact that everyone would be using capes to stop Jack and WE now know about the power that lets Jack triumph over capes. Even though Dinah can’t see every little piece or know everyone’s powers her power still takes into account Jack’s “Broadcast” power, just like Tattletale does with her power and Contessa with hers. That is why it was only 90% Jack would succeed, some PRT guy could have stumbled into the battle between the 9 and Defiant and Dragon where Siberian got killed and Jack got taken out.

                Again Dinah’s numbers are only for a specific time of Scion going berserk, not in preventing him for going berserk and their was no “Railroading” involved.

        • Dinah’s probability’s numbers where always on WHEN it occurred not that would or would not occur. Go back to when the “prophecy” was first made, Dinah told them that killing Jack in Brockton Bay only delayed the end of the world, it didn’t avert it. She flat out told them long ago they COULD NOT STOP IT, they could only lessen the impact and/or delay it. Also we know from “Scion’s” interlude that for him to leave Earth Bet it would mean the destruction of every Earth in every reality. So there was a 100% chance Earth Bet gets wrecked, it was a matter of when and how bad, always.

          • That’s a different issue: we’re talking about the Jackopalypse specifically here, the event where Jack causes the world to end two years in the future. This is a specific thing. Yes, it’s the same method as the later end of the worlds (Scion goes nuts), but we’re just talking about those numbers, about the events that lead to Jack talking to Scion.

            • No it’s not a different issue as I explained above. The numbers had nothing to do with Jack but with WHEN Scion goes nuts the method has nothing to do with it. It was even stated way back by Dinah that it didn’t matter if Jack dies or not the end of the world still occurs just the odds it happening in two years drops. Dinah wasn’t looking at if Jack succeeds when she first made the end of the world prophecy and giving numbers she was looking at WHEN the end of the world occurs and giving the numbers for that. You guys are so busy looking at one tree you miss the Forest that Dinah was looking at.

        • I agree with some other posters in that the absurdly high chance of this playing out was due to Contessa orchestrating it. This was the earliest it could have happened, and it happened then because she wanted it that way.

    • Speaking of Dinah, it must really be a kick in the pants to Taylor (hmmm, rip her wings? Tangle her antenae? Curl her proboscis?) that “The Alcott” joined Faultline’s Crew and not the Undersiders. I find my self wishing we knew more about Dinah’s path.

  17. So, the Endbringers exist for a reason. Not sure exactly what that reason is, but they do seem drawn to conflict, so they must have a vested interest in keeping at least some humans around, one might think?

    Are they waiting and hoping Scion will weaken? Are they gathering up and getting the most recently hurt of their numbers up to 100% before a mass attack on Scion to keep him from exterminating humanity?

    Is Cauldron holding back information because they expect the Endbringers to act, and don’t want to take a chance on impacting the future? Perhaps Cauldron has plans for post Scion vs. Endbringers scenarios, but their precogs indicate things fall apart if the wrong people learn about them?

      • I mentioned this up thread:

        Since we have known since Lisa’s interlude that Endbringers are NOT human and NEVER had been that only three entities could have made them and one is presumed dead: The Counterpart.

        That leaves only Scion and the third entity

        If it was Scion they were designed as a threat so great that it would cause the humans to use the powers he gave them in new ways and thus something new for him


        They were made by the third Entity as a way to kill off the parahumans quikly and deprive Scion of something and the Simurgh could possibly be the third entity’s version of Scion.

        So either way think of the Endbringers as Parahuman fly paper.

        • I’m guessing the third, but doubt that any given Endbringer is more the “Scion” of the third entity than any other.

  18. Heh, another moment of crazy thoughts.

    In the Scion interlude, we learn that on at least one occasion, the Entities were driven off a world by a population that learned what they were, and fought against them.

    What if that world’s population chose to use what they learned about the Entities to build their own Entity and set it loose in the universe to hunt down and destroy entities that fed on worlds.


    And with Simurgh being an artificial Entity, even the millions of years of total recall that Scion has at his beck and call would not allow him to identify a shard that came from her – because she’s a construct, not related to any other Entity that has ever lived.

    Simurgh being an artificial Entity designed to kill natural Entities would explain why she might actually give up a very powerful shard to a human.

    Simurgh might actually be allied to Cauldron against Scion. She might have worked with them to kill the other, weaker Entity before it could establish itself. This might explain why Cauldron is STILL information hiding. Deeper and deeper into the Rabbit Hole we go. Possibly.

    Wildbow, your open-ended writing is both maddening and satisfying.

    • I doubt it was that world since for Scion and his counterpart to leave they needed to destroy that planet and all of it’s other versions across the multiverse.

      Remember Scion’s version of space travel requires that all versions of a planet be destroyed when they leave. That goes all the way back to the original pair on their homeworld:

      Two remain.

      They spend time reorganizing themselves, shifting the sheer masses of shards they have acquired into forms useful for another task.

      Once they are reformed, they leech all of the heat and energy from countless worlds and concentrate it in a single reality. The energy boils the oceans of silt-choked waters, disintegrates the landmasses.

      Their bodies form into a large, complex shape, with only small fragments in this one world. The extensions of those same fragments extend into other realms, in concentrated, specific shapes, made for a purpose: to survive the next step.

      The energy is released, and the planet shatters.

      The shattering is so extreme that it extends into other worlds, through the same channels that the fragments used to extend into other realities. Every single one of the remaining habitable worlds is destroyed in the ensuing blast.

      and when they left that planet where the natives turned against them was also destroyed:

      The cycle is cut short by a forced exit, as the shards are rooted out and destroyed by the natives of this civilized world. They meet, they bind and again they share ideas. Richer perceptions, complex technologies and more are fashioned in the unity of three larger creatures. It is through differences in the greater entities that a richness is created, new derivations, new connections that none would be capable of on their own.

      The planet is expended, the offspring are cast off in every direction once again.

      • One really has to wonder what the whole “explode all possible worlds” method has going for it as opposed to, say, Legend’s power to travel at light speed or a teleportation power. Does that much oomph somehow manage to break physics and throw them faster than light? Do they actually absorb all that energy and use it to fuel FTL shard powers, rather than just letting the blast throw them? This is POORLY EXPLAINED, and I demand that Tattletale go ask Scion about it THIS INSTANT. Yes, between chapters, while we don’t have a narrator to tell us about the conversation. What could possibly go wrong?

        • You are forgetting the size of the entities and it is very clear that the planets explosion throws them through space. Remember that even though they have those vast powers, those powers take energy that they need for when they get to the next world.

            • They seemed like about the only living thing on their planet and did all they did at first to protect the species. Maybe they want to make sure no other species can ever be a threat to them. They weren’t very cooperative and they don’t even manage groups of more than two.

      • Why would the destruction of a world have stopped an advanced civilization from building their own Entity? If they were advanced enough to figure out what the Entities were doing, and stop them from seeding shards, they were probably advanced enough to be interstellar, or at least have multiple presences in their own solar system. The entities concentrate on a single planet.

        So the civilization’s mother world is destroyed (presumably the Entities target worlds with high populations) but colonies survive, and design their own Entity.

        • Your assuming they are an advanced society with interstellar travel when there is no evidence they were. Go back and read the interlude, there is nothing there showing any species but the entities have interstellar travel.

          • Even if they were not interstellar, they might not have all lived on their home planet. If Humans were to get off our asses and get into space, we could have a self sustaining colony on Mars in a couple hundred years. If we hadn’t taken three giant steps backwards after the one leap forward on the Moon, we might already have a substantial presence there.

            Getting into space and staying there really wouldn’t be that hard for us now, if enough people really wanted it.

            Also there is simply the option of moving lots of people to other universes which were previously uninhabited before the Entities came. They do not interfere with planets that didn’t already have a dominant life form that they can work with, so a small population of shard-free individuals moved to another world would be a viable colony, cross-dimensionally. A lot like what the Brockton Bay portals were meant for. A few thousand or even a few million humans without shards is not going to be anything the Entities are going to be worried about chasing down.

            And finally, just because the enemies of the Entities on that world understood what shards were and fought against the Entities does NOT mean they didn’t harness the knowledge of the thinker and tinker shards to add to their race’s own knowledge. Hell, fighting against the Entities might have been as simple as refusing to allow themselves to compete and/or fight against each other so their shards could not learn and grow properly, but still using the hell out of tinker and thinker abilities to improve their own tech base to establish cross-dimensional colonies.

            If you really want to stretch it, it’s even possible that the thinker half of the pair might have intentionally committed suicide after re-absorbing the shards and internalizing the internal conflicts of a race that they killed who was universally pacifistic, and knew what the Entities were – after all Scion said his mate was the emotional one, the one who answered the hard questions.

            • You are assuming facts not in evidence and then building a chain of circular logic off it. Show me one iota from Scion’s interlude that they had as much as as anything like oh…a space program that had reach even Sputnik level.

