Venom 29.9

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Cuff,” I said.  I used my bugs to talk.  “Can you fix the platform?  Make sure the floor is sturdy enough to hold our weight?

“What are you thinking?” Golem asked.

“I’m thinking we go straight up, then exit onto whatever floor has the portal.”

“There are others inside,” Golem said.  “Sveta, Weld, Shadow Stalker… prisoners.”

They can wait,” I said.  “There’s a lot of danger there.  Sveta especially, if we turn a corner and run into her… We got Doormaker, we got the clairvoyant, we have Number Man, who I’m assuming is willing to cooperate?

“I will.”

We have video footage,” I said.  “Of the facility, of the garden, of Scion.  Stuff we can get to Tattletale.  The sooner we get back, the sooner we can get others up to date, and the better our chances of coming up with a plan before we run out of time.  We send PRT squads and capes who can’t help against Scion to recapture Garotte and handle the prisoners.

Golem nodded.  “Makes sense.”

He and Cuff joined Alexandria in fixing a platform out of the hand we’d hidden inside.

Much of Cauldron’s internal structure was gone.  We could see a cross-section above, where rooms had been sliced through.  The energy of Scion’s beam continued to eat through it, leaving a tracery of gold to cut through the gloom, all the way up to the hole at the top.  Maybe two-thirds remained, with the lab and everything essential gone.  A hollow husk, and this empty space, like a missile silo open to the world.

An overcast sky loomed directly above us, and a kind of breeze reached us, maybe a thousand feet underground.  It stirred flecks and fragments from the burned entity and the burned of the walls above into the air, a snowfall of pitch black flakes.

“I’m betting this isn’t so safe to inhale,” Imp said.  “Bits of alien, bits of… metal ash?”

“Closer to soot, I’d think,” Golem said, without turning away from the platform in progress.

“It’s essentially human flesh,” the Number Man said.  “Given the form the entity took and the research the Doctor did.”

“Oh, well then,” Imp said.  She took in a deep breath.  “That’s okay.”

“You joke?  Now?”  Lung asked.  He sounded irritated.

Especially now,” Imp said.  “We hit him hard enough it mattered, we made him hurt.  Be happy.”

Alexandria turned the platform around.  We each stepped inside.

She hauled us skyward.  Imp dropped down to her hands and knees.

She saw me looking, meeting me eye to eye.  Or lens to lens, anyways.  “You can fly.  Why are you in here?”

Limited fuel.  Does it matter?

“It’s more weight on this floor.  If it breaks off, we all fall to our deaths.”

“Don’t be a wuss,” Rachel said.

“I’m not.  Wussiness is being scared about something that isn’t scary.  I think it’s perfectly reasonable to have a thing about shoddy constructions and drops from… oh… seventy stories up?”

“The Siberian’s protecting the shell,” I said.  “Alexandria couldn’t break it if she tried.”

“It’s seventy-seven, by the by,” the Number Man said.  He was surrounded by his Harbingers, the wounded piled at his feet.  “We’ll be eighty-three floors up once we reach the top.”

“Here’s an idea,” Imp said.  “Let’s change the topic.  Like, say, it’s kind of nice to see you returning to form, boss.”


“Creep factor a thousand.  You’re just standing there, and you shouldn’t be upright, with the way your weight is, but you are because of that flight pack, you’re not looking at anyone you talk to, not even opening your mouth.  And when you’re talking, you don’t pause for breath or anything and there’s no emotion in your voice.  I’d almost think you bit it, and your ghost lives on in the swarrrrmm.”  She waggled her fingers as she drew out the last word.

I’m alive,” I said.  I made myself raise my head.

“Right.  But you look dead, and that’s creepy, and that’s good, because creepy reminds me of old Skitter.  Old Skitter was cool.”

I shook my head a little.  Now that things were quieting down, my body was deciding to remind me of the pain in my arm.

I focused on my bugs.  Searching the area.  I didn’t have many, but two bugs floating a foot apart could fly at chest level and run into most people standing in a corridor.

A cluster of bugs died, wiped out by lashing tendrils.

Sveta made it.

There was a crackle, followed by a voice.  “…ear me?

“We’re here, Tattletale,” Golem said, raising a hand to his ear.

Kinda got a little spooked there.  Long time for radio silence.”

“Scion came,” Golem said.  “And we spent a bit at the bottom of the complex.  On our way back to you.”

And the reason Taylor isn’t talking to me?”

“Your teammates are okay,” he said.  “Weaver’s a little unsteady on her feet, using her bugs to talk.  The mic wouldn’t pick that up.”


Download video,” I said.

“Can you download the video?”  Golem asked.

Nope.  I can watch in on the feed when I have a connection, or I can load the recording when I have the physical camera in my hand, but I can’t download.”

“And here I thought Dragon was a good tinker,” Imp said.

It’s a camera the size of a sugar cube,” Tattletale said.  “If you’re looking for the portal, you’re almost horizontal to it.”

I raised a hand for the benefit of the people without earbuds.  “That floor.

“Stop, Alexandria,” Number Man said.  “Down a little.”

We departed.  Rachel and the dogs hopped off at the same time, making the platform swing back a fraction, creating a two-inch gap.

I heard a yelp and turned back, but I couldn’t identify the source.

Sveta?  Another prisoner?

“Let’s move fast,” I said.

We headed down the hallway.  Alexandria had borrowed Cuff’s earbud and microphone and was communicating the basics to Tattletale.  Which was fine by me, because it let me focus on more important things, like ignoring the pain and the possibility of attack from any direction.  I could recognize the damage on the walls and furniture as we approached the portal.  I could smell the salt water and the heavy odor of rotting seaweed on the air.  A nostalgic smell, even if it wasn’t the exact same smell as home.

I saw Shadow Stalker, too, and in a way, I felt a different kind of nostalgia.  Of being a little vulnerable, not at a hundred percent, and suddenly having this person appear, catching me off guard.

You’re here,” I said.

“Nowhere else to go.  Covered your rear for a bit, but when all hell broke loose, I headed back up this way.”

Was she telling the truth?

“Satyr bit it,” she said.  “Others… I don’t know.”

Others don’t matter,” I said.  “Don’t say anything about Satyr for now.”

We made our way through the portal, entering the cave.  It was unbearably bright, and I was thankful for the Dragonfly’s presence, blocking the worst of the sunlight.

“And they’re back,” Nix said, from above us.  She was still held against the wall by Golem’s bindings

“Fantastic,” Spur answered.

Tell us where the heroes are.  No nonsense,” I said.  “Fake wall, fake rock, wherever.  Talk.

“Let’s hear what you’re offering in exchange,” Nix said.

No,” I responded.  I used my bugs to open the Dragonfly’s ramp.

“You don’t know that they’re safe,” Spur said.  He smiled a little.

If you want to know what happened to Satyr, explain,” I said.  “Waste any time, and we leave and send the PRT here to investigate.  You won’t get any answers.”

“Hard sell?” Spur asked.  “Satyr can handle himself.”

“Apparently not,” Imp said.  Someone elbowed her.

I was already turning to float up the ramp.

He’s only wasting my time.  Trying to buy a moment to figure out a tactic to approach this negotiation.

“I know we’re in a rush…” Golem started, as he hurried after me.  “But-”

I care about Revel too,” I said.  I raised my head to look at him.  “But I care about the world more.

I could see Golem’s eyes through the eyeholes in his helmet.  A frown.  “I’ll stay,” he said.  “In case anyone comes through, and so I can search for them.”

Good idea,” I said.  I thought about it.  “What Satyr was saying… Blowout might have done something to their heads.

“I remember Satyrical saying something along those lines.  Stunning presence.”

It’s not a power in the records, not something long-term like this.  But it fits.  There was a string of people found in Vegas with varying amounts of brain damage.  Some permanent,” I said.

I could see his eyes widen.  “He did?  We were interacting with them all that time, and you knew he could have done something like this to Revel?  We let them go?”

I’m telling you so you’re prepared,” I said.  “The reason we didn’t do anything, the reason you shouldn’t do anything, is because this isn’t a time for grudges, vendettas and revenge.  It only sets us back.

“Right,” he said.

“But I don’t need to say that,” I said.  “You’re not the type to cross the line in pursuit of revenge.”

“No,” he said, sighing.  “I’m not.”

I forced myself to raise my good left hand, and I settled it on his shoulder.  The movement, the minor exertion, it made my burned stump throb.

“Thank you.  For caring about Revel,” I spoke with my own voice, quiet, a little strained.  “Makes me feel less guilty about leaving.”

He nodded.

Cuff,” I said.  “Stay with Golem?  Two of you to watch two of them.

She nodded.

“Everyone else, on board,” I said.

They boarded.

With Dragon active, I didn’t need to get in the cockpit.  I could have ordered the A.I. to handle autopilot, with Dragon to keep an eye on things and manage the ship.

But I made my way to the chair anyways.  I eased myself down, then set everything into motion.  I put things on autopilot, and then I fiddled with the search keys until I’d found the video feeds.

A chance to sit, to catch my breath.  Couldn’t deal with people, and I wasn’t up to any exertion at all, even talking.  Talking meant navigating the politics of the group, of taking people into account.

I only wanted to distract myself from the pain of the burn, the rough, blackened wound where my arm should have been. I could push through it, but I was counting every second until I had some relief.

The feeds showed the three key outposts where the PRT had a presence.  The largest settlements that remained, the most obvious targets.  There was one in Zayin, but the Sleeper had followed the refugees in there.  Even if it still stood after Scion’s visit, there was no helping any of the refugees there.

The C.U.I. had seized one settlement for themselves.  A problem that needed dealing with, but our window of time for that sort of thing was past.  The battle was on.  Scion was pissed off.  We were his target, and this time he wasn’t letting up.

Three settlements, and Earth He was under attack.  Western Europe and Northern Africa, minus the English speakers.  The Guild, the Suits, the Meisters, more teams I struggled to place in the chaos.

Khonsu and Leviathan, and capes I recognized as the ones Cauldron had taken.  A whole army.

Dragonfly,” I spoke, using my swarm.  “Give the others a view of this.

No response.

“Dragonfly,” I said, using my real voice.  I hissed in a bit of breath between clenched teeth.  “Put this feed on the other monitors.”

The other monitors lit up.

A cape flung Leviathan.  Scion floated to one side to avoid the incoming Endbringer.  Leviathan, in response, extended the fins the Simurgh had given him, arresting his forward momentum, and then swam through his own afterimage as it crashed into him, changing direction in mid-air.

He crashed into Scion, his fins tearing through the golden man.  Golden mist billowed away as Leviathan found a grip on Scion and continued the assault.

Leviathan was blasted away, heaved into the ground with a force that made everyone present stumble.  Scion then retaliated, striking first the cape that had thrown Leviathan, then Leviathan himself.

The Endbringer was clipped, losing a fin on one hand, but he got his feet under him and ran, trailing all of the disintegration fins on and inside the rocky ground beneath him.  The mist billowed, Leviathan used it to mask himself from Scion’s view, changing direction the moment he was out of sight.

Scion hit him anyways.  Leviathan disappeared out of the camera’s view.

Scion didn’t let up.  His actions before had been slow, methodical.  Now there was nothing of the sort.  No pause, no break.  The moment he couldn’t follow up on Leviathan, he struck others.

Capes erected defenses, Dragon’s Teeth dodged and opened fire with laser pistols.  Some took shelter behind the pillar that Khonsu had erected.  Whatever defensive effect Khonsu had used to wall people inside served to block Scion’s attack.

Scion maintained the attack, picking off anyone who wasn’t behind a good enough defense.  Blasts, spheres, hundreds of narrow lasers, bigger lasers.

Several capes, it seemed, had the ability to transmit a power or a set of powers to others on an epidemic level.  I could see how it spread through the crowd, from one cape to the nearest unaffected cape.  Masses of individuals erecting forcefields, little circles no broader across than a large umbrella.

Alone, the shields were too weak.  Together, the shields were still too weak.  Scion’s golden lights ripped through the massed rank and file.

Two minutes, maybe three or four, Scion finally stopped.  All around him, capes were broken.  Any who had actually managed to get his attention by being strong enough or problematic enough had been obliterated.  The rest had been taken to pieces.  Wounded severely enough they were out of the fight, not so severely they would certainly die.  Limbs removed, flesh burned, body parts broken by the damage to nearby ground, eyes or whole faces ruined.

Dragon’s ships were broken, with a number starting to rebuild and regenerate.  The capes who remained were the ones who were behind defenses so secure they couldn’t also attack.

There was a pause in the assault.  Most of the defending capes had been annihilated.

The camera afforded a glimpse of Scion’s face, tinted an orange-red by the forcefield between Scion and the camera.  His eyebrows were drawn together, lips just a little tighter together.  Lines standing out in his throat.

He hadn’t changed his expression once in the time we’d known him.

He hit Khonsu’s group.  The blast hit the edge of Khonsu’s time effect.

Scion threw another, and it passed through.  The capes didn’t even have time to react.  the light detonated like an artillery shell on impact, tearing through the group.

Another soon appeared, to follow.  Khonsu teleported, taking the group with him.

A whole flight of Dragon’s craft were joining the fray, and reinforcements were arriving.  A share of the capes from Gimel.

Scion left.

And he promptly appeared on another screen.

Catching our side off guard, tearing into us with a fresh kind of violence, not experimentally, but out of some form of impotent rage.

“He’s angry, like Golem said,”  Imp observed.  “You could see it on his face.”


“Yes,” Number Man replied.

“But he’s not demolishing the continent,” she said.  “We know he can.  So… how come?”

“It’s a good question,” the Number Man said.  “We can only guess.”

“I’m open to guesses,” Imp said.

“I prefer to deal with facts,” the Number Man said.  “Let’s leave the guessing to your Tattletale.”

The other battle was unfolding.  Much the same.

No, was he hitting harder, here?  A little less forgiving?

If this was his first time feeling true grief or true anger, then it could be his first time exploring coping mechanisms.

Venting through anger.  How long until he realized that this wasn’t enough and tried something more severe?

I closed my eyes.  I wanted to focus, to take in any and all information about Scion that I could, but my body wasn’t up to it.  If Panacea wasn’t available, then getting painkillers from the first aid kit onboard would only slow things down when I did get medical attention.  Besides, they wouldn’t be strong enough to help here.

Had to weather this.  Only a few minutes.

Deep breaths.

I could hear the Number Man with my bugs.  “Can’t remember.  Was it Bitch or Hellhound?”

“Bitch,” Rachel said.

“Bitch.  Colorful.  You know, it’s surprising the things you can survive, if you know the mechanics of movement, of physics and the structure of the human body… you hear about people surviving falls from seventeen thousand feet up in the air…”

“Are you threatening me?”

“No, no.  Not at all.”

“Then what are you yammering on about?”

“I share Imp’s fears, on a level.  We’re a good height above the water, and I can’t help but see a bit of our pilot’s reflection in the window.  She looks a little peaked.  Would you mind keeping an eye on her, making sure she doesn’t stop breathing?”

“I’m okay,” I said.  I grit my teeth.  “Four or so minutes and we’re there.”

“Very reassuring.  But maybe-”

“She’s fine,” Rachel said.

But I could hear the distinct sound of her footsteps and the claw-on-metal-flooring racket as she and her dogs approached.  She stood beside my chair, back to the window, and put one steel-toed boot up on my armrest.

“Not because of what he said,” Rachel said.  Her body faced me, but her head was turned to look out the window.  “Keeping you company.”

“Yeah,” I said.

It was appreciated.

The craft shuddered slightly as we set down on the roof of the restaurant that had been rendered a makeshift hospital.  I was stirred from a daze I hadn’t realized I was in.

My eyes roved over the screens, taking in one last glimpse as the ramp opened.

Things weren’t much different from before.  The defense took a different form, they had Bohu and Tohu with them, and they were reshaping defenses to buy the defenders a little slack.  But Dalet had taken heavy losses in an initial attack.

There were more people running for their lives than there were people fighting.

The fight’s almost over,” I said.

“I said this a moment ago,” Lung said, his voice deep, almost accusatory.

Without my asking, Rachel gave me a hand in standing, putting one hand under my left armpit and helping bring me to my feet.

I pushed onward, ignoring Lung.  “Okay.  He attacks this settlement next, probably.  Then we find out what his next move is.”

“Quite a few dead,” Alexandria said.

She was making a habit of surprising me when she spoke.  It tended to sound unlike the Alexandria I’d gotten to know in the interrogation room back at the Brockton Bay PRT headquarters.  Obviously because she was really Pretender, but that was a hard fact to keep in mind.  It was hard to shake my mental image of Alexandria sitting across the table from me.

“Yes,” I said.  We started making our way down the ramp.

The Number Man mused, “It’s very possible he’ll go back to Earth H, start the cycle anew.  Or he hits a world or two we’re not in touch with and then hits Earth H.”

“Or,” I said, “he realizes that this isn’t serving to vent his anger over what happened to his partner, and he steps up the aggression some.”

Gimel was entirely different.  Nilbog had been hard at work, creating a horde of minions.  Buildings had been reinforced, shored up with shelves of what looked to be obsidian.  Capes were gathered in bands, and all were at attention, ready for an attack at any moment.

The dead and the wounded, I noted, had been cleared away.

The Number Man opened the door leading to the stairwell and the back of the restaurant-turned field hospital.

“You’re back, Lung,” Panacea said.  “Ah.  You’ve got wounded with you.”

“Yes,” Lung said.

I could see Panacea’s entourage.  Marquis, Bonesaw, and Marquis’ followers, minus a few members.  A man so tidy he beat out the Number Man in neatness, one with arms black from fingertip to elbow and dyed blond hair teased into spikes.  A man so covered in chains and black tattered cloth I couldn’t make out his actual features.  They had sandwiches in hand, no doubt put together from supplies that had been shipped in.

“Any priorities?” she asked.

“Skitter,” Imp said, at the same time I said, “Doormaker.”

“Don’t be dumb,” Imp told me.

Panacea shrugged, “We can look after two at a time.  I can see what happened to Skitter.  What’s Doormaker’s wound?”

“Traumatic damage to the cranium,” Alexandria-Pretender said.  “He’s never been all there, mentally, but we need his brain in one piece.”

“The Cauldron capes are tougher,” Panacea said.  “Bonesaw?  Can you give it a shot?”

“Will do,” Bonesaw said.  She sounded tired.  None of the perkiness or endless cheer that had defined her as a villain.

Well, being a good guy was harder, really.

I used my flight pack to raise up, then laid flat on the countertop.

