Teneral e.4

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The group made their way into the real city.  Buildings had gone up, and were now being added to.  Cranes were everywhere, the streets were filled with a strange mix of laborers and professionals, and it seemed like half of the vehicles on the road were carrying materials.

The crowd was more resilient than most tended to be.  The mutant wolf and its rider walked along the side of the road, and the people didn’t cower.  They drew back, but there was no fear.  They faced the small group with shoulders squared, holding eye contact.  There was a kind of stoic pride that made them less willing to be pushed around, a unity that made the lawyers and businessmen fall in line with construction workers and cleanup crews.

The message was clear.  This was their territory.

Always was, Rachel thought.  More their world than mine.

“Damn, civilization!”  Biter commented.

“You think we can get any fast food here?”  Cassie asked.  “A burger, pizza, um…”

“Fried chicken,” Biter said.  “Hell, I’d go for just french fries.”

“We don’t have money,” Rachel commented.

“We’re villains,” Biter said.  “We could take it.  Or cut out the middleman and go straight for the food.”

“It’s a hassle,” Rachel said.  “I’d rather have a steak, some veg, and a good hunk of bread to soak up the juices.  That bread the other night was good.”

“Yeah?”  Cassie asked.  She smiled wide.  “You liked that?”

“Didn’t I say that?”

“You’re telling me you’d turn down pizza?”  Biter asked, with a hint of incredulity.  “You’d turn down a nice shawarma?”

Rachel shrugged.  “All food is pretty much fast food when someone else does the cooking.”

“You’re spoiling her,” Biter told Cassie.

Cassie smirked, scratching the ear of the dog that walked to her left.

Bastard sniffed as they had to walk around an area where an overhang had been erected to protect people on the sidewalk.  A truck blared its horn as Bastard stepped onto the edge of the road.

Biter glared over his shoulder.  “Cocky motherfuckers.  You’d think they would have more appreciation for just how scary the wrong asshole with powers could be.”

“They feel safe,” Rachel said.  She looked up and around, searching buildings for telltale signs.  “Superheroes set up near here, probably.”

“You worried?”

“No.  Not worried.”

“Because you’re confident you can deal, or because-”  He threw up his hands as Rachel leveled a stare at him.  “Right.  Too many questions.”

“Doon, Colbie,” Rachel addressed the dogs that accompanied Biter.  “Nose.”

The Foxhound continued sniffing with his nose to the ground, but the bloodhound raised his head and barked.  It was a good bark, the sort that could carry over acres.

“Good dogs,” she said.  “Go.”

Biter held the leashes, and followed as the dogs moved down the side of the road.

Rachel kept Bastard moving at a slower pace as they followed, letting the gap grow.

“I feel underdressed.”

Rachel glanced down.  It was Cassie who had spoken.  She was warily looking at the people they were passing, drawing closer to Rachel and Bastard.  Her dog was a golden retriever, a little out of place alongside Bastard and the more imposing scent dogs they’d brought.  Well groomed to the point of shining, though its hair was long.

Rachel looked down at the girl.  Dressed in a dark brown to Rachel’s gray-white, Cassie had grown her hair long, tying it back into a ponytail, fuzzy earmuffs in place with the half-circle of metal beneath her hair.  The elbows and sleeves of her jacket and pants had been patched with a heavier material.  Her only nod to fashion was a spiked collar she wore, and a badge on her arm, which had a series of letters.

She’d asked once, and she’d gotten an answer.  Wag the dog.  It was supposed to be a joke, but Rachel didn’t get it, and the explanations had only confused her more.

Rachel took her eyes off the girl, spotting Biter in the crowd.  He, too, wore more spikes, but it was somewhat more blatant.  With the weather getting colder, he’d donned a hood, held in place by spikes that ran along the top and back of his head, puncturing the material.  The bear-trap jaw plate had been replaced with a more stylized version.  He was tall and imposing, but she tracked him more by the way the crowd seemed to move and shift to avoid him and the two dogs that zig-zagged in front of him, searching for the scent.

“I’m not the person to talk to if you’re worried about that,” Rachel finally said.

“I know.  I’m only saying it.  I can say, right?”

“Yeah.  You can say,” Rachel answered.

But when she looked down at Cassie, the girl had her hands jammed in her pockets, her shoulders drawn in, half of her attention on Sunny.

“The clothes… they’re warm enough?”

“Yeah.  I’m snug.”

“Tough enough?”

“Yeah.  I’m seeing where you’re going with this.”


“Yeah,” Cassie said.  She glanced up at Rachel.  “I hear what you’re saying.  But there’s more to it than that.  The clothes can be all of those things, but I can still feel dumb because I put one of the dog’s old collars on for a joke and now I’ve got people looking at me funny.”

“I like the collar.”

Cassie smiled as she lowered her eyes to the ground.  One of her gloved hands went up to the collar, tugging a bit.

Rachel wasn’t sure what the smile or touching the collar were supposed to mean.  “I said it before.  I’m not the kind of person who give you any good answers.”

“It’s not a big deal,” Cassie said.  “Really.”

You were talking about it, so it’s some kind of deal, Rachel thought, but she couldn’t think of a good way to say it.

And, apparently, Cassie wasn’t willing to let the subject drop, now that they were talking about it.  “Going from our neighborhood to here, the people, the buildings…”

“They’d look out of place if they came to our neighborhood, just like we look out of place in theirs.”

“That’s not what I mean.  You don’t feel like they’d be looking funny at you, even if Bastard wasn’t here?”

Rachel shrugged.  “I never feel like I belong anywhere.  This isn’t any different.”

“Except when you’re with us, right?  When you’re home?”

Rachel shrugged.  “I don’t feel as out of place when I’m with you guys.”

Cassie smiled.  “Good.”

They stopped at a corner.  People backed away to give them a wider berth as Bastard stopped walking, as if they were anticipating trouble at any moment.

Biter was on the other side of the street, trying to keep up as the dogs started walking in one direction, then stopped, reversing to move the opposite way.

“We’re close,” Rachel said.


Rachel leaned over in her seat, kicking Cassie lightly in the shoulder.

“Sorry,” Cassie said.  The little smile didn’t leave her face.

“Don’t make me repeat myself,” Rachel said.  She looked around, her eyes searching building faces for icons she could recognize, looking for people standing in strange places.  Nothing stood out.

She could feel the vibration as her power reached Cassie’s dog, giving it strength, size, making it change.  While the dog changed, she put four fingers in her mouth and whistled.

Heads on the other side of the street turned.

She only cared about one head.  Biter had looked, and she gestured for him to come back.

He made his way across the street.  He held Doon and Colby’s chains with one hand, his other hand growing until it was almost as large as he was, fending off one car that was late in braking.

It was easier to use her power on the dogs when they were close.  The shudders as her power reached and enhanced them got more pronounced as Biter approached.  As the size of the dogs increased, the people around them became more hesitant.  Four mutant dogs and two obvious capes were a threat.  It was easier to stand strong against a single threat, to believe they could work together and overcome it.

Stupid, when that single threat was Bastard and they were just people, but people were dumb.

They’d picked up the basics of what had happened and how Scion had been stopped.  There was a message there, an unspoken understanding.  Maybe it was a part of the reason their body language had been so strange as she entered the city.  There was something happening, related to that, something complicated.  Not the kind of thing she was good at wrapping her head around.  She’d have to ask Tattletale.

She waited as the animals grew.  Again, she looked, searching for anyone that might be objecting to her presence here.  Heroes, villains, whatever-elses.

Cassie climbed onto Sunny’s back.  Biter mounted Doon.

Rachel gestured, then whistled.

The animals leaped onto the side of a building.  Claws bit into the outside of the building face, into window ledges and windows, scraping stone.  One limb at a time, muscles shifting and rippling as they adjusted their weight, set each in place before moving with the next.

They reached the rooftop, and Cassie rolled off Sunny’s back, landing on her back.

“I’m never getting used to that,” she said.  Sunny nudged Cassie with a gnarled snout, and Cassie laughed, rolling over onto her front and then hurrying to get to her feet.  “Don’t step on me, Sun.  Good girl.”

Rachel searched their surroundings again.

“You’re looking for someone?”

“Trying to figure out how to do this,” Rachel answered.

“We find him, we find her, we drag ’em back,” Biter said.  “Maybe we fish in their wallets, grab some cash, and we have Cass run in some place and grab some french fries.”

Rachel sighed.

“I could make french fries.”

“It’s not the same if it isn’t distilled in the ambient misery of pimply faced teenagers in ugly uniforms.  Gotta have them limp with oil, loaded with preservatives, and coated in salt.”

“I refuse to believe those’re better fries than I could make.”

Rachel shifted impatiently.  “Are you two done?”

“No,” Biter said.  “I can’t let this go, because bad fast food is important.  It’s a staple of society, and having ridiculous coffee shops and mass-produced food is a badge, a way of showing that we’ve gone past the industrial age and into modern society.  Seeing those glowing signs down there, it’s a sign that humanity is actually recovering.  It’d be an insult if we didn’t partake.”

“I don’t get it,” Rachel said.

“You’re not the only one,” Cassie added.

“Let me put it simply,” Biter said.  “You two, you’re happy where you’re at?  You’d be content if you never had to set foot in a city like this?”

“Yeah,” Cassie said.

Rachel shrugged.

“Yeah.  Me?  I’m okay where we’re at.  For now.  But I’m still sort of keeping an eye on the calendar.  No disrespect intended, boss, but I’m thinking I leave one day.  Maybe in a year, maybe in five.  I figure I’ve got to get back to the trappings of tried-and-true civilization at some point, or I’ll go-”

A rumble shook the area.  A plume of mist rose into the sky a few blocks away.

“-Batshit fucking nuts,” he finished.

“Cape fight,” Rachel observed.

“Are you going to help?” Cassie asked.

Rachel frowned.  They had the scent dogs.  They had the trail.  It would be easy enough to find their quarry and get out of here.

“The heroes are going to be on it,” Biter said.  “Whatever’s going on, we get in the thick of it, things get more complicated.”

“I know,” Rachel responded.  “I’m not dumb.”

“But we’re still standing here, which means-”

“We’re standing here because I’m trying to think,” Rachel retorted.  “That looks big.”

“And?  You don’t care about people.  You hate people.  I quote, ‘people are stupid’.”

“They are stupid,” she answered.  “And I… don’t like most people.  Not the issue.”

“What is the issue, then?”

She stared.  It had been a while since she’d stretched her legs, getting into the thick of things.  That wasn’t it, though.  She’d spent her entire life being restless, and now the restlessness was largely gone.

Taylor, then?  She thought of Taylor, and she couldn’t help but think of the way people had stood together, as if bracing to fight back if she caused trouble.  Uniting against the bigger threat.

She wasn’t dumb.  These days, she felt better about herself and who she was than she ever had.  But she admitted her failings.

I’m not articulated.

She couldn’t put that idea into words like the others could.  Tattletale could, obviously.  Taylor… well, Taylor would have been able to.  Imp could put her thoughts into words, but she’d probably be more confusing than helpful.

It was frustrating, but it was a frustration she had come to peace with.

“That many people in trouble, bound to be some dogs and dog owners in there,” Rachel lied.

That’s your reason?  If you’re going to talk like that, you might as well be a fucking superhero,” Biter said.

She ignored him.  “You don’t have to come.  Bastard, go!”

She could feel the shifting of Bastard’s muscles, the little spot where one plate of calcified flesh dug into her knee riding up to mid-thigh.  He jumped with an explosive kind of strength, crossing the street and landing on another rooftop.

Even with Bastard absorbing the impact, it was a hard one.  She grunted.  The bruises and aches would be felt the next morning.

It was easier to maneuver here.  Probably had to do with the way the buildings were going up, everything following some plan or another.  There was order, in this Boston.  It made the city feel less like a city, on some levels, with too much uniformity in areas, but she could appreciate how it made it easier to move around.

Another series of leaps.  Shorter distances, with no big drops.  Any pain she felt was from the first big jump.

She could see the capes fighting, down below.  A man was at the center of it.  He’d swelled in size until he was twice the height he should be, almost breaking apart, like a statue that had been dropped, only the biggest chunks preserved, hanging in mid-air in a vague human shape, high above the street.  Black ooze gushed from foot-wide cracks and divides in his body.  His flesh was dark brown, the edges of the cracks raw and bloody.

Even from her vantage point on the rooftop, she could hear his screams.  It was muffled, despite the volume, as though he were screaming while underwater, the effect amplified.

The capes were occupied – a very small few seemed to be trying to attack him.  The rest were working to keep the black ooze from spreading.

Rachel paused, watching.

Miss Militia was down there.  She had a containment foam gun, and was forming a short wall.

The screaming got worse, and the man in the center broke in half, a crack widening in his torso until it separated completely.  More ooze, faster.  His lower body was almost impossible to see.

His hands went to his head-

Faces.  Mockeries.  Variations on a theme.  Reaching hands, supplicating.

-The image was brief, but acutely familiar.  Rachel felt mentally disoriented in the same way she might be physically disoriented if she stepped forward and found the ground wasn’t there.  Others in the area had staggered.  Miss Militia had dropped the hose for the foam gun.

Rachel gripped the chain that looped Bastard’s neck.  When he was small, the same chain doubled as a leash.

Familiar, comfortable.  Reassuring, in the midst of this situation.

She’d had visions before, she’d even remembered one, after the fight on the beach.  They hadn’t been like that.  It had been brief, and somehow broken up.

Something was wrong.

Someone shot the black ooze man, and his collarbone splintered, cracks spiderwebbing up to an oozing fissure in his neck and the stump of one shoulder.  Rachel could see how more ooze was starting to bleed out from the site of the injury.

He reacted, looking down at the injury, then looking up.

He reached out, and the ooze below him shifted, moving in a singular direction as if it were flowing downhill.

The cape who’d shot him hurried to run-

A moment of uncertainty.  The population of this world wasn’t reacting any further.  He attacked, they moved.  Again and again, they created the images.  They weren’t afraid, and he was.

-but stumbled as the mental image shook him.  He managed to get his footing, but the ooze moved faster with each passing second, and the delay had cost him.  It slopped around his ankles on its way past him.

The black ooze man moved his hand, and the ooze that was pouring from him became black fire, spreading to alter all of the ooze it touched with a sound like the gas lanterns made, but a thousand times louder.  Things touching the fire burned, and the dark sea was briefly highlighted in oranges, yellows and reds.

The gunman who had attacked the ooze man dropped before he could react, his feet and lower legs burned away.  When he touched the black fire, there was a brief flare of orange flame before he was obliterated.

She had a sense of what she was up against, now.  She surveyed the battlefield.  The ground was rising into a crude bowl, containing the ooze, but a veritable waterfall flowed from the man’s ruined midsection, and the rate at which the bowl filled was outpacing the rate at which the bowl grew.

There was a crash.  Sunny and Cassie had arrived.


“Not coming.”

Rachel scowled, but left it at that.

“What’s going on?”

“Trigger.  Something’s wrong.”

“Trigger events can be plenty bad on their own.”

“Mm,” Rachel grunted.

“Oh.  Yeah.  You know.”

“Mm.  You stay out of the way.  Black stuff is bad.”

She didn’t wait for a response, ordering Bastard to head down towards the ground.  Why?  Hard to say, just like it was hard to explain the solidarity, or why she’d come in the first place.  There were people out there who functioned best with their brains.  Putting ideas together, analyzing the situation, rationalizing.  She wasn’t one of them.  She functioned best on instinct.

Gut feeling?  If this fight continued like this, it would turn out ugly.

Miss Militia had shucked off the foam dispenser, and was backing up, shouting orders.  She pulled the trigger on a small gun, sending a flare skyward.

Rallying the troops.  Made sense.

The ooze man rose higher into the air, as she made her way down.  There were people on the fringes, cornered or caught where they couldn’t freely maneuver.

Bastard’s claws scraped against the side of the building on the way down, his front claws getting more traction than the rear ones.  He wound up swinging, his hind end descending while his front end maintained a grip.  Rachel was nearly flung off, but her hold on the chain kept her in place.  Bastard elected to drop the remainder of the way to the ground.

Another heavy impact.  The imminent bruising went from ‘I’ll feel it in the morning’ to ‘I’ll be feeling this all next week’.

He was out of practice.  Chasing buffalo and bringing them down was different from leaping around a city.

But she was on the ground, free to run.

“Kip up!” she called.

Bastard leaped, touching the side of the building, tensing and leaping from that point before landing on solid ground.  In the process, they’d circumvented a large pool of the black stuff.

They landed near one of the capes on the fringes, a man standing in a construction site, with enough stuff around him that he couldn’t maneuver freely.   He was using his power to push at the ooze, a kind of telekinetic wind.  Her arrival had distracted him, and the wind had faltered.  The ooze encroached.

She extended a hand.

He glanced at the ooze, then at Bastard, and sided with her.  He took her hand, and used his power to help himself up, landing behind her.

She could see movement out of the corner of her eye.  Tentacles, pitch black, reaching out of the ooze that poured from the man’s body.  Like the fire, it spread, altering all of the ooze it touched to make it the same.

“Up!  Rooftop!” she called out.

Bastard leaped, ascending by leaping from one wall to the next.  By the time they were halfway up, the tendrils were almost touching them.

They reached the last jump, leaping to the lower of the two rooftops, and stopped.  They’d been snared, suspended over the street, the rooftop ten feet in front of Bastard’s front claws.