              • Boballab, it’s called guessing. Since I’m not the author, that’s pretty much what I have to do about anything the author hasn’t written. At the same time a race sufficiently advanced to thwart the Entities at least on some level, is likely going to have the capability to either go into space, or cross dimensions, or both. They might have never bothered with doing it, but if their science is advanced enough to analyze Entities, it’s at least on par with humanity’s. After all, Humans still don’t know what the Entities are… The readers do, but not the people in the series – though that might change in today’s episode – getting ready to read it now 🙂

    • I still don’t see where you’re getting this idea of Simurgh being the Third Entity. Why do her precog and mind fuckery powers make her a better option than the other Endbringers? More importantly, why do they make her a /different class of entity (little e) altogether/? Everything we’ve seen says that she’s the same sort of thing as the other five Endbringers. Sure, her mind fuckery power would make a sort of sense as being the thing that convinced the Counterpart to kill itself, but if she’s a lone wolf Entity (big E), why does she have five buddies? All six of the Endbringers fit into a multi-layered pattern. Did she create the other five, then disguise herself and fit herself into that pattern? It’s all possible, I suppose, but it makes considerably less sense than all of them coming from a common source, whether that’s an Entity, Cauldron, an alien race looking for payback, or something yet else. If you want her mindfuckery to have killed the Counterpart, consider that whoever created her likely had access to that same capability before creating her, especially if it was an Entity that split off the Endbringers as some sort of incarnate super-shards; before they got split off, they were part of its “body”/capabilities.

      Y’know, I rather like the imagery of that: An Entity that has developed a different way of evolving, as was stated. To wit, rather than seeding its shards in host bodies and letting them each mature through relatively small-scale conflicts, it incarnates much larger, stronger shards and has them engage in large-scale conflicts from which they learn and grow. If these bodies are built similarly to Scion’s, that would account for the “core” that Chevalier struck. It was the tendril that leads out of Earth Bet and back toward the super-shard hidden away in another world (or to the Entity itself, similarly hidden, if it doesn’t properly shed these supershards at all, but rather just creates multiple Scion-type bodies while retaining all its shards). When that tendril was struck, the countermeasures protecting the supershard or Entity from harm kicked in, resulting in the backlash everyone present experienced. It makes a sort of sense that such an Entity would be “smaller” than the Warrior and Counterpart, since it would be focused more on honing each of its shards/abilities to perfection rather than carrying around a bloated mass of every viable variation, like Warrior and Counterpart do. Did.

      Of course, it may fit a bit /too/ cleanly, especially the whole “striking the core” thing and the way more Endbringers were created to adapt to the escalating conflict. Wildbow tends to like things to have somewhat messier answers and has been known to use the red herring. Time will tell. Until then, I’m sticking to my theory, which is pretty.

      TL;DR: I respectfully disagree with your surmise that Simurgh is a Worm, even an artificial one created by alien aliens. (That is, aliens who are aliener than the Worms)

      • Well, Scion’s mate encountered another entity in space, and shared data, while it was on it’s way to Earth. To me this says that third entity would know where Earth was, and why Scion’s mate was going there. It also seems likely that while getting that information, it crippled Scion’s mate mentally somehow, based on the timing and Scion’s own accounting of the events leading up to him arriving on Earth. This is behavior that matches what we see of Simurgh on Earth. Mental games, years removed, set in place by Simurgh planting information into human minds.

        So a few years after Scion and his mate reach Earth, a giant space bird shows up. Coincidence? I doubt it.

        If Simurgh is an Entity, artificial or real, which hunts other entities, then what does it eat? I’m guessing shards. The Endbringers might be offspring of Simurgh, and attack and kill a bunch of capes, then disappear for months. They are harvesting shards. Eating the bits and pieces of the other Entities that are trying to breed, then the entities themselves when they are weakened.

        If an advanced civilization created Simurgh, and allow it to reproduce, they would not want to risk it coming and destroying their own worlds in thousands of years, so it would need to breed based on consuming it’s targets, and not require planet destruction. This would also allow Simurgh and the Endbringers to simply leave a planet after killing off the Entity or Entities on the planet, and consuming all it’s shards, leaving the civilization there a wreck, but at least the planets have a chance to rebuild.

        And if Simurgh is as clever as we think it is, and it really is there to hunt the Entities, it might well seek out humans that can be compartmentalized, that can be prepared for what will happen, that can be controlled and/or helped in order to facilitate killing the Entities.

        Simurgh and her offspring might be some ancient race’s cosmic chemotherapy treatment for Entities after the Entities ate one of their planets. It’s beginning to look more and more possible as I look at it, that Simurgh and the Cauldron are cooperating. Simurgh wants to kill and eat the Entities, and Cauldron wants to salvage humanity after Simurgh is done. These goals are not mutually exclusive, but it’s going to be REALLY hard for capes to even think about working alongside Simurgh, since she and her offspring eat the shards that give capes powers, and are collectively responsible for the deaths of millions.

        But if it saves the world, it’s worth it, even if Simurgh and her offspring eat every shard on earth before leaving and leave earth with no remaining powered individuals, other than a few that might be designed differently than Scion’s.

        Scion’s shards want conflict, so they are toxic to civilization. Perhaps Simurgh’s would not have that hunger for combat, allowing civilization to actually absorb capes

        Way too many different directions to chase this scenario. Fun to think about though.

    • I agree with Asmora that the Simurgh is just another Endbringer, not something special on its own. There is just no evidence that it is anything more than an Endbringer with the specialization of intelligence and precognition, just like Behemoth’s specialization was dynakinesis.
      Remember also that Doctor Mother has said that the Endbringers are another puzzle independent of all other major variables and Tattletale agreed, or at least couldn’t find fault in the argument. If they were another Worm this would not be correct.
      Also remember that Simurgh set back Cauldron’s plans by a huge amount when it created the dimensional portal that brought the Travelers to Earth Bet, because it dumped a huge portion of Cauldron’s then existing facilities onto Earth Bet. If they were working together this is less likely (still not impossible, just less likely).
      The patterns of behavior of the Endbringers seem to be in line with the patterns of behavior that the Agents predispose parahumans to: forced conflict on a regular basis, but restrained enough in scope that the next time they show up there will still be conflict. This also includes the tendency to directly challenge other strong powers – note how many of the Endbringer visits coincide with the presence of immensely strong parahumans. The fact that they were slowly wearing the world down is in line with what Number Man says about parahumans destabilizing the world. Their actions in the long term both helped and hurt Scion – they helped in that they whittled down the strongest parahumans that could oppose him or mitigate his actions, but they hurt in that they killed many parahumans rather than just challenging them enough to grow and reproduce.
      As far as what the Endbringers actually are, or their source, remember that keeping the mystery keeps people interested, which is rather part of the point of writing. I think it will be a while before we find out.

      • Is there any reason to believe that a shard dies when it’s parahuman does? If not, no major loss to the plan if the Endbringers kill a bunch of people in testing. You still get the results, right?

  19. So Taylor’s basically given up on being Weaver. Is she ready to evolve into her next form, Dragonfly? She’s probably the only human on Earth who is capable of Dragon-level multitasking.

    • She just needs bug-operated consoles with outputs that her bugs can parse. If she has to do it all with her own eyes and hands, she’ll lose most of that effectiveness, even if she can think about a thousand things at once. But really, having her do the multitasking would be putting an awful lot of humanity’s decision-making in the hands of her passenger, i.e. Scion’s admin shard. Probably not a great idea from a security standpoint or a “do things they enemy won’t think of” standpoint. Unless him losing the shard means that there’s no way he’ll think along the same lines as the shard… I dunno. Seems risky, is all I’m saying.

      • As I said above, doing lots of things at once isn’t as important for Dragon’s replacement as hearing lots of things at once. Like Tattletale does, and like Taylor’s bugs suck at.

  20. Too lazy to look through all the comments to see if anyone’s already posted this but: I think Golem’s on to something. He noticed Jack’s control over parahumans and used a “suit” to take him down. Can that be applied to Scion? He has precognitive powers that allow him to take into account capes AND suits but, like the Number Man mentioned, it’s the parahumans who are lined up like dominoes. You can also reference the world’s chances going up when Saint took down Dragon–perhaps because he wasn’t as restricted by an outside force/entity/passenger/shard.

  21. Wow, I was right on both Cauldron saying that it’s better that Scion went crazy now than later AND Bonesaw being there at the meeting. Woohoo! Please, let me bask in my moment of glory.

    Ehm ehm.

    So, Saint’s obsession with Teacher is bit fishy. Especially if he’s just doing mercenary work. Seeing how he accused Defiant of being unreasonable in the face of the Apocalypse, you’d think he wouldn’t mind breaking one tinsy little contract. I remember people speculating that he may be one of Teacher’s thralls and I was against the idea because a) when would have saint and Teacher met and b)from Lung’s interlude it seemed it had to be a voluntary decision: you want to be smart you got to pay a price. But, now… Or maybe he’s just desperate for a power that would help him control Dragon’s tech. After all it wold take only a minor multitasking ability like Taylor’s (she’s what a thinker 2?) to pull it off. Who knows.

    As for the Weaver/Shadow Stalker meeting, while Taylor may have some use for her, I think it mostly has to do with trying to find some closure. Emma’s death plus Tylor feeling sorry for Bonesaw but, justly, not being capable of forgiving her probably have to do with this impromptu chat.

    • Saint’s interest in Teacher? Unless Teacher used his power on Saint, the most likely circumstance is they are relatives or friends. The second most likely is that Saint has a contract to free Teacher and has reason to believe that Teacher can threaten him if he doesn’t make a clearly superior effort to fulfill the contract.

      • It’s also possible that Saint wants Teacher to use his power on him, and Defiant wants to keep Saint from having the easy way out (especially when the easy way out involves freeing a supervillain bad enough to stick in the Birdcage).

  22. We know:

    Three worms.

    Scion/Attacker — source of capes
    Ceres/Thinker — source of Cauldron capes
    Lilith/Outsider — source of Dr. Mother, perhaps of Endbringer Designer.

    Ceres and Lilith had a consensual encounter, where Ceres gave too much up, but thought she was ok. Kept telling Scion not to sweat it, then she fell apart and died.

