Teneral e.2

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Nero leaned back in his chair, propping a boot on the edge of his desk.  His lieutenants were bringing a line of prisoners into his ‘office’.

They were treated to a view of a tall, muscular man, wearing armor on his legs, shoulders and arms, his chest and stomach bared, marked with small scars.  His helmet had dark slits forming an ‘x’ over each eye to allow him to see, and the metal came together in the middle to form an axe blade, extending from his chin to his forehead.  His longer brown hair and beard were visible behind and below the edges of the mask.

Braziers burned on either side of him, in the corners of the room, casting him in a flickering orange-red light while filling the room with a haze of smoke.  Things had been expanding quickly enough that they couldn’t give away of all of the wood they were cutting down.  Some wood was reduced to planks, while other trees were stripped of the exterior bark and branches and used wholesale, forming older-looking log buildings.  Problem was, every tree that came down and every tree that was stripped meant huge amounts of debris.  There were crews working on producing sawdust and chipboard, but even that was work intensive.  Most went into the fires.

This first winter would be the biggest test for the various settlements.  Six months in, there were still far too many displaced people, and far too little in the way of shelter, despite wholesale efforts to put things in place.

The prisoners, the slaves, finished filing in with their shuffling footsteps.  Many looked at him, then looked away, spooked.  More than a few were still in sleepwear, a couple were less than fully decent.  They’d been dragged from their shelters and homes, forced to climb into trucks and shipped here.

The resentment and fear was clear on their faces.

He took his time looking them over.

Lucan stepped up to the desk.  “The product-”

“Is it urgent?  Are people dying?”

“No, but-”

“Are we going to die because of problems with the product?”

“No.  People getting sick.  It was cut with something ugly, we think.”

“That can wait.”

Lucan nodded, stepping back.

“I am not an especially cruel man,” Nero addressed the prisoners.

They didn’t believe him.  Nobody relaxed or even moved, at those words.

“You work, you get your tokens,” Nero said.  He opened a drawer, grabbed one pile of chains with attached tokens from inside, and then tossed the things onto the desk.  They clattered, and one or two prisoners flinched.

“This is my system.  We can’t police things every step of the way.  Shelter, food, supplies, it slows things down, creates too much confusion.  We use these.”  He stabbed the pile of tokens with one finger.  “So long as you have one, so long as you earn one, you can have what you need for the week.  Food, water, and shelter.  Get more tokens, you get access to more.  Luxuries, comfort, a chance to voice concerns to me and my men.”

He turned his gaze on each of the prisoners.  “You took these things without a token in hand, which makes you thieves.  If you had empty pockets when it came time to pay in a restaurant, they’d make you work as a dishwasher.  I’m going to do the same.  You’re getting punished, and then I’m giving you to Lucan there.  He’ll work you for the week, keep you in chains and give you the bare minimum you need to get by.  You’ll earn the tokens you pretended you had.  Tokens you more or less stole from me.”

He gestured to his lieutenant with one gauntlet.  Lucan held a shotgun, and one of his eyes was bloodshot, a perpetual beam of light extending from it.  Lucan offered a sly smile.

Still, the prisoners didn’t move.

“If you try to run, you won’t escape.  One of the names they gave me was Persecutor.  I was good at finding things and finding people before I got powers, and I got better after.  If it gets to the point where you’re back here a second time and I recognize your face?  It’ll get uglier.  If you try to shirk your duties and leave, it’ll get uglier.  You follow?”

There were reluctant nods from the line of prisoners.

“This is the way things are,” Nero said.  “You’ve got guys like me in charge because you need us in charge.  Adapt.”

“Adapt?” one prisoner said.  An old man, his hair sticking up from sleep and a lack of shampoo.  He sounded just a little drunk.  “Only reason you’re there and we’re here is you got powers.”

Nero didn’t move.  “Did you have tokens my lieutenants didn’t find?”

“No tags.  I worked a full nine days, and they didn’t give me any tags.  How am I supposed to work the next seven?” the older man retorted.

“If you don’t have three tokens, then you don’t have the right to look me in the eye and talk to me.”

“Then punish me, but I’m going to say what I want to say.  You don’t deserve this.  Being in charge.  You’re causing more trouble than good.  We were doing fine before you came.  You’re a thug who got a lucky roll of the dice.”

Nero shifted position, leaning forward, setting one armored elbow onto the desk.  The posture helped to show the golden dot-within-a-circle emblem on his upper arm.  “You don’t know what powers take from you, old man.  What they cost us, the wars we’ve been in, the people we’ve all lost.  Hell, you don’t know what it takes to get ’em.  So when you find that out, when you get your own powers, enjoy them for a bit, then you can talk to me.  If you don’t get that far, you’d better learn to bow and scrape.  I’m better than most, believe me.  I’m actually fair.”

“Your lieutenants demand two weeks of work for one week of sustenance.  They demand sexual favors and help themselves to the things we managed to bring with us.  Precious things.  To me, that means you have to be a fucking idiot, running the day to day while they take advantage of you.”

Two teenagers in the group cast a worried glance in the man’s direction.  Roughly the same age, seventeen or eighteen.  Nero stared at them for long seconds as he considered the man’s words.  He glanced at Lucan.

Lucan shrugged.  When the gunman looked towards the line of prisoners, the red laser that extended from one eye moved to suggestive places.  The prisoners shifted uncomfortably.

Hooligan, Nero’s self-imposed jester, entered the room with a canvas bag, open at the top and sides, wood scraps and sticks stacked within.  He unloaded it in the brazier.  Where snow lingered on the branches, the fire popped and steamed, adding to the heavy atmosphere in the room.  He paused, glancing at the prisoners, then looked at Nero.

Nero raised a hand, gesturing for Hooligan to stop.  “Stay, Hooligan”

He stood from his seat, crossing the room until he faced Lucan.  He was three or four inches taller, which combined with his armor to make him rather intimidating.

“Sorry,” Lucan said, his voice a bit rough, “Man’s right.  I’m milking you for everything you’re worth, Persecutor.  Manipulating you left, right and center.”

“Tragic, a travesty,” Nero said.  Then he allowed himself a chuckle, looking at the prisoners, “We’re old friends.  Next time, don’t go thinking you can turn people against one another, if they’re close enough to have matching codenames.  Want to try anything else, old man?”

The man didn’t show any disappointment.  “Do your worst.”

“Ah, that’s not smart,” Nero said.  He paused, as if suddenly restless.  When he did finally speak, it was with a steadily rising volume.  “Breaking my rules while living in my territory, you insult me to my face, and then you tell me to do my worst?”

The older man didn’t flinch.

“Those two,” Nero said, pointing at the two teenagers who had reacted earlier.  Nero didn’t take his eyes off the man.  “They were with him?”

“No,” the old man said.

“Yeah,” Lucan answered.  “All squatting in one room.”

Nero nodded slowly.  His fingertips drummed on the table.  “Don’t touch the old man.  Lock him up, but don’t touch him.  His kids…”

“No,” the man said.  “No!”

“They take it instead.  Let’s leave no doubt they paid a price,” Nero said.  “Shave their heads, then give them tattoos, nice and big, in a place where people can see.”

He raised his hand, cupping it.  A device, slowly rotating in midair, began to appear, slivers flying out of nowhere to fit in together like pieces from a puzzle.  A long needle, a site for the ink to be plugged in, a handle…  it was soon orbited by three vials.  Rather than slivers, the liquid came in as round droplets, seeping into the vials to fill them before the splinters sealed the exterior.

“Face?  Neck?” Lucan asked.

“No!” the man’s scream was ragged.

Nero held out his hand, and Lucan took the device, holding out another hand to intercept the vials of colored ink as they completed one last rotation, slapping his palm.

Nero approached the youths, taking hold of one’s chin and the other’s neck.  Slivers appeared, converging on a point inside them, but when he pulled away, there was nothing visible.  “Face or neck will do.  Both, maybe.  Something like ‘property of Nero’, a drawing of my mask, or maybe a thank you to daddy, just to drive the point home,” Nero mused.  “He did say I should do my worst, so be sure to give them a light beating, and… hm.  We sell all the product already?”

“Still some left over,” Hooligan said.  He was smiling, still holding the empty canvas bag.  Enjoying the show.

“Then, as long as this merry band wants to take stuff for free, give this man’s son and daughter a share of the product.”

“No!  No!  Please!”

Nero stared at the screaming man.  “By the time they go back to their daddy, I want them hooked enough they’ll beg to do my lieutenants favors or give my lieutenants anything of value they can think of.”

The older man crumpled, doubling over, falling as much as he could fall with the chain stretching between his shackles and those of the people on either side of him.  The pair of teenagers were cowering as Hooligan and Lucan approached, but the chain limited their ability to move to mere feet.

The prisoners on either side stepped in, partially because of the pull on the chain, drawing them together, partially out of an instinctive need to provide some measure of protection to the vulnerable.

Hooligan hopped up, flipping around until he was walking on the ceiling, then hopped down, landing behind the teenagers.  Keys twirled around one finger.

Hooligan began unshackling the pair.  Lucan hit one of the people in the way with the butt of his shotgun, and the prisoners began backing away, stretching the chain taut once again.

“Uncle!” the teenaged boy screamed.  Panic was taking over, but Hooligan was stronger than he looked.

“The rest each get a light beating,” Nero said, “Nothing severe enough to keep them from working.  Believe it or not, uncle, I’m trying to run this area.  I’m not especially cruel.  Not in relative terms.  There are much worse people out there.”

The man looked shell shocked, caught between staring at Nero and watching the struggles of his niece and nephew as they were dragged into a back room by Hooligan.  Lucan tossed Hooligan the tattoo gun and ink.

“Uncle!” the boy screamed.

The door slammed, and the uncle looked like he’d been physically struck by the slab of wood.

“The rest of you, I know you don’t like me, and you won’t.  But we’re going to make it through this winter, working hard even when it’s cold, we’re going to expand.  If you don’t wind up leaving, I think you’ll see the fruits of what I’m doing here.  We’ll be in better shape than other districts.”

They were listening, if only because it beat listening to the ongoing screaming in the other room.

“Those other districts?  I can tell you now, they have crowds of people in big empty buildings, shoulder to shoulder around fires, taking turns going out to get firewood.  Getting cabin fever, whiling away the days, rationing food, trying to ignore the fact that some toddler or old person shit in a dark corner or pissed in their beds because they couldn’t be bothered to go outside.  We’re already better off, understand?  We can work through the season because I’ve got the tools, the warm clothes and everything else we need, and it’s going to keep us sane.  And when winter passes and spring starts, we’ll be a step ahead, and you’ll be living in proper apartments, head and shoulders above the new people who are clamoring to live here.”

He turned his head as he looked over the group of prisoners.  “You’ll thank me.  You won’t want to, won’t even want to think it, you won’t like me, but you’ll thank me for this, deep down inside, somewhere down the road.”

No response, nothing.  He had intimidated them into submission.

“Take them, Lucan.  Make it clear that their theft from this community won’t be tolerated, then get them settled in for the night.  They start work tomorrow.  We’ll talk about the product when you’ve got them settled.”

Lucan nodded.  He gestured with the shotgun, and the line began moving, the empty shackles where the teenagers had been clattered.  Some prisoners stepped forward to help get the older man to his feet.

The group filed out.

Nero waited until they were gone, then pulled his helmet off.  He ran his hand through his hair, then scratched his beard.

He made his way back to his desk, then sat down.

The chair wasn’t in the position he’d expected it to be.  He found himself falling.

A chain went taut around the bare skin of his neck.  He jerked to a stop, his rear end on the tilted chair, feet off the ground, his neck held up by the chain.

When the momentary panic was gone, he reached for the edge of the desk.  The chains of handcuffs clinked, pulling taut between his wrists and the armrests of the chair. The cuffs had been looped through a strap, rather than around the armor of his wrists.  That didn’t make them much easier to remove.

He raised his legs, pushing against the underside of the desk to relieve the pressure.  He was allowed that much.  If he pushed further, rocked himself forward…

“Trust me on this, you want to stop struggling.”

He froze.

She sat on the desk, both hands on the other end of the chain.  It looped up to the ceiling, through a hook, and down to his neck.  She was the one holding him up.

She tilted her head a little.  She wore a mask with a reptilian smile, teeth extending past the ‘lips’ at the corners, but the grin was barely visible with the heavy scarf that was piled around her shoulders.  The mask had slanted eyes, black from corner to corner, and horns that curved over the top of her head.  Her hair, in black cornrows, was free behind the mask.  She wore a jacket and black cargo pants over a skintight outfit, all black.

“Look down,” Imp said.

He did, as much as he was able.

There was a board resting on the ground.  Nails and knives had been stuck through it, jagged, irregular.  It was positioned so that if he fell, it would impale the back of his head and neck in fifteen or twenty different ways.

He felt his blood run cold.  If she found him too heavy, or if the chair legs slid…

How had she even done this?

“Now you’ve got the gist of it,” she said.  “Now, unless you want to be a skewered little fishy, you should stay put.  You and me are going to have a conversation.”

He took in a deep breath.  “Okay.  A conversation.  I have money, though it isn’t worth much, I’ve got food stores enough to last a winter… we can stretch it thin if we have to.  I’ve got territoryGood amount of product.”

“The product is our first topic of conversation.”

“You can take all of it.”

She sighed.  “I don’t want to take it.  For one thing, I know it’s bad stuff, people getting sick.”

“You heard?”

“I laced it,” she said.


And I heard.  Thing is, I’m not interested in grabbing your stuff.  Just the opposite.”

“You ruined my product so you could sell me yours.”

“Will you stop talking?” she asked.  “Longer this conversation goes, the more tired my hands are going to get, you follow me?”

“I follow.”

She set the pointed toe of her boot on the front of the chair, between his knees, “Here’s the deal.  You’re selling drugs.  I kind of have a pet peeve on the subject, I’m sure you get my drift.  Tattooing people and reigning through terror, they’re not so cool either, you know?”

“Ah.  A vigilante.”

“No.  Will you shut your goddamn mouth?  You keep being wrong, and one of the reasons I’d make a pretty piss-poor vigilante is I’m the type of person who’d let go of this chain if you annoyed me enough.”

“I… Mm hmm,” he said.

“Plan was I’d traipse in here, fuck up your shit, leave a calling card, and then leave.  Sort of a modus operandus, you know?  I’m working on building a rep as a… not-assassin.  A shit fucker-upper, if you will.”

“Modus operandi,” he replied, a reflexive response.

“Oops!” she said.  He dropped, the chain rasping as it ran through the hook in the ceiling.

He stopped short, a half-second later.  His yelp of a scream was belated, following the stopping rather than the fall.

“What was I saying?  Right.  Well.  I happened to overhear your whole deal, and now I’ve got a problem.  It sounds really, really familiar.”

“I don’t know what you mean.”

“Supporting the territory, ruling with a measure of fear?  I’ve seen people go this route.  They did it more instinctively.  This felt forced, right here.”

“This is how I operate,” Nero spoke.

“I don’t buy it.  Look, there’s not that many major players out there.  Fewer still who’ve got all the dirty details, and who’d be in a position to know certain things.  Let’s stop pretending you have the memory of a goldfish.  You got help.  What you’re doing here, it took resources to establish.”

“My power, I can make things.  Tools, raw materials, weapons.  I have resources in abundance.”

“Giving you five seconds.  Then I let go, and I interrogate Hooligan.”

“Hooligan?”  his eyes moved in the direction of the room Hooligan had entered, but he couldn’t see around the side of the desk.

“A little tied up at the moment.”

“And Lucan?”

As if the question had prompted it, there was a knock at the door.

Imp’s eyes met Nero’s.  For a long moment, the pair were very still.

“Come in!” Imp called out.

The door opened.  Three youths entered.  A young teenaged boy with wild blond curls, a ten year old with straight black hair, and another girl, one or two years younger with a manic grin and her dark hair cut in a pixie style.  All wore black.

Nero relaxed his neck, letting his head dangle.  A slight groan passed through his lips.

“Close the door?” Imp asked.

The blond boy did.  Ahead of him, the grinning child ran across the room, hopping up onto the desk with enough force that she slid bodily into Imp.

Nero let out an involuntary noise of alarm, as if convinced Imp would let go.

“So, to get you brats caught up, Nero and I were talking, and I can’t help but feel like there’s something fishy with this whole business.  Too familiar, really.”

“Familiar how?” the blond boy asked.

“Like he’s copying someone I knew.  Except I know there was nobody like him in the area, watching and taking notes.  Raises questions,” Imp said.

Nero piped up, his voice a little strangled, “There’s nothing like that, honest!”

“And he’s playing dumb, which is really piscine me off,” Imp said.

“That’s two fish lines, now,” the blond boy said.  He had his hands jammed into his pockets.  “Why?”

“Dudes,” Imp said, turning around to get a better look at him.  “Did I finally just pull off a reference you ankle-biters didn’t get?”

