Teneral e.5

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Head high.  Shoulders square.  Walk like you know where you’re going, like you belong.

He’d had the best teachers around.  Public speakers, flirts, con artists, actors, thieves, magicians, and cutthroats.  He’d been educated in history, foreign affairs, management and internal affairs, intelligence, and codebreaking.  He’d learned from the best in medicine and poisons, in parahuman studies, in accounting and trade, the sciences, strategy and tactics in military, government and business roles.  He knew how to make things, and how to fake them.

Even in the little things, hobbies to some and unlikely careers to the foolhardy, he’d achieved some degree of competence.  Music, singing, art, prose and dance.  All it took was the right teacher, a hungry eagerness to learn, and time.

One could not lead, after all, with one eye closed.  Some could lead while admitting some ignorance in one department or another, but he wasn’t some.

He was a jack of all trades, master of quite a few.

Two of those ‘few’ accompanied him.  A woman in a white bodysuit walked just to his left.  He’d picked her because she had a natural grace and self-assurance, but her name escaped him.  He could remember how he had found her.  She’d been a hero, and she’d watched her team die in the aftermath of the attack.  Lost, helpless, broken.  Now she stood tall, back straight, joking and laughing with her companion.

The real her was numb, locked in a cage, but that was secondary to the point.

The other was numb too, but not in the same way.  He was very much himself.  If he was disconnected, it was a natural sort of disconnection, the sort that had happened billions of times throughout human history.

But the man was talented.  He wasn’t acting like he belonged, because he did belong.  He was a free spirit, and the world was his oyster.  He could put on a different face, and it wouldn’t be a mask, but a role.

He was a warrior, wearing heavy armor.  Gruff, rugged, with a beard and the stylings of a viking, complete with fur as part of his costume.  When the woman in white found herself off balance, stumbling, he picked his words to counterbalance it, changing the thrust of their interaction.  He teased, leaving the road open for clear and unambiguous responses, making small jokes so she could laugh and find her mental footing.

In a very one sided way, he was sustaining and supporting what appeared to be a very natural dialogue between longtime friends.

A pair of heroes rounded the corner, glancing at them.  The ‘viking’ was in the midst of making a joke.

“…six different flavors of sausage.”

The woman frowned.  “That’s a non sequi-  oh.  Oh.

Watching the woman turn red, seeing the viking laugh, he couldn’t help but join in on the laughter, a chuckle.

The viking slung an armored arm around his shoulders, making him stumble.  “You actually laughed!”

“It was a little funny.”

“A little?”  the viking asked.  He nodded at the pair of heroes as the two groups crossed paths.  He offered the words, “Hey, Ironscale.  ‘Sup?”

“I know you?” one of the pair asked, stopping in the middle of the hallway.

The viking was still walking, but turned around to walk backwards as he called out, “Costume change to fit in with the new era, my friend!  You’ll figure it out, and I’ll be very upset with you if you don’t!”

They rounded the corner.

“Did you know him?  This Ironscale?”

The viking smiled.  “Ironscale?  No.  A face in a file, at some point.  But I have a good memory.”

Liars have to.  “It was dangerous, baiting him.  Better if we don’t draw attention.”

“Trying to avoid attention is attention-getting enough.  You brought me on board for my skills, Teacher.  Trust me to use them.”

Teacher sighed.  “Fair.”

The smile disappeared from the viking’s face.  “You’re nervous.”

“I’m inclined to think I’m paranoid,” Teacher said.  “I try to convince myself otherwise.”


“If I’m going to explain, I have to ask,” Teacher said, “what’s the difference between paranoia and nervousness?”

“One is a state of mind, the other is a temporary state of emotion?”

“The former is a kind of madness,” Teacher said.  “Popular culture has twisted it, but popular culture has twisted madness in general.  They make it funny, they romanticize it, or they make it exaggerated.  But true mental illness is nothing to laugh at.  I stayed in the Birdcage for some time, I’ve seen scary things, and I’ve become numb to a great deal, but going mad is perhaps the scariest.”

“Yet you corrected me when I said you were nervous,” the viking said, strangely soft spoken given his frame and earlier demeanor.

“The alternative to being a madman might be worse,” Teacher said.  He shook his head, as if stirring himself from a spell.  “What were we talking about?”

“Is this your first time in the infiltration role?”

“In a meaningful capacity?  Yes,” Teacher admitted.

“You could have stayed behind.”

“I’d like to handle this face to face, build a rapport.”

“You could have let me do that for you, build your rapport for you.”

“I think that’s a dangerous road to travel.  Will we do that the next time?  And the time after that?”

“I don’t see why not.”

“I could not be a leader if I didn’t actually lead.  Besides, I don’t trust you.”

“You think I’ll stab you in the back?” the viking asked.

“I think everyone will stab me in the back,” Teacher said.  He sighed.  “Paranoia, again.”

“If you keep walking down this road, then they probably will stab you in the back.  That joke, ‘it’s not paranoia if everyone really is out to get you’ could be a self-fulfilling prophecy in your case.  Maybe you’re even doing it on purpose.”

“You might be even smarter than you let on,” Teacher said.  “I’m glad I didn’t brainwash you.”

The man chuckled.

Teacher shook his head.  “I aim to change course.  If they plan to ambush me at some point down that road, they’ll be waiting a long time.”

“That’s simple enough, when you only have one enemy.  But when you have as many as you do…”

“It requires a more blatant change of course to throw them off.”

“If you say so.  You seem to have things in hand right now, at least.  This way.  We’ll be entering an area with higher security, so be on guard.”

Teacher glanced up at the camera.

“You don’t trust your people to handle it?”  the viking asked.

Teacher shook his head.  “I trust them.  Put enough on a job, and the only one who could work around them is Dragon, and Dragon isn’t here, nor is she able to work against me.”

“You think.”

“I think.  Let’s not underestimate Big Sister.”

“In case you were wondering, I think that’s intelligence, not paranoia,” the viking said.

The viking tapped his phone against the panel by the door.  Teacher tensed.  Waiting.

The light went green, and there was a sound as bolts moved.  He let himself relax.

The viking spoke in a low voice as they entered.  “Level one security.  Not cells, exactly, because the people here haven’t technically done anything wrong, and the amnesty protects them, but they can’t be allowed to freely wander the building, with sensitive materials and unmasked heroes around.”

“Yes, they can’t have troublemakers walking about, can they?”  Teacher asked, with a note of irony.

“The people staying in the level one security area get chaperones when they want to go somewhere, and cameras keep an eye on them… usually.”

Teacher glanced around.  Where there had been offices in the previous area of the complex, this area was residential.  Some of the doors here were open, showing clean apartments with everything neat and in order, waiting for an occupant.

Some, though, were inhabited.  Each resident had made the space their own.  One appeared to be layered in a crusting of junk – bottlecaps and glass shards arranged in kaleidoscopic patterns.  Another was all black leather and chrome, smelling faintly of an expensive aftershave.

They stopped at the doorway to another room.  There was little doubt in their minds after they saw the interior.  A folding screen with a dragon print and women in kimonos on it was below iconic pin up images, modern and dated.  50’s pin up girls alongside recent celebrities. The way they were organized and clustered, it seemed somehow less like decoration and more like… character studies?

From their vantage point, the corner of a four-poster bed was visible.

“Ingenue,” Teacher called out.

Feet swung out over the side of the bed, and she was standing in a moment.  She stopped short when saw him, pouting, one fist against her hip.  Dramatized, artificial.  Even the way she dressed, it was the same, a silk bathrobe that was short enough to be borderline indecent.  Always putting on a show, and not in the sense of showing skin, but acting, putting on a mask.

“You got my hopes up.  It’s you,” she said.  “Dressed up like a wizard, maybe, but it’s not that good a disguise.”

“Doesn’t have to be.”

“Shame on you, not even calling a girl before you show up unannounced… but you were never very classy.”

“No, I’m afraid not.  If you’d like to talk to Marquis, I’m sure he could oblige on that front.”

“He switches from the aristocrat to the low born commoner as it suits him.  Split personality.  Is that what this is all about?  Are you planning on gathering us all together again?  Clinging to the past, Teacher?”

“I was planning on visiting him, but not for the past, and not to gather anyone.  Not in that sense.  I’m touching base with certain people, nothing more.”


“Getting the lay of the land,” he said.  He saw her put on a shocked expression, then cut her off before she could speak, “Assessing the situation, Ingenue.  There’s a great deal going on, and I’d rather work with known quantities before I start interacting with foreign ones.”

“Should I ask why now?”

“For someone who is feigning disinterest, you’re asking an awful lot of questions.”

“I’m bored, Teacher.  I’m even losing interest in Chevalier, and he doesn’t find time for me, unless it’s to make sure I’m being a good girl.”

“Do you fancy a trip, then?  A walk outside?”

“My jailors, who seem very invested in declaring they aren’t actually jailors, might take umbrage.”

“I’ll have you back by curfew, if you’re still interested by then.”

“You’re planning something,” she said.

“Of course.”

“Tell me,” she said.  She put her hands into the pockets of her dressing gown, which were too small for her whole hands.  “And maybe I’ll go on this field trip of yours.”

The viking leaned in close to Teacher, “Time.  If they did notice anything…”

He trailed off.  There was no need to spell it out.

Teacher nodded a little, but he continued, unruffled.  “I’m looking to put together something bigger.”

“Bigger than?”

“Than any of the teams currently in operation.  Than any of the powers we’ve seen yet.  Call it megalomania, if you will.”

“Why?  Before you say anything, you should know that ‘because I can’t isn’t an answer.”

“It was never the answer.”

“You’ve done a lot of things, and everything indicates it was for that very reason.  Cas Raul?” Ingenue asked.  She was relaxing now, the guise dropping.

“I’ve done a lot of things, agreed, but there were always other motivations.  I admit, I was younger then, the plans were cruder.  But the plans still worked and there was a goal involved.  For some time, I’d been gathering information and putting pawns in place, starting to get a feel for how the dynamic was all put together.  The connections between people and groups, the powers at play, the choices being made and why those choices were made.”

“And this leads to the murder of a vice president how?”

“Killing a man that prominent sets everything into motion.  That motion lets me see things from different angles, filling in the blanks.  I needed to do something big to disturb the dynamic enough that I could glimpse the real big picture and fill in the blanks.”

“Big picture.  You’re talking about significant things, again.  On par with killing a vice president and a prime minister.”

“This is a little more impressive.  In any event, I got the information I wanted with my play, first the national death, then the international one, to see the effects and plot things out on the global scale.  I was all set to act on it when I got arrested.  I was left with years to think, to study and improve myself.  I plotted our release to keep myself sane, and to keep things in motion.  You are welcome for that, by the way.”

