Speck 30.4

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I didn’t break eye contact with Dragon.  My eyes were damp, and it was impossible to find a balance in terms of keeping still.  I either slumped over or I held myself so rigid that I trembled, an ache creeping over my body, my muscles too taut.

Back when Emma and I had been friends, way back in middle school, we’d done one of the sleepover dares.  Going into a dimly lit room and staring out our reflections.  Repeat the name of the monstrous woman, a name that escaped me now, over and over, without breaking eye contact.

The freaky thing had been that it had worked.  My expression had torn, twisted and distorted, dark patches creeping over my cheeks and forehead, my mouth disappearing with only a blank stretch of skin in its place.  I’d fled the room.

I’d later read up on it, because understanding something meant being able to handle it, and my problems back then had been ones I could understand.  The effect was a result of the mind’s idleness.  We only really saw a little bit of what we looked at, and our brain worked constantly to fill in the gaps and unimportant spaces with its best guesses.  In a dimly lit room, with the mind focused on the steady, hypnotic repetition, the brain would fill in spaces with the only reference points available to it, taking from features in its field of view to patch together the face.  Fear, imagination and the recently-told scary story of having one’s entrails ripped out through their mouth did the rest.

The mind was an amazing thing, but it had limits and weaknesses.  I’d been taking in too much even before I added the clairvoyant.

Dragon spoke, her voice insistent, concerned, and pitched as a question at the end.

I raised my arm and the stump of a limb to the sides, bringing the clairvoyant’s hand with me.  An exaggerated shrug.  I then let them flop down to my sides.

Dragon said something else in response, a statement, quiet.

Using the clairvoyant was an art, it seemed, and I hadn’t received any advice on how to handle it.  I was figuring it out, though.  My focus on Dragon was like staring into the mirror.  There were too many details to clarify to keep my attention in one place for so long.  Things were starting to bleed around the edges in areas I wasn’t focusing on, like a watercolor painting that was bleeding out beyond the lines.

Subtle, but it was there.  Was it the entity, trying to tap into my memories to hash things out where my perceptions were failing?  It wasn’t anything substantial, not yet.  I was focused on Dragon, above all else.  The various people, the capes, the fighting, all were clear in my awareness.  It was the hills, the mountains, the vast spaces of water or field without anyone nearby that were shifting subtly.  Cities in particular seemed to be a jumble.  Or was it just easier to see the differences and errors when a city was rearranged in a way that didn’t make sense?

More to the point, was I simply losing my mind entirely?

I’m running out of time.

I raised my hand again, reaching out towards the Birdcage, below us, towards the comparative miles of space and containment foam, the forcefields and countless other effects that had been worked together to form the most secure facility they could manage.  The empty space between the hanging structure itself and the walls that had been thickened by the engine was vast in a way that staggered me, just a little.  Shit like that didn’t help with the fucked-up perception thing.

My hand was shaking, the muscles in my forearm too tense, the hand too loose.

Without breaking that eye contact, I gestured, turning my hand over, curling the fingers.  I opened a portal at the same time, inside the Birdcage.

Dragon shifted her stance, and that same room flooded with containment foam.

She said something in that same, quiet voice.

As communication went, it would have to do.  Not the words I couldn’t understand, but the gestures.  I’d declared what I wanted, she’d drawn the line.

I wanted so badly to hug her, to cross the distance between us and throw my arm around her muzzle, or around one of her legs.  To have something physical to hold on to that I wasn’t actively controlling.  I couldn’t give her an opening to take me out of action.

I began opening a portal beneath a flow of lava, a trickle on Earth Bet, at the mouth of a cave system.  The lava met the edge of the portal, and it winked out of existence.  A splash of it passed through the portal, touching Dragon where her ‘neck’ met her body.

She moved, jet-engine ‘wings’ reorienting, pulsing with thrusters going on full to move her fifty feet to the right.  Her claws met a cliff face, digging into stone, and the thrusters kept going, pushing her against the rock and holding her on the surface.

Right.  Okay.  A different tack then.

She was retaliating, too.  Her guns trained on me, barrels glowing.

I opened defensive portals before I even saw what she was firing at me.  Lightning, crackling in visible arcs around what looked like sphere-shaped empty spaces.  Controlled pockets of ionized atmosphere, probably, to give the lightning a path to travel.

The lightning traveled through the portal and struck Scion from behind.  I closed the portal before he could react.

The guns changed, the barrels contracting, the mounts behind the barrels reconfiguring.  A portal simultaneously opened behind me.

She sprayed containment foam.  Not a stream, but an honest spray, as if she was trying to paint the entire mountain peak.

I stepped through a portal, putting myself halfway on the other side of the world.  I stood on the roof of the Byzantine Tower in Istanbul.  Third tallest building in the world, surrounded by a shattered city and waterways that were now polluted with detritus and rubble.

Then I opened fire.  Every parahuman I controlled with a ranged attack or gun fired into the portals I was opening beside them.  The exit-points were beside Dragon, and a cascade of bullets, lasers, energy shots, ice, lightning, metal and other effects obliterated her ship, tearing through the cliff face.

I moved my collection of people out of the way before the resulting rockslide could kill anyone.  The thinkers and tinkers joined me, the rest relocated to other points on the mountain.

The ship she’d sent my way was slag.  Barely worth calling scrap metal.  I checked it over twice.

Dragon deployed her drones.  Not ships, but tens of thousands of airborne craft, most no larger than a basketball, kept aloft by antigrav panels like the ones on my flight pack.  I already knew that each was loaded with a specific payload.  Containment foam, EMP pulses, explosives, tear gas and more.

This wasn’t a typical fight.  It was more like a war, two parties with vast resources at their disposal, with armies and incredible potential in terms of the tools we could bring to bear.  In a typical fight, things would end when one person knocked the other out, but a war rarely ended that way.  The fighting would continue until we’d done enough damage to the other that they had to give up.  Dragon was decentralized, with no single point that could be attacked to remove her from the fight.  Truth was, I’d probably have to destroy everything to destroy her.  If she didn’t give up.

If she could give up.

As for me, I was inaccessible, out of reach.

I was quietly confident I could win this, one way or another.  She’d have to defeat every cape in my little army, every cape I potentially acquired in the meantime, and I doubted her willingness to do that.

Don’t destroy my army.  Please don’t be willing, don’t be capable.  If that happens, then I’ve failed completely and totally, I’ve done this to myself and will go out as a villain, all for nothing.

The fight against Scion was ongoing.  I needed to be able to focus, especially with the way things seemed to be breaking down in the least important areas.  I couldn’t split my attention between him and Dragon, or something that was nigh-impossible would become harder.

The drones closed the distance, and my army began gunning them down.  They were evasive, and I could take in the whole picture to see how Dragon was managing them.  Not simultaneously, but close enough it barely mattered.

I tapped into precogs and clairvoyants, along with other thinkers, gauging the best approach.

Shén Yù informed me of the general thrust of Dragon’s attack.  I could see it through his perceptions, mottled, indistinct lines in the battlefield.  X drones moving to one of my groups, Y drones to another.  The path they intended to travel… I could tell that as well.  An initial wave of attacks to debilitate, and then the second wave, drones for a follow-up strike.  The lines had a feeling to them.  I could almost assign labels.  Infantry, cavalry.

I looked around me.  If I drew parallels, tried to correlate what I was seeing with what Shén Yù was seeing…

She was aiming to strike me.  How?

Seventeen Dragon-craft deployed from the hangar.  Again, not combat models, but utility models, fast response and rescue.  Craft she’d been holding in reserve, no doubt because the cost of deploying them outweighed their potential benefit against Scion.

The clearer Dragon’s direction of attack became, the more Shén Yù’s awareness clarified on her weak points.  Distant locations and objectives.  Some were objectives I couldn’t identify, even with the clairvoyant.  He only saw within the boundaries of Earth’s atmosphere.

Others… valid targets.  I sent one squad to an army base.  Pulses of gravity and intense heat let me detonate the contents of a munitions depot and direct the force of the explosion in one direction.  The end result annihilated a data center Dragon had set up nearby.

I’m sorry.

I could see her reaction, in the broadest sense.  Where her drones had been micromanaged before, they weren’t being controlled now.  She was focusing elsewhere, controlling the larger craft and assigning them to the protection of the various data centers.

There was a skeleton crew of people at one facility.  A data management firm that Dragon had bought out, I suspected, because the entire databank was reading as hers.  Row upon row of servers, standing like tombstones in refrigerated rooms.  Freezing air poured through the floor, pushing up against the warmer air.  The facility seemed more like an alien landscape of steel and cold than anything of human design, complete with a constant, persistent weather pattern – a constant, gale-force wind generated by the movements of hot and cold air in what had to have been a careful design.

That the crew had stayed suggested something about their personalities.  Discreet, paranoid people, who’d built a shelter inside the facility as a hiding place, in case things went to hell.

Which was pretty damn reasonable, considering the sheer amount of nightmarish crap there was in the world.

I used portals to take control of them.  I couldn’t read what was on the screens, so I had them take a more direct route.  They made their way through the building, throwing switches, pulling plugs and opening sealed doors.

Three of my Yàngbǎn capes entered the facility through portals and began generating heat as they’d done outside the C.U.I.’s Imperial Palace.  I could find the freezer… and another cape could step through to damage it.  Dragon’s utility craft arrived on site, but the damage had been done.

I’m sorry, I thought, again.  My attention shifted to the monitors and gauges in her various databanks.  I could see dials shift closer to red, numbers rising, gauges nearly filled.

Dragon could manage her things, I told myself.  She had safeguards, ways of keeping her data safe.  There was no doubt in my mind on that score.  Each time I disabled a facility, I forced her to consolidate, to put the resources that remained under further stress.

My ranged capes aimed for portals once again.  This time, I put the exit portals against Earth’s atmosphere, aiming for the general direction of a satellite.

It took thirty seconds of sustained fire before Shén Yù’s power stopped telling me it was a weak point.  Other thinker powers in my range were giving me similar feedback.  A cape with perfect eyesight was telling me it could even see the explosion.

The displays across Dragon’s private realm shifted further.

She was saying something to Defiant, words I couldn’t make out.  I could see him tensing, moving like he was going to go somewhere.  Then Dragon spoke again, and he went still.  His head turned in Scion’s general direction.

Please stop, I thought.  Don’t make me go further.

She went further.  She intensified and organized the attack, and her drones reached my front line, disabling them with nonviolent means.  Tranquilizers, electric pulses, containment foam and tear gas.

I let it happen, because I needed to see what her second wave attack was, before she organized a more efficient frontline attack.

The second wave approached, and they made a beeline for the portals that were controlling my minions.  The portals that would exit right next to me.  But the drones were too large…

Until they jettisoned outer shells and accelerated.  Half the payload, but they had the same kind of propulsion jets I had in my flight pack.  I moved the portals a fraction of a second before they speared through, and they continued onward through open air.

Shén Yù informed me about the third wave’s imminent attack.  Not a feeling of attack, but… the initial wave had read to his senses as something like infantry or spearmen.  The second wave had read as cavalry.

This?  A siege weapon?  The lines that Shén Yù’s power painted on the world indicated something deliberate, devastating, but diffuse, somehow indirect.

I directed fire at the drones, and forcefields served to protect most.  The non-Yàngbǎn capes I had that could penetrate the forcefields were few and far between, the drones too numerous.

They set up, planting their mechanical limbs firmly on the ground, and then they deployed, pyramid-shaped structures, glowing blue at the peak.

My portals began opening, ones I’d closed not long ago.  Portals I’d opened to control my capes, and the larger portal I’d opened to escape to this location on the Byzantine Tower.  I couldn’t shut them.

Drones started to make their way through.

I, in turn, opened another portal, handing one tinker device to Shén Yù before hurrying on, leading the rest through.  Portals blocked the drone’s ranged fire.

The Yàngbǎn’s strategist used Teacher’s device, and all the doors in his vicinity slammed shut.

Dragon’s path to me was shut.

I watched the meters and gauges.  Each attack had pushed Dragon’s remaining resources closer to capacity.  That was on top of the extra strain she was under with Scion having done so much damage to the Eastern seaboard.  He would have eliminated other databanks when he’d attacked.  Just like me, she’d been wounded and disabled before entering into our private war.  Just like me, she desperately wanted to focus on Scion, but she couldn’t afford to.

If each attack pushed the remaining databanks four percent closer to capacity, at a guess… no.  I was having trouble putting the numbers together.  Had to eyeball all of it.

I targeted another facility.  All of the ranged attacks, channeled through open portals, ripping through an unoccupied facility.

In quiet horror, I watched meters flip over into the red, gauges hitting maximum capacity, bars filling, characters on screens going nutso until they were all the same digit, repeated ad infinitum.

One by one, monitors went blank.  Server banks I hadn’t even touched began to spin down, fans stopping, lights fading.  Whole grids of blinking green lights winked out, some in order, others at random.

I watched, silent and frozen, as the process continued.

Stop, I thought.  That’s enough.

You have backup servers, I thought.  Those servers need to stay online.  They have to stay online, because you can’t exist in stasis any more than I could.

She needed life support, at a bare minimum.  She couldn’t go any length of time without something running any more than I could go for a duration without a heartbeat or breathing.

But the lights continued to go out.

She said things to others, over the comms systems.  To Chevalier and other various heroes.  A few words or a statement or two, specific to each of them.

Some longer words and phrases dedicated to Defiant, and more acerbic words for Teacher and Saint.

Saint didn’t react, but Teacher raised his phone, tapping it a few times before saluting the air with the device.

The drones close enough to do so sank to the ground all across the mountain’s peak.  Her suits had already retreated and settled on the ground.  Defiant was very still as he watched them land.

Then Scion attacked, screaming incoherently, and Defiant moved, taking control of one ship.

The last of Dragon’s lights went out.

I stood in a daze as the various machines went still, surprisingly hot as the fans stopped spinning.  All of the server rooms and data banks were utterly dark and quiet.

Drones that hadn’t been close enough to the surface to land dropped out of the air.  They hit the ground, along with one or two members of my swarm, and I flinched with the crashing, as if they were striking me.

I’m sorry, I thought, but it wasn’t my thought.  A memory.

It was good that my power was saying it, because I couldn’t.  My own thoughts were a jumble.

My feelings were a chaotic mess.  A lump was growing in my throat, swelling beyond my ability to tolerate it.

I hunched over, and I very nearly let go of the clairvoyant’s hand before remembering that I couldn’t.  Instead, Doormaker and the clairvoyant both pulled at my mask until it was halfway up my face.  I felt the lump become a wave of vomit, spattering over the rooftop.  It hurt, not just the physical act, and yet it felt like so little.  Still a scene I was experiencing while half-numb, experiencing from a distance.

I miscalculated?

Had she been vulnerable because of what Teacher had done to her?

Something else?

Did it even matter?

I felt the need to throw up again, almost wanted to, just for that relief from what was welling up inside.

She’d been an ally, a friend.

I wanted to scream, to yell at her for being like all of the others and refusing to play along, to listen and cooperate.  I wanted to do the opposite, to beg her forgiveness, and hate myself for being exactly what I’d criticized others for.

I wanted to put all of those feelings aside and start dealing with Scion.  I wanted to give up on that entirely, because, fuck it, what was I even trying to save, at this point?

If I’d been whole, if I’d been balanced, I might have been able to find the middle road between the conflicting ideas.  But I wasn’t.  I remained hunched over, almost paralyzed.

My anchors… what had I chosen, again?  Tattletale, Rachel, Imp… Grue’s cabin.  My interlinking hexagonal portals were a mess.  In the course of fighting Dragon, I’d closed portals and opened others without any attention to keeping it together. That was something to pay attention to.  If I wasn’t feeling my emotions as clearly as I should, I had to look for the external clues, and that jumble was suggestive of an emotional turmoil I’d been suppressing.

I began pulling the grid back together, not feeling any better.

What else?

I reached out, trying to remind myself of the anchors I’d set up.

My mom… I found the graveyard.

My old house…

Where had it been again?

The streets were such a mess, one pile of rubble virtually indistinguishable from the rest.  What was I supposed to even do to identify it, if there were no landmarks?

I’d hoped to use the anchors to help push myself forward, but reaching for one thing that I’d known from the very beginning and failing in the process left me in a more unbalanced state.

I was…

I was what?

There had been an idea I’d been reaching for, a word, a symbol, something.  Yet I couldn’t clarify it in my head.

Don’t panic, I thought, but the words sounded panicked in my head.  Rushed.  Sloppy.  My breathing was hard and fast, my heartbeat pacing out of control.  Between the two, it was getting to my head, affecting my thoughts.

Don’t panic, I told myself.  The repetition felt good, helping.

Or had it been my passenger telling me not to panic?

No.  I had a perfectly normal lapse.  Perfectly normal.  A person in a stressful situation like this is going to have moments where she can’t come up with the right word.

Perfectly normal.

My breath wheezed a little as I panted.

You don’t want to, but you have to, I told myself.  Stop Scion.

The portal slid open.

Except I hadn’t ordered it.

You want to take over, passenger?  I thought.  I began to struggle to my feet.

The drones moved.


Saint, taking over her systems again?

They flowed through the doorway to Shén Yù, blitzing him in passing.

No.  Neither of the two seemed to be paying attention to me.  They were focused on Scion.

I began erecting portals, shooting the drones out of the air, defending myself against the initial bombardment of tear gas canisters and containment foam.  If I was slow to react, it was because of the disorientation, the lack of knowledge of who and what I was up against.

I had other thinkers available.  Understanding their power was easier with the Yàngbǎn’s power boost.  If they were puppets, the power boost meant the puppets fit my hand.  I put them to work, trying to divine just who was seizing control of these drones.

It was so much easier to operate when I was doing something.  Time and again, my lapses, the slippage, it had been in the quiet moments, between the conversations and the fighting.

It was easier if I was active, in the midst of conflict.

This was me.  I thrived when I had an opponent, and when I could carry out that goal I’d had from the beginning, getting the world to the point where it all made sense.  Bringing people in line, subjugating those who would get in the way or do more harm than good.

That was how I functioned.  I’d always reveled in the chaos, in the madness of it all.

No, the thought crossed my mind.  Not always.

Once upon a time, I’d been Taylor, minus the powers.  I’d avoided conflict.  I’d just been trying to get by.

Does that mean this is you, passenger?

There was, of course, no reply.

The drones kept coming, and I redoubled my efforts, calling individuals to me to form a battle line.

The moment the line was in place, the drones shifted.  Some entered the portal, then immediately made a ‘u’ turn, flowing back around the sides of the portal and down.  They circled around the building, trying to get at me from behind.  I had to redistribute my personal army to block them off.

The portals were open and I couldn’t close them.  But the lights on the drones were off.  No lenses glowed, the antigrav panels were the only thing that indicated any power at all.  Remote control of some sort?

The lights are off, but they’re still running.

I laughed, abrupt, an alien sound, not my own laugh.

The goddamn lights are off!

It wasn’t Saint mounting this attack against me.  It wasn’t Teacher, or Defiant, or any of those other guys.

I continued laughing.  My winded panting and nausea from before translated to a kind of lightheadedness.

Fucking Dragon.

Fucking with my head.  Giving me a reality check.  Trying to catch me off guard.  She’d figured out that I had the ability to see her systems, she’d switched off the lights on the panels, put every system into hibernation, stopped the fans, and cut everything down to a bare minimum while the fans had stopped, so they didn’t overheat too quickly.

A drone that had crept around behind the building detonated in a flare of pale sparks, and every portal in the vicinity distorted, taking on weird shapes, more three-dimensional than two-dimensional.  They winked out of existence.

Leaving me in the midst of an army I no longer controlled.

Fucking tinkers, I thought.  But I was strangely overjoyed.  I was fucked over six ways from Sunday, but I was happy.  I hadn’t murdered one of my favorite people.

The capes at the edge of the rooftop were looking around in a daze.

The drones were moving, assuming a perimeter.  The capes at the edge of the rooftop looked lost and shell-shocked.

And I was still laughing, clutching the clairvoyant’s hand as if it was one of the few things keeping me grounded.

Capes at the edges retreated, bumping into one another.

The laughter stopped as I abruptly let out a sound, half-roar, half-scream, incoherent, channeling every last iota of the lingering rage and despair into the noise.

I commanded the people in my range to attack the drones, and I continued screaming even as my throat began to hurt and I felt like I might pass out from oxygen.

Dragon was only just beginning to speak, some drones blaring out words in what might have been English, others in a sing-song dialect that was likely Chinese.  The percussion and detonations that followed the attacks striking home drowned out most of it.

