Venom 29.6

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“Weaver,” Cuff said.  Her voice was pitched low enough that Satyr wouldn’t hear.

I turned my head her way to acknowledge her.  Satyr seemed to be preoccupied, sitting on a stair, picking something out of a groove in his golden belt.  Dried blood?

“You’re doing that crazy mastermind thing again,” Cuff said.

“Which crazy mastermind thing?”

“Where you talk to the other masterminds and one of you leaves something unsaid, and the other knows what that thing is without asking.  Who’s here?”

“Scion,” Satyr said.

“You heard me?” Cuff asked.  Then, after a pause, she asked, “Scion?”

I spoke up, “Leonid’s powerset includes the ability to hear everything in a certain range.  That means everything, regardless of intervening obstacles, interfering or distracting noises and volume.”

“I can hear your heartbeats,” Leonid said.  He was a lean, young twenty-something with long golden hair and a mask with a lion motif.  His upper body was draped in a black, skintight, sleeveless, bodysuit, his legs in loose-fitting pants.  Complex looking gauntlets and boots encased his extremities, each tipped with wicked, six-inch claws.  Not quite what he’d worn when he was on the Vegas Protectorate team.  His eyes roved from Cuff to Imp.  “I can hear your heartbeat speed up when you look at particular people.”

“Satyr can tell you he already tried the seduction angle with his copies,” I said.

Leonid grinned behind his mask.  “Satyr was doing it to distract you.  I’m not like that.  I’m one of the active guys.  It’s like how a magician shows one hand, all action, style and flourish, to get your attention…”

He gestured towards Satyr, “…and the other hand is busy with the trick.  Hate to break it to you, but I’m genuine when I make a move.”

“Yet you’re all man-whores at the end of the day,” Imp said.

“Imp,” I spoke, my tone a warning.

Leonid only smirked in reply.  Floret, for her part, cleared her throat.

“You’re from Vegas, right?  Just because you dress like a woman doesn’t mean-”

“Satyr,” I said, cutting her off.  “You think Scion’s here.  Is he down there with the Doctor?”

“He entered through the same gateway we did,” Satyr said.  “I imagine he’s somewhere upstairs.  It was always one of Cauldron’s greatest concerns, that Scion would make his way here through one of their doorways.”


“Cauldron’s plan B, their plan C, even plans D, E, and F, if things had gone without a hitch, they would have been deployed from this facility.  Perhaps there is one in a million chance one of the plans potentially works.  If they don’t, then perhaps they buy the rest of us some time, and a third party figures out a solution.  Or perhaps they get close, and Cauldron uses the time that remains to refine the approach and the idea.”

“The prisoners, all of the people upstairs…” Cuff said, trailing off.

“Plan B.  Also plan D, if you count the more unnatural deviants,” Satyr said.  “Except Scion is now here, and he’s here now.  All of the plans will be forced into effect at once, rendered into little more than alphabet soup.  To top it off, the architect of those plans is out of reach.”

I looked at the solid metal wall.  “Cuff?”

Cuff focused on the metal barrier.  “I can tell from here.  It’s a lot of metal.  I don’t know how they did it.  It’s all one solid piece.”

“They did it with powers,” Satyr said.  “A column, with the panic room dead center.  When they retreated inside, they pulled the switch, and the entire substructure dropped two thousand, five hundred feet below ground, putting the upper end of the column between us and them.”

Floret shrugged.  “We could handle a computer, a lock, even a vault, no sweat.  But not this.  The plan was to wait for the group on the other side of the facility to forge their way through the steel, or around the steel, but someone gave the Custodian a tinker-made super death knife, and well…”

“That was me,” I said.  “Nothing to do with the Custodian.”

“Ah, well,” Satyr said.  “Good and bad to any situation.  We’ll be able to assert control over that group more easily, with their leadership dead.  And there won’t be as great a chance that they take the good Doctor out before we can get a word in… but progress will be slower, and we don’t have much time to spare.”

It was a relief, on one level, that he didn’t seem interested in making a fuss over it.  He’d set Spur and Nix in the way, to keep people from interfering with his group’s infiltration, but he seemed fully capable of accepting that there was a snarl in his plan.

I knew it was hypocritical, but a part of me was bothered by that.  I didn’t want him to be able to take this in stride.  I didn’t want a lack of communication, conflicting plans and inter-group issues to be the norm, when the stakes were this high.  Satyr was the type that thrived because he anticipated such.

Maybe I was too.

Satyr looked at the wall to his left.  “The remaining members of the Irregulars and their digging party have just arrived at the far end of this column.  If we go up one floor, we can cross to the other staircase and make our way down to pay them a visit.  Given that the group watching their rear is… compromised, I don’t think we’ll have any problems taking control of that situation.”

“If we leave now and walk briskly, we’ll arrive in eight minutes,” Floret said.

“My details person,” Satyr said, “Would you believe?”

My tone was dry as I replied, “Somehow, I’m not surprised.”

Details would be Floret’s thing.  She didn’t look it, with bright pink hair, green roots, and a costume of metal ‘leaves’ that left little to the imagination.  Her costume philosophy was the antithesis of my own.  But Floret wasn’t a fighter, even less than I was.  She could take a minute or two to create a ‘bud’.  The bud would then unfold into a complex crystalline shape after a set time, or upon impact with a surface.  They were limited in terms of their size, no more than a foot across, but they were rich in potential, with crude applications on the molecular scale.  Typically stylized to look like flowers, the crystals could bond to surfaces, set touched things on fire, cancel out chemical reactions or just fuck with tinker devices.

As a teenager, she’d had a career as a roving lockpick for villain heist teams, creating keys and fake keycards with cloned magnetic strips, to varying degrees of failure.  It was only when she joined the Vegas team that she found others with the degree of forethought, planning and teamwork that could let her power truly shine.

Her power only worked because of her secondary power, and her secondary power was the big reason she fit in so well with the Vegas team.  An enhanced awareness and processing ability regarding fine detail.  She picked up on the little things.  All of the little things.

Satyr leaned back, then rolled forwards, getting to his feet without using his hands.  “I assume you’re coming.”

“Yes,” I said.  If only to make sure you don’t pull something.  “More bodies against Scion.”

“Bodies don’t matter,” Satyr said, as he led the way.  “One, ten, a thousand, it doesn’t make a big difference.”

Speaking of bodies…  Where the hell is Scion?  There wasn’t even any noise.

Was Satyr fibbing?

No.  It didn’t jibe.  Not with the aura of defeat, not with the circumstance, with what Tattletale had said… they were good at the con, but not that good.

I changed subjects.  “Can I ask where the heroes are?  Revel, Exalt and Vantage?”

“With Nix and Spur,” Satyr said.  “Most likely disguised as a rock or a bulge in the cave wall.  Blowout hit them with a full-on stunning presence.  They should still be out.”

“I see,” I said, trying not to reveal how surprised I was.  We’d walked right by the captive heroes.  That wasn’t the big issue.  Blowout was.  He wasn’t as stylish or attractive as the others, with a featureless mask that had a single ‘eye’ at the brow, his head shaved.  His armor panels had lights that slowly rotated from one color to another, like a chintzy car stereo.  Unassuming, when he wasn’t engaged in a fight.  When he was, the lights would be flaring, muscles would be standing out, and there would be noise, shock and awe involved.

Blowout wasn’t a tinker; he had telekinetically assisted strength, which meant that when he was hoisting a car over his head, he was doing it with his mind more than with his arms.  The strength and durability increased with the size of the audience and the reaction he got from them.  His secondary power was the effect he had on his enemies, feeding on the same reactions that fueled his strength to new heights and leaving his targets stunned, reacting slower, taking longer to pick themselves up off the ground.  On paper, he was the case-in-point of what Leonid had been talking about, the hand that distracts while the other hand sets up the trick.

But, as Floret suggested, it was something of a thing for Vegas capes to have ‘secondary’ powers that were actually the real power, in practice. Or maybe it was that Satyr tended to encourage a focus in the secondary powers, or a development of those same abilities.  There was nothing on record about a long-term use of Blowout’s power, like Satyr had described.  It would be a card he’d kept up his sleeve when he wasn’t doing something behind the scenes with the Vegas capes.

I was put in mind of a few of the records and events that hadn’t quite fit.  They’d checked, retroactively, for drugs, and found none.  They’d checked for any remainder of Floret’s creations, and again, they’d found nothing.  But if it was Blowout… if he was the reason people had been left with amnesia, brain damage and even brain death, then that gave me a bunch of new reasons to worry about the Protectorate heroes we’d left behind.

A reason to watch our backs.  I just had to wrap my head around how he might have done this so discreetly, when his power required the obvious and blatant.

Satyr’s duplicates, maybe?  Did the copies count as a crowd?

Something to keep in mind… and I had to inform my teammates without Leonid knowing.

I glanced at the leader of the Vegas mercenaries, noting how quiet he was as he ascended the stairs.  He didn’t seem worried about anything.  Not us, not Scion, not the riot above.  Was I like that, when I was in the zone?  Almost wanting to push him outside of his comfort zone, I said, “I expected you to ask about your teammates.”

“Spur and Nix?  They’re capable enough.  If you’ve done something horrific to them, then informing me won’t help us in the here and now.  I’ll have my revenge at a later date, all the same.”

“Fair,” I said.  No effect.

I let Satyr maintain the lead of the group and determine our pace as we moved forward.  He had eyes on the other group with his duplicates, and he had Floret passing information to him with the subtle sign language the group had adopted.  It worked; if we arrived too early, we’d be interrupting the Irregulars before they were through the steel barrier.  If we arrived late, we’d be running the risk that the Doctor would be killed.

For now, I was happy to let them manage that aspect of the plan, while I focused on keeping an eye out for the inevitable stab in the back.  It just didn’t flow, their attitude now, compared to how they’d tried to cover their tracks earlier.  I knew who they were and I’d seen the records detailing whole strings of crimes, and I wasn’t willing to believe they were playing ball with us.

So I watched them, and Floret watched me, because her power was perfectly suited to following what my swarm was doing from moment to moment.

“I don’t like him,” Rachel murmured in my ear.

Imp leaned in to join the conversation, adding, “You do know that Leonid can hear everything that’s said in a certain area around him?  There’s no point in whispering.” as if she hadn’t just found that out for herself.

“I don’t like him,” Rachel said, full volume.

“That’s not what I meant,” Imp said, a little off-guard.

“He’s arrogant, he talks too much, and he acts like Tattletale does when she’s trying to pretend she’s not in a really bad mood,” Rachel said.

“It’s a rare thing,” Satyr said, “for someone to leave me speechless.  I can tell you that virtually everyone comes to like me when they get to know me.”

“Everyone likes the manipulative assholes after they’ve had a chance to do their manipulating,” Rachel said.

“I couldn’t extend that to Weaver, there, and suggest the same applies to her?”

“You could try,” Rachel said, “But then I’d have my dogs attack you.”

“Alright,” I said, stepping in.  “No more of that.”

Rachel glowered at me.

“He’s a weasel,” Lung growled.  “I have allied with a man who talked like he does, but it was a man of substance.  Not sex and…”

“Subtlety?” Imp offered.  “Scandal?  Style?  Sophistry?

Where is she learning these words?

Lung only glowered at Imp.

“As substanceless a person as he might be,” I said, “Scion’s upstairs, and we have overlapping goals, so we’re allies, or as close to being allies as we’re going to get.  No fighting.”

Rachel relaxed as though she’d flipped a mental switch.  She snapped her fingers twice, getting her dog’s attention, and then made a gesture without moving her hand from her side, her palm facing the ground.

The dogs eased up just like she had.

I glanced at Satyr, who shrugged.  His tone was light as he said, “My ego’s taking a bruising today, it seems.”

I could see the lines of his shoulders and chest, with him not wearing any armor on the upper body.  Was he maybe just a bit less relaxed than Rachel at this point?

Maybe he wasn’t at ease around someone who blithely barreled past any attempts at manipulation with unbridled aggression.  A point for us, maybe.

We’d reached the fourth floor.  I stood by, watching for trouble from above, while the others filed through.  I could see how Canary was ill-at-ease, while Shadow Stalker was impossible to read in her ghostly state, passing through the wall by the door.  Cuff and Lung were both rigid, as if anticipating fights, but were confident enough to walk ahead of the rest.  Golem, Rachel, and Imp seemed more in their element, hanging back while the Vegas capes passed through.

“You know what you’re doing?” Golem murmured, as he hung back with me.

I nodded.  “Mostly.  Just watch your back.”

“For Scion?”

“For them,” I said.  “And yes, I know Leonid hears me.  I know Satyr and the others are getting the cliff notes from Leonid.  But they’ve got secondary goals here, and it’s worth watching out in case they try something.  Even if they know we know they’re trying something.”

There were nods all around.

Four copies of the Custodian appeared before us as we made our way into the fourth floor.  Each moved slightly out of sync with the others as they moved their heads.  It was only when the third and fourth moved that I realized just how they were moving their heads – raising their chins to look up.

“I know, my dear,” Satyr said.  “How close?”

They didn’t respond.  Instead, they disappeared.  First one pair, then the remaining pair.

“Second floor basement,” Satyr said.  “Scion is taking his time making his way down.”

“Why?” I asked.  It was too quiet.  “If Scion wanted, he could have torn his way through here in a heartbeat.”

Satyr was on point as we made our way across the fourth floor.  The cells here were reinforced several times over, each standalone, separated by tracts of empty space that eighteen wheeler trucks could have turned around in.  Spotlights served as the only light in the area, and they were focused on the individual cells, leaving the empty space between the cells dark.  Without my relay bugs, my power still didn’t quite reach the far end.  A third of a mile across by a third of a mile across, maybe, with ceilings that were fifteen feet high.

The lights flickered more violently than it had upstairs or in the stairwells, but these cells seemed to be drawing on a backup power source.  The lights flickered, went out, only to be turned back on, glowing a dim red, before the regular power was restored.  The lighting cycled between the three states, with no rhyme or reason.

Why?” Satyr echoed my question.  I turned my attention back to him.  “Why do you think he’s taking his time?”

“That’s not helpful,” I said.

“Basic reasoning,” Satyr said.  “What do we have in abundance, here?”

“Capes?” Golem asked.

