Cockroaches 28.1

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“…Man, oh man, did you ever fuck the dog, here.”

Blaming me?

I’d failed.  I’d taken on the world ending threat and come up short.  Why had I even expected to be able to do anything?  Arrogant.

But someone else responded to the accusation.  “We did no such thing, Tattletale.  Working with the knowledge we had, we put our best foot forward, as did the others.  The fault does not lie with us.”

It was the Doctor, uncharacteristically irritated.

Well, Tattletale was good at getting a rise out of people.

“Do I need to repeat myself, Doctor?  You wanted to take charge, you proposed this scenario?  Great.  Except you didn’t put your best foot forward.  It fell apart as a result, and now we’re in a worse place than ever.  The dog is fucked.  Thoroughly.  All available holes.”

“You don’t need to repeat yourself,” the Doctor said.  “Please.  Your meaning is clear.”

“Can you stop talking about fucking the dogs, now?” another young woman said.  Rachel, I suspected.

“Let’s be honest, Doctor.  This was a critical moment, maybe the most critical, and you held back your best cards.  You could have evacuated most of the people there, and you didn’t.”

“If we had tried and failed, we might have lost the ability to easily move people between worlds.  Do us both a favor, Tattletale, and stop pretending you’re a brilliant individual.  You have access to a lot of information, but that doesn’t equate intelligence.  An intelligent individual would recognize that they don’t have all of the facts.”

Oh hell.

I sat up, ready to intervene, and I felt something off.  Enough that I gave up on stepping between them.  I opened my eyes, but nobody was in my line of sight.  My hand and lower body were intact.

“We’re sinking down to base insults?  Trust me, I’m way better than you at that, Dr. Mengele.  I get that you’re upset over losing Eidolon, but let’s not cross a line and become enemies.  We can’t afford to add more conflict to the pile.”

Losing Eidolon?

Oh hell.

“I was merely stating the facts: namely that you don’t have all of the facts.”  The Doctor sighed audibly.  “I’d hoped you had something of import to share when you called me in.”

My body was intact, but it didn’t feel right.  I experimented, tapping the thumb of my ‘new’ hand against the individual fingertips, then repeated the process, mimicking the movements with my other hand.

“You’ve already shown you have one group of soldiers you’ve been holding in reserve.  I know you’ve got more.  Weapons, soldiers, tools, tricks.  You asked some of the best and brightest of humanity to go fight, as phase A in a series of plans you have in mind.  You barely care.  So you move on to plan B.  That didn’t fucking work.  So are you going to throw away more lives, to maybe stop Scion, now?  On to plan C?”

I clenched my hands, then stretched my entire body.  The sensations matched but it still felt out of sync in a way I couldn’t place.

The Doctor responded, her tone overly patient, “If we’d gone all out, an upset of some sort might have spoiled all plans at once. Then where would we stand?”

“If we’d gone all out from the outset, we might have stopped him.”

“Then answer this, Tattletale, are you telling me you didn’t have any idea about our plan B, plan C and all of the other contingencies, or are you telling me you knew, but you said nothing?”

There was a pause, Tattletale declining to respond.

I glanced around the room.  It was dark, and there were curtains at the far end, drawn shut.  There were four beds, but two of the four were empty.

A girl with banana yellow hair and feathers sticking out of her scalp sat on the bed that was to my left and across from me.  She was sitting on the bed, over top of the covers, with only a folded blanket bunched around her feet.  She wore a sky blue shirt, bright orange shorts and lime green eye shadow. Her body language wasn’t a hundredth as vibrant as her clothing.

She glanced at me, and I looked away, not wanting to look like I was staring.

I opened my mouth to speak to the yellow-haired girl, but Tattletale started speaking, and I shut my mouth to listen.  I could tell she was in the next room, by the volume and direction of her voice.  “…I had an idea, but I’d expected you to play your cards if worst came to worst.”

“A good lawyer won’t ask a question on the stand if they don’t already know the answer they’re going to receive.  You should take that under advisement.  With the information you have available, you shouldn’t ever make assumptions.  The only person you can blame when you’re proven wrong is yourself.”

“I feel pretty confident I can blame you on this one, Doctor.”

“Do what you need to in order to make peace with yourself.  At this juncture, it might be all you can do.  Buying time and making peace with things at the end.  Thank you for wasting my time.  Door.”

Tattletale didn’t respond.  I could only assume Doctor Mother had left.  I reached out for my swarm, and I found for the first time in months that there weren’t many nearby.  How long had it been since I slept and didn’t have an emergency swarm nearby for self-defense and investigation?  Since I didn’t leave hundreds of thousands of spiders spinning threads of silk?

That wasn’t to say there weren’t any.  There were bugs throughout the building, but they hadn’t moved until I woke up.  Spiders in corners, bugs in the walls.  A hospital, newly built judging by the freshness of the wood.  I could smell it.

There were tents just outside, set on grass that was just starting to die.

I hadn’t even registered it consciously when I visited New Brockton Bay, but the grass had been fresh, alive.

It had been days.

I swung my legs over the edge of the bed, sliding them out from under the sheets.  I realized I was wearing only the hospital gown.

My costume-

-Would be destroyed, I realized, belatedly.  The lower half, anyways.  No reason to expect the silk would last if the flesh and bone had been obliterated.

Which raised really strange thoughts on the particulars of having my legs rebuilt.  I’d spent years running as a matter of routine.  A part of me had been proud of the way I’d honed my body, built up my stamina.

Had they rebuilt my legs with that same strength and stamina?  With the muscles reflecting the regular exercise?  If they had, was it really my strength?  If they hadn’t, could I deal with it?  Work my way back to where I had been?

If humanity even survived that long.

I needed to go to the bathroom, which made me think of other things.  Had my private parts been reconstituted?  Had Panacea paid any particular attention to the redesign or accuracy of the architecture or plumbing?

Or had it been Bonesaw that fixed me up?

My skin crawled at the thought, heebie-jeebies from head to toe.  No bugs involved.  The sensation only served to remind me of how alien the new body parts felt, reinforcing the creeped out feeling.

Someone found a powerful regeneration-granter and healed me.  Bonesaw and Panacea had nothing to do with it, I told myself.  Nothing to do with it.

The first bugs in the hospital were starting to make their way to me.  They crawled up the sides of the bed and up onto the hospital gown I wore.  I eased my feet down to the cold tile and steadied myself against the bed.

My body was okay, but I felt out of it in the same way I might have if I’d slept in too long.

Not that I’d had that luxury in some time.

Maybe it was odd, to think about things in this sense, to be concerned about my swarm or my body or the fact that I was tired.  Part of that might have been an unconscious form of procrastination.

“Hey,” the yellow-haired girl spoke.  She was quiet, but the utterance carried across the room.

I’d been staring down at the foot of the bed.  I looked up at her.

“You okay?  If there’s pain, or if you don’t feel okay to move, I can hit the button to call someone.”

Her voice was attention grabbing, the pitch and tone shifting very deliberately.  Done badly, it might have sounded like she was over-enunciating.  She leveraged it well enough that it didn’t sound that way, nor did it detract from the sympathy she was expressing.

I was a little caught off guard by it.  Left wordless, I shook my head.

“Things are bad, but I guess you heard that much,” she said.

“Yeah,” I managed.

“I’d explain, but your friends would probably be kinder.”

I shook my head a little.  “You don’t know my friends.”

“They cared enough to sit by you.  One or two of them even held your hand during the tougher moments.”


“Panacea said your nerve endings were being reformed, and it was pretty raw.  So you had a lot of fits, like seizures.”

“Oh,” I said.  “It’s been a few days, I’m guessing?”

“I guess.  I moved in here last night, and you were still out.”

I felt my heart sink.  It was confirmation.  Scion was still active, and had been for at least one day.

“How bad is the situation?” I asked.

She glanced at the door.  “Bad.”

“That’s not telling me anything.”

Really bad?”

“Casualty numbers?  Key deaths?”

She shook her head.  “I don’t- I never followed any of the cape stuff.”

“You’re a rogue, then,” I said.  And an ex-member of the Birdcage, if I remember right.

“Yeah.  Canary.  I was a singer, until midway through twenty-ten.  Indie, but I was breaking through to mainstream, some radio stuff.”

I nodded, not really caring.  I wanted more details, and I didn’t.

“Another Earth, another time, another society,” she said, more to herself than to me.

I moved and flexed my legs, trying to judge if the old musculature was intact.  It felt more out of sync than my hands did.  It wasn’t that I wasn’t ungrateful, but…

No, not worth moaning over it, one way or the other.  I had my life, I had an intact body.

“Do you know if this is even remotely salvageable?” I asked.  “Humanity?  Civilization?”

She shook her head.  “No.”

Was that a no, it wasn’t salvageable, or no, she didn’t know?

I wasn’t sure I wanted to ask.  I saw Aisha poke her head in, glancing into the room.  She met my eyes, then disappeared.

“Well,” she said, “They’re still fighting.  Kind of.  So there has to be something to fight for, right?”

She injected a note of hope into the statement.   I almost believed her, almost bought into it.

But I shook my head.  “Kind of, but kind of not?”

“People were talking about it, asked if I’d fight, and they encouraged me and stuff, but when I said no, they started talking among themselves, and it didn’t sound so hot.”

“No.  I’m thinking it probably isn’t so hot.  You’re right.  There are reasons to fight, and saving humanity isn’t necessarily the sum of it.”

“Selfish reasons,” she concluded.

I nodded.  “Pride.  Revenge.  Sheer stubbornness.  I like stubbornness.”

She nodded, but she didn’t respond.

“Why aren’t you fighting?” I asked.  Then I raised a hand, stopping her before she could speak.  “Sorry.  That came out like an accusation.  I only… I meant it out of curiosity.”

“It’s okay.  I might deserve the accusations.  I’m not a fighter.  Like, at all.  Besides, what could I do?  Girl with a good voice.”

I shook my head.

Voices.  I thought about it.  How many capes had I run into with eerie or altered voices?  I’d had the beginnings of a thought while talking to some kids  back in my first days among the Chicago Wards.  Cricket, Rachel, Labyrinth, Night, Oni Lee, Mannequin and others I couldn’t be bothered to think of, had had their voices or their abilities to communicate either removed or altered irrevocably.  Leviathan, Scion, the other Endbringers, they didn’t speak either, but they weren’t quite human.

Me, Grue, Eidolon, Glaistig Uaine, Dragon, Defiant, Bakuda, Über, Canary… we’d all used powers or technology to manipulate our voices, had done it as a matter of habit.  A lot of us were powerful capes, others were minor capes striving to look more important.  Odds were good I fit in Über’s position, more than Eidolon’s.  I could guess that Canary was in the ‘low power’ category as well, but I didn’t know enough about her.  Bakuda was hard to place, but I suspected her power was devastating, and her lack of success was due to the chassis the power had attached to.  An unstable, unpredictable individual, too intent on terrorism to become as big as her power deserved.

Damn, we could probably have used some of her best work.

Was there something important in that jumble of stray thoughts on voices and communication problems, or was my mind wandering in vain attempts to avoid thinking about how bad things were?

Communication.  The word crossed my mind.

Tattletale entered the room through the door to Canary’s left.  Rachel and Aisha followed, with Bastard and another dog trailing behind.  Tattletale carried a pile of clothes, neatly folded and stacked.

“Tailored to your measurements.  I wasn’t sure if you’d be keen on getting straight into costume or not.  A lot of people aren’t.”

“Thank you,” I said, taking the clothes.

I didn’t dress.  Instead, I stood by the side of the bed, holding the clothing.

They waited, as if apprehensive.  Aisha wasn’t visibly upset, so I could assume Grue had gotten out.

I sighed a little.  “How bad is it?”

“We lost just about half of everyone,” Tattletale said.  “Maybe more, but communicating’s hard right now.  Don’t exactly have an infrastructure.”

“Everyone being-”

“The capes, the civilians.  Everyone.  Half of Bet’s onetime population is gone, just about.  Good news is he’s traveling between possible Earths, hitting major population centers, so the individual incidents aren’t doing so much damage on a relative level.  Bad news is he’s traveling between possible Earths.”

I tried to process that, then gave up.  “How many possible Earths are there?”

“Not as many as there should be,” Tattletale said.  “Technically, every action should create a world where that action came to pass.  Best guess is that he compartmentalized everything.  Limited how far we could roam so he could save the other Earths for… something.”

I nodded slowly.

“We’re in bad shape,” Tattletale said.  She offered me a sympathetic half-grin, as if she’d just told a joke she knew was bad.

“We’re doomed,” Aisha added.  “The dog is fucked.”

Rachel wrapped her arm around Aisha’s neck, seizing her in a headlock, wordless.  Aisha struggled and squeaked, while Rachel maintained the hold, not so tight as to choke, but tight enough to be uncomfortable.

I looked pointedly at Canary, as if to say, I told you they’d be blunt.

Tattletale followed my gaze.  “Refugees.  We’re forced to keep moving, split up and spread out because of limited resources, and to minimize the damage when any one location gets hit.  Canary was a refugee from another group.  She wanted a place to stay, I offered.”

“Canary said people are still fighting,” I ventured.

Tattletale didn’t budge an inch.  A poker face.  Aisha’s expression, by contrast, gave it away.  Pained, concerned, looking to Tattletale for validation.

“No?” I asked.

“Yes,” Tattletale said, but she didn’t look confident.  “Except it’s not Scion they’re fighting.”

I’d heard of someone’s heart skipping a beat, had read about it enough times, but this was something else.  It was more like missing a stair and hitting the ground floor a little too hard, a thud in my chest.

So many things that could mean, none of them good.

Tattletale tucked her hair behind her ear, a tell, and then pointed at the door.  “Easier to show than to tell.  Come on, Canary.”

“I don’t- I’m not sure I want to know,” Canary said.

“You’re going to find out one way or another.”

Canary didn’t budge.

“Okay.  Whatever,” Tattletale said.  She glanced at me.  “I’m gonna pull up all the relevant files, so this won’t be five seconds of explanation with thirty seconds of searching between each bit.  Come whenever you’re dressed and ready.  If you want to get her to come along, it probably wouldn’t hurt.”

I nodded.

Tattletale stepped out, and Rachel let her arm drop.  I was surprised to see Aisha there, a little flushed in the face as she fled.  She gave Rachel the middle finger on her way out, walking backwards through the door.

I almost started to close the curtain for privacy, then realized I didn’t give a damn.  I began pulling on the underwear.

“Are you going to try to convince me to fight?” Canary asked.

“No, I don’t think so,” I responded.  “No point, is there?  Unless you want me to.”

“She’s scared,” Rachel observed.

Everyone’s scared,” I responded.  Rachel hesitated, then nodded a little.

Canary spoke up, “What did she mean, it wouldn’t hurt?”

I started putting on the skinny jeans Tattletale had given me, hiking them up beneath the hospital gown.  “My guess?  Most of the people we lost were some of the best of us.  Team leaders, brilliant tinkers, people who’ve seen ten or more Endbringer fights.  People you’ve heard about in the news, people you grew up reading about in magazines or newspapers.  Heroes, villains, people who don’t apply to either category, all gone.”

I watched her expression change, studied it.  Eyebrows raising, the movements of her eyes as she mentally processed the fact that people like Eidolon weren’t around any more.

I continued.  “…They were the sort of people who’d go to the front line without hesitation.  Not sure how many we have left, but odds are good we’re down to a select few.  Major players who were lucky, clever or tough enough to walk away, capes with crappy powers or powers that don’t apply, and then rogues or new capes who aren’t experienced in fighting.”

Gently, cautiously, I added, “We need everyone we can get.”

“I… I can’t do violence.  Like, at all,” Canary protested.  I turned my back to pull off the hospital gown and do my bra.  I noted a change in the coloration of my skin where the flesh had been regrown.

“It’s easy,” Rachel said, taking over while I was distracted.  “You hurt people until they stop doing whatever it is that irritated you.  Taylor kicked me in the head the first time we met, and she was way scrawnier than you are now.  I stopped doing what she hated me doing, setting my dogs on her.”

“No.  I mean, it’s like, mentally, I couldn’t do it.  I get sick at the sight of blood.  Besides, my power wouldn’t affect Scion.”

