Venom 29.5

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Prisoners and case fifty-threes flooded into the narrow corridors, making their way into the special cells.

I gestured, urging others to move.  They shifted until their backs were against the wall.  Golem and Cuff even stepped onto the bed, to get out of the way.

I found myself by the door.  Mantellum wasn’t close enough to blind my bugs, so I could track the people as they came around the corner, approaching the doorway.  A gang of them.

I drew my second knife, then activated the knife Defiant had given me.  Safety… and the trigger.

One… two…

The guy at the head of the group made it into the doorway.  He stopped as he saw Bastard.  I pressed my old knife’s blade against his throat, saw him back away, only to bump into the people behind him.

three… fo-

The knife finished forming the gray blur around it.  Roughly three point seven seconds.  Good.

He didn’t look worried.  So I reached out and dragged the blur against the wall, gouging out a groove a few inches deep.  Smoke expanded.

He froze, his eyes flicking down, as if he could see past his cheekbones, face and chin to the knife I had against his throat.

I nodded slowly.

“Move it, asshole!”  one of the captives said.

He didn’t move.  I saw his eye shift, until it settled on me.  My arm moved, not wholly steady when fully extended, a weight in hand, and I felt the blade rasp against the scruff on his neck.

Not a case fifty-three.  Just an ordinary guy.

‘Ordinary’.  He was here, he would have powers.

“Move!” the guy in the hallway ordered.

Dim byd yma,” my hostage said, without breaking eye contact with me.  Then he added, in a heavily accented voice, “Is nothing here.”

The cheering reached a climax outside.  My bugs could sense the people in an adjacent cell.  They had someone, and were dragging him out as a group.

“Something’s going on,” one of the guys in the corridor said.

“Don’t care.  Move, motherfucker.  I want to see if there’s any shit in there.”

“Is no shit,” my hostage said.  “Empty.”

I nodded slowly.  Oddly enough, he looked more concerned at that.

An issue in translation?  A cultural problem?

The roaring reached a climax.  They had a man with no arms or legs, not fat, but with a goiter-like mass around his neck… hairless.  A case fifty-three.

This one,” Imp said, repeating what the mob’s ringleader was saying.  Shouting, judging by the way he was acting on camera. “This traitor, he is how they controlled us.  How they planned to control you.  He was going to brainwash these ones into a private army… he’s pointing at the weird looking ones they brought from downstairs.  This traitor was going to send the rest of you out without any memories, without identities, as Cauldron’s trash.

“We’re missing it,” the one further down the corridor said.

It’s only the three, now.  The rest backed out to check out the scene.

“I think I know what we’re missing.  It’s not worth seeing.  But first dibs at whatever’s in this cell?  If this fuckhole doesn’t move out of the doorway, I’m going to slide a foot up his rectum, and pry open a new doorway.”

I glanced around the room.  I could see how tense the others were.  Even Lung was rigid, bristling with scale-points.  Primed for a fight.

Imp’s voice came over the earbuds.  “Oh, hey, fun fact.  You can apparently crucify someone without arms or legs, if you try hard enough, and have the right powers.  He’s getting the crowd worked up, trying to start up a witch hunt.  Um.  He’s shouting, who wants to kill the real monster, the monster who did this to us?

The bloodthirsty cries of the crowd made it through even the soundproofing of the cell.  I could sense the emotion, the anger.

Look to your neighbors, the ones next to you.  Are they shouting loud enough?  Are they angry enough?  Because we aren’t going to brook any traitors.

My hostage looked like he was going to have a heart attack.  Caught between two very dangerous people.

I relented, easing up on the knife, then I beckoned for him to enter the room.

Slowly, he obeyed.

The guy behind him spat.  “Fucking liar.  I knew you were lying.  Trying to keep all this shit to your… self…”

He trailed off as he got far enough into the room to see me and the others.

I gave my hostage a push, with the idea that he’d get put off balance for the others to deal with.  Except I failed, completely and utterly, to budge him.  He started to turn, and I left him behind, hurrying forward to slide behind the second man and confront the third before he could catch on to what was happening and alert others.

The others folded in on the first two.

I could see the third man’s eyes go wide as I approached, my bugs swarming.  I had a knife in each hand.

He had other powers.

Fighting capes I don’t know, unfamiliar powers.

A sphere of light surrounded my right hand and knife, more spheres lighting up to surround the largest clusters of my swarm, turning each of them into fireflies in the darkness.

Which put me in the awkward position of figuring out what his power did and counteracting it.  The obvious solution, a solution to most powers, was to hit him before he could hit me with whatever it was he did.

I tried moving bugs outside of the sphere, and the sphere moved with them.  I moved individual bugs in different directions, and I felt them distort, coming to pieces, as if they were blobs of ink and I was pushing them against a hard surface.

Bugs made it through his perimeter, biting and stinging, and he reacted with the appropriate pain.  But the bugs surrounded by light didn’t manage to bite into flesh.  They were soft, their mandibles bending like putty.  Where he swatted his hand against them, both spheres and bugs were distorted and crushed by the movement.

I moved the bug-spheres out of the way, thrusting with the knife-hand he hadn’t yet affected, to cut off his retreat.  I felt the effect surround it as I got closer.  Another sphere.

I pulled back, instead.  I moved my body to block his retreat, and then drove my knee into his stomach.

He staggered back, then cast out more lights, surrounding my elbows, knees…

My head, too.  My vision went… not blurry, but the colors smudged, like bad watercoloring.

Breathing became more difficult.  Not impossible, but difficult.

The bugs who’d bent their mandibles or distorted in the course of making their way outside of the spheres weren’t going back to normal.  I wasn’t sure I wanted to hit this guy with any of my body parts, if they wouldn’t bounce back to their normal shape after the fact.

I wasn’t sure I wanted him to hit me, either.  If my face proved that pliable and he punched it…

He charged me, and I was forced to move out of the way.  He stumbled for the other end of the corridor and for the crowd, a hand pressed to his stomach.  I unspooled lengths of silk cord from the dispensers at my belt and beneath my armor, dragonflies lancing past him to encircle his throat and feet.

I braced myself, ready to try and arrest his forward momentum, but one of the threads was shorter than the others, and he only tripped.  He glanced over his shoulder, then cast out his spheres, so they covered my feet.

I threw myself forward, my flight pack kicking into action.  I lost my orientation, fighting to activate the individual panels in such a way that my hands, feet or head wouldn’t slam into a wall.

Imp said something, reciting a comment, but my focus was elsewhere.

The flight pack cracked against a wall, and I came to a dead stop.  For long seconds, the two of us were stuck.  I was unable to walk, because my own body weight would crush my feet, with this softening effect.  I couldn’t touch anything without turning my hand or whatever into mashed potatoes.

For his part, the guy was caught on the ground, his feet bound by cords too thick and strong to break with his own raw strength.

The lights flickered  out.  I could see him using his power.  An orb of light, surrounding a length of the thread.  He could counter that, while I wasn’t so lucky as to be able to counter him.  He pulled his legs apart until the thread had stretched out to the point of snapping.

He started to climb to his feet, finding other threads and using his power to break them.  He was screaming, but nobody seemed to hear him over the noise of the crowd, and all eyes were on whatever was going on in the Mantellum blind spot.  He wasn’t getting any help, but I couldn’t stop him.

Not with the thread.

So I controlled the swarm, driving bugs into his nose and mouth.

You want to play hardball, Softball?

He collapsed, choking.  Some would have capsaicin, but few of the laced insects would be alive, covered in hairspray and a toxic chemical, so long after I’d last refreshed them.

Slowly, in the order he’d created them, the spheres disappeared.

“Need help?” Cuff asked.

“No,” I said.  Forty seconds ago, yes.  Not now.

“Right,” she said.  She looked at the choking man.  Her voice was a little different as she said, “Okay.”

When the spheres around my feet and hands had faded, I let myself drift to the ground.  I hit the safety and trigger to remove the blur, then sheathed my knives.  Once my hands were free, I clenched and unclenched my hands to make sure everything was in working order, and then grabbed the threads that still remained.  I pulled on the threads until he was in a position where Cuff and I could get our hands on him and drag him back towards the others.

There were cheers.  I looked at my phone, and I could see the weirdly pretty man.  Chains stretched out from the armless, legless figure’s stumps, extending to the high ceiling and the floor, suspending him fifteen or so feet in the air.  Dead, or close enough it barely mattered.

I could also make out Mantellum, at the center of the crowd.  He stood beneath the guy they’d strung up, blood running off of the shroud that seemed to flow from his back and the edges of his face.  His expression was hard to read, but the fact that he seemed to be luxuriating in the blood rather than avoiding it… it didn’t put him in my good books.

It looks like we’ve got a full-on riot here,” Imp commented.  “Armless dude’s good as dead, they’re splitting up the crowd, so anyone that’s not inside the circle has a few guys who can deal with the ghost janitor.”

“The Custodian,” I said, as I rounded the corner.  I shoved the still-choking prisoner to the ground.  The one I’d held hostage was pinned to the wall, arms and legs held fast to the surface by Golem’s projected arms and legs.  Lung stood with his face just a foot away from the man’s.  Bastard stood with his paw on the chest of the remaining prisoner.

Three dealt with, no alert given.

The pretty man and the spiky, yellow guy were holding a prisoner’s hands up the air between them, like they were celebrating a prize fighter.  I could hear the noise of the crowd, as if it were far more distant than it was.  My bugs, outside of Mantellum’s effect, could hear it at full force.

Her.  Right,” Imp said.  “He’s getting them hyped, saying they’re going after the Doctor, but they need to dig.  Picking out the people who have the best powers for the job.  They’re shouting out what they can do.  I think they’re leaving soon.

The small army we were faced with aside, I found myself smiling a little behind my mask.  The situation evoked memories.  Except this time, I had a cell phone.  I had the pepper spray.  I had a weapon.

I’d changed.  I was more prepared to do what needed to be done.

“Less to fight,” Lung said.  “If you are scared, children, you can stay here.  In a moment, I will go.”

Taunting?  Mocking?  No.  Not really his style.  Confident in his superiority, now that he’d changed as much as he had.  Not full changes, not even full coverage with his scales, but he seemed to think he could throw himself into the crowd just outside the corridor and survive.

“We should exfiltrate,” Golem said.  “Lose the costumes, wear other ones, blend into the crowd.”