Ingenue shrugged.

“I got free, then I took action, equipped with my new knowledge.  It didn’t take long for opportunity to present itself, and now I’m very well set up.  I found the missing puzzle piece and I made it my own, mystery and all.  Some of their assets are my assets now, and I have the footing to do something else entirely.”

“A subject you’re dancing around.”

“Nothing particularly criminal, believe it or not.  But it would be silly of me to tell you everything if you were going to refuse my invitation and then tell your chosen boyfriend at the first opportunity.”

“We know each other, Teacher.  You don’t really think I’m that one-note.”

“No.  No, I don’t.”

“Yet you won’t tell me.  You’re a tease, Teacher.”


His phone beeped.  Two high notes, in quick succession.

“An alert?” the viking asked.

“I may have overestimated my collective’s ability to keep us out of sight,” Teacher said.  “Miss?”

The woman in white raised an eyebrow.  “No immediate threats.  But it’s hard to tell.”

He nodded, glancing at the door.  No police officers in power armor, he mused.

“We’ll go,” he said.  “Ingenue-”

He stopped.  He’d turned, and she wasn’t there.  Invisibility wasn’t one of her powers, but-

The dressing gown flew into the air, draping itself over the top of the dragon-print folding screen in the corner.  She was on the other side.

“I see you’ve decided that you’re coming.”

“I’m bored,” she said, from behind the screen.  “They can give me my art, good food, entertainment, chaperones to plays, but I want one thing, and they won’t give him to me.”

“If you’re leaving to kick up a fuss, so he has to come after you…”

“I’m done with him,” Ingenue declared.  She stepped out from behind the screen in a dress with a high lacy collar.  “His loss.  You know, I’m aware my boyfriends have had a run of bad luck.  I’m not oblivious.”

“You’re cursed,” the viking commented.

She smiled, leaning over her dresser to peer at herself in an oval-frame mirror, snatching up some lipstick to touch herself up.  “I wouldn’t say that.  A good love story ends in tragedy, doesn’t it?  Outcome aside, isn’t it glorious in its own way?  I’ve had more than a few of these stories.  I’ve suffered heartbreak, even, but I’m tougher than I look.”

“So Chevalier has slipped the noose?”  Teacher asked.

“More apt to say he’s stepped out of the frying pan,” Ingenue said, running a brush over her jaw-length hair, “The only ones who end up worse than my boyfriends are my ex-boyfriends.  It’s so sad.”

She turned around, hair and makeup done, and there was no warmth in her eyes.

“His loss, as you said,” Teacher commented.

She frowned a little, but her eyes didn’t waver or change in how cold they seemed.

“They’re coming,” his student said.  “Two.  Same way we came.”

“Shall we?”  He indicated the door.

They left.  The moment they were in the hallway, the doors at the end opened.

Dragon’s Teeth.  Civilians with power armor and training.

His power was a problem, here.  He produced thinkers and tinkers, but they were low level, limited in scale.  A precog that warned of danger a few seconds before that danger arrived wasn’t so useful.

Still, it meant the Dragon’s Teeth were more surprised than they were.  A chance to bolt for it.

“I worked so hard to get down to security level one,” Ingenue pouted.  “Dashed in a moment.”

“I didn’t think you were planning on coming back?” Teacher made the statement a question, leading the way around a corner.  The stairwell will be locked down, but if we can find an apartment to duck into, we could slip out.

“A girl likes to hold on to her reputation,” Ingenue said.  “Even if that reputation is merely ‘dangerous’ and not ‘cataclysmic’.”

With those doors and the stairwell barred, we have nine escape routes.

“While I was scouting the area,” the viking said, “I heard a few people making noise about you.  Word was out you’d scuffed the ground with your toe while batting your eyelashes at one of the jailors, and they wanted to raise you to back to ‘cataclysmic’.  Well, they said ‘level two security’, so maybe something less severe.  What’s between dangerous and cataclysmic?”

“I think it would be unwise to say, for fear of offending our colleague,” Teacher said.

“I think so too,” Ingenue agreed.

“If it makes you feel any better, I think they’re badly underestimating you,” Teacher said.

“Kind of you to say so, but I’m not dangerous.  Mere slander and lies.”

Obession and self-delusion.  Her particular madness?  Or is she better at acting than I suspected?  Is it merely that she’s told herself these lies so often she believes them?

They found an empty apartment and eased the door closed.

Teacher reached into the front of his robe and withdrew a disc of metal.  He tossed it to the ground.

The lights fritzed out.  It wasn’t merely a blackout, but a momentary, violent crackle that traveled throughout the apartment and across the floor.

The teleportation device didn’t activate.  The armor around the man in the viking outfit fizzled and disappeared, panel by panel, revealing itself as the hologram it was.  He wore only knee-length, skintight shorts.

“They’re more on the ball than we anticipated,” the near-naked viking said.

“Run interference?”

The man nodded, and His flesh began distorting.

Osmosis of a full human being.

“I hope that wasn’t the full extent of your escape plan,” Ingenue said.  “I’ll be peevish if I get moved up to another security quadrant because of this embarrassing little stunt of yours, an escape attempt lasting all of five minutes.  I hate being peevish.”

“There are… seven options left,” he said.  “I did plan for this.  This is an incomplete shutdown, so we have some freedom to-”

The windows began closing.  Metal shutters.  The apartment was plunged into darkness.  No lights, only the light that slipped through slits in the metal walls.

“This is a complete shutdown,” he revised his statement.  “Still seven options left.”

“You knew about this, I hope,” Ingenue commented.

“I said I knew about their safety measures,” Teacher snapped.  “Not an issue.  I suppose my plan for a surprise shutdown is the clearest at this time.”

“Just what is this working plan of yours?”

“We need to avoid capture for…” he looked down at his watch.  It had stopped.  “…An indeterminate period of time.  Less than five minutes.  Not an issue.”

“Not an issue?  When we’re in the heart of a complex that houses the largest group of heroes from the largest city in the known worlds,” Ingenue said.

“Not an issue,” he repeated himself.

“Forgive me if I don’t believe you.  I could use my power on you,” Ingenue said.  “But I don’t even like you.”

“I would offer my power, if only to streamline this process,” Teacher said, “But anyone acquainted with me tends to misconstrue that as more insult than anything.”

“It implies we’re stupid,” she said.  “Or desperate.”

“I can see where it might.”

“If we get arrested, we get arrested,” she said.  She was watching as the ex-viking split off another copy of himself.  “I’d rather play nice and get moved to a smaller cell than get shot pushing things too far.”

“We’re not going to get shot, nor are we going to get arrested.  I do pride myself on having plans that work.  Any contingency plans are more a matter of flexibility and convenience than a belief that my core plan won’t work.”

“You sound annoyed.”

“You spend over a decade as a supervillain, put plans in motion, great and small, with a flawless rate of success,” Teacher said, “First bump in the road, and you get questioned.”

“You were arrested.”

“I was between plans,” Teacher said.

The viking’s clones changed.  One man, one woman, Asian and black in appearance, respectively.  The third began to alter, his flesh swelling and contracting as he took on the form of a larger man.

His original self held out some discs, checking the front and back, then frowned.


“No power.  If we’re fighting, then I’m fighting naked,” he said.  But even as he said the words, the individuals began sprouting clothes, folding them out of flesh.  The color began changing.

“Against armored foes?”  Teacher asked.

“Probably won’t put them down, but I could distract.”

Teacher nodded.

“A shapeshifter,” Ingenue said.  “Do I know you by another face?”

“I wasn’t in the Birdcage,” the viking said.  “Satyr.”


Nymph and satyr, Teacher thought.  He didn’t dwell on the thought.

“The pair are getting closer,” the woman in white said.

“Good,” Teacher answered.  “Come here.”

She did.  He could intensify his power, scale up the strength of the ability with the effect on the subject, but hers was minor at best.  He’d wanted assistance from a person, rather than an invalid.  It had been good that her spirit had been broken when he’d found her.  It meant she was more compliant in general, without being useless.

She’s happier now, he thought.  She had been lost, and now she had direction, even if it was his.

That the precognition was barely set in made it easier to undo.  His awareness touched on countless abilities, arranged in grids and rows in the background of his mind

There were caveats.  Issues.  He could grant a kind of specialty in a particular field, a mastery over a given subject.  This was how he found his expert teachers, ironic as it was. It was also how he made his tinkers, pushing that mastery to the point that it went just beyond the normal limits of theory and knowledge.  Doing it with enough people, putting them all on one task, and he was effectively a tinker himself, in a roundabout way.  There were tradeoffs in needing personnel, and a lack of reliability in the end product, if he didn’t carefully check every step of the way, but he was a low level tinker in every field.

He could also grant a wealth of mental powers.  Perception powers, powers that gave perspective, or peculiar forms of genius that operated by different rules.

It was this type of power that he gave to her.

The D.T. officers drew closer.  They could see through walls, they were strong, tough, and they would win a fight by virtue of the computers they wore.  The suits couldn’t be hacked, and there were no convenient weak points to target.

Through his maintained contact, the woman in white changed, her power adjusting.  Clairvoyance.  Seeing everything in a small radius, inside and out.

He finished, then drew a notebook from his robe, handing it to the woman in white.  “Map.  Mark out people and anything else that wasn’t on the blueprint I showed you earlier.”

She set about drawing, her face an inch away from the paper in the dim.

“Sitting in the dark, armored suits converging on us, in the middle of superhero central,” Ingenue said.  “I find myself concerned.”

“You said you weren’t worried.”

“I’m not worried about them.  I’m worried that you’re as invested in me as you are.  You expected something along these lines.”

“I did.”

“That means you want me, you want my power, or both.  Badly enough you’d take this risk.”

“The word ‘risk’ implies the outcome is in doubt.”

“The outcome is always in doubt.”

He shook his head.  “Let me assuage your worries with two words.”

“Two words?”

“Stockholm syndrome.”

“Where a captive falls in love with the captor.  Beauty and the Beast,” Ingenue said.  “I always did like the princess movies.”

“I give people power, and I think there is a submissive kind of appeal to being a slave.  To being numbed.  Some fall for me like an alcoholic falls to drink.  Love, after a fashion.  In your case, that’s almost a defense mechanism.”

“A defense mechanism?  I fall in love with you, you get the benefit of my power…”

“Things don’t turn out well for your boyfriends, as a general rule,” Teacher commented.  “Psychosis or a kind of obsession.  No.  I’m not aiming to capture you.  That’s the opposite of what I’m trying to achieve.”

