Extinction 27.5

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“Run!” I screamed the word.  I took my own advice.

The golden light around Scion had solidified, forming a sphere.  The light dropped.

Others were already scrambling to get away, but there wasn’t a place to go.  No portals, no place to run.  The speed and size of the orb made one thing clear.  The people in the center wouldn’t be able to move fast enough to make their exit.

I’d been standing in the direct center, to better observe those on the other sides of the portals.  I was one of those people.

I’d spent years running on schedule, interrupted only by injuries here and there, more hectic weeks and a spell in prison.  Years of pushing my limits, pushing myself to move faster, strengthen my legs, build my stamina.  I used it all, pushed myself as hard as I ever had.  The wings on my flight pack extended, and I used the thrusters to give myself some additional speed.

Lab Rat, who had apparently realized the futility of trying to move, wasn’t running at all, but was rearing back, a device the size of a baseball in his hand.  He threw it, aiming to put it over the water.

Not enough.  Lab Rat wasn’t one of those prisoners who’d packed on muscle in prison.  The ball fell short, then started rolling slightly back towards him.

He swore in a language I didn’t know, started to run towards the object.  Too slow.  If he wasn’t going to make it over the edge and get to safety, he wasn’t going to reach the object.

My bugs hit the object as a mass, rolling it.  It tipped over the edge.  Lab Rat stopped.

The bugs around him caught one word.  “Angel.”

Lustrum used her power.  It was like walking into a wall, but it wasn’t physical.  My brain went blank for an instant, the heat and energy in my body seemed to disappear like someone had flicked a switch.  My power, too, faded, the range zooming to a point close to me, my control momentarily going haywire.  An instant later, it was back.  I staggered, compensated with the antigravity, managed to not fall too far behind.

The sphere above us shrunk a fraction.  Maybe.  Hard to make out, considering the size of it, and the speed with which it fell.  Lustrum, for her part, grew.

I didn’t get to see how big she grew.  The orb made contact with the platform, shearing through everything it touched.  My bugs died as the orb touched them, and I could sense the devastation spread as more and more of it came in contact with the structure.

The outermost edges of the orb were still directly overhead, plunging towards me, towards us.

I stepped off the rig, pushing myself off, letting myself fall as I continued moving out, moving away.  Falling was good, because it put me further away from the orb.  I’d sooner hit the water than let that thing touch me.

Bugs that couldn’t fall as well as I could died as the orb made contact.  Bugs that were close to me.  Bugs to my left and right, bugs beneath me.

I felt a momentary disconnect between what I was seeing and what I was feeling.  I felt like I was plunging into the water, everything going numb, pain, my thoughts fragmenting.  Yet I was still fifty or so feet above the water’s surface, my view shifting as I veered to one side, despite my instructions to the flight pack.

Lustrum?  No.

I felt increasingly disoriented with every heartbeat.  Couldn’t fly.  Spiraling.




I tried to take in breath.  Couldn’t.  I felt pain instead.  Right ribs, back, stomach, left buttock, left thigh.

I was falling.  I spread my arms out, trying to slow the descent, failed.

Right hand gone.  Blood, fragments of golden light eating away at stump, making the bleeding worse.

Falling faster, spiraling more.  Thoughts weren’t flowing.  I jerked to one side with wind catching wing, spinning abruptly, felt something wrench, pulling from the center of my body.

Fragment of a memory: Legend speaking.  Talking about Leviathan.  Hit water moving fast enough, worse than hitting concrete.

Had to slow my fall.  Most important thing.

There were bugs on me.  I moved them, to get a sense of where I was.  Compare to surroundings.

One wing on pack.

No legs.  Half of stomach left.

The pulling feeling was organs sliding out of body.

Thoughts blurring.

Help, passenger.  A plea, an order.

Move arms of flight pack that aren’t broken.  Brace against injury.

Wing retracting, propulsion canceled.

Focus on bugs, on antigravity.

Time activation to break spin.  Left, right, match to speed.

Disorientation getting worse.  Two, three seconds where I can’t remember where I am.

Focus on bugs.  Only bugs.

Flight pack pulsing.  Rely on intuition.  Starting to feel more pain.  Burning sensations.  Pulling in middle of body.  I start timing flight pack to heartbeat, waves of pain, instead of where I am, direction I’m facing.

Focus.  Focus.

Fix position, facing sky, see Scion hovering.  Great smoky shimmering figure stands on water, holding ten or twelve people against arm, tall as oil rig was.

Oil rig collapsing.  Only two legs remain, slumping into water.


Facing sky.  What was I doing?

Flight pack.

Gravity, push against direction of fall, slow my descent.

Not enough.  Falling too fast.  Need to slow fall just a bit more.

I extended the wing.  Propulsion.

Started spinning again, feel wrenching get worse, spreading through entire upper body.

Hit water while spinning.

No breath left in lungs for impact to take.  Wing breaks, flopping over and over across water’s surface.


Sinking.  Use antigrav to try and stay afloat, but system isn’t meant to be used underwater.  Can’t float because no air in lungs.  Slowly sinking.

I opened my mouth to draw in a breath, had to struggle to manage it, felt intense pain, a crushing in one side.

But I managed to get some air.

Small bubbles spilled out of my side, from beneath the water.

The water around me was murky with blood.

No chance I’d live like this.  Nobody nearby.  Scion was attacking the giant, cutting her to pieces.  Capes she was holding fell.

The rig was collapsing, two pillars slowly falling in opposite directions, one left, one right.  The platform itself was twisting, splitting apart.

So was I.  Half of me gone, the remains slowly leaking out into the water around me.  Blood, fluids, intestine.

I didn’t want to die.  Not like this.

Not at all.

I thought about my tools, as if there was an answer there.  My pepper spray?

Delirious, I almost thought about using it on my wounded lower body, some broken connection between burning sensation and burning and cauterizing.

My taser was gone, obliterated by the damage to my side.

My gun?

I couldn’t manage a laugh, but I would have if I could have.  Thoughts of amusement crossed my mind.  Shooting myself would be one answer, but it wasn’t one I wanted to make.

I wasn’t ready to die.  Even hovering over Gimel’s version of Brockton Bay, I’d tested the limits, stayed out too long.

But now, like this, I knew I wouldn’t have let it happen.  I would have fought to swim back, would have called or signaled for help, pride be damned.

Damn it all, I wanted to fight.

Ironic, that I’d be so idiotic when the fight had been taken out of me, but I’d feel so compelled to fight when there was little option besides making peace with the end.

I managed a little breath.

Just let yourself sink.  Tell the antigravity to cut out, take in one mouthful of water.  That’d be the end of it.

I couldn’t.  I didn’t.

But the pain was getting twice as bad with every heartbeat.

Wristband.  Dark.

I didn’t have a right hand to press the button with anyways.

Lab Rat’s device?

I thought about it, and in that same thought, I recognized a sensation that had been drowned out by the pain.  A repeated pressure.  A poke, a pause, another poke.

I raised my arm over the water, shifted my orientation with a use of one of the antigrav panels, and I briefly heard a beeping in the moment the device was raised above the water level.

A part of the platform fell.  The resulting waves rolled towards me.

I didn’t have it in me to hold my breath, so I closed my mouth, prayed water wouldn’t flow up my nose.

I was drowned, swamped by the water, rolled.  I felt a dull, indistinct pain in a place that felt disconnected from my real body, something tearing.  The body parts that were spooling out in the water beneath around around me.

I found the surface again.

My lungs were burning for air as I opened my mouth to try and draw air into my lungs.  My lung, considering the other might have collapsed.

Everything seemed to be moving in slow motion, my thoughts simultaneously chaotic and focused.  I had nothing left but adrenaline.

Water flowed into my mouth.  I shut it, moved my tongue to help force that same water out between my lips.  Needed to get higher.

Everything was going dark.

The prodding in my arm continued.

Lab Rat’s device.  Whatever it was trying to do, my costume was getting in the way.

I couldn’t reach up to move it because I was missing a hand, couldn’t twist my left hand to move it, because of the limitations of my body.  The attempt at even moving my left arm made me acutely aware of the damage to my hand.  I might have fractured or broken it as I hit the water.

I took in a small breath, forced myself to take in another.  I could hear the wheeze of my lungs and throat straining to work.

And then I used the flight pack to rotate myself, turning myself so my face was in the water.

I floated there, arms extended out to either side, rocking as the waves continued to shift me.

My bugs descended from the air above, landing on me.

The strap that attached the device to my arm wasn’t spider silk.  Cockroaches began to chew it.

My lungs burned.  Every moment, even the smallest movement, it redoubled the pain.

I’ve dealt with worse, I told myself.

I couldn’t quite believe that, couldn’t think back to that, compare, and convince myself.

The water rolled over me.  My cockroaches were washed away.

Again.  More.  Hornets, more cockroaches.

They hovered for the ten or twelve seconds it took me to raise my arm up above the water again.  I let bubbles of air leak out between my lips, as if I could convince my brain that I was breathing, convince my body to hold on just a bit longer, forestall that involuntary gasp.

The device came free.  Strands of silk helped to hold it as the swarm descended, hurried to carry it.

Shoulder.  Back.

Nape of the neck.

Over the hill that was my hood.

They reached the point where my mask stopped, my hairline began.

Vanity.  I’d held on to my long hair, wore a costume that let my hair free.

When I’d been filled with self loathing, when I was so focused on the individual imperfections and the overall ugliness of my features, in the midst of the bullying campaign that had defined my early teen years, I’d still liked my hair.

The skin was exposed there.  No costume to get in the way.

Please be healing, I thought, lowering the device until it was against my back.

Pause… and then a prod.

A needle, piercing the skin.

A pressure, as something pumped into my body.

Heal me.

It wasn’t healing.

Flesh knit together, but it wasn’t healing.

The pain faded as quickly and dramatically as it had taken hold, but, still, I wasn’t healing.

Not exactly.

My thoughts became clearer.

Water churned where it came in contact with my blood.  Where my flesh closed together and trapped water inside me, the effect intensified.  It was soon the only pain I felt.

We’re eighty percent water, or whatever the number is, I thought.  Resources have to come from somewhere.

Water was seeping into my throat, despite my efforts to keep my mouth clamped shut.

I turned myself over.  I breathed, and it wasn’t as hard as it had been before.  My mouth opened, but it wasn’t just the lips parting, or the jaw moving up and down.  Things separated and stretched open on a horizontal plane as well.  The soaked cloth of my mask stretched.

My legs kicked, but they weren’t good legs for swimming.  I kept kicking anyways.  Something about the way they moved, they were designed so that the motions shifted my abdominal cavity, pumped it, forcing air in and out with the rhythmic activity.

I had to use my hands to paddle myself forward.  Well… one hand and one other limb.  The shape was still nebulous, the growth warring against the steady deterioration of the burning golden energy that still lingered here and there.  It blackened and flaked off, and a little headway was made.

The digit extended, broadened, flattened.

It wasn’t fully formed, but it served as a paddle.  I began inching myself closer to the platform.  Easy enough to manage, considering the steady movement of the water.  Things were flowing into some sort of narrow, tight whirlpool, where water was flowing into some hole in the ocean floor.

I shifted my arms in movements that were jerky, not quite muscular.  The motions were strong, but hard to control, to moderate.  It was fine.  I didn’t need control or moderation here.  I made my way towards one of the intact legs of the platform.  A circle of concrete, cracked by strain, with rebar visible in the cracks.

I pulled myself up, but the attempt was spastic, spasmodic.  I managed to haul myself up, moved a little too far, then fell.

Another attempt.  This time I focused on holding on, bringing my legs up.  One leg in one crevice, another leg into a crack, another set on a ledge where the concrete above wasn’t quite seated properly.

My right hand opened, and the motion was more like metal tearing than anything else, tissue parting violently and unwillingly, creating a gap that was as much wound as it was design.

The flesh joined together, forming ridges that faced one another.

I closed it, felt the ridges meet.  The flesh was still tender.  I left it alone.

My flight pack provided additional lift as I climbed.  It was overly heavy, the antigrav weak, but it gave me lift.  I found footholds, handholds for my one hand, and used the arms of my flight pack where I saw opportunities.

I found my stride, scaling the surface with increasing speed, until I was moving faster than I might have covered the same distance running.  My swarm climbed over the surface and provided a map of the places I could find footholds.

I tested my right hand.  The flesh wasn’t tender.  It was hard.  There were studs at regular intervals along either half, like teeth.  Very like teeth.

A claw.

I raised my claw over my head, then drew it down violently, driving it into a crack.

I was able to climb faster.  I reached the point where the concrete ended.  A shaft of four steel beams reinforced by criss-crossing beams set at diagonals loomed above me.

It was an even faster climb than the concrete.  My legs ended in points, and those same points slipped off of the metal beams, but I had seven limbs to work with.  Even if half of my limbs were reaching out for holds, I still had three or four solid points of contact I could maintain at any given point in time.

Rage bubbled inside me, but it wasn’t mine.  I’d experienced my own anger, I knew how it influenced my own body, how it was connected to my emotions.  This was something else.  Hormones kicking into overdrive, compelling my body to react.  Other parts of my body being designed angry, designed so they were primed for fight or flight, driving me to act and refuse to let me sit still.

Lab Rat’s stuff was geared towards turning people into weapons, making them take whatever forms he keyed into the formula and then act.  I knew it.  My awareness of what was going on wasn’t stopping it.  I was riding a tide of emotion, moving towards a fight where I couldn’t possibly do anything to stop Scion, putting myself in danger.

Had I chosen to, I could have turned away.

But I liked being emotional, liked coming out of my shell, acting.

Some of my finer moments had been when I was doing just that.

I reached the top of the pillar and paused.  I wasn’t out of breath, and my limbs weren’t really built in such a way that they got tired.  Still, I had a barrier overhead, now, and I didn’t trust my flight pack to hold my weight.  I glanced down, and the individual waves were too difficult to distinguish.  Here and there, there were flecks of white where they crested.

Water still trailed from gaps in the pack as I reached up, folded two tarsus -two ‘feet’- around a beam over my head, and then swung myself up, grabbing another beam with my claw.  I experimented, testing the security of my grip.  It looked like it could hold all of my weight.  I wouldn’t make it do so, but it was a good option.

Movement across the underside of the platform was swift enough.  It only required a different kind of thinking, an abstract sort of grasp of how I moved my legs, found leverage with only one opposable thumb.

A beam came loose as I tried to hang my weight off it, and I nearly fell.  I found leverage on one beam with my third leg, reached out with my hand to grab elsewhere.  Neither hold was secure, but I still managed to swing myself over and seize another beam, securing myself.

I reached the edge of the platform, looked up and over, to see the fighting underway.

Less fighting than systematic elimination.  The only ones who were truly holding their own were Legend, Glaistig Uaine, Pretender and Eidolon.  Even then, they were more focused on avoiding Scion’s attacks than dealing damage.  Here and there, Eidolon or Glaistig Uaine would try something.