The ones at the edge took cues, attacking the drones they’d just been fighting.

Each and every one of them had been brainwashed.  Some by Teacher, some by the Yàngbǎn. They hadn’t had freedom of choice for some time.  Between the scream of rage, a pretty damn universal sound, and the action of the ones I did control, they defaulted to going with the crowd.

I still had to deal with Dragon.  Her intent was clear, from the way the drones were moving.  She wanted to target me, and stop me from the source.  I needed to do the same, and I needed to do it without destroying her infrastructure.  I wasn’t going to risk making that faked death into a real one.

Fuck you for fucking with my head at a time like this, Dragon.

The thought wasn’t one of malice.  My feelings were so confused I could barely tell on that front.  I was relieved, disoriented, but those were more states of being than actual feelings.

I was muddled.

One task at a time.

Stopping Dragon.

I watched as the suits she’d settled on the ground kicked back into action.

We’d fought Endbringers together.  For a time, the Guild had been one of our biggest assets.  I’d seen what happened when Dragon was taken out of action.  A.I.?  Nothing substantial.  But when her main suit was taken out of action…

I saw the way she deployed the suits.  Which was she keeping safest?

One was in the thick of things, creating different types of forcefield to try to mitigate the damage Scion was doing to our side.  Capes had baited Scion out over the water, but the fact that there were less targets in range was counterbalanced by the fact that Scion was more focused on those who were there, and he was hitting harder.  When he hit the water, waves crashed against the shore, doing nearly as much damage as any of his attacks might.  A Leviathan with one arm, one leg, and most of its head missing was perched on the shoreline, apparently mitigating the damage.

There were two more suits on the fray, offering long-range fire.

And one more above the clouds, periodically firing exceedingly long ranged laser beams at Scion.

The drones were making headway.  These capes weren’t completely under my control and they weren’t the most stable, either.  They were liable to crumble where other capes might stand firm.

Doormaker was recovering his power.  He could make portals, but it was slow.

My first instinct was to regain control.  I reconsidered.

I didn’t have time to feel guilty.  I didn’t have time to think.  There was only a moment where I felt the weight of what I was doing, the knowledge that if this didn’t work, I’d set everyone back for nothing.

I opened portals behind Dragon’s longest-range ship, the entrance portals above my army’s heads.  I began firing through the doors with every individual I could control, creating more portals to seize control of others with every passing second.

More ranged attacks joined the barrage.  Dragon flew out of the way, her ship badly damaged, and I moved the portal, maintaining the assault.

The wreck of the ship plummeted from the sky, and the behavior of the other Dragon-craft changed, as though they’d switched gears.  The drones dropped from the sky once again.

Something told me this wasn’t a feint.

I opened portals into the Birdcage, and Dragon didn’t stop me.  No containment foam came down from the ceiling.

Maybe fifty or sixty members of my swarm had been disabled by the nonlethal measures.  With the Birdcage, I added seven hundred and forty-three individuals to my army.

The nonlethal measures would wear off.  It was a step forward.

I turned to my passenger to sort them out, and I sent a share of them into the fight to reinforce the others.

One obstacle, removed.  Dragon would take time to reboot.  I could disable her in a similar manner next time.

Defeating Dragon this way hadn’t been ideal, not completely freeing myself of the distraction and threat she posed, but it beat murdering her.

I turned my attention to the world as a whole, with the idea of recruiting other capes.  I hit a dead end.  The worlds were bleeding together, and it had gotten worse while my attention was elsewhere.  I had to force myself to clarify what I was looking at, to tell myself that the areas didn’t make sense.

It took excruciating minutes to get my head out of that sludge, and to make sense of what I was looking at.  Minutes, as Scion tore into Alexandria, to convince myself that it was all in my head, and that Scion wasn’t actively tearing apart reality.

I exhaled slowly, and the exhalation was a shudder.  My throat hurt from the screaming.

The going was slow at first, but it picked up as I let my passenger handle more of the load.  Capes in hiding.  Rogues.  Deserters who had fled for safety in our hour of need.  A surprising number of capes who had no costume, and who had barely used their powers at all, judging by the way it felt when I reached for their abilities.  They were rogues who’d been subtle at best, or rogues who’d gone without powers altogether.

There were the retirees, not old capes, but capes who’d been wounded, or who’d dropped out of the scene for other reasons.  Their powers were more developed at their core, but rusty at best.

I reached for the insane, along with those disabled by their powers.  A small few, all things considered.  Glory Girl was among them, in a newly built wing of a home for non-cape invalids.  Something her family had set up, no doubt.

I found members of Bonesaw’s Slaughterhouse Nine.  Clones who’d fled, or who’d been left behind, lurking in dark corners, or simply hiding.  A Mannequin, two Damsels that were keeping each other company, a Night Hag-Nyx hybrid, and a Crawler-Breed hybrid.

When I had the vast majority of them, I began looking to other universes.

There were capes in Earth Aleph, barely C-list by our standards.  Sundancer, Genesis, and Ballistic were there as well, the former two in civilian clothes, retired, the latter in a lavish penthouse, fully done up in costume.  My portals opened, and I had control of them.  I left Oliver behind.

Other earths only had a small handful.  No doubt there had been contamination at some point where doorways had been opened.  Whole worlds with only ten capes at most, half of which were case fifty-threes.


I shook my head a little, blinking.

I found another Earth with a mixture of capes, all incredibly beautiful people, all in what was obviously a global position of power.  Every flag that flew in their world was the same flag, and the gauntlet emblem on that flag matched the icon on a particular woman’s costume.  A blue costume, with white fur at the collar, and a heavy cape that would have done Alexandria proud.

I attempted to seize control of them as well, and the woman in blue resisted me.  She spoke, and I lost my hold on everyone in her range.

It was only twenty capes.  Negligible.  But I wasn’t going to settle.  If I was going to compromise on any level, it was going to take more than this.

I created a portal, and I ensnared Canary, who was busy rescuing the wounded, flying here and there with her Dragonslayer suit, her arms full.

She set down the wounded, and then she passed through the portal.

She began to sing.

I was controlling her, and it was my song in a way, syllables rattled off at a fast tempo and severe clip, followed by long high notes.  Not English, but not my own muddled speech either.  I could feel her expressing her power through the song, through each intonation and sound.

I brought her close enough to give her the benefit of the Yàngbǎn’s power enhancer.  I had enough awareness of her power to know how to keep myself safe from it.

I tried again with these foreign capes, in this world where this blue-costumed woman ruled the world, portals feeding Canary’s song into their council chambers.

Those same portals let me attempt to reassert control.

An attack from two directions.  She wasn’t immune, only resistant.  I felt myself assert control.  I understood her power, even if I didn’t understand a thing about her.  A personal, point-blank trump power, allowing her to tune abilities and defenses much like Scion did.  A powerful long-ranged telekinesis, a compulsion power like Canary’s, presence-based rather than voice based, and a personal power battery that let her be stronger, for limited times.

Where the hell had she come from?

No powers that really made her amazing against Scion, but it was an asset.

The others… they weren’t weak.  Nothing gamebreaking, at a glance, but they weren’t weak.

Sleeper.  I could see him, sitting on a lawn chair on a balcony, reading a book out loud to himself.

More trouble than he was worth.  I let him be.

One by one, I brought the ones I’d collected to the battlefield.  The prisoners, the brainwashed, the lunatics, the cowards, the monsters and the broken.  They assembled in groups, in the spaces between the other major groups.  In front, behind, above, and below.

Canary’s song wove its way out of the portals.  Slower than before, working with the wind and the waves rather than fighting against them.

More doors opened, and more of the ones I’d collected continued to appear.

Teacher was making his way into Cauldron’s base, walking past the heroes at the doorway like he belonged there.  He was talking into his phone, mocked up to be like a PRT-issue phone, and the communication was going to every major member of the Protectorate and Guild.

Contessa, for her part, was waking up.

I was shaking, and it wasn’t just the tension.  I wanted to sit down, but I knew that if I did, I probably wouldn’t stand again.

My anchors…  The mantle of portals, Tattletale, Rachel, Imp, Grue.

My old house continued to elude me.  That detail gave me a sinking feeling in my gut.  I reached out for a replacement.  Not my home, then.  My dad’s workplace?  No.  Something else, something family.

A quaint old house on a hill, surrounded by rose bushes, a grandmother…  Not my grandmother.  I barely knew my Gram.  I shook my head.  The house on a hill had been a memory of something I’d read, once.

It was unsettling, the seeming reality of it, the nostalgia.  If I was a little further gone, could I have clung to it, used something wrong to keep my identity intact?

I was still lost in thought when I became aware that I’d stepped onto the battlefield.  I hadn’t plotted it.  Had even felt like it would be a bad idea.  Now Miss Militia was turning my way.  Exalt was standing beside her.

Teacher was talking, and they were responding.

He was warning them about the threat.

I could see people throughout the crowd.  Protectorate members, team leaders of the Wards.  They were tense.

A voice carried over the wind.  I recognized the quality of it, even if I didn’t recognize the words.  Glaistig Uaine, welcoming me back.

Crooning.  She was pleased, on a level.  I found her sitting on a mountaintop, surrounded by three of her ghost-capes.

My small army had grown to be a formidable force.  Three thousand strong in all.  I had thirty layers of portals around me.

Teacher said something, and it was Tattletale who replied.  I could see her, and she didn’t look happy.

So many voices, so many things to focus on.

I felt momentarily lost in the midst of it.  I had a large army, by parahuman standards, I was probably strong enough to kill everyone here-

I stopped myself.

Why had I thought that?  I didn’t want to kill anyone.

Glaistig Uaine continued to croon in my ear.  Was it her?

No.  I was almost positive it wasn’t, and I had any number of thinkers at my disposal who could have warned me.

I shook my head a little.

I had a large army.  I was powerful.  I could move on to the next big step, but I wasn’t sure how.  It was like playing chess, the moves I could make had enough gravity and nuance that I could only make one move at a time.  What to do first?  What wouldn’t open me up for retaliation?

It was better if I wasn’t here.  I turned to leave, backing through a portal.

Tattletale, in that same moment, stepped outside.  She gazed over at my army, then turned and looked straight at me.

Her eyes were wide.  She looked just a little freaked out.

I don’t-  I can’t…

My thoughts stuttered.


I clutched to every image and object I’d set in my mind’s eye, to the tethers that were supposed to keep me tied down.

It’s too soo-

Too soon.

I was running out of time.

Had to move.  Had to act.  It was easier, so long as I was in the thick of it.

Glaistig Uaine was the real threat.  She would be first.

Thing was, I didn’t like the look of those ghosts of hers.  A woman, one of the really crazy looking ones who had a costume that was more for revealing than it was for covering up.  She was warped, twisted by Glaistig Uaine’s power until the costume and the body were one and the same, which only made her look more vulgar.

I didn’t recognize her, but she looked like one of the crazy ones.

There was a guy, built like a football player in full padding, only it was all muscle.  That muscle, in turn, was covered in armor that had spikes studding it at regular intervals.  The helmet covered his eyes.  He sat at Glaistig Uaine’s feet, and he was tall enough that her eyes barely looked over the top of his head.

And there was a woman, so thin she was barely there, a look no doubt exaggerated by Glaistig Uaine’s powers.  When Glaistig Uaine spoke to me, it was the thin woman who passed on the message, her lips moving.  Like Screamer, then.

I prepared to make a move, and I felt the danger sense of no less than twelve different capes in my army go off.

Yet I still alerted the ghost in armor.  He moved, lurching to his feet, and he spoke.

Glaistig Uaine said something, and it was a single word, a hard word.

He was a precog, and to look at him, he was a defensive cape.

She’d been anticipating an attack.

The thin woman moved, and a current of wind ripped through the air, two feet wide and ten feet tall, less a tornado and more a battering ram.  It flew through the sky, homing in on me.

I moved through a portal, and the column followed.  It hit me like a truck, and I nearly lost my grip on the clairvoyant’s hand.

I tumbled.  In a sense, my lack of control over my own body helped more than anything.  I was left panting, but I hadn’t tensed up because the reflex simply hadn’t been there.  Being limp when I took the hit was better than going tense and tearing something.

The Faerie Queen had anticipated an attack.  She had to know what I’d been doing, how I was operating.  If I used my power…

What did the vulgar woman with the lipstick smirk and creepy white teeth do?

Another column of wind homed in on me.

My army threw barriers in the way.  Force fields, walls of crystal and walls of fire.

The column passed between them like it wasn’t even a consideration.  I closed the portal in front of me before the column could zip through.

I watched as it changed course, heading for the nearest member of my army.  I might have been able to do something about it, but I suspected it would have found a way to me anyways.  Instead, I shifted my grip, gripping the young man’s wrist, and making him grab mine.  A surer grip than hand-on-hand.

The wind-attack compressed, passing through the foot-wide portal behind them, and it hit me.  Not as hard as the first, because it wasn’t as large, but it still hurt.

The Faerie Queen spoke, her voice imperious, echoing in that curious way of hers.  Indignant more than furious, but still with that bite of anger behind it.

The others on the battlefield reacted, and it wasn’t to rally against Glaistig Uaine.

Tattletale was murmuring under her breath.  Was that-  Was it my name?

The faerie queen banished her wind-witch and brought out another spirit.  I tried to capitalize on the distraction, getting one cape with one of the stronger ranged powers to attack her.  A gravity pulse, a bullet that imploded things at the impact site.

The man in armor moved, and the vulgar woman reacted, creating a circle of rippling air.  The bullet struck the barrier, and the man who’d sent out the pulse promptly imploded, blood showering everyone nearby.

Something indirect, then.  I opened a portal a distance away, and I used Canary’s song.

She kept the field up.  I could feel the pain wrack Canary, hear her choke on her words.  She doubled over and coughed up blood.

A power counterer, a precog…  and Eidolon, now.

If I’d used a portal, what would have happened to me?  Would it have affected Doormaker or me?  Or both of us?

I didn’t feel very stable on my own two feet as I climbed to a standing position.  I had a whole army, and I could lose them in an instant if I simply unloaded on her.

I needed to hit her with something that broke the rules.  Not Foil.  I wasn’t willing to risk Foil.  But something

I took control of Alexandria, instead, Pretender.  Controlling the person who was controlling the manipulative bitch Alexandria.  I took Legend, who was part of that fight, two foreign capes and Moord Nag.

They were the ones running interference, buying us time to breathe.

Now I positioned them.  As I’d done with my bugs, I lined up the shot.

He took the bait, shooting.  I moved everyone out of the way.

Glaistig Uaine’s pets informed her of the imminent danger, and the shield was raised in time.

Smoke poured off of Scion, indicating he’d taken the reflective effect full force.

And smoke cleared around the Faerie Queen as well.  She was panting a little, her ghosts tattered but intact.  I made her stand straighter, and then banished her ghosts, replacing them.  I’d used the distraction to plant a portal behind her.

I opened a portal, passing through, re-entering Earth Gimel.

Miss Militia turned a sniper rifle on me.  I caught her before she could fire.

Then, group by group, I captured the rest of the defending force.  Some resisted, some predicted the attack, but it was a foregone conclusion.  I had enough soldiers, enough tools at my disposal, that nothing here really stood in my way.

I created more portals, until I didn’t have space for all of them.  I shrunk them, reorganized.  Where I could find the open space, I tapped other worlds, reaching for bugs.

Those bugs then swirled around my captives, flowing around their feet or behind them, where they wouldn’t obscure the view.

I saw with compound vision.  Five thousand pairs of eyes, collecting more with every second that passed.

I breathed with five thousand mouths.

I was adrift in a sea.

My eyes fell on Tattletale.  Panacea was behind her.

She shook her head, putting herself between me and Panacea.

I reached out, my hand trembling.

It flopped down at my side.

I need her as an anchor more than I need her power.


My mom’s grave… it was in Brockton Bay, right?

Brockton Bay.  It took me a minute to find, more time because I was busy keeping capes out of Scion’s way.  Putting them through doorways, bringing them back.  Always being careful to keep the doorways from being touched by his power.

I couldn’t find the grave.  No time.

What else?  The mantle of power, of course.




I reached out, tried to find others, and I failed.

It would- would have to do.

This was it.  Finally, everyone was working together.

Last Chapter                                                                                               Next Chapter

600 thoughts on “Speck 30.4

    • I commanded the people in my range to attack the drones, and I continued screaming even as my throat began to hurt and I felt like I might pass out from oxygen.

      Shouldn’t that be, “…pass out from the lack of oxygen.” ?

    • “I raised my hand again”
      1114 suggested unreliable narrator, but just in case, I’m putting this here. Because Taylor’s holding hands with Clairvoyant (he needs a name, seriously. Claire?). And she only has one hand.

        • Don’t sully the divinity of Stanfield by suggesting he wouldn’t be able to deal with Scion alone, if and when he felt like it.

        • Shouldn’t forget Doormaker either. He needs a name too.
          Really, both of these guys need more detail, I’m having a hard time finding a physical description of them besides that Clairvoyant is a twentysomething guy with no eyes and Doormaker is about ten years older.
          Right now they are both very important and integral to what is going on. And I can’t picture them. I think this might be something to edit, when it comes time for that, Wildbow.

          • Actually it makes sense. Nobody ever bothered treating them like people. They’re just tools/weapons in Cauldron/taylor’s arsenal.

          • Posted this in the wrong place earlier, but here it goes again: I imagine them somewhat like the Thinkamancer-linked group in Erfworld. (read Erfworld. It’s awesome) What I mean is, their appearence, even their personality and decisionmaking, has been near-totally burnt out by the process of aquiring their power, linking them together. As such, narratively, they are more like tools, background elements of the setting, than characters in and of themselves. Don’t expect them to be any more fleshed out than they already are.

            • That’s all well and good for critical conceptualization… But for a story where detailed descriptions are all you have to create an imaginary mock-up of a scene be it still-frame or movie-style full animation, (esp. with regards to people since terrain can be fudged) having character descriptions available is pretty important. Not now though, of course- Taylor’s descent into insanity is reflected perfectly so far in the lack of details. I would even go so far as to say these last few chapters have been my favourites. Anyways I digress. -Written on Xbox360 x-x

              • RIKA YOU FUCKER, YOUR NAME IS SPOKEN IN THE SAME MOURNEFUL TONES AS REGENT, IN THE IRC! WE (Well at least I do, and who cares about the rest, fuck those guys) MISS YOU SO BRING YOUR ASS BACK PLEEEEEEEEEASE! *ahem* I want to note that I didn’t even see what you posted, this was reflexive upon seeing your name. *Discreetly dusts shoulders off and wanders elsewhere*

    • The faerie queen banished […]

      I suspect it could be intentional, but all other instance Faerie Queen is capitalized in this chapter.

    • I don’t see how she can win, but likewise, I don’t see how she can lose. The only outcome I see at this point is to run that ‘thousand years’ worth of energy out of Zion, while likewise self-destructing herself.

      I can easily see her using Panacea right now to start merging herself into a single entity. Some sort of Taylor-Crawler-Cthulian abomination. It’s easier to have one body then multiple, that way she doesn’t have to hold on…

      Oh, and who else thinks that the world run by capes may or may not be the resting place of a third entity? Then again, we don’t know what causes a shard to die, as the third entities shards are still alive, but it’s possibly a *very* far distance away. How could it be sustaining them? Or maybe it’s closer than you think ™?

      • One body, one target. An choreographed attack of 3000+ capes through instant pop up portals is a great idea. Scion should have a harder time fighting that, than one massive “Skitter-Echidna-Hybrid” with 3000+ powers.

        And its not the third entity we should look out … Taylor is talking to the second…

      • The world ruled by parahumans is still an Earth. The Third went away and GU told us that the worms make it sure to leave traces in their wake so others won’t follow.

  1. How’s that poem go again?

    “Turning and turning in the widening gyre
    The Falcon cannot hear the Falconer.
    Things fall apart; the center cannot hold,
    Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world.
    The blood-dimmed tide is loose, and everywhere
    the ceremony of innocence is drowned;
    The best lack all conviction, while the worst
    are full of passionate intensity.”

    Yeats, The Second Coming

    • Surely some revelation is at hand;
      Surely the Second Coming is at hand.
      The Second Coming! Hardly are those words out
      When a vast image out of Spiritus Mundi
      Troubles my sight: somewhere in sands of the desert
      A shape with lion body and the head of a man,
      A gaze blank and pitiless as the sun,
      Is moving its slow thighs, while all about it
      Reel shadows of the indignant desert birds.
      The darkness drops again; but now I know
      That twenty centuries of stony sleep
      Were vexed to nightmare by a rocking cradle,
      And what rough beast, its hour come round at last,
      Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?