“You’re going to need to explain that.”

He smiled a little.  “In time.  Ready, Satyr?  You remember the plan?”

Satyr nodded.  “I have a good memory.”

“Let’s confront our opponents,” Teacher said.

Satyr nodded.  His shapeshifted clones led the way.  Teacher lagged behind, picking up the teleportation circle.

They headed straight for the men in armored suits.  Five in total had gathered.  Others were elsewhere in the area.

“Excuse me,” Teacher spoke.

The men in suits trained weapons on him.  Singling him out in the group.  The clones stepped closer to Teacher, providing a body shield.

“In a matter of minutes, my followers are going to carry out the plan I outlined,” he said.  “There are four actions they’re going to carry out.  The one you should be most worried about is a tractor beam.  It’s set up fairly close by, and it’s going to fire on this structure, cutting out a cylindrical section and slowly withdrawing it.  I’m sure you’ve played games as a child, maybe you played that one with the wooden blocks you pull out of a tower.  They’re going to withdraw much of this floor.  With it gone, the upper floors are going to topple.  Some will land on the building next to us.  I seem to recall there’s a small hospital in there.”

“Hands on your head and turn around,” one of the D.T. officers said.

“The people manning the tractor beam are all ex-heroes.  Capes who came to me in desperation, who couldn’t pay, and other innocents.  I wouldn’t advise an attack.  I set up measures to ensure it would end badly for everyone involved.”

Now!” the officer barked.

Teacher turned around, tossing the teleportation circle off to one side before putting his hands on his head.  “Right now, I know you have ships in the area, positioned to catch our getaway vehicle.  I know exactly how many you have.  With the number of people in this building, you’ll need every single one of those suits to evacuate everyone in time.”

A D.T. officer reached out, foaming the pad.

Every single one.  The section of building the tractor beam seizes will be collected by my getaway ship, with me inside it.  After that, the building will collapse.  You could attempt to stop the process, but I can guarantee there would be a cost.”

The D.T. officer tapped one foot against the back of his knee, forcing him to bend it.  He dropped to the ground.  He could hear the clink of chains.  Cuffs.

“The alternative is simple.  I know there are heroes listening in.  Chevalier, maybe, or Legend.  Defiant, perhaps, given how someone seemed to be able to work around my hackers?  If you stop jamming my equipment, I’ll use that teleportation pad in the corner there, along with my colleagues.  I leave, you don’t have to worry about me, and the building stays up.  You can keep the people manning the tractor beam.  My gift to you.”

He waited, feeling the metal cuff encircle one wrist.  The D.T. officer circled around, looming over him.  Black armor, complete with an onboard system.  Ominous.

“Ingenue wants to go, and if you push matters, you’re going to have to see us in court, and you’ll have to explain the security measures you’re enforcing on her.   You’d win, very probably, but it would become public knowledge that you aren’t holding to the spirit of the amnesty.  That’s strike one.  Strike two?  Losing this building.  This would be a terrible time to have a fixture and a power base crumble.  It would affect the tens of millions who pass through this area or see it from a distance.  You don’t want the blow to morale.”

He waited.  The second D.T. officer started working on the others.

Still kneeling, Teacher met the eyes of the D.T. officer standing above him.  The man’s eyes weren’t visible, but a red light blinked in the corner of one.  Teacher continued, “Strike three?  Even if you brought me into custody, and there’s no guarantee that would succeed, I have other students, elsewhere.  You would be sentencing them to die, if I wasn’t there to look after them, to access them where I’ve tucked them away.  You gain nothing of substance.  Putting me behind bars, fine.  But what does that get you?  With the amnesty, the only thing you can charge me with is breaking and entering.  Losing this building, dozens of lives, reputation… merely to stop me?”

“You may be understating your own importance,” Ingenue murmured.

“Shh,” he said.  “I’m making a compelling argument, don’t undermine me.”

The D.T. officer spoke.  “I’ve been instructed to tell you that we don’t negotiate with terrorists.”

“Weigh this mathematically, how many lives are ruined by this one moment of stupidity, compared to the lives you think I’d ruin if I continued operating on my own?  Weigh it emotionally…”

The blinking of the red light at the corner of the D.T. officer’s mask sped up. Teacher glanced back.  Satyr and Ingenue were caught, hands bound.  The D.T. officer was tying up the clones, now.  Others were watching hallways.

The blinking light turned yellow, then green.  A mist erupted around the pad.  The foam that bound it in place broke down.  It skidded across the floor, propelled by small wheels.

Teacher let himself topple.  His shoulder hit the teleportation pad.  Crackling swept over the length of his body.

His students were waiting as he appeared on the other side, dragging him off.

Ingenue, Satyr, and the woman in white followed, in that order.

It took time for them to get sorted out.  His students milled through the area, scanning them for trackers and other signatures.  Devices were used to scramble the teleporter’s signature to prevent anyone from following.

The area was a broad building with a high ceiling, most of it occupied by a single machine.  The best he could do without a Doormaker of his own.  Sixty of his students milled through the area, seeing to their individual tasks.

“How?” Ingenue asked.

“We did our research,” Teacher said.  One of his students cut the chain between his cuffs.  “They had to use the suits.  Protocol when Ingenue is involved.  The ambient shutdown effect doesn’t include the suits, because the suits have to operate at one hundred percent when there are capes on the other side.  Once it was close enough to one of them, the crew on this end could operate it.”

“If they’d destroyed the pad-”

“Against protocol, again.  You don’t shoot tinker devices.  At best you bury them in containment foam, and I used my access to Dragon to find the formula for a counteragent.”

“You can’t cover every eventuality,” Ingenue said.

“My plans work,” he said, dusting himself off.

Her voice was hard.  “If you want my help, fine.  But don’t involve me in your lunatic schemes.”

He paused.

Lunacy, madness.

Speaking of…

“Where’s our distraction?”

“Lung finished the job ten minutes ago,” a student answered.

“He found it?  I’ll want to see pictures.  I feel like a child on Christmas.”

“Bringing them up right now, sir.”

“No incident?”

“There was an incident,” the student said.  Blunt, there was no emotion on his face.  No indication of whether it was a continent-destroying error or Lung killing a student.

“Show me.”

Monitors lit up.

Lung was a mercenary hire.  The site was a vault, and fallen capes littered the area.  The view shifted as the camera did, showing a share of Lung’s claw.  He was so tall that his hand dangled at what was shoulder level for the students walking alongside him.

The man had refused to let Teacher use his power on him, but he’d agreed to cold, hard cash and a group of Teacher’s students joining him to ensure the job was finished.  They were dressed in white outfits, carrying hardware he’d paid a pretty penny for.  All had powers of their own, on top of the complimentary powers he’d granted them.  They were loyal, and they would die if he ordered it.

The scene was almost comical, on a level.  There were warnings plastered everywhere, skulls and crossbones engraved into stone, and even yellow police tape here and there.

Lung ignored it all.  He’d changed, fighting past the defensive line.

Every plan had to involve a win, Teacher mused.  He had a good streak going.  Using Lung, using the man now, it meant pulling stronger heroes away.

Either Lung was removed from the big picture, and a chaotic element was dealt with, or Lung succeeded, and Teacher could banish one niggling doubt, sleeping just a bit easier.

He’d done a lot of research, ordering his minions to dig up footage, finding it wherever it was available.  He’d had them search it, then double checked it himself.

But an educated guess was still only a guess.

Lung tore into the last vault, rending the hinges, then slowly peeling it away, heating the metal as he went.

“They didn’t send one of the major capes?  Chevalier?  Valkyrie?”

“Too far away, sir.”

Far away meant different things, in this new future.  A world away in another universe was very possible.

“Good fortune for us… or particularly bad fortune, if this incident-”

He trailed off as Lung entered the vault itself.  The camera shed light on the contents.

Satyr hung back, arms folded.

“What is it?”  Ingenue asked.

“A quarantine area.  That was the weapon the Endbringer was using.”

A gun.  It was dark gray with a faint green speckled coating on it, where one material had been broken down and incorporated into the outer coating.  There was a gouge in the side where a feather had cut the housing, but it was otherwise intact.

Over and over, the Simurgh had protected the weapon.  He’d seen it, had checked the footage, had seen her go out of her way to shield it with her wings.  She’d done it subtly, most of the time, events contriving to make it look more accidental than anything.

She couldn’t make tinker devices herself.  She had to copy the designs of tinkers near her.  He’d found who she’d copied, a now deceased cape from Brockton Bay, and he’d found the designs.

There were discrepancies.

He was all too aware that he could be walking into her trap.  He had enough precogs around himself and, in that video, around Lung, that the Simurgh shouldn’t have been able to leverage her full power against them, but she could have put things in place, not knowing exactly who, but still knowing it would be bad.

The weapon had been lost in the course of the battle, and the heroes had decided to minimize contact with the thing, locking it away.

“Quiet, please.”

The bustle of his students working around him stopped.

In the silence, he could hear footsteps behind him.  He, Satyr and Ingenue were joined by a third person.

Teacher spoke without turning his head.  “You’ve seen this video already, I expect?”

“Yes,” Contessa answered.

Lung tore into the casing, much as he’d torn through the vault door.

There was a scratch as Lung’s claw touched glass.

He tore at the metal, peeling it away while preserving the glass.

There was fluid inside.

The light caught the glass, at first, obscuring the contents.

A baby.  Male.  With large ears and a large round nose.  Not attractive, as babies went.

One or two years old?  Accelerated aging?  Where had the Simurgh been in contact with a tinker with that particular knowledge?  Bonesaw?

That was disquieting enough on its own.  Was the child tinker harboring knowledge?

“These are the big things you were talking about?”  Ingenue asked, her eyes wide.

“Actually, no.  I had suspicions, but the Endbringer making a baby wasn’t one of them.”

Lung touched a burning hand to the glass, melting it.  Water steamed on contact with his claw.

“No,” Teacher said.  Idiotic, considering Lung couldn’t hear, and the event had already passed.  Still, he couldn’t help but add, “Don’t.”

The water was crimson and boiling by the time Lung withdrew his claw.

The monster turned to leave, the polluted water still popping behind him.

“I’m not sure whether to be relieved or very frightened,” Satyr commented.

“The… incident?” Teacher asked.

“Ten minutes from now,” a student said.  “He growls a bit, but there isn’t anything we can make out.  He was just walking, and our camera follows”

“Skip forward, then.”

The video skipped forward.  Lung was in a dark stairwell, reinforced concrete and steel beams, light above him.

He stepped up onto the surface, his clawed feet sliding where they were too long and wide to fit on one..

The Simurgh was waiting.