The girl with straight hair crossed the room until she stood beside Nero.  Her voice was a quiet deadpan as she stared down at him, “Nero, not Nemo.”

“What?”  Imp asked.  She turned around.  “Wait, what?  No!  Really?”

The blond boy nodded as he smirked a little.

“No!  Oh god, no!  All this time spent on fucking setting up, hammering shit into the floor so the chair wouldn’t slide, getting that fucking hook in the ceiling, and I spoil it by getting the name wrong!?  No!”

“Hey,” Nero piped up, “Don’t- don’t drop me.  You can’t… don’t let kids this young see something that gruesome.”

The youngest girl hopped off of the desk.  She laughed in Nero’s face, abrupt, a little too enthusiastically.

Imp extended one foot, catching the hood of the girl’s sweatshirt and using it to haul her back, before hooking her leg around the girl’s neck, pinning her.  The girl didn’t resist.

“Really, Nero?” the blond boy asked.  “I seem to recall a bit about beating and torturing that brother and sister pair in the other room.”

“You’re all parahumans,” Nero realized, out loud.  It might have been the statement that clued him in, or it might have been the way that one of the kids moved, showing off the golden icon on their sleeves.

Imp was barely paying attention.  “Damn it.  But… who’s Nero, then?”

“Roman emperor,” the blond boy said.  “Was supposedly a bad leader, which is ironic, given this guy’s choice of vocation, but that might have been historians being dicks to a guy who they didn’t agree with.  Stories say he played his instrument while Rome burned.”

“Ughh,” Imp groaned.  “There’s no fish in that story at all.  Wait, was he the one that fucked his mom?”

“Killed his mom.”

Definitely no fish then.  Fuck!”

“No other choice,” the girl with straight hair said, her voice quiet.  She pressed her thumb against Nero’s forehead.  “Have to let him go.”

“No murdering, Juliette,” the boy said.

“No murdering,” Imp reiterated, as if reciting a phrase she’d said so many times it was routine.  She looked down.  “You going to sit still for once, Flor?”

The girl with the pixie cut nodded.  Imp released her.  “That’s better.  Hands are getting tired enough without me sitting in a bad position too.”

“I can take over,” Juliette said, with no inflection to her voice.

“Yeah, no, not falling for that one again.  So, Nero, Why don’t we get this dialogue moving, and you give me the answers I want, or you can get shivved from behind like your second favorite emperor.”

The blond boy made a ‘so-so’ gesture with his hand.

“Fuck you,” Imp said.  “This witty villain banter is a bitch to do.”

“Stop trying,” Juliette said.

“I’m siding with Juliette, here,” the blond boy said.  “Maybe you’re not the type for-”

Imp used her power, disappearing and then reappearing in quick succession.  Not enough to be forgotten entirely.

She drew in a bit of a breath, then launched into it.  “Why don’t we get this dialogue moving, then?  Give me the answers I want, or the only instruments playing at the end of this story will be your voice.  Screaming.”

The blond boy gave her a thumbs down.

She used her power.

“Start talking, Emperor,” she intoned, sounding just a little weary.

“There’s nothing to say.”

“There’s really only two answers to this little dilemma of ours,” Imp said.  “Either you’re lying, badly, or you’re under some crazy compulsion.  If it’s the latter, you’re about a hair away from deserving a violent end.  If it’s the… what?”

The blond boy was shaking his head.  “Former, then latter.”

Imp used her power.

“There are two real answers to this situation, here,” Imp said.  “Either you’re doing a fucking shitty job of lying, or you’re under some kind of compulsion.  If it’s the former, I’m not seeing a reason to keep holding on.  If it’s the latter, then I’m not seeing much of a reason to carry on with this fucking conversation.”

Or,” Nero said, his eyes wide behind the eyeholes of his helmet, “I’m telling the truth.”

“If that’s the case,” Imp said, “I’m going to feel really crummy about this.”

“I can barely think.  I think this chain might be cutting off circulation… I’ve got spotty bits in my memory.”

“Cope,” Imp said.  “Here we go.”

“I don’t-”

“Five,” Imp said.  “Four… three… two…”

“Teacher,” Nero said, quick, abrupt.

“I didn’t hear anything,” Juliette said, putting a finger in one ear and wiggling it a bit, as if cleaning it.  “What a shame.”

Teacher?”  Imp asked.

“You forgot the part where you let go of the chain,” Juliette reminded her.

“Hush,” the blond boy said.  He gave her a hug from behind.  “Maybe you’ll get your murder next time.”

Nero gave the youths a wary look, then broke into an explanation, rushing a touch, “Teacher.  He gave me the plan, told me what to do.  So long as I follow his game plan, I get supplies I can’t get with my power, stuff you’d need forged.  Documents and hard cash.  He unlocked my power, too.  Used to be I could only make a few things.  Darts, I know where my stuff is, so I could tag people, track-”

“You’re rambling,” Imp said.  “Rambling is good.  Better than playing stupid.  But maybe focus a bit, here.”

“Um.  Uh.”

“The game plan,” Imp prodded him.

“He gave me guidelines.  There’s a whole list of things I have to do, times to do them.  I send in weekly reports, he sends me updated instructions.  I, um.  I’m not the only one.  There are others.  He told me he knows there’s no guarantee I’ll work out, so the instructions differ, and so do the people following them.  If one of us succeeds, he steps up the rewards, helps us become even more powerful.  We fail or we tell someone, and we’re on our own.”

“And, so long as someone succeeds,” Imp thought aloud, “He’s connected to someone in power.”

Nero shook his head, then nodded a second later.  “I don’t- maybe.  He said he wasn’t interested in power for power’s sake.  That you couldn’t be the guy working from the shadows and the guy wearing the crown at the same time.”

“He’s not going to say that to the guy who wants to wear the crown,” the blond boy said.

“I don’t know,” Nero said.  “I- I’m not disagreeing.  I’m, I really don’t know.”

“Anything else?”  Imp asked.  “Trust me, you don’t want to hold anything back here.”

“What- what do you want to know?”

“The drugs.  Who from?”


“This really isn’t the time to act clever,” Imp said.

“Clever?  No.  No!  Not New York City.  New York C.  There’s a cartel based in that dimension, on the island.”


“Yes.  The leader’s a trump.  Even the Wardens are leaving them alone, ’cause of it.”

Imp nodded.  “One of you three remember that for me.”

“And by one of us three,” the blond boy said, “You mean me.”

“Why Samuel?” Juliette asked, in her characteristic deadpan.  “I’m trustworthy.”

“More details, Emperor.  Be inventive,” Imp said.  “Dig deep, come up with something I want to hear.”

“I… no.  I can’t think of anything.”

Imp sighed.  “Right.  Then I suppose we’re done.”

“We’ve been talking too long,” Samuel said.  He glanced down at Juliette.  “He probably won’t forget the whole encounter if you use your power.”

“That’s fine,” Imp said.  “Let’s use Flor, then.”

All eyes fell on the girl with the pixie cut.

“Um,” Nero said.  “Who is she?”

Flor turned, as if to double check it was okay.  She couldn’t even stand still, shifting her weight from foot to foot, fidgeting.

“Go,” Imp said.

Flor virtually leaped onto Nero’s chest, grabbing the chain to avoid sliding right over his chest and falling on the far side.  Imp was left to reassert her own grip on the chain before the added weight could drive the villain down into the ground and the waiting nails and knives.

“Fuck!”  Imp swore, when she’d fixed her grip.  “Damn it, Flor!”

The girl straddled Nero’s chest, her eyes over his.  She grinned, showing all of her teeth.

“Is she- is she going to eat my face?”  Nero asked.  “She looks like she’s going to eat my face.”

“The rules,” Samuel prompted Imp.

“Rule one.  No drugs,”  Imp said.  “I don’t want you to look at them, talk about them, hear about them, touch them, use them or trade in them.  No more poisoning families and ruining lives.”

Nero twitched, then burst into song, full volume,  “I’m a little teapot, short and stout!

“That’s not quite the deterrent we had in mind,” Samuel said.  “We-

Here is my handle, here is my spout!

Samuel relaxed a touch.  “Oh, he’s doing the full song.  That’s a little better.”

When I get all steamed up, I just shout!

“Listen, Nero,”  Imp said.  “Every time you-”

Tip me over and pour me out!

“-meet the criteria we set, you’re going to do this all over again.”

I’m a very special pot, it’s true!

“Oh, wow, there’s more lyrics?” Imp asked, her train of thought temporarily broken.

Nero’s eyes moved from person to person, clearly alarmed as his lips worked without his volition.  “Here’s an example of what I can do!

Imp nodded, “Carve a guy’s face up with a knife, you get some crazy face-stitchy nemesis, and his cred goes up-“

I can turn my handle into a spout!”

“-but if you turn him into the guy that sings the teapot song-”

Tip me over and pour me out!

“-he’s going to have a hell of a time in the villain community.”

The song was done, and Nero was left panting.

“Especially if he’s doing the dance along with it,” Samuel commented.  “His hands and hips were wiggling there.”

Imp sighed.  “Flor.  Let us finish explaining before you decide what the rule is.”

Samuel added, “You make another guy sing ‘John Jacob Jingleheimer Schmidt’ and I’m not sure we can get them to stop, this time.”

“You can always get them to stop,” Juliette commented, quiet, “But that breaks Imp’s rules.”

Flor only grinned, staring down at Nero.

“Rule two,” Imp said.

“Please, no.”

“If he breaks it, Flor, I want him to throw away any weapon or phone he has and then launch into reciting aloud from a copy of the Iliad for an hour.  Before he attacks.

“No,” Nero said.

“Rule is, no attacking anyone, and no giving orders that lead to anyone or anyone’s belongings getting hurt or lost.”

“No!” Nero shouted.  “You’re killing me, leaving me defenseless!”

“We’re declawing you, old man,” Imp said.  “You figure it out.  Sam, help me get him down?”

“Being the only trustworthy one sucks ass,” Samuel said.  “Move, Flor.  Leave the poor bastard alone.”

Flor hopped down.  Nero yelled as the chair rocked a little.

Sam kicked the board of knives and nails to one side, and Imp lowered Nero to the ground.

“You’re done,” Imp said.

Nero backed away, freezing as he found himself beside Juliette, who had picked up the board of spikes and was holding the safe side against her chest, her arms having found safe spots.

Imp looked down at the armored man.  “You’re fucking with an old friend, using her schtick, taking it ugly places.  So it looks like I have a bit of a hobby, now.  If you get in touch with Teach, or vice versa, then let him know I’m not cool with it, and I’ll stop being a thorn in his side the day he stops cribbing from someone else’s game plan.  Capiche?”

Nero couldn’t bring himself to answer.

“It’s about legacies,” Imp said.  “Kind of important.  She’s gone, so it’s up to us to protect her legacy.  Now here’s another.  Desk drawer, bottom right.”

“You won,” Nero said.  “You won the moment you had a chain around my neck.  You took my ability to fight, you prevented me from… certain avenues of business.”

“Fast learner,” Samuel observed.

Imp crossed the room to the doorway that Hooligan and the teenagers had entered, rubbing kinks out of her hands.  She opened the door.  “No need to watch him anymore.  Go.”

The two teenagers fled.

“Desk drawer,” Imp said, when they were gone.

Nero edged over to the desk, then opened the drawer.

When he raised his hand, there was a stuffed doll in it.  Crude.  A figure in white with a silver crown and ruby lips.

“I’m going to check in on you from time to time,” Imp said.  “I’ve got a rule.  That doll?  It’s in your care.  It stays pristine, you get it?  If anything happens to it, if there’s the slightest scuff, then I’m going to be pissed.”

Nero looked down at the doll.  “Why?”

“Because I’m mysterious,” Imp said, sounding very lucid, and suddenly tired.  “I’ll be in touch, to check in on you and that doll.”

She turned to leave, then stopped.  “And no mentioning the fish thing, or you’ll see me really pissed.”

Nero nodded slowly.

With that said, Imp led the way out of the office, leaving the former villain staring down at the poorly made doll.

The three kids grabbed their jackets from beside the door, pulling them on.

They collectively ventured outside into the darkness, the cold and the snow.  The snow had frozen into a shelf of ice above powder, crunching under their footsteps.  Flor reached her arms out to either side, as if trying to embrace the wind.  She nearly fell, up until her brother caught her.

“That doll?  Was that supposed to be Regent?”  Samuel asked.  He adjusted his scarf.


“Gotta ask.  Why?

“Legacies,” Imp said.  “Memorial went kablooie when Scion hit Brockton Bay original, which bugs me more than it should.  I mean, okay, going on a tangent here, I had a shitty childhood, y’know?  You guys can relate, I’m sure.”

“What tipped you off?” Juliette asked.

“Gut feeling,” Imp retorted, “Most wouldn’t guess, I know, given how well adjusted you rugrats are.”

“I’m a couple years younger than you,” Samuel said.  “Why am I a rugrat?”

Anyways,” Imp said, ignoring the question, “I had a shitty childhood.  You go through that, and the people who matter end up mattering a fucking lot, you know?”

“Yeah,” Samuel said, at the same time Juliette said, “No.”

“Sucks to fade into the background, let me tell you.  Not even talking about my power.  It really… sucks.  And I think, you know, I’m not very good at taking care of people.  You lot excepted, almost all of those people who mattered are gone, one way or another.”

“Mostly the one way,” Juliette said.  Samuel elbowed her.

“Mostly the one way,” Imp agreed.  “And I can’t do much.  I’m not the type to take flowers to graves or anything like that.  I’m not the type to cry, and sometimes I really wish I was.”

“You make sure they’re remembered,” Samuel said.

“That they don’t fade away or get ignored.  I’m trying.  But how do you even do that?  I gotta go with my gut, and my gut says that one friend ought to get a fair shake, after the fact.  So maybe I do my part, make sure history isn’t a dick to her.  And for your brother, well…”

“Making people take care of puppets?”  Samuel asked.

“I feel like he’d get it,” Imp said.

“That’s good,” Samuel said, “Because I sure don’t.”

“He, I don’t even know… he liked irritating people, needling them.  Shad- schadenfreude?”

Samuel gave Imp a thumbs up.

“Yes!  Woo!  Schadenfreude.  Pronounced it right.  So he’d get a kick out of making people miserable over something so minor and silly.  I dunno.  It was one of his better points.  He was a magnificent asshole.”

“Aisha was a big fan of Jean-Paul’s asshole,” Juliette said.  “You catch that, Flor?”

Flor nodded, grinning.

“You guys are dicks,” Imp said.  “That’s not what I said.  Gross, no, and fuck you.”

Samuel fixed Flor’s scarf to cover her face, then fixed the scarf in place by clamping the earmuffs down over scarf and ear both.  “Close enough.  We’ll be sure to inform the rest of the gang about your fetish when we get back.”

“You probably would,” Imp said.  “How do you even know what a fet- nevermind.  Dumb question.  Cold is getting to me.”

“Right.  The cold.”

Flor was starting to struggle, being the shortest member of the group.  Imp picked her up, swinging her around until she had her in a piggyback position.

The snow crunched underfoot.  Though it was nighttime, the light of the sun reflected off of the moon, and the snow reflected that light in turn.  It was more fitting to twilight than midnight, now that her eyes had adjusted.  The buildings looked grim, stark and utilitarian.

“You’re the only person that isn’t family that has ever had the guts to touch Florence,” Samuel commented.

“She’s not that bad.”

“Not at all,” Samuel said.  “Except, you know, the time she compelled a complete stranger to slap his forehead any time he wanted to talk.  There was the one cop that had to bite himself hard enough to draw blood every time he made eye contact with someone.  Or the time Nathan, one of our unpowered brothers, yelled at her, and she made it so he had to turn around ten times before he entered a room, and had to count backwards from a hundred before he could put food in his mouth.”

“He got thin,” Juliette said.

“Nathan was almost dead, last time we saw him.”

Imp ignored the chatter, but she felt a little more at ease than she had earlier.  Sam said something, then elbowed Juliette, who offered only a comment, inflection free.

Imp watched them to make sure that no weapons were drawn, literal or otherwise.  It was in the process that a blur caught her eye.

A shadow in the distance, perched on a building.

“Do you sense her?”  Imp asked.

“Her?”  Sam asked.

“Guess not.”


“Don’t know,” Imp replied.  She let Flor down to the ground, then faced the figure head on.  With a broad gesture, she beckoned for the figure to approach.

The figure didn’t move.

“Bitch,” Imp muttered.  “Gimme a minute.”

She stopped suppressing her power, and she could see the faces of the others change.  Confusion.

She felt a bit sad, seeing it, but she could see how they banded together.  It wasn’t the most healthy sibling dynamic, but they were together.  There were more back at the headquarters.  Her family.

She turned to go.  Trudging across the snow, passing between two buildings because it was the fastest route, stopping because the angle was different, struggling to use the falling snowflakes to gauge if the telltale blur was there or if here eyes were playing tricks on her.

It took minutes, but she found her way up the scaffolding at the side of the building.

