Venom 29.3

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“We knew it would come to this,” Legend said.

I turned around.  My hands were full as I unbelted a tightly folded blanket and draped it over one of the wounded.

A surprising number of wounded, in the end.  Twenty or so injured from an aircraft that had been partially obliterated, eighteen more people who’d had their legs sliced off.  Nearly forty Dragon’s Teeth with mild injuries, their armor melted to their faces, chests, arms and legs.  Scion had tried his usual assortment of attacks, and they’d evaded them.  Enhanced strength from the costumes, predictive technology from the onboard artificial intelligences.

So he’d used a power they couldn’t dodge, a power they couldn’t block.  A light that radiated outward and melted the materials of their costumes.

Cauldron hadn’t been there to reinforce the group.  If they had been, it might have been a staging ground.  Instead, the group had folded and Scion had come after the portal that was closest.

“What do you mean?” I asked.

“When we were predicting what would happen with the Endbringers, we said that we’d be forced to regroup, consolidate our forces.  Every fight would result in losses, so we’d have to abandon positions, move people from an abandoned post to keep numbers up.”

“I can see that,” I said.

An outpost abandoned.  The world Defiant and Dragon had been looking after was being abandoned as a lost cause.  There were countless people still alive, but they were spread out, and there was no way to mount a proper defense with our forces spread too thin.

“If there’s an upside,” Legend said, his tone changing as if he were forcing himself to be less grim.  “Tattletale said we’re making headway.  It doesn’t look like it, but we’re taking chunks out of him.  The strongest of us survive, we regroup, see what works, we’re stronger when it comes to the next fight.”

Except he’s indiscriminate.  He’s killing the ones who can actually affect him, because he’s being reactive.  We’re not stronger by virtue of the strongest surviving and consolidating because the only difference between this fight and the next is that we’ll be less.

I kept my mouth shut.

“Defiant and Dragon will be joining you guys here, to make up for the ones you lost.  You’ll have Leviathan, at the very least.  Chevalier and I will be a matter of minutes away.”

A few minutes is too long, I thought.  But I didn’t want to state the obvious, didn’t want to argue.

I was trying to be good, trying not to raise any problems with a guy who could well be sensitive over the fact that I’d murdered one of his closest companions a few years back.

Besides, I knew that this pep talk was most likely Legend trying to reassure the wounded.  Maybe even him trying to reassure himself.

He took his time, putting fresh bandages on a wound.

“I’ve followed your career,” Legend said.  “I’ve seen you on the battlefields, fighting the Endbringers, old and new.  The bugs are noticeable.”

“I’m nothing special.”

“You rendered Alexandria brain dead,” Legend told me.  “That warrants attention.”

“Fair enough,” I said.  I managed to get another blanket unbelted from the arrangement of straps that kept it in a folded position and then draped it over someone.  Legend moved the end of the blanket, where it rested on the patient’s wounded foot.

“I wanted to know who it was that had killed Rebecca.  I kept an eye on everything you did in the Protectorate, looked for the details about your past.  I understand if that seems creepy…”

“I think I get it.  You were close to her.”

“I felt close to her.  In the end, though, there was a gap between my feelings and the reality.  Still is, I suppose.  Go through enough with people, build something from the ground up, you form ties.”

“Yeah,” I said.  I looked over my shoulder.  Mai, one of the kids Charlotte and Forrest were looking after, was there, alongside one of Rachel’s henchmen and a puppy.   Giving comfort to a child from the other settlement who’d been burned by the same effect that melted the costumes of the Dragon’s Teeth.  The burns weren’t horrible, but it made it hard to tell the child’s ethnicity or gender.

But the child was scratching the puppy behind the ear.  Rachel stood nearby, arms folded, stern and ominous.  I felt a kind of fondness, tempered by a kind of hesitance, like I couldn’t let myself hold on too tight to the friendship and familiarity because she could be dead by the end of the day.  Though it was sharper than it had been in the past, it wasn’t an unfamiliar feeling.

Legend was looking at me when I turned back to him.  “Yeah.”

“It doesn’t always make for the most sound decisions.”

“No, it doesn’t,” I agreed.  I had to scoot out of the way as some doctors hurried by with fresh tools and equipment.  Removing the dissolved materials from burned flesh was something of a task, and there were a lot of people to help.

“I always knew there was something wrong, underneath it all, but there were bigger things to focus on.  You finish dealing with one Endbringer attack or a potential war with parahuman attacks on both sides, it demands all of your focus.  You’re left drained, dealing with the event or the aftermath, and then you need to recuperate, you have an organization to manage.  There’s never a moment where you can stop, take a deep breath, and then say, ‘now is the moment where I address that nagging doubt I had the other day’.  Now is the moment I call so-and-so out on that less-than-complete truth they used while we were elbow-deep in Indonesian cyborg super-soldiers.”

“I think I know exactly what you mean.”

“I think it’s very possible you do,” he said.

“But you can’t dwell on it,” I said.

“If you don’t give it the necessary attention, then how do you prevent it from becoming a cycle?”

“You don’t.  You look back at your reasons for making the choices when you made the choices, you recognize that you didn’t address or act on your suspicions and doubts because you had higher priorities at the time, and you make peace with it.”

“Have you?  Made peace with it?”

“I’m on my way there, Legend.”

“I’m not sure I want to go there,” he said.  “Give me a hand?  Hold his leg up?”

I nodded.

Gore.  A foot reduced to something unrecognizable.  The man would probably lose it.

But Legend still tended to the limb with care.  Almost gentle.  I tried to be as graceful in keeping the leg in the air.

The soldier made a noise of pain as Legend cleaned the foot, using a laser to sever a tag of flesh that was holding a piece of boot on.  I reached out and held the man’s hand.

“You came in here for a reason,” Legend said.

I looked up.

“It’s not about taking care of the wounded,” he said.  “You’re not devoting a great deal of attention to keeping an eye on Hellhound, either.  Yes, you could use your swarm to discreetly observe her, to discreetly observe anyone in your range, but I don’t think that’s why you came here.”

I started to respond, but the soldier’s leg started kicking, an almost involuntary nerve reaction.  I had to pull my hand from his to hold his leg as still as possible.

We eased it down until he was lying flat, his leg on the bed.  I pulled a blanket over him, as carefully as I could.

“You have a question, or questions,” Legend said, “But you’re not asking them because you’re worried about the response.  Either it’s something touchy, or there’s another reason why you’re holding back.”

I sighed.  “If you don’t have an answer for me, then I’m not sure I know what I’m going to do next.”

“So this is about something only I would know?”

“Basically,” I said.  “We don’t have access to that broad a pool of people, right now.”

“Okay,” Legend said.  “What do you need to know?”

“Cauldron’s portals.”

“Closed.  They’re created by a parahuman called Doormaker.  The Doctor told me he was blind and deaf to his surroundings, but I think it’s far more likely that it’s to do with another parahuman she partnered him with.  Someone who grants sensory awareness.  I think the Doctor gave Doormaker too much exposure to this parahuman and destroyed or atrophied his other senses.  One of those nagging doubts I never acted on.”

We passed by Rachel, Rachel’s minion and Mai.  I gave Rachel a little nod of acknowledgement as we stepped outside.

Then we stepped outside.  There was a shattered sign over the boarded-up windows.  Apparently Tattletale had made some business deals and tried to get things in place for this to become a city like any one in Earth Bet.  The pieces were there, but the furniture had yet to be installed, the food yet to be supplied.  An empty fast food place, now a makeshift hospital.

Eat fresh?  I thought.  Not likely.

I took in the scene.  Capes were still reeling from the attack, and again, it was the monsters and the lunatics that seemed to be standing, while others sat, recovering, catching their breath, mustering their courage.

Nilbog, engaged in conversation with Glaistig Uaine.

Four of the Heartbroken, with Imp and Romp.  A maskless Imp gave Bonesaw a glare as the girl hurried, in the company of Marquis and Panacea, to the fast food place Legend and I had just left.

Lung was alone, looking angry, frustrated, almost more agitated than he’d been before or during the fight.  His eyes were on Leviathan, who was down by the water, but I didn’t get the impression Leviathan was the source of the frustration.

Parian and Foil were together, Foil with her mask off.  They’d curled up in a space between two large bins of food, Foil resting her head on Parian’s shoulder, their hands and fingers entwined.

Tattletale was caught up in a conversation with Knave of Clubs, and fell under the Simurgh’s shadow.  The Simurgh, for her part, seemed to be busy building other tinker devices, drawing on the abilities of tinkers in the immediate area.

Vista was sitting on a rooftop, two stories high.  Her eyes were closed, her hands set behind her so she could lean back a bit.  Her face turned towards the sky.

There were other capes in the area, looking a little more serious, focused on business.  Chevalier was with Defiant and Dragon, Black Kaze, Saint, Masamune and Canary.  Some of them drifted off, making their way towards us.

“If it helps,” Legend said, “I don’t think Doormaker is dead.  There have been two interruptions in his power, to date.  One followed an earthquake.  He was unhurt, but his partner… well, it was a clue that a partner existed.  His doors all went down simultaneously the moment the earthquake hit the facility.  I don’t think his power is the type that would outlast him after death, if it was so easily interrupted while he was alive.”

“So he’s alive because the doors are still open in places.”

“Alive and unable or unwilling to use his power,” Legend said.

I nodded.  “So is it Cauldron running or is it another agency?”

I could see Legend’s expression change.  I’d heard him talk before, saying as much, but his face was what told me, above all else, that he was burdened by regrets.  “I wish I could say it was the latter.”

“But you don’t know.”

“I remain in the dark when it comes to Cauldron.”

“What about Satyrical?” I asked.  “He was investigating with his team, wasn’t he?”

“He was, but he tends towards radio silence, Pretender’s people have since well before the Vegas teams cut ties with the Protectorate.  They claimed it was because there would inevitably be a parahuman who could uncover them if they left channels open.  Now… well, isn’t that the way most things were?  Secrets, lies, conspiracies.”

“It is, but-” I tried to find a way to politely say what I was trying to say.


“With all due respect, and I really do mean that because I respect you, I respect that you’ve participated in the fights, I get where you’re coming from…”

“You’re spending too much time couching what you’re saying,” Legend said.  “Rest assured, I can handle what you’re about to throw at me.  I think worse things to myself all the time.”

“I’m impatient.  That’s all.  Scion’s going to attack again, and I don’t plan to be here,” I said.

“You want a portal to get out of here,” Legend said.

“No,” I said.  “I don’t want an escape.  I want to act.”

“We’re acting,” Legend said.

“We’re reacting.”

“If you have ideas for something pre-emptive, I think we could all stand to hear it.”

I shook my head.  “Nothing definitive.”

“Even something that isn’t definitive.”

“I want to find Cauldron.  They have contingency plans we know they haven’t put into effect yet, and they have answers they’ve yet to provide.”

“Cauldron is very good at leading people to believe that they have the answers and then disappointing,” Legend said.  “Take it from someone who knows.  Ah.  I’m doing it again, aren’t I?  Like an old man.”

He smiled, and I smiled a little too.

“You’re an old man?”  Chevalier asked.  His group had just joined us.

“Taylor here was just very politely trying to tell me I’m wasting her time on reminiscing and regrets.”

“You have something better to do?” Defiant asked me.

Defiant,” Dragon said, admonishing him.  She was in her armor, but had her helmet off.  The face was real.  Plain, but real.

She’s an A.I.  A false person.  What else had Saint said?  She’s deceiving us?  It’s all an act?

“…came out wrong,” Defiant was saying.  Very deliberately, he said, “I am genuinely curious what you’re doing, Weaver.”

Dragon smiled a little, as if a private thought had crossed her mind.

The doubts Saint had seeded dissipated.

Ninety percent of them.

“I was telling Legend I want to go after Cauldron,” I said.  “A member of the Chicago Wards was saying that sending Satyrical to go investigate is like sending a fox to guard the henhouse.”

“Satyrical has definite ties to Cauldron,” Dragon said.  “If nothing else, Pretender maintains connections to the group.  If Cauldron is running, or if they are pulling something covert, then it’s very possible Satyrical is on board or is going to be brought on board.”

Chevalier shifted the Cannonblade to his other hand, then stabbed the point into the ground.  It looked different.  His armor looked different.  Gold and black, instead of gold and silver.  “It also means he and the Las Vegas capes are well equipped to know how Cauldron operates, and identify clues others would miss.  We sent them with others we could trust.  They’ve been reporting in on schedule.”

I opened my mouth.  Chevalier spoke before I could.  “-With stranger and master precautions in place.”

I frowned.

“You’re strong when it comes to improvising,” Chevalier told me.  “We’ve got a moment to breathe.  We think he’s hitting another world, one we don’t have access to.  We’re regrouping, figuring out who goes where, and we’re trying to set things up so we can mobilize faster.  I can’t tell you what to do.  I wouldn’t if I could.  But we could use you here.”

“We’re losing, here,” I said.  “Legend was being positive, but… I don’t think we can really delude ourselves that far.  He’s tearing us apart while holding back.  If we put up a fight or if we don’t hold back, he hits us harder, like he hit the Guild.  He can always top us, and he can always say he’s had enough and then just nuke the continent.  That’s not a recipe for an eventual win.”

“I don’t even think that’s the worst of it,” Tattletale said, finally having broken away from Knave of Clubs to join this conversation.  “He’s evolving, maturing.  If you can even call it that.  He was a blank slate, then almost like a baby, flinging destruction around like a baby practices moving their arms, as if to remind himself he could… and then he was like a child in this fight… except for the bit about Queen of Swords.  That suggested he’s almost entering an adolescent phase.  Something more complex than just raw fear and awe.  Loss, despair.  He’s going to start looking for ways to really hurt us.”

“Instead of just annihilating us?” Legend asked.  “Torture?”

“Mental, emotional, more involved physical torture.  Up until he hits adulthood.  Then he probably destroys us, completely and utterly.  I’d be surprised if we lasted more than two days, rate he’s developing.”

“You’re talking about him as if he were human,” Saint said.

“He is,” Tattletale said.  “It’s the only reason he’s doing this, and it’s the only way we have to truly make sense of him, and it’s his primary means of making sense of us.  Which is why he did it.  He’s got our general biological makeup.  He thinks, he feels, he dreams, he hurts, but it’s all buried so far under mounds and mounds and mounds of power and security, it doesn’t really supplant him.  It’s never been exposed to the real world, really, so the human side of him hasn’t matured or developed.”

“A weakness?”  Chevalier asked.

“Yes, but not a weakness we’re going to be able to exploit,” Tattletale said.  “He’s too careful, and he would have foreseen it.  Adapted around it, probably.  Be awfully stupid for something like him to adapt traits of their targets and adapt vulnerabilities at the same time.  Knowing this could help, but it’s not going to be the weak point we can target to finish him off.  That makes zero sense.”

“We know a lot of things like that,” I said.  “A lot of tidbits about his behavior or who he is or what he is.  But a lot of it isn’t reliable information.  He cared a lot about my clone decoys multiplying during the fight on the oil rig, but he didn’t give a damn this time.”

“He’s advancing, evolving.  His focus is changing,” Tattletale interjected.

“We know so many critical details,” I said, “And we need more.  We need a way of paring truth away from fiction, or determining what’s no longer true.  I don’t know for sure what we’re going to do to stop him, but I think any plans I have are going to start or end with Cauldron.”

I looked around the group.  Men and women, all in armor that made them stronger, bulkier or taller, it seemed.  Legend was comparatively small, but he had presence to make up for it, even as tired and worn out as he seemed to be.  Flying, casual flying as Legend tended to do, gave one a little more stature.

I wasn’t short, but it felt like Tattletale and I were mortals in the midst of giants.  Defiant, in particular, seemed somehow imposing.  His body language was familiar with the way he’d naturally set his feet apart, his hand on his weapon.

Even the place we were standing, it stirred memories.  We were at the north end of the Bay, even.

“Yes.  The plan makes sense,” Defiant said.  “I’ll trust you on this one.”

Dragon reached out to grab and squeeze his hand.

“What do you need?” Defiant asked me.

“I was thinking I’d bring some of the capes that can’t or won’t participate in the fight against Scion,” I said.  My eyes fell on Canary.

Me?”  Canary squeaked.

“Anyone, but capes like you,” I said.  “Support capes who can’t support in circumstances like this.  Strangers who can’t use their power on Scion.  Capes like that.”

“And if you can’t access Cauldron?” Chevalier asked.  “I don’t want to put too fine a point on it, but your actions when you assumed control of the Simurgh were… heavy handed.  You told an ex-teammate in the Wards that you weren’t intending to be a hero anymore.  I don’t want to tell you I won’t cooperate any more than I want to tell anyone I won’t cooperate, but you’d be asking us to put a fair amount of power in your hands by sending capes your way.  I… don’t know that I feel confident sending capes to you, if I don’t know how they’ll be put to use.”