Lung was her height, bristling with scales.  She looked more human of the two, pale, her hair blowing a bit in the wind, unreadable.

Monsters, the both of them.

Well done,” Satyr said.  “You may have killed us all.”

“She moved?  She isn’t dormant?  Did she attack a target?”

Did I just start the cycle up again?

“She returned to orbit.”

Teacher nodded, but as much as experience had inured him to the horrors of the world, he couldn’t help but feel a sick knot in his gut.  That didn’t mean anything.  Had she gone dormant again, or was she waiting?

Or was she doing something else entirely?

“I don’t understand,” Ingenue said.

I don’t either, Teacher thought, but he didn’t say it out loud.

“She may well try again,” Contessa said.  “It’s hard to say how, when she isn’t involved in things.”

Teacher nodded.

“What will you do?”  Contessa asked.

“If she’s going to try again, I’ll find out, and I’ll take actions to stop it.  I’ll have to bring others on board.  Heroes, maybe.  Learn from the mistakes of my predecessor.  Doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results is insanity, isn’t it?”

“There’s a saying along those lines,” Contessa said.

“You said she’d try again.  She’ll try what?”  Ingenue asked.

“I’ll find that out too,” Teacher said.  “I wish Lung hadn’t destroyed the corpse.  With luck, the heroes won’t seal the vault for quarantine’s sake and they’ll check for DNA.”

“I could find out,” Contessa said.

“You’re going to help?”

She seemed to think for a little while.  “Most likely.”

With that, she walked off.

More a cat now, walking its own path, than a loyal dog.

Still, she was in his camp.  At least for now.

He nodded.  “Right.  That was it, with this job?  Anything else?”

“Lung called to leave a message, sir,” the student said.  “It was only barely intelligible.  He said you could consider that a breach of contract, if you wished.”

“Pay him.  It leaves the door open for future hires.”

“Yes sir.  And you have a message from Marquis.  He’ll accept you any time today.”

“Do you have coordinates?”

“Yes sir.”

“I’m coming, I assume,” Ingenue said.

Teacher nodded.  As much as he wanted to rest and get his bearings, he had to keep moving.  “Saint?”

A student in the corner turned.  It took him a second to muster the functions needed to reply.  “Sir?”

“Dragon’s code.  Any changes?  Anything significant?”

Saint slowly shook his head.

“What are you thinking?” Satyr asked.

He shook his head.  “A thought.”

Who had beat his team of hackers?  Defiant wasn’t that good.  Either something had gone wrong with his team, or Dragon was somehow active and hiding that fact from him.


He and Ingenue stepped into the teleporter.

Marquis was sitting on the stairs in front of a sprawling summer home.  A jug of iced tea sat beside him, along with a plate of cookies.

“Iced tea?”  Teacher asked.

“I picked too warm a place to spend the winter,” Marquis said.  “Ingenue.  How’s the love life?”

She frowned a little.

“Sit?” Marquis offered, indicating the stairs.

Teacher sat.  It wasn’t comfortable, and he wasn’t a shapeshifter in any capacity.

“So.  Do we discuss business first or do we conduct meaningless small talk?”

“A few minutes ago, I would have said ‘business’,” Teacher said.  “But I’ve had enough business for a time.  Is your family well?”

Marquis stretched a little.  He took a cookie, then offered one to Ingenue.  “Iced tea?”  Either of you?”

Teacher looked up at the sky.  The sun beat down on them.  “I’ll take you up on that.”

“Please,” Ingenue said.

Marquis took the time to pour it.  He handed the glasses to the others, then filled his own glass.  “By the by, if you bring up my daughter again, Teacher, I’ll lobotomize you.”

Teacher nodded.  “Noted.”

“Needle up one nostril, jab the front of the brain, scrape… I digress.  There’s no way for you to mention her without it sounding like a threat, so I’d rather you avoid the topic.”

“I can do that,” Teacher said.

Marquis smiled.  “Since you already asked, though, she’s saying goodbye to her family.”

“What does that mean?”

“It means what it means.  Putting bad things to rest.  Moving on to, well… bad things.  But in a good way, I hope.”

“I presume you’re the bad things she has in the future.  You’re continuing your career, then?”  Teacher asked.

“Could you stop?”

“No, but I’m tied up in the business, and  I never really stepped away from it.  I’d wondered if you could, having had some time away.”

“I was cell block leader.  Hardly a vacation from supervillainy.”

“But you’ve left your old business partners behind, there wasn’t anything to return to, after eleven years in the ‘cage.”

“I went back to it right away,” Ingenue said, quiet.  “It’s surprisingly lonely.”

“Raises the question,” Marquis said.  “Can a person change?  I suppose if I was going to, my daughter would be a reason.  My job took her from me in the beginning, after all.”

“But you’re going back?”

“Call it narcissism.  I love ‘Marquis’ too much to say goodbye to him.”

“The original Narcissus loved himself so much he withered away,” Teacher said.  “It can be a kind of personality disorder.  A kind of madness.”

“An odd tangent,” Marquis observed.

“Isn’t it?  I’ve been focused on the big picture for some time, and I found myself in the position as one of the most powerful villains.  My plans came to fruition.  I have what I want.  I’m looking at things on a different level.  Where do we stand?”

“Humanity as a whole, or us, as individuals?”

“Both?”  Teacher asked.

“You’ve been dwelling on the subject.  Tell me your thoughts, first.”

“You asked if a person could change.  I look at us, at the people we interact with, and I see madmen and monsters.  Is that just us, the individuals, or is it mankind?  I could use my power, set a team on it, find out, but I’m not sure I’d like the answer.  I’d like to change, and that’s a heck of a lot easier, because I can lie to myself, whatever the outcome.”

“Which leads, I presume, to your business deal.”

“Capes.  The theory going around, after the revelations about Scion, involved all powers being parts of a whole.  We’ve seen how some powers are devastating in concert.  It was, after all, how we won, on a level.”

“More or less true,” Marquis said.

“I’ve achieved all I wanted to achieve.  I sell powers, I have wealth, I have a small army at my disposal.  I have enemies, and in an odd way, that’s something I wanted too, because it keeps life interesting.  But I feel a need to strive for something higher.  Can we put the whole back together?  At least in part?”

“This is why you wanted me to come,” Ingenue said.

“Everyone wants something.  I think, with the right people, the right combinations, and unity, we can achieve what we desire most.  An alliance, not for villainous purposes, but to achieve something greater.  Fighting against entropy and all that is wrong in the world.  Satyr is on board, but he wants a great deal.  I don’t think I need to ask if there’s something you want, Ingenue.”

“No,” she said, looking momentarily distracted.  She looked up, “But I don’t see how this helps.”

“We habitually seek out money and prestige,” Teacher said.  “Why?  Because it’s power, in an abstract way, and you need power to change the world.  I think we can achieve power in a more direct manner.  There’s a trend at work, parahumans taking positions of power.  What if we take it a step further?  Forget money and position.  Everyone in our group gets what they desire most, we enforce a kind of cooperation, a joining or sharing of powers.  We put ourselves above even governments and warlords.”

“Everyone gets what they want most,” Marquis mused.  “I can’t think of anything more terrifying.  If I back out, will you be plotting to murder me?”

“No.  But I would prefer you didn’t go talking about this.”

“I’m to remain silent while you build your secret society and start tampering with things that should be left alone?”

“Call it professional courtesy?”

“On the topic of courtesy, something tells me you’re after my daughter, for this group of yours.”

“Your daughter is an adult.  Capable of making her own decisions.  I was going to bring her up later.”

“You’re not winning me over, Teacher.”

“I’ll make you a deal.  Let me make the offer to her.  She accepts or refuses it herself.  If she says no, I leave it be and find someone else.  Either way, you respect things with your silence.  I won’t take any action against you, but I can’t promise my partners will be so polite.”

“Mmm.  A counteroffer.  I make the offer, as you outlined it here, and she decides from that.”

Teacher nodded.

“Power and control,” Marquis said.  He sighed, then bit into a cookie.

“You can’t avoid it,”  Ingenue asked.  “Can you live without charm, intimidation, or some form of influence over others?  Without making others do your bidding on some level?  You flirt, they react one way or another.  Everything is manipulation.”

“I think there’s such a thing as extremes,” Marquis said.  “Case in point…”

“I think I know who you’re thinking of,” Teacher said.

“She had it all, and see where it got her,” Marquis said.  “A lesson for you, Teacher.”

It was enough to give Teacher a moment’s pause.

Last Chapter                                                                                               Next Chapter

442 thoughts on “Teneral e.5

  1. For anyone who was reading in the first 10 minutes after the chapter went up, I reworded the ending and rewrote some, because I didn’t like how it flowed.

    Thanks for reading. Final update on Tues.

    • The final update? How do you feel about that? I mean, it’s a huge thing, isn’t it? Gigantic, amazing… It’s brought you fame and fortune, and now it’s over. What’s your reaction?

      • Honestly? I’m exhausted more than anything.

        I’ve always been a ‘by the seat of my pants’ writer. It’s how I function best. The parts about writing that energize me are the parts where I can see things unfolding, where an idea comes to me mid-sentence and I never would have had that idea otherwise.

        Writing the ending, I’m putting those ideas to rest, and it’s work. A bit of a slog. I don’t have experience writing endings, so it’s been hard as hell. I liked how Rachel, Imp and Dragon’s interludes came out, the others I’m less certain on.

        I mean, damn, 305 chapters is a lot of material. It’s a lot of text that’s sort of looming above me, making it harder to put things together on the very bottom. It’s also a lot of time, when you put it all together. Figure every chapter took me ~14 hours to write (less for the first 50 or so), and more time and thought went into it in the time between writing. While I did chores or walked the dog or traveled to school (I was in University for a share of the early story), while I painted and landscaped and did other work. Constantly turning ideas over in my head, debating what I’d write next and how to structure stuff, imagining conversations in my head so I could maybe uncover a good line to throw in there at some juncture. Putting that time to rest is hard too, because I’m not trying to think about things for the next 5 arcs or 10 chapters, but… only 5 chapters, then 4, then 3. It’s a shift in mental gears.

        Don’t get me wrong. I’m happy. And the reception has more or less been good, so I’m exceedingly relieved about that. Man, this has been… even ‘journey’ isn’t the right word. 22ish novels worth of material in two and a half years. I’m proud, and I know you guys haven’t seen this on your end, but I’ve changed as a person. I’ve grown as a writer (not perfect, I know, but better than I was when I started) and I’ve gone from someone with relatively little direction and enthusiasm for life to being someone with a dream.