“Probably not,” I agreed, pulling on the strapless top with the string going around the throat.  I turned around.  I thought about what Doctor Mother had said at the last big meeting.  “But the real question is, do you want to be there when the world ends, struck by the sudden realization that maybe, possibly, you could have done something to help?”

She stared down at her legs.

“Baby steps,” I said.  “I’m not asking you to fight.  Just… come.  Listen to what Tattletale has to say.  Guilt free, just to go that far.”

“And then it’s harder to refuse the next part,” she said.

“I promise I won’t ask you to do anything,” I said.  “Strictly volunteer stuff.  If nothing else, think of it as a morale thing.  I’m using my bugs to feel out the surroundings, and the building is damn empty.  I’d feel a hell of a lot better about this if we had just one more body in the room.”

“A morale thing.”

I nodded.


I grabbed the heavy jacket Tattletale had included and pulled it on.  If we were going anywhere Scion had been, odds were good it’d be cold, much like Earth Bet had been on our last visit.

We made our way out of the little room with the beds.

Tattletale had set up a command center.  The bulletin boards, the notes, the files, books and more had all multiplied tenfold.  She must have moved me closer to home, so I could be watched.

Aisha was with her, sitting on the edge of the desk.

“Bitch,” Tattletale said.  “Can-”

“I’ll go patrol,” Rachel said.

Tattletale nodded.

She turned one of her computer monitors our way as we approached, so we had a clear view.  When she started the clip, the same video showed on each of the monitors on the desk.

“Video feed from a cape called Greenhorn.”

“I know him,” I said.  A new member of the Wards, having joined just before the Slaughterhouse Nine reappeared.  Untrained, he’d deigned to wear Defiant’s combat calculation suit.

The image played out.  It took me a while to realize what I was looking at.  A crowd of refugees, fleeing into a portal.

The camera panned as Greenhorn turned his head.

Faultline was there, along with Dinah, Gregor, Labyrinth and Scrub.

Tattletale waited, then paused the image.  She tapped the screen.

I glanced at the image, but I didn’t see anything out of place.  People in the crowd, tired, worn out.  A middle-aged man with a group of male teenagers and other men aged twenty to thirty.

“I don’t see it,” I said.

“You will,” she said.  She resumed the video.

I watched the man she’d pointed out.  Familiar, but not overwhelmingly so.  Nobody I knew.

The crowd flowed through the portal as a mass.  Up until the man I was watching stopped, turning around.  The men and boys from the group around him did too.  They became obstacles, standing against the stream of bodies.

“Far left,” Tattletale said.  “Recognize him?”

I looked.  A tan young man with dark hair cut close to his head.  He was perched on top of a thick wooden sign, his hand on a taller man’s shoulder for balance.

“No, I said.

“You only saw him without his mask a few times,” Tattletale said.

He was a cape?  I thought about it.  How many capes had I seen without a mask on?  Someone I’d seen while in Tattletale’s company, or who Tattletale would know I’d only seen a few times?

It clicked, but something was already happening on the image.  Greenhorn was standing on the same side of the portal as the group.  Then he wasn’t.  The image had shifted, and he was standing by other Wards and Protectorate members.

The image whirled as Greenhorn spun around.  He had been moved outside of the portal.

The man Tattletale had pointed out raised a device over his head, then hit a button.

The portal disappeared.

I watched as Labyrinth and Scrub stepped forward to try to knock open another portal.  They succeeded, but their efforts apparently didn’t allow access back into the same world.

It was Teacher.  One of the cell block leaders of the Birdcage.  He had the ability to make others into thinkers and tinkers, but it left them extremely suggestible.  He’d surrounded himself with these mooks, then, what, he’d shut himself into another world and barricaded the door?

The cape Tattletale had pointed out would be Trickster, ex-leader of the Travelers, apparently one of Teacher’s brainwashed minions.

The volume had been turned almost all the way down, but it hadn’t been muted.  I could hear the faint cries of the crowd, see Greenhorn moving to stop them from rioting.  The looks of desperation, the fear, the panic, at realizing their way out had just been denied them.

The camera moved to Faultline.  She was talking, giving orders.

Labyrinth changed the ‘channel’ on the portal, setting it to a different world.  The people began moving through again, a little faster, more forcefully.

“He betrayed us?” I asked.

“No idea.  Maybe he wanted a safe place to work on a trump card with zero distractions.  Going by his modus operandi, though, yeah, I think he betrayed us.  Not a big betrayal, but that’s one world where we moved a hell of a lot of supplies in”

I nodded, pursing my lips.

“Saint’s upset, to put it mildly.  We ran the data.  Apparently he crossed paths with Teacher at some point a few months before Teacher’s incarceration.  There have been almost no cases where Teacher’s power lasted more than a few days without a refresher, and the brainwashing wears off over a few weeks or months, so yeah.  It’s not that.”

“Saint wants something from Teacher?  A power?”

“Probably.  Anyways, Teacher had a few of those devices made.  Four portals in all that particular interest groups claimed and locked down, using these switches, wanting worlds all to themselves.  No major players in the bunch, no sign of any greater conspiracy.  Defiant was all too happy to bring Saint into custody, and we’re kind of hoping to get a response out of the man.  That’s problem number one.”

Number one, I thought.  I felt a sick feeling settling in my gut.

“Number two.”

The video played.  Not a camera anyone wore, but a steady image that panned left and then right.  A surveillance camera.  The scene was of a settled area.

Silent image, but the detonations were so vivid, so violent, I could imagine the noise of it, that crashing sound that would be followed with dead silence after the shockwave blew out eardrums.  Ten or twelve explosions at different points across the camera’s field of view.  Coordinated strikes.

“Yàngbǎn,” Tattletale said.  “Refused to let Faultline or Cauldron open up any portals in the C.U.I. territories, and then the moment things got ugly, they invaded the portals others made instead.  Striking American settlements.  Including ours, potentially.  Part of the reason for Bitch’s patrolling right now.  Wouldn’t mind you doing a double-check of the area with your bugs, when you’re up for it.”

I nodded slowly.

“Number three.  No video, so you’ll have to take my word for it.  Cauldron.”

“You said they tried something,” I said.

“You overheard.  Yes, but that’s not what this is about.  It’s the Irregulars.  They’re actively fighting Cauldron, despite Cauldron’s extensive resources, and they haven’t been wiped out or assassinated.  Arguably the strongest precog out there, arguably the strongest clairvoyant, countless other resources, and they’re actually stressing Doctor Mother out.”

“How?” I asked.

“Hard to say.  Could be that Cauldron made a mistake, let a case fifty-three with a powerful Stranger ability slip through the cracks, and Weld recruited him or her.  Could be a disgruntled customer.”

“Disgruntled?” Aisha asked.  “Fun word, makes me gruntled, but I don’t follow your meaning.  Superpowers for cash instead of powers for trauma… how is anyone not cool with that?”

“Maybe Canary could shed light on this?” Tattletale suggested.

Canary’s eyes opened wide.

“You bought Cauldron powers?” I asked.


“Pretty rare for a natural cape to get powers with physical changes,” Tattletale said.  “Cauldron capes?  Yeah.  You definitely see stuff like feathers.”

“I wasn’t disgruntled,” Canary said.  “I freaked, and I couldn’t exactly charge back on my credit card or sue them.  But I adjusted.  I got what I really wanted in the end.  By the time I realized I’d gotten too much of what I wanted, I was already in jail.”

“Shit sucks,” Aisha said.  “Scammed hard, grow yellow feathers on top of a shitty fashion sense, get what you want and then boom, it’s all over.  Off to jail.”

“I dress colorfully so people don’t connect me to the Simurgh so easily,” Canary said.  “Keeps me from getting cussed out or beaten by someone who lost a friend or family member.”

“Getting back to the question, with all of the issues you’ve faced, you could see where someone else would be less cool about it, yeah?” Tattletale asked.

Canary nodded.  “Um, definitely.  The stuff they give you isn’t always reliable.  You’re always gambling, whether it’s on the amount of raw power, the nature of the power, all of that crap.

“And if someone like Weld showed up, saying he has contacts in the Protectorate and the Wards, good friends, who told him they’ve got a way to break into another universe if they can find a spot where a portal was opened, and they just need you to tell them where Cauldron opened one?”

“They stepped through into my dad’s house once, so I could talk to a therapist before I took anything.  Yeah.  If things had gone differently, I could have pointed them to the right place.”

“Another possibility for how the Irregulars are managing,” Tattletale said, sounding satisfied.  “With Contessa and Cauldron’s other hit squads being too busy with more important matters to retaliate.”

I nodded.  It wasn’t sound, but there was enough there for me to acknowledge it was very possible.

“Issue number four.”

“Wait,” I said.

Tattletale paused.

“This is a thing?  There’s a pattern here?”

“Isn’t it obvious?  I mean, you can connect the dots.”

I could.

“You said it before,” Canary told me.  “Remember?  There are reasons for people to fight, reasons to keep going when all is lost.  Pride, revenge, stubbornness.”

“Fuck me,” I said.  I stepped back, leaning against the wall.  The blunt ends of tacks poked me in the back and shoulders where I leaned against a bulletin board.  “Fuck!  They’re all fighting, and they’re not fucking capable of turning this aggression towards Scion?  What the fuck?”

Tattletale shook her head.  “Scion trounced some of our strongest capes and as far as we can tell, we didn’t even slow him down.  We only gave him the bright idea of attacking other Earths, buying our world a few days at most, but we screw over a trillion other people in the process.  Might be they want to do something that isn’t futile, before humanity gets wiped out.”

I hung my head, and my hair fell forward.  I clenched my fists, and I could still feel the alien sensation in my hand.  I rubbed my fingers against the palm.

“I’m going to keep going, just so you know what’s up,” Tattletale said.  “Issue four.  Elites, Vegas Dark, less pleasant members of the Thanda.  We’ve got the businessmen and bastards of Vegas’s underworld, guys who were already gaming the system, only now they’re moving into refugee locations on the far sides of the portals and trying to elbow their way in while things are just starting up.  Hoping to make themselves a fixture like we made ourselves fixtures, so everything grows up around them, dependent on them.”

I nodded, feeling just a touch numb.  “I don’t need in depth explanations.”

“Fine.  Five?  Sleeper on Zayin.  Six?  Warlords on Bet, preying on those who decided not to leave.  There’s shit sprouting up all over, so maybe I could save issue seven is everything else put together.  We could get wiped out under the combined weight of a thousand lesser issues.”

“Not a problem,” Aisha commented, her tone ironic.  “Easy peasy.”

I stared at the screens.

Tattletale studied me, then added, “The Simurgh showed up on Bet, but there’s nothing really left for her to destroy,” Tattletale said.  “There’s refugees, people who didn’t leave, holed up here and there, but she doesn’t seem to care enough to go after them.  She’s… still.  A non-threat, at least for now.”

“It’s too early for her to show up,” I said.

“They’re attracted to conflict,” Tattletale replied.  Answer enough.

“It’s funny,” Aisha observed, “In this really sad, demented, ‘everything sucks’ way.  ‘Oh hey, here to destroy everything… oh, is everything already destroyed?  Shit, fuck.  Guess I’ll hang out, dick around over here while humanity winds down like an unwound clock that some golden asshole is stomping into little pieces’.”

“Your metaphors tend to fall apart,” Tattletale observed.

Aisha shrugged.

“People have given up, then,” I said.  “We mustered our strength, gathered some of our best, and he took us down.  He killed one of our strongest.  So now they’re focused on petty things.  Even if we could fix it all, we’ve still got the Endbringers and Scion waiting to systematically murder us all.”

“All of the great things humanity’s done,” Canary said, “Innovation, society, great works of art, the music…  I kind of hoped we go out in some noble way.”

“I don’t think humanity is noble,” I said.  “Not in the least.  It’s not just or fair on an intrinsic level.  It’s not even good.  But I kind of hoped we’d go out fighting the other guy.  Dinah said Scion would take out just about everyone, leaving anywhere from a few billion to a few hundred still alive.  Probably the people who’ve scattered far enough apart it’s not worth hunting them down.”

“Probably,” Tattletale said.

“Looking at this stuff, hearing you describe it all, I’m starting to think that maybe we’ll destroy ourselves in the end.  Infighting, stupidity, revenge, all of that.  Humanity will clean up whatever members of humanity Scion leaves alive, or leave us too screwed up to bounce back.”

“Ergo, the dog is fucked,” Aisha murmured, barely audible.

Tattletale snorted a half-laugh, despite herself.  That, in turn, made me smirk stupidly.

Tattletale saw that, and she laughed a little, which started me going.

Aisha joined in.  Not a full belly laugh, but a giggle fit, all the more infectious because of how out of place it was.

I glanced at Canary, who was looking at us like we were batshit insane, and that only started me going again.

It took us a minute or two to stop altogether.

“Where the hell did you learn a word like ergo?”  Tattletale asked.  I had to bite my tongue to keep myself from laughing any more.

Aisha shrugged, smiling a little.

“So.  Want to join in on the petty shit?  Anyone in particular you want revenge on?”  Tattletale asked.  “Aisha?  Taylor?  Canary?  Feel free to speak up.  No judgement here.”

“I’ll judge you a teeny bit,” Aisha said.

“No,” Canary said.  “Don’t want any revenge.  Like I said, I’m not big on violence or any of that.”

“I’m not one to put off revenge,” Aisha said.

“What about the bullies?”  Tattletale asked me.

“I made peace with that some time ago.  No petty shit I’m that invested in.”

Rachel had returned, tying her dogs up outside.  I followed her with the bugs that clung to her as she made her way inside and upstairs.

“Want to go get laid?”  Tattletale asked.  “Seems like something people tend to do in the movies, when the end is nigh.”

“Were you just inviting Taylor or-”

Tattletale swiveled in her chair and kicked Aisha in the shin.  “No.  I’m not interested in that kind of thing.  My power makes it way less fun than it ought to be.  Information overload during sex is squick.”

“Sure,” Aisha said.  “Sure.”

Tattletale kicked at her again.  Aisha only cackled.

“No,” I said.  “I’ve enjoyed that sort of thing, but that was more to do with who I was with than anything else.”

“Ew, ew, ew.  TMI.  Unless you’re talking about someone else.  Tell me you’re talking about someone else.”


“Ew, ew, ew.”

Rachel entered the room.  Bastard was bigger than an ordinary dog, smaller than a pony.  He followed her, the collapsed on a pile of sheets in one corner of the room.  He heaved out a sigh.

“Welcome back,” I said.

Rachel nodded.  She surveyed the room, taking us all in.  “You’re all in a good mood.”

“Just having fun,” Tattletale said.  “End of the fucking world, people are stupid beyond belief.  It’s at the point where you can either laugh or cry, and I promised myself I wouldn’t cry a long, long time ago.”

“Mm,” Rachel grunted.  “Right.”

Never been one to keep a conversation going, I thought.  Rachel stopped at the end of the desk opposite Aisha.

I took a step to my left, and I sort of bumped my arm against her arm, smiling a little.  She bumped me back.  She didn’t smile, but she put an arm up around my shoulders and set her hand on my head, mussing with my hair, like she had earlier.

“We were talking about what we’d do,” Tattletale said.  “You got any boy toys, Bitch?  Any way to scratch that particular itch?”

Rachel shook her head.

“Where’s Grue?”  I asked, all of a sudden.

“Ew, gross.  Can you not make those obvious leaps in logic?”

“He’s gone,” Tattletale said.  “He was here while Panacea put you back together.  When, um, she was working on you, he borrowed her power and took over for a bit.  I don’t know if you’re going to see that as weird or gross or a weirdly sweet goodbye gift or deeply invasive or whatever, but yeah.  Maybe he just needed to help.  Needed to know that he could save you or help you or fix you after you’d fulfilled one of his old fears and gone and got yourself murdered in a fit of recklessness.”

“And then he left?”

“Retired, quit.  Maybe losing the fight, verifying he couldn’t do anything constructive, it took something out of him.  Seeing you like that, it took something else.  And then he ran into Bonesaw.”

“She didn’t work on me?”

