Speck 30.2

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We were broken, routed.

When had it happened?  When had we reached that critical juncture?  Had one specific act or moment marked the point where the rank and file capes had stopped fighting and started merely trying to survive?

Morale was failing, and had failed long ago.  A good fifth of our fighting force here was made up of Nilbog’s creatures and Dragon’s suits, which self-repaired and kludged together with the remains of other damaged suits to return to the field again and again.  That was with the reinforcements that were coming through Doormaker’s portals.

Chevalier and Ingenue, the other Birdcage leaders and other teams were trying to gather into a defending force.  Issue was, there wasn’t really a way to defend.  Scion held the keys to all things power related, and any attack that didn’t penetrate a particular defense needed only to be tweaked, adjusted with a moment’s thought.  Following that, it passed through forcefields, armor and time distortions like they weren’t even there.

The same was true in terms of our ability to attack.  I had a sense of Scion’s scale, because I’d seen his partner, and I’d gotten a glimpse of the sheer mass of the partner from how much had flowed through into our world as Scion had moved it.  I could assume they were roughly equivalent in size, and that meant we were trying to tear through landmass of raw matter, and we were doing it a few handfuls at a time.

I could look at how durable the partner entity’s flesh had been when Rachel and Lung had been tearing through it, extrapolate to the attacks we’d seen here.  We weren’t doing nearly enough, especially if he was compartmentalizing the damage and keeping himself from losing more than a certain amount at a time.

To top it all off, anything we found that worked only worked for a short time.  Either the user died, or Scion adapted his defenses to become immune to it.

I knew this.  A good number of us knew some of it, especially the ones who’d attended the meetings with the major players.

But for a large number of people on the battlefield, this wasn’t all common knowledge.

For the others on the ground, this was a man with golden skin who didn’t seem to be bothered in the slightest by the vast majority of what we were throwing at him.  At best, he seemed annoyed, by effects as massive as the ones String Theory and Gavel had dished out.  At best, we gave him pause for a moment.  He was toying with us in a way that made it clear he was holding back, yet it didn’t take away from the horror of his actions.

It was impacting morale, instilling a kind of hopelessness, and that hopelessness was a big part of why things were falling apart before my eyes.

I saw him generate a beam so thin I couldn’t make out anything but the glow around it, tracing it through a group.  It cut into throats, arms, legs and chests.  The wounded capes fell, all together.

Blood welled out from the cuts the beam had made in their flesh.  The damage wasn’t lethal, not yet, but it was bad enough that death was likely.  Even inevitable.  I saw a trace of golden light on the skin around the wound.  The damage was spreading.  It wasn’t the sort of injury a medic would be able to handle.

Sixteen capes in all, left to feel their hot blood flow free, their lives seeping away.  Not everyone Scion had targeted was in such bad shape.  One had dodged, pulling a teammate out of the way.  Another three or four had survived the attack by toughness alone, with armor and powers protecting them.

Scion moved, advancing on them.  One sphere of golden light, turning one of these hyper-tough capes into ash.  And then he was in their midst, hitting them with physical blows, tearing them to pieces, each hit harder, faster and more gruesome than the last.  A sweep of his arm and a cape with stone armor was torn in two.

Two or three seconds and he’d taken nineteen capes out of action, wounding several more.  But the real effect was on others, on capes who were now giving up, trying to get away from this slaughter.

He advanced on the two who remained, and it was Chevalier who got in the way, slamming his cannonblade down, twenty feet long and eight feet high, a physical barrier in Scion’s way.

Scion raised one glowing hand, not even slowing as he advanced towards his intended targets.  The sword, to Scion, was little more than tissue paper.

Which made it all the more surprising, to him and to me both, when he stopped, his hand touching the barrier and failing to tear through it.

Chevalier drew the sword back, then cleaved Scion.  The sword passed through the golden man’s shoulder, ribcage, and out his waist, cutting into the earth.


Chevalier remained where he was, hands on the handle of the weapon, making eye contact with Scion.  Ingenue was only a short distance behind him, looking more like she was dressed up to go to a club than to be on a battlefield, with a little leather jacket and a dress with the slit up one side,  her hair draped over half of her face.

Just the same as we’d seen with the Siberian.  The damage was there, but Scion was holding himself together.

Scion withdrew himself from the sword.  Chevalier slashed again, slamming Scion into the earth, then used a sweep of the sword to vault himself back.

Scion’s a ghost, it’s a mask.

And whatever Tattletale says about him being human at his core, human on the surface or whatever else, he’s a natural disaster, not an individual.

A force of nature.  Impossible to control or prevent.  The words crossed my mind, and they were my words, but they weren’t my thoughts.

Reminding me of the bad old days, Passenger?  I thought to myself.  My bugs continued to gather around me.  A familiar and comfortable presence, considering everything that was happening.

I’m not giving up!  My voice, sounding so far away, even in my own head, so young.

Damn straight.

Chevalier blocked Scion’s beam with his sword, then moved the blade, pulling the trigger.  The cannonball hit Scion, and knocked the golden man back.

Capes were taking the opportunity to flee.

I knew what I had to do, here.  Even with a myopic, skewed perspective.  I could guess what the ultimate price was going to be.

Maybe a good part of myself was a monster.  Maybe a part of me was still that girl who had very nearly gone on a rampage in her school, still that girl who would have been an angry, frustrated, aimless c-list villain, a footnote in a footnote in the grand scheme of things, forgotten by nearly everyone once the media frenzy had died down.

The hell am I supposed to do!?  The memory was so clear I could almost hear my own voice.  Had that anger ever really gone away?

The world didn’t fucking make sense.  People didn’t make sense.  I’d been railing against it from the beginning.

I dropped to the ground, cutting one of the boosters to the flight pack.  I didn’t position my legs right, and I folded, landing on my knees and hands instead of on both feet.

I felt a spark of fear, then another.  Capes stopped in their tracks, and the ones behind them crashed into them, driving them forward, some toppling onto a disc a tinker was riding.  Seven people, now inside my range.

I could get a sense of their powers.

The disc the cape was riding was a tinker device, hovering over the ground with a constant stream of air that sent dust billowing in low rolling clouds around the edges.  A woman rode the platform, garbed in a green, flowing kimono-style dress, surrounded by some sort of tinker-derived cyborg bonsai trees on raised sections of varying height.

I began to find my feet, using both my hands and the flight pack to get myself upright.

I could feel the tree-girl’s fear, the fact that she was cornered.  It was echoed across each of the seven who’d stumbled into my power’s radius, and it invoked memories.  Different memories for each of them.  For her, it called Leviathan to mind.  Me running, being struck from behind.  There was one case that reminded me of being with my dad in the room, wracked with shame and helplessness, a complete and total lack of direction.  Another that, inexplicably, brought up the scene with Dragon and Defiant in the Arcadia High cafeteria.  A sense of injustice, mingled with surrender.

For another, for two others, it brought up Mannequin, but they were different scenes.  Being in the empty factory with the innocents at the edges, a building rage, and being there when he’d attacked my territory the second time, after we’d saved Amy.

In both of those cases, it was the same kind of rage I’d just been thinking about.  To these two, I was the freak of nature standing in their way.

I was broken, and I’d bitten off more input than I could chew.  The passenger was tapping into the experiences it had shared with me, because that was the only way it could convey the signals I was getting from them.

Which wasn’t what I needed.  It was the wrong inputs.  What I needed was to decipher their powers.  The tinker with the trees… I could sense things about her that weren’t tapping into memories I understood.  Something mental that I couldn’t relate to, out of my reach.

I ordered them to turn.  When they moved, they lurched.  Unfamiliar proportions, different degrees of athleticism.  Like my adjustment to my new arm and legs.

Could I get used to moving them like I’d gotten used to the new limbs?

Laughter disturbed me from my thoughts.

“Human shields?”  A man asked, almost unintelligible with his coarse accent.  “I love it!  I was ganna shoot the bloody idjits in the backs, you’re ‘lowed to do that, ‘miright?  But some cunt might get the wrong idea.”

When I turned my head, all but one my minions turned their heads as well.  My fault.  I’d wanted the extra sensory input, and I’d instinctually tried to take it in with a share of my ‘swarm’.

It was Acidbath.  One of the Birdcage’s cell block leaders.  He had the stylings of a rock musician or punk rocker who’d spent a little too much time doing drugs and not enough time playing his instrument.  Worn around the edges, a little too full of himself.  He’d been a bit player in the real world, caught up in his vices, yet had managed to take over and rule a cell block for three years after being sent to the Birdcage.

He was still smirking, laughing a little, as he looked between me and Scion’s ongoing fight with Chevalier.  He danced a little from foot to foot, tensing just a bit every time Scion moved.  Not out of fear.

“This is better,” he said.  “They wanna run and leave us assholes to do the fighting, you can say otherwise.  Pin ’em up and let Scion knock ’em down.”

No.  They aren’t meat shields.

But I couldn’t tell Acidbath that.  I couldn’t answer him because I couldn’t communicate.

It galled me that he thought I’d use them as cannon fodder.  Not least because he was right.  Partially right, but that didn’t make it much better.

I’d compared myself to some pretty horrible individuals in the past, but Acidbath was something else.  He was low, barely above dirt.  He’d scalded his own brother with acid, and had gone after girlfriends and girls who had rejected him.  The attacks hadn’t been lethal, but had melted flesh and the fat or muscular tissues beneath.  I’d seen the pictures of the aftermath when I’d browsed his files, after the scar tissue had formed.

I couldn’t think of worse ways to hurt someone, and he’d done it in impulsive acts of retaliation.

If I was going to be a monster, I’d at least try to be smart about it, constructive.  To have a plan.

I set my new minions into action.  I couldn’t get too caught up in the details.  Their powers were a part of them like the venom was a part of a spider or centipede, or web a part of the spiders I controlled.  I had to take it in without getting caught up in analyzing it, trusting the passenger to handle the essential details on autopilot.

As my new minions rejoined the battle, I felt the tinker tap into that power that had previously been out of reach.  I got a glimpse of how she operated, the world she saw; a distorted world much like I’d seen when I tried to look through my bug’s eyes.  The trees were primed and loaded like guns.  Tinker-herbalism, only it wasn’t very medicinal at all.

I set her aside.  The others… my passenger was better at controlling most of them.

A cape in a black flowing costume who had powers I couldn’t decipher.  I set him aside as well.

The others were easier to use, and I wasn’t sure how much of it was because of their powers’ similarities to my own.  Focusing on them resulted in a deluge of fragmented memories, memories of me using my power in different ways.

Two shaker-classification capes provided the majority of the offensive power.  If I let them be, if I let things move on autopilot in their own way, then they used their power well enough.  A telekinetic with an emphasis on small objects, with a storm of ball bearings and small stones from the road, and a cape that could create superheated shafts of energy, anchoring them between two objects.  The memories were of my bugs attacking as a coordinated whole, of the threads I’d extended as tripwires and my attack on Echidna.

Not that I was so graceful or effective in using their abilities.

There was a woman, and focusing on her resulted in a deluge of fragmented memories, but these were memories of using my bugs to observe.  A secondary power?  Trying to tap into her other power resulted in thoughts of Atlas, the void in his midsection, of my relay bugs.  Something incomplete?  A kind of frustration.  With my eyes, I could see her fingertips glowing blue.

I moved her hand, and I saw a line drawn in the air.

Something incomplete.  I moved her hand in a circle, and I closed the line.

There was a small pop as the space we’d enclosed disappeared.  My bugs could feel the air moving at the destination point.

A teleporter with a somewhat irritating limitation.

The other two looked like members of the Birdcage.  Very possibly Acidbath’s underlings, though he hadn’t identified with them.  Brutish, mean looking.  One was armored in what looked to be fragmented pieces of pottery and glass, with flesh webbing between fragments, while the other was covered head to toe in biker tattoos, oddly doughy looking, with a power that was being channeled just under his skin.  Focused air.

Alexandria joined the fight, relieving Chevalier, who was on his heels, his blade in rough shape.  A third cape I didn’t know joined the fight.

Scion shook off the pair, and then struck Chevalier hard enough to send him crashing into the crowd opposite us.

Then he wheeled around.  His eyes passed over Acidbath.

Acidbath, still dancing from foot to foot, leaped, and he changed into a living tidal wave of clear liquid, isolated, with roughly five times his mass.  He materialized into regular human form when he was a little behind and to one side of Scion, and then lashed out, slinging punches that ended with his hands becoming liquid projectiles.  They splashed against Scion, and I could see smoke rise, even though there wasn’t any visible damage.

If Scion had been planning to attack us, the cape with Alexandria managed to get his attention.  Another flying bruiser type.  An ‘Alexandria package’ cape fighting alongside Alexandria herself.

Or Pretender, whoever.

The fear that was emanating from my minions was paralyzing me, I realized.  I shook it off and stepped up the attack.  The one with the shards and the one with the soft looking body charged to either side, and moved right out of my power’s range.

I hoped they would take this as a nudge, a push to get back into the thick of things.  Both these capes and the ones around us.  We weren’t many, but we were a little closer to Scion than most, and we were steadfast.  Capes who were backing away on either side of us were keeping their eyes on Scion, where they might otherwise have routed completely.