The remains of the platform had stabilized.  Only a few remained on top.  Weld’s people, the Irregulars, made up the bulk of the group.

Sanguine was tending to two injured.  Not Irregulars, but not capes I recognized either.  The boy had hair and skin with a texture and color like clotted blood.  The injured had blood piled and crusted over their wounds, scabs bigger than my hand.  Or my claw.

Weld looked at me, and his eyebrows raised.

I opened my mouth to speak, and found I couldn’t.  My tongue was thinner, layered in something hard, and the sides of my mouth were odd.

I communicated through my swarm, instead.  What little of it remained, anyways.  Drones and buzzes and chirps.  “Lab Rat.  The boxes he gave us, they’re designed to trigger when we’re hurt, force a transformation.

“Might get a few more recruits,” Sanguine said, not looking up from the wounded.  He had hands extended to two different wounds on one individual, and was drawing blood into one hand and letting it snake out of the other, flowing into the wound.  Was he cleaning it?

“His transformations are temporary.  Buying time.  He cut me in half, and I’m not sure I’m going to be in one piece when this stops working.

But it worked?”  Weld asked.

I nodded.  The motion was jerky.

I reached up with my good hand, the movements twitchy, and felt my neck and shoulders.

The little muscle I had was gone, and the skin was taut over cords, like tendons, of varying sizes.  The muscle had been cannibalized to build flesh elsewhere, I gathered.

Weld frowned, then reached into the pouch at his belt.  He held another device.

After a pause, he pressed it against one of the wounded.

It beeped, then a light went on in the corner.

The cape convulsed, his back arching.

A moment later, transformations began, veins standing out along his arms and legs.

“Another one,” Weld said.  “Get me a spare.”

Sanguine handed him another.  Weld applied it.  Scales were manifesting around the most prominent veins on the first one by the time the second patient started reacting.

“Gully,” one of the other Irregulars said.  “If we can get to her-”

“We can’t,” Weld said, looking down towards the water, “But she’s wearing one.  I trust her to hold her own.”

Their discussion of how their teammate was doing made me think of others.  Grue.  He’d come back through the portal, and he’d been close to the edge of the platform, but that was no guarantee.

It was a hell of a drop to the water, and he didn’t have a flight pack.  Not quite something that Masamune had managed to mass produce.

Above us, Glaistig Uaine had created a spirit that was spreading across the sky like circuits on a circuitboard, extending itself across a plane.  Scion was blasting it, but it had reached the point where it was spreading as fast as he destroyed it.  Her other two spirits were working in concert, one duplicating the other, so it could create and lob projectiles that exploded in the air.  The detonations left patches of a strange, nebulous darkness in their wake.  They couldn’t move more than a short distance from their master, which limited their number, but they added up to twenty or thirty in all.

“It’s working,” Sanguine said.

It wasn’t.  I looked at him, confused.

His eyes were on the patients.  He’s talking about Lab Rat’s matchboxes.  I looked, and I saw how the scales were spreading.  They were breathing easier.

“Good,” Weld said.  “We need everyone we can get.”

It’s a temporary measure,” I spoke through my bugs, my mouth firmly closed.  “Moment this wears off, they might need emergency assistance.  Me too.

“Situation’s bad,” Weld said.  “Not sure we’re going to get any help, emergency or otherwise.”

The Triumvirate came.

“From miles away,” one of the other Irregulars said.  She had a head that was many times the size, a body that was disproportionately frail, to the point that I wondered how she could hold herself upright.  “They can’t open any gates here until Scion’s gone.”

We need to drive him away, then,” I said.  “Or hurt him.  Kill him.

The last two words slipped out, so to speak.  Fueled by my anger, my outrage.

No, not quite my own.  A programmed bloodlust, one that came with this body.

“That’s… not really doable,” Weld said.  “Pretty sure the scientist who knocked him through the stratosphere died.  Nobody else has really been able to knock him for a loop.”

The tendril-girl spoke, her voice harboring a soft Russian accent.  “We should go, Weld.  Run.  There’s nothing more we can do here.”

“There’s nowhere to run,” Weld said.  “Even if we swim-”

“We’re stronger than we think,” the tendril-girl answered, her voice soft.  “Isn’t that what you always say?  There’s a strength inside us and we just need to dig for it.  We came to help the wounded, with Sanguine and Matryoshka.  Let’s take the wounded and go.”

Weld hesitated.  I suspected I could understand why.

I want to help too,”  I said.  I twitched, as if my body was taking that sentence as permission to go.  “Murder that fucker.  But there’s only so much we can do.  Go.

He gave me a funny look.

I was put in charge of ordering people in the field.  Take it as an order from me.”

“I’m not your subordinate,” Weld said.  “And I’m not sure you’re in your right mind.  You keep talking in a strange voice.”

“Everything she says is in a strange voice,” Sanguine murmured.

A stranger voice,” Weld clarified.

Not in my right mind,” I said.  I stretched.

Not in my right body.

I shook my head a little.  “But this is the smart thing.  Retreat for now.  This was never supposed to be a prolonged fight.”

“No,” Weld said.  “I’ll stay.  I can help others.  I’m tough enough to walk away with most of my body gone.  I’ll search for others who need help.”

There was the mask again.  Even the case fifty-threes had them.  The emotional defenses, the guise.  He was hiding something, lying without speaking falsehoods.

Go,” I said.  There was an emotion in the sound there really shouldn’t have been.  Anger.  Irritation.  Insofar as I could even express that with a voice generated by my bugs.

He hesitated.

Scion erupted with golden light.  It wasn’t the sort of attack one dodged.  Instantaneous, hitting everything in every direction.

My skin began to blister, the golden light searing through it, appearing in the ridges between spots where flesh was simply being eaten away.

I scrambled for cover, moving back towards the underside of the platform.  As I leaped over the railing, I grabbed one of Sanguine’s patients with my claw.  My movement was reckless, too quick, unpracticed, and I nearly threw the cape I was holding over the edge.

I waited, hanging by my three legs, two flight-pack arms, and one hand, the cape dangling below me, gripped in my claw.

The light faded.  I checked, then climbed back over the edge.

Weld and his people had taken cover.  Sanguine was covering injuries with scabs, but the damage was bad.  The tendril girl’s tentacles were worn so thin they were barely there.

The cloud cover had been largely dissolved, bringing more light down onto the battlefield.  More to the point, Scion’s likely target had been affected as well.  The cape that had spread across the sky was falling apart.

Scion turned his attention towards Glaistig Uaine.

Eidolon appeared beside her, taking her in his arms, and then the pair of them disappeared just as quickly.  Legend opened fire with a series of lasers, while Alexandria ducked around to get behind the bastard.

The cape I was holding climbed over the railing.  I made my way under it, then sort of staggered in Weld’s direction, the tarsus segments of my legs sliding on the slanted, gritty surface.  The light had eaten through metal, eroded everything in sight.

Below us, the water had been affected, boiling.  Clouds of steam rose from the water’s surface.

My thoughts turned to the capes below us.  My friends, past allies.

Murderous instinct flared, and I restrained it.

We need to go,” the tendril girl said.  “We’re no use to anyone dead.”

“I can’t swim, Sveta, understand?” Weld’s voice was quiet.  “It’s not- I’ll stay behind.  We’ve got the case for you to hide inside.  Sanguine can carry you.  You should go.”

“We need you, Weld,” Sveta said.

Weld looked away.

“Another form,” Sanguine said.  “Something that floats.”

“I’m metal.”

“Metal boats float,” Sanguine said.

Weld frowned.

“What is it?” Sveta asked.

“I’m not sure it’ll work.”

“If it doesn’t,” Sanguine said, “walk.”

“On the ocean floor?”  Sveta asked.

“He doesn’t breathe.”

“It’s not that simple,” Weld said.  “I’m going to stay.  I have old teammates to look after.  You guys should leave.”

“Not without you,” Sveta said, her voice angry.

A golden light speared past us.  Striking the water.  Scion was cutting up the capes who’d fallen in and survived.

Glaistig Uaine appeared behind him.  Three spirits surrounded her.

One to levitate, grant the ability to float.  A telekinetic or power granter.

Another to duplicate capes.  Duplicating the telekinetic, in part.  But more focused on duplicating the third spirit Glaistig Uaine had made.

Gray Boys.

She’d gone through a phase, hunting down some of the scariest capes around, defeating them, claiming them.

This was one.

Scion was trapped in a time well, turning monochrome.

Without any apparent effort, he broke free of the effect, shattering it.

Only to be frozen again.

My swarm was agitated.

Agitated but futile.

Scion started moving in the direction of Glaistig Uaine and her creations, gliding through the air.  The effects went up as easily as they were torn down.

I wanted to help.  To stop him.  I was powerless.  A cockroach.

Glaistig Uaine wasn’t stopping him, but it seemed to have his attention.  He wasn’t using his power, either.  Was it because he couldn’t, or something else entirely?

Eidolon, Legend and Alexandria flew down to the water.  They rose with no less than twelve capes between them, Eidolon levitating several, and then disappeared towards the horizon.

Weld seemed to come to a decision.  “Okay.  If it’s what it takes to make you guys leave, I’ll go.  Make our way down.”

I shut my eyes, exhaled slowly.  The air moved in a funny way across my mouth-parts.

Here,” I said.

I reached for my belt.  It dangled, held in place by the silk cords that wound under and beneath my costume.  Some of it had been obliterated by the blast.  I used my bugs to start connecting the silk cords together.

Too thin, too short.

I reached behind my back, instead, past the small tube of pepper spray.  More silk there.  Some beneath the armor panel on my hand, others beneath my shoulders.

I plaited them together into a rope.

“Others go down first,” Weld said.  “Order of weight.  Let’s get you packaged up, Garotte.  If you aren’t climbing down, stay still.”

Stay still?

He began undoing the little clasps of metal that bound Garotte against his body.  She unfurled, reached out to railings, to edges of metal.

Where the tendrils surrounded the railing, a barrier that might have stopped a speeding car, the metal bent, crushed tight.

The tendrils continued to find their way to things to grip.  There were more of them than I’d thought.

One tendril seized my claw, faster than I could react.  Just as fast, it pulled back, found somethign else to hold.

She and Weld both stopped.

I watched as she closed her eyes, drew in a deep breath, and then exhaled.

Weld released her organs, hidden in a space in his broad back, and she was free of him.  She collected herself around the railing, her eyes closed, drawing in deep breaths and then exhaling slowly.  Slowly, the tendrils released, and she stretched out to her full length.

She looked like a fish underwater, a lionfish or jellyfish with dramatic, crazy fins or fronds.  Where they weren’t bound to her surroundings, the fronds fell in line with one another, moved with their own rhythm, a mind of their own, that searched the surroundings.

“Tight, Garotte,” Weld said, an order.  His eyes weren’t on her, but on Scion and Glaistig Uaine.

Garotte wound herself around the railing, weaving her tendrils into gaps of the platform itself, to seize infrastructure.  It was beautiful in a very different way, sinuous like a snake was, a face with everything condensed behind it, a mobile, flexible body.

Scion and Glaistig Uaine began fighting in earnest.  They weren’t more than a hundred feet apart.  Glaistig Uaine was drawing on spirits with a shorter range, now.

One with a fox-face that seemed to be granting three different kinds of enhanced movement, teleportation, super speed and flight.  The other two varied from moment to moment.  Some existed so briefly that Glaistig Uaine didn’t even try to keep them afloat in the air, images that lasted two or three seconds, employing their powers before they exceeded her natural range and dissipated.

Some came back, used powers in different variations.  The ones Scion destroyed, though, they didn’t recur.

Glaistig Uaine was running out, and running out fast.

Weld patiently helped Sveta bind herself to a single pole inside a half-sphere the size of a beachball.  When she was inside, he attached another half to the sphere and began screwing it shut.

Here and there, the smallest tendrils found their way out of airholes.  They gripped his hand.

“Be brave, Sveta,” Weld murmured.

“I just tell myself I need to act like you,” Sveta’s voice came from within the sphere.

Weld didn’t answer that.  He handed the sphere to Sanguine.  The red-skinned boy gave his leader a nod, then started sliding down the length of the cord.

The capes who had taken Lab Rat’s juice were among the largest.  They descended the rope I’d created.  Only a couple were left, now.

“Matryoshka, get the ones from inside,” Weld said.  “Think you can manage?”

A young case fifty-three with horizontal lines marking the length of her body nodded.  She began dissolving into ribbons as she made her way across the platform.

“You’re not coming, I suspect,” Weld said.  I realized he was speaking to me.

I shook my head, the motion jerky.

“If it’s about the injuries, the juice wearing off, we can support you, give you some healing.”

Not that.”

“There’s nothing you can do.  Nothing we can do.  Any of us.”

String Theory hurt him.

“String Theory died.  And she didn’t hurt him so much as shove him.  It’s like a three year old pushing a grown man.  Right time, right place, catching him off guard, nothing more.”

The metaphor was eerily similar to Shadow Stalker’s one about cockroaches.

I’m talking abstracts,” I spoke through my swarm.

I watched as a very androgynous figure left the building Matryoshka had entered.  She bore innumerable injuries, but stoicly limped her way to the rope, gripping it.  She glanced at Weld, then nodded.


We know it’s possible to shove him, maybe other stuff is possible too.  There’s hope.”

“So you want to do this again?” Weld asked.  “How many of your friends came?  What did you stake on this?”

I thought of Grue.  I didn’t know if he was okay, or if he was one of the capes who had been in the water.

One came,” I said.

“Is he okay?”


“I brought everyone, lost three for sure, one that’s a maybe,” Weld said.  “You don’t-  we can’t do this again.  He’s too strong.  Unstoppable.”

You wanted to stay,” I said, stressing the you as much as I was able, speaking through the bugs.

“No,” Weld said.  “I didn’t want to leave.  Different thing.”

I didn’t have a response to that.  Legend, Alexandria and Eidolon had returned.  Legend and Alexandria rescued more stranded capes, flying off, while Eidolon rose into the air, positioning himself so Scion was between him and Glaistig Uaine.

“Sveta idolizes me.  She sees me as a hero, a spokesperson for our kind.  Her therapist asked me to come visit, because she heard about what happened in the Echidna attack, what Cauldron was doing.  All of her progress, gone.  So her therapist wanted her hero to show up.  Give her guidance, support.  It worked.”

That’s a good thing, isn’t it?” I asked.  I saw Eidolon open fire, not a dramatic attack, but a subtle one, a series of darts that left dark streaks in the air.  My entire body tensed, as if I could jump into the fight.

Weld was shaking his head.  “She thinks I’m fearless, but I’m not.  I don’t have any hormones, any real heart that can pound, adrenaline to flow through my veins.  But I still feel fear, still feel despair.  I can’t jump into the water and sink to some point lower than mount Everest is tall, spending months or years without any goddamn music.  So I stay here and… I try to convince them to leave.  I’m a coward in the end, putting them at risk because I’m scared I’ll sink.”

