Venom 29.4

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Lights flickered as we made our way inside.

It looked like a hospital, but not an abandoned one.  Things were pristine, the walls and tiled floor a clean, untouched white.  It wasn’t a place that had been left to deteriorate.  The stark, clean nature of the place made for a contrast where the damage had been done.  There were gouges in the walls, things torn free from walls and ceilings.  Scorch marks, from both acid and fire, and damaged chairs, cabinets and lockers.

I noted the contents of the lockers and cabinets that had been torn open.  Glass vials, empty, clear fluids, medical tools still in plastic wrappers with paper covers that could be torn away.  But for the disorganization, it was all in excellent condition.  It didn’t look like it had even been touched.

The longer I looked, the less it seemed like a hospital, and the less real it seemed.  It was more like someone had taken sections of a hospital, removing everything like the nurse’s stations and the rooms for the patients, leaving only the hallways and doors that sat flush against the floor, airtight.  I would have thought it was all staged, but a check with my bugs confirmed that there was a minimum of dust even in places people wouldn’t be able to see.

Why take that much time to clean areas that were never going to get used?

“Tattletale?” I asked. “How’s the connection?”

The Dragonfly is relaying the connection from the towers, which are relaying from Gimel.  Kind of impressive when you think about it.

“I’m thinking this stuff tells a story.  Can you fill us in?  Information wins fights.”

I heard a noise from behind me.  A grunt or a scoff.  I turned to look, but couldn’t see who it had been.  Lung?  Shadow Stalker?  Golem?  Cuff?  All were possible, on different levels.  Lung might have been dismissive, Cuff bemoaning the fact that I was harping on that particular point yet again.  I’d reiterated it a few dozen times when justifying the stakeouts and a few cases of infiltration.

“I can see the path they took,” Tattletale said.  “You’re facing the direction the Irregulars headed.  They got more agitated as they made their way through.  Excitement, anger, a mess of negative emotions, bottled up for years, finally released.

I nodded.  I could imagine it now, almost see them in the hallway.

“Forty three of them.  Case fifty-threes.  Weld’s entire group.

“We have data on them?” I asked.  My eye fell on one of the doors.  It looked so ordinary, but someone had hit it, and it had been dented.  Metal, and apparently well reinforced, with a good section of the door fitting into the wall.

Already have files open.  There’s not a lot of details on most of them, but they aren’t exactly in the public eye.  You only get sightings, and apparently PRT paperwork where Protectorate members get sent to check in on them every once in a while, make sure they’re okay.  The others, well, you’re aware of Weld and Gully and Gentle Giant.  I could recap for the people who wouldn’t know.”

“I know enough,” Lung said.  “I would rather not have a voice prattling in my ear when I could be listening for trouble.”

“Oh, hey,” Imp said.  Through the bugs I’d planted on him, I could feel Lung reacting to her sudden appearance.  “I wouldn’t mind hearing this info.  Cliff notes?”

“You’re doing this to irritate me,” Lung said.

He’s sharp, in some ways, I thought.

“Don’t get your gonads in a twist.  I just want to know what we’re walking into.”

I heard a growl, and my first thought that Imp had pushed the wrong button.  I turned, my hand moving to my knife.

But it was Rachel’s dog, Huntress, her nose pressed to a door.

I watched each of the others prepare for a fight.  Or not prepare, as the case was.  Lung remained very casual, almost calm, while Canary backed away, putting as much distance between herself and the door as she could.  She was in better armor than most of us,with one of Saint’s Dragonslayer suits, but she still saw herself as vulnerable.

Hell, I saw her as vulnerable.

My bugs moved around the door’s perimeter, but I could sense only damage around the handle.  As airtight as any door.

I drew my knife, then gave Rachel a nod to go.

She kicked the door handle, and the door swung open.

Blood, corpses.  Three dead case fifty-threes.  Two men and a woman.  A cat-man with far too many teeth in his mouth, even covering the roof and the space beneath his long, narrow tongue, something that looked like keyboards on his forearms.  A reptile, not so different from Newter, but with no mouth or nose.  Only two overlarge eyes.  The last was a girl, squares of flesh intersped with patches of cloth.  Her mouth was only a tear in the cloth.

Their throats had been neatly slashed -the patchwork girl bled like anyone else might- and they’d been dragged into this room.  It was clear from the way that the blood trail suddenly stopped that someone had cleaned up.

Stragglers.  The Irregulars were moving as a tight group, keeping close to one another, but Satyrical and his team blindsided the ones at the back.  Killed them, dragged them off, then one of them cleaned up the evidence.  Floret, probably.”

“And Satyr probably masqueraded as these three,” I said.  “He’s in Weld’s group.”


“Then we need to move fast,” I said.  “Good job Rachel, Huntress.”

Rachel only grunted acknowledgement.

“You’re thanking the dog?” Shadow Stalker asked, incredulous.

“I’m thanking people that are being useful,” I said, my voice hard.  “If you want to be one of them, maybe scout the rooms we’re passing by.”

She didn’t obey right away, but she did obey.  She disappeared through a door.

The lights momentarily went out.  For an instant, I thought Shadow Stalker had been electrocuted, walking straight into a wire.  They flickered on again.

There were no windows, no sources of light beyond the lighting that was supposed to glow evenly from the high ceiling above.  When the lights flickered out again, the darkness was absolute, all-consuming.  As seconds creeped on and the light failed to return, I wondered if we’d be continuing this in the dark.

Lung used his power, creating a flame in his hand.  It didn’t make for much light – only enough to illuminate our groups.  Golem raised his hand to his helmet, then paused.

“Go ahead,” I told him.

The lights mounted on Golem helmet turned on, followed soon after by Cuff’s own lights.  I could see the way they were turning their heads, trying to cover both ends of the hallway.

“I don’t sense anyone,” I said.

No.  Wait.  There was someone.


I’d sensed it at the meeting the Doctor had arranged.  The spirit, the ghost.  So subtle it was almost impossible to notice.  The currents of the air, the faintest of traces in dust that marked where she’d traveled… all things I’d mentally dismissed.  Air tended to move.  Only the fact that this was a closed space, without any kind of air conditioning or temperature difference made the movements in the air curious.

Paying attention,  I could see that there was a pattern, a consistent repetition in air currents so feeble they might not have moved a feather.

The lights flickered back on, went out, and then settled in a compromise, the dull translucent pane of the ceiling lit up with a patchwork of  maybe two thirds dark to one third light.

“We’re here to help,” I called out.

My voice echoed down the hall.

“I thought you didn’t sense anyone,” Canary said.

“I don’t,” I said.

“Then who are you talking to?”

“I don’t think it’s a who,” Imp said.  “Try ‘what are you talking to?'”

“Shh,” I bid them to be quiet.

I could sense more movements in the air, close… no.  That was a result of Lung’s fire heating the air.

Further down the hall.  If I use enough bugs, try to get a sense of dimensions…

A head, part of a torso.  I could feel the contours of narrow shoulders, the waist.  Female.

She disappeared, or she became less coherent, the movements in the air continuing, but ceasing to suggest a general human shape.  Another appeared behind us, roughly as far away.  No arms, no legs.  Just a broken figure.

“Help me out, Tattletale?” I asked.

Help with what?

“The Custodian.”

I’m not getting anything usable,” she said.  “Video cameras suck like that.

“Right,” I said.  Louder, I called out, “We’re here to help the Doctor!  You’ve got two other groups in here, one that’s definitely hostile, angry and destructive, and another I think is worth being suspicious of.”

A movement, a reaction to that last sentence.

I explained, “Maybe they seem friendly, but they’ve got a bad history of backstabbing, making subtle plays for power.  I think the Doctor would back me up on this.  If she’s cooperating with them at all, she’s doing it with knowledge they’ll capitalize on any weakness she shows… and she’s never been weaker than she is right now.”

The figure turned around, briefly fading out of existence.

She reappeared in a way that made me wonder just how long she’d been there, a foot away from me.

“We’re not your enemies,” I said, holding my ground.  “I want to stop Scion, and the best, easiest way to do that is to get things back into working order here.”

For an instant, she was in four places at once.  Then she settled on three.

It struck me that I’d never fared particularly well against stranger-class powers.

“If it helps,” I said, “I’m pissed.  The Doctor called you the Custodian, which probably means you’re the one taking care of this place.  If you’re not completely emotionless, it hurts, that they’re tearing it apart.  If you care about the doctor, I’m betting you’re worried.  Maybe you feel like I do.  You want to retaliate, but something is getting in your way-”

And then she was gone.

“So.  Uh.  You’re kinda tense there, boss,” Imp said.

“She’s gone,” I said.  “I’m pretty sure.”

“Question is, is there really a crazy janitor lady?”  Imp asked.  “Or is Skitter finally going mad?”

“If there are no more obstacles, we should go,” Lung said.

I nodded.  I started walking at a good clip, reorganizing my swarm to check the areas around corners.

A series of eight or so doors to our right were open, now.  Shadow Stalker lurked at the end of the hallway.  She must have walked through the walls while the power was out, opening every door in passing.

“Just saying,” Imp kept talking, “Custodian?  Knowing what we do about your origins… kinda a thing.  The Doctor, if you think about it… what if we’re all-”

“Imp,” I interrupted her, all too aware of the presence of Lung and Shadow Stalker, “Not now, not here.”


She’s nervous, I told myself, before I could get too irritated.  But her way of dealing with that came at my expense.  I didn’t need to be reminded of my weakest moments.

I really didn’t need any head games, intentional or otherwise.

With the doors open, it was possible to see the room interiors.  Offices, perfectly ordered and empty of people.  Desks, file holders to neatly sort paperwork, book cases with texts.  All of it even, ordered.  No pages sticking up or books missing from shelves.

Still want that briefing, Imp?” Tattletale asked.

“Huh?  Briefing?”

On the Irregulars.

“Oh.  Right.”

I’ll take that as a no.”

I sent my bugs out, directing them to collect a few things.  Two booklets, the most substantial material my bugs could hold and still carry.

They shouldn’t have been able to pull this off,” Tattletale said.

I thought of Contessa, and of the Custodian.

“They did, though,” I said.  “At the worst possible point in time.”

“Weld isn’t dumb,” Shadow Stalker said, as she stepped out of one room and crossed the hall.  “Except maybe with people.  Kind of put his big metal foot in his big metal mouth, I remember.  But he’s not dumb when it comes to powers or strategy.  He’s had a few years to figure this out.”

“Hey,” Imp said.  “You’re not allowed to say nice things about people.  You shot my brother with an arrow, messed with people I respect.  I’ve been waiting for that cinematic moment when you and I find ourselves alone and I get my revenge.  Don’t fucking dilute it by being nice.”

Shadow Stalker stared at Imp, standing her ground as we, Imp included, made our way up the hallway to where she was.

“You’re irritating,” Shadow Stalker said, her voice dripping with condescension, dismissive.  That said, she disappeared through the nearest door.

Better,” Imp muttered.

I used the arms on my flight pack grab the booklets my bugs had brought to me.  The contents of each were bound into books.

I paged through the booklets.  The cover of the first read: ‘ASDEC01 Employee responsibilities, contingency C-2-6’.  The second was ‘ASDEC01 Employee responsibilities, contingency F-4-7’.  Both, at a glance, very similar inside.

I looked at the inside cover.  Contingency C-2-6.  Transmigration.

Then page upon page of jargon.  References to other files, to organizations and places I had no concept of, and things I knew of, but not in this context.  Overseers, terminus, and again, the word transmigration.

It lacked flow, as the writing went.  More of a technical manual, in the end.  I could tell from the structure that things had been done by computer, so that information specific to the employee and the employee’s role could be injected at the appropriate spots.

I flipped through the book, continuing to scout with my bugs and use them to check our surroundings for possible danger.  Only endless hallways.

“You reading over my shoulder, Tattletale?” I asked.  I had the camera on my mask.

I am.”

“Thinking what I’m thinking?”

Accord was two-timing us,” Tattletale said.  “Doubling up so he had enough of a power base to enact his plans, whatever happened.”

“Except for, you know, the whole dying thing,” Imp added.

“Are you getting the gist of this, Tattletale?”  I asked.

Picking up pieces of it.  I’d ask you to scan the thing and let me have access to all of it, but that’s not exactly reasonable, is it?

“Just give me the byline.”

A plan for if the Endbringers win.  A plan for if Scion wins.  A plan if we come out ahead and beat both of them.  Recurring themes in all of the plans.

“No plan survives contact with the enemy,” Lung rumbled.  “Foolish.”

Accord makes pretty fucking good plans,” Tattletale said.

“I do not know this Accord, and I only trust what I experience myself, so this is only prattle to me.”

“How does this turn out?” I asked.  “Cauldron ruling the world?”

Honestly?  I don’t think so.  Cauldron’s primary interest seems to be humanity.  Keeping us going, minimizing chances of war and conflict.  All of this seems to be geared around that.  Setting things up so we aren’t fucked, however things go down.”

“Right,” I said.  “Where do the powers come in?”

I think… well, I don’t have enough to say anything for sure.  But the underlying assumption seems to be that parahumans are going to take charge, one way or the other, so they wanted to set things up so that happened naturally.  They’ve been vetting clients, finding the ones who’d work best.  They don’t identify them by anything except number, but… I think Coil was a test case.”

I nodded.

So were we.”

“We had an idea,” I said.

Yeah.  But there’s more… I don’t know how much more.  Yet.  Can you flip ahead?  Maybe about three quarters of the way through, there should be a bit about the Overseers and the Terminus.  Flip through… slower… show more of the pages… I’ll go back through the video feed to view each page on my own and figure the rest out myself.

Further down the hallway, Shadow Stalker stepped out of a room.  I looked, keeping my head at the same general angle, so the camera would continue to have a view of the book, still flipping.

Shadow Stalker was pointing.

My swarm caught up with her, flowing into the room.

I glanced into the room as we passed.  Two more bodies.  Two men, large, both bristling with horns.  One with curling horns like a ram, the other with horns like a bull.

Satyr,” Tattletale confirmed.  “Again.

“Hmm,” Shadow Stalker murmured.  She was leaning against the doorframe, her arms folded.  “He’s efficient.”

Did she just sound like she was approving?  I lowered the booklet, raising my head to give Shadow Stalker a serious look.

She only made a small, smug sound, like she was pleased, or pleased with herself, and then turned around, her cloak flaring out before she disappeared through the wall.

“This long-delayed revenge thing is getting easier all the time,” Imp commented.

“No revenge,” I said.  “Not to put too fine a point on it, but you’re sounding a lot less like Imp and a whole lot like… well…”

“Regent,” she said.

I nodded.  The desire for revenge, the way the wisecracking was veering off course, to uncomfortable or dangerous levels…

“Be nice if he was here,” was all she said.

I nodded again.

The hallway reached a t-junction at the end, with a path going off to the left, and a stairwell to the right that led down, deeper into the building.  I could sense just how thick the floor was.  Most buildings had only a few feet separating each story, but here, there was solid matter nearly as thick as the open spaces.

A fortress?  A fortress has soldiers.

A shelter?  It doesn’t make sense that they’d try to take shelter in a place like this.

It also made the descent to the next floor down take just long enough that it felt like something was wrong.  Winding our way down.

“There are backup plans if the whole parahumans-as-leaders thing didn’t work out.  Brainwashing leaders like they brainwashed the case fifty-threes.  So the leaders were absolute and could be trusted.  Um.  Distribution and organization for getting things going again, depending on how many threats remain after we make it through this.  They didn’t know what the end would be like, what we’d be up against, so they could only ballpark here.  The reason for these offices?  Cauldron’s going to staff this place.  It’s going to be a hub, police, a whole lot more, up until humanity’s got the ball rolling again.

“No way that doesn’t fall apart,” Golem said.

I nodded a little.

“Power fucks everything up, doesn’t it?” he asked.

“Speaking of fucked up.  You should know, Scion just hit Dalet.  It’s ugly.  Getting worse with every attack.  A little more ruthless, toying with specific people, breaking them before he obliterates their friends.  He’s going to hit our settlement again if the pattern holds.  Within the next half an hour to an hour.”

I sighed.  Nothing we could do but hope the defenders could hold their own.  I looked at Lung.

“What?” he asked.

“You wanted to come with us.  Odd choice.”

“I tried, I did nothing in the end.  I do not like being…”

“Impotent?” Imp offered.

Lung growled his response, “A mere bystander.”

We reached a set of double doors.  A foot thick, solid, they overlapped rather than meet, effectively doubling the thickness, allowing for their structure to reinforce one another.  They’d been destroyed, pried apart.  An impressive feat, considering they looked like they were meant to withstand charging elephants.

Or parahumans.

It’s a prison, the thought struck me, as we passed through, getting a glimpse of the floor below.

Rows and columns of cells, connected in strings of ten or so.  Most cells were occupied.

Not case fifty-threes, going by what my bugs told me.  The case fifty-threes were the outliers, here.  These were people who I might have seen on the street in Brockton Bay, all in matching outfits.  Men, women, children.  All young, twenty-five or younger.  All more or less in good health, if a touch thin.  My swarm touched each of them as I tried to take in their total numbers.

“They’re here!”  Someone called out.

They can’t see us from this angle, I thought.

Then it dawned on me that everyone here had powers.  Some had powers that would sense us.

“Did it work?” the person from before called out, a woman.  “Hey!  Did it work?”

“They aren’t the same people as before,” a man said.

We needed to move on.  The double doors leading down to the next flight had been torn apart as well, and that meant the Irregulars, Revel, Exalt, Vantage and quite possibly the Doctor were all downstairs.

But the noise level increased with every passing second.  Cheering, shouts, cries, even threats to urge us to move faster, in a dozen different languages, maybe more.  The noise swelled as others took up the cry.  People screaming at the tops of their lungs.

And they were threatening to draw attention to us in the process.  I drew on my relay bugs, sending the swarm downstairs, trying to figure out if we’d just alerted Weld and the others.

“They think we’re here to rescue them,” Golem said.

“Aren’t we?” Cuff asked.  “I mean, it’s not why we came, but we can’t leave without them.  We’re not heartless?”

That she made it a question was telling.

That she directed that question at me was… I didn’t even have the words to articulate it.

“Yes,” I said.  “Yes, of course.”

“If we rescue them, then it causes trouble.  Too many to look after,” Lung said.

“Chaos could help us,” Shadow Stalker observed.

“We are going to rescue them,” I said.  “It’s just a question of when.  And how.”

I walked forward until I could see the cells and their occupants.

Hundreds of cells, and there wasn’t anything blocking them off.  Open doors, with nothing visible that would keep the prisoners inside.  Most consisted of only three walls and a white line painted on the floor.  Beside each cell was a metal plate, engraved with a number.

“Oh my god,” Cuff’s voice was touched with quiet horror, almost lost in the rising noise.  “Look at how pale they are.  They’ve been here a long time.”

These guys haven’t been here for long,” Tattletale said.  “Or they’re the newest.  Two thousand and fifty cells, I’m thinking, maybe half of them occupied.  All the structural reinforcements, the heavy doors, the traps in the ceiling, it’s to keep the prisoners in.  But you don’t need to put security doors in for going downstairs if there’s no way out.  There’s more cells downstairs, with older patients.  Plus, I think, the hub of Cauldron’s operation.

“This can’t be for humanity’s sake,” Golem said.

It is,” Tattletale said.  “Everything they’ve been doing is for our sake.  Producing better formulas to get more soldiers for the biggest, most important fights, weaning out the bad formulas so nobody important gets them…

“And the case fifty-threes?” I asked.  “Dismissed as bad formulas?”

At first, maybe.  But there’s a use to them.  As a rule, they’re stronger, tougher.  If we’re forced to make a break for it, scatter humanity and survive with the remnants, the case fifty-threes can settle places you or I couldn’t.  I think there’s something else, but I don’t see it… lemme keep looking.  There’s got to be a hint.  Might have to get you to run upstairs to fetch a file or something…

Tattletale trailed off, going silent but for the occasional mumble.

Was this the army that Cauldron wanted to deploy?  Men and women with powers they didn’t ask for, released with stipulations, or simply deposited on a battlefield and left to fight or run?

It felt too thin.  Even this many capes, they were untrained, their powers presumably unpracticed.  They wouldn’t amount to more than cannon fodder.

I stopped, feeling the scale of it all.  Hundreds of cells, hundreds of voices

“Quiet!”  I called out.

My voice was lost in the noise.

Quiet!”  I used my swarm to transmit my voice.

Some listened, as if waiting for me to say something else.

I wasn’t sure what I could say.  I glanced at my teammates, searching for an idea, before something came to me.  “Save your energy.  Don’t exhaust yourselves shouting.

They listened, quieting down.  At first.

But excitement won over.  There was no way to communicate their excitement other than by talking to their cellmates, or the people in cells across from them, but as the general volume rose, they had to raise their voices to be heard.  It didn’t help that the entire area was a giant acoustic sounding board.

“I could sing,” Canary said, raising her voice to be heard, “But I think I’d calm you guys down too.”

Rachel whistled, a shrill sound that almost made my bugs wince in pain.  Not a soothing song.

In the silence that followed, Bastard shook his head a little, then snapped at open air.  Too sharp for his wolf senses?

“Good,” Lung said.  Rachel only scowled at his approval.  He added, “You have to follow this with something that drives the point home.”

“Make them fear us?” I asked.  I remembered Bakuda’s commentary on her lessons from Lung.

“Fear?  Respect,” Lung said.

“Same thing,” Shadow Stalker said.

Lung shrugged.

I didn’t feel like arguing the point, and the crowd was very patiently waiting.  They were barely making a sound now.

Which was good, but was there any guarantee they wouldn’t get riled up as we made our way down to the next floor?