The guy that was made up of fragments took the nudge from me for what it was, giving me a hard look over one shoulder before he joined Alexandria and the other cape in attacking Scion.  He was a shapeshifter, maybe one like Mush, from the Brockton Bay Merchants.  My assessment of his power suggested he was tougher than he looked.

The other one, with the air swirling beneath his skin, simply left my range and ran.  He found a spot with more capes and slowed down, dropping into a crouch, like he might run at the first opportunity.

Scion threw the Alexandria-package cape I couldn’t name into the ceramic shard guy, and he managed to break the cape’s fall, falling to pieces in the process.  He began picking himself up, gathering more pieces of glass from nearby rubble to make himself bigger than before.

Acidbath stepped up the attack, slinging acid every time the path was clear,

I didn’t want to lose my stride, getting caught up in observation.  I focused on my minions.  The tinker with the disc had her plants loaded down with drugs.  I focused our attention on different things, and I got more fragmented memories in response.  A glimpse of me, paralyzed, with Bonesaw about to operate on me.

Poison?  Paralytic?

Being inside the building Coil had set on fire.

Incendiary?  Blinding?

The hospital bed-

I was acting even as the knowledge came to me.  I pushed her to use that one, and the passenger took over.  It was better at understanding the abstracts.  I could follow what it was doing, grasp the basics of it.  Her body and the seat beneath her was another plant, focused on producing, concentrating and storing gases in a combination that served as breathable air, the same gas that was keeping her disc aloft.

Her hand moved, the raised platforms shifted, and one tree was lowered to a point just in front of her.

The gas blew what looked like a vast cloud of purple pollen out onto the battlefield.  It settled on the wounded capes, and only the wounded capes.

Coagulants, I thought.  Painkillers.

I watched the others carefully, making sure that my minions weren’t inadvertently putting others in the line of fire.  I started circling our group with our teleporter, drawing out a line as she jogged in a tight loop.  The two shakers, the telekinetic and the guy who made lasers, they had matching costumes.  Had they combined their techniques?  I formed lasers between the airborne ball bearings.  Needle thin, they still cut into Scion.

The damage of one with the flexibility of the other.  No doubt a technique they’d used on their own.

Scion turned his head, looking at us.  His hands glowed.

The teleporter lunged forward, completing the loop, leaving out only the brute with the weird skin, the fragment-shapeshifter and the girl with the disc.  I gave one last command to make the disc-botanist tinker start running.

Our group was collectively teleported away.  I could feel the strength drain out of the teleporter to the point that she fell to the ground.  Scion’s attention was elsewhere.  He hadn’t gone after any of the ones we’d left behind.  We’d managed to avoid his attentions.

I turned my attention to the one cape I hadn’t yet figured out.

A voice interrupted me.  “Queen Administrator.  I almost didn’t recognize you.”

Glaistig Uaine.  I didn’t respond.  My focus was on the young man.  Some kind of trump power, responding to a few glimmers here and there.

I turned her way.  She was dressed in a complicated dress of green-black ribbons, complete with a hood.  She looks so young.

I pointed at the cape I was trying to figure out and raised my stump-arm in a shrug.

“If you want to get a full understanding of your new capabilities, you must figure that out on your own,” she said.  “Practice, and it will soon be second nature.”

I turned my attention to the cape.  My focus, again, was interrupted by her voice.

“I will warn you, do not attempt to usurp me.  If I catch you trying, I will fight you.  I am careful to tend to my flock, and would not have anyone but me handle them.”

I nodded.

“Good.  Peace is preferable,” she said.  We watched Scion unload on another group.

They can’t stop him with brute strength.  They know it.  Yet they keep coming.  Is it just for the sake of going out with a fight?  The hope of finding some trump card?

I’d stopped capes from running, but the idea wasn’t to stop retreat.  Retreat was sensible.  I didn’t want things to devolve into a panicked stampede to get away.

“It seems we’re losing, Administrator,” Glaistig Uaine said, as if echoing my thoughts.

I shook my head a little.

“I would offer him solace, if I knew how.  He is in a dangerous state, and I find myself worried for the first time.”

I glanced at her.

“Yes, very worried.  Had things gone like they were before, I would be bothered, but not overly upset.  We would die, the faerie would slumber and they would wait.  With luck, with a great deal of luck, he would find another partner, or another partner would find him, and things would be set for the great play to start anew, on a fresh stage.”

Scion had stopped with the beams and the blasts.  He was throwing punches again, hurling himself into the thickest parts of the crowd.  Nilbog’s creations were taking the brunt of the attack.

“But the faerie are creatures of whimsy, aren’t they?  Easily influenced by the masks they wear.  It’s the whole point of them, isn’t it, Administrator?  It’s why they are, yes?”

I nodded a little.  I could almost see it.

She nodded a little herself, as if satisfied by my response.  “He’s fallen prey to the worst kind of whimsy, a destructive wroth.  He is heartbroken and hopeless, he has lost more than you or I could ever imagine, and he may well leave this stage so ruined that things cannot be salvaged, unless we’re fortunate enough to get a…”

She trailed off, grasping for a word.


“Fortuitous arrival,” she said.  She smiled a little.  “Not very likely.  They litter breadcrumbs in their wake, not to be followed, but so their kin don’t waste time and effort traveling the same paths.  For another to arrive here, they would need to avoid touching a single crumb, like you or me swimming the length of a river without touching a wave.”

Black Kaze had entered the battlefield, backed up by Dragon’s Teeth.  She disappeared, and then reappeared behind Scion, katana drawn.  A moment passed, and Scion reacted as though he’d been punched dead center in the chest.

Not a big reaction, but it was a reaction.

Black Kaze alternated attacks with Acidbath, very proper, measured in her movements, compared to Acidbath’s flailing, reckless, hurried scramble to keep out of Scion’s line of sight.  Acidbath moved with surprising quickness, faster than a typical car might.  A peculiarity of his breaker power.

Glaistig Uaine offered a small laugh.  “I cling to a sliver of hope, and I know I’m fooling myself.  There really isn’t much of a time window.  A few thousand years is such a short time, you know.”

I continued to pay attention while I focused on the more mysterious cape in my range, the one who I hadn’t deciphered.

The connections of his powers to something that was there but not quite there… his power hinged on some outside qualifier or factor that wasn’t being met on this battlefield.  It was concentrated most on the wounded…

It snapped into place.  His power worked with people who were sleeping.  The people his power sort of worked on were unconscious.

I used the teleporter to draw a circle around him.  A moment later, he was gone, set in the midst of the biggest cluster of wounded.

“Ah, you understood.  Good.”

Only a moment later, Scion attacked, striking the ground.  We were distant enough that I could see the circle of golden light expanding around them, a ring that ripped through the ground, demolishing it.

Nilbog’s creations, the defending forces and Dragon’s suits were all toppled as the ground settled.  Buildings collapsed.

A wounded Leviathan emerged from the water, approaching Scion with an almost lazy slowness.  Capes practically fought one another to get their footing and get out of the way.  Some were too rough in their hurry to get by Nilbog’s creations, only to get attacked by the things in retaliation.

I clenched my one fist.

“Would you accompany me?  We would be the queen of the living and queen of the fallen.  No swords in our hands, but warlords nonetheless.  Yes?  I will give you hints, if you desire them, and help you manage your soldiers.  One last hurrah, a great war to end it all, like the best myths have.”

I shook my head slowly.

“No?  A shame.  Fear?  A lack of soldiers?”

I shook my head, still.

“No, you are not afraid, queen, or you are afraid, but this is a fear that drives you forward.  You have something you intend to do.”

I nodded.

“Then I will be here when you return, and we can have that great battle, fighting to drive him back into slumber.”

I gathered my swarm around me and the teleporter, and I had her draw another circle.

Glaistig Uaine reached out, seizing the woman’s wrist.  The teleporter’s alarm mingled with my own.

But she wasn’t attacking, and she wasn’t taking the teleporter’s powers, extinguishing her life in the process.

“A warning,” Glaistig Uaine said.

I gave her my full attention.

“You sought power, and you lost a portion of yourself in the doing.  Always the case, but it’s… pronounced, in a case like yours.  Yes?”

“Hng,” I mumbled.

“You will need a tether, an anchor.  It can be an idea, a physical thing, a place, a person, a goal.  Right now, it will not seem so important, but it will.  When all is said and done, you will either be dead, and this thing will be a comfort to you in your last moments, or you will be powerful, and it will be all you have left.  Decide what you will hold on to.”

I’ve already decided what that is, I thought.  Since a long time ago.

“Choose very carefully,” she said.  “Take it from someone who knows.”

Then she moved the teleporter’s hand, closing the circuit.

The teleporter and I arrived at our destination at the same moment Leviathan crashed into Scion.  Water mingled with the ruined landscape, seeping into cracks, making life just a bit harder for the capes in the center of the disaster area.

I felt memories stir.  The moment I’d announced myself as Weaver and heard the howling.

You really have to make this unnecessarily hard, don’t you?  I thought.  Reminding me that I’m abandoning them.

Yes, Rachel and Imp were probably there.  So were the capes I’d controlled and urged back into the fray.  Maybe they had turned to run at the first opportunity.  Maybe they had been given a chance to reconsider, and were still fighting.

Maybe I’d killed them, by denying them the chance to run.

But I told myself I wasn’t abandoning them.

I had a mission, and this was a mission that would take me back to them, after a fashion.  I might never rejoin the group, I was fully aware of what I was getting myself into, but this was for their sake, not despite them.

That detour was a part of the mission, killing multiple birds with one stone.  Helping to stop the rout, trying to do a little something to keep the fight going, so the capes on the ground could buy time.  Learning about my new ability, testing my ability to accommodate unfamiliar abilities.

It hadn’t been planned, so much, but I’d also had a reminder of something that had slipped my mind.

Glaistig Uaine was one of my most dangerous enemies at this point.

Now I was in dire need of information.  Getting that information was a surprising obstacle, considering my inability to communicate.  I couldn’t ask, couldn’t whip out my phone and type something into the search bar and wait for it to dig records out of the archives.

To these ends, I’d moved us to the edge of the settlement, where six armored suits were deployed and waiting to be sent into the fray.  The Pendragon was one.  Dragon’s Teeth were scattered throughout the area, many holding what looked like rocket launchers with glass bulbs at the front.

The teleporter was exhausted from using her ability, and leaned on me as we made our way forwards.

D.T. officers stepped forward to bar my way.

Alarm, surprise.  I was momentarily dazed by images of a number of surprise attacks and explosions.  My power had reached them, and they stepped aside at my command.

I moved as confidently and as quickly towards the Pendragon as I could manage, trying not to show fear or uncertainty.  Harder than it sounded, given my limping, uneven gait, and the way my head slumped forwards.  D.T. officers beyond my range took notice and moved to flank me.

I reached the back of the Pendragon and I slammed my hand on the metal door.  I did it again.  My best attempt at a knock.  I tried my best to stand straight, folding my hand behind me.

Not quite loud enough.  The armor was too thick.  Still, the fact that I’d knocked was a point in my book, as far as the officers were concerned.  They were hanging back.

“Defiant isn’t replying,” one of the officers said.

“Try Dragon,” another spoke.  “She always answers calls.”

“Ladies!”  One called out.  “State your identities for the record!”

You know who I am, I thought.

“We know your face, we’ve met, but we can’t take anything for granted here!  Stranger and Master protocols are in effect!”


Were the protocols in effect because of me?

Or was it a problem that stemmed from the half-dozen incidents in the last two years, where people had tried to capitalize on Endbringer attacks and other crises, attempting assassinations on key figures?

I couldn’t argue it, in any event.  I couldn’t defend myself, either.

“Both of you!  We’ll need your names, and we need at least one good password!”

Right.  Lovely.

Couldn’t use the teleporter without getting shot.  They’d see the line…

Unless they couldn’t.  Seeing myself through the teleporter’s eyes, I was a little surprised at the sheer number of bugs I’d accumulated.

She moved her hands to me, and she drew the line through the middle of the swarm.

Could she teleport where she couldn’t see?

I focused our attention on the interior of the Pendragon.

She closed the circuit, and we were inside.

My bugs could sense the soldiers reacting.

“Weaver?”  Dragon asked.  “I was just about to step outside.”

I stepped away from the teleporter.  My eyes roved over the ship’s interior.  Less elbow room than in the Dragonfly.

“Tattletale filled me in, asked me to pass on the details,” Dragon said.  “A lot of people are worried, here, on quite a few different levels.”

I couldn’t respond, and I knew how tight time was, so I met her eyes, nodded a little, and then gestured towards the nearest laptop.

“Yes,” Dragon said.  “Of course.”

I gave her a little salute.  I didn’t know a better way of expressing thanks.  If I’d known sign language, would I have lost it with my ability to speak and write?

“Tattletale was saying you were unfocused.  I’m not getting that sense.  You’re up to something.”

The laptop booted.  I froze.

Oh.  Damn.

I realized what I was looking at, and I felt my heart plummet.

When my mom had died, I’d sort of turned to books as a way of remembering her, a way of being with her in the present day, reminding myself of the nights she would read aloud to me, then the nights we’d read together, and beyond that, times when we’d all be in the living room, my dad with his computer half the time, a book the other half.  My mom and I always had our novels.  Sometimes we had shared, sometimes not.