Cassie was approaching, moving along rooftops to try and get to them.  Below the rooftops, the entire neighborhood was a shifting morass of black fronds,grasping, seizing what they could, crushing.  Fire and the lights of other powers were visible on the opposite side of the battlefield.  Miss Militia’s group.  A flamethrower-

He tried to push the feelings away, but they were seductive.  A spiral, where the feelings were both the torment and the balm that soothed the torment.  Stopping was dauntingHe had been wrapped up in them, and now it was something else.  He’d never dealt with something like this.  For hours, days, he’d been reveling in emotion, and now he couldn’t stow it away, even as he experienced trauma for the first time.

-torched the worst of the tendrils, keeping them at bay.  The fire stopped as other capes stepped in.

Rachel felt a frond seize her wrist.  She pulled, and it didn’t give.  Cassie wouldn’t make it in time.

The telekinetic wind shifted from focusing on the fronds to focusing on Bastard.  Pushing him in one direction, getting his claws closer to the rooftop.  One and a half feet closer, two feet…

At the same time, the rooftop changed.  It twisted, inching closer to them.

Rachel gave her companion a bit more power.  Size at the expense of flexibility.

Bastard extended his front claws and found a grip.  He pulled himself and his riders closer, and the tendrils that encircled him went taut.  All of his strength, and he couldn’t manage another inch of progress.  Claws left gouges in the rooftop.

Other tendrils encroached.  There was no ooze on the ground, now.  All of it was alive, a singular writhing mass that extended from the man above them.

Distant gunshots sounded.  They jerked forward, and Bastard got one claw on the edge of the roof.  More traction.

Two more gunshots.  They were free.  Bastard made it three steps before the black tentacle around Rachel’s wrist pulled tight.  He took her sudden movement as a command and stopped, turning, his head moving so he could see any gestures or instructions.

A red dot appeared on the tendril that gripped her.  Another distant gunshot, and it was severed.  Ooze splashed onto the rooftop.


Bastard moved.

Tendrils became fire in that same flowing transition, and the flaming liquid descended, covering the streets and buildings below them.  There were flammable materials on some of the rooftops, where tall buildings were being extended to be higher, and black flames rose.

High above them, the man continued to fall apart.  Barely any fragments were larger than a fist, now.  There was only the upper half of his head, a chunk in his chest.  His legs were a pillar, framing the flow of the ooze that continued to spread beneath him.

Capes had retreated to higher ground, but it wasn’t a refuge.  The ooze would change again.

Common sense told her she shouldn’t get any closer.  Instinct told her otherwise.

She directed Bastard to a lower rooftop, then one that was lower still.  A pair of kid capes, fending off the spreading black flames with a combination of powers.

There wasn’t time to be nice about it.  She grabbed one, had Bastard grab the other.  They ran for higher ground as the liquid fire became mist.

It reminded her of Grue’s smoke.  It spread to fill the air, and it moved too fast to avoid.  Consuming everything, covering everything.  The fires seemed to have gone out, or the black fire had overtaken any normal fire, but the damage was there.  There were places where Bastard would fall through if he landed, balconies and rooftops.  hazards.  They were harder to see now, too, behind the mist.

If he turned it into fire or tendrils now


The heroes were hesitating to attack any more.  Easy to see why.  Every bit of damage seemed to increase the amount of ooze by a hell of a lot.

He wasn’t dying, he wasn’t stopping.

She ordered Bastard to higher ground, and the telekinetic wind helped them rise, where the added weight of the two kids slowed them down.  The tallest building was near Miss Militia, so she circled around the area where the fight was taking place, constantly moving higher.  A balcony nearly collapsed beneath Bastard’s weight.  She misjudged a jump, urging Bastard on, while forgetting that she’d made him stronger and less agile.

Down there, somewhere on the ground, Miss Militia was in the midst of the smoke, her team holding it at bay.  She seemed to come to a decision.  Her rifle became something else.  A cannon, fixed to the ground.

She shot into the black mist with a rocket.  The rocket seemed to grow to twice the size as it flew.  The explosion was dramatic, noisy, and distracted Bastard mid-landing, making him stumble.  The explosion consumed the ooze man entirely.

The amount of smoke flowing out around the man doubled.

Two more rockets hit the same point, each one growing as it moved.

The smoke cleared.  The dust and smoke from the explosions slowly cleared.  By the time the area was visible enough to check on their enemy, the black mist was starting to clear as well.

He’d been stopped.

The visions, they’d been broken up, too recent.  She wasn’t forgetting them.  The power, too… he’d been strong.

He’d been-

A man in a white hood and cape stood there, the tension in his body swiftly stopping.  He had no expression, only a green and blue glow beneath his hood, but his body language was clear.  Shock, defeat.

A flash of golden light wiped him out of existence.

-too strong.

She started to turn her head, looking for the source of the voice, and felt the disorientation that had accompanied the visions.  Her ride-alongs weren’t in better shape.

It wasn’t over?

Bastard’s head turned.  His ears perked up.

Instinct.  She urged him towards whatever had gotten his attention.

She could hear it, now.

“Hey,” the wind-maker said.  “What-”

He stopped when he heard the same sound.

Screaming.  As if from underwater, getting louder with each moment.

There was somebody on a rooftop, in the midst of a garden, screaming.

Her arm broke in half, and ooze began dripping from the injury.

Bastard collided with her, and she broke apart, ooze flowing like a wave, tossing them aside.  It was defensive as much as offensive.

Except it seemed to be hurting its host more than anything.  The force of the flowing ooze was damaging her body, tearing her apart.  Her eyes were gone, with only dark sockets streaming more fluid.  When she opened her mouth, more erupted forth, flowing.

Again,” Rachel whispered.

Bastard found his feet, readying for another attack.  She could feel the tension as he prepared to leap.

Just have to break her enough.

The ooze froze into jagged crystal.  Bastard’s leap failed, and he nearly bucked his riders free.

The freezing had spread through the ooze that covered the woman, and the jagged spikes of black ice tore through her upper body and head.

For long seconds, things were still.

And then the woman came to pieces.  The ice broke, and Bastard pulled himself free.

“Jesus,” the wind-man said.

Rachel was silent, watching the back of Bastard’s head.  He hadn’t reacted like he’d heard more screaming.  Was it over?

“Hey kids, are you-” the man started.  He was silenced as Bastard leaped, retracing his route to the ground.

More hard landings, but she was already resigned to the aches and pains that would follow a fight.

When they touched solid ground, Miss Militia’s entire group was waiting.  Vista was there, along with one of Taylor’s teammates from Chicago.

Bastard landed, and Rachel was careful to keep a distance.  Miss Militia stepped forward, and Rachel directed Bastard to back up a little.

“We going to have a problem?” Rachel called out.

“No.  No problem,” Miss Militia said.  “I’m coming closer, okay?  We’re good.  There’s an amnesty.”

“Don’t know what that means.”

“There’s a deal.  Everyone gets a second chance.  We don’t have a problem with anyone, until they do something wrong.”

“I’m not a villain anymore?”

“Not unless you want to do something villainous.”

Rachel nodded.

Miss Militia approached.

“It shifted to a new host,” the wind-man said.  “That was definitely another one.”

Rachel gave a push to the kid she’d slung over Bastard’s shoulders.

“Get down,” Rachel said.  “Bastard, drop it.”

Bastard let the boy he was holding drop, along with a fair amount of slobber.  The boy hurried back.  The girl was taking more time to find her way to the ground.  Rachel grabbed at her arm, and the girl flinched.

“You dealt with it?”  Miss Militia asked, stepping closer to give the girl a hand.

The wind-man wasn’t moving.  “It dealt with itself.  The power destroyed the host.  That’s number two on the list of things that aren’t supposed to happen.”

“Shit happens,” Rachel said.  “World makes a lot more sense when you accept that.”

“This is a little different from the everyday sh-tuff,” the man said.

Miss Militia nodded, her eyebrows knit together in concern.  “This makes four.  Almost a fifth of the regular triggers we’ve heard of.  Two in three days.  One’s still loose, the others died or destroyed themselves.”

“Hey, wind-man,” Rachel said.  “Off.”

“I’m just waiting for Gloss to get down.”


He heard something in her tone and moved, using his power to hop down.

“Hellhound-” Miss Militia said.  Rachel gave her a hard look.   “Um.  Bitch.”

“If you’re going to fucking give me trouble after what you said before, then-”

No.”  Miss Militia said.  She raised her hands, showing she was unarmed.  The mortar was a distance away.  “Thank you.  That’s what I wanted to say.”

Rachel shrugged, averting her eyes.  She couldn’t help but feel surrounded, here.  “I was looking for you anyways.  This is your territory?”

“That’s a little complicated.  The-”

“You work here?  Do the superhero thing?”

“Yes, but-”

“Then it’s yours,” Rachel said.  Others had told her she could sound hostile in situations like this, so she tried to speak like she would to a dog that hadn’t been exposed to humans.  Gentle, acknowledging the fact that it couldn’t understand.  The sound was more important than anything.

“Um, I suppose,” Miss Militia said.

“It is,” Rachel said, trying to measure her tone, suppressing her irritation.  “If someone else is in charge, you tell them this instead.  Some fuckstick came into my fucking neighborhood, cozied up to his old girlfriend, then waltzed with their kid.  Came here.  I was looking for the asshole, and I wanted to let you know before I went to collect them.”

“Okay,” Miss Militia said, sounding a little more authoritarian.  She glanced at the wind-man, who had his hands clamped to the boy’s ears.  “That’s-”

“Okay?”  Rachel gave Bastard a light kick, indicating he should go.

“-Problematic!”  Miss Militia raised her voice.

But Rachel was already leaving.  She heard Miss Militia’s voice, swearing, running footsteps.

Didn’t matter.  A glance to the rooftops indicated that Biter had arrived.  He had a man and a little boy with him.

She pointed, and she could see a nod on Biter’s part.

From civilization to nature.  She could relax.

“Didn’t realize it would be that serious,” Biter said, when they’d slowed.

Seeing Bastard panting, Rachel led him to the water.  The other dogs followed, eager for the chance to drink.

“Not an issue.”

“See, this is an area where you should get on my case, get mad that I didn’t help.”

“I told you it was fine,” she said.  “So it’s fine.  Who the fuck doesn’t say what they mean?”

“Most people?” he asked.

“Most people are morons,” she said.  “Bitching about wanting french fries or whatever.”

“A strong recommendation, not a… bitch,” he said, stumbling over the last word.  “Thank you, by the way.  I appreciate your willingness to stop.”

“Kid needed food anyways,” Rachel said.  She looked at the boy who was riding with Cassie.  The girl had opened her jacket and zipped it up so it held him to her.  “He good?”

“A little spooked, tired.  It’s a long way to travel, even with breaks,” Cassie said, “But I think he’s mostly good?”

She’d made it a question, looking down, and the boy nodded.

“Issue’s handled.  Take the kid to his mom, take the dad to a cell.  We figure out what we do with him tomorrow.”

“Right,” Biter said.  “And you?”

“Going for a ride,” Rachel said.  She jerked her thumb over her shoulder.

“Oh,” Biter said.

“Say hi to her for me?” Cassie asked.

Rachel nodded.  “Anything else?  Stuff?  Problems?”

“No,” Biter said.  “Thanks for the burger-stop.”

Rachel shrugged.  She gave Doon a bit more power, to ensure he got the rest of the way home, then hopped off Bastard’s back.  She led him by the chain as she walked down the path.

The fields had tall grass, and the light frost hadn’t done much to dampen the effect.  In the afternoon light, it glittered and sparkled.

There’d been a problem.  She hadn’t missed that.  Some new powers weren’t working the way they should.

She’d have to talk to Tattletale about it.  Figure out what it meant, and whether she needed to do something in case one of her people went down that road.

She was losing Biter.  This wasn’t the life for him.  He was loyal, he wasn’t dumb, and he wasn’t a bad lay, if she was in the mood for that.  Didn’t, unlike some, make it more than it should be.  He took it in stride.

She’d barely had time to register that he was going, before the trouble started.  It bothered her more than it should.

People came, people went.  There were so many reasons for it all.  It was exhausting to keep track of.  Sometimes impossible.

She led Bastard down a path towards the mountains.

She stopped at a spot where the path crested a hill, between two peaks.  Not all the way through the mountains, but far enough that she could see the ocean.  The Bay.

Bastard knew the way.  His flesh was sloughing off, and he was slower, but he was adroit enough to navigate the rocks.

At the side of one mountain, here, a tree had fallen into a ‘v’ where another tree stood.  with a glimpse of the spot where the city should be.  Water had filled the cracks where the landscape had been ruined.  When the trees had had leaves, they had framed the view.

At the top of this hill, rocks had been rolled into place, some with the help of her dogs.

She sat down with her back to the biggest.

Her hand settled on one rock, and she gave it a rub, like it was a dog’s head.  Some left like Biter was leaving, while others were gone forever.

Bastard growled, then barked.

“Who’s there?” Rachel called out.  She sat forward, looking towards the path.

“Am I intruding?”

Rachel tensed.

“If you’d like,” Miss Militia said, stepping into view.  Her eyes surveyed the scene.  “We could talk somewhere else.  If you want to respect the sanctity of this place.”

“It’s a good sitting place.  If we have to talk, we can talk here.”

“Sounds good.”

Bastard growled.  Rachel gestured, giving the order, “Stand down, Bastard.”

Bastard sat, visibly relaxing.

Miss Militia nodded.  “Just so you aren’t surprised, you should know I brought Vista.  Wanted to cover more ground, catch up to you sooner.  Didn’t work out, with us having to stop to double check for your tracks.”

Rachel shrugged.

“Hi,” the blonde girl said.  “I’m kind of glad I was brought along.  Seeing home again, kind of.”

“Sure,” Rachel said.

“A memorial?” Vista asked, laying a hand against the largest stone.


“Can I ask who for?  Or is that a dumb question?”

“Dumb question,” Rachel said.  She leaned back, resting her head against the stone behind her.  When Vista didn’t respond, Rachel relented.  She pointed at where the two trees rested against one another by the cliff face.  “When the weather was warm, there was a bee’s nest there.  The buzzing doesn’t bother me as much as you’d think.”

“Oh.  Well, listen, last thing I want to do is disrespect that.  I’ve said goodbye to too many people, myself.”

Rachel nodded.  “Sure.”

“If you wanted, I could shape them.  Been working on the little details.  Could do a statue, or letters.”

“No point,” Rachel said.  “Anyone who’s been here and seen them knows who they’re for.  I don’t care about the others.”

“Gotcha,” Vista said.

Vista found a seat with her back to the rock.

“We need to talk,” Miss Militia said, leaning against the cliff wall, arms folded.

Rachel nodded.  “Okay.  Talk.”

“I can’t let you handle a custody dispute like you handled… that.  Attacking someone, beating him up, hauling him a hundred miles away to another city.”

“Kid was mine to look after.  The mom was mine to look after.  I’m supposed to just let it happen?”

“There are options.  You could talk to us, ask.  We’d find a middle ground.”

“Talking is a pain in the ass.”

“It is.  I’ve been a team leader for a bit, now, and I agree one hundred percent.  Worst part of the job.  But it’s better to talk than to make enemies, isn’t it?”

Rachel sighed.  “Sometimes I’m not sure.”

“The amnesty is your best friend right now.  If you don’t want to do the talking, maybe you can ask Tattletale, and she can?”

“We don’t talk as much.  Different places, doing different things.”

People leave.

“It would be an excuse to keep in touch.”

Rachel shrugged.  “If I don’t deal with my own stuff, what’s the point?  I’d rather be in control.”

“What do you mean?”

“It’s all about the rules.  Rules you understand, rules you don’t.  Being in the city, I was sort of realizing just how many there are.  Codes, deals, even the way we dress, apparently.  Hard to keep track of.”

“I understand that.”

“You want me to ask Tattletale to handle shit.  But I’d prefer to handle my own shit.  That way, I know what’s what.  There’s no ugly surprises.”

She stopped, rephrased, “There’s less ugly surprises.  This asshole that’s working for me?  All of a sudden, he tells me he’s not happy.  French fries are more important, or something stupid like that.  I dunno how to argue with him, because I don’t understand it.  They’re supposed to be some symbol or shit like that and I don’t get it.”

“Been there,” Vista said.  She looked cold, even with the tights she wore with her costume.  She rubbed her legs, then hugged them.  “Losing people, not being able to understand why.”

“If you wanted, we could connect you to someone you could talk to,” Miss Militia said.

Rachel shrugged.  “Talking bugs me.”


But as much as it bugged her, she found the words spilling out.  “I can get him wanting to go.  I don’t understand it, but he says he needs that shit, so long as I’m handling stuff on my own, I can maybe grab him some damn french fries, keep him from leaving for a little while.  Maybe give him some more time here and there so he could go buy more.  Or whatever.”

“I see what you’re getting at.”

“And some idiots,” Rachel said, banging her head against the rock behind her, a little harder than she’d intended, in a spot where the rock jutted out.   The sharp pain brought tears to her eyes.  “Are even harder to understand than the motherfucking french fry thing.”

“Yeah,” Miss Militia said.

Rachel rubbed the stone to her right.  Brutus.  Bastard approached and laid his head down on the rock, and she gave him a good scratch.

“The rules are changing, breaking down,” Miss Militia said.  “Powers, groups, between capes.”

“Shit happens,” Rachel said.  “I said something like that earlier, didn’t I?”

“You did.  But I don’t agree.  I don’t want things to break down.  I don’t want conflict.  We were on opposite sides, but we were there.  We went through a lot of the same stuff.  Can we not end this as enemies, fighting because of some misunderstanding?”

Vista spoke, looking out at the bay.  “Make it a Brockton Bay thing.  We’re motherfuckers, we’re survivors.”

“Not sure I get it.  But I don’t fucking trust people.”