“No.  We didn’t let her.  She’s paired up with Panacea for now, because Panacea is really the only way we can double check her work.  Anyways, yeah.  Grue confirmed you were on your way, he was leaving, she was walking in.  They crossed paths.  I think it was the straw that broke the camel’s back.  He left without a word.  Cozen came by, asking if we had a spot they could head off to.  I sent them to a cabin we put a bit out of the way.  Generator, toilets, books, movies, insulation.  Pretty sure it’s just the two of them, taking care of each other until the world ends.”

I drew in a deep breath, then exhaled.

I couldn’t bring myself to feel envious, jealous or upset.

“Okay,” I said.  “Good.”

Tattletale nodded.

I thought about the others.  “Parian, Foil?  Are they keeping each other company too?”

“Of course,” Aisha said.

“Says our resident voyeur, a touch too knowingly,” Tattletale said.

“That was the one time!  Which wasn’t even fun voyeurism, because it was my brother.  And I didn’t say it knowingly at all.”

“The lady doth protests too much,” Tattletale said.

“I’m protesting exactly enough and fuck you!  Like you’re not privy to the sordid details of other people’s lives.”

“Privy?  Sordid?  So soon after ergo?  Have you been reading, Aisha Laborn?”

Rachel nudged me.  “They were helping with the patrols, watching for the gem-faced motherfuckers who’re probably going to cause trouble.”

Oh, she was answering my question about Parian and Foil.

“Gem-faced motherfuckers?  The Yàngbǎn?”

“Them.  So the other two are around.  They’re here for work but they don’t really hang out.  They’re better at dealing with people than I am, so they do that.  Investigate shit.  I’m the one that drags the assholes back here.”

“Sheriff of New Brockton Bay,” I said, speaking just a little louder to be heard over the others.

“…fucking words because of you.  Talking funny, trying to sound smart…”

“You said something like that,” Rachel told me.  “Before you left.”

I nodded.

“Sorry about that,” I said.  “Leaving.”


No forgiveness, but then again, I probably didn’t deserve it so easily.

“I’ll be back,” I said.  “Have to go.”

Rachel nodded.

I made my way to the bathroom to relieve myself, then took a minute to wash my hair and try to comb my hair into a semblance of order.  Try being the operative word.

Two days, at least, I’d been out, probably three, if I judged by the state of my hair.  Rachel rubbing my head hadn’t helped.

I took a deep breath, then exhaled.

I made my way back to the others.  Tattletale and Imp had stopped bickering.

We settled into an easy silence.  It was a sort of quiet state I’d found with Rachel, but it was rare to have with any of the others.  Rarer still with Imp.

As memories went, for bringing everything to a close, it was alright.

It was the outsider who broke the silence.

“This is us?”  Canary asked.  “We’re whiling away the time until the world ends?  Giving up like everyone else?”

“What?”  Tattletale asked.  She gave Canary a funny look.  “No.  Fuck no.”

“No,” Aisha said.  “Wait, did anyone think that?  Because I was thinking this was more us trying to decide what the hell we need to do before we throw ourselves into one final, suicidally reckless attack.”

“Basically,” I said.  “Minus the suicidally reckless part.  There’s other stuff we can try first.  But yeah.  I think we’re mostly on the same page here.”

“Go out fighting,” Rachel said.

“Go out fighting, ” Tattletale confirmed.

“Nothing held back,” I added.  “Right.  I’ll need my stuff.”

“Put the pack and what’s left of your costume aside.  I can go get it anytime.”

I nodded.

“We’ll need help,” Tattletale said.

“Parian and Foil?  Can we get them onboard?”

“Probably, if we can come up with a convincing argument.”

I nodded, thinking.  “What about Shadow Stalker?  Any idea where she is?”

“She’s around.  You think you can convince her?”

“We’ll see,” I said.

“We need a plan, first and foremost,” Tattletale said, “If we’ve got one, we’ll be able to get others on board.”

“There are possibilities,” I said.  “Need to knock some heads, get people on board, get morale up.  Fix some of the crises that’ve come up, deal with the people who are fucking the system and making everyone else think there’s no hope.”

Tattletale glanced at me as if I’d said something that provoked a thought, and then she smiled.

I couldn’t help but feel it wasn’t a real smile.  Her poker face.

“You coming, Despairy Canary?”  Tattletale asked.

I could see the hesitation cross Canary’s face.

“Yeah.  I’ll come.  Might not be, uh, knocking heads, but maybe there’s something we can resolve with my power.  Nonviolent resolution.”

“With a song and dance number,” Aisha said.  She leaned forward and took hold of Canary’s hands.  “Like a kid’s movie!  Sing a song and fix problems!”

“Um,” Canary said.  She looked between Tattletale and me.  “How am I supposed to respond to that?”

“Just ignore me,” Aisha advised, adopting the demeanor of the veteran bestowing wisdom onto the novice.  “Everyone else does.”

“I guess I’ll try.”

We gathered ourselves together, and we began making our way downstairs in two groups, with Aisha still holding Canary’s hand, leading the way.  Tattletale, Rachel and I followed.

My body still felt weird, but the alien sensations weren’t as pronounced.  I was getting used to it.

“Thanks for looking after me,” I commented.

“Not a problem,” Tattletale said.

“Before, you were bluffing.  Can I ask?  It changes how I deal with this.  How much I give it, the risks I take.  Can you tell me honestly that this isn’t hopeless?”

“Honestly?”  Tattletale asked.  She trailed off.

Answer enough.

I glanced at Rachel.

Tattletale practically seemed to read my mind.  “She doesn’t give a damn.”

“I don’t give a damn,” Rachel echoed.

I nodded.  “You’ve been wrong before, Tattletale.  About important stuff.”

“I have.  See, this is the part where I can either lie to you or tell you the truth.”

“Truth.  If it doesn’t spoil the mood too much.  I don’t want to hear, like, Dinah said a hundred percent chance we’re wiped out.”

“Nothing like that.  But there’s evidence.  Enough for me to connect dots.”

“You’re talking about the kid that speaks funny,” Rachel said.  “The fairy whatsit.  You were watching her video.”

Tattletale sighed.


“There’s moments I adore you, my adorable canine crusader, and there’s moments I hate you.  All too often, they’re the same moments.”


“And that there is another case in point,” Tattletale said.  She smiled, looking at me.  “So yeah.”

Weaver or Skitter would have pressed for the truth.  During the Echidna incident, I’d gone to great lengths to strive for honesty and full disclosure.  Had it worked out?  Maybe.  Maybe not.  It had meant a lot right then, but it had sort of screwed me after I’d surrendered to the PRT.

But TaylorTaylor had lived a lie, had spent some time wallowing in ignorance.  Ignorance of what Tattletale really knew, ignorance of what Coil was doing.  Ignorance of what real monsters were capable of.

And then I’d donned the mantle of Skitter, I’d become the warlord.  Later, I’d gone on to become Weaver, where I felt less like myself than ever.

The Taylor days had been some of the best days, in a way.  Not my greatest moments, but some of my most cherished ones, yes.

“Do I need to know, Tattletale?”  I asked.  “For this?  Does it provide any crucial information, for dealing with any of the stuff we’ve got to deal with?”

“Yes,” she said.  “But probably not right away.”

“Okay,” I said.  “Then I can wait.  Let me enjoy some blissful ignorance for just a little while longer, while we make our way out there, try to save the world from itself, if not from Scion.”

“Deal,” she answered.

Last Chapter                                                                                               Next Chapter

374 thoughts on “Cockroaches 28.1

    • “Superpowers for cash instead of powers for trauma… how is anyone not cool with that?”

      I think its supposed to mean: “instead of trauma for powers”.

      • Nah, nah; Look at the way it’s arranged. ‘Powers for cash instead of powers for trauma’. Makes better sense to me as it stands.

    • “He followed her, the collapsed …” – “the” might be then, they, he or she. “The” doesn’t seem to fit though.

    • “I feel pretty confident I can blame you on this one, Doctor.”

      This seems a little awkward to me. Maybe, “…blame this one on you, Doctor.””

      Or maybe not, I guess it could work as is.

      Also, “Ew, ew, ew.  TMI.  Unless you’re talking about someone else.  Tell me you’re talking about someone else.” – I’m not 100% sure who said this. I think it was Aisha, but I could see it being Tattletale too, based on context.

    • “She was sitting on the bed, over top of the covers, with only a folded blanket bunched around her feet.”
      –> “on top of the covers”
      “It wasn’t that I wasn’t ungrateful, but…”
      –> “It wasn’t that I was ungrateful”
      “No, I said.
      –> “No,” I said.
      ” You’re always gambling, whether it’s on the amount of raw power, the nature of the power, all of that crap.”
      –> add quotation mark at end of paragraph
      ” There’s shit sprouting up all over, so maybe I could save issue seven is everything else put together.”
      –> “I could say”
      ” I kind of hoped we go out in some noble way.”
      –> Editing dialogue is iffy cuz that could just be exactly what she was meant to say, but (grammatically speaking) I think it should be “we’d go out”
      ” Try being the operative word.”
      –>Perhaps: ‘Try’ being the operative word. (or maybe italics to stress it)

      • There’s shit sprouting up all over, so maybe I could save issue seven is everything else put together. We could get wiped out under the combined weight of a thousand lesser issues.

        -so maybe I could say

        Rachel entered the room. Bastard was bigger than an ordinary dog, smaller than a pony. He followed her, the collapsed on a pile of sheets in one corner of the room.

        -He followed her, then

    • “No idea. Maybe he wanted a safe place to work on a trump card with zero distractions. Going by his modus operandi, though, yeah, I think he betrayed us. Not a big betrayal, but that’s one world where we moved a hell of a lot of supplies in”
      Needs period.

    • “Then answer this, Tattletale, are you telling me you didn’t have any idea about our plan B”

      The second comma should be either a colon or a full stop.

      “maybe I could save issue seven is everything else put together”

      Pretty sure “save” was supposed to be “say”.

    • “And if someone like Weld showed up, saying he has contacts in the Protectorate and the Wards, good friends, who told him they’ve got a way to break into another universe if they can find a spot where a portal was opened, and they just need you to tell them where Cauldron opened one?”

      “They stepped through into my dad’s house once, so I could talk to a therapist before I took anything. Yeah. If things had gone differently, I could have pointed them to the right place.” –> might have something to do with the time, but I really didn’t understand what was happening here. When did Canary become able to lead the way to portals or something?

      maybe I could save issue seven is everything else put together. –> maybe I could ‘say’

      “The lady doth protests too much,” doth ‘protest’ too much (i think)

      “There’s moments I adore you, my adorable canine crusader, and there’s moments I hate you. All too often, they’re the same moments.” ‘There’re/are’ moments. Yeah, I’m being nitpicky.
      If our Aisha has been reading up, that means the dog really is fucked. In all the holes.

      • Canary can lead the way to one specific past portal location, because she witnessed it opening in a place that she knows.

    • Okay, this should be in typo thread. Fucking duplicate comments.

      “And if someone like Weld showed up, saying he has contacts in the Protectorate and the Wards, good friends, who told him they’ve got a way to break into another universe if they can find a spot where a portal was opened, and they just need you to tell them where Cauldron opened one?”

      “They stepped through into my dad’s house once, so I could talk to a therapist before I took anything. Yeah. If things had gone differently, I could have pointed them to the right place.” –> might have something to do with the time, but I really didn’t understand what was happening here. When did Canary become able to lead the way to portals or something?

      maybe I could save issue seven is everything else put together. –> maybe I could ‘say’

      “The lady doth protests too much,” doth ‘protest’ too much (i think)

      “There’s moments I adore you, my adorable canine crusader, and there’s moments I hate you. All too often, they’re the same moments.” ‘There’re/are’ moments. Yeah, I’m being nitpicky.
      If our Aisha has been reading up, that means the dog really is fucked. In all the holes.

    • I nodded, not really caring. I wanted more details, and I didn’t.

      Feels really awkward to me, can’t tell if it’s a reference to her not caring, which basically makes the sentance say “I didn’t care, I didn’t care.” or if there’s a word missing at the end.

    • A touch belated, but on “He followed her, the collapsed on a pile of sheets in one corner of the room.” Should be “then collapsed.”

    • “Rachel entered the room. Bastard was bigger than an ordinary dog, smaller than a pony. He followed her, the collapsed on a pile of sheets in one corner of the room. He heaved out a sigh.”

      the instead then

  1. Goddamnitfinally Canary gets to join the main plot! I’m pretty sure that between Taylor and Tattletale she’ll be kicking ass and taking names before she knows it.

    • Thought: one of Jack’s powers was communication, and look what he did to scion. Canary’s power is FOCUSED on communication and suggestion, I wonder what she can do??

      • Say goodbye, Slaughterhouse 9000! It’s time for

        SUPER IDOL BAND 9011!

        “It’s over nine thousand!” – Scion.
        “These go to 9011.” – Nigel “the Number Man” Tufnel, guitarist
        “GET A LOVE BUG LOVE HUG” – Bonesaw, vocalist

        Taylor “Hikaru Ichijo” Hebert: Sempai died. Kakizaki died. So many have died. They had plans for peace. You can still sing, can’t you?
        Canary: “I’m sorry, Hikaru. I don’t know what came over me. I chose to become a singer. If I don’t now, my mother and father’s spirits will never forgive me. Me, I’ll sing with all my heart!”

        “Idol entertainment everywhere in the universe . . . is now BANNED.” – Contessa, standing over the corpses of AKB47 (minus the 7 that Taylor’s already recruited away for SIB9011.)

      • Probably just about the same thing as Jack, or less. I didn’t realize until this comment that Canary likely has the Thinker entity’s communication shard.

        Kind of funny that Canary and Jack seem to be the exact opposite in personality so far. Scion might not be as inclined to listen to Canary since seeing the shard might remind him of the partner he lost.

  2. Whooo! The gang’s back together again! (what’s left of it). Aisha has taken several more levels in snark, I see. Alec would be proud.

  3. It’s the end of the world as we know it
    It’s the end of the world as we know it
    It’s the end of the world as we know it, and I feel fine.

    I wonder how many people are still in the Wormverse earth? I see it as two possibilities for the all female Undersider attack.
    1. They team up with the irregulars and attack Cauldron full force. Try to take their power source, and find some answers on what they know. Have multiple people gathering formulas, give them out to whoever wants them, and take whoever is useful for one final assault. Desperate, stupid, but potentially beneficial for everyone.
    2. Seek the fairy queen and get any info she has about the cycle and Scion. Perhaps try and find/attract a new passenger or even the source of the Endbringers. Then sic them on Scion and hope they kill each other. They have access to other realities with Faultline’s crew. Very desperate, and stupid as well.

    • Whee, what a ride annihilation can be!

      Loving it, Wildbow! I look forward to seeing how these characters cope with and interact with and change this effectively-post-apoc world they’re living in. I also look forward to the unraveling of the remaining great mysteries (Cauldron’s power source, the fate of the other entity, the fate of the third entity, the origin and purpose of the Endbringers, Doctor Mother/Contessa, whether civilization will persevere through and survive, etc.) and to seeing how one of those unravelings will probably somehow enable the saving of the world.

  4. Call the boys, get the buss ready. Were getting the band back together for a new worlds tour. Undersides rock on.

    • Shhh, don’t jinx it!

      Admittedly, I too fail to see how the situation can get much worse at this point (in such a way that more than a handful of main characters would survive in the long term), but statements about rock bottoms always make me think of suddenly-appearing sinkholes.

      • Taylor can look at the last attempt on Scion and apparently see possibilities for taking him on again. Now, that’s scary.

        • If it can be pushed, it can be hurt. But I wonder, what happens if they manage to kill Scion? Do their powers die with it?

          I don’t know…the Cauldron powers have been working just fine with Eldritch Soup so far…

          • I don’t think Scion dying would impact any existing shards – they have some degree of life of their own.

            However I’m not sure humanity would be much better off if the passengers / shards do stay after Scion’s death. Capes, for the most part, do seem very drawn to conflict, and will often create it if they can’t find it, or if the only conflict they can find is merely a death wish like confronting Scion again.

    • I believe Wildbow has told us we’re drawing near the end. With that in mind, I’m kind of expecting this arc to be a series of montage battles where 6 – 8 teenage girls warp around the world stomping on problems 1 thru 6.