“Pain relief and essentials only, please,” I said.  “Then the others.  The Doormaker’s partner, then Gully and Canary.  I’ll go last.”

Panacea glanced over her shoulder, as if checking that was okay.

“Ignore her,” Imp said.  “She’s being dumb.”

“Most of the others can do more in a fight than I can.  They need everything in working order.  I can function without an arm.”

“Whatever,” Panacea said.  “Works for me, actually.”

Then she touched me, and the pain went away.  I relaxed so suddenly I felt like I’d suddenly become part liquid.  I’d been so tense my head wasn’t even touching the countertop, my legs and shoulders tense.

“Thank you,” I said.  “Thanks.”

“You have a high pain tolerance,” she said.

“One of Bakuda’s bombs, way back when,” I said.  “I think it messed with my head, as far as my perception of pain.  I found out what it’s really like to feel pain, real ten-out-of-ten pain.  A part of me knew it was too much to be true, and other stuff’s affected me more because I knew it was tied with something real.  Case in point, a burn is still a motherfucker.”

“Well, we’ll fix it,” she said.

I nodded.  I was happy to be able to nod.  I watched her face while she worked, because there wasn’t much else to look at.  A young woman now, not attractive but not unattractive, her face still covered from forehead to chin in freckles, frizzy brown hair tied back with bandanna to keep the hair out of her face.  Her shirt had the sleeves rolled up to the shoulders, and I could see blood and smears of black here and there.

I felt a pang of envy.

She’d been just as lost as me.  Maybe more lost, maybe not.  I’d had friends, but that didn’t necessarily mean I’d had a rudder.  But she’d found herself.  She’d found a path and she’d found something she could do.  She had a role in this.

I looked away.

My bugs were stirring throughout the area, as I gathered my forces and replenished my supply.  I could sense people outside.  Tattletale was among them, laptop tucked under one arm.  She reached the door and paused, glancing up at the sky.

For an instant, I thought it was because Scion was here.  He was due.

But she pulled the door open and walked inside.

Panacea looked up.  I could see her eyes narrow a bit.  “You weren’t invited, Tattletale.”

“Business,” Tattletale said, waltzing in anyways.  “Someone camera me.”

There was a clatter as Tattletale unceremoniously dropped the laptop down on a table.

Imp was the first to get the camera off her mask and throw it to Tattletale.  Tattletale set about extracting a chip.  “So.  Harbinger zero.”

The Number Man made a pained face.  “You couldn’t call me Harbinger Ten?  Or even Number Man?”

“I could.  I hope you’ve got some good, juicy tidbits for us to work with, H-zero.”

“Very little that’s concrete.  This is all very much guesswork.”

“Then let’s talk hypotheses,” she said.  “Educated guesses.”

“Scion’s upset,” I said.

“Yeah,” Tattletale said.  “His buddy died, I gather?”

“Yeah,” Imp said.  “And we threw bits of his dead buddy at him to distract him before dropping a skyscraper on him.  But I dunno how much that did.”

“You accomplish your goal, in the middle of all that?” Tattletale asked.

“We found out second triggers aren’t a real possibility,” I said.  “Formulas either.  But if we want to do the second trigger thing, Contessa should be able to point the way.  It could mean extra firepower, or buying time.”

“She wasn’t there?” Tattletale asked.

“I assumed she was with Khonsu.”

“According to the attackers, she died,” the Number Man said.  “Mantellum’s power was the rock to her scissors.”

“You failed,” Shadow Stalker said.

I frowned.  She wasn’t entirely wrong.  “Our best bet was a special kind of Cauldron formula, and he nuked them.  Cauldron let Mantellum slip past their radar, so maybe there’s a chance there’s another Cauldron cape out there who got that special kind of formula, with a game-breaking power.  Something that isn’t in Scion’s model.”

“Unlikely,” the Number Man said.  “Mantellum slipped by us because he had a power that countered perception powers.  The sort of power we’d need against Scion would be an offensive one, and I doubt we’d let things slip so badly in vetting those powers.”

“You’re a real downer, you know that?”  Imp asked.

Panacea let go of my stump and walked over to where the Doormaker’s partner was lying.  I supposed the essential fixes were done.  I checked my stump, and found the burned skin was sloughing off.

“Don’t touch,” Panacea ordered, looking at me out of the corner of one eye.

I let my hand drop, then sat up.

“The biggest thing,” I said, “Was that Scion was wrong.  He can see the path to victory, and from the vision we saw, we know that he can make mistakes.  He plotted for a future that would be sure to reunite him and his partner… and he got his wish.  It was just that his partner was brain-dead, gutted, useless.”

“Sooo,” Imp said.  “We help him reach a future where he eradicates humanity, trick him, he waltzes away.”

“His goal isn’t to eradicate humanity,” Tattletale said.  “It’s to destroy most of it.  Remember?  Dinah never said he’d destroy all of us.”

“If you destroy ninety-nine point nine percent of humanity,” the Number Man said, “We’ll die out.”

“Probably,” Tattletale agreed.  “But he’s not going that far.  He’s leaving options open.  He’s got one singular purpose.  To continue his species’ life cycle.  To do that, he needs a partner.”

“Can we give him one?” I asked.

Tattletale smirked.  “Kind of hard to pull off.  A lot of bases to cover, and a lot of areas where we don’t have enough info.”

“But I’m asking if we can give him one.  Can we fake him out, give him what he wants and buy ourselves some breathing room?”

Marquis stepped away from the back of the kitchen.  He watched as Bonesaw dug through Doormaker’s skull cavity.  “It could upset him, more than he’s already been upset.  Speaking as someone who recently recovered the thing I want most in the world, the only thing scarier than the idea of losing that thing is the reality of what I’d do for revenge.”

“Upsetting him is good,” Imp said.  “Right?”

“Right,” I said.  “He can be affected emotionally.  Not by emotion-affecting powers, I don’t think, but he’s influenced by his feelings.  That’s good.  That’s something we can use.”

“You want to irritate the world-destroying alien god,” one of Marquis’ men said.

“I want to get him to a point where he might make a mistake,” I said.  My eyes moved to Shadow Stalker.  It’s how we captured her in the first place.  “It’s a starting point.”

“Starting points are only that,” Lung said.  “I can understand if you would start this with your enemy off-balance, then fight him knowing you can hurt him, but he cannot be truly hurt.”

“Tea, anyone?” Marquis asked, interjected.

Lung nodded.  I raised my good hand.  Panacea nodded as well.

“Green?” he asked me.  “The others drink green.”

“Black.  With milk.”

He turned his attention to the kettle.

I looked at Lung, taking a deep breath before speaking. “Not starting this isn’t an option.  If we wait until an idea comes up, then we’re going to be too late.  We start this, reckless as it may be, and we leave a door open.”

“For failure as well as success,” Marquis said, on the far end of the room, his attention on emptying the kettle into the individual mugs.

“What would you suggest, then?” I asked.  I might have come across a little hostile in the process.

“I would counter your question with a question,” Marquis said.  “Who do you see on the front lines?  Which heroes and villains are still fighting?  Which ones keep returning to the battlefield, before any of the others have even found their feet?”

I’d thought something like this to myself.  “The monsters, the ones that are a little crazy, the ones that are a lot crazy.”

“Not quite the answer I would have given,” Marquis said.

“Which answer would you have given?” I asked.

“I would say it’s the people who are most in touch with who they truly are,” Marquis said.

“Same thing,” I responded.  “We’re all fucked up, we’re all damaged, a little crazy, a little monstrous.”

He frowned a little.  “People here might take offense to that.  Myself included.”

“No offense intended.”

“There’s a strength in knowing who you are.  I would suggest that everyone play to that knowledge.  Reflection, after all, is the province of the old.  It’s in your final days that you sum up your experiences, weigh the good against the bad, think back to the pivotal moments, and decide if you’ve made your mark.  Others go through this sooner, the terminally ill.  Those that expect to die.”

“I don’t get it,” Rachel said.

“Are you happy with who you are?” he asked.


“In a general sense, do you know what you’re doing in the next few hours and days?”

Rachel looked at me.  “Yeah.”

“Is there something in common between those two things?”

Bitch made a face, “Kind of?”

That’s what I’m talking about.”

“I don’t get it.”

There was a distant rumble.  A roar rose through the air, a series of shouts and warnings all coming in unison, mingling together into a singular noise.

He’s here.

It’s unending.  The same thing over and over again.  Destruction, an enemy we can’t truly beat, always just a little worse than the last time.

Rachel left, no question.  Imp lingered, but followed, sticking to Rachel like glue.  I saw Alexandria, Number Man and the Harbingers go, then Marquis and his followers, Lung excepted.

“Hey, Amelia,” Bonesaw said.  “Gift wrap this one for me?”

Panacea stepped away from the eyeless clairvoyant, touching Doormaker.  I watched as the bone at his forehead started to knit together, and was then covered with flesh.

He jolted a little, and then sat up.

“You were bleeding into your brainpan,” Bonesaw said.  “You’re going to feel crummy.”

He raised a hand, reaching out, floundering.

“Wait, did I fuck him up?” Bonesaw asked.

“No, he was screwed up before,” I said.  “He’s looking for his partner.”

Lung grabbed the Clairvoyant, then staggered a little.

It’s based on touch, I realized.

I used my bugs to draw a cord out.  They wrapped it around one finger and held it straight out to Doormaker.  Panacea grabbed it and tugged a little, leading the blind Clairvoyant to his partner.

They held hands.

There was a pause.

Then doors unfolded, throughout my range.

Most of the others had left.  Tattletale was focused on her laptop, participating in the battle in a sense, even if she was still here.

Bonesaw and Panacea, too.  They were cleaning the tables, moving things aside and getting organized, preparing for the battle to come.

The ones who hadn’t left yet were Shadow Stalker, Lung and I.

“Am I safe to go?” I asked.

At my question, as if I’d somehow prodded her, Shadow Stalker left.

“You can,” Panacea said.  “But let me thicken the skin, so your stump doesn’t pop like a water balloon.”

“Let’s,”  I said.

She touched my stump.

“I asked to be last for a reason,” I said.

She looked up, curious.

“You know, what your dad was saying?  I kind of wish he’d finished.  I feel like I was on the brink of coming to a conclusion.”

The sounds outside were getting worse.  Doormaker opened a portal beside us.  Safety?

It was something to do.  I helped the others lead the patients through.  Lung carried two of the wounded Irregulars.  We entered a cave with a very flat bottom, open to the elements.  A nice day, so different from the chaos and ugliness that was in New Brockton Bay.

“My dad and I have talked about this a good bit.  Why?”

“I dunno.  Finding our role, finding our place?  Lung and I are the only ones who haven’t left or started preparing for the fight.  Well, us and the wounded.  The others know where they’re at.  Even Imp, without any power that can really do something, is out there with Rachel, giving guidance.  But Lung and I?  We’re both pretty proud individuals, and we don’t have a role in this.  Like Lung said, he can’t attack Scion until this is over.”

Lung had brought the last few through.  All of us settled out of the way of the portal door, in case a beam came blasting through.  “I have a job.  I will protect these girls.”

“I think you know what I mean.  You’re pissed, on a level, because you’re not a part of all of this.  You’re better than this job you’ve been given.”

He folded his arms, but he didn’t disagree.

“There’s a psychiatric term for this,” Bonesaw said.  “Projection.”

“No.  Skitter is right,” Lung said, looking irritated.  “I am more than a bodyguard.”

Reinforcements were arriving at the outskirts of the settlement, using Doormaker’s doors.

“I feel like I’m on the brink of finding where I need to be,” I said.  “I sort of have the power to act, I sort of have a role.  I can communicate, I can scout, I’m versatile enough to combine my powers with others.  I can figure out ways to attack, I can brainstorm.  But something’s missing.  Like Lung says, I feel like I’m better than this.  What Marquis was saying struck a chord.”

“Think back to the time in your life when you were strongest,” Panacea said.

I did.

Not a time when I had the Dragonfly or the flight pack.  It was when I was fighting the Slaughterhouse Nine, Alexandria, Defiant and Dragon.

“Times when you were most scared,” she said.

The same times.

“I think those are the times when you’re most like you.  And it sucks, I know.  It’s horrible to think about it like that, because at least for me, it wasn’t a time when I liked myself.  Just the opposite.”

“But you came to terms with it.”

“I owned that part of me,” she said.  “And I can barely look Carol and Neil in the eyes, because of it.  But I’m secure in who I am, and I can do this.  Healing people, being a medic for the people fighting on our side.”

I nodded.

The image I’d seen on Glenn’s computer screen crossed my mind.  Me, unrecognizable even to myself, surrounded by the swarm.

I’m just a little bit of a monster, I thought.  I can’t put the blame on my passenger.

I exhaled slowly.  I could hear the Simurgh’s screaming.

“Will you help me?”  I asked.

“Help?”  Panacea asked.

“Imp reminded me of a moment.  Of something Bonesaw said, when she was carving into my head.  A threat.  That she was going to mess with Grue’s head, take away his ability to control his power.  She was going to do the same to me.”

“I think I know what you’re thinking,” Bonesaw said.  “Even if I did anything there, it’d probably fuck up your head.”

“I haven’t done anything in that department, but I’ve gotten enough glimpses to guess you wouldn’t come back from it,” Panacea said.  “No fixes, no patching it up.  It’d be like trying to plug a leak with water gushing out full force.”

“Second triggers are about knocking down walls,” I said.  My eyes fell on Bonesaw.  “Removing restrictions the entity put in place.  If this part of the brain is a part that the entity shaped to help regulate powers on our end, then I need you to de-regulate.”

“If it was that easy, I would’ve done it for all the other members of the Slaughterhouse Nine.”

“I’m not thinking it’s easy,” I said, my voice quiet.

Some capes came through.  They brought two wounded through the portal, laying them out on the flat rock floor beside us.  Panacea and Bonesaw bent down, getting to work.

“Give me a minute and I’ll try,” Bonesaw said.  She was patching up a cape that had been disemboweled.  She looked over her shoulder at Tattletale, who had set up in a far corner.  “But I gotta say, I’m giving you a ninety-nine percent chance of coming out of this with regrets.  Maybe you should run it by Tattletale, there?”

I looked back at Tattletale.

“You’re going to lose your mind.  Maybe a little, maybe a lot.  Maybe all at once, maybe in pieces.  Depends on how it all reconnects in the end,” Bonesaw said.

“Tattletale would stop me,” I said.  “She’d…”

See it as something self-destructive, suicidal.

I shook my head a little.  “…No.  Keep her in the dark, for the time being.  Let her focus on what she’s doing.”

“Okay,” Bonesaw said.  “She’s going to figure it out pretty fast, though.”

I saw Panacea fidget.  She was kneeling by Canary.

“Riley,” Panacea said.

Bonesaw looked at her… whatever Panacea was to her.

“I’ll handle it.”

“You don’t do brains.”

“I’m inexperienced, yeah,” Panacea said.  “But even inexperienced, I think I can do a cleaner job than you.  And Tattletale’s less likely to catch on if you aren’t sawing Taylor’s skull open.”

“I wasn’t talking about experience,” Bonesaw replied.

Panacea stared down at her hands, covered in tattoos, with a rich, vibrant red in the gaps.

“This isn’t a solution,” she said, without looking up.  “You said a second trigger wouldn’t work.  This is… it’s so crude you couldn’t even call it a hack job.”

The Simurgh’s screaming continued.

Dinah had left me two notes.

The Simurgh had reminded me of the second.

‘I’m sorry.’

It wasn’t an apology for the consequences of the first note.  No, Dinah hadn’t approached me since.  She hadn’t decided I’d fulfilled the terms and deemed it okay to finally contact me again.

Two words, telling me that something ugly was going to happen.  Directed at me.

There was a chance that it meant I’d lose someone, or I’d lose something precious.  Maybe it referred to my friends.  Maybe it referred to my mission, my direction.  My dad, perhaps, which might have already happened.

But there was a possibility that it referred to me.  That it was tied to our ability to come out ahead at the end of all this.  To some slim chance.

Maybe there was a sacrifice involved.

I shook my head, unable to articulate any of the arguments, to come up with something profound to say.  I only said, “Do it.”

Panacea laid her hand across my forehead.

And it all went wrong.

Last Chapter                                                                                               Next Chapter

488 thoughts on “Venom 29.9

  1. Thanks, guys, for reading. Last chapter of the arc.

    No bloody idea what I’m doing for an interlude. A reader pointed out a bad pattern I’d been falling into and it was a really good heads up. It restructured how I wrote the end of this arc, and extended it by roughly three chapters.

    I’m glad it did what it did, storywise, but it also took that general maybe-sorta rough outline I had in my head, as far as how this arc and the start of the next would go, and it nuked it. So I feel like I’m on shakier ground, and again, no idea what I’m doing interludewise.

    There’s no bonus chapter this Thursday. I’d love to do one, and I’m more disappointed than any of you, but I’m traveling, so it’s not easy to pull off. In similar circumstances, I’ve pulled all nighters to get chapters done in the past, but those same circumstances led to what I feel is the weakest arc. I don’t want to do that at this juncture.

    Thanks for reading guys. Your votes on Topwebfiction continue to be appreciated, as does your continued reading. As an aside, I’m amazed by how the readership is growing. Like, ‘Is this real life?’ amazed. Easier to show than tell:

    Now for the end of Taylor’s story.

    • If you need an idea for an interlude, you could do one from Grue’s perspective while he and Cozen are at that cabin-thingy. I think I bitched about this in a comment somewhere, but Grue hasn’t done much in a while, I’d l like to learn more about Cozen, and it would be a good chance to fill in some information via flashback about what happened in Brockton Bay in Taylor’s absence.

      • Grue’s perspective’s already been done; that time when Imp orchestrated the home date between him and Skitter. Cozen, on the other hand…

    • If we have a “flashback” interlude, can we see Mouse Protector? My favorite character that almost doesn’t exist in the story

    • Since people have already suggested some possible interludes, something i was a bit leery (or cowardly, if you prefer🙂 ) doing, may I propose Pretendria? So we can get some background on the Vegas capes and maybe understand what the hell Satyr was hinting about?

    • Oh look, seven words that are even more gut wrenching than the five that this chapter ended with.

      Bravo for nuking your plans for how the arc would go too! That takes courage and, from what we’ve seen so far, you do some amazing work when you really challenge yourself. I am so looking forward to what’s left to come, whatever it may be.

      • Actually I’d kinda like an arc for Taylor’s shard/agent/passenger right about now that she’s fucking with the connection to it. Be interesting to finally find out just what it thinks.