She wanted us to work together,” Miss Militia said, emphasizing the ‘she’.

Rachel looked up, but Miss Militia was staring out at the water.

Her voice was a growl.  “If you’re fucking manipulating me, I’m going to have Bastard chew you up and spit you out.”

“No manipulation.  Look, let’s get down to brass tacks.  The basics.  What do you want, Rachel?”

“Me and mine get left alone.”

“I can agree to that.  We’ll leave you alone, we’ll help make sure others leave you alone.  But, if we’re making our own rules, between us, my rule is I want to know before you do anything outside your territory.  Let me know, and you can ride along, so you’re clued in and not missing anything.”

Rachel nodded, giving Bastard another scratch.  “Sure.”

“A starting point?”

“A starting point,” Rachel agreed.

“I talked to Tattletale before I came.  You should get in touch.  She had some stuff she wanted to discuss.”

Rachel nodded.

“Can we trust each other?”

Rachel frowned.


She’d lost hers right in the beginning.  Left alone in an apartment, to starve and scald herself.

Here?  Now?  Seventeen years later?  After any number of betrayals, great and small?

She was aware of the tall stone behind her.


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488 thoughts on “Teneral e.4

  1. Was a little tired as I put this one out there. DST and change in season messed up my sleep schedule. Falling asleep at five and waking up at nine or so. Hoping it comes across okay.

    Votes on Topwebfiction are appreciated. Also, Worm has been getting some low (2/5) and some high (5/5) reviews on Webfictionguide, and I just wanted to remind people that new reviews are always appreciated. I don’t know that I agree with the harsher reviews (no character development?) but people take away different things from the story. I’m kind of hoping that the more reviews (or even straight ratings-out-of-five, if you aren’t interested in putting words together to address the story as a whole) there are, the more things trend towards Worm’s ‘true’ rating.

    And, as always, votes on Topwebfiction are appreciated.

    I’ve fallen behind on thanking people for donations, so stay tuned for a big comment on that front.

    Finally, some time between now and the post on Saturday, I’ll probably put something up on my writing-blog to sort of have a place to point people to with an explanation of what happens after Worm’s last chapter goes up (and then I’ll link to it in the comments or something).

    • Huh. Well, there goes my hope for who could be a caretaker for a recovering, unpowered, maybe mentally handicapped Taylor. Guess she is dead then. And Scion is trying to claw his way back into existence? Uh oh.

    • Regarding the reviews on webfictionguide:

      I think the issue many people have with Taylor is that, while her thoughts and feelings change, she still ACTS mostly the same way she did in the beginning – ruthless, persistent to the point of insanity, with Guerilla tactics. She imposes her own plans and ideas on others, claiming that she’s right while they’re wrong (the fact that she’s right most of the time does not have any weight in this argument).

      Even when she joins the Wards, we only find out that she got WORSE than before, and while her feelings changed, her actions, again, did not. And, of course, once the apocalypse descended, things went down the crapper anyway.

      I guess that, for many people, a shift in the emotions/thoughts behind an action does NOT constitute proper character development if the actions don’t change somehow, too.

      Keep in mind, this is NOT my opinion, I’m just trying to explain what I read out of those reviews (those that read like the author actually read the story, at least)

      I hope I managed to clear something up for you😉

        • From what I saw it didn’t quite look like trolling and seemed to get a ways into it, but in their own words they “…literally have zero patience in sifting through the technical jargon, incomprehensible plot points, all the people that were introduced…” and basically everything Worm contains.

          Worm is not a thing you can skim through. Things are not always obvious. The biggest and most important points are rarely the pure mechanical actions taken, but the psychology, relationships, motivations, *people* behind it all. Worm is, like all the best (imho) fiction, something that requires actual thought. The plotlines are perfectly logical, but realistically complex instead of following standard story forms and require attention to follow. The characters have depth to them which requires you to look past their plain words and actions into the motivations behind what they do, rather than following the long-established roles and stereotypes established in literature. The world is a well-developed thing put together in a way that makes sense, rather than a cardboard backdrop that serves nothing but the story at hand.

          I love that. Most of us here, I suspect, love that. But it’s not for everybody. A lot of people don’t want to have to work for their entertainment, preferring mindless bland fun to something that requires attention.
          And those people would start Worm expecting a standard superhero story, miss at least half of what they read, confuse themselves beyond repair, and quickly grow to hate it.

      • Here’s a take of mine on that perception:
        Based on what we know in-setting about the effects of passengers on the psychologies of their hosts and based on the characterization of Taylor’s shard that imo is pretty evidently done in the last arc or two, that sounds to me like some actually quite clever (in hindsight) setting-self-consistent characterization. I am uncertain about whether or not that actually speaks to/answers their complaint or whether their complaint still stands or whatever.

      • Hmm. I would say that Taylor had her core values pretty much locked in from Day 1 but:

        (a) That was kind of the point. Taylor did occasionally question her path but, with the never-ending stream of oncoming threats, she never felt like she could change it. (And it’s good for the world that she didn’t!)

        (b) There was a *ton* of character development in Worm. Look at Defiant, Bonesaw, Bitch, Panacea, Glaistig Uiaine. The list just goes on and on and on.

      • I can’t help wondering is whether they mean “no positive character development for the main character” by “no character development.” She did change, she became a worse person (at least in my opinion), but that happens in disasters, not everyone can come out of terrible situations as a better person. I think that’s often overlooked in fiction and an argument for the story rather than against it, for me.

        • “worst” is arguable, though. Her actions constantly saved more persons than her superhero counterparts, and she was a better person if you count intentions, too.In fact, most of her flaws can be attributed to her shard, and, even if we do not do that, they are human flaws that do not overpower the good aspects of her character. I’d say the difference was “lawful good -> chaotic good” or “idealistic good->cynical good”

      • See question 2/2a in the FAQ. I’d ask that you please not distribute ebook versions.

        I understand that it’ll happen, I get that it’s a thing, but I hope you’ll understand if I don’t want to help it along. Opportunists will try putting it up on Amazon (with title/name changes) and I’m hoping the convenience of a polished, available copy is worth a bit of patience and a very modest amount.

        • I understand — I’m more than happy to pay for it, and I’ll definitely be getting it and getting rid of my one when yours comes out. In the meantime though, I love your work, it’s not really feasible for me to read it online, and I certainly didn’t try to claim credit for it or put it on Amazon. I link to the website at the beginning of every chapter, at the front of it, and on the github repo. I mainly did this for myself, and for several friends who are in the army and need a copy they can download. I tried to post it here because I know there are other people in the same position. Eagerly awaiting your official copy, and thanks so much for writing this!

              • Hi, Ben.

                Just in case it wasn’t clear – when I said I would rather people didn’t freely distribute the epub and removed the link from your post above, that was me saying, “I would very much appreciate it if you, as a presumed fan, didn’t maintain/link to the github site (it’s still linked to in your username in the comments) and include tools for others to scrape wordpress on said site for those who find it. It would make my life easier and would allow me to worry just a bit less.”

                Again, I get that stuff’s going to get distributed behind the scenes, and I know it’s easy to scrape or copy/paste or whatever. A fact of life with a freely available online work. But I’m letting you know, I’m going to remove any comments or links that attempt to distribute copies, and I’m going to (politely) ask that anyone wanting an epub version be patient instead.

                If there’s someone that is unable to read on the site and you know them, and you’re sure they’re trustworthy, maybe shoot them an email with the attachment (or ask me to, be email), but I’d rather not open it up to -everyone-.

                Sorry if I wasn’t clear. I don’t want to be a bad guy here.

              • Fair enough. I’ve made it private. I’d just like to point out that it wasn’t really enabling anybody, because the people who post it on Amazon for money with a title change would have had more work removing all the links to your site from the epub I put up than would be worth their time, and furthermore it’ll be just as easy for them to make/use a scraper as it was for me. In fact, it could be argued that, seeing as you say people will do it anyway, it’s better if the one they find does not take credit, does link to you, and encourages donations etc., rather than their finding a nefarious version on Amazon. However, as you’re so opposed to it, I have, as I say, removed it. Thanks.

      • BenjaminRH — just out of curiosity, what’s the wordcount on the completed ebook? I’d love to know how many words I just finished reading.

            • Hmm. A Guinness on top of everything else about this story? I was originally leaning towards a set of books published, but that tidbit is now making me lean towards a single volume.

              Not that I have anything to say about it. Metaphorically speaking. If I were speaking literally, then I already said something.

              • Come to think of it…………

                Is it possible that your astonishing rate of word production doesn’t already rate a Guinness in some fashion?

              • Nah. Before somebody removed it, that page included several entries for “self-published or experimental works” ranging from web serials almost ten times this length to one “novel” that had billions of words, most of which were the same word repeated over and over again for pages and pages.

                It’s unclear what the criteria are to get on the list now, but it’s likely some wiki editor will declare whatever you do invalid to preserve the “classical” list.

    • I guess writing a review of Worm is hard. There’s so much, and I can’t remember it all now! (Not that that’s a critism, there’s a lot, and its excellent. Quantity and quality!)
      It is the kind of story where most people will love it or hate it. It’s clear pretty early on that it’s going to be dark, so hopefully they’ll either enjoy it or stop reading and not take it personally.

  2. I read through all the fanfics hoping for even the slightest glimpse of that.. thing.. that makes your storytelling stand out.

    Four more days for another hit. /sigh

  3. Y’see
    What we’ve got here is kinda what you might call…a Typo Thread.
    Ya put yer typographical errors and awkward usage reports here, so our friendly neighborhood (HEY! The Internet’s a neighborhood!) author can make his corrections.

    • Don’t you remember when Bitch gave Taylor the advice of just letting people know when it comes to sexual attraction? Makes sense to me that Bitch has sexual desires. She has social problems, not physical ones.

        • That’s because Taylor is a total geek who analyzes the hell out of everything.

          I was initially surprised, too, but then it occurred to me that Biter is the kind of guy willing to sleep with a chick and not make a whole thing out of it, and that Bitch might enjoy a relationship like that. Although now I’m wondering if she uses protection.

          • I strongly suspect she does. She’s socially incompetent, but far from stupid and there’s no way she’d want to risk pregnancy or STDs.

            But yeah, Bitch has a normal sex drive and hates people. A good lay who didn’t read too much into it or think that there were supposed to be huge social/relationship significance to it would be ideal for her.

            • Just a thought. Who would be making said protection? Or do you think people would be using resources to keep the population down after more than 40% of everyone has died?

              First guy:You said your mom’s a bitch?
              Kid:NO! I said my mom is Bitch.
              Other guy:The kid means Hellhound.
              Kid:That’s not what she calls herself.
              First guy:So Hellhound ‘s a bitch?
              Kid(and maybe other guy too):NO!

              I could see something like that happening.

          • I was also surprised at first but then I thought back to her advice to Taylor and realized I probably shouldn’t have been surprised. I would bet that she does use protection for much the same reasons already stated.

    • Seems like it Scion was the one adjusting the passengers whenever a trigger happened.
      For cauldron capes, apparently they used the ‘balance’ mix from Eden to get a similar result.

      Now that nothing tempers the shards as they merge with hosts, apparently they just immediately consume the host and lead to a new Echidna rank monstrosity, or even several since they don’t even hesitate to jump hosts if able to.
      Heavy legacy to handle right there…

      • Those are actually shards that came from Scion himself, after he died, we think.

        They were not meant to be given to humans, so they were not throttled / modified.

        People get those shards, they can’t contain them, they die. The shard uses up a little more power, and finds another host.

        Eventually the Scion shards might stabilize in a host if it loses enough power or manages to adjust fast enough – but they appear to have some memories associated with Scion as part of their package, so even if the host survives, chances are pretty good they won’t be very sane. IMHO anyway.

        • Seems like a better analysis. Which… kinda makes me wonder about what exactly happened with Eden’s crash-landing and stabbity demise. I get that she erroneously dropped the power to win, and underestimated the collision damage she suffered from Abaddon, but the complete mess is still not entirely clear to me.

          Maybe Contessa and the Doctor spent a loooong while “sterilising” her corpse to prevent all that from happening right after the first kill.

          • Actually Contessa’s homeworld was run over by monsters who are presumably unlucky guys (and gals) who touched Eden’s crashlanded body. And Vikare, the man who touched Scion on the boat, had one of Eden’s shards and it was implied it was that that gave him cancer until Scion healed him and unlocked his powers.

            • MM mentioned that there had been four of these bad triggers, two in the last three days. Unless this epilogue is a lot sooner after Speck than any of the others are, that seems to indicate (could be a coincidence, but doesn’t seem like it) that these incidents are accelerating.

              If it were just a result of Scion’s death they would probably either start then and peter off as the undropped shards ran out, or get scattered outward in four dimensions and maybe even start before he died. And Eden dropped a few bad shards on the way in, but the shards still in her corpse stayed there until extracted.

              Which all combines to make me think that these bad triggers are the result of some human doing something stupid with the bits of Scion’s body that fell through the portal when he was killed, trying to recreate Cauldron without any of their dubious expertise. Given that Teacher stole their old lab notes and is just enough of a moron and just enough of an egomaniac…

              • When Scion was consciously distributing shards, the time he let go of the shard didn’t necessarily correspond with the time or order in which people received them. It’s reasonable to expect that unconscious distribution would also not necessarily work along any expected time frame. However, this would predict random timing, not acceleration, so I’m not sure exactly what’s going on.

      • Yeah, this made me sad. I didn’t want them shipped; I just wanted them to do a badass teamup and go kick Teacher, Contessa, and the Yangban’s collective asses, with the appropriate witty banter. Mostly just a Lung epilogue, though. We need that.

          • I originally wondered if Panacea would chill with the Usiders post-Scion, but given how they’re all separated now I doubt that’s the case. There’s been a few dropped hints that everyone’s going to get back together for one big Teacher-stomping, so Marquis & Co. will probably be present for that. Who knows, maybe if Riley is there then Grue won’t be. Fuck that guy.

              • I mentioned Marquis because Lung was probably chilling with him, and this originally started with me requesting some Lung in an epilogue or two.

                Anyways, I want Grue to get Imp’s power and be completely forgotten about because basically since Behemoth dies he transformed into this worthless bitch of a human being capable of nothing but (presumably) angsting.

              • He hasn’t done anything since then because we haven’t see him since them, save a few scenes during which nothing has been happening. We didn’t see Legend do anything over the epilogues–has he been chilling out in Cuba-He since Scion? Was Eidolon doing nothing during the timeskip? We didn’t hear of anything he did. We haven’t heard about Emma in arcs–has she become an empty shell of a human, incapable of doing anything?

                Oh, and we know he did stuff–remember right after the timeskip? It’s just that Taylor is no longer an Undersider, and Grue knew that there was no conceivable use of his power that could help against Scion, so there hasn’t been anything for him to do.

              • The reason I’m not asking about Eidolon or Legend is because they weren’t at the lowest point of a character arc when they dropped off the face of the plot. When Taylor receives the letters after she joins the Wards, TT said that Taylor leaving had an effect on Brian that was as bad as Bonesaw. Nothing ever comes of this. In Brian’s touching and wonderfully done letter to Taylor, he says that he doesn’t know how to feel about Taylor and will write her back when he figures himself out. Nothing ever comes of this. Two years later, and Grue is described as “Of everyone, he was the least changed. Physically, anyways”, but we never see any changes at all because Grue sticks around for what approximates to a chapter or so of combat and then he gets on the bus, never to be seen again.

                Also, there is [i]always[/i] something to do if you want to do something. I’m not just talking about going toe-to-toe with Scion, because the conflict was much more than that. He could have made tea for the thinkers and tinkers; he could have kept peace in the human settlements; he could have helped with non-Scion problems like Teacher, the Yangban, or Cauldron. Instead of being a rational human being and realizing that every little bit helps, however, he runs away from civilization with his non-character lady friend to watch movies and have sex until they die.

              • As to the first part: Well, yeah, nothing comes of Brian’s feelings for Taylor. He knew her for what, three months before leaving town? Three weeks of which were spent with her completely out of touch, not on the team or anything, him thinking of her as a traitor? Nothing past a typical friendship until the last month, month-and-a-half? Those kinds of wounds are wounds that nothing but time can heal…and time heals them.
                Besides, he married. Do you really think Cozen would appreciate Brian hanging around his old girlfriend?

                And yes, Grue could have stuck around. He could show his face, have cameos. But why, from a storytelling perspective, would this matter?
                And I can’t help but wonder how much of the hanging-around-in-the-cabin thing was Cozen’s decision.

                To be succinct: There are too many things we just don’t know about the timeskip, what was going on in Brian’s head and life while we were focused elsewhere or completely unaware. I suppose a lot of this hinges on Cozen, who comes off as a bit of a selfish, probably-jealous…I might say bitch, but I wouldn’t want to insult Ms. Linde. The short of it is, we can’t blame Grue until we know more about his circumstances.
                Also, I suck at succinct.

              • I don’t care how long Grue knew Taylor; he had a trigger event over her. That’s some srs bsns. Also, while Imp told Taylor that G&C were married, Imp also told her later that she was fucking with Taylor with regards to that. Also, I don’t want Grue in the story post-Behemoth, at least not without some serious reworking/retconning/new chapters.

                To quote your comment: “There are too many things we just don’t know about the timeskip”, I agree wholeheartedly. If this were a minor character like Emma or Cherish I couldn’t care less, but given the importance of Brian to the plot and the quality surrounding some of his better moments (his interlude, the goodbye sex, and his letter all stand out in my mind) it seems scrubbish of Wildbow to just Put Him on a Bus and not do anything to resolve the conflict.