      After that, the next arc could be the Scion resolution (be it good or bad, probably bad), and a final arc as an epilogue.

      I’d hate to see an end, but I could see it happening that quickly if Wildbow wills it so.

    • I want to get more information on Teacher, maybe an interlude, but yeah, the “releasing teacher was a terribad idea” development was pretty freaking blatantly foreseeable.

      • To be fair, releasing *any* of them was a potentially terrible idea, and some of those releases turned out a lot better than others. Taylor would be dead twice over now if Lab Rat and Panacea hadn’t been let out. And Glaistig’s made a big difference in understanding the problem, on top of giving one of the best individual showings against Scion.

        It’s easy to know that some of the people let out are going to make things worse rather than better. Knowing *which* people is a lot harder…

    • Wow, it’s a good thing the multiverse has been depopulated recently else that would have been… well the end of the human race the number of hands going up. In fact I’m pretty sure the only hand not going up is Saints.

      • Although I admit I figured it’d be a little different, with Teacher making Saint a thrall. Hey Saint, sure you don’t regret offlining Dragon now? She can hardly take over the world with no communication infrastructure. And we sure could use, say a compact system that recycles scrap metal into usable technology.

    • Gee, aren’t we all glad we trusted his judgment? Saint’s so dumb he killed Dragon for being untrustworthy and then helped the guy who assassinated the VP of the U.S. escape from prison.

      Or Teacher can work his power on someone he sees, not necessarily someone in the same room.

      Either way, I feel justified in my assessment of Saint being quite dumb.

      • I think we all agree that he was stupid(albeit rather understandable , with his lack of perspective) from the start.The only question was whether he was motivated by misguided altruism , blind selfishness or was simply been played like a cheap banjo by Teacher.

  5. Cockroaches: Only living hing capable of surviving a nuclear holocaust. And/or Scion. Hopefully.

    Reading this chapter was a strange but good mixture of tension relief and ramping things up. It was a mixture of funny and a sense of everyone-is-screwed. I’m getting a sense of the final test, the final bout. What could top this series of challenges? Everything Taylor has learnt will be tested, and by god, she and the capes are down but not out. Things have gone to hell, hell, hell in a handbasket, but all I feel is a sense of excitement to watch the ending I haven’t felt on this level in a while. Looking forward to the rest if the ride!

    • An interesting thing I read recently is that apparently humans are much more resistant to radiation ( especially background radiation) than most other animals. We have a much better DNA repair mechanism than most, so minor exposure is easily healed.
      So I think we might just have a better chance than most people think.

    • There are a bunch of beetles and fruit flys that are far more resistant to rediation. Roaches are still at the bottom of the top ten.

  6. Six o’clock – TV hour. Don’t get caught in foreign tower. Slash and burn, return, listen to yourself churn. Lock him in uniform and book burning, blood letting. Every motive escalate. Automotive incinerate. Light a candle, light a motive. Step down, step down. Watch a heel crush, crush. Uh oh, this means no fear – cavalier. Renegade and steer clear! A tournament,a tournament, a tournament of lies. Offer me solutions, offer me alternatives and I decline.

    I wonder if things would be better if Coil had survived.

  7. Hmmm.

    So I’d guess that Tattletale called Doctor Mother there either so that Taylor could hear some of that, or so that Doctor Mother would be irritated and not really paying attention to that world for a bit while Taylor woke up and oriented?

    I liked this chapter a lot.

    • Hey it’s like any decent zombie movie. It’s not really the zombies. They are actually about as pathetic a monster as you can get. No, it’s the humans screwing each other over.

  8. Everything has gone to hell, but it’s back to running with the Undersiders once more. They were at their best coming up with unexpected angles, at winning as the underdog.

    Which I guess has been thoroughly fucked, going by the conversation.

  9. Really enjoyable chapter. Feels really good to be getting back to basics, even if it’s only just temporary.

    Every time Panacea gets mentioned in passing without really doing anything in the story, though, I always feel disappointed. She’s such a powerhouse and never seems to get to flex. Hopefully her spending time with Bonesaw will do some good for both of them.

    • “Hopefully her spending time with Bonesaw will do some good for both of them.”

      …aaaaand humanity is doomed.

      • Only after the rat-based Mega Mecha Cyborg Baby obliterates Scion.

        And its dozens of clones, too.

        Hey! With Panacea back, do you think she’ll manufacture another Atlas? I miss that big lug!

  10. Parian,Foil,Lisa,Rachel,Canary and Taylor.

    Yep, the Undersiders have officially became the The Brockton Bay Amazon Brigade.

  11. The new Undersiders, hm? Seeing them work together should be interesting. Clearly Rachel, Lisa and Aisha have established a comfortable working relationship, and we already know about Foil and Parian. Canary and Shadow Stalker should bounce off one another beautifully. Taylor is another question. She has left old wounds and reopened them now that they have failed to save the world and there is time for those grudges again. Will she be able to maintain control?

    …and will they at least recruit Golem so that Lustrum doesn’t think they’re with her?

  12. As promised, Eidolon: The god in human form. The man who could win a brawl with Scion if he didn’t give up… I was hoping to find out if he died tonight and it sounds like he’s “gone”, but that might not mean dead so you can’t pin this on me yet.

    His costume is very vaguely described. Part of me likes that, because it lets my imagination take over. Part of me hates that, because I could be so far from what other people imagined him to be.

    • You sir are a conundrum. On the one hand your artwork is most excellent, and the prospect of you containing to draw Worm characters fills me with joy. On the other, every character that you have drawn so far has died. On the previously unmentioned third hand, causation does not equal correlation.

      Thus, I advise you: amazing work! You should feel good about yourself and continue to draw, at least until the evidence becomes overwhelming.

      • So, if this was krustacean’s super power (people die after he draws them), he’s all set up to be a super villain.

        Wait a second…that sounds eerily like Death Note. But with superpowers instead of crazy death gods. Now I kind of want to do a Worm fanfiction, with the plot of Death Note.

        Anyway, great artwork. I always pictured him more monkish, but I like your version better.

        • No it doesn’t! Causation does not imply correlation.

          Consider this example: Suppose kids who are smart get better grades. (Causation) But kids who are smart also spend less time on homework/study since they finish faster. (Causation) Finally, spending more time on homework/study leads to better grades in general. (Causation)
          It would be fully possible to LACK a correlation between time spent on study/homework and grades, despite their being causation.

          Correlation does not imply correlation. GHA!

    • NIce. And seriously you could become rich simply by making a list of fanfovourite characters and threatening to draw them unless we pay for their life. 🙂

      And I don’t want to nitpick, really liked it, but I believe Eidolon’s mask has been described as an eery glow coming out of his hood.

      • Haha. Just like someone else said, I could follow String Theory’s business model. Seems like a good way to wind up in the birdcage though 😛

        And yeah, that’s not nitpicking. I appreciate constructive criticism, especially when it comes to faithfulness to the source material. I thought only the inside of his hood was glowing. A more thorough search of the archive says you’re right. His mask glows too. If I have time I’ll look at fixing that. Thank’e, kind chap.

    • It’s a little Dr. Doom, but I think that fits. Also, have you considered becoming the String Theory of the comment section?

    • That picture right there? That’s frigging spectacular. God /damn/. It evokes Doctor Doom more than a little bit, which is a kind of cool twist. I like the molded look to it, the faux-musculature of the suit; Definitely sounds like it could fit Eidolon’s body-style. This is probably how I’ll imagine him from now on when I re-read this.

      • Yeah, the thing I love about it is imagining what he looks like in normal clothes, compared to this. “Look at me, all muscles and scary mask” becomes, “Don’t look at me, I’m just a somewhat overweight, aging, balding, sad little man.” A very good example of the idea that powerful heroes aren’t necessarily buff, pretty, idealized-looking heroes. I wonder if there’s a trope for characters who look weak but are actually very powerful. I hope nobody points it out to me, because I might lose hours of my life to reading its list.

    • That wasn’t how I imagined him, but it’s so good I think I’ll imagine Eidolon looking like that from now on.

      Worm is blessed to have great Artists among its fans.

  13. Very interesting, and an excellent start point for a new ‘book’ when you’re chopping it up later.

    The argument between Doctor Mother and Tattletale is oddly timed – several days after the disaster, and Tattletale is only now giving an after-action complaint? Still, a useful refresher.

    Running the Boardwalk in post-apocalyptic Brockton Bay turns out to have been a training run for being the warlord of post-apocalyptic New Brockton Bay. An interesting return to one of the strongest earlier arcs: getting another all-hands effort organized, or at least stopping the civil strife, will take considerable effort. Proper administration: order from chaos, and getting everyone pointed in the same direction. Taylor has some credit with most of the active organizations; victories against the holdouts will help. If nothing else, having been ripped in half by Scion and coming back for more is its own sort of character reference. Still, no easy task to unite the factions. And, at the end of such labor, waits Scion… unbeaten, and only scratched by the Triumvirate and Glaistig Uaine fighting together.

    Saint/Teacher… still wondering whether the refresher needs to be up close, or if communication is enough. Saint did go to some trouble to be able to watch Teacher in the Birdcage… and to make sure Teacher could signal him to watch. If it wears off in a few days, Saint may even turn around and try to be helpful.

    There’s a definite sense that the next arc or three will be getting the band back together, and indeed adding a number of special guest stars: Dragon, the Irregulars, Panacea/Bonesaw/Marquis/Lung…

    Some promise in the Endbringers, actually. Current working theory is that Eidolon was shocked by Scion revealing that Eidolon had been causing the Endbringers, that he ‘needed worthy opponents’ and so created them. But, in his last moments of life, what did he need? A way to fight Scion. A way to make up for what he’d done. A way to, as always, save lives. Remember how everyone hoped that Scion being told to fight the Endbringers might stave off apocalypse? Perhaps it will be the other way round. And while Scion’s finished off a wounded Endbringer on-camera, having the Endbringers assembled against him, with the remaining capes thrown in, would make for a truly spectacular fight. Having them involved might even motivate everyone else to throw in – there’s no ally more heartening than one whom you feared yourself, and deeply… if you can trust them to stay allies.

    Eidolon himself, unless Glaistig Uaine is carrying him about, is not to be counted out either. Scion could well have eliminated him, and indeed that is what I believe happened. But when your power is ‘get the powers you need’, the chance remains that he needed a way to resurrect himself later, or some such.

    Still betting that things end with a proposal, rather than a fight – at least as far as Scion goes.

    That Cauldron hasn’t crushed the Irregulars means that’s deliberate… or something new is in play, and major.

    • Dr. Mother has been busy. So has Tattletale. This was probably the first time their schedules coincided.

      Or Cauldron just screwed the pooch big. Or it’s only been a day or two.

      • Apparently it’s bigger and more offensive than screwing the pooch. Full-on fucking rather than screwing, and a dog rather than just a little pooch.

        In other news, “pooch” is a ridiculous word.

    • > That Cauldron hasn’t crushed the Irregulars means
      > that’s deliberate… or something new is in play, and
      > major.

      It’s possible that Doctor Mother was able to hear Scion’s last words to Eidolon (they have a very good clairvoyant, even if the camera didn’t survive) and has had the “wait, did he create the Endbringers and Siberian” thought, herself, whether or not it’s true, and is reeling because of that but refusing to talk to … the public, or Tattletale … about why.

      Have we seen Cauldron actually killing a case 53? I’m sure they’re perfectly capable of it, but presumably they let them go for a *reason.* I mean, sure, maybe they just were still trying to soothe Alexandria’s conscience, or Eidolon’s, or taking precognitive hedges against Legend’s conscience when he found out, or maybe they were being semi-honest about wanting more heroes in the world and so released the more heroic 53s, but it seems more likely that “the path to victory” requires them being out there, which makes it hard for Cauldron to just door them into the Marianas Trench.

  14. On and on and on… the phrase “Crapsack Universe” (as defined in Television Tropes) comes inescapably to mind. The story is too much too fast; one catastrophic event cascades past the next (and the next, and the next…) in a progression that — I think — lacks both pacing and balance.

    Pacing? The on-rush of disasters quickly drove this reader’s reaction past shocked/stunned (omigod, I can’t believe what just happened!) to impatient (yeah, yeah, so then what happened?) to bored (I’m going to skip ahead; I don’t really care what happened). The reader never has a chance to mentally regroup and digest the events; there’s too much happening, and it never stops. The horror of onrushing events loses its impact as catastrophe is heaped on catastrophe, and the net effect slips towards absurdity or even farce. (Think of the worst possible thing that could happen, then double it. Now triple it. Now quadruple it. Got that? Well, imagine that it’s a million times worse than that… and then it happens!

    And then it happens AGAIN!! And again and again and again….)

    Balance? The overwhelmingly negative tone of the story is rarely offset by humour, character achievement or unalloyed success. There is little reason for any of the characters — or the reader — to feel optimism, as every cunning plan they hatch, every brilliant strategy, every amazing sacrifice is quickly and overwhelmingly defeated, by foes who are effectively immune to any form of reckoning (Cauldron, the Slaughterhouse Nine), or are more plot devices than characters (Scion, the Endbringers). Perhaps this will all suddenly be resolved/rectified in a burst of song and good feelings — but that seems a distant hope to sustain a reader through this ever bleaker and more dismal story.

    Though this reader is impressed with the creativity of the author and the consistency/coherence of his universe, she finds herself remembering why she never much enjoyed cyberpunk fiction.

    • I think there is balance. Because no matter how many times she gets knocked down, Taylor always gets back to her feet. She’s played hands with bad cards and sometimes with no cards at all, but she’s managed to survive and to win through. She beat Coil pretty conclusively. She beat Behemoth. The Nine are no more.

      The single most important thing in any work of fiction is that “the reader” as we’re calling ourself now cares about the characters. I think that’s been achieved – I’m certainly feeling emotionally invested here and by the looks of the comments thread I’m not the only one.

      I’m also holding out for a happy ending. ;-D

      • Maybe not a classic happy ending, but I’m actually optimistic in regards to what Tolkien called an eucatastrophe.

        • Yeah I’m in the happy ending camp. Call me old fashioned. But I think the girl is going to have earned one.

          • I think it’s indeed Taylor – we look at her getting up against hopeless odds again and again and we don’t lose hope that things can get better.

    • I think what you’re seeing has perhaps more to do with the form of writing as opposed to lack of balance or pacing. I think of this story and how it’s told as an equivalent to a TV show, but in writing form. Seemingly insurmountable things happen cyclically, but that’s how series generally work. There’s a main piece of action to grab attention, something that a consumer rarely guesses beforehand. There’s a structure to how the issue is dealt with (drawing on and solidifying the charaters’ personalities) and there’s a slight resolution before moving on to the next task.

      The pacing default on something that I would describe as “action-based” is fast! The only other option is faster. And we’ve had a mix of that as well. But I definitely recall arcs that were building more on characters than action, I think those weren’t too quickly paced.

      I think Wildbow has done a good job of keeping things interesting by sometimes having positive(ish) resolutions and also sometimes having very negative resolutions. Something that we get here (that doesn’t happen often in TV shows) is a very clear consequence for all of the action that has been going on. Our “worldview” of the wormverse is adapted with each new arc and that’s hard to convey. And I think it has been done thoughtfully which is very impressive. The hope or optimism for me comes from our Queen, Taylor. She is relentlessy hopeful and/or stubborn in a way that is just whacky enough to get results! That has always been a source of hope for me. When shit hits the fan, she always eventually keeps going. She has never chosen the “oh well” path, even when she knew it would be easy and maybe nice. I feel like that’s a strong enough message to the reader, and a solid enough reason for hope when things seem hopeless.

      I started this serial at the beginning of June and was caught up by the end of June. That was “fast” in that I digested in one month what had been written over the course of two years. I think, just looking back to June, (when I had essentially holed myself up to read) I experienced an entire range of pacing, plot, character development and raw emotion in such a short time that it kind of blurs together in retrospect, but I know I didn’t feel everything was the linear when I was reading it.

      The action as of late, well, that’s because we have to reach the climax. Story is almost over, and such a long story needs a long set up for the final action point and subsequent revelations.