        Maybe some of that exhaustion is the result of me closing a chapter on my life. These past 2.5 years have felt like they’ve been four or five times the sheer amount of time that the 7.5 years that preceded them did.

              • Enough to give Teacher a moment’s pause.

                Is good, to me. It both satisfies my desire to see Teacher brought down a peg, and drives home that the Birdcage residents don’t get an instant, pithy response to Taylor’s death – it seemed a little out of place.

              • I think the “best” ending here is going to depend on what you write in the next chapter. For example, I read the “shot by contessa” one, which REALLY made me think there was going to be at least a little chance that you-know-who might be back. And I really liked it. But if you don’t want to forebode like that you’re probably better as you are now.

        • I hate to complain, I have really liked all the epilogues, but there were two things that I though should have been different.

          Correct me if I am wrong, but I’m pretty sure I read a version that went something like, “Contessa shot her,” in response to change. I really did like that line, and I think that version, or at least that ending was a bit better than the current one. Currently, Marquis’s words are too vague and they don’t have as much impact as reminding everyone that Contessa shot Taylor. Marquis’s statement only makes it sound like that changing things gets you killed. The Contessa line makes you question if Taylor (or should I call her Skitter) could change. Both versions get across their own ideas, but I think that the Contessa ending was more powerful.

          I also think that it would have been better to switch epilogue four and five. Five seems to discuss the idea of change, and leaves it without very much resolution, or a at least a bleak one. Four on the other hand resolves the idea of change in a more positive and more hopeful way. Since I haven’t read the final chapter, and you may have reasons for organising the epilogues like this, I cannot say so with much certainty, but I think that epilogue five would have made a better lead for epilogue four, which would have resolved Worm more neatly.

          • I believe there is one more chapter, Tuesday. My instinct is that having a cliffhanger ending here is quite fitting as long as Tuesday’s chapter makes for a satisfactory resolution to it.

    • This is just an amazing story. I read the last sequence of Speck like 4 times, and it was practically a religious experience. Seeing Taylor go through all that, doing so much, losing so much, to end in such a way, taken out to a forest and getting shot. It’s a horrible, sad, maybe necessary end that fits the style of the story perfectly. A real emotional rollercoaster.

      The only thing I’d like for at this point would’ve been a “cemetery scene” where a lot of people are directly commenting on Taylor’s actions. It was a worlds-shattering event, there’d be more than just a commemorative armband and a free pass to participants.

      And my personal head-canon is that Contessa shot Taylor with a needle-gun, performing some field brain-surgery to give her a second chance. Because no character deserves a break like she does.

  2. Ah, you added a few lines.

    Just to drive home the point that Yes, Taylor’s Dead, Stop Asking You Idgets.

    Funny that Teacher of all people is setting up a secret society. Shades of Cauldron all over again, isn’t it?

    • Plus he still didn’t say Contessa killed her. Even without weird powers directing the bullet, people survive being shot, even in the head in real life. Contessa’s power is absolute. If she used it one more time to ask herself the path to a happy healthy sane Taylor, it would tell her. We still haven’t seen the body. Until then, everything could still be a smokescreen. Even if he had say Contessa killed her, it could still be a lie she perpetuates to maintain that happiness.

        • It’s a law of any universe that has powers. Unless you see a body, you never assume death. Sometimes not even then considering some of the powers out there. I mean we all thought Contessa died off screen too. Chances are she did die, but I just can’t be sure yet.

        • Look, not only is there the uncertainty with the need for two shots when Contessa is involved, remember that the Simurgh actively helped Taylor to escape the crowd. You know, the one with near-perfect foreknowledge of what’s going to happen and who never does anything without a reason?

          I can’t believe she’d help Taylor get away like that only for her to die a day or two later, without interacting with anyone or setting any other dominoes toppling.

          No, I’m pretty sure that Taylor living is part of the Simurgh’s plan, and I don’t know whether to be relieved or terrified by that.

    • Don’t be silly. In this universe where people have powers that can revive the dead, and Contessa can perform brain surgery with bullets, you’re not going to convince everyone that Taylor is dead so easily. I don’t believe it myself.

      I’m hoping Wildbow will give a definitive answer to this question on Tuesday, one that doesn’t include lawyer-speak or half-truths. I would really appreciate that sort of closure. Many authors nowadays think it’s cool to fuck with readers or avoid giving closure when it comes to important things. Mass Effect 3 was the most recent popular example of this.

      I hope Wildbow doesn’t follow that trend.

      • I actually liked the recent Breaking Bad ending where they answered every question and wrapped things up. Not like other endings where its ambiguous or fades to black. Still there is always a possibility Wildbow decides to come back the wormverse down the line after trying out a few more different stories.

        • I think what makes an ending acceptable, at least to me, is the level of emotional connection I have with a character.

          Take the movie Inception for example. Brilliant movie, but it was in the end a movie of a relatively short length. The ambiguous ending was a surprise, but I didn’t come away disliking it because I hadn’t really become emotionally attached to Cobb.

          The same doesn’t apply Taylor. Worm has been around for over 5,000 times longer than that movie was, so there has been far, far more time to pick up an emotional attachment to Taylor, instigated by Wildbow’s high quality of writing.

          A story like Worm gives you a much, much different feeling when you get to the end and find that you won’t get a definitive answer to what Taylor’s fate will be. It’s a gut punch.

          It’s also what the people who played the Mass Effect series experienced to some degree when they reached the ending of ME3. The series had started five years previously and they had that long to get invested in their iteration of Shepard and how he or she would finally save the galaxy and end their story. They expected that only to be punched in the gut when BioWare thought “speculation for everyone!” was a good idea and avoiding giving people any closure. It showed a major disconnect between the writers and the players.

          • Well real endings are hard to do. You just can’t make everyone happy so that is why there are so many cop outs or leaving things ambiguous so fans can draw their own conclusions. The first scene of Worm was with Taylor, and the last scene of worm will be anyone’s guess.

            • Trying to please everyone is foolish in the first place. Yes, writing ambiguous endings with that intention is a total cop-out.


          My theory is that the last episode was Walter’s fantasy sequence. It was all too tidy. In reality, he froze to death in that car.

      • Brain surgery wouldn’t cut it. Not even if she hit the corona pollentia. Remember what happened last time Taylor lost that, albeit temporarily? She could still bug Bonesaw. Yeah, it wouldn’t work. Her power would still be out of control and Taylor would still have the crippling brain damage. Besides, why be a bullet surgeon? Horribly imprecise, even with Contessa’s power–she can’t exactly make a bullet curve or stop mid-brain.

        Contessa shot her after Taylor couldn’t come up with any reason she should be allowed to live.
        Everyone has been talking about her like she’s dead, putting up memorials for her, and not worrying about the mind-controlling Scion-killing monster that is Khepri.
        Neither Contessa, Bitch, nor anyone else who could be “babysitting” her shows any sign of being distracted by hiding such high-stakes, S-class issues.


    • Wildbow’s a sneaky one. I’ve been surprised by him too many times to say anything’s certain till it’s all said and done. Even then, I don’t really trust that whatever he writes is what it looks like.

      That said, I just don’t think he’d have Skitter shot in the head, and let that be the last we hear about her. As far as endings go, that’s extremely weak, to me, and I’ve come to expect more from this story.

      • Yeah, being sure of anything regarding Worm is an absolute crapshoot. If reading the serial hasn’t taught you to be a more uncertain and paranoid reader, then what? Have you been half asleep this whole time?

        With the amount of people saying that they’re absolutely, positively sure that Taylor is alive or dead, it’s very possible the last chapter with make it completely ambiguous with enough evidence either way. So we’ll still be arguing about it during the heat death of the universe.

        • The problem with that is that it’s bad writing. Ambiguity for the sake of letting people choose their own ending defies the whole concept of fiction having merit. It’s the author saying he can’t think of an ending good enough for his audience. Lady and the Tiger endings are not artistic. They are lazy and smug and awful.

          • But the Lady and the Tiger told you what would happen depending on which door was taken or if the man tried to run and basically said that no matter what happened something bad lied ahead. It’s like an ending where it’s a character laying broken, alone, injured, and screaming at the bottom of a ditch; we don’t know how they proceed from there but most options are grim. Red, Green, or Blue light was lazy.

          • Ambiguous endings are not automatically bad writing. It depends a lot on the nature of the work.

            In “The Lady and the Tiger” ambiguity is a key part of the story’s point. Its moral is that you don’t *know* what a woman might do under the influence of an intense, passionate love denied. You don’t know whether she would sacrifice for you, or lash out and destroy you in spite – she could go either way. (Yes, it’s kind of a sexist parable, but that’s beside the point).

            If that story were to end decisively one way or the other, it would become a different story with a different theme (either “hell hath no fury like a woman scorned” or “love means seeing willing to sacrifice”).

            As a short parable, Lady and the Tiger” is a very simplified example. But the same principle applies to longer works – an ambiguous ending can be a good ending depending on how well that ending fits the themes of the story. If the theme is “the battle between good and evil can never be definitively won”, for example, then it’s very fitting to end the story as a new cycle of infamy begins (like Wildbow seems to be doing here with Teacher). Conversely, if your story is “Can Bob make it to the top of Mount Everest?” and you end with that question unanswered, your audience has every right to be livid.

    • What do you mean, “shades of”? The only things they’re leaving out are the Doorman and the end goal of not getting killed by Scion, and they are assembling a sufficient supply of megalomania and tinkers to get around that.

  3. I’m loving how even Marquis and Teacher don’t want to say her names. Taylor. Skitter. Weaver. Taylor. Skitter. Khepri. What are you now? Where are you?

    And also; Saint is a bitch. Literally. He can’t even talk.

    • I hope the real him is still in there, forced to observe the rest of himself.

      Hey Saint, still worried that it’s the AI going to turn on humanity and take over everything?

      If it wasn’t clear before, I’d say it’s obvious now that Saint is not gay. How could he possibly be fruity when he’s a vegetable?

      I’m not saying Saint’s a moron, folks, but only because that’s too many big words for him to understand.

      • “She’d been a hero, and she’d watched her team die in the aftermath of the attack. Lost, helpless, broken. Now she stood tall, back straight, joking and laughing with her companion.

        The real her was numb, locked in a cage, but that was secondary to the point.”

        Saint would be the same, I think. The only bad think is that he would be “numb” to the whole horror of the situation. It’s still a pretty horrible fate, even if Saint is a complete prick.

    • Heh… oh the irony, instead of being an organic battery and spend all day computing pi because he plugged in the Dragon who sings Daisy Bell, he’s now a meatbag cog in Teacher’s paranoia/megalomaniac machine.