“Capes?  Yes.  But there were capes at the other battlefields.  It’s very possible he’s idling because he’s taking them all to pieces, but… for however many minutes?  No.  What else is in abundance?  Or, to phrase it better, what particular kind of cape is in abundance here, that you didn’t have at the battlefield?”

“I get the feeling you already know the answer,” I said.

He nodded, the goat-horned helm dipping low, then rising.  The lights went out, then went red for a moment.

“Case fifty-threes,” Golem answered the question.

There we go,” Satyr said.  “And if you care to, you can infer further.  Why?  Scion is the supposed source of powers, yes?  Then what are the deviants to him?  If we see them as distorted people, then he sees them as…”

“Distorted powers?”  Cuff answered.  “Or… whatever they are to him.  Distorted spawn?”

“Something foul,” Shadow Stalker spoke for the first time since we’d split up to escape the cell.  “Broken, wrong, loathsome.  Damaged.  And no parent wants to face the fact that their kids came out less than perfect.”

The sphere Imp had tucked under one shoulder jerked a little.

“Woah,” Cuff said.  “Generalizations much?”

“Tell me I’m wrong,” Shadow Stalker said.  She glanced at Satyr, “I’m right.  Cauldron created these deviants as a kind of psychological warfare.”

“Most definitely part of it,” Satyr said, and there was an approving note in his voice.  “It’s psychological warfare… Shadow Stalker, was it?”

Shadow Stalker nodded.

“Yes, I’ve heard of you.  There are other elements at play.  Prey species have been known to spread their scent through an area, to confuse predators.”

“I like that analogy,” Shadow Stalker said.

“Mm hmm,” he responded, nonchalant.  “So Cauldron uses these deviants as a particularly strong source of our metaphorical ‘smell’.  They scatter them across the world where Cauldron is most active, the world Scion occupies, and he loses the ability to sniff them out.  Of course, this only works when the deviant isn’t going to draw undue attention.  Either they’re calm and inclined to keep to their own, by nature, or so dangerous that they remove witnesses by default.”

My eyes moved to the sphere Imp carried.  I was inclined to think she fit in the latter category.

“It makes sense,” I said.  My eyes were on Shadow Stalker.  She was playing into Satyr’s hands.  I’d made a note to watch out for it, but this wasn’t even subtle.

They were fucking blatant about this shit, relentless.  Which probably worked for them, because it eventually worked.  They found a hook, an angle, maybe played it in a more subtle way, or they’d just take it and run with it.

And it was all controlled, all managed, keeping it at a level where I couldn’t call them out on it without looking like I wasn’t willing to play ball.  That was fine on its own, but it put us on a bad footing.  I didn’t want to be in the middle of a brawl if and when Scion made a sudden appearance.

“Cauldron capes have, according to reports, gotten responses from Scion.  A pause, a momentary break in pattern, even, some say, a feeling of aversion.  Powerful Cauldron capes achieve better results, deviants even more so… and if the effect scales up as Cauldron thinks it might, the extreme deviants will get an even greater result, while having powers that may have some effect on him.”

“Which makes a lot of sense,” I said, “They’re a smokescreen, maybe.  Except there’s a hole in that theory.”

“There is,” Satyr said.

“He could wipe them out with one shot,” Golem said, the first to connect the dots.  “He could shoot them and shoot through the floor, if he wanted to.”

“Exactly right,” Satyr said.

“Do you know why he isn’t?” I asked.

“I have guesses, nothing more,” Satyr said.  “Hm.  They just found a way of combining their powers.  They’re breaking through the column more quickly than I thought they would.  We don’t have to run, but maybe hurry a bit.”

We stepped up our pace.

“He’s on the third floor,” Satyr said.  “Floor above us.”

“How do you know?” Shadow Stalker asked.

“Custodian.  We’ve crossed paths, as my group ran some errands for the good Doctor.  I think she likes me, even.”

I hadn’t noticed the Custodian, but I wasn’t positive I would have seen her if the appearance was brief enough.

“What’s on the third floor?” Floret asked.  “I haven’t been down here.”

“The ones with names.  Any cape they deemed interesting enough to keep and research.  Not many left.  I think they scaled down on those to focus on other things.”

Not many left.  Meaning there wasn’t much standing in the way between us and Scion.

If Satyr’s group wasn’t playing us.  I was less sure than I had been.

Supposedly Scion above.  Who’s below?

“Who’s with the Doctor?” I asked.

Ask her,” he said, pointing at Imp.

I glanced at Imp, who shrugged.

“In the sphere,” Satyr said.

“There’s a button on the bottom.  If you depress it, you can rotate hemispheres.  Counter-clockwise, please.  Clockwise opens it, and I’d rather not die.”

Imp looked my way.

“Go for it,” I said.

Imp turned the sphere.

“Finally.  Fresh air,” the girl inside said.  She had a quiet voice.  More the type of voice I’d connect to a shy librarian at a party or a sheltered preacher’s daughter in the company of boys.

“Sveta?” I asked.  “We met on the oil rig.”

“She also goes by Garotte,” Satyr said.  “The only reason the PRT didn’t put her down was because she’s rather hard to kill.  She has quite the impressive body count.”

“Don’t say that.”

“She was part of the original invading party,” Satyr went on, ignoring her.  “They attacked the Doctor, setting this whole mess in motion.”

“I could hear everything you guys were saying,” the girl said.  It was only when she said the longer word ‘everything’ that I noticed the rasp to her voice.  It would be part of the reason for her being quiet.

“Who’s with the Doctor?” I asked.  The other stairwell was in view.

“When things went bad, it was Weld, me, Brickhaus, Gentle Giant and six others who turned around and protected her.  I wasn’t very useful…”

She trailed off.  A second passed.

“Need a bit more information,” Satyr said.

“I’m hurt,” she said, and there was a plaintive note in her voice.  She sounded more like a Canary than a Shadow Stalker.  Not quite the voice of a killer.

“Suck it up,” Satyr said.  “Scion’s coming, and we need to know what we’re walking into.”

“Brick took the guy Blesk brained against the wall, um.  It was the clairvoyant, the doormaker, hurt, the Doctor.  Brickhaus, Magnaat, Munstro, they made it inside.  The others got shot down in the stairwell.  Um.  There was a guy with glasses, and five teenagers who looked a lot like him, only without glasses.  Ordinary looking, pretty much.  Alexandria…”

“Hm,” Satyr made a noise.  He looked up.

In that same moment, the lights flickered out for the umpteenth time.

The emergency lights didn’t come on.

I could sense my teammates, Shadow Stalker, Canary and Lung closing ranks.

“Weaver?”  Satyr asked.

He split in two.  A slow, oozing process, a lump swelling, pulling free, then forming features.  The arms and legs were quick enough, and the details followed, but the new him had no helmet, but slowly reshaped his exterior to match the original Satyr’s costume.

“If you keep doing that, I’m going to have to attack,” I said.

“What’s he doing?”  Canary asked.  There was a note of panic in her voice.

“Splitting up,” I said.  I willed Canary to pull it together.  Satyr bulged, clearly preparing to make another double.  I called out, “Satyr, I might need to rephrase.  If you finish making that copy, I’m going to attack you.”

“He can’t stop once he’s started,” Floret said.  “It’s a drawback.”

“I don’t buy that at all,” I said.  “So either you need to be more convincing, or I’m wrong, and Satyr has to learn how to cancel a copy in progress in the next five seconds.”

The bulge stopped growing more parts.  It began retreating into Satyr.

“We need to talk, Weaver,” Satyr said, still distorted, withdrawing the mass into himself.

Imp spoke up, “Why is it always Weaver you need to talk to?  Never, we need to talk, Rachel.”

“Shut up, you idiot,” Satyr snarled the words.  “There’s no time for foolishness.”

Idiot?  Foolishness?”

“What is it, Satyr?”  I asked.

“I’ve got to ask about your goals.”

“Ah,” I said.  “Nothing complicated.  Saving the doctor, getting answers, stopping Scion.”

I found my knife, beneath the staircase, suspended by threads I’d tied to the surrounding area.  I set my swarm to retrieving it.  We couldn’t see, but Floret shouldn’t be able to either.

“I always had a hard time trusting anyone who doesn’t have ulterior motives,” Satyr said.  “And now, here, I dearly wish you had some.”

“Sorry,” I said.  “If you haven’t noticed, a lot of us are pretty blunt here, straightforward.  Our goals are what they appear to be.  I really wish you could trust us.”

“And I wish I couldn’t,” he said.  “Funny how that works.”

I sensed Blowout pacing a bit to our left.  Floret had her hand cupped, like she was ready to throw one of her things.  I gathered the swarm, sensed her tilt her head a fraction.


How much noise could thirty bugs make?  Or, rather, how much noise could thirty bugs make in the audible spectrum?

No.  That didn’t make sense.  Floret sensed details without even trying.

She was faking me out, no doubt.  Distracting so someone else could pull something.

Leonid was utterly still, no doubt focusing on the various sounds.  On heartbeats and breathing, the creaks of our muscles moving and joints shifting.  He was the one to watch.  He’d said it himself.  He was the hand that drew attention so the others could pull their tricks.

Which didn’t make him any less threatening.

Secondary powers of sound detection and sound manipulation, adjusting select things to be up to twice as loud or absolutely silent.  It gave him a stranger classification, a thinker classification.

His third power was a mover power.

“Don’t do this, Satyr.  It’s insanity,” I said.

“Your being here fucks it all up, Weaver.  There’s too much danger that you’d agree with us, that we’d have the same objectives, regarding the Doctor.”

There a distant detonation, a rumbling passed through the complex.

“What are your motives?” I asked.  “Do you want to help her or hurt her?”

“Yes,” Satyr said.

“That’s not an answer.  I thought you said there’s no time.”

“There isn’t,” he said.

“Satyr, I don’t know what’s going on, but you’ve been playing this game of tricks and subterfuge so long you’ve all forgotten how to walk a straight line.”

“Oh, I remember,” he said.  “We remember.”

“So you’re just going to stand here, idly threatening us, until Scion attacks?  That can’t be right.  You’ve lost your mind.  Something with your power, messing with your heads…”

“You’ve got it wrong.  Powers from a bottle, they mess with your body.  Subtle things, but stuff you notice.  Heh, the last straight conversation I had with Pretender, he brought it up, joked…”

Time,” I told him.

“Ah well.  It’s you natural triggers who get a little bent in the head, here and there.  Isn’t that right, Ms. Lindt?”

My heart dropped out of my chest.  I closed my eyes.

“Yeah,” Rachel said, her voice quiet.

I clenched my teeth.

“That’s right,” she went on, a little louder.

“Shadow Stalker.  You too, believe it or not.  I’ve seen your record.  Your attitude, it’s not wholly your own.”


“I’ve worked with worse.  I could give you direction.”

“Honestly?  With this shit you’re pulling now?  You sound fucking crazy.”

“Shadow Stalker and I are agreeing on this count,” I said, “Trust me when I said that’s a bad sign.”

“If we’re going to resolve this, it’ll have to be soon,” Satyr said.

“You keep doing that,” I told him.  “Telling us how little time we have, then delaying.  Forcing us into a corner?”

Another half-chuckle, wry.

“You’re not making any sense, Satyr,” I said.

He only offered another short laugh.

“You want us to fight you.  To stop you.”

“Probably for the best,” he said.

“No, it’s not,” I said.  “We need help, we can’t be distracted by-”

“Enough of this,” Lung growled the words.

“No-” I said, but I was too late.

Flames erupted around his claws.

It cast light on us, on our surroundings.

With the light, Floret could see my knife, off to one side.  I hadn’t been planning to use it to attack, but I’d wanted it in hand before we descended.  She slung one bud at it.  Encased it in crystal.  It hit the ground at the base of a cell, by a spotlight.

Leonid screamed, double volume, and it was an eerie, echoing scream that bounced through the area, each echo lower in pitch than the last.

Not that he needed it to reach that far.  Each echo of the scream coincided with a fraction of him fading out of existence.

Simultaneously phasing those parts of him in behind our group.

Canary had started to sing, nervous, but Leonid faded in behind her.  Two seconds to teleport.

Rachel raised her hands to her mouth to whistle.  No sound came out.

I turned, opened my mouth to shout, but Leonid had muted us.

I pointed, instead, but Canary didn’t get my meaning.

Rachel couldn’t get her dog’s attention with snaps or whistles.

Leonid reached out with his claw, up for her throat-

And Rachel tackled him, gripping his wrists.  Canary was entirely unawares, up until one of them kicked her ankle in their struggles.

Shadow Stalker and Lung engaged two of the remaining Vegas capes.  Blowout stepped in the way, protecting Floret.

And through some unseen signal, some practiced maneuver, he knew to duck as she flung buds at the pair.

One unfolded in the air, tagging Shadow Stalker in her shadow state, and she crumpled.

The other hit Lung.  Foot-long tendrils extended from his right pectoral to his right arm, binding to each.

Blowout hit the tethered Lung.  Maybe he wouldn’t have been strong enough to affect Lung normally, but the audacity of it and our reactions to that went a long way in giving him a little extra kick.

Satyr forced another copy out in record time, as the other charged me.

I set my bugs on it.  On her.  My double.  She didn’t have my powers.

She was strong.  Tougher.  She closed the distance to me with ease, with a runner’s strength.

So I moved the bugs to the original Satyr.  That bare chest, the eyeholes in his helmet…  I attacked Floret, and Leonid, and all of the other capes who had exposed skin.

Golem’s hand knocked her aside.  Cuff charged the one Satyr had just created.

Even at this juncture, I knew it wasn’t an even fight.  Satyr had outright admitted his team wasn’t a match for ours in a brawl.

Canary tentatively stepped on Leonid’s right hand.  Rachel’s dogs got his legs.  He screamed, and that sound wasn’t muted.

He began to phase out, reappearing by Satyr.  He climbed to his feet.

We outnumbered them, we had better combat powers.  The outcome wasn’t in doubt.

Which made Imp’s maneuver all the more insane.

She stepped out into the middle of the group and held the sphere high.

Rotated it, then rotated it back.

Sound resumed around us, as Leonid dismissed the silence effect.

Don’t, don’t, don’t,” a voice was saying.

It was Sveta, inside the ball.

“Everyone stand up,” Imp said.  “And if you fuck with me, I’m opening this thing.”

Don’t, please don’t.