“Except you need your costume,” I said.  “Cuff’s far stronger with hers.  Imp, Rachel and I benefit pretty heavily from ours.”

“It’s just an idea,” Golem said.

“It’s an idea,” I said.  “Very workable, but it doesn’t address our main issue.  We need to stop them from going after the Doctor.  If we only wanted to escape, then I’d agree with your plan, but for now-”

Looks like they have groups formed,” Imp said.

It was true.  I had to tilt my phone so others could see what I was seeing.  Gaps had formed between the discrete groups, as everyone figured out who they were sticking with.  The main group looked like it had eighty or ninety people.

“That’s a lot of people to stop,” Golem commented.  He gave me a sidelong glance.  “You’re wanting to do something here?”

I nodded.  “Have to, don’t we?”

“Damn it,” he said, but he didn’t argue.

“Canary?” I asked.

Her eyes were on the two guys we had on the ground.

“Canary,” I said, a little louder.


One was still choking.  I ordered the bugs to make their way out of his airway.  They weren’t blocking it, but they were keeping him down.  We had the situation here under control.

Canary didn’t seem to relax any as the bugs flowed out of his mouth and nose.  A few crawled forth from beneath his eyelids.  He coughed and gagged.

She got more tense as I let up on ‘softball’.  Maybe I should have left him the way he was.

Canary,” I repeated myself for the third time, injecting a little more force into my voice.

She looked at me, disoriented.

“Can you sing to them?”

“Just them?”

“If you don’t have control, then yeah.  Just them.”

“I guess.”

“It makes them suggestible?”  I asked.

“I don’t really know.  I never really experimented with my power.”

“Not even in the Birdcage?”

“Not really, no.”

I nodded.

“They’ll listen to me.  If I really get into it, they’ll do anything I say.”

“Are they suggestible to you alone, or everyone?”

Canary shook her head.

“You don’t know,” I said, in the same instant she said, “I don’t know.”

“Can you group them all together?”  I asked.

Lung moved fast enough that it caught me off guard, bending down to grab ‘softball’ and the other guy by the throats.  He slammed them against the wall, putting them beside the guy I’d taken hostage.

Golem bound them in place.

Lung grunted, and I couldn’t read any meaning in the noise.  Irritation?  Satisfaction?

He was restless.  Ready for a fight.  The sound might have been a ‘there, now we can stop talking and do something.’

“Lung,” I said.


“Go watch the corridor?  Your hearing is good enough you can follow along.  Plus you might not want to be too close to Canary, here.”

“Mm,” he said.

Less verbal, now, because of the transformation?

Canary crossed the room, and she began singing.  Wordless at first, as if sounding out what she wanted to do, then with more character.

Even though she kept her voice low, it still reached me, and that made me more than a little paranoid.

I moved to the other end of the cell, leaning against the wall.  When I could still hear the sounds, I put a curtain of bugs between myself and her, and made them buzz and drone, fluctuating the sound until I couldn’t make out what she was doing.

“What are you thinking?” Rachel asked me.

“Chaos,” I said.  “Ideal world, it won’t be chaos with us at the center.”

Rachel nodded.  “No dogs, then?”

That many parahumans, I suspected the dogs wouldn’t last more than a few minutes.  “No.  Let’s not put them in too much danger.”

“Lovely sentiment,” Shadow Stalker said, just a little sarcastically.  “So how are you pulling off this chaos thing?”

Whatever you’re going to do, do it soon,” Tattletale said.

I gathered my swarm into a cluster.  Then I activated my knife.

Using thread, I bound the knife handle, then lifted the knife into the air.

“What are you doing?” Cuff asked.  She sounded genuinely curious.

The bugs stopped working to carry the knife, and I very carefully grabbed it by the handle, before withdrawing my hand from the mass.

“Had a thought, but it doesn’t work.  It’s too conspicuous, the swarm.”

“Floating death knife?” Shadow Stalker asked.

“That was the basic idea.  But I’ll need to do something else,” I said.  I turned off the effect around it, watched as it dissolved into smoke.  “Custodian.”

I felt out with my bugs.  She reached directly into the swarm, letting me feel the slow movement of her hand.

“Generally speaking, you think you could handle most of the ones out there?”

She slowly floated through my swarm.  The movement of her head… was she shaking it?

I felt a familiar kind of disappointment.  We had the tools.  Canary’s song, Lung, the knife, the dogs, the Custodian, my swarm… but in execution, it didn’t fit together.

The crowd was stomping now, a rhythmic stomping, the crowd working in unison.

If anyone wasn’t game, if anyone wasn’t keen on the lynching of the armless man, they had to be powerless in the face of this much fury.  How could they speak against it?  Defend the man?

It was scary to think about.

Riling them up to go trash the place,” Tattletale said.

There was a crash.  I turned to my cell phone.  A cloud of dust, the crowd was agitated.  Someone had trashed a cell, or a group of cells.

“…If they keep doing that, they’re going to hit these cells awfully soon,” Tattletale added.

I shut my eyes.

“We’ll have to give it a shot,” I said.  “Shadow Stalker?  Leave.”

“Leave?”  Shadow Stalker asked.

“Find a vantage point, away from the crowd.  Be ready.  Your targets are the special case fifty-threes.  When I give you the signal, take out as many as you can.  As many as you safely can.”

“Your concern for my well being is touching, Hebert,” she said.

“I’d be annoyed if you got killed,” I said.  “I’d have that nagging doubt in the back of my mind, wondering if I sent you off into a suicidal situation because of our history.  And because we can’t afford to lose anyone.  Because you’re a human, and I don’t want people on our side to die needlessly.”

“So it’s about pride,” she said.  “Petty, stupid pride, that you think the outcome of this shit is up to you.  And maybe fear?  That you’ll lose too many good soldiers?”

“Whatever,” I said.  “However you want to interpret it.”

“I’m assuming you’ll insist on tranquilizer bolts,” she said.  “Because you don’t want anyone dying needlessly?”

“No,” I said.  I thought of Newter, of the unique physiology of the case fifty-threes.  “Lethal shots.”

She made a funny little laugh as she looked down at her crossbow.  She began loading it with expert, practiced movements.  “Funny how it all turns out.  This, for one thing.  That I can’t anticipate you anymore.  And… that it’s just you.  There’s nobody to mourn me when I’m gone.  Family doesn’t really care.  No friends left.  No teammates, even.  I’m left to console myself with the idea that, if I die, I’ll at least annoy the depressing, creepy little geek from high school.”

“I’d say something reassuring,” I said.  “I want to tell you that you matter more to me than that.  Or that I’m sure you matter to someone out there… but I don’t think you’d buy it.”

“I wouldn’t,” she said.  She wasn’t maintaining eye contact.  “Whatever.  I’m going as far up the stairs as I can, put myself half out the wall, snipe from there.  I’ll be a minute.”

Then she was gone, stepping through the wall, heading towards the stairwell closest to us.

You meant that shit, Skitter?”  Imp asked.  “Wanting to care?  Wanting to reassure her?”

“Pretty much,” I said.  “At this juncture, there’s no reason to lie.”

You’re too forgiving,” she said.

The lights flickered as another impact shook the complex.

They’re going.”

“So are we,” I said.  “Just as soon as Canary’s ready.”

Imp spoke, “Always ticked Alec off, you know.  That you weren’t any good at holding grudges.  Too focused on the present, when it came to picking your enemies and your allies.  I wound up defending you, even.

I was barely listening, trying to focus on the swarm, picking out the places they could operate and the places they couldn’t, tracking the various prisoners as they started moving.

But that last sentence caught me off guard.  “You defended me?”

“For him, it’s his raisin de enter.

Raison d’etre,” Tattletale clarified.

Yeah.  That.  His daddy fucked him up, so it sort of gave him an inner fire where he didn’t have much more than coal inside, y’know what I mean?  Forward momentum, itch to go out and get shit done?  Become a villain with the idea that maybe someday he’d get to pull one over on the old man, become a warlord.  So for him, it was the only reason he really got up in the morning, besides maybe the basic pleasures of life.  My parents fucked me over too, but it was different.  No grudge here, just a whole lot of sad.”

“Yeah,” I said.  I wasn’t sure what to add to that.

So it was a fight.  Closest to a fight as I ever got with that asshole.  Well, if Skitter’s being nice, so will I.  Good deed of the day, since I’m dicking around now, nothing to report…  You listening in, Shady?”


Man, it was eerie to recognize Sophia’s voice over the earbud.

I’ll take that as a yes.  Regent told me about his stunt.  Controlling you.

Canary passed through my swarm.  She was silent, and the glances to the side when Imp was speaking suggested she didn’t want to interrupt.

He took you home.  Gave you a hard time, messing with your mom.  The whole thing with you nearly committing suicide afterwards.

I was very still.  The lights flickered, the ground rumbled, and I didn’t so much as flinch.

Well, I’m not going to ‘prattle’, as Lung would put it.  He was there, obviously.  He told me about it, after the fact.  Just, like, a heart to heart, between two of us who don’t have much heart to go around, you get me?  Neither of us’s the type to get embarrassed, so nothing to hide.  Can share all the stories.  Share each other, just by talking?”

She made it sound like a question.  Like she wasn’t even sure, and she wanted validation from someone.

I remembered how Regent had controlled her.  Seized her with his power.  Sharing each other indeed.

Not a guy that’s in touch with his emotions.  Way I always saw it, they’re there, he’s just oblivious to it all.  Had to be.  So it’s only after he’s through with you that he realizes maybe he was a little hard on you, maybe he twisted the knife harder than he usually would, because it bugged him.  There you are with a family, and he can feel your emotions, and he totally knows you don’t even realize it in the slightest.  He’s blind to his own emotions and you’re blind to the emotions of others.”

Is this going somewhere?”  Shadow Stalker’s voice.  “You’re prattling.

Take it from me, as I tell you what the lazy jerk who body-controlled you told me.  Your mommy loves you lots, Shady.

There was a pause.  “Okay.

That’s all you’re going to give me?  I totally dish all this, and I get an ‘okay’?”  Imp asked.  She was oblivious to the pause before Shadow Stalker had spoken, to the fact that she’d affected Shadow Stalker on some level.

That, or Imp’s wording had taken a second to figure out.