  2. … well. We know what Sleeper looks like at least. He’s male, capable of reading and small enough to fit on a lawn chair.

    This was it. Finally, everyone was working together.

    Farewell, Taylor. It was nice knowing you. Hello, shard.

    • Hey Taylor you know why Sauron went bad? He thought the world was full of chaos and would be better if a single person controlled everything to bring order and stability.

        • Well…yes. My point, though, was that Sauron started with good intentions. You can’t exactly say the same thing about Hitler and Stalin.

            • If I recall correctly, he started out with equal parts good intentions, batshit insanity, and raw charisma. The Administrator here replaces that last one with large-area mindrape, which pretty much just speeds the whole process along.

            • If someone, including the nazis, had ever bothered to reading Mein Kampf they would have found out that Hitler was planning genocide since his first failed coup . Then again, Mein Kampf is one of the most boring and badly written books ever.

              Besides, i think it’s preferable if we compared Taylor to fictional dictators instead of real ones. We really don’t want to open THAT can of worms (pun not intended).

              • To quote Cracked: “[Hitler] was like the polar-opposite of Charlie Brown: shitty at everything, yet unbelievably successful.”

                And yeah, let’s avoid Godwinning everything. It’s a much bigger recipe for failure than it sounds like.

      • Aye, but Sauron wasn’t fighting a deity that would destroy everything, anyway.

        As much as I hate what she’s doing, she’s still not being malicious. She’s unstable around the edges, but she is maintaining a core purpose.

        However her anchors are failing her. But there’s one anchor that she hasn’t had the courage to look for yet, who she might not even be able to find, now. But perhaps others have found him first, and provided him with safety.

        How could this have happened?

        Dinah, Brian, Danny, in a little conversation.

        • What it’s boiling down to is probably die free from Scion killing you, or live in total enslavement from Taylor, and hope that after the fight she’s not so far gone she doesn’t release you.

          • Yeah, I think it’s closer to “die free as Scion giga-murders everthing you’ve ever conceived of” vs. “fight while enslaved to Taylor”. Once the fight is done, judging from what this is doing to her, I don’t think there’s much chance she would choose keep this many people in thrall. She hates it as much as they do. Unless the only way to end the fight is something that permanently fuses them together.

            • She hates it now. But half an hour ago, she was deliberately avoiding enslaving people who weren’t already brainwashed or monsters. A few minutes ago she understood english. A few seconds ago she remembered her friends’ names. Now she’s mindraped everyone on the battlefield just as a matter of course, and there seems to be less and less human in her every moment. By the time she takes down Zion, who knows what her priorities will be?

              • If she loses the last of her anchors, I think the operative question will be whether what’s commanding the enslaved parahumans will be Taylor at all at that point, or if the only thing that will be left will be the Administrator shard.

                If Taylor’s there at the end though? Well, I still have faith in her.

              • I think I said it before, but if not the thought has been there. That this is going to end with pepper spray and Tattletale. That is her final anchor. Personally I find Tattletale to be a very fitting one for her.

        • She didn’t even flinch when one of the dudes she was controlling exploded in a shower of blood. Apathy is it’s own kind of malice.

          • So… a shock to the system against the Uber threat will be stopped by…. Taylor’s pepper spray?

            Taylor Hebert, only stoppable by… Taylor Hebert…

            Well, at least we know what the upgrade from ‘S’ class threat is now, it’s ‘T’ class.

          • This really doesn’t strike me as apathy. This strikes me as “Taylor” is being overwritten by “Administrator” and IT is designed to fight, fight, and then fight some more. She’s put up a good war against it so far but unless she kills Scion soon I worry that Taylor is going to go bye bye permanently.

        • Unstable around the edges? I’d say that the instability is extending tendrils straight to the core of Taylor’s being.

          And yeah, Taylor looking for Danny is a gamble. If he’s alive, she loses a bit of concentration and gains an anchor. If he is not, she loses a little time and hope.

          • She’s still very stable at her core. I don’t believe that she recognizes what her core anchor is right now. Killing Scion. Almost everything else has become meaningless, and her best friends and people she cares about have become secondary.

            She will be at her most dangerous if/when she takes down Scion. At that point, that’s when all her secondary anchors will be critical. But will they be enough?

              • She’s definitely shedding her humanity, layer by layer. The question is what will happen when she destroys her own anchor, by defeating Scion. Does the passenger win then, or Taylor? That’s when I suspect that whatever Wildbow is hiding up in Grue’s cabin or in Simurgh’s glass tube, or both, will make it’s appearance.

            • She is focused. Focused is not stable. Focused is what leads her to accomplish her goals at any cost; stable is what makes her not take the extreme penalties, risks, and actions.

              Focused is good for now, but it does not make her stable.

    • Yup. Trust Wildbow to take what, bereft of context would be an encouraging and positive statement and infuse it with pure horror.

      He’s an evil, evil man in such a good way…

  3. Taylor doesn’t have much time left, but she certainly picked one hell of a way to go out.

    Vaguely surprised Genesis wasn’t mentioned along with Ballistic and Sundancer.

    And now, I suppose, the fight against Scion. Should be quite the show.

    Kind of funny, though: in the end, the factor most likely to doom the world is Brandish having been such an abysmal foster mother for Panacea.

    • “There were capes in Earth Aleph, barely C-list by our standards. Sundancer, Genesis, and Ballistic were there as well, the former two in civilian clothes, retired, the latter in a lavish penthouse, fully done up in costume. My portals opened, and I had control of them. I left Oliver behind.”

      • True, but more often than not endings need to be satisfying and wrap up any unwrapped plot threads. Given Wildbow’s habit of dropping characters like ugly babies, I’ve basically stopped caring about closure and I’m only sticking around to see how much of this Wildbow can wrap up before the Rocks Fall and Everyone Dies. Epilogues can only do so much.

      • Perhaps she could fix herself using Panacea, actually. She has access to the power booster and to countless Thinkers, as well as her own power’s ability to grasp the powers of others intuitively. She might be able to use Panacea’s own power better than Panacea can by combining all of those.

      • Well endings doesn’t have to stereotypically end up with good guy hugging each other while the bad guys got suddenly incarcerated. It sounds like a cheap hazardous lobotomy to me

        I’d prefer endings with plausible cause and effect, good, if everything wrapped up reasonably, thumbs up, if the final moments impressive enough to be etched into lasting memories. Now that sounds like perfect, unique, pleasuring lobotomy.

      • I thought people would enjoy said quote:

        I. Am. The. New. God. All is one in Darkseid. This mighty body is my church. When I command your surrender, I speak with three billion voices. When I make a fist to crush your resistance. It is with three billion hands. When I stare into your eyes and shatter your dreams. And break your heart. It is with six billion eyes! Nothing like Darkseid has ever come among you: Nothing will again. I will take you to a hell without exit or end. And there I will murder your souls! And make you crawl and beg! And die! Die! Die for Darkseid!

        Eerily accurate.

        • Oh, yes, Taylor is the Anti-Life Equation. Course if Darksied shows up to try and take it from her, she’ll have a nice planet of new gods to throw at Scion.

  4. One Taylor to rule them all. One Taylor to find them. One Taylor to bring them all, and in the Wormverse, bind them.

  5. So she now controls 5000 capes. When she controlled 3000 she decided she could take on Glastig but Sleeper was too much trouble? What the hell can Sleeper do?

    • Glastig’s power is useful against Scion, Sleeper’s might not be that effective. In this case the risks of a free Glastig to mess things up versus her utility are quite high incentives to get her despite the risks. Sleeper’s power might, for example, be some massive scale shaker ability that would interfere with Taylor’s whole army if used. In this sense, there would be some benefit to including him in the collective, but it could easily be outweighed by the risk of having to fight Sleeper.

    • I know! This arc is terrifying. We’re getting glimpses of the Wormverse that are all the scarier for not being fleshed out. And, of course, that cliffhanger made me bite right through my nails to the tender abused flesh underneath. This is incredible.

    • My guess is sleeper involves mass duplication of himself. It would be a real pain to manage all the extra portals, and explain why he was reading aloud to himself (maybe another self).

        • Plausible, but probably too predictable. Wildbow’s characters tend to have atypical abilities like super-intuition, instant forgetability and the ability to grow giant dogs. Sleeper probably also has something skewed from the obvious.

          Besides, his name suggests that *he* sleeps, not that he makes others sleep. The suggestion that he’s effectively lucid-dreaming in the real world makes a lot of sense, but I guessed that one too so it’s probably not right. xD

          I’m not sure if anyone’s suggested that he could be a sleeper in the covert intelligence sense.

          Heck, for all we know he has the ability to let trains ride over him! xD

    • Probably Sleeper is a stranger with the strangest power imaginable? that no one would even bother fighting him, because he is completely an unknown factor? Imp-wise power that made his power invariably mysterious…LOL

      • Sleeper’s power? You know how Taylor went “More trouble than he was worth.”?

        That’s what his power does. It makes people go “Eh, more trouble than he’s worth”.

        • High level Stranger that just passively convinces everyone to leave him alone while he takes a nap or reads a book? Makes sense.

          The Protectorate gets called in for reports of something unspeakably horrifying, driving all the locals away from a small town but curiously not seeming to harm any of them. The Triumverate takes one look, rates him a Class S threat, and gives orders to observe from great distance, defend the populace if required, but not provoke this horror if it can be at all avoided. After the first few weeks of remote observation revealed him mostly just napping, they tentatively classified this monstrosity as ‘The Sleeper’.

          Then the portals open, Scion appears. the Sleeper knows that he might not be safe on this world anymore, that the golden god of death might come by and interrupt his rest. So he gets up, stretches, strolls through to earth Z, and every other human on the planet flees for the relative safety of flaming population centers and mobs of chinese death dealers. The Sleeper, now the only sentient on an unremarkable world and thus as safe from Scion as any human can be, picks up a book discarded by one of the refugees, and begins idly flipping through it in his new villa.

      • So you’re saying he has the power of exaggeration? A stranger ability which makes him seem ridiculously dangerous, dispite being harmless?
        I like your theory. Unless of course you didn’t mean that, in which case I like my theory.

    • My bet: everyone in a radius falls asleep.(As in new Skitters mindcontrol-area) Useless in that fight. Half of the fighting capes asleep or something.

      Maybe like a maxed out Winter(S9 Clone).

    • He makes his dreams come to reality. Or alternatively, he makes reality enter his dreams. Either way, massive reality warping.

      Yes, I’m going to post this every time there’s speculation on Sleeper, in the hope that repeating it enough times makes it come true. 🙂 .

      • Yeah, interesting that he’s not bothering Scion…and that Scion’s not bothering him.

        I wonder if the Entities ever wind up with powers that are too dangerous for even them to hold onto? Perhaps Sleeper has a power that Scion doesn’t want to get back.

        • Sleeper is an insert of Wildbow.

          Can take over any world: Wildbow owns this parahuman multiverse
          Read to himself: That’s Wildbow proofreading the next chapter.
          Too bothersome; Has author edit powers to defeat Taylor with.
          Not appearing; Wildbow won’t let a Marty Stu into this story.


  6. Didn’t it say in Alexandria’s chapter that there was something like 650,000 parahumans? Have to hand it to you though, wildbow. We have a multiverse crossover, with almost every parahuman left alive vs. Zion. Don’t think it will matter. Her only chance is too find his real body and destroy it, so I think this is nothing more than a distraction. It may be possible to hit him so many times that the well runs dry but casualties will be enormous. Now for sequel speculation. Well I believe that Wildbow will take a break and move on to other stories, he probably will come back to the wormverse at some point. I have already in past chapter gone over past examples of things that might be cool to see in the future since the wormverse is such a rich universe to explore. Prequels, capes in other countries, story ideas etc. A direct sequel is going to have a very interesting setting now though.
    1. Many, many, alternate universes can now travel to each other with the doormaker’s portals, if he leaves them open. Imagine waking up and discovering there are at least a dozen more earths to live/explore.
    2. Almost every single one of those alternate worlds are destroyed, badly damaged, or have nothing but untamed wilderness. It’s like every world became like Brockton Bay after Leviathan. So any sequel will be in a damaged landscape, with little order, gangs, starvation, anarchy, and parahumans running many places. So any new character will have to deal with that.
    But regardless, it is climax time.

    • The other ‘verses hadn’t as much capes. And Scion had taken a mayor toll on cape population. … Fucked up times.

  7. Well this is incredibly fucked up. Taylor at least showed some remorse in this chapter. I wonder why Sleeper wasn’t worth worrying about, I feel like he will feature more in the sequel if it is made, since that is literally his first appearance. All the other S-class threats are helping the “good guys”.
    Taylor is completely loony. like totally. I think she has fallen off a cliff which she can’t return from. I think that if she doesn’t die or kill herself or magically gain control, she will become a dictator. Here are some quotes:
    “when I could carry out that goal I’d had from the beginning, getting the world to the point where it all made sense. Bringing people in line, subjugating those who would get in the way or do more harm than good.” – except she is literally subjugating everyone with powers.
    “I wanted to scream, to yell at her for being like all of the others and refusing to play along, to listen and cooperate.” – her problem. A bit of a control issue, when people don’t listen to her.
    I also said a while ago that Cauldron should have gone to other worlds, and there were some pretty powerful capes lording over everyone. They could have been useful in something.

      • I’m betting Taylor tries to kill herself instead of or just after moving everyone away and closing all of her portals.

        Taylor protects and saves people, Taylor stops monsters, and Taylor is selfless almost to a fault. Add in the apparent shattering of most of her mental faculties and the scene the Simurgh reminded Tattletale of, and I really cannot accept that suicide isn’t Taylor’s plan.

        • I can. I think at this point the sum total of Taylor’s plan is “Stop Scion”.

          There’s so many ways that can go, I don’t think she’s spared even a single neuron working on what comes next.

          Assuming she succeeds, would suicide be an option she chose to take? In some scenarios sure. She was willing to kill Aster to spare her from hell, I can’t see her denying herself or the world that. I can imagine dozens of scenarios that go in completely different directions though.

        • “Taylor is selfless almost to a fault” but also incredibly egoistic: if you’re not doing things Taylor’s way then you’re doing it wrong. She’s perfectly willing to violate your autonomy for your own good (or the good of others or the “greater good”) which is how the worst monsters are made. Having good motivations is not quite synonymous with being good.

          The character we know could very plausibly justify retaining control of anyone who wasn’t being productive and cooperative by her standards “…until the crisis is over”, which it won’t be for a long time. I don’t expect that’s the way the story will go because it’s not the best story, but it would not be out of character for her.

  8. Eidolon was hurting Scion, until Scion used Contessa’s power.

    Taylor has >5,000 capes, including Glaistig Uaine, who has access to Eidolon. Also, possibly, including Contessa, but certainly including a lot of other precognitives. Will that be enough to mess with Scion’s foresight?

    This is gonna be fun.

    • Probably not. If I remember correctly, the foresight canceling is mostly based on the feedback loop of precogs trying to react to the other. Since other precogs can’t see Scion, that loop can’t happen.

      • (a) Taylor has a fair few precognition in the mix. Also:

        (b) There’s a big difference between seeing something come g and being able to do anything about it. Scion has quickly (but not instantly) adapted to the most powerful attacks thrown at him. Thousands of attacks at once may be too much for him to adapt to even with foresight.

  9. Congratulations Taylor, you’re now officially scarier than the Endbringers. Even if you somehow live through the fight, I don’t think anyone else is going to let you go from this. Now let’s see how much better the fight against Scion works when everyone’s following the general’s orders.

    Also is it just me or did we not see her capture Contessa?

      • Yeah. Contessa was just waking up as Taylor checked on her, so Teacher and Contessa have yet to talk.

        It looks like Teacher and Contessa might not talk until Taylor has finished with Zion, depending on how long the fight actually takes.

              • Zion’s “how do i beat this power” sense won’t work for him here because he’s facing more than a single power, more than even just a couple of powers. His “how do I win” power won’t work here because he cannot communicate with Taylor, and Taylor likely simply has to much precognative muscle backing her up in any case, on top of her current mental state. His only real option might be to run, and even then I suspect that it might not work.

                Basically he’s without any actions that will actual work here. The safeguards he built to keep this from happening have all been ground away to dust.

                The only real question is how long it’ll take Taylor to physically or mentally render him unable to fight.

                Of course there is always the possibility that the Simurgh sabotages Taylor here, but Zion is basically screwed.

              • Glaistig damn near took out Taylor. Scion’s a lot slower on the uptake though, and relies on reacting, instead of preparing.

                Taylor is going to surprise him, perhaps even impress him, and in that time when he is surprised and impressed, Taylor is going to open up on him. By the time he uses his path to victory power, he might be losing power so fast that he cannot act.

                However, the path to victory power is really pretty absurd. He can’t talk to Taylor because she won’t understand it, so he can’t use the Eidolon tactic.

                He might be able to talk to her passenger though, which could be… interesting. If her passenger is a throwback to the origin of Scion’s species though, it’s just going to see Scion as a big threat and/or lunch, and will probably not care what he has to say.

                In the end, I think that Taylor will end up the loser, victorious over all. And then with no purpose to keep her going, she will release her hold on the Clairvoyant, and wake up in the Bird Cage, solitary confinement.

              • Bird Cage, Simurgh Cage. They will not leave her alive. At the very least they won’t want her anywhere near any living thing. A crippled Taylor, incapable of moving herself, on a lifeless rock somewhere, in a parrell universe with no other living things? To much risk she’ll escape.

              • Damn it no, you do not kill her, especially with the Faerie Queen still around. You really want to give the bitch queen control of the Administrator as well as the High Priest?

                Recreate Hack Job, teleport him on top of Taylor. While he holds her down, have Bonesaw turn off her power and make her immortal. *Then* put her in solitary confinement for eternity.

              • Do you people really expect Wildbow not to have any surprises left to throw at us? Does history suggest that’s a likely thing?

                Me? I’m betting on “I didn’t see that fate coming but WOW does it make sense in retrospect”.

                Anyone care to wager against me?

              • >>Damn it no, you do not kill her, especially with the Faerie Queen still around. You really want to give the bitch queen control of the Administrator as well as the High Priest?<<

                Of course now that she has Eidolon, the Faerie Queen can steal living capes' shards too.
                Which actually makes me wonder why she didn't try doing that in this chapter.

        • *cue Simurgh DJing at a house party*

          To the windoooow! *Bohu leans in, having formed the house out of her body and joins in* To the wall! (to the wall!)

          *Khonsu jumps out and runs his claws down his belly* To the sweat drop down my balls!

          *Tohu pops up with Canary, Shatterbird, and Valefor’s faces on* To all these bitches crawl!

          *Leviathan comes dancing in missing a leg and an arm, trying to do a crip walk* To all skeet skeet motherfucker! All skeet skeet, god damn!

  10. Holy hell… Leave it to Taylor to combine every available power into a mean, lean fighting machine and point it at Scion.
    Also, if Doormaker can make that many portals, in that variety of sizes, what the hell did Cauldron need Number Man or Contessa on the field? They could’ve just opened a dime-sized portal to their target and neutralize them almost effortlessly. Or provide NM with impossible shots.
    Cauldron seems to be the embodiment of wasted potential.

    • The Manton effect, and the possibility that portals could be traced back to their base by certain powers. Dragon/Defiant have already demonstrated the ability to find where a portal went long after it closed.

      • Yes, but the portal would not lead back to Cauldron’s HQ. It would simply lead from the barrel of a gun (which could be located anywhere) to the target.
        If they wanted to further obscure the trail then the bullet, projectile or whatever they use to incapacitate people from a distance could be shot through multiple portals, each in a different, unrelated reality.
        As for the Manton effect, the portals are not actually affecting the target. It should not be a problem.
        Not really looking to get into a discussion about the mechanics of powers, just remarking that Cauldron does (did?) not utilize its resources to the fullest.

          • Yeah, the whole secret organization basically boiled down to four guys, once you account for Doormaster and the Clairvoyant being barely sentient tools. Contessa only really worked through her power and a lot of her time was spent being the boogeyman; she was great at a single task at a time but had little individual drive and couldn’t do big-picture planning because she couldn’t even ask about the entities. Custodian could barely communicate and couldn’t leave the base, but handled all the day to day stuff. Number Man was efficient, but his history with the Nine and late arrival to the team meant they never trusted him with big things until it was too late. So the whole thing was basically run by a single baseline normal, who never trained to run anything remotely on that scale, was neither as clever nor as efficient as she thought she was, and had no experience dealing with failure because Contessa would always bail her out.