    • >>Now for the end of Taylor’s story<<

      Man, I just noticed that. I joined the comments sections with the chapter just before Cody's interlude, after a week or so of archive binging. Back then I had no idea when Worm would have ended but even now, when I knew we were at the closing stages, it still seemed far away. Oh we'll, I guess you can't escape the inevitable, can you? I can't say I'm not sad, but at the same I'm curious what other fabulous stories wildbow's wondrous imagination and creativity can offer.

      Thank you for this fantastic journey, wildbow.

      • Thanks, AMR.

        I’m terrified and excited and terrified for what comes after. Will they like it? Will it work? How many readers are going to leave and never come back? Am I going to be able to pull it off?


        • I, for one, will be here. At this point, I have more faith in you than possibly any other writer alive. I’ve seen your stumbles and your recoveries. I’ve seen you learn lessons. I’ve seen you improve and continue to improve. I’ve seen you deliver the fucking goods.

          You could tell me that your next project is a non-fiction study of the economic history of Papua New Guinea, and I’d buy it. Even if it sucked, I’d probably buy the next thing, too.

          Now I just need you to change your name to Neel, so that you, Neil Gaiman, and Neal Stephenson can be the trifecta of the best contemporary writers in the world and all spell your name differently.

        • Personally I am extremely excited for Worm’s sequel and very optimistic.

          I think one of the biggest problem for nearly every long running web serial I’ve encountered is the lack of an ending. I love the idea of seeing what else you can do. Making the transition to something else, even if I don’t like it as much as Worm, is something I would find very impressive.

          I will definitely be sticking with you after Worm.

          Random aside, the several comments by “Royal Flush” were me. I was doing something else on another blog and this carried over for some reason.

    • You were only getting a few thousand readers a month the first half-of this year?! That’s BS. Getting tens of thousands of visitors should have been the norm for this story for a while now.

      Well, hopefully it will pay off when you release this thing in novel form. I’m hoping *that* will give you enough money to live off for quite a long time.

    • 27k view a day. I’d say you earned it the hardest badass possible way, almost 3 years in progress, every chapter got their own snicker-snack edges of cliff hangers, but that was all good

      U are simply awesome

    • Obviously any statements on what interlude would be good should be taken with a grain of salt given you know a lot more about the characters than the readers do.

      Also, almost all of the great interludes I wanted have been written.


      Glaistig Uaine would be awesome and everyone wants it.

      Sadboy interlude would be awesome. We’ve all been intrigued by him since we pieced together the odd apparent connection with Gray Boy. I am not entirely opposed to an interlude that reveals absolutely nothing about what happened to Taylor. I think it would be interesting whether or not the common fan theory that he is Gray Boy is correct.

      Sveta might work, but it seems a bit too close for that given we just had so much of her.

      I like the idea of a Sleeper interlude, but I think that would fit best as the last interlude or epilogue of Worm. Admittedly, we know almost nothing about him, but from what we do know it feels right.

      Mantellum, the Custodian, and Doormaker or his counterpart all would seem like great interludes from my perspective. I kind of like the idea of more information on Cauldron.

      We probably have about as much Endbringer as we should have at this point. We already got the alien perspective reveal at the right time, and you manipulated the perspective enough that you’re probably saving Simurgh for something.

      I think a Manton/Siberian chapter would be awesome, but I kind of think that would work best later. For example, in the possible Worm interludes for a story that doesn’t have interludes within the setting. Similarly I would like an interlude for a relatively sympathetic clone of the Nine.

      My main “wishlist” was mentioned back when we took the major time skip forward. These are all just ideas that strike me as really cool.

      • Would be interesting to get in Glaistig’s head. I’d really like to know how she’s been getting on (and finally understand her cryptic hints).

        I hadn’t thought about Manton/Siberian, but that would be nice too (no rush though). Also the sympathetic Nine clone (preferably of Mannequin but I’m not sure if there are any left. Plus, he might not have the same memories.).

        • I think it would be cool to see the partner/garden/Eden’s point of view. Find out why it was saying everything was ok before dying. And then there would probably be some sort of dramatic reveal of something that blows all our minds, which happens a lot.

          Unrelated, but this is my first comment, despite being a lurker since sometime before Coil was killed, I think. (I don’t have a good sense of time.) But a long time for sure. I tore through the archive like a wild animal. I LOVE this series, and at the end of practically every chapter I expect the comments to consist entirely of ‘HOLY FUCKING SHIT X JUST HAPPENED AAAAHHHH’ or just ‘AAAAAAHHHHHHHHH’ because that’s like all I can think (I get worked up reading. People look at me funny because I’ll like laugh or scream out loud while sitting somewhere reading.) The chapter where the red mist sets in comes to mind. ‘Hey! Don’t swear.’-Bonesaw ‘AHHHHHHHHHHH’-me. And then I see all this like calm discussion and I’m like ‘How can you even talk with your brains ON THE WALL BEHIND YOU BECAUSE THEY WERE JUST BLOWN WITH THE STRENGHT OF A THOUSAND SUNS!?’ lol.

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          • It hasn’t been completely unusual lately for people to have a line of comments going, “FUCK” or even “Shit just happened?”. Potty mouths, you know. Careful with that fucking swearing!

            But still, people are used to getting their brains blown around here. *puts on his special gray-colored lipstick* I do good business on Tuesdays and Saturdays. Thursdays are iffy. And not even the Sentry could stop me from showing up here to blow yours too. I blow so hard, you’d think I was a spiny poisonous animal that inflated myself. Blowfish? No thanks, I hate the taste of seafood. I leave blowing fish to Kanye West.

            Don’t worry, that’s just a joke you don’t get. You’re about to think you’ve hit the Slaughterhouse 9’s secret weed stash down here with us in the comments, because you’ve hit the Jackpot. Contest void where prohibited, winner must wear a thong with at least 5 different colors on it, no pets allowed to play unless shaved. You want to know where shaved ice comes from? Frosty the Snowman wanted to stop by and say “hi”, that’s where.

            And so, like one of my favorite Robot Masters, I must hold your attention for a couple scary seconds, then run. RIP, Flashman. Cops always seem to catch on before I go wandering in a coat as Woodman, though.

            Welcome, AliceAce, to the comments.

      • I SERIOUSLY like that idea of future Worm interludes for stories that don’t have interludes within the setting. Just think of all the wonderful little interludes we could enjoy far into the future🙂

      • Glastig Uaine killed Gray Boy. Sadboy was almost certainly a different character, mentioned in Ms. Yamada’s interlude, and like Saint of the Dragonslayers he had a name that sounded quite interesting, even if he wasn’t.

    • I’d attribute a decent chunk of new readers to the Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality community. It’s popped up quite a few times in /r/hpmor recently, and even the author mentioned Worm in a progress update.

    • Have you considered an Imp interlude? I don’t think we have had one yet, and she would be an ideal character to have find out and explain things. It could also be downright fun to write, with all the non-interactions she might have. How many times do people sit in her lap, for example? Was she taking college classes for free by just sitting in on them, invisible, and that’s where the new vocabulary is coming from? A SAT / GED high school equivalency course?

      • We already had an Imp interlude. During the S9 arc. She infiltrates the nine, tries to kill Bonesaw and gets caught by Cherish.

    • Gotta say man, loving the series. I just started reading around a couple of weeks ago and have been plowing through the arcs with every bit of free time that I have. Amazing stuff – you’ve got me hooked; can’t wait to see what happens to Taylor…I’m anticipating some crazy power that allows Taylor to control all the capes like she does bugs…or perhaps she gets control of the Endbringers instead of capes?

      Anyway, whatever you do I’m sure it’ll be awesome😀 Keep on doing what you’re doing!

    • That chart is the new screensaver for my iPad, because who needs inspirational quotes when you have THAT. Awesome. Very happy for you and everyone who has found this story.🙂

      As for the ending line, I at first thought, “Oh, so it’s the beginning of the end. Only a few more arks left, just like I sadly knew…” But, reading other comments, is…the next ark the last? I’m equal parts overjoyed and horrified. I’m sure the face I’m making in public right now will have people asking if I’m having a stroke pretty soon.

    • Burned of the walls –> wut? Needs some better wording

      Period missing somewhere, a stupid paste deleted the sentence

      One more I missed here, same as the last one

      frizzy brown hair tied back with bandanna –> a bandanna

    • I believe that it’s pretty much required in webfiction that is serial in nature, built on small chunks, that endpoints have to either be a cliffhanger, or at least end with a bang. In a larger work that a reader has access to all at once, having a entire chapter devoted to backstory is fine. The interludes here act in this way to some degree, the ends of interludes aren’t always cliffhangers because they don’t tie into the main story directly. They answer questions though, and frequently create a lot more questions, which is interesting.

      So I guess the thing here is that in webfiction, short chapters, frequently written, one needs something, a hook, at the end of every chapter, to keep people’s attention. Cliffhanger, OMFG moment, questions answered that just create more questions. Something to keep the readers *thinking* about Worm while they wait for the next part of the story.

      Is this self evident? I know my way around writing, but I don’t know diddly about writing as relates to human psychology. I’m wondering if Wildbow designs chapters so there is always a hook because that’s just their style, or if it’s consciously decided that there will always be a hook. Or perhaps it both in some combination?

      Well, whatever it is, keep it up Wildbow!

      • Every time I write, I’m analyzing the individual components. What does this sentence, this paragraph, this scene, this chapter, give to the reader? What do they want to see, what do they need to see?

        I don’t really focus on it, but it’s sort of a thing you always keep an eye on, like a hockey player might try to remain aware of the other players on the ice, even as their eye is on the puck. If I write for a stretch and I’m losing interest in what I’m writing, or if it’s not coming to me, if I don’t feel like I’m answering a question the audience has, raising a new question they’ll be interested in or moving the story forward in an interesting way, then it feels wrong. I back up and tackle it from a new angle.

        At the start, I paid attention to cliffhangers. What do I need to do to bring my audience back 3-4 days from now? Unanswered questions, unresolved tension, unresolved story elements, scenes cut off, characters they care about being left in dire straits…

        I suspect Farmerbob is cribbing my mini-essay from somewhere, but I’ve talked in the past about how vital cliffhangers are to an ongoing serial. You’ve got the entire internet to compete with. If I go too long without hooking my reader, then I’ll start to lose some to that siren call and the glittery lights of the web’s three point seven billion websites. If I stop writing and take a vacation, same. It’s not even a big thing – I could write a perfectly good story, and there are still people who’d disappear for a little while and then lose the address or not quite care enough to go hunt for it. Anything that gets people thinking about the story in the times between updates is going to make it easier to retain readers (which is way easier than replacing readers.)

        Maybe that sounds manipulative. It is. But it’s a good kind of manipulative, because it’s the manipulative that’s based around being compelling and telling a good story. It’s the sort of manipulative that has me updating religiously, because making reading the story a part of people’s weekly routine is going to retain readers through the rough patches (crummy webcomics and sunday newspaper comics have retained readers over time just because they’re so consistent, so what happens when a good work stays consistent. But that’s going to ensure you guys get what you want when you want.

        It’s a good balance and it’s a balance that leaves you guys and leaves me happy in the end. Mostly. I do hear the lurkers screaming for my blood in the streets…

        • Heh, Wildbow, I’ve never read any article you have written about how you write, other than the dribs and drabs that happen within the commentary at the end of each writing installment, but I wouldn’t mind being able to do so. Links?

          But from what you said here, it seems that you had to guide yourself to putting hooks at the end of each installment of the story when you started, but over time it’s just become part of what you do because you trained yourself to do it that way🙂

          • Oh, it was just dribs and drabs.

            I post on reddit occasionally. If you’re interested, I posted here in response to a guy who was saying he’s been worldbuilding for a while and he’s wondering about starting the writing part.

            I’ve seen a lot of people like this, who love the worldbuilding but keep putting off the actual writing. And it never happens. I think it’s very common.

            • Aye I’ve been thinking about starting up my own little project where I try to make the story interactive with the readers. Something like the old “make your own adventure” books like the “Lone Wolf” series from a couple decades ago before computer gaming got so much gaming market share. Not collaborative, but reader-guided, and there would be only one story option, but the end users would get to choose it. The problem with that is that you need an audience to answer polls. It also means that you have to have interesting polls.

              This would allow me to write smaller bits, not fully self contained with a hook, because the polls would potentially be hooks to keep the readers around.

              As you said, there are lots of people who have done some world building but have never actually done anything with their ideas. I’m one of those people. You’ve actually pulled me out of my writer’s shell and let me stick my big toe in the water with a few chapters of Fanfic based on Worm, so my little idea might actually happen. So I thank you for the potential here🙂

              • Meh,

                ” Not collaborative, but reader-guided, and there would be only one story option, but the end users would get to choose it.”

                Should read

                ” Not collaborative, but reader-guided, and there would be only one storyline, unlike the old choose-your-own-adventure books, but the end users would get to choose it as I write it.”

              • Aye, but from what I’ve seen those are far more interactive than what I’ve been thinking about.

                I’m thinking something like: Option: character is planning an operation. Plan for the operation using subtlety, aggression, or misdirection?

                Then write the next bit based on reader input. Don’t ever give control of the characters, just allow the readers to guide the flow of the story. Something like the Roman Emperor in his booth at the Arena – thumbs up, or thumbs down?

    • I know.

      And there are so many ways this could go. Taylor could be game-breakingly powerful. Taylor could be powerless. Taylor could be insane in ten-thousand-plus different ways. Two or even all of these could be true. It might even be something completely different. And now I need to wait a week to find out, assuming no bonus interludes…

      • You know what excites and titillates and fucking terrifies me? The likelihood, given Wildbow’s track record, that it will be NONE of those things. That it will be something I never could have guessed. That he has manipulated my expectations to lead me to certain assumptions, certain guesses, just to set me up to be floored by what he’s had planned all along.

      • Hey guys, I have an idea! Why don’t we alter our brains in a suicidally risky and permanent way while the Smurf is singing in the background! What could possibly go wrong, right?

        • Well, considering the alternatives are “Ask someone else to do something like this” or “Let Scion continue beating us like he has been,” this was about the best terrible choice.

    • You better watch your behind, thewatcherbehind. Because you’re hanging, and you know what’s back there? A cliff. Say hi, Cliff!


      Shut the fuck up, Cliff!

      Alrightdiddly ighty then, tighty whitey. You’ve posted. You are out of the dark. You know longer lurk, like a dark, brooding figure on the gargoyles of this city. Dead dog in alleyway. Burst stomach. Pus and scabs and hookers.

      No, now you’ve joined us down below. Brought into the limelight for at least one short moment in time.

      Just think of me as the ultraviolet radiation. I can burn you worse than Minnie the Moocher, and I look good in extreme purple. Also, hot women like me all over their bodies, or so I’ve been told. That part could have been made up about what happens when I get drunk. But tanning causes premature aging. Butt tanning does too, but that occurs more when you’re flying by the seat of your pants.

      So you have a choice now. You can stay here, take that limelight, maybe use it to help make a margarita. Perhaps put it in a coconut and drink them both up. Because when life gives you lime, you know what you do? You make lemons.

      Or, you can go back to your lurking ways. The choice is yours now, Planeteers. But the power’s still mine, bitches.

      But for my part, I’m here to say, thewatcherbehindyou, welcome to the comments section.

    • “I could see the spread because I could see how it spread through ” Kinda awkward.
      “ten-out-of-ten pain.. A” Missing period in the ellipsis.
      “Myself included”” Missing period.

      • It stirred flecks and fragments from the burned entity and the burned of the walls above into the air, a snowfall of pitch black flakes. Either awkward, or word missing, … or something.
        *edit* nevermind, just got it.

    • At the first mention of scion’s attack in the Dragonfly, you mention Earth He, then call it earth H the raft of the conversation.

    • “my body was deciding to remind me of the pain in my arm.”
      – are we supposed to read that as phantom pain? Or is it the other, still intact (?) arm?

      not sure if I should put this here, but: “creating a two-inch gap” could stand some elaboration: gap between what? Two inch gab from the chosen floor?

    • “’But I don’t need to say that,’ [Taylor] said. ‘You’re not the type to cross the line in pursuit of revenge.’”
      Should that be italicized, or is Taylor using her own voice again?

    • “Unlikely,” the Number Man said. “Mantellum slipped by us because he had a power that countered perception powers. The sort of power we’d need against Scion would be an offensive one, and I doubt we’d let things slip so badly in vetting those powers.”
      The last line should read, “I doubt *he’d* let things slip so badly”.

    • “The mist billowed, Leviathan used it to mask himself from Scion’s view, changing direction the moment he was out of sight.”

      Either put an “and” after the comma or switch “used” with “using”.

      “It’s very possible he’ll go back to Earth H, start the cycle anew. Or he hits a world or two we’re not in touch with and then hits Earth H.”

      Shouldn’t that be Earth He? Or has the Number Man been referring to them by English letters instead of Hebrew ones?

    • “I owned that part of me,” she said. “And I can barely look Carol and Neil in the eyes, because of it.

      Should be Mark instead of Neil, assuming Manpower is still dead.

  2. our pilot’s reflection in the window. She looks a little . Would you mind keeping an eye on her, making sure

    What happened here?

    It’s a shame Golem isn’t more revenge oriented. He might have killed Jack before anything happened. And finally,

        • You talking when they first met or during their climactic duel that was interrupted when Jack got bored?

          Because, funnily enough, the first time they met, Theo had actually more of a chance (as in 0.00000002% as opposed to 0.00000001%) of beating Jack than Purity, what with normal humans being his kryptonite. Once he became Golem he could never defeat Jack, no matter how motivated.

        • Didn’t Jack have that big claymore thing?

          Besides, better heroes than Golem with greater tendencies towards vengeance have tried and failed to kill Jack Slash. They all failed.

            • A chance that would not be made greater by Golem being the grudge-keeping vengeful kind. Golem had enough reasons to kill Jack without that.

              • There is, however, a limit to how much that affects your ability to kill someone. Especially wen that someone managed to avoid being killed by far stronger people, with far weaker forces and slightly inferior weapons.

              • I think the point is that since Jack has a power that literally makes him unbeatable as long as he’s fighting parahumans, it wouldn’t have changed a thing.

              • I’m not sure Jack was literally unbeatable. He fought better than he should have been able to due to the way his passenger interacted with other passengers. That gave him a huge edge in avoiding their attacks and manipulating them.

                If someone had understood that though, they might have been able to use that against him. Even Countessa and the Siberian didn’t turn out to be unbeatable after all.

              • While I may have indulged in a bit of hyperbole, I think it was more than just receiving broadcasts from other people’s shards.