    • You talk about Satyrical’s power as “osmosis” of a complete human being. I think you might mean mitosis. Or maybe that’s just Teacher being a brainy idiot.

      Same with the students who accompany Lung having “complimentary” powers. Spelled that way, it means “free.” I think you may have meant “complementary,” as in they complement the powers they originally had.

      • I can see Teacher using a word that sounds right even if it’s completely wrong. It fits with his modus operandi of being a brilliant idiot who doesn’t think things through enough. (Not that “mitosis” is accurate, mind you. That refers to a specific process of dividing cells.)

        I can see either definition of compl?mentary, actually.

        • The beauty of metaphors is that you don’t need to have the absolute accurate term. Just a similarity between the source and target phenomena.

      • I agree “osmosis” was confusing. Mitosis is a splitting into two clones; osmosis is a process of flowing through or into something. At “the ex-viking split off another copy of himself”, my thought was “‘another’ copy? when was a first one mentioned?”

        “Complimentary” (as in “free”) made sense to me though. Teacher might like to think of them that way, though many know there is in fact a cost.

    • “She put her hands into the pockets of her dressing gown, which were too small for her whole hands.” That’s a bit awkward.
      “background of his mind” Missing period.
      “business, and I never” Extra space.
      ““A lesson for you, Teacher.” Missing quote.

      I find it oddly amusing that the original ending and the rewritten ending had a missing quote in the same spot.

    • > She set about drawing, her face an inch away from the paper in the dim.

      …in the dim what? “Dim” is an adjective or a verb, not a noun.

    • She stopped short when saw him –> ‘she’ saw him

      and they wanted to raise you to back to ‘cataclysmic’ –> to raise you back

      too long and wide to fit on one.. –> double period

      Who had beat his team of hackers? –> beaten

    • “Osmosis of a full human being.”
      Osmosis refers to water (and only water) passing through cell walls. The word you were looking for was probably “mitosis”? Unless Teacher uses that word incorrectly specifically because it is a peeve to a lot of people (I know I do. I bet Tattletale does, too. Imp will eventually).

  4. This would be a perfect moment for Imp to decloak and start having Flor inflict silly compulsions on them. It might relieve Teachers boredom.

    • Yeah, I kept expecting Imp to appear and gut him with a spork.

      Would improve things, if it happened.

      More seriously, I somehow don’t like Teacher a chaciter. I don’t even want a painful death for him, just gone. I can’t find anything in him I want to see.

  5. I’m just hoping that basically, whatever Teacher tries, he loses. Seriously. It’ll turn out badly, because it’s him, and I think he’s racked up enough karmic debt to make, say, Abaddon come along and pay particular attention to him.

    • Oh it so totally will. It’s like Cauldron all over again, is my thought. Of course, we’ll have to wait for the sequel for this to be born out, but that’s my first impression anyway.

    • Honestly, this chapter made me more worried about Teacher than anything that’s come before. He’s Xanatos to the bloody nth degree.

      • Not he really. He may think he’s Xanatos, but really he isnt Magnificent Bastard’s material. He’s more a very successful, for now, Smug Snake.

        • Doctor Mother said it best. Just because you are a thinker does not mean you are intelligent. Anyone with Teachers power can gain alot of knowledge and influence. He lacks commons sense or a someone he can trust. There is no one there to tell him he is making a stupid move. So he gets paranoid, and assumes so much.

            • No, no, I remember the scene. Tattletale is chewing Dr Mother and pointing how Cauldron has failed on all fronts ( this is at the same time the 53s have dropped to go and attack Cauldron) and Dr Mother takes a well placed shot by telling her that just because she has a power that let’s her slide pieces into the right places, it didn’t mean she was actually clever. And say what you will about Dr Mother, but she had a point.

          • On the other hand, since Teacher is not, himself, a thinker, he’s not subject to the sort of distorted thought that people like Accord suffer from. He’s able to harness thinkers’ intellects, but at one step removed so he’s got a better handle on the big picture.

      • He thinks he’s Xanatos. But that’s all creative rationalizations. He gets away with a couple of schemes through luck and other people’s whim, and gets caught when he’s “between plans”, so he convinces himself that his plans are infallible. He kills high profile targets for the lulz, and convinces himself that it was to “shake things up” and gather more information, rather than just because he was bored and he could, and completely disregards all negative consequences.

        Xanatos was classy, intelligent, and always made plans which did not cost anything significant and served his purposes even in “failure”. Teacher is a smug git who makes plans without any regard for their cost and which fuck everyone if they don’t go perfectly.

        Jack is closer to Xanatos than Teacher will ever be.

    • I’ve spent the last week envisioning all of Teacher’s superpowered enemies slowly closing in on him in an epic battle only for everyone to freeze in mixed terror and aww as a skinny teenage girl strolls onto the scene…

  6. So, Teacher’s trying to create a Pseudo-Entity? Interesting.

    Also, I have a bad feeling that Panacea might accept Teachers offer. Don’t know why, though.

          • Yeah but Khepri never actually controlled Amy. And while she did relapse hard she did also go back and fix Mord Nag so maybe she will work on brains again now. It has been a few months and daddy did a fantastic job fixing her last time.

      • Which brings to mind this question:

        What happens when Parahumans with powers requiring full contact touch each other in a conflict?

        • Depends who’s faster. Grey Boy’s is instantaneous and beats anything; same with Clockblocker, dunno who (if anyone) would win that fight. Panacea’s seems to move at the speed of thought, and she’s smart, but the problem is complex. Teacher is less smart, and we don’t know how long his tricks take but if they were fast he would probably have learned to use them in combat, and we’ve never seen him affect somebody who wasn’t cooperating. Plus, as soon as she starts working his power gets frelled and won’t be able to continue the job. So it’d be a risk, but I’d lay good odds on Amy.

  7. Why, oh why did this not end with Teacher dying?! Or Marquis executing his threat when he started talking about recruiting Panacea in his group?

  8. Ah, Lung is working for Teacher. At least one of them will die a painful and embarrassing death. Hopefully Contessa as well.

  9. Curious and curiouser. Teacher still seems stupid to me. Between plans my ass. He already had it all in the past. Huge resources, an army, a trusted name since no one knew the second nature of his power, huge influence, and so he killed two heads of state to “see the pattern”, suuuurrrrrreee. So the people of the birdcage are going back to being violent and murderous villains. I wonder how Dragon will respond. From what we saw when she fought the 9 and the Endbringers she can control almost a dozen suits at once, including two with nano thorns. Those hitting Lung in the head can kill him before he grows if they focus on him first, Ingenue can’t affect her, and the Marquis might not be able to fight both at once. For the students it’s containment foam. As for Taylor, UNTIL I SEE I BODY I ASSUME SHE LIVED. Everyone thought Contessa died too. But so many mysteries now.
    1. What the hell is up with the baby hidden in the Smurf’s gun?
    2. What will the Endbringers do now?
    3. From what Contessa said to Taylor, and what we know of her power, why is she with Teacher? Plus what is the hypocrite who had no right to kill Taylor considering her own BIG sins, new plan?
    4. Where is Panacea? My guess is Tattletale.
    5. What the hell is up with the fucking baby?

    • My guess is that the gun thing was a cloning device, and Simurgh was protecting the clone of her one true love, Genoscythe the Eyeraper.

    • People were speculating that the tube was a cloning device that would re-create Eidolon.

      It looks like they were probably right.

    • 1. Simple: The creature was making its creator so that it would have a purpose again.
      In other words: in a kind of reverse Frankenstein, The Simurg was making an Eidolon.
      And our magnificent bastard of an author just got one more point of classical awesomeness.

    • I think he found out about Caldron’s influence and was trying to mess with them. Contessa probably shut him down the first time. The nano thorns might burn if Dragon tried to use them on Lung. Contessa might be using Teacher to her own ends.
      Capes that died that Smurf might want to bring back or use? Leet, the tinker that “can make anything” once, Regent(not likely), was serving Tattletale, Butcher(not likely), power might have had an effect, Kid Win, so she can rebuild her guns with out being near him, Taylor(not likely), clones can have a different gender, Tattletale(not likely), to get more information or as a redundancy, Contessa/Accord(not likely), to make plans, Eidolon(most likely), her creator and the one that gives her purpose, or someone else.

    • Everyone didn’t think Contessa was dead. If you think Taylor is put your money where your mouth is so to speak and give a percentage confidence.

    • eiodion it sounds like. baby was described with similar features in a similar way at least and he apparently created her(subconsciously with his need for a worthy opponent) with his death leaving him absent of purpose

      • Well it was a clone of someone, and i think it was mentioned that Eidolon was kinda ugly, with large ears and all that. Just a thought that i had.

        • Yeah but Bonesaw was utterly dependant on Blasto’s tech ( with a touch of Cranial) and notes to make the clones. She can’t do it on her own.

      • The Simurgh can replicate designs, right? I think that she copied Haywire’s stuff by analizing it. She may have done the same with Blasto’s.
        The Simurgh just misses her brothers and sisters! She just wants a bigger family, and for that she needs Eidolon power. It’s the heratwarming tale of a abomination and her quest to subsumed the world in a never ending struggle towards extermination. (PG 13)

    • Okay folks its wild mass guessing time!
      a. Echidna 2.0
      b. New Endbringer
      c. Taylor as a baby
      d. Scion
      e. Eidolon to give them purpose again.
      f. doormaker

      • The tube opens up with a fully developed person just as the PRT finds the place the Simurgh has hidden her other attempts. As the fluid pours out, a momentary panic fills the crowd just before a strange percussive noise and synthesized sound fills the air. As the confusion in the crowd reaches its zenith, a figure steps out of the tube, its newborn motions awkward and arrhythmic, as if it were more trying to dance than stand. The figure raises its gaze to the crowd and locks eyes, its mouth opening to utter the first of many words that forever scarred all present:

        “We’re no strangers to love. You know the rules, and so do I”

    • I bet it’s just a red herring to fuck with people. I’m reasonably certain that one of these days the Simurgh is going to write “THE GAME” on the side of a building with a lazer so everyone will freak out about what it might mean.

    • Based on his relationship to the Endbringers, and his physical descriptions when adult, and the child being an ugly child with big ears. Yea, I’d say that it’s almost certain that Simurgh was cloning Eidolon.

      Why she wasn’t able to protect him better, I’m not sure. Perhaps she cannot track him with her perceptions? But if that were the case, how would she even know to recreate him?

      It seems to me that the Simurgh gun was a Eidolon Genetic Material Vacuum of some sort, used to collect the tiniest remnants of Eidolon’s genetic material from people who had been in contact with him recently.