Why?”  I asked, again, my eyes on Satyr.  The real Satyr.

“I would have been content to wait.  To procrastinate until we ran out of time.  But you came.”


“It’s for love, in the end.  Pettiest of all pursuits.  Arrogance, greed, even revenge… they’re nobler, trust me.  I’ve walked all those roads.  But love?  It twists all the other things.  Makes you misstep, makes you irrational, makes you impatient, above all.  We couldn’t have gone down there without getting revenge, without falling to our greed and arrogance.  So I was willing to wait.  To sit back and put it off, tell myself we didn’t have the firepower, didn’t have the numbers we needed to take on the group at the stairwell.  Wait until it was too late.”

“You were willing to die?”  Shadow Stalker asked.  She sounded offended.

“Better than being the ones who pull the trigger, dash our last hopes,” Satyr said.  “You can put down that sphere, Imp.”

Imp hesitated, then lowered the sphere.  She locked it, with vents open so Sveta could speak.

“I don’t understand,” I said.

“And you probably won’t.  If you’re lucky.  I’ve said it all out loud, so the lie isn’t worth it, now.  You can go.  We’ll stand by.”

“Your fucking head games.  You’re going to stab us-”

“Weaver,” he said, and there was no pretense in his voice.  No joking tone or trace of mockery.  Talking straight.  “Go.  They’re almost through.”

“He is right, Skitter,” Lung growled the word.  “I can hear him.”

Lung was looking the way we’d come.

Scion, here.  On this floor.  I thought I could see the golden light, but it might have been a spot in my vision from looking at Lung with his burning hands.

If we go, there won’t be any escape routes.  No exits.

It was as insane as anything Satyr was doing.  Everything rational said to go upstairs, to find our way to the doorway, hope that Scion was still half-blind, still holding back.

But I turned, running for the stairwell with the Case-fifty-threes, away from Scion.

I ran hard enough that I couldn’t spare the breath.

I spoke with my swarm.

Go upstairs, if you want to go.

Give them a way out.

I could hear the others behind me, at varying distances.  I could sense Satyr’s group with my swarm.  They held their ground as Scion approached.

I don’t understand.

The others were following.

If you come, there’s no way out.  This isn’t even a hail mary, it’s a hope that there’s maybe something we can do.  A chance buried in a chance.

We came face to face with the group that had been working their way through the steel.  A mole-man, an ‘extreme deviation’ case that seemed to be made up of lasers, with her petrified body parts capping the ends.

And others, dead.  Satyr’s clones littered the area, where they’d brutally fought and killed several of the digging capes.  Where they’d died, they’d withered.

With Scion on our heels, we couldn’t afford the time to fight.

Lung, Shadow Stalker and Rachel tackled the ones who remained.  A crossbow bolt delivered to the cranium of the laser-girl, dogs attacking the mole-man.  Lung’s claws and flames to assist with both.

Without my asking, Cuff jumped into the hole.  Imp followed.

One by one, we passed inside.

Golden light flared in the massive room we’d just left behind.  No rumble, no devastation, nothing of the sort.

But I could guess what had happened.

Even if I didn’t understand it.

Golem was blocking off the path to us, while others made their way down.  Lung, Canary, then Rachel and her dogs.  Hands of concrete barred the way, and two larger hands extended from the column, fingers knitting together to form a fence.

It wouldn’t hold Scion for seconds, but it was something.

Three of us remained.  Golem, getting ready to descend, me, watching the rear, and Shadow Stalker.

Our eyes met.

She bolted, disappearing through the wall.

I headed down, with Golem following right behind.

Last Chapter                                                                                               Next Chapter

261 thoughts on “Venom 29.6

    • Just running off surface impressions…

      I get the most uncanny impression he might be in love with the Custodian…maybe…


      She is the only character he ever states to have affection for him, the only one he outright states, that’s the only evidence I have. And she would try to protect the Doctor. Which would fit with the idea that he wants to protect the Doctor, but also wants to kill her.

      Ah, well, my brain work in strange ways past midnight.

        • I didn’t see it either, but when Pretender is the guy we see him hanging out with, discussing philosophy. And the one he reminisces about this chapter, so if he’s in love with anyone, Pretender makes sense.

          And Pretender’s the one in Alexandria’s body so he’s in the safe room.

          • Satyr is full of love. Love for Pretender, Love for Custodian, love for lots of people. And with his power there was always enough of him to go around.

          • Interlude 24
            Pretender shook, gingerly, unsure of the full extent of Alexandria’s enhanced strength.

            Satyr held on to the hand, caressing it. “They say you should marry your best friend, and now that you’re a woman…”

            Pretender chuckled a little before withdrawing his hand from Satyr’s. “That line again? I don’t think that’s what they meant.”

    • so cryptic, even wildbow has to hold back some particular description of satyr nature or way of thinking, so that most reader won’t blow their heads off, or flipping around saying “oh gross, i didn’t know that kind of mindfuckery really conceivable”

  1. Interesting how Scion’s shards, shards of the battle, of the body, distort the mind, while what are possible the other entity’s shards, those of not battle, of the mind, distort the body.

        • Well considering that Satyr stated the case 53’s being wrong upsets Scion, I don’t think it’s normal for the counterpart’s shards to affect the body like that.

          • We don’t KNOW that Scion believes they’re “wrong.” It sounds appropriate, but it was really a lot of wild mass-guessing between Satyr and Cuff and Shadow Stalker. It’s just as possible that bodily distortions are normal, but that Scion is a little hesitant/remorseful because he doesn’t like slaughtering the last remnants of his dead soulmate/counterpart.

            • Has anyone stopped to think that maybe Scion could think of them as ‘Wrong’ in the same vein as we regard Necromancy?

              If they are truly the dead pieces of its counterpart, then watching them up and dancing a parade might infuriate it the same way watching someone using your dead family as marionettes would infuriate you.

              • He was disgusted by Eidolon but that’s it. When he looked at Grey Boy and Siberian he was merely intrigued that so many dead shards followed Jack.

              • Possible, but that might be anthropomorphising the entity a step too far. It’s less using a dead family member as a marionette and more harvesting organs from a dead family member and giving them to people. Shards are small particles of the entities, not the entities themselves.

                It should also be noted that if you *are* drawing an analogy to the undead, the typical human response seems to be less “I am averse to inflicting harm on this animated hollow shell of what was once a proud human being” and more “Aaaaaaargh, kill it! Kill it with fire!!”

            • No, Scion does have distaste for the Cauldron shards, just not only the Case 53s. If you’ll remember, Taylor thought he looked somewhat disgusted by Eidolon when they fought Leviathan. Scion probably doesn’t like any Cauldron cape.

              I wonder if that means that Cauldron capes being present to fight Endbringers were part of the reason Scion either wouldn’t show or waited so long to arrive and fight some of the Endbringers.

              • You have a point. I’d forgotten the Eidolon rage. I’mma fall back on Keno Black’s “desecrating the dead partner” theory, as that makes a lot of sense and includes all Cauldron capes (given the assumption Cauldron powers are just a distribution of the Counterpart’s shards).

                That said, you need to talk less seriously. It creeps me out when you’re all business-like.

              • Yes…yeeees…behind the amateur proctology and sophomoric humor lies a mind capable strategy and analysis. In fact, the juvenile humor may improve my analysis. After all, you can’t spell analysis without anal.

            • This. Satyrical doesn’t seem to know about the second entity so this seems like a case of coming to the (probably) right conclusion for the wrong reasons…

    • It’s quite possible that Scion’s shards, which are meant to collect data from conflict, alter the mind of the host to provoke it.

      • I think it has all but stated that since passengers crave conflict and stress so they change the host to maximize the chances of it. Hence why many thinkers seem to fall back on violent options when a non violent approach would be better off. Then there is the fact that they might be attracted to people who give out the most conflict and stress like Bakuda who was so batshit that Tattletale said her power never really got to it’s full potential because of it. Cauldoron capes keep their minds unaltered by passengers, have chance of death/mutation, but also a chance for powers never intended for people to get for being too strong similar to Eidolon/Alexandria/Legend/Siberian.

        • Cauldron capes also have the disadvantage of being cobbled together out of spare parts, roundabout. In order for Cauldron to even pretend to be a for-profit entity, they needed to have a product line besides “Hey, drink this, see what you get.” Which means they needed to figure out products. We’ve seen this before: “Deus” producing Genesis and Siberian, “Division” producing Echidna+Oliver and Satyrical. “Balance” was, judging from Number Man’s interlude, the amount of restrictions forced on the bottled shard. I’d have to reread Migration to figure out what other formula titles matched to Sundancer et al., but that’s basically the principle.

          …Man, we’ve come a long way from when Cauldron was just a name on a stack of papers.

          • Just found it, Migration 17.6. NOTE: “Baseline power” here means “the power granted by the Thinker entity were it alive” or “the power granted by a hypothetical 100% mixture of the category.”

            Canister A: F-1-6-1-1, ‘Deus’, 85% mixture.

            Obv. Genesis. Baseline power tied to creation.

            Canister B: R-0-9-3-6, ‘Jaunt’, 70% mixture.

            Trickster tosses this one back. Baseline Power: teleportation, perhaps short range?

            Canister C: C-2-0-6-2, ‘Prince’, 55% mixture.

            This one had “Aegis” in it as well as Balance. Can’t quite make out who this is right now, but process of elimination should help. EDIT: Sundancer’s the only one remaining. Still no clue on how his power relates to “Prince” or “Aegis”

            Canister D: M-0-0-4-2, ‘Vestige’, 75% mixture.

            “Vestige” could refer to a small thing left behind, which puts me in mind of Perdition’s power. Baseline power centered on rewind, restoration, regeneration, something different?

            Canister E: X-0-7-9-6, ‘Division’, 80% mixture.

            Echidna+Oliver, as per Wildbow’s statement last comment section. Judging from Satyr, baseline power is either duplication, shapeshifting, or shapeshifting duplicates.

            Canister F: E-0-7-1-2, ‘Robin’, 60% mixture.

            This one had the highest concentration of Balance, which probably means it’s the most hobbled. However, this is useless without knowing what the baseline power is. That said, Robins take flight, which probably means these powers bestow flight on someone or something. Therefore, this is probably Ballistic. (Incidentally, assuming this is correct or close enough, did Battery get one of these formulas or something different?)

            • I believe the “Prince” referred to the Master-like aspect of Sundancer’s power, controlling the big ball of sunfire. Aegis can mean protection, so that could have been responsible for her fire immunity maybe? Or maybe the “Aegis” acted first, gave her Fire immunity, and then the “Prince” part worked with that and gave her a giant sunfire ball?

              • Maybe it has something to do with “Corona”? Aegis does sound like a measure to protect the client from their power, much like Balance inhibits physical changes.

            • 17.7 lists the powers taken by everyone but Cody — and yes, all your calculations are correct. Deus = Genesis (and Siberian), Jaunt = Trickster, Prince = Sundancer, Vestige = Perdition, Division = Echidna & Oliver, and Robin = Ballistic.

              • My main idea with hashing those out again (and I completely forgot to check the next update 9_9; ) was that we could figure out what the formulas were aiming for, which is another detail that Cauldron could give up. (We know that Deus is creation of projections, we know that Division is Duplication + Shapeshifting, I suspect that Robin is bestowing bursts of speed, but we don’t know any others.)

    • Why is that interesting? The worms divest themselves of these abilities, intentionally, and each of them adopts a role. Scion the fighter, his mate the thinker. So he distributes the thinker capes and keeps fighting powers, and she distributes the fighting powers and keeps thinker powers. This time around things got a bit complicated for Scion though. Not sure how much he might have deviated from normal distribution patterns to keep a few thinker powers to himself. so he could do the jobs that his mate wasn’t doing.

    • I’m guessing that it has to do with their “areas of expertise”.

      Scion’s powers are often physical. He’s good with altering the body but crude with the mind.
      The Partner’s* powers are often mental. She’s good with altering the mind but crude with the body.

      This fits back into a general impression I got in one of the interludes that the 53’s and possibly other capes got broken apart and put back together again when they got their powers.

      *Do we have an official name for the partner? Noics or Noiz or Noise or something?

  2. Oh Shadow Stalker, will you never learn?
    That bit about Cauldron powers messing with the bodies and natural powers messing with the head of capes, I’m thinking it may have something to do with the origin of the powers. Which is why natural powers alter the personality of the cape! Scion is a warrior not a thinker, it makes sense for the entities to work together in the fine tunning of the powers. With Scions mate dead, he can fine tune the mental aspect of powers so well, and Cauldron can’t avoid the physical changes (as little as they may be) because Scion didn’t tune the powers right. Too far-fetched?

  3. Scion hates the Case 53’s because they are messed up? Because they aren’t natural, are taken off the dead worm or something? Is something like that right?

    And then Contessa got her power from the third entity, or is somehow the third entity. Since Scion didn’t recognize her, and it would be strange for an entity to give up it’s victory power.

    Third, wth is Satyr’s deal? He is in love with someone. What was that about the “real” Satyr as well. He is in love, doesn’t want to go down there because he would take revenge, then he doesn’t want to just let them go down there either. I don’t get it. Too many unidentified persons.

    • He’s in love with Pretender who is currently down with Doctor and the Number Men. Go and read the interlude after Behemoth’s death.

      • Sure, but how does that account for his actions here? Why not go join up with Pretender and help him? I’m truly baffled. Does he feel compelled to kill DM for “kidnapping” Pretender and saving him from the Birdcage or whatever fate was in store for him? Is Pretender stuck in Alexandria’s body due to some interaction of her invulnerability and the mechanism by which he jumps bodies, and does Satyr feel this is a bad thing and blame DM for it? I really don’t get his motivations at all.

        • It seems the LV team wasn’t happy with Doctor Mother. We have no idea why. Satyr was stalling for time and thought Taylor’s arrival would force him to act. It’s confusing because Satyr was on screen for the grand total of three scenes, so we can’t even begin to fathom his or his teammates’ motivations.Since the Vegas guys have apparently been obliterated by Scion, we have to hope Pretender or Doctor knew what the hell they were talking about.

    • >And then Contessa got her power from the third entity, or is somehow the third entity. Since Scion didn’t recognize her, and it would be strange for an entity to give up it’s victory power.