                Remember what happened with Purity? Purity is a slightly less powerful version of Legend. There’s no way Jack, without Siberian nearby, could ever beat Purity. Yet the moment Jack opens his mouth and tells her “yo, Purity today is a cloudy day so you’d lose against me”, Purity is all “ok, you’re right”. It’s almost as if he had Contessa’s power but only in regards to parahumans.

  3. Damn it Wildbow! That cliffhanger, really?

    (On a seriously unrelated note, I’m still pissed that you killed Battery)

  4. I started reading this two weeks ago, and caught up about a week ago. My immediate verbal response to the end of this chapter:

    “oh fuck me!” followed by a sigh.

    • *lays out a table, sets down a candle, lights it with a flamethrower, opens up a box of wine for two places. Then he wheels in ravinoff, who is duct taped to a wheelchair, and sits down opposite*

      Yes, it’s very different reading a story with cliffhangers when the resolution of the situation is further away than the next page. Still, you can take solace in the immortal last words of King Leonidas of Sparta, who said, “Fuck! This hurts like hell! Oh god, please don’t kill me. Ooooh, I just shit myself. It’s all down my leg. Come on guys, get me a bandaid, we can work something out.”

      What a way with words those Spartans had.

      Don’t fret, my dear. Most people here are not like me. They would prefer to quote Socrates “I drank what?” or Plato “That’s it! I just invented moldable clay that doesn’t dry!” or Aristotle, “I don’t know why I teach these kids. That Alexander will never make anything of himself,” in the middle of the many discussions we have. You’re welcome to join in on those, or on the punning, or even drawing something or writing fanfiction. Hell, if you want to mix and match Worm with Farscape in an epic sci-fi thriller, be my guest. Just don’t frelling be a problem and we shouldn’t have a problem. Don’t worry, most people here aren’t problems. The good thing I’ve found about problems, though, is that beer can sometimes be the solution.

      And so, ravinoff, welcome to the comments section.

      *rips off the duct tape covering your mouth*

        • I expect you’ll give me eight different middle fingers, all in adult positions.

          But really, what else should I expect from a Bond character? Aside maybe a love scene after slapping them around and speaking with a heavy accent. “Oh Moneypenny, I love you but I’m too busy ignoring the Captain’s requests for more power to the forward shields. I’m givin’ her all I’ve got, captain! At this rate, we’ll never survive to Star Trek VII: The Search for Red October.”

          As for me, near as I can tell I just stuck to my rule that I don’t welcome someone unless it’s explicit that it’s their first time posting upon being caught up. For some reason, Octopussy, you just weren’t explicit. I can’t tell why. Octopi are normally very explicit if the Japanese are to be believed. Maybe you stayed up too late watching the Chronicles of Squiddick? How vulgaris

          But you’re here now, no longer hiding in the inky dark blackness of lurkerdom. Instead, you wish to run blue rings around us. Is that, it? You think we’re just a bunch of suckers? Does your cloaca? Well, it’s hurting me! Hopefully you don’t have thin skin, like some sort of glass octopus.

          Here, will some octo-pie cheer you up?


          Well how about if I say, Octopussy, welcome to the comments.

        • Likewise, you just started showing up all of a sudden with your comments caught in the spam filter along with all the spam bacon eggs spam spam and toast. As a result, you weren’t welcomed. You were left alone and unwelcomed by the side of the road, holding out a bag of spam for those driving by to buy from you.

          Also, you had a strange fascination with Scion telling Eidolon to annoy the readers. The correct answer, as we know by now, was “I love your hair.”

          So I’ve been wrestling (and not octopus wrestling either. That part’s over with) with what to welcome you with, as each welcome is handpicked from a field of wildwelcomes, chosen for ripeness, and then exported from Uraguay, all by cheap, backbreaking labor. It was the backbreaker that gave me the idea though.

          *puts on a bandana and red and yellow boas* So let me tell you somethin’, brother, you’re gonna get welcomed so hard that all the little Hulkamaniacs are going to stop saying their prayers, they’re going to stop taking their vitamins, they’re going to stop waving the American flag while changing in Madison Square Garden. *puts on a pair of sunglasses and a Brahma Bull belt buckle* What are they going to do instead? It doesn’t matter what they’re going to do! Let me tell you something, the Gex is gonna take that American flag, the Gex is gonna shine that sumbitch up real nice, turn it sideways, and shove it straight up your candyass! If ya smelllllll…what the Gex is cookin’? *raises eyebrow, then puts on facepaint in the vague shape of a bird and ties up his biceps to look bigger, all while doing some over-the-top growling* Iiiiii, Geeaaatwyyyrm…have a question…to answer your question. As you, Hoak Wyrm, travel to WRESTLEMANIA!!!! by conventional means…kick the cockpit door down, take the two pilots that have already made the sacrifice so that you can face this challenge, dispose of them, Hoak Wyrm. *puts on a cowboy hat, oversized sunglasses, big beard, and changes the bandana’s color* See I’ve been to the mountaintop! I’m a chameleon! I’m talkin’ the beat goes on and the beat goes on, and the beat goes on, Gecko Man is on a roll. Unbelievable, time distortion, space is the place Mean GoldWyrmerland.

          Now that I’m all wrestling promoed up, let’s cut to one of my own here.
          You think I’m strange? Try staying up late, drinking, with mud on my feet to give you all a welcome. I shot a man in the balls, I’ll do it again! Oh yeah, I’ll do it. That’s why I had my Moai putting together a rocket launcher. I spend days slaving over a hot, burning person that I lit on fire for you, and nobody even wants to eat the ham sandwiches I cook.

          So I say to you, greatwyrmgold, you’ve been to the promised land, you’ve seen what Orion looks like when he takes his belt off, you have had your dreams come true this morning.

          I say to you welcome, greatwyrmgold, to the comments! Snap into a Slim Jim!

    • I started reading a week ago, and caught up yesterday morning. I’m actually glad I didn’t get here until the end; living with this kind of anticipation/anxiety continuously over multiple years would ruin my adrenal glands for life.

      • Yeah, if you had to sit and wait like this, update after update, cliffhanger after cliffhanger, for such a long time, you’d likely go mad. Mad I say! Luckily, I could not be maddened by this long journey. I am immune to being made mad anymore, and I’ve been working on sharing said immunity with others.

        Don’t worry, this will only hurt…*latex glove snap*…for an eternity.

        Yeah, I’ve been here a good while. You might say I’m something of a thing. Kinda a big deal. Deadpool? Oh, he’s nice, I suppose. Nice at sucking. No, really, he’s got this act with a golfball and a garden hose. It all ends with a floral arrangement of azaleas and green and pink gourmet cupcakes. I told you it was nice.

        But now you’re here and much like Janet Weiss, you get to live with the antici………………pation. Also, sweet transvestites.

        But hey, you don’t have to. You could go back to lurking. I’m sure that’s fine. No need to hear about who people think is fucking who, the phrasing of which suggests Imp is masturbating again.

        For now, Gabriel, welcome to the comments section.

  5. I wonder which walls are gonna be knocked down by this. Increased range? Ability to control more than bugs?

    Or is it just going to end in sensory overload and a shuddering pile of goop?

    • I wonder which walls are gonna be knocked down by this. Increased range? Ability to control more than bugs?

      Or is it just going to end in sensory overload and a shuddering pile of goop?


          • My current thoughts is that her ability with insects will be reduced or removed, taken over by a power aimed at manipulating PEOPLE; either directly (as with her bugs), making her some sort of multi-body sentience (similar with the C.U.I capes), or socially as with jack, which lets her gather humanity to fight together. Probably wrong, but that’s my guess.

            • I am a bit more concerned about what we know the limiters on the shards do, rather than any new powers Taylor will get. I recall from the Scion interlude that passengers are given a limiting agent in order to prevent destructive physical mutation. It’s kind of stated as well during this arc that the “Balance” formula from Cauldron was essentially this limiter in a distilled form. When Cauldron didn’t use that formula, the result was the Case 53s, or at least that’s how I understand what was said. Dinah told Taylor a long time ago that she would be present at the end of days, but she would be “different”. I think she was being deliberately vague there. I’ve got a feeling Taylor will probably get some boost to her powers when they remove the limits, probably the ability to bypass the Manton Effect or some such, but it’s probably going to come at the cost of her mutating into something inhuman.

              • That “different” clause has gone through so many interpretive iterations it’s not even funny. Remember when we thought “different” meant “she’s joined the Protectorate”?

              • Yeah. I had thought that was met with her new lower body. Of course, it couldn’t be that easy.

                “But I got freaking CUT IN HALF!!!”
                “Nope. Sorry. Not what I was talking about. THIS is gonna suck.”

            • Au contraire, if the surgery is removing the filter her partner installed for her protection from her own power, the logical result is her consiousness becoming difuse, much like an A. I., dispersed among all the insects withing range of her power (or that of her partner, or maybe _all_ partners) like an A. I. dispersed across the processing nodes of a network, or even the entire internet.

              Parts of this have been foreshadowed.

              The problem is: what will be the effect on Skitter’s psychology when she _becomes_ a cloud of bugs rather than just controling them remotely?

              On second thought, if she becomes all the insectoid biomass within her range will she no longer need relay bugs? Will there be any limit to her range then?

              Given Scion is still flesh, and the order of magnitude of bug biomass available on any planet, maybe she can just eat her way to the bottom of the well of him.

    • She’ll probably be able to control any living creature and proceeds to kick Scion’s butt by carefully coordinating all the capes on all worlds.

      • Or she’ll regain the power to control all the shards, like her shard was originally designed to do. Then she mind-controls both the Endbringers and Scion.

  6. Oh fuck oh fuck. Passenger in control at the end, or at least has much more control. Administrator probably controls the rest of the shards, so what exactly does that do in this context?

    • I’m think Taylor has a pretty good chance of dying or having some life ending or near life ending experience so she is incapacitated. The saddest thing for me is how she ended with Grue. Break-up sex, then next time she sees him he has a girlfriend, and they never really talk. Then he goes off to live in the woods. Incredibly sad.

      • That wussy is long forgotten. End of the World? No, I’d rather bang my girl in a hut on a isolated world. Great plan.

        • I expect part of the reason for his leaving is the difficulty of writing around a power stealer. Any time he goes up against someone with a really good power, he can just turn it on them.

          • Of course the moment he goes against two people at once that advantage is negated. Remember: Grue can only copy one power at the time.

            I think it has more to do with Grue’s character arc sort of having nowhere else to go after the Bonesaw debacle than wildbow having trouble with a potenially story-breaking power. (He has after all used WAY more broken abilities successfully).

            • I think it’s a very reasonable end. His whole reason for doing “cape” was to help his sister. He got that, in a way.

              He was never good at facing his issues. Bonesaw tore him apart physically and mentally. He never recovered.

              And he was reminded of his uselessness against Scion repeatedly.

              It fit. Too bad Scion probably dropped by and incinerated him when burning through umpteen million other realities.

          • Nah. Grue’s ability to copy (not steal) powers has always had some decent limiters built in – the major one being that he doesn’t get any associated secondary skills. It’s a fairly powerful ability best used on opponents with straightforward powers and at a significant disadvantage vs more nuanced powers like Taylor’s, Eidolon’s or Panacea’s and probably even Bitch’s (he’d just end up with monster dogs that aren’t trained to obey him).

            Even if he’s up against an opponent he *can* duplicate perfectly, that at best makes him equal to – not better than – one of their opponents. (And I have a feeling his ability actually makes him slightly less powerful than the person copied).

            In short : useful guy to have on your side, but hardly a gamebreaker…

  7. As much as I hate it when you end all these chapters with little (or big) cliffhangers, I can at least console myself with the knowledge that I only have to wait half a week until they are resolved (and replaced with a new one). Unless we hit another interlude…

  8. This neatly explains whey Dinah still hasn’t approached Taylor. I find it very curious how she said the time she is the most like herself was when she is fighting for her life. I think her passenger effected her more than she realizes. But now its FUN TIME. What does an unbound Taylor look like? Guesses:
    1. Controls EVERY non sentient/simple animal. Nightmarish and world ending for sure, but no real threat to Zion.
    2. Ability similar to Jack. The ability to communicate/interact with passengers directly. Unparalleled communication, coordination, and leadership for everyone. Might be able to communicate with Zion and pull a tattletale mindbreaking speech.
    3. Queen administrator. May actually be able to manipulate passengers directly. In contrast to the fairy queen that might be 2nd triggers for everyone, confusing Zion directly, and manipulating powers on a grand scale. Some powers out there unbound might be enough to kill Zion.

    • Taylor is not going to get new powers
      They’re not messing with her shard(they couldn’t,Scion made that impossible) there are only messing with her head,ergo giving her current power a major boost at great price.

    • Number 3. She gains the power to control the other powers/shards (either directly or by giving orders, propably the latter), which she uses to pull together the other entity’s shards thus recreating it and giving Zion a mate.

      Which obviously isn’t a good thing, since their ritual includes using up all the possible earths for energy to reach the next victims.

  9. Probably for the best they don’t try to fix Scion up with a new partner.

    You know, what with the whole “they blow up every iteration of the planet they’re on throughout the multiverse at the end of each breeding cycle” thing.

    As far as things going wrong… well, given that Taylor has the admin shard, any attempt to undo Scion’s gimping of it is likely to give her power over other shards, and thus capes.

    This is an effect that would probably expand outwards from her body as she starts to use it, with the closest capes being the first ones affected by it.

    Right now, the cape closest to her is Panacea, who’s in the middle of doing metaphysical surgery on her soul.

    The recursion involved could get ugly.

  10. Y’know, wildbow, you’re an excellent writer. When Worm hits print, i’ll absolutely buy a copy.



    • I love the cliffhangers🙂

      The *Worm* ones are of a minority, mixed with just enough closure and action for them to work. It is easy, when you know that the solution will come in less than a week as part of another excellent chapter with enough closure and action for it to stand on its own.

      Its something unique for Worm on the web serial scene. Most other web fiction is a) published ones or twice every blue moon.. or b) published regularly – one small bite ( 700 words ) at a time.. Compared to them, Worm is in its own category🙂

      I definitely will kill some trees for Worm on a hardcover. Something that I won’t do for most other published works..

    • I’d like you to buy him as much beer as he want in that bar. Or you will deal with me *knuckle crack* muhahahahahaha

    • Doubt it.

      Best cape to be the new partner is undeniably Glaistig, due to her sheer number of powers. Maybe she could, I dunno, kill Taylor or Aiden to get a crippled Administrator shard or something like that, but other than that she is as ready as she could be.

  11. I actually find “And it all went wrong” less disturbing than some sort of “And the world was right again” thing.

    Might just be me.

  12. Damn damn damn damn damn damn damn damn damn damn damn damn damn

    That’s pretty much exactly what’s been running through my head in the second half of the chapter. Can’t decide if I’m happy to stay up to read, or upset because it’s even to longer to wait. For there WILL be a countdown.

    I mean…just…damn…

  13. – Sveta made it. Cool. Hopefully Weld did too.
    – Golem. Straight-up hero. Well on his way to Weld-level goodness.
    – Earth H makes me think of hentai for some reason. Mmm, Earth Hentai. Cat-girls and tentacle monsters as far as the eye can see …
    – aaaand an in-universe explanation of Taylor’s pain threshold. w00t. Haters can suck it!
    – Marquis makes tea for everyone. Cool-ass motherfucker.
    – Bonesaw and Panacea are on first-name basis now. Touching.
    – I think I know what’s going to happen. Weaver Taylor Skitter Spy is gambling that when her head gets opened up and the full power of her shard comes flooding through, the very fact that the shard is the administrator shard will let her turn it around and regain control like a person lifting erself into the air by er bootstraps. After that, who knows? Maybe she accesses the other shards and starts unlocking them with admin access (what does Shadow Stalker’s shard unlock to, I wonder? What does Canary’s?) Maybe she straight-up talks to Scion, the real Scion.

    Whichever way, we’re approaching the endgame. I’m still rooting for an arc named Ommatidium.

      • Ironically, H is the actual name for the type of stuff you’re thinking of, in Japanese. Hentai (in Japanese usage) is MUCH more hardcore, and is not the sort of stuff a typical person would admit to reading. If you’re just reading about furries and lewd monsters, the name for that in Japan is just H.

        (It still comes from Hentai, I’m pretty sure, but it’s, like, *polite* Hentai. :p)

          • Yeah. I think because they’re more restrictive about pornography, they just put it in every damn thing, or something. Can’t even show penises, I thought I heard. Hence why women get assaulted by a bunch of penis-like tentacles.

            • To clarify, since they can’t make and/or market something classified as pornography, they get around it by putting erotic stuff in other stories that aren’t classified as pornography. Like the softcore stuff they show late at night on Skinemax, HBhO, The adult Movie Channel, and Porn Starz, they have to actually have a plot attached.

    • Am I the only one thinking about Something like “Marquis facts” :

      “It always gets worse in Worm. Except when Marquis makes tea”.

    • Golem is certainly one of the Wormverse’s paladins. I think he’s probably surpassed Weld, though — he’s more perceptive on an interpersonal level, and with the training from hell he went through with Weaver, I’d bet on him over Weld in a fight any day of the week.

      And Marquis is two hundred pounds of pure awesome in a ten pound bag. One hundred percent class.

          • I don’t know.

            I like Legend and I feel sorry for him, but lets face it: he fucked up because he didn’t want to believe that his friends weren’t really nice guys. And Miss Militia can sometimes come dangerously close to ” My Country Right Or Wrong/I Am Following Orders”.

            • She’s still one of the more reasonable heroes out there, as evidenced by Taylor practically forcing her to handle the BBPRT after Tagg. She’s better than Dragon in that regard (admittedly Dragon’s handicapped there), but it would make for an interesting character arc/interlude where she evolved from lawful to neutral good or somesuch.

              Bonus points if she hooks up with Chevalier, because that needs to happen.

              • Personally I’m hoping for Ingenue’s Heel Face Turn and subsequent hook-up, even though she has “redeems herself and then dying in Chevalier’s arms” written in giant letters over her head. Seriously the guys shipping Chev/MM are basing it on a childhood crush that din’t survive high school/college (can’t remeber which is one it was).🙂 .

              • AMR, your comment doesn’t have a “reply” button, so this makes a response awkward.

                First, their relationship didn’t survive high school, as while MM went to college (not sure about Chevy), they were probably too busy being big damn heroes.