Bastard shook his head again.  Rachel and I both looked at the same time, then made eye contact.

I spread my bugs out through the area.  Felt the Custodian flowing through the air, a little faster than before.

She flew towards me, and I flinched, taking a step back.

She repeated the process, looping back, then charging me.

This time, when I took a step back, it was on purpose.  She’d done it a second time because she wanted me to take a second step.  And a third, a fourth…

“Go,” I said.  “This way.  Move.

We ran.  I focused on my swarm, spreading the bugs out as much as I could behind us and in front of us.

Different cells sat at the end of the hallway.  Bigger cells, arranged so that they faced the opposite direction, with paths leading in, then to the right, then back into the room.

Two-nine-three.  An empty, unlabeled cell.  Two-six-five.  Two more empty, unlabeled cells.

Bastard shook his head again, opened his mouth in an almost yawning, lazy bite.  I could sense the Custodian there, brushing by the side of his face.

I moved the swarm to block the other inmate’s view of us.

“Head-” I started, but Rachel was already making her way inside one of the empty cells.  She’d put the pieces together.  “…right.”

I hung back, looking over my shoulder as the others filed into the cells.  I hurried down the hallway, then kicked the door.  I saw a glimpse of a stairwell, identical to the one we’d used at the far end of the room.

I reversed direction, then ducked into the same corridor the others had entered.  Let the people nearby think we’d left.

I wasn’t sure it was the brightest thing, taking the dead end over the open-ended exit.  But the Custodian had suggested this.

I felt a moment’s trepidation.  Why?

You’re being followed,” Tattletale said.

I shook my head a little.  I could sense my bugs.  Nothing.

Was it a trap?  Would the Custodian shut some kind of door on us, locking us within?

No.  She had no reason to.  As hard to define as she was.

I pulled the camera free from my mask, then pressed it against the side of the mount on the cell exterior that would have held a number plate.  I ducked inside.


I get it, I get itMight need to ask for help on this one.  Sit tight.

The cell was empty, but it featured a double bed, a television, a computer, a small bookshelf of cases with stuff to watch or play, and an odd little double-layered glass window that looked out onto a wall of gravel.

I joined the others, drawing my phone from my pocket.  It took a moment for Tattletale to manage the link-up.

And you’ve got video.  I’m brilliant.  Admit it.

“You’re brilliant,” I said.

If I’d had the idea earlier, I would have wound up with a better vantage point.  As it was, we viewed the scene from a distance.  I held the phone flat, so our group could circle around to observe from different angles.

The noise of the crowd became a roar, muffled to near-silence by the cell’s walls.  The occupants wouldn’t have heard the other prisoners, except in the most extreme cases.  I could see the Irregulars as they entered from the same direction we had.  I could see the crowd that followed the Irregulars.

Case fifty-threes.  Kind of?

No.  Different.  The way they spread out, their haggard appearances, they made for the best clues when these individuals were just silhouettes seen from three hundred feet away.  But they got closer, and I could see how they differed.  They didn’t take on the traits of animals, nor simple mutations or exaggerations in features.  There was a man that burned, who staggered forward, like it hurt, but he wasn’t consumed.  A woman who floated, every part of her body a distinct piece, separated by open space.  It made her look twice as tall.  A… something that inched forward, occasionally running to keep up with the crowd.  Hands and feet like flippers, but the face was an orifice, and thin worms were spilling out, swarming over the surface of his body in numbers so thick that the flesh underneath was impossible to see.

Case fifty-threes that Cauldron had kept in reserve, it seemed.  I could see the anger in them, the tension, the wariness that came with what had to have been… how long?  With the hair, the beards, maybe years of confinement.  Maybe even solitary confinement.

On camera, I could see this.

I couldn’t feel them with my bugs.  Couldn’t see them, couldn’t hear them.  A revised image, an edited image, as if the whole crowd had erased with some careful photo editing.  Sound editing.  Touch editing?

Oh, hey,” Tattletale said.  “Anyone else having trouble getting a read on those guys?

“I am telling myself we may fight soon,” Lung rumbled, “But my power is not responding as well as it should.  Looking at them, seeing what look to be worthy opponents with little to lose, I should be feeling it build faster, a pressure inside me.”

“I can’t see or hear them with my bugs, let alone touch them,” I told Tattletale.

Over an entire area.  Mantellum,” Tattletale said.  “The guy with the built-in cloak, dead center.

I looked, but the crowd moved.

They were talking.  We didn’t have audio.  There was only the rise and fall of the crowd’s shouts, letting us know when people were talking and when they were reacting to statements.

On camera, people began to leave cells.

It’s a power with layers.  Each successive layer enhances the level of protection.  Except everything on record says the range it blocks powers only extends about fifteen feet.  Get within five feet, no senses work.  It’s not supposed to be a hundred feet like this.

“Six times the range,” Cuff said.


I pursed my lips.  “The Doctor?”

Probably downstairs.  Look at the way the group at the rear is set up.  They’re watching to make sure nobody comes upstairs.  I think they have the Doctor trapped down there.

They have us trapped here too.

I didn’t say it out loud.  Canary looked scared, and both Lung and Rachel looked restless.

There’s this guy that looks like he’s in charge.  You see him?”

It was a voice over the earbuds, but it wasn’t Tattletale.

You’re an idiot,” Tattletale said.  “I love you for this, but you’re an idiot.”

“Who?”  I asked.

Imp,” Tattletale said.

Imp?  It took me a second.

Imp.  Damn it.  Grue would kill me.  She was close enough to overhear, and this many parahumans… so many ways she could be detected.

“Mister beautiful,” Imp said.  “He’s saying they’re free… oh, whoop.  Here we go.”

The cells emptied.  It was almost like the order being given was a stone dropped on the water’s surface, the movement of the cell’s occupants the ripple, the ones who didn’t hear the man speak reacted to the others’ movement, and the chain reaction continued.  Hundreds of people.

Hundreds of victims.

The roar of the crowd increased in volume.  I could feel the floor vibrating.  No power at work.  Just a lot of people, stomping and cheering.

The Custodian moved a little, then stopped.  I could sense her more than before, a disturbance, agitated.

She was the one that had been enforcing the peace, keeping people contained in cells without doors.  Now… either Mantellum or the strange case fifty-threes were keeping her at bay, preventing her from seeing to her duties.

The lights flickered, a little worse than before.

“They’re going to come here,” Shadow Stalker said.  “I spent time in juvie, if someone had a nice toothbrush, cookies from mom, there was jealousy, retaliation.”

I nodded a little.

And a cushy cell like this…

“They will come,” Lung said.  The irises of his eyes were orange, and hive-like lumps were standing out on his skin, where scales threatened to push forth.  “I can win, but you will all most likely die in the time I require.”

I need all the people who can bore through solid steel, he says,” Imp spoke over the comms.

“Lung’s plan can be plan A.  Let’s hear plan B,” I said.

“We run,” Shadow Stalker said.  “Door’s right there.”

“I could make barriers,” Golem said.

The roaring dimmed.  The man was speaking.  The cupboard door beneath the large television seemed to rattle with more intensity.

“Custodian says… door?”

She stopped.

Barriers,” Tattletale said.  “We’d have to get past more security doors, ones the Irregulars haven’t dealt with.  Quite probably other security measures.

Imp spoke up, “Pretty guy’s saying… traitors to our kind.  See they get the justice they deserve.  Oh… hey.

I looked at the phone.

Weld, mangled to the point that he looked more like scrap metal than a person, was heaved forward, thrown to the ground.

A sphere rolled forward.  Something coiled within, behind the colored transparent pane.  Someone in the crowd grabbed it, then made their hands glow.  Fire?  Heating the material?  I couldn’t tell from this distance, but I could see the movement within accelerate in fits and starts.

Weld reached out for the sphere, but his arm was so badly damaged it couldn’t hold his weight.  It bent the wrong way, breaking off.  When he rolled over onto his back, the forearm was stuck to his upper arm, hand to his shoulder and neck.

If he’d been a human, if half that much damage had been done, there would be no way he’d be alive.

“Doesn’t get much worse than a crowd this mad,” Shadow Stalker said, her voice low.  “I can probably make a break for it and get away.  Not usually my thing to be nice, but… you want me to pass on any messages?  Last words?  My memory is shit, but I can try.”

The crowd was reacting, the contents of the room shaking with the sound.  Out there, it would be deafening.

Then they moved.  People were parting the way.  Opening a path to our end of the hallway.

The camera gave us a view of the central gang.  A spiky boy with yellow skin.  A man with exaggerated masculine and feminine features, a caricature, burdened with muscle.  There was Gully, the muscular girl with the shovel, braids and severe overbite who’d helped out against Echidna, looking ill at ease.  A boy with red skin.  Sanguine.

As they got closer, I could feel my power changing, to tell a lie.  No people in the area.  A conspicuous clearing in the gap.  There were enough people to push my insects around, wherever they were, but my brain was revising it to make sense of the scene.  It was unusual enough to grab my attention, though, but not accurate enough for me to use it.

“Feel up to singing?” I asked Canary.

“They’d hurt me before I got anywhere,” she said.  “Probably.  I’ll try.”

I closed my eyes.  I could feel my swarm out there, both inside and outside of Mantellum’s power, but I couldn’t do anything meaningful to the crowd with it.

“Satyrical’s out there,” I said.  “His people…”

Tattletale spoke.  “Probably happen to be the ones who stayed behind to dig for the Doctor.  Nobody there, in Satyrical’s group who’re going to be able to deal with this mob.  Probably nobody in the Doctor’s group, either.

I nodded, drawing my knife.  The one Defiant had given me.

Not enough to cut our way to freedom.  Judging by the gravel outside the double-pane window, we were sitting beside layers of rock.  The knife could get us into the next cell, maybe the cell next to that… but it wouldn’t let us get anywhere fast enough to outpace the crowd.

“Plan A, then,” Lung spoke, somber.  “For your sacrifice, I will grant you a favor.  Tell me if you want me to kill someone, an enemy you want gone.”

“We’re not going to die,” I growled the words.  I began forming the swarm into a decoy.

A distraction.  If I could get the crowd’s attention, lead them upstairs-

The pretty man outside spoke, and I could see his lips move on the camera.  There was no need for translation.


This time, the jeering was just outside our cell.  The mob advanced.

Last Chapter                                                                                               Next Chapter

396 thoughts on “Venom 29.4

    • Not enough to cut our way to freedom. Judging by the gravel outside the double-pane window, we were sitting beside layers of rock. The — (cuts off here)

      • Other italics errors with Imp’s relayed speech. I think technically her words should be italic, and the word’s she’s quoting should be non-italic, since that’s how you show italics in a passage that’s already italic. Probably easier to use single quotes inside the double quotes and italicize the whole thing.

    • I used the arms on my flight pack grab the booklets my bugs had brought to me. –> ‘to’ grab

      as if the whole crowd had erased with some careful photo editing. –> had ‘been’ erased

      I could feel my power changing, to tell a lie. –> telling a lie? Not sure.

      Some awkward italics here and there, but nothing too serious.

      • Judging by the amount that she needled him this chapter, I am surprised she didn’t get burnt.

        Additionally, Lung’s last line there. He respects Taylor. Apparently poisoning, drugging, emasculating and mutilating him is the quickest way to his heart.

          • Taylor is actually on Lung’s list of people he’ll kill, along with teacher and the Yangban. Though i have hopes that after this mission things will change.

            • I believe you mean “people he wants to kill.”

              Somehow, I don’t think Lung expects the third time to be the charm. Especially if he heard what happened to Alexandria–I don’t think his pyrokinesis works inside his own lungs…

              • Lung is essentially breathing superheated plasma all the time he uses his power, I doubt he really needs oxygen.

                And seriously, with all the very scary threats way above her league that Taylor legitimately defeated,could people stop using Lung as an example of Taylor’s badassitude. The first time the fight ended with Taylor crouching in fetal position behind a wall waiting for Lung to burn her alive and was only saved by outside intervention. The second fight it was Kaiser, Fenja, Menja, Sundancer, Newter and Taylor vs Lung and it was a VERY close match.

              • On the other hand…Taylor won a fight with two bugs, some blood, and creativity, against an indisputably superior foe with immesurably more experience and powers almost designed to counter hers, when she was new. Now she’s had two or three years to train, learn, and prepare.

                And really, all Kaiser, Fenja, Menja, and Sundancer contributed to Lung’s defeat was buying Taylor time to think of Newter’s blood.

              • They significantly contributed in slowing Lung down while he was heading straight for Taylor to have his revenge for the rotted crotch thing. Without Kaiser’s pyramid of blades, the Wonder Twins going mano a mano with Lung, Sundancer her miniature sun, Lung would have ripped Taylor in half in a second.

                But really, I am confident that Lung will decide to bury the hatchet and forget this stupid feud in the end, so I think this discussion is moot.🙂 .

              • My point was, Taylor could have beaten Lung with nothing more than a strong flying bug, an expendable swab bug, Newter’s blood, and not getting squashed by Lung in the meantime. Most of the forces present were not needed for victory, and could have easily been replaced with (for instance) Grue and Regent, or Gregor and Labyrinth. Or, hypothetically, just one of them.

                And yeah, I think we agree on this. From pragmatism if nothing else, Lung will not be trying to kill Taylor any time soon.

        • Poisoning, drugging, emasculating, and mutilating just put her on the list – I think what took her off the list was recruiting Endbringers and fighting Scion twice.

          Either that, or the bit in Cockroaches 28.3:

          “You’re fighting?” Lung asked, interrupting my thoughts.

          “We’re fighting,” I said, shifting my attention to him.


          “Everyone who gets in our way,” Rachel interjected.

          “What she said,” I added.

    • Introducing…The Absolute Wrong Thing for the Case 53s to Say at the Beginning of the Fight!

      “Alright, quit dicking around. You jerk offs get out here before we have to come in there and castrate ya!”

  1. Note for those curious about the irc: its on the server and the channel is #parahumans. For those out of the loop, go to, enter the aforementioned info into the proper places, and there you go.

    • I had to reread it to make sense of it. The confusion was mostly about how the rooms and hallways fit; the geometry of the place.
      I don’t know how to make it clearer, but I kind of got lost in the descriptions of the rooms and cells and where everyone was supposed to be standing.

  2. Was really confused about this chapter. Who are the normal looking prisoners and why are the monstrous case 53’s going after Taylor and her group? How did they even know they were there?

    • I think the mob doesn’t know it’s Taylor and co, they think it’s just the snitches and trustys of this jail; the ones with the nice cells. Why did the custodian guide them there, though? Custodian knows how to open the doors, couldn’t she have taken them down past the older cells and out somewhere else?

    • For the first: Various subjects of Cauldron’s experiments, probably from non-Bet Earths, who were not released to Bet.

      For the second: Possibly some sort of super sense, possibly they were on their way out and noticed a bunch of people.

      • Or maybe they noticed the thousands of bugs that Weaver was trying to use to detect them. Weaver is relatively well known in the cape world. It wouldn’t take much brains to realize that she was around if a place that used to have few bugs all of a sudden had lots of bugs, and they were concentrated around people.

        Now, opening the door and seeing Lung standing there will probably be an unpleasant surprise. If I understand Mantellum’s powers correctly, Imp is probably going to take him out. Then his cape-sense dampening power will wear off the other case 53’s and Imp will have to be seriously lucky to get away.

        • I think you’re probably not understanding Mantellum’s powers correctly… or I’m not. Or his powers suck/are weird. All of which are possible.

          It seems to me like he should shut down Imp’s power when she gets close to him. The more I think about how Taylor’s bugs are working inside his zone, though, the less certain I am of that. If he’s only hiding the people inside his cloak, rather than stopping powers from working inside there entirely, you may be right. Though apparently he used to hide people from mundane senses within five feet (presumably the witness has to be within five feet, since DM could see him and those around him quite clearly from a distance), so when Imp gets close enough to bleed him, she won’t be able to see him. Hopefully she took Taylor’s gun without her noticing. Or has started carrying one of her own.

          What confuses me here is the way the Custodian responded to Mantellum’s mantle. She was throwing herself against an invisible bubble. Hiding people shouldn’t have done that. She should’ve been blowing right past them, unable to even feel them as she got close enough to Mantellum. It seemed then like powers just didn’t work inside his bubble, but that’s not what’s happening to Taylor. She should be losing control and sense of her bugs inside that radius, but she’s not; they’re just lying to her. This makes me wonder if maybe she could just tell her swarm to bite and sting everything in that area. She can’t sense the people, but maybe the bugs themselves can?

          Very confusing power. Hopefully we’ll get a clearer explanation of it next chapter.

          • My answer is that since Custodian’s power is to exist everywhere at once in the Cauldron’s base and choose where to manifest, her manifestation is the equivalent of one of her power’s senses. That is, she can see the Irregulars and hear them but can’t manifest inside the bubble because it would be akin to a superpowered form of touch. Or something.

          • I am pretty sure his power simply dampens or confuses the unnatural senses granted by shards. In other words, he’s an area effect stranger, but his power only works against cape senses. Normal human vision, hearing, etc. work just fine. This would explain how Contessa might have been defeated by the case 53’s, yet Imp is walking freely through their ranks. It would also explain why the Number Man is keeping dafuk away, because he can probably actually detect the effect of the field. Contessa’s power is more specifically limited to detecting the path to victory – but it requires accurate data, and Contessa has no power to validate data other than her own knowledge and observation.

            I fully expect that the instant Imp wastes Mantella and Lung appears in the open door way, we’re going to see Number Man and five harbingers with a couple guns each pop out from around a corner and start headshotting case 53’s.

          • My reading/assumption is that Mantellum’s power dampens any powers within five feet and currently he is being ‘boosted’ by another cape who can boost his range at the cost of efficacy.

            Imp is squeaking by because her power’s still sorta working. I suspect she may have a lot of trouble making them forget her again once they *do* notice her. But we’ll see.

            Sadly, I have to agree with others that this chapter was quite confusing. I found it unusually tricky to work out/keep track of what was going on in general, not just who’s where.

    • I never liked that theory, if only because my understanding of Regent’s power made me think he couldn’t do something like that, but that line from Taylor was suspicious…

      • The dialogue has been way too suspicious for something to not be going on with Imp (we got what, 5 chapters in a row where some character remarks on Imp’s suddenly erudite language? subtle this was not), and most forms of control seem ruled out by all the dimension-hopping, suggest someone onboard. Regent is not mentioned as having had a second trigger, so… he triggered when dying and hopped a ride on the S.S. Imp.

    • Regent’s power doesn’t work like that.

      Regent controls bodies, not minds. If I understand it correctly, it’s something like telekinesis or something, controlling the movements of the muscles.

      It certainly doesn’t allow for a shared mind.

      • Well, I’m pretty sure it’s not telekinetic. I think we got a lot of mentions of him disrupting their nervous systems. I think his power acts either directly on the nervous system, triggering the nerves remotely, or on the motor cortex of the brain. The latter makes a bit more sense, given his father’s powers and the theme of what his siblings inherited.

        If it does work on the mind/brain, I think it’s distantly possible that he could have made a strong enough impression on Aisha that there are lingering traces of his personality on the way she moves or even talks. Also/alternately, he could have have transferred his consciousness at the moment of his death, allowing him to now influence/control her movements. They wouldn’t be in mental contact, but, as Shawn said, they’d share control of the same body to some degree.

        Or Aisha could’ve just picked up a lot of his habits and mannerisms and personality quirks over the time they spent together. They were very close, and that’s a thing that happens.

        • Barring a second trigger event, I don’t think Regent could leave that kind of trace.

          I don’t think Imp picked any of that stuff up from Regent. We didn’t see it before the time-skip, Tattletale remarked on it as something relatively novel, etc.

          There are two possibilities.
          1. She picked up Regent-like stuff from some of the Heartbroken.
          2. A bit more far-fetched, but hear me out: One of the Heartbroken used his/her power on Imp and is now controlling her. This not only explains the un-Imp-like mannerisms, but also why Imp is acting so…overly Impy, antagonizing everyone all the time and whatnot.

      • Do we know that his method of body control doesn’t include getting into somebody’s head? Butcher proves it’s possible to get stuck in somebody’s head. And I wonder if Regent existing inside didn’t help Imp take on Heartbreaker. He was quite strong. Regent in the head would certainly have given her the edge to win.

        • Regent’s interlude mades it about as clear as it can that the whole thing is body control. Exploiting muscle memory rather than normal memory, referring to it as bodily control, the unfettered nature of Shadow Stalker’s mind, etc.

          Heartbreaker’s power wouldn’t work any better than Regent’s when Imp used hers, and we know that Imp’s power stops Regent’s power even when it’s in full force. The first time they met, if Heartbreaker wasn’t even aware of a threat of any kind? Makes you wonder why killing Heartbreaker is one of Imp’s more impressive feats.

      • I thought it was direct control and sense over the nervous system.

        That would explain how he fucks with people’s body movements, and the period he has “charge” it before he can do it properly since his power need to map the nervous system.

        • Regardless, it is physical control of the nervous system, not mental control of the mind. There is about as much room to imprint on as there is for a rock thrown at a metal wall–you’ll make an impact, but it won’t be noticeable.

          • The loophole I see there is if it’s actually control of the nervous system. That would include the brain.

            But yeah, a second trigger would almost certainly be necessary.

            • Control that presumably stops when there’s no living Regent to do the controlling…because, well, why wouldn’t it? At best, you might guess there’s be some “lingering command” thing like what happens with Taylor’s bugs when she gets knocked out.

      • Yup. His old moniker “Hijack” sums it up pretty well.

        His powers fell a looong way from the family tree. Both Heartbreaker and Cherish had some form of emotion control whereas Regent has direct body control a lot like what Pretender presumably has.