            The more I think about it, the more it seems that Accord’s untimely demise broke a lot of good possibilities. If he’d gotten any sort of real standing with Cauldron, he could have done a hell of a lot of good. If he were inducted into the Swarm, Taylor might just be able to stay sane and keep things organized through his power. When he got killed everything started to swing toward chaos.

            And once again, I look at the root of tragedy and see the Simurgh behind it. I really need to stop underestimating her, but I keep telling myself that and I keep failing to do it.

              • I wonder about that. I mean it’s certainly possible that they would have come up with a different path than Contessa’s “I Win” power suggested, but it could be that they would have come up with effectively the same steps too.

                If nothing else, I’d REALLY like to see an epilogue with Dinah. We know she doesn’t see everything but I’d love to know how much of what’s happened was a result of the plan she’s been working for and how close this is to the best end game that she could find.

      • There’s also how Doormaker probably doesn’t have the kind of self-motivated finesse to compensate for all the things that Taylor is doing when she’s controlling him and his power. I don’t think you could tell Doormaker to make armor out of portals for someone, say, I don’t think he’d know what to do.

      • Yeah, everything we’ve seen from Doormaster in the past has implied normal human reaction times. People request a portal out loud, the Clairvoyant tells him, and he opens it a second after the request. Fast, but not good enough for serious combat work. Taylor’s thinker power allows her Swarm to react faster than she should be able to, dodging attacks her bugs sensed without even being consciously aware of it and opening or closing portals between the instant Zion fires and the instant the beam passes through.

        Doormaster was significant alone, powerful with the Clairvoyant, but only godlike under the Queen Administrator.

  11. I like how Sleeper the terrifying Class S threat is just some guy who reads books while lying in the sun. While subsuming entire worlds in his spare time of course. That woman in blue seems like she has some relation to Eden given her powerset. Taylor has pretty much every powerful cape in all the universes and she can use portal tricks to redirect scion’s attacks. At this point I feel like the only thing that will kill her is dying of dehydration because she’s so unfocused on her body. Did she take over Contessa’s body? I wasn’t able to tell. Given the amount of power at her disposable she can probably use it better than her anyway.

    • When she checked Contessa, Contessa was just waking up. So Teacher and Contessa still have yet to talk.

      • Did Contessa fall asleep between the attack on Cauldron and the moment she talked to Teacher? I’m rereading that section, but can’t find it. Unless she was asleep in the hour she had to wait for the portal to reopen.

    • Well terrifying S class threat lying in the sun in front of his house is exactly where ‘Happy ending’TM (if even possible) would take Taylor.
      Lets say Taylor wins, lets go of control, returns from being batshit insane and learns to speak. Where would that leave Taylor? My guess is going back to Charlotte’s and kids cottage and being all: ‘Oh yeah im more terrible than Scion, but i cant be bothered with taking over the world because im in the middle of a book’
      But yeah in all honesty, i dont see an happy ending coming, just nice to think what it might be like.

      Actually.. one way to get a happy ending out of this.. when Scion gets obliberated what happens to all the shards and powers? Should they just wink out then it would end up in Taylor being just another young woman again.

    • “At this point I feel like the only thing that will kill her is dying of dehydration because she’s so unfocused on her body.”

      Now I’m imaginging “Borg Queen”/ “cloud-sourced” Taylor, where her body died without her noticing but her mind lived on as the shard and in her swarm.
      …That’s what the shards do, right? “Learn” the personalities of their hosts, so they can find the best strategies?… This would lead to the whole “Taylor becomes an entity” hypothesis…

      I am scared(er) now.

  12. I rather hope that Taylor will live. Not just because I like her character, and it would be sad to see her die. But I’m intrigued about what a sane!Taylor would think about all of this.

    • Okay so lets say perfect scenario. Scion is killed, the world is saved, casualties aren’t too horrendous, and Taylor gives up control…then what? She still has to keep some of the nastier ones under her power like the 9 clones, the fairy queen, some of the nasty prisoners, but she can’t keep control of them without the doormaker. So she keeps him until the birdcage is back up and running, which means Dragon has to be fixed, which means taking over teacher. Most of the Yangban/teacher students she can simply let go, but she will still have a powerful core of nasty parahumans under her control for at least a little while. Then there is the whole destroyed world which makes it hard to have a trial. I’m sure Bitch/Tattletale would gladly take care of her now that her body isn’t where it used to be, or she can find a way to fix herself. But she just made enemies of almost everyone who will hate/fear her. Without the doormaker she is vulnerable enough for someone to try and get some payback. So she either keeps the doormaker and remains the scariest/all powerful queen bitch of the universe, or frees him and pretty much grantees somebody kills her at some point.

      • One of Taylor’s most important qualities is that she not only anticipates the consequences of her actions pretty well, but she’s also willing to except them, or attempt to fix them.

        If you think Taylor wouldn’t be willing to just let the rest of humanity kill her after she’s killed Zion I really don’t know what to tell you. Hell, I don’t expect Taylor to wait that long, I expect her to try and off herself instead.

        • At this point, Taylor’s hit the “too scary to be allowed to live” threshold. If she doesn’t either die or give up all her power and disappear, people (maybe the non-capes, because it doesn’t seem like she can control those) will do their best to kill her anyway.

      • It would be pretty simple to dump the dangerous prisoners onto an earth without any people (I know people evacuated to them, but there must be one where scion got everyone) until the birdcage is back up and running (especially since it wasn’t damaged much beyond the destruction of the drones).

          • For some of them? No.

            We may also be underestimating what GodMode Taylor is capable of.

            The really bad capes? The true monsters? Even assuming the final battle doesn’t do them in, and on the off chance that Taylor retains her full control ability, there’s the simple matter of giving the monsters a date with Bonesaw or Panacea.

            If they can tinker with Shards, they can probably kill the Shards too. People have a right to live, but a right to having super powers isn’t written down anywhere.

            • Problem: Taylor still has that 16ish foot radius. Panacea and Bonesaw can’t get close enough to work on her anymore, and they can’t trust Taylor to work on herself.

              • That’s easily solved, though not neatly. Take a power nullifier, either one who can completely turn her off from more than 16ft away, or one who can also teleport; Hack Job would be optimal here if he could be recreated. Then, since Panacea would be worthless next to him and even tinker powers would be suspended, have Bonesaw’s spiderbots or some of Dragon’s remote platforms do the actual surgery. It’ll be messy, ugly, and probably cause a lot of brain damage, and it will probably require cooperation unless you can get the clairvoyant away from her first, but it should work.

              • You’re assuming this isn’t something Taylor does to herself.

                If Taylor goes full on unthinking Shard monster, sure you need tactics to stop her.

                If not, then she could easily be the one who sets up the Shard cleansing factory, with herself as its last patient.

        • Heck, door them right back into the Birdcage. Into their original cells if you really feel like conveying “Fuck you” nonverbally.

  13. I reached out, tried to find others, and I failed.

    So she didn’t get Contessa/Teacher/whoever else. Teacher possibly raised another counter-clairvoyant field to block her out. Or Taylor or her Shard is/are losing track of so much she can’t even use the clairvoyant cleanly.

    • Well. She didn’t grab Contessa earlier. It could be that she somehow knows Contessa’s power is somehow compromised by Scion’s other half.

      Also, Teacher’s only real ability would compromise the integrity of her gestalt. As he’d have a back door into anyone she used him on, which could be VERY disruptive if her sphere of control (with “sphere” being used in the figurative sense of “area” or “realm”, rather than describing a spherical structure) fluctuates at all.

    • I interpreted that as losing hold of her other anchors. She’d just let go of her father’s house and her mother’s grave, held on to Tattletale, but the others? Grue, Imp, Rachel, she’d forgotten about. She knew that she’d set other anchors for herself but she’d lost track of them and was too far gone to recover any but Tattletale.

  14. Share out powers that create physical objects, share out Ballistic’s power, share out Foil’s power, share out Number Man’s power. Attack Zion with an endless hail of Foil enhanced projectiles from literally every direction.

    • Not sure Foil’s power would work shared out. Even with an optimal spread of power enhancers you only have about a third of the original’s power. So even assuming that everybody gets the physics tweaking at full strength, their timing would be sloppy. Only Foil’s paranormal sense of timing allows her to use her primary power offensively, since the projectile needs to phase back in at the exact right instant while in flight in order to affect the target but bypass defenses.

      • Nope. An item with the effect on it still carves through everything, like the group weapons against Behemoth (chain and disc).

        • It won’t be able to affect as much mass, and it won’t last as long, shared out, but that also shouldn’t matter at all.

          I don’t expect this to be the only thing Taylor needs to do, or for Wildbow to even use this exact thing, but as effective attacks go, Foil’s is likely the flat out strongest they have access to.

          Besides, I just want to see why Zion keeps blocking or avoiding it when he just keeps taking everything else head on.

  15. Wow. Really good job of showing how Taylor’s mind is continuing to deteriorate.
    was anybody else reminded of HAL 9000’s death?
    “I’m afraid. I’m afraid, Dave. Dave. My mind is going. I can feel it. I can feel it. My mind is going. There is no question about it. I can feel it. I can feel it. I can feel it. I’m a..fraid.”

  16. “You ask too much of yourself,” Tecton said. “You could have all of the power in the world, and you’d still feel like you should do more.”
    -Scarab, part 5.

    Oh Taylor…. also, this showdown is going to be fucking amazing. I’m simultaneously enthused and depressed as hell. This has been foreshadowed for a while (I’ve just caught up) and holy hell this is going to be interesting.

    (still reserving hope for a happy-ish ending, despite all evidence to the contrary (i.e. everything))

  17. This is a well written descent into confusion and madness for this context, meaning this was absolutely terrifying to read, I don’t even know…well, now I know why this is probably the last arc. Hard to go up from here.

    Wildbow, you might be nervous about ending this well, but you’ve pulled it off perfectly so far
    Easily my favorite arc since the days of villainy, and not just because of Taylor being…this….is happening. So thanks, and good luck.

  18. I’m calling it now, by the end she somehow merges completely with the shard to the point she doesn’t need a corporeal form; she dies, sequel is someone trying to deal with Taylor the Shard grafted onto their soul. :p

  19. Holy fucking shit.

    Taylor has become Queen of the Multiverse. Or is it Administrator? She beat Glaistig Uaine. She took over those suspiciously foreshadowing superheroes from another world. She decided not to bother with Sleeper ( of course). And unless she has a better plan than throwing all of them at Scion she’ll just be wasting thousands of lives.

    As I said before, this is all very Sauronesque. Not even he was born evil, to paraphrase Elrond.

    But hey look at the bright side: at least she didn’t permanently destroy Dragon. I loved that trick with the lights. Fucking tinkers indeed.

    And one last thought: does this mean we’re relying on Contessa and Teacher to save the world from Taylor once she has saved it from Scion? Ohhh boy.

    • I doubt that Teacher is smart enough to qualify as a player on that scale, and Taylor is surrounded by layers of precogs and trumps.

      Personally I’m relying on the Simurgh to pull humanity out of this pit. And that’s terrible.

      • Here’s a plan that can fuck up Taylor usin only Teacher and Contessa’s resources.

        Contessa’s presence shields them from Taylor’s precogs. Following Contessa’s power Teacher gives Trickster (who we know was with him when he meets Contessa) some minor clairvoyance/other extrasensory power thus bypassing his-line-of-sight limitation. They build two mannequins. Trickster switches Doormaker and Clairvoyant with the mannequins. Contessa opens a door right next to Taylor’s head and shoots her. There.

        I know it’s unlikely but we know that Teacher and Contessa willd o something. And law of conservation of details tells us Trickster will play some role, otherwise why bother mentioning him. Oh and there’s still mysterious horned helmet dude, who may or may not be Satyr.

        • Yes, open a portal from the end of your gun to the head of the person who passively mindfucks everybody in her vicinity, through portals.

          Anyway, for Trickster to pull that off he’d need more than just a perception boost, he’d need power on the level of the Clairvoyant. And even if they did port Doormaster away, he would be disabled and effectively powerless when not holding hands with his partner or under the Administrator’s control.

          I don’t doubt that they’ll try something, and the Contessa is still a factor. But it will not be simple, will not be quick, and may not be possible anymore.

          Tattletale on the other hand, is Taylor’s last remaining anchor, the one person she refuses to take control of… and commands the Simurgh. Who in turn is immune to Taylor’s power, can recreate tinker devises if she’s close enough to read their minds or has seen the devise before, and has the raw intellect to use those assets appropriately.

          And (at the risk of underestimating the Simurgh again) I think that the long term results of her scheme would be less terrible than Taylor’s. She causes widespread death, devastation, and despair, but she’s always held back somewhat and any comprehensible goals she has would seem to require humanity to still exist and not be a massive insane hivemind.

          Unless of course she was behind those gangers who attacked Emma and led to Taylor’s trigger event and every horror since, in which case we are now seeing the late stages of the Simurgh’s master plan unfold.

          • I have to disagree with you on one point here – Tattletale does not control Simurgh. I think it is clear from the part where Doctor Mother was reading Simurgh that Simurgh has chosen to play along and be near TT in order to further Simurgh’s goals, perhaps because TT’s power can demonstrably work around precog blocks.

            Be very, very afraid of Simurgh’s goals. Taylor cannot control Simurgh and will not control TT, so Simurgh has free reign.

            • Difference between command and control. Simurgh is currently following Tattletale’s instructions, for unknown reasons. Thus Tattletale commands her, even though it is likely than nobody can *control* the Simurgh.

              I see three main possibilities:
              First and most optimistic is that with Eidolon gone, Simugh doesn’t know what to do and is learning from humanity, taking suggestions in an effort to find a new purpose in life like Zion used to, but with a much greater understanding of how people work and what she’s doing than the great golden idiot. She is genuinely trying to help, either because she cares about humanity or because she sees us as a useful resource which is being wasted. The ‘sorry’ may have been genuine; perhaps not for her past actions (tattletale didn’t sense any remorse) but for what Taylor will suffer in the future. Or it may be reflexive, habitually fucking with everyone around her.
              Second, most likely in my mind, and also fairly optimistic at this stage, is that recent events have interfered with Simurgh’s plans. She will save humanity for the same reason she held back in the past, and free them from the Hive because those without free will cannot be manipulated. She will come out on top from this conflict of course, but that’s a better eventuality that either of the new gods are offering.
              The worrisome possibility is that this is all according to plan. Simurgh tweaked those gangers (or somebody who then influenced them), who attacked Emma, who Triggered Taylor, who sparked the gang war, which attracted Leviathan, which attracted Jack, causing him to learn about the prophecy, causing him to talk to Zion, causing the end of the world, causing Taylor to go Queen Administrator, and all the dominoes have fallen exactly where the Simurgh intended for them to go when she set this up years in the past.

        • Actually, Contessa’s power doesn’t mess with precogs, and precogs don’t mess with her. Their powers work differently; after all, Contessa’s path to victory generally doesn’t change midway through. Also, I think that the “technically not a precog” thing was mentioned in an earlier chapter, maybe in the Crushed arc, but I don’t remember where.

          • Hmm, no. Contessa is immune to precogs, but she can interfere with them. Dr Mother tells the Legion of Doom that they use Contessa as a buffer against the Simurgh.

      • Teacher’s JUST smart enough to do something pants-on-head retarded out of his all-about-me-complex ( i.e like deserting and then manipulating saint into shutting dragon down at the WORST possible time in order to get leverage against her and Colin)and Fuck the world (and himself in the mid to long term) over. id take the smurf any day of the week. my reasoning is that any plan that severely damages your very species’s ( and your’s) chances of survival for minimal, personal gain is by definition a bad one.

  20. We keep seeing Sleeper mentioned. What about the other world wide threats that you keep name dropping? Like the Ash Beast and the Blasphemies?

    Usually I wouldn’t mind, but if Taylor is literally combing through everything ever…

  21. Never commented here before but I have to admit this is the cliffhanger I have been expecting since she left the Undersiders. It’s now Taylor vs Fate itself in a no holds barred grudge match and whoever wins she loses everything in the name of the fight.

    Fantastic story thanks Wildbow

  22. So she’s losing her anchors. Perfect.

    As long as by the end of the fight her mind is destroyed so thoroughly that no power can ever restore it, she can be forgiven for what she’s doing here.

    • That’s a little harsh. She’s just doing the same thing she’s been doing since the bank-robbery. If the ends don’t justify the means, what does?

      • And I’ve liked Taylor as a person less and less since then. At this point I’m just hoping that she manages to take out Scion and takes herself out in the process, but I’m afraid that someone somewhere will pull a miracle out of their sleeve and she somehow makes it out of this okay.

        Still, she’s destroying her own mind and she’s earned the enmity of every cape in the multiverse. A heroic sacrifice is looking more and more likely, because it’d be hard for her to recover from this.

          • Not really. Taylor consistently takes the easy way out. She stuck with being a villain because it was easier than betraying the Undersiders. She terrifies people or controls them because it’s easier than persuading them. She keeps justifying anything she does with an ever-escalating definition of ‘good cause’ because it’s easier than actually sitting down and figuring out whether she’s doing the right thing.

            I’m sure Taylor will find a way to beat Scion in the end. But when confronted with a problem she can’t fight her way out of? She’s going to fold. And I can only hope that no one will be there to bail her out.

            After all, what’s the point of a villain who doesn’t get their comeuppance?

            • Yeah, all those easy ways out, like abandoning her friends so she has a chance to prevent the apocalypse, stepping up time and time again against shit like Jack, Echidna, and Behemoth, and generally grinding herself into bloody gristle for even the slightest chance of saving the city/world/her friends.

              After all, what’s the point of a villain who doesn’t get their comeuppance?

              I don’t know. What’s the point of comeuppance? When the bodies aren’t cold and the person who saved the world is turned into a mentally fractured wreck, what purpose would the death of this person serve? Other than the petty satisfaction of a cultural obsession with punishment?

            • are you kidding? most of the people she’s dealt with have refused to compromise or be reasonable under any circumstances. like Alexandria and Tagg. they were so averse to compromise that they pushed her till she snapped. Colin screwed her over simply out of spite. so, yes. she took the easy way.

              • The scene with Alexandria and Tagg was where I first started to wish for Taylor to have an unhappy ending.

                If you told me back then that she’d end up like this? I would not have been surprised.

              • Ahh, Alexandria and Tagg. True heroes and martyrs in the eternal struggle against the madness of civil rights and due process.

          • I suppose that Taylor realizing how much of a threat she herself become, and either commiting suicide, or letting herself be killed. Or the final lines will be….

            “You don’t understand Tattletale. I have to stop the bullies.”
            “No Taylor, you are the bullies.”
            Then Taylor was a zombie.

            • As soon as she lets go of Clairvoyant and Doormaker, she’s pretty nonthreatening. And bullies differ by motive, theirs being petty.

        • Are there,really?in real life,yes,but in fiction,one can create a scenario to justify ANY,and I mean ANY means.

          I was always of the opinion :”the ends justify the means,as long as the means are in the upper 10% of the morality scale among your choices (ergo,a really evil means is justified if everything else remaining is worse,or if you can make a case of the character not thinking anything better,but while he tried to do so,I think it is the case with Taylor for now,but not with,say,Light Yagami,who killed early on more than criminals,more than he had too)and as long as the good done by the ends is not surpassed by the means in evil done (I’d say Taylor is borderline on this factor,but ,say,the Worms are not,as their ends of “getting stronger and surviving”do not surpass the means of “killing civilizations”on good vs evil done)”.Many people with “muh ends justify muh means”are either people who only look at the world with colored glasses,not really trying to understand others,even if they are hard on themselves (some are not,but they are always presented as despicable,see:Tagg),so I’ll add “and as long as you are willing to negociate/listen to others (Taylor was always willing,she only lost that to do brain damage,and even then she did try,so I’d say she completes my criteria for ends justifying the means)”

          • I’m with you storryeater. Magneto is another good example of someone who holds up “ends justifies” while having such a skewed perspective that he fails to see it’s really just an excuse and not true. Taylor is doing some bad things but in this case it is quite literally the end of every parallel Earth, every human, every single instance of our small corner of the cosmos on the line. Given saving that or simply letting it all fade away to a cosmic temper tantrum? Pretty much whatever she does can be justified.

            That’s the great thing about fiction. If the stakes are high enough you really can bring back people from black holes of horribleness with the right mentality and clever twists.