      As for how Simurgh could recreate him without Blasto’s power? Umm, one of the Endbringers can take the powers of dead capes, remember? I believe that Leviathan was the only Endbringer to die to Scion.

      • The obvious answer to why the Simurgh couldn’t protect him from Lung: she could, and did. What was destroyed was a decoy. We still haven’t seen what was in the real tube, but the one she left behind for the heroes to find as she left the field contained a (fake?) baby Eidolon.

        • That would mean that Simurgh was actually putting on a show for Doctor Mother as well when building the gun to begin with, which does make some degree of sense, but a lot of what I took away from that chapter was predicated on Simurgh not knowing that she was being watched.

          I think. Ow. You made me go down a rough mental road there.

          • Nah, I think that She did honestly build the tube, and had real reasons for protecting it during the fight. I do not think that She would just drop something that important on the battlefield for the heroes to pick up while She flew away. And She does love Her misdirections.

            So whatever is in this tube that they recovered is what the Simurgh wanted them to think She was carrying during the battle.

            • Not so sure about that – remember that Contessa cannot use her power on Scion or Eidolon. And we know that Simurgh cannot use her fate sight on Scion. It would not suprise me if she cannot use her fate sight on Eidolon either. So she might have worked to create his clone, but after actually getting the body to start growing, she lost track of it because she can’t see him.

              She probably recognized that this would happen, so she’s setting up scenarios where the heroes will protect Eidolon for her, without realizing it.

              And then there’s the possibility that Lung didn’t actually kill Eidolon.

              Remember, shards attach to clones when they are very young, and it’s not a far stretch for his powers to have included precognition, illusion, or even breaker powers to allow him to survive an encounter with Lung, because Lung isn’t the brightest individual.

              • She can’t look at a precog directly, but she can look at everything around them along the whole timeline, and she’s *smart*. The Perdition-bomb passed through dozens of precogs before hitting Accord. Noelle lived in the same building as *Dinah* for months. Proximity to a precog makes her less than omnipotent, but far from incompetent.

                Meanwhile, she had extended access to every single player on the board for the whole final battle. I think the safest assumption is that everything which happens for a year or two at least is going precisely according to her plans.

                First rule of dealing with the Simurgh: don’t underestimate the Simurgh.

                Second rule of dealing with the Simurgh: you’re still underestimating the Simurgh.

              • With access to all the tinker and thinker abilities, it surely wouldn’t have been hard for her to simply implant a child or many children created by Tohu using Blasto’s power and bits of Eidolon genetic material into all the injured on the battlefield, those that she knew would survive.

                So yea, I can see your point. But I still think that if that was an Eidolon clone in the glass tube, we really can’t be sure he’s dead.

                Additionally, if that is an Eidolon in that tube, and he lived. He, or at least his shard, is almost certainly extremely agitated because someone tried to kill him, which might be enough to put the Endbringers back onto their normal behavior patterns..

              • Contessa can use her power against Eidolon, if you remember back with the scene where Eidolon was considering taking out Doctor Mother (When she denied him more power-boosts) and he knew that even if he neutralized The Janitor, he would still always lose to Contessa there.

              • Hrm, Eidolon actually understands how Contessa’s power works. If I remember right, he wasn’t concerned at all about winning a fight against her, but he knew that he would lose an argument because he was in a weak position in the argument and both she and doctor mother understood him well enough to win a debate against him even if he felt he was in the right. Remember they have been working together for a very long time, and he is a part of the inner circle, privy to most if not all of the planning.

            • I thought that was just because Dr. Mother was trying to filter perceptions of a being who perceives things by fate into a human perception based on five senses.

              Sortof like you or I trying to breathe water instead of air.

    • I see one, and it’s large, Asian, and breathed fire when angry.

      … although admittedly Marquis is not to be fucked with, either.

    • He really has so many enemies he almost can’t be killed at this point because everybody is going to start fighting about who gets to pull the trigger. I’d almost say he’s so stupid that he looped back around to smart but that gives him too much credit for planning this.

  10. Interesting. This felt more like setting up new pieces than resolving things. I’m guessing it’ll either play into Tuesday’s update or, my money’s on it configuring the board for a someday sequel to Worm.

    Either way, Tuesday looks to be very interesting.

  11. Teneral-5 touches Teacher throwing theories teaching tyranny towards the truly terrible troglodytic throwbacks that trouble the tranquility throughout Worm. Typo thread?

      • *sits down behind Cephalo and looks over their shoulder* Wow, your hair back then sucked. And you have to be kidding me that you didn’t wrap up that time. Just look at that person! I’m bored. Let’s fast forward to when you saw “Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter”. It was totally snubbed by all the award shows, you know.

    • This touches too tenaciously that tempestuous twilight territory teasing terrible tactical theatrics. Tattletale, tenderize those traveling thespian terrorists! Totally torch the truly treasonous twits. Treat them to teats of tumescent topsy-turvy tidings! ‘Teeth, tear then trample taut tawdry threats to tracts. Tread timidly, Teacher, to thwart tangerine tarantula tattoo torture.


  12. I would like the update more, but I don’t really connect with any of these characters. Teacher was only shown personally a little bit, and lung wasn’t in much of it. But it was interesting, and the ending was nice, what with the Khepri mention and the conversation that basically boils to taking over the world/I guess it’s worlds now,

    By the way, on the subject? Coil (oh god, when was the last time that guy got mentioned) had it right. World domination attempt = Nope. If this is prominent in worm’s sequel I look forward to watching it crash down around teacher. And if he somehow pulls it off, well, I know you will pull the idea off, too.

    Worm is almost over. Agh. I don’t even…anyway, planning on leaving a review on webfictionguide either before or after the next chapter. Spread the love, and all that. Will have almost nothing but good things to say, that I promise. Looking forward to the next chapter with fearful apprehension, because seriously, for the umpteenth time while reading worm, I have no clue what will happen next- but in a good way.

  13. So many of our least favourite people in one place. and not smart enough even together is TT is working against them.

  14. Holy shit, Teacher and Satyr are kicking up a storm front in the goddamn smugosphere in here, if Saint wasn’t a voodoo zombie (thankee very much by the way) we’d have a full blown smugiccane on our hands. Please kill them, drop an anvil on them or something, I’ll take anything.

    I’m actually happy Contessa is in with Teacher thought. Now we have all our eggs in one basket for the Dragon/Tattletale teamup killathon. Probably. Maybe. I hope.

    I’m going to get blue-balled on this one aren’t I?

  15. Almost pure lull – the anticipation builds.

    Wasn’t sure that Teacher would see the completion of his arc in the epilogues; leaving him out in the open with Dragon unchained would have worked also.

    Teacher either has no idea of what he has in Contessa, or he is quite clever indeed and wishes to avoid her blindspots, or he has mucked hers up by interfering, or he has serious control issues. She didn’t need his granted clairvoyance. Currently betting on some combination of explanations one and four. The fact that he considers ‘a hero, found after her team died’ and doesn’t bother to remember more details (name included!) about arguably the strongest parahuman still breathing is… baffling. Or reflective of the fact that Contessa ran a game on him earlier, which would seem to be difficult with him using her power on her… though there may be an order of operations consideration running, if she used her path to find a safe way to have him use his powers on her.

    Outside chance that Imp is messing with him throughout this – unlikely, but impossible to eliminate.

    The fact that Contessa is established as a pawn of his, in some ways, also ties him to Taylor’s death. The death of his ‘predecessor’ as ruler (or, given his preferences, vizier) of the capes. I’d add that this cannot end well, but what action of Teacher’s has ever looked to do so?

    Satyr isn’t playing a straightforward game. Currently betting on at least one betrayal from him.

    Moderately confident Dragon was watching, but not acting – which has its own implications. Teacher may yet wish he’d left Saint with more of a mind, or waiting for an explanation of that thought.

    Marquis’ one fixed point remains Panacea. Plausible that he’d go with her if she chose… but far, far more likely that he (correctly) assesses Teacher as not the kind of man to take ‘no’ for an answer, and prepare his own private war.

    He can join the line.

    Simurgh’s baby is difficult to understand as anything other than a distraction on her part, but a terrifying one to choose. Can’t imagine that Lung’s assault was beyond her precog or her ability to intervene in a timely manner – that would require the assault itself to be carried out by a blocker, or by someone powerful enough to blow through any chosen defense. Valkyrie could pull it off, on either count. Lung, given much time to power up… maybe. And, arguably, Teacher’s team with Lung was full of precogs in an effort to fuzz the Simurgh’s precog… but that would require Teacher to have been deliberately trying to bypass the Simurgh’s defense of whatever was there, rather than just trying to kick up a fuss as she successfully defended it.

    So: either the Simurgh wanted people worried, or Teacher couldn’t think of a better plan than deliberately bypass precog defenses to attack what the Simurgh apparently prizes, and see what that gets you.

    If nothing else, this demonstrates that Teacher is more clever than intelligent – poking the Endbringers as a distraction was foolish, and the only question is whether it was reckless or deliberate. He has Dragon as a mortal enemy. Adding the Simurgh to the list would be laughable overkill, but he deliberately sought out whatever she was protecting… to cover his acquisition of Ingenue. This is the idiocy of brilliance: to dare the impossible without considering that it may also be inadvisable. Likewise his insistence that he was caught ‘between plans.’ An accurate assessment of his own abilities would have permitted him to learn from that failure, rather than dismissing it.

    His self-assessment of having truly understood the ways of the world comes across as the shallowest kind of self-deception – a man who’s mastered many skills, but not learned any degree of judgment.

    The hubris displayed is awe-inspiring. The nemesis seems likely to be so also.

    Currently predicting a more action packed finale than I’d expected after 10.4.

    • Do concur that an Eidolon clone makes the most sense for Simurgh; but can’t imagine that’s the end of her efforts to raise him.

    • Just want to add that Contessa’s power is so broken that I find it far more likely that she is controlling/manipulating him without him realizing it. She wanted the baby killed to foil any plot of the Smurf, she wants to use his influence/students to affect the world for her own hopefully benevolent agenda which includes gathering powerful villains to possibly kill or control, and she may know that Dragon is coming back an planning for it.

      • Contessa’s power has the same limitation as logic: it’s dependent on its initial goals and axioms.

        If her power is (as it appears to be) “I want to achieve X, how do I get there from here?” then all Teacher has to do to bypass the brokenness of her power is to substitute his own X – then Contessa’s power is broken on *his* behalf. This is consistent with the way he dealt with the Dragon problem, too.

        The only way Contessa’s OPness will protect her against falling under Teacher’s influence is if being snagged was a deliberate part of working towards a previous X.