      It’s also possible that Contessa got the Counterpart’s victory shard. It’s unlikely that this was a power only one of the two had, and we know the Counterpart isn’t in a position to hold onto that anymore.

  4. Odd.

    Self-sabotage screws with predictions, knowing self-sabotage doubly so.

    Best guess for Satyr’s love, given little information on him, is Pretender. Current best guess is that Pretender!Alexandria is down there, or the best line on his location is. Alexandria would have been formidable in most fights, but Mantella would have plausibly kept him out of the fight until very recently – i.e., until well after they hit the panic button and were safely buried. Pretender isn’t dead, or isn’t culpably dead, or Satyr wouldn’t have contrasted revenge as a motive. And yet… Satyr thought revenge on DM was unavoidable if he got his team down there, and was also undesirable (from a species survival standpoint). Case 53’s on the Vegas team might motivate it; something as yet unrevealed about Pretender’s status/affections might motivate it.

    Ulterior motivation part of the conversation is difficult to parse. Current best guess is that he doesn’t want to interfere with someone genuinely trying to save the day, but would rather have had an excuse to fight them all out. The manipulative speaking, making them feel cornered, can plausibly be taken as an attempt to fire up the trigger-capes and telegraph the fight – a fight which Weaver’s team is much better prepared to do straight up than his team. Open question whether his team knew he was aiming for a defeat or not.

    Alternatively, there’s a longer term plan in play. Plausible, given the personalities; profoundly unlikely, given the lack of a long or indeed medium term.

    Imp has demonstrated a Chekhov’s sphere.

    • Hmm, we KNOW that Satyr is in love with Pretender ( he’s very unsubtly hitting on him after Behemoth’s death and Pretender isn’t very comfortable) AND that he’s down there with Doctor. Sveta mentions Alexandria being present in this very chapter.

        • Weld is probably OK. Metal’s tough, they only tore off limbs and stuff. He doesn’t have blood or need a heart or anything. Give him a couple ingots and he’ll be fine.

          The Undersiders, on the other hand…

          • TBH, I’m not a hundred percent sure Weld even needs his body to maintain a human shape. Given everything else we know of his anatomical makeup, I feel like he only stays humanesque in shape out of habit and a desire to appear more “normal” to others (since rolling around as a sentient truck would be a bit offputting, even if it’s theoretically possible). Until it is confirmed otherwise, I’m going to take it for granted that Weld wasn’t actually hurt in the slightest, as far as long-term problems go.

            • The problem though, is that Scion just swept through the floor he was on. The question is whether Scion felt like killing him.

              • It’s possible, but I wouldn’t call an offscreen death for him likely. That might just be delusional optimism on my end, though.

            • Oh, he’s probably hurt. If having to get darts out of his face is unpleasant, imaging what having your arm ripped off and stuck to your back would do.

              It’s not permanent, though.

      • There isn’t really an Undersiders anymore. They kinda got dissolved during the destruction of the majority of society. It’s more like “those who want to unite to fight Scion” VS “those who want to do their own thing”.

    • Doubly baffling that they’d stay to confront Scion.

      Greater love hath no man, certainly… but a very marked shift from preferring to stand aside. Perhaps as simple as, while being unwilling to end Cauldron (and with them, possibly, all humanity), dying to defend Pretender is a much simpler choice.

  5. I think Taylor is right in that they are a little fucked in the head themselves. So now we know why Cauldron let the case 53’s go, and why they didn’t kill faultline’s group when they had the chance to. They act as camouflage to hide their home dimension from Scion. Like the interesting powers of the vegas capes. It gives us a glimpse into life in wormverse Las Vegas, and all that cloak and dagger shit. I find it highly probable that if Shadow Stalker had been allowed to join the Protectorate she would have joined the Vegas team as she would have fit in very well. More answers, and we will FINALLY have some revelations about the source of Cauldron’s powers. I’m thinking an Evangelion Lilith situation, a giant crystal that is sort of dead, or perhaps just a female copy of Scion dead/unmoving.

    • And here I thought Taylor could fit in that group to.

      Master, Mastermind and strong secondary powers. Had Taylor originated in the Desert it could have been an entierly different story.

    • We don’t necessarily know why the case 53’s were released. We know why Satyrical thinks they were. But even thinkers can be wrong. Remember he’s putting his thinker powers against the manipulative abilities of the Number Man and Contessa, who might have been showing him the things he needed to see to reach the conclusions he wants. Dinah doesn’t get wrong answers because she sees the larger scope of things, which also severely limits her power. Satyrical and Tattletale CAN get wrong answers because their powers are limited to analyzing what they have experienced or learned. And those experiences and knowledge can be molded by others.

      Did we ever see a Contessa corpse? I don’t think so. Wonder when she’s going to show back up, or at least be confirmed dead?

        • I’m with you on that one. We haven’t accounted for a lot. I bet we’ll get down there and Dr. Mother will have a giant Mannequin robot piloted by 5 Harbingers in different colored tights. Or maybe Number man and 4 Harbingers, with Number Man wearing red. Then Contessa in gold, white, silver, or black with her own 50 ft. tall robot that joins with the Super Mannequinzord to form the Ultra Mega Super Mannequinzord.

  6. So for some reason, related to love, Satyr felt he couldn’t trust his group with Doctor Mother. His group wanted to kill her. They wouldn’t, though, because they were weak as far as combat went. However, the appearance of Taylor and her people, who joined up with them, increased how strong their group was and meant they knew they would attack when they got there, even if they knew it wasn’t the best course of action. So to counter their irrational desire to attack Doctor Mother, they attempted to attack Taylor and her group.

    • Perhaps the person he loves would be forced to hurt him if he attacked the Doctor, and he wants to spare them from doing that?

      I can’t say I like Satyr, but I feel a smidge of respect towards him.

          • Makes me curious about Pretender. It has to be weird to wake up as a woman, and have your best friend fall in love with you. Though since Alexandria has a unchanging body with the fingernails/hair never growing maybe he lucked out and he doesn’t have to deal with the once a month crimson flow.

            • It’s implied that Satyr is bisexual (or maybe Pretender-sexual?) and that he was hitting on him even before he possessed Alexandria. The interlude where they have their conversation has Pretender react as if it’s something he has heard a thousand times before.

            • Was it said at one point that Pretender’s power is a one-shot deal and once he’s in a body he can’t leave until he possesses someone else? If it is who knows what his gender was originally.

    • Thank you for explaining this! Imp wasn’t the only one whose head that whole interaction went over. Maybe I read it too fast but it seems a lot of detail was missing to fill in why they turned, then turned back.

  7. Hmm — Battery had a similar reaction to Taylor, wondering what her game was.

    Thing about Taylor, and Rachel, and Lung: if they want you dead, you’ll have a pretty good idea that they want you dead. They might not kill you immediately, but they sure aren’t going to act like they’re your best friend.

    Incidentally, the Rachel/Satyr interaction was hilarious.

  8. Wait, Hess ran, right? Jumped into a wall and disappeared upstairs? Funny that she’s the only one who actually took Taylor up on that offer.

  9. Beneath all the manipulation and mind games and secrecy, all Satyr did he did it for love. Daaaaaaawwwww. Seriously though, the Vegas team may be a creepy bunch but the idea of capes who cultivate their secondary power to the point of it basically becoming their primary power is pretty neat.

    Speaking of manipulation, only Sophia could fall for such a blatant one. No, really, immediately after he says he has researched you, Satyr uses some hamfisted prey/predator analogy and you’re all “ohhhh, shiny”? I didn’t think you were THAT much of an idiot.

    So, the powers granted by the thinker entity change your body and the powers granted by the warrior entity change your mind. I’m sure there’s something significant about that. And, uhm, Cauldron used the Case 53s to blindside Scion. Interesting.

    Last but not least… The Number Men live! I wonder if now that Number Man and the Harbinger clones are together, Taylor can put two and two together. I know that if they have the urgent matter of Scion knocking at their door but it would be funny (but unlikely) if she takes 5 seconds to go like “you got to be kidding: you’re accountant is Harbinger?”.

    • “I didn’t think you were THAT much of an idiot.”

      Remember our reaction when SS accused Taylor of copying her? Yeah.

    • Taylor’s one of those whose secondary power is her primary power. The bugs are pretty much a sideshow at this point; what makes her a top-tier cape is the massively parallel multitasking she needs to handle them, and the unmatched battlefield awareness that in combination with her swarm-sense gives her.

      Never underestimate how much of an idiot Sophia can be if she really puts her mind to it.

  10. > “Subtlety?” Imp offered. “Scandal? Style? Sophistry?“
    > Where is she learning these words?

    Imp would be a lovely place to store a backup copy of Dragon if one wanted to duck Ascalon. Alternately, if she had a second trigger, it’s plausible that it would prevent people from remembering her Scrabble championship title, her medical degree, or the fact that she’s secretly been Doctor Mother all along!

    • For Imp to be Doctor we need Time-travel. This is of course where the mysterious Epoch, leader of that gang of wannabe wizards, comes in, revealing that he’s been manipulating everything from the shadows and that he’s actually an avatar of the Third Entity. And Contessa’s lover (we must link Contessa to the Third Entity in some way, after all).

    • Although neither is probable, the first is more likely.

      1. Why would Dragon store a backup not only in a human being (probably against her programming and/or impossible), but one whose background indicates a high probability of self-destructive tendencies and ones which could easily cause either someone else to destroy Imp or the backup to want to self-destruct? Moreover, when would Imp have had the backup installed? And who would have done it, and why wouldn’t this have been brought up when Dragon was “dead”?

      2. Aside from wildbow stating that no prominent characters would get second trigger events, there has been no indication that Imp’s ability has changed in the slightest, nor would any of that have been capable of being gained since any STE.

      I’m guessing influence by the Heartbroken, possibly control.

    • Crackpot theory: Regent managed to transfer some or all of himself into Imp (the info that he had taken her before making it possibly to deduce that he could’ve done it again instantly in an emergency). Doesn’t jibe with her grief, but she may not be fully aware of it (or only became aware of it later).

      • It might even be a completely unexpected secondary effect that Regent wasn’t aware of. When merged with Imp, if they merged a lot, he might have shared traits with her. She might have given him a bit more impulsiveness, and he might have given her a bit more introspection.

        Or perhaps one of the Heartbroken has a field effect that makes people desire to learn. A low level, always on ability that might subtly get everyone that spends time with them to read more, study better, and organize their thoughts better. Something like a very low power Teacher effect. Not enough to give other people powers, but enough to, oh, make Imp read a bit in her downtime, rather then playing video games or being a voyeur.

  11. So are we watching Shadow Stalker run away for good, or is she going to try to come back and potshot Scion then attempt to lead him away by running through walls and whatnot until Scion gets a read on her powers and kills her? It does take time for him to understand the way an enemy’s power works so he can counter it. Remember Gavel. Does she even know what she’s going to do?

    Shadow Stalker episode?

  12. I find myself liking Satyrical after this one. Not so much for the whole sacrifice thing, that was pretty stupid, but because the reasoning resonated with me. The battle between what one is compelled to do and what one knows they should do, even if it makes no sense to other people.

    We’ve seen that before, but we were inside the head of the person and could justify it better. It just seems like a rare thing to out and out realize because a lot of people aren’t good at separating themselves like that and figuring out that inner conflict between man and animal, to put it simplistically.

    I like the idea of thinking about the secondary powers in all this too. Satyrical, in order to make a copy of someone, must be good at figuring out a person on his own, which probably helps with all the flirting.

    Now to figure out the mind and body mess-ups. I can’t tell if it’s because the shards alter the hosts to suit their needs better, or because the shards focus on one, body or mind, and don’t bother to deal with both. Same weakness Scion has, actually. His mind is screwed up, but his body is all-powerful. Can we get someone to jam a bunch of his dead beloved’s shards into his brain?

    In a somewhat evil way, it reminds me of one way I heard the koan of Gutei’s Finger. Not the confusing mess about how he died that you’ll see on Wikipedia either.

    • Well, the entire premise for the story is “Doing the wrong things for the right reasons.” The shards help drive that along nicely. My understanding is that the shards are simply very competitive.

      In fact I would bet that the passengers/shards are actually the original life form of the worms, before they decided to become aggregate creatures.

      I would also bet that Glaistig is the “child” of Scion and his mate. A child who is fighting the parent, but that’s not uncommon for children to do. She is collecting shards, aggregating them, and she’s just a bit crazy, but smart, and understands passengers and shards better than anyone else. She’s also survived several encounters with Scion, including at least one battle where Scion was targeting individuals who were the greatest threats to him. I don’t think he’s doing more than defending himself against her, perhaps destroying manifested dead capes that can threaten him, but never attacking her directly.

      I’d love to see the list of “Wrong things” done for “Right reasons” that Wildbow has probably got recorded somewhere that he uses to guide his writing, because I suspect such a list exists 🙂

      • I’d never considered Glaistig being Scion’s love child. Who or what would be the mate then?

        If that question can be assertained then I will agree with you. The rest of your logic makes sense if we take this story and substitute parahuman or cape for gods, goddesses, demigods. It’s like a massive Greek tragedy…metaphorically speaking of corse.

        • Eh, I’m confused by your confusion. Scion and his mate’s reason for coming to Earth was to reproduce. They distribute shards, the shards grow and reproduce (like Taylor / Aidan) and then at the end of the cycle, Mommy, Daddy, and Baby Worm split the shards amongst each other, and blow up the planet. Baby Worm makes it’s own way and looks for a mate.

          That’s not necessarily true, but I don’t see where it is obviously untrue or ridiculous either?

          • You sure about the Baby Worm? I never got the impression that at the end of the cycle a third entity would be “born”. Just that the entities would gather back the shards who would be full of new information and abilities after learning from the hosts.

            • Looks like the reproductive aspect of the Worms has changed over time, there are a couple different descriptions of reproduction mentioned in the Scion interlude.

              Nothing that specifically indicates Glaistig might be a shard specifically designed to collect other shards and create a third node of shards though, making a new Worm.

              We’re into author territory here is we want a real answer 😛 I don’t think it’s unreasonable to look at Glaistig as a potential child of the Worms though.

              • O there’s no doubt that Glaistig’s function is to gather back all the shards, it’s the baby worm part that I’m not really sure. If anything I can see Glaistig ascending to a higher plane and replacing Scion’s counterpart.