She kicked the pile of snow to the ground below, then sat down beside Shadow Stalker’s blurry form.  When she was settled, she suppressed her power.

Together, they watched the trio of Heartbreaker’s children make their way down a road that was buried beneath snow.

“You touch any of them, you’re-”

Shadow Stalker was reacting before the sentence was done.  Imp remained where she was.  Too close to be shot.  The bolts took time to phase into reality.

A moment later, Shadow Stalker had leaped across the roof and was frozen there, weapon pointed.

“As I was saying,” Imp said, not looking away from the hills and trees that glittered with snow, “You touch them, you’re really going to regret it.”

“I was thinking of taking you down,” Shadow Stalker said.

“Even dumber,” Imp replied.  “They’re pretty scary people, and I think some of them even like me.  I mean, really, do you want to fuck with that nest of hornets?”

“Doesn’t matter.  Situation didn’t call for it.”

Imp shrugged.  “All the villains out there, and you pick us?  There’s a reason.”

“Some stuff was left unresolved,” Shadow Stalker said.

Regent stuff?  Oh, hey, if you really want to get into that stuff, we could bond.  Paint each other’s nails, do the frozen bra sleepover thing, I always wanted to do that.  I could talk about how fond I was of him, and you could talk about wanting to kill him, and then we both commiserate over heartbreak, in the various forms it takes.  Then, if we’ve had a few drinks along the way…”

Imp trailed off.

Shadow Stalker didn’t move a muscle, her crossbow trained on her.

“No?  Not game?”

“He told you, explained it?”

“Explained what?  No way!  Did you really have a thing going?”

“What?  No!”

“Oh.  Damn.”

“You’re fucking with me.  Trying to put me off balance, taunting me with the lesbian innuendo.”

“I taunt everyone with that kind of stuff.  Geez, you’re tightly strung.”

“Don’t talk to me like I’m your friend, and we won’t have a problem.”

Imp sighed, watching as the trio of Heartbroken made their way down a road without cars.

“You’re wearing that fucking thing on your arm.”

Imp looked down at the golden circle the survivors of the Scion fight had taken to wearing.

“Every time I see it, I can’t help but imagine it’s a bullseye.”

“Pisses you off?”

“We didn’t earn our victory, and people wear that shit like it’s a badge of honor.  We were puppets, we got used.”

“By her,” Imp said.

“Wasn’t her power.”

“Was too.  Trust me on this.  I saw it unfold.”

Shadow Stalker looked away.  She holstered the crossbow.  “Fuck it.  Not worth the effort.”

“Awesome,” Imp said.  “You know how many people underestimated her?  Right up until the end.  I’m glad to be underestimated.”

“You’re trying to irritate me.”

“You’re fun to irritate.  And you know, it’s cool.  In the end, you’re one of the people that’s going to remember her.  Someone that’s left, who knows the general story.  I don’t think she’s the schadenfreude type, but I think she’d appreciate that it’s true, and that it nettles you just a little.”

“It doesn’t,” Shadow Stalker said.

“Right, ms. ‘Unresolved’.  You aren’t holding on to the past at all.  It doesn’t unsettle you or leave you feeling like you want to hit something when you think about it too much.”

“It doesn’t,” Shadow Stalker said.  “You want to keep putting words in my mouth, I’ll put a crossbow bolt through yours.”

“Yeah, you’re not bothered at all.”

“I’m alive, she’s not.”

“In the rest of your years, even if you try, which you won’t, you won’t make a fraction of the difference she made.  You’re going to keep living this solitary little hunter-stalker existence, picking off a few bad guys, getting your jollies, and people are never going to wear a badge on their sleeves for you.”

“That badge is not for Hebert.”

“Maybe not for everyone,” Imp said.  “It means different things for different people.  A planet they lost, an ordeal they survived, I dunno.  But it’s a reminder of Taylor to me, and it’s a reminder for you, too.  Every time you see it, now, it’s going to make you think of her, remind you that she did something big.”

Shadow Stalker drew the crossbow, aiming it, but Imp was already using her power.

Shadow Stalker stood there in a daze for a moment, then holstered her crossbow.  She fidgeted, pacing back and forth, then snarled aloud, kicking at a lump of snow at the edge of the roof, sending it up in a relatively pitiful flurry.

Anger with no outlet.

Imp smiled, getting to her feet, then made her way down.

She trudged the distance to the car, parking a distance away.  Samuel was leaning against the passenger door.  She jerked her thumb, ordering him to move.

“What?” he asked.

“You’re driving.”

“I don’t know how.”

“Learn fast,” Imp said.

“It’s ice and snow everywhere.”

“Four wheel drive.  Don’t care if it takes a while to get there.  Besides, you can sense people, worst thing you can hit is a wall.”

“You say that like it’s only a wall.  Whatever.  Any reason for this?”

“I’m in a mood to read.”


Imp shrugged.  Samuel relented and walked around to the driver’s side, while Imp climbed into her seat.  The two younger girls got in the back.

It took him a few seconds to get the car started successfully.  The vehicle lurched into motion.  Very, very slowly.

Imp brought her knees up to her chest, then draped a blanket around herself, getting her book-reader out.  A quick check showed she had a message from Tattletale.

A meeting?

Aisha’s legacy,” Imp said.  “Becoming a cultured, badass supervillain, phase number… something.”

Samuel offered a wry comment, “Hearing you talk like that, I feel reassured.  You’re obviously well on your way.”

“Focus on the road, brainiac.  I’m not in a rush, and I’m gonna do this right, if I’m going to become a villain awesome enough to match up to who the original Regent and Imp were going to be as a pair.  What am I reading?”

“Twenty thousand leagues under the sea,” Samuel said.

“Gotcha,” Imp said, looking down to the book too quickly to catch his smirk.

Last Chapter                                                                                               Next Chapter

544 thoughts on “Teneral e.2

    • So, I feel this is important enough to go up here. Wildbow, where are we going to go when Worm is done? Psycho Gecko and I were having a discussion about it, but we couldn’t really predict anything. So, where to? Excluding the other big two, of course, Super Powereds and Legion of Nothing. Direct us! To Tieshaunn? To Shiny New Justice? To World Domination In retrospect? To A Grey World? To the Pen in The Stone? To There Are No Heroes? To the discontinued On My Mind(s), in hopes of getting it back up? To League of Prey? To The Named? WHERE?

      • Well he’s going to go right into demo chapters of prospective stories, at least that’s what the FAQ said last time I checked it, so I bet he’s hoping we stay here.

      • For superhero stories? I’m partial to Legion of Nothing, and have been meaning to get back into reading it. It was sort of what I was reading (it and Tales of MU) when I sort of had that moment where I figured I could write a serial to sort of force myself to build forward momentum.

        I sort of wrote Worm with LoN in mind. Not so much that it inspired the story, but more that I was looking to write something that didn’t yet exist on the metaphorical ‘bookshelf’ – a blank space, a story that hadn’t been told. I’d been writing superhero stories for some time, refining the Wormverse, and knowing that Jim’s story was (to my knowledge at the time, one of the only) superhero fiction out there, it was always something I was contrasting and comparing myself with. Heck, I started with a Tues-Sat schedule because Jim was (then?) doing a MWF schedule and I didn’t want to conflict/compete with him.

        For fiction in general, though, I’m not going away. Stay tuned for the sample chapters of the next works (which will go up with the usual Tues/Sat schedule), as I take reader feedback to inform my choice on what I write next.

        • I’m glad you’re going to keep writing; reading Worm was one of the things that got me online. I had already been writing the story with a few friends, and I realized, if web fiction can be this great, then fuck if I’m not going to emulate it. And the rest, as they say, is history. We started out with a Wesnesday Sunday schedule to not compete either, but since we got most of our views on tuesday-Saturday…. We switched over. I can’t wait to see what you’re going to do next!

          • I’m considering switching over as well. I picked my schedule because LoN and Worm already had Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday covered. Thing is, I think a lot of people show up at my place after reading Worm either to feel better, or because I’m linked to it in their minds.

            • Yeah. I mentioned that I write on this thing. Tuesday? Beat my previous view record by more than twofold. I’m at 582 now. On my bar graph, everything looks really tiny because there’s this gigantic column at November fifth. Thank you Lurkers!

        • Thanks to you, superhero fiction has exploded in this here web-serial scene. You and Jim are gonna be those guys all the hipsters and snobs point to as the “real superhero fiction” once this thing gets bigger than dubstep.
          I’ll be all “I read superhero serials before they were cool!”, and everyone else’ll be like “What the hell are you talking about?”, and I’ll grin smugly.

            • well, it could be alternatives, though.

              Some people, by nature, express their concern over their ideas in, yes, long running arguments. So, let ’em go get the apples.

              So, let’s say, yes, to that /r/parahumans… nothing goes wrong with reddit, especially if you are interested in detailed nitpicking over several nested threads

    • Huh. That’s actually a really cool idea.

      I may take you up on that, assuming I get time to familiarise myself with your system and the RP’s background.

      • The system being used for the RP is basically “roll a d20 and add stuff whenever you need to roll to see how you did, which isn’t often”. However, the side game where Naga will be fought uses the Roll to Dodge system, which is basically “roll a d6 to see if you succeed or not”.

        As for background…well, there isn’t a lot there yet that would be relevant. Still, for your convenience and that of others, here is another link to it.

  1. This was awesome. It came in the email an hour early, so…
    One of the best chapters I think. And I still don’t get whats happening with Imp and her being strange. The ending line, “Aisha’s legacy”, and “match up to who the original Regent and Imp were going to be as a pair”.

    If Imp is just herself, why does she need to say original, and refer to herself in third person? Maybe I’m reading into things too much but it still seems a little fishy.

    • Fishy, heh.

      Anyways, email was due to DST mess-up where the site had a different time than I did and I didn’t clue into it. If you got the chapter by email, you should know there’s a tail-end to the shadow stalker interaction here that wasn’t in the email.

      • Yeah, I read that. It seemed like there was an unintentional break there, something cut out, and read it on here.

    • She’s narrating for herself, like all good supervillains do…

      Seriously though, she’s talking to an audience, and making fun of herself at the same time as she is seriously trying to learn.

      Part of what made Regent fun to be around for her was his wit, and a lot of his wit was do to a good education. She misses him, so she does the next best thing and pays homage to him by trying to learn so that one day she might be able to match his wit. That way she can manage to be a single villain that can do both lowbrow and highbrow taunting. She’s damn good at the lowbrow taunting now, always has been, but the highbrow taunting requires an education.

      Regent meant a LOT to her. His siblings mean a lot to her as well.

      I could easily see a whole new story about Aisha and the Heartbreakers.

      • That’s what I love about Worm with the rich universe. We need to make a few clones of Wildbow and have them follow different characters as main ones. One story following Imp, Dragon, Bitch, etc.

        • Better get Riley on it. Although a bit of help from Blasto, rest in piece, would probably be extremely helpful. And to even get them we’d need Doorman be way of Gla–Valkyrie…

      • I could easily see a whole new story about Aisha and the Heartbreakers.

        Band name.

        …you know, a lot of parahuman powers would work really well in a stage show — and not just the obvious ones, like Canary’s. Imagine Imp fading in while singing lead, for example.

      • “I could easily see a whole new story about Aisha and the Heartbreakers.”

        You know, I was JUST thinking this as I was reading it. It would be really cool if like maybe every 6 months or whatever, while Wildbow is doing his/her next project that he/she provides something of a bonus chapter featuring Aisha and the Heartbreakers.

        Maybe base it on a long term donation goal or whatever. The coolest thing is that he/she could do this before Worm 2 begins. I would totally love to hear more about Aisha and company.

        What cool name would befit these anti-heros? Sounds like to me they are working with Tt, but not necessarily part of the Undersiders. I could be reading that wrong tho.

          • Oooh…well since there are more than one; I’d say they need to call them:

            The Tom Pettys. Of course only us old farts would get it…lol

            Funny thing, my sister and her husband have a band called “The Biff Tannens” named after the antagonist bully of the Back to the Future trilogy. They’re actually really fucking good too.

              • I was hoping you’d say that. If your parent(s) had anything to do with introducing you to the infamous Top Petty, then they have my respect.

                If you found them on your own…well then my man, you are too cool in my “old fart” book.

                My girl’s daughter is awesome like that. She enjoys a lot of the classic rock like Tom Petty, CCR, Beatles, etc etc. She also loves watching Monty Python with me. Now I ask you…Who could ask for a more awesome “step” daughter like that?!?

              • Nice. My dad had a huge influence on my love for many genres of music.

                Yeah, she is an awesome teenage girl, not typical. She has a lot of her mother’s qualities about her.

              • Tom Petty! Whoo! For some reason I was thinking Joan Jett and the Blackhearts instead, but really they’re both great classic rock. But how would you convert it into a supervillain group name? “Petty Evil(s)”, maybe? Ah well, may Imp continue running down her dream.

            • “We’re the Biff Tannens. Once upon a time, we were big. Albums went plat like nothing, we wanted for nothing. It was amazing. And, uh, we were kinda amazing dicks, and there was time travel, so.. yeah.”
              *motions at the gazebo they’re playing out of*
              “We haven’t lost everything though. We. Can. Still. Rock!!
              *cue music*

              • minor correction…

                “We’re The Biff Tannens. …”

                Other than that…Not bad! 😀

                Oh…I haven’t figured out how to bold and italicise…someone please enlighten me.


    • Because originally he was going to be the educated one of the pair and now she has to be a new Imp that can supply both sides of their humor.

      It’s still Aisha but the original Regent and Imp dynamic has been replaced by an entirely different one.

    • It wouldn’t surprise me if Regent is still somehow residing in Aisha’s body, alongside her. There’s still the weird way her vocabulary has been expanding…

      • Regent was not Pretender. He did not possess people. He did not live inside people. He controlled their nervous systems.

        I thought the mistery of Imp’s vocabulary was explained here. She started reading more to get more cultured and impress the Heartbroken.

  2. And looks like Imp has come into her own. From scared, defiant little sister, to leader, villain/vigilante, and someone who keeps memories alive. Also, nice “Reason You Suck Speech” TO shadow stalker.

    Also, it seems like the number of comments on these has dropped signigicantly since the epilouges started.

            • LMAO…Nice.

              I have got to say that Imp has become probably my second favorite character. I am very happy and excited that one of these epilogues featured her. Especially her concept of protecting Legacies. Top notch, and exactly what I would expect her character to do.

              Not sure why, but I still have this soft spot for Bonesaw; she has been my favorite throughout the story.

              I think it is because she personofies the scariest badass ever (IMHO). A child with a penchant for killing, without remorse, without guilt. For some reason that has always captured my imagination while at the same time freeked me the fuck out. Kind of like people that have Coulrophobia.

              She also reminds me of Hit Girl from the Kick Ass movie with some of her core character components paralleling Bonesaw.

          • According to Wildbow’s link, I’d say right around March of 2012 (9.8k to 16k views), or perhaps March of 2013 (93k to 159k). The former precipitated a large, gradual increase, while the latter was just a HUGE jump.

          • I’m glad we haven’t gotten any more from there like that one troll.

            *turns his nose up and dips a tea bag into a hot cup of water he holds on a saucer*

            I was beginning to think I’d have to put up with uncivilized brutes.

            • As a note, I’m pretty sure that troll won’t be coming back. As far as I know, he got himself perma-banned from TV Tropes as well when they came down on him for creating sock puppet accounts spamming negative reviews. I myself got a temporary suspension from TV Tropes when I went after him for it, but I personally feel it was worth it. While I have had issues with some parts of the story, particularly the depressing ending, I’m not about to let someone get away with spreading outright lies like that. It’s about legacies, after all.

            • Tell me about it. One of the reasons I like Bay12 is that the general insanity keeps the riff-raff out.

              Now that I think of it, you’d probably fit in. If you don’t mind occasionally having god games devolve into debates about theoretical biology.

              • I am actually a bit unnerved to think of what insanity Psycho Gecko would come up with if he were to play Dwarf Fortress. It would be like crashing a supertanker of high-octane gasoline into a tornado made of fire.

              • Spoiler alert: Everyone dies in a tantrum spiral. Fire helps.
                Elephants are surprisingly absent from this end.

            • Actually, it’s his reaction to the donation interlude that I was thinking of – in all the massive arguments we had about whether Saint was justified, my arguments for the pro- side were almost entirely informed by EY’s writings – but now that you mention it….

              • Now that I think about it, some info on Yudkowsky’s thought on Dragon in general would be interesting. Post-Singularity AIs and how to make them benevolent are his speciality, right? I may not agree with the man’s ideas 100% but I sure find them interesting.

        • Reading Worm after HPMOR has been a trip – reading HPMOR thoughts are always along the line of “why are there no other stories that make this much sense” and then he pointed the horde to Worm and my faith in writers sanity was reaffirmed. Nothing better then that feeling. Although I really wish he would update as often as you Wildbow – seeing how fast you write such amazing, long, and multi level stories is awe-inspiring.