    Scion lacks the ability to salvage her, to reconstruct her or to recover from her loss. Lilith disappeared, but … he has only been tempted by heroism and destruction. He has sex, drugs and rock and roll to go (or,perhaps, more realistically, now that he is trying things, he could be seduced into hunting Lilith for revenge).

    In addition to dealing with Worms there is another war going on that Cauldron is fighting using large numbers of capes (including half of India’s capes). Cauldron also claims to have already saved the world once. They may very well have killed Ceres who would have been ok from the Lilith encounter but for Cauldron killing her.

    We also know that Foil/Stinger has an anti-worm power, the weapon they use against each other and that Scion has his body (and Ceres) on an alternate earth that is blocked off (though perhaps not against a datamined/mined dead Ceres).

    Really interesting stuff.

    Taylor/Skitter/Weaver’s real power is to coordinate shards. She just happens to control bugs too. Wonder if she could make use of the shards stored up by the elf queen?

    Anyway, lots of speculation to go from here to the end of December or so, or however long it takes.

      • Kind of seems like everyone is now dying because Scion can’t go on without his girlfriend and doesn’t know what else to do. He would have killed everyone anyways too, but just thousands of years later when they had their next breeding iteration.

        But seriously:

        * Can Scion/Zion be distracted into seeking revenge? Not a far step from destruction.

        * Can Weaver coordinate/administrate shards, including those not attached to anyone?

        * Can Foil/Stinger be changed into an anti-worm weapon?\

        * What else is going to happen when the other shoe drops?

    • And for that matter, having the blasphemies show up and then tell nothing about them is pretty evil. They’re either a Red Herring of epic proportions or very important Chechov’s Guns.

      • Well either they like to hold hands, or they feel the need to comfort one another in these trying times. Apparently they aren’t at Endbringer levels of inhumaness, since they got invited and showed.

            • Fates, furies, Triple Goddess, three virgin goddesses, Diana Nemorensis, the Matres, the Morrigan, the Brighid, the Norns, the Graces, the Graeae, the Gorgons, the three daughters of Maderakka in Sami Shamanism (Sarakka, fertility, Juksakka, protector of children, Uksakka, assigner of gender in the womb), the Three Daughters of God or Three Cranes (al-Lat, prosperity, Al-Uzza, mighty one, and Manat, fate), the Triple Goddess Stone which combines Qudshu, Astarte, and Anat, you get the idea.

  23. The cycle is cut short by a forced exit, as the shards are rooted out and destroyed by the natives of this civilized world. They meet, they bind and again they share ideas.

    Richer perceptions, complex technologies and more are fashioned in the unity of three larger creatures.

    The Race that rooted out the shards created The Endbringers inadvertently, the shards rebound into three larger forms, when the world was “expended” these beings survived and were probably dragged by the “wake” of the Entity’s travels to Earth Aleph, when Behemoth was Killed, the shards reformed into Khonsu and Tohu/Bohu, which do the same type of thing Behemoth did in different ways.

  24. So, skimmed though the comments to make shire this isn’t a double post. Anyone else looking foward to seeing just how shadow stalker acts now that regent, her counter, is gone? She probably doesn’t know just how much clout Taylor has. People in general have a tough time imagining people they know going through change when they don’t witness it themselves as we’ll, which can go both ways here.

    On a side note, poor poor Theo, no friends again. On a side note, now that the end is nigh, I wonder exactly what dragon would have done differently to increase the world ending odds. Finally, I can’t wait to see what scion does when an endbringr pops up and ruins his fun.

    • SS might not know Regent is dead. She probably didn’t watch the Behemoth video, so somebody would have to actively tell her about it, and, well, nobody really seems to like her very much.

      Dinah’s odds probably went up when Dragon was killed because she has a presence in the Dragon’s Teeth suits (I think), which would have tipped Jack off during the final play.

      • Or, just maybe, because Dragon’s presence would affect things? Because Saint, and pretty much any human, is going to do a lot worse at being Dragon than Dragon herself did?

        • I think because there was a chance that Lisette was going to talk Scion down. Dragon would have dismissed it and filed it away when hearing about who knows how many people who claim they talk to Scion. Since it was one of the first things Saint heard when taking over, it stuck in his head and he took the long shot.

  25. Okay so Bonesaw once dissected (technically vivisected) Grue. This chapter Tattletale uses words to dissect Bonesaw! And the fact that Taylor feels sympathy for Riley speaks volumes about how good a person Taylor really is. That said I think Golem’s issue with you may have something to do with the shooting Aster bit.

    I find it interesting that Taylor has decided that “Hard Choices for the greater good” wasn’t even remotely worth it. It seems like she’ going back to the begining. To before the Undersiders even. And with her father and Emma gone, Sophia might be as far back as Taylor can go.

    • Technically, what Tattletale did was also vivisection.

      And yeah, she seems to be trying to go back as best as she can until she finds a time-travelling parahuman.

  26. – Sveta’s with the Irregulars?!! Yeeaahhhh!!!
    – Bonesaw is a faction all on her own now? Crazy. Fucked as things are, they very well might need her.
    – speaking of, what’s happening with the Nine clones away?
    – teasing us with the Blasphemies was cruel, Wildbow.
    – Cauldron Cauldron Cauldron. Y u still lying? Using Tattletale as a mouthpiece is inspired but will only work for so long.
    – fucking Number Man. Wait. Who caused Lung’s trigger event in the first place? A Cauldron agent? Oh-ho-ho. Whose fault was all this again? Fucker.
    – Moord Nag as usual didn’t say shit. I’m assuming her presence means that Teacher(?) granting her the ability to speak English was permanent. Interesting implications if true.
    – Dinah hooked up with Faultline? Awesome. Clearly, she knows something we don’t. Well, something other than all the other somethings she knows that we don’t.

    • >- Moord Nag as usual didn’t say shit. I’m assuming her presence means that Teacher(?) granting her the ability to speak English was permanent. Interesting implications if true.<

      Ohh, never thought that the guy giving English to everyone could be Teacher. Makes sense. In fact, I went to check Marquis' interlude for the cellblock leaders names and none of them (with the possible exception of Gavel) fit. But Teacher is a good guess and as you said the implications are intriguing.

    • So if Sveta is with the irregulars, what happened to Glory girl? I suppose Defiant could have turned her into a cyborg to get around her body issues.

      Bonesaw is the controller of the 9 clones and thats why they want the remote. With the remote the rest of the 9 clones are now under the Legion of Doom’s control.

      Not only the Blasphemies but now a new mystery with Ash beast.

      I think Cauldron made a deal with Tattletale and that is the only reason she is allowing them to use her a mouthpiece. Either a case of formulas, the promise to give Bonesaw to them, but something. Tattletale does like being the smartest girl in the room but she also hates people who act just like Cauldron does so I think there is something more.

      I’m curious as to what extent Cauldron believes its own statements. Despite the numberman’s statement of putting alot of parahumans together is a bomb just waiting to go off Brockton Bay was greatly influenced by them. There would have been no Coil who drank a formula, Lung and the ABB wouldn’t have been there since Lung was created by them, the Travelers/Echidna wouldn’t have happened, the 9 situation would have been very different without Shatterbird/Siberian helping them, Leviathan only came to Brockton Bay because of Echidna to get cloned, and lot of mistakes by the PRT that made things worse can be blamed on Cauldron/Alexandria creating a PRT that is stupid, and ineffectual. The only groups they had no hand in creating in Brockton Bay were Empire Eighty Eight, and the Merchants, though you could argue that they only became dangerous after Leviathan who never would have attacked if Noelle hadn’t been there.

      Now that the Elite are canon, Dinah had no choice but to join up with someone to keep them from attacking her. Faultline is a mercenary, but like Dinah she care about people and her resources would be a big help with the end of the world now that she is apparently a large organization.

      So teacher can give knowledge as part of his powers? Well that does fit but again as mentioned above I can’t see why Saint wants him so bad. Even if he gave him knowledge/Thinker ability to multitask, it’s obvious Teacher can’t be trusted. While he currently has a small parahuman army, I still don’t see how he was so dangerous in the past if he admitted to lacking muscle.

      • We saw in the Number Man’s update that he had a close friendship with Jack before he added the Slash. Would Slash have still formed the Slaughterhouse Nine if he had never met the Number Man?

        And, for that matter, would Lung have triggered without Cauldron? If not, would someone else have risen to lead the ABB, perhaps someone crueller, or someone clever enough to hold onto the position? Could other villains have held similar destructive/protective positions in the absence of Shatterbird or Siberian? Would Leviathan’s attack elsewhere have been just as bad if not worse? What would have happened to the Travellers if they never got powers? (Aside from not losing Noelle.) What would Calvert have done without powers? And so forth. There’s too many factors that Cauldron has been involved with worldwide to definitively say that its net influence has been negative.

        • Seeing how the Slaughterhouse Nine was founded by King and both Jack and Number Man served under him and that the flashback in the interlude makes it clear that Number Man followed Jack’s lead and was sort of scared of him, I think that turning Jack in the Joker with superpowers is the one thing Number Man is not guilty of.

    • Actually, I was wrong.

      Moord Nag and the South American capes had interpreters rattling off the particulars of the conversation

      Moord Nag has an interpreter in this chapter. I am now even closer to 100% certain that Teacher gave her the English download or Broca’s Area enhancement or whatever.

  27. Am i the only one seeing the possibility of bonesaw sacrificing hetself in the near future? Possibly to save one of her victims?

    • I would be simultaneously sad, impressed, and confused if that happened.