They left,” I said.

“Because I lied.  I’m not going to follow them.  I’m staying.”

I nodded.

“Sweet fuck all we can do, you know.”

I know,” I responded.  “But nothing we can do except fight.

“I don’t know if I should pity you for that perspective or envy you.”

I shook my head.

Weld spoke, his voice grim.  “In terms of morale, there’s no fixing this.  We put our best foot forward, we failed.  I can’t speak for the others, but I can guess how they’re going to feel.  I think of myself as a brave guy.  I pulled off the hero bit, I lead by example.  But I don’t think there’s anything we can do but run.”

That’s all you’ll do from here on out?  Run?

He looked down at his hands.  “And get revenge.  I promised other people we would.”

That’s the opposite of what we need to be doing, Weld.  You have to know that.

He looked up at me with inhuman eyes that were framed by fine wire eyelashes.  His expression communicated so much, considering it was hard metal.

Give me a chance to prove otherwise,” I said.

“Prove-” he stopped mid-sentence.  “Prove what?”

I don’t know,” I said.

Then I moved, hopping up onto the top of the nearest structure, a small building that had stood on the edge of the platform.  My bugs stirred around me.

You took my dad from me, my hometown.  You took our hope, betrayed humanity.

I don’t do well with betrayal.

As I moved along the platform, I got a view of the last of the Irregulars making their way into the water.  Fallen debris was keeping them from being dragged into the narrow whirlpool beneath the structure.  They swam as a group, some using pieces of wood for flotation.

They just had to get far enough away from Scion for someone to open a door.

My swarm climbed the rope, taking it apart, for multiple strands.  They formed a single cord that was thin, but a quarter of a mile long.

Me, my passenger and my screwed up monster body were all in agreement.

I want to hurt him.

Want to prove this isn’t hopeless, that we can do something.

I don’t want to lose to another bully.  I’m done with surrendering to forces of nature, human nature or otherwise.

My swarm extended in his direction, carrying a strand.

I hurried across the length of the platform.  Who was still here?

What could I do?

Nobody of consequence on the upper level.

Down there?

Drawing out a cord of silk between me and the railing, I used my faulty flight pack to lower myself towards the water.

Silk wound itself around Scion’s eyes.  He didn’t pay it any mind.  His focus was on Glaistig Uaine.  Her spirit was the same one she’d used before, launching ineffective attacks that left blotches of darkness across the sky.

I found the capes on the water.  A Thanda, three birdcage capes.  The Thanda was using his power to fix them all in space, so they stood just a short distance above the water.  Two of them recoiled in fear as I lowered myself to their level.  The Thanda was calm, by contrast.

The wind blew the silk, threatening to pull it from my grip.  Scion was moving, and it could break at any instant.

I passed the silk to the Thanda.

He gave me a curious glance.

Then he froze it in space.

It fixed the thread’s location in space, froze Scion as well.  The golden man was rendered immobile.

Glaistig Uaine, Legend and Eidolon all struck him with everything they had.  Attacks too big or too slow to land otherwise.

I collected the remains of the silk before it could land in the water.

Not enough length to use the Thanda again.  I moved, relying on the flight pack.

It shorted out, and I used the sole remaining panel of antigravity to land on a shattered corner of the oil platform.  It was slowly sinking into the waves.

The swarm.  Not many bugs, but something.

I’d thought he was perceptive enough to see through the decoys, but he was the golden fool.  The Simurgh had deceived him before.

Maybe it wasn’t that he could draw the logical conclusion and know that there wasn’t a human inside.  Maybe he was too ready for breakers, for capes who didn’t follow the usual rules.

I created a swarm decoy, gathering all of the bugs from the surrounding area.  I couldn’t tap the resources beneath the water, but I could draw from the life that had gathered on the rig, the bugs that feasted on the algae that clustered around the legs of the structure.

The body approached, and Eidolon moved aside.  He moved as if it were a comrade joining the fight, as if he, Glaistig Uaine and the swarm-decoy effectively had Scion surrounded.

Idiotic, nonsensical.  Scion didn’t even react to the maneuver.

Glaistig Uaine attacked, and Scion retaliated.  Her spirit teleported her away.

Eidolon created mirror images of himself, illusions, and Scion lashed out.  Only one of the illusions remained.

It fizzled out.

Eidolon died?

No.  Eidolon struck out from the clouds above.  Scion seemed to anticipate it, sliding out of the way.

The tempo of the attacks and counterattacks continued.  Scion attacked Glaistig Uaine’s spirits, and still, the destroyed ones failed to return.

A pattern?

He was an alien combatant, a stranger from another world, who saw the world in an entirely different way from how we did.

But there was a pattern.

I divided the swarm decoy in two.

Divided each of those two into two more.

He’d stopped the spirit from spreading across the sky, and had made a concerted effort to eliminate Glaistig Uaine’s spirits.  He’d eliminated Eidolon’s illusions.

Whether the creations were concrete or otherwise, it was something that seemed to provoke him.

Was it something instinctive?  A part of his species?  Something he watched out for in enemies, in threats or competition?

Scion turned and blasted the swarm out of the sky.

The last of my bugs.

His hand turned my way, as he floated in my direction.

He knew who was controlling them.

It was a diversion, a crucial distraction.

Glaistig Uaine flew in close, creating another set of spirits.  Two to either side of her, one in the lead.

I recognized the one in the lead, distorted as it was.

Clockblocker’s spirit touched Scion, and the golden man froze.

She banished the ghost in an instant, recreated the one who had created the dark blotches in the sky.

The blotches began to move, gravitating towards Scion.

Concentrated in one spot.

She plotted this, planned out the extended attack.

I felt my hair stir, drifting towards that spot.

I’d seen something similar, once upon a time.  I backed away until I was able to grab something for a hold.

They all gathered into a single dot, and the effect intensified.

The effect around Scion broke, and he began drifting towards the dark point.

He resisted, and I could sense something from him.  Not alarm, but a reaction nonetheless.

From Glaistig Uaine and Eidolon’s body language, they saw it too.

He reached out, one hand stretched towards the center of the effect.

And Eidolon used a power, effectively detonating the effect, reversing it.

The G-driver had sent Scion flying into the atmosphere.  Eidolon had apparently taken a lesson from it, because he’d emulated the effect.  Here, Scion was plunged into the water.

Another hit, another inconvenience.  Something.

He was in the water.  He’d come back up.

We could do it again.  I just needed to form another decoy.

Except I’d used up every bug I had on this.

Not bugs, then.

I flexed the legs that Lab Rat’s serum had given me, then dove into the water.  I held my breath, making my way deeper.

It was negligible, but I wanted as many as I could get.

Simple lifeforms.  If there were none above the water’s surface, I’d use the ones below.  A glance above me showed one of the flying heroes above the water’s surface, watching.  Good.  We’d be able to coordinate an attack.

We were too far from the ocean floor for me to find crabs or lobsters, but there were others.

Krill.  Two inches in length, at best.  But they were alive, and I could move them.  I could use them.  Another swarm decoy, another combination attack.  Something that-

My claw twitched.

I closed it, then flinched.  The ‘teeth’ of the claw had bitten into soft flesh.  It hadn’t been soft before.

I kicked, and I could feel the lack of strength in the leg’s movement.  The spasm wasn’t as strong, and a wet feeling was running along the inside of the leg.  Fluids leaking.

No.  I wasn’t going to stop.  Not now, not like this.

He’d have to surface, he’d be angry, distracted.  There could be an opening.

I kicked, paddling myself forward, and I wasn’t moving towards the surface  Just the opposite.

My lungs were feeling the strain.  I didn’t care.  He’d come up, and we’d-

Crimson blossomed across my vision, obscuring my view.  Blood.  Mine.

One leg came free of the socket.


Piece by piece, I started to come apart.

The decoy.  If I keep it together until he comes, let them split apart naturally, maybe he’ll be fooled.

I started to try and move towards the surface, aware of my circumstance.  My strength wasn’t there.  My muscles had been cannibalized for parts to build this temporary body, and the reversion process wasn’t supplying them with everything they required.

My flight pack failed.  I couldn’t raise myself to the surface.

Let me prove we can fight back.  Don’t let people like Weld give up at this point.

My consciousness began to dim, faster than it had before.  I didn’t have the benefit of adrenaline.  I had desperation, but it wasn’t quite the same.

My vision gradually fogged.  I felt my body going numb.  My arm, my face.

Water began to fill my mouth.  I didn’t have the strength to keep my lips pressed together.

Let him rise to the surface.  Let this trick work again and again.  Let it be the Achilles heel.

A false hope, a faltering one.  I knew it wouldn’t work again.

I coughed, and it was a weak cough, barely a hiccup.  Enough for water to make its way into my throat.

But I focused on the swarm, on the krill.  Kept them in formation.

Alexandria died like this.  Drowned.

A shadow passed over my vision.

I forced my eyes to focus.

Glaistig Uaine, smiling slightly.

She’d been the one above the water.

And here she was.  Not helping.  Waiting.

At least I’ll still be able to contribute, I thought.

The water moved, and I saw a look of disappointment on her face.

A glance to my right showed a portal.  A door.  The water was flowing into it in vast quantities, and I was being pulled along.

He’s gone.  He’s nowhere close, I thought.

We won’t recover from this, I thought.  Won’t pull together with this kind of strength again.

We lost.

I blacked out.

Last Chapter                                                                                               Next Chapter

368 thoughts on “Extinction 27.5

  1. Another attempt. This time I focused on holding on, bringing my legs up. One leg in one crevice, another leg into a crack, another set on a ledge where the concrete above wasn’t quite seated properly.

    ….. Taylor… I think you need to count better…. (now off to read the rest. )

      • More than three. The third mention is of a set. We’re talking something arachnoid or insectile in nature.

        • Definitely. If we take into account the changed mouth and the shape of her “feet” it’s quite clear.

          Last chapter lab rat gave her a specific box. Being himself a bio tinker with a faux animal theme he probably thought she would be happy being morphed into a bee or a spider.

          Either that or at first he gave her the mutant geko box, thought about copyright infringement and got her a random other one.

          • If it wern’t for the whole “Battle against an invincible god like force” Taylor could have really stopped and had some fun being a giant bug. Lab Rat should have opened an amusement park or something.

              • I got the impression it was more lobster or shrimp. Seven sets of legs ending in hard points, big opposable claw, hydrolic musculature, segmented shell… She didn’t say anything about other changes, but I imagined lobster right off the bat and it fit perfectly in trying to grasp her alien proprioception.

                Also? Well done, Wildbow, on describing a change in perspective that the phrase “alien proprioception” fits at all, even if we don’t all immediately understand it. After all, it’s !alien!, we’re not supposed to. Most authors would have settled for “generic power up #2: Rubber Forehead Aliens are strong.”

                Not Wildbow. He writes like Taylor fights.
                Ugh, did I really just think that? You got me liking your story too much.
                /needs a drink

  2. ……I don’t even know anymore…. ;~; Why Dennis damn you? WHY?!?!?!

    The chapter was great….just….WHYYYYYYY.

    In other news Taylors new name after he cyborg upgrades will be Darth Sect.

    • Bonesaw to modify her, Panacea to heal her, and Defiant to wonder why he hadn’t taken the biological route in the first place…

      Taylor’s like her insects…you can never really be fully rid of them.

        • Yeah, if either Amy or Riley are on the other side of that portal, Taylor will be okay. If not, well I hope Cauldron has some healers in their groups, and isn’t going to screw her over.

  3. Clockblocker’s spirit touched Scion, and the golden man froze.

    Clockblocker. You always were the best. 😦

    When I was young, I had a couple of pet turtles. I fed them mostly crickets and frogs that I would catch around the house. The frogs would swim away from them, but the turtles were faster in water, and would catch them. I remember once, at my birthday party, my mother picked up one of the frogs, dead, but only partially eaten, and showed us what it looked like inside.

    Floating, torn apart, organs drifting away in the water, a creature you cannot possibly defeat closing in, ready to eat you… That’s a horror that goes to the very heart of life itself, to the oldest forms of life. No wonder Jaws freaks people out so badly.

    What a rough chapter. Goddamn.

    • Deep. And Clockblocker….that hit me worse than Taylor falling apart, Grue being “lost” and maybe even the whole Scion-turned-evil thing. Like a punch to the gut–I wasn’t prepared :[

      • I guess Wildbow finally got sick of all the Taylor/Clockblocker shipping. But it seems even in death Dennis will be freezing super powerful entities. See you in cape heaven Clockblocker. Probably pulling practical jokes on Supergod.

          • They made a clone with fabricated memories and tried to create a facsimile of the personality. They made a very good Gray Boy forgery, they didn’t bring him back.

            • Actually, due to the nature of his powers, Grey Boy is probably the only S9 clone who actually came back 100% true to the original. Whatever tiny piece of DNA from the original would have ensured he kept rolling back his personal timeline until he for all intents and purposes became the original.

              Huh. The fact that Grey Boy’s shard/passenger was still able to provide the clone with power despite the original being trapped inside Glastig … says very odd things about just what Glastig is doing when she claims a cape’s shard.

              • Not very; Passengers can connect to multiple people. I even asked that question (i.e. how they could) in Bonesaw’s interlude, and was told I was assuming a rule was in place that didn’t exist. Glaistig is clearly supplanting the normal passenger connection when the original dies. The same passenger can connect to others besides the original; therefore it can connect to others besides Glaistig.

              • Yeah, I’m pretty sure she’s not “holding” the claimed shards any more than any other cape’s shard is actually inside them. They’re all off in their own alternate realities that they use as power sources, and they’re just connected to their “hosts.” The Scion interlude made it pretty clear, especially with the multiple Harbingers and the original Numbers Man all connected to one shard.

                My theory is that she’s claiming their “passenger,” the part of their mind that has been redesigned to interface with the shard. So she takes their connection and their instincts for using the shard. If someone else somehow interfaces with the shard separately, that probably doesn’t affect G.U.’s ghost or the other cape (i.e. the Gray Boy clone/not clone/time clone/wtfever).

                The other possibility is that she isn’t actually taking anything at all; she’s just using their severed, dangling connection to their shard to trace a path back to it and forge a connection of her own. This seems a little less likely, as it doesn’t fit as well with the aesthetic of how she uses her power.

                I think it’s likely that we’ll never really know all the mechanics of how her power or most anyone’s power works on that level. We’ve had the Scion interlude; not many other people have much insight into these matters. G.U. (but she’s crazy), Amy, Lisa, maybe Riley a little bit, maybe Chevy a little bit… that’s about it. And we’ve already had interludes from the four of those that are lucid.