          • Remember that powers spread through proximity rather than genetics. If Alec didn’t get his powers from his dad, he just as likely got them from one of his Dad’s henchmen or a family friend as from his mother. Perhaps likelier, since I suspect Heartbreaker tired of his women quickly and she probably wasn’t around for long.:/

            • There seems to be a bit from each column, from how I read it, that while the proximity and whatnot is an important vector, one way or another familial bonds helped.
              But maybe it was just in-universe people trying to make sense of the numbers which tainted my understanding of later things.

    • Yes.

      Under normal circumstances I would hope she makes it out alive. Considering what’s happened to Vista after the last time she made it out alive I’m not sure anymore. Like, if she did she’d probably kill Aiden and Bitch before Taylor flayed her alive with bugs.

      • We’ve seen how ugly the Irregulars are willing to get. They’ve decided that Weld and Sveta are traitors. And rather that being able to accept that some people want more than blood, and just incapacitate them, they’ve decided to tourture them to rile the crowds blood up. They’ve turned into monsters. Or bully’s. But they chose this. The victim card is no longer valid for them.

        • You know what’d be helpful to a bunch of kids holed up in a cabin with worthless money and few supplies? A power that lets you make hawks bring you fish and rabbits they hunted, helps you find edible birds, and maybe coaxes some birds to lay a few more eggs.

          • I imagine that the bird power would be pretty good for recon. You couldn’t feel things out like Taylor’s swarm sense, due to the relative numbers of birds, but their senses should be more comprehensible to humans–as well as more acute, for sight and often hearing..

            • If I remember correctly, he cannot sense things through the birds, just push and pull them around. (though that might be because he’s still learning how to use his power rather than an inherent limitation)

              • I’m basing that off an assumption that his power does/will work basically like Skitter’s, but with birds.

                If the “Taylor-triggered-twice” theory is true, it’s possible that Aiden got the two halves in opposite order and is waiting for that second trigger event.

              • It was mentioned that he [i]can[/i] see things through the birds, but at the expense of his ability to push and pull them.

  3. And now they are pretty screwed, or at least seem it. Trapped in a cell. Why isn’t anyone in it anymore? Why doesn’t the guy who powers don’t work on or around defeat Imp’s power, why can people still not notice her?

    • I guess powers could just ignore him, not he causes powers to not work. Or powers ignore him and those around him. Even then it seems that it would make Imp’s power ignore him and his followers as a target to not be noticeable to. Maybe Imp’s is just enough of a default state that it doesn’t have to “pay attention” to him and his group.

      • Yeah that seems how Mantellum’s works. He doesn’t shut down powers he makes powers ignore you. Taylor for example senses a hole with her bugs where people should be.

        • Which also explains why Contessa couldn’t prepare for him.

          Here’s an interesting question: How well does this work? Does it only involve direct use of powers, or would semidirect power use (ie, Lung burning them with pyrokinesis [as opposed to burning them with air heated by pyrokinesis, a slower process]) work?

          • Been wondering that myself. Lung’s power is charging slower than normal because it doesn’t understand that there are people to fight around. But since Mantellum doesn’t block normal senses, is there anything stopping Lung from simply aiming and throwing a jet of fire at him?

    • Mantellum’s power appears to block information, not powers. He’s not deactivating Taylor’s bug control and arguably not even deactivating her bug feedback, he seems to be editing the data she gets *from* the bug feedback to believe he isn’t, and the others aren’t, there.

      There’s no indication other than his ability to beat Contessa that it would do anything at all against Imp; or, if he’s doing anything against Imp, it’s causing people *outside* the bubble to be aware that Imp exists because the information that Imp isn’t supposed to be there isn’t breaching the bubble.

      How does that beat Contessa?

      . . . I’m puzzled, actually. I can sort of see how it works; e.g., when Contessa asks herself a list of questions like— “How do I overcome any Stranger influence that might prevent me from a healthy life for myself and my employer and/or properly carrying out the path to victory?”

      And her power wants to answer, “Hey, consider spilling a bit of water off to the side there, where you’ll cause Mantellum to slip and fall into the guy whose acidic porcupine back spines will automatically devour you” instead it gets edited out to tell her, “Everything’s copacetic, Contessa! Just don’t forget to do your morning radio exercises today! Oh, and maybe spill water . . . somewhere!”

      . . . but that doesn’t actually strike me as enough. I mean, maybe Contessa is just overbilled.

      I guess I am thinking of Mantellum as a little like Coil now. There is one universe where there is stuff in Mantellum’s bubble, and one universe where there isn’t, and powers only register the one where the bubble is empty unless they’re used inside the bubble.

      Man, it’s amazing precogs work at all.

      • There’s also the possibility that her power is simply playing the long game here. Contessa asks: “How can save as many people as possible here and remain a viable species”, Her Power answers: “Well, first you’re going to have to let yourself get beat half to death by the Irregulars, then things are going to go really pear shaped, but as a result of this all the right people are going to wind up having really bad days.”

        • It might have even led to her letting herself die, for that matter. Given the apparent nature of Cauldon’s/her plans (depending on how much of the actual brains/impetus behind Cauldron she really is/was), I honestly wouldn’t be all that surprised if her power told her, “Well, if you REALLY want things to go well for humanity, you’re going to have to let these guys kill you.”

          I kind of doubt that was the case here, as Mantellum does seem like a good counter for her, but I could see it either way.

        • Huh, good point. If it turns out the Irregulars (or Taylor and Co.) will make better use of Cauldron than Cauldron did, then ‘the optimal path to victory’ could definitely require Contessa and the rest of Cauldron dead…

  4. So more of cauldron’s plan and 2500 hundred cells, 30 odd years of operation, they have to have alot of victims. I guessed right for once! I stated a few chapters back that they wanted to have capes in charge who would keep things orderly after the end similar to Coil, Accord, and Taylor herself. Ruthless, but not needlessly violent, who would take care of people for whatever reason after the end of the world. The fact that they planned to brainwash the leaders of the world seemed stupid evil to me, since there have to be plenty of parahumans protecting world leaders. Not to mention that if they know of Scion and the cycle, then the world would still end in 300 odd years from the powers he gives. Though it was a little unclear on that point. The world would end just from 300 years of fighting between powerful parahumans, or Scion would start granting nastier powers that he held in reserve? Perhaps the fact that 3rd generation parahumans are triggering as infants was also part of the plan considering the fridge horror on the tropes page. Still an oddly small organization.

    • After 360 years or so since he first appeared, the ‘cycle’ ends, Scion-Entity collects all the shards and reconstitutes his body, and he and the Counterpart blow up the planet in all realities to fuel their next jump.

    • If the Accord/Taylor/Coil types didn’t work out as leaders, they intended to brainwash -capes-. Probably capes in captivity. Thus ensuring they had cooperative leaders who would stay in bounds.

      • That does make more sense.

        Actually, now I’m wondering why that wasn’t Plan A. Seems like an easy way to setup the situation, with new leaders being added to an already organized system.

        • Brainwashed leaders would be an extra vulnerability, a point of failure. Better to have competent parahuman leaders in place who just do the stuff that Cauldron wants done for their own reasons. It’s less micromanagement for Cauldron as well.

    • Though Wildbow has jossed this anyway, seems to me that the loss of individual brainwashed leaders is no big deal if you have reserves in place. If the Cauldron-controlled PRT-director and the Cauldron-controlled President are killed and replaced by the Cauldron-controlled PRT-deputy and the Cauldron-controlled Vice President then smeh. No skin off Cauldron’s nose and no reason to tie up important capes protecting them…

    • Correction, he was their figurehead, they let him do what he wanted & obeyed orders to obtain resources until he got them to where they are now and when he woulden’t play ball, they fucked him up.

  5. Weld.😦

    Now I’m wondering where Number Man and Contessa are in this because if the Irregulars really did beat them then there should have been a lot more casualties among them to say nothing of the five Harbringer clones hanging around. Those guys are likely working for Cauldron and the Number Man at this point.

  6. If there were 43 Case 53s to start with and Satyrical killed 5 of them, then it’s 7 (counting Satyrical) against 38? Those aren’t exactly favorable odds but we’re not in the realm of numbers so bad that plot armor wouldn’t be enough to pull off a direct confrontation. Taylor’s been outnumbered worse than this before. If Weld can recover, then that’s 38 to 8.

    If we assume the prisoners are all siding with the 53s, then there’s a problem, but I don’t see that as a very productive assumption. The Custodian sent them into the cell for a reason, and probably not so that they could be cornered by what are almost certainly her least favorite people right now.

    • I believe it’s the fifth and yeah, right now I’m betting that the cell Custodian took them to has some sort of secret passage or something. And of course Doctor will be there.

  7. So, two things I just realised after mulling this chapter over a bit – One, It’s likely that Sveta and Weld are the only “loyalist” Irregulars left alive😦 Weld can probably regenerate, but someone needs to get Sveta out of there stat, not just for her sake but for Weld’s too.

    Two, Dr Mother is probably holed up in the deepest level of Cauldron – the one Number Man said only she could/would/should ever go to. So it looks like we might be seeing what’s down there soon.

  8. Man. The tension is so thick you could hack it to pieces with a machete, let alone cut it with a knife.

    Satyrical is scary. Lung is awesome in his weird sort of way ( his version of “gentlemen it was a pleasure” was hilarious). Weld is in trouble. And I believe Sveta is going to be burned right in front of him.

    I’m angry at the Irregulars but I can’t really condemn the other Cauldron prisoners. Those poor guys…

    Is that conversation between Taylor and Imp hinting that part of Regent survived? Or is it just her spending lots of time with his siblings, who, we’ve Benin told, are very much like Alec?

  9. – prison-brreeeaaaaaak!!
    – the fuck are Satyrical and his group doing?
    – Lung and Shadow Stalker, more alike than they’ll ever admit
    – Imp vs Shadow Stalker? Short fucking fight either way with Imp as the strong favorite
    – so who’s running the Case-53s now? I take it Sveta is the one stuck in the ball.
    – where’s Faultline and her crew?
    – save us, Simurgh! Curse you, Scion!

    • Faultline has nothing to do with the Irregulars. She just happens to have a few Case 53 in her team and hate what Cauldron did to them. Though if Weld and some of the others more…temperate Irregulars survive I can see them join her. She sure was better than the Irregulars at lobbying for case 53 rights.

            • Hahahahaha, things can always get worse.
              1. Scion takes everyone’s powers away
              2. Scion decides that two bodies are better than one
              3. Scion says “Fuck it” and blows up the planet
              4. Scion decides humanity is a threat and kills everyone
              5. Scion decides humanity is a threat and removes everyone’s brain and tortures them for eternity.
              6. The endbringers decide they like Scion more than the humans
              7. Scion uses the human extinction attack (

              As it stands, some people are supposed to ultimately survive, but I’m not positive about that.

              As for how things could get worse with phantom endbringers, anything like the Simurgh would destroy any trust humans had for each other, and I’m sure there are other forms they could take that would eliminate any chance for survival. (Take Khonsu for example. He seems to be able to track down targets and teleport to them)

            • LoL, I jokingly said to someone yesterday that “Everyone suddenly dies. The End” would be an improvement on how everything’s been going at this point.

              At least I *think* it was a joke. >_>

      • It was implied that the Irregulars had absorbed Faultline’s crew. That was a while back, though, and Labyrinth and Scrub, at least, have been active making portals recently, possibly during the timeframe of this assault.

        The timeframe of this attack is very odd to me. Doormaker goes down, some time goes by before Tattletale wakes up, they spend a while getting across Bet to the staging area (was that on Gimel?), some time passes preparing, Scion shows up, recovery happens, Taylor spends some time rounding everybody up, they travel to this joint, talk to Satyrical’s clones, Nix, and whoever else was there, search the facility… to find that they’re very close behind the Irregulars, who trashed the place BEFORE Doormaker went down. And Satyrical’s group were right on their heels, assassinating them, despite the fact that they were apparently only sent in after Doormaker went down and people caught on that something was wrong.

        I’m sure there were delays and things that we just don’t know about, possibly because they aren’t important, but it just doesn’t feel like it fits together well.

        • What makes you think the trashing took place before Doormaker went down?

          I’d assumed that, after they took out Doormaker they spent the night trashing the place. And apparently taking their time with Weld. -_-

          Way to prove you’re people not animals, guys…:/

  10. ..and i’m half expecting cauldron to have savenapped Danny… and he’ll be in cell behind DM as she tries negotiating with Taylor…

    • If Cauldron has Danny, it will specifically be for negotiation with Taylor (i.e. they won’t be stripping him of his memories) and they honestly probably would have brought him out earlier to bring Taylor over to their side more. Possible exceptions if he’s a really badly warped Case 53 after they used super-serum to save his life.

      • I’m not sure they’ve needed her to be any more on their side yet. Also, they may have decided against playing that card once she got the Simurgh. You don’t threaten to hurt the father of someone with an Endbringer floating over her shoulder. Especially not when it’s the Endbringer entirely designed to beat you at your own game of laying long-term plans.

  11. “Accord was two-timing us,” Tattletale said. “Doubling up so he had enough of a power base to enact his plans, whatever happened.”

    “Except for, you know, the whole dying thing,” Imp added.

    Every single time his name is mentioned I gain more confidence that he’s still out there. Cauldron and Lizardtail saved him and he’s secretly masterminding the new world order planned by Cauldron. He get’s smarter the more difficult the task right? What could be harder than saving humanity and rebuilding the world.

    A guy as smart as him isn’t going to get killed by a random variable in one battle. As soon as the world is saved he’ll step out of hiding and say: “All According to plan.”

    Because as we all know, “Accord makes pretty fucking good plans.”

    • Word of God is that Accord didn’t bring Lizardtail because he didn’t want the Yangban stealing him. And he was killed by a pawn of the Simurgh, something he could never plan for. He was good ( and crazy awesome) but not THAT good.

      • Hmmmm… That’s is reasonable. But still. I refuse to believe anyone’s death until it’s stated painfully obviously in-story, and even then I’ll probably deny it if I can get away with it. Like Eidolon. Dude’s totally faking. He’s not actually a captured spirit, he manifested the power he needed, which was the ability to transcend DEATH ITSELF.

        That, and I think Accord coming out and saying “All According to plan” is too great an opportunity to pass up.

        • The thing is, Accord’s death, from a story point of view, is absurdly appropriate. He grew overconfident, and a single random variable resulting from his actions came back to bite him in the ass.

          Of course the clockmaker would be killed by some random wrench falling into his plans.

        • Heh, puns and silly wordplay doesn’t seem t be wildbow style. Even trash talk, that other staple of the superhero genre, is only used when characters like Tattletale or Jack are manipulating people. Apart from Crawler yelling at Skitter that he’ll eat her eyes or something and Alexandria’s “promise, oath, malediction” spiel, picturesque boasts are also very rare.

          • Tis true, tis pity, tis pity tis tis true.

            After all, wouldn’t it break things up nicely to have Lung charge while yelling out, “I’m going to rip out your asses and stab you to death with them!”

      • Thing is, Accord knew Cody was there. And as soon as he’s aware of something, his power *automatically* starts making contingency plans. (Though I admit it’s hard to imagine which contingency plan starts with “Have arm lasered off”.).

        I wouldn’t be terribly surprised if Accord *did* show up again.

        IIRC, Cody is *such* a fuckup that he didn’t even stop to make sure Accord was dead. Instead he got distracted pissing about with Chevalier (probably necessary) and Tattletale (really not necessary). Only Cody could get *distracted* in the middle of blindly seeking vengeance. -_-

      • You’re assuming Accord was the target of Simmy’s plan rather than Tattletale and/or Chevalier.

        Though actually the last interlude suggests she doesn’t actually plan that way. Seems like she just tweaks people’s hormones and things to make them more prone to fucking up, looks into the future to confirm it will result in optimal chaos and goes on her way with a smile and a whistle.

        She seems to be less planning than playing the Contessa game of “know which person/action to go for to achieve maximum chaos/victory” without really knowing *why* that course is the best one.

        Could be that Accord living is the best outcome, chaos-wise. (Which I’m sure would irritate him no end :D). Or he could be insignificant in the grand scheme. (Ditto).

  12. Man, poor Weld… Having to watch them do that to Garrotte must have been worse than anything. I’ll admit I winced at that part myself. Hope Scion isn’t taking lessons.

    Mantellum’s power is interesting, the way it affects Taylor is probably similar to how it managed to defeat Contessa- except that Contessa trusts her power to tell her when it isn’t working to a greater degree. She expects gaps to be obvious, probably, and something like this would actively play to her ability to fill in gaps- but with wrong information.

  13. Hm. Mantellum’s sense-blocking range doesn’t appear to be active or at least not expanded as much, which is interesting.

    As to what his power does … I think it might be like Imp’s power, but targetting other powers only yet on a larger scale? It makes powers ignore or forget about the people in the field, but doesn’t outright block the powers and doesn’t block normal senses. So it’s basically a giant anti-perception-power-power, and Cauldron’s been propped up by their perception powers (Contessa and Number Man). Interesting that it’s not blocking Imp, but maybe hers trumps his, a little like it trumped Regent’s.

    • You know, here’s a thought. Mantellum is one piece of exactly what they need to combat Scion. An uncrippled shard capable of nullifying information, coupled to a few other suitable offensive capes, severely restricts his ability to make battles go his way.

    • Imp’s power is a hiding power, not a perception power. All his ability does is make it so that nobody near him that could normally see her, now can’t, because the only senses that seem to work are unpowered human senses. He makes passengers blind.

      Which could, perhaps, be exceedingly useful against Scion for some sort of sneak attack, but I don’t think we’ll see that happen, because I suspect Imp is going to do him in, grab Svetla, and run like mad.

  14. For a distraction, I’d recommend having Imp slit somebody’s throat at the rear. You know what? Just for Garotte’s sake, let’s make that two somebodies. Then, Taylor makes a decoy that goes running off. That should draw a lot of them away.

    As for the cell, have they checked on the ceiling?

    Huh…and as for that mess about the power being so much stronger, and then the thing with Mantellum, there’s not too many capes we know of that enhance powers like that. If the formula was even capable of doing that, they probably would have tried it on Mantellum prior to his whole failure to work properly. Makes me wonder if that one Yangban asset is in Irregular hands after the Yangban gangbang.

    There’s a hell of a lot of dark spots. I’d like to say Garotte comes out of this, but the way Worm goes, I half expect they’ll shove her dead body into Canary’s throat to asphyxiate her.

  15. Just had an interesting thought – namely, Mantellum’s power could really, REALLY backfire on them.

    Example: Vista. Her power is limited only by the amount of people within her AoE. Without people, she’s proven to be capable of global manipulation… and thanks to Mantellum’s power, her own power might not be able to tell that there are people there, allowing her to go all out on them.

    In fact, many manton-effect-limited powers might lose that limit, if Mantellum’s power works by making other powers ignore the people inside.

  16. I felt I had to come back and say a proper piece after what happened last time.

    First off, I’m sorry. I re-read some sections better to get a better handle on things. Maybe i just forgot some of it in all this text, but it did paint a better picture.

    Second, I do take back some of the stuff what I said Taylor is. Yes, she manipulated but she’s not a sociopath. Yes she’s a murderer, but they were people who deserved it and were going to do worse. It was much easier to get a much better view of who she was by going over previous parts again to know for sure that at her core, Taylor is a good person.

    That all being said however, I still have a hard time believing just what exactly Taylor is. Yes, you could just say she’s morally complicated, but my problem is the fact that there’s ambiguity to begin with. Reading back in former sections did make me more aware of her, but at the same time it just makes her all the more morally in the wrong.

    For example, when I re-read the chapters after she joined the Wards, I honestly couldn’t tell if she really meant the things she said in public, to the children or to her therapist, or if she just said those things JUST so that she could manipulate them down the line to escape. It’s specifically because she’s morally ambiguous is because I can’t tell either way. After all, she was told at this time that no matter what compromises or rules she SAID she’d follow, they also told her that her actions in the past prove she’d still find ways to get around the rules because she honestly can’t handle any authority over her. So can you blame me for thinking she’s untrustworthy?

    Let me put it another way, Cauldron or other Well Intended Extremists like Alexandria didn’t just wake up one day and go “I’m going to evil today because that’ll make things better tomorrow!” They obviously started out much like Taylor did, Idealistic and heroic, but then gradually does more and more worse things as time past. They had many years to get to this point. Taylor’s had around 3 at most.

    My problem with Taylor can basically be summed up as this: What makes her justifications, not her actions, make her any different from them? Even if she isn’t as bad as they were,it clearly shows that Taylor did worse and worse things over time. Cauldron mutilated and tortured, so did Taylor. Alexandria killed, so did Taylor. Cauldron believes in the end they are doing the right thing, and thus believe what they do is justified. So did Taylor. It doesn’t matter if she feels regret or guilt to what she did, the simple truth is she still did the actions.

    Let’s take a hypothetical scenario for a moment, for the sake of argument. Let’s say that the Endbringers weren’t around, but everyone else acts the same for similar reasons just not as world-threatening. Would Taylor still have been willing to surrender to the Protectorate and join the Wards? Or rather would she have continued her attack on them, kept up the intimidation and fear, and still be a crimelord to this day? Would she continue to justify herself the same way to them over and over? If so, why stop at Brockton Bay? If her ways of doing things were better for civilians then how the Protectorate ran things, then why not the country? The state? Get enough power for the Undersiders to control all of America?

    I’m reminded of Superman: Red Son. Superman was a good man but did morally wrong things to make the world a better place. But Lex,morally wrong as he was too, stated the obvious towards him that could easily go towards Taylor: “”Why don’t you just put the whole WORLD in a BOTTLE?”