                Second, sure it was a childhood crush, but it was an interesting childhood crush. Chevalier and MM were pretty much the only people they could really relate to (at least that was my impression), because as kids, they were put into a situation where the only things they could rely on to obtain justice were themselves and their powers. They were basically children forced to become adults because of responsibility and circumstance.
                Then the Wards happen and Hero comes along, telling them that they’re not alone and granting them another chance at being kids before they get swept up into the Protectorate. Then they both graduate to the Protectorate and get their own teams, and end up as genuinely good people stuck in systems that hinder their abilities to be genuinely good and their situations start to get worse by the day (MM leading the BBPRT, and Chevy leading the whole freakin’ Protectorate).

                The point I’m rambling towards is that the Chevalier/Miss Militia relationship is an artifact of a better time; it’s an event from a time where there was much less stress and responsibility riding on their shoulders. I’m not saying that Wildbow should abort his plans and have the next interlude be Chevy and MM making out in the middle of a Scion attack, but the two getting back together as a potential Epilogue chapter after Scion is defeated would be a great way to wrap up part of the story, due to the pathos the underlying themes evoke.

              • @overpoweredengineer: My comment was mostly tongue in cheek. I understand why people would ship two very decent persons ( a rare breed in Worm) that even had a history between them. I guess it’s just the strong Batman/Catwoman vibes that Chevalier/Ingenue give me, though Ingenue is admittedly way more fucked up than Catwoman. And yes I recognise the potential sexism about the femme fatale who needs a good man to set her straight.

            • And Miss Militia can sometimes come dangerously close to ” My Country Right Or Wrong/I Am Following Orders”.

              I honestly haven’t seen that. She tends to play by the rules, yes, but she’s perfectly willing to be flexible about it — remember how she coached Armsmaster on gaming the system re: losing a Ward in her interlude? She doesn’t go off the reservation without a good reason, but if she’s got a good reason, she’ll go for the best option she can come up with.

              • She got dangerously close to “just following orders” during Skitter’s interrogation (leaving her to Alexandria’s dubious mercies), which Taylor called her on.

              • The interrogation is especially interesting. When Taylor “calls her on it”, Miss Militia’s excuse is — paraphrasing — “You had a plan, Alexandria said she had a plan. If I did anything, I knew I’d step on someone’s toes.”. She was just following orders, but her (claimed) reasoning for it is the opposite of blind obedience.

              • I think she does have a history of not setting boundaries and advising against certain actions when dealing with the PRT directors. When you have Piggot and Tagg acting like coked up cowboys she might not have to do anything, but she should say something.

                You could point out that the PRT can just ride over the wishes of the heroes whenever they want. But at the end of the day it’s the PRT that needs the capes more than the capes need them. They could easily get leverage to effect policy.

                But it’s not just MM’s fault. Even Legend tended to just shrug his shoulders and let Piggot do whatever.

              • I think the point is that everyone has the capacity to stand up for what they believe is right, regardless of hierarchy. Which isn’t to say there wouldn’t be consequences.

                But when you’re one of the most powerful superhumans on the planet “I did absolutely nothing about highly questionable things ‘cos chain of command” is a particularly weak excuse.

  14. There are several possibilities that I can see. This is by no means a comprehensive list, and they aren’t all mutually exclusive.

    Taylor goes all Doormaker. She gets insane power, but at the cost of her mind. She need to be led by somebody else, probably Tattletale

    I find this unlikely. Mainly because she’s the main character, and we know there’s at least one more arc. Without her brain, she couldn’t talk much. It also doesn’t seem right, narrative-wise, but I can’t quite find the words to explain why.

    Taylor’s changes make her act evil. She becomes a second antagonist.

    Extremely unlikely. Scion is already enough to deal with, and adding to the pile makes things more difficult to resolve without deus ex machina. Unless 3., see below, is also true.

    Taylor gets an increased power over shards, which turns her into the equivalent of an entity. She ‘marries’ Scion and they live happily ever after. Somehow, they leave Earth without destroying every version.

    She might be evil, as stated above, but it is irrelevant, because she and Scion will leave, probably.

    Taylor is improved, with only limited or temporary destruction of self. She is sane enough, and powerful enough, to lead the fight against Scion, and win.

    I think this is what we’re all hoping for, but the last sentence makes it seem like it’s going to be more complicated than this.

    5. (weird idea that is almost certainly false)
    Hive mind theory is true. Panacea accidentally splits Taylor from her body. She keeps her personality and her power, but is stuck in the swarm. Her body goes insane and possibly homicidal.

    • 3. is my favourite option just for shock value. also, saving the world by sacrificing her life/friends? it mirrors (on a larger scale) her hero transition, I think. what lovely foreshadowing that would be.

    • I had some of the same options in mind, but repeatedly getting hit over the head with the “Wildbow came up with something that fits the evidence that I never thought of” hammer has slightly dulled my enthusiasm for guessing.

      For this, possibly THE major event in the story, I am betting on “none of the above”, with a the usual admixture of “more f***ed up than the readers thought”.

    • My thought is, if Taylor does become a master shard administrator, it will be like having root access in UNIX. Passwords? File permissions? We don’t need no stinking passwords and permissions!

      I can’t remember: Is the 3rd entity still hanging around, or at least potentially in range? As I recall, the 3rd entity evolved a way to complete its breeding cycle without destroying the host – the multi-Earths in our case.

      The idea that floated in my brain is, what if unrestricted Taylor can control and organize all shards within a certain range? In particular, how about individuals already used to working in a group – the Yang Bang. We already saw a magnifying effect from the Yang Bang working together. What if Taylor can merge capes into a gestalt; an effect creating a whole greater than the sum of its parts?

      Having achieved that, she would still be less than Scion, but she might be capable of reaching out to the 3rd entity.

      How about a gestalt formed from the 3rd entity, the Endbringers, the case 53’s, and what’s left of Taylor in control? That might be enough, if not to challenge Scion directly, then to at least offer Scion an alternative – a new partner with the “DNA” to evolve into something new. A non-destructive life cycle and elements of what we call humanity – compassion and empathy for other living things.

    • Ooo, I like that idea! and as we’ve seen from Doctor Mother, you don’t need powers to be extremely scary. Plus Numbers Man seems to be already following her orders. Also, if she loses her current powers, could she then drink the formula to get a new one?

      Totally random spec: she ends up going back in time and takes the name “Doctor Mother”. They both have that “yeah, I’m doing horrible things, but it’s for the best” mentality. It ties nicely with the tagline of “Worm: doing the wrong thing for the right reasons”.

          • But Dr Mother could fix up some formulas by taking shards but we already heard Dr Mother’s name. Epoch (time travels don’t die) and Sleeper have yet to appear; I think they might be good guys or good guys to have around.

            Other tin hat theories:
            -Dr.Mother is Grue’s or Imp’s child(or sister) from a different time and grew up knowing Taylor as we know she lives(in some way).
            -There were other groups that have been pulling strings from the shadows.
            -Endbringers are those that failed to beat Scion and they were trying to get mankind ready. Smurf made Noelle, which brought about the escape portals. They all made life more stressful so more capes pop up.
            -Taylor becomes an Endbringer.
            -Scion has to thing about having a power to use it. He shows up on camera now!
            -Endbringers were the powers Eidolon threw away.

  15. Fuuuuck. I wonder if wildbow can get medically certified as a cliffhanger addict.

    Anyway, the Simurgh starts screaming at the same moment that Taylor decides to let Panacea mess with her brains in the hope for a powerup. Coincidence? I think not!

    Now Scion crippled Taylor’s shard so much that it was basically destroyed. However what this arc drove home is that Scion, being extremely unimaginative, never took in account what combined powers could do. So there’s hope. Though those last words there really want me to think the contrary.

    Seems Riley finally got her wish for a big sister. Does that make Marquis her new father?

    Nice to see Tattletale already needling Number Man. Though, to be honest, NM did subtly insult her in her absence ( the old facts vs guesswork thing). Seriously, what is it about thinkers and massive rivalries?

    • “Seriously, what is it about thinkers and massive rivalries?”

      What’s that old saying–“Power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely”? A variation on that is “Intelligence makes one proud, and superpowered intelligence makes one massively hubristic.” Number Man, Tattletale, Accord, even Contessa; all want to be the smartest guy in the room. When two or, Scion forbid, three of these people are in the same room, they feel a need to prove that their smarts, their particular brand of intelligence and Thinking is the smartest, the most powerful.

    • By chance do you remember what else Bonesaw wanted to work with Panacea, went they first met, the S9 recruitment?

      on interlude-11h:

      Panacea: “Then why don’t you change? You could be good.”

      Bonesaw: “I like the other members of the Nine. And I couldn’t make anything really amazing if I was following rules. I want to make something even more amazing than Hack Job, Murder Rat or Pagoda. Something you and I could only make together. Can you imagine it? You could use your power, and then we could make one superperson out of a hundred capes, and all of the powers would be full strength because you helped and we could use it to stop one of the Endbringers, and the whole world would be like, ‘Are we supposed to clap’? Can you picture it?” Bonesaw was getting so excited with her idea that she was almost breathless.

      Wildbow: “I like them idea, granted”

  16. I liked the part about a cape throwing Leviathan at Scion. The Fastball Special just became the Beach Ball Special.

    Damn, I’m surprised nobody figured out the connection between Simurgh’s apology and Dinah’s note. Also, I got the distinct feeling Imp was mocking the bug consciousness theory some people have had. Leaning on the fourth wall is one way to utilize the comic relief.

    But since we’re dealing with the brain here, let’s drop some brain music!

  17. …partway through reading, imp at the platform>.<

    Throwing Leviathan! "Nobody tosses an Endbringer!"
    I liked Skitter's comment on Bonesaw trying to be a goodguy. And how nobody commented at all on Taylor's outward identity slipping back towards Skitter. The insight into Taylor's pain tolerance- and how she looks at it- was interesting.
    "Mantellum slipped by us because he had a power that countered perception powers. The sort of power we’d need against Scion would be an offensive one" This strikes me as hilarious. If Mentellum could work against Scion's prescience, then I could just imagine what could have been done with him.
    I have been perennially surprised that nobody seems to ask Panacea for some gills and some wings and a few extra thumbs. Or perhaps simply some redundant organs… And here we go!

    • Two problems.

      1. Panacea is limited, surprisingly enough. Bonesaw can screw up vital processes in an operation because she can bring the person back to life afterwards. She can bring whole new organs to the mix, because she doesn’t have to stick to existing biomass. She doesn’t have to worry about if things will connect right, because her Tinker powers evidently explain that for her. Panacea can’t do anything for a corpse, so she needs to make sure that every intermediate step is 100% viable. She is also limited by the “stuff” available, and to a lesser extent the space. Finally, Panacea does NOT have an instinctive understanding of how to make everything work. And organs are complicated. If you don’t hook it to the nervous system properly, it won’t do anything. If you don’t hook it to the circulatory system properly, it will die. If you don’t account for how it interacts with other stuff in its area it might get squashed or squash something else.

      2. Panacea is limiting herself. She saw what she could do back when the S9 were in town, and afterwards…she doesn’t want to go there again.

      • Huh, I’m almost certain that Panacea DOES HAVE intuitive knowledge. Grue, when using her power to give Atlas a digestive track was complaining that he got the bio-manipulation but not the immediate understanding that goes with it.

        And Panacea has done lots of progress since her Birdcaging, thanks to Marquis.

        • Panacea has the ability to see what she is doing, at least, but she doesn’t have foresight. She can make an extra arm or whatever, but unless she’s replacing a lost one it will probably not fit well with the rest of the body, long-term.

      • Panacea isn’t limited in the way described. She instinctively does know how things work, how to make each change, how to intentionally set up a system to fail or not. With the original relay bugs and the later versions and Atlas. No, her limitation is more basic than that. Her changes are permanant. The very nature of her subject gets changed to the point where if she has to revert to an earlier step she has to actually change it back. Riley could just look at unchanged DNA to map the original again, but with Panacea the DNA is already changed as a part of the process. Her limit is her memory and imagination. People are clay to her and if she’s not simply filling in pieces that were torn away she changes the result permenantly. It’s like starting with Pink play dough and adding Green. Trying to get back to the original shade of pink is almost impossible because they have become blended where with Riley they would remain separate.

  18. So, we have a couple options here.

    1. Either Taylor must fail here because Scion would never bring himself to a situation in which he could be so totally pwned due to his whole “finding victory” power.


    2. Scion’s so pissed off that he’s ignoring or not using his power to determine the victorious path and will be pwned.

    Also, I’m thinking one of the problems with removing the regulators is that the bugs will touch Taylor’s mind as well and she’ll have to deal with more fully connecting to their brains. May be moot, though, if she gets kind of a super Jack Slash power as far as administrating people.

    • Hmm, or Scion went looking for a future in which the “hosts” failed to defeat him…and Taylor’s new state leaves her reading as “another worm” (or “part of himself”) and he missed the fact that in this reality she makes him bite the curb while she puts on her stomping boots.

  19. First time poster, long time lurker!
    When I first found Worm I wasn’t planning on reading it, I was simply looking for an example of a good web-serial template. I was scanning down the first chapter and noticed Taylor’s name (which I share) and decided to at least read the first chapter… then the next.. etc. Immediately hooked.
    Love this story; you’ve done an incredible job, Wildbow. I am thoroughly addicted.
    Also, me and my husband cosplay and I was thinking about doing a Skitter/Weaver costume. Would that be alright with you?

    • That’d be great! Show me pictures if you get it done.

      If you need help with any details, ask in the comments or fire me an email (my email is at the bottom of the donate page).

    • …and that was “The Final Countdown”. Listeners, if you’re just joining us, we’d like to thank for your being alive today and not raiding the station. We spent half of yesterday hosing down the barbed wire from the last group that tried to take our sponsor’s product, delicious Pepsi-Cola. Pepsi: It’s all we can get at this point.

      Alright, we have a first time caller here on W-ORM, your #1 station on all the planet for the top hits of the day, mostly because all the other stations were destroyed. Our new caller is Taylor, just like the supervillain-turned-superhero known as Weaver or Skitter.

      Lets give Taylor a hearty welcome, okay? Now apparently she’s an addict. I think we’ve all been there before, right folks? Those long nights of partying late into the middle of the night, snorting coke with your friends, and then transforming into a giant dragon monster to fight another giant monster in Japan. Good times, good times, lots of acid dropped too.

      Speaking of substances to give your reality a boost, it looks like Cauldron got busted by the Man. The only dealers of the Cauldron Formula, aka Power Juice, aka Red Bull, aka the Ole Powers and Diarrhea, aka Captain Happy, aka Hulkamania, aka Liquid Schwarz, have been hit and they’ve been hit hard. Looks like the only superheroes you ca get from drugs now are Bongman and his nemesis The Toker.

      Now we don’t have time to actually let our new listener break into the broadcast because the zombies just started attacking, but we’ll be happy to let them stick around if they can make it to shelter within the range of our antennas. Welcome, Anthrodogma, to the comments. Let’s give her a big hand, folks.

      Next up, we’ll be playing “Doomsday Blues” by Craig Erickson.

        • Yes, I’ve seen Mr. Gecko… probably one of the less weird things he’s posted. Thanks for the welcome.
          And I will definitely be sending you some questions about the costume, Wildbow.

          • Greetings Anthrodogma, from this aging comic book geek here. You’v picked a fine story to read. Now about your costume questions, well there are talented fan art drawings that may help. Not everyone spots the fan art link at the top fist time around?

            And for some reason I am now halfway to imagining a furry adaptation of Worm. Go figure…

            • Yes, I’ve been studying the fan art. I mostly want to double-check with Wildbow on the shapes of the pieces and texture since the armor is supposed to be made of bug exoskeletons. Hopefully it doesn’t go so awry as to look furry =)

  20. I could hear the Simurgh’s screaming.

    That’s how you know you’re about to make a real winner of a decision.

    I can see it now: Next week, Epilogue chapters start up. Survivors discuss that bit of particular nastiness the Simurgh arranged for the girl who had the poor sense to go to her. Sorta like Cherie and Jack Slash, except Jack Slash has some human limitations.

    • They can’ reach Zion’s real body, can’t they? Because it would fix all their problems at once.

      Love’s that I shed a tear when I red the last paragraph, haven’t been invested in such a good story for a long time. You know the saying, “life writes the best stories?”
      Fuck that, wildbow is better🙂

    • Someone on the giantitp forum pointed out that this is the sort of thing (not telling people about her plans) that got Cauldron into this big of a mess in the first place. And, incidentally, the thing that POed Taylor in the first place.

      • Well, yes and no. The big difference is that Taylor made a personal choice and took a risk that basically affects herself (Mostly. If things go pear-shaped there is a chance she could become a menace to the others).

        Cauldron constantly made covert decisions that directly affected other people.

  21. Wildbow, you’re as bad as Yukito Kishiro.
    I love your work but damn, end it already– the suspense is killing me (and giving James Cameron an excuse to procrastinate)!

  22. So the Simurgh has started singing shortly before Panacea starts to do brain/passenger modification surgery on Taylor. If I am not mistaken, in the Doctor Mother interlude, we saw Simurgh describe taking a stance which would be suggestive of a person crucified. On her toes, wings splayed back, head turned. Accompanied by the “sorry.”

    Taylor was definitely guided to this choice, even without Dinah.

    Since Simurgh is actually active in the area, I wonder…

    Are we looking at Taylor becoming a link between Endbringers? They seem to need to follow someone. Imagine all the Endbringers using all their powers with the smoothness and coordination of Taylor’s tactical sense.

    We still don’t have an answer as to what actually created Endbringers. It seems likely that Eidolon was in some way involved, even if not intentionally. But what if they were simple badly damaged shards, and Simurgh is able to modify Taylor’s passenger, through Panacea, to create an Endbringer shard?

    This would not be a trigger event, it would be a forced mutation, or even a mutilation

    • The Simurgh took the stance of a person HANGED. You know, like Tattletale’s brother.

      But I agree that the Simurgh screaming as Panacea starts operating on Taylor is beyond suspicious.

      • Hrm I put together two parts of Simurgh’s displays for Tattletale and for Taylor.

        You are right that Simurgh was trying to make Tattletale uncomfortable without being blatant about it, the image was reminiscent of a hanging, not a crucifiction, however after that we see this, when Taylor sees her:

        “Objects are set down in a specific order, evoking different ideas. A different posture is adopted, wings raised high, stretching.”

        And in the prior chapter, from Taylor’s point of view:

        “The Simurgh turned, her hair flowing in the wind. Her hands were still held up as she worked her telekinesis on yet another weapon to add to her arsenal. Her eyes met mine.”