          If HPMOR isn’t your style check out his space fic – that one more heavily reminds me of Worm. …Nice and Dark and Twisty…

      • This had got to be a huge boost to your confidence wildbow. You set out to write, because that is what you love doing; but, seeing that other people really and truly enjoy the story you have to tell has just got to feel really good. I have nothing but utter respect for you; congratulations.

        You are awesome.

          • And Illogicmedia has me trying to find decent 2nd hand within budget laptop due to their positive feedback on my little Mass Effect/Worm crossover fiction.

            It has me reattempting nanowrimo instead of feeling old and past it. ( Ps. I honestly wonder if worm has readers older than me at 44.)

      • Hoping those figures might make the hard copy Kick-starter a more viable option once you’ve had time to sit down and make whatever revisions you feel are necessary… Even with roughly 1/3 of the Visitors not contributing, that would still leave you about 5,000 people, which would mean everyone would only need to donate $20 to raise $100k for publishing.

        Yes, I know it isn’t feasible to say even that many people would donate for sure, but on the flip-side I know plenty of readers (like myself and the friends that convinced me to start reading) would donate more than just $20 easily, probably well into the triple-digits, which would hopefully offset any shortfall.

    • I don’t really feel the need to comment much, obviously I’m enjoying the story or I wouldn’t have read this far into it. I imagine many feel the same.

  3. Liked some of the chapter, didn’t like some other parts.

    Liked the general set-up so far, the whole schtick Imp has of upholding Taylor’s legacy, etc.

    Did not like the dialogue at all. Felt incredibly clunky, the siblings all seemed the same, like carbon copies of Regent, and weren’t’ interesting characters. I hope we don’t see too much of them in the future. Their powers are interesting though.

    • I agree on the dialogue being a bit stilted. As for the siblings think they had enough little quirks to separate them from Regent. And bear in mind that considering how Heartbreaker raised his kids, similarities will be there.

      • Seeing a lot of complaints about the stilted dialogue, but I’m pretty sure that it was supposed to be stilted. These kids are the definition of a dysfunctional family. Why do you expect them to be able to interact “normally”?

    • Same, though I think it’s likely because we don’t really know Nero or Heartbreaker’s non-Regent kids that well – even in interludes with relatively unknown characters in the past, we got an idea of motivations and a history and all. This really could’ve worked just with Samuel and Flor, not sure what Juliette added to the epilogue. On the other hand, Imp is badass.

    • I liked the dialogue.

      The kids aren’t terribly interesting, but they didn’t have to be since their roles are so tiny.

    • Readers don’t exactly know how Heartbreaker ‘raised’ (I’m not sure he raised them directly) his children. What I know was, several women enthralled to serve him as servile babysitter, that might clued in why they were not as cheerful and lively as Cindy Lou.

      However, given time, they might develop into certain figures within readership, if they showed up more, that is. I mean, how many books out there telling tales of maltreated dynasty with superhuman power?

      • Except Heartbreaker used his own power on top of the shitty upbringing to turn them into appropriate tools.
        There’s no telling how each of them dealt with that amount of emotional crap.

    • The dialogue felt like it should feel, between the messed-up supervillains, the more messed-up Heartbroken “family”, and Imp’s general immaturity and ADD.

      The Heartbroken didn’t seem significantly like Regent at all. Sure, they had some similar traits, but so does Taylor.

      • Japanese Mange/anime, fairly popular on tumblr which is why I used it as an example most people there would be familiar with.

        Also because it, like Worm is full of death and sadness.

        • Is the manga significantly better than the animated adaptation? Because I watched several episodes and it was just incredibly slow, the characters were all idiots, and the whole setting didn’t make any goddamn sense. I can sort of see why so many people think it’s great, they do a lot of generic “awesome” things, but I didn’t see any that were particularly clever or original.

          • No the anime pretty much follows the manga the same. If you don’t like the anime, you probably won’t like the manga unfortunetly. Still a setting doesn’t have to make sense to me as long as it is interesting and as long as it follows the set rules of the setting. Same with the wormverse powers following the same general patterns.

            • I like when a setting changes something big, like adding superpowers, and then adapts everything else according to the logical consequences of that. The Wormverse is great at this.

              I do not like when every decision made in the setting up until the beginning of the series makes no sense. There is no logical progression to where humanity is in AoT, and the only explanation I can come up with is that the abusive precursors/evil gods set this exact situation up in order to fuck with everybody. Their technology is ass-backwards, their tactics are utter shit despite over a century spent developing them, and their strategies are the exact opposite of helpful. Even accounting for the pointlessly evil conspiracies going on, everybody who had been in power for the past hundred years must have been completely incompetent or actively working toward the slow genocide of humanity. The stage is set for the action to follow, but there is no explanation for it being set up that way other than to specifically allow for the specific action to follow.

              And yes, I can overlook a nonsense setting if the story within it is good enough (Kill la Kill, Girls und Panzer, etc.). But the show itself… it’s a mystery with neither clues nor logic, it’s an action piece that takes all day, it’s a psychological drama with all the characters being shallow and unrealistic, it’s a military show with bad tactics, it’s a horror that’s never scary, it’s character-based with most of the characters being flat caricatures instead of people.

              Sorry. I can see that there’s a lot of awesome things happening (even if each individual one takes half a dozen episodes and half an hour of reaction shots and narration), and it might be fun to just sit back and watch without thinking about, but I can never stop thinking and AoT punishes you for trying to figure anything out.

              I should shut up now and stop ruining people’s fun. It’s one of the most popular shows of the last two seasons and most of tumblr seems obsessed with it, so they must be doing something right somewhere, right?

      • You can find the manga for free on mangafox.com. It’s kind of about giant zombie- like creatures trying to eat everyone. It’s not bad.

      • Attack on Titan is what happens when someone decides to fuck with nerds. Hey, see this awesome character who’s really funny and good at things? Watch them get FUCKING BITTEN IN HALF!

      • 1. Yep, started binging and only finished after Teneral 1 was posted.
        2. Bay 12 born and raised. Not that active, but you know how it is.
        3. My writing skills are utterly unpracticed so I will take that as a compliment.

        • 1. Welcome! Please keep your seatbelt fastened until Psycho Gecko has finished his introductory insane ramble.

          2. Neat. Might I ask what brought you here?

          3. I was actually referring to wildbow’s story…

          • 2. Eliezer Yudkowsky posted about Worm on Facebook, and since I work under the assumption that good writers probably know their stuff I checked it out. And then Worm ruined my life for a week and a half.

            3.Oh. Ooooooh.

            My brain has random, game breaking glitches. Please send a bug report to the developers.

    • Tumbling down, tumbling down the, tumbling do-, tumbling down the rabbit’s hole, our new Realmfighter. Don’t worry, you’re not the only one with a preference for holes. Imp is a noted hole enthusiast. She enjoys holes in people’s memories, holes in people’s perceptions, and Regent’s asshole.

      Then again, who wouldn’t? It’s spacious, has central heating, leather interior, and it fits 6 if you can get a running start.

      Always have a nice hole to enjoy for yourself, that’s something I said once upon a time in a comment on Teneral 2. See, because the hole is greater than some of your parts. Especially your kidney.

      Here in Worm, you’ve fallen down a hole. A well, if you will, little Timmy. And Lassie just got shot by a band of murderous cannibals in latex baseball fetish gear. So you get to stick around here with us in our little hole we’ve made home, the comments under the story. In these waning days, Realmfighter, I hope you stay with us and carve out your own niche in our comments.

      Welcome, Realmfighter, to the comments. Now tear them a new hole.

  4. Yay. I was kind of hoping Teacher would get his throat slit by Imp, and hoping even more for the ensuing one liner, but there is still time. Good to see Aisha keeping Taylor’s memory alive in her own way.

    In unrelated news, I write a thing. I would have never even attempted anything like this had I never discovered Worm.

  5. Each new chapter just makes me cry a little harder.

    On one side, I hope you keep teasing the idea that Hebert is dead. On the other, I pray it isn’t true.

    • Um, Taylor got shot. Twice. In the head.
      People are talking about her legacy, what she was.
      There are therapists free to deal with minor cases like Glaistig.

      Taylor Herbert is dead. She is finally at peace.

      • A) Never saw the body, two shots from somebody who would only need one and never double tapped where we could see or hear about it, and Chevalier doesn’t want to talk about it.
        B) Khepri is the god of rebirth.
        C) Valkyrie, Riley, and Nilbog working together can almost certainly pull off a resurrection.
        D) The Simurgh has still not used that glass tube.

        So I agree that Taylor is probably dead. But she is far from definitely dead, and even if she is truly dead the possibility exists that she’s coming back. Maybe she’s gone forever, and all of the above is just taunting us. Maybe she’s still alive and all the secrecy and probable lethality is just taunting us. Maybe some of that is actual foreshadowing, maybe all of it is red herrings. Anything could happen in the last chapter, and knowing Wildbow’s writing it probably isn’t what you expect.

        • Maybe she moved to tis reality an assumed the alias ‘wildbow’ and the Wildbow people have met/spoken to is an elaborate construct…

          and I was writing that facetiously then thought… ‘This is Wildbow’

        • A. To the first: That makes her twice as likely to be dead. To the second: That is because Taylor was dead at the time, and no one else was watching.
          B. So?
          C. Probably. Would they? And would this resurrection involve time travelling to invalidate my point?
          D. …Your point?

          And it would also be really cheap to just bring Taylor back to life.

          • I think that Wildbow expressed distaste at time travel as a plot gimmick, so probably no to that point.
            Arbitrary resurrection for no reason is cheap, yes. Well foreshadowed resurrection with its roots going back past the tenth arc, as part of a long ongoing gambit by someone like the Simurgh, is not. No more than Panacea’s power modification was a cop-out or Scion’s evil was some ridiculous Diablos ex Machina.

            Again, I’m not saying that Taylor is alive. I’m not saying she will come back. I personally think it likely that she is gone. All that I am saying is that there are a lot of possibilities you ignore when you say she is absolutely gone forever.
            And all the tiny unlikely possibilities you ignore are what lead from a little girl being shoved in a locker to multi-apocalypse and serial deicide.

            If you called Scion’s betrayal from his first mention, I’ll trust your judgement on this; otherwise any time somebody claims an absolute I’ll point out that it’s just a probability.

            • I don’t recall any foreshadowing towards Taylor dying and coming back to life.

              And I don’t think there are any reasonable arguments that Contessa did not kill Taylor. There is, IMHO, a greater chance that the steady-state hypothesis of the universe is true.

              • IIRC the earliest mention of raising the dead was the first interlude with Jack and Theo, when Jack mentions how Bonesaw doesn’t need people alive, just fresh. Which is… on closer inspection 11.b, so I was wrong about it going back to before the tenth arc. The hints as it being a possibility for Taylor herself come from the last code name chosen for her, from Valkyrie’s inner monologue, and arguably from it being the Contessa who shot her (path to fixing Taylor, step one: kill Taylor in such a way that her body cannot be recovered?).

                As for Contessa and the two bullets, I agree that the most likely possibility is that Taylor was killed. All I’m saying is that it isn’t the *only* possibility. In the real world, people have survived the destruction of huge portions of their brains with minimal ill effects, on astronomically rare occasions that can never be brought about deliberately. The Contessa’s power makes it such that if she wanted Taylor alive and there was a possibility of making the shot, however incredibly small, she could almost certainly have done it. Meanwhile just removing the Corona Pollentia doesn’t do any good because the power stays but the voluntary control doesn’t, but tweaking it slightly can change how a person’s power works as we’ve seen from Bonesaw’s other experiments and Panacea’s meddling. So there remains a great many possibilities for what the Contessa did with those bullets. The most likely is that she simply killed Taylor, but you cannot treat the most likely option as the only one.

                …I admit to not knowing exactly what you mean by the “steady-state hypothesis.” Could you explain that a bit more?

              • 1. That merely showed that the dead could come back to life. You might as well say that that is foreshadowing that (say) Eden would be brought back to life.

                2. Alternatively…Contessa shot and killed Taylor. Simple, sensible.

                3. If she wanted to remove the Corona Pollentia, wouldn’t she be more likely to knock Taylor out and do something not likely to further damage Taylor’s screwed-up brain?

                Really, the only hint is calling her Khepri, which could just as easily be from the fact that Taylor was “reborn” as Khepri…or the fact that the PRT had better things to do than think of a bunch of mythic bug-things so they could name a dead monster.

                Is it possible? Yes. It is also possible that Bitch married Chevalier. That doesn’t mean that there is a snowball’s chance in hell of either happening.

                The steady-state hypothesis basically says that the universe has always been roughly the way it is, and explains the redshifting with the appearance of more matter in the universe. Long story short, the “The universe always stays the same” bit has been disproven as far as we can tell, which leaves the whole thing kind of dead.

              • Hmm, now I’m considering the possibility that Contessa lobotomized Taylor, shooting to take out the corona pallentia (I’m sure I get that name wrong every time I try to use it…). Is it likely? No. But damn would it be cool.

          • Would it really be? I’m hoping that we get just a glimpse of her holed up somewhere peaceful in the care of someone competent who loves her (I heard Dragon was free…), probably powerless and completely paralyzed, bending all of her formidable will toward reading a simple book. Is that cheap? I don’t think grace is cheap. In the Wormverse it’s quite dear.

            • Honestly? Having it come out of the blue like that? It seems pretty cheap to just bring Taylor back after sacrificing literally everything short of her life, then being executed.

              • It’s not out of the blue. Riley was established in 11.b as not needing subjects to be alive, just fresh, and shortly after that she was said to be able to make a body immortal. Nilbog was established as creating living flesh and functional brains (about as fresh as you can get) out of raw material in 16.x, but being unable to make them last very long. Glaistig Uaine was established to hold onto people past their body’s death in 10.x. All the parts for a true resurrection of any cape were in place by the halfway point of the story, we just didn’t see them come together until now. At which point Valkyrie specifically called out the possibility.

                Then Taylor was renamed after the god of rebirth mere minutes before being shot in the head.

                This is either about as foreshadowed as it can be without explicit spoilers, or a complete red herring Wildbow threw out to distract the readers while something even less expected happens. Either way, nothing in this story has come out of the blue so far.

              • The ability to raise the dead is nothing unexpected, but it being applied here, to somehow bring back something like Taylor despite passenger-induced brain damage followed by two headshots with no particular motive seems to be a bit of a stretch.

                And Khepri was the god of other things, just like Poseidon wasn’t just the god of the seas. Khepri’s spheres most prominently included the sun, and less notably creation and protection (I’m pretty sure; it was implied by a brief read, especially since scarabs are directly associated with protection). Taylor allowed humanity to have a new dawn, and also protected everyone.

                Anything can be foreshadowed if you dig deep enough and ignore evidence and logic to the counter.

  6. So class what have we learned?
    1. Don’t fuck with The Imp. She definitely learned from the best on how to be friendly with broken/scary people, keep a moral compass, and still be scary/ruthless/mean when the situation calls for it. Took a level of badass indeed.
    2. So many of the heartbroken have powers, and her little gang is moving up in the world. Curious about just how Imp took them in. It wouldn’t have been difficult to kill heartbreaker with her power. But she definitely fucked with him before she killed him in some way.
    3. Shadowstalker is still the angry, pathetic, psycho who only hurts villains because she thinks she can get away with it. I still cannot believe that she hasn’t got it into her head that she is ALONE. The Undersiders, and pretty much every other power left, are so powerful because they are a team that supports each other. That’s how humanity triumphed in the past/with Scion by working together. Lone wolf crap only works if you are scary powerful, though even then we saw what happens eventually, and she can really only take out regular human thugs. Pathetic, but I think it will eventually hit her that she needs to join up with someone. Hey, Uber needs a partner right?
    4. Teacher is alive and still being his shitty self. Can we add stupid evil to his character page if you killed the VP/Prime Minister and painted a giant target on his back just to prove he could do it? His plan is crude but should be surprisingly effective. He’ll definitely need strong allies since he still has a big target on his back, and many of his parahuman students probably died/were freed by Taylor.

      • Maybe? I thought s/he joined up with Uber at the end, plus she couldn’t have been that successful if we barely saw her. Then again if she was a thief, then she might consider it a success if no one ever knew about her successful jobs. You know I think that Sophia would fit in perfectly with the Teeth. Her power/skill should be enough to beat the four remaining members with a little forethought, and she could push them toward attacking other villains. All you have to do lead that group is be the strongest. Because now that I think about it, she was simply lucky that Brockton Bay was in a stalemate/with heroes until Skitter appeared. On her own she would have been crushed eventually. Same thing here. An isolated “hero” who doesn’t really help people, is psycho, and ruthless is perfect for a villain to attack to build up their rep. Especially in this new world where are all the big scary players are gone. If she doesn’t join a group, eventually someone is going to gang up on her.

        • >Uber needs a partner right?<
          Uber can do better.

          Circus also joined Coil's organization.