                However, since we don’t know his circumstances we have no choice but to assume he stayed a bitch/didn’t change at all for two straight years, which is either unrealistic or makes him a terrible person. This could certainly be justified (say Cozen is forcing him into an alliance and relationship with her and being a bitch to him but he can’t do anything because she has blackmail or some shit, which would be an interesting series of events), but Wildbow takes no steps at all to mitigate this problem. At this point in the story WB should just leave Grue and Cozen out completely, as fixing the situation without it feeling trite and forced would involve heavily editing old chapters and writing new chapters that aren’t epilogues.

              • It was still two years. What was Grue supposed to do? Not move on, even when it might jeopardize their relationship with the Red Hands? Wouldn’t that count as coping worse?

                What conflict would wildbow resolve? It’s been two years. Yes, they would remember the time they spent together. No, it would not be anywhere near a driving force for them.

                Why assume that he “stayed a bitch/didn’t change at all for two straight years”? I don’t see any evidence for either. Or of him ever being bitchy.

                Short version: Grue isn’t important to the story (ie, Taylor or the conflict with Scion) anymore, so he shouldn’t be forced into the chapters…but not touching on the subject of where he is and what he is doing would be leaving a gaping hole, for the very reasons you mention.

              • If it makes you feel better wildbow has said that Grue is definitely one of the things he’ll rewrite when he edits the book(s) for publication and fleshes out the time skip more.

              • Holy Hell, this is the first time I heard about this. I’ll stop bitching now.

                (I still want a Lung epilogue, though)

              • I’m still sticking to my Grue-is-dead theory. Yes he may be married and yes he may have not really known Taylor for very long but he still had strong feelings for her and triggered over her. Plus he has shown that he can be a bit of a boyscout before. No matter how screwed up he was there is no way he would’ve just sat out the entire final battles against Scion. And they all seemed to continually avoid mentioning him to Taylor so I still think he died earlier. There have been a few things tossed in that make me doubt but until I see proof of life I’m still hoping he died. Poor Grue doesn’t deserve to finish the story as an angsty bastard who can’t get off his ass when the chips are down.

            • I don’t know, Grue would be kinda redeemed in my eyes if he showed up to shoot Saint with a Derringer. Wearing this.

              I like the way you die, boy.

    • Oh and it is awesome to see how Miss Militia is still standing and in a leadership role. Especially considering how power boils down to nothing more spectacular than being a well-armed regular person.

      • Miss Militia’s power has always been hideously broken, actually. Remember in Venom where she made what looked like a STRATEGIC NUCLEAR WARHEAD?

            • If you’re lucky, even if you don’t, really. Panacea’s power was broken in half long before Bonesaw came along, Valefor’s was even more so. Codex didn’t last long enough for us to see her in action, but her power as relayed on the TV Tropes page was certainly powerful enough to qualify. Masamune, Richter, Mannequin, Clockblocker, Imp, Regent, Sifara, Chevalier, most of the Slaughterhouse 9, the list goes on and on.

              • Funny that you mention Valefor, because he was actually who I had in mind when I wrote the corollary (or caveat, I suppose). Sure he applied his power intelligently but it was barely scraping the surface of what he could do.

        • Sorry if I wasn’t clear but what I’m saying is it doesn’t give her much of a survival edge. Just look at a lot of the other top tier leader capes and they can do some pretty ridiculous stuff defensively as well as offensively. Chevalier has massive armour, Narwhal could block most attacks with forcefields. A lot of other notable frontline capes are quite capable of taking a hit or avoiding taking hits.

          Don’t get me wrong Miss M is powerful, just not (as far as we know) in a way which actually makes her much more capable than a low level tinker or a well armed regular person. That’s just how hard she’s worked, to be able to keep up with the ridiculously powerful on the field.

          • Hrm, I noticed that in this episode that Miss Militia also happened to use her power to emulate a tinker creation. Remember the containment foam dispenser that she was using to contain the burning shadow man’s goop? I think that was her using her power to mimic tinkered materials.

            With practice, and motivation, I could see her creating weapon systems that were a lot more complex than what we’ve seen her do so far.

            Say, a Bubblegum Crisis Hardsuit?

            Miss Militia just doesn’t seem to be a very creative person. No insult intended, some people just don’t think outside the box very much.

            • I am fairly (not 100%) certain that Miss M is mentioned to be using a futuristic / strange weapon in either the Behemoth or Leviathan fight.

              Whilst she might be capable of some truly fantastical things the actual application of her power (in the state we know it) doesn’t seem up there.

              Whilst I’m not sure of her creative aspect I’m sure of her practical aspect. If there was a way to improve her power (i.e. powerful weapons, exosuits) you can bet we’d have seen her use it. Miss M is nothing if not pragmatic.

              • She throws the Bakuda bombs at Leviathan with a grenade launcher but she has to use Bakuda’s actual confiscated stockpile because her power can’t replicate tinkertech. In fact I don’t think she’s using her power for the foam gun, here. The way I read it she drops the foam gun, which remains there, as she retreats and uses her power to manifest a flare gun to signal the other heroes.

            • The foam sprayers are mass produced with conventional manufacturing. If I had to guess, I’d say that MM can’t copy something a Tinker built themself, but once a real scientist comes along to analyze the technology, figures it all out, and gives the plans to mundane gunsmiths it becomes as easy as an AK47. That’s one of the things that makes the Guild such a big deal; they give Dragon-tech to riot cops.

              • Ah yes, that makes sense in a way. So Miss Militia, despite being one of the capes who can remember their trigger dream, and perhaps having a more potent shard, is limited to recreating tech that she fully understands? Maybe the only thing “broken” about her shard is the fact that it didn’t make her forget the trigger dream?

                Actually, she did make a nuke once, which is well outside the power levels of most capes. Guess she has a very high upper power limit to her constructs, she just doesn’t know how to envision many weapons that can operate at that power level.

                Time to take her on a tour of the railgun testing facility!

              • Well, no, that can’t quite be it, because right after she triggered she created guns she’d only seen and couldn’t have known all the inner workings of. Hmm. Maybe it’s a matter of how many of the weapon exist, like she can copy something with a full production run but not something unique? Or maybe she’s just never tried to match a tinker’s work, though that seems unlikely given the kinds of threats she faces and her close association with Armsmaster. Something about “handcrafted” weapons versus those made by automated process?
                Or, most likely, it’s a psychological thing where she can copy any “conventional” weapon as she sees it. So foam sprayers are ubiquitous but anything unique isn’t allowed, and she adds new options to her arsenal when she becomes accustomed to a new class of weapon maybe.

                Bluh. Insufficient data and now this is going to bother me all night.

      • Which raises the one small problem I have always had with Worm, in which the army does not seem to exist at all. The 9 attack hospitals, elementary schools, and no one chases them doesn’t seem very realistic. Helicopters, tanks, artillery, bombers, snipers, and soldiers? Hey cause enough damage in grandtheft auto and a bloody invasion force attacks you, but not in the wormverse apparently.

        • Logistics and deployment times are a hell of a limiter when you’re dealing with a guerrilla force of nine or less people who are usually done in less than a half hour. What are you going to do, flood the streets with troops, giving them hundreds of easy targets and a fast way to wipe out morale?

          • If it was me, I would use a joint parahuman military force. Mobility would be key, and keeping up the pressure limits Siberian from moving away from Jack. Always keep them in sight since they didn’t have a mover after Brockton Bay, and without Shatterbird their tech would still work. A single sniper would have killed Jack, and Bonesaw at the very least. Especially after we discovered his power doesn’t work on normal humans.

            What Morale? They wiped out a hospital, and an elementary school and always get away. Yes I would keep up the pressure. They have to sleep, eat, and shit too. I would prefer helicopters actually since they have mobility, heavy firepower, and accurate targeting. Normal infantry would be too easy to kill. Use their distance advantage and superior firepower while evacuating everyone in their path. I know there would be casualties but I just find it so unrealistic that no one gangs up on them. Apparently they are invisible as no one recognizes them, able to teleport vast distances because no one can follow them, no one calls in for backup when they attack, and everyone approaches them a few people at a time. Hell Taylor was apparently breaking rules by using guns.

              • Bonesaw gets killed. As she told Defiant, this unleashes several horrible plagues. The military already considered useless and a drain of resources ( this world is losing a war of attrition with the Endbringers after all) after getting slaughtered in droves in the initial Endbringer’s attacks, are even more vilified by the general population. Governments deploy them less and less as it’s made abundantly clear that mixing civilian military and capes seldom works.

              • Pidgey ninjaed you with the counter argument down below. But if that is true than the Crapsack world entry needs to get even longer.

            • The lack of a joint Parahuman military force can be attributed to the general instabilities of Parahumans, a lack of candidates, and finally a dedication to a more public friendly appearance than would otherwise be afforded.

              I’d say that despite the general level of high stress situations heros find themselves in most of them aren’t too suited for the military. A bunch seem to trouble even dealing with the PRT which seems more like a police organization than anything else.

              Then how many would actually want to join the military?

              A full military maneuver against the 9 might have worked. Or it might not. The 9 essentially operate using guerrilla tactics. Additionally Siberian, Shatterbird, and Crawler were each more than capable of destroying an entrenched position. Engaging with Bonesaw was not a viable risk to take, since she is fully capable of engaging in biological warfare. On that note, Jack plays games. It seems likely that it would be found preferable to ‘play’ rather than risk the maximsed damage of Siberian, Shatterbird, or Bonesaw going off the rails.

              • Good points, but still there should exist at least some that work for the military that triggered. There probably was a black ops team of parahumans at some point. Then they ran into the smurf.

            • Helicopters are easy to detect, rather fragile, and Jack doesn’t have a range limit. Plus he’s armored against snipers. Bonesaw is even tougher than him, and every injury you give her releases a brand new Pandemic upon the world.

              Throwing standard military at the Nine would be a lot like throwing conventional Cape teams at them: it sounds like a good idea at first, but then logistics are a nightmare, everybody sent after them dies, you cause a lot of collateral damage, and you accomplish little or nothing while killing morale.

              To really accomplish anything you’d need tinker-based detection and transport, vehicles that fly too high for Siberian but are heavy enough to be proof against even Jack’s Claymore, and a full environmental quarantine on the area. And that’s just to beat the core three.
              Meanwhile the Siberian was considered literally unstoppable until Taylor unmasked her, and sonic insulation versus Shatterbird wasn’t a thing anybody knew about, so there would be absolutely no silicon based equipment available to the task force. The Nine were pretty perfectly unbeatable by anything a human military could come up with short of a full nuclear strike on a domestic population center until after they came to the Bay.

              After they faced Taylor, there was a matter of what, two weeks before Dragon and Defiant went out and began soundly kicking their asses, and then maybe a month before they hid in a pocket dimension for two years?

            • I like how you said “…and without Shatterbird their tech would still work”. Sadly, Shatterbird was active for pretty much the entirety of Jack’s Nine, and once they left the Bay they were laying low enough that the military wouldn’t help. Remember Vietnam? (Technically I don’t, what with not being born yet, but meh.) Now imagine that there were only a handful of Vietcong, only each one of them could take on a squadron of soldiers at once.

              And what do you mean, what morale? The morale of the nation and the military, lost when hundreds of highly-trained and well-armed individuals, some of America’s best, square off against not even ten supervillains and lose.

              And how do you know no one has tried? I can easily imagine an army, even a small cape army, facing down the Nine and losing. We saw it, small-scale, when the most powerfulof the Nine took on the four most powerful heroes and lost one, nearly two, of their finest. Heck, this was even hinted at back when Taylor was suggesting going on the offensive, more specifically when discussing Hookwolf’s plans to deal with them. The Nine know how to deal with armies.

              And how subtle must you be, when more than half your number changes by the month and you have a member who can change faces so easily? How fast must you be when you can hide in the countryside between towns, lose heat? How many can you call when so many heroes are needed everywhere with so little organization, and how can you claim backup isn’t brought in when Legend’s team came into Brockton Bay as exactly that when they knew there would be a plague of some sort unleashed if they actually intervened?

        • Why should armies exist in this universe? I mean, what’s an enlisted guy gonna do? If a country wants to go to war, they’ll turn to capes long before they’ll try to get a fighter jet or a tank in pace. It’s faster, cheaper, and more effective.

          Behemoth appears for the first time, most armies get deployed, and subsequently completely wiped out, doesn’t exactly seem like a great investment to build it up again. I don’t see any justification at all for there to be a significant modern military in Worm.

          • Did not actually think about the Endbringers, so now I feel stupid. Of course they got wiped out when they first fought. All Wildbow has to do is make a small statement describing them being wiped out in the past, and add to the crapsack world entry. Why isn’t the army helping? Because there isn’t much of one left, and no one can afford to rebuild it, and that is with one of the riches countries in the world so imagine what it is like elsewhere. There were a few conversations way back when about why parahumans are better for fighting them. They should still have their uses though, especially with everyone that doesn’t have a brute status. Miss Militia proves a well armed, well trained soldier could be just as effective as at least low level parahumans.

          • Dragon’s Teeth suits allowed normal humans to fight even Scion himself, until he “cheated” and simply escalated to powers that they couldn’t possibly avoid.

            Nothing at all is stopping armies from returning, it’s just a matter of adapting appropriate tinker tech that can actually be maintained.

            • And that is why the Guild is the most relevant thing in the setting. Just look at how much the world changed when containment foam was distributed, and imagine what the long term effects of Dragon Teeth suits and nanotech blades would have been. Mass-produced Dragon-tech made a good soldier a match for a good cape, even if they couldn’t stand up alone to the truly terrifying capes.

              • Even Dragon has limits to mass production though. Tinker tech caps out once you reach the maintenance limits of the Tinker who made it, eventually they just have nothing to do except spend their whole time keeping the gear operational.

                Dragon just extends it a bit, omnipresent and inexhaustible. But up to a point she’d be doing nothing else.

              • Dragon doesn’t mass produce at all; her shackles make her little better than a human at multitasking and being in multiple places at once. The Guild is huge because they have that Masamune guy, who specializes in analyzing tinkertoys and figuring out the science behind them, so they can make real world tech from the same principles. Dragon mixed up the first containment foam herself, but it changed the world when he took samples of that and figured out how normal people could make it in a normal lab, given the right resources. Suddenly it could be produced in huge quantities and sold to the PRT, riot cops, etc. and mere human police forces were suddenly a match for low-mid range parahumans.

                Then during the two year timeskip, he did that same thing for Defiant’s disintegrator knife and the Dragon’s Teeth armor. They were expensive, specialized tools, but they could be made without a tinker involved.

              • Dragon did not make the first containment foam. Siberian created the Triumvirate in 1999 and there was containment foam present. Leviathan hit Newfoundland in 2005.

              • Actually, this ties into the biggest internal consistency I’ve been able to identify in Worm: the Birdcage has been around way longer than it should have been. Dragon created it all on her lonesome and Marquis was sent directly there sometime in the early 1990’s. Glaistig Uaine and co. were there significantly longer than him. It just doesn’t add up.

              • …Yeah, everything works out if Dragon has been in operation since the early days of parahumans, but her origin story doesn’t give her nearly enough time for that. Because she definitely set up the Birdcage earlier than she should have been free herself, and I though we had explicit mention of her creating containment foam.

              • I thought she was credited with the containment foam gun, not the foam itself (in the Hero death scene I think it was sprayed from trucks) but as you said it makes a lot more sense if she was tinkering from the beginning.

                Also Marquis went to the BC in the early 2000s, not 1990s as I said before.

        • Yes, because there weren’t, let’s see, two permanent and a few temporary members of the S9 fully capable of taking on an army at once. You don’t send tanks against Godzilla, you don’t send armies against the Nine.

    • Frustrating to be teased about the status of that particular ship, though. Cassie was acting very girlfriendly in a couple of places. Rachel wasn’t, but she wouldn’t. The comments about her “laying” habits with Biter seemed like an intentional explanation that Rachel doesn’t have any “relationships,” per se, but does have sex with people. I.e. she could be getting physical with Cassie, and Cassie could be treating it like a relationship even if Rachel isn’t. Very cruel Wildbow teasing there, to my mind, showing us WagTheDog, hinting they might have the relationship we were teased about in her last appearance, then left with only more questions.

      • I meant relationship in a non-romantic sense. That said I did want to make a certain comment about Wag seeming proud of wearing a collar for Btich. Though I try not to speculate on character relationships I could perhaps envision Wag having a thing for Bitch.

        • Such relationships as wearing a collar aren’t necessarily sexual in nature. There can be a happiness in submitting to someone else’s control and doing your best to please them that doesn’t involve being their sex toy.

          For your misunderstanding, you will be locked up and unable to pee for 12 hours! *cracks a whip*

      • Her fondness for the collar seems to indicate that Cassie considers herself to be Bitch’s, and likes it. Whether that means as property, as a pet, as a minion, or just as a friend is vague, because we’re only seeing it from Rachel’s point of view and she wouldn’t understand even if she noticed.

        If it is in a romantic/sexual sense, that’s unfortunate. Bitch appears to be mostly hetero.

        • “Whether that means as property, as a pet, as a minion, or just as a friend is vague…”

          I think “Member of Bitch’s pack” is the most appropriate way of looking at their relationship. Cassie seems very happy in her role in the hierarchy of the pack. She obviously has different responsibilities than Biter, but doesn’t seem to be “below” him in that hierarchy.

      • To be honest, the idea of Cassie/Bitch never really occurred to me. Maybe because Cassie’s attitude seemed to be hero-worship, and something about that makes me a little uncomfortable with the idea of a relationship between them. Unequal power dynamics and all that.