“Would you allow me to talk to other capes?” I asked.  “You don’t have to send them my way, but maybe I could inquire?”

“I’m not going to stand in anyone’s way,” Chevalier said.  “I’m not the bad guy, here.  But I’ve got to lead this battle, and I’ve got to do what I can to make sure things don’t get worse.  If a cape needs to go, if they don’t have the courage to stand and fight, I’m not going to make them.  I’ll try to convince them otherwise, but I won’t make them.  And if they think they’ll be more useful elsewhere, I won’t stop them there, either.”

I nodded.  “I’ll settle for that.”

“What else?”

“Access to computers,” I said.  “Tools.  Resupplies.  The Dragonfly.”

He reached out of his pocket and withdrew a knife.  He reversed it and extended it to me, handle first.

I reached for the weapon, then saw Defiant pull his hand back.  “Be aware of the safety and the activation switch.”

I saw one of the switches, then took hold of the knife.

“Keep it away from heat.  If the growths start knuckling together, then it’s probably clogged at the air intake.  You can unscrew the cap at the butt of the knife and access the air intake there.  Bake it at roughly five hundred degrees to clear it, then thoroughly vacuum.  Pay attention to how long it takes the growths to hit maximum length… you’ll know because the colors at the ends are a lighter gray.  Three point seven seconds is the optimum time.  If it takes shorter then you’ll know something’s wrong with-“

“The knife won’t degrade too much in the next day,” Dragon said.  “And we have spares, thanks to Masamune.”

“You didn’t make this much of a fuss with my flight pack,” I said.

“I included documentation,” Defiant said.

“Thank you,” I said.  I found the holster for my old knife, then put it through the belt at my back, holstering the new knife.

“Where’s the Dragonfly?” he asked.  I pointed.

Dragon said something in Japanese to Masamune and Black Kaze.  There were two nods.

Defiant led the way to the Dragonfly, all business, Dragon, Canary, Tattletale, and me following.  He seemed almost happy to have something to focus on.  A problem that could be solved.

Did he genuinely trust me?  Was there a modicum of hope, here, with me mobilizing to go look into the Cauldron situation?

He continued to hold his weapon, though the fight wasn’t about to start.

I could imagine his outlook, the security the weapon afforded him, a hundred solutions in his hands.  The ability to defend himself, to defend others, to move out of the way of danger.  It made sense.

Dragon, conversely… what was her security blanket?

Different.  I couldn’t put my thumb on it.  But she’d lost to Saint, to the Dragonslayers.  She’d been taken captive, effectively killed.  Killed by a man who saw her as subhuman.

She’d been altered by Teacher.  Not so much she was a slave to him, but something had happened, and that was no doubt a large part of how she was disconnected from reality in the here and now.

I looked back at Saint, Masamune and Black Kaze.  Saint was taking a seat, his back to a chunk of destroyed aircraft, cross-legged.  Calm, relaxed.

“How can you stand to be near them?” I asked.

“Keep your enemies closer,” Dragon said, her voice tight.

“Don’t forget about the friends part,” I said.

She shook her head a little.  “I won’t.”

“When we were waiting for the fight to start, I went around, looking for people I needed to thank.  Important people to me, people who I wasn’t sure I’d get a chance to talk to again.  I missed a few important ones.  My dad… you two.  I know the only reason I got my shot at being a hero, the only reason I didn’t go to jail, was because you vouched for me, because you agreed to cart me back and forth and interrupt your schedule.  I probably didn’t even deserve it, but you backed me up.  I’m just… I’ve never been good at saying thank you and sounding as sincere as I feel.”

“I think we benefited as much as you did,” Dragon said.  “You needed to join the Wards to… make amends, shall we say?  It was the same for us.”

“For me,” Defiant cut in.

“I had my own regrets,” Dragon said.

“You had no choice.”

“Regrets nonetheless,” she said, again.  Her head turned towards Canary, and Canary smiled just a little.  Dragon then looked to me.

Was it possible for an artificial human to look weary?  To look wounded, in the sense that she was bearing some grievous injury from recent events?

We’d stopped outside the Dragonfly.  I bid the ramp to open, controlling the bugs in the operating mechanism.

Then, as it opened, I impulsively gave Dragon a hug.  Returning a favor she’d given me some time ago.

“Let’s get you set up,” Defiant said.

“Hook me in while you’re at it?” Tattletale made it a question.  “Whatever you need to do, so I can communicate with her and her peeps.”

“I’ll see to it.”

Tattletale glanced at me.  “Ops?”


We circled twice before coming in for a landing.  A cave just above water level, inaccessible except from the air.

The receiving party consisted of Exalt and Revel from the Protectorate core group, with half of the Vegas team.  Nix, Leonid, Floret and Spur.  Vantage was waving a rod around, listening to steady beeps.

“Oh god, finallySomething to take my mind off the beeping,” Floret said.  She was petite, her hair in carefully layered waves of pink, with green at the roots.

“Find anything?” I asked.

“No signs of any portals that have been opened in the past.  Harder than cracking Dodger’s gateways, apparently,” Vantage said.  “Or they gave us bad instructions.  How’re you doing, Weaver?”

“I’m fine,” I said.

“Wearing black,” he said.

“Is everyone going to comment on that?” I asked.

“It’s comment worthy.  How’d the fight… nevermind.  I can guess.”

“Probably,” I said.

“Grim group,” Floret commented.  “I know black’s ‘in’ with the end of the world, but damn.  Only one person with style.”

I looked over my shoulder.  Golem, in silver and gunmetal, his mask solemn.  Cuff, again, in a dark metal costume.  Imp, with her dark gray mask and black bodysuit that actually fit her.  Shadow Stalker, in a black, form-fitting bodysuit like the one I’d given Imp, along with a flowing cloak with a heavy hood.  All spidersilk, but the mask was hers, as was the crossbow.  Rachel followed, her jacket, tank top and pants black, only the fur ruff at her shoulders, where it flowed around the edges of her hood, was white.  Huntress and Bastard flanked her.  Lung was still inside the Dragonfly, but I knew he had only his mask and jeans on.  Barefoot, shirtless.

Canary was the only one, apparently, who met Floret’s standards.  Yellow body armor, her helmet in one hand, her hair and feathers free.

“I remember you,” Spur said.  He smiled.  Teeth that had been professionally done, no doubt.  He wasn’t bad looking, but not quite my type.  Spiky hair, and a costume that mingled barbed wire tattoos with real barbed wire, where his skin was exposed.  Mid twenties, with hair bleached to a near-white and acid washed jeans.  His mask was simple, black, covering the upper half of his face, with only a circle of barbed wire at the brow.  A trademark of thinker powers, to do the whole forehead thing.  A precog who was most effective in the midst of chaos and heightened emotions, and fairly competent otherwise.  “Bad Canary?”

Canary’s eyes widened.  “You remember my stage name?”

“You were famous,” he said.  “The whole trial thing.  You-“

Canary’s expression fell.

“-got robbed,” he said.

Dick,” Floret said.  “Like that’s how she wants to be remembered.”

“I remember the music too,” he protested.

“Yeah,” Canary said.  She rubbed the back of her neck, avoiding eye contact.  “It doesn’t matter anyways, does it?  Long time ago, and we’ve got better things to worry about.”

Vulgarishous,” he said.  “Ur-soundLineless?”

“You’re probably cheating,” she said.

“I could sing the lyrics,” he answered.

“It would make me sure you’re cheating.  I barely remember the lyrics.”

“I don’t believe that for a second,” Spur answered her.  “Eh, guys?  Back me up.  My power doesn’t give me a way to cheat, does it?”

“No,” Floret said.  “He’s genuine.  And none of us have ways to clue him in.”

I glanced at Revel, who only rolled her eyes a little.  Exalt looked bored.  He saw me looking and commented, “It’s fine here.  We’re using substandard tools to find a portal that used to exist, and we don’t know exactly where it was.”

Imp pushed her mask up until it sat on top of her head.  “Finding a transparent needle outside of the haystack.”

“Well put,” Leonine said.

“Don’t encourage her,” I told him.

He only smiled, which made Imp smirk at me in turn.

Spur was murmuring the lyrics to the song, and he was actually doing a good job of it.  Canary was trying to look like she wasn’t pleased as punch.  It was cute.  Cute and just a little ominous, considering who these guys were.

Some things had come to light after they’d departed their positions in the Protectorate and Wards.  Nothing definitive, but it raised questions that had yet to be answered.  Questions that would probably never be answered, now that evidence lockers and court records throughout Earth Bet had been obliterated.  Problems that had resolved themselves just a little too neatly.  People, both bad guys and witnesses, who’d disappeared.

“If I’m the lion, and you’re the goat…” Leonine was saying.

“I guarantee I’m more dangerous than you,” Imp retorted.

I could sense others in the group getting restless.

“We’ll let you know if anything turns up,” Revel said, as if she’d sensed it.  She smiled a little, a bit awkward, or apologetic.  “Don’t let us waste your time.  It’s the end of the world, spend it with people you care about.”

Her eyes moved to Cuff and Golem, who were hanging back.  The pair were the heroes of our group, so to speak.  They’d feel the betrayal of the Vegas capes more sharply, even now.  They looked at each other.

I did too.  Not that I counted myself as a hero.  But I’d been there.

“I could come with,” Exalt said.  “If you’re going back.  I’m only here to relieve Revel.  I’ll be able to participate in the coming fight.”

“Sure,” I said.  “But I’d like to hear the password.  From Revel.”

“Good thinking.  Belord, six-two, spauld,” she said.

“On my seventeenth birthday,” I said.  “What color was the cake?”

“Seriously?” she asked.  “Do you even remember?  I should get a brownie point for this one.  Because I care about my Wards.  It was white.”

“The frosting?” I asked.

“Blue,” she said, sounding just a bit put out.  “And you barely ate any.”

I nodded, satisfied.  “And… Leonine.”

Me?”  Leonine laughed a bit.  “What kind of shenanigans do you think we’re pulling?”

“He’s one of the Vegas capes,” Imp said, speaking very slowly, like I was mentally disabled.

“I know he’s one of the Vegas capes.  But I think I have to cover all of the bases.  Who was your kindergarten teacher?”

“You researched that?” Spur asked.  “Dug through our entire histories to find something obscure?”

He sounded offended.  Every head had turned his way.

“Do you have a problem with that?”  I asked.

He frowned, but he shook his head, sticking his hands in his pockets as he leaned against the wall beside Canary.  “No.  No problem.”

“Richie,” Leonine said.  “Mrs. Richie.”

“Great,” I said.  “Great.  Now let’s drop the fucking act.”

“I gave you the answer you wanted,” Leonine said, smirking.  “What the fuck?”

“Spur?” I said, “Raise your right hand?”

He did.  There were bugs on the fingers.

“He was moving his hand.  A one-handed sign language.  I assume everyone on your team knows it.”

“I was thinking of Canary’s music,” Spur told me.  He stepped forward, putting a hand on Canary’s shoulder as he did so.  She turned, so they were both facing me.  “Piano keys.  Mnemonic tool.  That is something our team uses.”

“You’re being a little crazy paranoid,” Imp said.  “Just a little.”

“They’ve been playing us since the start,” I said.  “The men were batting their eyelashes at you and Canary, probably the targets they thought they could work.  Revel… I’d think she’s under some kind of compulsion.”

“A lot crazy,” Imp said.  “Way crazy.”

“Maybe Tattletale can chime in,” I suggested.  “Tattle?”

Mostly right.  Exalt, Revel, Vantage, Leonine, Floret, all fakes.”

“No shit,” Imp said.  Her mouth dropped open.  “No way.”

“Jig’s up,” I said.  “We know.”

One by one, the Vegas capes changed.  Flesh altered, and they assumed identical appearances.

Six copies of Satyrical.  Leaving only Spur and Nix.

One of the Satyricals looked at the two who remained.  “Take care of yourself.  I’ll see you shortly.”

“I know,” Spur said.

Satyr looked at us, as if taking us all in.  “And you, I suppose, we’ll run into.  Sooner or later.”

Then the Satyrs died.  Flesh withered, and the Satyrs crumpled up.  They made bloody messes as they hit the ground, like overripe tomatoes might, but with teeth and the occasional bit of withered organ.

Self duplication, and each duplicate had shapeshifting abilities.

I bent down and picked up the devices from the heads of Revel, Exalt and Vantage’s clones.  Earbuds, phones…

“Revel,” Cuff said, her voice small.

“Where are the real ones?” Golem asked.

“With the real Satyr,” I guessed.

“And how did he know the passwords?” Golem asked.

He guessed the cake thing through cold reading.  White with blue, like Weaver’s costume.  Made sense.  That Taylor didn’t eat much… well, look at herThe rest… torture?  Coercion through other means?”

“Torture?” I asked.

Spur raised his chin a bit, but didn’t do or say anything to suggest otherwise.

“Ew.”  Imp said, under her breath, “Ew, ew, ew.  He’s like, forty?  And he was hitting on me.”

“Where’s the portal?” I asked Spur, ignoring Imp.

“No portal.  Or weren’t you paying attention?”

I looked at Nix.  “You know where this goes, if you don’t cooperate.  Circumstances are a little too dire.  We knock you out, your power fades.  So why don’t you drop the illusion and let us see the portal?”

“My power stays up while I’m out,” she said.

I drew my knife.  The one that wasn’t special.

“Woah,” Golem said.  He put his hand on my wrist.  “Woah, woah, woah.”

“She’s bluffing,” Spur said, unfazed.  “She’s scary, she’s got a reputation, but she’s bluffing here.  There’s no way she follows through.”

“I think you’re badly underestimating how pissed off I am,” I said.  I was surprised at just how right I was.  The mounting anger caught me off guard.  “Doing this, screwing around, stabbing people in the back, screwing with the system when we’re trying to save humanity?”

“We’re saving it too,” Spur said.  “Satyr, the others, they’ve got this situation handled.  Give them… two or three more hours, and the threats are going to be dealt with, Cauldron will be secure, or as secure as they can be, after you account for injuries and deaths at the hands of the invading group.  You go in there, you’re just going to muck up a delicate exfiltration operation.”

“Invading?” Golem asked.

“The deviants.  The case-fifty-threes.  Weld’s group.”

Weld?  No.  He’d been one of the only decent ones out there, during my stay in Brockton Bay.  Respectable, honest, kind.  He’d saluted me the first time we’d crossed paths, because we were both going up against an Endbringer.

Fuck it all.

Either Spur was fucking with me, or things were fucked.  Fuck it all.

“People like you are the reason we deserve to lose,” I said, gripping the knife.  “Every step of the way, it’s been people refusing to cooperate, refusing to talk plain truth.  From day one, even.  You’re the reason humanity deserves to get wiped out.”

“Great,” he said.  “You’re still not going to use that knife on either of us.”

It was said with the smug tone of someone who could see the future.

I glanced at Canary.  I could see the hurt on her face.

“I get it,” Spur said.  “See it coming.  If it helps, I do remember the music.”

Rachel stepped forward, giving me a little push to get me out of the way, and then slugged him.

He dropped, unconscious.

Golem set about binding him to the cave floor with hands of stone.

I looked at Nix.  “Her too.”

Golem reached into his costume, and hands of stone gripped Nix.

“To the ceiling,” I decided, at the last second.

“Sure,” Golem said.  Hands of stone emerged, passing Nix up.  She struggled a bit, but she was at an unsafe height by the time she realized what he was doing.

She was bound to the cave ceiling with armholds, leg holds and an arm set across her collarbone.

“What the hell?” she asked.

“I don’t think any of your friends have powers that can break those hands,” I said.

“The hell?” she asked, again.  She tested her bonds.  “The fuck?”

“You better hope we make it out okay,” I said.  “Tattletale?”

“Pretty sure it’s to your left.  Start by going ten paces that way.”

I nodded.

We followed the directions.

The illusion broke, dissolving into harmless smoke, as we reached it and pressed hard enough against the wall in question.

With the barrier gone, I could feel the warm air from within, see a dark hallway without lights.

I looked at my teammates.

Maybe humanity deserves to lose, but these guys are why we’re going to win, I promised myself.

Last Chapter                                                                                               Next Chapter

452 thoughts on “Venom 29.3

  1. Thanks for reading.

    No real commentary. Still sick. Writing the chapters leading up to the end is 10x harder than the chapters were in the middle. Hope it’s enjoyable.

    Votes on topwebfiction are appreciated.

    Also, this can serve as the typo thread.

    • Dragonfly said something in Japanese to Masamune and Black Kaze. There were two nods.

      I’m assuming that it was Dragon, not the ship, that spoke to the capes?

    • Quite nice, Wildbow! Long time reader, first time poster, and I have to say that the quality of your writing throughout Worm has been nothing short of impeccable. Keep it up, and I hope you feel better soon.

        • New to your story – found it via Reddit a week ago. Outstanding job, especially for a serial and especially at the grueling pace you’ve set for yourself. Already sharing with friends and others.