      • Do we know that she personally killed Grayboy? Can she collect passengers when she is merely close to a cape as they die, or must she cause it? Since she has Clockblocker, I was assuming she might have just been in the right place at the right time…maybe just shadowing the S9 waiting to pick up powerful passengers as capes died?

          • In all certainty, she was collecting everyone who fell to Scion that she could, and so it’s far more likely that Clockblocker was one of the many unlucky enough to be too close to the centre to escape.

        • Well, last chapter it explained that she has made attacks against parahumans to collect them, but doesn’t seem to harbor ill will toward regular people. Maybe she saw Greyboy doing his thing and saw it as needless stupidity?

        • “Gray Boys.

          She’d gone through a phase, hunting down some of the scariest capes around, defeating them, claiming them.

          This was one.”

          I’m pretty sure that she specifically, literally, hunted Gray Boy down and killed him.

        • She was floating there at the end waiting on Taylor to die so she could collect her. If she had died, Taylor would have been killed by Scion.
          Glastig just needs to be nearby.

        • It seems that Glaistig can absorb people’s passengers by touching them. That would trump Gray Boy’s defence, and since Gray Boy isn’t terribly smart it probably wasn’t too hard for her to touch him. Especially if she had a teleporting spirit on hand.

          Though she was taking a serious risk by getting close to him.

          • Maybe she can collect them by having a spirit touch them.

            We’re not even certain if she had a few back in Grey Boy’s original demise that could have gotten around his glitchy record power.

        • She just has to be able to get close to them realitively soon after death. Remember she got Bakuda, who Lung killed.

  4. No idea how she’s going to be rescued though I am reasonably hopeful that she will be. Panacea and Bonesaw are going to have their work cut out for them putting her back together again. Maybe they managed to keep Scion occupied and in one place long enough for one of the other groups to somehow home in on the parallel universe where Scion’s real body is so that they can attack him directly.

    • Since Panacea can hack passengers (I think?), maybe we’ll see an upgrade to Taylor. We know that her passenger was purposefully handicapped, so I’m thinking it would be quite the powerup to get it fully functional.

      On the other hand, one of the coolest things about Taylor has always been how she can do so much with (seemingly) so little…I don’t know what to hope for.

      Since this is all one big Darwinian experiment for Scion, I would think that this attack has to be a pretty big experimental result. Finding out what if any effect it has on his actions is an exciting prospect.

      • Panacea can’t manipulate passengers. She said so in the Marquis interlude. She can get close though, judging from the relay bugs.

  5. [The water moved, and i saw a look of disappointment on her face.]

    The ‘I’ needs to be capitalized.

    Hopefully, they got Panacea and Bonesaw on the other side of that portal.

    • Don’t see an edits thread so I’m just posting here:

      “The body parts that were spooling out in the water beneath around around me.”

      –> “beneath and around”
      ” Every moment, even the smallest movement, it redoubled the pain.”

      –> “Every movement”?
      ” Just as fast, it pulled back, found somethign else to hold.”

      –> “something”
      ” I kicked, paddling myself forward, and I wasn’t moving towards the surface Just the opposite.”

      –> “surface. Just”

  6. GOD DAMN I loved this chapter. So much…fuck if I know….Badass/awesome.
    1. What is Taylor’s Herbert’s FIRST thought as she has been torn in half, bleeding to death, and drowning? I want to fight.
    2. All of the bloody jokes about her having a second trigger event and becoming a shifter sort of became true. Bug hybrid Skitter/Weaver for the win!
    3. We can add the dreaded/Badass status to the fairy queen. She fucking killed the original grey boy, collected Clockblocker who is confirmed dead, and possibly Grue if the darkness is his. She is the ONLY parahuman who was actually able to fight Scion directly for however short a time it was.
    4. Weld admitting his faults and staying strong for his teammates.
    5. Taylor Herbert REFUSING to give up even at the end. She used her bugs to distract him, used the Thanda to pull of a similar trick with silk and Clockblocker’s, may he rest in peace, power, and dove under the water to use krill to try and distract him. But most of all, as the transformation work off and she started to die again, her final thought was being thankful that the fairy queen would take her because it meant she could still fight and try to defend people like Weld and stop the bullies. GOD DAMN, I loved this chapter.

      • Taylor really, really earned her determanator trope this chapter didn’t she? That said, since she didn’t get a second trigger from this, I don’t think she ever will.

        • Updated a few TV Tropes pages, including adding Taylor to Determinator. Where I notice that she dethroned Chevalier from the top determinating slot for the work.

          • Yeah I agree she did pretty much just dethrone Chev. He was badass and he still has the silver medal but I don’t think you can really beat having your organs falling out and still trying to fight.

        • It’s possible she’s getting closer. Everything that happened her attitude was toward pushing forward, fighting back, doing something. If she’s too injured to fight, if they have a hard time getting her up and ready for the next fight and she has to sit around doing nothing and not know what’s going on… I could imagine that might be a lot worse for Taylor than just fighting Scion.

    • Pretty sure it’s not Grue’s darkness. She would’ve recognized that, rather than having “seen something similar, once upon a time.” Instead it seemed to be miniature gravity wells. Has she run into a gravity manipulator before that I’m not recalling? Oh, well there was whatshisname in Chicago, but that was different. If the “seen something similar” comment was supposed to be a callback to an earlier encounter, I’m not remembering it.

      • Pretty sure she has brain damage. I wouldn’t be surprised if she had trouble connecting it to Grue. But unless Glastig was able to combine powers or expand on his, I doubt it. I’m too lazy to look up how the shadow’s physical appearance was described but that’d prolly settle it. Don’t think it was him. Or at least I hope not….

    • And if they ever get past Scion, I’m wondering how they’ll cope with all the things Taylor has said they’ll “deal with later” :[

  7. Holy cow. I was almost crying as Taylor was starting to come apart in the water. Great writing, Wildbow. Wow.

    I can’t even imagine where the story goes from here.

    • They start running, and never look back.
      Well, that’s what I’d do, but then I’m not a superhero. Still, it’s a plan of action.

  8. – Glastig – Boss.
    – Clockblocker – Boss.
    – Thanda* – Boss.
    – Taylor – Goddamn HERO
    – Guess we know how the original Grey Boy died; Glastig Uaine decided to take him out for the fuck of it. Clearly, while she may despise Cauldron capes, she has no problem using them. Daaaaaaamn.
    – the truth behind Weld revealed. Doesn’t make him any less heroic. If only he himself believed that.
    – wonder why she wanted Taylor’s shard so bad. Right. Stupid question.
    – Does Cauldron even have healers of this caliber? Oh wait, they don’t need to. Between Panacea and Bonesaw, Taylor could be looking at some upgraaaades. Awwww yeah.
    – Lustrum’s power was what now? Size-shifting plus power-and-emotion-suppression?
    – Eidolon is craaazy powerful. How strong was he back in the day if even now he remains potent enough to take on Scion without being vaporized?

    *That position-anchoring Thanda, are we ever going to find out his name?

    • I think Lustrum absorbs all energy in the area in order to grow bigger.

      And yeah, Eidolon is scary. The whole Triumvirate is. They actually directly fought Scion, and he failed to kill him. He probably wasn’t trying too hard, but still.

    • The thing about Eidolon is actually commented in-universe. Taylor watches him do crazy stunts like dodging all of Khonsu’s attacks while helping Legend free himself from the time bubble at the same time and thinks something like “and this guy says he’s getting weaker?”. I believe wildbow said we’ll get his interlude either in this or the next arc, hopefully we’ll see what Eidolon could do at full power. He was probably closer to Scion than to other parahumans.

    • The Thanda kick ass and take names, they never give them.

      It’s who they are, the ones that are never acknowledged, because they’re far too scary for the average person to wrap their heads around. The anonymous powerhouses, the terror of naked blades glinting in the darkness.

      • I’m interested in their backstory and how their organization works. They seem to only have a few members but all their powers seem to work on the macro scale, which can’t be a coincidence. My guess is that they have a cape that can cause powers to work on said scale in exchange for something else or just power them up. The unnamed cape that teleported his hand through a chest might have passed their initiation and then became capable of teleporting the landscape around.

    • I’m sticking with my theory that Eidolon’s whole “I’m losing my edge” thing is entirely in his head. It’s probably a mind game that Doctor Mother pulled on him to keep him on a leash. “You looked like you were slipping out there against Leviathan today. Here, why don’t you have some of this ‘power booster’ cocktail I made.” Of course it’s crap that she gives him; the Cauldron serum explicitly doesn’t work twice. But he becomes psychologically dependent on it, believing that he needs it and attributing any failures to his “weakening powers” rather than his own mistakes, bad luck, or whatever else.

      • Nah, it’s been established that Cauldron powers get weaker in times of more stress. So with the end of the world coming and stress from that, he got weaker. And then, realizing he’s getting weaker, there’s even more stress, and it builds like that to keep weakening him.

        • Which ironically made him stronger in my opinion. Taylor remarked how she had to stress her power for all it’s possibilities because of it’s, to her mind at the time, weak nature. Eidolon didn’t really have to think tactically because he had the perfect power for every situation. Now that he is weaker, he has to plan/think of getting the most of his power like Taylor did. Hence he copied the g driver in some form.

        • I do like both explainations. I can see Cauldron tricking him into thinking he’s weaker than he actually is, but the stress explaination would work.

          Or maybe he’s actually getting weaker due to his power draining his passenger, but only weakening very slowly.

          Wildbow seems to enjoy writing as many mysteries as possible into his work. Still, it only makes it more satisfying when secrets are revealed. Like the Scion interlude! That was amazing, even though it only scratched the surface of the mysteries that perplex us.

  9. Oh…. my. Amy’s going to need alot of stray cats to fix our hero.

    I feel this song is rather appropriate.

    Oh, and Clock’s dead. Well, I didn’t really like him all that much, honestly. Though Grue and Foil down as well, maybe, shit.

    • Foil’s death would suck. It’s probably the kind of death she’d want, fighting the worst monster in the world, but neither she nor Parian deserves that loss.

    • Oh, hey! In the event Amy can’t heal Taylor for some reason, we still have Defiant, she could end up like this…

      I can make peace with that.

    • You didn’t like Clockblocker? Huh.

      I’m not too broken up about the deaths of Clockblocker (and maybe Grue and Foil)…everyone has to die sometime, and they died well.

      They’ve all accomplished enough that, even if they die now, their potential isn’t going to waste. And there’s nothing stupid or embarrassing about dying in combat here.

      So, yeah. This would be a good death, as deaths go.

      • Can’t really explain it. He had that feeling to me of a professional wiseacre character who hadn’t really earned any right to wisecrack. Like alot of Whedon and Bioware’s characters.

        • Uh, he ran up and slapped Leviathan. He waited in the blast zone when they dropped the bombs, for his chance to fight Mannequin. He showed up to pretty much every major fight they ever had, and generally contributed. He was one of the first people to truly call Taylor on some of her shit, which was kind of what she needed. He was also the first to stand up for her, to argue for her chance to join up with the Protectorate.

          Dude well earned the right to be kinda snarky.

    • Well, if his corpse is in the water that got sucked up it is not entirely outside of the realm of possibility that Bonesaw can fix him. Hell, it is possible that his corpse is in better condition than Taylor.

      Perhaps stapling clockbits to Taylor so she can use time-touch through her bugs or her silk…

      • Oh man that’s right Foil might be dead… I really hope not, but after all the close calls she’s already had… If she is I don’t envy the person that has to tell Parian.

        Hope nobody was donating towards a Clockblocker epilouge.

  10. Once again, it goes to show exactly how much damage Taylor can inexplicably take. She lost SEVERAL LIMBS and most of her face and remained conscious enough to break the surface tension of the ocean to survive a fall from an oil rig (breaking her remaining limbs in the process) then, while drowning, use the healing device.

    Taylor is SO badass.

    A side note, how did she know it was only temporary? She kept assuring people that, but did she ever learn that? I don’t remember.

    • She considered the fact that the tinker who created them used them himself, and since he is currently not a monster she inferred that it was temporary. It is also in Taylor’s nature to assume the worse and prepare accordingly.

    • In the circumstances, they’d be either dying now, or dying later, after contributing a little more to the fight with Scion. Whether it’s temporary is academic really.

    • Maybe she could feel it starting to wear off by that point. Or it came with some sort of awareness of its temporary nature.

    • Like Packrat said, Lab Rat was one of the capes she researched in anticipation of them being potentially untrustworthy allies. Guess she knows what his strengths and limitations are. Though honestly, UNturning someone into a giant lobster almost sounds more difficult than turning them into a giant lobster in the first place…

  11. The scene with Taylor climbing the wall using too many legs was wonderfully eerie. Also her emotions coming through when she was swarm-speaking — they really are a part of her, now.

    And we got so close to finally seeing the sealife aspect of her power come into its own! Darn Lab Rat, not having quite enough battery life….

  12. Daaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaammmmnnnnnn!

    Good chapter.
    Next stop, the Bonesaw/Panacea emergency room.
    Bummer for the Clockster fans. He’s gone. Glastig has him.

  13. Well, now we know what happened to Grey Boy. And Clockblocker, which is honestly more disturbing unless he was harvested in that very fight, because otherwise she was harvesting from inside the Birdcage. Which implies she surrendered because she liked the catering, but would still order out from time to time.

    No cyborg upgrades expected: Panacea + Bonesaw prefer to work in flesh.

    Chopped sentences captured desperation nicely.

    Scion’s destructive orb description is sometimes hard to follow – whether it’s above or below Taylor, what it’s doing. Can’t tell if the writing is supposed to mirror disorientation, in which case it’s working, or if some of the up/down directions got switched: e.g. the orb seems to be coming from above, and Taylor is falling out of the way, but then bugs beneath her are dying from the orb.

    Missing italics on ‘His transformations’.

    Scion’s dislike of replication fits what we know of his past.

    Getting a fight to last long enough for Lung to reach useful status will be… interesting.

    • Regarding bugs below her dying. The sphere already hit her and disintegrated half her body. She was just in shock and hadn’t realized it yet.

    • In regards to the orb and the descriptions of directions and whatnot, it all makes sense – remember that it’s a sphere we’re talking about. Taylor is at the very edge of the sphere, but she didn’t quite make it far enough. The sphere fell past her, and took a big chunk of her in passing.

      If she was at the very edge of the sphere, and she had to be to survive, then when the sphere hit her, the bottom-most part of the sphere would have been below her, closer to the water. It would have been below her for a short time as the sphere was falling.

      I didn’t notice and positional impossibilities in the sphere scene – but some might have been corrected before I read it.

    • I don’t think Lung has to fight the same opponent the whole fight, just so long as he doesn’t have a significant delay he could have a boxing match with Pretender or something to ‘warm up’ and then jump into the fray with Sion.

      • Part of Lung’s ability seems to be mental, dependent on witnesses, dependent on whether or not the fight actually means something.