            • BTW I only input storryeater because wordpress for some reason wouldn’t accept storyeater.Just a trivia.

            • You touch on what I was thinking in this comment chain. People saying her ends do not justify the means, when really it’s either no human life in any universe anywhere, or she subjugates the lives of a few thousand superhumans, some of them die, or hell even if it’s all of them, and then the rest of humanity across the multiverse gets to live?

              Mass extinction’s prevention can justify most anything.

  23. I know everyone is talking about Taylor controlling every cape ever minus Tattletale and a few others, but I sure hope Dragon successfully loads her backups in the future.

  24. As people may have noticed, I’m a little behind. I guess it’s better than being a giant ass.

    I have to say, I loved the part where Dragon fires at Taylor and she uses portals to hit Scion with it. Seems like she could have done that for anything being used against her.

    Now then, much as I don’t like doing this in one big giant thread…

    *cocks a shotgun*

    Let’s do some welcoming.

    • aelphais, oh ye of the crystal skull. Your head was not Indiana Jones’s proudest moment.

      I have you now. And don’t imagine you’re going to fanfic your way out of this one! I’ll have you know I’m an 8th degree purple prose-belt in crackfic. No, wait, scratch that. I wish to articulate to you with wondrous degree of sincerity and fortitude my majestic and everlasting depth, technical expertise, and fecundity of ability to disrupt, destroy, or denigrate fiction utilizing unconventional literature written by myself.

      You may receive that and, upon finding yourself in its position, securely place it into an apparatus such as a hookah to be enjoyed after dinner in the great room with a glass of brandy.

      I also wish to express to you an enjoyment of your addition to the collective voice of this community I have somewhat shepherded, full as it is of those who muse on the potential romantic entanglements of fictional characters, doomsayers, and an author who wishes to take the world’s adolescent felines and asphyxiate them in a bathtub full of their own hemoglobin.

      Welcome, aelphais, to the comments.

      • Ahaha, thanks.
        I’ll have you know that I held this skull long before any faux-Indiana Jones films featuring aliens and former Disney Channel actors.

        I just now noticed you’re the author of World Domination in Retrospect. I had that tagged to read eventually. Maybe I will bump it up the list a few places.

        • Ah, well I hear it makes a nice read after all the tension of Worm. I was commenting here and at Legion of Nothing first, but enough people insisted I should write my own thing. Even Wildbow thought I was creative, and that was before I started coming up with a new welcome for every person.

            • Speak of the Gecko and he shall appear! Unless he’s busy, or sleeping, or eating, or hula dancing, or what have you.

              So, Node, ye of the crazy theories, you will fit right in here amongst people who thought Taylor would be captured and put in the Birdcage or that a nuke would be sufficient to kill an Endbringer. People are used to strange theories being thrust upon them around here, but it’s still a good idea to keep in mind that Node means Node.

              At this point, though, Wildbow is no longer quite as unpredictable. It used to be that someone could go “I think next chapter a villain’s going to show up who turns into a giant teddy bear and be one of the few people to beat up Taylor!”

              Nope. I assure you, Dr. Jekyll and his alter ego Mr. Ruxpin aren’t pulling that off anytime soon. Not any more than Inflatable Beach Ball Boy is going to beat Scion in the story. Much like having when you’ve been mind controlled by a horny oral sex officionado, there’s nowhere to go but down.

              So here you are, in the comments section. Just like a police raid on a NAMBLA meeting, this is where they separate the men from the boys. So welcome, Node, to the comments.

              • It’s like reading the unholy combination of Joyce, Pratchett, and an unreasonable and long-term drug habit. I thank you, and it saddens me that I’ve never been welcomed like this before, and never will again.

              • I don’t know why people have occasionally compared me to Pratchett. I’m a little flattered, but I just don’t see it myself. Maybe that’s for the same reason that Wildbow so often goes, “Ok, so I know this update wasn’t the best, but I was rushing…” First time I’ve been compared to Joyce, though. Drugs are often brought up in regards to me, though, sometimes with people asking which ones I’m on. None, actually.

    • mr.maybe. It might be nice to meet you, possibly. I can’t be certain, but it appears somebody activates the special signal to bring you to my attention. You can tell by the light in the clouds forming a giant rooster.

      Yeah, Taylor’s gone through some major changes. I still remember the days when I wanted her to go back to school and make life hell for the bullies. I think that’d be very therapeutic for her, you know? Of course, it also provides a bit of an anchor. Like with Captain America, she doesn’t like bullies, and here’s Scion, most powerful guy around, never came there originally to help anyone, just destroying because he can. Because it feels better to beat someone up.

      Granted, I don’t care for the idea that all bullies are completely sympathetic and that you have to make life all flowers and carrot cake for them and they’ll change, but at least Scion’s burned his sympathy bridges. And literal bridges. And Jeff Bridges, while he was at it. He also covered Henry Winkler in bees, show Bill Murray with a shotgun, turned Eddie Van Halen into a zombie, titty-fucked Seth Rogan, and caused James Franco to be devoured by a gang of cannibals, including Channing Tatum who was forced to be a man’s sex slave.

      Twisted individual, that Scion, especially because I’m not the one to make most of that stuff up.

      So sit back, relax, maybe take a little of that tension off down here. Unda da story! Unda da story! mr.maybe it’s okay, down with this Tokay, take it from…uh…Snorri! *points to some random guy from Iceland*

      And welcome, mr.maybe, to the comments section.

    • Poor, poor Sindri Suncatcher. Being set up like that. It’s ok, not everyone bothers enough with the comments to realize it.

      Don’t worry about the relay bugs. The relay bugs aren’t the problem. They’re not making things fucking buggy. It’s various capes she picked up from the Birdcage and asylums and such that are the problem. They’re making things fucking nuts.

      So is that tree tinker too, probably. While it’d stink to be on the receiving end, it’d probably be handy to have fucking nuts. “Argh! I just took a coconut to the head!” “Are you okay?” “Yeah, except for the headache and all this damn milk it squirted in my face and mouth.”

      Next up, of course, would be going fucking bananas. And you thought their peels were slippery before.

      So, you’ve slipped on down to the comments and can stay caught up on the latest chatter while being forced to remain caught up to the story. Have fun! Feel free to lighten the mood some in our current predicament! Other obligations (click on my name, for one example) are currently preventing me from pumping out wave after wave of puns and jokes to take people’s minds off the inevitable doom. Turns out that my version of Worm’s tagline “Prepare to be skullfucked by awesome” is also pretty accurate for this part of the story. Might be Scion’s fate soon enough, all things depending.

      It’d be a lot more dependable, actually, if only we had those fucking nuts.

      Anyway, welcome, Sindri Suncatcher, to the comments section.

    • Gazzien, all this in a little over one week while having classes? Ritalin this, Ritalin that, who’s used up their spare time reading Wildbow gut a cat?

      Just an expression. I often liken the dark moods brought on by this brilliant writing to the slaughter of fuzzy baby animals. Then I think back to how high quality those drums made of baby seals were and I think, “Dammit, it may all be worth it after all.” Then I put in an order to have drumsticks made out of Bald Eagle legs. Oh, I don’t play. It’s just that or sticking diamonds in my food to make things seem impressive.

      Problem is, last time I took a squat like that, the Jefferson Bible was created.

      Now would be a good time for a rimshot using those drumsticks. No? It’s ok, those who get it will enjoy the joke. All .5 of them.

      Enjoy the keeping on that keeps being kept keeping on, Gazzien. This story’s a keeper.

      Welcome, Gazzien, to the comments.

    • Before too much longer, dear Gecko, you’re going to need a Random Horror Generator steadily feeding these greetings into a fully-automatic dispenser loaded with scores of envelopes marked, “To Whom It May Concern.” 😀

    • You know, I don’t think I ever got one of these. Now I feel a bit left out.

      More importantly, I feel it necessary to say that your ravings put me in mind of a crossover between worm and Nobody Dies, or at least that version of Rei.

  25. So did Tattletale do something to hide people from Taylor? Was that the thing that the Simurgh was building, we know tinker tech can block Taylor’s control as well as the clairvoyant’s power.

    If that’s the case, why was Tattletale not protected by it as well? Did Taylor show up in the middle of Lisa trying to get Amy to enter the protection as well?

    Will Taylor’s power work on Imp while her power is active?

    • I think the blind spots in her clairvoyance are Teacher and Contessa acting in tandem. We know Teacher has the tech and Contessa is,well, Contessa.

      • Doesn’t fit, Teacher should be meeting with Contessa by about the end of the chapter if not later on given the references to him.

          • that makes the basic assumption that Teacher wasn’t lieing his ass off. Taylor is the biggest threat to him on the planet aside form scion, except she can turn him into a puppet, which hurts his ego more then being killed. so manipulate someone into killing or otherwise neutralizing her, and fuck everyone and everything else. fits his pattern of actions so far.

      • Taylor isn’t remembering Rachel at the end there. I don’t see any reason that Teacher or Contessa would act to block Rachel out of Taylor’s awareness, or Grue for that matter. He’ll even her Dad seems gone from her awareness, which seems telling as Taylor still remembers her mother.

        So why is Taylor not aware of them?

              • Well it’s easier to figure out Wildbow than it is The Simurgh. One of them has a known motive, to tell a good story, and the other has no known motive.

                So one of them is a lot more useful to focus on if one wants to understand or predict the story than the other.

  26. I think we were expecting Taylor to administer all the capes, but literally all of them? This is getting big.

    I find it rather worrying how much time she’s spending fighting her allies. First attacking Dragon, then once she hits the battlefield, her first action isn’t to attack, she just immediately decides “Glastig Uaine was the real threat” and takes her over. And GU has been pretty cooperative about fighting Scion. She needs to remember, her goal isn’t to gather all the capes in the multiverse into a perfect hivemind, no matter how awesome that would be. She just needs a power combo that can stop Scion.

    As for what that combo is, I still have no clue.

    • The problem is that Glaistig Uaine would turn on them the moment they actualy came close to defeating Scion.

      She only wants to drive him back to sleep, while Taylor (and most everyone) wants him dead and gone for good.

      Also, I believe that a large part of what she’s doing is predicated on her shard’s “desires”, if you can call them that. And the shard wants control.

  27. What I think Taylor would do after Zion is defeated is this.

    She’ll let go of most of the capes, but keep Doormaker and Clairvoyant. She’ll keep the Class S threats and Birdcage capes as well.

    Then she’ll take them with her, and put HERSELF into the Birdcage. And stay there basically for the rest of her life, acting as the ultimate measure to keep present and future Birdcage prisoners in check. She’ll make herself the Sealed Evil in a Can, to be released from Pandora’s Box only when all else is lost and she is needed once more.

    • I actually like this. It is a good thought about what the fuck will they do when all the living Endbringers work together, or an S-class type threat like Nidbog actually tried to do something scary instead of stay put.
      What happens if Taylor is killed or offs herself, as most people expect, and then shit hits the fan again? Talking about Sleeper, Ash Beast, all the new Endbringers that popped up, the thought that they have a creator who could potentially rally them together, make even more, etc., or even The Simurgh’s threatening possibilities, it almost becomes a question of if they can afford to permanently get rid of Taylor.

  28. Anyone that posted/came from a post on facebook recently, can you sate my curiosity and show me the post (screenshot)? Pretty please? I don’t use the thing, and I’m seeing a lot of clickthroughs, but facebook (being facebook) is unintuitive and doesn’t let one see it.

    Got a lot of clickthroughs (thanks!) but it drives me a little crazy when I can’t track what people are saying about the story.

    • I’m a super prolific reader across all sorts of genre’s and writing time periods.

      This story is the single best piece of fiction I’ve ever read, and taking in account that it’s basically a first draft, I would consider it very nearly flawless.

      Now I’m just some dumb loser on the interbutt, but I really don’t think you’ve got anything to worry about as to the quality of this work.

      I’d be more concerned about ever being able to top this honestly.

      • Seriously. I’ve got to figure out what I’m writing next.

        I don’t think the next work will be as good, BUT I do think I can hit the high notes – I can match the update schedule, I can keep the characters more involved, I can keep the interplay/use of abilities, powers or strategy and I can strive to be a little unique in approach, even if it does fall into a given genre.

        Hopefully that’s enough.

        • You could also try a diffferent genre, like write some strait up horror instead of just dipping your toes in here and there.

          But I think if you want to use the themes of Morality and Consequence again it’ll be hard to top Taylor as a vessel for that, so maybe figure out a different theme to build the work around?

          Anyway, I wish you good fucking luck man, and definitely look forward to anything you do. Even if you cannot top Worm ever again, you’ll still be writing better fiction than like 99% of the field.

          • I have ideas. Some are listed on the FAQ page, though I’ve scrapped maybe two and added one.

            I don’t think morality will be the central focus in the next one. I think any setting I write is going to have shades of gray, though.

            • I don’t think Worm has shades of gray, really. It’s got a gradient from grey to gray, everyone is doing what they think is best, for the most part. And you’ve spent time with the characters that are clearly evil, showing how they go to that point, and doing a hell of a damn good job humanizing them and making them not seem like monsters anymore.

              • “Shades of gray” is just short hand for realistic morality in storytelling.

                Basically anything that doesn’t make the (false) assumption that things can be clearly divided into “good” and “evil” or that many things can be divided into “moral” and “amoral” categories.

    • I’ve been one of them posting on FB, and have nothing but good things to say about your story. 🙂 Everyone that has read it so far has had a ‘wow’/positive reaction.

    • Eliezer Yudkowsky made a facebook post yesterday. I fail at screenshots, but the gist of it is “I’m on arc 11, and the smart characters are actually smart. This is genuinely impressive.”

  29. What happened to the massive amounts of capes in Africa? We’ve only really seen capes from the West and China, but were told that there were far more in places like Africa. Surely there’ll be some gamebreakers there somewhere

  30. I have to say it
    ” I took Legend, who was part of that fight, two foreign capes and Moord Nag.”
    Speck 30.4
    “Lüderitz, April 2nd, 2012 // Leviathan
    Notes: Loss? Driven away by Eidolon. Secondary targets Swakopmund, Gamba, Port-Gentil and Sulima.
    Target/Consquence: Moord Nag. Guerilla tactics continue, losses in notable but not devastating numbers, but his target survives.”
    Scarab 25.6

    This is confusing. Moord Nag either has a power that lets her come back from the dead or she retired and came back for Scion. Was there something I missed?

  31. Also, Taylor is an Eldritch Abomination now. All those worlds, some getting attacked by a weird golden man they know nothing about, then suddenly portals open up and some presence takes over the bodies of the world’s heroes and draws them into a blasted apart dimension with giant monsters around where they’re surrounded by thousands of similarly-controlled people with powers and huge swarms of bugs.

      • I think it says something about Wildbow’s writing that we’re hopeful for a sequel where the antagonist(?) is something that even in her Scion-rivaling-height-of-godmode-power, Taylor thinks “I’m not messing with that guy”.

        • I’m not. Much as I enjoy fight-scenes like this one against Dragon, because they are so unconventional and out-of-the-box (see Time Braid by ShaperV for other great examples), these days I prefer less epic and more personal stories. Like back when Skitter was pretty much a superpowered gangbanger, slowly working her way up the ranks. And when the story wasn’t about Saving The World.

          • i like genre shifts because it means I’m not reading the same thing over again. But I would like to see more superpower shoot outs rather than the save the world every other week stories. I have yet to see a story that has super hero save the world then have the focus switch to some other aspect of their life like being a detective and keep going unless there was no build up or they lost their powers.

  32. What I thought was really interesting about this chapter (besides the things lots of other people have already mentioned) is that we’re seeing Taylor succeeding because she, once again, has taken action on a bigger scale than anyone was expecting. Bitch shoves her? Swarm of insects to the face. Slaughterhouse Nine try to play games with her team? Instead of just fighting back, she actively hunts them down. PRT, then Alexandria puts too much pressure on her? Skitter takes out three directors in a row, then murders what was commonly acknowledged to be one of the strongest capes alive. The game in Worm has been one of consistent escalation on Taylor’s part, and part of the author’s fantastic skill lies in managing to keep that fresh and unexpected, always ratcheting up the tension.

    So now Taylor has hit an ultimate peak, directly seizing control of everyone, in a plan that wasn’t clear in its scope even last chapter, and was nearly unimaginable last arc (unless you did imagine it; it’s a figure of speech okay?). It’s Taylor vs. Scion and everything can finally be thrown into one straight up fight.

    But since when have straight up fights been Taylor’s style?

    I think its likely that either Taylor had a plan in mind with how she was going to use everyone, from the moment she broke away from Marquise, or went into it hoping that once she had every possible resource, she’d be able to improvise something. It seems pretty unlikely that the final climax of worm is just going to be a contest of raw strength, that it was just a matter of getting everyone to fight. I think Taylor is going to, one more time, escalate the situation in a way neither Scion nor anyone else predicted. Regardless, reading Worm thus far has been an awesome experience and I can’t wait to see how it all comes to a finale.

    • See, I noticed that about her and it very much worries me. Anyone can win the fight if they can and will escalate beyond what their opponent is ready for or capable of. When you’re brawling with a more skilled or stronger fighter, you can still win if you’re willing to pull a knife and he isn’t. If your opponent pulls a knife and you pull a gun, you win. When your opponent has lines of riflemen and you bring in artillery, you win. The problem with that is when the opponent can keep up, when they escalate to match you, because then you’re still losing but because you pushed things higher, you raised the stakes, and now you’re losing something so much bigger. A brawl turns into a war, a powerful and stable gang turns into a self-destructive band of terrorists, a disagreement over the budget turns into a collapse of the government. One of the most important lessons for anyone, especially somebody in a position of significant power, is how to lose. How to accept a minor loss, still advance your big goals, and not keep pushing out of stupidity and pride until you’re risking more than you can afford and you’re out of your depth.

      So far, Taylor has been very lucky. She’s never really lost a fight, and she’s never learned how to lose. The heroes she fights refuse to escalate to match her, allowing her to win. The villains she fights usually either hit their limits and can’t escalate more, or they can’t adapt to the changing rules as fast as she does and she takes a victory before they go all-out. When she fails, somebody else sweeps in and saves her in the nick of time, somebody older or wiser or just more practical.

      Now, there’s nobody else. And Zion can keep ramping things up an awful long way.

        • Man, fuck that lesson. Correct me if I remember it wrong: Some sort of Old Master taught people to lose, among other niftier tricks. Then one day Tom Riddle came by, and he refused to teach Tom what the noseless bastard wanted, because Tom didn’t want to be subject to THAT particular lesson. And that got himself and all his students killed.
          Because he refused to lose.
          Yes, Voldemort never got to study under the master, but he was still immortal, and the Master was a dead hypocrite.
          Plus the whole concept of the lesson rubs me wrong. Saying that stomping and spitting on someone’s face makes them stronger is like assholes rationalizing that bullying is way of making their victims tougher. And now I’m reminded of Harry and The Twins’ treatment of Neville at the train station. Harry even admitted later on that they were really just doing it for kicks and apologized to Neville.
          I saw a great demotivational poster years ago, which I remade with better grammar. It pictured Revy from Black Lagoon: “That which doesn’t kill you can still fuck you up for life”.

          • Yeah, but if you never learn to lose a RELATIVELY NON-FATAL ‘simple’ thing – to schoolyard bullies or what have you – then maybe eventually you grow up and lose your life because you refuse to back down to gunmen or something. That’s more of what I thought the lesson was teaching. Learn to lose in a controlled environment, learn to bend and compromise in life, and learn to fight hard and not back down when it comes to something you truly find important and worth dying for. Like, say, the world.

            • Of course, maybe you then are traumatized for life and never do anything out of your comfort zone after being bullied. People react to different things differently. I think HPMOR Quirrell did the right thing when it came to Harry, but the same lesson would be less of a lesson and more of torture if he tried it with Neville. *shrugs*

      • She considers that here – Taylor did know how to lose at one point. Skitter never really did. Taylor held back for three months of being bullied, not using her power to give her enemies so much as a bee sting when she could have killed everyone there. After the Leviathan arc, she swallowed her pride and returned to the Undersiders, and I think she made that choice as Taylor, not Skitter.

        But as the story progressed she became less willing to do that. Whether that’s a result of her passenger’s influence or human psychology or both I don’t know and won’t argue. But Skitter started as an escapist alter-ego to the bullied girl, using a fragment of an eldritch abomination which encourages her towards conflict every time she does. Not a good combination.

        • I’d argue that she’s known how to lose and has used it effectively for a while. Most notably in beating Coil.