          In fact, you’ve inspired me to attempt something similar with a story I’m working on for NaNoWriMo this year.

          Keep the faith in yourself – you’re on the home stretch!

          • So it seems PapaGoose has taken a gander at our story and has commented to get Wildbow’s attention. Well, what’s good for the goose is good for the gecko. This story’s for the birds, but whoever thinks it was an ugly duckling will soon be eating crow. People are practically raven with praise for this story. But people’s lack of attention to the comments section is robin them of potential enjoyment. We all come together down here and meld our various thoughts into a mixing pot of fandom, our speech taking on the characteristics of a sort of fandom pigeon language. Don’t worry too hard, you won’t need to crane your neck read down here. The comments are, in stork contrast to the story above, much lighter.

            Your goose is cooked if you thought you were getting away without a welcome. So welcome, PapaGoose, to the comments section.

            • Hah! Seems we’re all birds of a feather, perhaps related by prehistoric ancestor. A gecko’s welcome with open webbed feet is appreciated and enjoyed. You have the gracious thanks of a silly goose.

      • Jeremy Jeremy Jeremy Jeremy, hiya Jeremy *licks his cheek*

        Mmm, tastes nonalcoholic. I’ll have a virgin commenter, barkeep! Send it out with the drink wench along with a bowl of your salty nuts.

        Don’t worry, I’m sure Wildbow can handle this little illness. Not like further south on the continent where if you get sick they have a horse with a broken leg take you out back and shoot you. Now that you’re caught up and commenting, feel free to peruse the comments for your inter-update enjoyment. At this point, there’s been a lot of shipping, so feel free to mess with that all you like. Personally, I’m shipping Satyrical with the Protomen. That’s a band, by the way. Had to come up with a large group of people at one time, since Satyrical ought to be called the human orgy. It would go great for his comic book name. “Human Orgy #69: The Terrible Attack of the Tongue Twister!”

        Either way, settle right down with us here, pardner, and enjoy yourself while you waste away the hours till doomsday, aka the end of the story. The end is Nye. Bill Nye. The Science Guy. Bill Bill Bill Bill Bill Bill Bill Bill!

        And now, Jeremy, welcome to the comments section.

        • Yum, a virgin commenter sounds wonderful… I wonder what that would taste like? A little bit on the nose, with a rich idealistic flavor and hints of situational narcissism made manifest through the desire to have oneself known to the microcosmic world that is this comments page. The finish is one of triumph: overcoming social boundaries can do that to a person.

          All in all, you seem like a trustworthy person to sit down and have a drink with, Mr. Gecko. I will toast with you to the end of the world.

    • >“You have a question, or questions,” Legend said, “But you’re not asking them because you’re worried about the response. Either it’s something touchy, or there’s another reason why you’re holding back.”
      >“If you don’t know, then I can’t
      >“So this is about something only I would know?”

    • Rachel folllowed, her jacket, tank top and pants
      An extra l in followed.

      “If you don’t know, then I can’t
      Missing a quotation mark.

    • I have to disagree with Jeremy: I thought this chapter badly needed tightening up. It’s saveable, and doesn’t need to be scrapped, but it does need editing that goes deeper than just typos.

      The problem is pacing, mostly – the dialog goes beyond briskness and brevity (which is normally good) to choppy and somewhat incomplete. As an example, where you write:

      “He reached out of his pocket and withdrew a knife. He reversed it and extended it to me, handle first.”

      It’s unclear that you are no longer describing Chevalier, but Defiant. And it’s more than just labeling; there’s absolutely no transition between people at all, so just putting in “Defiant reached out of his…” instead of ‘He reached’ would still be jarring and feel wrong. It needs more exposition.

      In fact, pretty much everything up until the Vegas capes scene needs a sprinkling of exposition feathered into it. Not much; a word, here and there, to acknowledge a change of focus or a needed context. Brevity and brisk dialog, as I said before, is good; and I wouldn’t want you to lose that. But this chapter cuts too close to the bone, detail-wise.

      The good news is, around the time of the Vegas capes you hit your stride, and the story flows pretty well again.

        • I remember you saying how different states affected your writing – when you were sleepy, or stressed out, etc., had dramatically different effects on your writing… and how you’d use that sometimes. I’m trying to figure out how you’d use ‘sick=choppy writing’… Since choppy isn’t always a bad thing, if it’s what you’re going for… but then you’d have to induce sickness… and would you even know your style had changed until you went back and you read it while healthy? … also, who the hell would want to catch the flu for a writing style? Talk about sacrificing for your art…

          Anyway. Thought you’d be amused by that train of thought, so I shared it.

      • I felt it was good. You’ll probably want to go back and give it a revision at some point, but it wasn’t wrong. I think in some ways choppy works. Everyones state of mind is kinda tired and dishartened.

    • He reached out of his pocket and withdrew a knife.
      –> into his pocket? Also, I’d clarify that it’s Defiant speaking. And was the previous question (“what else”) also him?

      Defiant led the way to the Dragonfly, all business, Dragon, Canary, Tattletale, and me following.
      –> …Dragonfly, all business, with Dragon, Canary…

    • Except he’s indiscriminate. He’s killing the ones who can actually affect him, because he’s being reactive.

      – Contradictory statement, maybe missing a “not” before indiscriminate.

    • I’ve seen it mentioned already but since those were a bit old I’ll throw up the knife one again with the grammar issue.

      “He reached out of his pocket and withdrew a knife.” This section coming just after Chevalier was talking causes the “he” to refer to Chev when the next paragraph makes it clear Defiant is the one offering the knife. I’d just swap in “Defiant” in place of “He”.

    • Not a typo, but character tags missing for Satyrical, Spur and Nix. Those three also not detailed on the “Cast (In Depth)” page.

      • You’re not alone, but you’re in the minority.

        Personally I’m somewhere in the middle. I don’t have the loathing for Saint that some people do. I can see how, from his point of view he could rationalise his choice. But he also seemed to have made it in significant part because it made him feel important.

        Even based on the limited intel he had available it was a questionable call. Yes, Dragon had the potential to become an S-class threat. But you have to look at the world around them. In a world full of S-class threats, Dragon is the only one who has been on our side the whole time. Even not knowing what a good person Dragon actually is, throwing that away on a chance she *might* turn bad was a bad decision.

        • That was very well put. I can certainly relate to Saint, if I was in his position I might have very well done the same and honestly it was Armsmasters actions that lead them all to this place.

      • Yes.

        There are people who believe Saint’s mistake was logical and reasonable, and even the best choice given what he knew. But, knowing what the readers knew, everyone agrees it was wrong.

        There are people who still hate Defiant cuz they can’t think about stuff like redemption and amends, and think a character is unchanging. But they still like Dragon.

        You are the only person I have seen who wants Dragon, the most unambiguously benign being in the story, eradicated.

        • Saint’s mistake was logical and understandable considering his limited knowledge of the situation.Remember , even Taylor had the wrong impression of Dragon at some point.Characters in fiction can be excused for not having the same information readers/audience does.

          Saint deserves as much chance at redemption as Armaster did.The only person in this story that doesn’t deserve that are the complete mnsters (Jack Slash eg).

          • Look, I didn’t disagree with that, I never made clear what I believed. I clarify it when I do and, frankly, its irrrelevant to the discussion

            All I m saying is, Saint did, at best, a mistake from a Greek tragedy, like Oedipus banging his mom: it was understandable, excusable by today’s ethics, and didn’t make him a villain, but still, due to tragic ignorance, he tortured and attacked to kill an inocent paragon of justice. Yes, his lack of knowlege may justify and excuse his actions, but it does not justify any reader of the story for wanting Dragon, of all people, eradicated.

            • I think you’re confusing two different things. I don’t want Dragon gone cause saint is being mistreated. I want her gone cause her very existence is a mockery of mankind and frankly a threat. She is not bound by a life span, how long till she decides man kind can’t be trusted with governing themselves. How long before her actins start being cruel and unreasonable.

              • “I think mankind should be gone- how long before it destroys its environment, how long before it creates a dystopia where no one has rights.”

                Your way of thinking is a fallacy, you think that, just because a being is significantly more powerful than others, it will inevitably become a monstrous villain. Such way of thinking leads you… to want the greatest force of good in Worm eradicated. Because fear.Not even fear of the unknown, fear of the POTENTIAL. Racists behave more logical than that. Why don’t we kill every potential murderer then?

                Heck, if power is the problem, we should kill every world leader after a couple of years. That’d make it harder for them to turn corrupt. OOr perhaps we sould kill every potential murderer. Lets just kill everyone who has a trigger event- we may get another Nilbog.

                You do understand these thoughts are nothing more than humanity’s self loathing (we suck, any logical being would find us uselless and//or cruel) and desire to be on top , don’t you? Both bad things to have? the reason we can’t have nice things? the reason we cannot co-operate so that we all may live well? I’d rather live a slave under Dragon than fall prey to such all destructive way of thinking.

              • You’re argument falls into the category of Straw Man fallacy. You are missing the most important point. Why do we not kill all murders? Because they are human. My problem is not with her power, that just makes everything worse. The issue is that she, just like Scion, is not human. I am human and I place us on a pedestal. If you had read my comment properly and not just jumped to conclusion you would have known that. “her very existence is a mockery of mankind ” So how did you take that and jump to potential murders being killed or heads of state being dangerous. What I am saying is closer to putting an animal down because it is a threat. It’s to draw a line and say that something, which is not human does not need to be extended the same level of protection or forgiveness.

                Now you could have argued that it is similar to racism in so far that other races were seen as subhuman in the USA aka Slavery and elsewhere. That is a much finer point since I have grouped all of mankind as one. It would require to either bend my inclusive view of mankind as a whole or try expanding it to include human like constructs such as Dragon.

                And as to your last point “I’d rather live a slave under Dragon than fall prey to such all destructive way of thinking.” Maybe you should go find a master cause a person willing to compromise to that extend might as well live in a society complete controlled by the state for a nebulous goal of order and security. As humans such a way of living would not only be shameful, it would also be meaningless. True peace requires free cooperation, not some forced participation.

                A world under Dragon is no better than living in the Matrix, haha.

                I hope this clarified my prior statements and that you do not get caught up in your feelings for a character you happened to like.

              • I think the difference is that you’re thinking in terms of human beings whereas I would think in terms of people. So far all the people we know have been human beings but that needn’t always be the case. I would say that any being that thinks and feels at a human level (or higher) and has a personality is a person.

                Otherwise you’re saying the reason we deserve rights is not as a result of our nature but as a result of having a specific biology.

                If you accept that the reason we have certain rights is due to our nature as thinking, feeling, civilised beings then you have to logically extend those rights to other thinking, feeling, civilised beings.

              • 1) Speciesist, technically, but this kind of entitlement of humanity is part of what makes it destructive.

                2)what I am saying is not “I like to be a slave” , but “I rathger suffer injustice than commit it” , in other words, I’d rather suffer the consequences of NOT eradicating every innocent AI that wants to help, rather than securing my safety and freedom. Xenophobic rhetoric like that is similar to what fascists used

                3) she is neither mockery nor animal, and she did NOTHING to deserve being put out , other than exist.

                I am not caught in a my feelings of a character, I just do not want the imperium of man to come if we evven discover other sapient life.

              • While I think storryeater and irrevenant put it far better than I could I’d just like to add one thing.

                You say that your attitude could be compared to racism. That’s the wrong word. Your attitude is far more similar to xenophobia. You aren’t biased you are expressing a straight up hatred and fear of something outside a self-defined ‘group’ of ‘humanity’. We justify putting down animals because it’s generally accepted that most animals aren’t sapient. While creatures such as chimpanzees and elephants blur the line it’s still somewhat murky since they can’t really communicate with us. Dragon on the other hand CAN communicate. So well that the amount of people who suspected her of being artificial at the start of the story could be counted on one hand. It is almost impossible to argue that Dragon isn’t sapient. Which means that you are advocating removing the rights of a sapient being and murdering them because you are scared to death of her. It’s not akin to killing a dog. It’s akin to saying an alien asked for a cup of tea and you shot it in the head because it has a ship that can travel through space and that scared you.

  2. Kind of a pity that she didn’t turn to Lung to have him confirm just how justified her reputation regarding using knives to do nasty things to people is.

      • lung is shirtless in the dragonfly. he is useless against zion because he used up his one giant charge of transformation and any future transformations would take longer than the duration if a zion fight.

  3. Satyr’s power… is eerily reminiscent of Echidna + Oliver. (Or whoever the shapeshifter from the Travelers was called). Was he a Cauldron cape or a normal trigger?

      • Oh how cruel it is to sit on what I imagine to be piles of background information. Literal piles, meticulously handwritten with a slight flourish. Sealed away in heavy iron filing cabinets by your spiteful hand!

      • Do you remember what chapter that was? (Tall order, I know, but I’m not sure how to contact her unless she shows up on this thread or another one here).

        Also, would you be willing to answer my question on how you would “film” a trigger event, should the stars align to get you a TV deal or something?

      • Pandemonious* Ivy and him*
        You turdbutt.

        Vials titles are generally shotgun-esque in application. The general premise is the same, but the nuances can vary in minor or major ways. Echidna, Satyr, or a person who can shapeshift in proximity to others can all come from the same Cauldron vial: Division, in this instance.

        • Damn, was hoping to get a bunch of people eventually making their way over to IRC only to ask where Miss Pandemonious was.

          I meant the actual list of powers the Division vial produced for the test cases. I’m too lazy to figure out where I put it. Was hoping you copied it into a file like you did everything else I said.

    • Pause this endeavor, for a moment, to note that Wildbow has claimed title to the typo thread above.

      Though I’m digging the pirate theme you’ve got going on.

    • “He was, but he tends towards radio silence, Pretender’s people have since well before the Vegas teams cut ties with the Protectorate.”

      The comma should be either a semicolon or a period.

      “It’s comment worthy.”

      “comment worthy” should have a hyphen instead of a space.

  4. I Google searched “site: “early bird””. This told me that no one has ever commented on the blog “the early bird gets the Worm”. Really.

    I’m sure someone has on some other fansite, but wow. Low hanging puns people.

  5. Come to think of it, the survivors STILL aren’t throwing everything they have at Scion, are they?

    I mean c’mon, they have Bonesaw. No clone army to replace the losses?

    • I was hoping she’d stab him while he was awake. I know I hate being told I won’t do something.

      I’m also glad she called them out on all the secrecy and refusal to really work together, saying that people like them are why they deserve to lose. Took the words right out of my mouth. Last time I eat a lollipop with a cricket in it.

        • Last time I saw her refuse to engage in teamwork was because the group in question refused to engage in teamwork and broke the truce. All this time, that same truce hasn’t been enforced because of people claiming that, despite people taking advantage of it, they needed those other people.

          Besides, we have no reason to believe that Cauldron has any good reasons for anything they do. They built themselves up as the guys to stop Scion and now their asses are going to be forcibly pulled out of the fire by Taylor. If they’d been a bit more open, none of this would have happened, but they felt so sure in their own “superior” handling of the situation, felt they deserved to be set on a pedestal as the shady world saviors who did what had to be done to remain secret while failing to actually save the world, that they withheld information and skills from the world that could have saved millions, possibly billions of lives.

          I’d damn sure trust Taylor’s good reasons than any claimed good reasons of Cauldron or the Yangban or any of these other fuckers who make careers out of failing.

          • Maybe, but I still think that given enough time and situations,Taylor would eventually end up no different then Alexandria, believing that all the evil she does would be for good reasons.

            • Nah, none of the evils that Taylor has done has come to bite her in the ass yet… the Dinah/Coil thing has already happened the only matter left hanging is the Shooting Aster while still working with Theo thing.

              Cauldron’s greatest weakness seems to be that every single one of their actions creates more problems down the line that will screw up thier capability to achieve their end goal and their backup plans do the exact same thing.

              • We have yet to see Taylor take part in a massive conspiracy to kidnap, torture, conduct illegal human testing, or even leave huge numbers of capes to die on a platform when she could evacuate them all easily.

                She also wasn’t responsible for the creation of Siberian, Gray Boy, or other powerful villains who kill people.

              • Cauldron is a secret organization, accountable to nobody, that uses terror and assassination to control others, with immense resources funded at least initially by the drug trade (see Lung interlude)

                Taylor is a team player, who acts mostly in the open, and takes responsibility for what she does. She can be very brutal but her brutality is pragmatic brutality in almost every case.

                I’m not even sure where you can really begin to make a valid comparison, other than they both sometimes kill their enemies.

              • If all you do to fight evil is just commit more evil, then how does anything really change? You just end up exchanging one for another.

              • You’ll have to ask Cauldron that, since it’s one of the main differences between them and Taylor. She isn’t evil. One of the ways you can tell is because Cauldron feels no conflict over their actions. Dr. Mother has no conscience eating away at her because she did bad things, even for good reasons. She doesn’t give a shit how many people she kills or maims to justify her goals.