        At the end of the Leviathan fight that he won, he nearly died, not because of anything Leviathan did, but because in some way he lost power due to the absence of witnesses at the end of the fight. Alexandria had to save him.

          • It was somewhat ambiguous. He lost power when he realised that Leviathan wasn’t actually a person so it definitely seems mental in nature. Possibly his power automatically disengaged when he decided it was pointless, but I personally lean towards the ‘he needs an audience’ theory. Realising that Leviathan *wasn’t* an audience so far from land (and anyone else to watch) would leave him powerless.

            I prefer this theory because it fits so well the character he demonstrated in the interlude. He’s all about power and position and face. Makes sense that they’d be integrated into his abilities. His power is basically ‘get stronger so you can be #1’. Without anyone to acknowledge his victory, it’s meaningless.

        • The thing that tripped him up in the Leviathan fight was that he ran out of power to keep growing. Later in that interlude, when he’s in the Birdcage, he talks about how he has to build up a reserve after getting big. He has to keep fighting to grow, but there’s a finite amount of growing power stored up. He mentioned that he was pretty stoked about having two years to store up power before the end of the world, compared to the weeks or months he’d had before the Leviathan fight, so we may yet get to see unprecedented heights from him. Maybe once he hits a certain size, his pyrokinesis will be strong enough to diffuse Scion’s golden blast things somehow.

    • If we could just archive binge all the way through Worm we wouldn’t build suspense and interest by waiting around in agony. It would in my opinion diminish the experience.

      And we would be killing even more people trying to archive binge the thing all the way through.

        • Hah, I started reading this a few days ago. Completely took over my life. Couldn’t stop reading until I finished…

          • As a fellow new reader who has inhaled Worm over the course of [far too short a time] I think the lack of (long term) agonized suspense may slightly diminish the narrative, but it’s still one of the best works I’ve EVER read. The really suspenseful moments are often separated from their resolution by an interlude (or part of one), or are immediately resolved like Taylor being bisected this chapter.

      • I came in just after the start of Twig. I archive-binged all of Worm at once, and then moved on to do the same with Pact (and am now doing it again, but reading the comments, too). It took me like a month, and I consume doorstopper novels in a night.

        I don’t have any experience reading Worm as it’s posted, of course, but I’ve found that I enjoy reading Twig as it’s posted less than I did plowing through Worm and Pact as a huge archive binge. Some of that may be the story, though. I like Taylor and Blake; I’m not particularly fond of Sy.

      • I for one am not a huge fan of waiting for new chapters especially when things end of cliffhangers or are so totally engrossing that you can spend literally an entire day just reading. I guess a bit is lost in an archive binge but personally I much prefer that way.

        It’s actually a large part of why I’m dragging my heals on starting Twig or Pact. (Though now that Pact is done I do need to get around to that one lol.)

  14. My guess on how to stop Scion? Figure out what requires him to consume the most energy to counter, and spam the fuck out of it. It probably won’t kill him outright. But it’ll put him on the defensive. If he ends up being unkillable, the next best thing is pacifying him, it’s been shown that he can be knocked around.

    Good news is that the next endbringer attack will be a lot easier seeing as they as they always give humans a sporting chance, and they’d basically be trying to fight fair with a blind, one-armed cripple.

    • I can envision Leviathan rising from the water to destroy New York, seeing it already trashed, and having a nice big stretch and turning around to go back to bed.

      • He’d probably kick a few cars around and nudge over a few ruins, just on principle, to see if anyone showed up to appreciate it, then he’d decend to the ocean floor to sulk.

    • Simurgh descends from the sky. She marches up to a human baby. It is one of the last human babies on Bet. It is archetypal; in that moment, it is Everybaby, a shining slightly smelly exemplar of humanity as a whole.

      She takes its candy.

      The baby bursts into helpless, defeated tears as the Simurgh, victorious, flies away.

    • Fighting Scion is like fighting the Siberian. In the end he’s just a projection of the worm-monster hidden away in its refuge dimension. Even if they killed the golden man, the worm monster could recreate it. As with the Siberian, it’s the creator you have to target.

      • The body was formed using valuable energy and leftover shards. If it was really so worthless, the galactic jellyfish could have just killed them all without teleporting a body there and without trying to dodge and protect it or dispel temporal distortions.

        • It may have to do with the fact that Scion still works on a humanlike brain, even if simulated. Humans don’t stay there and let their body get destroyed because “oh well I have a spare”.

          • I think y’all just overestimate how much it can tell the laws of physics to go fuck off, as well as thinking its body and mind encompasses every universe with an inhabited earth.

            • And I think it’s a mistake to think that the entity and Scion are the same thing. Scion may be an avatar or whathaveyou but expressly works on an autonomous brain pattern purposefully constructed to be similar to a human. Otherwise neither Norton or Jack’s arguments would have made sense to him.

              • My impression is that Scion’s projection is more than skin deep. He created a body that can manifest intelligence, not just a dumb projection. I’m guessing the reason for him doing this is so he would have a better understanding of the population that his shards were collecting data from, after he pulled them back into himself when he and his mate prepared to reproduce?

                He probably didn’t design the body with an intent to learn from direct interaction with humans, but rather through the medium of collected data from passengers.

                So trying to interact directly with humans is severely confusing to him.

                I’m imagining Scion’s humanoid body as a virtual machine.

              • Huh, just had a thought. People have mentioned that the new Endbringers seem to be made by a process that is somewhat automatic: this killed Behemoth, next one either uses it or is immune to it. I wonder if the Endbringers are the dead space-god’s version of Zion? Create a body (out of shards no less), project it into the world, only without any greater intelligence behind them they default to destruction (as is the inevitable goal of the passenger-gods).

      • I think it goes deeper. It’s a racial thing that goes back to the beginning. He sees the clones as breeding competitors, and HAS to stop them, or maybe run from them. Taylor may have gotten hold of a gigantic mess of krill for her last maneuver and scared him off.

        • Given how much krill is in the sea, if he was counting by number of individual opponents he ought to be utterly terrified.

  15. Oh God, Cockblocker you were always my favorite. This chapter was just fantastic, Taylor being cut in half sent me shivering. It was visceral. I am unsure on how I’m supposed to go back to sleep after that. I wonder what made Scion move away from the place? Or maybe Taylor sank enough that they were able to create a portal to save her.

  16. I was distracted (and will be until end of Monday) but I tried to channel it into the nature of the writing. Hopefully it worked.

    Your votes on Topwebfiction would be appreciated.

    Expect interlude Tues. Maybe one Thursday.

    Depending on what I do, I might not make the Thursday installment count as a bonus chapter. Because.

    Thanks for reading, guys.

    • Thanks, as always, for writing!

      Taylor’s been a lot of things throughout the series but I’m not sure we’ve ever seen her be braver than this. The narrative conveyed how jumbled her headspace was and how unbelieveably hurt too, without jumbling the story at all.

      In short, great work! I’m looking forward to Tuesday’s chapter as much as I’ve looked forward to any other chapter so far!

    • Very well written, especially the parts where she is in shock from the sphere hitting. Can’t thank you enough for writing this.

      One mi or thing: during the time she os trying to fight scion, the flight pack shorts out or fails a couple times. Is there a missing line where she gets it temporarily restarted, or is the second failure extraneous? (It is kind of on its own)

    • > I was distracted (and will be until end of Monday) but I tried to channel it into the nature of the writing. Hopefully it worked.

      It did, it was really … chaotic, for lack of a better word. Very suited to the situation.

      I don’t know if it’s related to that discussion on irc a few days ago, but either way you turned a problem into a solution. That’s uncommon and quite neat.

  17. Well damn…I knew that Lab Rat’s device was going to keep Taylor in the fight, but all of that was crazy. In a way I’m glad we’re getting to the end, because I don’t think I really want to find out how things could be escalated any further.

  18. Wow, did they actually fight him off?


    Seriously, that’s damn heroic.

    Though no doubt they’d have lost eventually if the golden bastard had kept at it, I’m still impressed that they were able inflict enough boredom or fear to make him leave.

  19. Ok, 95% percent of this chapter, I read with a severe look of horror on my face. This was peppered by moments of extreme sadness, realising that clockblocker and grue are gone :\

    And now that I’m recovering from this latest life-ruining chapter, I’m genuinely wondering how Taylor will look after reparations. Here’s to hoping for an electromechanical makeover!

  20. Just…wow.

    The disjointed style worked.

    …I’m sad Clockblocker is dead. He had a lot of personality, and has been in the story since pretty much the beginning, when there were even less “good” good guys then there are now. And as for the shippers…

    Finally, anyone remember how in the Enchidna arc, we considered Taylor walking around blind, exhausted and covered in minor injuries, having inhaled smoke, and survived….well, there are too many to name- anyway, we considered THAT badass. Ha.

    • Not to mention:

      – cracked ribs from being shot in the chest
      – chunk of metal omnidimensionally bonded to the bones of her shoulder
      – Scapegoat fell over the instant he took her injuries onto himself

      Shit, after all that, being swallowed by Echnida was probably restful.

        • It might be, given what we know of Foil’s ability now. Transposes across all possibile realities, among which Scapegoat choses.

  21. Fuck Clockblocker is dead. Strange that was my first thought.

    Really liked Taylor’s clipped,disjointed thought process. Makes you understand she’s in shock (geeze no wonder she was cut in half!) but without hurting the story’s flow. Of course once she gets turned in that…thing, she’s back to being badass. That thing with the spider silk and the Thanda cape reminded me of the Echidna move and of course her bug diversion allowed Glaistig to actually hurt Scion.

    Speaking of Glaistig, wow she put down the original Gray Boy. Gets that bunks the Sadboy theory, then. Still, Gray Boy at the time was a member of the S9, how and why weren’t the other members also absorbed? Powers like King’s. Harbinger’s and, heck, JACK’S, she would have probably have found vey interesting. Or maybe, he left the team before dying. I dunno.

    Anyway, I think my favourite part was the Irregulars. Very touching. Poor Weld.

    Not surprised String Theory is dead. Too powerful to live?

    Finally,two question: what do you think was in Lab Rat’s baseball (I presume something to let them leave by boat)? And what’s exactly Lustrum’s power: size growth+confusion?

    • Damn forgot to add. Was Glaistig disappointed at the end, because after all Taylor failed or because she knew that she was going to be save and thus wouldn’t be able to collect her shard? Either way, not helping with the creepy vibe, Glaistig!

    • My guess was that Lab Rat’s device was some kind of teleporter. He was trying to throw it outside of Scion’s blast radius so that it could yank him to it and get him out of the radius, too. We may find out, since Taylor helped him get it where it was going so that it could do whatever it was supposed to do.

      Side note: There seems to be a very high level of correlation between a) biological manipulation powers, b) people with an inclination, either inherent or acquired, toward body horror, and c) rather terrifying levels of power. Amy, Riley, Nilbog, Lab Rat, Marquis… Mannequin, sort of… Crawler, sort of… Blasto was maybe a bit lacking in category B… even Regent, in a way. Only the characters with very limited biological powers, like Lizardtail, Sanguine, and Bitch, are not batshit crazy and/or too terrifying to let live.

      • Blasto tried creating a Smirg-mix clone-thing, and put a self-clone brain on a monkey to be his assistant. I’d say that counted as and inclination towards Body horror.

  22. Darn, now Lab Rat and String Theory will never find true love.

    Also, Glaistig is a badass. Eidolon too. Really hope we get to see what he was like at full power.

    • No big deal. Lab Rat probably invented something to take care of that a long time ago.

      All I’m saying is, think of the head crab from The Thing mixed with the skills of the detached head from Re-Animator.

  23. I’ve fallen behind on this over the past few days.

    Let me thank Riann, Andy, Jonathon, Christopher, and Jeffrey.

    Especially big thank yous go out to Gianina and Matthew for their generosity. I’ve queued another bonus chapter, and we’re close to hitting the cap again.

    And because I don’t say it enough – thank you to everyone else for your support and your continued reading. This has been a fantastic month, transitioning from breaking a record 10k views for the first time in June to breaking 10k views on non update days this week (and a record 13k views on Tuesday/Thursday).

    • Here’s my theory on the influx of new viewers. First off, the story’s in its endgame, and therefore it ratchets up. Second off, a lot of us in the comments and lurking in the wings are going out and advertising for you (Personally, I’ve tried to get my cousin to read it from the beginning for quite some time now). Third off, it’s damn good enough to deserve all this attention and quite a bit more, meaning that anyone we find will give it the benefit of the doubt more often than not, assuming they aren’t fans by Monarch or Extermination. It doesn’t hurt that the donation chapters essentially mean it updates 3x a week, which despite the curses of “CLIFFHANGERRRRR!” is a very respectable update schedule. Nor that it hasn’t been late once. Or that they are routinely 10k words a pop.

  24. So I started drawing Clockblocker MY FAVORITE CHARACTER earlier today and about half way through the thought struck me…

    “He’s going to die in tonight’s chapter. I can feel it.”

    Well… He did… So here you go. The man who cut Echidna in half, the man who could take out the Siberian with a touch, the man who plays with the laws of the universe like they ain’t even a thang, the man who’s power works on freaking Scion. Clockblocker.

    • Very, VERY, cool drawing. A fitting, if unintentional, tribute.

      Albeit, I have to say Clockblocker is FAR from the only cape capable of fucking the laws of the universe 🙂

      • Thank you kind sir.

        And very true, I’ve lost track of the number of reality benders we have now. Though Clockie’s will always be my favorite reality breaking power, at least until Epoch is revealed to be a timelord. Oh well, at least I still have Chevalier and Defiant. 🙂

    • can I give you a list of character NOT to draw EVER?
      Or at least until worm’s finished and we’re sure your superpower is not to have whoever you draw encounter a messy death and their soul collected by a psychotic girl?

      (the drawing is very good btw, but could use a bit more clock faces, maybe with the layer visiliblity cranked really down so they’re just shadows)

      • Haha, I was actually just thinking that. Maybe I could use my powers for good? I’m sure the great Golden Idiot would love to have his portrait done…

        And thanks, I’m planning on doing some touch up before I actually submit it, so I’ll definitely up the clock-levels. I just needed to post it on chapter night because… Well, you know.

        • Strange superpower yuu got there,kinda like death note…death drawbook?
          Does it work on real people?Don’t you wish to be Kira,the god of the new world?

      • Thanks! You’ve got no idea how giddy I am right now. And yes, nothing would make me happier than to contribute to the amazing gallery.

        Bigger size and I prettied up the clock face. The last one was uneven and it was killing me.

        • P.S. I’m probably being paranoid and obsessive but here’s the original size again in case that one is too big. I’ve seen wordpress be finicky over image size before.

      • Sad indeed. Still, I’m sure that EVERYONE ELSE WILL BE JOINING HIM SOON, ABANDON ALL HOPE!
        They sent everyone that could possibly be of use. and they merely held Scion off. Any clever plans Cauldron, or is Plan B simply “Run! Run Away! Run for your lives!