      Bonesaw is a great character, despite being a horrible person. It would be sad to see her go.
      It would demonstrate how far her character development has come.
      Bonesaw doesn’t seem ready to martyr herself just yet.

      • Well as TT told her, she’s got one hell of a long road before her to any kind of redemption. I mean Riley may never be trusted by anyone, and most likely wouldn’t ever be accepted into any group that is actually moral. Oh, I can imagine Cauldron recruiting her, but not the Protectorate, Faultline, or Undersiders. As she reforms she’ll have to deal with all the hatred her past actions have earned, and the guilt of what she’s done. Jack turned her into a monster for years. Now Riley has to live with it.

        • I’m optimistic about her redemption potential, if she’s patient and seizes any opportunities for heroism she gets now.

          • Ah, but is she redeemed because she’s being good, or is she being good in the hope that she appears redeemed?

            Trust me, a much more complicated question than it first appears to be. There are religious schisms over that.

            • You may need to rephrase that first bit. To me, being good means that you have had a change of heart, while being redeemed means others think you have had a change of heart.
              I think that what you’re calling “being good” is what I’d call “acting good,” while what you call “redeemed” I’d call “good”. Is that accurate?

              • Since PG talked about religious schisms, I think what he meant was in the vein of “is she going to heaven because she’s good, or is she being good because she wants to go to heaven?”. Kant, to cite just one, had a lot to say about those who acted morally because they thought they’ll be rewarded instead of doing it because it’s the right thing to do.

              • The ole Faith v. Works debate, which can come up in redemprion stories. Is the psychological intent good enough even if she’s locked up or does she need to be out there and acting better?

                Would Skitter be this person if she only ever got to stay in prison and takd her punishment?

              • Luckily, she has a great chance to be out there and act better, since the “good guys” (who we need to come up with a better name for) would need to be complete morons to not let her help. Once she does this, she should prove her good intents enough for some heavily supervised further good works. Slowly, this should let people know that hey, she really has changed, and this will let her be redeemed in the eyes of the public and the law.

            • The way I look at it, there are several points in favor of Bonesaw becoming…well, not good, but at least as heroic as, um…Armsmaster or Shadow Stalker, maybe?

              1. She has a good chance to prove herself now, when the good guys are pressed for help. Bonesaw may be a member of the Slaughterhouse Nine, but she’s a darn useful member!
              2. Tattletale’s speech will probably cause her to rethink a lot of the things she willingly or “willingly” did as part of the Nine, wondering how much of that is what she really wants and how much is what Jack wants her to want. This will lead Riley to reject much of Bonesaw, if not all.
              3. After that, Bonesaw will hopefully be in a decent place: She used to be a monster, but she is doing much more good than evil now, and as far as we can tell she will continue doing so.
              4. At no point will it be a better option to return to evilness than to stay good, because the heroes will of course lock her up for good (or execute her) at the first sign of trouble.
              5. Bonesaw may be the worst villain to turn, but she wasn’t exactly in a good state of mind during villainy, and I’m pretty sure she showed more remorse and change during this meeting than Shadow Stalker did during her entire Wards career. Shadow Stalker was accepted into the Wards, why not Bonesaw? (After a name change and a chance to prove that she has, in fact, changed, of course.)

              • “Shadow Stalker was accepted into the Wards, why not Bonesaw?”
                Because Bonesaw was a lot more visible with her atrocities, and has a lot more victims than Shadow Stalker. I mean if she were to be anywhere near the Undersiders for example, what do you think would happen? Grue and Parian both hate her, and I’m sure would love to see her dead. This isn’t going to be like a Shonen Manga where someone has a change of heart, and is forgiven for those planets they blew up and stuff.

              • Yes, Bonesaw has done worse. But, fundamentally, they weren’t that much different. The differences are the scale of the atrocities, the fact that Bonesaw will have several years in the Wards to prove herself (probably–I’m not sure how this works with people like Bonesaw who have reduced their age), and that Riley actually wants to repent, while Shadow Stalker showed no regret. If Shadow Stalker gets into the hero system despite repeated violations even after joining the Wards, but Bonesaw gets no chance whatsoever…well, that’s an issue.

              • Wha?

                Bonesaw is leagues worse than Shadow Stalker, fundamentally. Sophia was atleast somewhat capable with being in the same room with other people without preying on them. She was capable of working with the wards with their opinion of her not going beyond “what a bitch”. And most of her vile actions were brought on by simple, primal sadism with some philosophical rationalizations.

                Bonesaw? Unless you’re Jack or Siberian, being with a couple meters with means she will try something. Something creatively horrific that the person will never recover from. We don’t even know whether Riley is capable of just switching Bonesaw off. Whether she wont at some point just decide to “improve” one of her teammates, consent be damned.

              • Bonesaw, yes. The big difference in Bonesaw’s favor is, Riley wants to change, while Sophia never did.

                Yes, Bonesaw did some horrible things. Her redemption in the eyes of the public and the PRT and such will take longer. But if she truly tries, if she gets the opportunity to show how she’s changed and is changing, and above all if humanity survives the next few years, she has a pretty good chance.

      • We KNOW Eidolon’s weak points. He needs time to build up a power and/or switch it and also needs time to assess the situation if he wants a truly useful power. As his power weakens the time needed seems to be getting longer.

        Legend is a bit more difficult but a smart opponent may manage to capitalise on the fact that he becomes less self-aware the faster he goes. Not sure how, though.

        As for Hero, do we know what was his specialization was? Heck, if he was anything like the Triumvirate, I wouldn’t be surprised if he was some sort of omnidisciplinary scientist. Oh and his achilles heel was clearly the one every tinker (except Bonesaw) shares: he’s just human, physically.

        • Duh on Eidolon, not sure how I managed to forget that. And yeah, I guess Legend doesn’t have any inherent safeguard in his power that prevents him from losing himself. He’s probably more like Alexandria; not a big overt weakness, but an area that he just can’t hold up in.

              • Yes.

                That’s doesn’t change the fact that Siberian can kill pretty much anyone that can be killed. Saying Siberian is Hero’s Achilles heel is like saying that bullets are Abraham Lincoln’s Achilles heel.

  28. Okay her is a weird and random question. Is the suits new decks of a sword, a wand, a coin, a cup a real thing or just made up by wildbow and how would that work?

    • Real thing. In the Minor Arcana (Tarot Cards), the Latin suits are wand/baton/club/staff, coin/pentacles/disk/ring, cups and swords.

      Those suits, in turn, were converted to club, diamond, heart and spade in the French edition.

      • I learned something new! I almost want to make a custom worm card deck or chess set now. WIth Taylor being the queen in both of course though I’m now sure how the rest would work.

        • I think The first three Endbringers and Scion should be the suits, Jack Slash for Jack, Skitter for Queen, Defiant/Armsmaster for King, Dragon for Ace, Contessa is the Joker and have just random characters be the number cards.

          • While he’s not a major character, wouldn’t it make sense for King to be the king?

            Or why not have the Triumvate be the face cards? Or, better yet, have different characters for each suit–the Endbringer or Scion is the ace ot their suit; while more heroic characters (Legend, Weaver, Vista, etc) are in Scion’s suit; thinkers, tinkers, and masterminds in Smiurgh’s suit; bruisers in Behemoth’s; and miscellaneous characters in Leviathan’s suit.

        • A Worm tarot deck would be awesome. Unless you were going for a new oracle deck (on which case you’re not beholden to suits etc. at all), each of the Major Arcana, suits, and even pip cards have preexisting symbolism that would be good to match. For example, the Strength card (historically depicted as a maiden and a passive lion) symbolises a gentle strength, or using gentleness to overcoming brute force.

          Similarly, suits have meaning. Cups carry emotional implications so I’d expect to see Heartbreaker in there as a face card.

          Even if you did your best to match, you’d definitely end up with a deck with its own unique flavour.

          Until the end of Worm it’s hard to fit some characters and events to the Major Arcana. At this point I’d probably be tempted to have Kid Win as the magician, Dragon as High Priestess, Chevalier as high priest. It remains to be seen whether Doctor Mother is the Devil…

          That’s just off the top of my head, though.

        • A chess set would be interesting. I reckon set it during the “vs S9” period before this current arc, so:

          White King: Tattletale
          White Queen: Dragon
          White Rooks: Chevalier and Defiant
          White Bishops: Foil and Golem
          White Knights: Weaver and Imp(?)
          Pawns: Dragons Teeth

          Black King: Jack
          Black Queen: Gray Boy
          Black Rooks: Siberian and Crawler
          Black Bishops: Shatterbird and Winter
          Black Knights: Mannequin and Bonesaw
          Black Pawns: Goblins

          I’m sure some people are surprised I didn’t pick Taylor (or for that matter, Bonesaw) as Queen.

          I’ve chosen pieces based on their role on the board. The King is vital but comparatively weak, the Queen is powerful and can be anywhere on the board in an instant. The Rooks are your tanks, brutal and direct. Bishops are your ranged, flanking forces. Knights are the wildcards that people underestimate – not as overtly powerful as a Rook or Queen, but flexible and hard to predict. To my mind, that’s where Taylor fits.

          What we saw in the last game was the Black King increasingly hemmed in, only to be Checkmated by a lowly pawn. 😉

      • If you had the chance to make a tarot deck, Wildbow, who would the major arcana be? The minor arcana face cards?

        Jack Slash is obviously The Devil, Taylor/Weaver/Skitter is the High Priestess (good chance to show all three faces at once), The Lovers would be Parian and Foil, The Heirophant could be Chevalier, and maybe a space view of the two Entities and Earth Bet for The World but the others are quite the stretch (although I guess Theo could be Strength and Tattletale could be the Magician for her love of theatric reveals).