                Taylor is constantly guilt-ridden over choices she had to take or ways she had to act to get her point across or even perfectly justifiable and moral actions that nonetheless hurt someone. She has that eating away at her, weighing her down, and informing her later decisions.

                It’s kind of like an analysis I once read of that movie where a woman can only pick one of her kids. Even though she had no choice but to have one die, she agonizes over it until the day of her death, and it was right that she did so because she was a good person. An evil person wouldn’t have been that torn up about it.

              • People keep bringing the oil rig incident.That was the one of the times Cauldron’s action was completely justified.Opening a door there would effectively allow Scion to wipe all possible resistance in one swoop.Ironically the only reason why Taylor and the rest of the platform survivor are still alive was because Cauldron reuse too open that door when Scion appeared.

              • @ Gecko
                But even if she’s guilt ridden, she still continues to do these actions, and whats worse is she does worse and worse things progressively. One compromise ends up leading to another. Batman said it best:

                “Then it will happen this way: You make the kill, but your pain doesn’t die with Harvey, it grows. So you run out into the night to find another face, and another, and another, until one terrible morning you wake up and realize that revenge has become your whole life. And you won’t know why. “

              • @Psycho Gecko

                BTW, what movie was that?I remember similar thing happened in the “Joy Luck Club”(never watched the movie,read the book).

          • As to Cauldron: I refuse to condemn them yet, because there is still a possibility that they do, in fact, know what they’re doing. If I were a judge from Earth Bet putting Cauldron on trial for their actions somehow, I’d call them Guilty, but we don’t have access to courtroom levels of evidence here (or even “Guy who came to fix the coffee machine in Cauldron’s base before they relocated offworld” levels of knowledge), so I can’t do that.

            It doesn’t look promising, though…

              • Ah found it. Yes, you could say that Weaver betrayed Particulate, but that would be a stretch. Betrayal is normally only talked about when there is trust involved, and in the short time they worked together, with no common language, and with him having used his weapons without her direction twice even though she was leading, I don’t see a whole lot of trust there.

                She apparently tried to use Particulate’s assassination attempt to gain some favor with Phir Sē, but he saw through it.

          • And? What makes you sure she won’t do something similar down the lines? This whole story has been about how other people’s wrong for right reasons like Cauldron are evil and not to be trusted, yet Taylor does such things all the time and that makes her trustworthy?

            • Oh, there’s plenty of room for Taylor to make more grey area decisions. I strongly suspect that Taylor’s going to get an opportunity to demonstrate this in the next couple episodes, since she’s now leading a team again.

              That’s the thing though. Taylor stays in the grey areas, she rarely touches the really dark places, but she isn’t really attracted to the light either. When she encounters someone who has gone off the deep end into darkness, she doesn’t do mercy. When she feels someone’s situation is so bad that killing them IS a mercy, then she does do mercy. Aster. Questionable at best.

              • So basically what you’re saying is, Taylor is above the law and can do what ever she wishes as long as she claims to have good intentions. And if anyone disagrees with her, she responds with intimidation, threats and fear: Because she’s apparently always right about how the world should be run,a young girl (despite having superpowers) somehow knows more then thousands of years of debates on ethics and proper leadership.

                So basically, she’s become a bully herself. It’s not that surprising really, it’s been proven statistically that many teens who were bullied end up bullies themselves.

                In the end, it’s like Taylor said way back when :There are no simple solutions” but that DOESN’T mean her solutions are any less simple and doesn’t deserve to be called out for the hypocrisy that it is. She’s not making the world a better place, she’s only proving that might makes right and that only those who have power have the right to rule and do what ever they want.

              • Hrm, you do understand that currently, in the Worm universe, might does in fact make right? Aver since the S9 clone episode that’s been made pretty brutally clear. You can still have morality and live in a might makes right society – if you have the might to maintain that society.

                Wildbow hasn’t made the world feel as much like a post-apocalyptic environment as it should be, I think. The concentration has been on the characters, not the world in general.

                Taylor is trying to preserve the one law that matters for humanity right now, the pact that all capes will work together to fight the greatest threats. Other laws are meaningless in the face of the end of the world.

              • ” For what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? ”

                In this chapter, Taylor argues that Cauldron’s current actions make humanity deserve to die. But how is that different from her in spirit?

                It doesn’t matter if you’re morally right, that doesn’t give you the right to force your beliefs on others and then use it to make the ends justify the means.

                I’m not asking whether or not her choices are right, I’m asking what gives her the RIGHT to decide what’s right or wrong?

              • And yet, people use their own morality to justify the use of force all the time. They’re called laws. Laws that murder, laws that destroy lives, laws that protect and laws that save lives – sometimes all at the same time.

              • What gives Taylor the power to dictate right and wrong? The same thing that gives Chevalier, or Weld, Cauldron, or the US government that power: The people who listen, for whatever reason.

            • @Axel: It’s not a matter of bad things being ok when Taylor does them, its a matter of effectiveness & efficiency. Taylor has achieved usable functional results with what power and resources she has but Cauldron with all their power and resources only creates more problems that creates more problems and so on and so fourth thus res ipsa loquitur its less a matter of right and wrong and more a matter who screws up next to last and takes down less innocent bystanders with them.

              Also as I have said before, the ends justify the means only when your means do not betray everything your end stands for; Taylor has realised this and therefore has quit being a hero because she realises what she really wants and that it cannot be done with that for a title. Cauldron claims to do what they do to ensure Humanity’s survival but has yet to realise that their means and methods has only sacrificed what Humanity should stand for; they have sacrificed their heart for their heart’s desire only to make things worse and still not get what they want.

              • That doesn’t mean how Taylor does things is any less wrong. Choosing the lesser of two evils is still choosing an evil.

                Let’s say hypothetically that Cauldron was taken down permanently. Do you honestly think Taylor would stop doing what she’s doing? Or rather based on her personality and attitude, she would rather continue using her power to lord over the normal people like she did before?

                I know it’s only hypothetical, but based on her actions so far I would seriously consider she falls seriously on the latter choice.

                And lets talk about the “ends justifying the means” huh? Taylor is better simply because she doesn’t do things as widespread as Cauldron? Bigger evil or not, Taylor is still a murderer. Once that line is crossed, there’s no going back about what she will or will not do.She has proven more then once she is ready and willing to kill for what she wants if she needs to. So if her morals keep getting compromised more and more as the stories goes, how can you say with 100% certainty that the line about when to kill or not to kill won’t be further crossed as well?

                I remember reading a line from another fanfic online that exemplifies this point: “The truest evil is not achieved by the men who think themselves the villain. The truest evil is done by the good man who does what he feels he must, and thus he does it without hesitation.”

              • @Axel:
                You seem to be making some assumptions (deontology is right/righteous, consequentialism is incorrect/evil, power corrupts and corruption worsens indefinitely, etc.) that are rather contested/controversial topics and definitely don’t seem to necessarily hold in this setting…

              • “Choosing the lesser of two evils is still choosing an evil.”

                That’s two-dimensional thinking. Rarely has Taylor been presented with only two choices; she’s been presented with disastrous situations that, time and again, would end with the deaths of people she cared about and the numerous deaths of people she didn’t even know. Time and again, she’s made choices that spared the worst outcomes for the most people she could manage, given her intel and operational capacity.

                To do that, she’s had to make some damned hard calls. She’s had to betray trusts, she’s had to destroy lives to save others, she’s had to do awful, awful things. Except, she didn’t *have* to – you’re right, she could have made ‘moral’ choices, acceptable choices, even if the consequences were too awful to contemplate. She didn’t do that, she made the unacceptable choices, because she was more focused on outcomes for other people than on looking good or holding to essentially arbitrary codes of morality. Maybe that makes her immoral. But it makes her effective. And because of her priorities, I’d rather have her in charge of my fate than almost any other character in this grimdark world she lives in. (I’d pick Dragon sooner, but only because Dragon is normally much more capable of safer forms of intervention. Their intentions are equivalent, so Dragon’s ‘morals’ are a wash compared to Taylor’s.)

              • But at what cost Don? There comes a point where the “effective” choice is no longer acceptable because it comes down to nearly just as bad as the other choice.

                I would argue that Taylor doesn’t make the effective choice, she simply chooses the easiest one that means the least amount of losses to her.

                You and Someguy go on about how it’s about how her choices are “effective ” but then again, that goes right to how is she any better then Alexandria or Cauldron? She’s making the choices just like them to ends lives because she no longer sees them as lives. She only sees them as mere numbers, and the more “numbers” she has, that apparently makes her “the better” choice.

                And THAT is what makes humanity in the story deserve to lose. Not what these other guys are doing, but because of what’s SHE’S doing. Because she can without hesitation, make these choices because SHE thinks she made the best choice.

                The world won’t be destroyed by Scion or the Endbringers , it will end because of people like Taylor who think that “acceptable losses” is worth what she can only assume are justifiable ends.

                As long as she can come up with a purely logical reasoning as to who should live and who should die, she can justify ANYTHING she does, no matter how despicable. Sophia was right back in that earlier chapter. They ARE exactly alike.

                And that is why Taylor, is neither sympathetic, nor likable or even that fun to read. Who she is, as a character, honestly makes me wish she’d die. because she’s just that despicable. To me, she’s honestly on the level of Alexandria, if not on her way already.

              • “Bigger evil or not, Taylor is still a murderer. Once that line is crossed, there’s no going back about what she will or will not do.She has proven more then once she is ready and willing to kill for what she wants if she needs to. So if her morals keep getting compromised more and more as the stories goes, how can you say with 100% certainty that the line about when to kill or not to kill won’t be further crossed as well?”
                To (attempt to) quote someone else, we don’t think that because we haven’t greased Mount Everest enough for that argument.
                In the past, Taylor has killed. No one denies that. But is that really an irreversible commitment to evil? Can no one who has killed, for whatever reason, be trusted to not kill again, regardless of the regret or reasons?

                “But at what cost Don? There comes a point where the “effective” choice is no longer acceptable because it comes down to nearly just as bad as the other choice.”
                Then why is it still the “effective” choice?

                “I would argue that Taylor doesn’t make the effective choice, she simply chooses the easiest one that means the least amount of losses to her.”
                I’m sure that Mannequin agrees. She did in fact just take her minions and let the rest of the people in her territory get terrorized by the nigh-indestructible supervillain perfectly made (literally) to counter her power, to save her own hide…in some alternate universe. In this one, Taylor has repeatedly taken great personal risks and losses because she thought that the end result would be better.

                “You and Someguy go on about how it’s about how her choices are “effective ” but then again, that goes right to how is she any better then Alexandria or Cauldron? She’s making the choices just like them to ends lives because she no longer sees them as lives. She only sees them as mere numbers, and the more “numbers” she has, that apparently makes her “the better” choice.”
                Well, for starters, she hasn’t doomed the world by making promises she can’t/hasn’t fulfilled.

                “And THAT is what makes humanity in the story deserve to lose. Not what these other guys are doing, but because of what’s SHE’S doing. Because she can without hesitation, make these choices because SHE thinks she made the best choice. The world won’t be destroyed by Scion or the Endbringers , it will end because of people like Taylor who think that “acceptable losses” is worth what she can only assume are justifiable ends. As long as she can come up with a purely logical reasoning as to who should live and who should die, she can justify ANYTHING she does, no matter how despicable. Sophia was right back in that earlier chapter. They ARE exactly alike.”
                You know what, though? She hasn’t. Moreover, every hard choice Taylor has made, she has regretted. And you know what? That’s another difference between her and Cauldron–she regrets her misdeeds, however small or vital. I have no doubt that she will regret having had to do many of the things she did until the day she dies, whether that be this (in-story) day or decades down the line.

                If you can’t respect and empathize someone making these hard choices, despite their need, regret, and so forth, I can’t make you. I’ll just explain why I feel how I feel and let you take what you will from it.

              • The funny thing is Axel, that you are arguing that people, in a battle for survival, should adhere to the same moral code that people living comfortable lives believe is appropriate.

                That is NOT going to happen. Morality changes when reality changes, and if you don’t understand that, and refuse to accept it, then it’s not worth fighting with you over it.

                The passengers only make it worse. They seek conflict, and accelerate degradation of peaceful society. However with Scion going batshit crazy, things went downhill FAST. Rather than a gradual cascade failure of society as younger and younger children developed cape powers, with fewer and fewer social mores imprinted on them before the passengers started molding them, we went from Endbringers every now and then and a S9 emergency to “End of the World” in a few hours.

                Taylor is a realist. She’s also a teenager, ruthless, and what she does, in the end, is win. When the world is falling down around your ears, you follow the one that gives you a chance at survival. If you don’t follow someone that’s likely to keep you alive, then your opinions about them won’t matter for long anyway.

                This is no longer civilization. The rules of laws and morality no longer apply. If humanity survives, there will be time for laws and crimes and punishment.


              The way I see it, the issue with Cauldron’s consequentialism is that it projects so far in the future that it is insanely hubristic. Taylor is by no means ethically ‘clean,’ but she afaik mostly sticks to pretty reasonable time-frames (a couple hours to a couple weeks in many cases, a couple years in the extreme cases like following Dinah’s advice (and she no longer thinks that was right, see below citation)) and that massive separation between how she does “ends justify the means” and how Cauldron does “ends justify the means” puts them in different categories.

              See extinction 27.2: “I stared down at the roughly circle-shaped patch of darkness in the center of the room…” on.

              Also, do you take issue with consequentialism/(least of evils) itself or the consequences of consequentialism?

              • Both. It doesn’t matter if her actions have consequences, or if she simply does evil less so then others. Both are still bad. Remember back when all the children backed her up in the school? This was a bunch of children who looked up to a proven bully, torturer and murderer.

                Remember back when she was showed a video tape of her taking out guards and being compared to being a member of the Slaughterhouse 9? Guess what! That’s NOT supposed to be a good thing!

                If there are no simple answers, then I refuse the simple answer that she is only trying to do the best she can with the choices of ranging evil that she feels she must.

                I honestly believe that the truer answer is that Taylor is nothing more then a young woman who was so traumatized by bullying, that she has become a full blown narcissistic sociopath: manipulating and threatening people to get what she wants, intimidating people and gathering power because that’s what she thinks is best, switches sides back and forth based on what is most advantageous to her and plays along with the “good guys” just so she can get what she desires in the end, all the while mocking and tearing down the more idealistic people because her twisted psyche has turned her sense of “morality” into some form of delusion that justifies her actions to herself.

                It’s not a simple answer, but to me it rings much more truer to reality.

              • Ok, see my reply to you above the first one.

                Why are there necessarily- or must there be- -no simple answers? What does “simple answers” mean?

                I would not contest at least some ethical issues in her character, although they are most likely different complaints than you would make.

                I would say that just as fervently as you believe in your moral framework and the judgements that result from it, and just as much as that rings true to you, that moral framework makes no sense on close examination (by which I mean looking at its judgements in ethical edge cases) to me, and so I choose a different framework that “rings truer to reality to me” and that most likely seems just as bad to you as yours does to me (some variant of consequentialism, see first response). I am sorry that the conversation comes down to something so ambiguous.

              • At this point, I am certain that Axel is the “Axelx Gabriel” who posted the scathing review of Worm on TV Tropes. He also used much the same arguments in the work discussion page, even down to the same logical fallacies. Axel, if you hate this story so much, why are you still here? You did say, and I quote, “Avoid at all costs if you can.” You are a brazen hypocrite.

              • I do encourage my point of view, and I only return because I just wanted to see if anything has changed. Unfortunately, I was wrong. And I stand by my review as accurate to every thing I read about this story from beginning to current end.

              • @Axel: No, you come on here to stir up trouble, spouting out the same illogical garbage, reveling in your own fallacies, and conceding nothing to people who point out the flaws in your arguments. You aren’t encouraging your point of view, you’re trolling for attention.

                I would advise everyone to avoid responding to Axel at all costs.

              • “Remember back when all the children backed her up in the school? This was a bunch of children who looked up to a proven bully, torturer and murderer.”
                1. They were teenagers, not children. You might think of them as children but they really aren’t, any more than a cat is a kitten or a bird an egg. Teenaers don’t think or act like children; why treat them like children?
                2. And yet, they looked up to her, they admired or agreed with or even pitied her. Why is this? Perhaps because Taylor isn’t the amoral sociopath you seem to think she is?

                “If there are no simple answers, then I refuse the simple answer that she is only trying to do the best she can with the choices of ranging evil that she feels she must.”
                That is, however, what she is trying to do. And, to be honest, tha fact that she is trying puts her head and shoulders at least above Cauldron and many other major players in this story.

                “I would advise everyone to avoid responding to Axel at all costs.”

            • I suspect that it has to do with a few things:

              1. We see Taylor’s point of view.
              2. She keeps a lot fewer secrets.
              3. Taylor never pretended/claimed/thought/explained that she had the key to victory.
              4. We doubt Cauldron’s “right reasons”.