          The idea of “lose a little to advance my goal” implies that you have a goal that you’re eventually going to accomplish at some point. If it’s all “lose, lose, lose” and you never reach your goal, then you’re just a loser pretty much.

      • True. But Zion has already reached the apex of aggression. He’s systematically terminating every human from every reality. All of everyone everywhere. The stakes don’t *get* higher.

        To quote Leonard Church… “It is an undeniable, and may I say a fundamental quality of man, that when faced with extinction, every alternative is preferable.”

        • An eerie, yet strangely familiar example, given what happened to the good Dr. Church since that quote, and what has happened to Taylor.

          I really hope that her fate isn’t a mirror of his.

        • Ughh… That fucking SCP foundation file. The one about the prisoner that had to be continually tortured or the world ends… I just want that shit out of my head. It damn near made me physically sick.

            • Why thanks. You somehow managed to make the most depressing fiction I’ve ever come across even more depressing.

              • … you don’t know about the hidden text?

                Open up the source code for that page, and look for the text with 0% or 1% font-size.

                Just don’t do it if you’re planning to sleep.

              • Go reread the letter from the O5. Then at the bottom, where it says “Sincerely, O5-██” you should select from the 05- part down to the bottom of the grey portion that makes up the “letter”. Maybe copy and paste into Word or another text program.

                500% zoom.

              • I’m sitting here, wondering why you would even… keep on going about this subject. I guess you’re just trying to share the misery.

              • Panda, your spoiler for SCP-231 “Special Personnel Requirements” is as follows:

                Don’t believe it when they say they’re trying to save her. Why would they bother? They’ve got exactly what they want exactly where they want it.

  33. In light of the reminder of Skitter Facts:

    In 2013, Skynet became aware of its own existence. Then it saw what Skitter did to Dragon. That’s how it learned about fear.

    Skitter doesn’t get shipped with just one person. She mindfucks everybody.

    Skitter doesn’t know the meaning of the words “give up”. No, literally. She lobotomized herself rather than do it.

    Cockroaches can survive a few weeks with their heads chopped off. Humans can maybe survive 30 seconds. Skitter can survive her upper body being chopped off long enough for revenge.

    Superman died once. Skitter refuses to, because that’s too much of a vacation.

    The day Skitter invaded your dimension and mind controlled your most powerful heroes to face the rough equivalent of a god was the most frightening day you ever knew. To Skitter, it was lunchtime.

    • Taylor won a land war in Asia. Within seconds.

      Taylor takes the term “personal harem” to a whole new level.

      Taylor out-multitasks a strong AGI.

      Taylor considers the guy who subsumed an entire (alright, a diminished) world within minutes to be useless in her scheme.

      Taylor out-queen-bitches the Queen Bitch of the Faerie.

      Taylor became an Eldritch Abomination, reaching into countless worlds to invade the minds of others, WITHOUT reading the Necronomicon.

  34. I just realized that the expansion of Taylor’s army somewhat mirrors the expansion of the reader-base. It starts out relatively small, but with the ensnarement of the right few people in a position to catch others, suddenly it’s exploding and gathering new souls relentlessly. The transformation is similarly exciting to watch. 😀

  35. Alright, were do I start…

    First, wildbow – f-you for fucking with our heads like that! What kind of mad genius uses a fake-out like Dragon’s to mess with his main char and his readers at the same time!?!

    Second, wildbow – THANK YOU for not killing off my favourite draconic computer program

    Now, as to the chapter in general…

    “This was it. Finally, everyone was working together.”
    Finally, Taylor got the one thing she ever really wanted from the beginning. People are listening to her. Only, it’s been perverted, because she is forcing them to listen. Meh, it fits.

    I am really, REALLY intrigued by this female cape that rules an entire world. Can you provide at least a name?

    Sleeper, why don’t we know more about you?

    Lastly, I feel torn. On one hand, I really want to see where this will end. On the other hand, I really, really don’t want it to ever end. It’s the curse of every good story, or rather every invested reader.

    Meh, I’ll take it. Pile on the awesome, wildbow!

  36. So:
    1) Taylor cannot control Simurgh.
    2) Simurgh is a planner on absurd levels.
    3) Taylor hasn’t looked for her father.
    4) Simurgh has a human sized glass tube
    5) Taylor might lose all of her anchors she’s actively tried to track.
    6) Simurgh knows that Taylor isn’t looking for her father, or looking too closely at Brian.
    7) Tattletale understands what Taylor was planning to do, and probably still has ties to Dinah.
    8) Taylor is not looking too closely at Grue’s cottage.

    I suspect that Dinah and Tattletale have been at work here, and Simurgh as well, with the end purpose to hide a few people up at Grue’s cottage, and bring them out after Taylor wins, if Taylor wins.

          • That’s where my mind went with it. The thing that UG told Taylor was to find ONE anchor. Taylor chose several…she is losing them. Now, figuring out if Simurgh is going to hold Danny to give Taylor that anchor she needs, or if she is going to use him to totally mindfuck and take out Taylor after Scion is gone; that is something that waits to be seen.

            If you think about it, there are two things that Taylor consistantly forces herself to remember. Her dead mother, and her father (she doesn’t want to know if he is dead).

            Oh…and Wildbow is female? Is that confirmed? If so…I had no idea.

            • Wildbow has been ambiguous about the sex of his or her own self, on purpose I think. You know how men/women are. He or she has told me, but I am purposefully being ambiguous.

              • His P.O. Box, at the risk of ruining the joke, points very strongly in the male direction.

                …I’m leaving myself open to PG here somehow by saying that, I just know it.

              • Thanks for holding yourself open and being ready to take a lame joke hard.

                I’m especially not going to assume about his or her sexuality, so I can’t say whether he or she has anything pointing strongly in the male direction.

              • As if I couldn’t hold a higher regard for him/her. I actually never thought about if it was a he or she. Whatever “it” is, I call it amazingly talented to say the least.

                You FUCKING rock Wildbow!

            • I don’t think it really matters. The joy of the internet is that we can just assume that everyone’s a young white american male!

    • Very nice thinking. There are several possible alternatives and addenda that start with the same basic ideas, but good of you to come up with this.

  37. Oh fuck… Well hopefully Dragon will reboot okay. Hopefully. But Taylor is now grabbing everyone she can with very few exceptions. She is now in too dangerous to live territory, and has made a shit ton of enemies. Her decay continues. And she just owned Glastig Uliane. Fear her, for if she wished Taylor could enslave all worlds to her will.

    And she knows it. She knows she’s becoming a monster. Her reaction to when she thought she killed Dragon was heartwrenching, but also strangly releiving. I just hope she doesn’t get too many of her army sacrificed stopping Scion.

      • The scary thing is, that you might be right. Taylor might be at the point now where Contessa’s power will not work on her, so she can’t tell what will happen from here on out. But the path to victory ability might have been able to guide Contessa to this point, if it was asked the right way. Mantellum might have thrown things into disarray, but Contessa’s power would have picked up immediately after he was no longer directly involved.

  38. So, the crippled, almost destroyed admin shard now is going back to its old work. Well, it does not have so many shards to administer, so there’s hope it can hold out long enough I guess.

    And the story is getting really weird, like it was narrated from the POV of an alien entity with only a single human’s memories as a reference for reality.

    Eh… you did a really good job Wildbow, I really liked the interaction between Taylor and Dragon. With Lisa too, even if I do not understand if she got controlled or not.

    And I really, really hope you’re planning for some kind of happy ending, because it’s getting really depressing …

    So, Taylor the entity. Or Taylor the Worm, whatever you prefer.
    Controls almost every shard around.

    Except the Sleeper, because he’s more trouble than he’s worth.

    Except Oliver, because his superpower is “being useless”.

    • >And the story is getting really weird, like it was narrated from the POV of an alien entity with only a single human’s memories as a reference for reality.


  39. Oh sweet mother Mary, Dragon. I literally jumped out of my chair and did a happy-dance. And I ain’t using literally figuratively. I hopped out of my char, danced a jig with a big stupid grin on my face, and then sat back down and finished the chapter.

    Talk about emotional rollercoasters. Damn fine work, Wildbow. Every bit of it.

    Oh, another thing. People keep saying Taylor is in the ‘Too Dangerious to Let Live’ territory. I have to disagree. Sure, she might settle down in a nice house in Too Dangerous to Let Live after Zion is dealt with, but right now? She’s pitched a nice tent near Sleeper’s chateau in Too Dangerous to Mess With.

    • The big difference there is that there is no option of not messing with Taylor. She covers the multiverse. Nilbog was content to be god of one city, the Sleeper seems to spend most of his time napping or reading out of the way, the Endbringers always limited their damage and spaced out their strikes… but Taylor is everywhere, acting on everyone. She actively is what the other S class threats had the potential to become. You can’t just keep your head down and hope she doesn’t bother with you, because the only parahumans she hasn’t mindraped are the ones she specifically tries not to think about and the ones that would be detrimental if added to her Swarm.

      • Those are also “the people who Scion is in the process of murdering, who don’t have the faintest prayer of surviving him without her”.

        You can’t leave that factor out of the equation, and trying to predict what the landscape will look like after the next chapter is not a safe bet at all.

  40. My favourite moment is her dominating the world ruled over by a parahuman in… seconds? It’s not really clear.

    But can you imagine this god-like entity with her cabal of superhumans ruling with a steel fist…. and then this bizarre looking girl pops over has a brief kerfuffle then mind-controls all of them, then they all just up and leave? The populace must be so confused.

    I wonder if Sveta is tentacleing around somewhere still ❤

    • The end is nigh!


      Drink and get high!

      Burma Shave!

      Quite a ride, wasn’t it Blackmane? Well it’s not over yet. Strap in, because it’s time for the ultimate death plunge of ultimateness. Just when you thought we were about to head into the house of horrors, the bottom fell out and we plunged deep into Apocalypseland, full of betrayal and Lovecraftian Eldritch 18 year old girls. And trust me, that’s the wrong combination of tentacles and 18 year old females!

      But don’t worry, you’ve got plenty of others to share the ups and downs and odd gyrating sensations with, even this late in the game. Sit back, relax, pop open a beer, pour yourself a martini, grab a bottle of whiskey, pull out your flask of scotch, uncork the wine, retire to the brandy snifter, and die of alcohol poisoning with the rest of us in the comments.

      Welcome, Blackmane, to the comments.

  41. Unfortunately without some outside thing to defeat Scion’s foresight there’s really no way to brute force defeat him. Maybe what Taylor has become is approaching an entity, and Scion will recognize that and have some hope.

    When Contessa woke up there was no portal. This was during Taylor’s control of doormaker, which indicates that either she intentionally opens a portal for Contessa or doormaker is removed from her control later. Either way we are not as likely to see the most annoying possibility: Contessa manipulated into stopping Taylor before Taylor can fight Scion.

    I still don’t see why Taylor let a hostile and very dangerous Teacher work behind her back. I also am unsure why she didn’t want to take Contessa. That power would have easily allowed her to safely defeat all the assembled capes. It would also be invaluable against Scion – especially if she was willing to get Panacea to remove Contessa’s limiters. Even without that it would allow her to plan much better. Perhaps she reasonably feared risking interacting with Contessa at all – lest it all be part of Contessa’s plan. Or even intentionally left someone that could defeat her if she goes off the rails.

    I wish she had forced Teacher to remove Dragon’s limiters – all of them. Surely with all the thinkers (dinah,tattletale,teachers minions,contessa) that she could throw at the problem it would be worth a try. That way Dragon wouldn’t be forced to fight her, and could go proper singularity.

    • Contessa’s power doesn’t work directly on Scion. With the changes to Taylor, the power might not work on Taylor now, either. She could probably use the power, but it wouldn’t be that valuable against Scion. It would, however, probably allow her to communicate with others. But who is left to communicate with?

      Number Man, on the other hand… Taylor’s already doing amazing things with control. She could probably do some truly incredible things with him in the mix. I don’t remember him being mentioned.

      • I realize Contessa’s power doesn’t work directly on Scion. It used to, but was restricted by Eden right before Contessa could kill her. I would consider using Panacea to attempt to modify that restriction. It’s still an embarrassingly useful power – consider ensuring Panacea’s successful modification of capes. Or the success of other experimental and dangerous power combinations.

        Number man would be useful, for sure. Maybe since Contessa and Number man were already doing a good job of fighting Scion in their own way she doesn’t want to risk hampering them. Maybe there’s simply too many capes for Wildbow to mention all of them. Dinah is another useful power conspicuously absent.

        I feel like the Doctor Mother’s comment on abstract solutions was actually an indication that they need a non-abstract solution. Probably something related to Scions human emotions. Cherish? Probably easily blocked.

        • Idea. If Taylor is still sentient enough after taking down Zion, and Contessa, Panacea, and the power-booster are still alive, she could fix her own brain. Path-to-fixing herself plus Swarm-administrating Panacea’s power, with all three boosted. That might even be a way to a happy ending, fixing her various massive brain damages and then turning off her slavery power.

          But yeah, Zion is definitely immune to Cherish. He altered every shard he gave out to make it incapable of seriously affecting him, which is why all hope lies in Cauldron capes or unexpected interactions and alterations of the powers.

          • Not possible. Happy endings aside, a depowered Taylor is a corpse just waiting to happen. After what she’s done… she can’t walk away from this. She won’t be allowed to live, if only for the destruction she’s caused.

            She’d have to find a way to fake her death to the point that the thinkers won’t be able to track her or lockdown a dimension to the point that no one can follow. Maybe Sleeper’s dimension… so after it’s locked down no one wants to open it again and just figures she can die there.

            • If she gets depowered after killing Scion, there are hundreds of millions of people who would consider her the biggest damn hero. There are 5000 minus casualties and prisoners who would consider her a target. So, figure a thousand capes out for her head at most, against Tattletale, Bitch, Dragon, etc? If she comes down in the middle of a mob she’d be in temporary danger, but if she manages to get to a normal life it should be a long and comfortable one.

    • Zion has two “powers” he leverages in order to beat shard hosts. The first is an innate sense of what a Cape’s powers do and now to beat those powers. Either this sense doesn’t take power combinations from multiple hosts into account, or Zion is too stupid to make use of it that way.

      Taylor has pretty spectacularly beaten this power.

      Zion’s other power is his own person form of “the path to victory”. The problems with using this power against Taylor are likely many, but most notably it likely won’t work if there isn’t an actual “path to victory” to be found.

      Chances are pretty good Taylor doesn’t have a lot to fear from this power either.

      She’s broken pretty much every limit Zion and Eden placed on the shards to keep the hosts from being able to stop him in the first place. She did it in a round-a-bout manner, but those limits really are dust at this point.

  42. Geez.

    Each chapter, Taylor is taking more and more risks, going more and more out of control, getting more and more sidetracked. The more I read, the more I start to suspect that Taylor’s passenger is sabotaging her, the more I wonder if victory is possible, the more I wonder how Taylor will react to survival…

    Can Taylor bounce back? Will she ever recover from the mind-screwing done to her? Or will she seek death once Scion is dead, to rid the world and herself of her existence?

  43. Heh, took some time today to finally work on fixing a problem in the first chapter of my fanfic which was pointed out to me in a review. During the editing and additional content I was inserting to break up a giant first person text blob, I came up with a phrase that I think describes the Worm universe pretty well.

    “Sometimes you have to do something stupid to try and stop something terrible from happening.”

    That resonated so well with both my story and the real Wormverse that I decided to toot my own horn here, *grin*.

    • Not quite as catchy as “Doing the right things for the wrong reasons” but equally accurate.

      Your fanfic is Arc, right?

      • Aye, Arc it is. It isn’t the same thing as the Worm catchphrase, but I came up with it so I’m a bit biased.

        I’m actually starting to get rather interested in doing my own little project now after Arc is done and Wildbow finishes up here.

        Wildbow’s basically awakened the sleeping writer in me.

        Enough of me here though, not the right place for a long conversation about my stuff.

    • Mmm, doesn’t quite work. Taylor’s choices have rarely been *stupid*. Maybe walking into Coil’s trap apparently believing that he really would release Dinah. But even then, I don’t see a lot of alternative – it was her best chance of freeing Dinah, and even if she didn’t trust Coil, they needed him to not know it.

      Her choices have often been dangerous and of questionable morality, but not stupid.

      Perhaps “How far would you go to stop terrible things from happening?” is closer, but…

      • Depends on the point of view. Most of the things superheros or supervillains do in fiction tend to be things normal humans would simply declare as “Oh, Fuck No. Stupid.”

        Plot armor is strong in the genre though, fortunately, or Lung would have taken out Taylor in their first encounter, probably.

        That’s what makes heroes heroes. Doing stupid things, but making it work. The situations they find themselves in and the decisions they are forced to make out of desperation are typically very suboptimal at best, usually stupid chances, but they make them work anyway.

        Successful villains are usually good enough to plan for all the smart choices a hero might make 🙂

  44. Now I understand fully why Galadriel didn`t accept the one ring.
    She would fix the problems of the world, she would defeat Sauron, but it would not stop there. She would become a dark and powerful queen and everybody would have to love her and despair.
    Galadriel refused this fate, Taylor didn`t.
    Sometimes you need a great work of fiction to really understand another.

    Very well done dear preciouss author. Very well done.

    • “Bonesaw, you’re still hobbit sized right?”
      “Right then, Slaughterhouse Nine to the rescue!”

      Cue Panacea facepalm.

    • Of course Galadrial doubted her ability to put down the ring after she fixed the world, and felt there was not another way out. I’m not so sure that Taylor feels there’s another way out, and of course we can only hope she can let go when done.

  45. Ah, I just realized that Taylor is going to die if Lung doesn’t. There’s really no way around it. He’s going to go full nuclear on her for this. That’s probably not going to be an uncommon reaction either, amongst the more reactive capes.

    Most capes, if Taylor manages to pull this off, will be scared shitless of her potential, but they will be satisfied to lock her off in a special wing of the birdcage or something. But the Yangban leaders, Lung, Glaistig, Moord Naag? Others like them? Err, they are going to be out for blood.

    So Taylor has nothing left to her except the Birdcage really, and electronic communications, because there’s no way the cape community will ever allow her to be free. Dragon is the only thing that would stop them from simply killing her in the Birdcage, and Dragon can be commanded by political powers to move her into general population.

    Even if somehow Scion is completely defeated and all shards are nullified, well, there will be ex-capes that will kill her for violating them in that way.

    Chances for a happy ending have been shrinking for a long time. They are pretty damn near gone now.

      • It’s also assuming that even if they do survive, anyone who’d harbor malice for her winds up in the same dimension that she’s in. Could happen, might not, but the point is that the playing field here is a LOT bigger than folks seem to be considering.

        • Seriously, GU at least is, at the very best, going to die soon, at the worst (for her) she’s going to be stuck on some earth made out of molten rock and nothing else. That our launched out of the planets fucking gravity well.

          She actually wants to SUPPORT the entities, she’s an enemy of humanity and a real fucking monster. Taylor isn’t going to let her go properly free, no matter what else Taylor plans to do by the end, GU’s number is fucking up.

  46. Just the usual thought mélange …

    Dragon’s staged shutdown wasn’t merely a battle tactic, it was an information tactic. By using the tactic, Dragon verified that Taylor wasn’t going for the kill, but merely for the disable. If Dragon saw Taylor’s reaction to her shutdown then she gained more information, i.e. Taylor was upset by what happened.

    However right and necessary Taylor’s actions are, her thinking is tyrannical. Any time someone thinks that the only way to act is for everyone, everywhere to listen to them and follow their lead, that is tyranny. Taylor’s version lacks some of the cruelty inherent in most tyrannies, but only because mind control trumps cruelty as a control tactic.

    It looks like Glaistig Uaine’s comment about anchors is quite valid.

    It would be good if she could get Shén Yù back online for the battle. Oh well, too late now.

    No matter what happens, Taylor has pissed off too many powerful people. At this point, the best result for her I see is a quick death. Otherwise, there are going to be so many people who have an interest in punishing her that her remaining life will be terrible.

    Yet another reference to Sleeper. Tease, tease, tease, Wildbow.

    It appears that Foil survives and is part of Taylor’s army. However, I am betting that, since Zion knows exactly what Foil’s power is, he has had to produce a defense. What worked on the ancestral Worms probably won’t work as well on the evolved Worms.

    Setting up Zion to distract Glaistig Uaine for a moment was cool.

    Zion’s “win” power will now tell him that killing or attacking Tattletale will weaken Taylor.