      Thinking in terms of a book, yeah you could say pacing is awkward.. but it’s not really a book (or set of books) yet. YET. Because I definitely want to see a book format so I can dedicate a Worm shelf on my bookcase, right next to the Harry Potter shelf.

    • You know, I’ve read stuff that just wears me out with catastrophe, anything that seems to be going well falls apart and the bad guys win and laugh about it (anyone read Pillars of Earth? I got through two thirds) to the point that I can’t care anymore. But this isn’t that, and I think I know why – there’s so much mystery in this world, and such a vast ensemble of characters, and individual characters (not least our Taylor) have been shown to be capable through ingenuity of much more than they appear, that there is yet hope. Terrible odds, but SOME odds. And I know we like to say that Wildbow’s going to kill everyone, but I don’t really believe it – this is a substantial story with a bigger world behind it, it’s not going to end in total death and destruction because that isn’t any fun.

      • I recomend finishing Pillars of the Earth, it has a good ending.
        Bad things happen in Worm, but everything fits so well that you don`t get that feeling that the author/world is getting out of his way to f… everybody.

    • I read most of Worm in…well, not one sitting, but I read it when I had time, at my own pace, not at the pace it was written. There were breather chapters and character development even more towards the end. The biggest example lately was the Wards arc, up until Khonsu interrupted that pleasant talk show.

      And yeah, the breathers are getting shorter and rarer. These are the climax arcs, that’s to be expected.

    • Oh, and I forgot to mention all of what TV Tropes would define as Crowning Moments of Awesome. There are plenty. ;-D

  15. These sinking the Taylor/Tattletale ship jokes only make me ship them harder.

    And since Tattetale mentioned having sex with her power is gross I assume she’s tried it before? I wish we could’ve seen the Undersiders in their timeskip years, they’re all so chummy with each other. Reminds me of the Undersiders in the beginning before shit began hitting the fan.

      That said, I can totally imagine Lisa in the throes of passion, slowly losing the discipline it requires to keep her power from supplying her with information. Suddenly she knows every other girl you’ve said that to. She knows waaaay too much about how the musculature of your tongue works. She knows that, just a little bit, you’re faking your enthusiasm. She knows that you just thought about someone else.
      It’s like having sex as a telepath, only worse because it’s not just her partner’s mind she’s getting access to, it’s their body, their history, people and things outside them that are relevant to them, everything. Every bit of data that relates to that person. And unlike telepathy, where you can maybe have a sublime merger of minds and thoughts and mutual oneness, this is a) totally one-sided and b) not cloaked in symbol and metaphor and imagery. It’s discrete, comprehensible points of data.

      But… maybe they could keep one of the Hack Jobs’ heads alive in a jar? Retreat into the room where they have it buried under the floor so that they can get a break from their powers. For a little while, the world is only what Lisa sees and hears. For a little while, Taylor is only in her body. She’s only here, with Lisa, not half a million other places. That sounds hella romantic to me, even if it does involve a severed head. I kind of want to write a shipfic about this…

    • Agreed. And besides, Lisa never said anything about not wanted TAYLOR specifically just not wanting sex itself. And that was an awfully fast response in itself. To throw her own retort back at her: the lady doth protest too much.

  16. Ah, are we finally seeing cracks appearing in Doctor MOther’s facade? Something tells me it’s not Tattletale’s needling nor the Irregulars waging war on them (I have the rather depressing notion that Cauldron simply doesn’t care about the threat they pose). However, as much as I hate admitting it, her (attempted) putting down of Tattletale is sort of accurate.

    Teacher’s and Saint’s relationship is even more intriguing, now. They have met some time before Teacher’s imprisonment but Saint can’t be his thrall because his power doesn’t last that long. I’ve always thought what Lisa and Taylor are speculating now ( that Saint desperately wants a thinker/tinker power), but maybe there’s something more.

    On the up side: I was wrong and Labyrinth and Scrub live! Whohoo! And Canary has joined the gang (a rather amazonian one, in fact). Yippiee!

    On the down side: humanity has decided that since they can’t kill Scion at least they can kill themselves! And the Yangbang once again do anything they can to prove that I was right in thinking of them as idiots! Hip Hip Hurrah!

    Oh and Eidolon is confirmed dead but I don’t think anyone has mentioned the Faerie Queen. What happened to her?

    • “Confirmed dead.” Reeeally not. He’s said (not confirmed) to be gone (not dead). Along the same lines, but we’ve seen Wildbow (and many, many other writers) use this same sort of trick to create a belief without actually stating the fact, only to turn around and have the opposite be true. This is especially common in this type of situation.

      Re: Saint and Teacher, I had the thought that perhaps Teacher’s power works a bit similarly to Regent’s. It takes some time and contact and close range or whatever to make it work the first time, but once it’s established it can be re-established much more easily, quickly, and possibly over longer range.

      It sounds like Labyrinth and Scrub weren’t even AT the oil rig fight, which really hurts my theory on how Eidolon’s power works. The alternative is that they were there, he did yank their powers while they were drowning, Cauldron saved them, Eidolon died and that gave them their powers back (or he lived and chose to release them/return them), and they have gotten back to handling things like alternate world evacuations in a day or two after almost drowning. While possible, that seems far-fetched. So… maybe it wasn’t Labyrinth and Scrub’s powers Eidolon was using at all? Well, it already probably wasn’t Scrub’s power, since he was a trigger-made cape and there wasn’t a white flash mentioned when Eidolon did the thing. Pulling cliffs out of another world really seemed like Labyrinth, though. I guess this theory is going back on the “needs more information” pile.

  17. Well, it’s obvious why Zion isn’t going after *all* potential realities–he’s on an energy budget, and even with his ‘temper tantrum’ there’s still the underlying possibility that data could be recovered from this disaster… so he’d need an iteration or a million of Earth to empower that.

    Of course, that’d just be the internally consistent thought.

    The other thing could simply be that as he’s going further and further afield, he’s actually getting–dare I say it–bored?

    After all, with so many opportunities there’d come a point where all options for elimination of entities would be exhausted, and any further extrapolation would simply be re-warmed left-overs.

    • It’s sort of surprising to me that he’s doing all this reality jumping. I figured it’d be one of the powers that burns a lot of time, but i guess I was wrong.

  18. So scion killed like 3 billion people in 2 days? That REALLY doesn’t fit with what he was doing before.

    Maybe Eidelon pissed him off.

    • Well he did spend lots of precious energy with all that dimension hopping and use of Contessa’s power. He also seemed if not afraid at least troubled near the end of the fight. I think it’s both being angry at all the power he squandered and also reassuring himself that he’s still the boss. The latter is a rather human reaction but it fits with Scion’s evolution.

    • He did kill something like 500 million people last time anyone checked, and that seemed to be in a few hours.

  19. Wait, everyones invading alternate Earthes and Scions wreaking havoc in them?
    Hello Sundancer, Ballistic, you thought you were done? How silly, you’re gonna end up missing Echidna.

    • I am sure we are all wishing we had Echidna on our side at this point. If we did have her available, cloning Eidolon, we’d actually have a workable counter to Scion.

      • Even evil Eidolons would probably want to fight Scion. I imagine most of them would be driven by ambition and pride, a sort of mirror of Eidolon’s seflessness and pride.

  20. I got a plan to save the human race that has a high success rate;

    1) Panacea and Bonesaw modify a human to look superficially human but be entirely different biologically. The following changes are required;
    a: structural supports on a cellular level made of biologically constructed carbon nanocomposite instead of protein so the body is naturally dozens of times tougher than steel.
    b: considerable improvement of both cellular and organ efficiency from the current 8% total to 60-70% or higher if possible.
    c: each cell individually insulated and pressurized and capable of prolonged hibernation. Surviving in space is nice. Having your brain simply hibernate instead of die if someone tears your head off is even better.
    d: outer layers functioning as solar and thermal cells, taking in enough energy for the body to function from solar radiation or high external temperatures.
    e: nervous system made of reconfigurable superconductors that have the added functionality of projecting low-power bioelectric fields. Because there’s no point in indefinite survival in space if you can’t produce magnetic sails and ramscoops for propulsion and fuel intake.
    f: the space saved by the much more efficient breathing and digestive systems is taken up by a miniaturized slow-fusion reactor made of organically assembled carbon composites. So the now improved humans can also get energy from drinking water or “breathing” the gathered gases and dust of interstellar space.
    Essentially, evolve the human into self-sufficient, self-repairing, space-capable entity that happens to be human-shaped and still have higher brain functions that are human.

    2) Cook up rapidly spreading retroviral strains that can pass on the changes to other humans through aggressive gene therapy. Then spread them to all available Earths.

    3) Leave Earth behind with the rest of the starflight-capable, unaging, perpetually self-sustaining humans to colozine other star systems.

    4) Laugh as Scion expends himself to destroy the humans left on Earth that you didn’t want anyway like Teacher in his sealed planet.

    5) Go forth and multiply. Evolve until you are like gods.

    6) Make genocidal war on the Worms and supplant them as the dominant species of this universe.

    7) Make genocidal war on any other sentient species in this universe so they can’t do to you like you did to the Worms.

    • Many of those changes are impossible from most anything short of cyborging or some kind of direct superpower useage. A simple retrovirus couldn’t do it. So steps 1 and 2 are screwed.
      How would you get people into space? There goes steps 3 and 4.
      Evolution doesn’t work like you seem to think it does, so step 5 is dead.
      If you can get past those issues, though, steps 6 and 7 should be easy.

      • I’m pretty sure the “evolve” in step 5 includes more than just natural evolutionary processes. Assuming these humans are nigh-immortal, the shards that a few of them are carrying will eventually multiply until they all get superpowers. Even if they only had Panacea and/or Bonesaw, they’d eventually stumble upon better and better upgrades.

        1 is pretty doable if you get enough of the right parahumans working together on it. 2 is definitely going to take more than just a retrovirus, but again, you have tinkers to come up with a delivery mechanism. It sounds like something right up Bonesaw’s alley. Maybe find the tinker that Colin took the nano-disassembler idea from and have him create appropriate nanomachines.

        3 is mostly solved by the magnetic sails thing, but that only solves interstellar flight, not launching. You’ll need Legend, Alexandria, and tinker-built space shuttles to get everyone out of Earth’s gravity well, and that’ll be a pain in the ass. Or… have Masamune use his mass-production tinker powers to build jetpacks capable of escape velocity? Billions of them?

        No, I think the major problem is the fact that the shards are parked on Earth, drawing power from their own alternate worlds. Parahumans’ powers would likely weaken drastically if they had to be fueled over interstellar distances. Otherwise the Worms would have just parked the shards in a billion different potential suns, where they never have to worry about power. Okay, well, there are a ton of reasons they might not do that, but still. The fact that they carry the shards to the physical location of the next cycle seems to indicate that there’s a spatial element to the connection between shard and cape. Now, maybe we could figure out a way to bring the shards along, too, but that’d require finding a way around the blocks that limit capes to the “approved” worlds and a power source for moving them. (They’re probably quite massive, based on the fact that it takes an explosion of all possible versions of a planet to move the collection of them.)

        Really, the issue is time. And cooperation. This would be an enormous undertaking, and it would require getting a bunch of people on board with the plan who have drastically different viewpoints and opinions on how the world should be saved. Also, you’d have to keep Scion from finding out about what they’re doing. Very tricky.

        Also, thinking astronomically about “all possible worlds” got me to thinking about the number of worlds where Earth’s orbit has been changed, resulting in it either falling into the sun, spinning off into interstellar space, or just being in a different place than the one in World Bet. Do the reality-hopping powers account for differences in position, or are those worlds closed off, since hopping to them would involve suddenly being in the interplanetary vacuum that corresponds to where Earth Bet is located at the time?

        Further, ARE there realities where Earth is somewhere else, or are astrophysics so regular that they always play out the same way? I’m pretty sure it’s the former, because at least on a quantum level things can always turn out multiple ways… in which case the whole multiple-worlds theory plays out really strangely when you think about conservation of energy. I guess that’s true even before you start thinking quantum mechanics, but that’s what made me think of it. If you have one world with X amount of total energy in it, then it branches into two worlds based on the possible outcomes of an event, each of those worlds should have X/2 total energy. Now, maybe this isn’t noticeable because the dilution of energy is uniform and universal, so your measuring device’s energy is reduced at the same rate as that of what you’re measuring, resulting in an illusion of no change… but then you get down into discrete quanta of energy, smallest possible amounts of things… I suppose physical laws could change, as well, but it seems pretty unlikely that this sort of infinitely branching universe with infinitely decreasing energy in each branch would be sustainable. Every moment, an infinite number of quantum events is splitting off an infinite number of alternate worlds, reducing the energy in each by an infinite amount. Even if your definition of “moment” doesn’t allow for there to be an infinite number of them between any two points in time, that’s an awful lot of infinities draining the energy out of the world. So… yeah, probably it doesn’t work that way in the real world. Still works great in fiction, though!

  21. Somehow I’m very disappointed with Grue. How could he just walk away? He fought all the time and now when shit hits the fan, he just quits? How could he leave his sister alone?
    I know that he’s been through a lot of shit – we all know how much – but he doesn’t seem to be that kind of a coward.
    Is he this mentally scarred from bonesaw’s torture or is it just that he couldn’t cope with the world ending?

    I like it that Canarys back in business. She really should tell Scion to fuck himself 🙂

    What is it with Doctor Mother? Is she really the head of Couldron or is she just a pawn of Contessa? Maybe she was manipulated by Contessa, who is a agent of the possible third entity, to be the spokesperson and “face” of Couldron, but in truth the possible third entity is railroading all events into the destruction of Scion the Worm. We don’t now yet who this Third one could be, but if it is the lesser one then how did it evolve and what are it’s strengths and weaknesses?
    This reminds me of Eternal Darkness for the Gamecube, if ya’ll can follow me.

    Last but not least, here’s a song that I really like and I think it fits for Taylors way of fighting trough everything that bothers her :

    • Yeah how dare he have PTSD after seeing the person who eviscerated him and stuck him in a fate worse than death (and who is now an ally, if not a trusted one) waltz in a room to help heal his ex-girlfriend.

      As for Doctor Mother I share the same thoughts especially after Legend’s “Who the fuck are you, you are more than a bodyguard” outburst.

        • Bingo! And I think t’s actually very important since Contessa can decide what she means for victory. See the no bloodshed rule against Lung and the gang or her constantly asking herself questions tailored to Strangers when she stops Imp from following her.

    • I’m disappointed with Grue too. I mean, it’s not that he doesn’t have valid reasons to go hide – everyone does, hello the world is ending! – but I was hoping he’d be around. I like him.

    • I’m just curious as to /which parts/ of Taylor’s reconstruction he did. I mean, you talk about Worm putting people in weird, unprecedented situations, but using your poorly-understood, borrowed cellular manipulation powers to rebuild your ex’s genitals? THAT is a bizarre situation. Well, rebuilding ANY of her is pretty weird, but I have to imagine that’d be another level weirder. Does he try to rebuild it accurately based on the way he remembers seeing/feeling it? Is there a genetic blueprint that he can follow and just sort of close his eyes to the bigger-than-the-cellular-level picture? Hell, that might have been traumatic enough right there to make him want to hang up his hat and NEVER MAKE EYE CONTACT WITH TAYLOR AGAIN AND MAYBE SEE IF HE CAN FIND A WAY TO NEVER BE IN THE SAME ROOM WITH HER AGAIN GAH!

    • I’m not disappointed with him because I don’t believe it. I highly doubt that even a PTSD uber-depressed Brian would consent to leaving his sister to fight while he runs. Or that he would even attempt to use Panacea’s power on a human much less a woman he loved at one point. Those excuses just made me believe even more that poor Brian is dead.

  22. “Technically, every action should create a world where that action came to pass.”

    My suspension of disbelief hinged on the assumption that that had to be at least partially untrue in the Wormverse. I assumed “reality” and “world” had different meanings. Now, Wildbow just raised a million questions that would raise a million more if answered. mainly,

    1. How could the entities narrow themselves down to two if every time ANYTHING happened, more worlds with more worms were created?

    2. How could the entities destroy EVERY version of a planet if every moment, a nigh-infinite amount are created?

    God, I just realized how much I hate unlimited multiverses.