        There’s nothing tight enough for me to be able to say, for certain, that Wildbow was going for a crucifiction image here, but it seems quite possible. If that WAS what was being put on paper, I think it was intentionally split up and made vague in order to keep us from seeing it too clearly.

        Sometimes I think that Wildbow should change Simurgh’s name to Wildbow as well, just so we, the readers, understand that we aren’t going to get a clear picture of what will happen until after we see it written.

        • Huh, I didn’t reply to this yet. Wonderful what having dozens of tabs in a window does.

          Anyways…oh, yeah. The Endbringers are noted as having a crystalline structure, more or less homogeneous except for a few organs, ichor, and Khonsu’s internal force fields. Eden seems to have had at least a facsimile of organs and otherwise biology as we know it, and the powers were described as running in “veins,” indicating a highly non-homogeneous body structure.

          And while I’m on it, Weld definitely does have exactly as many internal organs as a normal human being does.

          • Why do you keep bringing up Eden in this? For this comparison, I am comparing Endbringers to capes, not to Scion or Eden.

            A badly damaged shard, perhaps encouraged to grow in strange ways due to Eidolon’s idle thoughts or daydreams, (or dreams if he was able to sleep). Or perhaps they were just shards that were so severely damaged that they were able to interact with inanimate materials and shaped their own bodies that way. We know from Tattletale that they were never human. That’s all we really know about their origin.

            Maybe they are actually intentionally created by the third party entity who gave Contessa a shard.

            As for Weld having internal organs. Err, not really. He has internal organs like an anatomy dummy does. It’s been mentioned that he has organ shaped stuff inside him. There are metal things inside him that look like organs, but they don’t do anything. I believe he has three senses now, for example. Vision, hearing, and touch. No taste or smell. Pretty sure he doesn’t eat food, except maybe to appear human. We know he doesn’t need to breathe. That alone tells us none of his other organs are functional in any way we would recognize.

            I might be wrong about some of this, but not all of it. That certainly doesn’t mean that I am certain I’m right about the whole thing, but until it’s written in canon (soon?) we won’t be sure about where Endbringers came from.

            • Because I misunderstood your original claims, I think. I thought you said that they were literally shards, as in literal bits of Entities (like Eden).
              We’ve known since the Leviathan attack that the Endbringers were never human, so they definitely aren’t parahumans gone disastrously wrong or something like that.

              Until we get more evidence, I’m keeping my guesses on Eidolon creating the Endbringers on accident. Scion’s statement wouldn’t have held impact if it wasn’t at least possible, and it’s the most proof we have in any direction. (Unless something comes up in the part of the new interlude after where I’ve read to.)

              The organs in Weld are described as organs by himself. I’d say they count as organs.

    • Btw, I keep wondering if the fairy queen could start mass producing Endbringer level entities.

      Also wonder what would happen if she got to mine the dead worm for shards.

      I suspect that the reason E consumed so many shards was not that his power wore them out but that they fueled the creation of Endbringers.

      Do not expect to see this happen. Wildbow’s approach always takes him in different directions than I would take as a player in a similar setting, but they are always consistent with the world, characters and logic. But I wonder.

      To be honest, I think the fairy queen wants to take the dead entity’s place which would be a disaster.

  23. That unidentified yell when they stepped off the platform screams “Chekhov-Gun” too :O.

    And yeah, absolutely loved the Endbringer-throwing und relaxed tea-drinking!

  24. The world will end, but lets have tea please? Marquis just good a lot of coolness points.
    And, in the end, the girl that would commit suicide by Lung if not saved by Tattletale commits personality suicide by surgery. Or not.
    Administrator shard unbound …

  25. Hi,
    Just wanna say thanks so much for all the time and effort you’ve put in wildbow! I know this is what you’ve wanted to do anyway, but still. Thank you! You’ve given us a whole new world, adrenaline-filled experiences (which cause my hands to turn cold, really) and yet managed to balance that with sweet, light, humorous moments. Chapter after chapter and arc after arc…it’s just been really amazing. I started reading in November last year (major distraction when revising for exams) and till today, I look forward to Tuesdays, Thursdays and saturdays because of Worm:) Seeing how you’ve crafted a whole realm with words…gives me the chills, and makes me want to start writing too, a childhood dream I’ve forgotten. Anyways, sorry for the long post. Thank you once again!

    • Means a lot to me, Lynn.

      The fact that I have readers feels a little twilight-zoney to me, but that I’m inspiring others, or generating that kind of reaction? Never really thought that would happen.

      Don’t wait to start writing, and try to stay constructive with what you do. Write from different perspectives, pay attention to why you stop writing and don’t lose sight of what you like about the drafts an ideas you give up on. Remember that all first drafts are less than stellar and that all authors were less than perfect starting out, so forgive yourself those failings. So long as you keep writing, and so long as you keep an eye on things to ensure that you’re working towards a goal, you can make it happen. I did.

      • If you don’t mind me making your day a bit more surreal, I’m currently working up a cast of characters so that I can run off with the Wormverse and make my own big damn hero moments.

        Unfortunately though, most of the stories I want to tell would be done through video games, which have a much higher barrier to entry than ye olde text writing.

          • The whole “extreamly creative use of powers” aspect makes Worm a difficult piece to put in a video game. Tried to put Worm up with the Necessary Evil Villain PnP RPG System …. and it just didn’t work out. The more or less “standard” powers work, but thats not what a Worm RPG should be about.
            Worm should be a visual media. A TV Series would work best.

            • I doubt most PnPRPGs need a “Necessary Evil Villain”. They’re all pretty much toyboxes full of number-centric action figures and accessories for you to mess around with. I can certainly see where most systems would break down in regards to superpowers in Worm, but in that case I’d suggest something rules-light like Wushu or (from what I’ve heard) the FATE system.

              • GURPS could handle the sheer variety of powers fairly well, too, although trying to replicate or imitate specific powers from Worm moght lead to a certain amount of rules-and-story segregation.

              • I love me some GURPS but historically it hasn’t been great at handling supers. This may have changed since 3rd edition though. (What I heard about 4th put me off – I *liked* the way GURPS’ approach differed from Champions’ very utilitarian one – to me, if your character is a klutz then it *should* burn a lot more points for him to become a skilled athlete than someone who’s naturally gifted. character points are about making choices, not necessarily about balance).

                Regardless, the issue with using either GURPS or Champions for Worm is that they’re both very good at modelling characters in detail up front, whereas Worm is full of characters who only work out what they can do as they go along. You could hold some character points for expenditure during play, of course, but it’s still tends to determine powers in terms of effects. I agree with the others who’ve said that a system that’s more flexible in play like FATE would probably be better suited.

              • I’ve only ever even read rulebooks for 4th edition (and am only vaguely aware of previous editions), so I can’t say much about how things have changed. The presence of a wide variety of modifiers, the Powers supplement, and a sufficiently story-oriented GM should allow you to make most superpowers that aren’t absolutes (Siberian, for instance, would be…tough).

                Playing with player knowledge of character abilities is always…tricky. Giving them full knowledge is the default, for good reason! Keeping players in the dark about their capabilities, which the GM knows, can get frustrating and doesn’t seem like a great thing to base a game on; letting players decide what they can do is a slippery slope at best.
                I suppose one could design a system like that, but…it would be niche at best. (It probably says something about me that, despite decrying such a system, I’m already thinking of a couple ways I could build a game around it.)

              • I think there’s been a misunderstanding. I’m not suggesting that players should be kept in the dark about their characters’ capabilities, I’m suggesting that the system needs to be flexible enough that players can, to an extent, define those capabilities on the fly (No Worm pun intended. :P).

                Consider a character with the ability to sense and control bugs (let’s call her “Taylor” . :P). Under something like the old HERO system, this would be statted out as a series of separate powers priced based on utility: an area sense ability, a low-powered area attack (insect bites) a strength-resisted paralyse attack (binding in spider silk).

                Taylor is in the field one day, desperately outclassed against a powerful enemy and she has a brainwave: “I make my flying insects keep clustering around his eyes so he can’t see!” GM:” Do you have the “Blind” ability?”. Taylor: “No.” GM: “Then No.”.

                To be fair to HERO, I think it may have some sort of “spend XP during play to buy new powers” mechanic but this is the sort of situation is half the point of the Wormverse and it’s much better modelled by a system that defines powers as “Control insects (Superb)” and “Sense through insects (Good)” and allows some flexibility to determine the parameters of that in play, than one that requires them to be rigidly defined up front.

              • Ah.
                In the case of GURPS, I’m about 80% sure that you can get an ability that would let you control bugs, period, and 100% sure that if I was going to play a Worm-style campaign (or, to an extent, anything superheroey), I’d want a GM who was willing to bend the rules if it made sense.
                Heck, that’s nice normally. I remember a time when I was playing D&D and my kobold character was without any fire- or acid-based attacks to fight trolls, or indeed any high-damage attacks to hope to overcome their regeneration with. My plan? Set myself on fire and dive-bomb them! (I had the ability to fly, I don’t remember why.) Another time, I was playing another kobold character (I like kobolds) and discovered myself impotent against a giant skeleton. My plan? Use my Ring of Shrinking, fly into the skeleton’s eye socket (I like being able to fly), set my longspear against each side of the eye socket, and return to full size. That didn’t work as well, but the point stands–gaming is generally more fun if your GM is willing to bend the rules when it makes sense to.

              • Oh absolutely. Having a good GM is far more important than what system you use. A bad GM will tend to run a terrible game regardless of system and good a GM will make a game great regardless of system. And no system is definitively “the best” – it’s all subjective. All that said, some systems do tend to work better for certain settings/genres than others. Imagine Cthulu without it’s insanity mechanics or Paranoia with a rules-heavy system and they just wouldn’t be the same.

                My concern with a rules-heavy system for Worm is not so much Taylor – she actually has one of the most “off-the-shelf” superpowers in the entire setting – she controls and sense through bugs. The fun starts when you start trying to model characters like Chevalier (transfers intrinsic properties like mass and hardness from one item to another), Bonesaw (biological mad scientist) and Glaistig Uaine (o_O). The more specifically the system requires you to model them, the more it’s going to get snagged on the detail.

              • There are some powers in Worm that I’m convinced can’t be given to players in any game system which wants to maintain the slightest modicum of balance. Glaistig is one of those, since she can take the powers of anyone who dies around her. Bonesaw is pretty easy, in many systems; bonus to medical/surgery/etc skill, plus the same gadget-related stuff you’d give to any Tinker. Chevalier…yeah, that’s an issue, but when you barely understand how his power functions on a “Input N can get output X, Y, or Z” level, you’re going to have issues. His power…if I was running such a game, I’d reject the character until he gave me more detail and such on what his power did.

          • I know about the various middlewares that exist and how much easier they are to make than it used to be, but the plans I had in mind were much grander than the average flash shooter. Hell, I’d probably write up a script and mechanic system (for an RPG) before I opened up Unity or somesuch. And even then, I’d practice making a simple flash shooter before moving on to something bigger.

            • One possibility is a visual novel style game. They’re quite doable by one person, or two if the programmer and writer isn’t also an artist. You can include decision trees that are as complicated as you want, potentially reflecting a fair amount of creativity, even if it has to be canned in a sense.

          • I’m probably too busy/lazy to ever get around to it, but I keep thinking that a half-decent Worm mod/campaign could be made for Freedom Force.

            It would be very hard for any computer game to capture the flexibility and versatility of power usage in Worm, though.

            Taylor’s would actually be mostly sorta doable. Ones like Golem’s would be nigh-impossible though.

            And there’s the question of how you tie it into the Web serial – do you try to capture the WHOLE story or a subset? Or something else? And what about spoilers?

            • Taylor’s power seems like one of the more difficult, actually. There’s simply so many potential uses for it. Golem’s power could be done comparatively easily, with the main problems being player dexterity required and the problems with an infinitely mutable environment, but at least the problem space is well-defined.

              • In general, you’re probably right. I’m thinking specifically about modelling the characters in Freedom Force. Taylor can be at least approximated with things like a weak area attack, a bind attack, a low-success high-powered attack, some sort of distance sensing etc. With Golem, the engine just doesn’t have the necessary capabilities to reshape and extend objects and buildings like that.

    • @aLynN,

      Hello there, why not tryyout writing during the upcoming Nanowrimomonth? Just got for wordcount and just keep going?

  26. I have an odd question. If Golem sticks his hand in some concrete or something to make a giant concrete hand, and then his real hand gets cut off while it’s still in the concrete, where does it go? And wherever his hand went, would he be able to get it back?

  27. So I guess we now know what The Simurgh was trying to accomplish by messing with Taylor earlier. The other two people we know she also manipulated was Tattletale and Doctor Mother. Either she did that so they would help in Taylor coming to her conclusion or there’s some other purpose they serve.

    Honestly I’m just kinda hoping for Contessa to ride into the battle on Doctor Monster.

  28. … did the Simurgh start screaming, or is it all in Taylor’s head? No-one else is reacting (although they might be used to it – isn’t that a scary thought), and there’s no “the Simurgh started screaming” – the phrase is “I could hear the Simurgh’s screaming.” While, obviously, screaming in response to Scion showing up is quite likely, Cody’s interlude showed that people under the effect of the Simurgh might hear her screaming at key points.

    Or scarier – Cody spared Tattletale because he remembered the Simurgh screaming, and that might why he had that particular auditory hallucination, not any necessity of her power – just that Simurgh wanted Tattletale alive.

    Of course, either way this is a Simurgh-influenced decision.

    • Which endbringer do you have in mind? Oh, and you had a fair point last comment section re: my edits. I tried it out myself and then came to the conclusion that the two cape OCs I came up with were a Ballistic expy and a Dovetail expy. I did think up a Cauldron cape that could look through and mess with any camera within line-of-sight for a different project though. (for the curious, it’s a webcomic that does seasons of Survivor with fan OCs from a lot of different continua. Search “Survivor Fan Characters” on TV tropes if that sounds the slightest bit interesting. It doesn’t come that highly recommended BTW, it is Survivor after all. 9_9)

      • I’m not sure yet, I need to crunch the data and figure out which of the Terrors (the world’s Endbringers) would be roughly on schedule to attack, and which would be best to have attack.

        And that Survivor Fan Characters thing’s TV Tropes character page shows up first on Google, too. Anyways, reading the TV Tropes page.

  29. So the buildings are made of some sort of obsidian material… Did not see that coming. Here I was expecting Chevalier to make armour and weapons out of the Endbringer parts.

  30. I have several nits to pick, and some of them are serious:

    How did we get from “I will know the solution when I see it” to “the solution is to perform a ridiculously dangerous operation on my brain/powers”? Was she lying, or as other commenters have suggested, was the Simurgh involved?

    What happened to “no more second triggers for major characters”? Even though this is technically her third, this violates the he** out of the spirit of that statement. Or did I misinterpret someone else’s comments for Wildbow’s?

    Speaking of which, Taylor knows she has had a second trigger – she was told by Number Man last episode. So, unless she completely disbelieves him, she is flat out lying. To what purpose? Does she really believe she can fool some of the world’s remaining foremost experts on trigger events (Panacea and/or Riley), especially since they are the ones who will give her another trigger? Is it really a good idea to try to fool them? The only confirmed third trigger we have gave us Echidna (though Taylor doesn’t know that).

    (theoretical gripe, reality could trump this)
    If Taylor gets overblown powers to solve the situation, it smacks of deus ex machina; if she becomes ineffective then the main character of the story is rendered irrelevant before the end, which is narratively unsatisfying; if she solves the Zion problem using her usual skills (putting together existing pieces in unusual ways), then this final action of hers is unnecessarily self-destructive for no obvious reason. I admit my record for guessing what Wildbow will do is (frankly) crap, but I don’t see a narratively satisfying way of resolving this.

    … and just I don’t get misunderstood because I am complaining – I really enjoy the writing – you can’t pry me away from Worm (and probably any of Wildbow’s future writings) with anything short of a parahuman assault team.

    • I think you, and some others, are misunderstanding. This is not a second, third, fourth trigger event. This will not give Taylor uber-powers. This is about taking down whatever part of Taylor’s brain controls her power and letting it go wild. A bit like what Ingenue’s power does, only on a probably bigger scale.

    • She’s not aiming for a second trigger event, but to emulate the effects of one. Since she’s already had one, removing caps on her power, she’s aiming to target any limits that are left.

      Your initial points are more or less answered by the fact that this isn’t a trigger event.

      • Because taking the limits off would emulate her being and equal to Scion. She is attempting to set herself up as Scion’s partner, a ruse. But “everything going wrong” could indicate her inability to control her emotions much the same way Scion can’t.

        My guess is that either (or both) Pancea and Bonesaw are, or will be, dead as a result of this tampering.

        My thoughts anyway.

    • And one more:
      The middle of a fight with Zion, close enough to Doormaker to KO him, is a great time to slam every parahuman in range into trigger-induced visions.

      • Actually this may be the answer we are looking for. We’ve all been wondering just what it could be about dropping Taylors self preservation limitations on her shard might do, but it is the shards that carry the message, that reverberate and have sympathetic reactions to a trigger event.

        Scion is built, or made up of shards. I do not think it is entirely unreasonable to assume that he will be joining the vast conciousness as they go off the rails together down memory lane. As the administration shard it could be that Taylor has control over the vision. I begin to suspect the following.

        The Simurgh has a plan and has seen the future, as does Dinah. She built a weapon and hid its pieces among others. I personally do not believe that she has used it yet. The Endbringers are not shards and will not be incapacitated even momentarily by a trigger event.

        If Scion is in fact pulled into a rememberance as part of an artificially started trigger event, and as the administration shard Taylor can keep him there, even for only a few moments, or minutes it may be that this is the chance the Simurgh has been waiting for to act. To take those pieces she has to this point carefully hidden and reconstruct them into the real weapon or tool she’s been intending from the begining and utilize it while Scion is fully distracted.

        Remember, the ‘barrel’ was only a single piece of it, built into another gun as part of a diguise. Now might be the chance to make use of it. What this means in the end for Taylor though I cannot say. I just hope to see more of Dinah, Riley and Panacea as I think they have a lot of intriguing potential remaining to them. Especially Panacea as we still are not entirely sure where her head is at. Maybe an interlude from Dinah’s point of view is a good idea at this juncture?

      • Since what Taylor is doing hasn’t been done before, I don’t think we can predict what effects it will have.

        The big difference in my mind between what Taylor’s doing and a 2nd trigger event is what Amy and Reilly said. This isn’t likely to be a Super Saiyan power up. As far as they can see, this could cost Taylor everything she is.