    I’m not saying that’s what Taylor WOULD do. But I’m saying I find Taylor so hard to pin down that it doesn’t seem like something she WOULD NOT do, not with 100% certainty. If someones actions can be logically justified, then there would be no hesitation to act accordingly.

    If you wish to explain why I’m wrong, I welcome it, but I just ask you address every point I make is all. And again I apologize for coming off antagonistic and especially being judgmental of you wildbow, if you are reading this.

    And I also apologize to those who managed to read all this😄

    • I got to point out one thing I think you go really wrong. Taylor was not trying to manipulate her therepist and others so she could escape. Remember she was there because so far as she knew it was the best chance there was for trying to stop the end of the world. She genuinly wanted Ms. Yamada’s help.

      And I don’t think your wrong in seeing similarities between Taylor and Alexandria. Both of them did the things they did because they were hoping to prevent worse things in the future. Sometimes it’s not the goals that determine if you are still on the balance good, or evil. It’s how you go about it.

      I guess the best way of looking at it is this. What lines would they cross and when? Taylor certinaly is willing to cross some at a time. Most of Taylor’s torture and mutilation were done to stop an immidiate threat, and in several cases done in a way the mutilated could recover. Lung can regenerate. Valfor’s eyes could be treated.

      But there are points where it does feel like Taylor might have stepped over the line a bit. He messing Triumph up a lot. That I think was at least partially drivin by desperation, and tunnel vision. At that point Taylor’s number one goal was saving Dinah. To do that she had to prove herself to Coil. Shooting Coil was because he was to dangerous to try and be left alive. Cauldron did all their actions over decades, systematically, in secret to increse their odds against Scion. They were willing to step over the line a lot sooner, and a lot farther. Lets put it this way. Both Captain America and the Punisher are willing to kill. The difference is that for Cap it’s a act of last resort against an immediate threat. For the Punisher, it’s the only option.

      I wouldn’t say Taylor’s a good person. But she isn’t the worst by a huge margin. She hasn’t fallen that far yet. She’s been grinded down by the world, and she’s seeing some of the hieghts of human stupidity, and the depths of human cruelety. And she’s still trying to save the world, not because she wants to rule it or anything. But because there are people in it she wants to save.

      • The difference between Taylor and Alexandria is that Taylor is on Team V and Alexandria was on Team H. We’ve seen that the worst scum (Tagg) can get away with whatever they want as long as they wear the right label (hero or villain).

          • Very true. One of Worm’s key themes has been that being labelled “hero” doesn’t make you a good person, being labelled “villain” doesn’t make you a bad person and that it comes down to individual people, not labels.

            PS. Negadarkwing makes a very good point about the Punisher vs Captain America. It’s not as simple as do/do not use lethal force. It’s where do you draw the line that lethal force is justified. Even Superman has killed when he had to.

    • Axel, i’m glad you have come back and even gladder (more glad?) that you re-read the work to better construct your arguments. I believe criticism is always welcome as long as it is done in a respectful tone.

      I understand where you’re going with some of your points. In the past I have criticized Taylor’s ruthlessness, sometimes unnecessary brutality and especially her hypocrisy. For what it’s worth I believe that what she said to the kids and the psychologist were things she truly believes. I don’t think Taylor is a bad person, just someone who found herself in a situation way bigger than her and struggled to cope. As it is normal she had her best moments and her worst. It’s called character growth. Personally I believe that her worst moments are behind her, but that’s just my opinion.

      If I may, correct me if I’m wrong, your main problem seems to be the concept of a grey main character. But this wasn’t invented by wildbow. It goes way back : there’s no way, even for the standards of the time, to decide who are the good guys and who are the bad guys in the Iliad (which could for many reasons be considered the first superhero story ever😉 ). Modern comics favor the grey: you seemed scandalised when someone compared Skitter/Weaver to Batman. But Batman is a man who admits he holds tight to the no killing rule because if he didn’t he’d be killing every criminal he encounters, Punisher style. He also has no problem with breaking every bone in a man’s body to ensure that he stays down, because as long as he doesn’t kill, it’s fair game.

      And now I’m the one apologising for replying with this long,rambling post😀 .

      • Its not that i don’t understand the concept of a morally grey character. It’s just I’ve found some grey protagonist to not be AS grey as Taylor, To be honest I prefer Superman as the kinda hero I respect. Always doing whats RIGHT in both action and intention.

        The best example I always give when talking about Heroes vs’ Anti-Heroes is the one story “What’s So Funny About Truth, Justice and the American Way?” I won’t redact the entire story, but it basically showed to me how Anti-heros basically can be no better then the criminals they fight and don’t actually try to change things. To me, a Hero isn’t just someone who does good for the people, but they also inspire the people to do better. To BE better then they can be.To bring a sense of hope to the future.

        So what kind of hope does Taylor bring? I refer to back when Taylor was talking to her dad and her friend during that get-together. Even though Brockton Bay was getting better, they clearly didn’t like the idea of being controlled by criminals.

        Like I said, I’m not going to quote the entire book, but there was one line in the story that really stuck me as the biggest problem with Anti-Heros, which in turn only create more problems then they solve.

        “I heard a child say that he wanted to be in the Elite when he grows up, because it would be fun to kill bad guys. Fun to kill… ”

        I’m not saying Taylor should regret every single action she’s done, I’m just saying that there’s a very high possibility that the sum of her actions have more negative consequences then they actually have positive.

        • I’ve read the comic. It’s one of Superman’s greatest story (seriously Superman is a great character who in more recent time seems to be severally underutilized because people think he’s “boring”). The difference between Taylor and the Elite (who, in case you didn’t know, where a parody/caricature/take that of the Authority) is that Taylor doesn’t ENJOY killing. She believed she had done something horrible when she killed Coil (Coil!) and the murder of Alexandria was a crime of passion that some courts could probably rule as self-defense by proxy (or however it is called). She doesn’t revel in how ruthless she is nor does she boast about it, unless it’s to beat someone in submission with psychological tactics instead of coming to blows.

          There are different shades of grey, Taylor is a darker one than most, I’ll give you that, (though nowhere near the darkest) but certainly lighter than the Elite who are more black than grey,really.

          • I think the biggest thing that irks me about Taylor is her hypocrisy. She used to talk down the heroes all the time about how they do things or how they work under Cauldron, intentionally or not. Yet at the same time, she uses similar methods and justifications like the very group she condemned the heroes working for.

            Not to mention when she became part of the Wards, she still tried to subvert them every chance she could despite how far they bent over backwards for her. She says time and again that the Heroes should trust her that she has every good intention at heart, yet she does actions that question that trust while at the same time carries an attitude like she doesn’t trust them.

            • Glad to see you step back in after a rethink Axel.

              IMHO, Taylor’s problem with heroes is that most of them really aren’t “heroes”. She refuses to call herself a hero, because she recognizes the darkness within herself, and she’s not going to try to lie to herself and call herself something she’s not. Taylor is a survivor, a winner, but NOT a hero. But she’s also not a villain. When she does the “wrong” things, she does them for the right reasons. That’s what the story is all about, “Doing the wrong things for the right reasons.”

              Sure, we might not agree with all of her actions. I was certainly angry with her for threatening to kill Eidolon, because that seemed to me, at the time, to be very much counter to her personality – but I was a bit behind the ball on where Wildbow was going with her at that point. It still seems off, to me, but it makes more sense now.

              Weaver is a LOT like Jack now, but Jack was devoted to tearing down the world. Weaver is devoted to tearing down the people or entities that threaten to tear down the world. And if it takes darkness to make it happen, then so be it, but she won’t lie to herself and call herself a hero while doing it.

              I see very little Hypocrisy in Taylor. She understands exactly what she is. She understands what she isn’t. She regrets what she has to do, while hating that she had to do it. She knows that most capes are just like regular people, just more powerful. The true heroes are few and far between.

              • But the problem has always been a question of where you draw the line. There comes a point where even the most good reasons cannot justify the wrong actions. Just look at Cauldron for an example.

                As other people have pointed out here, Taylor has admitted that said wrong actions she took did have good short term reasons but ended up having long term problems that in actuality cancelled out the good. So in the end, she ends up sacrificing her morals for no reason.

              • No, the question isn’t where you draw the line. It’s whether or not the line still has any meaning when the entire world is going to hell in a handbasket. Even the capes that can be called “real” heroes respect Weaver, not because she’s likeable, but because she wins. She is amazingly successful in fighting against terrible odds, and so long as she is nominally on the same side as the “good guys” they are happy to have her on their side. She gets cautious respect from Legend, Chevalier, Armsmaster, Dragon, and even Lung. Lung is not just following her around for something to do. He’s watching her. Trying to learn from her, and confident in her to be able to find a fight he can win. He doesn’t like her much, and will eventually probably try to kill her due to his whacked out code of personal vendetta, but he respects her.

                Again, because Weaver wins. And when the deck is stacked against you with Scion, you take any and every chance of winning you can get. She can’t take him out directly, but she might just be able to find a way to turn the game around on Scion. And that is worth preserving for so long at the world-ending threats persists

              • And that’s exactly the problem: “Winning, no matter the cost.” When you have that mindset, everything else is second nature or doesn’t matter. This goes right back to Cauldron again. By saying that Taylor is good simply because she “wins”, then why do we not just support Cauldron or Alexandria because they had/have plans for “winning”? Obviously there is a clear difference in lines here.

                If all she cares about is Winning against Scion, then by process of elimination, that would mean that nothing else matters. Not friends, not civilians, not even the shred of morality she has left.

                Dude, even I don’t think she’s that far gone.

              • Axel, when losing means the end of the world, winning really is all that matters. Every time you bring up morality in this context, you confuse me, because morality has zero place in a real end of the world scenario. If you win, you can have morality again if you want. If you lose, morality did you no good.

                This scenario that Taylor (and the rest of the world) finds herself in is that bad. If the capes don’t win, it simply doesn’t matter what else they do.

              • I would make the argument that this “Always needing to win” mindset is what LED to this entire situation in the first place.

              • Jack’s need to win led to this. Not Weaver’s, per se. Weaver’s need to win only came into it because she was reliably informed by one of the best precogs that the world would freaking end if she didn’t. Jack’s need to win led him to start bellyaching to Scion once he was trapped, and that led directly to the end of the world.

              • I’m talking about the whole mindset of needing to win in the first place, no matter who’s it is. What’s the point in saving the world if humanity itself is lost in the process? Clockblocker was right, the people of Wormverse deserve to die.

              • @Axel, really? Humanity deserves to die? You know I could accept that parahumans need to go since they’re pretty much the reason everything is fucked up, but HUMANITY? Never mind that we’ve been following as select group of elite people throughout the story and that we have no idea what most of humanity has been doing presumably what WE do, unless noted otherwise).

                To take some of the very few examples of baseline humanity in this story: Do you truly believe that the sheriff of that small town that was in shock after her second got chopped up by Hookwolf for trying to save the toddlers of a nursery deserves to die? That Sierra who did everything up to approaching a villain gangleader she was terrified of so she could to save a brother that didn’t want to be saved,deserves to die. That Charlotte and those kids deserve to die. That Forrest who selflessly put himself between Skitter and MANNEQUIN deserves to die?

                And we are the cynics?

              • Humanity is at the core of all these people, normal or para. When you get down to it, their abilities and powers are simply what they can do. its their actions and their words that make them who they are.

                Lemmie put it this way, lets say hypothetically (Just roll with it) that when this story ends, everyone who had powers suddenly loses them. Do you honestly think they’ll all just go back to the normal lives they had before? Do you think their powers are the only reason why they are who they are?

              • Well one could argue that Lung wouldn’t believe he wasn’t human anymore if he couldn’t turn into a giant dragon. That Number Man wouldn’t believe that lethics are lies and numbers the only thing that count if he din’t see the entire world in numbers. That without his power Accord wouldn’t want to kill people who didn’t straighten their tie. That if Contessa couldn’t be sure that her actions would without doubt save humanity she wouldn’t be so ready to commit atrocities on a multiversal scale. Or one could point that every parahuman is bred for conflict and that their passengers manipulate them to seek it.

                But that’s not the point. What I was saying is that since we have followed only a small group of particularly troubled people we can’t make seeping generalisation on the state of humanity.

          • The Elite are the sort who killed bad guys because that way they got to kill and feel morally superior about it. Taylor has largely killed because she felt it was nessicary to save someone. She isn’t a murderer who’s killing people because she likes it. She’s doing it because she’s trying to save someone else. Because if the person causing trouble in her terriotry is terrified she’ll maim him, then he won’t try again, she won’t have to actually maim him, and he won’t threaten the people under her protection.

            Most of the time I see people complaining about Superman being boring, it’s not because of his nice guy personality. It’s because they feel he’s too powerful, too invincible for it to be interesting when he gets in a fight or crisis. Personally I love that he’s a paragon of good, and an example to aspire to. Same with Captain America in the MU.

            • Never understood that complaint. Morpheus and Lucifer could destroy Superman with a finger and yet they both had two wildly successful runs (indeed The Sandman was vastly outselling Superman comics by the end). And when there’s a big crisis, Superman is usually fighting entities out of even his league, hence the need for massive super teams. Alan Moore wrote two of Superman’s seminal stories with the ludicrously overpowered Pre-Crisis version.

              Sometimes I think that “He’s too powerful to tell a good story” is the excuse writers use when they fail in writing a good Superman story. Moore, Morrison, Kelly all wrote great Superman stories, heck even Miller before he went crazy and decided that Superman was a supermuscled , indecisive idiot had some very touching scenes centered on Superman in TDKR.

        • “Its not that i don’t understand the concept of a morally grey character. It’s just I’ve found some grey protagonist to not be AS grey as Taylor,”
          The way you say that seems to imply that being “more gray” is bad in your evaluation. Well, here’s a reality check: If you like your gray characters to be maxed at 30% and 70% (or whatever), Worm is not your story.

          “To be honest I prefer Superman as the kinda hero I respect. Always doing whats RIGHT in both action and intention.”
          What does Superman do when there is no obvious right, when he must choose between an evil act and allowing worse evil to occur, when he must choose between immediate and delayed evil, or some combination of the three? Superman rarely faces choices like these. Skitter rarely faces (important and notable) choices not like these.

          “The best example I always give when talking about Heroes vs’ Anti-Heroes is the one story “What’s So Funny About Truth, Justice and the American Way?” I won’t redact the entire story, but it basically showed to me how Anti-heros basically can be no better then the criminals they fight and don’t actually try to change things. To me, a Hero isn’t just someone who does good for the people, but they also inspire the people to do better. To BE better then they can be.To bring a sense of hope to the future. So what kind of hope does Taylor bring? I refer to back when Taylor was talking to her dad and her friend during that get-together. Even though Brockton Bay was getting better, they clearly didn’t like the idea of being controlled by criminals.”
          What hope does Skitter bring? The hope brought by seeing Mannequin defeated, Valefor disarmed, and knowing that should another similar supervillain rise in your neighborhood, Skitter will stop him/her from hurting you. Not to mention the more minor hopes they got from such perks as having rat infestations taken care of, being able to get the emergency supplies safely, et cetera.

          “I’m not saying Taylor should regret every single action she’s done, I’m just saying that there’s a very high possibility that the sum of her actions have more negative consequences then they actually have positive.”
          I’ll grant that there is a possibility that this is true, but overall I doubt it. Taylor’s done evil, but mostly unto evil, and she has also done plenty of good.

          • Superman has made that choice before, TWICE in fact when he was forced to kill the three evil Kryptonians in an Alternate Dimension and another time in “Whatever happened to the Man of Tormorrow?”

            And guess what, even though people supported his actions and thought he did right, you know what he said in the latter story?

            Superman: “I broke my oath. I killed him. Nobody has the right to kill. Not Mxyzptlk… not you… not Superman. Especially not Superman.”

            His went into self-imposed exile in the first story as well. So yeah, he has in fact killed, but not once did he ever believe he was at all justified in doing so, no matter what good it brought.

            • Didn’t shed much tears when he nuked Darkseid with his magic song, though. And in “Whatever happened to the Man of Tomorrow” didn’t he rip off Lightning Lord or Cosmic King’s arm? The point being that Superman can afford to make dire decisions only when the stakes of the universe are at stake, less…durable people don’t have that luxury.

              Besides, Wonder Woman, Green Arrow, Green Lantern (although only recently), Hawkman have all used lethal force in the middle of combat and nobody considers them less of a hero. (Please don’t quote the idiocy that was the Maxwell Lord affair).

              Really, nowadays the only ones who are so serious about the no-killing rule are Superman, Captain Marvel (who are both overly idealistic (and I mean it in a good way) Nigh invulnerable demigods) and Batman (and Batfamily) who has admitted to follow it so thoroughly because it’s the only thing keeping him in check.

              • So what are you saying then? That they are wrong to have such a vow? They should just kill every villain they come across? Keep in mind, it’s that mindset that made Superman so SCARY in the climax of “What’s SO Funny About Truth, Justice and the American Way?” Again, I ask this as an honest query, not an attack.

              • No, I’m saying that not being capable to live at the ridiculous high standards of Superman does not mean you cannot be a hero. The post-Crisis version of Wonder Woman has always used lethal force WHEN NECESSARY and she is just as iconic as Superman and Batman. Taylor doesn’t kill every criminal she encounters, she’s killed the grand total of 4 people, only two of them in cold blood and of those one was a mercy kill. Coil’s murder is the only I believe Taylor should go in prison for and even there should be mitigating circumstances.

                Superman ripped Lightning Lord’s arm off because he was angry that he had killed Lana. One of Taylor’s squickiest moments, carving Lung’s eyes, was done to momentarily keep him down because, unlike Lightning Lord, Lung can regrow body parts.
                Revenge is probably the worse reason to justify a murder, yet Superman was clearly trying to kill Mongul in revenge in “For the Man who Has Everything”, to the point of blasting him in the face point blank with heat vision( the first time Supes used heat vision n a living person in the Silver Age, by the way). If even Superman, THE cape, THE superhero evruone wants to be, can stumble, why can’t we cut Taylor, who lives in a far lees forgiving than the DCU AND is just a squishy human, some slack?

              • Because there’s a huge difference between one who makes a wrong action in the heat of the moment and another who makes wrong actions all the time with only assurances that it’ll work out later.

              • Axel, let me first thank you for coming back with a fresh perspective. I can’t speak for everyone, but I think you earned a lot more respect from quite a few with that.

                The killing of Coil was a pragmatic necessity. By the nature of his power, Coil could easily pervert any attempts at justice. Can you imagine his trial in court? He would just keep splitting the timeline over and over again until he got the result he wanted. It would be extremely difficult, if not impossible, to get him locked up. Within a short period of time, he would be come back and cause no end to hell for everyone, especially since I doubt he would fall for the gambit that was used against him again. Taylor and Tattletale planned how to deal with him for a long time, and I’m quite certain that was the conclusion they came to. Coil abused his powers and got a lot of people killed and would kill again if he had a chance. Yes, it was brutal that Taylor executed him, but I don’t think there was any other way.

                And comparing Superman to Taylor is a bit unfair. Superman has quite a few tragic elements in his backstory, but he also did not grow up with the same problems and pattern of abuse that Taylor had to deal with. When you are effectively invulnerable and immortal, your perception on moral consequences can be very skewed, so much so that you don’t think like a typical person. If Superman fights a villain and spares them, he usually doesn’t have to worry about the villain being able to come back and end his life. What exactly does he really have to fear as a mortal threat? This allows him the luxury of being able to be more liberal about sparing his foes. Taylor, is decidedly mortal and thinks from that perspective. In the case of her two questionable killings (Coil and Aster), she could be seen as being terrified of the consequences of letting them live. When Taylor fought Lung, she carved out his eyes as a way of disabling him to prevent any sort of counterstrike. Taylor has grown up and developed her powers in an environment of constant fear, but Superman did not really have that problem.

                If I were to compare Taylor’s ethics with any other literary figure, I would probably go with Ender Wiggin. Ender wasn’t an inherently evil person, but when it came to fights, he made a point of winning any possible future conflict with his opponent by being as brutal as necessary. When he had come to the realization that he was a murderer, he kind of snapped and went into shock. He later came to terms with his actions, much like Taylor mostly has. The general motivation between their mutual ruthlessness seems to be out of fear of an opponent coming back after them. That said, I would say that Taylor is quite a bit more complex and fleshed out than Ender ever was.

              • But when you’re talking about Taylor’s past and upbringing, can you honestly say she’s in the right mindset to be the one leading the charge against Scion? I mean, it’s quite obvious that nearly all of the parahumans, if not just Taylor have severe psychological issues.

                Also, I understand that her being mortal would make it harder for her to be Moral, but then again, Bruce Wayne lost BOTH his parents as a KID and has NO powers yet still manages to be very moral as Batman. At least Taylor had a dad, So what is her excuse?

              • Batman is “very moral”? I don’t know, morality doesn’t begin and end with killing. The guy still uses violent interrogation techniques, sets up paranoid contingencies to kill his superhero friends, and sometimes tends to be a complete manipulative asshole to his sidekicks.

              • At least he always sets limits on himself, at least he has control over himself and at LEAST he knows he can count on the entire Justice League to take him down if he ever went bad.

              • Read the very first appearances of Batman and you would be shocked by the body count he racked up. Yes, there was a time when Batman carried and used a gun, and he also had a penchant for throwing petty criminals off of tall buildings. Batman did not always have some firm moral core to him. Yes, you can argue that this was just “early installment weirdness”, but it is still canon. Superman was also a rather brutally violent person back in the days before the Comics Code was implemented, going so far as to kill quite a few mobsters as I recall.