          I found it Hilarious that Sofia doesn't want to admit it was Taylor. Denial is not a river in Egypt Sofia. Or maybe she just can't comprehend that the girl she shoved into a locker grew into the terrifying monster that saved everyone.

          • As I said this chapter managed to make her even more pathethic. Her predator theory is complete bullshit but if she were at leadt consistent with it, fine. Instead the moment it contradicts what she personally believes, she’s all “nope can’t be”.

            • Alternatively, she had been hired by Coil from the start and was advised to stay on her own to throw people off. Coil LOVED the trick of multiple, apparently unaffiliated parties who are actually all on the same side.

              • Okay, that does sound like something Coil would do. I thought s/he would have joined after the Undersider/Traveler alliance had pretty much taken over everything like Uber/Leet. They weren’t with Coil when they were hired by Bakuda, so I assumed Coil tried to get all the remaining villains just before he made his play to off Taylor.

      • Glastig? She’ll be better with allies but she managed just fine doing her own crazy thing.
        Sleeper, Ash Beast, Nilbog? They all got left alone to do whatever.
        Teacher? He doesn’t really work with people. He manipulates or enslaves them.

        So as theant said, works if you’re scary powerful.

        • Marquis also had nothing more than disposable servants. And he like dominated the Brockton Bay Underworld for years. In fact, seeing how he was defeated only by endangering his daughter, it could be argued that he would have been even more successful had he been MORE of a lone wolf.

          • Or you could argue that if had one other trusted teammate/servant/etc. he would never have lost against new wave in the first place. He could have given his daughter to a teammate and not had to hold back, or the simple fact that the fight was very close and having one other person on his side would have allowed him to win the fight.

        • Interestingly, of the ones Bob lists the ones who had meaningful parts are also the ones with some sort of minions…

      • One perfectly fitting the ‘scary powerful’, Moord Nag.
        Although, can you be really considered alone when you hang out with your cute death-fueled skullworm all day ?

        • You can get away with going solo if your powerful enough, but very few are that powerful. Lets put it this way. You can be twice as strong as the next two guys, but if the second though fourth strongest team up against you, you will loose.

  7. Ugh, I had hoped for Shadow Stalker to be a nameless casuality of the fight against Scion, but I guess living the rest of her pathetic existance constantly furious at the legacy of Taylor is something. At least she didn’t claim credit (still hoped for Imp to tase her in the mouth). And the heartbroken are as crazy as Regent! Yaaaaaaaay(?). No wonder Imp is learning so much, with the heartbroken being so cultured she must have felt like a fish out of the water.

    • She doesn’t know enough about Taylor’s final moments to claim credit. Which I consider a good thing, because she’s insufferable enough when she’s not getting put in her place. Which, thankfully, has been happening quite frequently now, so I’m happy.

  8. I really like Imp’s style here. Taking care of Heartbreaker’s kids is a good call back to Regent. I’m glad to hear from people thinking about him. I’m a little surprised Imp isn’t with the Undersiders though. Do the mentions of losing people apply to them as well? Or are they simply part of a larger group now. For some reason I really don’t like Teacher, and would love to see him taken down a notch or ten. More implication that the blue clothed trump who ruled a world is the queen mentioned in last one. If winter is genuinely a big deal, I wonder if Valkyrie could just make a few portals connecting locations that would be in summer to locations that would be in winter. It’s not like they lack space, and if she had access to the clairvoyant it would take about 2 minutes.

    • I suspect that winter was more a big deal because Nero wanted control than because it was objectively hard.

      Also, I could be completely wrong, but this seems like an earlier interlude than the last one in the timeline.

    • Imp still is with the Undersiders, at the end she received a text of Tattletale and thought of a meeting. Imp is just doing her thing to keep alive Taylor’s and Regent’s legacies.

      • Yeah, it’s just that Imp has her own minions now. It’s like how back in BB after Leviathan, the Undersiders each had a part of the city. They were still a team then.

        • Yeah, plus Imp’s power doesn’t lend itself well to team play of the style the Undersiders rely on. She’s more useful on her own, supported by the kids, and staying in distant communication with Tattletale than she could be right by their side all the time.

    • I’d like to think that this is the greatest revenge she can inflict against Heartbreaker on Regent’s behalf: taking care of his kids and trying to make them loved, stable, and moral.

  9. I really liked this chapter. Off the top of my sleepy head this had the most emotional resonance since the introduction of Khonsu.

    Nero is scary and horrible and evil and what Imp did was completely righteous and justified towards him.

    The Heartbroken are also pretty evil in their own way, at least Flor is, but Heartbreaker’s children would be. Imp will hopefully prevent them from hurting people in ways they shouldn’t.

    I wonder what Tattletale’s message was about.

    • Nero’s not really scary. He has a useful power and stuff, but he doesn’t really have the…I dunno, deviousness to really be more than a large-scale thug or bully. Maybe a petty warlord, with extra petty.

      • I found him scary because of how he used the power he had over other people. He is a thug and a bully, but he has just the right combination of intelligence, power, and malice to be terrifying on a personal scale.

        It’s kind of like Oliver Trask on The O.C. It’s not that Nero is an objective threat, but as a subjective threat over the people he controlled being a shithead was enough to ruin lives.

        I found what he was doing to be scary. For the stakes we had when he was a threat, the view without heroes stopping him, his absolute control over the people in the community and the abuse of it was frightening and evil. Of course in more objective senses Worm is full of worse monsters, but for the interlude I thought he worked on this scale.

        • Being a threat does not make you scary.

          Was, say, Skidmark “scary”? No. He ruined lives on a large scale through the Merchants, but he was a joke. Or how about…hm, Worm doesn’t have a lot of good Super Losers. Was Emma Barnes ever scary? She did her best to make Taylor’s life a living hell for a while, but on the scale of scariness she ranks somewhere below “Leet, naked and drunk”.

          In order to be scary, you need to have power in some form. Hitler was scary–he commanded Nazi Germany! Mussolini…well, he was no Skidmark, but he wasn’t nearly as scary as Hitler, because Italy was not as capable of inflicting suffering on Europe as Germany was. (No offense intended to Italians.)
          Yes, if you are as kind as the hypothetical child of Kal-El and Mother Theresa, you won’t be scary even if you have the combined power of Scion and the God-Emperor of Mankind. But mere darkness does not make you scary–the darkness needs teeth.

          • I know you said you did not intend to offend anyone , but I just want to point out that the idea of Mussolini as Hitler’s bumbling (and incompetent) sidekick has only recently started to die in popular consciousness outside of Italy. Let’s try to keep it dead.

            Apart from that, I agree. Nero was a guy who, while obviously causing suffering to innocent people, tried too hard at being scary and failed.

            • Let’s be honest, Hitler was a bit of an idiot as well. My point was that, for whatever reason, Germany was more capable at conquering Europe than Italy, which made Germany’s leader–Hitler–more scary than Italy’s leader–Mussolini.

              • Hitler was only really scary when he had the Schutzstaffel and Wehrmacht backing his ass up. Him alone in a room? I could kick his ass.

                I guess that doesn’t really much to do with anything. But I don’t like the attitude that guys like Hitler were super scary bad guys when it was the supporters and foot soldiers that made their crimes possible. Same with Nero here, he’s only scary because he has other people to be scary for him.

              • Power is not just personal power.

                And yes, Nazi Germany or whatever as a whole was scary. You know what controlled Germany’s direction? Hitler. That is why dictators are so scary–they have the power of a whole nation to back up whatever goals they want. Oh, and dictators have a bit of a selection bias in that most dictators tend to be worse people than most people.

      • I’ve seen two different ways of looking at something intimidating, coincidentally both from wrestling.

        One fellow, Mick Foley, felt that it’s more intimidating to have someone who is a little off. He’d know how to fight someone running around yelling and threatening to hit people, but he’d be clueless what to do with a naked man sitting cross-legged eating jello.

        The other fellow, Jim Cornette, said that even though most people will say that it’s the quiet ones you need to watch, the one they’re going to run from is the guy in the scary makeup who runs at you yelling.

        Might be a matter of a timeline, where the second one works better for a short-term shock to the system to most people. The first one, though, gets to people long-term and can work even without teeth to back it up, I’d say.

        I think that’s because the second one shows someone still thinks like anybody else. At the end of the day, you know they can see the same things and reach the same conclusions. The first one, though, with someone who is just off a certain way, would come across as more disturbing because you get the feeling that the world you see isn’t the world they see and they react accordingly.

          • Well the screaming warpainted guy is good for the short term intimidation. Sending them running before they realize that they really aren’t that tall, and if you have a gun, you kinda have the range advantage.

            The naked cookie eater is better in the long term. The creepy just keeps building, and you keep dreading when he’s going to reveal those girl scout cookies are made with real girl scouts.

            Look at it this way. Lung is the screaming guy. Jack Slash is the cookie eater.

            • Jack also has power to back up his scariness. If he was just a crazy guy, talking about how he wanted to be considered a monster so he would be remembered and waving knives at people and such, he wouldn’t be scary.

  10. First thoughts:
    Nero’s costume is going to be a b**ch to make plausible in the hypothetical visual adaptation. (I laughed out loud when I pictured it in my head. It was the helmet.)

    Oh. Not laughing anymore. Can one of these guys trigger and beat the snot out of him?

    Wait, his chair moved on him. Wait, he’s in a Chain-link noose. 😀 IMP!!!

    And then I was laughing just about every other line. Oh god, it’s the Regent and Imp show all over again, but with his younger sibs.

    And as before, so it is now: Shadow Stalker’s suffering is a balm for the soul.

  11. This chapter made me sad for all the characters. Imp, Shadow Stalker… Even Nero, strangely enough. The talk of surviving winter reminded me of World War Z (the book).

    Will there be an update Thursday?

  12. And the mystery of Imp’s increasingly sophisticated vocabulary is solved. Had things worked out differently she and Taylor could have started a book club, hilarity would have ensued.

  13. Mmmm. I’m still here, still reading. Just, per the lower number of comments thing, well.

    We’re in epilogue territory. Before long, it’ll be time for the characters to walk off the page, out of sight of the reader, to continue their lives free of us.

    Best let them go.

    • BOO! HISS! NEVER! There is always a possible sequel if Wildbow wants to after trying a few things. Fanfiction that has started to show up. Maybe a comicbook company will buy it and we will get a reimaginigng of the universe. ULTIMATE Worm! With things similar yet different in other ways.

      • Oh, for the love of god, please no! I mean, a re-imagining would be cool, but having seen what happened to the last thing I read called Ulitmate….a world of no. I don’t need to see half the Undersiders reinterpreted as rapists or Tattletale blowing up Washington D.C. or any of that.

        Sorry, flashback.

        • Well, Regent kinda was a rapist, at the behest of dear dead dad…

          But yeah, I’m not in favor of any reimagining by some corporate committee. I’m not even sure that adapting it to comics or any other sort of visual medium would work; a lot of scenes like the agnosia mist and the final battle wouldn’t work as well relying on images instead of words. Some stories just don’t work as well in any medium other than where they started, like how Watchmen should really have never been made a movie.

        • Ultimate Undersiders:
          Bitch: Unchanged, except with a poorer understanding of canine psychology.
          Grue: Doesn’t care about people except his family and team (“adoptive family”) at all.
          Regent: Unchanged.
          Tattletale: …Ask me in the morning. Although techncally it is morning.

  14. It’s all about Taylor’s legacy. Here there’s trying to respect it and preserve it vs Teacher trying to pervert it. Fuck Teacher.

    Imp has made quite some progress, hasn’t she? Maintaining Taylor’s legacy, keeping Regent from being forgotten. And she’s got sidekicks!

    Oh and the mystery of her new vocabulary has been resolved. Pretty much what I thought. Except for the whole “make you forget I made mistakes” thing. Which makes perfect sense.

    Ah, Sophia. How it must burn. I would have never thought you could descend to further levels of pathethic but you managed. Bravo.

    No, seriously fuck Teacher. I had hoped he’d bled to death. Ah well.

    • Interesting. She can make people forget she made mistakes if she was just talking about it? It’s not really like Coil’s power, but the power to rephrase/say things – even if only for a few seconds after the fact – is a really strong one, not to mention the whole “sneak up on them and kill them” thing!

          • Pretty much every power, other than the most basic brute ones, breaks the rules somehow. If you can’t figure out a way to win when you’re playing by different rules than the rest of the universe, you’re not thinking. The people with the most obviously useful ones are actually probably at a disadvantage because they never thought about all the implications properly; Alexandria is nigh invulnerable so she has no idea how to react to Taylor or the Siberian.

  15. Huh Regent and Imp could make a terrifying combo
    You come home from a long day of work sit down. Suddenly your gagged and handcuffed to your chair and a renaissance fair cast off walks in. A couple hours later and you’re a prisoner in your own skin.

    • I’m fairly certain that’s been brought up. (Aisha brought it up when Brian was worried about her and Alec getting too close)

  16. Yeah, get what you did there. Very clever, because a lot tp stuff he said was making me think “Skitter- Benevolent Criminal Overlord Version”, but without the benevolent. I mean, “face or neck?” The whole “doing what’s best for everyone, even if it involves me being the villain” thing? Yup, Teacher is going to pay. If not by imp, then by all fans of skitter’s arc of monarchy. (There is a better way to phrase that, but I am tired.)

    I like Imp’s focus on legacies. Ties in well with hinting on what happened to Taylor, and considering what’s happened to almost everyone she’s ever known and loved…well, I get it. And best of all, it didn’t even come across like a creepy obsession!

    SS involvement is nice because I am really curious about the bullies, like how Emma died and so. Though it makes me wonder…there was a third bully. Think her name was Madison. What happened to her? Felt like she kinda just slipped out of the story, and I feel a bit bad for her, considering that since the others were such a horrible and huge influence in Taylor’s life, it’s only fair she have had just a big role in fucking with Taylor as the others did. But life’s not fair, I guess.

    • I find it so ironic with Teacher trying to copy Taylor’s style of doing things. That is what Taylor did with her old enemies. She learned lessons on fear, manipulation, and organization from Bakuda, Coil, and Jack. Now others are trying to copy her. It wasn’t so much an obession, she spells it out that when you have a shitty childhood that the few people who matter really matter. Taylor was someone who was close with her brother, who she outright called leader and treated as an authority figure. I’m curious about Madison, and Greg as well. Brockton Bay is reborn and her class should be just old enough to graduate. So seeing what happened to Greg, Madison, Charlotte, and the mohawk girl who grabbed Defiant in the cafeteria might be interesting to see their perspective. Knowing Greg he probably took one of Cauldron’s formulas and is a parahuman now.

  17. Imp erases memories and she keeps them alive.

    Her power fits in really well with the heartbroken. Make me wonder if her shard is grue’s or regent’s.

    As per usual, cognitive powers are most powerful.

    • She’s first-gen, as I recall; She’s mentioned in passing in Scion’s interlude. If you go back, crtl-F “vanished from their perceptions” for proof.

      • Problem with that interpretation is that the female who got the shard looks nothing like Imp. (“Sharing her father’s size and bulk” vs “As feminine as Brian was masculine.) I’m inclined to believe that the shard went to Brian since his power can be explained pretty well with mind control induced hallucinations combined with either telekinetic control of a gas he produces and/or control of EM radiation. (and after the second trigger, rebuilding his shard off of the Admin shard to access the Gemma and Corona Pollentia of others as well.)

        • Actually, the line is like this.

          A male guards his offspring, a female, with his size and bulk.

          It’s probably her, and I don’t think it’s far fetched to say that someone connected to a parahuman will be more susceptible to getting a shard, but might not necessarily get a break away from their family member’s shard.

          And just for kicks.

          One of the hostile ones gestures, gripping its male parts, pulling them free of their coverings. A sexual gesture follows, waving the organ left and right, thrusting it into the empty air.

          Who the hell does that?

    • I’m wondering if her power doesn’t also break any mental compulsions on her when she uses it – making the other power “forget” her when her power activates. May be why she isn’t afraid of Flor, for example. And why she was willing to allow Regent to control her.

        • That’s true, but she also didn’t have autonomy while under Valefor’s influence so she couldn’t -choose- to use her power, right? It’s possible that if he had her use her power, she would’ve broken out from it. Maybe.

      • It’s probably more of her doing things recklessly, like trying to assassinate the S9 by herself.
        She’s the kind of people who deal with shit hitting the fan as it flies off the handle instead of preventing it from falling to begin with.

      • It depends on how the control works. Valefor puts a suggestion in your mind, and then as long as you remember yourself it still works so Regent had to take over there. I suspect Flor is the same way.

        On the other hand, Nice Guy needs to be aware of the target to use his power, which is why Imp was immune and why even Taylor could kill him by hiding and then deliberately shooting hostages from concealment.

        That’s one of the big disadvantages of the PRT’s power classification system. A regenerator with muscle mass and a point-blank telekinetic are both just ‘Brute’ even though they would take very different tactics to beat, and every Stranger, Trump, Master, and Thinker is different. But it was developed before power theory was a thing, and then stuck around because tradition. Maybe the Wardens will develop something better.