        Anyway, I like the picture.

  25. I wish it could have been a better chapter for Tailor going to war here, but I still think I have found an appropriately spiteful anthem: youtube.com/watch?v=2G5rfPISIwo

    Looks like other people covered that Gray Boy, he of the predator and prey philosophy, wound up as Glaistig’s prey. They also covered the part where Clockblocker died and his passenger was taken in by Glaistig. Got to give her credit, though. She doesn’t want anyone for their body. She wants them for what’s inside. Specifically, a passenger that’s been molded to fit the person they inhabited due to their experiences.

    So I was right about the G-Driver. Great job on the G, String Theory. That Driver really hits the G spot. Too bad String Theory’s dead, but as long as it can fire again, we have a consistently working weapon, up until Scion appears near it and destroys it. Still, the principle seems to work out well enough. Probably something to do with he most basic forces of the universe still affecting Scion whether he likes it or not. Gravity, electromagnetism, strong, and weak. Even time-related stuff can actually slow him down enough that he has to dispel it.

    Which makes sense. We’ve yet to see him be able to retroactively affect the past. His ability to look into the future isn’t what it should be right now. He still seems to need to act within a certain distance of the body, otherwise he could have made that big energy orb appear while keeping his body back on Bet.

    I think Taylor found his biggest weakness, though, same one Jack found. He’s unimaginative. He can be out-thought. Simurgh out-thought him regularly, pulling together devices and throwing certain types of decoys out there. Glaistig and Eidolon out-thought him as well, pulling together a plan that goldenrod there didn’t pick up on. It’s the ultimate test of Brain V. Brawn though.

    I also imagine I wasn’t the only one hoping Taylor would find out the shellfish had grown much bigger on that planet. Like if she’d been lifted out of the water on the shell of this gigantic cone-shaped lobster thingy that tried to stab and skewer Scion with countless huge, pointed limbs, tentacles trying to draw him in to a serrated beak in their middle.

    Taylor: “Scion, go to shell.”
    Shellbeasty: “Mraawwwrgurgle!”

      • Taylor rides a giant scraggly toothed angler fish with crosses between fins and claws that bursts out of the water, zapping Scion with a laser from its dangly angler orb before swallowing him.

        Taylor: “Go fish.”

      • Taylor then is lifted above the water on a mantle-like frond surrounding the head of a giant nautilus-like creature that stares up at Scion.

        Taylor: “I want his head on a spit!”

        She points at him as she yells it. The creature sucks in water and spits a high pressure blast of water, easily capable of sawing through steel, at Scion’s head.

        • And then she summons a veritable horde of mantis shrimp, claws clacking in his general direction as they breach the surface of the waves.

          Scion takes one look, lets out a “NOPE” that shakes the sky itself, and runs for the horizon before Taylor can so much as say a pithy one-liner.

          …joke’s on Scion, though, because the first thing in the direction he just headed is Australia.

    • > I wish it could have been a better chapter for Tailor going to war here, but I still think I have found an appropriately spiteful anthem: youtube.com/watch?v=2G5rfPISIwo


      > I think Taylor found his biggest weakness, though, same one Jack found. He’s unimaginative. He can be out-thought.

      I think they found a bigger one: they can make him run away. That means he can get bored or scared

    • String Theory has said that her things are one shot. Eidolon may be able to emulate the effect with the right combination of stuff and time but the actual bomb device thingy is probably toast.

  26. Wow!

    Also fuck!

    But mostly: Wow!

    You don’t think it can escalate anymore, but it does every time. Fantastic.

    I think Taylor comparing herself with a cockroach was an analogy that worked in more than one way. She also is about as resilient as a cockroach.

    I am not sure I am reading Scions reaction right but it seems he feels threatened by clones, or creators who multiply or spread to fill space around him. It almost seems like he was driven of by the krill swarming around him. This is likely only temporarily but it seems to have bought Cauldron the opportunity to open up portals and evacuate survivor.

    Now what?

    Taylor gets portaled to Cauldron base and gets the six-million-dollar-man treatment. They have the bio-tech, they can rebuild her. There are a lot of ways to upgrade her during the healing process. Cyborg implants from Defiant/Dragon, Bonesaw deciding to mix Taylor up with another cape they could only recover half of, Amy deciding that it is okay to mess with people’s minds in this case and removes some of the inhibitions and restraints that Scion cripples her shard with before sending it away. Maybe even a second trigger event or a dose of cauldron serum.

    All these are possible to upgrade our protagonist, but so far Wildbow has been really strict to not simply solve problems by giving Taylor more powers but by getting her to use the one she has better. Suddenly gifting her with the power to strike down Scion would be a great departure from the previous storyline and not really make for a good interesting story in any case.

    I think that if an upgrade happens it will be a small and subtle one. Not a ‘summon Endbringer’ power, not replacing her limbs with cyborg arms with built-in G-Drivers, not being merged by Bonesaw with half of Alexandria’s corpse. Perhaps an upgrade to her existing powers allowing her to more directly ‘administer’ capes in the field. Although communication was part of Jack’s shard not Taylor’s administration one.

    Maybe they still have some of that serum that Noelle got her powers from, it might be a good weapon considering how Scion reacted to clones and at this point they are unlikely to have a lack of volunteers no matter the risks and side effects.

    • The cyborg implants is the most interesting scenario, in my opinion.

      Most of Taylor’s body is missing. Sure, Panacea could fix it up, make it stronger or faster, but it wouldn’t really give Taylor any more power and Panacea probably doesn’t have time or resources to make super bugs that wouldn’t make much of a difference.

      Bonesaw could try to fuse Taylor together with someone else, but that doesn’t seem like a smart route. Taylor’s greatest strength is her mind, and throwing people’s bodies together isn’t good for that.

      The cyborg implants though…

      They need a replacement for Dragon. Someone who could command the field, make use of her technology. Tattletale’s good, but not as good as taking advantages of opportunities in combat as Taylor.

      Of course, there are problems with this. Taylor would have to adapt to a new body, even if interfacing directly with her mind would be quicker than a keyboard. It’d also seem… random, though she was jealous that Defiant could get in thick of a fight with Endbringers because of his body. Then there’s the fact that Defiant really couldn’t spend time doing surgery on Taylor.

      Still, it’s an interesting thought.

      At least they wouldn’t need to worry about finding parts. Defiant wouldn’t have thrown away Dragon’s body, after all.

      • She’ll probably end up with a combination of both. She’s missing a whole bunch of organs that probably can’t be replace by tech without some serious rehabilitation (I’m assuming Panacea can prevent organ rejection) and I think everyone except Bonesaw will be considerate enough to give her the capacity for a normal life, not have half her body replaced by a hunk of metal.

        On the other hand there are things that can be done to her legs that are discrete but useful, bone reinforcements to be make them stronger and more durable and such. If anything gets the super cyborg thing done it’ll probably be her arm alone.

        Hint, hint Wildbow!

        • A spine like those shrews, that’s all interlocking so a human being can stand on them with no issue. Relay Bugs and many other special creepy crawlies that Panacea can make for her.

    • >Taylor gets portaled to Cauldron base and gets the six-million-dollar-man treatment. They have the bio-tech, they can rebuild her. <

      They can restore everything to new! Then she can tell any future boyfriend she gets that she's a virgin!

      That is the second dirtiest thing I have ever come up with for Worm. I apologize.

        • It’s the same damn question that always gets asked whenever you have a female charecter with a healing power. Goddamn did it pop up all over the place when Heroes was airing.

          • At least True Blood ran with it for a vampire who got made when she was still a virgin. I just don’t think they’ve pointed out something else a little on the odd side in all that.

            In True Blood, they cry bloody tears (demonstrated here: youtube.com/watch?v=2AFqYeXKK3I )because all of a vampire’s bodily fluids are replaced by blood. Yeah, all the fluids. They ought to rename “jacking off” to “ticking off” instead.

            “Mom, I just ticked off a vampire! He’s right outside digging up the gas main.”

            “That’s nice, dear, but wash your hands. You don’t know where that blood has been.”

            • And that reminds me of the woman in Lucifer who is immortal and wants to die. Every morning her body resets to the exact way it was when she was made immortal. And every day she has the same misscarrige.

    • You think they’ll replace the bug girl’s body with lots of cybernetics?

      Well, it just got considerably easier to find a theme song for her.

      Big bad beetleborgs! Big bad beetleborgs!

    • That’d be especially ironic in light of the fact that the Worms evolved on a planet that was almost entirely water.

      Maybe the shard he kept behind for his flight actually does provide “flight” via the air rather than the Superman-esque “invisible, vectorless control of position and movement” that he seems to have displayed. It generates tiny, subtle, and incredibly strong air currents to keep him aloft. Take him out of the air, though, and it doesn’t work! And of course he’s never bothered learning how to make a human-shaped body /walk/, let alone swim… so he’s stuck at the bottom of the ocean. The bottom of the huge hole he punched in the ocean floor, even, with his sphere.

      That’d learn ‘im.

  27. You know the really cruel thing about this chapter isn’t that we are going to be left wondering about Taylor’s fate. We know she’ll be around for a while longer at least. The portal implies at least some chance for her. No it’s going to be Grue, Foil and Tattletale I’m going to be worrying about. Mostly Foil. Damn it, she and Parian need to have some piece and quite, and stuff.

    • Tattletale wasn’t on the platform she was with Defiant coordinating things from far away, so she should be safe for now.

    • Oh man. I reaaaally hope that foil made it. The whole Parian/Foil relationship was such a nice thing. Like a tiny island of peace in the middle of a Leviathan attack. Not to mention that Foil (according to Scion) seems to have a power that that the worms used to kill each other back when they were not space whales. Although I doubt it would work on him.

  28. Typo:

    “A stranger voice,” Weld clarified.

    Both ‘A’ and ‘stranger’ are italicized; I think ‘A’ is not supposed to be.

  29. Hey Wildbow! Long-time reader, first-time commenator.
    First things first, I love Worm! I can’t express my gratitute in words, b/c there simply aren’t enough. So let’s keep it simple: Thank You!
    I’m craving for every single chapter and interlude that you give to us. And Worm has got so much potential! It would be a really good TV series like Misfits or even Supernatural (only without the cast of too good-looking actors…).
    Please continue your work! I’m trying to get my friends to read worm too, but germans aren’t the best, when it cones to foreign languages 🙂
    Thank you again! I’m looking forward to your completion of Worm and your next major work(s).

    • > I’m trying to get my friends to read worm too, but germans aren’t the best, when it cones to foreign languages

      Sadly, I found it to be the case too. It’s difficult to recommend something when most of your friends cannot really read an english book.

      That said, I fear I’ve just stepped on you. Sorry, you might want to dwell behind someone else.
      Unless you, you know, actually like to be stepped on (I’ve seen weirder fetishes, half of them here on the comments). If that’s the case you’re welcome.

    • I think we all love Worm at this point. The slippery feel of that long, dark work slides into our brains and we enjoy every thought-pounding minute of it.

      Feel free to stick around at the comments section. You’re not the only German we’ve got and even if everyone beats you what you wanted to say, we have plenty of room for wild guesses about what’s about to occur, typo threads, and the occasional person whose comment is nothing but the word “Damn” or “Fuck” because something just got worse.

      You could even join in on the occasional discussion where people hope for Worm: The TV Show. Problem is, the show would probably jump the shark after the time skip. Let’s do the time warp again! And hey, after a time skip in the TV show, we can have a picture on a wall of Taylor jumping over a great white. It can be an obvious souvenir from one of her adventures in the meantime.

      Just beware of the occasional pun war. They’re especially horrible if you wear button-down shirts because there are numerous casualties.

      Now shadow man, I hope I haven’t spit on you too much. Just remember, it’s not slime. It’s mucus. And welcome, TheShadowbehindyou, to the comments.

      • To be honest, I just commented, to get PG to write my very own introduction. I know, I’m a sucker for attention, but when your always just a shadow behind someone, life get’s a little dull.
        Although, there are some perks; young girls with a serious case of underbutt, not having to buy a ticket for my favourite band AND never having to fight to get to the 2. row (though the view is a little wanky, with all those flashing lights), cutting in line, when I’m buying grocerys, etc….
        And pls, don’t call me shadow man, the game was awful! Typical black guy, voodoo, yada yada…
        I never get stepped on! Have you ever tried to step on your shadow (who’s probably a cousin of mine, where’re all related in some way or another)? Impossible! We pull our shadowfeet back up to our shadowlegs and store them in our shadowsacks. Don’t let me get to far into our anatomy, tried it once, had to find a new girl to stalk.
        I think that’s enough weird shit for tonight. Thanks for having me guys, hope i can contribute on our way to Taylors demise, with witty (I try, i swear!) or just plain stupid comments (FUCK!!!!, is almost 10 times better, then a lot of things that my brain produces).
        Lovin’ you all!

        And one last request: Please set the brightness on your desktops higher, you’re all casting unimpressive shadows, I need something to work with!

        • It wasn’t a reference to the game. Was more of a reference to Dr. Facilier from The Princess and the Frog, as seen here youtube.com/watch?v=yZAY-78zhmw

          and here youtube.com/watch?v=aTqHbiE0vl8

          Spoiler warnings a little bit.

          It does have some voodoo, but there’s also hoodoo and things he ain’t even tried. Also, he’s got friends on the other side.

  30. A friend of mine recently gave into our cajoling and started reading.

    By the time he finished Victoria’s interlude (end of Arc 2), he was already posting messages on Facebook damning our hides for getting him hooked on a story this good. 😀

        • You’re welcome! ^_^ Now quickly, all you newcomers infect some one else with Worm. It’s oddly enjoyable ta make the Hive grow larger.

          • I got my Mother to start not long ago. That woman has been on a HARD CORE archive binge. She’s almost to Cody’s interlude I believe and Chevalier is her favorite character so I get to look forward to that whole “Noooooo that wasn’t a fitting death for the Knight in Shining Armor!” moment. That should be fun.

            Quite a diverse fanbase we’ve got here.

        • Don’t worry Krusty I got Austin and Sarah too. I’m working on making them love characters I know are going to die.

            • >I got my Mother to start not long ago. That woman has been on a HARD CORE archive binge. She’s almost to Cody’s interlude I believe and Chevalier is her favorite character so I get to look forward to that whole “Noooooo that wasn’t a fitting death for the Knight in Shining Armor!” moment. That should be fun.<

              Of course she'll be much happier when she gets to the end of the Crushed Arc and sees just who's interlude it is.

              I keep recommending it to my friends, but one really isn't a reader, and another is currently overseas in the amy. By the way, do we have a hashtag for twitter?