              • @ Scolopendra: My favourite of those early weirdness moments happens in one of Bats and Supes very first team ups. Batman throws a criminal down the roof, Superman catches him and then THIS happens:

                BM: Had I known you were there to catch him I wouldn’t have thrown him
                SM: Had i known you were the one who threw him I wouldn’t have caught him.

                Our heroes ladies and gentlemen!

            • My mistake. Twice, in what–70, 75 years? And that was just over killing genuinely evil people? Not much, compared to Skitter.

              And don’t get me started on Superman’s morality. He was perfectly fine with chucking the alternate-universe counterpart to the JLA in the Phantom Zone, which is kinda like Birdcaging without the option of suicide or TV. Or even room to move around.

        • I will also chip in to say that I thought “What’s so funny about Truth, Justice and the American way?” was brilliant and join AMR in saying that I think Superman is a great character, a great role model and far from boring. The concept of a character who does right just because it’s right is something we need more of.

          All that said, Superman had the raw power and toughness to take on The Elite without killing them. If he hadn’t, he would’ve been faced with a much more difficult choice.

          As others have said, Taylor isn’t really comparable to the Elite because of where she chooses to draw the line. Taylor will kill as a last resort. The Elite will kill as a first resort.

    • I think the greyness of Taylor’s character is actually part of the point of it all. Even Taylor herself admits that what she’s done might have been good in intention but not very helpful. She doesn’t like any of the masks she’s put on beforehand and is still trying to find herself. Her constant musing about the masks other Capes wear aren’t out of curiosity or sneering on her part, it’s because she’s been doing it so long herself she’s not really sure who she is, Taylor, Weaver, Skitter or none of the above.

      Lack of information and communication have been a theme for a long time. People don’t talk to each other, won’t explain themselves, think that they know best and then go on to fuck things up because of it. Taylor’s as guilty of this as anyone else. Is she perfect? No, but who in Worm is? Even the nicest people in Worm find themselves getting caught out by a lack of openness and trust.

      Authority in Worm seems to be trying to do the best for people, while disregarding their own feelings about it. Taylor’s Teachers wanted to help her with bullying, but couldn’t see how it would only hurt. Taylor’s Dad wanted to shelter Taylor, but he couldn’t see how it was hurting her. The PRT want to keep the city safe, but they don’t see how the game they were playing didn’t keep people very safe at all. Cauldron really did want to save the world, but they never trusted others to help them do it.

      Taylor can’t accept Authority because that Authority always came with rules she couldn’t abide. Restrictions that’d tie her hands when it mattered. She made an effort as Weaver to follow rules and it quickly became apparent that it wasn’t going to work for her. Taylor’s greatest power is thinking outside of the Rules, doing things people won’t accept or didn’t anticipate.

      Did she always do he right thing? To her it seemed so at the time, with hindsight she realizes a lot of it wasn’t a very good idea at all. Taylor wants to protect people who can’t protect themselves, she doesn’t want to be the bully but she sometimes takes on the role.

      Is she a lot like Alexandria? There’s a key difference. Taylor has always wanted to try reach out and trust others even if she isn’t very good at it. While Alexandria kept her plans close right until the end.

      Taylor right now is on a team with the two people she’s pissed off royally before because she believes they’ll help and so she isn’t going to hold a grudge. She’s willing to give up face to do that. Alexandria wasn’t willing to lose face when it mattered and just TELL people what was going on. That’s why I think the two aren’t the same.

      • “Taylor can’t accept Authority because that Authority always came with rules she couldn’t abide.”

        So are you saying that Taylor’s own authority is better that people could abide by? That’s not an attacking question, it’s a honest query.

        Again, referring to my old point, i honestly couldn’t tell if what she told the kids or her psychiatrist back when she joined the Wards was because she honestly meant what she said, or it was just to butter them up because they would be useful against the end of the world. It’s honestly hard to tell at this point whether she’s telling the truth or lying about things like this.

        • “So are you saying that Taylor’s own authority is better that people could abide by? ”

          That’s a question that Taylor has asked herself and admitted that maybe in the long run it wasn’t. As we saw right from the beginning with her teacher who wanted to help with the bullies, good intentions doesn’t mean everything will work out. Sometimes they make things better, sometimes they make things worse.

          Taylor’s still trying to find herself, her identity is still coming together even now (Her first talk with Shadow Stalker made that fairly clear) and while she’s still trying to be a good leader she’s making a lot of compromises to make it work, some of which may turn out very badly for her. She’s putting trust in people who you wouldn’t think are going to be very trustworthy.

          Taylor isn’t meant to be perfect, she wants to be a Hero but even she admits she doesn’t really know what that would mean anymore. Worm resists simple Hero/Villain divides, it’s complicated and the choices to be made are complicated too.

          • I understand that completely. I’m just saying I’ve also read countless stories where the characters in them faced worse threats then Taylor has and even with less power that she wields. Yet they never had to compromise their morals or who they were to do what was right and save the world. Heck I’ve read about protagonists who, even after personally witnessing the villain killing millions of people, show sympathy towards them or even try to say they could be redeemed.

            Were they perfect? Heck no, they all had their own problems to deal with as well. But they also knew they had to change the world, not let the world change them.

            There’s a difference between a label of Hero, and actually BEING a hero. If the system in place doesn’t work, then a true hero doesn’t fight corruption and intimidation with more intimidation and fear. They actively try to change the system from the ground up. After all, normal people (or superheros) made the system in the first place, so who’s to say a normal person or superhero cant change it or make a better one? But nothing will ever actually change if all that occurs is the power is merely exchanged from one person to another.

            • But in Worm Hero IS a label (and a name but never mind). When people refer to Heroes in this setting they usually just mean superpowered cops. This doesn’t mean there can’t be Heroes in the sense you mean (I think Weld, Dragon, Chevalier all count) but I don’t think Taylor ever referred to herself as a Hero in that sense. She WANTED to be one at the start of the story but she grew out of that notion fairly quickly.

              • Some people would just call that giving up. Just because the Heroes you looked up to turn out to be jerks, that doesn’t mean that the only way to combat them is to be jerks as well. It’s just the whole concept of having to BE a label of Hero or Villain seems awkwardly simple for a world that claims to have no simple answers.

            • ” Yet they never had to compromise their morals or who they were to do what was right and save the world.”

              And that’s the difference between those stories and Worm. In Worm the world doesn’t bend to your will just because you have morals. You stick to your morals and you’ll lose and maybe you’ll die too. In Worm you win by changing, tactics, morals, outlook whatever you have to do to beat people more powerful and more aggressive than you are. Being a Hero is hard in Worm because the Villains won’t pull punches, you fight them with your hands tied and you’ll lose ground every day.

              Changing the system from the ground up would be great but… how? You can’t do it without removing the people at the top and they won’t go without a fight. It’s not like a nicer world where a well timed speech has everyone come over to your side. Taylor’s had to struggle with that, she’s tried a lot to change things and met with not much success because it ain’t easy at all.

              • I’ve always believed that the world itself is completely fair (Weather real or fictional) It’s only the people that make it unfair. Making things better is not a concept or abstract that that’s physically impossible to actually do.

                The point is, if you keep changing yourself to the point where you’re completely unrecognizable to how you used to be, then what are you even fighting for at the point? If simple concepts such as Honor, Dignity and Justice is something that can be thrown aside just to “win” then how is it really a win in the end? It sounds more like a Pyrrhic Victory to me.

              • Wholeheartedly agree with Fans.Call me silly but while I can accept flying, mountain shattering superheroes I have more trouble believing that when such superpowered beings duke it out in the middle of a city there’s NEVER a civilian causality from collateral damage. Or that the heroes always manage to win without having to compromise their morality. I know lots of people who claimed that the writers of man of Steel purposefully wrote themselves in a corner so that what happened at the end of the film could happen (trying to avoid spoilers). I say that the only way you can explain 50 years of comic book history is that writers have been giving every superhero unconscious reality warping as a a stock superpower.

              • Hate to double post but this is in reply to Axel:

                I think people have long accepted tat the best we can hope for in Worm is a Pyrric Victory. Not everybody has problems with that. It’s just a matter of tastes. De gustibus etc etc.

              • Well first off, the Man Of Steel option doesn’t really count because Superman is normally a LOT more smarter then this. He would’ve taken the time to use all his power to actually get Zod out of the city to avoid more damage. Plus, if he had enough strength to hold Zod down he clearly had enough strength to I dunno.. FLY upward?!

                And what’s so hard to believe about heroes like Batman or Superman about their codes of morality? They’ve come up against these very questions and situations before, but the idea is they wouldn’t BE the heroes we all know and love if they didn’t have the will to not compromise who they are.

                What I think the more likely answer is that some people just think that it’s impossible for a person to be that good.

              • @Axel:

                Batman? A good person? A man who expressly holds to his no kill rule because he knows that if he slips even once he will kill every criminal he encounters? A man who has no trouble crippling a man for life as long as he can keep the letter of his word while blatantly violating the spirit? I don’t want him to kill the Joker in cold blood (I’m against vigilante justice in real life, why should I support in fiction), but did he really have to go way overboard in proving the Joker’s innocence in one particular crime to spare him the death penalty just so that he could tell the Joker that he was now forever in his debt? (Had I been the Joker I would have said something like :”Give me your address so I know where to send my thank you card the next time I slaughter the student body of a high school”)? Why don’t we see him ever do that for truly innocent people, because the Joker sells comics and average joes don’t?

                A question, imagine that the Slaughterhouse Nine existed in the DC Universe. There’s no Birdcage to hold them indefinitely. Would you really condone the heroes sparing them so that they can escape and continue their spree of twisted games and mass murder?

              • I think you forget that in the DC universe, they have MUCH better prisons and resources for criminals like these. Heck, they’ve been able to make prisons that can hold SUPERMAN. I think they’d be fully capable of containing them.

                And of course, you forget that Batman and Joker are more then just a Hero and Villain, They’re more then Arch-Enemies. They are the exact opposites in a world they both try to change to their wishes. One is good and seeking justice while the other wishes to spread pointless chaos simply for the hilarity for it. TO have such a debt owed to the one person that is anathema to everything you are is practically damning in of itself.

            • Those stories you’re talking about are far more idealistic than Worm is. Worm tends to stick on the more realistic side of things. How many people do you know that would be sympathetic to a guy that has killed millions of people?

              If the system could be changed by hard work and good intentions, it would have happened already. It’s incredibly hard to change the way a society works, in Worm and in real life.

              • That’s BS. There’s plenty of people in RL history who did great work to help people and change a society without having to succumb to morally bad choices. You say it’s realism, but I say it’s just defeatism to assume that being good in both action and intent will always make you automatically lose.

              • But how often does that change actually last? Like Ghandi said, “Victory attained by violence is tantamount to a defeat, for it is momentary.”

              • Yeah, and we still got racist southerners, KKK,and people still complaining to this day that “The South shall Rise again!”

              • @ Axel. I reject this out of hand. That depends completely on what you think constitutes a morally bad action. For instance, Gandhi did not achieve his end of ONE free India, and he was completely intolerant towards the casteless, had a low opinion on women, and was unwilling to compromise with the muslims, which one could argue has brought about the decades long Kashmir conflict and the deaths of thousands of people.

                Ethics is a minefield of contradictions, and completely dependent on what you value. Lots of people say they value life, for instance, but believe in just wars and eat meat. So not life, just life that looks and acts similiarly to how you do? Humans are in general very inconsistent and subjective in their moral and ethical choices.

                Even if you believe in objective ethics, that there is “right” and “wrong” choices that can be discovered by the human mind, still you will always make your decisions based on less than perfect information of the circumstances and people involved. Not to mention, you personal bias towards one choice or another will prejudice you towards one choice over another, where someone else might have chosen objectively better because of different biases.

                I think Taylor has been remarkably ethical, based on her own code that is still being formed in her mind. She is arrogant and believes herself to be a moral authority, but so do most humans in their innermost being.

                Also, I now enjoy Worm again, once Taylor dropped the Wards by the wayside things really picked up.

              • b…be…better..better prisons? how often do mass murders break out of supposedly secure confinement in both the marvel and DC universe’ses…uni…. settings? and it could be argued that Batman is a mass murderer by proxy by NOT taking action to permanently prevent the joker from going on one of his killing sprees when apparently the entire criminal justice system is either to incompetent or corrupt to see that insanity deference or not, he is simply, by anyone’s definition, too dangerous to let live.

              • The point isn’t just that, it’s also because batman knows that if he were to ever start killing he would NEVER. STOP.

            • I enjoy those stories and I think they’re generally good moral exemplars. But those characters were able to face worse threats than Taylor with less power without compromising *because they had the author on their side*. That’s not a bad thing – fiction covers a wide range of possibilities and there’s nothing wrong with a positive outlook in fiction.

              But the Wormverse models the arguably more realistic situation where goodness doesn’t always mean success, there isn’t always an option available that’s unalloyedly good and sticking firm to your conviction sometimes mean that people suffer.

              It’s the difference between a setting where a character can successfully go “I save my love *and* my partner because I’m Batman *and* Bruce Wayne” and a setting where they genuinely have to choose. Again, the latter is arguably more realistic, but fiction needn’t be beholden to reality.

              So, unless you’re getting meta here and arguing that Wildbow shouldn’t be writing a setting where heroism isn’t automatically rewarded, it’s fairly futile to argue that Taylor is less good than protagonists who are operating in a different narrative environment.

              PS. I’m actually hard-pressed to think of a character who *has* been in a worse situation than Taylor and triumphed, short of maybe Squirrel Girl. “Bug powers vs worlds-destroying eldritch abomination” is a hard one to top…

            • PPS. Just noticed your comment below. If you’re operating from the fundamental assumption that the real world is morally fair and that all fictional worlds are morally fair then I don’t see how you can ever be convinced.

              How fair the real world is never going to be inarguable short of perfect knowledge (and in fact people *do* argue that “No, no, it may look terrible to us but that’s just because we’re not privy to God’s plan. It’s *all* good to his omniscient eyes”. I wonder if God worked for Cauldron?).

              I would argue that the world has cause and effect but that it doesn’t favour the moral choice save that people make it so. I drop a cinder block from a building onto a random person and they will die whether they’re a sinner or a saint. In some ways I find it *more* positive to say “If there’s to be justice in the world we must make it” than to view us as widgets being sorted in a karmic factory.

              Ahem. But that’s the real world. It’s much easier to resolve for fictional world’s because we have control of all the constraints. Allow me to establish a narrative setting:

              “In a universe there lived Bob and Dave and only Bob and Dave. Bob was kind and helpful, Dave was nasty and mean. Bob died and was tortured in hell for eternity. Dave lived happily ever after until he went to heaven and continued living happily ever after”.

              I don’t think I’m winning a Booker Prize any time soon, but I think we can both agree that that is a fiction that is self-evidently *not* fair.

              And whether or not you believe that the real world is fair, understand that enough people think it might not be that numerous fictions explore the possibility. Worm is one of those.

          • Also Fans, can you cite where that happens? Where Taylor admits in the long run what she did didn’t work? I’m just not sure where you refer to exactly.

            • In bits here and there, but the most recent is actually last chapter when she was talking with Legend and acknowledges that she kind of fucked up a lot of things, while Legend did too and they both need to make peace with it because what’s done is done, for good or ill.

        • “Again, referring to my old point, i honestly couldn’t tell if what she told the kids or her psychiatrist back when she joined the Wards was because she honestly meant what she said, or it was just to butter them up because they would be useful against the end of the world. It’s honestly hard to tell at this point whether she’s telling the truth or lying about things like this.”
          I wouldn’t be surprised if Taylor herself isn’t sure. I’m pretty sure that Taylor hoped that the former was true, though.

        • *That* is an exceptionally key moral question, and let me bounce it back at you: If authority tells you something is for the greater good and your own experience and morality tell you that they’re wrong and a different path is right, which do you listen to?

          Let’s take the Brockton Bay example. The city has been hit by a disaster, the heroes largely mean well but are in no real position to help (in part because the legitimate authority is telling them not to expend resources on a potentially lost cause). Conversely, the villains have better resources and are using them to feed the people and rebuild the city while the heroes oppose them. You personally have the capacity to make a difference. Do you join the villains in helping the people, or join the heroes in trying to stop the villains? Or something else?

    • This comment system. Continuing here!

      “The point is, if you keep changing yourself to the point where you’re completely unrecognizable to how you used to be, then what are you even fighting for at the point? If simple concepts such as Honor, Dignity and Justice is something that can be thrown aside just to “win” then how is it really a win in the end? It sounds more like a Pyrrhic Victory to me.”

      All of these are questions Taylor and the people around her are asking themselves. We’ve had a lot of people musing on what’s the point in fighting, how the masks they wear erode their sense of self or how far they’re willing to go to win and if the sacrifices to do so are worth it.

      There’s been a lot about identity recently, Scion’s identity crisis is the main issue even! The questions you’re asking are the questions the story wants to tackle.

    • “I felt I had to come back and say a proper piece after what happened last time.”

      “Second, I do take back some of the stuff what I said Taylor is. Yes, she manipulated but she’s not a sociopath. Yes she’s a murderer, but they were people who deserved it and were going to do worse. It was much easier to get a much better view of who she was by going over previous parts again to know for sure that at her core, Taylor is a good person.”
      I’m glad you reread to test your old conclusions.

      “That all being said however, I still have a hard time believing just what exactly Taylor is. Yes, you could just say she’s morally complicated, but my problem is the fact that there’s ambiguity to begin with. Reading back in former sections did make me more aware of her, but at the same time it just makes her all the more morally in the wrong.
      For example, when I re-read the chapters after she joined the Wards, I honestly couldn’t tell if she really meant the things she said in public, to the children or to her therapist, or if she just said those things JUST so that she could manipulate them down the line to escape. It’s specifically because she’s morally ambiguous is because I can’t tell either way. After all, she was told at this time that no matter what compromises or rules she SAID she’d follow, they also told her that her actions in the past prove she’d still find ways to get around the rules because she honestly can’t handle any authority over her. So can you blame me for thinking she’s untrustworthy?”
      Well, what fits best with the Taylor we saw before she became Skitter the supervillain, and what requires the fewest leaps of faith? Between the first chapters and Occam’s Razor, I think that she really did mean what she said. She wanted to be a hero–heck, she acted heroic even when she was a villain! She became a hero, albeit more on the CG side than LG side. Simply put, I don’t think that the “Taylor was trying to manipulate everybody” theory holds much water; Taylor doesn’t manipulate people much, but she is shown to be a nice heroic wannabe.

      “My problem with Taylor can basically be summed up as this: What makes her justifications, not her actions, make her any different from them?”
      Three things.
      1. Magnitude. This is pretty minor, overall, so I won’t dwell on it.
      2. Transparency. Cauldron was virtually built around secrecy, so much that to this day we’re not quite sure what Cauldron is trying to do, although Tattletale makes it probable that they think they are trying to help humanity. Taylor has been a lot more open and honest.
      3. She regrets her actions. You say it doesn’t matter, that Taylor is going to jump off the slippery slope? Regret is the guardrail on that slope. Or the brakes, or whatever. Cauldron has no guardrail/brakes/parachute/whatever.

      “Let’s take a hypothetical scenario for a moment, for the sake of argument. Let’s say that the Endbringers weren’t around, but everyone else acts the same for similar reasons just not as world-threatening. Would Taylor still have been willing to surrender to the Protectorate and join the Wards? Or rather would she have continued her attack on them, kept up the intimidation and fear, and still be a crimelord to this day?…”
      I can’t imagine why she would have. She never aggressively tried to gain more territory from the authorities (as opposed to other gangs), unless you count the phase where she was under Coil’s orders. I simply don’t see anything in Taylor’s actions that suggests she would have.

      “And I also apologize to those who managed to read all this XD”
      Hey, you explain your ideas, you give them thought. That much more than makes up for the length of said ideas and thoughts.

      • >I think you forget that in the DC universe, they have MUCH better prisons and resources for criminals like these. Heck, they’ve been able to make prisons that can hold SUPERMAN. I think they’d be fully capable of containing them.<

        Uh, no. Sorry but they don't have better prisons. If they could actually keep the Joker in prison, I think there'd be a lot less people aurguing Batman should kill him (please note I don't think Batman should kill.) Joker considers Arkam asylum a vacation spot he rests up in. Supervillians escape prison all the time in the DCU. Nobody ever escaped the Birdcage. They had to be released. Sure they build prisons that hold Superman. Mostly because he's nice enough to not try and break out.

        And Man of Steel isn't the first time Superman has killed Zod. Back in the 80's during John Bryne's run he killed an alternate reality Zod, Ursa and Non. They had already killed everyone on one earth and were threatening to move to Supermans. He had no way to capture and hold them. All he could so to save billions was to use Kryptonite to execute them. Then the story dealt with what happens when Superman is forced to kill? Heck even Silver Age Superman would try to kill a foe sufficiently evil. He sure wasn't just trying to knock the Anti-Monitor out by the end of Crisis on Infinite Earths.

        I mean it's one thing to just cart the Joker off to jail when his plot was turn every playing card in Gotham into a joker, or steal famous clown paintings. But when he chops up an elementary school class to put in pies for their bake sale, and it's the fifth time he's done that this month… Forget about Batman. The moment they are sure it's him, and have him cuffed in the interegation room some GCPD officer is going to empty a clip into his head.

        Axel I think your big problem is you think Taylor is supposed to be heroic. She's not. She's the hero of the story, but that doesn't mean she's a hero. Superman is a static character. Really his morals, his character, they are all set in stone by the time the story begins. Worm is about when Taylor is still forming them. She's still being shaped. She may become a hero. She may become a villain. Or she may just be Taylor. Could she have accomplished her goals in a more noble manner? Maybe. Or maybe it would have failed miserably. And in story she really can't tell before hand.