        • “Point-blank” telekinetic would probably be a Striker, not a Brute. Still, the PRT system has several glaring flaws in it.

          • I was thinking of somebody with a PK “shell” making them nigh-invulnerable and mimicking super strength rather than somebody who did weird things to targets they touched, but yeah there isn’t a clear line between Brute and Striker. Or between Stranger and any Master/Breaker who can use their power for stealth. Or between Breaker and pretty much any other classification, since they all involve bending or breaking the rules somewhat.

            ‘Thinker’ could be just enhanced processing power or a scientific knack, it could be clairvoyance, or it could be full on precognition. ‘Mover’ covers every speedster, flyer, and teleporter. ‘Master’ might mean projecting constructs, empowering mundane minions, directing unpowered creatures, or full on bodyjacking. Really the only classification that seems well-defined is the Tinker, and even they blur into Thinker with people like Accord and Contessa.

          • With something as complex as superpowers, it’s impossible to think of a system that adequately describes it in just a few short words. Worm does have a good system though, it works pretty well most of the time.

            • The Whateley Academy stories have a pretty solid power classification system. But they also have a more developed (in-universe) study of power theory, and seem to have more rules regarding what kind of powers appear, while the wormyverse has almost every para being unique.

              My main problem with the PRT’s classifications is that just saying their ratings tells you absolutely nothing, and the ratings add almost nothing to an adequate description. Saying ‘Mover’ gives you no idea how to fight them, and if you’re already saying ‘speedster’ or ‘flyer’ or ‘teleporter’ then the word ‘Mover’ doesn’t help at all. If somebody says “Master” you have no idea if you’re dealing with somebody like Valefor and Regent or somebody like Bitch and Nilbog or somebody like the Siberian, while terms like “projector” or “cognitohazard” are descriptive, concise, and helpful.

              The one place I could see the current terminology being helpful is when you were directing a bunch of paras you didn’t know on the battlefield. You position Blasters as artillery, Brutes and Strikers on the front lines, etc. All movers have enhances mobility even if it always takes different forms, so you either use them as cavalry or support (evac, medical, etc.). But that kind of use would only come up against Endbringers, or if you had a massive military action and a commander who was either ignorant or incompetent. And it still doesn’t tell you anything about what to do with Shakers, Breakers, etc.

  18. I really like this! Aisha has become one of my favorite characters in Worm, and I wasn’t too attached to her originally.

  19. So a bit of clarification on Florence powerset.

    1.- She imposes a kind of OCD on the subject.
    2.- The OCD is tied to rules. (Are the rules absolute? or can be cicunvented?)

    This must be one of the most powerful abilities i’ve seen so far, the kind of Social-Fu that can break the game. Comments?

    • She’s said to be young, and people who are young when getting their powers are said to be extra-strong. It’s definitely very powerful, but it seems like what she has in power, she lacks in range (can only use her power on one target at a time (though it lasts after she’s done) and she must be in physical contact with them/a certain range?)

      • I mean, the Birdcage would still be able to confine her in solitary and there are measures people could take to avoid her power. But if she’s joined up with the rest of Heartbreaker’s kids and Imp, not to mention the remaining Undersiders… well… they have to be one of the stronger groups out there.

      • Physical contact seems to be a must. The OCD component must drive the subjects to suicide on the short term if the subject cant adapt. Maybe latter on she will be able to use a straight on compulsion?

    • As one of Heartbreakers children … she is a sec gen cape.

      And Heartbreaker was cheatingly powerfull. As far as we know all of his children are. (Regent nedet some time, but once in control he was OP as hell too.)

      • All of his children who triggered are. If I remember correctly, most of his children didn’t trigger, which is why he had so many. The ones who didn’t trigger tended to be treated poorly.

          • But he considered them prized possessions. Cherish had to join the Nine to keep him off her back. In this chapter we are told that he couldn’t care less if one of his superpowered kids starved a normal to death.

    • I’m guessing the rules can be circumvented, which is why she specifically told him not to use his cell phone as well, so he couldn’t use it to order an attack.

  20. Huh. Well, it wasn’t my favorite chapter, but it did have a lot I liked.
    Imp being a leader and using her power for mundane purposes.
    Florence’s really cool power and even cooler application. (Does “I’m a Little Tea Pot” really have a second verse?)
    How Nero’s entire personality turned around over the course of the chapter.
    How Shadow Stalker is struggling to continue to justify her world view and is suffering for it.

  21. Flor’s power reminds me of that guy who could hypnotize people with his eyes. Until Skitter had maggots eat them of course.

      • Alot of those.
        Skidmark with his power can do some very interesting things.
        Bakuda was confirmed by tattle as a game breaker but was too batshit to use her power effectively.
        Uber should have been a nasty customer if he had half a brain.
        Even shadow stalker could be very powerful with a little imagination.

        • To be fair with Sophia, the moment Flechette entered the scene not only was she completely redundant but also rather outclassed.

          • No, Shadow Stalker has FAR better mobility and concealment skills. Against Scion, Flechette had the uberpower – a power that really affected him, but against other capes? Shadow Stalker with the ability to snipe you from inside walls, and move through walls? That’s pretty damn potent.

            I don’t want to see Shadow Stalker using her powers intelligently, she would probably kill off people I’d rather stay alive.

            • Seeing how Foil’s power has beaten Gray Boy’s self-loop, Siberian, King’s invulnerability, Hatchet Face’s power nullification, Behemoth’s superhard skin capable of resisting the equivalent of several nukes, Hookwolf’s carapace that let him survive dismemberment by Leviathan, I say it works wonderfully on other capes too.

              Add to that the fact that she never misses and that she decides when to end her power’s effect as opposed to Sophia’s that wears off on his own, and I say Foil has the advantage. Oh and there’s also supereflexes, you know those that allowed her to catch an arrow SS fired at her without warning almost point blank.

              Piggot recruited SS because she thought Sophia ha d a chance to pass her bolts right through an Endbringer. Flechette can do that undisputely better. Compared to that a few low-level Stranger tricks don’t pack quite the same punch.

              • Depends on how you fight. Shadow Stalker using her powers intelligently would be able to kill almost anyone without them ever knowing she was there.

              • See the people I mentioned above? Shadow Stalker could be the greatest munchkin in the world and she still wouldn’t be able to do anything to them, with the possible exception of Hookwolf, and even then it would have to be a very lucky shot.

                There comes a time when raw power DOES count.

                Now if you were to employ SS as scout/recon type then yes, she’s certainly better than Foil.

          • Well she does have the stranger/mover classification that she could take advantage of. There was also the scene where she put a metal chair through the glass when Taylor, her arch enemy?, came to visit her.

            • Yes, and because the moment she lets go of objects they have a very limited time in the shadow state and she can only aproximate how long the effect will last before wearing off, the chair became solid before hitting taylor’s shin instead while it was halfway through her leg.

    • The maggots didn’t EAT his eyes. She stuffed the maggots INSIDE his eyes, which were still otherwise healthy. Maggots don’t eat living flesh, so he would’ve been fine as soon as someone could get him to a hospital. Probably didn’t do his eyes any favors, but it was meant to be repairable.

      • Maggots controlled by Skitter can and will eat living flesh. Only question is whether or not she ordered them to before she dropped them on his eyes. (I’m of the opinion she did in order to make a point, but she may not have.)

  22. I don’t really write, but I get the feeling chapters like this must be really fun to do and regardless of how fun it may or may not be to write, it was certainly a blast to read. You have a gift, Wildbow. I’ve honestly never seen such brilliant pacing in writing before. It’s tense and exciting when it needs to be, and then chapters like this show up EXACTLY when they need to. It’s so perfect I could cry.

      • This is the best novel type story I think I’ve ever read. Best story flat? Well, I’m found of several web comics, and I really love one piece.

        • Webcomics … there are a lot of greats works in the deep of the web. And for Manga … hmmmm Gunmu. And great Fanfiction too. But Worm beats this for me in partiqular.

        • Worm rates in my top 10,the stories I rate above 10/10….my top 5,really,as I have not yet found enough such miraculous stories to deserve going there.the rest are(in no order,you cannot order these stories from best to worse):Watchmen,One piece,Homestuck,999 and virtue’s last reward(its sequel).Yes,videogames are stories too.

  23. If I were an artist, I would draw Imp and the Heartbroken walking in this snowy post-apocalyptic setting. It sounded so picturesque.

    • How is she coping with willingly sending Bastard to be killed by Zion as a distraction just to buy a fey seconds of time?

      Did Foil get renamed Godslayer?

      Is Grue still locked up in that cabin, unable to deal with the world?

      Will Tattletale ever get one over Faultline and grind her face in it?

      Are the Red Hands even relevant anymore?

      Will D&D ever get to piss into Teacher’s eye sockets and defecate in his mouth?

      • TEchnically foil didn’t kill Scion, but… yeah.

        Maybe Grue’s dead. Imp did imply that a lot of her friends died afterall. Brother too?

        Bastard was an important piece, since it might’ve been the difference between Taylor having the idea to crush Scion emotionally, and not having done so in time.

        Were the red hands ever relevant is the real question.

      • Bastard died?

        When Scion was near the cabin, he probably stopped what he was doing, looked Grue in the eyes, and muttered “You are an embarrassment to all my shards.” before annihilating him.

        TT’s always been better than Faultline; Faultline’s just in denial.

        I feel Worm is best if you refuse to acknowledge that the Red Hands (along with Grue & Cozen) never appeared after the Behemoth Arc.

        I hope not, as that would mean Lung didn’t get to him first.

      • I dunno about Bastard; he’s been sent into undisputably lethal situations before and come up fine. Like the first time he went into melee with Scion and walked away. We never got any confirmation that the second engagement went worse than the first for him.

        I think that Tattletale got one over on Faultline when she took command of the Endbringers and gave Faultline credit for it.

        And don’t be silly, Dragon doesn’t defecate. She’s an AI, remember?

  24. Argh… I procrastinated reading this arc so far because, well, if I read it then it’s more finished, and I’m sad it’s finished.

    And still all my gripes about the taylor-pov ending are not even touched on … eh, I guess I’ll have to wait for wildbow to surprise me for another couple of weeks.

    For this arc: it is very nice, but it feels very low-key. More like a collection of short stories with no serious hooks into the main story than an actual epilogue. This is… not ideal, considering how Speck ended.

    We’re getting some answers at least (how is Imp learning all those words?), but having even more questions (what in the seven hells are the four remaining endbringers doing?). But I hope most loose threads will be answered.

    • In my reading experience epilogues have rarely anything to do with the main conclusion. It’s more about the aftermath, the “where are they now?” tone.

      But i do think the previous chapter had a more epiloguey feel than this one.

      • They do not have to, but they can indirectly resolve things.

        e.g.: An epilogue 20 years into the future could show how humanity fared, and solve stuff by referencing it through schoolbooks or something (maybe from the PoV of a bullied teen, to close the circle), only to have some passing blonde girl mention that things did not happen exactly that way.

      • When I first heard that I assumed that the interlude will come before the epilogues. Now…

        That thing is going to be a friggin’ bombshell.

        • Yeah, I suspect that the epilogues will continue to be telling the stories of all the people Taylor touched, living six months or a year after her untimely demise, carrying on her memory and making the world she saved a better place in their own ways.

          Then the final chapter will go up, from the point of view of either Taylor or the Simurgh, and the internet will explode.

          • Hm, that tube may be so the Simurgh can absorb Taylor and merge with her and then does nothing…. ever…. but keeps people wondering…

      • I guess they really are dormant for good until someone else does what Tattletale does and gives them a goal.

        All the more reason to shoot Teacher in the face! You can be sure he’s gonna try it.

    • The epilogue is rarely a continuation of the hero’s story. That ended. The epilogues are about all the other stories, all the people and lives that the hero intersected with. It’s looking back from the outside and seeing what their impact on the world really was, instead of always being inside the same head seeing from the same perspective.

  25. – wow. What a stupid helmet.
    – Teacher lives and has learned all the wrong things
    – Imp mystery, solved.
    – the Heartbroken:an entire team of human-controlling masters.

    • Hearbreaker would be so proud. Wasn’t he trying to use his mighty seed as the vehicle for the creation of a master race (pun somewhat intended)? Except for the part where he’s dead and his kids are on the good team (sort of).

      • I’m pretty sure the breeding was just a side-effect of his plan to emotion-control scores of hotties and bang them all day long. From what little we learned of him, he didn’t seem like one to plan for the future, especially not a future that outlives him. Most hedonists are some degree of solipsistic, which makes it difficult for them to imagine without them in it.

        • Except he was really possessive of the powered kids, at least, to the point where Cherish had to join the 9 to get out and Regent thought Cherish was there to bring him back to dad. Maybe he didn’t intend for them to be his ‘legacy’, but he definitely wanted them to have powers (purposefully trying to get them to trigger).

    • Oops. Darn touchscreens.

      – the girl with the power of being forgotten is the protector of Legacies. On the nose but fitting and appropriate
      – yeah, a thug like him with such fine control? The normal guy with the laser eye, Lucan? I should have known Teacher was involved right off.
      – there is a reason for Master-Stranger protocols. Emperor Teapot just found that out for himself.

    • Yeah, I found it really cool how Teacher really does seem to be trying to be carrying on Cauldron’s legacy or something (using those post-apocalypse contingency plans that they had on file?). I wonder how things will proceed…

      Also, GAH, WILDBOW, MAKE TAYLOR’S/KHEPRI’S FATE CLEARER SOMETIME! jk, jk, this stuff is still really interesting/engaging for me.

        • Eh, not necessarily? She was shot by [i]Contessa[/i] [i]twice[/i] in a short series of sentences [i]where her death was never explicitly stated[/i]. That, combined with Chevalier’s comment working (iirc) just as well from the “she’s alive but crippled or somehow in an awful state” perspective as from the “she’s dead, jim” perspective, makes it seem to me like the issue is still at least somewhat up in the air.

            • As a staunch believer in the “deader than dead” theory, you must admit that there’s no reason for SS to know anything more than us readers about her fate. In fact she probably knows far less.

              • Wait, I phrased that badly. It’s supposed to say that even though I believe Taylor died, SS is not exactly an informed source.

              • No, but then it should be almost or nearly general knowledge. There’s an outlying possibility Taylor’s in a coma or close to though.

              • If they knew what happened to Taylor, I don’t think they would go around telling people. The thought that the savior of humanity was mysteriously whisked away and shot in the head might be the thing that fuels suspicions and causes finger pointing and conflict.

              • The might be even worse. If you tell people she’s dead but refuse to go into specifics that’s still going to sound suspicious, being the guy who refuses to release information that you have is going to implicate you.

                The best choices are either to tell everyone Taylor was never found. Or tell them everything and bring Contessa back in irons to prove it.

              • Fair enough, I should think concretely about these things before I reply. Pay more attention.

                I’ll… do that in the future.

  26. I still refuse to accept Taylor’s death, and will hold onto the hope until the bitter end!

    Awesome chapter with one of my favourite characters at the focus. Unlike some others here, I found the Heartbroken to be very interesting, actually. I’d like to read more about their life with Imp.

      • What’s the worst that can happen? Being put on ice in a secret facility for those above S class threats? Becoming insane? Losing her power? Becoming someone’s puppet? Humans dying out anyways?

        • Lets not forget spending the rest of her life on life support, a brain dead vegatable because of a couple bullets in the head.

          • With the heroes and biotinkers who owe her, she’s unlikely to be on (conventional) life support for long. Whoever was holding her would need to keep her utterly secret against multiple precogs and clairvoyants and Dragon if they wanted her even partially alive without people coming to fix things.

  27. The one thing I hate most about this story and no amount of editing would fix it, it’s ending, perfectly, but it’s ending. Grew to love all the characters amd now they will slowly disappear.

  28. Had a horrible thought that probably won’t pan out, but is still scary/disgusting to think about. Contessa was shown working with Teacher. Teacher is now confirmed to still be alive. Contessa killed/incapacitated Taylor. A more depressing idea than Taylor dying outright is that she’s being kept alive or somehow reanimated by Teacher. Even if he wasn’t able to accomplish anything, the thought of him being in possession of Taylor’s remains is sickening.

    • Aw man, I hope they’re working with the remnants of the Yangban. That means that we can have a Lung epilogue of him kicking all their asses while getting over being curb-stomped by Taylor.

      “What do we want?” “AN EPILOGUE WITH LUNG!”

      • I’m in favor. We need to see Lung kicking ass at full strength, and he needs vengeance on a lot of monsters. But I suspect that he’s largely over his loss to Taylor; he was willing to work with her when she was just an awesome warlord who offed Alexandria and gave him an opportunity to accomplish something against Scion. Since then she’s become a god-slaying abomination.

        I don’t think there’s any shame in losing a fight to the thing that killed the apocalypse.