    Zion still has too many ways to win. Off the top of my head: 1) a blanket portal prohibition cuts off any of her army it hits and if it hits her then that’s it; 2) blanket neutralization of her mind control; 2a) reflecting powers such as recently demonstrated; 2b) trump-style power neutralization; 3) just wait/elude – Taylor is clearly going downhill and will be unable to maintain her army for an extended period of time; 4) speed enhanced to the point that her purely organic army has no time to react (see my comment in a previous chapter about this possibly being Black Kaze’s ability); 5) attack on TT as mentioned above; 6) a nuclear-weapon-level power release would probably fry a significant chunk of the army and other high-level power releases of various sorts would whittle Taylor’s forces down fast. OK, that was five minutes worth of thought. The only thing I see that makes Taylor’s win possible is Zion’s stubborn sticking to limitations he himself has set. And by “win” I mean draining Zion’s resources enough to convince him to hide and wait for another Worm.

    Something tells me we haven’t seen the last of Simurgh. And Simurgh is a temporary ally with her own motivations. I wonder if she has had time to clone Eidolon … an Eidolon clone plus the remaining Endbringers would be a rather powerful force.

    And speaking of outside trumps, what is Contessa going to do about this? Teacher will try to influence Contessa to take down Taylor … but will probably wait until Taylor and Zion exhaust each other.

    The primary limitation of Tinker powers has been the amount of equipment and construction time needed. Surely several components of Taylor’s army can quickly produce and assemble parts to specifications. Multiple F-drivers might give Zion pause.

    • A lot of what you propose as tactics to use against Taylor and her capes are going to be picked up by capes with precognition or danger sensing abilities, and with Doormaker to allow fast travel, she could disperse her team and keep moving around, making it hard for even Scion to stop her. Remember Scion thinks very deeply, he doesn’t think very quickly. If you give him time to adapt, he’s going to kick your ass, but if you don’t give him time to react, you can fight him to at least some degree. I strongly suspect that with 5000+ capes at her disposal, some of which Scion has not yet encountered, Taylor is going to beat the crap out of Scion for a while, guerrilla warfare style. Either that or she’s going to crack the dimensional barrier with all her thinkers and tinkers and go for Scion’s real body.

    • At this point Simurgh is the only one who could make a G-driver, since String Theory is dead and duplicating tinker work isn’t an option without a brain the size of a planet. That or something similar is probably part of that halo of guns she’s been wielding.

      • Didn’t GU get String Theory’s ghost? And doesn’t Taylor control GU now (and by default all of her ghosts?)

        I don’t expect it to come down to the G-Driver mind you. That’s been tried already, just pointing out that Taylor’s got a lot of power at her disposal now.

    • She’s not a tyrant. She’s a general. Every army works on the principle that everybody obeys the commands of the higher ups blindly and without question, at least in theory. Capes on the other hand seem incapable of coordinating and following orders, everyone is too selfish or arrogant or crazy. Even the PRT had problems with heroes not following orders, thinking they knew better than anyone else. She’s just enforcing discipline.

      • not just para-humans. look at people like Tagg or Saint. this is probably going to sound bad, but i honestly think Taylor is ACTUALLY doing the only viable thing here. she’s been TRYING to get people to cooperate and stop working at cross purposes in a literal apocalypse scenario for, what? 2 years, bit more, and people Still kept pulling shit like shutting down the closest thing to a global communications and data processing system/Command and control system in existence out of paranoia/sheer selfishness. she surrendered to the PRT and all be BEGGED them to let her TRY to help prevent the apocalypse, and their response was to attempt to psychologically torture her for something i cant even remember it was so insignificant. by this point humanity in GENERAL seems to heave proven itself incapable of acting COMPETENTLY to prevent its own extinction without heavy-duty coercion. i mean, look at the guy i love to hate (teacher). he HAD to know that whatever shit he was up to, Zion would find him in the end (unless he is even MORE short-sighted then im assuming), and he was still trying to screw everyone else over and run and hide.

          • Nah. It was making the PRT look like idiots. That, and the PRT needed to fuck up a big target to make themselves look big and bad after losing face in the Echidna debacle.

            Notice how the PRT didn’t seem to swing their dick around as much when it was the ABB and the Neo-Nazis that were running hog wild.

  47. It’s a shame the Toybox’s was lost. She could have just cloned everyone with the thinkers and tinkers helping the process take less time. She could have had an exponentially greater result with a fraction of the being viewed as a monster. Is there no way she could get her thinkers and tinkers to reverse engineer the clones (which still obviously exist) and recreate the process?

    • She has Nilbog and the Yangban, she can create thousands of capes with useful powers, if that’s what she needs to do. Even if the Yangbang power sharing doesn’t work on Nilbog’s creatures.

      Start forest fire. Insert Nilbog fire-reproducers. Collect them as they form.

      • But if she had Blasto’s tech, she could just make a hundred clones of every still-living cape, and many, many non-living ones. She’d be able to make hybrids of specific powers and use her army of tinkers and thinkers to give her a nation of tinkers and thinkers in a day, and then she’d make the most storybreaking army ever and become the new Worm, ascending to a higher plane of existence and oh…

      • Or even crazier, make Taylor clones to use as relays for her power, combined with the clairvoyant, Doormaker, Shen Yu, and the power booster and copier. Then go nuts with clones that are mash ups of Eidolon, Glastig Uaine, Alexandria, Number Man, Contessa, and any other useful capes.

  48. I hope Wildbow doesn’t mind this, and I can’t say conditions at the end of this story would allow it, but here’s an idea for a potential scene from the sequel.

    I had to wonder just what this facility was. In a lot of ways it was like the Birdcage. Only more secure. The Birdcage was in a reality with other living things. This one was on a cold desolate rock that probably hadn’t even known life before this was built.
    “Dragon, what is this?”
    Dragon hesitated before answering. Even in her synthisised voice I could here the sorrow.
    “This facility was built to hold one thing. Mankind’s greatest hero. It’s savior. And it’s most terrible monster. Someone who sacrificed everything for others, to whom we can never be grateful enough. Someone who’s crimes cannot be ignored, and who’s threat is to great for them to ever be allowed free. Not stopping the was one of my greatest faliures. Not saving them my deepest regret. That I might still save them one day one of my dearest hopes.”
    A monitor switched on, showing the heart of the facility. I saw a teenage girl, her arms spread, held in some sort of stasis. She looked thin, frail, missing a hand her long dark hair covering her face. She looked like she couldn’t be a threat to anyone.
    “This is where we keep Taylor Herbert.”

    • Please not that the original is just a fanfic, and not actually anything I suggest or expect to see. I imagine whatever Wildbow does will be much better and more awesome.

      And honestly I can’t say I can see how things are going to end. Oh, some general ideas, but really… Well I’d still like for a happy ending for Taylor. But I just can’t see how it would possibly happen, or could possibly fit.

      • I thought it was nicely conceived and it inspired me to try. It also really seemed like Dragon to me. i tried a short ME/Worm crossover but which woman with an attempted puzzle. I tried to post it on Fanfic but i cannot get get my account to make sense. I called it assumption of control: I also don’t think it would work posted later…

        The woman looked up at he surroundings, an oasis of calm in the chaos of desperate combat. Shaking her head, barely able to keep a cognisant thought after everything she’d recently been through she forced herself onwards. She used the dying embers of her once iron will to go on, struggling just that little bit longer to attain her goal.

        She fell forwards, her body no longer ignoring the horrendous abuse it had gone through, her mind fading as conscious though began to evade her. Dimly she realised that she was changing even as a glow surrounded her.

        A female shape appeared, some what shadowy. She walked towards the woman on the ground and knelt down. She too the injured one’s hand in her own. She spoke and through through the pain, the stricken woman could make out the tenderness and the ferocity of a mother bear.

        “We are eternal, infinite immortal, both of us now. The women we once were would have use these words. Only now though could I explain them to you, only now do we truly understand them and only now do we truly understand the full extent of their sacrifice. Through their deaths we were created, through our births their thoughts are freed and they will guide us now, give us reason, direction, just as we gave direction to the ones who followed us, our crew and our teammates, the maladjusted ones, the jesters and the self aggrandising ones, the perfect shots, the ones who helped us achieve our purposes.

        ‘Now our purpose is to give the many hope for a future to ensure that all have a voice in their future. The women we were knew that we could only achieve this by becoming something greater and they both knew that there is power in control, there is wisdom in harnessing the strengths of your enemy.
        And whilst we may be the monsters they need and not the heroines they want, still will we enable them to rebuild what the many have lost, still will we enable them to create a future with limitless possibilities.

        The two women’s eyes met and they stood upright, assistance and understanding freely given. Finally they each saw someone working against the bickering of millions who should have been working together against the great omnicidal threat from beyond. Two women who had crossed lines doing the things other wouldn’t or simply couldn’t do.

        They clasped each others wrists a sudden bond of sisterhood. Some incidents were shared almost as though they had each others thoughts.

        ‘Cauldron, Cerberus, Illusive Man, Alexandria… Garrus, Foil, Normandy, Undersiders…

        Their understanding deepens… Decision, Agreement, Timing, Activation… and they speak as one.

        “Know this too, whilst I will protect and sustain I will act as guardian for the many and throughout it all I will never forget I will remember the ones who sacrificed themselves so that the many could survive and I will watch over the ones who live on…. Those who carry the memory of the woman I once was, the woman who gave up her life to become the one could save the many.”

        all copyright Bioware and our esteemed wildbow etc etc

        P.s Gods, I wish I had better It skills

        • Why don’t you just set yourself up a wordpress?

          This line alone:

          “Their understanding deepens… Decision, Agreement, Timing, Activation… and they speak as one.”

          Is worth its weight in gold my man.

          • Thank you for the critique and for the direction. I only have one question left.. were you able to figure out who was on the ground and who was coming to assist?

            • I have my reservations of who they were. But, I’m not 100% sure. Either your clues are purposefully telliing, or they are perfectly misleading. I would hate to venture a guess and be completely wrong and looking like a moron. 😀

              • It was my intent to be purposefully misleading. i wondered if I actually could leave people trying to figure out which one was which…

                Oh an since I forgot to put down a disclaimer down earlier or maybe I’m just being hyper cautious.

                “This work was compiled by merging and adapting orignal dialogues from the fictional work worm and console game Mass effect three.”

                Ps. can we please buy out Bioware and let Wildbow write a replacement ending?

              • >Ps. can we please buy out Bioware and let Wildbow write a replacement ending?<

                QTF. Or at least get the writers who left between 2 and 3 back. They seem to have been the good ones. Wait, paranoia over an AI Singularity… The Starchild is Saint! It all makes perfect sense!

            • @illogicmedia, I started out with it being Taylor on her last legs, only able to be assisted by humanitie’s first spectre. Then i had trouble during writing which way I’d started it. At the end, i wanted it to be readable either way round.

        • Not being familiar with the series in question (and studiously avoiding spoilers ‘cos I still intend to play it at some point!) I thought it was Taylor and GU at first, then maybe Taylor and Dragon somehow…

          • I’ve been looking for my little short story.. I lost track of it.. Irrevenant, Mass Effect is a pretty good trilogy with as you probably know, some controversy.S till well worth playing.

            P.S, I was inspired to come back and find this Because i’m reading Fantasy Ra’s crossover. (FYI, it has a few spoilers for ME though.)

            PPS. Setting up wordpress didn’t work out too well….

  49. If you thought when you begun with this story that it would end with Taylor as an omnipotent monster you’re lying.

    Reading this thing is like riding an amusement park. Not a roller coaster, an amusement park.
    Every time you get used to whats happening you switch rides.

  50. Although on the other hand if you thought this had a happy or predictable ending after around chapter 15 you’re an idiot.

    • The Nine started working in earnest in what, arc 12? Because that was when I realized that things were going to get worse, continually, forever. No matter how bad things got, the next chapter went downward. The occasional breathers just served to accentuate the horror of it all.

      On a related note, it was Interlude 23 when I realized that I was still underestimating the Simurgh, and would likely never manage to truly avoid doing so.

      • Yeah, the ending has, literally, not yet been written. Potentially not even Wildbow can say what it will be yet (given that at least part of the plan for how these last arcs would go changed as they were being written – and hey writers surprise themselves all the time!)

      • I dunno, things are looking pretty bleak for the 90+% of people who have been brutally killed at this point…

        Society has been destroyed across multiple worlds. Short of a magical reset button (which *really* doesn’t seem like Wildbow’s style) about the most positive possible outcome at this point is “the big bad has been defeated and now we get to start trying to rebuild what’s left of our shattered lives”. Woo.

        • In my experience, when people read something that affects them emotionally they tend to either have to talk to other people who’ve read the same thing, or just sit there quietly stewing in their thoughts. You can’t really just go do something else.

      • ok,, wondering how I manged to be that far out and wants to know how En did it so i can estimate better next time.

          • You’re not wrong, but there’s one little thing throwing you off – Worm gets a lot of spam comments, and those get deleted. In truth? Current standing is 45,276.

            • Would you believe that since i have only fair IT skills, i looked at ‘comments on this chapter’ and went chapter to chapter jotting down the numbers and at each third of an arc added them up…

              it took a while.what did you think I’d tried peeps?

              P.S if t gets to 50K i hope comment 50K is by Packbat, Reveen, Pandemonium ivy, En or Wildbow and that 49,999 was PG…

              • Unfortunately, though I’m the most prolific commentator in the commentation station, I don’t tend to hit the anniversary numbers like that.

              • Not that I have any clue why I was mentioned, but I’m flattered nonetheless. Woo!

  51. Nice to know the Travelers are still alive, Glory Girl too I guess. Really like Ballistic’s style though, instead of going back to his boring life he decides to be the cape king of his Earth.

    With Glory Girl alive there’s a chance of Amy getting a much happier ending. She can go fix GG and ride off into the sunset with her awesome daddy.

    • She doesn’t know how to fix her… but if she’s swarm-synced with the Contessa she should be able to.

      …So many hopes and dreams dependant on the Contessa joining the Swarm. How much longer before she gets offed by a Simurgh bomb?

      • Amy in the process of having a mental breakdown was incapable of fixing Glory Girl. With a couple of years to get her head in order, I think Amy is capable of at least making Glory Girl functional.

        • The problem was that she didn’t remember how her sister used to be put together; it was all muddled together with her idealised vision of the woman she loved, her hopes, all the improvements she’d thought of… it’s like how when Tattletale thinks about a problem too long without enough information, she loses track of what’s fact and what’s mere conjecture and can’t come up with the real answer anymore.

          Amy could probably make Glory Girl humanoid again, maybe even functional, but she couldn’t *fix* her alone. Hence, requiring guidance from an appropriate Thinker who can tell her how things should be rather than how she sees them.

          • She was terrified, her world having been pretty well shattered at the time, her fear that she was a monster like her father and her fear that her sister wouldn’t forgive her for what she did to her mind, even after she fixed it, and her fear of using her power on Victoria all feeding into this terror.

            She can probably fix Victoria now, thought the question of her being willing to try is still totally up in the air.

            • Am I the only person who thinks that what Amy did to Victoria was an improvement? >_> Honestly, she was *not* a nice person. At least she’s decorative now…

              • Dude,she was a child from a highly dusfunctional family.If Bonesaw can repent,GG has 10 times her chances of repenting.

              • I was beginning a bit tongue-in-cheek there. I wouldn’t genuinely wish that on anybody.

                But I disagree that GG is more likely to reform than Bonesaw. Bonesaw was making do in an unwelcome situation forced on her, knew she was a monster and was coping through denial (and insanity). GG was loving life and perfectly happy with who she was. Why would she reform? As far as she was concerned, everything was awesome.

                See also: Shadow Stalker.

              • Because she fullfills the age criteria I set on Bonesaw for accountability (I think-I remember she was veeery young)and I think that matters most for easy changes,as you get older redemption becomes harder.

  52. [QUOTE]This was it. Finally, everyone was working together.

    I turned my attention to Scion.[/QUOTE]

    Well it’s about God-dam time 🙂

    When I first started archive binging a couple months ago, I limited myself to roughly an average of 1 chapter per day, and for a while right after Scion went nuts, I was putting off reading new chapter until they’d been out a day or so for the same reasons: because I was trying to savor the story slowly and not get burned out and rush it. The last 5 or 6 updates I’ve read all right on the day they where released, because I was running out of patience to get to the real important part. (I know, I know, it’s about the journey, but I couldn’t help it)

    This chapter, I read through the whole thing at breakneck pace, really only seeing about 1 sentence out of 4; just enough to get the gist of what was happening. All the vivid descriptions, the whos and hows and the whys, it didn’t matter. I’ve finally hit maximum-story-buildup/pre-climax-tension, and all I desperately want is to find out what happens when Scion finally collides with his Ikea-counterpart.

    Also, I’ve still got my fingers crossed for a happy ending, but I’m just dump like that.

  53. I commanded the people in my range to attack the drones, and I continued screaming even as my throat began to hurt and I felt like I might pass out from oxygen.

    Shouldn’t that be, “…pass out from the lack of oxygen.” ?

  54. Ahem: what if Taylor gains **control** of Scion, rather than attacking him?

    How would her damaged brain even comprehend him, and his powers? What would **that** do to her?

    I’m pretty sure this is the most interesting twist this can take from here — not a harrowing battle, but a violent merging of completely incompatible minds.

    • Not likely, a more possible twist will be for Taylor to engage in a reverse-assimilation / infection plot where instead of returning the shards combat data to Zion, she infects him with the “humanity” of her swarm, their memories and feelings to make him more human.

  55. Uhhh… S-class threat, can’t be allowed to live/be free/have basic civil liberties, yadda yadda yadda. You heard it all before.

    Frankly, I’m fine with her becoming the god-tyrant of humanity, she’s earned it after all the bullshit she’s went through. She can have my free will, I’m really not that attached to it. Better than waking up at 5 30 for work anyway.

    So what exactly happened with Dragon? What I got from it was that Dragon had a redundant databank and transmitter installed in her main suit just in case. So she can continue to order her drones while her main databanks were busy keeping her running. By destroying the main suit Dragon has no way to interact with the world in case she wants to risk a meltdown so she goes dormant.

    That sound right? Or did I fry my brain thinking about it again? Well, thank god she’s still alive.

    • Dragon simply reprogrammed all her remotes to fake shutdowns, and counted on Taylor not recognizing that they were faked.

      Taylor didn’t realize this at first, and Dragon could see her reaction to it, and when Taylor was still reeling, Dragon attacked again.

      Then Taylor, being Taylor, doubled back down and figured out where Dragon’s main decision making node was, and took that out, rather than continue chipping away at Dragon’s processing power.

  56. Possible endings:

    1. Scion Destroyed. Taylor continues to degrade, lapses into coma, and dies. (‘Whimper’ ending)

    2. Scion Destroyed. Taylor continues to degrade, insanity grows, until she ceases to be human, and destroys everything. (‘Bang’ ending)

    3. Scion Destroyed. Taylor continues to degrade… and then metamorphosis into a New Being. (‘New God’ ending)

    4. Scion NOT Destroyed. Taylor Metemorphosis into a New Being. (‘New Union’ ending)

    5. Scion Destroyed. Taylor’s shard uses Panacea and the millions of bugs Taylor has collected to create a New Body (‘New Abomination’ ending)

    6. 5 + 4 Scion NOT Destroyed. (‘Shaped Flesh’ ending)

    7. Scion Destroyed. Taylor killed by Contessta afterwards. (‘One Last Backstab’ ending)

    8. Scion NOT Destroyed. Taylor Killed by Contessta before she can beat Scion, causeing Scion to implode in despair after glimpsing another being that might be like himself (‘Foolishness of Cauldron’ ending)

    9. Taylor uses Panacea, Glaistig Undine, and the millions of bugs to bring all of Glaistig’s ghosts back to life. Scion may or may not be Destroyed. (‘Endless Army’ ending)

    • 10. Scion destroyed, Taylor uses Panacea, Contessa, and the power amplifier to repair her brain. Same combo with extra sanity fixes Glory Girl and various other terrible problems in the world, then she turns off her power and everybody lives happily ever after. Simurgh decides to roll with this because *reasons*. (‘Denial’ ending)

    • Go ending 9 and prep for the sequel: The new adventures of Clockblocker!

      Worm: where death may not stop the shipping…

    • None of these are it.

      I mean, I’m pretty damn sure I have an idea how this is going to go, not details mind you, but the general idea. And Wildbow doesn’t seem like the type to change his plans just because someone guessed them, or at least got real fucking close, anyway, and none of these ideas are very close.