    • While I do enjoy trying to make scifi supertech or the like work sensibly, this is different when we talk about stuff like this.

      NEVER, EVER think too much about parallel/branching/multiple universes. Just go along with it.
      Seriously, this stuff is already so bad at the microscopic level, that thinking about the macroscopic scale just make you want to get drunk.

      • Yes. I try not to think about it too much either. Mainly because I don’t find other versions of myself. Not only do they not occur naturally, but they don’t occur from other me’s that are popping in from their universe that just made a few different choices before building the ole Dimensional Bomb.

        I think what happened is that action created a few extra multiverses. There may be a multiverse out there where there’s a me just like the me I am who runs across other versions of himself all the time. In fact, there may be one multiverse where he does so due to other-dimensional analogs, one where it’s due to other hims from the same universe and D-bomb, and then one multiverse with both.

        And that’s just the simplified version.

    • 1: Worms are omnidimensional. They can exist in any universe. Think about Coil; He demonstrated a power that depended on a multiple dimension view of existence. Presumably, Worms can do the same; Existing in more than one dimension, and then, collapsing and leaving the dimension that doesn’t go the way they want.

      2: Presumably, again, the fact that they’re omnidimensional helps; It may be less that they NEED to destroy every planet, and more that they simply choose to do so.

      However, it’s worth noting that nigh-infinite is not the same as infinite; As was pointed out in Scion’s chapter, Worms muiltiplied exponentially, and with no barrier to interdimensional movement, even a nigh-infinite rate of expansion will eventually be caught up with.

      It’s still not clear, though; Dimensional travel may be like movement, for us- It’s impossible to move less than a certain distance from your own dimension when dimensionally travelling, for the same reason that it’s very hard to move human fingers one nanometer. This would limit the number of possible worlds much more sharply.

      • If you’re going to think about this scientifically, it’s pretty crucial to avoid using the word “dimension” in this sense. A dimension, when you’re talking scientific definitions, is something like height, width, or length. Possibly time, depending on who you ask. Having more of those is possible (and fundamental to string theory), but it’s a very, VERY different thing than having multiple worlds or multiple realities.

        Science fiction and comic books have taught us for a very long time that other dimensions are where we find Earths where everyone is the opposite gender or has goatees or the Nazis won WWII, but, as with many things, this is a case of authors (especially some of the comic book authors who didn’t give a fuck about what they were writing) not understanding or misrepresenting the science. Now that quantum mechanics, string theory, and general advances in science have given us a better idea of what multiple worlds might look like, I feel it’s important that we get away from this nomenclature of “other dimensions” as alternate worlds. WIldbow has done a great job of this. Mainstream comics have done a pretty good job for the past decade or so. The word “universe” is sometimes argued to include all possible timelines/realities/worlds, but when you have the word “multiverse” to contrast with it, I think it’s probably okay to talk about “parallel universes.”

        So acceptable terms for the other places would be worlds, Earths, realities, timelines, and universes. Dimension is right out.

        • To get from one Earth to the other you must “walk” through an extra dimension. And in this case dimension is a valid term.
          I prefer the idea of an universe with five dimensions where some “Earths” accesible through the extra dimension evolved in a similar way to ours. This is not what the author proposes, but it is how I will see it to keep my suspension of disbelief and avoid headaches.
          I know that quantum mechanics proves that our universe is probabilistic in a nano scale, with an electron being in many states untill one is measured. But statistics and the definition of “measurement” in quatum mechanics assure me that big things (dimensions large compared to Plank`s constant) are not in many states at the same time.

    • To answer the original questions:

      The worms seem to exist in every reality at once. They may have forms that only exist in one (Scion), but these aren’t any more “them” than a given hair is you. Or maybe not more than your WoW character is you–I’m not sure how much they’re even in this world. Similarly, by destroying a nigh-infinite number of worlds, even at the low efficiency of energy-harvesting, they get a massive sum of energy to continue living, to continue the cycle. And if you’re wondering how near-extradimensional creatures which give superpowers and are nigh omnipotent if they don’t run out of juice can blow up every version of a planet at once, you haven’t been paying attention to the subject matter.

    • It’s possible that Tattletale is merely wrong about that. Her powers have never applied to physics as far as anyone knows. She could be quoting pop science or science fiction without understanding exactly how multiversal branching works.

      However, there are indications that the multiverse does branch pretty fast in how Dinah sees alternate universes.

      • *thinks about Coil for a while*

        So, Coil’s power suggests three things.

        First, the universe at least potentially split on any decision Coil made.

        Second, all of these branches were *probably* “Bet”—I mean, I’m not certain he would have both noticed and said anything if one branch was reliably missing Scion, and Scion’s presence is the only thing I can think of that was *definitively* Bet, but if one of Coil’s branches didn’t have Endbringers, he would probably have just . . . casually dropped the branch that did. (“Hm, if I eat Lucky Charms this morning, Leviathan murderates Brockton Bay, but if I eat corn flakes, nobody’s ever even heard of him. That suggests that I should probably stick with the corn flakes, the choice of people who don’t like getting murderated. But on the other hand, … what is the value of a world where I have never eaten of the rainbow?”)

        Third, the limit on his power suggests that branches recombine—I mean, it could just be an arbitrary limit, but if branches don’t recombine, if there isn’t a definitive or central Bet, or at least a rough “shape” of Bet, then his power is comparatively more eccentric and more complex. (It’s like, if you’re limiting a swordfighter, you’re more likely to block out certain moves from their style, or blindfold them, rather than make their power not work when it’s Tuesday. If Bet “recombines” to some extent, then having him only choose a world when he makes a new decision is like blindfolding him. If it’s just this sheaf of loosely-connected possibilities, then it’s more like having his power not work on rainy Tuesdays.)

        I’m not immediately coming up with a great 3-space analogy or mathematical/physical model, so I’m not sure this “works,” per se, but (particularly since the worms show that it’s possible for biological life to have multidimensional “depth”) I think one way this might work is if people have a small but measurable “depth” in the multiverse, so that while, sure, technically possibility-space splits at every quantum decision and even every breakfast-cereal decision, on a macroscopic level they cluster into sheaves of possibility that people mostly experience as a single not-quite-exact world.

        Like, if we were in the Wormverse, you, reading this message, might be in the world where I’m boiling water for tea as I type this, and the world where I’m *not* doing that yet—both of those are a single cosmic designation, let’s say Worm הערה, and the fact that my perspective privileges one of those isn’t really all that big a deal. If it becomes important enough later, then maybe we, and the הערה worldline, condense to a single choice. Under certain conditions—I’m not quite sure which—we split, instead? Or maybe it’s more that the leftover possibilities, the roads not taken, don’t go away completely, and eventually they assemble into a new world of their own. A world where I didn’t make tea. A world where Elvis never died. A world where the Moon is secretly full of life—all constellating together into a delicious rainbow of marshmallow flavors, the Steepless Moon King Cosmos!

        • Constant recombining multiverses are a standard way to design them so that there is a constant “stack” size and the characteristics of the stack members shift about, not the size over time.

          The worms seem not to branch with the branching.

        • I don’t know about Wormverse, but at least in reality the branches do constantly recombine; when you throw a ball, it doesn’t follow a single path, it follows all possible paths at once. That’s how you can have light acting like a wave and particle at once.

    • DISCLAIMER: this is -extremely- simplified, and I’m drunk anyway, so take it with a grain of salt.
      NOTE: wordpress is trolling me, sorry for the eventual double post

      It sort of works if we assume that the variance must remain into a certain range for a Dimension to either exist fully (as opposed to in potentia) or be perceptible by the space whales.

      For a “fully formed dimension Dº” we have a variance value, say

      where x must be over a certain value, say
      then you can branch off and have a different Earth. OR a “different enough” dimension that the space whales are abe to distinguish it from another one

      If otoh you have
      then you stay inside the realm of possibilities for that D and no new Earth is created. OR it's so similar to another Earth that the space whales cannot disinguish it from other ones and so pinpoint it.

      (Of course the "different enough to distinguish it" implies that whatever the space whales directly DO cannot affect x, so no new branches are created when Scion crosses over to anoher dimension and murders everyone. OR that the x becomes so similar to another neighbour that the two D snap together)

      Then there's probably an x value where it must be
      otherwise the dimension in question is too weird and it immediately explodes and / or transforms into the comment section of a web serial as soon as it is formed.
      This would put a limit on the number of possible ones.

      (IF we assume there's a master dimension from which every other one has branched off and… well, ok this -is- full of holes, but I'm mostly rambling at random, and you should not examine it too closely anyway)

  23. I wanted to comment on the fine balance of desperation and happiness of this chapter.

    However I cannot understand if I like it or not… this probably means you succeeded in making things as chaotic as possible.

    The friendly banter of the girls worked really well to defuse the hopelessness of the situation.

    I find really funny that the only one scoring bad on the Bechdel test is Taylor, but seriously… Canary was a pretty girl incarcerated inside the militant lesbian block, Lisa is still NOT denying outright she would like to tap Taylor, Rachel is… well, she’s the canine crusader. Aisha is holding hands with Canary, Grue seems out of the picture, Parian and Foil are still happily together.

    The only cool male protagonist you can find is Bastard 😀

    Does anyone find weird that Grue modified Taylor? That opens up a load of… interesting possibilities.

    Also, Canay / Simurgh teamup!

    • As I don’t know of anything Grue did to Taylor, I can’t think of any reason it would be weird. Maybe Taylor should double-check her body for weird “birth”marks, though…

      • “BRIAN WUZ HEER” written invisibly in cells in the skin of her butt that have a slightly different mitochondrial density than the surrounding ones. That’s my guess. No one will ever know except him and Amy. Well, and maybe Scion, because he can sense everything.

    • When you have a story that’s almost entirely about young women, with a handful of men who mostly die or leave the stage, but the Bechdel test says foul, that’s one of those things that should tell a person that the Bechdel test is worthless except for generating internet feminist talking points.

      • I just find it amusing and occasionally thought-provoking. No, it’s not reliable or even indicative of anything, but it’s something to think about.

        Also, I never really noticed how female-centric a lot of Worm is. Sure, Jack, Nilbog, Legend, Eidolon, Grue, Danny, Coil, and Accord are important. And Scion, if you want to call him male. (I think that’s more of a commentary itself, though, in that Scion points out that he chose to look male so that humans would view him as authoritative and powerful.) But Doctor Mother, Taylor, Alexandria, G.U., Moord Nag, Lisa, Contessa, and Faultline have a potentially disproportionate amount of power. To counter the fact that Scion chose to look male, you have the Simurgh choosing to look female and Manton’s subconscious/passenger making the Siberian female.

        I think an in-depth, unbiased (well, minimally biased, since everyone is biased) feminist study of Worm would be pretty fascinating, especially since it seems less intentional than, say, Wonder City Stories.

        (Wonder City Stories is back from hiatus now, if anyone here was reading it but gave up when it stopped updating. for those who want to check it out. It’s one of the few other serials I still follow, now that Worm has raised my standards unreasonably high.)

        • Other important dudes: Lung, Defiant, Clockblocker, Trickster, Ballistic, Weld, Tagg, Tecton, Theo, Glenn Chambers, Chevalier, Phir Sē, Saint, Gray Boy, Teacher, Marquis.
          Other important ladies: Emma, Sophia, Rachel, Piggot, Bakuda, Miss Militia, Dinah Alcott, Sundancer, Noelle, Dragon, Charlotte, Sierra, Flechette/Foil, Jessica Yamada, Bonesaw, Panacea.

          There’s considerable power in both camps, but I can see where you’re coming from when you say the ladies have a larger share of the major players.
          Draw your own conclusions. 🙂

      • This chapter *does* pass the Bechdel test, BTW. It has at least two women characters who have a conversation that’s not about a man. Canary and Taylor’s conversation in the infirmary alone is enough for the chapter (and Worm as a whole) to pass the Test.

        I wouldn’t say the test is worthless. It doesn’t give a complete picture by itself, but it’s definitely an interesting indicator.

        Women have lives outside men and the average woman has multiple conversations every day with other women that aren’t about a man. That it only happens in 56% of cases is telling, especially if you compare it to the flipped version – two men talking about something other than a woman (which happens almost every single movie).

        The mistake is when people start saying “Work X doesn’t pass the Bechdel test therefore it’s bad/sexist/wrong/whatever”. An individual work might have a very good reason for not passing the test. If a film is about life in a mediaeval french monastery, or covers the journeys of the last woman on earth across a post-apocalyptic wasteland then it’s completely appropriate there are no conversations between women.

        In any sort of contemporary film however (and many other genres), the Bechdel test is an *insanely* low hurdle to get over. If your story has more than one female and they are individual characters who actually do stuff then you tend to pass the Bechdel test without even trying. Worm passed the test by it’s very first chapter due to the bullying scene in the Girls’ Toilet.

        Failing the test doesn’t automatically mean you have a problem but IMO, it’s a good indicator that it’s worth asking *why* something so everyday and typical is entirely missing from your work.

    • Lisa denied outright that she wanted to tap Taylor way back when Parian was new to the Undersiders. Imago 21.1: “none of us girls here bat for the other team.”
      Of course, it’s been a few years since then.

  24. All this talk about getting laid… Taylor assembling an all female team… Scion’s problem being he can’t reproduce… Man Wildbow is taking this in a direction I really didn’t think he would. But it really should mean the number of hits this story gets in search engines is going to skyrocket! “Hot Bitch Action” alone should triple the readership.

    • That’s not their plan, that’s a stupid plan, and if you wanted to go forward with that plan you should have Alexandria be Scion’s…what’s the right word? Concubine?

      • Yes, it’s a stupid plan, and it’s not their plan. It’s a stupid joke. And besides “Hot Bitch Action” can mean we get to see Bitch in action. Remember when she helped cut BEHEMOTH’s leg off? Damn that was some hot Bitch action.

        • Trust me, that doesn’t always help. Wildbow gets off easy with relatively mundane search terms. I’ve had people show up because they were looking for porn in Bulgarian. I didn’t even bother translating the Asian characters to find out what language and what porn they were looking for. You haven’t lived until a search that leads to your site reads “floppy balls castration story”.

          • Don’t worry, I had a friend search for “Ape Raping A Donkey.” The actual reason I assure you not because he actually wanted to find such a thing.

    • But it really should mean the number of hits this story gets in search engines is going to skyrocket! “Hot Bitch Action” alone should triple the readership.

      Well, it will now that you’ve included it. 😀

      And now, so have I 😦

    • It’s too bad that Rachel isn’t the team leader for the moment. Then we totally could’ve renamed them as Bitch’s Bitches.

  25. So anyone else think Canary could be very useful for dealing with the Yangban? And lets hope Taylor is able to give a Patrick Stewart speech to the Irregulars. Yeah they have every reason to hate Cauldron. But there are more important things than their vengance right now. Like saving peoples lives.

  26. I’ve updated the fanfiction page with a number of crossovers.

    Three take place in the exalted setting (one of which is lengthy). One ties into the Starcraft setting.

    • I just realized that if there ever was a mortal over which the Unconquered Sun and Luna would fight it over about who got to exalt her, Taylor is the one.

      Sun: I’m going to exalt her, look at this awesomething she did battling a lizard chimaera
      Luna: no way, I’m going to. she get out of a closed building that was on fire with a wild hunt outside, with only a box of scrap metal
      Sun: and she fought a behemoth/girl too
      Luna: oh, hey it’s your turn at LoL, I mean, the games of divinity
      Sun: *runs to play*
      Luna: sneakly exalts taylor as queen bee themed.

      Otoh I can SO see a certain dragon trying to make Lisa into a Fiend, because 1- she’s eleven kind of awesome 2- what could possibly go wrong? She’s not the kind of girl who would learn the ebonslaying stringbean backstabbery prana right?

      • Man… I suddenly want to just rewrite all of Worm as an Exalted story. Only that’d take forever. I’ll just settle for adding more and more overt Worm “inspiration” to my Exalted game.

        Cauldron as the Deathlords? “Dead” shards as Abyssal sparks? The Birdcage as Malfeas? Some things just fit really well. Even Scion as the disillusioned Unconquered Sun, giving up the faith in humanity he had after the Primordial War in light of the shitty, disappointing mess Creation has become. All it takes is one Fiend with a knife running his mouth, then he’s throwing the Godspear at Kevan Nortun’s isle of birth… uh, let’s go with Wavecrest instead of the obvious choice. Throwing the Godspear at the Blessed Isle would have even more repercussions than throwing a laser at Great Britain.