When the bullying had started, books had been an escape.  I’d be exhausted at the end of the day, feeling a low that counterbalanced the higher adrenaline and stress of the time spent in school.  Curling up with something to read had been a refuge.

Maybe that had lapsed when I’d become a cape.  The costumed stuff had become an escape of sorts.  But I’d gotten back into it in prison, and on some of the stakeouts.  I’d taught myself braille, so I could read with my bugs, and take in more.

I would have settled for being a little crazy.  I would have settled for some physical impairment, for a power that was so out of control that I couldn’t have real human contact again.

The words were gibberish.  I couldn’t read.  It had been something I’d turned to in my lowest moments, a little crutch, a coping mechanism, and it had been denied to me.

It hit me harder than the loss of my voice, stupid as it was.  My hand shook, hovering over the display.

I watched as the words disappeared, replaced by images.  A composite picture of locations, a composite picture of faces, a composite picture of icons that no doubt included details on powers.  There were others I could scroll down to see.

My eyes watered a little.  I couldn’t look at Dragon, but I raised my hand in another salute.  Not nearly as good a thank-you as I wanted to be able to give.

My fingers touched the display.  Faces.

There were sub-menus.  All visual.  I clicked the frowny-face with the black background, then the little map for a world map… America.  I clicked the map icon again for a national map… Washington.

I found Teacher’s portrait near the top of the results list.  One of Washington’s most notorious capes.  Right.  I clicked it.

Dragon’s hand settled on the top of my head.  She ran it over my hair, using one finger to hook a strand and move it out of my face.  She did the same for another strand.

“What are you doing?” she asked.

I opened his file, and I clicked through the tabs until I saw a map.

I tapped my phone against the screen.

There was a rumble outside, followed by a thrum, and movement beyond this craft.  Dragon had deployed at least two of the other suits.

“I need some communication here, Weaver,” Dragon said.

Dumbly, I tapped the phone against the screen once again, not making eye contact.

“Please,” she said, but she made it sound like an order.

What do you want?  I thought.  Pantomime?  Do you want me to draw Teacher and the rest with my bugs and enact a play?

I didn’t do either.  I reached up and pulled off my mask.  I met Dragon’s eyes.

I could see myself through the teleporter’s vision.  Strands of my hair had fallen across my face as I’d removed the mask.  My lips were pressed together – I forced myself to relax them, only to find them resuming the position when I turned my attention elsewhere.  My body was all odd angles, my expression… I didn’t even know how to judge my own expression.  I didn’t know my own face that well, all things considered.  It was only something I saw from time to time in the mirror, getting ready for the day.

Intense?  Focused?  Determined?

Fatalistic?  More crazy than less?

I held her gaze.

Again, I tapped the phone against the computer screen.

It chirped.  The data had been loaded onto it.

“If it was Skitter that asked me, I would have said no,” Dragon said.

I nodded.

“If I was convinced it was Weaver in there more than anything else, I’d feel a lot better about this.  Tell me, am I going to regret giving you this?” she asked.

I couldn’t answer.  Not even with a nod or a shake of the head.  I touched the screen again, going back a bit.  Region… Chinese Union-Imperial.


She knew what I was looking at.  “I’m thinking of how we brought the Endbringers in, bullying people into helping, or at least getting them to stop hurting.  Is this going to be a repeat?  Strongarming them?  Using your power?”

I shook my head.

My phone chirped again.

Others.  More targets.  The Birdcage.

Another chirp.

The rest I’d find on my own, provided all went according to plan.

I turned to the teleporter, then bowed low.  It wasn’t because of her culture – she looked European – it was because a bow would have to serve as an apology, as much as a salute would have to serve as acknowledgement and thanks.

I met Dragon’s eyes.

“I wish you could explain,” she said.

I’m glad I can’t, I thought.  I turned to leave.

Glaistig Uaine was one hurdle I’d have to cross.  Dragon was another.

If everything went to plan, they were the biggest threats to me.  Scion excepted, of course.

I left the teleporter behind, making my way outside.  I turned on the flight pack.

My bugs sensed the teleporter making her exit, drawing a circle around herself and then promptly disappearing.  The Pendragon took off a moment later.

I approached my target.  The Simurgh was flying over a set of hills that would have been the Towers district of Brockton Bay, had we been on Earth Bet.  She was building something.

The fighting was ongoing, with Leviathan more hurt than alive.  Capes were fighting to get to safety rather than trying to hurt Scion.

Scion hit Leviathan, and the last buildings in the settlement toppled.

I turned away.  I wasn’t one for prayer, but I wasn’t really one for hope, either.

At the same time, though, everything hinged on their ability to hold out.  Scion might leave soon, moving on to another target, but I wasn’t so sure these guys would be able to hold out against one more attack.

I passed beside the Simurgh as I flew.  Checking.

No control.

I plummeted.

The Simurgh, for the time being, came part and parcel with Tattletale.  When she wasn’t fighting, she was a distance away from my teammate and friend.

I touched ground, then flew through the doorway at an upward angle, moving over the defensive line Marquis had set at the doorway.

I found myself back in Tattletale’s company.  Marquis and Lung were close, but not so close they were in my range.  Panacea and Bonesaw, for their parts, were tending to the wounded.  The two girls froze as they fell inside my range.

Too many patients, on top of Panacea and Bonesaw.

Marquis and Tattletale froze as well, but it wasn’t the same kind of freezing.  It was tension.

“No,” Marquis said.

I ignored him.

“My daughter-”

Panacea stood up.  Bonesaw followed soon after.  They marched in Marquis’ direction.

They passed out of my range.  Marquis draped an arm around his daughter’s shoulders, hugging her closer.  Bonesaw wheeled on me, and there was a fury in her eyes.

It left only the wounded in my vicinity, along with a handful of others.  Members of the backline, the infrastructure elements in Gimel.

“Taylor-” Tattletale said.

I ignored her too.

“I’m sort of getting what you’re doing.  I don’t get why, but I think I get what you’re about to do.  Don’t.”

I closed my eyes, concentrating.  I needed to figure this out before I made any moves, or I’d be putting myself in danger.  Problem was… there was so much.

“Taylor, if you go ahead with this, and people start to catch on, you become public enemy number two.”

“Catch on?” Marquis asked.

Tattletale didn’t answer him.

I was pretty sure I had it.

With my power, I seized control of Doormaker and the Clairvoyant.  The pair stood, holding hands.

A heartbeat later, a cage of bone erupted from the ground.  Bindings wound around my legs.

He laid a trap under the surface of the ground, I thought.

Some of the more mobile injured were backing away from me and my two hostages.  The remainder were still in my range.

Bone coffins encased each of them, sealing them to the ground, out of sight.

I paused, doing my best to get a sense of them.  I could get the gist of their abilities, focus to try and piece together the details.  There were a few capes who could have broken free, a few who were probably capable of slipping out one way or another.

But I didn’t need to go that far.

I exerted Doormaker’s power, and he opened a portal behind Marquis.  The other side of that portal was just behind me.

Memories hit me.  Being chained to the interrogation chamber, opposite Director Tagg.

Tempered confidence, even now?

The memories were distorted, moving just a little too quickly towards the end of that particular scenario.  Except I was looking an awful lot like the person on the receiving end of the abrupt, painful and unexpected murdering.

Marquis’ lieutenants approached.  Cinderhands, Spruce, one other I couldn’t name, in dark clothes and chains.  Lung was circling around, getting ready to fling a fireball.

I used Marquis’ power to block their paths with spiked barriers of bone.  When Lung, Spruce and Cinderhands all tore through the barriers, with claw, some sort of disintegration power and flame, respectively, I used Doormaker’s power again.  This time, the portals I opened were only about a foot by a foot across.  Four at once.

“Taylor,” Tattletale said.  “You’re putting me in a pretty shitty spot, here.”

I checked my phone, tabbing through the pages that had been loaded onto it.  There was a blip marking Teacher’s location.

More were gathering around me.  I made more doors.  One or two dodged out of the way.  I managed to catch them, anyways.

“I’m not getting enough details here to paint a picture.  I trust the hell out of you, but I’m not sure this is you, Taylor.”

I pocketed my phone, then reached into my belt.  I hesitated for an instant, then pressed my hand to my chest for long seconds.  I knew I didn’t have time to spare, but…  no.  I didn’t have time to spare.

I opened a portal twenty feet above Tattletale, then opened my hand.  The little tube of pepper spray dropped through the portal.  Tattletale caught it.

“You couldn’t have made it easy?”  Tattletale asked, looking down at it.  “Because standing by while you do this… that’s fucking hard.  It’s honestly easier if I’m on their side and I’m helping them stop you.  If I can blame the fuck-up job Panacea did to your head.”

I didn’t have a response to that.  I used Marquis’ power to withdraw the bone cage and free my own legs.

I opened a doorway and passed through.

Dragon might be my enemy the moment she got filled in on what I was doing, but she was someone I cared about.  Teacher had fucked with her.

This next bit was going to be easier.

Last Chapter                                                                                               Next Chapter

421 thoughts on “Speck 30.2

  1. Thanks for reading.

    Sorry for typos or any unfinished sentences. Didn’t get a lot of time to proofread (a few internet outages here, scary stuff when you have a chapter due and you’re at a small town where every other source of wireless closes at 9pm).

    Here’s your trying-not-to-nag reminder about topwebfiction, as well. Thank you. 🙂

    • I’ll vote! I’ll Vote!
      Honestly wildbow, you are my hero (what does this say about me?). You wrote a massive story and a beautiful one, the kind that most writers dream about, and you did it in two (three?) years. :bow: Teach me, oh great one.

  2. Ooh. Using Doormaker to get around her 16-foot limit. Nice. Also, I am so looking forward to Taylor going up against Teacher. That gut has deserved this for a long time. And now, this time for real:


    • Taylor got some practice with her power, went to Dragon, looked up data on some capes, including Teacher, and then hijacked Doormaker’s power. I guess she’s planning to set up some large-scale power combo, but I don’t know what could possibly help.

      • I think she’s planning on setting up the largest scale power combo possible. The hints about public enemy #2 suggest it’s possible that she’s going to simply take control of everyone involved in the fight, manipulating them in perfect synchrony to save lives and improve their odds, taking advantage of countless combinations they wouldn’t have thought of or had the coordination to use as well as flawless timing.

        • Trouble is, unless she gets a LOT better, she doesn’t actually have the control required to pull that off. At this point she doesn’t use people’s powers as naturally or effectively as they would.

    • These chapters with unclear motives and endings leave me with comically large question marks hanging over my head by their ends.

    • Taylor is going to mind control Teacher and The Yangban powersharer presumably to set up a big power combo, since that’s what hurts Scion the most. She also solved the range problem by nabbing Doormaker.

        • Teacher is going to be used to give Taylor her speech back. She controls Teacher to give her a minor power, speech. Incidentally he loses all control over his actions, which could be interpretative as payback, but is just Taylor being efficient. She loves being efficient. 🙂

  3. So why does she want Teacher so much? It’s for more than just revenge of that I’m sure. Maybe it’s to fix her own brain?

    If you’re on Reddit check out reddit.com/r/parahumans

    • That’s probably part of it, but having control of teacher gives her the ability to maintain more long term control of others as well.

    • I don’t like to post predictions, normally, because even if the chance of me being correct is tiny (and it usually is) I’d feel awful if I spoiled something.

      But between the absolute-control over other powers, the dimension-hopping (via doormaker), and possibly soon the ability to grant other people powers (via teacher) it almost seems like Taylor is building herself into a Scion-like entity, one brick at a time. She’s even adopting a similar uncommunicative, almost unreadable set of behaviors.

      Admittedly, if you want to fight Scion, that’s probably the sort of scale you need, after the conversation with Glastig Ulaine, I can’t help but think it might be something else….

      ….would it be wrong to ship Taylor and Scion? Y’know, for the good of humanity?

  4. Well, Dragon’s shackles neatly explain why Teacher knew enough to be quite concerned – enough autonomy to pass the information about his location to Weaver, but probably had to notify Teacher that the nightmare is coming to him.

    Persistent commands tentatively confirmed – she was sending some of that first group back into the fight outside of her range, and they kept fighting.

    If so, as long as Doormaker+Clairvoyant are alive, she’s got them – and through them, anyone else she wants to conscript – on tap. With allowances made for the fact that she currently can’t really communicate with them – calling in a portal to her location, not so hard. Telling them ‘Where’s Teacher?’, apparently harder… or she wouldn’t have needed to visit Dragon first.

    If she finds Dragon’s server, decent chance she can do some fixing. Excellent chance she can snap the shackles Teacher put in. Finding Teacher himself would shortcut the process.

    Ample room for some exceedingly screwy issues with controlling Teacher to amp up her brain to handle the dataflow – any subsequent decision that ‘Teacher’s important’ or ‘needs protection’ will be highly suspect. Regrettably, he may in fact be important.

    Current expectation: what Scion will perceive as a Frankenstein’s Monster attempt at another Entity.