        Finally there is one last thing I want to bring up about Taylor's character. She does care about people. Specific people. For Cauldron saving the world became an abstract goal. For Taylor it's about certain people. "I want to save the world." sounds so nice and noble. But it's a big and empty goal if you just jump right to that. I think it starts with caring about those close to you. Then you realize that others care about those close to them. And if it feels bad to have something bad happen to those you care about, then others must feel that way. And no one should feel that way. Also something I noted way back at the begining of the story. Look at the torment Taylor endured. The shit her bullies did to her. Then she gets her powers. Now honestly how many of us can really say we wouldn't get at least some form of revenge on them? But really Taylor doesn't. Unlike the Irregulars, even in the face of Armmegeddon, Taylor doesn't seek revenge on those that wronged her. She has better things to do.

        Damn I didn't think it'd be that long.

        • That’s actually another thing. For all the talk about this story being “realistic” not getting revenge doesn’t seem like something very realistic.

          And speaking of her bullying, as much as I agree she cares about people close to her, I in all honesty have to question the psyche of a girl who was bullied horribly, had no friends, and subjected to a horrible torment that gave her a power that on first glance, is quite disturbing. I’m just saying, you gotta question if she’s really all right in the head after that and EVERYTHING on top of which has occurred since then. Does that seem realistic to not have any kind of breakdown?

          And you’re forgetting that Batman keeps sending Joker to prison because he does not believe he is above the law. He neither believes in killing, nor does he believe it’s his right to do so. And I agree with that point, NO ONE has the right to kill anyone.

          • Again, I am not one of the “Batman should kill” crowd. This is just more of a meta observation. Writers keep making the Joker both more horrifying in his acts, and better at acomplishing them. The worse the Joker is, the worse Batman’s aurguments against killing him become, the more ineffectual the law becomes. After his 7000th life sentence gets remanded to Arkyam Asylum and he breaks out and gasses a school, you start thinking maybe it’s time they stop just sending him to a cardboard prison. The worse you make the villian, the worse it is when they get to keep doing atrocity after atrocity with no real punishment. That doesn’t mean Batman should kill Joker. I think it would end very badly if Batman started killing. But maybe he should actually ask for help making a more secure facility to hold him. Ask Mister Miracle to design the hardest to break out of prison he can, then give the design to the state, with Bruce Wayne offering to fund it. Or maybe send him to the Phantom Zone.

            On Taylor. She did have a breakdown. Several. She was briefly in a psych ward after her trigger event. She broke down crying and was hugged by Dragon when she had to leave her friends. She almost commited suicide when her father died. But she is emotionally strong. Emma said she was the strongest person she knew.

            The funny thing is, the more Taylor tries to be good, the more morally ambiguous she is at it. As other people said, she was a better hero when she was a villain. When she can just act in the now for a short term goal, she tends to stay on a pretty good path. When you start putting up the fate of the world, then she starts comprimising.

            • That conclusion kinda gives off a vibe that she has a very skewed idea of what good and evil actually “is”. But in any case, the problem with that is her morally ambiguous choices affect other people, and she justifies it by saying its for a greater good. Yet if other heroes, (not necessarily Cauldron) do something like this, she’s against it and says they are in the wrong.

              So really, the whole message of the story becomes “Do the wrong thing for the right reasons… unless you are not Taylor in which case you are wrong anyway.”

              • “That conclusion kinda gives off a vibe that she has a very skewed idea of what good and evil actually “is”.”
                Or maybe–just maybe–there are no firm “good” and “evil” in a world of gray, gray, and black?

                “But in any case, the problem with that is her morally ambiguous choices affect other people, and she justifies it by saying its for a greater good. Yet if other heroes, (not necessarily Cauldron) do something like this, she’s against it and says they are in the wrong. So really, the whole message of the story becomes “Do the wrong thing for the right reasons… unless you are not Taylor in which case you are wrong anyway.””
                A couple of big tricks are what the comparative “wrong things” and “right reasons” are and how you do the “wrong things”. And, of course, if you regret your choices. Cauldron (who is really the only individual or group being criticized for their “wrong-thing-right-reason” dynamic) has failed on all three counts: They have (probably) done at least as much harm as good*, do the wrong things in the wrong way, and have made it very clear that they wouldn’t change a thing** if they had to do it over again.

                *As far as we know, this is the case (albeit mainly because they have done next to nothing to actually stop or impede Scion, their “right reason” of choice). One of the wrong ways they do the wrong things–their OCD secrecy–is responsible for the uncertainty.
                **Well, not a significant thing.

              • So basically White doesn’t exist? It’s impossible that someone can be that good? Also, you can’t say there’s no evil when there is black. That’s the whole idea of the Black part.

              • He never said that there was no evil, just that concept isn’t firm. There is zero argument from anyone that Jack Slash isn’t as evil as it gets. There is no logical way to frame any of his actions in a positive moral light.

                There have been some times where Taylor was forced to admit that her actions were morally reprehensible in a lot of lights. Her debate with Clockblocker from a long time ago (I think it was around the Echidna arc?) had him scoring quite a few points against her, points she wasn’t able to defend against.

                But I would ask a few things of you Axel, to see how you would have handled them in Taylor’s shoes.

                1. During the aftermath of the Leviathan and Slaughterhouse 9 attacks, there were many gangs that were using the chaos to their advantage in order to rape, steal, and murder with impunity throughout Brockton Bay. Many of these gangs were threats to the people Taylor had sworn to protect. The Protectorate was either not willing or not able to engage these threats and as a result, did nothing to stop these threats and were not willing to cooperate with the Undersiders to take down these mutual foes. What would you have done to end this threat differently?
                2. If you were in the position that Taylor was in before she executed Coil, and you knew beyond the shadow of a doubt that the justice system would not be able to handle him and knew that he would just resume his reign of terror if you either let him go or tried to prosecute, what would you do? Would you let him walk, knowing full well that the blood of every other person he killed would be on your hands and that he would not hesitate to try to kill you again? Would you try to expose him, knowing that he has access to every resource available to the PRT, his own criminal empire, and the use of his absolutely absurd power to block any attempt at justice?
                3. If you saw that Aster was in the hands of the S9K, knowing that she is going to be subjected to an eternal fate worse than death and is possibly the trigger for Armageddon, and knowing that you realistically don’t have a chance in a straight-up fight against that number of opponents, what would you do?

              • You know I can’t possibly give a realistic answer because i wasn’t in that situation. I’m merely stating I disagree with the choices that she made in those moments. But let me try to extrapolate a little at least.

                1. Does the actual stopping of them have to be so brutal? Does it warrant using violence to stop violence? It all goes back to that whole Predator/Prey argument Shadow Stalker gave to Emma. Reducing it all to just two sides, two answers.

                2. If a normal jail cell cant be used, make on of your own. They could’ve just made sure he had noway of contacting for help, then personally lock him up in a jail cell of their own. The point is it’s never been Taylor’s right to be Judge, Jury and Executioner. Heck,even in real life, there’s huge debate whether or not we should execute criminals. If legitimate lawmakers have a hard time defending this action, why shouldn’t Taylor?

                3. And that goes back to the fallacy people say against me.Potential. Aster COULD bring about Armageddon, she COULD’VE started the end of the world. But guess what? It wasn’t her. And looking back, it’s quite possible that she never was. So in reality, she died for nothing.

              • 1. Hmm, Batman, whom you have used as an example of a good, heroic cape, is just as brutal as Taylor. And he usually beats up normal humans not superpowered ones. In fact regarding the “no killing” rule Batman sometimes comes incredibly close to keeping the letter while breaking the spirit of his word (what he did to the Joker in The Dark Knight Returns is a great example of this).

                2. If the Undersiders keep Coil indefinitely locked up then they’re still putting the law in their own hands and acting as Judge and Jury, they simply skip the Executioner part. Not really that much of an improvement. besides you do realise Coil was the Director of the BB PRT, do you. His absence would be noticed and they would go looking for him. If they find him who do you think they’re going to believe. The Undersiders have already kidnapped a PRT Director after all.

                3. I think “Aster as a possible apocalypse trigger” was less important in that case than “Aster as Grey Boy’s plaything”. You do know what Gray Boy does, do you? there’s a reason it’s called a fate WORSE than death. It was a mercy. Are you against euthanasia (if you think this is a too personal question you don’t have to answer)?

              • 1. And guess what? In the end Batman DIDN’T kill the Joker when he could’ve just let him fall.

                2. The point is that no matter the justifications you or Taylor might give, NO ONE has the right to kill.

                3. So now you’re saying Taylor has the right to decide when someone is suffering too much to live? That she has the right to “Pull the plugs” as it were?

              • 1. The Dark Knight RETURNS the comic book by Frank Miller (before he went insane), not The Dark Knight the film. If you haven’t read it, you should, it’s THE seminal Batman story. Anyway, don’t want to spoil you.

                3. WOW. So you’re telling me that you’d prefer that a little girl gets tortured for eternity (“until the sun goes out” is what Grey Boy says). I’m sorry but there are times when death is the better alternative. And it’s not as if Taylor was cackling like a madwoman or bragging about it. FFS, even Aster’s brother, while certainly not happy about it, was glad she died in that circumstance.

              • 1. Right, I thought you meant the film. I did read the comic and yes, the Joker did deserve that after all he did. but in the end Batman STILL didn’t kill him. And even, the Joker made his point and won because he got Batman to “lose control” and that too has happened to Taylor. Only difference is that people have died because she lost control.

                3. I’m not saying that either, I’m just saying that she didn’t have the right. Maybe the brother had more right, I don’t know. The whole argument of euthanasia is a tricky subject to discuss.

              • OH! I just remembered another factor. Taylor killing Coil? If she hadn’t have done that, the entire Echidna fiasco wouldn’t have happened. So yeah, everything that she did is also on Taylor as well.

              • Sorry for the double post >.< I'm just taking the time to gather my thoughts and it comes to me in time.

                You're talking about Mercy Kills right? What Bonesaw did to Grue was also qualified for a Mercy Kill as well, but Taylor didn't do it then. So that one was fine, but Aster wasn't?

          • “That’s actually another thing. For all the talk about this story being “realistic” not getting revenge doesn’t seem like something very realistic.”
            You complain that Taylor is a horrible, horrible person…then you complain about her acts of mercy.
            Simply put, Taylor doesn’t see the point in revenge. The world is ending–why bother? Before that, little details like wanting to keep her identity secret and/or not seeing any of the bullies stopped her.

            “… I’m just saying, you gotta question if she’s really all right in the head after that and EVERYTHING on top of which has occurred since then. Does that seem realistic to not have any kind of breakdown?”
            She has. Perhaps you forgot, since the weeks-long trip to the psychiatric ward happened before Taylor’s first night out.

            “And you’re forgetting that Batman keeps sending Joker to prison because he does not believe he is above the law. He neither believes in killing, nor does he believe it’s his right to do so. And I agree with that point, NO ONE has the right to kill anyone.”
            And yet, some people do not have the right to live. Is it really fair and moral to spare the life of the Joker, or Jack Slash, or Zod, or any of these other supervillains who will only cause pain and suffering if they continue to live on this earth?

            • So she won’t get justifiable revenge on the bullies, but she will use similar techniques of the bullies on other people? So instead of getting back at people who deserve it, she becomes just like the very people she hates. As messed up as Shadow Stalker is, she was right in the previous chapter when she said the two of them were alike.

              When I say everything, I mean that events and EVERYTHING up to the present.

              If you ever watched “Under the Red Hood” you’d know that Batman WANTS to kill the Joker, but he cant. Because he knows what will happen to him if he does. Here’s the full quote:

              Batman: You don’t understand. I don’t think you’ve ever understood.

              Jason Todd What? What, your moral code won’t allow for that? It’s too hard to cross that line?!

              Batman: “No! God Almighty, no! It’d be too damned easy. All I’ve ever wanted to do is kill him. A day doesn’t go by I don’t think about subjecting him to every horrendous torture he’s dealt out to others, and then end him… But if I do that, if I allow myself to go down into that place… I’ll never come back.”

              • Yeah well, that’s Batman, he’s pretty much a borderline lunatic anyway. One of these days Alfred should just get fed up with this bullshit and blow Joker away with a 12 gauge, and if Bats yells at him for it Aflfed slaps him and sends him to bed without supper.

              • “So she won’t get justifiable revenge on the bullies, but she will use similar techniques of the bullies on other people? So instead of getting back at people who deserve it, she becomes just like the very people she hates.”
                Oh, yes, I forgot. Juice, name-calling, and one relatively brief trip to the mental hospital all to one girl are much worse than mass murder, impressment of hundreds or more of unwilling civilians into dangerous service, kidnapping thousands and performing dangerous experiments on them, and all the other things the Slaughterhouse Nine, ABB, Cauldron, etc, have done. Emma’s small potatoes.

                “If you ever watched “Under the Red Hood” you’d know that Batman WANTS to kill the Joker, but he cant. Because he knows what will happen to him if he does. Here’s the full quote…”
                And Taylor has killed. You know what? She came back. She is either cast from a different mold, or written in a story with a different tone. Because–in the end–fictional characters are dependent on their setting. In the DCU, a number of horrible criminals with destructive capabilities on par with most individual members of the S9 rampage almost constantly through every major city, and all that happens from it is that some people with special powers and/or wearing funny costumes fight with them a lot. In the Wormverse, nine such villains (at a time) have formed a team that causes devastation in its wake and can never actually be stopped. They’re different worlds, telling different stories, in different ways. Perhaps Batman, who lives in a world where a supervillain escaping prison and killing thousands more because you didn’t kill him doesn’t need to weigh on your conscience, and where prison is an option for these criminals (however temporary), whereas Taylor fights and, once in a while, kills villains who can’t be caught, contained, or jailed, and beats herself up over not being able to stop even one of them and thereby allowing him (or it–I’m thinking of Mannequin) to kill more people. Batman and Skitter are worlds apart.

              • I agree that they are worlds apart. MANY worlds apart. But reality is based on how you personally view. How you think it is, and how you make it to be. We all judge reality differently, That’s the whole idea behind philosophy. By that perspective, the DC universe is no less realistic then Wormverse is

              • Indeed. That has always been my favourite explanation to why Batman doesn’t kill. However, if you read between the lines, what Batman is telling Jason is that he knows that if he slips even once he’ll never been able to stop and he’ll be killing every criminal in Gotham.

                Taylor has killed. True. Yet after killing Coil she didn’t feel the urge to go on a killing spree. Sure she was brutal with her enemies but so is Batman and Taylor only went overboard against parahuman, whereas Batman has n qualms in breaking every bone in a perfectly normal man’s body (seriously, in Real Life, after suffering a beating of the magnitude Batman usually unleashes on his rogue gallery, most people would have trouble ever walking properly again). She din’t kill again until Tagg and Alexandria, a crime of passion that a some court could accept as self-defense. After that she didn’t kill again for more than two years when she mercy killed Aster. She hasn’t killed anyone since. I’d like to thinks he won’t kill anyone anymore.

                One could almost conclude, in the end, that Taylor is, if not a better person than Batman, certainly a more well-adjusted one.

              • But the problem is the fact that she can’t control herself that led to the deaths of Tagg and Alexandria. Or what about what happened with Triumph? She lost control there and nearly killed him too.

                That’s the biggest problem with killing: It get’s easier every time. Like Glenn said, who’s to say she won’t just snap again and kill someone who doesn’t deserve it?

            • Sorry, double post. Meant to add one more thing to the end of my last post.

              So Taylor has basically not only stared into the abyss, but flat out embraced it. She ain’t never coming back from that.

              • Which are you referring to? I kind of had a lot of things I said.

                ((FYI: This is why I copy-paste-quote the bits of what you said that I’m referring to.))

          • To an extent, Taylor’s power keeps her sane.

            It’s been repeatedly shown that, during a trigger event, a person’s shard grants them abilities tailored to help them survive whatever traumatic situation that they’re in.

            Taylor triggered when she was trapped in a locker but her shard didn’t give her an ability that let her physically escape the locker. Instead it gave her an ability to *mentally* escape. Reread the chapter about her trigger event and she quite clearly “went away” and focussed on the bugs rather than her physical situation.

            Her power no doubt helped but, fact is, some kids survive bullying okay, others are crippled by it and still others go the revenge path. In Taylor’s case it seems like she was raised right by loving parents and, when she was given power her choice was to focus on what good she could do with it, and to treat the bullying as separate. I agree many kids would’ve taken a different path.

            I completely agree that no-one has the right to kill anyone. But some people do anyway. What do you do with those people? You could just let them kill people. Is that moral? You can deprive them of freedom for the rest of their lives. Is that moral? Or is it more cruel than killing them?

            You have no right to kill. You have a gun and someone’s just about to slaughter your family. What’s the moral thing to do? (To simplify the scenario let’s assume you know the killer is deaf so they can’t hear warning shots or be talked down).

    • “If simple concepts such as Honor, Dignity and Justice is something that can be thrown aside just to “win” then how is it really a win in the end?”

      I’m going to go ahead and defer to Gordan Freeman on this one.

      “I would feel bad about this but morality is for people who don’t have other people trying to kill them every five minutes.”

      The problem I have with bringing Batman and Superman into this is that it’s piss easy for them to go on about that sort of thing when they have so many perks and advantages that enable them to embody moral virtues. Meanwhile Taylor has had to claw and scrape just for the slim chance to not die, she’s had to go up against capes far more powerful than her with little support and nothing but a thin layer of spider silk between her and death. She doesn’t inspire people or aspire to be greater because she can’t afford to, for most of the story she’s been on the brink and only climbed out of it on the cusp of the world going completely to shit.

      So if Superman magically appeared and started chewing out Skitter I’d hope she’d just tell him off, because he hasn’t had to deal with half of that shit with none of his power or resources.

      As far as her killing of Alexandria and Herr Tagg goes, I should point out that any moral judgement is incomplete without taking into account power dynamics. They had complete power over her and were abusing it to psychologically torment her, while there was nothing non-violent she could actually do about it. When you corner an animal whether it’ll attack has nothing to do with right or wrong, it HAS to defend itself. It’s not Taylor’s fault that her desperate attempt to defend herself and her friends actually worked.

      It’s been like that all the time honestly, she’s had to make limited choices with her limited power, having few options except dangerous and/or immoral ones right in front of her, while fighting people who have far more power than her.

      So I dunno, she’s hadda what she hadda to keep her head above water. I’m not comfortable judging her for that. Except maybe for Triumph and a few other things.

      • Ok, all that right there is a crock, I’m sorry. Taylor has proven time and again that her power is far and above MANY of the other parahumans, keep in mind that in power levels, she’s been ranked third to Eidolon and friggen Scion. So no, you can’t say she has limited power or has to struggle because really, her powers are practically the definition of the trope “Game Breaker Power”.

        • Uh, not really. Her power is good yeah. But she’s had to think hard and fight dirty to actually make it useful. All the while all it takes is for Hookwolf, Siberian, or Alexandria to get within reaching distance and BOOM, dead. How many near-death experiences has she had now? Two dozen? Even the fight with that Topsy dude a while back was a close call.

          A huge chunk of the serial’s appeal is seeing how she takes her seemingly innocuous power, and see how she can defeat incredibly dangerous opponents with them. Since when have superhero fights have been easy going for her? Only a few I could count. It’s only now in hindsight that we realize how powerful she is, and only very late

          I feel that alot of people are overestimating the amount of control she has over these situations. Many of her decisions are made under extreme pressure and stress, with precious little time to make choices. When someone is caught up in an out of control situation, morality is among the first things out the door.

          • I can understand that, people make hasty decisions when they are under pressure. But that doesn’t mean they are any less culpable. Of course, I don’t want to drag in a whole new debate about “temporary insanity” and the like. The thing is, she’s also made morally bad decisions when she’s not under pressure too.

            • She’s always been under pressure and stress. It’s just the difference between the stress of avoiding death or capture right now, and the stress of avoiding death or capture in the future.

              And I’m not arguing she’s not culpable, just that it’s unfair to judge someone for not trying to live up to the hero thing when she has so many other things to worry about. I don’t disagree that superheroes should be held to a higher standard either. Take Armsmaster, I thought he should have tried cut a more inspiring or at least personable figure to Skitter right at the beginning, might have avoided her descent into villainy. But no, he had to be too wrapped up in his own shit to care.

              • So because she has so many things on her plate, that excuses her actions? She could’ve just not played the game at all with Heroes and Villains, just gone Rogue and do what she wanted. Would it have been hard or even impossible to do? Maybe. Could she have done other things without necessarily doing criminal acts to accomplish them? Also maybe. The point is, none of us can say for 100% certainty what would have happened if she did something else. But you also cannot say that she never had a choice.

              • Axel, by your own statement then, why are you judging her? You say you don’t know what would have happened if she had made other choices, for better or worse.

        • Bug control is not a “Game Breaker Power”. Invulnerability is a game-breaker power. Siberian is a game-breaker power. The ability to get any power you need is a GBP. Crawler is a GBP. Unlimited telekinesis is a GBP. Large-scale mind control is a GBP. Bug control is a versatile power, with some severe weaknesses, such as fire, water, cold, enemies which are not made of flesh, enemies which are invulnerable, anywhere without sufficient bug life, Raid…

          Taylor has a crap superpower, but uses it in excellent ways. By contrast, Superman has a god-like array of superpowers but uses them in crap ways. (“Seriously? Heat vision, cold breath, super speed, flight, super-hypnotism, and Siegal knows what else, and you decide to run up to the villain and punch him?”)