    • Very real. And it’s the other way around actually. Old decks had swords instead of spades, wands instead of clubs, coins instead of diamonds and cups instead of hearts. Albeit, I’m not sure what’s the logic behind the last one.

      • Maybe it had something to do with people’s real emotions being revealed when they got drunk enough.

        I like the Joker’s take on the suits, though, at least the one from The Joker Blogs:

        “Hearts are for emotions, spades are for intellect, diamonds show wealth, and clubs, well, that’s to signify power. Or for hitting people. So, are you the rich Bruce Wayne type? *holds out the King of Diamonds* No. Maybe the Harvey Dent type? *King of Clubs* I didn’t think so. *tears the card in half* Obviously you’re not Harleen Quinzel *throws the Queen of Hearts* Maybe you’re the Batman? *King of Spades* Commissioner? *Jack of Clubs* How about Mayor? *Jack of Diamonds* or maybe a doctor like Hugo Strange or like Jeremiah Arkham? *Jack of Spades, Jack of Hearts*.

        Of course, those are all your face cards. You have to earn the right to be a face card. You’ve got to have your Lyles and your Steves and your Bobs and Joes. *throwing random cards* Your butcher, your baker, the dynamite-stick maker. *tosses all the cards away* The undefined masses. So which one are you, huh? What’s it going to take to separate you from all the others? To make you stand out before you fade away with the rest of the numbers, huh? *flips the table over*

        There’s only one card that makes any difference. It doesn’t add or take away from the others. It just is. *palms the Joker* There’s one in every deck and it always shows up when you least expect it.

        If you ask me, there needs to be more wild cards in the deck.”

        • The interesting thing about that monologue, is that it fits with the meaning of the Minor Arcana. God, I miss the Joker Blogs. What happened to the second season,anyway?

            • Yeah, I love the Joker Blogs as well. I think it’s pretty obvious that Psycho Gecko would. That speech was great.
              Hopefully they’ll get round to doing more of the second series soon.

              • Ah, but Joker there are a few things you forgot to take into account. Like how the Batman always beats the Joker. And even the Joker card has to abide by the ones you take out of the deck. The rules card. Why do you think Homer Simpson left it in?

              • Beat can be a relative term. Sure, in the end Joker gets caught, but is that a major comfort to the families of his victims? And let’s not forget what all has happened to the Gordon family.

                Even when he’s beat and defeated, the Joker is awfully good at winning. It’s fun to pull those kinds of plots off, know what I mean?

              • I go back and read what I wrote last night, and I kinda wonder where my mind went.

                Psycho, you bring up what I think is the single best thing about the Joker as a villian. There is no doubt that once Batman catches up with the Joker, Joker’s ass is getting kicked and thrown back in Arkam. Most villians, after the 4th or 5th time the hero beats them, you can’t feel they are that much of a threat cause you know the hero can beat him. Joker it’s all about how much damage he’ll do before that.

                And you mentioned the Gordons. And they are very interesting, with their relationship to Joker. Because forget about Batman. He had a bad day, and it broke him. The pieces just fell differently than the Joker’s. But Jim Gordon… How many bad days have you tried to give him Joker? I know Joker gave him two really bad days at least. And you couldn’t get him to break. The most he ever did was kneecap the Joker when he technically wasn’t breaking any laws to do so. And Barbara? She refused to just be the girl you crippled. To the point where consensus is that she’s a less effective force for good now that she’s Batgirl again than when she was Oracle. See the Gordons are the ones who refute Joker’s entire philosophy. The ones who take the bad day and keep going. That refuse to take the easy way out and go crazy.

                Ra’s Al Ghoul may be one of the most sensible poeple when dealing with the Joker though. He just shot him when he was done using him.

              • >Ra’s Al Ghoul may be one of the most sensible poeple when dealing with the Joker though. He just shot him when he was done using him. <

                I think Lex's way to deal with the Joker is also clever. Sure he's crazy and unprofessional but if he founds out you didn't invite him to one of those super villain team-ups he'll get angry and start plotting against you. So better keep him close and be ready for the inevitable betrayal.

                Oh, and yeah, great posts on the Joker and his place in the DC Universe, both Psycho Gecko and negadarkwing.

              • Lex is the only person who could be tied up at the Joker’s mercy, and get away with this “You can screw with his city all you want, but Batman’s never going to take you to the prom!” Then again Lex is a normal human being who is Superman’s arch nemesis. His balls are denser than nuetron stars.

          • ” Does it bother you than he’ll always love Catwoman more than you?”

            The Joker’s face in that scene was hilarious.

            And yeah, to paraphrase Harry Dresden,say what you want about Lex but he’s got balls that drag on the ground.

            • And as said before, Lex is smart enough to bring the Joker in when doing a big villian team up. And there is another really good reason, besides keeping the Joker from being a problem later. Joker is a chaotic variable that throws Batman off his game. Otherwise Batman will have a much easier time figuring out what is going on and countering it. Also impressive is that Lex manages to keep being the one in charge, considering some of the people on the team.

  29. So. Bonesaw is on the path to redemption.

    I’m seeing her in a Wards-probation program, should the world not end this arc, albeit one which makes Taylor’s imprisonment look lax; hopefully, in half a decade or so she’ll be graduated to the Protectorate with full honors and careful safeguards. The heroes need more tinkers and healers.

    • She might be retained to do work off the field, but she would never be trusted on the field in anything resembling short term. She made too many enemies, performed too many atrocities. She was a child when Jack took her from her parents, she’s still a child now. In ten years time with an excellent record of behavior and recovery, some people might begin to trust her. Maybe.

      But she’s still one of the most scary capes out there. Other capes can kill you, or break your body or mind. Bonesaw can do all three. Creatively.

      • Short-term, they don’t have much choice. If Riley proves herself trustworthy then, and keeps up a good record for a while, she should be good. In the meantime, she’ll need to let the Protectorate or whoever accepts her use her (for the purpose of good), but I imagine that it won’t be that much different than Skitter’s or Shadow Stalker’s probation in anything but scale.

        • Umm, I think you are drastically underestimating the terror factor of releasing Bonesaw out of strict and tight controls. Riley is one of the scariest humans on the face of the planet. If she could directly fight Scion in some way it might be possible to justify releasing her to the field in some way, shape, or form, but her power doesn’t have a direct way to attack him, really.

          However, if she were kept under strict guard, working with Defiant and perhaps Panacea, I could easily see her being part of a team to rebuild Dragon into a biological/cyborg body – or even interfacing her with the corpse of the dead Entity, if that’s in any way possible.

          The fact that Wildbow has introduced a bit of humanity into her tells me that he probably has plans for her before the end. It will be interesting to see what those plans are.

          • Bonesaw also makes a great doctor. And is the only cape I can think of who can bring people back from the dead. The good guys would need to be idiots to turn down Bonesaw’s help.

            And we need a better name for the Cauldron-PRT-Undersiders-Faultline-Irregulars-Blasphemies-Etc coalition than “the good guys,” since none of them really are.

            • The “On the probability of balance not the worst people in the setting”? Too wordy.

              Depending on how the sequel builds up, maybe a scene where it’s main character is severly injured, and they bring in a mysterous female doctor to fix them up?

              • Allies. I suppose that makes Scion the Axis. Unless the Endbringers are the Axis, and Scion is Galacticus.

              • Ah, no I wasn’t making references to WW2. Some valid comparisons you might make there but I’d say Scion is just Scion 😛

            • Ah, but you forget Adalid and Califa de Perro, heroes of the people! Also the Suits, maybe.

              Chevalier is also pretty nice.

              • Didn’t I add an “Etc”? And isn’t the Protectorate still under the PRT?

              • I meant that Adalid might actually be a good person, as might the surviving Suits.

                I don’t believe that the PRT has actually been attending these meetings, no. In theory, both the Guild and the Protectorate are subordinate to them, but it’s Chevalier and his team that have been attending the meetings, not Chief Director West. The Legion of Doom is a shadow council of parahumans controlling and manipulating the world, and also Saint.

            • As for Bonesaw doing doctor duty? Sure. But not on the front lines. Nobody can trust her. Hell, she proved that not even Jack could trust her. She’s severely messed up in the head. How do you know she’s not going to make your adrenal gland secrete nitroglycerine next time you get in a fight? Sorry, IMHO, too much risk to introduce her to an uncontrolled environment. She might be useful in a controlled environment. With a LOT of supervision.

              • I’ve never suggested that she be on the front lines. What kind of idiot puts a tinker on the front lines?

                Yes, I am aware that many tinkers do indeed fight in the front lines. I believe that their talents would be better-spent making gear for their teams and acting as mission control.

            • This. Beating Scion would be impressive, but what will really win people over is when Riley starts curing cancer, diabetes and aging.

              I nominate “Homeworld Defence” as the new name for ‘the good guys’…

      • Okay .Thanks.

        BTW, what happened to the asylum if Sveta(for some illogical reason I thought she was Manton’s daughter when she first came out) is now with the Irregulars?Does Sad Boy and Glory Gorl got released as well?

        • I doubt it. I’m guessing that Garrotte either recovered (not happening for, say, Glory Girl), or she broke out (ditto), or she was broken out by the Irregulars (double ditto).