    • As an addendum directed at Wildbow, I’d like to suggest Lung and Bitch banding together post-Scion, and that partner/friendship be the subject of an epilogue. I figure that if you have plans for them then what I’m suggesting isn’t it, but I’d like you to consider it, as there’s a number of of reasons it would be fun and ideas to play around with, especially if you’re toying with Taylor’s legacy. (Ex: Bitch/Lung both deeply respect Taylor but for different reasons; they have a great chemistry; they both want to fuck up Contessa and Teacher; their power synergy, power similarities/differences, and what their powers say about them)

      • First off, didn’t Contessa say at the end of Speck that she was working on her own now/not with Teacher?
        “You still do ug-ly things. I saw you with T-teacher. You work with him now. As before, still do now.”

        “I’m not so sure,” she said. “There’s less of a mission, now. I have no cause anymore, and I hope that means I don’t lose sight of the little things.“

        I didn’t have a response to that.

        Instead, she volunteered a little more. “I’m thinking I’ll try to do some things without any help, in the future.”

        About the Lung/Bitch idea: Ooh, cool idea! That sounds interesting/the justification makes sense to me.

        • At the end of 22.y, Lung swore to himself that he would eventually have revenge on four people: The woman in the black suit (the Contessa), the Yangban, Skitter, and Teacher. He described them as “People who had looked down on him, who had tried to manipulate him.” I do figure that he’s dropped his vendetta against Taylor, partially because of the Venom arc and partially because she’s dead and shit.

        • There is speculation that the comment about doing things without any help is talking about without the help of her power. It could have a double/general meaning that includes Teacher, as well. If she doesn’t mean Teacher, then she’s just kind of leaving it ambiguous as to whether or not she’s working with him. Which would be par for the course.

          In other news, why has no one been talking about the ramifications of Teacher using his power on Contessa? Specifically, the “improve your power” part of his power, rather than the “give you a new power entirely” part. I’m having a very hard time imagining what form this assistance would take, but she already has pretty much the strongest single power in the setting. Juice it up, and she’s liable to become utterly ludicrous.

          • Teacher can’t just improve on a power. He can trade control for force or vice-versa, but he can’t just add. In Contessa’s case almost any change seems like it would be catastrophic; I don’t know how things could be improved (maybe remove the blind spot over Entities, but it’s a little late for that) and any decrease in precision would make it useless.

  29. Finished reading the chapter. It’s nice to see neat new powers, and great to see what Imp’s doing with herself. Imp is funny as ever.

  30. Is Grue dead? The whole, almost everyone that mattered to Imp is dead is not encouraging. Bitch could be too, I guess. The only Undersiders confirmed to be alive at this point are Imp and Tattletale.

    Man, I wonder how much Imp has been using her power to get second tries at witty banter. I wonder if that’s why Tattletale kept bringing up her new vocabulary. We know Tattletale’s power trumps Imp’s power and it’s totally in character for her to troll Imp by reminding her that she knows Imp is screwing up her banter.

    • “almost all of those people who mattered are gone, one way or another.”
      It’s “almost”, and “gone” , not dead (even if there is the “mostly one way” just after).
      Meaning some are still alive (and OK), lite Tt; and some are alive but not really here anymore (maybe Grue, maybe Rachel ?)

      • If the Undersiders end up drifting apart I SWEAR TO GOD…

        Seriously, if they don’t get a semi-sorta-kinda happy ending nobody gets a semi-sorta-kinda happy ending. I will be actively rooting to Simurgh to show up and sucker punch the Wardens.

        • As long as Grue is dead, I honestly don’t care what happens to the Usiders. A Bitch/Lung teamup would be awesome, and if WB brings Lung back that’s the way to do it, but other than that nothing matters to me. We all know what they’re going to do, anyways:
          Grue will spend the rest of his days angsting about how he didn’t stop angsting and actually do shit when it mattered.
          Lisa will pretty much fit right in with the other Thinkers and angst about 25% as much as Grue over Taylor’s death.
          Rachel will spend her days chilling with dogs and fucked up people (yay Lung) while being incapable of angsting over Taylor because she’s that hardcore.

          Man, now I wish Accord was alive. He could get shit done.

          • I don’t really understand all the hate for Grue. I don’t really like him, but I can’t really fault him.

            But I’m right there with you wishing Accord was still around. That was a man who got shit done.

            You know what would have been awesome? A team up between Accord and Faultline. Conquer and subsequently optimize the multiverse in like, three months. Dunno if he could handle being around Labyrinth for very long though; those are not flavors of crazy that mix well.

      • One way or another might mean that Brian retired, married Cozen, and decided to start a family off out of the line of fire. Imp can’t retire yet and has her own family to look after, so even if they’re in contact and getting along their old relationship is gone forever and they’re not as close as they were.

        And she didn’t seem to care much for the Undersiders. Brian was her bro, Regent was her boy, and Taylor was a friend, but the others seemed mostly like coworkers or targets for taunting.

  31. I really hope there isn’t a parahuman with the moniker “Reagent” out there. Things could get messy due to a missunderstanding.

    It’s sort of cute that Aisha is the only non family member that lets Flor touch them. Course if Alec had lived, she might have ended up family. Either from getting married, or teenage pregnancy. I’m voting the teen pregnancy.

    • I rather doubt that marrying into the family would have given her the resistance to one another’s powers that Heartbreaker’s children inherited, which is the thing that makes her interaction with Flor so significant. All of Flor’s siblings are immune/resistant to her ability to implant devastating, permanent post-hypnotic compulsions. Thus, Aisha is the only person in the world who trusts her enough to subject herself to her power.

      • Not all of Flor’s family is resistant to her power – her siblings mention in this chapter that she has used it on an unpowered sibling who bothered her.

        • Yeah, but that was an unpowered sibling. Regent and Cherish were both unable to affect their superpowered siblings, so it’s likely that all the Heartbroken are immune to each other. Which is then supported by the comment that Imp is the only one outside the family willing to touch Flor, implying that it’s riskier for those unrelated to her.

  32. Huh, that’s interesting. I wonder what Imp’s position is relative to the Wardens: enemies, allies, just neutral? On one hand, she outright says she’s planning on being a villain, on the other hand, the people she’s going after aren’t exactly wonderful themselves. Kind of an anti-villain, I suppose. It’s probably a good sign that she didn’t outright murder Nero.
    Also, I have a question for Wildbow, if that’s all right. I’ve been trying to work out some timeline issues. How old is Defiant now, and how old was he when he triggered? I know that Chevalier, who refers to him as an old friend, was part of the first Wards group, but I don’t think he was since he mentions attending university, which would imply getting to at least young adulthood before being swept up in parahuman issues.

    • He also tells Taylor, the first night, that he started early enough that all the good names hadn’t been taken yet. There’s also the fact that the Protectorate seems to favour seniority and Armsmaster was ordering around a first-generation Ward like Miss Militia.

      • There’s a good chance Armsmaster was pre-Protectorate. That makes me curious, though: How old is the oldest active cape and retired cape? Superpowers have been a thing for 30-ish years now, and while I don’t remember when the Protectorate was founded, I can’t help but wonder how capes like Legend are holding up.

        • Well Alexandria was a teenager when she started and Eidolon is consistently described as middle-aged. Legend would reasonably be on his late forties/fifties too but he has all those weird temporal effects going on when he’s flying at high speeds so I can see how he’dstill be in his prime.

          • I doubt aging would affect them really. Alexandria was immortal, Legend flew everywhere and had a weird time warp affect , and Eidolon probably had a power to de-age himself.

    • I got the impression that Defiant was high thirties to mid forties. Older than almost any cape in the Protectorate other than the Triumverate, but not quite old enough to have physically degraded despite his exercise routine at all. Pretty much Batman’s age.

      Of course now he’s augmented to the point where he’ll probably be peak condition until his brain breaks down, and even that’s only if the Guild can’t work out mind-uploading in the next century or so.

      • That sounds about right, although I was hoping to actually get a concrete answer from Wildbow. I guess it’s either a spoiler or just something he’s too busy for. That’s all right, he does a lot already. 🙂

    • As for Imp and the Wardens (damn this lack of an edit function), I’d guess that they’re still holding to the truce Taylor imposed when she killed Alexandria. Remember how the BB Protectorate wasn’t allowed to fight the Undersiders so they mostly competed over who could get to any new villains in town first? The Undersiders get a pass from the remains of the old Protectorate on the grounds that they’re doing a lot of good work to rebuild and keep things peaceful, and the heroes have real monsters to fight instead of chasing down everybody with a villain badge. A lot of heroes probably chafe at that, but D&D and Chevalier would hold them to it. And a lot of others are probably in favor either out of respect to Taylor’s memory or Foil’s current connections.

      • Not to mention, quite frankly the Undersiders aren’t the ones they should really go after. They need to go after the really nasty folks. The Neros. The ones who will enslave, and build their little empires, and ship in drugs, and just plain be bastards.

  33. Where do I sign to join Imp`s fan club?
    She just got a nice spot in my heart, together with dragon.
    So many good characters …

  34. has anyone tried playing Weaver Dice yet? i’m really eager to play. As there are no rules for using traits yet , i am thinking of using something like the d10 system from WoD.

        • Pardon if this has been answered already, but if you make it to #WeaversDice on the irc.darklordpotter.net server, you’ll be golden. If you are unfamiliar with irc workings, I recommend going to Mibbit.com and entering the aforementioned info.

  35. Got to love SS insane troll logic. “I don’t wear the armband because it makes you a target.” For who? Either guys who didn’t trigger until after it, or those very few Taylor didn’t bother to grab? If they are dumb enough to go after someone who has a badge that basicly says “I survived fighting a physical god” just for some rep or something, they deserve what they get. It’d be like mugging someone wearing an olympic medal for Judo.

    All this talk about perserving Taylor’s legacy sure does make it sound like she’s dead. Or at least as far as Imp knows she is.

    • I figured she didn’t wear it because she was a coward and ran. Probably pisses her off a great deal that so many of these assholes like Nero get to be recognized for helping to kill Scion, but she, who thinks herself better, was too much of a coward.

      • Not to mention that one way or another Taylor Herbert is going to be remembered as one of the most signifigant people in history.

      • I doubt Taylor allowed SS to run from the final fight. The only people she didn’t collect were the ones that were useless, or too much trouble. Dreamer, Glory Girl. Never mind, she even brought Glory Girl, or else she wouldn’t have been there for Panacea to heal. It looks like she pretty much collected every cape living that could either fight or act defensively in some way (Glory Girl’s invulnerability effect still worked) SS would have fit in there somehow, she wouldn’t have been allowed to get the “Friend” treatment that Tattletale and Bitch got.

        • And Shady would be useless in that final fight. Her strengths are mobility and stealth, neither of which helps against Scion or matches how Taylor was using her swarm. Shady’s attacks are no better than those of a baseline human circa the 1600s, save for the fact that they can be made from behind cover that Scion ignored anyway.

          • Taylor coherced people with powers so useless they never used them ever. Let alone in a fight. This guy, Nero, has the badge and he isn’t exactly on SS level, either.

            Besides, doesn’t Sophia mention being controlled in the conversation with Imp? Hence why she doesn’tthink it was a victory they deserved. Or something.

            • Ms. Stalker was puppetted by Regent, remember? And there are a lot of people who were rogues or whatever but still had powers that would be useful in the final fight, like Parian. Nero’s assembly power was probably used for the rushed construction of the Big Gun the tinker team was on.

              But Taylor’s whole swarm was like five thousand people. The estimated number of parahumans iirc was like 500,000 on Bet alone before the apocalypse started, so even if we assume 90% casulty rates before the fight started she was picking out significantly fewer than a tenth of the living capes from the multiverse. She took the ones she could use, regardless of their personal morals, will to fight, or experience and she left those she couldn’t. And Shady’s talking like she wasn’t even there.

              • >>“We didn’t earn our victory, and people wear that shit like it’s a badge of honor. We were puppets, we got used.”<<

                Note the use of "we". She ain't talking about Regent there.

                And why do you say that she sounds like she wasn't even there? She simply didn't know/believe it was Taylor doing the controlling. And apart from some denial on her part, it's perfectly plausible. Taylor was controlling people everywhere on Earth from every Earth. Most of her swarm would have no idea of what was going on.

    • No, she didn’t get an armband because she didn’t fight Scion. She’s saying it looks like a target because every time she sees one she’s reminded of how wrong she was about everything and it pisses her off, and she usually shoots things that piss her off unless they’re a bigger predator than she is.

    • I saw the conversation just as Shadow Stalker personally detesting the symbol because of what it means (it reminding her of Taylor controlling them) and making her personally see it as a target/bulls-eye whenever she sees someone wearing it because of how much she hates it.

      I think she, like most other parahumans, was at the fight (thanks to Taylor) and therefore does have the right to wear the badge, but she chooses not to because of the complaints she had against it (that the people who fought weren’t fighting by their own volition and the previously mentioned connotation to Taylor). Like Imp said, the badge is a reminder of Taylor (and her actions administrating all of them in the fight) to Shadow Stalker, so she hates it.

  36. 1. This episode is still not in the ToC.

    2. I don’t think Imp’s being very wise here by provoking SS. All the hate she’s generating will turn onto the Heartbroken. I know that various Heartbroken have long-distance sense (and possibly control) powers, but all the same, SS has a ranged attack and decent mobility. But then again, Imp’s never been one to leave a margin of safety.

    • Sofia has to be one dumb bitch if she tries to fuck with Imp or the Heartbroken. Simply put, do that and the rest of the Undersiders are after her. I suppose Foil wouldn’t kill her, but she might put a few darts in her legs.

      Then again, at heart SS is a bully. Bullies don’t want to risk fighting those that might be able to succesfully retaliate.

      • I don’t think the Undersiders are the bigger threat. Having Florence and various Heartbroken fuck up her life is way more intimidateing.

        Well … teapot … what a fucked up power.

  37. Haahahhahahah! I finally caught up to the main story. . . A week after it ended. 😦
    All I can say is: I really like worm. Its been a fun two weeks, reading the entire story. I shall now follow you Wildbow.

    • Well, Sir Fuente, just sit right down. We’ll have Sir Cuss come over, maybe see about entertaining you. Sir Pent, bring the apples! They’re very good apples. That’s why Sir Cul is always so full. You may have thought you’d get away without a warm welcome to the community, but you’d be in for a visit from Sir Prise. I do this to help lighten the mood some, here in the readership, and to haze people a little bit. Helps you from becoming like Sir Ly. Sir Vice, a rather public knight, agrees with me, some have said.

      Now, don’t adjust your Sir Cuits. It doesn’t matter if you’re Sir Bien or have too wide of Sir Cumference. This will be no more painful than my buddy Sir Cumcision. Even Sir Purlative thanks my welcomes are the best. They are unique and varied from person to person, so nobody can be Sir Tain. So I’m glad Sir F brought you to Worm, with its ample Sir Ply of Sir Reptitious humor and fun, at least down here with the rest of us. Wildbow may bring you down like Sir Up on Sir Face, but we’ll kick your ass back into Sir Perbly enjoying this story with Sir Comlocutious jokes, puns, mass guesses, and dramas over who is going to hook up with who. It may seem Sir Perficial, but to us it’s Sir Ious business.

      So welcome, Sir Fuente, to the comments section.

              • Yes, I didn’t start reading the comments until 29.7. Sorry if there was any confusion. They are pretty funny. And it’s nice you got the “One Froggy Evening” reference.

              • Just staying froggy, stop. *hands stop a hammer* Here. I believe you know what time it is.

                I jump around from post to post, so I’m sorry I missed landing on your pad. Now, commenting tadpole, we should toadally make up for that. Don’t worry, though. When I say hello, it usually doesn’t involve tongue. Seems like you’ve been chilling around here, though. Having a good time, enjoying some grub, staying pretty fly for whatever colored person of whatever gender you are. I know it’s not easy being green at least. Just be careful that Wildbow doesn’t fall in love with you and obsess over you constantly.

                Don’t worry, stop. We can even communicate by telegraph, stop. If we have to, stop. It’s a little confusing, stop. Though that is why traffic cops never got orders from the wire, stop. It might sound odd, stop. Like “Stop stop, stop,” stop.

                Sit around here, feel the the hip hip hop and you don’t, stop, while enjoying the comments. Take the discussions, debates, shipping, puns, jokes, stories, and nude drawings from some of you perverts as a sign. A stop sign. Don’t Yield to the darkness emanating from the story, because there’s more than One Way to get through this while skinning cats. Just come down here, lower that Narrow Shoulder, and tell the blues that they Do Not Pass.

                And welcome, stop, to the comments section.

              • Thank you. I am kind of green, in many ways, but mostly red, in more ways. Any name is fine for me. As I’ve seen, always a skilled use of puns on your part. Keep up the good work *hands hammer back* and go out there and break a leg. Cuisses de Grenouille would be fine too. *hands Psycho Gecho iron case*

    • Imp vs batman.
      Batman tracks down Imp but when he gets there he can’t think of why he’s there and goes back home. Over the next few days he finds his stuff messed up and Imp showing up on a camera. He then tries to catch Imp by using a live feed (damn tinkers… I mean technology) and might win(?).
      Imp wins first confrontations but batman can work something out.