“No arguments,” I said, cutting in before something could start between two of our more volatile members.  “Canary?”

“They’re ready.”

“Good.  Rachel, Golem, Cuff.  If and when we move, I need you to run interference.  When we move, I need you to distract, protect the core group, protect us as we run.  Rachel, keep the dogs large enough they can maybe take a hit or two, but not so big they can’t make their way into the stairwell.  Lung?”

There was no reply.  I could sense him out in the corridor, just at the corner where it looked out into the main hallway with the prisoners and other cells.  He turned in response.  He might have been able to hear me through the comm system, but he could have heard me anyways.

I don’t think he knows how to use the comm system,” Tattletale said.  “Or he does, but he’s changed enough it’s hard to do.”

“Lung,” I said.  “The other three are giving us cover.  You have enough experience I’m not going to tell you what to do.  You’ve been at this cape thing for a decade and a bit.  So go all-in.  Or do what the other three are doing.  Your call.”

There was no reply.  Maybe he didn’t understand the comm system.

“You’re so calm,” Canary said.  “Most of you.  Lung seemed nervous.”

Lung, out in the corridor, clenched his fist.

You annoyed him, saying that.

“I’m shaking,” Canary said, and her strange, melodic voice gave evidence to her fear.  “You can’t tell with these gauntlets I’m wearing, but I’m shaking.”

“Okay,” I said.  “Don’t worry.”

“I’m-” she laughed a little, and the laugh hitched with emotion.  “I’m- pretty worried.”

“We’ve been through worse.  Everyone here has been through worse.”

“That doesn’t make me feel better.  It makes me feel like maybe I had the right idea, back in the beginning when I decided not to do this cape thing.  I’m going to fuck up, and the stakes are so fucking high…”

“Relax,” I said.  “Or… if that’s not possible, just, um.  Tell yourself we’ve got your back.  None of us are about to let the newbie die.”

“That’s not that reassuring,” she said.

“It’ll have to do,” I said.  The ground was shaking, and someone was manually tearing apart a cell block just a distance away.  I could feel Mantellum retreating, the blind spot shifting.

I was just a little impatient.  We were running out of time, and I didn’t even have everything in place.

I parted my swarm, giving myself a view of the three captives.

“You three,” I said.

They raised their heads.

Brutto tik,” the largest one growled.

“Be quiet,” I ordered, as authoritative as I could manage.

He clenched his teeth, lips pressed together.

Does he even realize he’s obeying?

“I’m not your enemy.  Stop treating me like an enemy and listen,” I said.

I could see the tension slowly seep out of them.

“Nod your heads,” I said, experimentally.

They each nodded, out of sync.

“Golem?  Release them,” I said.

Golem created more hands, manually tearing the old ones apart.

The three stood still, looking just a little unfocused.

I turned to the largest one.  “What are your powers?”

He looked confused.

“Tell me your powers.”

“I’m dense,” he said.


I extended my disintegration knife in his direction, saw the delayed reaction, the genuine fear and concern.

I turned it around, offering him the handle.

He stared at it, still looking afraid.

“Calm down,” I said.

He relaxed, very slowly, very visibly.

It works on involuntary reactions?

He settled into a state that still looked ill-at-ease, but not nearly as afraid as before.

Or does it work on the voluntary, visible signs of the involuntary reactions?

“Take it,” I said.

He took the knife.

“Hide it.”

He hid it.

“Now don’t move.  Don’t be afraid.”

He went stock still.

“Um,” Canary said.  “A thing…”

“A thing?” I asked.

“He’s not as influenced as my ex-boyfriend was, but… they’re very literal, about what you say.  Even like this.”

I looked at the dense man.  “Okay.  Then-”

“You’re allowed to move to breathe,” Canary cut me off.

The man exhaled audibly.

“Now don’t react,” I told him.

Then I sent my flying bugs to him, collecting them beneath the generic uniform he wore.  They carried silk cord and wound it loosely around his legs and arms.

True to form, he didn’t react.

I thought about it a bit more, and then gave him an excess of silk.  Hundreds of feet of it.

“This cell was empty, there’s nothing inside except people looking for some privacy.  Make your way to an isolated spot where nobody can really see you, wait until the lights flicker out, and then use the safety on the knife.”

He looked at me as though he hadn’t taken in any of it.

“My ex was like that, before went and obeyed me, without my knowledge,” Canary said.  “I think this guy will listen.”

“Then you’re free.  Forget this.”

He left.  I looked at the remaining two.

“You two, shirts off.”

“Yes.  I like the way you think.”

“Be quiet, Imp,” I said.  “We’re moving, be ready.”

And moving starts with sexy times.  Not complaining.

For someone who hates being ignored, she seems to demand it from others, I thought.  “Sit in the corridor, near where the spiky, scaled guy is now.  Tell him to come here.  If anyone comes, kiss.  Convince them they’re interrupting something private, get angry.”

“I’m not comfortable with this bit,” Cuff said.  “It’s creepy.”

“It’s better than Lung having to tear people to shreds or burn them if they happen this way,” I said.  “I’ll take creepy.”

“Okay, if I have to be specific, then I’ll say it’s a bit, um, rapey.”

I frowned.

“Don’t actually kiss,” I told the men.  “Fake it as much as you can.”

Cuff nodded.

The others were all moving, now.

As the two stopped near Lung, he turned to go.

Apparently he was going solo.  He clawed at his already scale-torn shirt and cast it aside, then stalked into the crowd.  He didn’t completely blend in, with his heavy jeans, but he could almost pass for a case fifty-three.

The dense man with the knife stopped.  He’d found a place in a cell where nobody had a good view of him.

He held up the knife, then activated it.   I drew the bugs from beneath his clothes and wrapped threads around the handle.

The lights went out.

I carried the knife up to the ceiling, then started carrying it down the length of the hallway.  With my bugs, I could trace the hallways on either side, sense the general grid with cells in rows of five, I could see the people…

Up until I ran into Mantellum’s blind spot.

A chronic failing of human beings, that we so rarely looked up.  The swarm moved along the ceiling.  If any parahumans had the powers to notice it, they didn’t have a strong enough voice to alert any others.

And, in the interest of using the enemy’s tools against them, I was able to bring the swarm inside Mantellum’s area of effect.  If there were clairvoyants or precogs capable of tracking my actions or what I was about to do, then this would presumably limit their sight just as well as it limited mine.

They’d lynched one of their own kind, were eager to lynch any others who didn’t show absolute loyalty.  They were celebrating, in a way, and they were simultaneously building up the crowd, ensuring that their mob was loyal.  All of them on the same page, for better or for worse.  I couldn’t see, but I could guess that the reason for their slow progress was the press of the crowd between them and the door.

I was blind, here, but I didn’t have to strike aimlessly.

I extended silk thread above the blind spot.  A good two hundred feet of the stuff, level with the ground.  I only stopped when either end of the suspended silk cord I had bugs on either side of Mantellum’s blind spot.

Then I extended more, setting it cross-wise against the other thread.

Not perfect, but it gave me a starting point.  Assuming the blind spot was a circle or a sphere, which it appeared to be, I could find the center point.

Mantellum, the source of the effect, dead center.

I waited until the lights flickered again.  The moment my bugs couldn’t see the lights, the tight swarm of bugs with the threads and the dagger swept down.

“Shadow Stalker, Lung, this is my signal.  Act.  Imp?  Get out of the way, head back to us.”

One pass.  A lazy swoop with the swarm, the knife suspended by threads.

I couldn’t see, even with the camera, but I was aware of Mantellum stopping in his tracks.  The boundaries of the circle stopped drifting in the general direction of the stairwell.

I waited, willed the lights to flicker.  Time passed.

People were reacting, outside the circle.  How much damage had I done?

The lights went out.

Another pass.

Mantellum’s effect dissipated.  The blind spot filled in, a crowd, capes, blood spraying.  My bugs could sense them all.

The lights came back on.  One cape saw the swarm, moving towards the ceiling.

A chunk of ice the size of a small car hit them.  Ice fragments rained down on the crowd.

Many bugs had died in the collision.

The swarm couldn’t keep the knife aloft.  I had to reinforce it, but I couldn’t get enough bugs there in time to do it before it hit the ground.


I let it fall.  Let it pass through the ground like the ground wasn’t even there, disappearing into the floor beneath us.

“Custodian,” I said.  “The effect that was blocking you is down.”

I could feel her move.

Lung was advancing, now.  Fire rolled forth from his claws in plumes, surging into cells.  The crowd moved out of his way.

I could hear them cheering.  Oblivious to the fact that he wasn’t on their side, wasn’t just carrying out the raid.

Lung hurled a fireball that passed just inches above the crowd’s heads.

The fireball hit a cell block, scattering more of the crowd.

He was changing now, changing quickly.

“Lung,” I said.  “Tone it down.  If you grow too much, you won’t be able to come downstairs.”

No response.

More fire, more destruction.  The flames were spreading, igniting beds.  I could see on the camera, the meager flames that lingered on stone and concrete.

There was a method to his madness.  Small as the flames were, capes were backing away a touch.  They were cheering him on in his rampage, cheering the destruction of cells that had kept them captive, but they were still falling victim to the strategy beneath it all.

He was walling them off, sectioning off an area with fire and plumes of smoke.  Making it so we only had to deal with a smaller number.

I became aware of Imp as she hopped over a smaller flame on her way to us.  Lung, unaware due to her power or uncaring due to his personality, came dangerously close to frying her as he shored up the barrier, driving people back as the smoke continued to billow.

The cheers became screams of fear and panic as Shadow Stalker’s bolts started hitting the special capes.  Sniping them.

Three shots, and then someone retaliated.  A sonic attack, focused.  The crossbow bolts stopped appearing.

She’s dead?  Just like that?

No.  More crossbow bolts, from a different vantage point.  Fired from within walls, Shadow Stalker poking a barely visible head out into gloom to get a bead, then firing at her targets.

“Go,” I said.  “Shadow Stalker, Lung, we’re moving.  Cover our retreat, follow us if you can.”

No response from either.  They were busy doing what they were doing.

I could feel the Custodians appearing.

A vast quantity.  Filling empty spaces, overlapping.

A duplicator?  I thought.

Like Velocity, the Brockton Bay Protectorate member who’d died against Leviathan.  He’d been a fast cape, capable of outrunning vehicles, striking a hundred times in a minute.  But that came at the expense of a limited ability to affect the world.