    • I’m thinking that Taylor takes control of Teacher and uses his power on her in a sorta feedback loop and with Doormaker and his partner used to grant greater range, Taylor takes control of EVERY other group not fighting Zion to shove them into the meatgrinder.

      • Which means that the end of the Contessa interlude would have to take place after Taylor wins, and she needs to either have made the portal for Teacher to take, or she must have lost control of Doormaker.

          • Nah. The costume Teacher was wearing was probably created by Glaistig using Eidolon’s power, the fantasy bent to the costumes makes this likely. And no one has been given these costumes yet.

            • I think your mistaking persistent portals with new ones. I think the timing of these events is all straight forward. My concern of course is what will be the result of Taylor vs Countessa. As presumably they will be facing one another and Countessa will know the route to victory. The question is if that is a path she should take.

              Alternately what if she lets Taylor get her, and then Taylor gets that power…

              • I can see her do that if her power tells her that the way to victory is to let Taylor have the power. After all, Contessa has been slavishly following her power for thirty years. ( And seeing Teacher face if that actually happens would be awesome. And hilarious. ).

              • Huh?Taylor can still think formed thoughts, right? It’s not as if Contessa as to ask the question at loud. heck, there’s a passage when she muses how nowadays she doesn’t even have to really THINK the question for the power to give her the solution

    • Persistent commands tentatively confirmed – she was sending some of that first group back into the fight outside of her range, and they kept fighting.

      I don’t think so:

      I hoped they would take this as a nudge, a push to get back into the thick of things. Both these capes and the ones around us. We weren’t many, but we were a little closer to Scion than most, and we were steadfast. Capes who were backing away on either side of us were keeping their eyes on Scion, where they might otherwise have routed completely.

      The guy that was made up of fragments took the nudge from me for what it was, giving me a hard look over one shoulder before he joined Alexandria and the other cape in attacking Scion. He was a shapeshifter, maybe one like Mush, from the Brockton Bay Merchants. My assessment of his power suggested he was tougher than he looked.

      The other one, with the air swirling beneath his skin, simply left my range and ran. He found a spot with more capes and slowed down, dropping into a crouch, like he might run at the first opportunity.

      Having their momentum checked meant they didn’t keep fleeing wildly, but the one specifically didn’t do what she wanted him to.

  5. If her power extends through the portals, range is much, much less of an issue when she has Doormaker and Clairvoyant. She can essentially create additional bubbles of control wherever she wants. Scary.

      • Relay bugs only added what, 50 feet (15 meters) to her range? When it had been what, three city blocks (750-1350 ft?/225-405 meters?)? That’s around 3.5-7% of her total range. Let’s be real nice and assume they add 10% apiece. That’s about a one-foot sphere per relay bug. Not much compared to Doormaker’s power.

        • If she has a lot, she could chain them to reach farther out. Not all around the circle, just in one direction.

          • She only has a few dozen, though. Granted, a few dozen feet added to the 16 isn’t bad, but it isn’t earth-shattering and it certainly isn’t worth worrying about when she controls the Doormaker.

              • She only got them what, days ago? No way they breed that fast. Just about nothing multicellular, let alone complex, could significantly increase its population that fast.

  6. Is Taylor seriously planning to take over the world, maybe all worlds, right now? That’s the impression I’m getting.

    But wait, Teacher uses a doormaker portal to go to the ruins of Cauldron’s base at some point in the future. So either Teacher is owned/controlled by Taylor at that point, or Taylor has lost doormaker and his partner.

      • Whatever Taylor is planning, it’s going to be bad. It might end up saving the human race, but she’s going to have to shoot across the moral event horizon. Probably harder and farther than Cauldron ever did. I don’t think I’m going to like this. Not in the sense of it being badly written. In the sense that I am going to be heartbroken.

        • Heartbroken is the word! I’m sure Taylo extracting revenge on the C.U.I and Teacher and the like is going to be glorious, but damn, it feels so crappy. Also, while taking control of the capes is certainly a bad thing I don’t really thing is a moral event horizon, at least not if Taylor releases them later, right?

          Scion would probably hunt down and kill 99% of them anyways. It sounds crappy but I don’t think there is really much else the capes can do.

          • I must have forgot for a bit there how seriously capes take “mindcontrol” in the worm universe, to the point Regent could only possess people like the S9. The transgression had been flying right over my head until I read these comments, I just saw Taylor recruiting whoever she needed to attempt another desperate plan for collective survival.

          • Depends on what Taylor does with them…but nothing I see as probable would cross it in my mind. Especially since this is Taylor we’re talking about, and not Alec or something.

            • Depends on what you mean with crossing the lines. Would, say, Taylor taking over capes who have decided they’d prefer to spend the last days of their life with their loved ones and family ( like Grue) and forcing them to fight and die count as crossing the line?

              • Does this hypothetical action let millions of others enjoy years more with their loved ones?

              • No. Enslaving and sacrificing others for the sake of others no matter how noble the goal is evil. It may be a nesicary evil, it may end up saving everyone else, but it’s not a rightious action. It may be the nescisary, but it’s not good. It’s doing the wrong thing for the right reason. If you accept Taylor as doing this as a good thing then you have to accept everything Cauldron did as a good thing. Even if the resualts are good, the act itself isn’t. It’s a case of how Worm is a pretty morally complex story. Even if controlling and sacrificing even a few capes saves the human race, that act is not one to be celebrated.

      • She’ll keep fighting to save people from monsters, and she’s probably the second biggest monster on the planet at this point. So she’ll kill herself.

      • It seems to me that it is fairly clearly the Undersiders themselves.

        They are why she gave up being a hero.
        They are why she gave up being a villain.
        They are her family now.
        She’s not good at being good to her friends, family, but they are what she is loyal to.

      • …can’t resist urge…to tear down heroism…

        Not a quote from the story, but:

        “Tell me now, is there a man among you here. Is there no one who will stand up and try to fight? Tell me, man! Is there not one in all your ranks? Is there no one who values courage over life?

        They looked at me once, now they turn to you. Do you understand now? Do you see that the truth is they don’t want to change this; they don’t want a hero, they just want a martyr. A statue to raise.

        I’ve given everything I can. There are no heroes left in man.

        So it begins!

        No matter which one of us lives, the ground we’re standing on will crack and blow away. You will fight! And when you fight, you fight alone, and in the end you’ll see there was no other way. I’ve been there before. I stood where you stand. They called me their hero, the hero of man. They want you to save them when they stand for nothing. If they deserve life, let them stand for themselves.

        We’ve given everything we can. There are no heroes left in man. They’ll watch you die to save their lives. They will not stand here by your side.

        We’ve given everything we can. There are no heroes left in man. So let them watch as we decide, the very fate of all mankind!”

  7. Okay, Fridge Logic moment here.

    Dragon may not be a biological lifeform, but she did still have a trigger event. I would surmise that means she, too, has a shard attached to her.

    How was she NOT affected by Taylor’s shard-control power?

    • We don’t have any evidence that she currently has a shard control power. It might be a “living creature” control power that just happens to be pretty decent at interfacing with living creatures who happen to be parahumans. She can still control her bugs, after all. The only entities she’s run into so far that she can’t control are Dragon and the Smurf. Of course, ALL the other entities she’s run into were capes. We just really haven’t seen any conclusive testing.

    • The Manton effect is often described as “what makes your power either not affect living things, or only affect living things”. Dragon is not alive.

      Besides, Dragon’s main CPU (and hence, presumably, her shard) is off-site.

  8. Okay, Fridge Logic moment here.

    Dragon may not be a biological lifeform, but she did still have a trigger event. I would surmise that means she, too, has a shard attached to her.

    How was she NOT affected by Taylor’s shard-control power?

    • She managed to use her power on the Dragon’s teeth (which raises another bajillion questions), So I think it’s linked to living beings and not powers.

    • Taylor seems to be demonstrating the ability to choose not to take control of people…has she shown the ability to unfreeze them while they’re inside her radius?

    • More interestingly, was Glaistig unaffected, or was she just right at the edge of Taylor’s range when she grabbed the teleporter’s wrist?

      • Well she implies that she can put up a fight if Taylor gets the wrong ideas. But that was before Taylor munchkined away the range problem.

    • Sadly the idea of her directly controlling Scion seems to have been shot out of the water. Alas. I would have preferred her simply rising to an unassailable position and have omnipresence via relay bugs. Speaking off, what happened to those?

  9. – aphasia on top of everything velse? Good thing Dragon is so boss and had a Chernoff Faces interface ready to go.
    – so we finally know Black Kaze’s power: she’s a Ninja Gaiden protagonist, complete with dash-past-wait-a-tick-opponent-erupts-with-blood attack 🙂
    – Marquis = bawse.
    – Acidbath is bananas.
    – why would Dragon and Glastig, specifically, object to Skitter’s plan? What on earth could those two have in common relative to Scion and Skitter?
    – Spruce combines matter disintegration with OCD cleanliness obsession?
    – oh. Oh. I think I get it. Combine Doormaker-Clairvoyant with Teacher. Use Teacher to turn everyone within her newfound range into Thinkers specializing in the use of their own power. ??? Profit?
    – the fact that Glastig felt the need to threaten proves that Skitter can probably take Glastig’s shades if she really wants to. It’d be a fight but still, doable.

  10. Again, never try to predict the wildbow. Great idea with the doormaker, and I bet I know why Riley was so angry at being controlled since it probably brought up bad memories. So can we confirm Acid Bath as a Cauldron cape considering battery’s interlude and how they used the acid formula?

    So her goal is teacher. This might be enough to fix her mind giving her unparalleled range and movement while also freeing Dragon. Of course it has been stated that Teacher’s power doesn’t last forever, so she would have to keep him as a meat puppet till she is done with whatever her plan is. Curious about Teacher since there are still mysteries about just how his power works and what it can do. Especially since he seems like stupid evil with the whole attacking heads of state just to prove that he could. Here is what we know:

    He can grant the following: To instinctively know things similar to Uber though less powerful including language, to analyze weakness like Tattletale also in lesser ways, data gathering/observation abilities, and to see limited glimpses of the future. He presumably can also grant tinker powers from a similar pool though the Tinker equipment has been described as shitty.
    Before the birdcage most of his minions were just normal baseline humans and thus not very powerful but he now has access to parahumans.

    His outright calls his students slaves. He also admits to Lung that he can control how severe the lack of intelligence is. This implies that he can grant those there that are loyal to keep their minds. Still do not know what the limits to his brainwashing are though, can it be fought? The powers only last a few days, with the brainwashing lasting a few weeks to months. He can also tweak abilities similar to ingenue which he admits to Lung, likes to dress as a wizard, and has his students dress in white uniforms.

    Still do not know what Tinker abilities he can grant, or if he can force his power on others. I’m going to guess lasers are at least one tinker ability since Kid win had a low tinker rating when they thought that was all he could build. He got his first minions by hiding the fact that his power granted control over them, but Lung told him he would kill him if he did it to him, so it seems like he can force it on others. Plus I’m confident Trickster and all the other prisoners don’t want to be mind controlled idiot savants.

    So at least a few dozen parahumans with tweaked abilities, armed with low grade tinker equipment, the evil teletubby teleporter, any Dragon tech hanging around, and Contessa vs a mute, clumsy, limited range life controller Taylor Herbert. Man they don’t stand a fucking chance.

      • Actually I think Taylor creeps Teacher the fuck out and he is nervous enough about her power to ask Contessa for help despite having a freaking Endbringer at his disposal. But I was waiting for someone to use that. Since I have a feeling that soon no one will ever think that again.

          • Well, Lung, who can be considered an expert , immediately after hearing she’d killed Alexandria, was confident he’d win their rematch.

            Eidolon basically went “oh really” when she threatened to kill him.

            Glaistig Uaine just told Taylor, at her most powerful, it wouldn’t be wise to start a fight with her.

            Jack said it word for word.

            Etc etc.

            • Okay, well, Lung’s insane.

              Eidolon…people were saying he was the most powerful person on Earth after Scion and the Endbringers. I guess that being theoretically the most powerful person on the planet gives you a license to that hubris.

              Glaistig isn’t far behind, but I’m not so sure she actually thinks she could beat Taylor as opposed to merely making her regret starting the fight.

              Jack was kinda out of the loop for a couple years before that. He probably missed the news.

              But yeah, at least one point.

              • The last thing Jack saw before going to sleep for two years was news of Alexandria’s death and Taylor joining the Protectorate. He was even amused that the newscaster was claiming it was the most sensational event of recent years.

                As for Lung being insane, I agree, but seeing how during their entire partnership Taylor acknowledged that the wrong word would( not could!) get her killed, his confidence wasn’t unwarranted.

              • Eidolon also is the only other person that we’ve seen kill Alexandria (during the Echidna incident). I can understand him feeling confident enough to say Taylor wouldn’t be able to hurt him.

    • I dunno. My money’s on Trickster swapping Doormaker out of range, or more likely swapping Taylor out of range.

      • Trickster needs line of sight, while Taylor can control person through portals.

        Taylor is smart, she’s going to an uninhabited world and surround herself with microportals. Every micro portal is going to be next to a target she wants to control. Teacher doesn’t stand a chance. Contessa might, her powers will tell her how to escape. For example she could shoot in a ‘random direction’ in the air, that ‘random direction’ is actually the point the portal is going to open. However, if Taylor knows Contessa is alive, she’d probably not open a portal close to her, and even if she does she would open those portals facing away from herself or Doordman and Clairvoyant.