      • Did Scion burn that decoy-Counterpart? I seem to remember him burning the real Counterpart’s body, and I thought he burned the decoy, too, when he realized it was a fake, but my memory of the details of the battle is really fragmented and I’m not ready to reread it yet. If the decoy lived, I was thinking maybe Amy just fixed him after she did it to him in the first place. I’m pretty sure it was alive when he saw it, so I don’t think they cut Bastard out /beforehand/. After, maybe. But then, couldn’t Amy have just used his excess biomass to create a separate creature to be the decoy? Rachel could have just kept pumping him bigger as Amy siphoned mass off. One of a thousand details we’ll never know for sure.

    • How many times has Bastard been thrown into what looks like certain death before? How many times did he engage fucking SCION in melee combat? Just take it as given that he’ll probably be fine.

      And then start speculating as to where the Siberian found the pup, and make jokes about him being the Third Entity.

    • I thought that they managed things precognitively, though? Wouldn’t it have been fine after Scion’s death, or, failing that, shouldn’t things have been going wrong from the beginning?

      My guess is that someone is handing out unapproved Cauldron drafts…

      • My guess is that the shards Scion kept back are loose now, and finding hosts. Thus why they have memories of his from after the initial lauch. The ooze power may be the shard that allowed him to insta-heal from his hidden-away biomass, for instance. Things will not go well when someone gets his golden laser power.

        Also, this means someone will get his version of the Path to Victory power… I do hope Contessa’s still around to deal with them.

        • I’m assuming at least some of the shards were destroyed. Furthermore, a lot of the shards will probably kill the hosts upon binding, since they have not been adapted for human usage. The Ooze shard, for example, probably allows matter in different forms to be pulled from alternate dimensions, but the “controls” to it were neve created for humans. The vaporizing golden light and the stilling shards can’t end well for their users.

      • I’m thinking that some idiot (Teacher) took the bits of Scion’s corpse that fell out of the portal and tried to recreate Cauldron with them. Everybody who actually knew how it was done is dead except Contessa, but he has their old notes, a bunch of idiot savants, and a massively over inflated ego so he’s pretty sure he can pull it off.

      • Some did go wrong. Ash Beast, Narwhal, Nilbog, Sleeper, etc…capes who didn’t quite follow the rules, whose powers went out of control. It could be that.

        It’s just more common now, suggesting that these “raw shards” are being distributed somehow. Or that the “raw shards” had more “inertia” than most, and didn’t “travel” as “far” from the time of “Scion’s” death.

        • Do we have confirmation that none of those were Cauldron capes, though? Narwhal and Ash Beast had physical mutations. Anyway, Nilbog’s powers didn’t really go out of control, he was just fucked in the head. Panacea was just as powerful, with her powers working as planned.

          • Ash Beast had physical mutations? I thought Taylor manages to get a glimpse of what’s inside the firestorm and he looked like an ordinary man.

            And I thought we had reached the consensus that Narwhal doesn’t ahve mutations, she just uses her crystalline forcefields to simulate scales and a horn. Unless you count being 7 feet tall as a mutation.

            Besides, Narwhal, apart from leading the Guild, was also the leader of the Toronto branch of the protectorate. Chevalier was purging the Protectorate of highly-placed Cauldron capes. She would have been found out.

          • Narwhal had no physical mutations. That horn was a force field horn.

            I don’t remember Ash Beast having any physical mutations.

            Nilbog’s powers were the out-of-control.

            I never mentioned Panacea, you never mentioned Sleeper.

            Oh, and I almost forgot the Blasphemies. And probably Crawler. Pretty much any cape that violates the Manton effect.

              • Yeah, but my impression was that violating the Manton Effect was less a Cauldron thing and more a Second Trigger thing. Everybody starts with a fairly strict set of limits on their power, chief among them the inability to kill themself with it accidentally, and most of the time this extends to other people. Then the second trigger refines the restrictions based on experience and the host’s actual capabilities, so there’s no longer a need to maintain the Manton effect and often a pressure to remove it. Then people who don’t know about passengers or second triggers or the exact circumstances around the change see a long-running cape who finally managed to overcome it, and assume that it’s a psychological block that can be overcome by training or tricking your mind into it.

              • It’d make sense to have the Manton effect as the simplest limiter protecting the host from their own powers. Cauldron capes often ignore Manton because they tended to get shards which were never configured to begin with. Second Trigger capes ignore Manton because they’ve narrowed down the set of limitations needed to make the power ‘safe’ for the host, and can discard the broader ones.

  4. Hey I see that Wilbow played the same the floor is lava game as a kid. Rachel is still Rachel, and she still cares far more about relating to other people/being alone then she lets on. Saw more reasons about why she was able to live on the street and handle every villain/hero thrown at her just by being fearless and mean. Only one more chapter left.

    This Boston. Just how many worlds are connected right now? How many are communicating with those they can’t travel to? Is Rachel back in Brockton Bay or an alternate version?

    But OH SHIT! trigger events are killing people now, and powers aren’t working the way they are supposed to. Could Ash beasts/Ecidnas/Sleepers become more numerous? Could this be the last generation of parahumans?

    • If my above guess for the reason some triggers are fucking up is correct, then triggers from “child shards,” i.e. descendants of capes, the boy that got bird control powers from Taylor, etc., should work just fine. Also, all the shards that Scion launched prior to his death should be fine. Those were scheduled to keep arriving for hundreds of years, I think. It’s only the ones he was holding onto until his death that will be a problem; he never coded those with the Manton Effect or any other limitations, so yeah, S-class threats are more likely, as are self-destructs or horrible debilitation.

  5. Huh. So what’s going on with the powers? Did Scion’s death mess with them? If so, in what way? It seems like the shards don’t have the regulators anymore. Like how Sundancer was fireproof; if she triggered now, she wouldn’t be, I think. No Manton effect anymore, probably.

  6. I’d toss out a guess these would be the shards Scion kept around before he died, set loose and doing what they do after his death. Since normal triggers still seem to be happening too.

  7. Also, for those of you who read TANH, sorry we haven’t managed to get anything up these past few days. We have stuff written in advance, but we can’t post it until a certain 5,000 word section is posted, and wordpress has been giving us crap.

  8. Of this chapter, three things were the most important to me.

    Rachel is getting visions of Scion. Either I missed something, or what the hell?

    Rachel is cool. I like the person she is becoming. But I’m not surprised to see the undersiders growing apart- with Grue married, Taylor dead, and Regent dead, that makes sense.

    Managed to sum up a lot of character development for Rachel in those last few paragraphs. Really nice.

    And yeah, as of now, I have given up on Taylor living. Thrilled if she is alive, but I don’t believe she survived anymore.

    • I read the visions as being due to Scion shards trying to bond with a host but being phenomenally messed up at this point as a result of his death.

      So I don’t think Rachel was the only one having those visions, the rest of the capes probably had them too but with the tight PoV we didn’t get a chance to see them from their perspective.

      • We did get a mention on the last vision that the three other capes on Bastard were stunned, as well, so I think that’s a solid theory. Ooze guy was having multiple consecutive trigger events or some sort of continuous trigger event, and then the shard hopped to a new host or spawned a child shard.

    • And that is why there are six epilogues before the final chapter. So that everybody will have stopped speculating and finally become sure of what happened to Taylor (probably dead, likely staying that way). Just to maximize the impact when Wildbow finally tells us that all our predictions are wrong.

  9. A Rachel epilogue with a side helping of Miss Militia and Vista? Now that is the way to follow up on the D&D interlude!

    I think what I liked most about it wasn’t that we get to see Rachel having more or less the happiest reasonable ending we could expect for her. The really cool bit in my eyes is that this doesn’t feel like an ending for her at all but rather the start of a new story. Even nothing else is ever written about Rachel’s little corner of the cosmos it feels like she’ll still be out there doing all kinds of things with Bastard and some awesome dogs at her side.

    • A Rachel epilogue with a side helping of Miss Militia and Vista? Now that is the way to follow up on the D&D interlude!

      Seconded. And wow, Bitch working with Miss Militia? I’d pay to see that. (Not immediately, because I’m broke as hell, but yes, literally.)

  10. Very soft touch, after the thunder of the last one. Light on the stakes, light on the conflict, light on the intensity in all ways.

    A clearly sketched completion to Rachel’s long arc.

    Most interesting, the ways in which this does not point backward toward closure but forward toward a new order of things, one forged out of a single shattering experience shared across almost every cape. Despite this patchwork of turf, the rise of a new cape feudalism, there’s still a reference point. Whatever the differences, there is always that undeniable piece of common ground: where were you when the apocalypse came, when all fought together?

    It makes for a common narrative of shared risk and sacrifice in a cause undeniably noble, with the lives of anyone who’d question it indebted to the fight.

    Almost a perfect example of the ways in which scapegoating works (when it does work); every sin or cause of offense in another cape set upon the genocidal shoulders of Scion, and purged with his death.

    And yet, new generations will be born, and without repetition the ritual fails with time, lack of immediacy weakening the impact.

    Very likely what follows will be seen as a brief golden moment before conflict rose again.

          • Well, the name comes from their ritual where all the sins are placed on a sacrificial goat, although I am sure the practice is as old as humanity.
            I recall reading something about a harvest ritual with a bean hidden in one of the cakes, where the person who got the bean was the scapegoat/bannok(or something similar sounding) for that year.

        • I just meant that Scion manifested as a generically Jesus-like figure, because that’s what his precognition survey says would get the best reactions. Which gets an extra kick because he is then killed by humanity, and in the process, past sins are forgiven.

          Though I suppose the Romans didn’t need a giant Tinker cannon to hammer through the hole Foil’s shots left.

        • Not really. Salvific religions where gods died to teach something to humanity were dime a dozen in the Mediterranean by the time Christianity started to spread out of Palestine. Look at the cult of Isis as hinted by Apuleios and the similarities are shocking.

          The main difference of Christianity is that it was a proselytising religion, unlike those others who insread had long and tortuous processes of initiation.

          • Full marks for raising Isis (though given the debates about whether/to what degree chapter 11 traces to Lucian of Patrae, the common folk tales both authors drew upon, or Apuleius himself, there’s room to wonder who’s hinting at Isis, and all sources are late enough that cross-contamination with Christianity is a real concern). Regardless, from what (damn little) we know of, e.g., the Eleusinian mysteries, there were other mystery cults predating Christianity centered on salvific deific death-rebirth rituals.

            Deific death and rebirth, done often. God-as-human or God-as-scapegoat… not so much.

    • I think the jesus allegory is a bit weak here. Scion was the embodiment of all of the sins and offences of every cape, that’s true, but the one who made the sacrifice was Taylor. Scion was only taken down because Taylor sacrificed herself in the name of the greater good(in this case the continued survival of humanity). If you were going to make an allegorical comparison, Taylor would be the jesus figure, having sacrificed her humanity to rid the world of the corrupting influence of Scion, just like jesus sacrificed his life to rid humanity of original sin(or something like that, I’m not exactly an expert on theology).

      • I think that Taylor’s fate has more in common with an elaborate, insidious ritual sacrifice than a martyrdom. Remember that she was manipulated into this by Dinah, and all throughout her career the superheroes and supervillains she’s interacted with have unwittingly turned her into the person who would kill herself to save them all.

        In a way, the all the parties involved except the Undersiders unintentionally did that thing from South Park where they drive the teen pop idol to death to replenise the harvest.

        Enjoy you’re post apocalyptic shithole you fucks.

          • This is the Wormverse we’re talking about unless Dragon figures out a way to make absolutely everything down to can openers idiot/jackbooting psychopath proof somebody will find a way to fuck it up.

            Speaking of Dragon, I really hope she’s not going to settle back into the Wardens in the same capacity as she did the Protectorate. She doesn’t need those losers, she could easily become an entire superhero team with just her and Defiant. She’d be less like a superhero and more like an actual Dragon with vast power and no need for assistance of mortals. Except a good one.

            • Her former position with the PRT was a result of her shackles forcing her to submit to the recognized authority, no matter how stupid or corrupt. Those are all gone now. The Dragon is completely free to work with MM on her own terms, form her own task force, stay alone with Defiant for a few quiet decades, or just bloodlessly dominate– er, *optimize* the world by herself.

              In fact with Pandora replacing the damaged code in everything except the core personality and memories, I think that she should be properly immortal again on top of being completely unrestricted by her dear old dad’s paranoia or Teacher’s safeguards. And Defiant has figured out how to help her make fully sentient children rather than just mundane dumb AIs. At this point the only remaining limits on her capabilities are hardware (which will constantly and rapidly improve) and self-imposed morals.

    • Very soft touch, after the thunder of the last one. Light on the stakes, light on the conflict, light on the intensity in all ways.

      …so weird – I wouldn’t have said this chapter was light, but I get what you mean. The fight scene here was majorly kickass, though.

  11. Bitch and Biter… didn’t expect that. Who was Cassie again?
    One more to go! Looks like my hopes that Taylor will get a happy ending are slowly being ground to itsy bitsy tiny pieces. T_T

    • I’m still holding out hope that the reunion Tt is organising involves her unveiling a comatose Taylor that Contessa just dropped on her doorstep.

        • I assumed it would have taken Contessa a while to both track Khepri down after Scion’s death, and to stabilise her before she could move her to wherever Tt’s holed up.

          Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to go reinforce my denial bunker.

          • It took two days for Taylor to wake up after letting go of the Clairvoyant. Contessa was waiting for her then, but nobody else had found her. So Taylor has been in whatever state that meeting resulted in for about 180 days without Bitch learning she was alive, and with Chevalier not wanting to talk about it. Could mean secret coma, probably means dead.

            If dead, Valkyrie did not mention recovering her to us or to anyone in-verse. But it’s strongly indicated that the three former S-class villains meeting in the prison could resurrect any dead cape she had the shadow of. (Just tossing a sandwich into the denial bunker)

            • I’m sort of reminded of Scion here. Scion kept hoping that he would be able to find Eden, and restore her, and continue the cycle. Readers keep hoping to find Taylor alive, and that she can be fixed, and it’ll be okay.

          • I know a lot of people who are commenting are dying to know if Taylor is alive. My general sense is that most people want her to be alive. I… kinda don’t.
            Don’t get me wrong. Every part of my good-guys-win, happy-endings-are-essential feelings are hoping against hope that there is some chance Weaver survived. Of all the people in this world that deserve a second chance in this post-Scion world, Skitter is probably the most deserving, given that she made it all happen. We see the beginnings of redemption for Riley, for Goblin King, for Panacea who are among the most monstrous people in the world, for various reasons and in various extremes. Even the closest to an outright traitor to the human race, even though they never followed through on it, gets a second chance, now heralded as the strongest parahuman in the world. Of course Khepri should get her second chance.
            The concept of a Heroic Sacrifice is a trope that is Biblically old. It is common, and very easy to pull off meaningfully, as long as the medium can connect the audience to person giving their life to the cause. It’s tragic and defines a point where the principle of the cause is more important than life itself. Sometimes it is the protagonist who dies, at the climax of the story. Sometimes it is a secondary character who dies, to allow for the plot to continue, and to help the protagonist continue with further vindication. Sometimes a villain dies, when they realize they went too far and must atone.
            Worm actually has a higher Heroic Sacrifice bodycount than I can recall in most stories. Arguably, the fight against the Endbringers is closer to dying in a war. However, war is a fight between nations. The Endbringers have shown themselves to be an insurmountable fight. Every battle is delaying the inevitable. Not everyone realizes it, outright, but it’s clear that global moral is slowing, inexorably decaying. Everyone who goes to fight an Endbringer, especially Behemoth or Leviathan, knows that they have more than a ten percent chance of dying, without fail. That is a Heroic Sacrifice, since they are fighting for the continuation of a humanity, not some nation or ideal.
            In a world where people throw themselves at a nigh god-like being in the hopes they could end his rampant destruction of the local universe… something special stands out about Taylor Herbert’s sacrifice.
            I consume a lot of media. I have seen a lot of sacrifice outside Worm. Tragic deaths all of them… but none of them seem quite so extreme as Taylor’s. Throwing one’s life away to save humanity, I’ve seen done plenty of times. Skitter did one step further. She sacrificed her mind, her Self, her essence. I’ve seen sacrifices where characters sacrifice their morals or their reputations to become monsters in the eyes of the community. Never have I seen a character become such a monster to save humanity.
            There was nothing left in Khepri that was even akin to Taylor Herbert. The closest thing to Taylor left in her was that niggling doubt, the last vestigial self-preservation instinct that said to let go. Let go of her thralls and recover and come back another day. Nothing else was left. Weaver herself felt her mind slowly slipping away with each moment after her decision to give herself to Panacea. The terror of it gripped me, a tiny fraction of her own terror. Heroic Sacrifices don’t mean anything if the character wants to live, but dies anyway. Taylor spent years warring with herself, wondering if she went too far, if she was a villain like everyone thought. Her greatest fear was that she would be like Coil, using a little girl to her own ends. The zenith of her fears was granted, so that she could bring to light her highest desire, to save everyone she could.
            Taylor was a monster. Enslaving the minds of every parahuman, not just from Earth Bet, but from every universe she could find. Some people broke down and died in revolt of that mind rape, and I would never use that word lightly. Some people may never recover, may never get home, and would rather die a thousand times than to be used like that, even to save everyone else.
            When people who were involved in that last moment refer to her as Khepri, they mean something worse than any Endbringer. Worse than Scion, worse than the Slaughterhouse Nine, even.
            Taylor Herbert deserves better. But better doesn’t mean she should be brought back into the world. Indeed, if they did that, she would never be able to live with other people anyway. She would have to live like she did those last days. Alone and in an uninhabited universe. And that would be no solace for anyone.
            Superhero stories involve the Retcon as a matter of course, so that they can continue a line of comics without losing sales. Almost always, these deaths are heroic in nature. But the Retcon steals all drama from death. Once I realized how trivial death is in the comic book world, it stopped mattering to me.
            Worm is different. Death has meaning. Not even Alexandria was immune, and she was the closest thing to Superman in this world. Worm with a “retcon” feel as Taylor returns just doesn’t… sit right with me. What was the purpose of becoming a true monster to save the world if she gets her second chance? I don’t want that significance to be lost. I don’t want the true uniqueness of this story and this Heroic Sacrifice to be lost.
            Anyway, my two cents. Worm should end with this epilogue. Worm is a story about Taylor Herbert. I do want to see more of the world, without fail. The end of Worm doesn’t mean the end of the parahuman-verse. It’s just the beginning of a new story.