The Custodian was the same.

She was weak, standalone, barely a wisp of air.  And she couldn’t turn it off.  Couldn’t get back to a state where she was fully material, capable of affecting the world normally.

But she duplicated, combined her strength, made hundreds of herself, thousands

She tore into the crowd like an elemental force.  My bugs could feel the air ripple, felt prisoners get thrown into cells.

Felt the blood, the limbs being bent in ways that wasn’t possible, when they refused to be thrown.

Energy attacks cut through the open air, and she barely slowed down.

The remaining special case fifty-threes from the floor below started to attack, to use abilities I couldn’t quantify as sound or fire or lightning, and the Custodian let hundreds of duplicates disappear in her attempts to get out of the way.

We headed out of the corridor.  “You two,” I ordered the shirtless duo.  “Help defend us.”

Between the dogs, Golem and Cuff, we had the brawn to force ourselves through the crowd that was in the area Lung had walled off.  Surprise, too, went a long way.  I didn’t have a lot of bugs, but I had enough to blind a few people, to fill their noses and ears and distract.

When Lung turned his fire on the group that was standing their ground, readying to stop us, that was a breaking point.  They scattered.  Two remained, tough and stubborn enough to keep attacking, and Lung picked one of them up, swinging them like a flail to bludgeon the other aside.

Golem’s hands shoved more away.  Cuff’s strikes, using her ability to manipulate metal and her metal gloves, were enough to break bone.  She shattered legs and arms, struck ribs and threw people aside.

I wasn’t proud, but I knew that this cold, efficient ruthlessness was at least partially a result of the time we’d spent together.

Imp caught up with us.  She had a sphere tucked under one arm, with the coiling mass of Weld’s partner within, still moving.

Panting, Imp said, “Couldn’t get him, but I figured she’s bound to be on our side, right?”

I only nodded.  There were other things to focus on, like the ones that had been torturing her.

In the stairwell at the far end of the hallway, the one that mirrored our escape route, the main group, with the beautiful man, the spiky boy and a badly injured Gully were making their way down the stairs.

I was ready.  I already had thread attached to a rivet in the ceiling, thread attached to the knife I’d dropped to the floor below.  It swung into the stairwell, an easy, casual swing.

The disintegration effect carved into the people at the front of the group, into heads, shoulders, necks, and body parts unique to case fifty-threes.

I used the swarm to control the swing, to swing it into the crowd that was hurrying down the stairs.

More struck.  Devastation, people falling over each other as they collapsed on the stairs.

Someone, no doubt someone with a sensory power, reached for the knife, tried to grab it.

I cut the thread with the mandibles of my bugs.  It plunged down into the group, paused as the handle came to rest on writhing bodies.

Then slid off to one side as the blade continued to eat through everything near it.

Again, it ate through the stairs, falling to a floor below.  I did what I could to catch it, using my bugs to grab after the threads that still trailed behind it.

We reached the stairwell, and faced the group within.

They’d barely dented the reinforced metal doors, with their myriad powers.

Cuff ignored them, charging forward, and hit the door with her fist.

The crash was loud enough to stun me, and I was at the thick of the group, furthest from the door.

She did more damage to the door than most of them had.

The Custodian was right.  We wouldn’t have been able to break through here in normal circumstances.  We’d have been cornered, more than we were in the cell.

The damage continued outside.  The Custodian pursued the group in the stairwell, harassing, bludgeoning.  She separated the crowd into groups and then bulled them back, driving them towards empty cells.  I was drawing my bugs back to me in stages, concentrating them on a few people at a time, trying to track what she was doing.

Yet even with that, I couldn’t follow it all.  Flayed skin, people holding their hands against one eye, joints bent the wrong way, bleeding wounds.

Nothing lethal.  Only punishment.

Lung, Cuff, Golem and Rachel dealt with the five threats here in the stairwell.  Shadow Stalker made her appearance, and dealt with the sixth, jamming a tranquilizer bolt into his neck.

Cuff hit the reinforced metal door again.  It bulged as if she were ten times the size, hitting ten times as hard.

She hit it a third time, a fourth…

On the fifth impact, it gave way.

We made our way down.

“Further,” I said.

FYI,” Tattletale’s voice sounded, “Losing you as you get further down.”

“We’ll be in touch,” I said.

Attack in Gimel went.  Not good, not bad, but it went.  Didn’t want to dis…, but now it’s…    …Just wanted to let you know.  Bracing ours… …r nex… he didn’t show at next location… trying…  where he is… Wish us-“

And then radio silence.

I tested the comm.  No luck.

Two stairwells, mirroring, no doubt for the safety of having a backup.  The other group had stalled where the knife had delayed them.  We proceeded further.

Past the fourth floor.

We stopped, panting for breath.

Another reinforced door, open.

An expanse of flat, brushed steel behind it.  A dead end.

And sitting in front of that expanse of steel were Satyrical, Blowout, Floret and Leonid.  Revel and Exalt were nowhere to be seen.

“It seems we’re going to have ourselves a problem,” Satyrical said, looking down at his fingernails.

“No offense,” I said, “But I think we’re a little stronger, in terms of raw firepower.”

“You are.”

“So unless you’ve replaced half of my team with sleeper agents…”

He shook his head.  “Only just became aware of you, honestly.”

“…I’m not particularly threatened.”

“No,” Satyr said, speaking slowly, as if he were picking his words.  “It’s not us.  It’s him.”


Oh.  Him.

“And the one with the answers is buried under a half-mile of solid steel,” he said.  He bit at the corner of one fingernail, then buffed it on the leg of his costume.  “Like I said.  A problem.”

Last Chapter                                                                                               Next Chapter

264 thoughts on “Venom 29.5

  1. Hey everybody.

    Tomorrow I’ll be going up to the cabin for what might be the last time this year. More of a wood fire in the chilly night thing than a sun and swim thing. Should be nice, in the company of some people I enjoy. Probable interlude Tuesday, if not a regular chapter. Still a few more chapters left in this arc. If I don’t return in time to deliver the promised chapter, it’s probably because one of the bridges washed out and I got stranded in the middle of the woods and didn’t make it home in time to transcribe handwritten notes to the computer.

    Still a bit sick, rather distracted with guests over. Please forgive typos or a mild lack of coherency.

    Please vote on topwebfiction, if you’re so inclined.

    And lastly, most importantly, thank you for reading. Thank you for your support, for the mentions on reddit and the spreading the word or just the fact that you’re here, reading my comment. Thank you for being awesome, readers.

    • Thank you for being an awesome writer.

      I have some difficulty picturing the whole layout of the cells and where the crowds are, but that may just be me. I have some difficulty with description from time to time.

      I see you tried to go for the banter a little bet, at least as thinking. Playing hardball, softball. Good thing that guy wasn’t getting busy for real with anyone. They’d be putty in his hands. I expect he has a problem with keeping it hard, though.

      The action was clear enough, as was the heart-to-heart stuff. I see you’re still keeping up the humor part. Seems like I noticed more of it in the story ever since people mentioned they’d have liked to see more, so good job working on it. You’ve done well.

      I don’t say it that much but despite all I say about the tone of the story and my differing thoughts on how things should or could go as a matter of philosophy, it’s very good and it keeps my attention not just for trying to find out how Taylor’s going to think her way out of the situation, but also because you’ve done an awesome job of creating characters that resonate emotionally with us.

      I think when all is said and done, you will have left a definite and unique mark on the genre of superhero fiction. The only reason I don’t count it as existing now is because you haven’t finished yet. Despite all the dread over no longer having Worm to read, we’re all looking forward to it.

      Keep up the good work, Wildbow.

      • Well said, PG. I am also enjoying the final brush strokes as Wildbow finishes what I hope is only the first in a series of this masterpiece that is Worm.

        • Indeed. As someone who is working on his own superhero story (still in planning phase) my greatest fear is that it will just turn out to be an inferior rip-off of Worm.

            • Heh, thank you. It will be sometime before anything will go up (if it actually goes up). Characters and worldbuilding are pretty much done but plot is still somewhat lacking. Or better, I have so many ideas that I don’t know where to focus.

              The supervillain gang-war in the city with the highest supers/normal ration in the world? The mysterious organization that is recruiting recently released small time superpowered crooks for some reason? The big superhero team that is battling the powerful brainwashing super villain? The somewhat ridiculed denomination that worships supers as angels on Earth?

              And some times I think I should Ijust dump everything together, find some way to link it all and add some flashbacks to the Golden Age of Superheroes courtesy of the guy who ensures that the supervillains stay in prison thanks to his wide-range power nullifying ability 🙂 :

              • Huh. Funny. Personally, I’d say the religious group, but it depends on your protagonists. What I find funny is that in the world of There Are No Heroes, ADX Florence is equipped with a device that nullifies powers within a mile or two. With unpleasant side effects, like nausea, lethargy, dizziness, perpetual buzzing…

              • This is one of the stories that had to do with me writing my continuing adventures, so I understand some of that. You’d find things don’t really resemble Worm, though. Not that kind of influence, other dimensional and all. More about people here thinking I could and should. I feel like a bit more of a mooch around here because of it, especially whenever I mention it over here as if to say “Yes, this dealership is fine and all with its new cars, but come on down to Crazy Bob’s Car Lot!”

                Still, doesn’t mean you shouldn’t go along as long as it’s done well and isn’t too close for comfort. Just be aware of your limitations. For example, if I were to write a fictional story, I could never hit the negative emotions as well as Wildbow. However, I’m apparently not bad as a bit of a relief after a Worm update.

                As for power nullification, they generally have a variety of methods they have over here to try and counter people personally, though a standard one involves cuffs capable of numbing a person. Problem is, physical aspects are difficult to nullify. Like if there was Three Arm Man who was arrested, no amount of power nullification is going to make his third arm wither and fall off.

              • Maybe do what Wildbow did and write a number of shorts to flesh out the world before doing a larger work?

                And dude, don’t compare to Worm. That’s like taking up painting and comparing your work to that Michaelangelo guy. xD

      • Amen, PG. I think I’ve learnt a lot about what makes a good story and what doesn’t just by reading this work. It’s really wonderful to know that there are people out there that are willing to do things like this. I go to bookstores, and see people, and I just want to introduce them to all the different kinds of amazing stories you can find on the internet. But overall, so happy I found this.