    • > What happened to “no more second triggers for major characters”? Even though this is technically her third, this violates the he** out of the spirit of that statement.

      And it sticks to the letter of it🙂
      Have you ever been trolled with a wish in an rpg?

      (I actually commented about it a couple of chapters ago, and guessed no one replied to that because everyone wised up to it as soon as dr. mother confirmed Taylor got her 2nd already, and did not want to spoil it out by overtly discussing it.)

      I personally *like* the idea that, after all the “no power ups” thing, there finally -is- a powerup. It breaks a constant, you do not expect it, it’s cool.

      • This. My understanding is that Echidna’s issue was not that she’d had multiple triggers, but rather that her initial cauldron formula didn’t have the ‘balance’ component so it lacked all the safeties that normally keep shards from harming the host when they bequeath powers. The flipside is that the safeties also restrict what the power can do. So turn those off and you end up with a cape who is very powerful at the expense of having their humanity overwritten.

        Normal second, third, fourth triggers still have those safeties in place so can never reach the levels of power that an ‘unlocked’ power does.

  31. Wow, that was fast Wildbow and AMR – thank you. And I was thinking in the wrong direction. First and last problems still seem to be there (where the heck did this come from, and how will the narrative resolve).

  32. Hey, wildbow.

    I usually don’t do this, but I wanted to say I love your story. I was introduced to it by a member of my forum who created a thread for it and I was hooked. Admittedly, I did put off reading it for a while, but after reading the first chapter I kept on going and going until I caught up around Cockroaches 28.1 or 28.4 (forgot which).

    Anyways, I’m rambling. I want to say: thanks for the story. I love it, love the characters, love the writing.

    • ACH, tongue! That means attention in German. Why the Germans want you to pay attention to tongues, I don’t know, but I once read it had to do with learning their language.

      So now that you’ve given me your tongue, let’s twist it a little. To titty twist a tongue torture tempts tempestuous tapeworms to tickle tapestries.

      No clue why. Fucking tapeworms. That’s why I keep the ducks around, you know. Everyone knows duck tape is superior.

      I used ducks on someone earlier to keep them still while I welcomed them. Don’t make me have to duck you. There’s lots of people to welcome and I don’t have time to duck them all. Duck, duck, duck. One of these days, I’m going to run out and have to use goose tape. It’s what they use to keep legs straight when people goose step.

      Thanks for the love. I’m sure Wildbow will enjoy it. Or, to be consistent with the story, he’ll take your love and transform it into a pet monkey that wears a diaper and a top hat. It follows him everywhere and likes to pet bunnies and give them little flower garlands.

      Then remember the story and realize just what’s in store.

      Worm is Wildbow’s way of saying he’ll take your monkey, have it lined up, and shot by Russians.

      All your monkey.


      All its relatives.


      Its favorite banana.


      Best drinking game ever, by the way. Even better if you’re drinking 99 Bananas, which I always keep on a shelf on the wall. Take it down, pass it around…

      I guess you won’t know for sure if your monkey is shot or that’s just a metaphor unless you stick around here with the comments. Welcome, ACH, to the comments. Let’s go save us a monkey. *cocks a shotgun*

  33. Finally got caught up. Found the link through Drew Hayes ‘ Superpowereds site, and was hooked within paragraphs. I have to say these two serial fictions give me hope for my own artistic endeavors. My passion is heroic fiction like these. I’ve been told this doesn’t sell, that no one wants to read it, yet, I find superb examples nearly everyday.

    Wildbow, you amaze me. The depth of your characters, the detailed world building is both awe inspiring and intimidating. There are so many nuances here, so much depth that it’d take me years to examine and study.

    The two + weeks I’ve been reading through the archives have been one hell of a ride. I’ve had nearly every emotional reaction that any work of fiction can instill. For example, the final words of this chapter, instill fear, sadness, anger, and yet oddly hope.

    I eagerly await the next chapters, and salute you with the best compliment I can think of:

    Thank you.

    • You know how OlyBrainstorm got these scars?

      He was fishing around for something to read on a websites about superheroes when someone suggested he go try the docks over at Worm. Well, he Wormed around a bit, then saw someone drowning. You see, he’d always wanted to be a hero, and that was his chance. So he jumped in, too, despite being told that heroes just don’t sell well. Too simplistic, or too ridiculous in the tights. As if being ridiculous or over the top negates the potential awesome factor.

      So he liked heroes. And then he noticed a corndog floating in the water. He hadn’t had a bite all day while fishing, so he bit it. But when he looked up to the dock, you wanna know what he saw? The worm he was using as bait had grabbed hold of the pole and tossed the hook into the water. With some bait. A corndog.

      And the worm looked at him. Or maybe it mooned him. It’s hard to tell on a worm. And then it said to him, “Why so serious?” And he was gobsmacked. Literally, he was smacked by a gob. That’s why I don’t swim in rivers, lakes, seas, or oceans, by the way. Especially not ponds, not with my experience with alligator traps and screaming like a little girl when I feel something touch my toes.

      Now, at this point OlyBrainstorm was trying to hack up the corndog. And the worm just looked at him or mooned him again and repeated, “Why so serious?!”

      OlyBrainstorm finally got the chunks of corndog to come up. Trust me, looked a lot better going in than coming out but at least it wasn’t orange juice. Problem is, he got the hook stuck on the inside of his cheek.

      And he looked up, panicked at the worm on dock, who started to say “Why so serious?” before being eaten by a bird that arrived too early for him to finish, yanking the pole hard to the side in the process.

      Now, doesn’t that story put a smile on that face?

      Welcome, OlyBrainstorm, to the comments section.

  34. I think Taylor has become a Simurgh pawn. Not like Cody or Mannequin, but she seems to have made something she shouldn’t have in a important juncture. I get that Taylor is feeling powerless in front of Scion, but there really was no need to mess with her brain. Hopefully this will only screw up something minor in her brain, like perception. Maybe she will be left completely disconnected from her body, only feeling and seeing through her swarm.

    I don’t think that Taylor will get any new powers, I think she will earn a new kind of perspective, something abstract, like DM was trying to find.

    Am I the only one missing Glaistig? The faerie queen must be more willing to talk now that Cauldron is practically dead. Perhaps now we will finally learn what she thinks is Taylors role in all of this.

    The end aproaches! I cannot wait. Another fantastic chapter Wildbow

      • Simurgh always plays for more than one move. Her current goel is to take down Scion, but she may do it in such a way that also leads to her ultimate goal, whatever it is.

        • Continuing the chess metaphor…

          You can directly control the movements of your pawns (within limits), but your opponents’ pawns can only be controlled indirectly (by moving your other pieces). This fits Scion best, and hence Scion is like a pawn of Simurgh’s enemy and not her own pawn.

  35. > And it all went wrong.

    Of course it did. Not because of the Smurf, her secret weapon and the nanos. Not because you pelted Scion with her dead’s girlfriend body. Not because we still do not know where Contessa is. Not because Lisa did everything in her power to piss off Harbinger.

    > They had sandwiches in hand, no doubt put together from supplies that had been shipped in.

    Because it’s LUNCHTIME!

    So. As I commented above, I liked the sudden “untrigger”, or whatever will come out of it. I fear the next arc is the last we’ll see of Taylor, but… well, that’s par for the course is not it?
    She’s the type to… maybe “bloodthirsty” is the wrong word. But when everyone was thinking about running away, she was still trying to find a way to hurt Scion.
    She’s also a bit too selfless for this situation ain’t her? And last, but not least, Dinah never really told her anything specific about the last battle with the five groups.

    All this, to say: masterful! If you manage to pull off the classic drama angle too we really need to all chip in and send you a live polar bear or something as a reward.

  36. Also, for anyone who was following along, I just walked by dog at the off-leash park, and I ran into Newdog – the dog I was considering adopting. She found an owner, friendly guy, and it sounds like she’s getting three off-leash walks a day, with tons of training and attention. I was so relieved, and I couldn’t stop smiling. I’d been feeling just a little guilty that I hadn’t been able to take her in, and she found what looks like the perfect setup for her.

  37. Can I just lust over Sveta again?

    Nice to see Marquis, Bonesaw and Panacea again. Particulary Marquis as he always reminds me of those old Godfather dons.

  38. Oh… dear. See, this is what makes Taylor different from Cauldron. When the chips are down, she’ll make sacrifices of herself instead of expect other people to shoulder them. Doc Mom’s inability to bite the bullet and make this kind of leap of faith is why I had no confidence in her winning whatsoever.

    Here’s hoping Taylor makes it through this, she kind of owes it to everyone in her life to make it out of this alive and not completely insane.

    Anyway, I figure the new power will be rather more esoteric and will include the ability to sense and read passengers like Chevalier and Jack Slash. Maybe she’ll be able to influence the behavior of passengers to give other heroes that danger sense Jack had. She might even be able to reassign of turn off shards, that’ll fuck over Golden Boy.

  39. Alright, so there’s a bunch of welcomes piling up to do. Give me until after midnight, people, and I’ll see what I can do. My day is busy, and my night as well. Sometimes I imagine Wildbow’s making sockpuppets to keep me busy too busy welcoming to write other things. Crazy things. Anal things.

    Also, though I might have welcomed you, Greatwyrmgold. I sometimes catch people a little late, like just before an update, so some people may not have seen theirs. Do you remember when you caught up?

  40. I have been lurking here since the Crushed arc, I remember I started reading this in Chevaliers interlude, and distinctly remember not understanding shit by being impressed. Then I went back and read it all from the beginning, discovering the story little by little, the relations between characters I knew would later be facing down Behemoth, and I must say, I came to love your work. Despite the time you took which I NEEDED for University, I must be thankful for you, despite having to read this in a language that isnt my mother tongue I loved the story, got a friend to read it (and his girlfriend, and his girlfriend´s father) and I am now impatiently waiting to see its end.
    So really, thank you.
    My only regret is, I never got to see a Tinker whose specialization was in Information Theory, that would have been SO cool.

    • You know, Professor Haywire may have been the closest we got to an IT Tinker. I mean, he’s known for contacting another universe through some sort of data feed.

    • Some of this may get lost in translation, so allow me to say a few things first. Tengo el gato en los pantalones. Alternatively, the Russian words for annulment and divorce are “Aннулирование” and “развод”. Tengo el Aннулированиe in los pantalones?…ladies.

      We’re glad to have you, no matter the language. Stick around and don’t mind the crazy person. I think I saw one running around here earlier, but then he escaped from the Hall of Mirrors with me in pursuit.

      Worm is the story that leaves a bitter taste in people’s mouths that they enjoy, like most alcohol. Here in the comments is where we yell out “Bitter!” and hope for two of the women in the story to kiss. Or, to not be discriminatory, we hope for two guys to kiss too. Bohu practically invented Brokeback Mountain. She used 100% real broken backs, too!

      Yeah, Chevalier’s stand doesn’t appear nearly as badass until you’ve gone back and read the lead up. It’s a bleak world. A weight with too much gravity. A lot of weight on people’s shoulders. Chevalier redistributed that weight by having really large balls instead. Word on the street is that they hang low. He can tie them in a knot. He can tie them in a bow. He can throw them over his shoulder like a continental shoulder. His balls hang low.

      No word yet on if he’s going to cover them in glitter and bring disco back from the dead. I think if Panacea gives him a hand with them, she could pull it off. And regrow it.

      You can dance with us here in the comments, under the glistening lights of Chevalier’s heavy, heavy balls. Yes, you can dance if you want to. You can leave your friends behind. Because your friends don’t dance and if they don’t dance than they’re no friends of mine.

      Welcome, Malik, to the comments section.

      • MMMMM
        And now I cant shake the mental image of a white Avengind Disco Godfather, with a big ornamental sword, and swinging his genitalia like a pair of bolas on the other, all to the music of the village people.
        Fun fact: in my language, bolas is used as a synonim for male genitalia.
        Thanks for the warm, wet, wild and sticky welcome PsychoGecko.

        • Heh, in my language bola means balls,like real balls.I guess it takes real bola to play bola in the armageddon sudden death and kick that bola for an all winning GOALLL!!!!

    • Richter, Dragon’s creator, was probably an Information Theory tinker. He died in Newfoundland. Never made a appearance directly, only referenced in relationship to what he created. Dragon, and a couple other minor AI’s that were used for a few things here and there.

      • No, his specialty was specifically the creation of AIs. We don’t see any invention of his that wasn’t an AI or meant to deal with AIs (e.g. Ascalon).

        • Ah, if you don’t have a very strong grasp of Information Theory when designing an Artificial Intelligence, you will probably only get an Artificial Dumbness. I’m no expert on either AI design, or Information Theory, but a quick glance at a couple articles defining Information Theory makes it really clear that you won’t get an AI without Information Theory being a huge part of it.

          • But that’s not how tinkers work. They get this cool idea and then they build it. Richter specialised in AIs and so he creates AIs without any need of understanding the science behind them. ( I don’t know if I made sense).

            • Aye, I see where you are coming from, but an AI is defined by Information Theory. We can probably chase our tails on this one all day though, because we don’t know enough about Richter and how he worked.

              • Saint probably has a grasp of IT (at least enough to realize he needed a Teacher-shot to go up against Dragon and win). He doesn’t count though, for a variety of reasons starting with “Tinker 0” and ending with “He’s a dick.”

    • Some arcs are too short for that (early ones), but it’s a possibility.

      I’m not sure I’d want to present it as a novel, though. That opens up doors for people being upset when they don’t feel like a complete beginning and end. Maybe dub them ‘issues’ (in the comic book sense) or something like that.

      • Actually a graphic novel format would probably be pretty damn awesome with some good artists on the job, and your universe is quite well fleshed out.

        There are lots and lots of experienced comic artists out there, and entire studios that might be willing to work with you to publish what you have already written in graphic novel format.

        This would, of course, mean assigning rights for publication, and various other complexities. But it might also be moderately lucrative.

        Just don’t let them do crossovers😛

            • Jason no-selled everything Freddy in full Reality Warper mode threw at him.

              I wouldn’t be surprised if he could no-sell Scion.

              • That’s because Freddy, for all his strengths, is reliant upon dreams IIRC. All anyone needs to do is say “I reject your reality and substitute my own” (and mean it, of course) and he becomes powerless. That said, I wouldn’t be surprised if some Jason writer would let him do exactly that (i.e. no-sell Scion) if the situation arose. (That’s more an “Only the Writer can save us now!” sort of thing, though)

              • Well, to try and make it a fair fight, they had to invent a weakness where Jason was afraid of water for the first time ever. He’s gone underwater to come after people in boats, been on a ship to Manhattan, and walked way out on docks to crossbow people to death, but suddenly he’s afraid of a little water being nearby…

              • I never liked that. Freddy is essentially a god in his dream realm and all Jason really seems to have is a disturbing propensity to stand back up after being killed/injured. Freddy should’ve won that fight.

                I doubt that Jason could stand against Scion for more than twenty to thirty seconds. He’s nowhere near Siberian levels of power. Freddy probably would get destroyed as well if only because I doubt Scion dreams which pretty much cuts down on 99% of Freddy’s options. Ash beats everybody though if only through Manly Badassitude. He and Weaver then would unwind by going and having a few drinks while comparing how they lost their respective limbs.

        • I love graphic novels, but the best ones are conceived of and written as graphic novels. I’m not convinced that you could take an existing written work like Worm and accurately convert it into a visual format like a graphic novel without losing a lot. For example, you’d lose great turns of phrase like “Alone, the shields were too weak. Together, the shields were still too weak.”.

          The written word has capabilities that more visual media do not.

  41. I could handle the other cliffhangers. This one though….

    I’ve reread the last line too many times now, and saying this is the end of taylors story…I refuse to believe it.

      • Well, I think Wildbow said there would be a sequel to Worm in the future, so I’m hoping that there isn’t a complete cop out ending. As much of a user base as there is, I think a tremendous number would not even consider reading future works if there wasn’t some sort of satisfying end.

          • That is true. I am mostly referring to a phenomenon I’ve seen in the past where a story basically devolves into “misery porn” without any sort of resolution for the character (though to be fair, this happens more in animation I’ve seen than in books I’ve read). In many respects, most of us have grown quite attached to Taylor over the course of reading this series. I think it would be fair to say that if after all that build-up and struggle, if Taylor doesn’t at least have something of a satisfying end, some sort of reward or payoff, it leaves a feeling of “why would I want to read anything else like this if I know it’s just going to end badly?”. One of the literary techniques that Wildbow is fond of using, the cliffhanger, is a double-edged sword in this regard. It causes people to get very emotionally involved in the story, but also somewhat paints the author into a corner as to which direction the story is going. There is some precedent in the course of this work for that to happen: there were several people, myself included, who were getting terribly depressed and nearly stopped reading during the more depressing parts of the Behemoth arc. Had Wildbow not stuck the landing on that arc, I probably would have just walked away and never returned. The multi-arc rampage of Scion is reminding me a lot of that hopeless chapter that nearly made me walk away, and if there is no resolution to a continuing series bad news and wham episodes it will start to look like something very Kafka-esque.

            In conclusion, I don’t think there is really need for a true happy ending, but there does need to be some sort of emotional payoff, especially after the incredibly long journey we’ve all been on. Coming up with a complete downer ending would just make me question if it was really worth reading all of it.

            • A question: would you, hypothetically consider Taylor sacrificing herself to save the multiverse and defeat Scion a cop out ending or a solid, valid but sad ending?

              Just to better understand your stance.

              • Solid? I’m not so sure. Sad and valid? Definitely. And even then, I probably wouldn’t read anything further from derivative works for concerns I’d get attached to something that depressive again. But then again, I’m already prone to episodes of crippling depression, so maybe it’s just me.

                I guess part of the issue is that such a sacrifice would be demanded of her in the first place. She’s already given up pretty much everything in her efforts to stop the world from ending. It’s a bit terrible to say “Congratulations, you suffered for years and years to save a bunch of people who could care less about you. Your reward is disfigurement, death, and losing absolutely everything. But at least you’ll have people afterward saying great things about you… maybe.”

              • There’s times I wish this was a regular message board and we could take conversations to Private Message since I hate talking about spoilers for even semi-recent series. Since that’s not option here though, I’ll say I can think of at least one series that ended with “you’ve given up everything that you are and ever were, (almost) no one will even remember you, but in doing so you created hope in a world where there was none and made a heaven for those who follow you.”

                That ending took a work that was in some ways even darker than Worm and made it one of the most positive, affirming stories I’ve encountered.

                That’s not to say that the same needs to happen to Taylor here, just that sometimes even the deepest sacrifices can be worth it.