              • Aye, Glaistig is definitely collecting shards, but we don’t know what the function of her shard actually is. Is it an offspring shard of some sort, or a communal thought and action shard similar to Taylor’s administrator shard, perhaps from the other Worm, but not regulated like Taylor’s was.

          • My confusion lays in the actual “name” of Scion’s partner. After thinking about it I recall that the dead shard is the companion/partner. IIRC, that entity was never named.

      • I don’t think Scion would go so far as to turn back time and use his now-humanoid body to mate with the completely unhumanoid former partner of his all in the expectation of this time creating a child when he is generally unimaginative enough to just continue the cycle of sending out pieces/children to latch onto intelligent beings, grow, learn, then come back to the fold when they blow the shit out of the planet.

        What I’m more interested in, though, is that Glaistig already takes shards off dead people and now she’s got Eidolon’s which allows her to steal from the shards of the living.

        • What are you talking about? Wow, I don’t even get where you guys are coming from with this cross species stuff. The Worms came here to feed and reproduce. Glaistig’s shard might be a result of that – not of any sort of cross species mating. Think ichneumon wasp. A few of the shards sent out would be shards designed to collect shards. Glaistig being one. Eidolon is a cauldron cape and might be the result of an offspring passenger being twisted by cauldron, which would explain Scion’s looks at him from time to time. The cape which allows the Yangbang to share powers might be a third. Don’t know if that cape is a Cauldron cape or not. There might be others who just haven’t been mentioned, or haven’t arrived yet, or might have died.

  13. This has nothing to do with the current chapter but,IMO, it’s a funny anecdote. So, I was going to my first ever class of Greek History, I enter the room and guess what Greek word is written on the blackboard? That’s right, Eidolon. WORM IS EVERYWHERE. Or maybe not. Either way I was amused. 🙂 .

    • I’m not saying that it was the Simurgh that wrote that on your blackboard, mind you. Just that you might find yourself slightly less amused the next time you and your friend are playing some PvP game.

      Here’s a tip for the future: half a vial is BAD.

      • But..but what would the Simurgh want with me? The sole fact that I’m taking a course on GREEK HISTORY should tell you that I’ll never become anyone of importance 😉 .

        • Noelle was a random high school student who happened to be a bit good at a video game. She wound up with a decent shot at destroying the world. Don’t sell yourself short!

  14. Great Chapter! Liked the slow-paced interactions between Satyrical and Taylor’s group.
    I physically felt the tension between the teams, before it escalated. Well written!

    On another note, who would win in a Marvel/DC – Wormverse fight, between two Capes with similiar themes and/or powers?
    Some examples would be:
    Taylor vs. Spiderman (Spidey’s got the physical advantages and spider-senses, Taylor has got her swarm and multi-tasking powers. Both got the brains.
    Scion vs The Sentry (Both got a counter-entity and are nerly invincible)
    Alexandria vs. Superman (just realized, it’s like Supes and Wonder Woman…)
    Satyrical vs. Multiple Man (This would be the most interesting “duel” I think. Who’s gonna find the others real self first.)
    Butcher vs. (anyone who is batshit-insane like butcher, but equally strong, thought about Joker????)
    Armsmaster vs. Batman (Utility-belt vs. Utility-staff)
    and so on…

    • > Taylor vs. Spiderman
      They’re going to ally and beat up whoever set them one against the other.

      > Alexandria vs. Superman
      hint: Superman can hold his breath for a couple of days

      > Butcher XV vs. Joker
      Winner: butcher XVI, he’s also… eccentric enough not to be bothered by 15 other voices in his head

      • > Taylor & Spiderman vs. Coil & The Green Goblin then?

        > Alexandria vs. Superman
        Everythings loses to Supes… frikkin’ Mary Sue…

        > Butcher XV vs. Joker
        All of the Butcher powers + the ability to break through the fourth wall? Like that XI

        • > Taylor & Spiderman vs. Coil & The Green Goblin then?

          Taylor and a biochemist tinker that developed a better version of Dragon’s foam? I have one word for you: NAPALMBEEEEES.
          Yes, I have just made it up, it stills smells nice in the morning.

    • Taylor vs Spiderman

      Taylor wins because Spiderman is a genetic hybrid of human/spider dna and she can controll him.
      Scion vs The Sentry

      Clearly Scion wins. Sentry is a glorified version of Ironman; and not that impressive in my opinion. Now Scion vs Hulk…well we have a much different story here. Oh, and HULK would win! ;o)
      Alexandria vs Superman

      Alexandria wins this one because she is the only one that can throw Superman on the bed and hold him down to have her way with him. In turn he is exceedingly greateful and dumps Louis Lane to persue some SMBD with Alexandria.
      Satyrical vs. Multiple Man

      Tie – They end up liking each other and form their own bigger mercenary operation.
      Butcher vs. Joker

      I’m picking Joker on this one. Yes, it’s because I’m biased; plain and simple. Tell me, why so serious?
      Armsmaster vs Batman

      Hmmm, that’d be a tough one to call. I think due to Armsmaster’s tinker ability he would win overall. Face it Batman, shark repellant just won’t work against Armsmaster. *shrugs*

      • > Alexandria vs. Superman
        Everythings loses to Supes… frikkin’ Mary Sue…<
        Batman beats Superman. And Captain America beats Batman.

        • I do not share your sentiment. In fact, I reject your reality and substitute my own.

          Oh, but Darkwing Duck beats Negaduck EVERYTIME…suck on that! 😉

          I am the terror that flaps in the night
          I am the gum on the bottom of your shoe
          Darkwiiiiiiing DUCK!

          Suck gas evildoer!

          • >Oh, but Darkwing Duck beats Negaduck EVERYTIME…suck on that! ;)<

            Lets get Dangerous! Taurus Bulba on the other hand is a much tougher foe for ol DW.

      • On Scion vs. the Hulk: I’d agree with the Hulk winning, as silly as that is, just to play along with a theory I remember reading about him. The theory says that the Hulk has just 2 powers:

        “Hulk Is Strongest There Is” is the obvious one. Essentially he’s defined as that and anything that’s inserted as being stronger than him is simply there to show how he can get even stronger still.

        His other power is less obvious. It’s “Make Problems Solvable By Hitting Them.” Meaning, no matter what the problem is, it will take on a physical manifestation which can be defeated by punching it in the face really hard.

        I don’t find the theory “believable” so much as amusing. There’s plenty of excellent Hulk stories that have nothing to do with him punching the problem in the face, but when you get down to it, “HULK SMASH” is what makes the character who he is.

        To an extent, I think we’ve seen the Worm-version of that fight already too -> Scion vs. Lung, except in the Worm-verse punching things in the face isn’t a universally viable way to address problems and no one’s got enough reality shaping power to change that.

        • Well Hulk has this going for him. The madder he gets the stronger he gets. And he has no upper limit. Even Galactus has stated the Hulk’s potential to be infinite. All of his powers increase as he gets madder. Most of the Hulks early stories saw him loose his first fight with his foe because they knocked him out before he got stronger than them. The second time around the foe would not realize that the Hulk gets stronger, and would drag it on too long… Hulk can be beaten. But you need to do it before he gets mad enough that he can do things like resist the gravity of a black hole from inside the event horizon, or break continents by walking.

          Incidently I love what happened the first time Superman met the Hulk.

          • Hulk wooped Sentry in World War Hulk, when he was quite justifiably the maddest he’s ever been. Sentry was basically Superman in Marvel, except possibly even more powerful. Hulk can’t breathe in space, though. That could go to Superman if the punch is strong enough or he lifts Hulk enough.

            Just watch out. WWH also saw Hulk nearly wreck the planet when he got even agrier.

            • And yet even WWH could not beat Juggernaut in a prolonged fight (he simply pushed him away and let momentum carry him), Ghost Rider (he didn’t want to fight), Doctor Strange( he had to act like an idiot to give Hulk a chance) or Black Bolt ( word of God has it that the Skrull clone had inferior abilities – seeing how BB can destroy cities with a whisper and rip apart reality with his screams I can buy that ).

              • Ghost Rider couldn’t fight him because there was no vengeance against Hulk there. Hulk was actually in the right as far as Ghost Rider’s powers were concerned.

                You’ll notice Juggernaut didn’t win. I mean, taking a guy down in very little time shouldn’t necessarily be classed as “couldn’t take him in a prolonged fight”.

                Adding the “in a prolonged fight” changes the very nature of the thing from a street brawl to a regulated boxing match with time to rest.

          • Don’t want to burst the bubble of Hulk fans, but is everyone forgetting Scion’s victory over Eidolon?
            All he has to do to win is to calm him down, and he de-Hulks. Forget the meta powers, looking at his actual abilities, that’s his weakness. Not physical, psychological. Scion knows how to beat that.

        • I like your analysis here. Plus don’t forget that no matter how hard Dr. David Banner tried (per The Avengers Movie by Joss Wheddon) he could NOT kill himself off. Which is also why I chose Hulk over Scion.

          And yes, that would be an excellent parallel.

          Now, Lung vs Hulk…that may be a toss up. Cause Lung also gets tougher as the fight goes on. Does it really mean he hits a point of invincibility…not sure.

          Still fun to think about.

    • My thoughts on those encounters:

      Taylor vs. Spiderman… That would be interesting, seeing as both have a bit of a danger sense in a respect. Both can bind opponents up with webbing, but I’d say Spiderman is a bit better on that point. Spiderman also is much, much stronger and faster than Taylor. However, Taylor is fully capable of hitting people from out of line of sight, while Spidey doesn’t really have that ability. Spidey is also not quite the strategist that Taylor is, so I think she’d be able to win overall because of that.

      Scion vs. The Sentry… I’d say Scion over the Sentry. While the Sentry and Scion both have absurd levels of power to them, Scion still can use Contessa’s power to pull off the win. There has also been history that when the Sentry is taxed too much, he reverts back to human form, as he did when he fought the Hulk.

      Alexandria vs. Superman… Superman all the way. Even if their strength, durability, and speed were on par with one another, he still doesn’t have that pesky need to breathe.

      Satyrical vs. Multiple Man… I imagine that fight would end up with Satyrical confusing the crap out of Multiple Man by creating clones… of Multiple Man. I’m not sure if it’s been established that Multiple Man is a walking hivemind or not, but I got the distinct impression that Satyrical is linked mentally with all of his clones. If that’s the case, I don’t think Multiple Man would be able to determine which clones are his or not with any sort of ease.

      Butcher vs. Joker… Two words: Joker Immunity. The Joker has gone up against people he has no business fighting and won because of that. But that’s a bit too meta. I don’t think Butcher has anything on how ruthless and vicious the Joker can be though. I have no idea who would really win that fight.

      Armsmaster vs. Batman… I’m going with Batman on this one. It’s freaking Batman. He has a plan for pretty much any potential fight with a cape. Sure, Armsmaster has the combat prediction algorithm, but the last time someone fought Batman with a predictive ability, it ended up as a stalemate. Armsmaster is badass and determined, but I don’t think he could compete.

      • Taylor vs. Spiderman… Spidey’s ability to blind Taylor is completely useless though. Also Taylor’s armor should come in handy against Spiderman’s hits, but his costume isn’t going to last seconds against the swarm. Through in some swarm decoy tactics and I think Taylor wins this one in a landslide.

        Armsmaster vs. Batman… Armsmaster is basically Batman with better technology. He was able to take on three of the Undersiders at once (with the prediction only working for the dogs) and even go toe to toe with levathan (a far faster and more powerful foe). It would certainly be interesting, but I think Armsmaster’s tech would give him the extra edge.

    • Spiderman vs Taylor? Ah, sorry for all the Taylor fans here, but Spiderman can bench press a few tons, is stupidly fast, and can detect and react to danger he’s not even consciously aware of. He’s faster than insects, and can make protective clothing out of his own webbing to protect himself from a huge enclosure swarm if his costume isn’t strong enough to protect him and Taylor tries to envelop him.

      Now, if Taylor is prepared at all for the fight, she will know that she must blend in with other humans, and not give any indication who she is, and cannot directly threaten Spiderman in any way. She could drive him out of an area that way, potentially, but not defeat him. He would get sick and tired of evading bugs and looking for the person controlling them, and leave – especially if they weren’t attacking other people.

      If Taylor makes herself known to Spiderman in any way it’s over. He’s fully capable of taking her out physically before she’s even aware she’s in danger. Spiderman has fought pretty much everyone in the Marvel universe at one point or another, and he’s very rarely ever beaten by people with non-mental powers.

      • Yeah, Taylor has to play keep away with Spider-Man. Though it’s worth noting that he can’t win if he webs her up like with most foes, since she can still control her swarm. What’s more, he still has problems since her power keeps going even after she gets knocked out. Another advantage she has is that she can attack from so many different vectors that his Spider-Sense will have a hard time of it. Oh, he’s know what’s coming, but there can be so many different directions it’s coming from. The biggest problem for Spider-Man is that Taylor’s power won’t be stopped by webbing her up, and knocking her out will only make it worse. In the end I think Spider-Man can beat Taylor by knocking her out… Then wish he hadn’t. And if Taylor has time or prior knowledge of Spidey’s abilities, she can get the advantage. It really depends on what we quantify as the win here.

        Scion Vs Sentry- Scion. Sentry’s biggest problem is his mental weakness. Dude was useless on the Mighty Avengers because the villain would just say something to make him mope in the corner. Scion convinced Eidolon to lay down and die with four words.

        Alexandria Vs Superman- Superman. Now keep in mind we have various versions Superman, some of whom do need to breath. But he can suck in a lot of air, and hold it for a long time. What’s more, even against other flying bricks Superman often gets given the advantage. That’s because he also has super speed, heat vision, and freeze breath. Alexandria is pretty proud of her intelligance, but Clark isn’t stupid either. He just seems like it when he’s standing next to Batman. I think Superman can find some way to cut off Alexandria’s air supply long enough for her to pass out.

        Satrycal vs Multiple Man- Multiple man has no awareness of what his dupes are doing, until after he reabsorbs them. What’s more his dupe each have different aspects of his personality, and that has caused problems. Satyr seems to have some thinker powers, and he seems aware of what is happening with his clones to some degree. What’s more his clones can impersonate others. So I think he’s able to win this one.