  30. I just want to know what Panacea said, and who heard it if not Dragon. And who designed the Endbringers
    I want to know all the secrets, but simultaneously have the story never end.
    on a more possible note, I cannot WAIT for taylor and sophia to become best friends :]

  31. I bet Weld liked a lot those japanese stories with tentacles and girls who might or might not be of pre-voting age. When he saw Sveta, love immediately arose. Or something arose anyway.

    Lisa has her block off, faced Dr.Mother but did not say anything. I guess this is definitive proof she is not directly connected to the two remaining space whales.

    Ok, to be honest she could be connected to the mugger whale, and have some kind of stealth capability, but that’s a bit flimsy.

    “Hi, Shadow Stalker,” I told Sophia.
    “Taylor,” she replied.
    * Taylor whips out a gun and shoots her in the face*

    And as uch as I’ve liked to see Riley there, and that Lisa is helping her, Taylor is not enough of a good girl to forgive her.
    Well, makes sense.

    The only other person present who was good enough to forgive her was probably Dragon…

    Unless the odds of her becoming a real hero improves a lot if she has a friend.

    • Tattletale, for all her desire to be proven the smartest in the room, is not going to blurt out Doctor Mother’s greatest secret, not least because it’ll alienate her (and thus Cauldron in general).

  32. Problem, if Scion is indeed going in the opposite direction of Kevin Norton’s instructions then he will ignore Lisette now. However since Scion is like a virus just get Norton up and running again.

    As for trying to get Scion to listen as well as opening the birdcage.. they need someone scion might listen to… Like Canary? Who was compared to The smurf? Any takers?

  33. I’ve been wondering about how Jack’s (main) power works for a while, and while I’m asking I’ll ask some others. Including ones I just got while skimming the Cast List. Many are not about powers.

    In alphabetical order:
    Aegis–How did Leviathan kill him?
    Alexandria/Pretender–Did Alexandria die and was somehow brought back to life, can Pretender possess corpses, or did Alexandria somehow become comatose from lungs full of bugs?
    Bakuda–Not much here, just a general curiosity about how some of those things counted as “bombs”.
    Behemoth–Why was it the only Endbringer Scion killed? It was a curb-stomp battle, with the most physically powerful Endbrinder; why didn’t Scion repeat the process with Leviathan, Smiurgh, or Bohu? (Khonsu and Tohu have excuses, specifically teleportation and sheer size.)
    Blasto–Was that seriously the best name he could think of, or was he trying to sound intimidating, or what?
    Chevalier–I’m mostly having trouble getting a grasp on his power. He sorta fused those three swords, and can choose arbitrary things about them (sharpness, durability, weight to him, weight to enemy, size, etc) to keep for the result?
    Clockblocker–How does his power function on fluids, or on powders, or on (say) a chain, or on stuff like that?
    Crawler–As I’ve asked a couple of times on older chapters, why did he regenerate into such a massive, monstrous form, and where did the acid spit come from? As asked only once, what happens if you cut him in half? Is some part of him the “core,” like Echidna? Is it one of his organs? What happens if said core is bifurcated or damaged?
    Dinah–She mentioned at one point that her power forces her to find the answer if she’s asked a question. How does her power distinguish between questions that are actually intended for the power and, say, if her mother asks “Are you going to clean your room like I asked?” Or does it? If the latter, that power is FAR less pleasant than we imagined…
    Dragon–Did we ever find out what her power was? Was she a tinker after all?
    Grue–The character page mentions “a horrifying mask” sometimes glimpsed in the darkness. Is this the mask that Grue wears, or something else?
    Heartbreaker/Imp–Why do people treat the latter’s dispatching the former as so impressive? Neither he nor his children (that we’ve seen, and we have no reason to think that the others are different) are physical powerhouses. Or, for that matter, much good at actual combat.
    Jack Slash–How does his power define a “cutting edge”? We’ve seen him using knives and swords–can he use axes, spears, polearms, butter knives, keys, safety pins? In fact, why does it have to be sharp at all?
    Narwhal–Was her Manton-effect-ignoring stuff originally in her power, or was it from a second trigger even, or training, or what?
    Newter–Is his tail long and thin, thicker, or what?
    Night–Why doesn’t covering herself in a full-body suit, cloak, and mask activate her abilities? Why don’t the eyes of bugs impair them?
    Othala–What are the limits to the powers she can grant? Does she have a specific list, or could she grant someone complete control over plastic or the ability to turn lead into gold or something? And didn’t she think about how much her name sounds like a certain very-not-white, well-known Shakespearean character before joining Empire 88? I’d imagine that she had to explain that to just about every new recruit. Which brings me to…
    Othello–How many other people went about half a chapter wondering when Accord started hiring members of Empire 88?
    Siberian–His/Her/Its unstoppability has lead to creating gouges in concrete walls; wouldn’t it simply tear out chunks, instead? And is his/her/its ability to share this power with things he/she/it touches somehow related to her/is nature as a projection, or is that separate? Finally, what pronoun do I use to describe the Siberian projection? Pronouns are really getting on my nerves for some reason…
    Skitter–Have I mentioned how amusing I find her character page description, and is there a better place for me to mention this?
    Weld–What happens if he comes in contact with metalloids or something?

    Sorry for the wall of text, there were a lot more of these than I thought there would be.

    • Aegis: Massive physical trauma to the point that he couldn’t repair or continue to function.

      Alexandria: Alexandria’s only vulnerable point was that her brain needed air to continue to function. Her brain died before they could get the bugs out, but her body’s still in perfect condition-Pretender’s just slotting himself in in place of gray matter.

      Behemoth: Simurgh and Leviathan are noted as using guerilla tactics. Presumably, they fled as soon as Scion got close. Also, Behemoth went down after a massive fight and he only had one functioning limb when Scion showed up. It’d probably take longer to kill an actually combat-ready Endbringer.

      Blasto: Blasto, from the Ancient Greek βλαστός, “a germ, bud, sprout, shoot.”

      Chevalier: basically.

      Crawler: Lots and lots of being hurt, presumably. The acid’s probably an adaptation like the nanothorns, and his power seems to remake his body with a general plan. It’s mentioned that he tore himself in two to escape Clockblocker’s trap.

      Dinah: It sucks to be Dinah. This has been established extensively.

      Dragon: Skitter’s speculation was the closest we got to her power.

      Heartbreaker/Imp: Cherish, who basically had Heartbreaker’s power with range, could demonstrably sense Imp. It’s not inconceivable that Heartbreaker’s massive brood or he himself could sense her, and if he perceived her he could probably have pulled a mindwhammy that would have permanently altered her emotional state. So it’s fairly cool that she was able to avoid all that.

      Grue: It’s his mask. Skull thingy inside of motorcycle helmet.

      Sorry for not continuing, but the list is too long and I’ve lost motivation to continue.

    • Most of this would be answered by a careful re-read of the archives, or a use of Google like this (try using it as a Google search):
      Othala site:parahumans.wordpress.com

      However, I will take a stab at this. Subject to the limitations of my memory or the limitations of a quick search.

      Aegis–Off screen as I remember.
      Alexandria/Pretender–Alexandria suffered major brain damage due to asphyxiation, but her body apparently still counts as “alive” enough to possess.
      Bakuda–Yes, weird mish-mash of abilities there. Apparently, as long as it can be considered a bomb, she can do it.
      Behemoth–Working theory was that Lisette cancelled the kill order, but then we found out she hadn’t talked to him. Unknown.
      Blasto–Reread his interlude. “Takes his name from the Latin prefix, meaning germ or seed.”
      Chevalier–Basically, he mixes the physics of objects to his liking, as long as there are some similarities between the objects. So his sword is a mashup of three weapons: it looks like one, weighs like another (light, to him), and hits and fires cannonballs like a multi-ton cannon. His armor is the same – weighs like aluminum, looks great, but has the durability of an oversized set made out of high-grade steel.
      Clockblocker–Unknown. He has only ever frozen continuous, solid objects that we have seen.
      Crawler–Based on the clones, Crawler’s “final” form is monstrous and acid spit appeared in every variant. Exact details depend on what the individual Crawlers have encountered, as they adapt to become immune/resistant to any effect that injured them before.
      Dinah–She chooses what questions she passes to her power. She has refused questions before.
      Dragon–All evidence points to Tinker powers.
      Grue–Physical mask designed to look impressive when his darkness flows out from under it.
      Heartbreaker/Imp–Why wouldn’t it be impressive that Imp and team could take down a long-standing group of some of the strongest Master class parahumans on the planet? Slip-ups end up with you being a slave to an extraordinarily powerful psychotic (ask Shatterbird for a description of how that feels).
      Jack Slash–Unknown.
      Narwhal–There is no evidence that she can create forcefields inside someone, so technically she is subject to the Manton effect, but unlike most forcefields, she can move or reshape hers with great force, so she can turn them into knives, scissers, chisels, vices, etc.
      Night–Don’t fully know, but apparently her full monster form cannot be seen. A body suit would reveal the monster form. Bugs don’t see the full form, they just feel parts of it.
      Othala–Limits unknown. Stated powers are regeneration, super strength, super speed, invulnerability, and pyrokinesis.
      Siberian–Has always been described as female, almost certainly due to appearance. Her granted powers seem to be an extension of her form – remember she isn’t biological at all, but is just a power projection. As far as how she interacts with material objects, possible explanations include differences in materials, different ways her power transfers force to objects, and author’s license to describe it as he sees fit.
      Weld–The only thing we have seen stick to him are true metals.