            • My point is simple: Taylor’s power is not awesome, it is merely versatile. It’s a bit like (to take an example from a pretty random Cracked article) power over unvarnished wood: Most people aren’t going to be thinking of doing much other than whack people with 2×4’s from large distances, but some are going to be collapsing telephone poles on people, using clouds of sawdust to conceal their location, etc.

              • There was an awesome example of a completely useless power being made into something awesome a while back in the comments from Wildbow himself. He was given an example of a person with the useless power of being able to make words appear on surfaces. Wildbow was able to give examples of this person’s ability to ruin the lives of others and drive someone to suicide. The greatest power is largely useless without creativity, and the weakest power can become an unholy terror when in the hands of a genius.

                I’d like to point out Parian’s power, the ability to telekinetically control cloth. She uses this ability to create giant golems out of cloth, but I could think of other really great applications if they were able to work within the story. She could turn someone’s own costume against them possibly. I don’t think that would exactly be blocked by the Manton effect. American currency is made of a cloth blend. She could possibly steal large amounts of cash, or even more hilariously, make a money golem. Lots of people in this setting just don’t use their powers to their fullest, and it shows.

              • Parian’s interlude indicates that the limitation is more based on being good at manipulating small things and being able to “soak” her power in the weave of cloth. If she wanted to, I’m sure there are lots of ways she could go nasty, from telekinetic needles burrowing into your eyeballs to screwing with Tinker tech to picking locks.

          • Again, she doesn’t have a crap superpower. You forget that she’s been sensed by power-sensing abilities and specifically has been noted to be one of the strongest in existence.

            • Which is because of the shard’s potential if not crippled, not because bug control is an inherently powerful ability. It’s not–it’s just versatile.

              P.S. I know that, to quote an unexpectedly wise lich, “Power equals power. Crazy, huh?” However, “power” in the sense that I’m trying to use it is more of the raw strength of the power. Alexandria’s power, or Eidolon’s, or Ballistic’s, or Uber’s, or Bitch’s, are all inherently strong like that; you can be dangerous without trying hard. Skitter’s power, Oni Lee’s power, Shatterbird’s power, Panacea’s power, and Golem’s power are all kind of pathetic…until you figure out how to use it to its greatest potential. With forethought and training, you can meet or exceed those “stronger” powers, but without it you don’t have a chance. They are potentially powerful in the “Power equals power” sense, but in the “raw strength” idea of power they are quite lacking.

          • Yup yup. The fight vs Doomsday in particular was “-_- Siriously?”.

            Superman has, like, half a dozen ways to get Doomsday airborne, at which point he can keep him aloft via superbreath, knock him into orbit or use one of several other options to keep him contained while they figure out what to do with him. But no: “Stand there and punch him repeatedly” seemed to be his full repertoire…

        • You are confusing Taylor’s shard, the Administrator shard which is indeed one of Scion’s most importan shards along with Jack’s and Dinah’s with Taylor’s power, which due to Scion’s crippling the shard, is a fairly minor one.

        • Who ranked her third to Eidolon and Scion?

          Anyway, nopenope. Taylor *is* fairly high tier. She has highly effective superhuman senses, and has an attack via bugs that can affect a wide area and/or multiple individuals. She can bind things in spider silk and she has good armour. And she’s clever and inventive.

          *But* her attack power (bugs) is fairly weak. Sure, she choked Alexandria with it but only with the benefit of complete surprise. Under normal circumstances it’s nigh-impossible to tag any reasonably mobile Cape with it. Bites and stings are useless against almost any degree of superhuman toughness (not to mention inhuman forms like gas, etc.).

          And beneath the armour she has the strength and resilience of an ordinary teenage girl. Many capes could take her out with one good shot/blow.

          Taylor’s at her best as a member of a team who can help cover her weaknesses (and she tends to be good at leveraging their strengths). There are many capes who outclass her one-to-one. Off the top of my head: Legend, Gavel, Lung, Glaistig Uaine(sp?), Contessa, Crawler, Weld, Defiant, Dragon, Burnscar, Shatterbird, Wanton (I think? The living telekinetic storm guy) would all kick her butt. Grue and Imp could probably take her if they wanted to, too. She may have one of the A-grade shards, but *lots* of capes outclass her for raw power.

          She’s just better than most at working with what she’s got.

          (She *does* have the potential to be hella scary when/if the range bugs from Panacea start seriously breeding, but that’s not in play yet).

    • My two cents:
      Axel, do you drive?
      How many times a pedestrian decided to step on a pedestrian lane right when your car was in the middle of the crossing?
      Really, my car was blocking the road, right over a yellow line that means “forbidden to stop” and a line of pedestrians decided to cross the pedestrian lane right in front of it.
      Staying put I would be breaking the law, going back I would break the law and another car, going ahead I would break the law and kill a pedestrian.
      This in real world and not in a life or death situation.
      Now, if you are facing Lung or Valefor you have two options: use extreme violence or die.
      Other real life example? Ask three persons about what is the RIGHT thing to do about Siria. You probably will get four answers. There is NO clear right path.
      One more? BOPE elite squadron of Rio police famous because they almost never arrest anyone alive. They are considered heroes by the population because they are the only police force that makes the crime overlords of the slums fear. There is really no agreement about them around here.
      So, Worm IS realistic after all.

      When Taylor had a chance to run and let a shelter full of people die she faced a 15 foot monster instead.
      When she saw a girl that stood by while Taylor was beaten and terrorized in trouble she saved the girl.
      Now, what she did to Triumph is unforgettable same for robbing a bank. But she already went to jail for these crimes and paid more than her share in community service to complement her penalty.

      • I’m not questioning her motives during those events. What I am questioning though is her defection to the Wards. She did it because she was told by Dinah about the end of the world, so she signed up with them to try to get their help for it. My problem with this is three-fold:

        1: If there was no End of The World, then basically she would’ve continued to be Skitter, a Crimelord who thinks she’s above good and evil, the law and can do whatever she wishes because she had the power.

        2: Who’s to say that all those talks she had with her therapist, to the Wards/Protectorate or even to the Children was simply to manipulate them to think she was on their side SO that she could use them to help her stop the end of the world.

        3. If the end of the world was stopped as planned, what exactly would keep her in the Wards/Protectorate any longer? Who’s to say she won’t just leave them and go right back to BB and continue as Skitter once again, which goes back to point 1.

        As for the choices, There’s always the choice of simply crippling or disarming them, not necessarily just going for mutilation or death. After all, cops are trained to NOT shoot to kill.

        • 1. The end of the world was not the only reason for her defection. I thought it was pretty clear that she was also doing it to work out a deal to keep Brockton Bay from being escalated back into a street war by Tagg and to protect her friends from further reprisals. Generally to bring closure to the conflict and bad blood that was generated around her.

          2. When has she ever done anything like that? I guess she manipulates events and enemies during combat, and is good at convincing people to go with her plans. But we never see her manipulating everyone around her to nebulous and sinister ends like the Count of Monte Cristo or, ahem… Batman or whoever.

          3. I dunno, maybe she decides to try out the hero thing some more, maybe she decides to hang up her cape. But there’s not much indication in those chapters that she misses being a warlord, misses her friends yeah, but not the warlord part.

          “After all, cops are trained to NOT shoot to kill.”

          What? No. No, no, no. If the cops are shooting their guns at you, they’re trying to kill you. No exceptions. Just about every source I’ve heard speaking on the matter said that shooting to “disarm” is incredibly stupid, since it doesn’t guarantee ending the threat and you might just piss the threat off.

          Also, aside from her kills crippling and disarming is generally what she does any way.

          • 1. So again, she had no real choice and it showed by how she constantly subverted or circumvented the rules for her gain in battle despite how often the Protectorate kept bending over backwards to compromise with her. After all, they did attack PRT before Alexandria interrogated her.

            2. I mean she simply lied to them so she could gain their trust so she could use them to help stop the end of the world.

            3. No, but she still ends up using her methods and mode of doing things which obviously the Protectorate wouldn’t let her do. She obviously still thought her way of doing things was better, so what would possibly stop her afterwards to just going back to how it was before?

            • 1. When did the Protectorate or the PRT ever bend over backwards to make a compromise? The only times they’ve compromised is when they absolutely had no choice (Echidna) all the other times they’ve either waffled on it or outright dicked the Undersiders over. Frankly, the lack of compromise is half the reason for their problems.

              2. Why would she need her therapist and a gaggle of schoolkids to help save the world? Wouldn’t the Wards be fine with helping her save the world anyway? And again, I don’t remember anything in these chapters that makes me think she was lying.

              3. She uses the tactics she uses because that’s whats works for her and whats kept her alive for her career, and because the heroes never offer any alternatives other tan hamstringing her.

              • 1. My point is that if it wasn’t for Dinah’s warning, she never would’ve joined the Wards. Remember, were talking about a teenager who would proudly say to heroes that she was above good and evil, above the law and that she would continue doing what she wished with her power over BB because she thought she knew what was best for it.

                2. I don’t mean she needed their help, I mean she lied so that she’d LOOK better in their eyes, she didn’t really mean what she said. It was just to make them think she was really on her side.

                3. You’re forgetting that her skill and her powers were compared by Glenn to being just like one of the Slaughterhouse 9. What I’m saying is that she comes at this point like she just wants power over her enemies, not out of any sense of doing real good.

              • You might have to start pulling quotes if you want to support these statements. Because I have no idea where the “above good and evil”, “power over her enemies”, “make them think she’s on their side” stuff is coming from. It just sounds like you’ve got this idea that she’s some kind of arrogant megalomaniac and you’re twisting things to fit the interpretation.

              • “Being good or bad was never a thing for me. Not really. It was all about the actions I was taking and why, instead. I became a warlord and I took care of people. I helped seize the city from Coil and we started implementing changes. ” ~ Taylor

                And 13.7 when she talked to Legend

              • Okay, did digging, that quotes isn’t from 13.7, it’s from Scarab, when she’s confiding in Tecton while tiredness-drunk during Khonsu’s first attack, mostly the passage comes down to Taylor being introspective of what she’s been doing and what her mindset was at the time. Not exactly arrogant self-justification.

                Here’s the quote with Legend in 13.7

                “So where do you stand, then? Where do you see yourself in terms of the sliding scale of good and evil, heroes and villains?”

                I almost laughed, and some of my humor must have translated in a mental direction to my bugs, because they started making a noise that wasn’t speech. I stopped them. It wouldn’t have sounded much like laughter anyways. ”All of the above? None of the above? Does it matter? Some of us wear the villain label with pride, because they want to rebel against the norms, because it’s a harder, more rewarding road to travel, or because being a ‘hero’ often means so very little. But few people really want to see themselves as being bad or evil, whatever label they wear. I’ve done things I regret, I’ve done things I’m proud of, and I’ve walked the roads in between. The sliding scale is a fantasy. There’s no simple answers.“

                This was while she was trying to get the Protectorate to get off their asses and help them save the city from the Nine, mind.

              • your first point there is dead on. in a way, the protectorate CREATED Taylor. after all, if they haddent constantly had all the reports of their little pet psychopath (sociopath my ***** arse. plenty of people who are legally sociopaths go through life without killing anyone, at least some of em simply outta pragmatism, where as she attempted to kill t- i mean, skitter, simply because. and we never DID find out exactly WHAT she did that made the protectorate step in.) torturing another student to be disappeared, she never would of snapped in the first place. Tagg didn’t give a flying fuck about compromise, the greater good, or anything else. severe us-or-them viewpoint. he and LoA pushed her and pushed her till, as far as she knew, her friends, the guy she loved, heck , her substitute family, were being brutally murdered by a biologically immortal super-being. and Tagg’s replacement was just ITCHING for an excuse to either have her thrown in the birdcage, or simply murdered, if not for her being such a well known figure. the biggest difference between Taylor and Cauldron, morally speaking, is that, plane and simple, whatever you waffle on about what she MIGHT do, she’s never murdered thousands of people, or willing attempted to keep members of a group of homicidal (omnicidal?) mass murderers alive and killing. the point Axel seems to keep trying to make is she COULD become as big a monster as the potheads in the future. problem there is, going by that that line of reasoning, every single powered individual in the setting, in its entire section of the multiverse, should either be permanently imprisoned without chance of release, or killed, because they might do such and such at some point.

              • Its not because she has powers that i make that possibility. Its because she has the same mindset as them of doing the morally wrong choice for the so-called greater good.

              • Alright Axel, you are starting to get to that point of fallacy trolling again. What you are doing, attributing an unsubstantiated position to someone and then attacking them for it, is known as a Straw Man. You are making things up about Taylor based on either your own assumptions which are not stated in the story, or just making them out of misunderstanding or ignorance. Either way, the Straw Man is no way to make an argument and is part of the reason I made a point of calling you out for trolling a while back. At this point, I’m going to give you the benefit of the doubt and choose to believe you honestly don’t realize you are making such absurd logical mistakes. To help you, please see the link below:


              • Ok, then how bout just a simple question, not leading or attacking and I get your answer in return.

                The whole story is based around that one simple concept “Doing the wrong thing for the right reasons.” Yet there is obviously a line where the wrong thing no longer justifies the right reasons. There’s a limit to how far they should go.

                It’s been a common staple of many stories where a good guy turns villain in the process of trying to do good, there’s actual examples of corruption slowly turning a person evil.

                Now, based on those examples, What exactly will stop Taylor from eventually turning out like Alexandria did, when they both started from roughly the same idealistic start?

              • I think that’s one of the bigger themes of the story, actually. At the end of Worm we’ll find out if Taylor will have managed to keep her humanity after doing “what was necessary” or if she will have become a new Doctor Mother.

              • There are quite a few fundamental differences between Alexandria and Taylor. The earliest example we know of Alexandria’s background came from seeing her in a hospital bed dying of cancer and Doctor Mother giving her the formula. As far as I’m aware, nothing of her personal life aside from that has been disclosed. We don’t really know much about her ideals prior to that, so saying that Taylor and Alexandria came from “roughly the same idealistic start” is made without sufficient evidence to make such a claim. Also, Alexandria was a Cauldron product, meaning she started out deeply in debt to Cauldron. Cauldron’s contract requires (at least in the cases we have seen) multiple favors and, in Alexandria’s case, a request from Doctor Mother to “help me build something”. Alexandria’s life was saved directly because of Cauldron’s intervention. In many cases, a person will do absolutely reprehensible things for someone since they feel indebted both financially and emotionally. This is not an attempt to excuse or lessen Alexandria’s crimes in any way, but to explain them.

                Taylor is also a suicidally depressive girl who, when confronted with a certain threshold of horror, collapses in on herself. She did this when her Dad was presumed to have died. After all the hell she has been through, it hasn’t really gotten any easier. Alexandria though, was a psychopath to the bitter end, even though she had been through a lot more battles than Taylor had. When Taylor had killed Tagg and Alexandria in a fit of grief and rage, I actually got the impression that she knew she was essentially going to commit “Suicide by Cop”. If the PRT wanted her dead right then, they could have easily done it. During the Tagg/Alexandria incident, I had the impression, largely from her smug and condescending behavior, that Alexandria seemed to be deriving some sadistic enjoyment about the torment she was inflicting on Taylor. When Taylor does bad things, the author often goes at length to give a running internal monologue as to Taylor’s mental state, and I don’t ever recall her drawing pleasure from those actions. So, the basic limiter on Taylor versus Alexandria is that she doesn’t have the same sadistic tendencies and really does not seem to be able to mentally handle too much emotional strain.

                The core of the issue you seem to be struggling with is that you are trying to fit a cookie cutter of moral character onto a situation where that doesn’t apply. The one thing that has struck me about almost every single argument you make is that you draw comparisons. You compare her to Batman, Superman, The Boys, The Authority, and a number of others. Comparisons are good for making judgments, but it seems as if you are trying to make her fit into several vastly conflicting molds simultaneously. Taylor is none of those characters and never will be. Every character you have named has their virtues and their failings. Batman is a billionaire sociopath who decided the most productive means of grieving is to engage in a multi-decade spree of mangling and killing (yes, Batman has killed before quite a few times) criminals. How many lives has Superman indirectly caused in collateral damage from recurring villains he could have put down long ago? And yes, he has broken his vow against killing several times as well. Sadly, I have yet to read either The Boys or the Authority, so I can’t make value judgments there. My point is that the characters you try to blame Taylor for not reaching these lofty ideals that Batman and Superman hold, but Batman and Superman don’t even reach them either.

              • What I’m saying is I simply wholeheartedly believe that the entire concept of having to do wrong things for supposed right reasons is entirely wrong.

              • And I think that neither wildbow nor most of the readers diasgree with you. I may be wrong of course.

                But really this discussion is very tiring.

          • Taylor is not Superman. Taylor is not Batman. If you want a hero who can afford to be pure and never have to worry that their ideals mean nobody gets hurt go read Superman and Batman stories. Silver Age ones. If you want a character who doesn’t change or isn’t flawed then Worm isn’t the story for you. No she was not trying to manipulate the Wards, or Ms Yamada. We see her POV during these stories, and her goal is to get them ready for the end of the world

            Up above you mentioned Superman killing Zod in Man of Steel, and that he didn’t need to because he had Zod restrained, and he could have flown off with him. Well then what? The only prison that could hold Zod was the Phantom Zone, and they no longer had the means to send him there. Was Superman supposed to hold Zod in place until he died of natural causes? No prison on earth could hold Zod. Zod would kill every living bieng on earth. He’d already tried. The only way to save the human race from Zod was to kill him. Yeah Superman could have tried to hold on to his moral high ground there, and remained pure. While Zod burned an innocent family to death before him.

            • But the problem still is the idea of being forced to only Choose scales of Grey. Yet Grey would not exist without White. You remember the story of the Walrus and the Carpenter from Alice in Wonderland? It’s the same deal here. You either choose an evil cooperation that controls superheroes teams, or you choose a gang of criminals who wont hesitate to use fear and intimidation to get what they want.

              Like Alice said , “Well! They were both very unpleasant characters.”

              See, this is still the problem I have. I’ll admit my perspective on Taylor has changed a bit, but I still don’t see how she’s supposed to be sympathetic or likable. What does she offer that was no different then how the Protectorate did things? What would’ve happened when the real villains stopped attacking BB? Would they continue to lord over it? You see in the get together with Taylor’s dad that the civilians, while grateful for what the Undersiders do, they don’t like the idea of being controlled by a group of criminals. Would they have eventually rioted or just left BB altogether? Would they bare down harsher rules on the civilians to keep their control because they believe they did it for the right reasons? Would they have a bug swarm sting a man half to death in public just to let the civilians know they were to follow their rules from then on?

              See, thats the problem with moral compromises. It’s easy to compromise more and more each time. This isn’t a logical fallacy, you clearly see how their actions on people who dared threaten the status quo would be taken down brutally. So you can’t say it wouldn’t have gotten worse and worse until eventually, they would be no different then Cauldron. You have to remember, the road to hell is laid with good intentions.

              And Ive read plenty of Modern batman/Superman comics that still held to those ideals just fine.

              AND I still call BS on the Man of Steel ending because that movie was just badly written all the way through.

              • >See, thats the problem with moral compromises. It’s easy to compromise more and more each time. This isn’t a logical fallacy, you clearly see how their actions on people who dared threaten the status quo would be taken down brutally. So you can’t say it wouldn’t have gotten worse and worse until eventually, they would be no different then Cauldron. You have to remember, the road to hell is laid with good intentions.<

                And that may end up being a major plot point by the end of the story. I don't think anyone would say that Taylor's actions aren't ambigious. The Taylor at the start of the story would have been horrified at the thought she'd murder a man in cold blood and take over the city. But as awful as those things are, does that mean she's crossed the moral event horizon? That she's just going to eventually do awful things for the sake of doing awful things? Taylor's story isn't done yet, so we don't know where she's going to end up. But she gets called often enough about it, and doubts it enough that I don't think it is meant to be a good thing.

              • @Axel: Regarding the ending of Man of Steel, you do realize that you are cherry-picking here, right? You are disregarding something you feel conflicts with the character you like and choosing only to keep what you feel fits. That’s the “No True Scotsman” fallacy there. It was a Superman movie, but because you disagree with how it was written, you right it off as being BS.

              • If a comic book series totally dismantles a character, or has a story that was badly written from beginning to end, you should still consider it as part of the characters entirely?

                Need I remind you of the utter waste of paper “Countdown to Final Crisis?”

    • I guess there’s some room for interpretation, but I believe Taylor really meant the things she said after joining the Wards. This is a first-person work, and IMO if she were manipulating people that would’ve popped up in her thought processes. Taylor wanted to make things better. She turned herself in to the PRT because she’d hit a wall in how much she could achieve in that regard while fighting them as a villain. She had no reason to want to escape from the Wards.

      As to Taylor being untrustworthy because she’s unwilling to accept authority over her, it really depends on which definition of “trustworthy” you’re using. You can’t trust Taylor to blindly follow orders. You *can* trust her to do what she thinks is right. She has shown a great willingness to work with authority – she just won’t kowtow to it when she thinks it’s wrong.

      She is arguably on a similar slippery slope to Alexandria but, from what we have seen, she draws the line in different places.

      It’s very hard to say what Taylor would have done in a world without Endbringers since the whole “Brockton Bay warlord” situation came about because Coil and the Undersiders did a better job rebuilding the city post-Leviathan than the legitimate authorities. My guess is that she probably would’ve eventually ended up reaching the same conclusion: that there’s only so much good you can do while fighting the legitimate authorities. But I don’t know.

      Whether or not Taylor would be willing to put the world in a bottle probably depends on what the alternatives would be.

  17. >“You’re thanking the dog?” Shadow Stalker asked, incredulous.<
    When you actually do something useful, then you'll get thanked. So far your way behind Huntress.