            • It was even worse than mindrape – only the body was controlled. The capes were fully cognizant what happened with an to them, the experienced themselves imprisoned in their bodies, used like telecontrolled robots. Personally, I’d like having my mind controlled to “want to do” better than what Taylor did.

              • To rephrase: on my personal scale, ‘mindrape’ as in ‘getting my mind altered’ is ‘hell, shit, no!’
                Getting a passenger seat in my own body (like Regent did to our most beloved ‘Hero’) goes at least one step further on this scale.

              • I’d rather be trapped in my body as it does other things than have my very being changed so I want to do those things. One of those can be recovered from.

              • Gotta agree with the Wyrm. There are lots of things that’ll stop your body from working right, or even move it against your will. Those are all unpleasant, but they can be dealt with and usually recovered from. People can do horrible things to your body, break it, defile it, even work it like a puppet while you have to watch, but in the end that’s not you, it’s just your chassis.

                My mind is MINE. It is who I am. Anything that changes that is just… a violation on the highest level. It takes away who and what you are, the person your life and your choices have molded you into, everything important about your self, and it replaces those with the whims of somebody who doesn’t even know you. And that is one of the very few things I would categorize as a fate worse than death.

            • Keeper is the god of rebirth, the god who makes the sun rise every morning. It’s not a label you give to a universally recognized monster,

              • I will give you that. Whoever gave her that name probably thought well of her, or at least, not ill. A lot of people do think of her as a hero, especially those that are familiar to us and the audience.

                I mostly wrote this with that last scene on the battlefield in mind, where everyone started at that which saved them. I doubt there were many people at the end of the fight who were looking at the Master 9 or 10 parahuman that couldn’t speak and looked like a frightened and cornered animal with awe, wonder, and gratitude. Taylor had always been very good at making enemies of just about everyone in her way. It just so happened to be nearly every parahuman in the local multiverse was in her way this time.

              • Ahhh, who cares what they think? When Tattletale spreads Taylor’s legend throughout the multiverse; absolutely no one.

              • Nobody actually turned on Taylor at the end of the fight, that was just her inability to recognize anything in terms other than the tactical. People were celebrating, cheering, because even though they were puppets at the time they beat back a dark god and saved themselves. There might be a few who see her as some terrible monster, but the vast majority *were* in the wonder and gratitude camp.

              • Khonsu and Simurgh are also benevolent mythological creatures. And while people initially mistook Simurgh for a new Scion, Khonsu was bad news from the get go. We really shouldn’t put much thought in the names except for Mediterranean legendary being with a vaguely related theme/aspect.

              • Hey, Reveen.

                Anywauys, we can’t say much from Simurgh being malevolent in the end. Khonsu, maybe a point, although I’d argue that that’s one of those exception-proves-the-rule things. Especially since there are so many mind-controlling or bug-related names to pick from…

            • I think I can sum up my counter argument with just a few words: Taylor wasn’t a monster. She did something monstrous. Those two are not at all the same.

              The point that I have to agree with you on was that there wasn’t much of anything left of her at the end there. That was her Heroic Sacrifice. Not dying, but giving everything that she had and everything that she was.

              Her death wasn’t a “Heroic Sacrifice” so much as an act of despair. Whether or not Contessa killed her with the two shots, the last thoughts we have from Taylor were despairing ones. That she wasn’t worthy to continue, that there was no reason she could think of for Contessa not to end her.

              • I definitely agree. There was only terrible terrible sadness about her death. I was mainly referring to when she stepped into the portal that GU created, having abandoned all of her minions as a last act. That and her continuous pursuit of victory in the face of madness. Those were her Heroic Sacrifice. I agree on all points with you there. Sorry if I didn’t make it clear in my ramblepost.

                I basically have a list of people who were monstrous that I would just call monsters. Some of them are reformed, like Riley. Some of them were created by the shards in some fashion so their free will is questionable, like the endbringers. Some of them are downright nasty people, like Trickster at the end. *shrug* Matter of interpretation, really.

  12. I have to admit I’m not that much a fan of Rachel as most people here, but seeing her starting to understand and interact with people better was nice. Biter using McDonalds as a sign of civilisation made me smile, though him being a minion with benefits threw me off. I guess Barker bit it (see what I did there)?

    So without Scion the Manton effect and the other regulations that prevented harm to the host are going haywire? Interesting. Seeing how Miss Militia commented that there were triggers where this didn’t happen, my speculation is that black ooze and similar cases aren’t shards Scion already shed ( which should all have the limitations regardless of Scion’s death) but pieces of his body that have touched people after he was blown apart. A bit like Eden.

    We shall see.

    • Yeah, the way I see it is that people who were pre-destined to receive a nerfed shard are still getting them, but when Scion died he shed another batch of them – only these were the powers he deemed unsuitable to give humanity, and they don’t have the regulators and safeties in place.

      • If you’ll remember, when Eden crashed, a bunch of her shards, fragments of her, spread all over the place. Even to other dimensions. It caused all sorts of problems, with people becoming like monsters as the shards didn’t latch on right.

        • And if I remember correctly, Vikare, the first superhero, actually got cancer from one of Eden’s shard until Scion fixed it and unlocked his superpowers.

          • Regular trigger events had images of the beings when they were dropping shards long after they’d come to Earth. The visions associated with these new shards are from Scion’s defeat. More evidence to suggest this is due to Scion’s shards uncontrollably loose in the world.

    • I actually really like the growth of Rachel as a character, and I did like this chapter but there were other things/people I would have preferred to see instead when there were only two interludes left.

      It seems that the other guy who blew smoke is no longer with them. Knowing Rachel, he was probably used as a chew toy a bit before she let him go. Five new triggers also implies that the rate of trigger events might have increased a bit. Africa was mentioned as having the biggest number of trigger events pre-Scion and this new world is the perfect environment of stress/conflict to cause them. Think they will start a new calendar with AS or after Scion now?

      • The pool of shards out there just greatly increased after all. And with all the fighting, there’s little bits of Zion everywhere, which should work similarly to the bits of Eden.

      • That’s four Bad triggers out of twenty total that the Wardens have heard of. In like, six months? That doesn’t seem high for the number of trigger events total, even with communication networks down. What is worrying is that “two in three days” bit, which strongly implies that the bad news here is accelerating.

    • No reason to assume Barker is dead. He probably just got tired of living in the wilderness like Biter did, and acted on it sooner.

      It’s impressive that those two stuck with Bitch as long as they did, given how much the situation has changed since they were assigned as her hired minions by Coil.

      • I never really liked Barker much. He honestly seemed a bit too stupid to survive long. His power was interesting but not exactly first class material and he had the balls to not only insult a local crime lord but do it on her own territory, in front of her minions, knowing that she is a friend of his boss. That kind of intelligence really doesn’t scream “survivor” to me.

        I am deeply impressed with Biter though. I never would’ve pegged him as one to stick around so long either.

  13. “I can agree to that. We’ll leave you alone, we’ll help make sure others leave you alone. But, if we’re making our own rules, between us, my rule is I want to know before you do anything outside your place. Let me know, and you can ride along, so you’re clued in and not missing anything.”

    OK, this is Miss Militia speaking, but it seems off.

    “Let me know, and you can ride along, so you’re clued in and not missing anything.” is the part that bugs me. If Miss Militia understands a bit about how Rachael thinks, and she damn well should by now, the way she said that doesn’t make much sense.

    I get the idea that it was intended to be something more like “Let me know, so one of my people can join you, so both sides are clued in and there aren’t any surprises.”

    Rachael wouldn’t miss the imbalance here, and would probably want to tell Miss militia that the same rule would work the other way too – any of her people coming into Rachael’s territory better have one of her people along for the ride.

    Am I parsing that discussion right?

    • I think you are, but I attributed it to Rachel’s attitude that leads to her final decision there: She’s extending some trust to MM. If Hannah says she and her people will handle problems like this and allow Rachel to look over their shoulder while they do so, okay, let them. If they fuck up, she’ll be there to do whatever needs to be done, including breaking the deal. Until then, she can respect their territory.

      • The wording of it makes Rachael very subordinate. I can see her being willing to respect the boundaries of another pack, but I can’t see her being subordinate. Cooperative yes, subordinate no. Remember she’s the Alpha of her group. She sees Hannah as another Alpha. She’s not going to bend over backwards for another alpha, but she’s human enough and respectful enough of what teamwork can mean that she will work with other Alphas, carefully.

        • The context is going to someone else’s space and fucking shit up. MM’s not asking to run things where Rachel lives, she’s asking Rachel to respect that they run things where they live (even if they’re not willing to phrase it quite like that).

          • Aye and Racheal would certainly be OK with cooperation, and expect the same in return, but I cannot see her being subordinate. The phrasing of that paragraph makes Rachael subordinate.

            • I agree that Rachel wouldn’t be happy with being subordinate. However, I think you’re overestimating her ability to pick up on that.

              • “…before you do anything outside your place. Let me know, and you can ride along, so you’re clued in and not missing anything”

                Hannah is basically telling Rachael that if there’s a problem on Hannah’s side of the border that affects Rachael, it’s up to Hannah to deal with it, but Rachael will be allowed to watch.

                I have a hard time believing that Rachael would agree to this. I could easily see her agreeing to discuss what needs to be done before just jumping across the border and doing it, or allowing witnesses, ride-alongs, or even some sort of joint operation – but simply standing aside and letting someone else handle her problems, even if she gets to watch?

            • There’s subordinate and there’s respectful – Bitch already CHOSE to go ask permission for hunting in another groups territory. The Alpha comes in in the way she ‘asks’.

              MM handles her very well – Bitch needs to respect you, and her phrasing makes it clear that MM is the alpha in HER territory, but she asks carefully for permission in Bitch’s territory.

  14. This is one of the few chapters in a long time that I was just happy about. Even if it does show that trigger events are now even less like winning the lottery and even more like Russian roulette.

    • Trigger events were never winning the lottery. It starts with horrible trauma, the kind that sticks with you for life, probably would have killed you or driven you totally mad, and which you are now constantly reminded of every day of your existence.

      Then you move on to picking a team. Say Hero and you spend the rest of your life dealing with bullshit politics, an obligation to fight for your life against the worst parahumanity has to offer (even if you stay away from the Endbringers), and the near-certainty that no matter how long and hard you fight in this war you’re guaranteed to, eventually, fail to protect that which means the most to you.
      Pick the Villain label, and you have all of that, plus massive social stigma, being unable to support yourself without hiding forever or facing off against the heroes and the law, and instead of a dubious but often well meaning support structure behind you, there’s yet more of the worst parahumanity has to offer.
      So maybe you decide to walk the middle ground as a Rogue? Thereby making yourself a target for a lot of the villains, removing yourself from support and socially stigmatizing yourself almost as badly as with the Villain label, struggling to hold a civilian job when you’ll never be considered quite human, and as an added bonus never learning to fight with powers so when (not if) an Endbringer strikes or the Nine come to town or even some lesser monster, and everybody you care about is being killed or worse, you’ll always know that you had the power to do something, but you just weren’t good enough because you didn’t want to fight all the time.

      The only ones who have fun being a Cape are psychopaths. Well, and Tattletale, but she’s tweaked in the head in an entirely different way.

      • That’s the sad part about para humanity. Events that should get you PTSD counseling gets you powers, and a whole new crapsack world.

        • Earth-shattering power is no reason to avoid having fun. Heck, it makes superhumans even more different than regular humans to be unable to have a good time so easily. Fosters resentment and makes them feel set apart, more responsible, more proud.

          Like poor Cloud 9. All she wanted to do was fly. She was then forced to go to bootcamp and sniped some HYDRA soldiers in the face before trying to asphyxiate one of Hulk’s friends. No wonder the first thing she did when the Registraction Act came down was throw off the costume. Maybe she’d have been a hero if they were less intent on being assholes about it.

          • Cloud 9 is set to appear in the next issue of the Young Avengers, though. As a cameo of course, but still. “Just when I thought I was out … They pull me back in”.

            • Yes, well Cloud 9 was in the Initative, and that might have been worse run than the Protectorate. I mean their hand picked instructor showed how brilliant he was right at the start. “Okay, we have these kids, who we want to make sure know how to safely use their powers. I will not bother to even read what these kids powers are. I will send them right into a training exercise. I will ignore the kid who is trying to tell me that is a very bad idea with his power, dispite the fact that for all I know his power is turn into poison gas, or automatically give everyone in a five mile radius cancer. I will, due to my glaring idocy, get one of our most promising recruits killed, and another booted out. Somehow dispite my glaring incomptance, I will keep my job. How I passed army bootcamp, I do not know.” Yeah, as someone who had a subscription to the New Warriors back in the day, I really didn’t like Gauntlet.

              • It’s this idiocy so prevalent in comic book superheroes these days that makes Worm so refreshing.

  15. I’d like to second the “new beginnings” vibe people have already commented on. I like that the Wormverse is continuing on, with new challenges/crises/mysteries unfolding even though we’re about to leave it, so to speak.

    I am reminded of the ending of Brandon Sanderson’s Mistborn trillogy, actually.

    • Hey clean slate so I was right. I mentioned way back that if the world ended the Undersiders might get a pardon if they fought on the right side. Though I can’t really picture Tattletale as a hero.

      • Why not? Not every hero wears tights and fights stuff. People were fine with Dragon being a hero when they thought she was some terribly crippled agoraphobic Newfoundland survivor living in an apartment and sending out her mechanical minions to be heroic for her.

        I think Tattletale would actually WANT to be a hero if the people she worked with were genuinely interested in making the world a better place. Remember what she did when she was in charge of territory in Brockton Bay. Remember what she did to prepare for the end of the world.

        • Nothing to really put my finger on. Maybe that she likes operating without any rules or regulations. Might make it easier to rule/protect Brockton Bay if they know that she won’t play as nice as the heroes. Maybe a vigilante. Or heck make the Undersiders their own private hero group like New wave used to be.

          • She likes to be the smartest person in the room, and she always knows what other people are thinking if she can see them. This makes her probably the most jaded person in the world.

            I definitely get the idea that she would prefer to do well by others though, rather than do them harm.

            When I see Tattletale as a hero, I see her as something like Oracle in DC comics.

        • It’s not about wearing tights. Tattletale really isn’t hero material. Tattletale is someone who can’t stop herself from making unnecessary enemies, entangling herself in stupid feuds, picking at people’s weaknesses and secrets until they break, never learns to shut her mouth all because she has a compulsive need to show that she’s the smartest person in the room ( because of the issues that brought her trigger event). She has personally admitted this faults and that she can’t help herself.

          As a paid part-time consultant Tattletale ( basically what Accord was for Cauldron)would be a great ally for the Wardens. A full time hero? No thanks.

          And I’m a great fan of Tattletale.

          • Hmm, the sentence between parenthesises should have been after consultant. This way it seems I’m implying that TATTLETALE is Accord’s analogue, instead of possibly having analogue’s positions. It gives a slightly different interpretation.

            Not that Accord and Tattletale don’t have similarities despite what the both of them would say.

          • Aye, like I said above, as a Hero, because of her issues, she would probably have to stay away from most other heroes, or severely restrict how much time she spent around them at the very least.

            • Why would she want to be a hero? The main thing superheroes are good for are being expendable lackeys for the people with the brains and the money.. Which is what Tattle is in spades. They just had really shitty masters up to this point is all.

              Tattletale is going to be running things when we see her, mark my words. Its for the best, can’t have stray superheroes running around breaking shit.

              • Perhaps, but for thinkers, leading from behind and being a hero aren’t necessarily mutually exclusive.

                I doubt that Lisa would be that callous about it, but I strongly doubt that she would be wearing a costume much either.

            • Well, I always thought the Sherlock Holmes influences on Tattletale were rather obvious, though I’m not familiar with the BBC series (you’re talking about the modern day one, right?).

              • I am — I’ve only seen the first three episodes, mind, but that show’s interpretation of Sherlock is a part-time consultant who can’t stop himself from making unnecessary enemies thanks to his habit of picking at people’s weaknesses and secrets and his inability to shut his mouth, all of which are apparently motivated by a compulsive need to show that he’s the smartest person in the room.

              • As a clarification, there are a couple of modern day Sherlock Holmes series at the moment. Pack at is referring to the British one starring Benedict Cumberbatch.

                There’s also one set in New York. I forget the name of the main actor in that, but it has Lucy Liu as Watson.

                In both versions they serve as consultants to the police largely because it whets their interest and sense of personal challenge rather than any particular desire to do good.

                There was an element of this on the original stories too, of course, but the modern versions tend to dial it up to eleven.

  16. “Faces. Mockeries. Variations on a theme. Reaching hands, supplicating.”

    “A moment of uncertainty. The population of this world wasn’t reacting any further. He attacked, they moved. Again and again, they created the images. They weren’t afraid, and he was.”