        Butcher vs Joker- In a straight up fight Butcher would well, butcher Joker. But since when does the Joker fight fair? I don’t think the Butcher has any resistance to chemical weapons, or electricty. She might know somethings coming thanks to the danger sense, but Joker would layer his traps and attacks. I think the clown prince of crime has this one, as long as it isn’t just a straight up fight.

        Batman vs Armsmaster- Forget about Superman. These days Batman takes the mary sue crown. That said Armsmaster may have more advanced tech packed into his gear than Batman, but Batman will find his weaknesses and exploit them.

        Say, what about Dragon Vs Iron Man?

        • Alexandria would beat Superman 9 times out of 10. Mainly because if the fight started before she knew about kryptonite he could take her down but wouldn’t kill her. Then she would (9 out of 10 times) escape, learn about kryptonite and be smart enough to use it to kill him. If she had any time to prep the ratio goes even further against Superman’s favor.

          I think Taylor would beat Spiderman, but that would be a VERY bad fight. He would be almost as hard as Jack to defeat as like it or not they have a very similar kind of edge on defense. But as has been said, for Spiderman Taylor really is a nightmare to try to catch, capture, and subdue. Again we face issues with just how far some heros are willing to go.

          butcher/joker, – doesn’t matter its just worse for the world if Joker wins.

          Satyr/Multiple Man, – I don’t know why this is even a discussion. Satyr is apparently a thinker cloner. One used to misdirection and aproaching things sideways. Multiple Man is simply outmatched.

          Scion/Sentry – why are we discussing this, Scion can choose to win and do so. Sentry can give him a fight, but thats all.

          Armsmaster/Batman – Batman. He is the Mary Sue of the marvel universe. Although 8 bit theatre has Batman loose in a Batman/Doom confrontation, I think that the arguments presented are such that even so it supports Batman beating Armsmaster. I’ve linked the two argument strips below.

          Dragon/Ironman is one I’ll have to think on, as that would be epic. If it came to a straight fight I would have to go with Dragon, but it would almost invariably devolve into more than that as they worked to trump each other. Eventually I believe that if he did not lose due to his frail human shell Tony Stark would win by discovering Dragon’s programed blind spots and using them to defeat her.

        • Hrm, ok, Spiderman captures weaver, webs her up, then starts a slow web-slinging across town at 60-80 miles per hour – far faster than any bug can keep up with. While on this little jaunt he considers how to deal with the bugs. Plenty of ways to do it really. Freezing them, chemicals, sealed areas, oxygen removal systems like one finds in datacenters (would need oxygen masks for the two humans). Maybe he calls in a favor from a friend. If he stays in character, he won’t kill her. But he can most certainly contain her. The simplest solution would be to take her out into the middle of a landfill or farm, with a few dozen pieces of rebar and he can make a cage for her that she can’t get out of, and her bugs won’t be able to get through before he returns with a more effective bug control method. Or take her down into a mineshaft, and tear up the railcar rails and use them to build a cage there. Spider man wears a full body suit, and if he feels that the insects might endanger him, he will be through the swarm and free of bugs on him faster than you or I could blink.

          Canonically Weaver will never defeat spider man without a LOT of prep time, but she can drive him away if he can’t figure out who she is.

          As for Alexandria and Superman. Ah, maybe Superman from the Man of Steel movie. Superman from most comics though? Not a chance. He’s just as immune to damage as Siberian was, and FAR smarter and more versatile in combat.

          Worm capes are generally on a lower power level than Marvel or DC comics heroes. They are similar in scope to the very earliest Marvel and DC representations of Superheroes.

          Trying to fight modern first string comic book characters against Worm capes would just be overkill. Spider man is probably almost a match for Alexandria. She’s powerful but not very agile.

          Batman vs Armsman would be a very good fight though, especially if they were allowed to prepare in advance, knowing they would be facing one another. Let Armsman have some video of batman fighting and put that into his predictive AI and it would be even more interesting.

      • You forget,though,anything that applies for spiderman,including intelligence,applies to Alexandria.Taylor is a ranged fighter.I am not saying she’ll win,but ts not as clear cut as you say.

    • Taylor vs Spider-man: Taylor.
      If we’re talking the current Superior Spider-man here, then Taylor by a mile. And Superior Spider-man deserves every punch.

      Scion vs The Sentry: Scion.
      Sentry is capable of cracking a planet, but Scion can crack the same planet across multiple dimensions.

      Alexandria vs Superman: Superman.
      He’s faster, he’s probably stronger, there’s no magic or Kryptonite in the Wormverse, and he access to super sense, X-ray vision, heat vision, and super breath.

      Satyrical vs Multiple Man: Multiple Man.
      I have to agree with whoever thought Satyrical could get the upper hand via making copies of Maddrox himself, but there’s still a lot to overcome. Multiple Man has all the experiences of his copies, many of whom were sent out to gain a variety of skills and training. We’re talking agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., Olympic gymnasts, private detective, so on and so forth. Plus, he generates them if physically struck, so I think he can pop them out quicker. I’m going to go Multiple Man on this one.

      Butcher vs Joker: Butcher
      I want to say Joker, I do, but currently Butcher is a tiny self sufficient sphere of organs made of Mannequin’s armoring. She’s got a hell of a lot of powers and it’s not easy to take her out. Unsure of the effectiveness of Joker’s acid flower, but I can be fairly certain the Smilex isn’t going to work.

      Armsmaster vs Batman: Batman
      The world’s greatest detective has ways to deal with opponents who rely on power armor and he’ll figure out the nanotechnology in no time flat. He’s also good at fighting in the dark and shadows, which ought to mess with the predictive technology.

      Deadpool vs Psycho Gecko: Tie
      Guiness Book of World Records’ entry for world’s longest game of competitive armpit karaoke

      • Regarding the discussion between Taylor and Spiderman.

        I’d expect Taylor to just bring a gun, given her smarts I’d be surprised if it took her longer than a magazine to trick/overload his danger sense.

        now that I think of it wouldn’t Taylor be an absolutely epic sniper, since she can perfectly sense the main snipers problems of wind/humidity/airpressure.

    • why the hell joker vs butcher? it won’t be a good match

      i seriously propose jack slash vs joker, them names both start with J, both good with slashing knife, disemboweling people just to make a point. Both is mutty nutty enough to bring an end to a world

      how’s that a match???? rematch pleaseeeeee

      • Joker is (technically) a normal, so Jack can’t necessarily cheat in a showdown with him, but Jack has the range that Joker does not. I’m not seeing much of a fight here.

        • Joker has been known to use guns or other ranged weapons. And part of what makes him deadly in a fight is that he is so damn unpredictable. Drop the two of them into a arena with no knowledge of each other, only that the other one is very dangerous, and you would see a pretty ugly fight with Joker almost certainly losing. Let them have knowledge of each other, and it might be a different story. Foreknowledge would really only help Joker, because all you could tell Jack is “He’s a normal, but extremely capable in a fight, not to mention absolutely insane but effective in a fight. He is literally unpredictable in a fight.” One of the Batgirls nearly got her ass handed to her once by Joker, because she was an awesome fighter who could read body language and know exactly what the enemy was planning to do. She literally couldn’t read Joker, and he was beating her pretty badly.

          Joker’s tactics always make sense at the end, to those that know the whole history of the engagement – if they are very intelligent. But while everything is unraveling, even Batman is frequently confused and surprised by Joker, and Jack’s no Batman.

          • My thought was that Jack would either stab Joker as soon as he saw him, or try to recruit him to the Nine. Joker’s very cavalier with his own life, so I don’t think he would have thought that Jack might do that.

            • If Joker were as cavalier with his own life as he seems to be, he would be dead by now, many times over. He is mad, but that madness is thinly stretched over an amazing genius, a warped mind nearly equal to Batman’s, with no morality at all. He and Jack have a lot in common. Jack would probably win a straight up fight, or a fight if they were dropped into a room and forced to fight. But if Joker knew anything about Jack’s powers before the fight, and had been given time to prep, then it would be in Joker’s favor. Jack wouldn’t have Siberian to save him.

          • That really sounds like your selling Taylor short Farmerbob1. I mean you make it sound like she’s just going to let herself get webbed up, carried off doing nothing more than sending bugs after him, and wait patiantly for him to come back with help. This is freaking Taylor, she beats people who are perfectly suited to stop her power all the time. A fullbody outfit isn’t much help. Spidey’s suit isn’t anything tough, it’s regular material. Her bugs can get through that. I know from painful experience some bugs can sting even though blue jeans without too much trouble.

            And yeah, he’s got a spider-sense. And about 2 minutes after meeting him Taylor is going to know it. Because Spider-Man loves to talk about his powers. And you know what? Taylor is really good at figuring powers out. She’s going to start experimenting with her swarm to figure out the limitations. It reacts to threats? She’ll make herself the least threatening thing. She’ll attack from multiple directions, with layered threats to figure out the limitations on the spider sense. Heck the Spot kicked Peter’s ass the first time he showed up because Peter couldn’t correctly predict and avoid his attacks, and he’d just gotten his powers, and he was a scientist who wasn’t in great shape. She’ll use everything she’s got, and everything she can find. Taylor is a genius at figuring out strategy and tactics on the fly. Peter isn’t smart, but he can be a bit cocky, and he can and does mess up. Peter has lost first encounters with a lot of his foes, many of whom were lame compared to Taylor in both powers, and mental ability.

            And even if he gets her webbed up and is able to run from her swarm, Taylor can use that. She has that time to think. To plan. And can Spidey really carry her at 80 mph? He’s either going to have to carry her webbed up under one arm, and be webswinging one handed, or he has to strap her to his back.

            And finally, Peter isn’t Superman. He doesn’t normally bend steel beams. He might be able to do bars but beams would take him time. And about finding a bug free place… Well it’s not just one room that has no bugs in it. It has to be big enough to encompase Taylor’s whole range. Otherwise, bugs will be breaking in, cutting the power, tripping the fire alarm, whatever. Remember what happened when they were holding her in PRT headquarters? And if Peter can get help, whats to keep Taylor from bringing in her own allies to spring her?

            I think Peter can take Taylor in a fight (Although he is the sort to say “Meh, I can take her.”) but it would be very hard for him, and she’d more than likely escape. And honestly Peter isn’t as good at plans as she is. I still remember that he once had an anti-Hulk plan that went “Just keep away from him until he gets tired and turns back into Banner.”

            • Maybe I am selling Taylor short, but I don’t think so. Spiderman is as confident as he is because he’s that good. Sure, he’s been taken out before, but he’s fought thousands of villains with powers ranging from Galactus to street thugs. His sheer experience is going to make it extremely difficult for Taylor to surprise him at all. He’s actually fought a villain completely made of bees before (Swarm), as well as Sandman who has just as much control over sand as Taylor has over insects. Or Electro who can control electricity, for that matter. The instant Spiderman figured out who she was, she would be unconscious and strapped to Spiderman’s back as he webs around keeping ahead of the swarm and figuring out how to keep her somewhere until he can arrange for a permanent solution to the swarm thing.

              And yes, spider man can bend rails of a gauge used for mine carts. He can probably bend full up railway rails, but since he can only bench press around 25 tons, his ability to shape railway rails would probably be crude.

              He doesn’t have to keep bugs away from Taylor, he has to keep her in one place until he gets back with bug repellant, or whatever, and while bugs can destroy steel, rock and concrete over time, it wouldn’t be a matter of a few minutes or hours for them to free her.

              Worm capes, with few exceptions, are not powerful on par with top tier comic superheroes, and Spiderman is definitely a top tier comic hero.

              This isn’t really a conversation to be having here though, sorry for the thread hijack.

              • I think Peter can take her, but it won’t be easy. And I can see her escaping. And remember, in Worm, the main power often isn’t as useful as the secondary aspects.

                Wait, if Peter can bench press 25 tons, how was he late for his wedding because a fat man fell on him? Oh yeah, Joe Q.

            • Peter Parker might be capable of taking on Taylor.

              Problem is, the current Spider-man is Otto Octavius, who swapped minds with Peter while his own body was dying after an attempt to fry the world. He took over Peter’s life, tried to date Mary Jane, and beat Peter in a battle in the center of the mind by somehow being a better person than Peter Parker.

              If that last part sounds like absolute idiocy, that’s merely a sign of your ability to read and comprehend English.

              So, yeah, Spider-man lost and Doc Ock won. The so-called Superior Spider-man versus Taylor? I give that one to Taylor every time. Especially as Ock has turned Spider-man into the hero that murdered a serial killer in front of everyone.

              My guess in how it goes down, he’d try and kill Taylor. Taylor, acting in self defense, fills his lungs with hornets, then carves out his eyes.

            • To be fair, unless you’re Thor or Wolverine, “keep away from Hulk until he turns back into Banner” is pretty much the only plan that doesn’t end up with you beginning a new career as a meat pancake.

    • *looks at the follow-on thread* Oh God, you monster! Look what you started!! xD

      Thoughts about these matchups that (I think) haven’t been hit already:
      * Dr Manhattan would be a better match for Scion than The Sentry is.
      * Alexandria vs Superman: It’s hard to know how power levels compare between the universes, but I’m giving it to Supes because as far as I know, Alexandria isn’t strong enough to tow a freaking *planet*! o_O
      * Taylor vs Spidey is a whack combo. Aside from both being insect-themed teen heroes, it’s a complete mismatch. The problem is that there aren’t really any other characters like Taylor out there.
      * Butcher vs the Joker is completely unbalanced (I agree with whoever said Butcher kills Joker and then the real loser is *everybody*). Deadpool would be a closer match, but even then…

      Proposed New Matchups:
      * Eidolon vs Dr Fate/Dr Strange
      * Legend vs Green Lantern
      * Alexandria vs Wonder Woman (Wonder Woman seems a better match than Superman – very powerful without being as truly *insane* in raw strength).
      * Siberian (and/or Crawler) vs The Hulk
      * Uber and Leet vs the Great Lakes Avengers
      * Weld vs Colossus

      I’d love to put Chevalier up against someone, but can’t come up with a good match. :/

      • Most of your fights are pretty close,to the point I cannot truly say.However,I’ll try with some

        Dr Manhattan vs Scion would lose.Dr Manhattan is only semi omnipotent in one universe,and he is controlled by is future actions,so he can lose.Really,excuse me for not keeping myself in marvel/DC only,but only a universe destroyer has a chance vs Scion,at least until we find his weak point later,and as for a full Worm (Scion is a weakened one) the only not omnipotent and above multiple universes character (like,say,the one above all,or Demonbane)who can beat him is Lord English,and thats only because he has more firepower AND another I win superpower,and ,I am frightened to say this,but I am still not sure he would win in a straight battle,he wuld much more likely ,just destroy the multiverse the Worms reside in.