        Have a fun time, wildbow. 🙂

    • “And sitting in front of that expanse of steel was Satyrical. Blowout, Floret and Leonid. ”

      Should be comma between Satyrical and Blowout?

    • I’m not actually sure whether the cutoffs are deliberately lacking punctuation.
      “his neck.1” 1.
      “myself, ready to but one” Missing word.
      “have capsaicin, but” Missing ellipsis.
      “help?” Cuff asked” Missing period.
      “hard to read, but the” Cuts off there.
      “armless man, then” Cuts off.
      ““Lung,” I said. “The ” Extra spaces.
      “safety on the knife” Missing period and quote.

    • Two instances of “further” at the end of the chapter should technically be “farther,” if you want to be grammar-nitpicky.

    • “I only stopped when either end of the suspended silk cord I had bugs on either side of Mantellum’s blind spot.”

      cord I had –> cord had

      “My ex was like that, before went and obeyed me, without my knowledge”

      before went –> before he went

      “The pretty man and the spiky, yellow guy were holding a prisoner’s hands up the air between them”

      up the –> up in the

    • ““My ex was like that, before went and obeyed me, without my knowledge,” Canary said. 


      “Two remained, tough and stubborn enough to keep attacking, and Lung picked one of them up, swinging them like a flail to bludgeon the other aside.”

      Swinging him

    • Not actually a typo, but this phrase is kinda weird: “someone was manually tearing apart a cell block just a distance away.”.

      “Just a distance away” doesnt tell us anything. It reads like maybe you intended to go back and fill it in later?

    • limbs being bent in ways that wasn’t possible –> weren’t possible

      Tattletale’s next to last dialogue part suddenly stops being written in italics, in the middle.of.a word. Same with a sentence of Imp (the Shady part)

    • “Your concern for my well being is touching, Hebert,” she said.”
      –> Herbert

      “I only stopped when either end of the suspended silk cord I had bugs on either side of Mantellum’s blind spot.”
      –>…silk cord had
      (Whole sentence could be re-worked for clarity.)

      “She separated the crowd into groups and then bulled them back”
      Did you mean ‘bullied’? “Bulled” makes more sense –suggests a bull pushing against something– except I’m not sure it’s a word.

  2. Waitaminnit, who’s “him”? Number Man? Unless this steel wall is another door of some kind (or a sliding panel or something that he activated as a security measure) he’s not the type to create that much metal. Weld? Didn’t know he could make that much metal, unless we’re referring to other problems besides the steel wall. Mantellum? That problem should be solved right quick once Taylor relays her recent exploits.

        • It was the obvious choice.

          If they were in any position for an epic “I-Told-You-So”ing, this would be a good time to call them out again on not sending the portals on the oil platform.

          Whew, yeah, good thing they didn’t. No telling if Scion would suddenly find their base because of the portals showing up.

          Except he picked a moment to strike when Cauldron’s defenses were torn to shreds and the Case 53s were fighting each other as well, so it appears that Cauldron did, back then at least, have enough to make Scion not want to strike there.

          They hesitated, though, helping to lead us here.

          • To be fair, it was a reasonable call based on what they did (and didn’t) know at the time.

            They’d launched an attack on Scion from a base in another dimension and he went straight to that dimension and confronted them there.

            They had no way of knowing whether Scion had traced them back through the portals or not.

            It was cold, but reasonable under the circumstances and not dissimilar to Taylor’s call to write off the civilians in the S9 zone rather than lead her troops into an ambush.

            Given that Scion’s only just now gotten around to attacking Cauldron suggests that they might’ve made the right call. It suggests that he may well have found Cauldron while rampaging through the dimensions rather than knowing where to find them.

            Not that a positive outcome automatically makes a call the right one, but there’s a good chance if they *had* opened the portal back then that there’d be no Cauldron left for Taylor to loot now.

            Cauldron have done a *lot* of wrong things, but I’m finding it hard to fault them for this one.

            • I fault them for it, because I don’t actually believe the justification they gave. Yeah, Zion was able to track String Theory’s observation window back to the oil platform and shift there himself, but I don’t see how that implies that evacuation portals would make Cauldron or Doormaker vulnerable, unless the portals went straight back to Cauldron’s facility, which doesn’t seem desirable in any case. They could just door everyone to a different world, maybe even through a chain of them to try to break the trail for Zion before they consolidated forces elsewhere.

              Unless seeing a door to anywhere can lead Zion back to Doormaker, in which case they were already screwed.

              So, yeah, I think the story they gave is an excuse, not a reason. And not a valid one, either.

  3. Him? Who, Lung, Pretender, Numberman? Good chapter, and we see more of that ruthless efficiency Taylor forced herself to learn to save the world. If you had told me at the beginning that Lung, Shadow Stalker, and Taylor would have teamed up and actually done a decent job together I would have laughed. I actually did laugh at Lung being nervous. A guy who can fight off an Endbringer is nervous. Curious about shadowstalker’s feeling right now, and her own fucked up interpretation of Taylor. But I guess Regent and Imp were very close that she knew all of that about him.

    • My guess is that Canary completely misread Lung. “Nervous” does NOT fit him. I’d say he was impatient, and irritated because things weren’t moving according to his own plans.

      The fact that he’s listening to Taylor says a LOT. Lung does not respect many people from what I’ve seen.

      • Funny. I was looking for a place to put this thought.

        I agree with you on Lung being impatient. That Canary interpreted that as nervousness, irritated him.
        On to the thought.
        When Lung first came out of the birdcage, he seemed to be thinking…”I haven’t forgotten about what you did to me and I’m going to kill you soon.” When Shadow Stalker tried to attack Taylor, Lung shut her down, possibly thinking… “Nope. You don’t get to kill her. I got first dibs.”
        This chapter seems to have Lung, at least listening to Taylors instructions and cooperating with the plan as it evolves. I wouldn’t be surprised if he winds up joining the Undersiders at the end.

        • I’ll remind everyone of what Lung did to Bakuda (sp?) in the Birdcage. Lung may have a degree of respect for Taylor because she managed to defeat him but I’m willing to bet it’s dwarfed by his desire to squish her.

          • On the other hand, Lung doesn’t respect many people. If he find out that he can actually respect Taylor he might choose not to kill her. He might say he will some day, but just forever defer it. Saving face, while showing respect. Not too far fetched considering the culture he came from.

            Also, Taylor beat him in two fights, but still respects him and as far as I’ve seen, she has not once reminded him of those defeats. The damage she did to him in those two fights was pretty brutal, but he regenerates so he’s not going to have any concern over physical damage done to him.

            He’s 100% about respect. And despite beating him twice, and being in a position of leadership, Taylor gives him plenty of respect.

          • And, according to Canary, Lungs first action when he got to the birdcage, was to kill Bakuda. He may be reevaluating Taylor as a worthy opponent, instead of a lucky little punk.
            Then again, he could be simply honoring the truce and staying close so that he CAN get his revenge as soon as the truce drops.

  4. Continuity note: it’s not clear when Taylor retrieved the knife after it fell through the floor the first time.

    I like Cuff having another opportunity to show off.

  5. Something of a return to form here, and Taylor’s solution was excellent though I’m not entirely clear on why she needed it- was she just not sure that Shadow Stalker could make the killshot on Mantellum?

    Imp/Sophia was great.

    • Case 53s are generally large and bulky, often with abnormal anatomy. It may have taken many shots from a crossbow to bring Mantellum down because Sophia may not have been able to figure out exactly what part critical organs are located in. Had she taken more than one shot, she would have alerted the whole mob. Taylor’s solution ensured the kill and caused maximum chaos.

      • ‘Ensured the kill’ is off target, (she was firing blind, educated guess but still blind) but it was the safest measure, in terms of not providing any obvious or less-obvious targets for retaliation.

        • By “ensuring the kill”, I meant the damage a successful hit would cause, not the likelihood of hitting in the first place. It’s pretty hard to survive having a huge chunk of your upper body turned into red mist. A crossbow bolt would be something they could possibly just shrug off.

        • I was made rather uneasy by Taylor’s willingness to kill this time around. Not surprised, but it’s damn creepy to see her shift so deep into ruthless strategist mode. “Oh, asset Canary is showing signs that she might not perform reliably because of my treatment of target labelled Softball. I will cease said treatment. How odd that asset Canary is responding even more negatively to hundreds of bugs flowing out of target’s mouth, nose, and eyes.” And then not realizing she was quasi-raping her mind-controlled targets…

          The thing that really made me squirm was when she was swinging the disintegration knife blindly into Mantellum’s bubble. She was killing people, lots of people, but she didn’t have to see the results. History and rather disturbing psychological experiments have shown that that’s a recipe for atrocity. The really disturbing part was when Mantellum’s effect went down; she didn’t even notice him or any of the others that she hit with the knife. We can infer that they were lying all over the place, bleeding and screaming, but all she registers is the knife slipping out of the grasp of her bugs.

          Our little girl’s all grown up, and Dinah’s prediction that she’d be barely recognizable by this point wasn’t too far off.

  6. Oh the irony, the girl you tormented ends up being the only person who cares if you die.

    I love the reference to Taylor’s first night in costume too, really makes you realize how our little Taylor has grown into a gigantic badass. Also kind of funny how Taylor can get the Undersiders to act nicer but her old Ward teammates have the same kind of effect on her.

    The Vegas Capes sure have style. Scion about to come murder you all and Satyr’s just checking out his nails.

    • She has definitely leveled up. When she first went out Lung nearly killed her, and they Undersiders were seriously worried about PRT agents with foam guns. By the time they took over the city, Bitch and Taylor alone took on the entire PRT office, the Undersiders were able to seriously threaten three villain groups who they later took down, and my personal favorite is when she threatens to remove Miss Militia and Flechette out of her territory. She is wearing a sundress, has a bag full of bugs, and no other weapons so I thought she was bluffing for appearances but then you realize she is completely confident she could take on and beat both of them. But what freaks out Canary is how freaking calm she is about everything.

        • To be fair to Jack, badass normals are his only weakness. And Endbringers.

          Badass normals and Endbringers are his only two weaknesses. And tinker gear.

          Badass normals, Endbringers and tinker gear are his only three weaknesses. And Grey Boy.

          Wait, let me start over.