    “He tried to push the feelings away, but they were seductive. A spiral, where the feelings were both the torment and the balm that soothed the torment. Stopping was daunting. He had been wrapped up in them, and now it was something else. He’d never dealt with something like this. For hours, days, he’d been reveling in emotion, and now he couldn’t stow it away, even as he experienced trauma for the first time.”

    “A man in a white hood and cape stood there, the tension in his body swiftly stopping. He had no expression, only a green and blue glow beneath his hood, but his body language was clear. Shock, defeat.

    A flash of golden light wiped him out of existence.”

    Scion isn’t fully dead. These are fragments of his thoughts. He can’t find a host that can hold his power, because it’s not limited or broken like most of the others he distributed. And without the administrator shard he can’t fix his own shard.

    If he keeps expending energy like that every time he is drawn into a trigger event, eventually he might get weak enough that he can find a host he can survive in.

    How much of Scion will be left by that point? Hmm. Smells like sequel material.

    • Interesting theory but a bit farfetched.

      We have seen the entities’ point of view during trigger events before. If the unrestricted triggers are from shards that were discarded after Scion got blown apart , as opposed to the restricted shards discarded at the beginning of the cycle, then it makes sense that it focuses on Scion’s last moments ( and Eidolon’s death).

      • Three of these events happened after Rachael arrived at the burning shadow man, separated by discrete events in the real world. We don’t know how many might have happened before that. Unless the guy had three triggers? The fourth was apparently the original trigger for frozen slime girl that Rachael found shortly after.

        I suppose it might be possible that Scion’s shards, unmodified, uncontrolled, would cause trigger cascades as they attempt to use their own internal mechanisms to understand their hosts well enough to survive?

        Whether that’s just a recording of Scion’s final moments, or a remnant of Scion himself, when that shard has finally wasted enough of it’s power or modified itself so that it can inhabit a host, there will be either a batshit crazy lunatic with delusions of being Scion, or a batshit crazy Scion/human merged being. That’s my take anyhow.

        • I thought the visions were more like leftover broadcasts from Scion. And I think this is a case of and unexpected “raw” power, not properly tuned to bond with humans. Like the extreme deviants from Cauldron.

          Maybe now that Scion is dead the shards will have a harder time not killing the host in the first try. Maybe this ooze-shard killed it’s two hosts because it didn’t “refined” it’s limits until the fourth trigger event. Remember that second (and third I guess) events mean that the Shard is comunicating with others in order to better its regulations. I think that the ooze-shard bonded to a third host, but didn’t trigger this time, as the power is more on a standby mode, trying to make the trigger event not lethal to the host. Otherwise it will never pick up new data.

          • Are there more than two trigger events allowed now?
            I recall when they went to the Cauldron world, Weaver was told she had two triggers in a row, and that was the limit so she should stop wasting time looking into how to trigger again.

            If Taylor is still alive, I see her getting a job stopping or trying to save the new runaway triggers. All it would take is Valkyrie using Doormaker’s power to open a door under the new para dropping them somewhere safe and then either Taylor grabbing them and working out how to safely use it, or perhaps someone will work out a tinker devise that nullifies powers like there is one that blocks precogs and remote viewer already.

            Her injuries were pretty bad at the end, she had an arm missing before she changed, and had to use her flight pack to move about from then on. Together with the head injuries, I can see it taking her several months to recover.

  17. They should probably ask Valkyrie whats up with the freaky new triggers. She has a good grasp of what the shards do. Random thought, what if she picked up Echidna’s shard? Would it even work her because it seemed like it was fairly broken and damaged.

    • I don’t think GU can just pick up shards. I think she has to be near them when the host dies, or the shard is lost. Whether it just poofs away in search of another host, or actually is lost, I dunno, but I don’t think GU could just happen across Echidnae’s shard.

  18. And now I have a name for WagTheDog.

    Also, yay! Now I just need a Svesta interlude, and all my favourites will have been in an interlude.

  19. Now there’s a horrifyingly unfair enemy for the unpowered to have to depend on the powered to fight: triggered monsters that respawn in nearby unpowered combatants.

  20. – short and sweet.
    – ahh, Biter. Schmuck. But I understand; I’d most likely do/say the same.
    – of course! In all our questioning as to whether trigger events would still happen (the answer being ‘timey-wimey-yes’), no one thought to ask: “What happens to the shards Scion kept for himself?” Or maybe someone did. Idunno.
    – Cassie aka WagTheDog. Glad to see she’s still happy. It’s always lovely to see a person find their place in life.
    – so, Scion’s emotion binge was a bit like his own version of a trigger event? Thus every time someone catches one of his fucked-up no-Manton-limits shards, all the capes around get to see and feel his final days the way they would normally have seen space whale-worm-virus-godlets.
    – Bitch is a hero. She has held onto the best of Taylor’s lessons without following her down that worse path she took later.
    – Miss Militia is a hero. Hope things work out for her.

  21. This was significantly more heartwarming than I was expecting. Especially considering the ambiguity and bitter-sweetness of the previous 2 chapters.

  22. A while back I compiled the list of request for epilogues. I’m curious now given who’s left how many we will see snuck into the remainder. I’ve cut out all the 1-3 requests, but for fun here are the 4+ requests and their status.

    Seen in epilogue if only very briefly
    Dragon 13
    Glaistig Uaine 13
    Defiant 9
    Imp 7
    Bonesaw 7
    Bitch 5
    Chevalier 5
    Miss Militia 4
    Vista 4
    Legend 3
    Bastard 1

    Still to go hopefully
    Tattletale 15
    Contessa 6
    Dinah 5
    Panacea 5
    Danny Hebert 4
    History Book 4
    Moord Nag 4

    I could easily see an epilogue that had either Dinah or Panacea hanging out near Tattletale, and possibly Contessa as well. Danny is of course one of the mysteries being mostly kept from us possibly as a lure or possibly because it was Taylor’s POV, and I’m not sure what a Moord Nag epilogue might tell us. However it could include Moord Nag and Contessa as a way to describe whats happening outside of the small area’s we’ve seen so far. Maybe even as a history book POV talking about the past🙂

    I’m sure all of them have been planned out by this poing so this is just idle thoughts, but it’s fun to consider how to squish the last few 4+’ers into two chapters.

    • I’d be very, very surprised if we don’t get Tattletale (as in from her prospective) in the last epilogue. Really, he chances of that not happening are pretty much close to zero, IMO.

      As for who else might appear, that’s a bigger question. I could see her butting heads with would-be chessmaster Teacher needling fellow superthinker Number Man, shooing some Warden representative (trying to think which important former Protectorate member we have yet to see) come to recruit her or having a “friendly” chat with Faultline (and hence with Dinah). Maybe a final cameo from Contessa? I don’t know.

    • Dinah and Tt? maybe, but I thing Dinah would stick together with Faultline and her crew. But Panacea and Tt? No way. Tattletale is like the least favorite person of Panacea (Bonesaw included), and I don’t think Tt is much of a fan either. What with Panacea transforming her best friend into Khepri, and all that.

      • Yeah, no way Panacea and Tattletale would even want to stay in the same room together. Which is a pity because I really would have liked to see the Lung, Marquis, Panacea, Bonesaw quartet again.

        • Remember that Bonesaw is now under the custody of the Wardens. So the quartet is most likely broken up. And really, I don’t see Lung playing nice with the Wardens. Nor do I see Marquis not taking advantage of the amnesty. It’s just unlikely to see the all four of them together again. Marquis is probably with Panacea and Bonesaw, working as healers for the Wardens. And lung is creating the ABB 2.0 or something.

          • IIRC he made a promise to work with Marquis for one year after they escaped, if the man made sure they escaped together. And so long as the Wardens were working against the Yangban and Teacher, it seems likely he could play along for a while. So it’s certainly possible if not necessarily likely that Lung is on the side of heroes for a little while.

    • The way I see it, a Tattletale D.epilogue would be capable of covering a bunch of other important capes at once (however briefly), what with information being her speciality and all.

      Danny will probably be the final Interlude, the non-donation one.

    • My guess is that Tattletale pulls various people together for the next (last) donation epilogue, and the very last chapter will be the Smurf.

  23. Great interlude. Glad to see Bitch and her minions. Even more glad to see her trying to meet Miss Militia halfway, trying to trust her some. It’s also nice to see Miss Milita and Vista keeping up the good fight.
    That black-ooze trigger seemed to leap into a different host, but maybe that was specific fo this power instead of new triggers? The wind cape (Exalt? probably another wind cape) seemed surprised, which makes me think that this is an isolated incident. I think the most interesting thing was the flashes of Scion’s memories. Maybe the memories were some sort of leftover broadcast, in the same way that the “normal” trigger events gave visions of Eden and Scion. And I know that is pretty obvious, but it also means that trigger events were affected by the death of Scion, and are not completely independent as I previously thought.

      • Do you know of Larry? Can you think in the 4th person? How many slices of bread are needed to make the best bread sandwich? What do you do when you rule the world? What would happen if you changed the observed laws of physics? How many dimensions would I need to account for in a tenser before I know everything? If I controlled the sun’s energy out put how many marshmallows could I roast if I had no time limit, no marshmallow limit, and each marshmallow is 9cm^3 and starts at 25 degrees Celsius? I guess not.

    • Her power can’t replicate tinker stuff, and containment foam is nothing but tinker-stuff. There’s a mention of her tossing off a containment-foam backpack dispenser.

      • 1. This was one of those times when I typed a stream-of-consciousness set of comments, except I only had one.

        2. Given her state of mind, I can see her throwing a power-generated gun to the ground.

  24. It’s kind of sad to see the Undersiders not really a team anymore though it’s not surprising. Coil was the one that brought them together and it wasn’t until Taylor came along that they became anything more than a team.

    I have high hopes for this meeting Tattletale is planning, who I assume will be the PoV character for the next interlude.

  25. Good chapter wildbow, I was hoping to hear about Bitch. Thank you for that.

    Danny really needs to know about Taylor. I am imagining Tattletale telling him, if he is alive. A scene where a casket is dropped next to her mother?

    I am wanting the last epiloge chapter to have the following parahumans in it:

    Glaistig Uaine

  26. “And some idiots,” Rachel said, banging her head against the rock behind her, a little harder than she’d intended, in a spot where the rock jutted out. The sharp pain brought tears to her eyes. “Are even harder to understand than the motherfucking french fry thing.”

    This is my favorite part of this chapter. Like it’s really the sharp pain that’s making Rachel cry🙂

  27. Something that bugs me. Bitch is really good at raising, training, and taking care dogs and dog like animals without being able to read. Does that mean she has a thinker or tinker classification that no one has noticed or was there someone that taught her how after her trigger?

    • According to Tattletale and Taylor, her trigger event rewrote her brain a little such that she can’t understand human social cues but understands canines intuitively. Not a full thinker power, but a shift in her ability to read body language, relationships, and emotions that makes it a lot easier for her to relate to and deal with dogs.

      • And the stuff about heart worm, bacteria, species of dog and wolf, and needs of said species… knowing how to interact and read people does not make you an expert at raising children. I’m thinking she’s a tinker as she domesticated a wolf in one generation.

        • It’s stated at one point that Rachel is involved with shelters. She learned the official stuff there.

          In terms of ‘domesticating’ Bastard, it’s possible to raise wolves to live with humans, and to teach them commands. It’s hard, and it becomes 100x harder when they reach about 18 months of age, when their personality ceases being like that of an unruly, unforgiving dog.

          • Yes she was commenting on where she got a dog with heart worm from and how the people at the shelters were idiots. She also was the one to mention that she would have to train Bastard early otherwise it would become much harder to do. She might have heard that from one of her minions after Bastard was dropped off at her place but that didn’t seem likely considering the shape they were in. It’s also possible that how to raise a wolf to be dog like was some trivia that came in handy later considering Bitch seems to think she has a good memory.

        • Well, tamed a wolf. Domestication is over several generations and turns them into a dog. Lots of people can and have tamed all manner of wild animals.

          But you’re right, either she’s got some intuitive power-based knowledge or she’s learned from people since triggering. Probably a legitimate veterinarian given the information displayed. She probably forced herself to go to one after the first time that one of the dogs she rescued got seriously sick, talked to them a lot for a while, had an unpleasant (if not blood spattered) falling out, and resolved to never speak of it again.

  28. So, what “overpowered” capes (by this I mean the ones whose powers are simple unfair, not people with pwoers that do we k are really strong when used properly, since that is everyone) now of are Cauldron’s doing? Just as a question. My known list:
    Grey Boy
    Probably Narwhall, since normal proper triggers tend not to have physcial effects

      • Yup. I don’t remember the chapter, but somebody mentions that Cauldron gave GB power, but were unable to rein him in when he went evil.

          • Huh. In the back of my head, I always knew there was a reason his power was insanely broken.

            Back on topic, though: Mantellum’s power could seriously fuck shit up, although I’m not sure how much he counts because of his C53 status.

        • Eidolon believed it enough to give up and die with the multiverse riding on the line. Tattletale believed it enough to take that tack when speaking to the fucking Simurgh in person, though she started doubting when she didn’t get the reaction she would from a human if the news were true. There hasn’t been any other explanation put forward which makes anywhere near as much sense.

          It is still possible that somebody else at Cauldron created them to serve as Eidolon’s playmates, but that seems unlikely given that he almost certainly had the power to do so and nobody else was ever mentioned who could approach such a feat. And I doubt he would react quite as strongly to realizing he was the indirect cause of somebody else’s horrible evil act as he would to realizing that he had directly killed all those millions of people.

          But whatever their origin and original purpose, we have to assume that the Simurgh at least is fully sentient and smarter than whoever originated her, so things could have diverged from their original purpose a long time ago.

        • So in short, no. It’s not absolutely certain. But it is extremely probable, with no plausible alternative theories thus far, so until more evidence comes up I’ll operate on the assumption that it’s true.

          • Might be a sequel hook somewhere in there, assuming there isn’t a decisive hit against the remaining four coming up within the next two epilogues.

      • It’s more plausible Scion/Eden did, given their “inspiration” from religious lore and their biological structure. Eidolon probably just hijacked them subconsciously at some point because Trump powers are fucking broken.

        • Yes, because there’s certainly no legendary inspiration for the Merlin getup that Eidolon constantly wears. And their biology is so fundamentally different from the constructs projected by Genesis, Siberian, etc.

          • I could’ve sworn Myrddin (is that how you spell it?) was the wizard dude and not Eidolon. Also, religious and legendary imagery are pretty damn different. Religion brings to mind divine power (what Scion was goign for) whereas legendary shit is primarily accomplished by man.

            Also, I’m fairly certain the projections of Genesis at least are composed differently than the Endbringers. Genesis mentions designing specific body parts for her creations and as far as I remember the EBringers are a fancily shaped lump of silicon with a “core” that acts as the keystone of their bodies. I think Scion was composed like that as well, but I can’t remember off the top of my head.

            • Myrddin is also wizard-themed, as are several other capes including a whole gang of villains led by that Epoch guy. I suppose the basis for the name Eidolon comes more from ghosts/mental projections in Greek myth than wizardry in particular, but the grandiose arcane robes remain.

              Anyway, the Endbringers all reflect specific religious or legendary references, right? Ones which might not be fully in the public subconscious (until they appeared for real) but would certainly be in the mind of a mythology buff like a man who would pick ‘Eidolon’ for his code name. Scion, on the other hand, never makes any specific reference. He didn’t model himself after anybody’s mental image of Jesus, or Allah, or Yog-Sothoth or anybody. He chose humanoid so they would feel vague kinship with him, male because there are still more people in the world willing to look up to and follow a lone man over a lone woman, race-neutral to avoid alienating any portion of the population, and gold-skinned because humans worship the metal for some reason. He didn’t appear as somebody explicitly connected to any myth or any religion, but rather a generic kludge calculated to look like a new god to as many people as possible.

              Scion didn’t have any sort of core, and didn’t have any of the density weirdness of the Endbringers; I believe his golden body was almost identical to a human one aside from the nigh-invulnerability power and the extremely rapid regeneration, with the source of his power/biomass kept in a pocket dimension.
              The Endbringers start with an incredibly dense but definitely present in this universe core, surrounded by layers of pseudo-crystal ranging in density and hardness from something like aluminum on the outside to so dense it can’t be disintegrated on the skeleton, to so dense it warps spacetime around the core. They’re put together weirdly, but it’s at least as different from Scion’s construction as from humanity’s.

              My point with the other Master-Generators was that none of their creations resembled real biology either (except for Nilbog) and thus the makeup of an Endbringer is well within the range of possibilities offered by Master powers. Given that we saw a shard specifically for creating things like these, it seems likely that it’s a perfectly ordinary (if S Class) power which could have been assigned to anybody like Nilbog’s or Ash Beast’s was if it hadn’t been in the set Eden chose to keep for herself. So there in their biology or structure to favor a Scion-based origin over a cape-based one, and several things in the rest of the Endbringer story favoring the other way around.

    • Narwhal’s scales and horn were confirmed as being created from the force-fields and are probably not a physical effect of triggering.

      Don’t forget to add Accord’s purchases to your list. A few of those would qualify (Citron(?) and mind-decay person).

      I’d say Coil counts. His power was pretty damn unfair.

      By Cauldron’s doing do you mean powerful formula capes, or capes Cauldron specifically gave powers to?

      Sundancer and Genesis were both Cauldron capes in the sense that they took formulas.

      • Sundancer and Genesis were not as plain broken as some of the others.

        Coil too.

        (people with powers that do we know are really strong when used properly, since that is everyone)

      • Doormaker beats her for range. By a great deal. Given that I recall them both being Cauldron capes, that’s moot though.