        Intentional magic beats random superowers,even after Eidolon’s power up,and Dr Strange is the strongest magician.Still,I give him 7 out of 10 wins,because Eidolon’s ability is OP

        Green Lantern’s powers operate kinda strangely,I’d say depends on which green lantern.

        Wonder Woman would win if she were to capture Alexandria in the lasso of truth…but Alexandria,were she to not succumb to hubris,can probbably win by her superior intellect.

        Crawler vs the Hulk:Crawler,because while he would never overpower the Hulk,the Hulk is too dumb to insta destroy him,so despite the Hulk bein magnitudes stronger,Crawler would find himself in heaven,being continuously hurt by an even stronger force,while Hulk would keep getting madder,so,in a sense,the Crawler would gain from such a scenario,the Hulk would only get madder (but seriously,one random hit from Hulk could atomize Crawler,it depends a lot to the ratio)

        siberian vs the Hulk:depends,but I’d say the Hulk.I doubt Siberian would be able to hurt him,and he would eventually get strong enough to accidentally destroy the city they fight on,jkilling Manton

        Havent read enough comics with GLA or Colossus to say about the last two,nor was I instructed with internet osmosis,like with WW to make a guess anyway.

  15. The last two segments gave off really well the impression of being trapped in a rioting underground prison.
    I also retract my IRC bitching about not understanding where the stairwells were. I’m still unclear about a couple of points, but I got the general idea, and that was explained without exposition.
    My compliments.

    For the story itself, we have a difference in aggression between Cauldron capes and Trigger capes. So far I can think of some different ways why this is so.
    – the dead whale did not really have the time to set her shards permanently on “hate” like the Scion whale did (I’ll hereby refer to Scion’s shards as “Howdyshards”)
    – the dead shared are… well, dead. So they cannot influence anything, and Cauldron’s serum includes some sort of middleware to get the host and the zombieshard connected
    – the dead whale, the mugger whale or both have a plan, and not setting your shards permanently on hate is part of it.

    So, the obvious conclusion is that, using the hosts as pawns, we are assisting to the biggest FPS ever invented, zombie shards vs robots set permanently on hate (aka howdyshards).
    It also doubles as a practical joke from the mugger whale.

  16. … if I had to guess, I’d say Satyr and his team were under some kind of mind-control directives, similar to what Dragon was under before. The kind you’re aware of and can kind of work around if you’re clever and rules-lawyerey enough.

    Maybe someone programmed them to hit the Doctor themselves. Maybe all the Case-53s and Cauldron capes are under this compulsion. Maybe Scion has a reason other than the obvious for being where he is and doing what he’s doing, the way he’s doing it.

    Other Thoughts
    – I think it’s been confirmed that Satyr got the proper dose of the Division formula, the properly balanced version of what Noelle got. The clones are tougher than normal? Yeah.
    – possibly, Screamer is/was a Cauldron cape given the similarities between her power and Leonid’s.
    – oh right. Leonid. Lion. Roar. Sound powers. I get it.
    – Heh. Masterminds.
    – the fuck is going on with Imp?
    – Rachel has fully come into her own. Love how she shut down his slick bullshit.
    – poor poor Sveta. Least she’s alive for now.

    • Had the same thought regarding Screamer and Leonid. We know that Cauldron can mix formulas so maybe Leonid ot something extra for the Mover power? Maybe Jaunt, the same one Trickster got?

  17. I just had this thought, if Scion was killing all of the cases-53 then does that mean that Weld is dead? It’s not like he could move from where he was, and if anything Scion can be very carefull with his murdering. It would be horrible for Sveta to survive only to later realize that Weld is dead.

  18. Lung as a character vexes me so much. When he was introduced, he seemed to be a rather self-centered warlord with no positive intentions. For the first few arcs, he was about as pure of a villain as you could get. But now, he’s running alongside Taylor’s group, even after she’s told the group “If you come, there’s no way out. This isn’t even a hail mary, it’s a hope that there’s maybe something we can do. A chance buried in a chance.” He’s fought Scion and held his own for a bit, but he’s got to know that he has less chance of winning against him than he does an Endbringer. He’s even fought Leviathan to a standstill, but became rather fatalistic in dealing with them after that. What the heck even motivates this guy at this point? He’s definitely not a nice guy, but he does not strike me at all as any sort of altruist or heroic sort. It’s like he is operating on some sort of inscrutable honor system that only he understands.

    • He’s pretty clear to me. He’s a warrior first and foremost. He’s Sun Tzu plus Crawler plus a purer form of the survival of the fittest philosophy that Sophia wishes she could aspire to. Why did he follow Taylor? Because she promised to fight everyone who gets in her way. He just wants to fight. That’s what he sees as the most honest and pure way to live. I’m a little surprised he didn’t stop here and make a stand against Scion, but I guess he knows that’s not going to turn out any better than the last time he tried it, so he’s venturing into the unknown to see if there are new and interesting challenges. Maybe he’s looking forward to fighting the Numbers Men, Pretendxandria, and/or Contessa.

      • Come to think of it, following Taylor does ultimately put all of his enemies in the same room together… I didn’t really think about that until now.

        • Uhmm, no it doesn’t. It puts Taylor, Doctor Mother (is she even on Lung’s list?) and MAYBE Contessa (man will Lung be pissed if the Irregulars really did manage to kill her) in the same room . Teacher is still doing his stuff and the Simurgh only wiped out one sub-division of the Yangban.

          • That’s true. I forgot about the Yangban for some reason. I don’t really recall him having any serious beef with Teacher though.

            • Lung being Lung, he put Teacher on his “to kill” list for having the gall to suggest getting a power-up in exchange for his free will.

              • Yeah, and when you think about it, that’s not much different from what the Yangban tried to do to Lung. I could definitely see that as a berserk button for him.

          • True in the short term. I have a feeling that Lung is expecting that Taylor will, if she lives long enough, find her way around to taking on both of those groups for the sole reason of them interfering with the end-of-the-world truce. Call it a reasonable expectation that Lung might be more loyal to her than even Theo, at least until all of his OTHER enemies are dead. Afterward, she should be running.

    • well probably his interaction with Marquis and Panacea contributed to his growth of persona? well, they spent more or less two years in unconventional site, which is Birdcage, of course their interactions with each other conveys to more than just behavioral change, hell, even Lung himself, said that marquis is the man with ‘substance’, so of course that told us something

    • Seems like everyone is surprised over and oeuvre again by Imp’a vocabulary. I am wondering if they forget about when she fades out and that intensifies their surprise.

      Or not. Enough flagging. I am curious where it goes.

      • Judging by the panicked response to Imp trying to open it amidst them, I’m pretty sure it keeps her from killing.

        • Well Satyr states Sveta has a pretty high body count. And I believe it. Sad thing is I’m sure the poor girl never wanted to kill anyone. It was established that her tendrils act independant of her will and crush things that cause her stress… And right now I imagine she’s pretty stressed.

          • well Satyr stated some theory that natural trigger events, fucks with the host mind. Meanwhile, cauldron vials may fucks with host exterior appearance or body parts

            If we simply goes according to satyr’s theory, well, sveta may only be the one that we know fucked twice over, mind and body? That, or her body parts somehow gained individual awareness apart from sveta’s own awareness, well that’s still fucked, a lot

            • I see Sveta’s actions in a similar manner to what Taylor is going through. Taylor’s passenger often goes out of its way to do things without Taylor’s conscious input. I think it might be like that for Sveta, her passenger taking actions on her behalf with the tendrils.

        • Well, it’s more that she can’t control her instincts. She’s incredibly prone to anxiety attacks, and her instinctive reaction to anxiety is to cling/crush. Disturbingly understandable, really.

      • We saw her earlier on in an asylum, she was kept in a special room. Her tendrils tend to crush things reflexively. Even when she doesn’t want them to. She nearly killed the doctor by accident, even inside the special suit designed to protect against her ability. Considering that she’s worked up over Weld’s condition and unsure if he’s still alive, and we know she was being shaked-and-baked by a fire-powered cape a short while ago, releasing her would be BAD. She would kill anyone within reach of her, quickly. with the possible exception of Lung.

        • Thing is, the fact that she’s scared she’ll crush things is something else that compels her to crush things. The more she worries she’ll kill someone, the more her body would try to.

  19. ““Ah well. It’s you natural triggers who get a little bent in the head, here and there. Isn’t that right, Ms. Lindt?”

    My heart dropped out of my chest. I closed my eyes.

    “Yeah,” Rachel said, her voice quiet.

    I clenched my teeth.

    “That’s right,” she went on, a little louder.”

    Thanks to Skitter’s reaction after Satyr asked Rachel, I can’t help but think that Taylor spilled the beans to the PRT/Protectorate about how Rachel’s powers affected her mind. If she did, why would she?

    • Taylor and Tattletale agreed waaaay back when they figured this out that Rachel shouldn’t know about that aspect of her powers, because her dogs were the only good thing in her life at that point and if she found out that the power that let her understand them was also responsible for basically ruining any chance she had at normal human interaction, she’d take it badly.

      I guess Rachel was stronger than they thought. 😉

    • I don’t think it’s really sensitive information unless they go right out to say it to Rachel’s face. Maybe she decided to help the heroes put together a dossier to prevent the heroes from fucking up any interactions with her. Or maybe some caped shitiot said something dickheaded about her and Taylor ripped him a new one.

      Either way, Rachel’s smarter than she looks (preferring dogs over humans being a pretty good indicator) I think she’d be able to put two and two together.

    • Like she’s proven before, Rachel is not dumb. Her mind is at least normal human intelligence, it’s just more in tune with dog instincts than human ones. It would amaze me more if she hadn’t figured out for herself after several years why she’s different.

      • Damn I can’t recall exactly who, but at some point Taylor is talking to a Protectorate hero, and defending her friends. When they bring up Rachel, she outright says to them Rachel’s powers messed her head up.

        • I think you’re thinking about the time Alexandria was threatening to arrest/kill the Undersiders and Taylor considered telling her that Rachel’s powers messed up her mind so Alexandria wouldn’t use lethal force.

  20. Personally I haven’t been reading the comments until now, but am I the only one wondering if Doctor Mom is either A the failed creation of Scion’s “partner” or B the returned third Worm?

    A couple points to consider are that she is apparently powerless yet entirely involved and has been since the very begining. This leads me to wonder because we can clearly see that “dead” shards have been successfully merging with people. Could a dead version of Scion have merged with someone? It would explain the title of Doctor Mom, explain why she apparently has a nearly endless supply of powers to hand out, (all the power that the worm had intended to keep for itself but which are not active in the host), why she perhaps knows what is happening in the big picture and the steps shes trying to take to deal with it.

    I am fairly certain that she either merged with the corpse of Scion’s mirror or has access to the body. What I’m curious about however are three things. The least being Dinah Alcot, I just wish we could see more of her because she’s said and shown some things so far in the past to set up the future, possibly the only future where things might work out.

    The second. Are Doctor Mom, Dinah, other precogs intentionally trying to work things out so that there can be a second Worm grown from the ashes to calm Scion or to end him.

    The next being Coil and Skitter. Both were specifically mentioned as being the only hope. Now it could be that their particular passengers are importaint, as certainly Taylor’s is, or is it more what they are doing? If it were as simple as their propensity towards drawing hero’s and villains to work together as it seems on the surface why couldn’t they offer any assistance, even behind the scenes assistance. From conversations in the past, including Accord’s internal thoughts it appears that if Cauldron were to explicitly aid or even interfear with the actions of either, Coil or Taylor it would ruin them for purposes of saving anything/everything.

    To my mind that says that it is more than just their ability or propensity to build groups, alliances, connections what have you between groups, but that they each have within them the possibility of forming the nucleous of a new Worm. We already know that Taylor “budded” after 3 months as a parahuman, and if that isn’t the sign of new life for creatures such as these worms I’m not sure what is.

    • Doctor Mother being the avatar of an Entity was an old theory that got brought up now and then, but I think her interlude sort of sunk that one. Personally I’m more and more convinced that she was a just a front for Contessa, maybe even without knowing.

      As for Coil and Taylor, I think that this arc made it clear that they were a social experiment on how successful parahuman feudalism/rule could be.

    • Everything Cauldron has done to this point, they’ve ascribed to getting more resources with which to fight Scion. Trusting in Coil and then Skitter is part of this – another high-caliber faction who’s gathering forces and power. As for why they wanted to stay in the background, they wanted to steer clear of Scion for as long as possible.

      • I don’t think that I can personally accept this argument. The could easily have assisted her or coil more than they did if all they were after is another force against Scion. But they really did stress the hands off aspect. Somehow when reading the Accord sections it seemed to me that actually killing her would be less problematic to some crytpic end goal then helping her.

        Something along the paradigm of a ‘test’ where she needs to do something for herself without interfearance or the results would be spoiled and unuseable, which if the goal is to create a viable second worm could be reasonable.

        If instead she was just part of a social experiment on, can Capes rule? That attitude fits a bit better. But again I would say that they stressed her importaince more than that, that her independant action was more importaint than a small scail test of parahuman rule.

        • They stressed the hands-off approach because they were addicted to complexity, secrecy, and being the ones with all the answers. Besides, they weren’t exactly beholden to any one force (in fact, what they wanted was one of 2 extremes: stalemate (to preserve more forces) or overwhelming victory by one side (before the conflict dragged on too long and killed more capes than necessary)).

          • The thing that I find interesting is that Glaistig Uluine described Doctor Mother as “A living prop.” I don’t think Doctor Mother is an avatar of a Worm entity, but she may be a pawn or agent.

            I also don’t think reviving the counterpart or making a new one to calm Scion down is the best idea. Remember. if the cycle hadn’t been interuppted, in 300 years every earth would be destroyed when the cycle is complete. The cycle by it’s very nature makes the Worm’s deadly to any world they go to.

            • I thought she was a living prop in the sense that she may think of herself as important, and she may very well be, but in the end she is still just a normal human. Remember Glaistig was using a metaphor where the parahumans were actors and Scion was director, writer and actor at the same time.