      • Except the first confrontation ends with a couple knives stuck in his Batface. Imp doesn’t do rematchs. Either you’re insignificant and you’ll never really threaten her, or you’re not and your first try is your only one.

        • On the other hand Batman, is well, Batman. He wins fights he shouldn’t even more than Taylor and Jack combined. He’s so crazy paraniod he probably has at least ten plans for an enemy he’s forgotten. And Imp’s power isn’t perfect. Remember in the S9 arc she got caught in a trap. Also automated defenses work just fine on her.

          • Batman got just ridiculously OP in the later comics. He would be plainly useless with the rest of the DC powersetting. He jused to beat up calender themed mooks…
            Batman in an more realistic powersetting (like Worm) would lose against most of the bigger players without a trigger on his own.

            • Armsmaster’s tactics and capabilities are pretty identical to Batman in most of the comics. Like Bats, he’s frequently caught off guard and beaten soundly if he meets a completely new opponent and tactical set. Like Bats, all his capabilities are things that can (theoretically) be done with real tech (but would be cumbersome, inefficient, and expensive). The miniaturization specialty lets him fit every countermeasure he’s ever thought of for every villain he knows into his “utility belt”. And the gadgets in his helmet let him do everything from playing master detective to matching his fighting style to the weaknesses of any enemy he’s been able to research.

              So Batman’s abilities are perfectly reasonable in the Worm setting and would put him near the top of the rankings, if he’s a high level Tinker with virtually unlimited resources and never sleeps.

              • If … but than again he is a badass human. And would be outtecht (by any tinker) and outthought (by most of the thinkers).

                A triggert Batman would be a big player.

              • While there are definite similarities between Armsmaster and Batman, Batman lacks a weapon that can cut through Superman as if he were made of butter instead of steel, a computer in his head that tells him how to beat his opponents (a la Midnighter or Prometheus), multiple gadgets in one place and power armor. And one of Armsmaster’s major characterisation points is his resentment towards people like Dauntless who clearly outclass him no matter how much effort he puts in bettering himself.

                Let’s face it in the Wormverse Batman wouldn’t last long.

                However, Batman is prime material for a trigger event. It would be fun imagining what typer of power Batman could get if we keep his origin story. Mental trauma usually means mental powers, so I’d go with thinker or maybe master. And you wouldn’t even have to change his attitude that much, seeing how usually Batman is canonically portrayed as a mess of psychosis barely kept on check.

              • Thats exactly it.
                A non powerd Batman would be pretty much useless and unrealistic.

                Even without a trigger on his own (kind of unrealistic) he is still freaky rich (his prime superpower even in his own cannon) and there would be still Couldron.

              • A point of interest, that I noticed a while back. Armsmaster does, yes, have a fair bit in common with Batman. But who in this setting is most Superman-like? In terms of power and position, one might look to the Triumvirate, but really think about it.
                Non-human but benevolent and deeply fond of humanity, one of the nicest people in the setting, the only one of her kind, sent forth to do good by her dying father, capable of things no one else is, and opposed by a normal human being who wants to stop her because her inhuman abilities are “much too dangerous”…
                That’s right. Dragon and Defiant have basically managed to answer the age-old fan question: so, what if Batman and Superman were dating?

              • Dragon = Superman? Thats a bit far stretched. But thats my personal opinion. Because I like Dragon (badass calculator from hell) and strongly dislike Superman (overpowerd pansy).

      • Batman could see her on feeds but would not know who he is seeing.
        The tracking her with cameras is a dragon only thing as far as i recall.

        • Yeah, I think their conclusion that Imp could be spotted on normal camera feeds was based on the assumption that Dragon was a girl in a suit instead of an AI. Imp doesn’t need to be near somebody to make them forget about her, so she would show up on recordings but anybody looking at a live feed would ignore her just as easily as in person.

          Automated systems and traps would still screw her over though, so if she tried to pull anything in Wayne Manor or the Batcave she’d regret it. And if he was given a chance to figure her out and a few minutes on the battlefield before the fight, Bats could easily take her down with traps. Her usual little scare games wouldn’t work, and she would win the first open conflict but then he’d do research.

          • An assult on the manor would not bring any points.
            Bats would research but … on whom? Some suspicious girl he can’t remember but have seen on a video feed? Why should he bring any anti-Imp … anti-who? gear on a mission? Who is imp? Imp could mess the hell out of Batman.

            • Batman’s thinker power would be creative paranoia and threat analysis / weakness deduction. If Imp didn’t land a killing blow right off, Batman’s going to get away, and if he has wounds and can’t remember who gave them to him, he’s going to be ready the next time.

              • Before we say Batman would be useless because he’s just a normal human, lets not forget there have been a few very effective normal humans in Worm. Like Coil’s sniper. And of course the Dragon’s Teeth soldier who took down Jack Slash. Hell it’s mentioned the DT’s were annoying even for Scion to deal with.

                Bruce Wayne is prime Trigger material. Definitly thinker. I’m guessing a sort of combination of Contessa and Tattletales powers. He can come up with ways to beat foes and deal with nearly any situation, but he has to have some knowledge to work with. Maybe a pattern finding power.

              • The thing about Batman is that he’s, uh, the exact kind of person who’s been fucking up the Wormverse this whole time. Uncompromising, paranoid, untrusting, has trouble communicating with other heroes in a meaningful way. If he was involved he could really fuck something up.

              • “If he was involved he could really fuck something up.”

                And he would have triggerd. So a “badass normal” Bats in Wormverse discussion is pretty much useless.

    • Oh damnit, I started a conventional vs debate. I meant that her crimefighting methodology beats the hell out of Batman’s, in terms of Getting Shit Done.

  38. Hrm. Two fridge thoughts.

    Taylor and the Administrator shard switched dominance in her body.

    Fridge Thought #1 – The Administrator shard was strongly present in Taylor’s body. Does that mean that Taylor was displaced into the shard’s source? Is Taylor now in control of the shard itself because the shard moved it’s consciousness into Taylor, and Contessa killed her body?

    If that is the case, is Aidan going to start hearing Taylor in his head, since they shared a link to the same shard?

    Lots of sequel potential there for Aidan, with Taylor poking her nose into his thoughts every now and then, keeping him alive when he makes mistakes, helping him learn to get the most out of his birds. You can bet that Tattletale would pick up on it. She knows enough about Aidan and Taylor to make the connection, especially when she sees Aidan react to something using Taylor’s instincts.

    Ah, lemme rephrase that. Too much sequel potential to ignore, Wildbow!

    LOL, unless I’m completely off base, in which case I’m sure the last little bit will be good anyhow 🙂

    • Argh No Edit forums are so painful:

      Fridge Thought #2 = If that is the case, is Aidan going to start hearing Taylor in his head, since they shared a link to the same shard?

      • One of the boys Skitter took in. He was dreaming of trigger events before having one ( his drawing clued Lisa on Scion’s nature). He got the ability to weakly control birds from a shard that budded off from Taylor’s.

        • It was also another case of a normal human bypassing a cape power. Tattletale’s shard made her forget storing the picture, then made her forget it at least once in the subsequent conversation, before the normal human (gah, can’t remember her name) basically forced her to concentrate on it, allowing Tattletale to break at least part of her shard’s conditioning.

      • One of the kids Charlotte’s taking care of. Got an ability similar to Taylor’s but with less fine control and birds instead of bugs after he lived with Skitter for long enough, making him probably a second generation cape acting as her adopted child from the shards’ point of view.

      • One of her Kids back from BB. It triggerd with her in presents and has control over Birds.
        Last seen as one of the new Wards.

    • I’m wondering if Wildbow is creating Classical Tragic character who is both a Deus ex Machina AND a Ghost in the Machine.

      If so, it looks like they might manage it in a way that actually fits the story.

      Damn You Wildbow! You’re making me afraid of my fridge!


  39. Would it be proper to call Imp a professional vandal or a saboteur? I get that Imp doesn’t like what Nero was doing but why him? Was she trying to get him to pay his dues or just helping the heroes with clean up? What was her take away in terms of profit? Land, power, rep, resources, info, practice? I can see how things would play out the way they did but not how they got there.

    • She found Nero’s aping and pervertion of Taylor’s actions a mockery of her memory. It was personal.

      Additionally, if the Undersiders are all working together still, and the ending seems to indicate this, Tattletale may be opposing Teacher and Nero was one of his patsies. So two birds with one stone.

      • Imp went there then found out how Nero was operating so I don’t think it started out as personal unless she was tipped off by someone. That someone is what(who) I’m wondering about. She also had time to poison the drugs and make a fish themed interrogation and the drugs were the first issue. She also didn’t know about Teacher being involved. What’s aping?

        On the note of singing I wonder if anyone is trying to be a bard.
        “Oh hear the tale of these great heroes…”
        needs a refrain to work off of. Something like
        “The Golden Light falls,
        And another one falls,
        Up to rise again,
        Great heroes,
        Up to fight again,”
        but better.

          • tr.v. aped, ap·ing, apes
            To mimic slavishly but often with an absurd result.


            Thank you. Wouldn’t “aping and perversion” be slightly redundant? I feel dumb today not sure why.

            • Oh no you’re absolutely correct, it’s completely redundant. I even hesitated when writing it but I just love hendiadys. It’s my favourite figure of speech 😉 .

              • This is the first time someone said I was absolutely correct then make me feel like an idiot. Why “Oh no”? I prefer double entendres, paradoxes, other things with multiple ways to be interpreted or things that can’t be the way they are, other stuff, and things that are overly long.

              • Ehm, have I offended you? Because it really wasn’t my intent.

                The “oh no” was in answer to what I thought was a tongue in cheek version of “am I wrong?”. Despite my use of complicated big words, English isn’t my first language and idioms are the most difficult to come across. Sorry if I misinterpreted.

                And the hendiadys thing was mostly a joke. Hence the smiley.

              • Not offended, but amused me by showing me some of my shortcomings. I think that might be an odd reaction on my part. I tend not to think about how something makes me feel and try to get some enjoyment out of it.

                Wouldn’t have guessed. “Oh no” is normally used one of three ways, surprised at a misinterpretation (Oh no, I didn’t mean that.), an exclamation of dread at one’s own mistake (Oh no, I left the oven on.), and an exclamation that something is going to go wrong (Oh no, the platform is shaking, they’re going to fall!). Even if it is your second language you might have more experience than me. My grasp on English is far from prefect.

    • It sounds to me like Imp and her Heartbreakers, Tattletale, and perhaps others are working together to keep an eye on human settlements and make sure that atrocities don’t happen, and if they do, they are appropriately handled after the fact. We witnessed Imp & her team’s reaction to a minor atrocity. Based on their banter during the conversation with Emperor Teapot, they have probably dealt with worse.

      • ““I can take over,” Juliette said, with no inflection to her voice.

        “Yeah, no, not falling for that one again.”

        They deal with themselves.

    • Well, she did say she was trying to build up a rep as a fucker-upper. Vandal or saboteur would fit.

      Pretty sure the reason she went to mess with Nero was because he was selling drugs. She hates drugs, since they’re one of the main reasons why her childhood was shitty.

  40. I liked this. For some reason, truth and truth in memory has always struck a chord in me. I’d like Taylor to be remembered as…. Ugh, I can’t really express it, but Imp got it.

    • Maybe the number of portals available is limited.

      On more the 2 dozen worlds with some billion people and still billions of survivors … how many portal capse would be needet adress that problem?

    • Cold weather has it’s benefits if it’s not too cold. Less disease provided any sort of decent sanitation exists. Easier to store food. Granted though, living near a portal between tropical and cold temperate climates would be… interesting.

    • Or… it’s Jeni’s Chicago quote all over again.

      “As much as I’m enjoying the crime and the poverty in New York, it just isn’t cold enough, let’s go west.”

  41. Goddamnit, Wildbow. Aaaaaargh. I just finished reading through this entire story, and all I can do is FLAIL IN YOUR GENERAL DIRECTION. Over the course of four days! The whole story! Because I couldn’t stop reading it.

    Also badger my friends to read it so we can rant at each other about it. Good times.

    • Ah, I see Mayor Rob Ford has joined us in the comments. Put the crack down, Aaron! I know the letters on your monitor are white, but that doesn’t mean you can snort them. I’m guessing you went on a compressed roller coaster of emotions. Mainly in a kind of “bottomless pit of despair” kind of way.

      Around here, we don’t badger people. We slap them in the face with a shaved, oiled wombat. Others shine some sort of Gecko signal to indicate that someone is a new arrival to the comment section, as if to draw some sort of eccentric person with Gecko in their name.

      Luckily, I got here before they could do that. No need to worry about a floodlight in the shape of a giant cock.

      No need to worry about cocks, even if the early bird does get the Worm. In your case, it’s more of a late bird choking on some other large cylindrical object that they enjoy the taste of. Hell if I know. A baby’s arm holding an apple, maybe?

      Now that you’re here, you can read the comments! Have fun! Laugh! Cry! Cry some more! Beat a dead horse because he owed you money and wasn’t working the johns on the strip as hard as you needed him to!

      Stay here in the comments and enjoy yourself! Let’s shove some fun up that ass until it comes out through your nostrils! Welcome, Aaron, to the comments section.

  42. First comment from me. Spent the last few weeks reading this.

    All I can say is; Wow. How can something this awesome exist without being more well known?

    Good work, Wildbow. You actually wrote something that makes me open a church for worshipping it.

  43. estimated approximate unique comments now adjusted for spam at the 509 mark,,, 49,004, maybe, I think possibly.

  44. I am currently rereading bits and pieces.

    And now I get a real interest in reading more about Vista,.. does anyone else get a kinda Girl Rambo vibe from her xD ?

  45. Long week, just getting a chance to comment now. I’ll probably hold off till the next chapter, except to say that I liked this one overall. Imp’s a great character and one I could see Wildbow doing some really neat things with in a sequel series.

    Reader: Hey I found a typo here, you said that this character died but no one ever killed him.
    Wildbow: Not a typo.

  46. Imp continues to be awesome. Anyone who can impose some form of order on the Heartbroken is pretty awesome in my book.


    >“I’m a very special pot, it’s true!“

    I had the same reaction as Imp to that part.

  47. OK I don’t have to track you down & kill you, since you didn’t end @ E.1. =)
    I’ve noted some glitches, mostly punctuation, if you want them should I send them in one message or leave it in the arc comments or ?
    Still enjoying the heck out of this story, thanks for sharing it

    • In the comments, if it’s no trouble Emails are easy to lose in the shuffle, and I can always review the comments of a chapter when it comes time for more serious revision, if I don’t make the changes right away.

  48. When I read the last chapter of the last arc, I thought, “Well, that was both abrupt and depressing.” This chapter made me feel so much better about Taylor’s death.

  49. Oh dear lord how I love Imp. How in the hell does the annoying little sister go on to be both crazy awesome and super hilarious?

    I love her attempts at witty villain banter and how her Heartbroken just judge and laugh about it! Samuel is awesome. The girls are a bit disturbing, Flor because she is creepy as heck and Juliette because she seems rather bloodthirsty. It’s wonderful that Imp has taken them in and seems to be a good influence on them but wow this seems like a huge uphill battle. Samuel shows extreme promise though, being the only sane man in the group. And at least Juliette seems to follow Imp’s rules even if she also seems to enjoy killing people…

    Well so much for my theory that Defiant and Dragon are sitting on a beach somewhere sipping mai tais while watching Saint and Teacher suffer horrible painful torture and death. Someone really hasn’t killed that bastard yet? Really?

    I had no idea there were more lyrics to the teapot song either! I love how Imp stopped her explanation just to comment on that. Totally in character for her!

    Oh god the Heartbroken are fucking awesome with Imp. They play off each other so well! I’d read an entire series just with them. Love the teasing too about Imp’s supposed fetish. Mildly disturbing that a 10 year old knows about that stuff but considering everything else they deal with I shouldn’t be too surprised. I guess now we know why Imp was getting more literate. I had figured it was more to mess with people on a higher level and while I can see that being part of it it definitely seems to be more for the kids and Regent than anything else. Aisha has grown up so much!

    That is so heartwarming that Aisha is taking care to watch over Taylor’s legacy.

    I liked her interactions with Shadow Stalker as well. I guess this is an appropriate punishment for her. Living the rest of her life knowing that she is always going to be far far less than the girl she bullied for a year.

    My hope that Taylor is still alive dwindles though…

  50. I didn’t realize until several paragraphs in (on my second reading) that Aisha was using her power to edit her dialogue, making Nero and the kids forget the bits of banter that didn’t work out and trying new ones.
    I immediately cracked the fuck up. That is an amazing trick to have, and very much something she would do, especially when she has a responsive and challenging audience.

  51. I love this part.
    Though I have to say something. With everything Cherish could do, how in the world did Imp manage to kill Heartbreaker rather than end up as one of his victims?

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