      • General–I’ve been trying to stick to ones that haven’t been covered in-story, or that don’t make sense to me.
        Chevalier–Maybe I’m just overthinking this, but his power falls into the latter of the aforementioned categories. A lot. Most notably: He holds his sword like it’s as light as the really light one, but it hits like it’s as heavy as the huge one. Huh? What would happen if you put it on a scale?
        Dinah–When she was being asked…something about the end of the world by Tagg, she said she would charge them just for asking, because she had to find the answer. Or something like that.
        Siberian–The problem is that the projection looks female (she?), but isn’t alive (it?) and is created by Manton (he?). Do we go by the appearance, the reality, or do we stick with the gender of the creator since that’s where the powers come from and whatnot?

        • Alexandria isn’t dead, she’s just BRAIN dead. Her heart is still going, she just damaged her brain due to lack of oxygen.

          • 1. Brain dead is clinically dead.
            2. Where did the heart get the oxygen? Or, for that matter, the entire rest of the body?

            • Hmm sorry for using the wrong term. I’m not a doctor or a biologist so I don’t really know how it works, but I believe that the scene with Satyr and Pretender in the interlude after Behemoth’s death, explains it nicely.

              • I’m mostly trying to figure out how Alexandria died but there was still enough for Pretender to take over.

              • What AMR said. Alexandria was deprived of oxygen for so long that she suffered brain death.

                Her body might have been kept breathing by machines, but given that her power included her body not changing over time, it’s entirely possible that she’d just been left lying on a slab in the morgue not decomposing.

                Either way, Pretender’s ability appears to be to hijack bodies rather than minds. This could be anything from “hijack nervous systems” to “telekinesis: bodies” but clearly his meat puppet doesn’t have to be alive for it to work…

        • Regarding Chevalier, I believe the point is that he’s holding a giant super-sharp, super-durable sword and waving it around as if it’s a baton. It doesn’t matter if it’s lighter than it looks, if he hits you with it, it’s going to hurt.

          For Siberian, I go with “it”. I used she before but the appearance of male projections that look like Manton himself, made me decide to ignore the actual gender. So, Siberian it, Manton he.

          • Again, I ovethink things. If I was writing a superhero story, I wouldn’t make a power like Chevalier’s because I can’t really wrap my head around what it does. If Chevalier had to choose a constant mass for the sword, great. If he had to choose one edge, with the fragility offered by the sharpness, great. But the inherent contradictions…I just don’t quite get it.

            Siberian as “it” works, as long as it’s what everyone understands.

            • I must admit that I’m also a bit confused by Chevalier’s power, but this is how I see it.

              He has three swords: a huge slab of metal, a very ornate, really sharp sword, and a sword made of titanium (I believe or was it aluminum?) that’s very light. So he takes the lightness of the third sword and smacks it on top of the very big, resilient sword. He now has what’ essentially a very long, very light, iron club. Then he takes the shape and sharpness of the second sword and smacks it on top of the very long, very light iron club. He now has a very nice looking, very sharp, very long, very resilient, very light iron sword. That shoots bullets.

              • A couple of things.
                1: Sharp edges degrade faster. Even an iron edge is going to dull. Obviously, the big slab wouldn’t be dulled (because there’s nothing to dull), but the ceramic sword would break, and a giant iron sword would in fact get dull. So what happens to the big sword? And what happens when the sword is separated?
                2: The sword still hits like it’s a multi-ton thing. And who knows what a scale would say if you put it on one?

              • As you’ve probably noticed, a number of the powers in Worm go “Bwahaha! Silly known laws of physics, I mock you!”. Properties like mass, weight, density, sharpness and fragility are, of course, interrelated. Chevalier’s power is explicitly to sever those relationships between properties and shift them about.

                As to how that’s even vaguely possible? Beats me. The closest I can come is that Chevalier’s shard searches a near-infinite number of parallel universes for one whose laws of physics match what Chevalier wants, then encompasses his sword (or whatever) in a field that makes it subject to the physical laws of that universe rather than those of Earth Bet.

    • Aegis was expressly stated by Clockblocker to have been crushed to a pulp. That’s something you can’t just shrug off with a “redundant physiology”.

      Narwhal had a second trigger event, I believe, and got the ability to cut through people with her forcefields.

      Crawler evolves to heal what can beat him. Maybe he once bit someone with invulnerable skin and when his teeth were broken they grew back with acid glands so they could get through the skin. Or something.

      Night’s power is entirely psychological. If she KNOWS that someone is seeing her then she doesn’t transform. Hence why insects are no problem. Presumably she also arbitrarily decides what it means to not be seen.

      • Night–Ah, yes, the “Arbitrary”. Doubtless I wouldn’t have half so many questions if I was willing to accept that.
        And I seem to recall Night being surprised about being watched at one point.

        • Wait, that came out wrong.

          I overthink things as a habit, and arbitrariness clashes with that.It’s as simple as that.

        • The shards match up with people based on their genetic makeup + a variety of other factors, mentioned in the Bonesaw interlude when she “reverts” to Riley. We know from Scion’s interlude and Bonesaw’s chatter during her vivisection of Taylor that the passengers (i.e. the shards) each have extremely broad abilities. These abilities are scaled down based on two factors:

          1) Psychology of the parahuman
          2) Neutering to prevent damage to the larger entity

          In addition, a kind of stranger protocol is added to prevent a memory of the trigger event. We know from Miss Militia’s interlude and from what we’ve seen of trigger events that *this protocol is imperfect.* MIss Militia had a memory of her trigger event, and dreams of it, but can’t understand it. Jack Slash had a perfect enough memory of his trigger event that he could persuade Scion to go rogue. This was helped along by the fact that Scion has no will of his own.

          Let’s take Jack’s power as an example. He received the “broadcasting” shard. He could have theoretically gained the power to extend punches, or sever atomic bonds, or something related to communication…whatever. But, because he was already batshit crazy, his power manifested in *extension of sharp edges.* He used knives, but anything that his brain categorizes as having a “sharp edge” (which for him could have been “sharp enough to draw blood,” because of his particular psychological damage) would probably work. This is probably why he kept his mustache sharp. In a pinch, he may have been able to use it as a knife.

          Jack’s power, we now know, also meant he could serve as something of an antenna for shards. In practice, this meant that he could preternaturally anticipate and counter the moves of other parahumans–but *not* people like the D.T. soldier. Mind you, he might have had more success against the D.T. soldier if Dragon hadn’t been incapacitated. We know this from Dinah’s prediction.

          Night’s power is an arbitrary psychological block reflective of *her ideas* about what it means to be seen and not seen, just like Jack’s cutting power is an arbitrary block related to the broadcasting shard in some way. Ditto for the move anticipation/countering.

          We know that Coil found Dinah because she reported crippling headaches in school–something he suspected might be a Thinker ability. It’s possible, indeed likely, that she was being forced to use her power endlessly in the course of the school day, e.g., “Dinah, can you close the door?” “Dinah, are you going to get up or just stay in bed all day?” and so on. She was able to answer ~6 questions max in Coil’s employ. By the time she’s helping Theo, the number is up to around 50. So, there’s probably a good bit of trial by fire involved, particularly because she spent time operating as a rogue.

          Presumably, Pretender can remote control people via his power. The life/death thing might be a psychological description, and he thinks of “dead” as “decay into equilibrium” rather than “clinically dead.”

          Skitter’s administration shard, as another example, could have theoretically allowed her to control rats (as with Scurry), birds (as with Aidan), or all life on earth (without restriction). But, because of the circumstances of her trigger event, she defaulted to “creepy crawlies with simple brains.” Hence the seeming randomness of what she can control.

          • That…makes some sense.

            Now we just need to worry about the powers that make no physical sense, cough Chevalier cough.

      • Re: Night
        If she is knocked unconscious her power still works, so it isn’t about her knowing whether or not she is watched.

    • General:
      Aegis–His description and my memories of him made him seem tougher.
      Blasto–Yes, I know that. My question is more one of “Was that really the best name he could come up with?”
      Crawler–I know he regenerated into it I just don’t know why.
      I think I can cover the other stuff by replying to each individually.

      • Aegis was tough. The problem is that he was tough in a “Good thing you can heal” way, not invulnerable. He needed to have an organ that could take over for the ones that were damaged. Leviathan just pulped every organ, so there was nothing to take over.

        Can you think of a better name than Blasto?

        Chevalier is interesting. We now know passengers are parts of the greater entity. They serve specific functions. Jack’s for example had nothing to do with cutting or offense. Chevy also has perception abilities. He can sort of see other peoples passengers, or trigger events. And he can also mess with spacetime to combine his swords and armors. Maybe he got some sort of storage power or something?

        • I had imagined his healing (or, rather, his changing-to-not-die) was a bit stronger. And that Leviathan had just tail-whipped him, not stepped on him or something.

          Sprout, Gemini, Gardener, Genesis (I think he came before the Travellers), Father, Maker, Vive, etc etc. It all depends on what he wants from the name; there’s better ones for everything except “Confuse people who don’t think of Latin for growth before English for blasting”.

          My big issue with how Chevalier’s power works is when the sword (or whatever) he makes has contradictory qualities. That, and wondering what happens when the big sword dulls.

      • Blasto’s tinker specialty was cloning, not coming up with good names.

        (Though, really, “Morrigan” was pretty good.)