          • Here let me help you.

            As long as Jack has the Siberian with him he has no weaknesses. Except Gray Boy.

            As long as he has the Siberian with him his only weakness is Grey Boy. And Foil.

            As long as he has the Siberian with him his only weakness is Grey Boy and Foil. And Clockblocker.

            As long as he has the Siberian with him…you know what never mind.

            • I think we can all agree that Jack does not do well on the offensive. He does best when employing the principle that weaknesses are easier to exploit than they are to shore up.

              Which is why he finally died when he did. He still had the initiative in all their fights, but he was reacting to what they did to try to stop his rampage rather than targeting their weaknesses. That’s what killed him.

              Well. I suppose Jack’s not really dead. Ye gods and little fishes that’s a fate I would wish on absolutely no one.

              • Jack wasn’t human. Biologically, perhaps, but he just wasn’t human in how he reacted with the world. I agree that the punishment doesn’t fit the crime. As long as he’s still alive he can still do harm. For all we know he’s in constant contact with Scion even now, teaching him how to be a “better” monster.

        • Normals are proving to be at least marginally useful even against Scion, provided that they are able to maintain/rebuild the suits and AI’s. The suits and predictive AI’s also actually protected them from Scion until he “cheated” with the AE glowing attack.

          I’m amazed that they haven’t started training more capes in the use of these suits. Cuff and Foil for instance. Both highly effective fighters, but they probably can’t predict as well as the suit AI’s. Whether or not they could learn fast enough to actually be better in a fight is a different story.

          What about Number Man in a predictive AI suit? Would it improve, or interfere with his power? He would certainly be able to adapt to use it almost instantly. It’s just more data.

          • Taylor comments at one point that for combat veterans, the predictive algorithm is more a distraction than anything useful. I don’t think it’d do anything for Number Man in particular that his power doesn’t already do better.

      • The only reason she could threaten Miss Militia and Flechette is because they weren’t willing to kill her. If lethal force was on the table she wouldn’t have stood a chance.
        There’s also a bit of plot power reducing enemy competence and bending the laws of physics in Taylor’s favour at this point.

        • Actually I think that the earlier stages had way more plot power granted to to Taylor than the latest ones. In this chapter she had Lung (arguably in the top 10 of the most powerful parahumans ever) and the Custodian (who inside Cauldron’s base is just short of unbeatable) on her side.

          • Don’t forget that a lot of the earlier stages had Coil quietly editing away an unknown number of instances where Taylor and the other Undersiders did poorly.

          • I agree, she had much more plot armor at the beginning. Now she is just so experienced she doesn’t need plot armor.

      • Agreed. That part with MM and Flechette was a perfect example of just how much more versatile and powerful the entire group had become. Poor Canary spent two/three years in the Birdcage and didn’t have half as much experience as these people which is both entertaining and sad. She’ll get used to it if they survive. After all, it’s only a typical lunchtime for the Undersiders.

    • I thought there was no way I’d get to use this, but at last, Shadow Stalker has made it possible. Yes, yes!

      I won’t bother sending it the way Wildbow has to approve, with Wildbow sleepy and going elsewhere, so here we go, a song about heroes and their one special enemy:

      Deranged by Coheed and Cambria

      I almost wish I had an archnemesis to play that for. *sniff*

      • you manage to stop killing them, you could find a cute hero go into a committed archnemisis relationship. maybe one with a brooding nature even. get together and settle down have lovely crossovers with.

      • I always felt that Shadow Stalker fit ‘Teenagers’ (MCR) worryingly well. She’s not quite cool enough to get ‘Welcome to the Jungle’.

  7. Two stairs with a steel door at the end? Handsome man and his group butchered by the flying knife in one of the stairs while Taylor took the other flight of stairs? I couldn’t understand this well.
    Taylor must have increased her kill count a lot with the crazy flying knife. And this reminds me of a certain d&d spell.
    Before any Troll complains, I believe that the extreme violence used here was clearly justifiable.
    Good work dear author.
    And now we have Scion in the dungeon.

    • Damn, I guess it was a good thing Defiant never gave Taylor any of his knives before. Then again, she’d probably have taken out half the S9k by herself if he had.

      • Last time she got her hands on a nanothorn weapon, she ripped Leviathan a new asshole. Knifing a bunch of Case 53s is a step down, if anything.

  8. Hey this is actually just a quick question about a previous Chapter. When Taylor had to turn into that bug creature to survive, what exactly changed/grew? The stream of consciousness writing made it a little hard to figure out.

    • Well, look at the aftermath of what Scion hit her with in the first place. She was cut in half below the ribcage and her organs were falling out of the abdominal cavity. Pretty much everything below the ribs sprouted monstrous flesh to replace the severed half. She also had some strange things going on with her mouth that prevented normal speech, but it wasn’t clear what exactly was going on there.

      • See… I hear all this and I actually keep coming back to David Chronenburg’s The Fly, only instead of gradual it happens all at once.

        Surprised she wasn’t blasted on first sight.

        • Well the only thing they were intent on blasting at the time was Scion, who looks like a gold statue in a white robe. Pretty hard to mistake one for another. Also, she ran into Weld&Sveta first, who would be sympathetic to “monsters” by default.

    • Axel, can you please just stop posting here or stop pretending to read the story with any sort of comprehension? You just updated your review on TV Tropes accusing Taylor and crew of rape. You even went so far as to bold the word to make a point. Seriously, what the fuck is your problem? Nobody raped anybody. You made the update after this particular post, which leads me to believe that you somehow interpreted Taylor asking the Case 53s to make a distraction by kissing as actual rape and completely disregarded the part where Taylor made a point of scaling down the order when it was pointed out that it came across as a “bit rapey”. You are twisting things out of context just for attention and trolling. Please leave now and never come back.

        • I have already said that I think that what she did to Triumph (and to the Mayor) was the worst thing Taylor has ever done. However it is NOT rape. It’s battery or maybe attempted murder, though to be fair she didn’t try to kill him on purpose. Pardon me for being crass, but filling someone’s anus with insects is not rape. TRIUMPH did not think about it as rape.

          Oh and btw, did you perchance post as Pokun on the spacebattles forum, because he made a similar argument to this,along with other comments that reminded people of yours.

          • Where? I didn’t even know there was a forum for Worm.

            Also, Forcible Penetration with a Foreign Object technically counts as Rape under the law in most states. Not to mention it’s been proven that men who have been raped almost next to never report it because of how degrading it is to them.

            • Axel, nobody believes you anymore. Yes, just about everyone thought that what Taylor did to Triumph was absolutely reprehensible, but not many people seriously saw it as rape. You do not speak for everyone (nor do I for that matter), so stop trying to get on some moral high horse to pretend you represent all the other commenters. From my point of view, you’ve become Persona non Grata.

              Get out. Leave. Depart. Evacuate. Vacate. Abscond. Go away.

              • Under the law in many places, what she did is technically rape. If you refuse to address that, then you’re seriously defending her too much.

              • No, you respond to any statement that doesn’t agree with you with what amounts, in essence, to you saying “whatever, I’m right and you’re wrong”, and then you try to take the moral high ground. What does it say about you as a person that you are still here?

                Vamoose. Skedaddle. Scram. Cut and run. Disappear.

              • Actually, I enjoy debate when there are actual legitimate points to be made. However, all you do is ignore when people point out the logical flaws in your arguments and repeat them ad nauseum. I can deal with logical fallacies though, but you’ve strayed into dangerous territory with outright lying.

        • Triumph was not raped. Nobody ever really called the vicious attack by police of Abner Louima rape, but it is essentially what happened to Triumph. I’m not going to get into an argument with you where you end up repeatedly splitting hairs and equivocating, ultimately lamenting “why isn’t this a Superman comic I’m reading?” Yeah, Taylor was utterly brutal and vicious there to a point that it was reprehensible, but she also apologized to Triumph later on, and he honestly did not seem too messed up about it. And it’s rather strange, seeing as that part of the story happened well over a year ago, and you are just now addressing it. And it’s also doubly strange that you edited your review to add a bolded RAPE into it immediately after this chapter was posted. I’m sure that timing has nothing to do with it and that you are truly not a duplicitous little troll. Whatever happened to “I stand by my review”. You don’t though, you keep editing it just to inflame more and more people for attention. You’re a complete hypocrite just from the fact that you advise everyone to avoid this site, yet you keep coming back, keep updating your review to refine how nasty it is. Do everyone a favor and take your own advice: please leave and do not come back.

          • I updated it with the truth. Like I said, Where? I didn’t even know there was a forum for Worm. Like I said, Forcible Penetration with a Foreign Object technically counts as Rape under the law in most states.

            • Since we’re stooping to using legalese to make a point (not to mentioning using such a delicate argument as rape to be sensationalistic), I could stress the “most states” part. I won’t.

              I’ll just say that, yes, sticking an object there is considered a form of rape. There are usually sexual connotations to the act for it to be considered rape. I am not seeing them in the Triumph incident. It was battery, it was assault, torture attempted manslaughter if such a crime exists, blackmail, but rape? Sorry, not buying it.

              As you see what Taylor did to Triumph is already horrible without you adding rape in an attempt to be a strawman or raise attention to yourself.

              • Its about what the law defines as Rape, Even under scrutiny, it would still fall under Sexual Assault.

            • No, you updated it to pursue whatever vendetta you have against this story and its author. You come here and try to speak technicalities on some moral crusade that relies on nothing but fallacy statements, broken logic, revisionist history, and complete garbage. Does its existence really vex you that much, and that so many people enjoy this story enough to donate for more of it? You’re like that little verminous troll that shows up on forums shouting at everyone “STOP LIKING WHAT I DON’T LIKE!” I’m going to quote another author I love, Mark Z. Danielewski, from the very opening of his magnum opus “House of Leaves”.

              “This is not for you.”

              • Once more, if you’re going to just ignore what she did and not address the truth about what that scene ism, then it seriously needs to be readdressed because a review has to be truthful about what that person has read.

                You claim I am A troll? I claim that you are being “butthurt” just because I am criticizing something that YOU like. And if you can’t handle a little criticism, then maybe it is you who are overreacting.

              • No, I was able to put up with your crap until you started straying into the territory of libel. Perhaps you dont’ realize that’s “technically illegal in most states” too. At no point have I not said that what Taylor did to Triumph was wrong. I fully say that it was horrific! Was it rape though? Absolutely not.