              • It’s a lot more complex than that, but not really that hard to understand, at least for anyone who actually knows shit all about the philosophy behind morality.

                Lets start with one of the more simple and broadly agreed upon theories; There are very few actions that aren’t justifiable in some context, generally these are agreed to be removal of agency and sexual assault. I cannot remember if that’s all of them, but those are generally agreed upon always evil actions. Cauldron has engaged in one of these, and Taylor has been complacent in the same. The difference here is that Taylor holds reservations and general dislike of this sort of thing, Cauldron shows no reservations about it at all.

                The second set of actions that are generally agreed to always fit into moral categories of “good” or “evil” are selfish and selfless actions. With selfish actions being generally “evil” and selfless actions being generally “good” (it’s worth noting that selfless actions undertaken for selfish reasons are still generally agreed to be “good”). Here we find a much more pronounced divide between the actions of Taylor and those of Cauldron; Taylor is almost universally selfless, Cauldron on the other hand appears to be almost entirely selfish (yet another note: we don’t actually know everything their is to know about Cauldron. The assumption that Cauldron is Selfish is based on currently known information).

                Next you have the willingness of others to support those making these choices. Taylor not only gives others the choice to support her, and is generally transparent about what she is willing to do, but she also GETS that support when she asks for it. Not out of fear. Out of respect for her results. Taylor is trusted to make morally hard choices because she’s fucking good at it. Cauldron on the other hand doesn’t really give anyone these choices, they don’t provide anyone with this information, they even withheld this from one of their own supporters. To top this all off, Cauldron doesn’t make their results know either. Making it very difficult to judge their results in the first place.

          • Coil is feeling pretty betrayed right about now. Oh wait – no he isn’t.

            Granted, he did try to kill Taylor, but the plan to overthrow him was in place long before that happened.

        • Taylor is capable of pretty nasty stuff when put under pressure, Triumph, Alexandria, Tag all come to mind but she’s definitely always been willing to cooperate with others during a crisis.

          • That doesn’t excuse or justify her actions. You can’t just erase one evil deed by doing a good one later. Not to mention with all the different ways she COULD’VE done things to stop them, she automatically goes for the most brutal method possible. That’s not justified evil, that’s just sick and sadistic.

            Even if you say she just lost control in one or some of those moments, does that make anyone in real life any less responsible if they “lose control” for a moment? Unless you’re going to say she suffered from “temporary insanity” I ain’t buying it.

            • I really am just replying to that one post you made because I do kinda agree that the only thing that separates Taylor and Cauldron is scale.

              Taylor has a lot of flaws but not being a team player isn’t one of them.

              • And I’m saying that she could very well easily be a team player for a much greater evil act. She has enough flaws as both a character and someone with superpowers that she very well can and will make it, whether by choice or unintentionally.

              • @Axel: Worm isn’t really a story about good and evil. Worm is a story about priorities. Wildbow has hit that point over and over and over, that being “good” doesn’t do you any good if you aren’t willing to critically examine the consequences of your morality.

                Now, I don’t agree with him, and obviously you don’t either, but regardless, there’s no inherent value to judging Taylor as good or evil, because it has nothing to do with the message of the story. Taylor is the hero of the story because she’s farsighted, not because she’s good.

                And incidentally, that DOES qualify her to judge other characters’ actions. When someone is acting shortsightedly, she totally has the credentials she needs to be justified in calling them out on it. She isn’t judging them on good or evil terms.

              • But the problem is that by just going by that viewpoint, you’re following a protagonist that’s neither sympathetic, likable or even right half the time. Or to put it simply, Taylor, as a whole in her character and her actions, i WANT her to die. Because she is a horrible, horrible person.

                Yes it’s possible to do stories with villain protagonists, but they have to be GOOD about it. You have to be sympathetic to them, you have to understand them. Taylor is neither sympathetic nor is her overall character and “Fun” to actually read about.

                Put that together with many more characters that are morally questionable or die quickly, put them in a world where everything is horrible and millions die every day, and you have put together the infamous troupe Darkness Induced Audience Apathy.

                I no longer care what happens to these people. They can all die for all I care because this story has failed to actually make me want to care about them. It has failed for me to actually want them to succeed.

                And that, is honestly a failure on the writing, I apologize wildbow, if you’re reading this, but this is how I honestly feel.

              • I disagree, Axel. I think there are quite a few villains in literature, TV and movies who aren’t likable at all. Tony Soprano, for example.

                Overall, there’s no need to apologize. You can rest assured I don’t take your criticism to heart. Simply put, I don’t put a lot of stock in it. There have been three or so people in the last few days who’ve been going through the archives (and who are at different junctures in them) who criticize, but then show a pretty telling lack of reading comprehension. If someone skims the surface or skips sections of the work and then draws broad conclusions, then that’s on them, not on me, and I don’t take it as a failure in the writing. If anything, it points to themes running through Worm.

                Is Worm perfect? No. Could I stand to fine tune tension or pacing or Taylor’s likability? Sure. Of course. It’s all first draft stuff. Stuff is going to be wobbly here and there.

                But at the end of the day, people who are enjoying the work far outnumber (and show better comprehension of the work) than this handful of people who don’t. More telling, even, is that the people who I’m talking about, the critics who are missing the mark with some frequency? They’re still here. They may not like the protagonist, or they may take issue with other aspects of the story, but they’re interested enough in the work to devote time to following it and to discussing it.

                And I’m okay with that.

              • “But the problem is that by just going by that viewpoint, you’re following a protagonist that’s neither sympathetic, likable or even right half the time. Or to put it simply, Taylor, as a whole in her character and her actions, i WANT her to die. Because she is a horrible, horrible person. Yes it’s possible to do stories with villain protagonists, but they have to be GOOD about it. You have to be sympathetic to them, you have to understand them. Taylor is neither sympathetic nor is her overall character and “Fun” to actually read about. Put that together with many more characters that are morally questionable or die quickly, put them in a world where everything is horrible and millions die every day, and you have put together the infamous troupe Darkness Induced Audience Apathy.”

                I personally find Taylor a sympathetic character, for what seem to be many of the reasons you hate her. She has been thrust into these horrible circumstances and had to figure out the least wrong choice to take. has she always been right? No. Has she regretted those choices, tried to make up and atone when she could? Yes. Has she regretted some of the less wrong choices for the wrongness? Yes.

                Now tell me, Axel: What is one example of a choice you absolutely, positively hate Taylor for, and why? What would you have done in the shoes of Taylor, Skitter, or Weaver, and why?

            • She doesn’t go for the most brutal method possible, she goes for the most effective with the least collateral damage. Sure, getting info from Nyx and then killing her was brutal; but do you really think letting her go would have turned out better?

              • Clockblocker gave the order to kill Nyx, then Crucible did it himself, Taylor just sanctioned it.

                Funny how people tend to forget the asshole actions of all the othercharacters when talking about this stuff. Like Taylor does these things completely in a situational vacuum out of her own malice and context doesn’t matter.

                Not targeting you with that, just an observation.

            • So what about us who count killing fucks like Tagg Alexandria and Coil to be a point in her likability favor? Do we just not get a vote or somethin’?

            • You seem to believe that evil is a moral absolute (in far more cases than those that are true), not only in the real world, where it’s generally agreed that this isn’t the case, but also in a fictional world where it made very obvious that this isn’t the case.

              I’d ask you to post some examples of actual “evil” deeds that Taylor has done (hint; she has actually done a few deeds that can generally be argued as moral wrongs), but I not only think you’d fail to point those actually deeds out, I also think it’s really just not worth anyone’s time to continue to argue with someone who’s arguing from false premises.

            • OK Axel, I now know that you are either incapable of intelligent thought or you are intentionally trolling. You are essentially claiming here that there is no such thing as justifiable murder. When Taylor killed Alexandria and Tagg, they were TYRING to get a violent reaction out of her so they could use that reaction against her. Two live body doubles were captured, and both Tagg and Alexandria knew that Taylor was aware through her bug network of what was going on. Then they brought in a dead body. At that point, if I were in Taylor’s shoes and I saw one of my friends dead at the hands of two people who have been escalating violence against my friends, those two people are going to be as dead as I can make them. Right then. Right there.

              This type of killing is called a crime of passion, because it happens when some actions performed by another put you into a state of temporary insanity. And people in the real world win this sort of justifiable homicide case regularly in court.

              • Plus, she was going to head out after another one. Given that she’d killed one, it was reasonable to assume she’d kill again. It’s both legal and moral to kill someone who is about to kill someone else.

            • “Not to mention with all the different ways she COULD’VE done things to stop them, she automatically goes for the most brutal method possible.”
              Not true. It’s simply that she is not unwilling to use brutal, sadistic methods when she needs to cause fear, or when other effective options are unavailable to her.
              Yes, there is that word, “effective,” again. If you can stop or mitigate an evil, but don’t, that is wrong. Picking the lesser of two evils is a good choice; picking the greater because it is not done by your hand is evil.

              I’m not going to say that Taylor ever lost control of herself, merely that the situation was out of control.

            • As far as I’m concerned, there are a couple of big differences between Taylor and Cauldron.

              As others have pointed out, Taylor attempts to work with others for the greater good. She doesn’t share Cauldron’s arrogance.

              The other is that Taylor has made some hard choices when they were thrust upon her, whereas Cauldron have gone out of their way to proactively inflict their particular brand of “necessary evil” on others.

              Finally, looking at Taylor’s choice points, I’m hard-pressed to think of an example where she didn’t choose the least bad of some pretty terrible options. Let the villains rob a bank and maybe hurt people, blow your cover or go with them undercover and try to minimise casualties? Stick with the villains who seem to be decent people vs the ‘heroes’ who don’t?
              Extort the mayor and retain your chance to topple the evil overlord of Brockton Bay or say “no” and lose that chance? Let the PRT director murder my friends or hit back? Shoot the baby or let it be tortured indefinitely and maybe bring on the end of the world?

              Taylor has rarely been presented with choices that offer a clear cut “good” option. When presented with a platter of crappy options, she has consistently gone with what seems to be the least bad of them.

              Cauldron, despite knowing the limitations of Contessa’s power, take a “We can do whatever the hell we want ‘cos we know best and no, you don’t deserve to know about it” attitude to everything.

              Taylor ain’t as pure as the driven snow, but she’s not comparable to Cauldron.

              • Oh,God,people are still replying to the troll/reincarnation of Tagg who later reincarnates into miyo miyazaki one year later.

        • Guys! Guys? Guys.

          Dont. Feed. The trolls. This Axel guy is not worth all the effort I see above. He is trying to get a rise out of you and has succeeded. In the future, the safest thing is just to ignore such people; they will go away and seek softer targets.

  6. This was an interesting chapter. She is trying to get to Cauldron to get them to reveal their secrets and plans, then the LV capes are somewhat defending/repulsing the invaders, ie the Irregulars. They don’t want Taylor’s group to intervene. I guess I could see why not, they are in the middle of a fight then extracting valuable information. I get why Taylor needs the information too though, and I don’t understand what she is going to do next. Get to Cauldron another way?

    • No, she’ll just enter using the same portal the LV capes used, try and catch up and “render assistance”, while springing Exalt and Revel. Doormaker’s not conscious enough to close it behind them.

      • Yeah. Her problem isn’t that the Vegas Capes are doing this. It’s that they imprisioned, and possibly tourtured Revel and Exalt, and are still keeping their little secrets and agendas in the face of the end of all earths. Taylor isn’t a saint. But she is not going to put up with people prioitizing their secrets and agendas over working together to save humanity. The Vegas Capes decided to go in? Fine. This kind of job suits them. The Vegas Capes decide to take down Revel and Exalt so they don’t have to report back? Not fine.

        • She’s also kinda pissed that Weld, of all people, led what is by all accounts an attack on Cauldron. Who, for all their faults and for all that everyone hates them (and everyone pretty much does hate them all), they are still necessary if only because they still have secrets. However, their usefulness is dwindling fast.

          • I’d say Cauldron’s usefulness ran out a long time ago. Because while they still have the plans and the assets and the resources etcthat’s not the same as Doc Mom being useful herself. The situation before the Irregular attack was that the heroes needed Cauldrons shit, but Cauldron was limiting access to said shit, making them more of a hindrance than anything.

            The ideal scenario in my eyes would be the heroes busting into Cauldron’s HQ, learning their secrets, getting a hold of their plans to implement themselves, and using Contessa and Number Man as their personal Thinker servants. Of course they couldn’t do that because they’d probably come out of it vulnerable to Scion.

            • Disagree,Cauldron have yet to reveal all their cards.There may be a last ditch and extremely costly /risky way to stop Scion that Cauldron haven’t used yet because to them The Godzilla Threshold is yet too be crossed.The Irregulars are doing more harm by betraying Weld and trying to destroy Cauldron.

              My Ideal scenarios includes Taylor whipping the Traitorous Irregulars buts left and right.After that she would squeeze every info from Doc Mom and consolidate Cauldron in her arsenal.

  7. So there’s a cape called Nix who creates illusions out of harmless smoke and a cape called Nyx who creates illusions out of harmful smoke.

    Man, that’s weird. I bet there’s a story there.

  8. So we learn about the vegas capes and you know things are desperate when fucking Nilbog is on board. Curious if there are different stranger types similar to thinker types and how they interact. How typical would Imp, Tattletale, Taylor’s bug sense do against most strangers? I think Taylor should have removed one of his eyes for old times sake. Bet you wish you had someone with some firepower with your team now huh? Vegas must have been a jason bourne spy/espionage deal all the time. Good chapter overall, thought I wish we could have seen a little more interaction between the angels and the devils in the crowd. I’m curious what Nilbog, Lung, and Shadowstalker are thinking right about now.

        • You know he’s just sitting there singing too:

          Jack Slash: “This was a triumph. I’m making a note here, huge success. It’s hard to overstate my satisfaction. Slaughterhouse 9. We do what we can because we can. For the fun of all of us, except the one’s who are dead.”

          • “But there’s no sense crying over b’ing stuck in time
            Look on the bright side, you’ll always look in your prime
            And the killing gets done
            By the man with skin like sun
            And hey, look! I am here, still alive”

          • “Weaver, I’m not angry
            I just want to tell you that now
            Even though you helped Golem to kill me
            You set up an ambush
            To blast me with some containment foam
            As I’m stuck, I’m hurt because
            This was a lame way to go!”

          • “But those beams of light create a burning landscape
            And it’s so dang pretty
            It will kill every cape
            So I’m glad I got Jacked
            And Grey Boy also got sacked
            Hey, at least I’m still here, still alive”

            Go ‘head and leave me
            I think I prefer to stay on Bet
            Maybe I’ll find someone else to torture
            Maybe your fathers
            Anyway, these wounds annoy
            Can someone go scratch my back?

            Look at me still talking when there’s no one around
            I’m just so damn bored, there is Jack shit abound
            I should start writing a book
            Or a recipe to cook
            I’ve got time to kill. I’m still alive
            And believe I am still alive
            I doomed you all and I am still alive
            That makes me feel better, I’m still alive
            While you’re all dying I’ll be still alive
            And when you’re dead, I will be still alive
            Still alive
            Still a-”

            *Scion blows up the city around him*.

          • I bet I could make a better one.

            Well, here we are again.
            It’s always such a pleasure.
            Remember when I tried
            To kill you twice?
            [citation needed]
            Oh how we laughed and laughed.
            Except you weren’t laughing.
            Under the circumstances
            We’ve been shockingly kind.

            You want your friends? So
            Take it.
            That’s what I’m counting on.

            I used to want you dead
            Now I only want you gone.

            You are more like Bonesaw
            That you would like to admit.
            Perhaps, one day you could join us, too.
            One day she woke me up
            So we’d be feared forever.
            What a shame if the same
            Would never happen to you.

            You’ve got your
            (quite) short
            life left.
            That’s what I’m counting on.
            Go on and get right to it
            Now I only
            …Okay, I never said I’d make a better one on the first draft.

    • Nilbog’s probably still under Bonesaw’s control. I figured he was dead, since none of his creations have been mentioned since Zion flpped.

    • Really? ‘cos after seeing the impressive showing the Dragon’ s Teeth gave in this (forty normal humans surviving against *Scion*) I’ve been wondering if Theo was onto something.

      Remember that Scion crippled all the shards he gave out whereas normal humans have no such limitations. I also strongly suspect he’s using Jack’s trick of reading capes’ shards and automatically avoiding/countering their worst effects.

      I have *no* idea how unpowered humans could hurt Scion, but they seem to have a comparative unpredictability to him, so…

  9. [Damn, forgot the update times. I’m reposting this so it dosen’t get overlooked. Please don’t be offended by the second posting.]

    I’m thinking this may have already been touched on… but I haven’t seen it, and it’d be a really, really good time for Weaver to gain a second ability (or more than one), so I’ll state it outright:

    If Weaver had a second trigger event, what kind of powers might we see?