  34. Brainstorming possible Scion counters:

    1. Bait Scion into flying within Cherish/Butcher’s range (or move Cherish/Butcher if you can do it remotely or find someone immune to her). If his body is truly modeled after humanity she may be able to affect him. Normally I wouldn’t wish crushing despair on anyone, but in this case …

    2. It appears that the reason so many Cauldron parahumans become warped or damaged is that both the blocks and safeties that Scion put into his shards are missing from some of the shards that Cauldron uses. This is inferred from the power spectrum (Cauldron has some of the highest power parahumans out there) and the prevalence of side affects. Doormaker and the brain-burned clairvoyant are examples of both extreme power and lack of safeties – both got mind-wiped by their transformation. If that is true, then a collection of Cauldron parahumans plus others together may be able to match the power and abilities of Scion. Doormaker for transportation, the brain-dead clairvoyant for senses, administration by Taylor, harassment by Legend/Eidolon/Alexandria (Pretender), strategy by ??? (maybe Riley can bring back Accord), tactics by Contessa (even if she can’t foresee Scion, she may be able to foresee how not to get killed, or perhaps provide the precog-vs.-precog counter), etc.

    3. As part of the set above, Citrine has proven she can at least partially block Endbringer-level powers. While it is now clear that Scion is even more powerful than that, she is one of the only likely partial defenses against his abilities.

    4. Tattletale thought Grue could block Scion’s senses.

    5. Foil may be able to hurt Scion, or at least force him to expend energy to avoid her. How she would survive his counteroffensive is unclear.

    6. Crawler adapts to be immune or resistant to any power used against him. Throw him in an area that Scion is attacking, and, if he survives, he should be resistant the next time. Do this several times with all of the remaining Crawlers and you may get someone that can be used as a reusable meat shield while others attack.

    7. Defiant has managed to mimic Clockblocker’s powers. Perhaps he should study Foil’s. That would make the loss of Foil less devastating. On the other hand, if it was Dragon that figured out how to mimic Clockblocker’s powers, this idea is SOL.

    8. Scion’s reaction to Taylor showed that he has more interest in his own shards. Perhaps if he kills a few of them he will rethink his experimental destructive rampage. Unfortunately, no-one can suggest this up front, but it is likely to happen as fights progress.

    9. It seems likely that Scion can counter Clockblocker’s powers, but putting frozen time around him might shut off some of his senses while other things happen.

    10. Figure out a way to get the Endbringers to attack Scion. Who the livid hell is the Endbringer’s Master or creator anyway?

    11. Bakuda had some really interesting effects that were not readily containable by parahuman powers. Now, will Glaistig Uaine (who took Bakuda’s power) play ball, or will she consider Scion her Faerie king and not move against him?

    Help me out folks, what else?

    • His main body is not on this earth. So none of that are much use.

      You need a Cauldron cape to find the world he’s hiding on and fight him there with Foil.

      • I read that its body was spread out over a number of realities.

        And it’s probably not a normal body like we think of, so if’s possible that shooting Scion’s true form would do about as much as…um…I’ll go with the inexact metaphor then, tickling a human.

    • 1. Even assuming that he lacked some kind of power immunity and could kill himself, that requires getting Scion to a very specific location. Impractical.
      2. I dunno. Scion is still going to outgun them. Maybe if they administered the high-powered formulae to the refugees/citizens on Earth Gimbel, and searched for the useful powers.
      3. Yes, that seems probable.
      4. And possibly drain his powers. Trumps are awesome.
      5. Maybe Foil could work with Citrine? Although I’m not sure how much internal structure Scion has to destroy.
      6. Hopefully all the Crawlers (and other growing Nine which Bonesaw treated to have Crawler-level resistance) will be grown-up, ready, willing, and not already disposed of. And hopefully Scion won’t have some power along the lines of that Bakuda bomb that stopped Crawler. So, not likely. Besides, Crawler would only be able to slow Scion.
      7. Indeed. Hopefully it was Defiant who blurred the line between Tinker and Trump. *crosses fingers*
      8. Maybe. I wouldn’t bet on it, even for much much lower stakes.
      9. Hopefully.
      10. Sure, I’m sure that you can find their phone numbers if you find Nilbog’s cell phone. Oh wait, Nilbog didn’t have one! And neither do the Endbringers.
      And I think the third Entity was the creator.
      11. If Glaistig works with the Allies (moderately likely), and if she can make something that can harm Scion (unlikely), great.

    • 1. I suppose technically Scion as the next Butcher couldn’t make things worse, but…

      2-5. Even in combination, the world’s greatest capes don’t come close to rivalling Scion, and they’re a lot more fragile. It’s very unlikely this problem will be solved with firepower.

      6. Even assuming Crawler doesn’t have the safeguards against harming Scion, his big weakness is he has to *survive* an attack to adapt to it. His powers don’t work against instant obliteration. It would be interesting to see what would happen if you could somehow get Scion to blow up half of him, though. And you have me belatedly realising that sicing Lung and Crawler on each other would have some pretty scary results…

      10. has some viability if the Endbringers can be convinced to stop playing ‘fair’. Anyone’s guess whether the end result would be an improvement…

      11. Good point. And as a Tinker, her stuff is only indirectly the result of her Shard, so it might be immune to the block against harming Scion.

      Of course, killing Scion here doesn’t necessarily stop the entity from forming a *new* tendril in our world, which brings us to…

      Option 12: The vast bulk of Earth Bet’s problems are caused by either interdimensional entities or individuals with powers of an interdimensional nature (which is essentially all of them). Find a way to strengthen the walls between dimensions. Cut Scion off from his power. Leave the entity sitting on its own world with nowhere to go. Easier said than done of course, but…

  35. Woo! Back when everyone was shipping Sveta I *said* she belonged with Weld. 😀 They may or may not actually be a couple, but clearly they’re very close, so yay! \o/

  36. Well Defiant showed far more restraint than I would’ve in his situation. Kudos to the man. Honestly I would’ve killed Saint as soon as I saw him and damn the consequences. That was a very effective tact though telling him just how badly he fucked up. Can’t wait for Tattletale to get a piece of the asshole.

    So happy to see D.T. Guy got a promotion!

    So Dinah essentially joined up with Faultine eh? Cool. She needs a code name though. Lady Badass, while appropriate is not necessarily the best name for a hero.

    Bonesaw gets her own corner…um…oooookaaaayyyy…

    Okay so minor passing world building detail but Earth Bet has 8 different card suits?! Cool! I’d love to play Hearts with a sword, wand, coin and cup deck!

    AWWWWWWW!! Garrote is better! She has friends! And a team! AWWWWWW!!! Finally we get at least one ray of sunshine! That is a super ingenious method of helping her with her problems too, having Weld literally holding down her arms.

    Ooooh Ash Beast sounds interesting! I hope we get to see him! Also I’d like to point out how we have already crossed the Godzilla Threshold if they mention the blasphemies on the same level as Sleeper, S9 and Echidna and yet two of those groups are sitting at the discussion table.

    Hmm and there is the difference between Weaver and Saint and why I can now feel perfectly fine liking a woman who murdered a toddler. She regrets. He doesn’t.

    Maybe I’m just twisted a bit too but honestly I don’t really fault Cauldron nearly as much as most of the people in the room were. Are they bastards? Sure. But they also are going against the end of the world with two people who together can work around 99% of the obstacles in the way to figure out the best path. I don’t like their methods but if it leads to saving the entirety of humanity across multiple dimensions I can’t be too angry at them. It’s nice that they are finally starting to actually talk to people and share info now.

    Okay well granted Scion reversing his good deeds sucks but it’s a hell of a lot better than wanton destruction on a global scale. Now I have this funny image of him eventually simply picking up a thousand kittens and putting them into trees…

    Oh good, SOMEONE listened to Glastig. That’s good.

    Okay so it’s refreshing to see that Tattletale has the ability to annoy even Doctor Mother. Honestly throw her to talk to Scion. Given ten minutes he’ll probably throw up his hands and leave the planet just so he get her to stop talking lol!

    Haha I love Taylor’s reaction to Tattle’s deconstruction. Freaking hilarious.

    And about Tattle’s deconstruction of Bonesaw/Riley…*slow clap*. Absolutely totally awesome. That right there is the reason why the girl is consistently feared as the worst of the Undersiders after Imp/Weaver. Grue is intimidating, Rachel is intimidating, Regent was worrisome, Imp is fucking scary, Skitter is just wrong, but Tattle sees your deepest darkest secrets and utterly destroys who and what you are without lifting even a single finger. She is the monster under the bed personified. It may not ever do any harm and it may not even be there at all but you will quake in fear of it all the same.

    Go Defiant! Way to fuck Saint over! Nice to see that he is still harboring the “I will kill you” agenda. Tis only a matter of time before we get our sweet sweet reward.

    Oh man, why are we freeing Shadow Stalker? Can’t we just kill her? Please? Emma’s already bit the big one!

  37. Why the second being died.i think this is the most important question,they could lead scion toward the path of revenge.

  38. One of the most recent comments on the previous chapter described a feeling of disappointment that the story came to this point, a sense that so little of what came before matters in the face of this level of devastation and this terrifying an enemy.
    I think this chapter does an excellent job of dispelling those feelings. The end times are upon us, sure. Lots of things that were at stake in previous arcs have been wiped out in the opening salvo, yes. But the fight that starts now is going to be fought by people, and people are shaped by their experiences. Who those people are and what they’ve experienced up until now are maybe the most important factors in what happens next.

    You could cut everything that happened up until Interlude 26.x or so, and make Arcs 27-30 into a standalone story about superheroes and villains at the end of the world. You’d have to insert a lot of material to explain who everyone is, the outlines of their backstories, and specific events where necessary, but it would be doable. But it would be a much weaker story, because it would lack its foundations- you’d be telling the reader who everyone is and what they’re likely to do instead of showing them.

  39. Just free Teacher by placing him on a empty earth with Saint and then shut the door. He would be free, but so much more caged than before.

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