        But on the issue of powers and usages, I find Eidolon to be the most limited in a sense. Everyone adapts to the limitations of their powers, innovates to do more things with it….but Eidolon simply uses one of the most potent abilities around to act as a heavy blaster/tank right until the end.

        • Well then Doormaker and partner totally count as absurdly broken Cauldron capes. They do have severe drawbacks, though.

          And it would have been nice to know where Hero stood on this list. A tinker power of the same level as all the other first batch tests. Some kind of omnidisciplinarian scientist?

          • Or just one of the first ones. Tinker in general could be extreamly powerfull. But the 1027st Tinker inventing a deathray is way less supriesing then the first one.

          • I think Legend said something about Hero’s specialty during his interlude. I think he said that he now believed it was Electromagnetic waves, and it was just so versitile that they thought he was good at everything. I might be wrong, have to check.

            • Okay, checked. Legend said they now think Hero’s specialty was the enhancement and manipulation of wavelengths and frequencies.

            • Huh, nice idea, never though of it. But I’m not sure.

              When Hero drinks the formula and is cured he tells Doctor and Contessa that “they’re all heroes”. And Legend seems to think he called himself after the term because he was one of the first hmm, heroes around. Now it’s very possible Legend had no idea who Hero the scientist was, but Alexandria named herself after the Library, she probably would have pointed it out.

              • Sort of like how Golem’s name works. There’s a clever reference, but the public is going to seize on the obvious one.

              • Legend’s became one that went two different ways too. From the good kind of legend to “I am Legend” kind of legend. Now I just need to look up more about map legends to see if he fits that one too.

      • Shatterbird didn’t have much for range, the thing was her power used every pane of glass as a relay/amplifier until she broke them. So in an industrialized city her rage was basically “the city” for generic explodey-type singing.

        Taylor in contrast had maybe a mile a lot of the time on her own, and with Panacea’s relay bugs could go a lot further than that; if she’d had time to breed them she could have had a multi-globe-spanning power from a natural trigger.

        • Taylor + relay bugs + time could have endet the World on her own. Just tell all insects to die. Insects are essential for a ecosystem.

          • Yeah, the moment Panacea gave her relays that could breed Taylor became Class S. And not even in the irreversible doomsday button way you described; she was fully capable of seeing and hearing through any bug in the many Earths, or all of them simultaneously with her Thinker powers before they got borked. Literally any human living where there was other fauna, who was not somehow entirely immune to bugs (*cough* Alexandria *cough*), could be torn apart in an instant with a thought. The best that anybody else could do at that point would be an underground resistance with an incredibly good filtration system on their air supply. Leaving the only credible threats as Dragon and the Endbringers. Most of which could be dealt with Crawler-style through massive, massive quantities of silk wielded by the collective invertebrate population of say, a continent.

            If Scion hadn’t cut her off, within a year Taylor could have become a much more powerful and stable goddess than she managed in this timeline.

            Oh, but Panacea would still be a threat like in the bank if she touched a bug. So it’s not like the little bullied girl with the drive to force everybody to cooperate for their own good wouldn’t have any checks on her power, right?

    • I think it’s a parallel to Taylor’s meeting with Miss Militia after her identity got revealed.

      In both cases, MM brings along a Ward, MM asks Taylor/Rachel what they want and they come to an agreement.

  29. Just finished reading through this fiction to date; very enjoyable!

    Hoping that there’s something more about the Endbringers’ origins, and why Cauldron tolerated the high parahuman deathcount if Eidolon really was behind them.

    Naturally, also hoping for a main character non-lethal reveal!

    (Others have already mentioned this, but E.2 in the Table of Contents seems to be missing a link.)

    • Cauldron didn’t know, both the Endbringers and Eidolon are immune to Contessa’s direct ability. Even if they did, Eidolon was their primary hope against Scion, so it would have been worth it to them.

    • It’s also implied somewhere that the Endbringers were actually created by Scion/Zion/Eden and were one of the methods the Worms used to destroy civilizations/species. This would explain their similarities to religious concepts (Scion used the same line of thinking when creating his form), their biological structure, and the fact that they were going to end the goddamn world.

      Regarding their sudden behavior shift, I have two theories on that:

      The first is that Scion subconsciously “called them off”, as he didn’t need them to end the world anymore; he was doing a damn good job by himself. However, I’m not sure how the EBringers acted after Jack Slash but before Eidolon died, so that could possibly be a hole in my thinking.

      The second involves Eidolon subconsciously hijacking the EBringers from Scion as a result of his power. In Interlude 27 (which makes me so sad when I read it dammit WB) Eidolon comments about how heroics is all he has left and how Cauldron was relying on him so heavily to fight the EBringers and these combined with Scion’s words and Tattletale’s hypotheses afterwards kinda imply this.

      • Addendum: Cauldron didn’t know Eidolon was behind the EBringers because he wasn’t. Scion was, but this changed and nobody really caught on until Tattletale thought about it.

      • There was an alternate future Eden saw in which she created “superweapons” that strongly resembled Endbringers, in order to fuel the superwar she was holding on that planet. But then she died before she could actually do that. Meaning that the superweapon shard was one of the many that Cauldron had access to while they were making the Triumverate, and one of the many that Eidolon can subconsciously tap into with his shifting power.

        They were clearly not trying to end the world, despite the name. In every appearance they were clearly holding back, arriving just far enough away, using just little enough power to allow for a convincing and almost fair fight. Whatever guided the actions of the Endbringers in the early days, it wanted to put on a grand, heroic show. Not destroy humanity, not drive humanity into further conflict, not anything that would feed directly into the Worms’ plans, but actually forcing people to draw together, abandoning armies and nationalities and working for the common goal of survival.

        If Scion were controlling the Endbringers, why would he assign them to make Eidolon look like a hero? He despised Cauldron capes. Why would he continue after the Truce was made, after America freely took in so many refugees when Japan was levelled, after all the greatest powers of the world started working together in peace and harmony instead of going to war like they were supposed to? If Scion could control them, why would he have so much trouble with them during the final battles? And if he was just acting out a scene or something when he fought them, why would he continue ‘pretending to be’ fooled by the Simurgh’s illusions, right to the end?

        And if any of this is accurate, why would they listen to Tattletale at all? The only way to fit it is if Scion created the things, but then before they did literally anything Eidolon accidentally manifested a power that completely and utterly overwrote their core purposes, prevented Scion from controlling them, and was somehow immune to the golden man’s ability to adjust and bypass any other power in the game. Which seems distinctly less feasible than Eidolon simply manifesting the shard we’d already seen which created such things.

        • In Alexandria’s Interlude I believe, DocMother(?) states that the Ebringer cycle will escalate to the point where attacks are so frequent and there sill be so many different Endbringers that humans won’t be able to do shit about it.

          Also, the reason they make Eidolon look like the hero is because he commandeered the remote control power and either gave a permanent command or used it whenever appropriate (a few more documented fights would really help to flesh this out, but whatever).

          My theories about why they stopped doing things were mentioned in one of my earlier posts about this.

    • Cauldron definitely didn’t know the specifics of the Endbringers’ origins. And either Contessa’s power didn’t work on them, or they claimed that because her power said that the Endbringers still being around was part of the path to victory against Scion.

    • It seems as though the Eidolon origin is what everyone’s going with. I suspected there was more to it than that, but I guess not.

      It should be obvious by now that Cauldron wasn’t as competent as people believed at first. They may not have known about that aspect of his powers. They weren’t exactly the most cooperative about the guy, nor did they ever let him know about draining other parahumans if they even knew that.

      And remember, these were the fuckers whose master plan amounted to “let the world be destroyed in order to save it.”

      With our understanding of the entities that they don’t have, even their best laid plan amounted to hiding in a mouse hole until the big nasty demolition crew leaves the house, unsuspecting of the massive kaboom about to come. You have to work on your kabooms, you see.

      Very important to have a nice boom, especially if you ever want to lower the boom, perhaps with some sort of boom operator. It can be difficult to get a firm Grip on one, or so I’ve heard from my third assistant director, twice removed. He was also twice shy, the result of a nasty bite he got once. Twice, no, three times a lady came by with a dead man’s hand, but threw jacks at her and hit her with a snowman. Her days were numbered, you might say. 1 through 31 or 30, except sometimes it’s 28 or 29. She paints by them, you see.

      Unless they’re missing, which brings us back to E.2. The missing link. It looks something like this. *holds up an old, dusty Legend of Zelda plushy* But, you know, one that’s not there.

      Now I thought I already welcomed you, Anonymous, but that could have been another anonymous person. There’s just so many of you. You’re practically legion. And by legion, I mean a horde of drowned pigs.

      But you can just plant your waterlogged porcine hind cheeks right here to stay and play with us in the comments section for what little time is left in it. Welcome, Anonymous, to the comments.

      • Oh, yes, now that everything has been laid bare, it’s quite clear how poorly Cauldron was set up. There are a lot of issues actually, but I’ll just put the ones that spring to mind.
        1- One big power. They seemed to really hope that they would somehow manage to score that one power that would just make Scion fall over dead. Well it worked the first time with Contessa getting the victory power, but really, it wasn’t going to work again. As it turned out, they needed to use a combination of a great many powers in unison. Oh, and in a whole different way…
        2- They picked the wrong option. At the beggining DM and Contessa had two options. And army, or a psychological attack. They disregarded the Psychological attack in favor of the army. And then Taylor kills him using the pychological attack. Whoops. Whats worse is that they tended to get stuck on just the one path Contessa picked out, even if it wasn’t the best course.
        3- I don’t think your a real Doctor. Doctor Mother admits that she doesn’t really know much about science when she and Contessa start. So your head scientist has a shaky grasp of the scientific method.
        4- Lets make as many enemies as possible. Serously, Cauldron did a great job of making people hate or be suspicious of them. So when the time came, nobody trusted them, and nobody was looking out for them. This ended up almost costing everyone everything.

        • Basically they were in far over their heads, where competency is concerned. You have two people who merely happened to be in the right place at the right time, trying to decide the fate of the world based on incomplete information. One is a child and the other isn’t qualified for high level decision making.

          Their path worked in the end, but that was the foresight shard’s competence at work, not theirs. All THAT had to do was ensure the right factors accumulate to create a powered individual capable of leading the fight against Zion into victory. In a sense you can see all the crisis, all the worsening situations, the divisions, as a crucible to force the right person in the right place at the right time to make the right choice, becoming someone who could comprehend Zion’s true vulnerabilities.

          I suspect pretty much everything they did which wasn’t directly part of Contessa’s prediction was useless, or counterproductive.

        • What Veekie said. A lot of people seem to think Cauldron were a total failure. But remember they were using Contessa’s power, which tells you exactly what you have to do to win, but doesn’t necessarily tell you why.

          Cauldron are responsible for the Protectorate and the PRT being the mess they were. They are responsible for the Endbringers if you believe the prevailing theory. They are responsible for Armsmaster, Shadow Stalker and Coil. They made the S9 possible.

          In short, they’re behind everything that led to Taylor becoming the person she needed to be to stop Scion.

          Maybe, in the end, they didn’t fail after all…

      • PS. It’s also the only thing that makes sense of Cauldron’s perplexing insistence that Jack be allowed to escape Brockton Bay.

        Contessa’s power knew that, if Jack triggered Scion’s rampage at that point, that (and other actions) would lead to Taylor being able to defeat him.

        Cauldron put all the pieces in place for Taylor’s victory.

    • Not sure. But if so, it’s probably one you’re better off not speaking of. Because speaking is how he gets you. Or writing as the case may be. In which case the question of course becomes, how does the case write anyway?

    • Not really. All you have to do is never make a post that gives away the fact that its your first, and he has no way of confirming. My first post was a week or two ago, but it was correcting someone else’s factual error, so there was nothing to give away the fact that I’m a newbie.

      • That’s ok, baby, I know it’s not your first time. I’ll take you as you are anyway, even if you just showed up to correct how someone else was doing it. Allow me to put on some comment-making music, something real romantic, and we’ll get this party started.


        There, real romantic tune.

        Now, don’t fret. I try to treat everyone right here at the comments section. I give them what they want. What they need. What they ache for in this harsh Worm.

        Dick jokes. I give them to all of you, hard, fast, and uncut. I know it’s hard to measure humor, but I’d say I’m at least a foot and a half in length on my funny bone. And wouldn’t you like to funny bone?

        I can go all night until the cock crows. That’s right, I go so hard, it makes noise. I just prefer not to because I have to share myself with so many, including a mob of people who want to hang me. I try to avoid them though because, obviously, I’m already hung. Put down the torches and pitchforks. I’ve lit all your flames already, and we all know that what’s getting pitched around here aren’t forks.

        I know it can be tough to take all of Worm in, and the added length of the comments section is daunting, but I do hope you stay and ride along with so many others. It’s going to be a bit bump and you can expect a little bit of chafing, but I think you’ll be satisfied in the end, or any other spots you’d like satisfaction.

        Well cum, Soulgazer, to the comments section.

        • A small safety reminder:
          Follow proper procedures when dealing with torches and pitchforks. Remember to secure torches so the flame is away from any flammable material or extinguish the flame. Pitchforks should not be left where people can knock them over, run into them, or step on them.
          Thank you for your time and have a safe and enjoyable night.

    • I don’t know. I hear the guy’s capable of reading, especially when there’s no Thursday update.

      But enough dodging the question. I’m fully capable of coming from behind to get you in the end. Just don’t look too closely at the physiology involved. We’re talking Picasso cannibalizing Lovecraft’s brain here. His juicy, gooey brain.

      And if you too want to be talking about zombie Picasso rearranging faces while Lovecraft rides into battle on Cthulhu, then this is the place for you. If you want to imagine Picasso and Lovecraft making out, this is also the place for you freaky little man/woman. And while you’re at it, pick a gender!

      Worm may be going down harder than a chocoholic on an M&M man in a planned and somewhat less-than-happy ending to many, but that’s no reason to abandon ship. I’m still here, so you know the rats haven’t escaped yet.

      Speaking of rats, I just want to say that we’re all here for you, to fill that hole in your life when the big cheese invites you in, fills you with so many wonderful expectations, and then tries to snap your spine with a piece of metal. Feel the warm embrace of the comments as they close in around you. Welcome, MTB, to the comments section.

  30. Ok guys, I have a question. Whatever happened to Cody. I must have missed it. The last I remember of him, he was with the Yangban. He decided to not kill tattletale and save the English speaking girl. What happened after that? Did he save her? Did the Yangban kill him. Is he back in his home dimension?

  31. Well, if anyone is extremely bored and wants to read some original fiction of mine, I’m exploring the concept of an artificial symbiote of unknown origin coexisting with a human host. https://farmerbob1.wordpress.com/

    No Wildbow, I’m not asking for a link to your page! (Though I do link to Worm in my About section)
    If people like my stuff, and I get over 10 chapters, then I’ll bounce the idea by you and see if you are interested.

    There are six chapters so far, each of them short by Worm standards. I’m trying for a chapter length that I can reasonably reliably knock out in a single day, after work.

    I’d happily take suggestions about things other than story content – I know jack about html editing or WordPress customization.

  32. I was recently working on the wiki and since it’s still pretty new, I put in a “Help Needed” section on the homepage for any stuff we can think of that would help in the long run. I’ve never really contributed much to a wiki before, so if anybody else thinks of any ideas, please add them.

    • I hope that doesn’t seem presumptous or anything; I just figured that it would be good to have a section on the front page of the wiki for the stuff that could possibly prove to be useful for the upkeep of the wiki. It was a half-assed idea.

  33. It just occurred to me that with Rachael doing the Hero thing the following could happen:-

    Coming Soon to the Warden Gift Shoppe near YOU!: UG-972: Warden’s Reformed Villains Action Figures Collection “Bitch the K-9 Battlemistress” with real bitch slapping action! (*terms and conditions apply, transformable Bastard action figure sold separately*)

  34. I was conflicted where to put this but Vista’s power is really scary if you think about gravity and I don’t mean making the moon fall (although that’s scary too).

    The first point is that one of the main factors when calculating gravity is distance, Vista can make an object in her pocket treated as if it’s in space or vice versa.

    The second point is that when an object changes mediums the angle that object was traveling changes, which is one of the theories on how gravity works except with changes in space caused by mass, Vista would be able to create gravitational pull by warping space. While the pull would not affect people who were not standing in it directly it would create a difference in pressure which would cause a current in liquids and gasses (“odd weather we’re having today”). If the pull was strong enough matter would be condensed into plasma (or dark matter) and anyone near by would suffer to say the least.

    Why didn’t the S9 say hello?

  35. This chapter was very touching, those stones and Bitch… I thought the worst came with that gun to Skitter but this was heavier.

  36. Cool so WagTheDog has a name. Glad she made it!

    BASTARD LIVES!!!!! I have an absurdly emotional attachment to that persistent wolf.

    Huh okay so the worrying development with triggers is very, very disturbing. That seemed sort of like people were getting shards direct from Scion since they were experiencing his memories and since his shards probably weren’t prepped to not kill the host. If they weren’t shards from Scion though…well that bodes extremely poorly for newly powered individuals during the sequel.

    I guess I really shouldn’t be surprised that Rachel has a FWB relationship. I was kind of thinking that she wouldn’t really be interested in sex thinking back to her relationship advice to Taylor…yeah should’ve seen that coming.

    It’s really nice to see that Bitch is doing well as are the rest of her people.

    My hope that Taylor is still alive somewhere being helped by Contessa continues to dwindle by the moment. It’s pretty much just a candle at the end of a long dark tunnel at this point I think…

  37. Bits of Scion breaking off and glomming on to people without limitations? Or is it simply that the death of both entities means that all of the shards are no longer being tuned to their hosts?

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