      • I’d kinda want her to be a Dragon blooded,so she could keep her underdog status (I was gonna say :mortal with awakened essence,but I realized that Taylor as mortal wouldn’t stay mortal for long based on how the Exalted universe works)

    • Cool, I actually didn’t think I would get added to the index since most of the fanfics that had been up had been basically in setting Fanfiction. That’s pretty rad actually.

    • I think every single mirror in the universe is broken at this point. 777 trillion years of bad luck.

      But, otherwise, I don’t understand the comment?

      • Oh! I just got it. Courtney is commenting on the fact that Taylor has woken up from having her body reconstructed, then it never even occurs to her to check out her new body in the mirror to see if everything is good. Looking in mirror, Courtney implies, would be a girl’s first reaction to such a conundrum.

        Not an entirely bad point, really. I’d say it’s largely an example of Wildbow’s largely non-visual style of narration, though there’s something to be said for her swarm-based sense of perspective, too. Her version of looking in a mirror is covering herself with bugs so that she can create a 3D model of herself in her head.

    • She does, when she gets to the bathroom. Or at least I think so, weird of thingking of a bathroom without one.

      However you have to remember how much she’s using her swarm sense for… pretty much anything. She’s shifting her main sense from sight to swarm-o-vision.
      And becoming less human (and by extent, less girly).

    • I think that if Brian had reconstructed the wrong genitalia,she would notice without a mirror (<-comically missing the point).

      That said,she never gave much shit to image,she only cared about superhero image for practical reasons.

  27. And now with the reading of this I have finally finished my archive binge after 2 wweeks of intense reading. Congrats Wildbow not many series get that kind of response from me anymore. Your work is excellent.

    Over the course of reading I’ve had a few thought:

    -Sophia and Emma are real pieces of work. Until Revel (may he rest… i’d say in piece but it doesn’t seem very fitting…) pulled what he did on Sophia the only suitable punishment I could think of was “introducing” her (and Emma) to Drake, aka Whiphand from the Gone series (by Micheal Grant).

    -The Endbringers are terrifying, but I’m curious as to how well Leviathan would fair against THE GREAT AND POWERFUL TURTLE (from George R R Martins Wild Cards series), aka the guy that used TK hitch a ride on a space ship until it hit lightspeed, flies in armored shell the size of a tank using just his TK, and once threw the entire HUDSON RIVER at the guys who killed/hurt (yes it’s both it’s weird) his girlfriend.

    -Doesn’t spider silk eventually dissolve? I remember hearing that that is why everythign isn’t constantly covered in cobwebs. Sorry if this has already come up.

    • Re: spider silk
      It’s a protein. Something can digest it. Also, it degrades slowly in UV (some of the bonds can be broken by UV).

    • PharmaDan, it’s about time. You couldn’t read any faster? We need to get a librarian with a whip to stand behind you. Every time you look away from the page, she’ll quietly crack the whip over your head in such a way that doesn’t disturb the library.

      But now that you’re here, you’re probably wondering, “Crap, now what am I going to spend all my time obsessing about.” I have two answers for you about that. 1. Bobbleheads. 2. The comments section. Yes, the comments section has everything you need. People doing artwork. Jokes. Puns. Wild theories about the nature of the Wormverse. People who insist on calling it the Wormverse. Even the occasional fan fiction or completely unrelated story.

      Or, like I said, the bobbleheads. It’s always a possibility.

      But while you’re here anyway, PharmaDan, we’ll make sure you’re no cist on the buttocks of worm that is the comments section. No, we here in the comments are dedicated to making a fine ass out of ourself.

      Welcome to the comments, PharmaDan.

      • Thanks!

        I probably could have caught up faster but I didn’t want to burn myself out or skip anything. If I had I probably wouldn’t have come to the conclusion that the Endbringers are just bullies on a global level.

        And sorry about the Revel Regent bit, I was thinking of one name and wrote the other…

  28. Wow, Doc, ain’t you just the textbook fuckin’ definition of classy! We left dozens of capes behind to die because we couldn’t stomach a risk and now everythings falling apart? YOUR FAULT WHY DIDN’T YOU THINK OF ANYTHING SHUTTUP.

    Well, I guess it’s time for Skitter to saddle up and kick the shit out of everyone again. I thought people learned this lesson back in the first Brockton Bay.

    • To be fair ,opening a door that close to Scion was pretty carrying their own execution.It didn’t matter if they saved everyone using the door.They would still be dead when Scion followed them back to Cauldron(probably on the next second).He did after all only need a glimpse of the oil platform to follow them there.

        • Ah yes, because the being that has near-omniscience and near-omnipotence somehow already didn’t know about Cauldron. I guess people started popping open doors to all those other alternate earths?

          • If that was true Scion would have attacked that platform the moment Chevalier opened the first salvo,instead he only attacked after he caught a a view of the staging point through String Theory’s door.There is an obvious limit to Scion’s power Which have more to do with his lack of “imagination” (he isn’t called the Golden Idiot for naught) rather than his full true abilities.

            • Yeah. Notice how little couriosity he had about Contessa? I mean how many of you were thinking “Shard not from Scion or his partner… Maybe it’s from the one that killed his partner!” Never even occurs to him to investigate.

      • We’ll see how long that lasts once she’s taking charge, leading the Undersiders, and terrorizing people into saving the world. She may want to be Taylor, but Skitter is who she probably needs to be here.

        Also, I like that we can have this sort of discussion and NOT be talking about a character with multiple personalities. That’s some damn fine character development right there.

    • It might just be a case of Cauldron’s goal being to pull something like what Teacher did. They don’t seem to give a crap about actually saving the world. Kind of undermines all that slack people gave them because they said they were doing so.

      Really doesn’t take a whole lot of slack for them to go hang themselves. I’d particularly like to see how Contessa is hung.

      …wait a minute…

      • At this point we still don’t have full story on how Cauldron plans to save the world (or how they have done once already).There is no doubt that they’re monstrous(even Dr Mother admits that),its just either they’re truly convicted in what the believed is necessary or truly crazy, something that The Undersiders had been accused of. I’m giving Cauldron a longer rope this time(we yet to see their game plan),lets see if they can rescue anyone with it or just make for a very long noose.

        The theme of Worm had always been “doing the wrong things for the right reasons”.Almost every character :Taylor, The Triumvirate,heroes and villains and some PRT directors(even Tagg) are guilty of this.

    • Oooh, like one with “Doing the wrong thing for the right reasons” on it, or the tags from the warlords of Brockton Bay arc. Or just a gravestone on it saying “Meh, I could take her.”

    • We need a good piece of fanart of Skitter on a throne, looking out over Brockton Bay (not necessarily pictured, as the focus is Skitter), surrounded by her swarm and maybe a few of the Undersiders. That’s an image that could make an incredibly good t-shirt. Oh, and down below it, just “WORM” in an impressive font. It doesn’t encapsulate ALL of the serial, but it’s pretty representative of a lot of what makes it really cool. It’d be intriguing enough to draw more interest to the serial, too, which is a good thing to have in a t-shirt.

    • I want a silhouette picture of Skitter standing over Tagg on the ground being mauled by bugs. Taylor is giving a double middle finger to his corpse.

      The subtitle “Fuck tha’ PRT” is optional.

  29. Just some thoughts, no coherent theme …

    This is another situation like what Taylor trained for during her time in Chicago – dealing with parahuman problems small enough to handle and using that accumulated momentum and resources to build up to larger problems.

    Which brings up an interesting point: she accumulated enough experience in about a year in Brockton Bay to create the shard that Aiden picked up. She spent two years in Chicago. Even though those two years were less intense, she should be at least near to flaking off another shard. She is about to go into another series of extended encounters, gaining even more experience. Who is the next person to pick up an Administrator shard and what variant will it be?

    This chapter felt weird, a little like Taylor’s adjusting to her new body. It works, but it is weird. I suspect it serves several purposes – exposition, reorientation of the plot towards the new chapter, highlighting changes in older characters, introduction of Canary, … anything else? Maybe that’s why it felt weird – most of the other chapters were very focused on one plot element, scene, action, or result, so a multipurpose chapter is unusual. Also, the scene with Doctor Mother felt contrived, especially in regards to timing.

    Bitch is talking more, and the others seem to have rubbed off some of their rough edges on each other. Aisha’s comments seem like like tension-easing snark. So, just a few women who get along with each other taking time to ease the pressure with social interaction, but then I remember … when Aisha said “I’m not one to put off revenge” what that really means is using her power to terrify her enemies, some to the point of insanity, and assassinating some of them. Not to mention taking out Heartbreaker and his gang. Come to think of it Bitch kills anyone she thinks of as an enemy without remorse, Tattletale ruins opponents with malice aforethought, and Taylor kills infrequently but is probably the scariest of the group if she is actively coming after you (because she doesn’t stop and always finds a way around obstacles). With that mental shift, this still looks like a bit of tension-easing social interaction … between some of the scariest parahumans on the planet. Scary not because of their overall power level, but because they have fought supposedly superior enemies multiple times and survived or won, they are absolutely ruthless when needed, at least two of them (TT and Taylor) have serious contacts with other powerful individuals, etc.

    So … they’re getting the band back together? (Sorry, couldn’t resist.)

    Sleeper keeps getting mentioned again and again and again. Checkov’s gun, anyone? If nothing else, there will be some quite irritated readers (myself included) if we never find out what the heck he/she/it does.

    “Panacea is really the only way we can double check her work.” One problem with that: Bonesaw has shown that she can program quite complex prosthetics and medical devices of various sorts and Panacea cannot sense or affect machines. So, Bonesaw could get one over on Panacea by placing hidden functions in implants. Panacea doesn’t have time to do everything, so then Bonesaw helps with prosthetics. Panacea then checks everything she can, but she can’t tell what the machines will do later.

    The Yàngbǎn are staying consistent with their fucked-up ideology – their way is the only way. So, when others do things that work better (Scrub’s and Labyrinth’s gates) they attempt to screw it up rather than admitting that the Yàngbǎn way is not the only way. Typical tyrant thinking. I look forward to the time when Taylor goes up against them since she hates that type of thinking. Alexandria discovered that the hard way: “Not a promise, not an oath, or a malediction or a curse. Inevitable. Wasn’t that how she put it? I told them. Warned them.”

    ereshkigala has a point – the Worms only destroy a planet, even if they destroy all versions of it. And there are enough resources available to at least work towards some sort of self-sustaining space-traveling society. At least, there are as long as groups stop fighting each other.

    I am not sure how I feel about the Irregulars versus Cauldron battle. They are both “doing the wrong thing for the right reasons.” Cauldron did its experimentation that caused these problems because they wanted to save the world. The Irregulars are attacking them because they hate how Cauldron’s amorality has hurt them and others. I wonder how much the Irregulars would change their actions if they knew that they had been rescued from death before they were experimented on (remember that every scene we have had of Cauldron recruiting individuals, the people who ended up taking the potions were going to die, even if many of them were not given the opportunity for informed consent). I suspect the answer is “not much”, but this is yet another way that Cauldron has caused problems by not communicating with people.

    • About the last bit: we only see Newt getting kidnapped and he indeed was on the point of death. But that’s it. Shamrock who is unique in not being memory-wiped doesn’t seem to mention any near-death experience that I can recall.

      • I would like the link to Newter’s point of view – I cannot find it or remember it. But:

        Eidolon and Alexandria got what passes for informed consent, if you don’t nitpick about details. Customers got psyche exams and warnings about potential side effects. As far as the Case 53’s, see Alexandria’s episode for this text:

        But they would be alive. That was the most important thing. They had been destined to die, in places where the wars never stopped, or where plague was rampant, rescued from the brink of death.

        Also see Number Man’s episode for this text:

        Reyner died. Maybe it was war, maybe it was plague. But we sent our people to collect you before you passed. Some of the collectors were like me, others more like you, made to think the way we needed them to think.

        Although, since Number Man is trying to get Reyner back into his cell, Number Man could be lying.

    • Bonesaw can’t work around Panacea, if Panacea won’t allow her to make any implants. And I strongly suspect she won’t.

      I think there is more to Irregulars attacks on Cauldron. They are somehow succeeding. And I’m not certain Weld would prioritize hurting Cauldron over helping people, unless something happened to convince them Cauldron needs to go now, world ending be damned. Maybe they think Cauldron is making things worse.

      There was a mention of Fairy Queen appearing on TV. And what she’s saying gives little hope.

    • ““Panacea is really the only way we…can’t tell what the machines will do later.”
      That’s where trust comes into play, and potential redemption for Riley.

      “I am not sure how I feel about the Irregulars versus Cauldron battle. They are both “doing the wrong thing for the right reasons.””
      And this is a concept new to the Wormverse…how?

    • Isn’t that one of the funniest things? So many of the strongest powers involve communication. Cauldron, tight-lipped sumbitches that they are, are starting to fall apart despite all their planning and influence because they can’t communicate worth a crap.

      Reminds me of James Carville’s take on the Clinton campaign. All their secret poll numbers and data? Left it out for anyone to see. No leaks. But the second you start locking things up and not authorizing people, bam, info gets leaked and is implied to be damaging because it was hidden.

    • I like to think that anything involving Lisa that feels contrived IS contrived. By her. She could figure out when Taylor was going to wake up. She could figure out what to say to needle Dr. Mother into showing up. The question is why she thought it would be useful for Taylor to wake up to that. Maybe she wanted to get her into the right mindset for starting this latest crusade.

  30. Thank you to Dillon, Andrew, Joseph, Samuel, Patrick and Hollis for their help.

    Extra thanks go out to those of you who’ve paid more than once. I notice, and it means a lot.

    I’ve queued another chapter.

  31. – Cockroaches. “Good. Good.”
    – wonder what Glastig Uiaine said on TV?
    – something tells me Tattletale had a larger purpose in bringing Doctor Mother over than just berating/being berated in return
    – loved the all-girl interaction and how everyone has developed in fascinating yet consistent ways
    – Canary is a main character now!
    – where’s Lung?
    – Teacher, you predictable asshole.
    – … where’s Saint?
    – Where’s Defiant? Going Bonesaw 2.0 on Saint in a dank basement somewhere as the multiverse ends?
    – wait. Simurgh has been spotted, looking lost because Scion already rendered her shtick pointless. Does this mean Eidolon is secretly alive OR that he was never the Endmaker in the first place OR if he actually is, that they can outlive him?

    • Or that Scion created the Endbringers to challenge Eidolon, and just told Eidolon in a way that would result in Eidolon interpreting the words in the most constructive (read: worst) way possible.

    • “Tattletale had a larger purpose in bringing Doctor Mother over than just berating/being berated in return” — yes. Tattletale’s power works by interacting with people. By pulling Doctor Mother in and having that little tete a tete, she undoubtedly learned all sorts of things that had been secret from her.

      I’m looking forward to finding out what she learned.

    • Saint is “arrested.” So… yeah, probably in said basement, getting introduced to new forms of pain.

      Which makes me wonder what happened to Dragon’s chances of recovery when Scion blew up the world. It sounded like there was a glimmer of hope there when Defiant talked to Saint… well, berated Saint. Are her chances better, now that enough infrastructure has been destroyed to shut down whatever Saint was doing to keep her from recovering? Are her chances utterly shot, now that 90% of the world is without power? Whatever facility was hosting her backup servers and/or cloning vats and/or whatever probably had an independent power supply and plenty of shielding, but who knows?

    • I’d been wondering if anyone was going to mention that last point.

      I would suggest that Simurgh looking lost is added evidence for the “Eidolon is the Endbringers” interpretation. She wouldn’t stop screwing with people just because Scion is already do so. But if she was created to provide Eidolon a worthy challenge and Eidolon is dead or missing? That would definitely fit with her current apathy.

  32. I’ve compiled quite a list of minor capes who get mentioned once or twice, but who we know almost nothing about. Would it be possible for wildbow to copy-paste all of his non-spoilerey notes on various characters into a Google Doc for everyone? I, for one, would accept that in place of a bonus interlude.