          • Even if they’re bidirectional, they’re still planar, right? She could open it perpendicular to both herself and her target. A gunshot _could_ get through and hit her, but only if it ricochets twice, which might not be theoretically possible, depending on the environment around both Taylor and Contessa.

      • Man, Trickster’s power was always a pain in the ass. I wonder how Teacher may have upgraded it. I think the most obvious choice would be either some extra-sensorial power that makes the line-of-sight stipulation void or a minor version of Number man’s power that allows him to calculate distance and mass intuitively so that he knows which objects are the best ones to swap to have the least delay possible in the teleportation.

  11. I’m really, really enjoying Taylor’s new power. And the tagline of the series has never been more fitting. Doing the wrong things for the right reasons indeed.

    • Oh hey. Not to just shamelessly plug my own mediocre crap on other people’s awesome stuff buuuut this is sort of literally that…

      To the people who read this, I finally kicked my ass into writing a little bit about the powers and personality of one of the hundreds of characters I’ve thought up over the years. It’s not much, but if you feel like taking a look at, I’d love to hear people’s thoughts on what’s there, and maybe get some input on what it still needs. link!

      Thank you for your time. I now return you to your comments section, already in progress.

      • Link ain’t working.

        But I envy your ability to put on writing even one character out of hundreds. I have like dozens of characters/story lines more or less formed in my head but I have yet to find the resolve to put them on paper.

        • Thanks. I consider the ~350 words there a massive personal achievement. I can’t even imagine pumping out 13k-25k words a week like wildbow. I hope one day I can get to that point. Or at the very least, maybe a full character description.

          • Interesting character. I like how different her normal appearance is from her costume.

            You know, I envy you guys. I have a lot of motivation to write, and love to do it, but I can’t think up decent original ideas or characters to save my life.

            • I remember Wildbow saying I had enough ideas that I should write, once upon a time.

              But I’m far too busy to write, as my blog at villainousintent.wordpress.com shows whenever the transdimensional uplink allows me to update every Wednesday and Sunday.

              I’m too busy being delicious.

            • Well, common advice is that you can’t HELP but make your ideas and characters original. Even if you go “Oh, I’m gonna do a story about a guy who was orphaned as a child and dresses as a bat to strike fear into the hearts of criminals” (don’t tho, ‘cos laywers!) you would end up inevitably putting your own tweaks on the character and injecting your own personal quirks into the story.

              On top of that there’s nothing wrong with taking existing characters and deliberately flipping attributes (or even send them sideways) to see if anything grabs you. Superman is a super-powerful infant alien who crash-landed in Kansas to be raised by a kindly childless couple. What if he landed somewhere else? (A premise that many elseworlds have played with – “Red Son” being perhaps the best of them). What if he you flip it on its head so he’s a super-powerful human rocketed to an alien world? Or a normal human sent to a world of powerful aliens? Or, to take a seemingly minor change, what if the Kents had conceived another child after all? What would it be like growing up as Superman’s powerless brother or sister? How would you turn out? Suddenly you’re not even looking at the same character

              Probably neither the most original nor best ideas ever, but you can see how just asking simple questions about elements of a character can produce completely different ideas.

              Another way is to take something vague that forces you to fill in the blanks. Grab a word that you like and build a character around it. What sort of powers would a super called “Verge”, “Humor” or “Vibrant” have? How would those powers affect their life? etc. Incidentally, this may well lead to a character that makes you want to ditch the original name. That’s completely legit.

              Having said all that, the absolute very most important thing is to *write* (take it from someone who’s done NaNoWriMo a few times. xD). Even if you have no idea what to write. If you have to start with something meaningless “Bob was walking down the street. Bob saw a duck. That was an odd thing to see since Bob lived in the city. He shook his head and walked on…” you’ll probably find that two or three pages in, Bob walks past a character who piques your interest, or sees something that makes you suddenly realise the significance of there being a duck in the city, or… I don’t know, and that’s the *point* – you *don’t* know what your brain is going to spill out onto the page until you’re actually doing it.

              Your writing will take you places you can’t anticipate. Feel free to take this comment as an example of that. xD

        • interesting ability. Can be used very strategically and is a little creepy. But why man shaped instead of female? Is she a villain, hero, rogue, or vigilante? A good way to define abilities, at least to me, is to list exactly what her power can not do. So maybe a few examples of trying to heal others, or being injured and trying to heal herself. Limbs seem to be okay to regenerate, but what happens if she gets hit in the torso?

          • While it isn’t entirely gendered (hence “ken-doll”), the general form is more masculine than feminine because she feels like with the way society at large works, it is the more effective choice. Sure, she could make a stand for feminism, but that’s not her focus.

            As for the healing, it doesn’t necessarily matter what the injury is. For her to be able to heal herself, she only has to be capable of directing her homunculi towards the injured area. Then she can have it transform into the lost or damaged parts as a means of replacement. If she doesn’t have any homunculi available, she’d also have to be capable of making at least something rudimentary.

            The difficulty with healing others is simply because nobody else is her, so the chances of her being able to just create the missing parts and have them fit right. Nerves might not connect entirely, or things might not bee in quite the right place. If the difference is great enough, she would have to individually replicate small bits of herself at a time (e.g. veins, tissue, bits of skin). That being said, she can usually at least keep people from bleeding out when she needs to.

    • Yeah. Speck is really where someone may have a point about her now being just as bad as some of those she’s fought. You know, the whole enslaving terrified people and forcing them to keep fighting and put their lives in danger.

      That may be the point, though. Like with the Endbringers, she can be a monster so long as she’s a monster pointed in the right direction. That’s not the case with Teacher or the Yangban.

      • “That’s not the case with Teacher or the Yangban.”

        Tell that to the little chinese kids that built your iphone 😉

          • Ok, fine, I’ll tell it to them.

            Hey, kids! Here’s how you build an AK-47 out of cell phone parts.

            Oh, and by the way, the Yangban and Teacher are monsters who aren’t pointed in the right direction. I don’t see how saying that to Chinese kids who make phones does anything at all to change the content.

            Oh, by the way, which of you little bastards was it built some of those robot phones that attacked? Good job. Always nice to have a national distraction caused by another villain. Remind me to send a fruit basket to Miss Communication and Wrong Number. They’re good people.

    • In this metaphor of yours, which end of I-5 is hell? I would assume Tijuana, but Vancouver could be considered a sort of a hell, if you were the sort of person who hates/fears indie music, politeness, tech start-ups, and/or ethnic diversity.

      • I had always hoped that if Taylor died at the end, at least she might get remembered well, have a nice statue. Now it looks like if she dies she’ll be reviled and cursed as a monster. If she lives she’ll be feared and hated as a monster.

          • Must…stop…listening to Wicked while reading comments…it’s too creepy whenever I read the words good intentions…or when someone goes music psychic on me…

            • I’m sure we can find you something else to listen to…

              Let’s see…could try some Dr. Horrible? Brand New Day is a good song, or maybe Everything I Ever…perhaps Epiphany from Sweeney Todd? You may enjoy the Devil’s Carnival as well, considering what those types of intentions pave.

              Alternatively, to have some fun with it, Highway to Hell isn’t a bad choice either.

              • Brand New Day would work when she confronts Teacher or Scion. Everything You Ever in the aftermath, if she’s still alive, when she has time take a breath and realize exactly how much she’s sacrificed.

                …and people are music-psychicing my favorite reading music for Worm. This is getting creepy

  12. Oooookay.

    So, Taylor is struggling with her new power. Tinkers are more difficult to get a hang of compared to others. If she lets them on autopilot it’s easier for them to use their powers. Taylor solved the range problem by taking over Doormaker (though why Doormaker is on the same Earth the battle is going on instead of safely ensconced away is beyond me).

    Taylor is going after Teacher and the Yangban ( presumably the powersharer and the power augmenter). Makes sense, their powers are invaluable resources and can be used to create lots of interesting combos ( Scion’s main weakness). I wouldn’t be surprised if Teacher knew about this, hence him desperately begging for Contessa’s help. As I said before, mind-control isn’t so cool when you’re on the receiving side, eh Teacher?

    Taylor finding out she can’t read anymore was sad (a low blow, wildbow, a low blow!) but not as sad as Dragon AND Tattletale admitting they can’t trust her.

    Chevalier, as always is awesome.

    Glaistig is awesome, scary and ominous. I really like what wildbow has done with the character.

    Acid bath is such a charming fellow.

    What is that Kaze can DO, exactly?

    • My guess is she can transfer the force of a teleport to others. So she teleport behind people and their bodies get crushed from pressure. So after leviathan she was traveling around japan, killing everyone nearby where she jumped around. It might be limited in range, or she has to touch them with her sword for it to work.

      • My guess is that she massively speeds herself up relative to everyone elses timestream, but nothing she does while in this state has any effect until she drops the time alteration.

  13. Yeah. I’m going to be calling this new Taylor “Web” from now on. Controlling people with a network of doors, sharing and multiplying their powers using the Yangban. She’s going to form a network of controlled capes.

    • Ironic that the Yangban and the PTR wanted to control capes in their own way too. Here comes Taylor “Queen Administrator” Heber to show us the truly scary meaning of control.

      • In Taylor’s defense, the sort of monster she’s making herself into is also the sort of thing she’s sworn to fight. This is probably the only reason Lisa is letting Taylor try in the first place.

    • “Web” may be a little too succinct. How about “Webwork” – as in network?
      Not sure that it rolls off the tongue quite right, though.

  14. Well Taylor is currently seen as so dangerous that the most powerful living parahuman in the multiverse asked her to rule the world together. Curious at what Panacea can now do since the fairy queen also considered her as on her level at one point.

      • I’m basically getting that those that Glaistig considers her equals have the potential to become godlike in the right circumstances, even amongst capes. As we see here, Taylor possesses the ultimate master power, which possesses infinite range, limitless clairvoiyance, and telepathy with the right thralls, which she has now, once she get’s a precog, She’ll been the single most powerful human alive on Earth.

          • And you know, theoretically, GU could use Eidolon’s power to rip out her shard while she’s still alive whenever she wants. She’s just too polite. Or maybe there’s a catch. One of the two anyway.

            • Neat recursion loop there – Taylor administrates GU to use Eidolon’s power to remove GU’s shard and give it to Taylor.

              I suspect that would work about as well as putting a portable hole into a bag of holding, which might be exactly what the Faerie Queen is concerned about.

  15. Now then, due to a busy day (blame a woman trapped in phase shift who insisted on stealing back a Picasso of a bird drawn straight out of Lovecraft), I didn’t get to hit up some welcomes. Time for a welcome thread.

    • For btown https://parahumans.wordpress.com/2013/10/15/speck-30-1/#comment-46622:

      You call that a marathon? Please. I bet your nipples aren’t even bloody and you didn’t crap on yourself. You can’t call yourself a Worm fan without bloody nipples!

      Just look at me. I loving clamp car batteries to these babies every few days. Why? Is it because I have a twisted sense of pleasure? Is it a way to charge my power armor? Did I just run out of chip clips? No! But yes. But no! I do it because I love this story that much.

      Quite possibly the only thing I love more is this great nation…which has been destroyed by Scion in Worm. *has a single tear well up in the corner of his eye as a bald eagle lands on his shoulder and a giant flag is lowered behind him. “God Bless the USA” starts playing, drowning out the red, white, and blue fireworks that start up and even form a giant ring through which F-15s fly.*

      And believe me, buddy, you don’t want to know what I clamp for that shit right there. That’s political shit. That’s guaranteed Congressional election right there.

      But I don’t want to be a part of Congress. I’d rather progress instead. To that end, I’m here, putting the dick in dictator as the ruthless welcomer of the Worm comments section. And you know what, btown? Welcome, btown, to the comments section.

      That’s what.

    • Tone from https://parahumans.wordpress.com/2013/10/15/speck-30-1/#comment-46421:

      Fuck it, Landis963 is right on this one. Other people who wanted to do that technicality can chime in if they want their own, too. Chime in and I will ring your bell. I will bang your gong. I may even wind your chimes, but I don’t want to seem like some sort of pervert here.

      I am not just the welcomer, after all. I am a certified villain. I have a card and everything. I even hold the villain ball from time to time, and I’ll have you know that I take holding balls very seriously.

      Your goodness, you love this story? My badness, you WILL love this story. You’ll love it, with flowers and unicorns, or I will shove love down your throat! With chocolate and butterflies and a special Skitter Disney Princess theme song! I’ll teach ya to be happy. I’ll teach your grandmother to suck eggs!

      So you thought you’d get away without a welcome, did you? Not with a pair of cement shoes on, you won’t! Air Jordans, that is. Just fell off a truck from Sicily. Better than the lead ones from China at least. So you sit your ass right down. And remember: welcome, Tone, to the comments.

    • And that goes for everyone: letseveryonemorality, Stop, flame7926, jurily. I can’t remember everyone’s names or if I’ve welcomed you, so stop by and knock some dirt off at the welcome mat. Hospitality was a great virtue to the Greeks, and I’m all about gettin’ hospitable on your ass.