    So Gully is ill at ease? I guess you didn't want revenge so much you wanted to see some friends tortured to death by your own side to get it. I remember when Gully first showed up, and Tecton told the Undersiders one mean word to her, and no more help. Wonder if he'll ever feel that way about her again? The way I see it, when they killed some of their own, and then handed two of the others over to be tourtured to death, they just crossed the moral event horizon. Hope that the revenge was worth your souls guys.

    • Yeah, I noticed that about Gully. She probably didn’t want things to go this far. I’m hoping she comes back to her senses and tries to rescue Weld and Garrote/sides with Taylor&Co.

      • A lot of people have died off-screen. Siberian comes to mind. Besides, the irregulars wouldn’t have left her tied. She could have escaped. Maybe she is alive, but if she is, she is probably maimed.

          • if she actually was disabled, if the irregulars have ANY brains. she’s dead. not captured, unconscious or drugged .dead. i mean, strategically AND tactically speaking , she’s Cauldron’s ace in the hole. if she’s alive and get a chance to start analyzing the situation, she WILL find a way to eliminate them as a threat. good chance that the ones who were left with here went who they appeared to be, someone eles intervened, or something else. things are still up i n the air, afterall!

  18. Nice update. Man it takes a special kind of person to needle Lung about his genital mishap when they’re standing right next to him🙂

  19. This is actually a new thought I just had, spate from the discussions above so it wont be brought in here.

    Maybe it’s been mentioned in the story, I forgot or maybe it was said here in the comments before, I don’t really know. But I’m just curious about this.

    Anyway, if Scion is the source of most of the powers on Earth, if he were actually defeated, is it quite possible those parahumans will LOSE their powers if he dies? I mean, most of these people have their entire personalities and lives changed because of these powers. What if they were to suddenly -whip- vanish when all is said and done?

    • Not necessarily going to happen from what I believe.

      1) There’s nothing in the story showing him taking away powers, the only way to lose your power is death your tampering via Bonesaw.

      2) Shards are apart of Scion as long as they’re physically connected to his dimensional-self. When they bond to Taylor or other parahumans then they’re apart of their host.

    • Pretty sure the shards are now independent of their source-entities, so killing the aforementioned entity shouldn’t make any difference. No saying what’ll happen in three hundred odd years, though, when the cycle was to finish.

    • The Entities are more like coral, or a bee hive, than complete living things. The shards are all themselves living things, though with much more limited minds alone than they have as the colonies that form a whole Entity.

      It’s unknown if Scion can actually take the shards he’s distributed back, but he does lack any control over them. So, unless he can, and does, take the shards back just before or as he’s dieing, I don’t expect his death will do anything at all to the shards.

  20. Did anyone else feel like they were following a classical dungeon crawling here? Lung behaves exactly like your usual stupid fighter (no plan, I can take them …) also called meat shield by many. Imp and Shadow Stalker also work like your usual scouts/thieves.
    For ranged attacks we have Taylor and Golen. Rangers? Mages?
    Cuff acts like a monk ( a bit lost in the group like most monks).
    In the end this chapter sounds like a mix between dungeons and dragons and vampire the masquerade with a touch of Shadowrun (Tatletale as intel).
    I loved it.
    Now its time to look for secret doors and fast.
    By the way, my group would have gone slower, checking every room for secret doors and treasure (information). Although, of course, Taylor does it automatically and very fast once someone opens the door.

    • Taylor and Golem are a lot like mages, non-respectively one with a signature spell and one with a wide variety of spels.

      In most of my campaigns, there would be maybe half the number, and one would have blundered into a cell and started fighting the prisoners before the other began getting the others into his plan. This is mainly because most of my campaigns have been with my little brother and my father, however.

  21. So I did some number-crunching.
    1. I count the two Extinction Interludes as one interlude.
    2. I count Interludes 11a-h as a separate arc from the rest of Migration.
    3. These numbers might be a bit off.
    4. These data are as of Venom 29.4.

    Worm is 1,535,255 words long.
    It consists of 457,628 Interlude words (those not from Taylor’s perspective). These make up, to the nearest percent, 30% of the story.
    The average chapter is 5406 words.

    The longest chapter is Scarab 25.3 (11193 words). The shortest is Insinuation 2.1 (1382 words).
    The longest Interlude chapter is Interlude 26 (10772 words). The shortest is Interlude 4 (2782 words).

    The longest arc is Monarch (92008 words). The shortest is Gestation (17446 words).
    The arc with the most words per chapter is Sting (8511). The arc with the least is Gestation (2492).

    • For Cauldron at least, a major lesson seems to be that for all their planning and manipulating organizations, they are no good at controlling people.

      They did everything the hard way. Kidnapping people, forcing them, keeping vital information from them. This is an organization that acted only in assuming the worst in people and it’s bitten them in the ass and, in it’s own way, amplified the worst in people in that little lynch mob there.

      • This is part of why evil dictatorships so rarely stay stable long term. It’s so much more efficient to convince people to like you, then let them achieve your goals for you on their own. Less micro-management, less chance of rebellion, so on and so on.

        I think it’s important to note that while corruption of ideals is a heavy running thread in this story (Really? Like the Corruption of the Golden Man? Yeah, exactly like that.) so is redemption. Taylor has been seeking redemption of one flavor or another for most of the story. Colin has been doing the same ever since his revival as Defiant. Tattletale seeks redemption for the death of her brother. Even in their own way Cauldron seeks redemption for all their multitude of sins in the preservation of humanity.

        “Preservation of Humanity” is kind of a cop out goal though, for them. Either you fail, and no one gives a damn because everyone is dead, or humanity lives, and you get to point at it and say “Hah! See? I saved the species!” The only problem comes when people lose hope, but aren’t dead yet, and decide to punish you preemptively, which is an outcome they REALLY should have seen coming.

        I wonder if Contessa set Doctor Mother up as a sacrificial figurehead, so they could get complete buy-in from the Case 53s and the prisoners once she is gone. It occurs to me that a power disparity between two people with Contessa’s ability can be mitigated by spending more time working towards your victory…

      • You’d think Cauldron would’ve figured out by now that EVERYTHING they do has unintended consequences that will screw them over down the line.

  22. Is Garrote dead? I mean, why would they even DO that! she was the sweetest case 53 ever. Christ.
    I’m a little late to the debate about “the gray hero”, but still wanted to say that the concept of morality is a human construct. There is no inherent “good” or “evil” as it all depends on perspective. That said, I think Taylor has made some seriously questionable choices in her career (I’m thinking about Aster), and she is indeed ruthless, but at the same time she is always trying to help. She did took control over a city, but then what did she do? she banned drugs, protected the people and made sure to rebuild BB. I don’t think Taylor is bad, the fact that she is still trying to help in the fight against Scion shows some serious moral fiber, it just not the “usual” definition of bad/good that we usually asign to heroes. Of course she isn’t taking the high moral ground like Superman, the threats that Taylor fights can always always kill her. Always. In the case of Gray Boy or Bonesaw, a fat worse than death would await her if she lost.

    The fact is that if there was a magical “white” path for Taylor to take, that would defeat the endbringers, the S9 and Scion AND let her keep her morality “untouched”, she would take it without a doubt. But there isn’t. So she is forced (or believes to be forced) to take the harsh decisions again and again.

    Also, this has nothing to do with nothing, but Axel mentioned that the world is fair and people make it unfair. Uh, pretty sure that the world is neither fair nor unfair. The world is not an entity that has the concept of justice. It has no concepts at all!

    • Axel is one step from being a troll in other people’s eyes. Others may still hold him to be one who has just done a good job of being the focus of most of the comments this update. There have been many perfectly decent debates about morality here where someone hadn’t compared Worm to The Boys, of all things.

      I wouldn’t count Garrote as dead just yet. Being sweet doesn’t make you immune from dying in Worm, but not having your body seen also means you might survive. That’s why the S9 killcount would sometimes be slightly lighter than some parts of the story would imply. Speaking of implications, I don’t wonder where Number Man is. I wonder where the Number *Men* are. Last I checked, there was a big group of them.

      It would be an interesting discussion to discover what the difference is between the harsh decisions Taylor makes and those that others have made. It often seems as though many others have chose to accept their world as harsh and make dick moves, while rationalizing it as the only way to do what they need to do. Taylor, trying as she is to do what’s right, often winds up showing them that there are other ways.

      Then again, coming up with unusual solutions to difficult problems comes up quite a bit in the story.

      It seems like idealistic goodness must bend to the world it is in, in this case a world full of a bunch of people who think idealism doesn’t work. Funny how that’s the only thing keeping it from working, but that may go back to another theme: priorities.

      Truth be told, that’s something I’ve put some thought into myself. Society is great at justifying bad things by functioning in such a way as to prevent the good from doing much about it. This is definitely a story where the phrase “Perfect is the enemy of the good” fits in many levels, both in regards to many people compromising on the good being used both heroically (see, I can spell it, Packbat), and not so heroically (Cauldron, PRT, Tagg, Piggot, Alexandria…). It also fits because Scion is perfection as far as powers go, and he’s definitely the enemy of the good as applies to morality and strength of superpower.

      I don’t think the concept of the Golden Mean or middle way was meant to be used in a negative way, where compromise builds on compromise to drag the whole situation downward, but that seems to be how several have taken it. Yeah, I mean the not-so-heroics. Part of it is that they seem to fall into a variation of the Nirvana fallacy, of which that “perfect” quote is a part of: the Perfect Solution fallacy. The Nirvana Fallacy is one where people get too caught up in thinking of the perfect solution to go with the more realistic available solutions. The Perfect Solution fallacy, though, is when someone rejects a solution because they’re sure it won’t completely solve the problem. It may help a lot, but in their view it’s to be rejected if 10% of the problem is still there when it’s done.

      I suppose it’s more a matter of if someone is inspired to be better by the thought of Superman, or would prefer to accept the bad situation they are in…and then accept when it gets worse…and accept when things go even worse after that…and keep on accepting when things get worse again…

      Taylor is somewhat disillusioned, but she still thinks she can reach for the sky. Cauldron, and the Case 53s that want to kill Doctor Mother before Scion does, are too used to accepting the world as it keeps sinking lower and lower.

      Maybe that’s why people dream of flying.

      • I don’t think I’ a troll to be honest >.< I'm simply stating my belief based on what I've read about the characters and Taylor in particular.

        When you get right down to it, my problem with her can be boiled down to that she has a very similar mindset to people like Alexandria did and uses methods similar to her bullies. Yes I can understand needing to do such actions in the heat of the moment, but if you have such a mindset over and over and over and continue to get worse each time then how can she not eventually end up like her?

        Higher up, someone asked me what I'd do in a situation with a car behind me and a passenger in front of me. I'll admit, I don't know what I'd do, but If I had to face the same decision every single day and make the exact same morally compromising choice each time then there's seriously something wrong here. SO instead of just being compliant in a stupid system, it's better to try to find a solution so it never gets to that point again.

        I personally don't believe that idealism is something that can't work. Nobody is just born evil, we're all influence by the actions of others. Yet one ill deed will influence another, which influences another and so on and so on. That's why I think Taylor is a bit of a hypocrite, she hates it when someone above her makes a morally wrong choice that affects her or other people, yet has no problem making such choices if they affect other people.

        I have no doubt that at her core, Taylor is trying to be good. But using bad means to bring such ends about will only lead to disaster in the end. It's like negadarkwing said above "The Ends are nothing but the Sum of the Means.”

        • >When you get right down to it, my problem with her can be boiled down to that she has a very similar mindset to people like Alexandria did and uses methods similar to her bullies. Yes I can understand needing to do such actions in the heat of the moment, but if you have such a mindset over and over and over and continue to get worse each time then how can she not eventually end up like her?<

          And that may or may not end up being the point. At points it's been shown Taylor is aware of this. That it disturbs her. The problem is that she keeps ending up in situations where she ends up falling back on her bad habits, because she can't see a better way. Hopefully she'll eventually find it, and not have to do the wrong things for the right reason.

        • I don’t think you’re a troll and I get that you’re very idealistic. Overall I’d agree that being positive and good ripples to create a better world than being negative and evil.

          The point of contention seems to be that you view that trend as universally applicable.

          You indicated yourself above that you don’t know what you would do in the car/pedestrian situation – that there are cases where there is no ideal solution. And yes, if it recurs the thing to do is to try to fix the system. But that doesn’t help you resolve the situation you’re in *now*.

          Taylor is a fictional example of that situation – a decent person in a world that contains a lot situations with no ideal solutions.

          Taylor *has* tried to improve the system, incidentally. That’s what her deal with the PRT was all about, for example. But she also has to make her way through the individual situations and I’m hard-pressed to think of many where she didn’t choose the most positive option available, starting with seizing the opportunity to infiltrate the Undersiders…

      • Damn Gecko…

        Anyways about Sveta, I didn’t think she’d been killed yet. She is actually pretty tough, remember on the oil rig she did survive some of Scion’s (weaker) attacks, and was okay, just thinner. I think the idea is that she and Weld are going to be tourtured for “Betraying” the Irregulars. Note that they got thrown to the prisoners. That way they won’t be in the hands of someone like Gully who knows them and might show some restraint. And it’s a pretty good indicator, doing this to what are probably the two most good and pure Case 53’s we’ve seen just how far gone the Irregulars are.

      • im..kinda tempted to view Axel as a troll myself.or someone who’s got their mind made up about something, and wont change for hell or high water (like my fervent beliefe that, one day, the Fro…WILL come back in fashon!) they seem to be interpreting everything about Taylor’s actions and personality though the lens of her being..well, you know. a Card Carrying villain. the kinda person like jack in personality, you know? guh! im wording this horrifically. i mean, to me, it seems that their viewpoint of Taylor is as being influenced as mine of Dragon is. (Dragons are cool, so are AI’s, and she seems to be one of the nicest people in the setting, so no AiisAcrapshoot or Evil Dragon themes! bonus!). me waffleing on aside, i mean, Axel, you seem to just keep leaping for the conclusion that she’s an all out bad guy, and assuming the worst interpretation of everything she does or says ( again, like how im a Dragon Fanboy, again, due to my obsessions with Both Dragons and AI). not trying to be mean, but every point you make seems, like a homing pigeon, to come back to your original claim of her basically being as bad as the Potheads. like, i get the feeling that if a scene of her finding out how to kill the entity that is controlling zion, you’d start screaming to all and sundry that she’s a xenophobic murderer.

        • I never said she was a card carrying villain, I’m simply of the belief that she has huge potential for becoming much worse then she already has done.

          • There was a guy in Worm who judged someone on the basis that there was potential for evil: Saint. Do you really fail to see the fallacy in this argument?

            • There have been plenty of examples of Good guys in stories slowly corrupted to being evil because they were trying to do good. What makes Taylor exempt from this?

              • Pretty sure nobody killed those good guys before they went evil just in case. I’m not exempting Taylor, I’m pointing out that making an argument on someone’s potential for evilness is absurd because we ALL have potential for evil from the moment we are born. Should we stop reproducing?

                To make some in-story examples: should Noelle’s mother have had an abortion knowing that eventually her daughter would become a deranged monster. Should the inhabitamts of the Wormverse have locked Alan Grammes in prison and throw away the key because there was he chance that he would go insane and start butchering people who tried to make the world better?

              • My point has never been like that of the sort. My point has always simply been that her mind set is similar to other well intentioned extremists like Cauldron and Alexandria. I’ve also said that good people who do bad very often end up being corrupted to being evil.

                You have to remember, those two had many years to get to where they are now, while Taylor has had around 3. So what’s to say in five or so years, she doesn’t ends up like them?

              • Because Doctor Mother has expressly stated that if she had to do it again she would it without thinking twice and that she has never lost any sleep over what she has done. She has the certainty of the fanatic. Taylor has instead doubted herself and her actions and especially in these last chapters seems to have regretted some of her choice. As I said before, she has had her best and her worst and I think her worst is way behind her.

              • >Mind citing where such realizations occur?There have been plenty of examples of Good guys in stories slowly corrupted to being evil because they were trying to do good. What makes Taylor exempt from this?<

                Well that is pretty much the first few arcs, Taylor getting corrupted.

              • I can see your point Axel, and I don’t really think you’re a troll. (I mean, you haven’t called anyone a nazi, right?). I don’t think that Taylor is exempt of being corrupted, as her methods can be very ruthless, but never in the same scale of the methods of people like Coil or Cauldron. Also, a common theme I see in the corruption of good characters is a central flaw, and that is selfishness. The best example I can think of in-story would be Panacea, and perhaps Saint too, but I don’t think he can be called good. I’m not saying that Taylor is selfless, but, well that’s more or less what I’m trying to say.

                Axel as you have said, in 3 years Taylor has become more like Alexandria and Jack. But she also regretted all of it and told it so to Dr. Mother. (That happened in the chapter where the Blasphemies attented a meeting with Cauldron and the other factions). If she has to be ruthless right now is not because she is more like Jack every passing second, it’s only because Scion is a relentless, all powerful, seemingly indestructible, hardcore enemy. And he is not gonna stop until he thinks all worlds are sufficently ruined, and who’s not to say that in the end he will just blow up every single earth?

                Ok, getting off track. The point is that if Taylor survives this mess, I would bet on her stop trying to do good at any cost. Why, I think the costs she will take will be perfectly reasonable. She will stop to try to fit on the “good guy” “bad guy” label, which in my opinion is a silly thing anyways.

          • *Everyone* has the potential to be much worse than they are. It’s called “Free will”.

            Taylor has consistently demonstrated a desire to work towards a better world, to be open and transparent, to encourage people to work together for the betterment of all. And when forced into making hard choices has consistently chosen the least bad one.

            She could, like anyone else, hypothetically become worse, but there’s no reason to expect her to do so.

    • I know its a typo,but “a fat worse than death”gives me an idea :a criminal that makes others helplessly obese but unable to die.

  23. There were gouges in the walls, things torn free from walls and ceilings.

    A bit awkward there innit?

    And Taylor is repeatedly unaware of were a particular sound came from. Shouldn’t her swarm sense handle that?

  24. Noooo! Weld!😦

    “But the underlying assumption seems to be that parahumans are going to take charge, one way or the other, so they wanted to set things up so that happened naturally.”
    Probably a pretty good assumption given the shake-ups caused by end-of-the-world-itis.
    I’m liking Cauldron more and more.

    “Brainwashing leaders like they brainwashed the case fifty-threes. So the leaders were absolute and could be trusted. ”
    Damn, why can’t we have a Cauldron in our world?😦

    “A man with exaggerated masculine and feminine features”
    So… hips that are simultaneously wide and narrow?😛

  25. So, thinking about the arc title…

    Seems to me that one of our heroes’ major problems (apart from being completely outgunned) is that they are fighting a foe who is actually an offshoot of another entity safely tucked away in another dimension, like some weed rooted deep in the ground sending up shoots through the grass.
    You hack at the shoots and they just draw sustenance from the roots and regrow.

    So what’s one of the most efficient ways to deal with this problem? Poison the shoot and let the poison spread back to the roots.

    Not sure exactly how this concept could be applied to Scion, but it has possibilities…

  26. Yup I totally agree. Imp is and has been a lot like a funnier, slightly less socio Regent. I do so hope that she ends up getting her long delayed revenge on SS. Granted this probably isn’t the best time but still.

    God Imp toys with the wrong people. She is seriously going to get herself killed one of these days by pissing off someone who finally snaps.

    And speaking of Lung, sure he didn’t actively HURT Scion but he survived trading blows with him for quite a bit without any real damage at all. Maybe not a win but definitely not a loss at all. I also find it very interesting how Lung specifically says “respect” and not “fear”. It actually helps his characterization and fits his viewpoint so much. He is the ultimate pragmatist really. He’s a jerk and dick but he understands a lot more than you would expect from a simple gang boss.

    You know I’m…a little surprised that Shadow Stalker offered that kind of help towards the end. That single thing with offering to pass on messages actually just saved her from my “should definitely die, probably painfully” list. Surprising.

    WELD?! NOOOOOO!!!!!! SAVE THE EPIC BOYSCOUT!!! Sorry…I really like Weld.

    Sveta?! Assholes!!!

    Oh Lung. You also just got bumped up a level for offering to off someone for the group. See it’s things like this that make people different from monsters and worth saving. Lung and Shadow Stalker may be bad, they may be assholes to the highest degree but when push comes to shove what is one of their finals acts? To offer a final favor to their sorta kinda allies. What was people like Coil’s last acts? A final “fuck you” out of spite that he knew would screw over a hell of a lot of people. Same with Saint and Teacher. Those three are the monsters type. Lung and SS are just dicks but at least honorable. Congrats, Wildbow, I’m okay with SS surviving now. Still would like a few broken bones and such but she doesn’t have to die being eaten by rats anymore.

    • Imp’s power is moderately broken, and Lung’s has ramp-up time, and the combination makes Lung in particular a surprisingly safe person for her to needle. If he snaps and goes for her, before he’s anything more than a fairly strong guy, he’ll have completely forgotten what he was up to. And he has issues powering up if he doesn’t have an opponent to fight.

      I think he believes being bothered by Imp is beneath him, too.

  27. A sphere rolled forward. Something coiled within, behind the colored transparent pane. Someone in the crowd grabbed it, then made their hands glow. Fire? Heating the material? I couldn’t tell from this distance, but I could see the movement within accelerate in fits and starts.

    This made me angrier than I remember being in a long time. You leave Sveta ALONE.

  28. Wildbow, you are beatiful. You are amazing, a genius, the Second Coming. I could go on all day about how great you are, but there isn’t a word in the English language that can sum up your greatness. Flooblydorp? Close, but not quite it. Anyway, props on the chapter and the whole dang series. Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to go print out this page and add it to my Beautiful Mind room and go light some incense at my Shrine to Wildbow.

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