    • You probably wouldn’t find it at all remarkable if it was an all “boy” novel. And you’d probably call them “men” or “guys” or “males” rather than “boys.” Welcome to understanding the phallocentrism of literature and culture as a whole.

      • to be fair they -are- all “girls”. The olders should be Parian and Canary at about 25, the others are around 18.

        I know, not the point… still “all lassess” is quite a mouthful.

        • Hey, yeah. Parian has to be in her twenties right? Didn’t she finish college? And Foil had to be 18 at most when they hooked up.

          I just noticed that, not like it really matters though.

          • I believe the age difference is even bigger. As in Parian was already in her twenties and Foil wasn’t even 18 (she’d be in the Protectorates not the Wards, otherwise) when they got together. As you said, it doesn’t really matter.

          • Yeah I noticed that when they finally got together after the defection. I figured best case scenario, Parian was about 20-22 with Foil about 16 or 17 (18 and she’d be in the Protectorate already). Not a HUGE gap but a noticeable one. That said I agree that it doesn’t matter much. Completely discounting that I believe someone should be old enough to choose their own partners by that age, I can’t see how someone can routinely fight things like Endbringers, Echidna, evil psychos and normal psychos without getting a few years of mental maturity added to their physical age.

            That is part of the reason why I never had a problem with Imp and Regent either. Age doesn’t mean much when there is a very good possibility that either side can die in a few months to an Eldritch monstrosity or a random crazy guy with nightmare inducing powers.

  33. Well, this was a much nedeed breather after the fight with Scion. Now we are going to follow the all new, all female Uncanny Undersiders as they fight to save the world(s) from Scion!
    Also, Parian and Foil are ok! Yaaaay. Hopefully Chevalier made it out too.

  34. It just occurred to me how telling the difference is between the connotations of the phrases “This is it” and “That’s it.”
    While they’re gramatically nearly identical other than the choice of demonstrative pronoun, “This is it,” in this context, is about hope, preparation, and/or determination. “This is it. Here they come.”
    “That’s it,” on the other hand, is about giving up, resigning oneself to the inevitable, and so on. “That’s it. It’s over.”
    But the only real difference in the words is that the former puts the subject “here,” while the latter creates distance. There’s an implication that if something big is happening in the space of “here,” people will, perforce, find some form of hope or determination, while if it’s “there,” we’re more inclined to feel that there’s nothing we can do and take a passive role, even if we’re talking about the same situation.
    This whole divide between “here” and “there,” which we can see in this example is sometimes very important, is utterly subjective. We can talk about “here on planet Earth” and “over there on the other side of the room.” So maybe a key to getting people to deal with these sorts of issues (or any issues, really) is to convince them that they’re “here.”

    Saving the world through linguistics.

  35. “It wasn’t that I wasn’t ungrateful, but…”

    Should probably be

    “It wasn’t that I was ungrateful, but…”


    “It wasn’t that I wasn’t grateful, but…”

    • I sort of am. I scanned for her But i think she just quietly disappeared completely out of the story. She came across as the kind of person who is an extension of the nearest strong will and bugger all person in her own right.

  36. Does anyone think that maybe now that the Simurgh has free will (possibly, if she was controlled by Eidolon before) she might end up being a good guy? She isn’t destroying anything right now, and yeah there isn’t much left to destroy, but still, baby steps.

    With Eidolon dead I can’t really think of any being left but the Simurgh being an at all reasonable focal point for another fight against Scion. Theoretically she could use her precog+song as a huge force multiplier by influencing people in just the right way to make them help the battle perfectly, and she can assemble dimension jump portals from scratch. Amusingly, her powers make her the perfect leader, if she wants to be.

    • I don’t see Eidolon as someone consciously making Endbringers for his own gain.Even IF the theory of him being the Endmaker is true, I don’t think he was even aware of it.The guys seems to have a conscience , he was freaked out when he discovered what Cauldron and Alexandria was doing(they only managed to convince him that it was absolutely necessary).

  37. Question, but I heard a mention that you might have an original piece coming out after worm is finished. What would be its cost, and date? (So I can set some aside)

  38. So when we’ll see Aiden Boy-Bird join Weaver as her inappropriately aged sidekick? What sort of puns their team-up would create?

    Weaver uses silk threads trick: [You’ve got caught, like a bird in a snare!]
    If you don’t like a sting, how about a peck!

    Err… I admit I’m not that good at those.

  39. Am I the only one that feels the Yangban would have made a huge difference in the oil rig fight? Getting capes, out of the path of death giving Eidolon and Legend a third power boost, adding some of the clones into there mix like crawler, and king would let them not be easily chumped

  40. So odd that your only friends are people you hung around with for a few months years ago instead of those you spent the last two years with… Seems the latter do not merit even a single thought or mention. No attempt to get in contact with them or talk to them. No attempt to contact and coordinate with the remnants of the good guys. Nonsensical.

    The Irregulars are surprisingly short-sighted.

    • It’s possible she was never that close with the Chicago Wards since her focus was on preparing for the end of the world. We hear in Golem’s interlude that she was pushing everyone pretty hard and leaving them without much personal time. She stayed with the Undersiders because she wanted to, but went with the Wards because she needed to. The Wards aren’t all together anymore either, what with Tecton graduating to the Protectorate.

      Also, the Undersiders helped pull her out of her really bad starting situation and were her first proper friends, discounting Emma. She kinda grew up with them in a sense, developing her cape persona and abilities, which were pretty much fully formed by the time she joined the Wards.

      It is a bit of a shame we didn’t see more of her personal interactions with the Wards though. We never really saw that group in its downtime, save the shorts-stuffing incident.

  41. Ok, this is ridiculous by now. Why is it Taylor ALWAYS has some speech ready and waiting for no matter what the situation or question arises to her? It honestly is really annoying and comes off really preachy.

  42. Really nice scenes of the band coming back together, maybe plus Canary. I only just realised that with Regent dead and Grue retired the Undersiders are now an all-girl team, and even from the beginning guys were in the minority. That’s a refreshing change from most works where guys are in the majority.

    There’s an appealing diversity in the setting too. Female heroes and characters are respected, without the patronising attitudes you sometimes see (like where everyone keeps remarking on how impressive a woman is in a fight, intending it as a compliment but actually drawing attention to gender and implying it is unusual to take that role).

    Same-sex couples like Parian/Foil and Legend and his partner are present and deftly-handled too, without any negative comment or associations (heck, those are some of the healthiest relationships in the verse).

  43. I love that ‘adorable canine crusader’

    Man, this story… I would say ‘that escalated quickly’ but that is relative. Her fights, her name, their story… The parasite gods are amazing, the powers and scale are beyond…

    Skitter, surviving and being forged into a warrior, protector and warlord. Weaver, protector and teacher, master of weaving situations and people to the best she can. Taylor, trying to Taylor herself and stitch together who she is, all the while surviving and guiding like her other personas.

    Scion and its story is amazing, sad and empty. So smart, knows so much yet somehow fails to understand…

    Just… You are awesome.

  44. Okay, new (I think) ship: Lisa + Imp.

    Lisa’s problems enjoying a sexual relationship would just as equally extend to a romantic one – when you can see right through people’s facades – even innocent ones – initmate personal relationships become hella uncomfortable.

    Imp’s ability to disappear from consciousness make her someone Lisa can’t always know – especially if she refines her power over time. You’d end up with a push-pull that wouldn’t exactly be a typical relationship but could well be a viable one…

    • That would only work for a very short period though I think. Lisa did a great job of working around a hard wired blind spot that with uber strength “Don’t Look Here” cast on it. I imagine Aisha would have to blink out every few seconds to every minute or so during the deed for Lisa to keep her power from robbing all the fun. The issue is that after a few times of Aisha vanishing, Lisa is sitting there getting more and more revved up but not knowing why. She’d instinctively understand that someone with Stranger powers was having their way with her and know it was Imp and then we’re pretty much right back to square one.

      That being said I’m not saying the ship is a bad one or that I’m against it. I just don’t think her power would be as useful in a bedroom setting.

  45. Taylor’s reaction to Doctor M. insulting Tattle’s intelligence was hilarious and exactly what I was thinking as well. The fact that LISA took the high road there was…quite frankly utterly terrifying. That things have progressed to the point that she doesn’t actively shoot back against an insult that blatant is a very bad sign.

    It was rather entertaining reading about Taylor wondering whether all whether her muscles count as her muscles anymore and then immediately moving on to hoping her important parts are in order. The entire sex conversation afterwards just made things even funnier! Oh and Aisha’s question about if Lisa was inviting Taylor to bed was awesome. Sure, sure she may SAY sex is no fun but her reply was just a little too fast to be fully convincing to us shippers. I notice how she didn’t flat out say she wasn’t interested in taking Taylor specifically to bed, she just didn’t want to take anyone to bed. It helps our case 😉 Aisha thinking about Brian naked with one of her good friends was hilarious as well of course. And while I am inclined to believe her protests about being an intentional voyeur that entire section of the conversation was just so made of win I had to work far too hard not to roll around laughing!

    Haha okay I love Aisha! The girl is freaking priceless! And I love how she is looking up bigger words too. Very entertaining. Tattletale certainly didn’t skimp on the jokes either. It’s heartwarming watching these interactions. And I am so glad that “Just ignore me. Everyone else does” is already on tvtropes CMOF page. I was already shifting to throw it up there before seeing it. Totally freaking deserves to be there. Hell 90% of this chapter can go up there!

    I really can’t state how happy I am that Canary joined up with our heroes! It improves the poor girl’s quality of life, her entertainment, her luck and her survival probability all at once! It is interesting to note she got Cauldron powers though. I know it came up in the comments earlier and I know that I’ve also speculated that the changed people could only come from Cauldron since Scion tweaked his shards so they don’t change the bodies so much in his interlude but it’s still a little odd to think that the idol bought her ability. Honestly I have a lot more respect for her now though seeing how calm she is after everything and in the face of everything that is still coming.

    Rachel has gotten to be so much more awesome than I had initially seen her becoming. She is actually sociable – well for her. She is useful, funny, and she tusses hair! So cute.

    Sadly I am even more sure that Grue is dead now. If he was alive the group would’ve told her almost immediately even if he had just left to be with his wife. He never would’ve left Aisha to keep doing fighting while he ran. And he has already said before that couldn’t really use Panacea’s power. Fucking with a giant beetle is one thing but that guy would in no way trust himself to work on a girl he used to be in love with without being sure he wouldn’t fuck up. I can’t decide whether Taylor is being willfully blind or if she just didn’t think too hard about it. Lisa…you should really tell her the truth before she finds out the wrong way.

    Is it sad that I agree with Taylor? That I find it perfectly likely that the world would dissolve into petty little factions trying to kill each other as everything burns around them? Maybe I’m just a pessimist. I like individuals but I don’t like humanity as a whole. It is very sad that we can’t seem to band together for the truly important things.

    I find the Smurf’s lack of action hilarious. Even assuming that Eidolon was their creator and that without him around to fight against they basically don’t care, the fact that she popped up and basically just sat there is funny.

    Saint…so is there anyone left who still wants to stick up for this guy? He’s either in love with Teacher or in love with powers from Teacher. Killed Dragon for the greater good my ass.

    It’s a good thing that Scion is going around decimating every universe. Sucks for them but I was having a seriously hard time figuring out how the world was supposed to hold out any sort of defense for another four arcs against an enemy that basically took out a sizable chunk of the population/planet in less than three hours.

    As a side note: I love the arc title. Cockroaches indeed.

    • Dragon was my favorite character. I’m just waiting for Saint to get nuked by a golden laser or something at this point. Fuck him.

    • She could pull a Cherish and have the enemies knock themselves unconscious or kill themselves, I guess. Good for crowd control.

  46. “We’re doomed,” Aisha added. “The dog is fucked.”

    Rachel wrapped her arm around Aisha’s neck, seizing her in a headlock, wordless. Aisha struggled and squeaked, while Rachel maintained the hold, not so tight as to choke, but tight enough to be uncomfortable.

    Hahahahaha. Classic.

    • Second read-through: this is classic comedy, and the over-the-top reaction to the dog metaphor is classic Rachel… but the fact that Rachel has become adept enough at socializing to express those feelings this way (instead of raising her voice, erupting into serious violence, or just glaring/growling at her) is extremely heartwarming.
      And the fact that Imp knows what’s going on and lets it happen makes this even more impressive. Two years ago, if Rachel suddenly wrapped an arm around the neck of any of the Undersiders and started closing her elbow without saying anything, they would’ve immediately concluded “Rachel’s about to try and kick my ass” regardless of context, and taken steps to defend themself. Today, Aisha’s experience leads her to interpret that same scenario as “Rachel is ticked because I trolled her successfully, but she’s just playing,” and to feel confident enough in that assessment that she stands there and gets headlocked without worrying about what to do if she’s wrong. Which means that Rachel hasn’t just developed a greater ability to socialize- she’s been demonstrating that ability in times and places that the other Undersiders have noticed, even though she spends most of her time literally a world away from where they spend most of theirs. Despite the change to a long-distance relationship, she’s still a teammate, and she’s become more of a friend.

      • I think the time away did her good, probably is a massive relief not to deal with social stuff all the time, so she ends up more patient and attentive when back again.

  47. So, I know how it actually ends, because re-read, but… this chapter gave me an uncontrollable desire for someone to ask Dinah if a song and dance number would work on scion.

    (Assuming of course the ending *doesn’t* count as a song and dance number. =) Taylor would of course get the ‘been there, done that, got the T-Shirt, Choreographed the screaming of the damned” shirt)

  48. So Imp’s shipping Tattletaylor, too. She’s basically the in-story mouthpiece for the comments section, isn’t she?

  49. “Bitch,” Tattletale said. “Can-”

    “I’ll go patrol,” Rachel said.

    Tattletale nodded.

    Oh my god! 😀 Rachel used to have trouble figuring out how to react to other people, and now she’s anticipating them. Not just trying to guess what someone will say next, not just guessing correctly, but sometimes even feeling confident enough in her best guess to speak up before the answer is clear. And doing this with Tattletale, even- the teammate who puts the most effort into playing the social interaction game and drawing in everyone around her, the one who used to be the most consistent cause of Rachel not knowing what to do and getting frustrated.
    She’s grown so much! ❤

  50. Ubyl fuvg. Jura Gnlybe nfxf nobhg Tehr… Yvfn naq Nvfun tb ba sbe n juvyr. Yvfn’f fgbel unf qrgnvyf. Enpury vf gurer naq fur qbrfa’g fnl nalguvat. Nvfun znxrf (jung fbhaqf na njshy ybg yvxr) n wbxr.
    Rvgure “Oevna arire pnzr onpx sebz gur bvy evt naq gur Haqrefvqref yvrq gb Gnlybe nobhg uvz gb xrrc ure va n hfrshy urnqfcnpr” jnf n yngr qrpvfvba va gur jevgvat cebprff, be gurl chg n shpxgba bs rssbeg vagb gung yvr naq vg’f xvyyvat gurz vafvqr.

  51. Not a big betrayal but that’s one world where we moved a hell of a lot of supplies in” missing punctuation before quotation mark , also could probably be phrased better. One world where we had put a hell of a lot of supplies or smth?

  52. I can see it now. Canary, standing in front of Scion. “Please, mister, stop killing people.” Scion freezes. Lowers his outstretched hand, the one that was about to make a glowing death ball. His face trembles violently. Suddenly, he’s baring his teeth. No, wait–it’s a smile. It’s obvious he’s never smiled before. He looks terrifying, so a dumbass fires a laser at him, he gets pissed again and explodes the world.


  53. For a chapter with a lot of positive character interaction, it’s a real downer. I guess everything is going to hell in a handbasket.

    Some part of me just wants them to take a break for a while, a real break.

  54. My power makes it way less fun than it ought to be. Information overload during sex is squick.”
    “Sure,” Aisha said. “Sure.”

    Ward, 10.x:
    [Tattletale]’d come to terms with the fact that her lack of interest in the romance or the physical stuff wasn’t because of one excuse or the other…It was just her.

    I choose to interpret this as Aisha Tattletale’ing Tattletale.

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