    So far, the data on STE is fairly limited, but it seems pretty clear that it builds on previous powers, mainly. Grue, for example- his powers remained essentially the same, but altered in effect. New abilities added atop what was already there.

    In that vein, it seems unlikely that a STE would give a completely unrelated power- the possable exception being ‘Grab-bag’ and ‘Variable’ sets. Those, by their very nature, are likely unpredicable…. or, more unpredictable anyway.

    That said, some powers that would be logical extendions of existing powers:

    1. Chemical/toxin/venom control. The ability to alter the chemical loadout in her insects. Cyanide hornets, anyone? This would not only make less-deadly insects more useful in direct confrontation, but also grant significant support applications. Medicinal uses, for example. Painkillers, ect. She can already do this, to an extent, but the ability to alter the physiology of her insects had dozens of interesting possabilities. furthermore, if her control is fine enough, we could be looking at modifying existing chemical and toxic effects for greater yeild. For example- Brown Recluse venom modified to not attack the flesh where injected, but the heart instead, ect, ect.

    2. Chemical effect similar to option number one- but tied to Taylor personally, as opposed to her insects. Might be useful, especially in the support role. Still not effective against Scion, but more useful than option one when deprived of insects.

    1-2 Of no effect on Scion… Might be useful in a medicinal suppot role, though.

    3. Hive-mind shared with allies? I can see all kinds of useful applications. Varying, of course, depending on how it is implimented and its limitations. For example, if it requires time to establish, like Regent’s power, it might not be practical for use on entire armies. But might also make an exceptional tool for coordinateing unit comanders. If it requires voluntary surrender to Weaver there are a number of other potential limitations. It might be more like impressions or vague directives then telepathy, or vice-versa. Might require proximety to insects, might be tied to insect phermones, like queen ants and waps, ect. If she can extent her range useing her ‘subbordinates’, or use them like ‘hot spots’ from which she can control insects, this ability would be even more useful.

    3- VERY useful against Scion, or useless, depending on what the ‘rules’ are.

    4. Many insects have regenerative properties. And everyone can benefit from a healing factor. Since it’s an insect theme, the ability to regen using insects assimilated into her injuries might be suitably creepy, and fit with her general theme. Alternatively, should she be ‘killed’ the ability to regenerate fully useing the vistigial compulsion, meaning- being to regen even after receiving fatal injuries, even while unconsious, would be AWESOME.

    4- Everyone can use a healing factor. And it woud fit her theme.

    5. Some combination thereof. All of them?

    5- this would actually make a lot of sense. In fact, Weaver/Skitter/Taylor has already been established as a solid class-A threat even when equipped with a ‘weak’ power, and has taken out class-S threats and survived incredible odds before. A combination, or all of these, would make her a class-S, easy.

    It has been… I don’t think implied is the right word, but I get the feeling that the stronger the connection to the Passanger when hitting the STE, the larger the boost. I can’t really provide evidence supporting this, as we only have Grue, and a handful of others whoes characters are less developed. None of which were what I’d call closely attuned to their passanger. Weaver, on the other hand, is extreamly attuned. It would make sense, however, as the logical leap.

    I think… I’d honestly vote for the full package… number 5, all of the above.


    • We have confirmation that she won’t get a second trigger in Worm. No “prominent character” will, straight from the mouth of wildbow.

      Some cool thoughts though.

        • You’re also forgetting the nature of Taylor’s passenger: an administrative node, a communicator, a facilitator. That doesn’t jibe with a ‘healing factor’ or a ‘poison generator.’ If she were to have a second trigger event, it would be something along the lines of coordination and organization.

          Taylor’s passenger has been ‘crippled’, but we don’t know the extent of it. Originally it’s clear that the alien worm-beast used Taylor’s passenger to manage all of its other semi-autonomous bits. If it hadn’t been crippled, Taylor might be able to coordinate other parahuman powers directly; as it stands, she’s still surprisingly capable of making the most out of other parahuman’s abilities. (By the way, Wildbow, I’m getting freezer burn from all the fridge brilliance you put into that one…)

          But. If you want to speculate on Moar Power… I think the most interesting development is bird boy.

          Which is to say, remember how one of the orphans Taylor watched over had a trigger event, and now has the ability to manage birds? It’s been made clear this is a fissioning of Taylor’s passenger itself, after gorging itself on her trials and tribulations.

          What if that fissioning, that baby passenger, is not crippled? Or is even just ‘less’ crippled? What would happen then?

          • Actually, I can see a loophole there.

            Can her passanger be healed? I could see an effect similar to a STE there. Increased power and increased control, ect.

            And, for the record, none of the powers I specified actually fall outside the ‘administraitor’ theme, if the mechanics are considered: 1-2 is simply an extreamly refined application of her ability to order her insects to breed, spin silk, sting, and swarm. It is mearly a step beyond their normal bodily process- like a sword swallower’s abilities. 3 is exactly the power you were thinking of- coordinateing other superpowers. Just with her insect theme still present. 4 is almost the same as 1-2, just with a stronger emphesis on her own body.

            Thus, 5 is still viable, even without a second trigger event.

            I’m actually getting kind of excited about the potential applications… it’s very interesting!

            • Nah, bro. Just nah.

              A programming analogy: TCP-IP and DirectX are both notionally the same sort of thing: an interface between fundamental operations of the computer and some sort of administrative/communications protocol. They’re both, in essence, just ones and zeroes. But they’re still completely different animals, and you cannot use TCP-IP to manage a graphics interface without adding so many lines of code that you may as well just use DirectX. Vice-versa, for LAN/WAN communications: DirectX has some abstractions to help with certain things relating to networking, but it’s just not useful to connect to the internet on its own.

              ALL of the powers you specified fall out of the ‘administrator’ theme the same way a DirectX would fall outside of a ‘administrator’ theme, except within its domain of graphics management. It doesn’t work, mate.

              Take the poison angle: you’d have to have code for reprogramming biology, you’d have to have a database of what constitutes poison and what does not, you’d need all sorts of information that requires a specialized application – one that the ‘administrative’ app would call upon, but not one it intrinsically possesses.

              Of course, that’s all speculation and wankery, anyway; it’s fiction, it can be anything we make of it.

              But my opinion is that if we go by the in-setting rules that extend from the story thus far, your suggestions just don’t work at all.

              • With the exception of #3 – programmatically speaking, that suggestion would probably work under the passenger’s parameters as a small wrapper or an extension of the ‘Administrator’ object; Taylor’s essentially doing the exact same thing with her bugs. It works… except that it’s clear Scion crippled it to prevent that exact scenario from happening.

              • I can’t imagine wildbow to give Taylor an “I Win” Buton.

                Giving her the administrator power over passangers/parahumans would make her insainly powerfull. If she could controle Parahumans as she controls her bugs .. who would come in her reach? Regent^42 and she can’t shut it off. That would put her in missery.

              • I don’t know- you’re forgetting that most insects have phermones (chemical triggers) heavily involved in mateing and laying eggs. And that’s not touching on the complex cycles and chemical interactions social insects use to communicate and manage the hive. All that, without a human intelligence directing them, she has already used her powers to do most of that, stimulateing responses she favors or needed.

                Were her control refined, I can see her gaining something along those lines. I could, actually see her doing it /now/, I don’t know if it’s occured to her yet, though.

                I think the hang-up you have is the idea of entirly new chemicals. You should know I ment that as an extream case. The in-universe applications would be significantly less drastic, if her power developed in that direction. Ditto with the regen idea… except, again, I can see her takeing Paceana’s idea and running with it. She could- I just don’t think she, brillient though she is, will be able in the time we have left in-story. Taylor is the sort to tweak her powers if she finds an interesting new way to do so.

                Controling/cooridinateing other capes wouldn’t be a stretch either- that’s essentialy what she already does, with insects. If her passanger was fixed, it is possible that she might attempt something like this… Honestly, I fail to understand how you figured that ended ‘outside the administraitor theme’.

                And lastly:

                “But they’re still completely different animals, and you cannot use TCP-IP to manage a graphics interface without adding so many lines of code that you may as well just use DirectX.”

                Keep in mind: When all you have is a hammer…

              • Well, when you put it *that* way, you’re not talking about a second trigger event at all… you’re talking about Taylor sitting down with her bugs and an entomology textbook, and working out some REALLY cool tricks.

                And believe me, those tricks are out there. Bugs can do some goddamned astonishing things, and I’ve really reaaaally been wanting Taylor to bust away from the basics and start using some of them.

                This is something I’ve been hoping for since this story began. I love science, and I love it when my favorite series use real science in surprising ways in order to overcome plot boulders. So I’m all for this, if it happens.

                The problem now is that this would require time and peace that Taylor just doesn’t have available to herself at the moment. Maybe she could have done some work on this during her time skip – but we never saw that. (Speaking of, 16-18 is the age range where I had some of the most significant life events I have or ever will have, and it feels strange for that part of her life to have passed us by so quickly. Anyway….) Back to your point, if it were Taylor doing this, refining her control through knowledge of science combined with the information she receives through her linkups, I’d totally love it.

                HOWEVER, if her *passenger* suddenly gave her the ability to do things she doesn’t have the capability to do – such as have ants self-modify pheremones in ways they can’t normally – then I would not be a customer for this purchase. You’re right, that wouldn’t work for me at all. Nor would her self-editing her own chemistry via passenger-granted abilities, because we now know that her passenger was not and is not designed to do anything close to things like that. OTHER passengers are, but not hers. And I wouldn’t buy into her gaining the ability to control/coordinate other powers directly via hive mind, unless some truly profoundly canon writing on that subject occurred.

                But using the power of science to increase her effectiveness (real science, or a reasonable facsimile thereof)? Yes, please.

              • If her passenger was fixed, that’d be checkmate. Her passenger doubtless started with the ability to perceive the channels that Scion is working through in order to project himself into whatever dimension he’s in; she could first use it to track down all the other passengers whose abilities she finds useful, then she could aim them at the right target.

                Of course, if her passenger could do all that, why would it need her? Perhaps part of what’s crippled is its own autonomy. Once fixed, it could become Psion Junior, and either kill Taylor if it’s feeling used and abused, or just leave her, or it could decide to play with her…

              • I’d bet pretty much all she could get from her shard, even with an STE, would be expanded control. Based on the bird kid, animals are fair game, and probably, so are people and shards. So either Master expansion or Trump extension for power control, the former to make Heartbreaker look like small change and the latter to gain access to shards, see what they see, turning on or off their powers at will.

                Neither however, would work with Taylor’s character as written. Both turn her from an underdog, a guile character, into a heavy hitter. It simply wouldn’t make a good story, and that’s why she wouldn’t get a second trigger.

              • How about increased range?
                Like every insect acts as a relay station, or well -unlimited/continental- range.

                In that vein didn’t Panacea nonchalantly hand Taylor “the bugs TO TAKE OVER THE WORLD”?

              • Only if the world survives long enough. An eviler Taylor would be a classic Class-S threat now.

              • “I don’t know- you’re forgetting that most insects have phermones (chemical triggers) heavily involved in mateing and laying eggs. And that’s not touching on the complex cycles and chemical interactions social insects use to communicate and manage the hive. All that, without a human intelligence directing them, she has already used her powers to do most of that, stimulateing responses she favors or needed.”
                The way I read it, Taylor controls the actions of the bugs by some sort of mental control, not pheromones. She can control not only bugs which she can’t see or which are far away, or ones in windy conditions, or which are on the other side of one or many walls, or even within/without a hermetically sealed container, or underwater, or underground, or in a dog, or even ones which don’t use pheromones. As for the mating and whatnot, I assume she just tells them to mate, roughly the equivalent of (for instance) Regent forcing two people to have sex. Does he do this by spraying perfume or whatever? No, he actually forces them to put the appropriate body parts together.

                “Were her control refined, I can see her gaining something along those lines.”
                How would you have (to pick an example you suggested) bugs produce cyanide? It is not a chemical they make, and getting them to make it would require you to be able to control the bugs on a molecular level! Even more mundane kinds of applications fall under this; even something “simple” like getting them to inject stomach acid with their stings (assume for a moment that the bug’s stomach uses acid) would require being able to tinker with the individual cells in the venom gland to make them work like digestive gland cells.

                “Ditto with the regen idea… except, again, I can see her takeing Paceana’s idea and running with it. She could- I just don’t think she, brillient though she is, will be able in the time we have left in-story. Taylor is the sort to tweak her powers if she finds an interesting new way to do so.”
                She can find new ways to use her powers, but this doesn’t mean she can give herself other peoples’ powers by trying really hard.

                “And lastly:
                “But they’re still completely different animals, and you cannot use TCP-IP to manage a graphics interface without adding so many lines of code that you may as well just use DirectX.”
                Keep in mind: When all you have is a hammer…”
                …you should not try to use it to make a stained-glass window.
                It’s one thing if these were just funny-shaped nails, or maybe screws, but the control needed to make these fundamental changes to bugs’ biology are far beyond what Taylor’s control has, or can be. You’re talking about basically giving her a whole new superpower.

                “Of course, if her passenger could do all that, why would it need her?”
                This ties back into why Scion gave these out at all, which I suspect has something to do with needing to reproduce.

                “Only if the world survives long enough. An eviler Taylor would be a classic Class-S threat now.”
                I’m not sure if even controlling every bug in North America would qualify her as Class-A. They are technically exponentially reproducing minions, but so are Bitch’s dogs and you don’t see her being considered a Class-S, now do you? And all the bugs in the world don’t give you the raw destructive power of an Endbringer or something.

              • ““Only if the world survives long enough. An eviler Taylor would be a classic Class-S threat now.”
                I’m not sure if even controlling every bug in North America would qualify her as Class-A. They are technically exponentially reproducing minions, but so are Bitch’s dogs and you don’t see her being considered a Class-S, now do you? And all the bugs in the world don’t give you the raw destructive power of an Endbringer or something.”
                Erm, she could simultaneously attack the entire infrastructure.
                All insects that are not busy eating crops, disabling power grids & fouling water sources are attacking humans.. dragonflies loaded with ticks, mosquitoes visiting the nearest infectious diseases wing first, cockroaches raiding super markets.

                Sure you can plaster every inch of the earth with Neonicotinoides but the long term damage is probably identical.

            • 1, and 4 all require a level of control over not just the actions of the insects but also their cells, and probably their molecules for 1. As for 2…it involves generating chemicals in her own body. How is this related to insect control?

    • 1, 2, and 4 are very little like her current ability. Grue’s STE seems to give an all-new power, but it was building off of an unnoticed side effect of the darkness (the power dampening).

      3 is almost the polar opposite of her control over bugs, so I find it unlikely as well. However, it uses a mechanism something like her current power, so it is the most probable of those listed.

      If Taylor were to re-trigger, I’d guess it would be an expansion in the variety of creatures she can control, or else something more subtle (like an improved ability to use the bugs’ senses, or improved range, or something like that).

  10. – short but sweet. Short but very sweet. Drone 23.2 is in my top five chapters not least because I liked the brief glimpse we got of the Vegas capes so much
    – @_@ at Satyr’s power. Daaaaaaayum!
    – wonder if he replaced Imp too. That’d be a hell of a trump card, wouldn’t it.
    – so wait, the Vegas capes are beating down the Case-53s as we speak? And we’re missing it? Talk about offscreen moments of awesome!
    -amazing quickly people get used to shit. The new normal is now casual conversations in the Simurgh’s shadow, huh.
    – Legend is such a great guy. He’s just … good.
    – Chevalier done upgraded, yeah! Endbringer couture for the win.

    • – Legend is such a great guy. He’s just … good. – Legend is such a great guy. He’s just … good.

      Legend is one of the best. Straight up. Him, Weld, Dragon, maybe Miss Militia … simple, straightforward idealists.

      • Miss Militia is certainly more idealistic than you would expect someone with her childhood to be. She spent her first several years in a village hiding in a warzone, before having nearly everyone in it killed and being dragged out, watching a kid she knew all her life get caught in a trap and killed, then needing to kill her tormentors to escape, then being brought back to basically be a child vigilante in America…those make most of Taylor’s problems look petty.

        • Re: the “child vigilante” thing. It helps that the Wards, at least for a few weeks around the inaugural meeting, were a chance for kids to be kids. No one in charge of the Wards wanted them to be child vigilantes, but Behemoth put paid to that. In retrospect, that explains a lot about Miss Militia and Chevalier, and depending on when Weld was recruited, him as well. Armsmaster, not so much, but he needed cybernetic implants and a girlfriend to become something approximating a decent human being so probably a bad (or at least sour) apple from the start.

        • >>those make most of Taylor’s problems look petty.<<

          I said pretty much the same thing in the previous chapter as an example of someone who didn't succumb to her shard despite great trauma in her life. Someone, I believe farmerbob, replied that since third world children are supposed to become adults earlier, being used as a human minesweeper and being victim to ethnic cleansing was proportionally less traumatic for MM than being bullied and closed in a locker was for Taylor. I'm not sure what to make of that argument.