    • Doesn’t match my personal vision, but it is good.

      Personally my favorites are the Crawler and Mannequin pictures. They define the characters for me.

        • Note, I do not fully remember what description’s she’s had, so yours might be closer.

          Auburn hair is canon, though for some inexplicable reason I imagine her as a dirty blond with no justification what so ever to my memory. I kind of think of her as less masculine because it’s her natural look and more distorted by lifestyle. Highly muscular because she works at it rather than a more naturally heavy build. Like, slightly off muscle proportions because of uneven exercise and diet. I’d have a more blemished face and hair that clearly wasn’t well treated.

          Wildbow’s description is definitely a face like yours, but it isn’t quite what is in my head. I see it more as feminine but ravaged than masculine.

          Hm, mostly I think the picture’s just more stylized than I was expecting. Looking at descriptions of Bitch you captured her very well. Also, my knowledge and ability of drawing is limited but I suspect the different things I’m thinking of would be really hard to draw.

          I like it, especially after looking closer and doing a bit more research on Bitch’s physical description.

          • my in my head vision of her mirrors yours alot actually 🙂 but yeah my in head version of people rarely matches the written text . I’ll draw my inhead version then someone will send me descriptions and I end up having to erase everything 😛

  21. So it just occurred to me how much of a shame it is that Bitch isn’t more polite.

    Because if she were, anytime someone called her Hellhound, she could respond with “Bitch, please.”

    And then everyone would laugh and laugh until Scion murdered them all.

  22. Re: Satyrical/Pretender.

    Satyrical may have fallen in love with Pretender no matter what body. Pretender just probably brushed it off as his friend being a flirty bisexual whose powers involve studying a person’s body (secondary power to his ability to create body doubles).

    And so much angst probably ensued with Satyr unable to convince Pretender, unable or unwilling to keep pressing the issue, and probably getting involved with the occasional cheap substitute for the friend he really cared for.

  23. Looks like our resident troll has decided to go after Worm over at Web Fiction Guide. You can tell because he’s still claiming rape. I’m not one to censor free speech, but the guy’s basically taken it upon himself to libel the story either for no reason or because he’s a little on the dumb side. Probably for no reason, or “for the lulz” as some people say.

    • Axel some helpful advice when you use sock-puppets: if you quote yourself word for word, changing alt and saying you aren’t Axel is pretty useless.

      • Sorry for the double post, but I just realised that claiming that Taylor raped Triumph is like saying that Vlad the Impaler is the greatest serial rapist in history.

      • If you want to shut him down, the best thing you could probably be doing is to go to where he is posting these reviews, and openly point out his sock puppet trolling and give a history of his behavior. Go to TV Tropes and post about his behavior on the review comments, as well as any place else he’s spreading his lies. The worst thing you can do is be silent about it and let his review stand unmarred.

        Also, it would help to create your own reviews about the series. Right now on TV Tropes, his review is listed as the most recent and the one people see first when they try to look at the reviews. I’ve been working on writing a review myself, but have not had the time to post it. I encourage everyone who loves the series to post a positive review everywhere they can. Drown out the troll’s voice in a sea of positive comments!

    • The newest absurd comparison to join the Authority and the Boys? Marquis De Sade. Yeeeep.

      Actually, if he’s so into twisting things to claim rape, why didn’t he say anything about the unconstitutional invasive strip search done on Taylor? Or what happened to Dragon? Not saying those are rape, but they’re a lot more rapey than what happened to Triumph.

      Huh, it’s almost as if someone’s using rape as a rhetorical bludgeon.

      • Honestly there are a lot of much worse violations in worm that what Taylor did to Triumph. What Saint and Teacher did to Dragon. What Coil did to Dinah. What Bonesaw did to a lot of people. Seems like he decided to go through and cherry pick the thing that could legally be called rape that Taylor did, because she’s not like Superman or Batman. So yeah, he went looking for more straw.

        • >The newest absurd comparison to join the Authority and the Boys? Marquis De Sade. Yeeeep.<

          Funny how his review brings up the Boys. The Boys is Garth Ennis screaming about how awful Superheroes are and how he doesn't like them (and you don't need to read much of Ennis stuff before you pick that up) and looking to make them seem as bad as possible. Axel's review is just him doing the same thing about Worm.

          I put up my own review. So for the moment that's on top.

          • The Boys is more than just screaming. Much more. And that much more shows just how different it is from Worm.

            Don’t forget the part in The Boys where a guy swipes vaginal mucus off the penis of the male prostitute brought in for the Wonder Woman expy so he can mix it with the drugs he shoots up with. No, no, that doesn’t sound like Worm. What about the heroine who wants to join the top-tier superteam being told that before she can, she has to drop to her knees and blow all the men on the team. Or how the giant crossover crisis is just so the heroes and villains can go have a giant orgy/awards ceremony called Herogasm where they yell at an old man hero to piss himself on stage who can’t remember if he fought the Nazis or the blacks.

            Or the blatant hostility towards the Captain America expy. I doubt Garth Ennis was actually there to participate in WW2, but you know who was? Captain America, serving as both an attempt to get people to want to fight Nazi Germany when the U.S. either wanted to remain isolationist or had some people holding their own Nazi rallies, and to sell war bonds to support the U.S. effort. That makes him more of a war veteran than Garth Ennis.

            I’ve actually read The Boys. As you may have noticed from the above paragraphs, Worm is not nearly like The Boys. Worm doesn’t even have the Ironman expy developing a brain tumor that causes him to spontaneously feel an overwhelming urge to have sex with various objects around him, including his therapist’s cup of coffee.

            • Umm, Captain America wasn’t in WWII either, what with the whole “not actually real” thing going on. 😛 But otherwise yeah, all valid points.

              Honestly, I can see validity in comparing Worm to ‘The Boys’ at a basic level – both works are deconstructions of superhero tropes in world’s where “hero” is more a PR label than anything else. But that’s pretty much where the similarities end.

              I don’t have as massive a dislike for ‘The Boys’ as some people here do but it *does* have an over-reliance on often-puerile shock value just for the hell of it. Worm completely lacks that. Conversely, when horrible things happen in Worm it’s for reasons that make sense within the setting and narrative.

              The Boys is also *much* more cynical than Worm. In The Boys, almost everyone is a total jerk, just because. Worm, OTOH, is full of people doing the best they can in a harsh and unforgiving setting – and many of them remain decent, if shell-shocked, people despite everything.

              Worm is a serious deconstruction/reconstruction of the superhero genre. The Boys is a cynical, tongue-in-cheek, gross-out parody of the superhero genre.

              Comparing Worm with The Boys is like comparing Lovecraft with tentacle porn. There may be similarities on the surface, but yeah-no.

              PS. The Boys actually had quite a good story buried underneath all the puerile crap if you stuck it out to the very end. IMO, one problem with the monthly comics model is that it’s a disincentive to tight writing. I suspect The Boys would’ve been a significantly better series if Ennis had been made to cut 10-20 issues from it (four of which should be from the “Herogasm” five-parter).


                Captain America did more in WW2 than Garth Ennis did, that’s for sure. Not to mention how often comics said to recycle themselves for the war effort back then, which is why they’re rare nowadays.

                Other than that, that discussion there is a bit old. Maybe if I cared to read back through I would have a lot to say. Instead, I will say that at least you picked a good area to cut from The Boys. Garth Ennis wrote what he wrote because he hated superheroes. Wildbow writes what he writes because he likes horror stories and torturing his characters. Pardon me if I see similarities in the results.

              • Yeah, I realise I’m a bit late to the Worm party. :/ Thank you for replying. And that was a good summary – Ennis seems to genuinely hate superheroes whereas Worm is a superhero setting with a horror flavour. There are surface similarities between the two: nominal superheroes do horrible things in both, for example. But that’s where the similarity ends – The Boys is as much a gross-out farce as anything else whereas Worm is a bleak but realistic (and very well thought-out!) look at where powers might come from and the dark costs attached.

              • I’d say it’s thought-out for its premise. A big part of how superpowered people get treated depends on the source and on when they start showing up. If powers had begun to show up only in recent times with the war on terror and surveillance state, things would be a lot darker. Compare that to general depictions of WW2 era or even before then. Go back far enough with them and they’re not as much of a threat. Then they’re more of an other aspect of life.

                Plus, the main threat is the same being that makes superpowers possible in all this, which definitely affects how you think about all this, and somewhat retroactive justifies irrational fears and hatred toward those with powers merely because they are different. When the source of powers is something that can be likened to race relations (mutants), some old myths coming back (Thor and Hercules) or as a cautionary tale about science (the Hulk, Spider-Man) then that all colors what the story is about. Worm wouldn’t have worked with the X-Men even if the source of the powers hadn’t themselves been so central to the story.

              • I can’t say I’m entirely against the idea of gross-outs or farce either, and I think people who like my funnier comments would agree. I just don’t use them to the same effect.

                And while I don’t remember everything at Worm very well, I’ve been able to see your responses every time I check in on my own site. You probably wouldn’t care for it. A bit closer to The Boys than Worm in writing, though definitely not in heart. I guess some people should have been careful what they asked for when they wanted me to start too.

              • I’ve enjoyed the Psycho Gecko stories you’ve posted in the comments, and yours is one of a number of web serials I’m looking forward to checking out once I’ve finally finished Worm. (Pact being another one, of course. 🙂 ).

                From what I’ve read of it, I wouldn’t call your work similar to The Boys in no small part because you’re obviously having fun with it, where Ennis is obviously getting off on being vitriolic and nasty.

              • At one point I caught up on Pact, but I don’t think my heart was quite in it as much. Maybe I’ll go back, but I’d rather not force comedy. It’s got all the Wildbow trademarks, though.

                As for mine, it’s a good example of “Your Mileage May Vary”.

              • Well, I like your stuff so far. And you never know: I might start posting stories of a completely different (sub?) genre in *your* comments once I get around to reading it. 😉

              • Braver folks than you might have tried and then given up. I don’t know. I don’t get a lot of comments. Though one person was nice enough to do a short fanfiction that I enjoyed. Someone else even started a TV Tropes page. Or maybe that was the same person. I’d have to look it up.

                But beware! Once seen, some things cannot be unseen! Like Christopher Lloyd in a thong, they will prance merrily about your imagination and Fester.

  24. Also, for everyone who was involved in the Ben Affleck as Batman discussion, I have uncovered a message from Batman himself regarding the whole thing:

    You might also check out their Superpowered Beatdowns that includes a Batman versus Deadpool and Superman versus Thor.

    They also have their own good stuff with Batman: City of Scars and a couple of other bat-projects.

  25. I think I might have a crush on a non-existent girl made of exposed organs and tentacles that try to kill people if she gets stressed.

      • She’s a classic Woobie. She doesn’t want to crush anyone who gets near her. She just can’t control her body. And of course that makes her even more nervous about bieng near people, and that makes her body crush more… I mean imagine her life. She wakes up somewhere with no memory. She’s a monster. To her horror, she starts killing people, because she can’t control her body. She may have been hounded by the authorities before they figured out her condition. She got put in an instatution, where at least she wasn’t hurting people, but her human contact was limited. Then her hero comes along. He saves her from that. She can just wrap herself around his arms, and everyone is safe because she can’t hurt him. He gives her hope, he gives her a places. They are even going to get answers for why this was done to them. They are going to bring those responsible to justice. Then she and her hero get betrayed and tourtured by their team because they weren’t monster enough in the end. Poor girl.

        • Hopefully once she figured this out she would have screamed it out loud and clear to anyone she saw approaching, which could have expedited the PRT-prosecution–>parahuman institution process (given what we know of the PRT, probably unlikely, but still).

          • Even with Sveta screaming warnings, I ballpark that about 10 or 15 PRT guys got themselves killed trying to cuff her before they figured it out.

          • I suspect it didn’t work quite that well. Her problem was a terribly out of wack fight or flight response. I doubt she had that much control before she was close enough that it was too late.

        • *opens up an envelope to reveal a card that reads “Sad to be single on Valentine’s day? Don’t feel bad. I hear someone has a crush on you.” with Imp holding a heart-shaped box. On the inside, it has her opening it, revealing a scared Garotte coiling around screaming, terrified people, and says, “See, being single on Valentine’s isn’t all bad. Happy Single’s Awareness Day!”

  26. Everyone has covered all of the other points quite admirably, but one thing seems to have been overlooked.

    ** Canary tentatively stepped on Leonid’s right hand. Rachel’s dogs got his legs. He screamed, and that sound wasn’t muted. **

    Canary stepped up and actually participated in a fight!

    There may be hope for humanity yet….. Or not.

    • He’s referring to people who triggered naturally (rather than via Cauldron) as ‘natural triggers’. For example, Taylor, Bitch, Imp etc. are natural triggers. Canary and Garrote aren’t.

      Hence “It’s you natural triggers that tend to get a little bent in the head”.

  27. So what does this chapter start off with? Utter comic gold. What is Taylor’s response to being told she’s doing a crazy mastermind thing? Ask which one! Oh that’s so perfect. I feel so bad for the Chicago Wards having to work with someone who routinely does several different crazy mastermind actions! Those poor poor kids.

    Oh Rachel, such a massive turnaround from the first meeting. Going all the way from attacking Taylor at first smell to attacking anyone who insults Taylor. That’s a bff right there. Amazing that Bitch has basically become a cuddly puppy. Well, to her friends at least.

    Okay I don’t quite understand the Vegas guys either. Not wanting to be the people who doom humanity I get but that’s not what he was talking about with love. In love with Pretender? Sure I get that and am not surprised but I still fail to see how that has any relevance on killing Doctor Mother. Shadow Stalker on the other hand does not surprise me in the least with running away. I’m more surprised that she stayed until the last moment honestly.

  28. “It’s a rare thing,” Satyr said, “for someone to leave me speechless. I can tell you that virtually everyone comes to like me when they get to know me.”

    “Everyone likes the manipulative assholes after they’ve had a chance to do their manipulating,” Rachel said.

    I love this girl. 😀

  29. So now we know why Scion was disgusted by Eidolon. He got his powers from Cauldron instead of being chosen by the entity. He’s one of the false children

  30. This is the most annoying and most pointless chapter in the entire book. I almost gave up on the entire work after reading this chapter.

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