              • Well, it might be the end of Taylor, but it might be a new beginning for Clotho, or Weaver if she keeps that name.

                I can still imagine a whole lot of ways that Taylor might still cease being Taylor, and yet still be a good ending. I think we will see Taylor lose a lot of her humanity with whatever happens next, but I doubt she will lose it all.

                I’m pretty sure that Wildbow has mentioned more in the Wormverse after this is over. If that’s the case, then I suspect something a bit sneaky, to allow for him to build on the universe at a later time.

              • Personally i see a cop out ending being anything that looks like Glory girl or the Travelers. It was mentioned that they were central or main characters once. Look what happened to them, all i want at the end of this story is Taylor to get something within spitting distance of personal happiness and sanity.

              • @dragonus45:

                I remember that Glory Girl (and Amy) were the main characters of the first story Wildbow ever wrote in the Wormverse, which has nothing to do with Worm. Stories evolve.

                As for the Travellers, I believe they were created just for this story. In fact, there’s a popular theory, I don’t know how well supported, among the fandom that they were supposed to be a parody of self-insert fics. Not exactly main characters material.

              • The first story I ever wrote in the parahumans ‘verse was Runechild. I was looking for a spot in the reams of superhero stories that needed filling, and I went with a sort of Doctor Strange, except a complete novice. I made a lot of mistakes, but it went a good way towards fleshing out the setting and establishing some ground rules. Small towns or cities without high-rises don’t work for superheroes.

                In the second work, Runechild teams up with Dragon, because Dragon’s aware of her weaknesses as an A.I. vs. the Dragonslayers and tries to bring a human element into the mix to counter it. Someone that doesn’t know her well enough to put A and B together and conclude “she’s a machine!”. Didn’t take off.

                Scrapped the magic user bit. Biggest thing holding me back at this point. (The question that comes up here and there with Taylor debating whether it’s magic or a screwed up view of one’s own powers is a kind of nod to Runechild). One of Runechild’s power was cranked up to ten and given to Rune, but she otherwise is one of my only early characters who didn’t make it into the story in some form.

                I wrote Faultline as a main character next. Bastion (seen in arc 8) baits a group of the monstrous & less successful villains into gathering, under the pretense of a third party wanting to form a villain group. Faultline, less successful due to a less than stellar power more than a lack of smarts, hangs back and watches from a distance as Bastion uses forcefields to seal the villains inside a building and begins thrashing them. She breaks in and eventually rallies them together. They beg her to help them form a team and become effective, and she eventually, reluctantly agrees. Struggled with the interpersonal relationships

                Moved on to Guts and Glory, for a more personal relationship between characters. Started with Brockton Bay Brigade vs. Marquis, moved on to a point post-Glory Girl trigger event, pre-Panacea trigger. They run into the Slaughterhouse Nine, Panacea triggers.

                Did a few drafts going to different points in G&G and Faultline’s story. Moved on to a broader story called ‘The Events Leading Up to That Thursday’ – a story where I covered the broader brush strokes of the setting, established the Triumvirate, established the origin of powers, Scion, and built towards Scion’s eventual snapping. It rotated between characters, which was actually something I was debating doing for Worm (which is why it’s and not or whatever) – I was either going to run concurrent, overlapping stories or switch between perspectives.

                It was after I did another Faultline-only story that a friend read and commented that I was too fond of the underpowered protagonist. So I did the Travelers.

                And so on and so on. I ended up with hundreds of these stories, focusing on virtually all of the prominent characters in Worm, as either protagonists or antagonists.

                But here are the key things here: I’ve never written an ending. All of the aforementioned stories ran aground on the rocks, I lost motivation, or some key element was missing.

                The reason Guts & Glory and the Travelers didn’t wind up as the central stories was because they didn’t tie into the setting as a whole like Taylor was more able to. Their stories weren’t as poised to have more solid endings.

                Now, as I said, I’ve never written an ending before. This is a first for me. But I’d like to think that Taylor is more situated to provide a more satisfying ending. I’m also saying, in the interest of being realistic, that no ending I give is going to satisfy everyone.

                But we’ll see. I’m going to take my best stab at it, and we’ll see.

              • For me the most important thing is that the ending feels natural. I’ll admit I feel pretty burned out on “Hero sacrifices themselves to give others hope and a chance.” or “Your alive so you can always be happy no matter how bad it is.” These are happy endings like “Good news, you only lost half your family” is good news.

                That said Taylor dying, or becoming Scion’s new counterpart, or something really messed up… Would it work? Depends on how it’s written. A bittersweet or downer ending for the sake of being “deep” or “meaningful” is no better than a happy ending just because you feel it must be happy.

                There was a Mass Effect 3, but all the writers who understood that our choices matter does not mean agreeing with space manipulative bastard who is responsable for the whole mess three choices that play out very similerly isn’t a good ending. Also the writer who did the AI characters also left, and it shows.

    • Man, a battle in the center of Taylor’s mind would be REALLY weird. I’m now imagining a three-way fight between Skitter, Weaver and taylor.

      • meh, I can take her said Skitter about Weaver… shortly before Taylor banged their heads together…

        and then went to MPD therapy and met Hank Pym.. and taught him how to use his powers better….

  42. hpmor directed me here Friday night… finished this fine Tuesday morning at 5… should have checked that it was finished first – now I will be anxiously and fanatically along for the ride…

    Amazing story Wildbow.

    I am very curious to see what comes forth with so many people thinking that Taylor triggered at her mothers death – along with her potentially already being second triggered – is 3 even possible – wouldnt that make her a potential Scion partner? Also why does Imp keep changing tense about Regent – is he where shes getting the big words? Makes me wonder if he did a final takeover of her – and they have been partners ever since.

    • You’re new, so I’ll take it as easy on you as I ever do.

      We’re glad to have you in the comments, but there’s a thing or two you should know.

      It would seem nice and romantic and sweet to have Imp’s mind invaded by a murderous sociopath who grew up with a serial rapist for a dad…but this is Worm. Therefore, it must somehow mean Regent is being tortured forever by hammers with pumpkins on them. The pumpkins are there to show him how much of a good time he’s missing. Pumpkins are like that, you know? Except the ones with mohawks that smoke. Those are the punkins. Some of them get gratuitously obscene eggplant tattoos. It’s all fun and games until they pick up a drinking habit and go get smashed on Halloween.

      I invite you to stay and join us, and the rest of the punkins, and anyone else who wants to sit by this literary fire and Worm up.

      Also, is it really such a surprise when a humorous character who enjoys sophomoric humor and killing people likes to utilize advanced wordplay in order to eviscerate patronizing prejudices and derogate and deride antagonists during opportune moments that are otherwise cathartic?

      The only thing I can say about tense is that the past is very stressful. That’s why the call it the past tense. But the past is passed. Let’s worry about things to come, like Ben Grimm with an issue of “Playrock”. I’ll stop jerking you around, though, once I’ve said one last thing:

      Welcome, Aio, to the comments section.

  43. Hmm, possibilities!

    Also, was it intentional to go from saying “Sveta” in one paragraph to “Garotte” in the next? Specifically when they’re talking about staying to look for survivors. It seems a little odd is all.

  44. Just a thought for the folks who’ve caught up recently and enjoyed the story: Wildbow takes donations, and even offers something in return. Once the donations add up to enough, we get a bonus Interlude!

    While a few people have bought a whole interlude themselves, even a small donation puts us closer to another chapter and is appreciated (given that Wildbow thanks everyone who donates).

    If there wind up being more interludes left once the story is completed then we’ll get additional epilogues to show how various characters make out afterwards.

    So basically what I’m saying is, if you liked the story and have some cash laying around, think about tossing some Wildbow’s way, cause I’d like to see as many epilogues as we can get!

    Details on donating are available at the link below or you can navigate there from the link at the top of the page:

  45. Aaaand I FINALLY CAUGHT UP. One helluva chapter to catch up to, let me tell you.

    Not much to say, really. Not beyond anything that was already said by everyone else, I mean. What I CAN say, though:

    I feel overjoyed at finding this story before its completion. At finding it, EVER, period.

    Thank you so much.

      • What lay low? No, no. Newcomers should wear Gecko’s greetings as a badge of honour (or shame). In fact, to this day I’m still a bit miffed at how…restrained my greeting was compared to the later ones.

    • No amount of laying low to the ground can confuse the friendly neighborhood Psycho Gecko! Nor should you want to! Nor should you call the cops on him, or ever go into his special basement, naughty, naughty children!

      Party poopers, that’s what y’all are. Trying to destroy America by ending all the fun you could have visiting Uncle Gecko’s Happy Place Basement prematurely. It’s sad is what it is. No, it’s sick. It’s sicksad.

      Oops, here comes that neighborhood patrol again. Time to change into the ole clown costume as Uncle Gecko, the Rock and Roll Clown. Hint: I do cocaaaaaaaaaine. Allegedly, according to my lawyer, other readers I have welcomed, and court-mandated drug tests.

      And so you have learned not to tempt fate to what else can be said around here, Krein, all thanks to the fun time you had in the basement with your good, good friend, Psycho Gecko, as my little way of saying “Welcome, Krein, to the comments.”

  46. have to admit, one thing id really like to see is how other people are responding towards Finding out Dragon is an AI, either other capes, or just some Civilians she’s helping either in the past or recently.

    • That depends on who knows, and how far the secret’s gotten. (Which, admittedly, might be pretty far, given how secrets like that don’t really matter anymore)

        • It’s all in the mix then, atwixt. And shout while you’re at it.

          But you may not have liked it as much at its inception. Just imagine: week after week, sitting there, waiting for new updates, having to share a comments section with of all things. I mean, I’m fine with it, but other people are apparently going half loony, with lunacy and lunatics, and ovulating with the cycle of the moony.

          Stick around, though, it’s safe. We won’t bite. Well, some of us might. I might wind up kinda hungry tonight. Still, if you’re looking for a thrill this is one hell of a ride. Come see our girls, girls, girls!

          We’ve got invisible girls, girls with bugs on their faces, girls who’ll send dogs to hunt down your ballsack, even a girl who could be downloaded to a Real Doll with a modem in its head, all available for your enjoyment as they fight a colossal evil space jellyfish that wants to chow down like Galactus after he turned Uranus into a bong and smoked it.

          And you get to wait around with us now to enjoy it, Welcome, atwixt, to the comments section.

  47. Sigh. I knew that there wouldn’t be a Thursday update. And now it’s Friday, and there is no reason for there to be an update, and I find myself checking anyway. Anyway, for the other poor, benighted souls who find themselves itching for a fix, I give to thee this:
    (With apologies to Not Literally’s GoT parody of ‘Somebody I Used To Know’)

    Now and then I think back to 2011

    Back in Gestation One when all the characters were alive.

    Told myself that I’d wait and see
    But didn’t know it’d mean so much to me.

    And though it’s fiction, it’s an ache I still remember.

    You can get addicted to a certain super-setting.

    Chock full of violence and bugs…so many bugs.

    (When) characters started dying off like flies,
(And then) That’s when I was forced to realize
That this Worm would ruin my whole life forever.

    But you didn’t have to kill them off

    Goddamit Wildbow, why are you such a sadistic bastard?
I went through a whole tissue box,
And the Simurgh seems to know that there’s much worse to come.

No you didn’t have to break Grue’s mind—

    Making him drop out and be useless gainst the S9 army

    I know that he was kinda dull,

    But now he’s just a character I used to know.


I thought Regent’s arc had started because of Aisha

    That had me believing that you wouldn’t dare to kill him, too.
But then you put my dreams in check
When Behemoth burned him to a wreck

    Wasn’t ready to let him go.

    And I didn’t know he’d end up as a character I used to know.

    And then you go after Clockblocker?

    Goddamnit, Wildbow, I was finally starting to ship them.

    C’mon, he was the fandom’s star!
He got an offscreen Scion death, are you for real?

    And then you killed off Taylor’s dad?
Killing one parent wasn’t enough for you?
    Think of the fandom! 
I should’ve been prepared by now

    For him to be a character I used to know.

    Regent (I used to know)
Clockblocker (now he’s just a character I used to know)

    Danny Hebert (I used to know)
Now they’re all just characters I used to know

  48. Wild Mass Guessing.

    What if Scion’s path to victory led him to where his mate was, but was one of the characters who were alive instead of his now-dead mate?

  49. Okay, I keep seeing comments about Scion finding a new mate in one of the parahumans.
    My question is, what?

    And multiple people have brought it up. Did I miss something that got people to guess this? How could a human with a single shard fulfill the role of Scion’s mate?

    • Well, usually the one most people believe COULD become the mate is Glaistiog who probably got the shard that reclaims the other shards at the end of the cycle , has already more than 60/70 shards, has recently gained the ability to steal the shards of living capes in addition to dead capes, has always known more than everybody else about the nature of the ebntitiers and actually WANTS to find a new way to complete the cycle.

      The alternative theory is for a “wizard” (usually Scion or Panacea) to do something. Usually to Taylor.

      But really, we shouldn’t want Scion to find a new mate. Because if it happens, the cycle gets completed after all and every Earth across every dimension is blown apart.

      • There is the 3rd entity who evolved a non-destructive life cycle. Merge Taylor (or whoever) and enough shards with the 3rd entity, and just maybe you have a new “mate” who can prevent destruction of the multi-Earths. That’s my pet theory of the moment, on the assumption Scion is simply too powerful to be destroyed outright.

          • Okay, I need a reality check. Is Interlude 26 the only place with information on the 3rd entity, or is there other information elsewhere?

            I reviewed 26 sure I would find something to back up my idea… and got nothing. Which begs the question, what was I thinking?

            I have an active imagination, especially when reading a ripping good story. There have been times when I’ve stayed up late wanting to read the latest episode, and while sitting in the comfy chair, start to drift off while reading. I have caught myself with my eyes closed, and my imagination is filling in details that don’t exist. I think I’m still reading the story when it’s really a lucid dream. When I wake up enough, I realize it’s just a dream and read on – for real I hope.

            Now I have to think I must have either literally dreamed up details about the 3rd entity, or am confusing someone’s speculation with the story.

        • I’m not sure any character knows about Entity 3 (Abaddon, Lilith, or whatever we called it). Unless Taylor notices it during-after her faux second trigger, I’m not sure how any of the characters would contact it or realize it’s there.

          • I consider myself to be on shaky ground now, but yes, I agree at this point only Scion knows about the 3rd entity. I thinking was, if Taylor’s perceptions become magnified enough, might she become aware of its presence? (Assumes the 3rd entity is in range.)

  50. Oh crap.

    I don’t think Taylor’s getting a trigger event at all, or even actually going to end up emulating one.

    1) wildbow said no more second triggers for ‘prominent’ characters

    2) Third trigger called Not possible

    3) Taylor has the Admin shard which I believe mean hers was supposed to tell all the other shards where to head to.

    $) Bonesaw and Panacea have already conversed on the idea of something uber special

    ergo with all her and her Shard’s limits off, I now think that Taylor is going to cause every single surviving Human without powers to trigger. And somehow I think Glasitig knew this was a possibility and her Pokemon mode is somehow linked.

    Either that or she looked at the clock and realised it was lunchtime.

  51. Love that the last sentence almost word for word said “And then it got worse”. xD

    Does anyone else find it endearing to see Bonesaw embracing casual swearing?🙂

  52. Haha oh god the Number Man seems to have a sense of humor! Okay sure it’s entirely possible that he was just telling them the correct floor numbers since that’s kind of his thing but still it was freaking hilarious! Also I love how he says that Taylor looks whipped and ready to fall unconscious so somebody please dear lord go and make sure she doesn’t die on us and kill everyone but me from crashing the ship. I really do like this guy a lot! I do find it rather puzzling though why he would prefer Harbinger 10 over 0…though that was funny as hell too either way.

    Imp is totally awesome with explaining just how downright creepy Taylor gets when she stops bothering to focus on the normal human bits and deals mostly in swarm business. A full on swarmified Skitter is a frightening thing to imagine!

    Shadow Stalker continues to surprise me. I wonder if what they had said earlier about her triggering messing with her head got through to her a bit…

    Nix and Spur…someone seriously needs to stab those assholes. Not a death stab but a “stop being a fucking arrogant useless asshole” stab. Seriously, SCION waltzes through the portal below you a few minutes ago, Taylor comes back with one arm plus Pretender, Siberian, the Number Man and calmly walking away and these idiots still want to posture? Someone seriously needs a good stabbing here.

    Damn, swimming through his own afterimage to change direction midflight. That is impressive. Also impressive is the sheer epicness of the totally unnamed dude who managed to not only THROW LEVIATHAN but have the balls to actually go and do that!

    Scion has definitely made himself too human for his own good. If he gets angry as human now…well we have an avenue of attack. Piss him off just enough so he stops trying to defend and not enough that he simply wipes the planet/continent out and there is a good chance he can miss the important attack that gets through. To borrow from the awesome Marquis guy: “You want to irritate the world-destroying alien god.” Yes. Yes, we do.

    I still don’t buy that Contessa is dead.

    Wow, way to be a downer Number Man. Sure we’ll die out most likely if you kill 99% of us but you could at least phrase it in a slightly less fatalistic way perhaps. On the plus side it is very nice to see Taylor taking my view that Scion’s “I win” button is flawed which really should up morale quite a bit.

    Marquis offering tea right in the middle of major strategy session while one member has her arm missing and another has his head cut open with a little girl digging around inside…wow. Says something about the state of things that nobody even looks twice at this.

    Okay seriously how have Panacea/Riley not fixed Glory Girl yet…with the shear staggering amounts of character development and mental stability that both have received not to mention the work they can do as a team…how was this not a priority?

    Oh for fucks sake. Damn Smurf!! I can’t believe I thought the alien bitch was actually being nice! Fucking domino bitch.

    Jail breaking the shard. This ought to be interesting and badass at least if horribly sucky.

  53. I felt a pang of envy.

    She’d been just as lost as me. Maybe more lost, maybe not. I’d had friends, but that didn’t necessarily mean I’d had a rudder. But she’d found herself. She’d found a path and she’d found something she could do. She had a role in this.

    Taylor, I think you might have COMPLETELY FORGOTTEN what Amy’s deal is. She was overworked and emotionally exhausted when you first met her, because she’s one of the only people on the planet who can heal people as well as she does. Now the world is at war with an unstoppable uncaring unrelenting enemy, and you look at her helping and think she’s gotten better?
    She hasn’t “found” anything. She’s doing the same thing she was before, only now there’s more of it to do and less time to focus on anything else.

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