              • The friend that introduced me just finished his And our mutual friend’s rpg character kickstarter cards and mailed them off. We were both of the opinion that character cards for super style games would benefit from originality and we both thought of Worm and he I then think emailed Wildbow (iirc the conversation) But there’s stuffs so…

                Ah well, we shall dream of situations changing…

  31. Loved this chapter. It had a bit of everything really. Anybody else hoping for a Garrote interlude now? I’d love to see what she and the case 53’s have been up to the last 2 years.

    Taylor really likes that “Freeze my silk” trick. Still it works. I love that despite her powers she was still crucial to fighting Scion. The Triumvirate and Cauldron are going to want to save her pretty badly.

    Lab Rat’s a boss. 45 minutes to come up with something that gives everyone what, 15, 20 minute extensions on life, even if they’ve been cut in half?!

    I am really looking forward to the Eidolon interlude. I like the character. I know a lot of people dislike him, but I believe he is genuinely trying to help the world as much as he possibly can. And I think it’s unfair that normal everyday human readers judge the decisions he’s made when he has had whatever thinker power he needed at the time.

    Anyways, here’s hoping Grue’s alive, Taylor survives, and everyone comes up with a plan to stop Scion.

    • Thinker powers in no way guarantee making a /better/ decision. They just change your perspective, give you more/different information, and occasionally do the thinking for you in a totally uncontrolled, unverifiable way. Take Accord, for instance. I don’t think you could really say his powers lead to him making better decisions, on the whole. And I don’t trust Eidolon’s power/passenger to select the right Thinker power any more than I trust the Thinker power to come up with a good answer. Powers are too unpredictable.

      • Agreed — I’m pretty sure this is why Andrew Richter didn’t know that Dragon was a friendly AI: he got the blueprints dropped straight into his brain, rather than actually understanding them.

        • If this makes sense – Tinker’s don’t understand how their creations work, they just know how to build them. At least, that’s how I see it.

  32. This was really well done, the metamorphosis thing was good. NOT having her look into the water to see herself was a good idea too.

    The confusion in life / in writing panned out well. In such a situation she was bound to be out of sorts.

    For the story itself, I find really interesting how she knew what the Thanda could do without any indication she recognized him or visible effects of his powers around. Theo might have ben on the mark more than he initially thought.

    I was almost expecting her to spin out her own silk when she said there was not enough around tbh.

    And finally, I’m wondering if they’re going to do a full scoop to get her back on her feet. Dragon probably had some spare bodies around.
    (Think battle angel Alita or robocop 2)
    Otoh, it could be nice to have Riley demonstrate she can get her back together, or Panacea might get over what she did and learn that as long as she’s not horny for her subject she can actually pull it off.

    … and now I’m hoping for either a Riley or an Amelia interlude. Could be the right moment.

    • >For the story itself, I find really interesting how she knew what the Thanda could do without any indication she recognized him or visible effects of his powers around. Theo might have ben on the mark more than he initially thought.<

      I think she probably has a good idea of what the various players can do after two years of Endbringer defense. I think the Thanda member used his power on Konshu at one point.

        • We do have her on record as having watched him use his power against Khonsu, and he was using his power when she spotted him here to float himself and others above the water.

          Not saying she doesn’t have super-awesome subtle powers like Jack’s; I’m pretty sure she does. But this isn’t a clear instance of evidence for that theory.

  33. Scion, you are so very doomed. Even Taylor’s shard hates you now. (just tell yourself it’s going through a rebellious phase)
    As several other people have mentioned, the disjointed writing in this chapter is just awesome.
    Wonder what Lab Rat was up to. He appears to be manufacturing the Chekhov’s guns at the moment.
    Alas, Clockblocker, to know thee is to have loved thee. (PG, you want to take the eulogy?) Wildbow, you do know that killing off the people we keep shipping Taylor with won’t stop us, right? I mean, you’d have to kill off Tattletale, Rachel, Contessa- nonononono come back here!

    • I hadn’t considered a Contaylor ship! (Skittessa?) Do you think her power will show her how to win at sex? At relationships? At finding true love and happiness together with her soulmate, the Queen Administrator? The possibilities… I almost regret that I WILL NEVER STOP SHIPPING LISA/TAYLOR. I mean, I can’t very well ship BOTH pairings! That’d be ridiculous.

  34. So a few things about Glistig Uaine and Eidolon’s powers. Crazy theory, but maybe their inverse. What I mean is this. Glaistig gets more powerful as she claims capes. We assume she has some sort of reclamation shard. Eidolon has been getting weaker. What if the reason he gets weaker is because he draws power from the pool of unused shards left in the companion? If Cauldron is harvesting the shards from the companion for their formula, then maybe the reason Eidolon is getting weaker is because there is less for him to draw on?

    Second thing. After Scion shot them Glaistig stopped using specific capes. Was she just not using those that didn’t work, or was he somehow destroying her spectres?

    Finally, we know from Gray Boy and his clone that whatever Glaistig does doesn’t prevent a passenger from connecting to others. I had thought that she was pulling their passengers into her own, but it seems I was wrong.

    • scion either destroyed the connection between the specific passengers and the fairy princess, or she -believes- them to be “lost” and so her power is affected accordingly..

      • I think it would be interesting to know if other capes can “kill” the ghosts or if it’s something only Scion can do.

    • I had attributed Eidolon’s weakening to increasing stress. Nothing overwhelming, but constant slow pressure on him. He’s the most powerful and has the most to live up to, but he knew the world was going to end. Since increased stress weakens Cauldron capes, I figured that was the cause.

      Which might mean that if he gets his head together and mellows out for a second, or just genuinely forgets his worries since the end of the world is already here, he might return to full strength for this finale.

    • Keep in mind that there’s a difference between “passengers” and the shards themselves. G.U. probably isn’t causing her shard, tucked away in its alternate universe, to suck her victims’ shards out of THEIR alternate universes and into it. I mean, it could happen, especially if her shard is designed to collect all the others at the end of the cycle so the Worms can reconstitute themselves and shove off. But, especially given the Gray Boy thing, I think it’s unlikely. Though it should be noted that Gray Boy isn’t a great test case because his wonky time-reversion power might make him a weird exception. If she starts pulling out other S9000 members or other people who were somehow revived in some way or another after she got hold of them, then we’ll know for sure.

      As for Scion killing her ghosts, I think it’s quite possible he was actually destroying the associated shards, using the specters created by her power as a conduit back to the shard itself. Once the shard’s gone, there’s nothing for G.U. to conjure. That would certainly be a way that Scion could permakill her ghosts but other people really couldn’t. Or it could be that any kind of killing is enough to rob her of their services. In either case, she’s got a rather finite lifespan to her ability to go toe-to-toe with him the way she was doing. Plenty of capes are dying all around her, that’s for sure, but those, too, will run out, while Scion doesn’t ever tire or weaken (that we’ve seen so far). It seems pretty unlikely to me that she’d just choose to stop summoning them when he killed them. If they had useful powers she could reuse, why not do it, even if it results in them getting blown up again?

      Or, here’s another theory: Once once of her spirits is suffers enough damage to be discorporated, it’s out of commission for a while as it heals up/recharges. Once it’s good to go, she can summon it again.

  35. Just some disconnected notes, some duplicated by others. I have found that typing something sometimes gives me insights that simply thinking about things does not always do. So, long post …

    Lustrum is apparently a power absorber, with the absorbed power going to size – the “great smoky shimmering figure” holding parahumans later is probably her. Of course, she is probably only holding female parahumans, but something is better than nothing.

    Scion’s attack was designed to injure, to eat away slowly at both people and objects. A normal human in blood lust would simply attack full out, but apparently Scion knows that if he does that, it won’t be satisfying, so he uses a slower attack instead. This is part human (the blood lust) and part inhuman (the control).

    “Fragment of a memory: Legend speaking. Talking about Leviathan.”

    The primary message I want to convey, … is that I do not want you to underestimate Leviathan. I have seen too many good heroes, and villains, too, die because they let their guard down. … I want to be clear that despite the image he might convey, he is not stupid, and he can display a level of cunning and tactics that can and will catch you off guard.

    Lab Rat, you are one scary, effective bastard. Is the ball he attempted to throw over the edge saving him, or saving some of his work? If I were him, how would I survive the death of my primary body? If he can induce specific transformations, he can produce a formula that temporarily turns someone into himself. Add that to genetic material from his body, and he may be able to produce a clone of sorts that is basically him, as long as it keeps dosing itself with it’s own formula.

    Whatever loyalties GU had previously, she has now attacked Scion so he is likely to attack her if they encounter each other again. Also, his power strips her of members of her collection, so if she truly sees herself as a shepherdess of the dead, he has denied her that. Therefore, she should have less motivation to betray the heroes to Scion (if she ever intended it at all). Or, her primary motivation all along could have been collecting Scion himself – the biggest and most dangerous capture of all. That is assuming he can be collected.

    Looks like Sveta’s therapy helped. Thank goodness for effective counseling.

    We need a Chevalier club award, given to those people who continue fighting vastly superior opponents when seriously injured … and actually do something, no matter how small. Chevalier, Golem, Weaver. Now, what would the award be? (switching to dark humor mode) The award is: gather up all of the various body parts/fluids they have left behind during their heroic attempts, and throw them in a jar with preservatives. The bigger the jar, the bigger the prestige. Weaver, you win!

    Uh oh, Clockblocker is dead. But, holy sh**, his power works on Scion, at least temporarily.

    “I felt my hair stir, drifting towards that spot. I’d seen something similar, once upon a time.” I suspect this is Bakuda’s temporal sink bombs she is referring to, or perhaps her black-hole bombs (the ones that suck everything in). However, it makes no sense that Eidolon would spike Scion out of the area of effect (unless the effect follows him).

    And that brings up a thought: so far, Scion’s attack speed has been high-end normal human. If he had the speed of Chuckles, battles would be over in a fraction of a second. So this is yet another self-imposed limitation on his abilities. I say self-imposed, because he could have had Chuckles’ power if he wanted to. So, a speedster might be able to catch him off-guard … once.

    Scion’s attack pattern:
    My primary hypothesis is that he ignores non-Agent effects, meaning no cross-dimensional stuff and no direct parahuman powers (which are cross-dimensional by definition). The flip side is: he attacks parahuman powers even if they technically not the main threat, e.g. his attack on the strange spreading cape that GU used. I think that String Theory’s G-Driver probably used normal physics, even though it was put together using Agent knowledge and abilities. So, he sort of discounts it as a threat, until it punches him out of the atmosphere. If that is the case, then taking him down would involve extremely powerful use of normal physics: relativistic projectiles, close-range high-yield nuclear weapons, antimatter in significant quantities, more of String Theory’s stuff etc. To test this, you need a parahuman willing to lure him into range of a nuclear weapon, or a way of targeting him with a relativistic projectile (first, figure out how to create a relativistic projectile – I am sure that GU collected String Theory).
    My secondary hypothesis is that he, like the PRT, considers duplicating or spreading powers more of a threat – anything capable of duplication of powers or multiplication of effects is a threat. That would explain his reaction in this battle to the Eidolon clones, GU’s use of her power duplicates, GU’s use of the strange expanding parahuman, Taylor’s clone-swarm duplication, etc. This is a bit harder to test, as there are probably more nuclear weapons left than there are parahumans with duplication powers. Nilbog as bait, perhaps? No-one cares if he dies being used as bait.
    I must admit that both hypotheses have holes, are VERY hard to test, and are even harder to test more than once. Dammit, make me a high-level Thinker, stat! No, Teacher, that was not an invitation, I said make me a high-level Thinker.

    • >“I felt my hair stir, drifting towards that spot. I’d seen something similar, once upon a time.” I suspect this is Bakuda’s temporal sink bombs she is referring to, or perhaps her black-hole bombs (the ones that suck everything in). However, it makes no sense that Eidolon would spike Scion out of the area of effect (unless the effect follows him).<

      I think what Eidolon did was reverse the effect. So instead of a point of intense gravity sucking things in, we got a point projecting all that force out.

      • I just assumed that Scion was bound to break out of the effect once he had a moment to get his feet under him, so Eidolon just used it as a set-up for a slow, powerful attack before he could break out on his own.

      • My impression was that The black hole effect was actually a threat to Scion, but not a major threat. When he didn’t try to get away, and reached out towards the effect, it was obvious that even if it was a threat, it was a threat he was able to counter. So Eidolon inverted the gravity field’s effect in a controlled manner, against Scion, rather than take the risk that Scion could not just disable the power, but actually turn it against the capes.

    • I hadn’t considered the possibility of G.U. having her spirits use Tinker abilities. Or Thinker ones, for that matter. For all we know, she has six dozen “advisors” using Thinker powers and whispering to her without her ever having to manifest them. Tinkering almost seems like it’d be outside her disposition, though. Maybe not.

      • Also, I’d love to see her go harvest Crusader, just so she can summon a ghost that summons ghosts and “Yo Dawg” Scion into a fit of rage. I’m sure she can yank the passenger out of a still-living parahuman who’s trapped in a time loop without ever touching him. As evidence, I present Taylor’s fear that G.U. was about to rip her passenger out when she touched her face. That’s totally the same.

  36. When Grue was first captured and tortured and split open by the S9, I was traumatized and seriously upset at the thought of him hurt or dead.

    Now I’m kinda like, well, finally he’s dead. He became kinda extraneous to the story.

    This story doesn’t have the same emotional impact that it did on me a year ago.

    Things just keep getting worse and worse. There’s only so much bad that can happen until you become numb.

    I kinda wish Taylor had another love interest tho.

  37. Maybe they can hunt through parallels until they find one where things out of Lovecraft exist, and see if Taylor’s power works on shoggoths.

    • I suppose shoggoths technically count as invertebrates, unless they decide to generate a spine, so her power might work on them… I, for one, welcome our new tentacled overlords. It’s interesting that you use the same terminology for alternate universes that I do; mind if I ask where you picked that up?

      • I was actually talking about how I thought the previous chapter was only released yesterday, so I wasn’t expecting this chapter for another couple days.

        I know about the Witness incident, and still don’t get why it was such a big deal.

        • The update days are Tuesday and Saturday no matter what. Sometimes we get a little something extra on Thursdays, usually because people keep throwing money at Wildbow, but an update on Thursday doesn’t mean we skip a regular update.

  38. Given the lack of an identifiable typo thread…

    What seven limbs was Taylor using? Her later inventory is one arm, three bug-legs, and the two arms from the flight pack.

  39. So some of this is a little bit late, but here we go…

    Okay so I figure Eidolon’s interlude is coming up soon. So I should reread Alexandria’s. And some things struck me.

    Alexandria was similer to Weaver. Now we all like to remember Alexandria as the bitch who joined Tagg in trying to break Taylor, and who got drowned in bugs for it. But she wasn’t always a bitch like that. In Alexandria’s interlude we see her get colder and colder as time goes on. She starts off a dying girl who is tired of being brave and who takes the hope Doctor Mother offers her. We see examples of her still caring in earlier parts. She was pissed that Legend left a victim to The Siberian to keep it from running. But as time goes on that care for people is eroded away. She becomes the cold hard bitch that Taylor killed.