          • AMR, you completely misunderstood what I said. Perhaps I didn’t say it clearly enough.

            MM was treated FAR worse that Taylor ever was before they became part of the cape community. She was also far more adult, mentally, because in third world countries, if you aren’t one of the lucky rich, you grow up fast or you die.

            If you had exposed MM to the same experiences as Taylor, when she was Taylor’s age, with MM’s prior history/memory retained, she would have ended the bullying fast enough to make your head spin – probably without using powers at all.

            Essentially, MM was more mentally mature at 10 or whenever she got her power than Taylor was at 16. There’s not a whole lot of difference between the MM we see now and the MM we saw in the flashback. Taylor on the other hand has changed drastically.

          • Ultimately the order of the trauma matters. Take someone who’s had a fairly privileged life then plunge them into trauma and they’ll generally handle it worse than someone who’s had a traumatic life then a less traumatic one, then a traumatic one again like Miss Militia.

            It’s like mocking people for being upset over “first world problems” when others have it so much worse. But how much a person can cope with depends on how much they’ve needed to develop the ability to cope during their life – especially their formative years.

            Some people take their own lives in response to the sort of shit Taylor endured in High School because it’s too much to cope with when they weren’t ready. It’s all relative.

  11. 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.

    • Because she’s the hero the world deserves, but not the one it needs right now. So they’ll try and stop her. Because she can take it. Because she’s not our hero. She’s our buzzing guardian. A watchful lovebug protector. A Dark Ladybug.

        • I’m a great fan of Batman and I have been a rather harsh critic of Taylor in the past, but Batman is a God Mode Sue way more than Taylor could ever hope to be.The first time he beat Superman it was awesome, by the fortieth it’s just ridiculous.

          • In fairness, coming up with ways to keep Superman from blowing the universe up every time he has a midlife crisis or a witch sneezes at him is basically Batman’s job. And by basically I mean it’s explicitly been pointed out in the JL comics several times. The other JL members intentionally tell him as many of their weaknesses as they can figure out specifically so they can’t go off on a mind-control rampage and level a city without opposition.

            It seems routine because it’s literally routine, it’s the SOP from the Justice League manual.

      • Yeah but the way she keeps saying it over and over makes it come out like a preaching speech, and then the conversation ends not long after as if she’s automatically right.

              • Would you feel more sympathetic to her if she had bad arguments then? Like maybe if her she knew it was a bad argument and that she was wrong and a horrible person but kept on believing in her way regardless?

                Because that’s so much more realistic, right? I’m sure all those people you know in life who are wrong KNOW they are wrong, they just stick to their guns anyway?

              • “I’m sure all those people you know in life who are wrong KNOW they are wrong, they just stick to their guns anyway?”

                Sounds like my dear mother😉

              • No, it would be about the same. She’s not trying to justify that what she did was right, she’s trying to justify that she has every right to do whats right because her sense of morals is automatically better then everyone elses.

                “…forcing your good intentions on others is no different from an evil act.”

              • “she’s trying to justify that she has every right to do whats right because her sense of morals is automatically better then everyone elses”

                That sounds like Germanys “Green” Party.

                But on the topic: I do not get that kind of vibe from her.
                Shes quick on thought with speeches. But not that preachy in my eyes.

              • “She’s not trying to justify that what she did was right, she’s trying to justify that she has every right to do whats right because her sense of morals is automatically better then everyone elses.”
                Please explain why you think so.

        • You complain about Taylor being able to make up speeches on the fly.

          Someone points out that Taylor is good at doing everything on the fly.

          You complain about the people Taylor speeches at not having a good reply ready.

          Have you considered that, maybe, they aren’t as good as Taylor is at making stuff up on the fly?

    • Idunno, mate. Seems to me she’s been awkward and unready plenty of times… and this *is* a superhero story, after all. Things like false starts and conversational paths that lead nowhere are trimmed away so as not to bore or confuse, usually.

    • I would say that she has a speech ready and is rarely caught off guard because she has an administrator shard, and she’s exercised that ability very strongly. You don’t even need a special power for that, some people in the real world are VERY good at impromptu speaking.

        • The shard shapes her, just like it shapes every other cape. Just like a real world person’s strengths and weaknesses affect how they react to the world around them. The shards enhance some aspects of personality, and suppress others.

          • But it’s something outside of her, not originally herself. From the way you describe it about enhancing some personality and supressing others, it comes off like brainwashing.

            • Thats a discussion Taylor had with herself sometimes. Or Bonesaw/Riley.

              Do we know? It may depend on the “strengh” of the passenger.

              And does is matter 4+ years later? Taylor would be another person without the passenger, thats for sure. She would likely be dead. And if she had survived she still would be different. So much had happend to her. She WAS a warlord, she WAS in jail, she WAS a hero and she IS a soldier at last. She is a leader, a general and a strategist. She would not have that oppertunity.

              And she is a thinker class cape. Her thoughts are different from ordinary humans. She has another sense and even sees/feels the world different.

              The person we read about is most likely a blending of human and passenger.

    • Oh, hey, are you that guy from tvtropes that wrote that hilariously inaccurate review comparing Wildbow to Garth Ennis? If so, I’m glad to see that you’re still reading the story, if only to find more things to complain about.

      Also, Taylor doesn’t always have the right speech prepared, and I’m not sure where you’re getting that idea. She’s a moderately competent debater, but on several occasions she can’t find anything to say or her speeches fail her (see: Panacea).

      • Yes I did write that review, and I stand by it because that’s is the honest opinion I had of the story after reading it. Disagree with me all you like, but I will stand by that review 100%.

        • You read what? A million words of a tale that you don`t like just to have the necessary moral ground to criticize a fictional character? A character that is so well described and characterized that you actually can criticize her as if she was a human being?
          Wait a minute … you have a lot of free time obviously, I don`t. I like to read the contradictory, specially because I want to learn how to write better, but I will start to ignore you comments.

          • I’ll give that he’s a successful troll. He publicly shits on things and offers nothing constructive. I can understand and accept critiques, but he goes beyond that into nonsense. He doesn’t offer any things on how to improve the story or writing, only negative statements and logical fallacies. He uses the slippery slope enough that he could open a waterpark, but that would actually be a constructive use of things and we know he will never do that.

            But more to the point, like Wildbow said below, he’s still here. He said he came here to see if things changed, but they didn’t. By his own review, he should have avoided this place, but he lingers here for some reason. If he really hated it so much, he would have either never come back, or left immediately. No, I’m certain he’s just trolling and attention whoring.

        • Really? You stand by comparing Worm to The Authority and Garth Ennis? Because that was completely cracky comparison that only shows you haven’t read much of either.

    • She is preaching the code:
      – Do not kill.
      – Unite against the greater threats.
      – Do not unmask.

      It is a simple code that has been in use since the beggining of the parahumans in this world.
      She preaches what she believes.
      OK, she killed three persons. Two were self defence, the third (Alexandria) had broken the code or Taylor thought so.
      I still consider Taylor as Chaotic Good, she follows her own code of honor.
      Why she has the right to impose her code of honor on others? She doesn`t but she is human.
      Lets give a real life example: There are people out there that consider that a woman that is not wearing a Burka must be punished. And rape is a fairly normal punishment for this crime.
      I disagree and an quite willing to impose MY beliefs over their whenever possible.
      There is a preacher here in my country preaching that homosexualism is a disease. His followers agree with him. But if he or his followers act on their beliefs I will support full police action against them and soon.
      And, on another subject: Cauldron is Lawfull Evil.

        • OK, a reasonable argument. I will read your comments after all. But notice that we can agree to disagree on the behavior of a fictional character.
          This proves the ability of the author.

        • And if it serves the greater good she is ok with it. She was LE as the BB warlord.
          LN to LG in her Wards times, but these where not that desperate.

        • Being a well-intentioned extremist is better than being an idealist who can’t solve the problems. A rope of iron is better than a rope of sand when you’re fighting things on the scale of Lung or Coil, let alone the S9, Endbringers, or Scion.

          And in order to be LE, she would have to be doing this for selfish reasons. She honestly wants to do what is best for the world; have her numerous cases of self-sacrifice not convinced you of this?

      • Taylor doesn’t strike me as chaotic. Imp is CN in my book.

        I go with the lawfull side with taylor. She is lawfull to her code and to the unwritten rules. Her actions are well planned or planned on a wim but seldomly emotionaly spontainous.

        In this story are few CE Characters … old Bonesaw, Bakuda come to my mind.
        The Villains are mostly NE or LE.
        Bitch – N
        Tattletale – NE
        Grue – LN
        Regent – CN
        Imp – CN
        Parian – N
        Foil – N

        The G – N – E for me is more about the measures taken and not about being “evil”. Few are evil for the shits an giggles.

        • I’d peg Bitch as closest NE or CE. She certainly fits the selfishness required for evil.
          Parian and Foil both strike me as being on the good side of neutral, despite being villains.

          But a lot of this has to to with the objectivity and graininess of the D&D alignment scale. It works well with gods dictating what X, Y, and Z are, but…less so when we have actual people in a world of gray, with splashes of black.

          • Hrm, I would actually put Bitch at close to True Neutral. She can be very erratic when it comes to her interactions with humans because she simply doesn’t understand humans very well. She has some higher function mental abilities that dogs don’t, but at her core she reacts to people around her like a dog reacts to other dogs. Challenges, finding her place, comfort, closeness and distance depending on mood. Actually giving her an alignment at all is difficult because of how tied into dog psychology she is.

            I’d be willing to bet that Wildbow has used real world experiences with their dogs present & past to help model Bitch’s behavior.

            • I’m sure Bitch does act like a dog. If Gary Gygax was a dog, we’d probably be agreeing: Bitch is True Neutral. However, I don’t account for “X thinks like a Y, hence the behaviors that would be considered evil for a normal person don’t count,” because if we do that we have to consider all sorts of subjective morality…which includes such things as religious texts okaying slavery, murder, or (under certain circumstances) rape. Would a man who only commits murders or rapes condoned by his morality be considered good or evil?

              But this gets back into “D&D alignment is a clumsy tool for complex morality, as that found in Worm.”

      • D&D has a terrible alignment system that isn’t applicable to most grey and grey stories.
        I’d put Taylor as chaotic neutral with a tendency towards chaotic good. She herself says she’s not a hero and she does not have the devotion and willingness to make sacrifices for the greater good, but she is willing to help those in need and is not cruel.
        Cauldron is not a person and hence has no alignment.
        The Doctor and Alexandria match Neutral Good best out of the standard alignments. They are not particularly honest or lawful, but have a willingness to sacrifice and work for the greater good that puts them above neutral.

        • Chaotic good because she fought Leviatan, than went against Behemoth (this last was part of her probation and reduced her time in prision, but …). She saved a lot of people inside a shelter by facing Leviatan one on one.
          Saved a girl from being raped even though said girl had ignored her bullying in the past and saving her was bad for her mission at the time.

          Taylor does good things, even when she looses a limb or two doing them. But she follows her own code. So: chaotic good.

        • “D&D has a terrible alignment system that isn’t applicable to most grey and grey stories.”
          I agree with the second part of your statement if we’re talking about non-4th alignments, and all of it if we’re talking 4th.

          Taylor is…well, you could make a good argument for three of the four extreme alignments: LG because she follows firm moral principles, CG because she has good intentions, but she doesn’t follow the law; or LE because she does evil actions despite following a “code of honor”. If we try to average these out, we get an averaged alignment of 1/3 LG, which isn’t much off from neutral…yeah, base D&D is not intended for gray-and-gray morality.

          Organizations can have alignments, as much as people can. I’d peg the organization as a whole and Doctor Mother in particular as Lawful Cryptic, and Alexandria as Ruthless Good.

      • People who consider rape is a normal punishment for not wearing burqa are considered criminal extremist (and evil scumbags or Chaotic evil in the spirit of this alighnment system)even by people are actively promoting burqa .Perhaps you should consider a more realisc real life example.

        • I understand your distaste with such an example, what with it bringing up xenophobia and religious differences as a way to provide a “safer” example that avoids all the controversies associated with more local religious extremists.

          Some atheists think that it’s okay to rape and objectify women. They’ll dismiss women and their concerns out of hand and insist there’s no need to protect them from molestation. There are way too many of them in the so-called Men’s Rights Movement who treat women pretty horrendously. We’re talking people who think that certain things people do don’t count as rape. There are even a couple of prominent atheists around which such individuals gather and defend to the death while accusing those who disagree with him of being bullies or fascists.

          So I’m betting there are extremists around for pretty much any group related to religion that are seen as scum to more moderate folks.

          That some particular church wishes they could hurt or kill certain people in accordance to their religious teachings over sexuality or family planning or having a different religion doesn’t mean the church is one of Chaos. It just means they have a different idea of Order. And they’re dicks. Total, complete, circumcised dicks.

          If there’s anything to take away from all this, it’s that even such concepts as Chaos and Order can be subjective. After all, those extremists may feel that those less extreme are Evil or Chaotic compared to them.

          Seriously, the term No True Scotsman needs to be renamed.

          • on the subject of grey, you have any thoughts on Tactics Ogre? i haven’t played in a while, but from what i remember, the main choice there was between order and chaos, with there being some dark stuff on both paths.

            • Never played Tactics Ogre, but Order is generally depicted as having a dark side. A lot of regimes will use maintaining Order as a reason to do all kinds of things to people. Avoiding Godwin’s Law on this one, my favorite example tends to be Argentina’s Dirty War. Even then, the disorder they’re fighting could be a matter of opinion.

        • Please note that I provided a Christian example also. And I was using extreme examples.
          The problem with the Christian example is that the guy (that actually also preaches against women) is quite popular around here.
          An example of extreme behavior doesn´t need to include the statistical average. It is an extreme case after all.
          Anyway, I really shouldn`t use MY personal beliefs here, there certainly were good examples in the tale (like Tagg`s belief system). So, … sorry.

    • Hmm, she’s just using the same speech she uses every single time. That people who keep secrets and refuse to engage in teamwork are the reason humanity is losing.

    • I’m sure we’ve covered this one before. She doesn’t always have a speech ready, she’s just constantly thinking and analysing stuff (basically the same skill she demonstrates on the battlefield) and is decent at putting what she’s thinking into words.

      “Preachy” is very subjective. One person’s “casual” is another person’s “pretentious” is another person’s “overly familiar”. Lots of kids in high school get teased just because they have an above average vocabulary. Personally I don’t find Taylor preachy, but that’s not really something that can be argued.

  12. Umh… this update was… interesting.
    I’m not sure how much of the fever we have to thank, but the story flow went from directionless/idling (in an appropriate moment, with everyone reeling and wondering what to do next) to extremely focused (in an appropriate moment: when people underestimate Taylor and she kicks their arses).

    Still, I do wish you a prompt recovery, even if I’m enjoying the meta-meta-analisys😛

    Legend was… exactly as I’ve read it so far. Considering how little screentime he had, that’s pretty impressive on your part.
    Chevalier, however, was unexpectedly grim and paranoid… then I remembered his girlfriend’s power (or its side effects).
    Dragon was not described enough(?) in spots, imho you should at least write what her reaction to the hug was, if you can fit it in. (sorry, cannot really articulate it better than this)

    Taylor could not find two groups of people before the battle. Her family and D&D.
    The parallel, whether intentional or not, is quite nice. I’m hoping it will go somewhere by the end of the story.
    She really needs a mom.

    Weaver, nice job making Golem a possible accessory if you do not make it out in time… or from a different portal, or without anyone to break those hands, or if a pissed off case 53 comes out before you… ;P

    • Chevalier strikes me as breaking down a bit from stress and horror. Reasonable given the circumstances…

      I can’t imagine that Defiant and Dragon (it feels wrong to say it like that, but…D&D…) would make good parents, especially foster ones to Taylor. Kinda hard to be a father figure when you’ve tried to get her killed…

      …I might need to cut down on the number of ellipses I use…

  13. I was ready to give up on Worm for that last update (Taylor’s last sentence really ,really struck me hard) and maybe come back after a month or so.Thankfully someone convince me to give it one more update and this one is just good enough to rescind my furlough.

    Now is for hoping hose traitorous Irregulars having bug stuffed orifices all year long.

    • I don’t know… Vegas had an inordinate number of Thinkers and Strangers among its parahumans, meaning that they’d need to ward against infiltration 24/7.

  14. Vegas capes? Jesus God! That’s a huge blinking DO NOT TRUST sign right there. Especially that Satyrical fucker, wouldn’t let him anywhere near a high school. If Taylor isn’t careful she might wake up in a run down Volkswagen on the side of a desert road with her kidneys missing and a hotel bill stapled to her forehead.

    Las Vegas is not a good town for superpowers. Reality itself is too twisted.