              • >Actually, that was about what she did to Triumph, which a lot of people here I’ve read tend to agree as well.<

                Sigh, and here I was thinking you were okay. Allright, the general feeling was that what she did to Triumph was extreme. I do. Prior to you no one said it was rape. Because it wasn't.

                Okay so technically most states could count it as rape. Well a lot of bullshit has gotten off on being a technicality. Japan keeps being able to commit whaling on the technicality that they are killing the whales for scientific reasearch. It's bullshit, but I guess it's technically accurate. I suppose that if I kicked someone in the ass and my foot went in the anus, that would be rape too. Do you think what Bill Clinton did with Monica Lewinzki was sex? Because in technical legal terms it wasn't.

                But at this point I think your just looking for every little excuse you can to shriek about how Taylor is awful and something is wrong with us because we don't all expect her to be like Superman or Batman. Or I am giving you too much credit and you are just a troll. Because as others point you do seem to keep building your strawmen and other logical fallicies. If you don't like the story, and don't like the character, what reason do you have to keep reading, reviewing, and commenting on Worm?

  9. Interesting, my first thought was Lung but didn’t make much sense quick re-read left me thinking Weld had hidden himself along with Doctor Mother like that and then after reading a few comments realized they were talking about that and Scion about to arrive.

  10. Thank you to Aaron, Hollis, Z, Sean, Blake and Kristian for their help. Thank you in particular to Julia, for hers.

    I appreciate it. I’ve updated the tracker and the donate page.

  11. Panting, Imp said, “Couldn’t get him, but I figured she’s bound to be on our side, right?”

    Hope they don’t overreact to Sveta’s inability to control herself if they let her out.

  12. Scion is coming,huh?Okay, they are fucked. Especially if the fifth level does indeed hold the corpse of the second entity ( unless Doctor is busy reanimating it ). Though I wonder how Satyr knows that Scion is heading there in particular.

    Anyway, best moment was the conversation between Imp and Sophia, complete with posthumous character development for Regent. I had forgotten that Taylor still didn’t know about what he did to Sophia.

    Sveta is save! The Custodian kicks ass! The Irregulars turned the prisoners into a lynch mob! Wait the last one isn’t good. Hope Weld is going to turn out fine and I’m waiting for Gully to turn back to her senses.

    And on a final note, am I the only one who snickered when tha guy said he’s dense? Really, the only one?

  13. Well, Cases-53. You call your competent knight-in-shining armor leader a traitor and turn into a mob with pitchforks. Don’t be surprised to get roasted by a Dragon.

  14. “It works on involuntary reactions?

    He settled into a state that still looked ill-at-ease, but not nearly as afraid as before.

    Or does it work on the voluntary, visible signs of the involuntary reactions?”

    So can Canary cure Sveta?

  15. I’m very happy with Cuff taking a stand there. I don’t know to what degree it matters in-world but I like what it does to the reader-perspective reading of the scene. Plus, go Cuff! That was brave.

    • If you say so. I just see yet another superhero buzzkill.

      Every party needs a pooper, that’s why they invited her. Party poo-per. Party poo-per.

  16. “”Wish us-”

    And then radio silence.

    I tested the comm. No luck.”

    Am I the only one whose foreshadowing sensors went wild at this part? Taylor thinking “No luck,” Immediately after tattletale asks Taylor to wish her luck seems like tempting fate.

  17. I might be alone in this, but I hope to see Taylor shove her boot right up the Vegas team’s asses. Satyr creeps me out and I just don’t trust these fuckers. Besides, they’re from the town that killed Tupac!

    Good that they got away from the mob. But now that Mantellum’s gone they’re gonna have problems if they have to take on the Custodian. I simply don’t see Cauldron and Taylor coexisting any longer, if she doesn’t take control of the whole thing.

    If Doormakers still alive maybe she can figure out how to give him orders, then just open a portal out into space and boom. No more air elemental prison guard.

    • Opening a door in space may not be enough. Custodian is more than an air elemental. She exist everywhere inside the base. The invisible air girl is just how she manifests her presence. And as this chapter showed she can manifest in more places at once.

      I agree that this is just a short-lived truce between Taylor and Cauldron.

      • >I agree that this is just a short-lived truce between Taylor and Cauldron.<

        Well if Scion really is there Cauldron and Taylor may be short lived.

  18. “Cuff hit the reinforced metal door again. It bulged as if she were ten times the size, hitting ten times as hard.”
    That should probably be a thousand times the size and a thousand times as hard. A mere ten is substantially less than an elephant’s strength and we can keep those in cages.

          • About seven tons at about 15-20 miles an hour, I’d say. There really aren’t many definitive studies on elephant abilities though. There aren’t enough of them. They can run about as fast as humans though, and since they actually “run” by walking, their top end speed might actually be higher as they get heavier and bigger, because longer legs and more weight means you can walk faster without ever being completely off the ground (which is what elephants do – their fastest movement pace never allows them to be completely off the ground, at least one foot is always firmly planted, not like other quadrupeds that run.)

      • Humans can also throw things really really fast too. It’s kind of cool when you think about it. Some animals pounce, some bite or lash wiggle, rithe, some are fast. But us humans can throw deadly projectiles faster than the fastest animals. We also have intelligence but that’s not what im trying to say.

            • In terms of ancient human survival versus animals, one of our biggest advantages is our ability to disperse heat. Most animals can outrun humans over short distances but not long distances. Without going into detail, the tactic was to chase the prey animal for miles until it falls over/ can’t run anymore from heat exhaustion.

            • A recent study actually showed we’re actually faster than horses over long distances. I didn’t actually read any of the details of said study, though, so I’m still a bit suspicious. I mean, did cowboys and Mongols just ride horses because they were lazy? I don’t really think so. Well, maybe cowboys.

              • Over the long haul, a human in good condition can sustain a pace that will kill any horse, but horses are a lot faster than humans over short-to-medium distances, which is often more useful. Also, their size and strength are handy in a lot of situations.

  19. There’s an HTML error here. Since Extinction 27.5 every post has had the Last Chapter links have the title Interlude 26a.
    I can’t imagine how on Earth that happened

  20. I’m confused about some of the action, did she drop the knife on whatsisfacepowercancelingsphereguy’s head from above? That’s what I thought was happening but I have no idea if it actually happened.

    Can’t wait to find out if ‘him’ is scion

    • Essentially, yeah. She can’t see people under Mantellum’s power through her bugs, but she knew that Mantellum would be the exact center of the AoE, so she swung the knife in that general direction. When Mantellum died, that’s the point when all hell started breaking loose. (I think she dropped it on another group later in the fight).

  21. I just had a theory crystalyze about Imp’s behavior.

    1. Imp is more erudite, suddenly enough for Tattletale to comment on it.
    2. She has also been unusually annoying, even for her.
    3. Taylor noted that it was almost like Imp was trying to be ignored.

    What if Imp was actually a Satyrical clone? She’s not half the team and has been acting oddly,possibly from a combination of personal traits leaking through and overacting, possibly with a side of “trying to be ignored”.


        • Why bother to leave the true. Nix and the true Spur, if so? If he could have his copies use their abilities ( illusions to hide the portal and precognition to handle the talking, respectively ), he would have done so instead of needlessly endangering two teammates.

    • Interesting theory but I’m not sure it holds water. Apart from flipnash’s question above, Imp has been acting strange way before Satyr had any reason to infiltrate the Undersiders/Taylor’s team.

      • 1. Imp was working with Tattletale.
        2. Cauldron doesn’t like Tattletale.
        3. Cauldron definitely oesn’t trust Tattletale.
        4. Satyrical seems to be working for, or at least willing to work for, Cauldron.

        It’s not impossible. And if Contessa happened to discover that this lead to a slightly higher chance of victory…definitely not impossible.

    • I think this theory holds water really well actually. Think on it, have we actually seen Imp using her power recently? People have been ignoring her because they’re accustomed to doing so, but have they actually been in a conversation with her that made her uncomfortable and then suddenly wondered what they were doing?

      I’m pretty sure they haven’t.

      • She was standing in the middle of the crowd of Case 53s, pointing a cameraphone at the leader and calmly giving a play-by-play, and the bloodthirsty mob didn’t tear her limb from limb. I’d say that yeah, her power was working quite well.

        Also, the whole flashback bit about Regent just now would’ve been rather hard for someone else to pull off. It included a lot of details that not even Taylor knew.

    • Aisha’s never been dumb; just poorly-educated for various reasons (and getting a defaults-to-on superpower that practically guarantees she’ll slip through the cracks didn’t help). I think that two years of growing up as one of the ruling powers of a major city – especially after Grue kind of checked out, Skitter and Bitch left, and Regent died – has just convinced her that she needs to be more educated than she was.

      I think some of the obtuse is just an act to troll people, too.

      • You left out one other major reason for Imp’s literate improvement: to troll Tattletale. This by itself seems like a huge reason for Aisha to study up whenever she got bored. She a dick like that 😉

      • Imp didn’t trigger until school was out anyways. And vocabulary is not related to intelligence, but education. And if it was a gradual thing, why would Tattletale comment on it? She’s been around Imp long enough to get used to it.

  22. I’ve been trying to place my finger on what this chapter reminded me of. The Mob of case 53’s bieng riled up is just like what Skidmark would do. Though without the creative profanity. Course this time Taylor is more than able to tear the mob apart.

    And lets face it, a mob is a ugly thing. Cactus and Pretty Boy made sure that no one would dare go against them. Too bad for there trying to use fear to keep everyone who might not be online with utter savagry in line, succesivly scarier things keep showing up. Also I don’t feel that bad about Mantellum likely getting his torso obliterated after he was showering in blood. The Slug may have wronged them, but that is just utter barberism.

    So Gully’s badly wounded? Well if she was at the front of the stairs when Taylor swung the knife down, she’s about to be a lot worse. If she dies, maybe some of the good guys will be nice enough to lie about her involvement to her her old friends in the Wards.

  23. The man-woman makes me wonder about Satyrical’s power.. if he can make clones with male and female human appearances, could he wedge them together to create something like that? Wouldn’t make much sense from context but we don’t really know what the fuck all is going on here anyway.