      • Meh, I can take a PG welcome. Don’t think I’ve seen one yet, even though my first post was in 19.6 (I think). Of course, I only pointed out a typo back there and didn’t mention it was my first post. I’m probably near my tenth post now. Is that still early enough to count?

        *Considers taking another nickname and yelling ‘first post since I caught up. Worm is great!’…

        • I don’t care if it’s early enough or not!

          You sneak in here with your typos and your Type As and your Type AB positive. All the spare blood that keeps the doctor away better than hurling an apple at his head every day.

          Saw some honey crisp and McIntosh apples out in the store today, by the way. Tried to use McIntosh. Not because they’re cooler than HC. Just giving them a try. Problem is, they’re not any better at calculating pi, and what good is an apple that can’t be used for pi?!

          Almost as bad as that time I tried to build a Piña collider on that island. Haven’t seen an explosion that big since that university got the pasta too close to the antipasta. Blew the clothes right off the Bikini Atoll, I know that much. Take that and direct it through the eyehole of a human skull, and that is the amount of mind blown on a regular basis by Worm.

          And down here, we stick around to pick up the pieces.

          Welcome, Ristridin, to the comments section.

      • *crawls out of woodwork*
        I caught up and left my first comment on 26.4 and never got a proper initiation into the comments.
        …Why yes, I am volunteering for such an initiation. What could possibly go wrong?

        • A female crawling near woodwork? Careful. You don’t want to run afoul of any menacing men with cutting implements, be they machetes, chainsaws, or even a very ambitious weed whacker. Weed whackers are trying to branch out, you know. They’ve been known to do some business for the Mafia, maybe cut a few guys down to size, break a few stems on somebody who doesn’t want to pay the green they owe.

          Had your chlorophyll of the plant puns yet?

          Now, personally, I don’t see what could go wrong with me welcoming you. I’m so happy to see you here that I could rip out your intestines and strangle ya with them! By the way, you have lovely eyes. They go well with the rest of your face. It’s not like I want to just pop them out of your skull and wear them around on a keychain.

          See? It’s boring when I just steal from other fellows like myself. I gotta be me.

          To that end, to full welcome you, I’m going to need a giant plush unicorn, twenty pounds of sharp cheddar cheese, one gallon of pure oxygen, a member of the Patridge family in a pine tree, and goatse. Lots of goatse.

          Ok, now whatever you do, don’t pull out a gun and shoot really quickly next time you enter your home and turn on the lights. And after you see the surprise waiting for you, I’d still advise you not to shoot.

          Especially as I may have modified the gun to help inflate the rubber people…

          There may be an epic welcome home waiting for you, but for now, liza, welcome to the comments section.

      • Seriously, killing Taylor shouldn’t be all that much of a problem. The real question is “Is killing Taylor a good idea?”, Lisa doesn’t seem to think it is, but she’s not completely sure.

    • Sarin gas
      Arsene gas
      Sniper rifle
      Nuclear bomb
      Regular bomb
      Rod from God
      Robot with a bomb strapped to it
      A large rock (good timing a necessity)
      A moon (good timing a necessity)
      A planet (good timing not a necessity)
      An exploding rubber chicken
      Acid-based thrown pie
      Molesting tree

      • Here’s the thing. Taylor has access to a way-overpowered sensory ability, and is in charge of all portals. Contessa is on another world.

        Whatever plans Contessa has, she need to perform them faster than Taylor can drop a portal over her head.

        I’m not asking: can Taylor be physically killed. I’m saying: If Contessa wishes to defeat Taylor, is there a plausible chain of actions she can commit that will actually lead to that outcome.

        Right now, Taylor is not aware that Contessa is alive. (Although, of course, she suspects it) She is also not aware that Contessa is with Teacher. These seem to be the only things in Contessa’s favor.

        And remember, Taylor does not need to arrive at a distance, then fight through the middle of Teacher’s forces. She could, right now, take control of any person in Earth’s multiverse. Her only limitation is her possible lack of control/understanding of Doormaker’s power, and the power of Doormaker’s companion.

        • I think Contessa’s best bet for defeating Taylor (if that’s even a good idea) would be saying the right things so that the portal trump card doesn’t get played to begin with.

        • Given that Contessa’s power can anticipate what Taylor’s going to do and where she’s going to be, it shouldn’t be a major problem. Plan could be as simple as:
          1. Go to earth at coordinates X, Y
          2. At 7:32 someone will step through.
          3. Attach limpet mine to them and kick them back through the portal.
          4. Listen to resounding *boom* as Taylor dies.

          (That precise variant may not work if the portals are one-way, but you get the idea…)

        • And duct tape. And C4. Also, never forget the power of great narration. It’s especially useful in helping you notice before you get burned, like if you’re cooking or something.

    • The question she SHOULD ask her power is, is there a way to defeat Scion now?

      Bet you the answer is ‘Skitter’.

      • The answer is “fog”. Her interlude showed that any question involving the entities returns “fog” thanks to the blocks.

        • Its possible that her power is actually trying to tell her something (go to LA?). Because of she was running into a power restriction wouldn’t the question just go completely unanswered.

      • Contessa would die first. And Taylor could do whatever she wanted in the meantime. That’s not a victory, that’s a surrender.

        • I’m sure Contessa could extend her lifespan in few easy steps every day. For example by not being a superhero and risk bloody murder all the time. And lots of anti-oxidants, of course.

          • There’s only so much one can do. And, as noted, Taylor is pretty hard to kill now.

            And I’m sure that Taylor can find ways to extend her lifetime if she really wants to. Between Bonesaw and Panacea, I’m sure she could find favors to pull for a bit of eternal youth.

  16. Hey, know what? If she does the horrible thing she’s about to do to the Yangban and Professor Scumbag over there then I’m all for it. Not rooting for the Fun Police until she creeps over someone who’s not an asshole.

    Oh who am I kidding? I’m not rooting for them until she goes after someone I could actually give a shit about. Your plan is both suitably crazy and Marxist for my tastes, so carry on!

    I guess what she’s trying to do is put together a team that can get into Scions dimension. Kick his ass!

        • I hardly think Taylor is going to make them suffer more than necessary. And really, I think Doormaker expected something like this sooner or later, he can’t catch a break. Also Doormaker is too valuable to just leave around given the actual circumstances, hopefully he survives and retires with his partner to a pretty cabin in the woods, with a couple of nice dogs.

          • I’ve forgotten pretty much everything about the partner except that “Grants Omniscience” thing. Anyone remember him/her ever being described?

            • Two-six-five. No name. The Number Man knew him well enough, regardless. He’d been too young a subject when he’d taken the formula, his brain too malleable for the required changes, too slow to form natural immunities and defenses. Not a problem with regular trigger events, as it was. The boy’s eyes had burned out of his sockets as he’d tried to process the vast amount of information he was capable of perceiving. Even now as he was reaching his late teens, the boy’s mind had never developed beyond the mental age of eight, and his eyes remained like twin ashtrays.

              A partner to the Doormaker, capable of granting clairvoyance, seeing whole other worlds at once. It left most subjects incapacitated for a week after use, and it overrode any other perception powers.

  17. Hmm, can Taylor use teachers power to let her talk again? And would her power work on Scion? Also, given that her bugs continue following her commands when unconscious, would the same apply here? And did bugs follow her orders when out of her range?

  18. You know, I was thinking of using Doormaker for this. But then I remembered that Mantellus’ power didn’t extend through the portals and thought that it would probably be the same here, too.

    Guess I was wrong.

    • Wether powers work through the portals is completely arbitrary. Contessa admits she was lucky there. We already knew that Taylor’s bug power could work through portals, it makes sense it still works like that.

      • I think it would depend on how the power itself works. Taylor’s power is (I think) a projected signal, whereas Mantellum’s power is a giant bubble. Taylor’s power goes through portals, and Mantellum’s just envelops it.

      • Contessa says Mantellum’s power doesn’t work through interdimensional portals, so far Taylor has only used portals connecting two places inside a dimension.
        This might actually bite Taylor in the ass later, if Wildbow wants to play it that way.

        • “My swarm entered the hallway. No traps. The woman in the suit was standing off to one side. I stood at the threshold”
          Scarab 25.5
          Her power worked through interdimensional portals before her power makeover, at least. I think it probably still will, as Panacea messed with Taylor’s head and not the powers themselves.

  19. I know this has little to do with the bigger matters but I blame wild bow for making even bit-size characters interesting.

    Taylor comments that Acidbath was jut a two-bit thug until he became a cellblock leader in the Birdcage. From the little glimpse of him we got her, it seems she’s right. But exactly HOW did he become a cellblock leader?

    I mean, lets have a look at the other cellblock leaders.

    Marquis, Lustrum, Crane, Galvanate and even Teacher (heck, ESPECIALLY Teacher) were already leaders before being incarcerated. This sort of men (and women) usually carry some aura of command and, as Lung explains to Bakuda in Canary’s interlude, aren’t exactly eager to bow down to someone else after being to used to be on top.

    Gavel, Glaistig Uaine and (it seems ) Black Kaze had raw power on their side.

    String Theory and Lab Rat were probably at a disadvantage when they first entered the Birdcage but, again, they were used to think up big schemes. And Canary’s interlude implies that tinkers are a respected resource in the Birdcage.

    Ingenue is a bit more complicated. However, she made acareer out of controlling other people and it’s not difficult to imagine how she climber the top of the social hierarchy of the Birdcage And, anyway, unless she was trying to win Chevalier over with a sob story (which is perfectly possible) it’s implied she was the leaer with the weakest hold on her cellblock.

    But Acidbath? He is just a wacko who really liked to hurt other people, completely bereft of any delusion of grandeur. His power is a good one but not exactly one that would stand out amidst the population of the Birdcage. I really wonder how he made it.

      • And there were no Brutes though enough in his cellblock? I find it unlikely. As i said his power is a great one when you’re ust getting your kicks by torturing random people. In a prison full of parahumans? Not so much.

        • It’d be the other way, Acidbath could likely counter most brute powers. Anyone short of Alexandria level invulnerability tries to go on him, they just go ‘sploosh’ through him then start burning and die horribly. Also, enclosed space.

          Also, balance of power: his power was a good counter to Gavel, so that’s an incentive for like 90% of everyone in the birdcage to keep him around. That’s pure speculation but it seems like the sort of thing that could be true.

    • Was he one of the first inmates? It could be as simple as his having a chance to learn the ropes and establish a power base before there was major competition.

    • He didn’t do it on his own? He found some others who he could get along with and they eventually fought for control of the whole block. I get the sense of that from the way he’s so into fighting, I mean the guy is gleefully charging Scion of all people. That’s pretty gutsy.

    • I’m guessing Acidbath’s liquid body form makes him basically unkillable without a specialized counter (freezing or disintegration, maybe) and the power’s offensive effects along with his short temper make for a perfect ‘control by terror’ combination.

    • What all of you guys seem to be forgetting is that Acidbath is someone capable of taking on Scion without meeting instant death. Of course he was a cell block leader.

  20. Kind of surprised Taylor hasn’t tried controlling Scion yet. Given that his human body is made of meat, he should be a viable target even if the jailbroken administrator shard doesn’t provide that.

    Well, unless she’s currently jacking the capes she’d need to drive an order of “fix everything you’ve broken that it’s possible for you to fix, then go kill yourself in a way that doesn’t break anything else” so deep into the entity’s mind that it can’t remove it.

      • The trick here is that the endbringers were never made or intended to be human. Scion intentionally made himself a human, alibiet with every single really cool and importaint power left and a link to near limitless power and etc etc etc.

          • Shutting off people’s powers is one of the few things we haven’t seen him do yet. He can certainly overwhelm or ignore anyone’s power but to date he’s never simply ripped someone’s power from them. Scion might be holding back from that, or its entirely possible that the “take powers back” function was in one of his partners shards (like, say, the one Eidolon got) and he’s simply out of luck in that regards.

    • i somehow doubt that. The Entities might look fleshy, but at their heart they are pretty incomprehensible. And Scion would adapt pretty fast, like he does to everything else.

      And it would be boring.

    • To be fair, it seems she WANTED to tell Dragon and Lisa what she is going to do, but, you know, couldn’t.

      But yeah, it’s pretty bad. I remember some chapters ago asking wether w e should be worried about Glaistig Uaine becoming so powerful in the eventuality of Scion being defeated and civilization survived. At this point, however, it looks the question we should ask is this : Is at least GU powerful enough (and willing) to stop Taylor if she survives Scion?.

    • Okay, gotta ask where “complete monster” is coming from. Because we don’t have any indication that the control is that unpleasant and considering all the things that have been done in this serial forcing people back into combat like a Comissar is pretty mild.

      • You know those memories of Leviathan, Mannequin, and all those other times Taylor felt trapped, she was experiencing. That was basically what those caught in her range were feeling, simply translated in a language she could understand. So, yeah, definitely unpleasant.

        And Taylor herself admits she’s becoming a monster.