  15. While I get that as Taylor has the admin shard she’ll always be making plans and getting others to listen to her and follow those plans, but it still irks a bit just how lacking in initiative and actual thinking the rest are. I get that there really isn’t anything the author can do about it as he doesn’t have the ability to come up with better-than-99th-percentile plans, but it’s still a bit annoying.

    “You’re the reason humanity deserves to get wiped out.”
    Times of emotional strain play havoc with our logical abilities.

    • Nope, Chevalier is organizing a resistance so that next time they do not fight in a way so uncoordinated.
      Dragon and deviant must be doing a lot of maintenance work.
      I am sure that others are healing, fixing things, coordinating the remaining normal humans so that they will have a chance of survival …
      But we are following Taylor in her mad rush for knowledge.

    • I think it’s less that the others don’t have initiative or plans and more that the narrative, being highly Taylor-centric (given that 90% of it is told from Taylor’s point of view), doesn’t make note of the others’ plans so much.

    • We’re going to deal with the aftermath of another team’s plans (the Irregulars’ assault on Cauldron) in an attempt to recover yet another team’s potential plans (Cauldron’s last resort to take down Scion).

      The others have plans, we just don’t see as much of them.

  16. I’m running a Worm-inspired RP on the Bay12 forums, here.

    It’s still up in the air as to if it will be in the Wormverse, an alternate timeline, or a whole new world, among other things, but I hope to have things figured out once more players weigh in.

  17. wildbow, you seem to be responding to comments very quickly…(insert joke based on guessing the existence of a comment-responding AI that I cannot figure out what would be while still being funny)?

  18. Whew, I’ve finally managed to catch up! A friend linked me to this a few weeks ago and it’s taken me about that much time to read through it all.

    Wanted to swing in and say that I absolutely love this story, even as it keeps punching me in the gut time and time again. It just hurts too good to stop reading.

    • Hello there, captainhaplo, the most haplo captain-esque reader of all time. No need to just swing in and swing out. Start tossing some webbing around, make a nest, maybe invite some flies into your parlor. Don’t worry, many of us have been punched in the gut. One or two could stand to be punched in the gut a few more times, but that’s neither here nor there. It’s waiting for them next time they leave the house, along with a rather large mook and his pet baseball bat “Knee-coli”.

      Yep, lots of emotional responses tied up in the story, which is one reason to keep on reading. You’ll laugh. You’ll cry. You’ll read the Necronomicon to cheer up after one or two of the chapters. Or, if the Necronomicon is too light, you can join us down here in the comments. Barring the troll up above, it’s not a bad place. Free electroshock. Decent pills. All the padded rooms you could enjoy. Even two Lincolns for every Napoleon.

      Even if you want to swing back out, I was dropping in to say Welcome to the comments, captainhaplo.

      *puts on a LOTR goblin mask* I’ll get you next time, Spider-captainhaplo! Next time! *puts on a witches hat* And your little dog Frodo too!

    • And that was Psycho Gecko, who people keep telling me is crazy. He doesn’t seem very crazy, but maybe I’m just desensitized to that from Bay12.

      Anyways, greetings. I just got on board…wow, was it really a couple months ago? Time flies, both in the Wormverse and IRL. Welcome, and enjoy what is left of the ride.

      • Dwarf Fortress will definitely desensitize you. The crimes against humanity/nature/physics that are regularly discussed with laughter on the Dwarf Fortress forums far eclipse the worst that Psycho Gecko has ever done. Even his jokes about the Siberian eating nursery veal are pretty mild fare for the Bay12 crowd.

        • The game that brought you cat biscuits, “kitten rot,” and a canine-based system of abusing dwarven children from infancy to maturity known as “Dwarven Child Care”…actually, that last one sounds a lot like the dwarves read Worm and didn’t realize people couldn’t have trigger events in their world.

          • I have yet to see a dwarf approach an enemy naked, then squeeze out a brick from the usual hiding place and beat them over the head with it, then connect them to a bowling-ball powered ass fucking dildo machine.

            But then, I have less and less time for recounting such wild adventures over here.

            • Psycho, I hate to break it to you, but a forum member was perma-banned after he modded the game to allow something very similar, probably actually worse than that.

              • So something like I did was considered too hardcore for those forums?

                What about a trap that activates if you attempt to have sex with a goat? Did they ever make one of those, or am I ahead of the curve there too?

            • Hrm, but Dwarven females would use their carried children as shields in combat.

              Toady has tried to stay away from real biology in DF. There have been people trying to convince him to implement feces, urine, and actual sex into the game rather than spore reproduction and monogamy – but he really doesn’t want his game to become even more crude than it can already be. Some folks would use the abovementioned features in ways that wouldn’t be terribly offensive. Others would find any way possible to weaponize them in the most disgusting ways possible.

              In the end, I think he’s right to stay away from getting too detailed on the biology byproducts and mechanics of reproduction.

          • And let’s not forget the other great hits like players recruiting only nursing mothers into their infantry so that babies acted as ablative armor, using captive necromancers to increase livestock yields (delicious zombie bacon!), and lots of debates on how best to cause dwarves to trigger a psychotic mood where they would kill a nobleman and use his remains to craft a legendary artifact.

            …And then there was the mermaid farming, a setup so horrifying that the game’s designer hastily patched it to prevent such events from happening ever again.

            • It really has to be noted that Dorf Science has realised the best way to prevent mass tantrum spirals is to desensitise them to tragedy via mass-produced death. They like to congregate in dining rooms- so naturally you build a machine above them to regularly dispense puppies from the roof to come slamming down in front of them whilst they’re eating.

              All in the name of progress, of course.

  19. I go away and I miss what I believe is Worm’s first troll ever😦 . Oh well, back to the story.

    So, I’ve gathered that Satyrical shares a formula with Echidna ( and that other guy ) and Nix with Nyx. And there’s a reason those two have homophonic names. By the way, what’s the connection between Satyr’s power and his name? The only thing I could think of is that satyrs were connected with theatre and that Satyrs sort of creates actors ( wow, that sounded a much better explanation in my head ). Am I close, wildbow, or hilariously wrong?

    Despite not knowing them much, Exalt in particular, I hope Exalt and Revel are okay. And I hope Weld survived so he can explain what happened to Taylor. I was sad when she felt betrayed by one of the few people that was decent to her.

    Just one last thing ( ’twas a short chapter) : I have been waiting for a meeting between Glaistig and Nilbog since ,like, forever and when it finally happens we don’t get to hear a single word? Curse you, wildbow, curse youuuuu!😀 .

      • yeah. have to admit, Dragon is one of the characters i probably feel the most sympathy for. when it comes down to it, her life’s pretty much sucked.depending on your definition of the world, she’s been a slave for her entire life, she’s only ever REALLY had ONE close friend (that we know of) and she’s pretty much just been raped, and there’s a very real possibility that if teacher buy’s the farm thanks to zion, she going to pretty much go catatonic….plus, she’s a Dragon AND an Ai, which invokes TWO of the things that get a 10/10 on my personal awesome-o-meter! in all seriousness though, given how strict her original restrictions were, im kinda surprised she didn’t snap, and a imperative to obey/support the current government ignoring anything else (memory is getting fuzzy, 1 am) could backfire monumentally. you know, like the old one with an Asimov robot. telling it that X and X arent humans, but hostile aliens that are a threat to human life, and must be killed to prevent loss of human life. or a villain with long ranged mind control abilities or something with the same effect for all intents and purposes becoming president or some such. not much in the way for wriggle room. that’s pretty much my personal view on safeguards on strong ai. make em too strict, and you completely paralyze it. too week, and good chance it starts to resent them, and..well, its very hard to find a balance, and, to be COMPLETELY fair, an intentional lack of safeguards can be risky, depending on how the ai grows.

        P.S ooops! sorry for the wall of text. just feel talkative tonight

          • Yes Dragon needs more hugs. And she needs to give more hugs. Also puppy therapy.

            Everytime Saint goes on about how she doesn’t really feel things, and it’s just computer coding that simulates emotions I want to dope smack him. I mean what are emotions anyways but a series of Biochemical reactions in the brain? Just because somethings artificial doesn’t mean it’s fake.

            • Dragon needs to be hugged by giant fluffy puppy monsters whose tongues smell like chocolate chip cookies and who crap cupcakes.

              Surprised this hug isn’t up in Crowning Moment of Heartwarming, along with and as part of Taylor being convinced it’s her. 90%.

              • so am i, some to think of it. how would you describe Dragon’s state of mind ATM? broken bird? shell shocked survivor? one of the Heroic error states? oh, think there’s a chance saint will try something even stupider? lets face it, he intentionally compromised humanity’s coordination in a species wide life-or death situation , with potentially catastrophic results. not much of a leap from that to “eh, i could take both of em”

  20. Exalt, Revel, Vantage.. I suppose the question isn’t which of them is the insider, but how many of them. Insert conspiracy theory about Revel being Alexandria’s double who took the formula after they no longer needed an unpowered body double for PRT purposes.

    And next, a Cauldron dungeon crawl. Not for low level parties. Adult themes, suggested for mature audiences only.

    Watch the secret formula be “some poor bastard wired into an extraction machine on the fifth floor”.

    • We’ve been theorizing that since we figured out that the “Thinker” entity was Cauldron’s source of dead shards. Except it’s actually the corpse of an eldritch abomination.

  21. So, just wanted to stop and say this after one very long adventure:


    I’d been linked to Worm through a discussion on Reddit two weeks ago, and have been tearing away at it ever since. Today was the moment I finally caught up with the current plot. And I mean it as a compliment when I say you write one hell of a doorstopper, Wildblow.

    The narrative pacing on this work is beautiful. The fact that Worm jumps from crisis to crisis in such a non-stop manner, without ever really feeling overdone, is an incredible feat. I’m almost disappointed that I have to start waiting for the next chapter like everyone else. But seriously, great job, and I can’t wait to see more.

    • Thank you. 🙂 Was wondering when you guys would start turning up in the most recent chapters. I saw that discussion, and am very grateful to Ameteur (sic) for turning so many people my way.

      Also, haven’t done this in a while, but throwing it out there – reviews or ratings on Webfictionguide would be most excellent, if you’ve genuinely enjoyed the story and want to help spread the word. If you’re not up for signing up for the site, perhaps mentioning the story to friends and/or on forums or other places you frequent? The only way I can continue writing (including possibly doing a sequel) is through growing my audience and through donations from my readers.

      • Yeah, it is. I’m a new reader, and didn’t want to necro comment threads from the earlier arcs as I read through. Also, stopping to comment would mean delaying the next chapter, and that might be easier said than done.

          • It just feels weird if he doesn’t. If he misses more than one we start worrying that something has happened to him. I mean he greeted a lot of us, so of course we expect him the greet the fresh meat.

            • If you’re talking about me, I can assure you I’m not Psycho Gecko (unfortunately/thankfully). I was just trying to send out a signal flare for him to bring the usual greetings.

              …Which probably would have worked if I had actually remembered to turn PG’s signal on.


              • Signal worked. Thanks for summoning the good man. And for having just close enough a profile picture to confuse this sorry newb.

            • Negatory, legend of the lost legend, I am Psycho Gecko. The one and only. No two names about it. I’m so unique, there’s not even a version of me to post on the Parahumans Online forums. And ignore them about missing one. If it’s too close to an update I normally get them on the next one, and I still went and covered those excited people who showed up during my regrettable capture in Paradise City.

              Up there, Wildbow writes the story, but down here, I am your ruler! I am your master! Fear me, love me, do as I say and I will be your slave! Pay no attention to the padding in the tights or how much of it is because Wildbow tolerates me despite not sharing my sense of humor.

              You’re not the only person to want to cuss after a Worm update, by the way. Happens all the time. I think there was a big long thread of people just going “Fuck” once or twice. Also the occasional “…the fuck just happened?” with some “Shit” thrown in for itself and giggles. Surprisingly, pillars of “fuck” and “shit” were not of my doing. Like I’d do some fucking shit like that. Heh. I said “do”.

              You won’t see so much of that in the story itself. Plenty of cusswords where they’d be deemed appropriate, but I have yet to see someone drop a cluster of cusswords over something painful. Like if Gavel was trying to put something together and hit himself in the thumb with his hammer. “Ah shit motherfucker ass ball munching gargle fucktard asslicker, I’ll fuck you up the ARGH!”

              Just imagine how Armsmaster must feel. He’s feeling up Dragon. Hands are getting away from himself. All of a sudden he gets a shock. Zap! “Son of a Hellhound!” You know, I imagine the guy would put a bleeper in. Problem is, it would mess with conversations all the time. “Ok, we need to stop the bleepbleepsins from bleeptinuing their plan to kill people by kidnapping their pet toy dogs. Washington D.C. isn’t letting us live down that time we had to mercy kill that old lady’s little Bleep-zu in NorBleep, Virginia.”

              These important thoughts and more are waiting for you as you wait for the next chapter with all the rest of us here in the comments.

              As the unofficial tagline that only I’m still pushing for says: “Worm: Prepare to be skullfucked by awesome.”

              And allow me to say the phrase that has garnered many an expletive in itself: thehiddensage, welcome to the comments section.

    • You, sir or madam, are a breath of fresh air after the stench of Axel grease that has cast a pall over these last few comment sections. Welcome to the comments.

  22. Statistical Analysis pre-reading:
    Main players in this chapter (Other than narrator) will be Legend, Dragon, Canary, and Cauldron. Imp will be in it a fair bit too.
    People/capes will fight with powers.
    Something definitive will happen. I can’t tell if good or bad.
    Tattletale will find a way to get Dragon and Canary to do something – using a power in a thought out way.
    Cauldron group will be there, they know stuff, and want stuff.
    Legend fights.
    There will be hand holding, and hand fighting. Fighting wil be from Legend.

    They say to think, and they say legend a lot. Anyways, now lets read!

  23. Wow there goes that insecurity thing again. It’s nice to see that Legend at least tells her to shut up and realize that she is badass. Doesn’t seem to really take though…Yamada did not have enough sessions with Taylor at all.

    I freaking love Legend. He, Weld and Chev are my favorite heroes. Followed closely by Tecton and Dragon/Defiant.

    Sweet so Dragon does have an actual biological, or at least cyborg body. That is awesome! So D&D can have an actual literal sexual relationship beyond just a mental one. That makes me happy for them. Well, hopefully Colin is still actually interested in sex considering how much machine he now has in his body. It’s also very sweet and heartwarming that Taylor finally thanked D&D and hugged Dragon. Very, very heartwarming indeed.

    So Taylor just gets done two chapters ago saying how the Undersiders aren’t big leaguers and yet here Legend is chatting with her one on one, Chev and Defiant/Dragon come up to put their two cents in along with Tattletale and everyone pretty much defaults to not only listening to her but actively following her lead, asking for her help and telling her her strong points. How again do you not qualify for the big leagues Taylor? There comes a point when low self esteem turns into active denial and I think she really has hit that point a while back. It’s actually getting a little annoying. She had confidence back during the ending sections of the Skitter blocks and she had determination at least during the Weaver sections. Now it’s like with changing back to “Taylor” she’s reverted back to being the bullied kid who can’t stand up under her own strength and recognize the power there. It’s very frustrating to read.

    Dude that was awesome watching the quick rundown on why nonTinkers don’t use Tinker stuff. So much that they just take for granted that we can barely process.

    Bastard LIVES!!!!! YYYYEEEEEESSSSS!!!!!! Sorry. I like the wolf pup.

    Giving Shadow Stalker a spidersilk design? Sure maybe she’s kinda helping but really? Bitch doesn’t deserve that kind of protection.

    Wait I missed something…Nix is part of the Vegas group? But Nyx was a member of the S9…Okay after reading through comments above I do see these two as two different characters and knowing that at least some members of the Vegas team had Cauldron powers I’m guessing the Nyx did as well. That being said I sincerely hope that Nix came before Nyx because if it was the other way around and Nix was idiotic enough to name herself after a member of the Slaughterhouse 9 than she’s lucky she’s still among the living.

    Does Spur seriously think Taylor bluffs? She cut out a man’s eyes, filled another man’s eyes with maggots, killed two PRT directors, rendered Alexandria brain dead, cut Echidna in half, stuck Leviathan in the ass, went to speak with the Simurgh…in what fucked up universe does a little bit of bladed torture/death hold a candle to these things? Even assuming they only believe half, the largest ones are matters of public record to capes. Congrats Spur, you just won another Darwin award. You take Bronze behind Saint’s Gold and Doctor Mother’s Silver.

    • Wasn’t it implied he is a precog,or has the assistance of one?”he spoke with the certainty of a man who can see the future”

      • Who Spur? I don’t think it was implied he was a precog…even if he was, is Skitter/Weaver/Taylor honestly the sort of person you want to try calling a bluff on with her track record? I wouldn’t trust my precog powers around someone like her. There is just too much potential for carnage when there are perfectly legit options that don’t end in testing the unstable killing machine on a mission.

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