    And there is more. Taylor as Weaver is someone who was making hard, and at time morally dubious choices to try and stop the end of the world. Of making it so Parahumans, are organized to fight it when the time comes. And Alexandria was much the same with the founding of the PRT. The difference is Taylor realized when it was time that it was costing her soul. And Alexandria didn’t.

    I wonder if we will see a similer progression for Eidolon. In Alexandria’s interlude it’s mentioned that when his powers clued him in on Cauldron’s goals he did not like it, but went along because it seemed like the best choice.

    And of course it reminded me of another thing. Every time I think I have the answers for Cauldron figured out, I find new questions…

  40. Did Taylor drive Scion off with her last krill clone? Or did Eidolon exploding the sucking cloud drive him far enough that they could open an escape door or two?

  41. Two questions.
    1. Has Taylor ever TRIED to use her bugs on Scion?
    2. Will the pepper spray be a viable weapon or was it just some mental preparation by Taylor?

    • That’s an interesting point, Tom_D. It sure is seeming a bit like that can of pepper spray has “CHEKOV” stamped on the side of it. Of course, a more likely answer is that it is simply symbolic.


      • Didn’t Taylor note how useless it was? I think that that’s wildbowese for “It’s symbolic, what the heck is pepper spray supposed to do against someone immune to mountain-shattering blasts?”

    • Wildbow *really* seems to keep coming back to that pepper spray, doesn’t he? I’d think he was just trolling us, mentioning it again after it came up in the last comments thread, but I don’t think that’s really his style…

  42. I think I’m missing something big, but after Scion has been frozen in time by the Thanda member, why would anybody try to attack him? Doesn’t the whole frozen in time power render things inviolable from both inside and out? Is the Thanda member’s power different from Clockblockers? Or am I completely mucking things up?

    • In addition to what Veekie said, if it *was* like Clockblocker’s power (and it still might be in this regard at least) then it does render things inviolable for the duration. BUT attacks on the person just become frozen until the effect lapses. IIRC, Clockblocker once froze someone, Legend(?) peppered them with lasers(?), and they had to wait until their target unfroze to see if the attack had been effective or not.

  43. Actually, neither the Thanda’s power is freezing in relative space nor is Clockblocker’s power freezing in time. As the Earth rotates around itself and around the sun, people apparently frozen by Clockblocker and the Thanda’s power still get different accelerations via gravity to complete such combined elliptical motion. Thus gravity still affects those guys just fine.
    Electromagnetism also affects them just fine on account of their being still visible when “time-frozen” and since biological processes still function when the Thanda’s power is active, the individual molecules and atoms are not frozen at all in space.

    That is why Scion can break the timestop – it is not actually a timestop. Effects that make something actually break the laws of time and space don’t care about piddly little attacks that can level countries; they wouldn’t care even if hit by attacks that can shatter stars. A singularity can eat a star without any change whatsoever to its dimensions and body because it doesn’t have any dimensions or physical presence at all – the event horizon around it is merely the side-effect of its existence. The black hole itself is a single point of no dimensions, infinite density, where time and space are meaningless – for certain levels of meaningless.

    • We still talk comic book physics here.
      The “time frozen” area would be “accelerated” to 1666.8 km/h from earth rotation or 107.208 km/h from earths rotion around the sun.

    • Um…why do you say biological processes aren’t stopped? If they weren’t, Taylor would have still been able to sense things whilst frozen.

      And given the lack of absolute time or space, having someone frozen in time and/or space stay in place relative to the surface of the Earth makes as much sense as them flying off into space relative to the surface of the Earth.

    • You’re assuming that Scion’s ability to break the timestop has anything to do with his ability to project massive amounts of force. He presumably *also* has the ability to directly manipulate spacetime rather than just trying to blast it. Admittedly that’s speculation since haven’t seen him do much timey-wimey, other than look into the future and break out of timelocks with ease, but it seems a fairly safe assumption that anything most capes can do, he can do better.

  44. PS:

    Scion is apparently affected by both gravity (otherwise he wouldn’t rotate around the planet when idle) and electromagnetism (he is visible, after all). So attacks based off those fundamental forces in sufficient magnitude to match his power-given invulnerability, should harm him.

    And there’s a good chance the only reason he is that invulnerable against powers is because he edited those powers not to affect his kind before handing them out.

    • My read is: Yes, but only by default. Scion is affected by gravity until he wants not to be. This means that the first gravity attack will probably send him flying before he counters it.

      That said, he really is very dumb. He probably has lots of clever counters available that he doesn’t use because smeh – what he’s doing now is working okay and that would require thinking that he’s not good at.

  45. Being visible means someone either a) radiates light of their own or b) they absorb part of the visible spectrum and reflect another.

    Alexandria and Siberian, lacking energy projection powers, appear to interact with light at some level. If they didn’t, something really weird would happen with how they looked. I.e. black holes don’t play with electromagnetism; they just absorb it and thus look really black.

    • It reflects off them, like the rest of us? Well, Siberian may emit light, being a projection, but could just reflect it.
      That’s different to it being able to damage them. Being unaffected by energy seems to apply to only above average levels. Normal light and gravity will have an effect, anything above that won’t.

  46. Man.. can’t even say RIP Clockblocker, ‘cuz he can’t. Taylor seems like the sort of person who remembers the people who stood up for her, but saving him from Glaistig Uaine and being dead is an awfully tall order. I mean, I guess she has leads, like that dude who was ‘pregnant with his dead teammates’, but even so I doubt Glaistig Uaine would part with a quality guy like Clockblocker for cheap. If at all 😦

    Gory, but appropriately so.. this didn’t seem like the sort of fight that any other than the hardest targets could hope to escape without serious injury or death. Taylor needed a big assist to pull through this one and seems to have got it by demanding it. The injury and shock, the transformation, the fight going south horribly, the transformation ending and her body falling apart make for a pretty bad fight. Nice depressing chat with Weld in the middle, and a bonus visit from the Faerie Queen and Cauldron at the end.

    And what does Taylor have to look forward to? Best case: being a trust-building project for Panacea and Bonesaw 😀

    That whirlpool.. wonder if that’s a major Cauldron complex flooding. I hope not ‘cuz I doubt they have the nicest evac procedures.

  47. I’m beginning work on a Worm fanfic based on a throwaway idea in a comment some arcs back. I intend to include a lot of more minor capes in places of importance. Two questions:
    1. Is there some way to view a list of all the tags applied to Worm pages? This would help a LOT in getting a good minor-character-list.
    2. Is there a forum or somewhere I can ask about the powers of minor characters (say, Black Kaze), other than these comments?

  48. I’ll admit that I haven’t read all the comments so maybe this has been brought up already. I felt like this chapter was really skirting the edge of believability in terms of how survivable Taylor was. The main thing being she hit the water with no lower half and managed to still have internal organs left over.
    It also seems like she must have an extra body’s worth of blood stored in a non-Euclidian space somewhere. (I’m no doctor, I could be wrong) I imagine in universe the part where’s she floundering in the water before activating the box is maybe a minute at most but it feels a lot longer when you’re reading it. Maybe something to take into consideration if/when you revise this is marking the time passed somehow.

  49. It’s a bit awkward needing to point out SPaG stuff given the lack of identifiable typo thread, but I guess a top-level comment is better than nothing.

    “His transformations are temporary.”

    Slight formatting anomaly: “His” isn’t italicized, but the rest of the line is.

    “I pulled off the hero bit, I lead by example.”

    I’m not actually sure whether that was intended to be “lead” or “led”. Could be either one, but seems worthwhile to point out just in case it’s the latter.

    • He’d stopped the spirit from spreading across the sky, and had made a concerted effort to eliminate Glaistig Uaine’s spirits. He’d eliminated Eidolon’s illusions.

      Whether the creations were concrete or otherwise, it was something that seemed to provoke him.

      Was it something instinctive? A part of his species? Something he watched out for in enemies, in threats or competition?
      -What is the ‘it’ in this sentence? Exponential growth?

  50. So, based on the premise “and things get worse” I’m surprised I haven’t seen anyone float this idea yet:

    That ain’t Scion. Scion just went back to smashing up Earth Bet. This is a new Scion-shaped tendril the Entity created because it needed to hit the Allies where they live…

  51. Death of String Theory. Not sure how I feel about that. Useful? Fuck yes. Totally off the wall batshit insane? Also probably yes. It likely would’ve been better for everyone had she survived a bit longer but…a woman who not only seriously threatens to blow up the Moon, not only can accomplish this but scales said gun up? Yeah I feel much more comfortable with her dead. RIP String Theory.

    Grue…normally I would claim Never Found the Body but this is Worm. And he was introduced as married. And he didn’t want to come. He raised too many death flags. RIP Grue.

    NOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!! Why Clockblocker, why!?!?!?! NOOOOOOOOOO!!! Hmm, it says something about how much I liked Dennis and how little I liked Brian that I’m not super broken up about one death while I’m very saddened with the other…RIP Dennis. You did great buddy. You were awesome enough to be able to freeze freaking Endbringers and even death wasn’t enough to keep you from screwing with a Multidimensional Evil Entity. Hope your chosen deity buys you a couple beers in Heaven, bro, you earned it.

    Seriously Taylor? No love for Foil in your “only one came”? Girl freaking joined your old team. She may not be a friend but she deserves to count in your counting! On that note…pretty please let Foil be alive.

    Wow, Garotte really has massively improved. Good for her! Yamada is fucking brilliant. I always loved Weld. That guy is so totally awesome. I can’t blame him at all for not wanting to walk alone across the bottom of an ocean. That is quite possibly one of the scariest ways to “survive” possible. Never even knowing if you’re walking in the right direction or simply going in circles. Which is extremely likely. Not able to talk or listen to anything or anyone and simply hoping that eventually Scion will leave and Doormaker will still see you and open a path out. Screw that. It’s nice to see that Matryoshka is okay. And that she moved from Faultline to the Irregulars. Not so surprising really but interesting. I’m betting those two groups have strong ties.

    Oh so THAT’s how Gray Boy died originally…Glaistig…um…fuck…I…seriously underestimated to scary faerie woman. Seriously. Daaaaaammmmmnnnn. Someone have Yamada go talk to that woman. If we can get the crazy out imagine how much of a boon that would be. More powerful than the damn Triumvirate combined that one. Fighting Scion one on one. Just, damn. She’s a bit of a bitch but still.

    I love the “I don’t do well with betrayal” line. That is pretty much the perfect pre-asskicking line. And amazingly enough the bug girl was freaking useful!?! I mean yeah she didn’t actually hurt him but she stopped him long enough that others could! That’s outstanding everything considered! And I don’t really think many people can claim that they got literally cut in half, had their organs falling out of their body, had enough frame of mind to survive falling hundreds of feet, turn themselves into a crab, cockroach hybrid monster thing and KEEP fighting! The Taylor Hebert School of Badassery just set a new standard for 4.0 marks. I doubt we will be seeing anyone else reach such a perfect score for a very, very long time. Oh and I almost forgot the extra credit for being happy that Glaistig was going to let her keep fighting even after she died.

  52. Aand the clock is punched! Thank you, thank you, it’s probably what he would have wanted. Oh. I just realized that Mouse Defender probably deserved the same. I wonder what would have happened if they had met, actually. To the shipyard!

  53. Jeez.
    You’ve certainly conveyed that we’re in the deep shit, now.

    Seriously, though, I feel like Cauldron REALLY ought to have at least tried to use Doormaker to hit Scion with his own attacks. “Unstoppable offense” and “impenetrable defense” can’t coexist; if you line them up against each other, you’re going to find a flaw in one or the other. That kind of information seems like it would be worth showing Scion one of the portals, especially now that they know he can transit universes without them.

  54. In hindsight, the whole idea of massing this much power in one place, against a single enemy who can punch through any known defense, was pretty stupid. Hiding on the far side of a different planet was a good idea- but why stop there? Why not hide on various sides of half a dozen planets? They have Doormaker, and they were already using him to attack from a different place than the staging area- they could have staged this same attack pattern from thirteen or fourteen different locations instead of just one, and that would have gone a lot better in the worst case scenario. Scion finds one group of attackers? Sure, they’re probably all dead- but in the time it takes him to kill them all, the other groups (continents and/or worlds away from the spot under attack) can retreat via portals, and regroup for another shot.

    • Because Cauldron is still mostly calling the shots. And while Cauldron may be interested in (as Dumbledore would call it) The Greater Good, they are complete idiots. Actually, let’s keep going with the HP reference – Cauldron approaches Dumbledore levels of stupidity in their pursuit of their goal. Their way = BEST WAY EVER!!! Their way = ONLY WAY TO DO THINGS!!! Their way = NO ONE CAN POSSIBLE HAVE A BETTER IDEA THAN ME!!!

      Cauldron has their heart in the right place for the most part but they’ve proven throughout the story that they utterly suck at doing things in a smart way or listening when people raise some concerns with their plans. Contessa has a badass power sure but she is not the end-all-be-all and Doctor Mother is incapable of seeing that or getting off her high horse.

      Your idea is a great plan. Therefore, Cauldron can’t use it. It’s too smart to be useful.

        • Oh they most definitely do which just makes it worse. They treat her as if she has no weaknesses whatsoever despite her blindspots. For the most part Contessa can’t be beaten sure but she really shouldn’t be the primary point against Scion or the Endbringers. They got complacent and it bit them in the ass.

          • They did ultilizeher better than the more stupid humans I know would. Its just that the fact that people in Worm tend to be competent (except Tagg and Saint) blinds us to it, as they get the low end of competence stick.

            • Yeah I could go with that. I just get so annoyed with Cauldron because really by and large they had/have sooooo much potential. What gets to me isn’t so much that they are incompetent it’s that they are stupid incompetent. If they weren’t so arrogant they would be one of the strongest, most unifying forces in the entire setting! They do a pretty darn good job up until the endgame when they really, really need to be at their best. It’s like watching your football team leading by 20 points until the last quarter where they proceed to let in three touchdowns because they started arguing and the quarterback was off ignoring the coach and patting himself on the back.

              Though since the shards seem to default to ramping up conflict as a whole I guess that could somewhat explain everyone but Doctor Mother. She gets no excuse. She’s just a straight up idiot all around. (I actually really like both Contessa and the Number Man.)

              (And yup, nobody takes the Supreme Incompetence Medal away from Saint. Tagg comes damn close but I feel like Saint takes the cake on that one.)

              • Tagg is worse imo. At least Saint had the excuse of lacking enough information to make a juegement before defaulting to stupidity.

                And you’d notice that “endgame” started right at the point when Contessa’a powers were becoming useless.

  55. Nice, I noticed the reference to the chapter that does not exist. The Irregular with a huge head and frail body. Someone they recruited in Brockton Bay, after the Echidna incident, perhaps?

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