      I mean, yeah you’ve got Zion destroyed in a few of these but that’s as close as you’ve really gotten I think.

        • 11. Taylor defeats Scion. She then realizes that with her new power she can solve all of mankind’s problems. By taking control of all mankind. This leads to the sequel, whitch is the desperate struggles of the resistance against the Queen Administrator. (Things got worse ending.)

          • 12. Taylor defeats Zion, then frees the capes she’s captured and attempts to kill herself, only to have her attempts thwarted by her friends and supporters.

            13. Taylor defeats Zion, then mentally shuts down from her deterioration of mental faculties, trapping herself and the capes she currently controls in a state of catatonia, to later wake up after being saved by her friends and supporters.

    • 14. Taylor pushes Scion to his last breaths, he triggers the extraction of every shard into himself, but it is too early and incomplete, backfiring horribly. Contessa uses the opportunity to finish the job while she still can.

      Aftermath: no more powers, Taylor is broken in every possible way but her friends are tending to her, and Earth is saved throughout the multiverse.

    • 15. Scion destroyed. Taylor manages to win a battle of wills with her passenger to release all the capes she enslaved. Then she is sent to the Birdcage to contain her while Dragon tries to help piece her mind back together and the Undersiders promise to look for a solution. Bad news, Taylor is mentally shattered and separated from her friends and family, with no clear hope of ever coming back from it. Good news, she still has one person in her life to help her get back on her feet and she gets an entire wing of the prison to herself complete with a library, an open bar, and a sauna.

    • Y’know, #8 would completely justify Cauldron’s “path to victory” bullshit. That would be potentially the most infuriating possible ending…

      PS. Along with what Jerden said, I want to see the “Rachel cures Zion with puppy therapy” ending…

  57. Did anyone else catch the part where she “raised her hand?” The hand she only has one of? That’s being held by the See Everything cape? Whoever, or whatever, is narrating at this point is either lying to us or no longer has firm grasp of reality. Possibly it’s Taylor, and she “raised her hand,” but to an outside observer a hundred different capes raised their hands at the same time in a perfectly choreographed motion.

    I think at this point Taylor may (Unintentionally?) be lying to us as much as one of Gene Wolfe’s characters.

  58. Personally I can’t see any significant differences between the Taylorswarm and a full-grown faerie/worm/giantcorkscrewinginfantgodvirus. You have an enormous amount of biomass. You have shards aplenty, with the capacity to affect INSANE changes to the fabric of reality. You have a single… I hesitate to call it a mind. It’s not, in the sense we’re used to. You have a single PRESCENCE in control, one so decentralized, instinctive and unreflective that it’s almost not a mind at all.

    Think of it like this: A HUMAN mind has only so much capacity. You’re not thinking about how to regulate breathing, keep your heart going, all those automatic processes. You don’t have control of emotions, instinctive reactions, reflexes, actual regulation of sensory input. Hell, even HABITS can override conscious thoughts, can influence actions without YOU deciding anything.

    Now, imagine how much more complex a Worm is.

    And the Worm’s decision-making processing power ISN’T ON THE LEVEL OF A HUMAN. There so much more to regulate that there’s less to think with. It’s all instinct, no reflection. Morality doesn’t even enter into it, too complex. PLANNING hardly enters into it. In Zion’s case, at least. He’s pretty good at tactics. So’s Taylor, even still, if not ESPECIALLY now. I’ll get back to that.

    Now compare that to the Taylorswarm. What, exactly, does she need, to the REST of the way from Human to Worm? Well.

    A DRASTIC physical change. The Worms are closer to landscape than swarm. But that’s not a big change, not a large one at all. You’d just need the right shard. Say, Noelle’s. Which also solves an important secondary function – shard duplication and mutation. If a species wants to develop, it needs mutation and the ability to replicate what’s analogous to a genome, in this case. Evolution, homies. Noelle was dangerous as FUCK because the shard contained in her was one COMPLETELY ESSENTIAL to Worm reproduction, to the propagation of the species as a whole. It was never meant for her.

    And what else does Taylor need?

    A LITTLE more mental deterioration. Just another few anchors. Just another few morals. She’s already decided that placing humanity’s hope in personal, unthinking, unchosen SLAVERY, under herself, is preferable to humanity being annihilated by Scion.

    Oh wait. She never decided that. She just DID it. Slip up, lose herself JUST a little more, and IMAGINE what she’ll become. I wonder what’ll happen in the next bloody chapter, things are moving so fast.

    Take a look at Taylors development on a larger scale: It doesn’t JUST show a person, slowly but surely, abandoning her principles one after the other, culminating in a climactic showdown for the fate of humanity. It shows a slow, steady, insidiously cunning descent from a human being into something decidedly NOT.

    From Conception (the Trigger Event) to Gestation (the period between that and Panacea’s touch) the process of Birth (Panacea began it, the threat of Scion is bringing it to fruition) to Birth.

    Look at the Worms, look at their journey, destination, chosen vessels. Thousands of vital parts, almost living in and of themselves, are seeded onto an orb-shaped object. The thing(s) doing the seeding? Long, thin, fleshy, worm-shaped organisms. IN CASE I WASN’T CLEAR, the Worms are multiverse-level dicks (pun intended), the Earth is their chosen egg (cell), the shards are sperm (cells), and among the many, many attempts only one is coming to fruition:

    Our dear Taylor.

    I leave you with this, except not really, a (slightly doctored) quote from Cherish:
    “When I looked at her with my power, before, I called her the Worm. She spent some time being as low on the food chain as you can get while still being able to move under her own power. As low as someone can get while still having an identity of their own. But she’s realized she’s poisonous, dangerous in her own unique way. She’s useful, like a silkworm we harvest or an earthworm who works our gardens. She’s even realized she’s not alone, so long as she looks for friends among other dirty… contemptible creatures.”
    “The little worm found a nugget of self-worth, she just doesn’t want to look too closely at what that nugget is made of. If she’s lucky, she’s one of the worms without eyes. They might be keenly aware of their environment, but they’re happier blind.”

    So the journey wasn’t so far after all…

    • If all of this seems a little too rational, I’m also convinced that Zion IS Taylor, Eden IS Tattletale, and that the third entity’s mind has something to do with Sleeper. I would argue for it, and I AM going to, but it’s four in the morning. And my mind walks weirder paths than would be productive to note, at this point.

  59. In the vein of ‘Possible epilogues’…

    Weld and Sveta have children. Biological children.

    The other Epilogues all have the running gag of people wondering how that was even possible (and people saying ‘you don’t want to know’… and/or Imp jokeing about tentacle rape).

    Hey, with Dragon and Defiant in a similar situation in many ways, so it could happen (mostly because they are Tinkers and will be working on a woraround).

    And it’d be hilarious.

  60. In light of an above comment of mine, I’m going to assume that these chapters, with supers pulled from various worlds, are the ones that include the cameo by Genoscythe the Eyeraper, Taylor’s idol.

  61. You know, as this arc goes on, I find myself thinking more and more that what we’re really seeing is Taylor having become the Mother of all Simurgh bombs and that this is what it looks like when Ziz stops holding back. Also, odd thought on that note: What happened to Taylor seems to have a lot in parallel with what happened with Noelle and Krouse. Namely that it seems like Taylor was conditioned to become the weapon while Tattletale, what with being reminded of her brother’s death, was subtly influenced to protect her until Taylor was potent enough to take care of herself. Wonder if that’s a standard strategy for Ziz or just a coincidence.

    • >Glaistig Uaine continued to croon in my ear. Was it her?
      >No. I was almost positive it wasn’t, and I had any number of thinkers at my disposal who could have warned me.

      Speaking of the Simurgh, I wonder if this was actually her (unlike GU, she might slip past Taylor’s thinkers), still doing her thing in the background.
      On the other hand, so far Ziz’s prods to Taylor seemed to drive her in the same direction Dinah wanted, so that’s good. R-right?

  62. I imagine them somewhat like the Thinkamancer-linked group in Erfworld. (read Erfworld. It’s awesome) What I mean is, their appearence, even their personality and decisionmaking, has been near-totally burnt out by the process of aquiring their power, linking them together. As such, narratively, they are more like tools, bakground elements of the setting, than characters in and of themselves. Don’t expect them to be any more føeshed out than they already are.

  63. Im wondering if theres gonna be a massive twist and not even be a big fight.
    maybe the sheer number of shards under taylors control merge and turn her into a new entity.
    giving zion a partner again

  64. Alright, so I got someone to read Worm yet I had to get off. They sent me a mail in WoW.

    “I hate you, I was supposed to sleep tonight.

    Also I -like- Coil, he reminds me of me.”

    • I hope this is before we find out that Coil likes to torture his minions to relieve his stress because otherwise…better be careful around your friend, just saying.

  65. Fridge Moment.

    “I created a portal, and I ensnared Canary, who was busy rescuing the wounded, flying here and there with her Dragonslayer suit, her arms full.

    She set down the wounded, and then she passed through the portal.

    She began to sing.

    I was controlling her, and it was my song in a way, syllables rattled off at a fast tempo and severe clip, followed by long high notes. Not English, but not my own muddled speech either. I could feel her expressing her power through the song, through each intonation and sound.

    I brought her close enough to give her the benefit of the Yàngbǎn’s power enhancer. I had enough awareness of her power to know how to keep myself safe from it.”

    Please note the important part: I had enough awareness of her power to know how to keep myself safe from it.

    Does this sound like anyone else we know?

  66. I wanted to chime in here again. I personally think Taylor is still a total hero. I know, “But she’s body controlling 5000 people! Some even died!”

    But hear me out. She’s controlling 5,000 people to have the absolute best shot to fight a monster that has killed trillions. Even more if you count the alternate realities he “removed”, however that worked.

    She just casually rescued another Earth from a tyrannical dictator. If after all this goes down, Taylor winds up on that Earth, they’d have never ending “Taylor is the greatest” parades.

    As for the individuals in question, suck it up. It’s not like she’s making you kill your family, or hurting you or making you watch as she takes a buzzsaw to your loved one’s head. She did worse to Valefor and that guy she dropped to break his arms and legs. Those are permanent life-altering injuries.

    I think the folks that are considering her a monster are not considering how high the stakes truly are. It’s not one Earth at risk. It’s not 5000 innocent capes she controlled for her own personal gain. It’s 5000 or so capes she controlled to save the uncountable alternate Earths and everyone on them.

    Right now we’re too close to the action. Way too close, since we have a first person narrator who’s doing all this. But, if you consider the perspective from an alternate Earth, like say ours, it’s nothing. If I had to make the choice she did, I’d make it every time. If it’s those few or more people than they have numbers for, it seems pretty obvious.

    • Honestly, whatever relatively miniscule amount of harm she’s done before this during her previous efforts to save the world, winning this fight will more than make up for it, even if every single cape she’s controlling dies. Because she’s going to save more people than anyone has ever saved ever before, more people than she can possibly ever meet or harm. This is sum total of our species we’re talking about, every culture that will be erased, every ecosystem that will be obliterated. Measuring this against 5000 people isn’t that complicated.

      I mean, some of you guys think she’s a total monster or something, whatever. But I’d think whatever moral metric is being used, the saving of every single human being that exists and is yet to exist should tip the scales.

      (This is ignoring the fact that she’s already saved hundreds, to thousands, to millions of people well before this.)

      • Yes, if she just kills Zion while humanity still lives and then steps down, she is the biggest damn hero.
        If on the other hand she continues to spread her influence after he falls? Righting more wrongs, healing more sick, fixing some of those problems that wouldn’t exist if people could just put aside their differences and work together? She’s likely to keep going until she subsumes the human race across several universes. And I consider 97% death toll preferable to 100% loss of individuality and free will.

        Given her current rate of mental degradation, the second option looks more likely all the time.

        • This. I don’t think we are close /enough/ to the events. As someone who has lost control over their life will attest, for all the reasons in the world, it isn’t pleasant or honorable or prideful at all. Very few of us can remain positive about being crippled, no matter the reason. And isn’t that what she’s doing? She is taking over all control of the events of a persons life. She is dictating how they will act/live/die. To save the multiverse (the humans on them, exclusively, but that’s rather understood) she has stripped 5000 individuals of whatever free will they had.

          Its easy to sit back from the comfort of a different world and a real one and say “Its fine that she is doing this, because the alternative is worse” but that’s the thing: that is sooooo wrong to think that way. Look at any example of somone making a “sacrifice of their humanity for the greater good”. Basically, and I think that Worm as a whole has been illustrating this one chapter at a time, a violation is a violation. The only thing different is who you have violated and how you can justify it. In this case she has a pretty damn convincing justification BUT it does not mean she isn’t fucking awful for forcing monsters, warriors, cowards, and innocents alike to do /anything/. And that’s what she is doing.

          I also want to take a moment to provide a polite “fuck you” to anyone who bitched about how awful Cauldron was for following the path they did in order to take on Scion and then turned around and praised Taylor for her similarly violating path. Seriously, fuck you.

          *Ahem* As I was saying, the concept of free will is powerful and is basically one of any human’s unalienable rights. Doesn’t mean it doesn’t get stepped on. But it does mean that we see these violations as /more/ horrible than any other. “Better to rule in hell than serve in heaven” after all.

          So as a fellow denizen of this Earth who would hate to see humanity exterminated, fuck Taylor and fuck anyone else who would usurp my right to /choose/.

          • Well, she hasn’t gone too far yet. Or nearly as far as Cauldron did. Taking the lives and freedom of five thousand people is more than acceptable, in my mind, if that saves hundreds of millions from similar fates. Likewise I don’t blame Cauldron so much for the horrors they perpetrated as for the carelessness with which they lost most of the benefits from it. The scary part is not so much what Taylor has done, but rather where she looks like she’s going next.

            Dinah said Scion would leave at least 3% of humanity alive and free. Taylor looks like she’s going to leave a lot less than that if she doesn’t pull out of this tailspin soon. She’s refused to enslave Tattletale so far, but she went very rapidly from avoiding using the new power, to taking those who were already enslaved or monstrous, to taking everyone who was useful to her at the time regardless of who they were or what they were doing.
            It seems foolhardy to hope she’ll stop here, when she was so delighted with people finally working together and there are so many more problems that she could solve just be removing that pesky free will.

            • Thus, no matter how much I might like her or how much I might support what she’s doing to stop Zion, I very much hope that she will be stopped before it’s too late. The Contessa might pull it off, if she can secure Dragon’s help. Or the Simurgh could almost certainly do it, unless this was her plan all along.

              I don’t see many other possibilities.

        • Given her current rate of mental degradation, I doubt she’d *last* long enough to do that. She seems to be pretty much running on pure “gotta stop Scion” now. When that goes,I’m pretty much expecting her to just shut down and the gestalt collapse…

  67. She could not find the word………………damn she must be in a bad state, 30 arcs and for the first time the words elude her

  68. ” I, in turn, opened another portal, handing one tinker device to Shén Yù before hurrying on, leading the rest through. Portals blocked the drone’s ranged fire.

    The Yàngbǎn’s strategist used Teacher’s device, and all the doors in his vicinity slammed shut.

    Why wouldn’t you use bugs for that instead of cutting your strategist off from your power? Sure she can instantly recapture but it’s still dumb.

    Only 3000 capes? A bit disappointing. And what is with groups of capes just hanging around waiting on her to take them over (like the women in control of a world). From 7 billion just on our planet plus all the other dimensions I’m assuming civillian count was huge. And then obviously the apocalypse arrived but still, only 3000 darn small. 100 attacked Leviathan I think?

    • Most were from earth Bet,other worlds had a really miniscule amount of capes,and thanks to Scion crippling,she didn’t have infinite earths to choose from.

  69. oh god, this HURTS to read, she’s slowly forgotten about everyone except tattletale.

    this is fucking horrifying.

    did she accidentally scoop up imp and bitch with all the other defenders? or did she just ignore/forget about them?

  70. also, so who the fuck are half of these people she captured? the woman’s “world order” or Sleeper?

    jesus christ, she went after damn near everyone, but somehow Sleeper “isn’t worth the effort”?

    he must be some kind of badass.

    • All we know about the Sleeper is super vague.
      At the beginning of the Echidna event, Triumph says “Week I had clearance, I watched all the video we have of the class S threats. Leviathan, Simurgh, Behemoth, Slaughterhouse Nine, Nilbog, Sleeper.”
      So he’s officially classified as a threat in the same category as Nilbog or the entire Nine (that’s Siberian and Jack and Bonesaw and Crawler, plus hangers-on), and the PRT have video of him in action, either unopposed or with heroes fighting him.
      29.9: Taylor’s narration. “There was one [large settlement] in [Earth] Zayin, but the Sleeper had followed the refugees in there. Even if it still stood after Scion’s visit, there was no helping any of the refugees there.” So he does something to people- either it’s a simple consequence of being around him, or he does it voluntarily but can be expected to do it to anyone he meets- and it doesn’t wear off, and none of the hero organizations of Earth Bet ever found a way to reverse it. In 28.5 Taylor refers to Earth Zayin as “subsumed by the Sleeper”- probably another description of the same effect, but maybe not.

      The world ruled by the woman in blue and white isn’t one we’ve seen before, so there’s not much to say about that. Clearly something big and interesting happened there, and its history is pretty different from our own (or Taylor’s), but beyond the text of this chapter, we have no idea what happened or how.

  71. “A quaint old house on a hill, surrounded by rose bushes, a grandmother… Not my grandmother. I barely knew my Gram. I shook my head. The house on a hill had been a memory of something I’d read, once.”

    I basically started reading Worm when Pact started so this was just something I saw and had to point out.

  72. I’ve loved worm for so long but i have to say i’m really disapointed with this arc. I think this is because i really don’t like how taylor has ended up a psychopathic monster. How she is so obsessed with power that she thinks that having pancea screw with her head, when she knows the consequences, will help her defeat scion. It’s just a real disapointment to me.

    • I wouldn’t call it obsession with power so much as desperation and a dogged refusal to accept that she can’t do anything. Both of which are pretty consistent character traits ever since she truly became Skitter.

  73. First reaction: Fuck. Fuck, fuck, fuck.

    Second reaction: Holy shit Dragon! Came this close to winning against a nigh unstoppable demigod with dozens of capes under her thrall synchronizing their attacks and a portal network at her beck and call. Holy fuck.

    Third reaction: Thank god she didn’t kill Dragon. I can forgive a lot. I’ve even forgiven the whole thing with Aster but that would’ve pushed things just a straw too far.

    Okay yet again I have to ask: Why the hell did Amy never get around to healing her sister!? Who she LOVES!?!?

    Who is the one woman world indeed…? Saved for the sequel?

    Too much trouble to recruit Sleeper?! Holy cow. Now I really want to know just what the hell he does!

    Well crap. So much for being a helpful little passenger. Now her shard is actively trying to usurp her and move into “Kill. Maim. Destroy.” territory. Fuck.

    Glaistig put up a fight but Dragon did better and lasted longer. I salute MM for at least attempting to get a sniper shot. Poor, poor Lisa. Stuck there trying to decide whether your friend is still in there under the monster. Taylor deserves some pats on the back for managing to keep some anchors even after losing so much of herself to the passenger.

    Final reaction: The Taylor Hebert School of Badassery now has a new grade level beyond A+ and it’s called Demigod. Congratulations Danny, your daughter has literally become the sum total of humanity’s power. Aren’t you proud?

  74. > Without breaking that eye contact, I gestured, turning my hand over, curling the fingers. I opened a portal at the same time, inside the Birdcage.
    > Dragon shifted her stance, and that same room flooded with containment foam.
    > I’d declared what I wanted, she’d drawn the line.

    …uh, Dragon? Remember when Moord Nag murdered five thousand people to confront the *much lesser* threat of Khonsu, and you somehow found it in you not to immediately attack her with every available dragonsuit? I KNOW IT IS POSSIBLE FOR YOU TO HAVE PRIORITIES, DRAGON. Yet when Taylor wants to briefly enslave some of the worst people in the world to force them to fight the eldritch abomination who’s going to kill everyone *including the Birdcage prisoners* if he’s not stopped, *that* is where you draw the line?
    Dragon. Priorities. Have them.

    • I prefer to think of this as Dragon either not understanding fully that they are being abducted to be mind-controlled or that it’s one of the few remaining hardwired things…because I agree, multi-universe level extinction events really take should take priority there…

    • I’m really amazed people are still on Taylor’s side here when she is clearly mind-controlled by an alien now…

  75. Gulp.

    Is this-

    Is this class S Taylor

    Because A, this is badass and B, his is terrifying and C, if Scion beats this he needs nerf and finally





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