    Enjoyed the dialogue, the thing between Imp, Shadow Stalker, and Taylor. I hope the faking doesn’t get those two guys killed by rioters with supersenses, but can’t deny that mind-controlling people to make out is creepy to say the least. Probably one of the very, very few excuses that could be accepted by rioters for not being in on the riot, but still. If that’s where Taylor’s mind is going, maybe she needs to haul Lung into one of the cells for a quickie? 😀 😀 😀

    • Well, as far as we know Taylor is two plus something years without a boyfriend.
      Cuff is right, telling the guys to kiss was a bit too much. Although, no matter how you think on this, this was rape of some sort. Every use of Canary`s power is.

      • Canary’s power could have a lot ethical uses actually.

        “Hi, I’m here for help quitting smoking.”
        “I know I should diet and exercise but I find it really hard to stick to the plan. They said you could help me.”
        “The football fans are rioting and going to trample each other, but none of them actually wants that to happen, if only there were someway we could get them to all leave in a slow and orderly fashion no one would have to die!”
        “I have to give a presentation in five minutes, I know the material but I’m paralyzed with stage fright, help please!”
        …and on and on.

  24. Random question: does anyone remember where Wildbow described what Taylor’s blue Ward’s costume looked like? Was it blue bodysuit and gray/white armor or viceversa?

      • Shit, that’s really good. But I think it works better in black and white. Like if someone decided to do a Worm manga.

        Though Taylor would kill to have hips like that.

        • Eh, I’ll leave it up, but I’ve got some coloring ideas I want to try.
          (A Worm manga would be the coolest thing ever.)
          (You’re so very right about the hips. They looked odd whenever I tried to make them smaller, though. Just gonna blame Glenn and move on)

        • I think Taylor does have hips like that, she’s been a committed runner for three years and has been doing strength training for two years. There should be some meat on her bones.. pretty sure it was even remarked on a time or two that she at least had some ‘back’.

          • Really? Where? Because if that did happen I think Psycho Gecko would have used it as a jumping off point to scar me for life, so I’d probably remember it.

            Though on the other hand, Rachel got pretty ripped during the timeskip, so it’s pretty likely Taylor did too.

            • There’s some description at some point in her tenure in Chicago – her sparring with Golem? – that leads me to believe that she’s put on muscle, but doesn’t have a body type that bulks up much. She’s lanky, all wiry muscle, with basically no body fat to hide the muscle definition, and I think is probably stronger than she looks. Not that it matters much, because she never seems to get into contests of strength with anything that isn’t some kind of Brute monstrosity.

    • “Light gray fabric where I’d had black. Armor panels in the same dark gray as before, albeit with cleaner lines, less bulk, and less in the way of edges. I had no points at the tips of my gloves, and both the mantle around my shoulders and the cloth that hung around my belt were marked with an electric blue border, with my gang emblem in miniature at each corner, flipped upside down so they faced skyward, altered to match my new color scheme.”

      From Cell 22.6. Very nice picture, by the way.

  25. First time reader, just caught up after three weeks of desperate reading on buses and trains and the times when I was meant to be asleep, since I was silly enough to start reading during semester… woah. I haven’t felt this obsessed with a series since… I don’t know, Harry Potter. I’ve gotta get time aside to do fanart for this, it’s begging for it.

    • *Notices the Gecko signal from where he’s perched on a gargoyle with a portable grill and a plate of scrambled eggs. He dramatically begins his descent…by heading inside, waiting on the elevator, and humming along to the music as he heads down. By the time the door opens, he’s headbanging to his own version of The Stand(Man or Machine) by The Protomen with random Gregorian chants mixed in, wearing a giant pair of scissors on his head while a little old lady holds her Pekingese in her arms and cowers in a corner. Then he sets out…*

      Aha! You thought you’d sneak up at me at the last minute before an update. The last minute of a few hours before an update, but a last minute nonetheless. Or more of a middle minute, 29.

      Either way, your journey has not seen its end. Not without a mirror at least. Can’t get your neck around, you see. I wouldn’t say your trip through Worm is just beginning either, mainly because I welcome people when they’re caught up. But even though the end is nigh (and the reptilian aliens were behind the assassination of President Lincoln), there is still plenty left to enjoy (like the play Our American Cousin). You can stay and become one of us *holds up a flashlight under his face* One of us…one of us…

      It’s not so much a community as an asylum, because we are committed to seeing this story through to the end and partying it up down here in the comments while we’re at it. May be a little dry this time around, but only because Wildbow’s not been around this update to provide us the Canadian booze. I hear that stuff is high quality. Grade “Eh” in fact.

      You can have debates, you can have fun, you can have your cake. The research is still out on eating it too, but we’ve got high hopes for 3D printing. Yes, you too can share your thoughts on heroism and villainy, the ends and the means, the birds and the bees, the princess and the frog, the dog and its pennies, and the Leviathan and his use of Finding Nemo as porn. Dude’s got a problem. Seriously, I don’t think any of those fish were over 18.

      Whether you want to see Leviathan get schooled or not, we look forward to having you stick around. Not sticking around in the sense of Leviathan after a Finding Nemo marathon, of course. You might want to wipe down your shoes on the way out, in fact.

      Welcome, Nardia Kelly, to the comments section.

      • You’re all crazy. And I expected nothing less. ((Seriously? Finding Nemo porn? I was told I should re-read this story and all of the comments with it, this makes me feel that maybe I should.))

        Since beginning, Worm has crept into my life in ways unexpected, and I look forwards to the continuation of this journey. I actually saw “Grue” scrawled as a graffiti tag in one suburb near where I live the other day and don’t yet know if it was a coincidence, bad eyesight, or I’m going mad. So yeah. I guess I am pleased to be amongst your number.

    • Yeah, totally a coincidence and has nothing to do with the troll. Did you hear the news? He found a new hobby in sock-puppetry.

      • Notice how none of the rest of us have to make up people to act outraged over our view of things? Even if Axel had a point, suckpuppets make him look very much like someone who is intent on whining rather than providing any sort of constructive feedback.

        What I tend to find is that reliance of fallacies and lies to support a position usually means the position is wrong.

        We’ll see what Wildbow thinks of it when he gets back.

        Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to go with some time-traveling lawyer demons and see if we can get Vlad the Impaler’s crimes reduced from “Murder by Impaling” to “Rape”.

  26. Half a mile of solid steel, eh? And someone knows how to boost at least some sorts of cape powers. Drag Weld down to that block of steel and put him in contact with it, then turn on the power amplification. There we go, a half mile tall weld. Might even give Scion a bit of a hard time for a while, or at least force him to expend a huge amount of power.

    • Scion fired a beam that ate through 30~40 feet of solid rock under a coastline to collapse it. I’m pretty sure there isn’t a power that can give him pause that doesn’t involve invincibility or nigh-instant regeneration.

      • He hasn’t been using that much power recently, basically just enough to win. Like tattletale said, he’s learning, experimenting. But he also seems to be conserving energy. He didn’t simply crush Lung, even when Lung was throwing him around and pounding on him. He didn’t tear Simurgh apart like he did Behemoth.

        That, to me, seems to indicate that his path to eventual victory that he has mapped out requires him to be careful with energy expenditures.

        Cauldron might have something down below their base which might cause Scion to forget his careful planning though.

        We know that the actions of Scion’s mate are not visible to his predictions like the actions of humans are, or he would have known in advance that his mate was going to die. For that matter we don’t know that his mate is dead… The actions of the third entity were similarly unpredictable. So Scion’s prediction powers doesn’t work on other Worms, at least not normally. Maybe he can predict them, if he expends a huge amount of power, but has never felt the need to.

        Perhaps the corpse of his mate might allow him to do a full rewind of all events from separation to present, leading him to knowledge of the third party Worm’s involvement, which in turn would make him start predictive analysis of the other Worm?

        Lots of possibilities. But I see there’s another chapter, so time to catch up.

  27. I have to say I can’t place the following:

    “The situation evoked memories. Except this time, I had a cell phone. I had the pepper spray. I had a weapon.

    I’d changed. I was more prepared to do what needed to be done.”

    I can think of several occasions this might refer to. In this case I’d appreciate a little clarification as to which memories exactly are evoked.

    Maybe this wouldn’t be an issue if this were a completed book, but the serial format forces me in and out of the story and I’d sometimes appreciate little Memory-aids.

    I hope I’m making myself clear. Just a tiny critique in the overall awesomeness that is Worm anyway :). Plus mostly reading the comments serves to clarify things.

    • I believe it’s a reference to the Merchants gathering, where Taylor was in the middle of a similarly murderous mob. If memory serves, that was in the time after Shatterbird’s attack, when there were no cell phones or other communication devices easily available. I can’t think of any other times she was similarly surrounded and wouldn’t have had a phone.

  28. Haha oh god Shadow Stalker almost sounds sorry for herself. I don’t particularly think that her psychology allows for that sort of feeling but dear lord it is a perfect mix of hilarious and sad. Works well. I do agree with Imp though that Taylor is being far too forgiving for to the bitch. A few human moments at the end do not make up for a year of torture even if they do make her less of a monster.

    Floating knife of death was a fantastic idea. That was so utterly funny, simple and amazingly satisfying. Wow. This dude beat Contessa and Taylor wiped him out with five minutes of prep and two passes with barely a thought. Not to mention utterly decimating a large group using the same trick again.

    Wow I like Regent even more now and I feel so much worse for the guy than I had originally. Damn, Alec. And poor Imp. They really were truly good for one another.

    “And moving starts with sexy times. Not complaining.” God I love that girl. How in the hell did we get from “annoying little sister” to “epic awesome comic relief scary motherfucker”?

    Damn, and I had been thinking of Cuff as minor leagues using powers that sounded sweet but weren’t all that useful overall and now…damn. Girl took a few levels in badass during the time skip!

  29. I don’t know if its been mentioned, but the whole “floating knife” thing reminds me of Bilbo’s iconic battle with the spiders in Mirkwood. Great work. 🙂

  30. I came here expecting a majestic shitstorm about Taylor killing case 53s,some of which were no more guilty than Gully.I would sit here,eating pop corn,not taking sides,while everyone was arguing about it.But what do I find?some half baked comments talking about this subject,nothing more,,not even from Axel,telling us she jumped the slippery slope and/or raped them.Pah.Double pah.Perfectly good pop corn went to waste.

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