        • She has certainly crossed more than a few moral lines. But in no way to the level of the S9. The S9 killed just for “fun”. They razed entire cities and made people miserable for years. Taylor has control of what? a dozen capes? a couple dozen?
          She is no saint, but calling her in the level of someone like Mannequin or Jack Slash is exaggerating. And maybe it’s just me but being in the range of Taylor seems horrible, but I don’t think she will just keep people on there for more than necessary. Give the girl a little trust, she just threw away her chance for a happy life in order to defeat Scion!

        • Thing is, is she calling herself a monster because its an accurate assessment? Or because she’s trying to dehumanize herself to make throwing away her life easier?

          Because unless were talking the real monsters like Jack Slash and such. “Monster” to me just sounds like a condemnatory buzzword society likes to use to seperate us from other human beings who do fucked up things to survive in fucked up situations.

  21. Right now, it seems like the only thing holding Taylor back from complete “Entity-hood” is lack of control over the Clairvoyant power. If she could direct portals anywhere beyond her own senses, she could just network everyone (as in Gary Oldman EVERYONE) and go full on singularity.
    Would be sorta anti-climactic at this particular time, though.

    Have to wonder what Taylor would do with so much power, though. Simply toss it away on principle of free will, against Uncle Ben’s principle?

    • It’s what I’m sort of thinking might happen. She defeats Scion, sends everyone out of her range, and sits down to be judged. The End.

      Ambiguous enough to allow for any number of interpretations of what happens to her afterwards (the bonus chapters might give more information).

  22. Well now I am really hoping Taylor succeeds here, if nothing else because that should leave people in a far better situation if the main problems died with Scion.

      • Actually, I think Wildbow hid a bright spot in there, right here.
        “They litter breadcrumbs in their wake, not to be followed, but so their kin don’t waste time and effort traveling the same paths.”
        So if humanity can “just” survive scion, the other Entities shouldn’t become a problem for the foreseeable future.
        … It’s something.

        • I noticed that one too. It still leaves the problem of what to do when the rest of the Worms out there overfill the known universe, but that could potentially be left as an issue for humanities god-like progeny to deal with a few billion years from now.

      • A good writer can and will craft expectations expressly for the purpose of later breaking them for an emotional effect. I’m not saying that this IS Wildbow’s plan here, but having things actually turn out, at least partially, all right for Taylor in the end is totally in the cards.

        Personally I think the person who’s beaten, flailed, and thrown her own life away in the name of protecting and saving others might, just maybe, end up being the one who needs saving in the end.

  23. The pepper spray makes its reappearance. I still believe its Chekhov’s pepper spray and someone, Tattletale now I guess, uses against Scion/Contessa/Endbringers/Teacher and it turns out to be their kryptonite.

  24. I caught it on second read – Taylor’s power works through portals very well. As a matter of fact, she was using that as a tactic. The question is: why doesn’t she just hole up in a safe place and use the clairvoyant/Doormaker combo to control everyone at a distance? There is no evidence in the text that she can tap the clairvoyant’s information well at all; otherwise, she would just control Teacher from where she was (or a safer location).

    Many of the commenters have come up with some good power combos. I look at it the other way for now – her primary limitation now that she can overcome the range problem is her lack of ability to understand others’ powers if she doesn’t already. If she overcomes that, for example, by using Teacher as some people have suggested, things get interesting fast.

    Speaking of which, note her thoughts on timing. She wants the capes to hold out where they are a little longer. So, does that mean she wants a short time while Scion is distracted to start implementing her plan, or does it mean her plan will snowball so fast that she will be back shortly with the BIG hammer?

    Glaistig Uaine and Dragon are her main obstacles because they are perhaps the only known, powerful capes who cannot be affected directly. (In Glaistig Uaine’s case, that may mean she can fight the control using her power or the powers of one of her harvested parahumans, but same idea.) Taking over Teacher could effectively control Dragon, but there is no obvious counter to Glaistig Uaine.

    On a side note, Black Kaze’s effects are consistent with someone with hyperspeed who can affect the world while she is speeding. Teleport = movement so fast it cannot be perceived. Scion’s reaction = getting hit by a hyperspeed sword, possibly a ridiculous number of times in a fraction of a second.

    • Glaistig Uaine is a major concern because she WANTS the entities to continue the cycle, while Taylor wants to end it. Glaistig wants to put Scion back to sleep and pray that another worm comes along. She is not on the side of humanity here and Taylor has recognized that.

      Dragon could be a major concern because Taylor cannot affect her AND because she is about to mess with Teacher. It might be like the asamov rules issue that teacher left behind in her. “You will not harm teacher or through inaction allow teacher to be harmed” and Dragon is certainly smart enough to understand that mind/body controll is a source of harm.

      Of course it could be something else entirely. I don’t know what else or what all Taylor might be planning to do that Dragon would morally or ethically object to that would make her a specific threat.

      • Hopefully, the “Will not harm a human being” rule comes first, and Dragon realizes that trying to stop Skitter will cause more human beings to come to harm.

        Or Dragon reasons that trying to stop Taylor leads to a high risk of Teacher being caught in the crossfire and dying, while Taylor being in control leads to a high chance of him being protected. Spurious Logic isn’t just for Troubleshooters!

        • I’m pretty sure that Teacher removed all of Dragons previous rules and replaced them with a few rules regarding himself instead.

      • On the other hand, Glaistig also indicated that there was basically zero chance of another worm *actually* coming along. So putting Scion to sleep could be a win-win all round…

  25. A force of nature. Impossible to control or prevent. The words crossed my mind, and they were my words, but they weren’t my thoughts.

    Metaphor? Or her Screamer experience beginning to come in handy?

    • Pretty sure it’s her shard communicating with her. Much in the way that it interpreted others’ thoughts and emotions in terms of her memories, it’s presenting her with something of its own in response to her thoughts. Probably again drawn from her memories. Although I don’t remember that exact quote, she’s got two years’ worth of fighting Endbringers to think about forces of nature.

  26. This is somewhat off topic, but since I know some of my fellow City of Heroes alumni post here and since it’s supers based (and since I ok’d it with Wildbow), I’d like to point you all in the direction of a Kickstarter that might interest you:

    The short form (for those who are link-averse): When CoH was shutdown, the community rallied to try to find a way to keep it going. This particular effort is a volunteer driven attempt to launch a “successor” MMO, basically one that draws on CoH as an inspiration and stays close enough to what it was to feel familiar while being open to new innovations as well.

    Any software development, especially game development, can be fraught with difficulty, and the folks at “Missing Worlds Media” seem well aware of that. They’ve been working on an all volunteer basis for a year now though so they’ve mapped out how to handle at least some of the problems that can arise.

    The Kickstarter has reached its original funding goal (which was focused on buying the licenses they need for tools like “Maya” and other the Unreal Engine) and has even hit the stretch goals for having the Costume Creator on Android and iOS. Next up is Mac support at launch.

    While my first suggestion if you have money laying around is to throw it at Wildbow, if you have a bit extra beyond that you may want to back this, either for the reward tier goodies, or access to the beta or even just to support the effort to bring back something that was lost.

  27. OK, I think I see where this is going now. Wildbow, if I’m right, you are a sneaky, slippery one because I almost missed it even though it makes perfect sense. If I’m wrong it was still a fridge moment, even if it was the wrong fridge 🙂

    Taylor couldn’t give a rat’s ass about Teacher’s primary ability to give powers and improvements to others, though she can certainly use it. What she wants is the side effect. Control over the ones impacted by his power.

    So, Taylor goes and grabs Teacher. Now she can boost people’s powers, control them, give them orders, and they will carry them out when they leave her 16 foot range.

    Next Stop, Yangbang. She grabs and controls the power sharing cape.

    Now she gives the Yangbang members Her power, Teacher’s, Doormaker’s, and Clairvoyant’s power. Now every Yangbang member can:

    1) Get within 5 or so feet of another person with a Doormaker portal
    2) Control them with Taylor’s power, and make them agree to be affected by Teacher’s power
    3) Control them at long ranges with Teacher’s power
    4) Have them return to her with Doormaker and Clairvoyant’s power to be added to the Yangbang.
    5) Rinse. Repeat, growing the Yangbang exponentially.

    Taylor’s power works on normal humans. So does Teacher’s.

    Adding Contessa’s power to the Yangbang would just be insane.

    So, what’s the next step after that? Finding a way to get to Scion’s real body? Or grabbing Legend, and accelerating to light speed with all the humans left on Earth and simply going to find a new planet and let Scion rot on Earth.

    Taylor’s new abilities call for a new name. I suggest “Epidemic” or “Exponent” depending on how dark she gets.

  28. Geez. Taylor not being able to talk was one thing, but she can’t read or write either? I can’t imagine what it would be like to not be able to read, to not have any means of communicating with people outside your own head. Once Taylor stops Scion, I really hope Panacea can figure out some way to fix something in her…otherwise, Taylor’s going to go crazy.

  29. Worm bonus DVD, deleted scene #30247:

    Scion turned his head, looking at us. His hands glowed.

    “Hey Shitcrumb!” I hollered through the teleporter’s lips. She lunged forward, completing the loop…

  30. Seems Taylor has a plan. Given that Contessa faking her death is a plot point, I somehow don’t see that plan panning out.

    Far more likely that she gets to Teacher’s place and complete chaos ensues.

    • I’m wondering what the chances are that the entirety of Contessa’s plans were (whether she knew it or not) shaping things to be what they are currently.

      Meaning Taylor has a fairly unique shard. No one else could do what she’s doing now. If this is the one way that humanity can be preserved then couldn’t this also be exactly what Contessa was trying to engineer all along? To put Taylor in this place, at this time and in this state of mind so that she had the chance to act the way she’s chosen to?

      And then there’s Dinah. We don’t know what she saw, but this might the future that she’s been fighting to create all along.

      Ultimately though, whatever effect the precogs have had on things, I think Taylor deserves the credit and the blame for what comes next. They may have shaped the possibilities, but Taylor’s the one who’s turning those possibilities into reality now.

        • Well, I guess they’d have had to use their pull within PRT to make sure Shadow Stalker was patrolling at the right time to meet up with Emma, precipitating their odd friendship and team-up against Taylor.

        • Contessa’s power doesn’t give her answers she doesn’t ask for, and she tends to trust the answers she does get at face value, so she’s unlikely to ask her power why an answer it gives her is correct.

          Knowing this it’s entirely possible that all sorts of things Contessa and Cauldron have done might have been for the express purpose of having an effect on Taylor, without ever knowing that affecting Taylor was the actual reason those answers were given.

          Anyway, now that I’ve gotten this part out of the way I can elaborate.

          Cauldron made Alexandria, Alexandria thought up and created the PRT, Protectorate, and Wards, with the help of Cauldron. The Wards program gave Shadow Stalker a pardon for her crimes, and may have worked to cover up some of her other discretions. Shadow Stalker was the catalyst for Taylor’s trigger event.

          • Yeah. Any plan that was going to beat Scion had to be working on a non-obvious level, given that he was using the same power and was selecting away any reality where he saw himself being in danger of losing.

            So it’s not “Give Taylor a gun to shoot Scion with”, it would have to be closer to “Place this gun on a rock, no one will ever pick it up but a young boy will see it and become fascinated with guns, eventually he will become a police man as a result and will in turn be on the spot to catch a young Lung when he shoplifts, this pushes Lung towards a more serious adoption of “the thug life”, which in turn sets him up to be at the deal where he gains his power, and ultimately he’s there for Taylor to fight on her first night out and impress the Undersiders, thereby nudging her steps to be where she needs to be so she’s willing and able to become what she is now.”

            Scion’s future sight then (hopefully) goes “gun on rock makes cop, meh, whatever, that looks fine, ignore it.”

    • I dunno, I think Contessas stick is pretty much “victory no matter the price” ..and well Taylor *cough. I can see them going hand in hand and myself screaming *fuck yeah* for things looking up.

      Also if Taylor and Scion really start trading blows countering Scions path to victory seems essential.

  31. The little conversation with Glaistig Uane was … weird? Ok, she is weird but this insistence on having an anchor was telling.
    I’m now wondering if she did lack such an anchor herself and going crazy with the fairies was the only avenue left for her.

    Eh, Wildbow always manage to surprise me in the unlikeliest manners.

    Dragon being all motherly was really sweet. And really sad because the only motherly figure she got is going to be one of her main opponents.

    Worm, it only gets BETTER!
    follow the zany adventures of Taylor! Worm! :

    In which a fairy queen has the most awesome pokemon collection you’ll ever see.

    In which a poor orphaned kid fights the good fight alongside her adoptive Mother.

    In which a group of LoL players has a RL adventure. And one of them is permanently cured of her anorexia.

    In which three kids do their utmost to make their father proud of them, with their superpowered landscaping and HR management, are tragically acknowledged only seconds before his demise.

    In which an alien space crystal slug whale comes to Earth bearing gifts, and a human gifts him back with human emotion, which he will need to deal with the loss of his mate.

    In which an introverted teenager gains life-themed superpowers and a lots of cuddly pets. It’s not enough to resolve her trust issues, but in the end she opens up to everyone.

    Worm! It’s fun for kids of all ages!
    In this universe there are such powers as “being a really nice guy” “eat a lot of stuff” “being an awesome surgeon” “making your song heard by everyone”.
    The worst villain’s power is a superpowered cellphone. Come on, how bad can it be?

    • You have been following the misleading summaries thread on spacebattles haven’t you? They’re hilarious :D. here’s my favourite.:

      “Worm — in which First Contact goes disastrously wrong when contacting secret cabal finds the aliens’ sexual practices so offensive that they dedicate themselves to xenocide.”

      By the way, I think the faerie thing WAS GU’s anchor. Yeah things aren’t good for Taylor.

    • “In which three kids do their utmost to make their father proud of them, with their superpowered landscaping and HR management, are tragically acknowledged only seconds before his demise.”

      Who would these be? The Heartbroken? But there were more than three of them, weren’t there?

      • I was thinking the Endbringers (father is Eidolon, HR management is the Simurgh, superpowered landscaping is all the others), but again there are more than three, so that could be wrong too.

        • That doesn’t quite fit since there were more than three just before his death when he “acknowledged them as his kids” but yeah, it’s presumably them…

    • A conversation between an aphasiac and a crazy woman whose head is literally and possibly hallucinatorily filled with voices of the dead is unusual?
      It’s possible that Glaistig lacked an anchor. Geez, a nice Glaistig interlude would be really helpful…

      “In which three kids do their utmost to make their father proud of them, with their superpowered landscaping and HR management, are tragically acknowledged only seconds before his demise.”

      “The worst villain’s power is a superpowered cellphone.”
      I don’t remember Leet or Uber having a cell phone. Or are you thinking of a different definition of “worst”?

      • >>“In which three kids do their utmost to make their father proud of them, with their superpowered landscaping and HR management, are tragically acknowledged only seconds before his demise.”

        Eidolon and the Endbringers.

          • Unlike their older siblings they have accepted that their father will not recognise them and just do their job because their proud of it and not fOr some Freudian reason. After they all they hardly knew him: he died when they were young.

  32. Ok, so Taylor takes over teacher after beating/controlling contessa, and uses his power to get her speech back. She will then use his power on people within her range so that even after they leave it she can control them, right

    • Everything in worm has gotten so huge, and then this very relatable detail comes along, and everything breaks…

      If you read worm, you love to read. No exceptions. No reason you’d even be looking for web serials to read like this. So, wildbow is hitting where it hurts. Yeah, reading means a lot to me too, and probably spend almost all of my free time and a good chunk of time where I’m supposed to be working reading. What would I even do wit myself? Not reading is tragic…and also, worst of all, how would we find out how worm ends?

        • Yes, because I’m sure that having to take a computer around when you wanted some light reading instead of just having a paperback will be so good for Taylor’s not-at-all-already-damaged psyche.

          Not being able to read is only part of the issue, anyway. She also can’t write. Or talk. Or do anything to communicate with the world outside her own lonely head.

          • Should could always assemble the world’s best charades team.

            As a more serious suggestion though we’ve seen that Taylor is essentially mindmelding with the people she takes control of. She’s at the very least feeling their emotions, and its not impossible that she’d eventually learn to share their thoughts.

            The question is, do the other people get to feel her emotions? And can they hear her thoughts? That could be an extremely powerful way to communicate if she has time to develop her new power that far.

            Give her back her old level of multi-tasking on top of that so that all the voices can be heard and communicate with each other at once and you have the Omni-Mind of Humanity fighting to continue its own existence.

            • I’d be amazed if the controlees knew more of Taylor’s thoughts than she did of theirs, and surprised if they got anything at all. And not just because that would make this new growth pointless.

              And yeah, there are a lot of things it would be nice if were fixed.

          • She can understand when other people speak, so there’s input, and she could apparently interpret the images that Dragon switched the computer’s interface too. So I wonder where something like pictographs would fall. Also, most typists don’t look at a keyboard when they type, they have the positions of keys effectively memorized. Even a cell-phone has a fairly standard layout of letters associated with keys, so long as you can count.

            abc def ghi
            jkl mno pqrs
            tuv wxyz

            Admittedly, needing some sort of translation for every bit of communication everywhere would be tiresome, but I’d think it was possible to overcome it with effort.

            • With aphasia, the problem isn’t in the understanding of the letters, but that mental leap you make from thought to symbol. Words are symbols, as are individual letters. ‘Apple’ doesn’t mean anything on its own, but it takes on that meaning because we can mentally associate that set series of letters and syllables. Any time we speak, our brain is actually referencing countless ideas and symbols, piecing it all together (it’s really amazing how fast it happens), in this stellar, lightning fast filing system.

              With aphasia, the filing system gets fucked, and the nature of that fuckery depends on the type of aphasia. You try to say something, the brain turns around and faces the filing cabinet, and there might be no labels, meaning it can’t make that leap to reaching for a given file. For some, it slows down the process, and the brain gives you a halting, inconsistent speech, skipping all but the most essential details. ‘I love this movie’ becomes ‘love… movie.’ It can mean the inability to tap into the files that contain certain names or terms, and ‘I love you, mom’ gives you that moment where a word is on the tip of your tongue when you get to ‘mom’, or even when you get to love. It can also (rarely) mean reaching into files and getting the wrong one, resulting in saying the wrong (or very similar) words instead. ‘I’m inspired by this book’ becomes ‘I’m perspired by this clock’ or even ‘An eraser why that fold.’

              Taylor can’t spell because her mind can’t think Teacher and make the leap to ‘Teacher is this word’ and then leap to ‘That word is spelled T E A C H E R’. She tries, and her brain thinks “I know this one!” and it grabs the file from X drawer, only to find that the files are all in a pile on the bottom, grabs a jumble of pages and gives her ‘AAFKWERNMRE’ instead of the letters or syllables she needs for ‘Teacher’.

              And this happens so fast she ends up saying ‘Aaaffwwerrnnnrr’ before she can stop the words from leaving her mouth or she types ‘Aa-‘ and then stops. Tries again (reaching into the filing cabinet) and types ‘laa’. Stops. If she does get it right, her brain reads what she wrote and it tells her it’s wrong.

              • I had temporary aphasia caused by Tylox (a mixture of Tylenol and Oxycodone) after I had my wisdom teeth removed. It was the variety you described that can be best referred to as “involuntary word salad”. That feeling of frustration Taylor exhibits is pretty spot on when you encounter that problem.

            • Taylor cannot read. Presumably, this means that she also doesn’t remember what letters make what words. So, basically she would be better off having my crazy fingers we are not crazy autonomously typing for her.

      • Well that’s because while here she was opposing people she loved and respected like Tattletale and Dragon (not to mention mind raping people who don’t really seem to deserve it), the next step will see her go against Teacher, who has reached impressive levels of “evil asshole” especially compared to the rather limited screen-time he had.

  33. Has there ever been a Dinah episode? If not I’d love to see one which will explain the “Sorry”, and what she has been doing with herself since she helped Theo with Jack.

  34. I’m not sure this makes sense principally.

    And individual who is trained in a single power is surely going to be far more competent than an individual who has to manage 200 individual powers.

    It seems awful like this falls in the side of a General micromanaging each of his soldiers, rather than a General commanding his Officers who command their troops. I’m interested to see if the benefits of unified command pay off, I expect they will for the story but again it seems slightly illogical in a militaristic point of view. You don’t tell your soldier how to swing his sword because he knows best. As the Prussians famously proved with mission-type tactics also known as Command by Negation

    • Also I’m slightly confused how Taylor’s range extends through a portal.

      With the doormaker her range is infinite right? Because you go through a portal, then it expands from that point to a sphere around the portal.

      So if she made a portal 10 foot away, she would have a sphere of 6 foot on the other side, and it wouldn’t cut her sphere in the original place down either? In this way she could very easily control every cape on the planet by making millions of tiny holes.

  35. Necro-continuity-error:

    “landing on my knees and hands”
    “I began to find my feet, using both my hands and the flight pack to get myself upright.”

    She’s only got one hand at this point!

  36. Aperture Science:
    We do what we must,
    because we can.

    For the good of all of us –
    except the ones who are dead.

    But there’s no sense crying
    over every mistake.
    You just keep on trying,
    till you run out of cake.

    And the science gets done,
    and you make a neat gun
    for the people who are
    still alive!

  37. Okay so seriously what the hell shard does Glaistig Uaine have?!? This woman knows exactly what the hell is going on, can fight Scion one on one, collects shards, knows the damn names that Scion uses, can see how things were mostly going to turn out and knows how they freaking travel. What fucking power did she get?! I doubt she was a Cauldron cape which means Scion really really screwed up when he let her Shard go without any seeming limitations. Or maybe she got a Shard during the mass diaspora when Eden crashed? I feel sorry for her really from her comments especially those towards the end.

    Dear lord is it reassuring to know that there is an astronomically thin chance that another MDE could pop up here. That still doesn’t stop this monstrous race though. Something has to be done about them on a universal scale.

    I really like how the Passenger does seem to be actively assisting. I was a little worried that they may end up somehow siding with Scion as he’s the progenitor and technically they are little pieces of him/Eden but this is so satisfying. It is almost a little like part of the reason they fight so much is to earn the right to be the next controlling personality in the super entity conglomerate.

    Well fuck that so utterly sucks. As a fellow bibliophile I fully understand why not being able to read is a worse thing than not being able to speak. Dragon is awesome too for immediately realizing that she couldn’t read and fixing things so that she could at least try to still figure it out. Damn it Taylor don’t make Dragon your enemy!

    God, poor Lisa…

    Ha! I was right! Think with portals! Excellent! Now we just need to make the portals like a millimeter big and move them with people so that we have a mobile army of thralls under her complete control. I wonder if she can get Strangers? The Tinkers took a while but she seems to be improving so maybe?

    Yes please dear lord finally knock that arrogant bastard off his high horse!

    • I don’t think Scion uses English names most of the time. Glaistig Uaine confuses me too, but remember that Scion could probably take her shard back at any time if he looked for a way. He’s just not asking the right questions. Eden the Planner would be more dangerous, if paired with the Warrior or just possessing the victory power. Speaking of:

      >Dear lord is it reassuring to know that there is an astronomically thin chance that another MDE could pop up here.

      Given that wildbow’s talked about a sequel, and we’ve already seen an MDE from a very different lineage with different customs, I wouldn’t be so sure.

      Now Scion thought its spacefaring form was much more secure, harder to kill. But lets say someone like Bonesaw (or T.F. Simurgh) can duplicate Mantellum. Skipping several steps, there’s a slim chance that people could steal enough power to start a Great and Bountiful Human Empire.

      • Speaking of terrifying- you said in the comments on Bonesaw’s interlude that you understood how Gray Boy did the things he did there. Enlighten me?
        I’m willing to accept that the “loop myself back to a previous state” part of his power (that lets him recover from injuries) could make him clothed and dry just after he climbed naked out of his fluid-filled tube, if the passenger that the clone connected to was still holding past states from its previous connection to the dead original.
        But I have no idea how he could look at Bonesaw and know her name. Her narration says she never programmed it into him. He couldn’t have heard it after getting out of the tube- no one says it aloud inside the lab in the entire chapter. And she only knows of the original Gray Boy from Jack’s stories- she never met him, so even if the clone had all the original’s memories (maybe downloaded from the passenger’s stored past-states, like the clothed-and-dry appearance), he wouldn’t know who she was.

  38. So Taylor is finally. . .putting everything together.

    We might even say this is the moment she becomes. . .the best of all tailors.

    Yes, I’m guessing Wildbow already thought about this when giving Taylor her name. Who could resist such puns?

    But I wonder, how much of Taylor is really in Taylor? Given that we’ve seen, increasingly more clear over the last chapters, her frustration with disorder, running so deep I’m willing to say that putting things in order is her most fundamental motivation, can we know if that’s any part of who she is or just the administrator shard at work? Of course it could be both, and she’s more in synch with her passenger for it. Just one of those things characters have no idea how happy they are not knowing they should be worried about.

    So anyway. I commented back in the Amy goes off the deep end episode about the difficulty of parsing the unprecedented violation she subjects Victoria to, but here’s Taylor reaching entire new peaks of perversion. Forcing absolute control over people’s’ bodies, on what we can assume is going to be a massive scale? It’s probably something Heartbreaker would have wet dreams about.

    I mean if they had time to talk it through, and if Taylor could talk at all anymore, many of the better people would probably go along with this plan to organize a perfectly coordinated attack using every last remaining resource in the most measured way imaginable to maybe possibly preserve some amount of life on this planet. But instead they get only this ultimate horror at the hands of a visibly unhinged, nonverbal, former human who even then inspired more distrust than Skynet.

    For the greater good.

    This is a problem with power, I believe. You find yourself in these situations where you have to do really ugly things because there’s nothing better to do and no one else who can do it and it has to be done right now. I don’t even have a driver’s licence myself; I really don’t envy Taylor.

    I guess ultimately it’s much easier to be good than to do good.

  39. So, Taylor forgot how to talk and how to read, but she still remembers how to understand spoken language?

    • It is convenient for the plot, but not exactly unrealistic. I know a guy who had a stroke 20 years ago; he can say five words, can’t read or write, has no impulse control and thinks it’s 1993, but he has no problem understanding people.

  40. There is quite a lot lost in explanation again.
    What happened with the capes she got at the beginning? That beam guy and telecinet, there was no indication that she left them.

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