        Though even then, it’s entirely possible that Contessa has the freedom to opt *out* of a particular path – which she would if Teacher told her to.

        My head hurts…

    • He seems to have a similar problem to Tattletale. The urge to do things, to prove he’s better than everyone else, just because he could. He justifies it by phrasing it all as a grand experiment, but there are no results other than “man I’m so awesome”.

      Messing with Simurgh, Dragon, the Undersiders and the rebuilding heroes. Wanting to form a new Entity, just to see what’d happen. All that with incomplete information.

    • She didn’t need his granted clairvoyance. Currently betting on some combination of explanations one and four. The fact that he considers ‘a hero, found after her team died’ and doesn’t bother to remember more details (name included!) about arguably the strongest parahuman still breathing is… baffling. Or reflective of the fact that Contessa ran a game on him

      I don’t think that woman he was with in the beginning was Contessa but just a random character. Or maybe not completely random, I think there was a female hero with a minor danger sense that was in like a chapter during the Weaver arc? Could be her, I suppose.

    • Was way too tired earlier.

      Woman in white isn’t Contessa. Beyond being a Wilkie Collins reference, I’ve got no idea what’s going on there.

  16. So the Smurf was cloning someone/thing. And I’m guessing what happened was either the planed outcome, or she’ll continue again. I was thinking Eidolon, Taylor, or Scion.

    Seems like its going to be like Eden’s future vision, the Wardens vs. the Shepards. Weird how things work out like that.

    • Since Smurf appeared on the scene just a smidge too late, it might be that her future sight was obstructed enough by Eidelon-clone/Contessa that this failed.

  17. Only another one left. I is sad.

    So, Teacher is building a new Cauldron. And he’s trying to find a purpose in life. I have to give it to him, not many people try world domination as an answer to their midlife crisis. Still he seems very much one of those Smug Snakes who really think they’re actual Magnificent Bastards. As ingenue said, “because I can” is not a good answer.

    Ingenue had some nice lines and so did Marquis. Nice reunion of the cell blocks leaders.

    Lung did promise to work for Teacher for a while if they got out. He also promised to kill him afterwards. I can be patient.

    And the Viking was indeed Satyr.

    The one I WAS surprised to see with Teacher was Contessa. She seems to be more freelance than anything but still, disappointing. So much for focusing on the little things and not on the big picture anymore.

    And so we find out what was in the tube. And we STILL have no idea whatsoever of Simurgh’s plan. Was that an Eidolon clone? I hope the last chapter sheds some light on the matter.

    Also, Teacher is right. If it comes out they’re breaking the spirit of the amnesty things could go bad very quickly.

    • I’m not sure things would go all that bad. They’re only confining the worst of the villains. The villains being confined can’t do anything about it, they already know. The villains not being confined aren’t on the ‘confine’ list because they’re not being confined, so they don’t have to care. And the heroes and even some of the unconfined villains will be happy that the craziest and most dangerous are locked up, not loose.

    • Did not enjoy this chapter, btw. Teacher is insane. Contessa appears to be working for him without good thought as he picks the worst way to do things (eg integrating a drug trade into government).

      This chapter seemed to be just lots of twisted ugly parts without pay offs I enjoyed.

      But. But. But it is the last chapter before the end.

      I will give it all until the last chapter which is only fair.

      Hope it is a success. Lots to wrap.

      • He reminds me of Vaas, or a little of myself, except I don’t do the planning thing very well.

        The thing is, he’s just as subject to the problem as Vaas.

        You see, the thing is, he’s too caught up in his plans. Everything has to go just right. People will react this way. Because that’s protocol, because that’s their psychology, because that’s what they want.

        Think about it…one Dragon’s Tooth with PTSD shooting the teleporter…and Teacher’s captured. Or who puts a bullet in him. Plans down the drain.

        He’s not changing things, though. He’s just doing it all again on a bigger scale. If he wanted to do something different, then he could build a chocolate jello pie factory where if you don’t eat the pies within 37 hours, they transform into carnivorous piles of shit?

        Teacher’s not just scared of madness because of his own. Madness trumps him. Hell, even being funny would beat him.

        • It’s funny how you mention madness being his weakness.
          ““I think I know who you’re thinking of,” Teacher said. “She went mad, she was a monster, but she brought about change. Isn’t that the important thing?””
          Considering what she did to him. But Teacher is mad in his own way for “to much sanity is madness” .

          Taylor, stranger 2: people underestimated her until they look at how much was needed to keep her down. Trump 2: she could use the powers of those around her better than they could. I kind of wonder how they classify her now. Master x, thinker 2, Trump x?

          I love how the birdcage seemed in the beginning and how now Taylor is what goes bump in the night to them and their only relief is that someone known as “the Boogie Man” shot Taylor. A small bit of irony there.

        • It’s funny you mention shooting Teacher. Honestly if I had been that DT guy and he started ranting about how the amnesty coming out as false and destroying a hospital if they don’t let him go I might well have just said fuck it and shot him through the head. It would create a lot of problems but it would also solve a few and after the shit that the world has just been through I wouldn’t want a guy like that going around and thinking he can just waltz through hero central without repercussions.

          • To be fair,his only crime was breaking and entering,unless the heroes wanted to violate the spirit of the amnesty.

  18. I’m not sure if I liked this epilogue very much. I was hoping for something that gives more closure or idea of what a character we followed for awhile is doing now in a Post-Scion world. Setting up future plot points like Teacher’s League of Superevil, Simurgh’s baby clone thing, would be more intriguing and interesting if weren’t about to leave the Wormverse for a few years. These points could have been briefly mentioned through a different viewpoint character, which kind of adds mystery.

    Of course there’s a chance it might be very relevant in the final chapter, in which case ignore everything I said.

    I will still be eagerly awaiting the last chapter and definitely follow you into your next work.

    • I wasn’t a huge fan of this chapter, myself. But I was sort of tired and distracted as I wrote it. My aunt dropped by along with my cousin, bit of a surprise, and they arrived at 4, after a 6 hour drive. I basically just tried to ignore them (but to respond to a few questions) and wrote. Bad manners, I know.

      Had I been a bit sharper and more focused, I might have turned around at 2pm or something and tried to hammer out something with a different viewpoint character.

      • I know exactly how you feel with trying to ignore your family and get work done. Well you are the author, so you always have the power to change it. You have done it in the past.

      • Probably would have been easier with another character. Teacher is a schemer, so I guess there’s a lot more factors to consider(for the same reason, Tattletale would be much the same), and definitely not loved, so you’re working uphill to begin with.

      • For what it’s worth, I liked it. Even if you *are* laying seeds that won’t bear fruit until the next story, I think it fits this one well. We’re a bit too used to just assuming “and then they lived happily ever after”. This interlude demonstrates that victory doesn’t mean “no more problems” .

  19. – that first paragraph made me think it was Victor but he’s dead of course
    – Teacher is an idiot who somehow continues to not die horribly
    – Saint got the fate he deserved
    – Satyr lives! Sweet, I like him.
    – the baby is obviously Eidolon.
    – what does he need Ingenue for, I wonder? Synergy with his own power to create stronger minions or just Birdcage-nostalgia?
    – Marquis is, was, and continues to be a boss.
    – you don’t fool me, Wildbow. Shot does not equal killed 😀 and denial does not equal delusion so there.

    The woman in the white bodysuit is not Contessa. I assume I have that right. If so, then who the hell is she? Poised, confident, broken because her team died? Vista is too young and never got near Teacher, Mags isn’t a parahuman … Faultline? Shamrock?

    – … Genesis?! That quote about her real self being in a cage would fit especially since Teacher could easily improve her control over her power.

    • Oh the woman might be from New Wave. The daughter of Photon Mom and brother of Shielder. She is the last surviving member of her immediate family. Though the power set doesn’t really fit.

    • I don’t think it’s Genesis, since Teacher would probably need contact with the real body. Maybe it’s a random cape with a projection/body-splitting ability that has the additional property of providing feedback to the original.

      Also, I really, really don’t want it to be Genesis. I liked that character; getting sucked back into the mess might be par for the course in the Wormverse, but I want to think Tattletale and company helped them to get home a second time.

  20. Glad to see that the Dragons Teeth weren’t falling for Teacher’s false logic with the “if you don’t let me go you’ll be responsible for everything that happens” line he was spieling. Was hoping some one would call him out on it though.

    • I’m kind of surprised anyone would fall for Teacher’s manipulations at this point, since he has a rep as a smug, evil, manipulating douchebag. Tattletale can still screw with people despite them expecting it because her power finds actual weakpoint of theirs.

      It seems to me Teacher is shooting in the dark with a blindfold on while trying to convince his target to come out of hiding because he’s such a good shot he’d kill them anyway.

      • I think he can do it to pretty much anyone if he is close enough. The problem might be that if you resist it takes times which gives the future student a chance to kill him. As well as the fact that invalids aren’t very good minions, especially because he has to give orders out loud. Personally i would have torn his tongue out before sending him to the birdcage similar to Valefore. If Valefore went to the birdcage anyway. They might have just sent him to a regular prison since he is powerless blind.

        • It was always my head canon, but I think this chapter confirms that Teacher’s power is on a voluntary basis. Ingenue says that only the stupid or the desperate become his students and that whenever Teacher proposes something it sounds either like an insult or a threat because it seems he’s offering to use his power.

          • But to have the entire cell block become his students seems almost impossible if it was all voluntary. Everyone knows what he can do. Could so many people be so stupid that they volunteer to become mental invalids?

            • The guys who end up like Trickster or Saint seem to be the minority. He usually leaves them functional. When he speaks with Taylor he says that most made deals like “powers for a year of servitude etc”. Besides, I believe the mind control was revealed late in his career. Maybe by the time news of that reached the Birdcage he already had a strong power base.

              • That fits. Though I assume he has less parahumans to work with since Taylor took all of his previous ones for herself.

            • I wouldn’t say it’s impossible. This is the Birdcage we’re talking about. The meanest, toughest villains get sent here. I can imagine a lot of circumstances where people get desperate enough to ask Teacher for help so long as they get to live another day. Once Teacher got enough followers, others with no other place to go and many enemies might go to Teacher and I very much doubt he’d object to having more followers.

              • And before someone wonders why Teacher wasn’t killed before he created the basis for his rise to power, remember that Tinkers are a valuable commodity in the Birdcage. Teacher can make them as will and even calibrate their specialisation. That probably made him very useful but by the time people realised the mistake, it was too late.

              • Well the birdcage sucks even more if that is true. You have a choice between being a mentally invalid slave for the rest of your life or death.

              • There’s a reason even Tagg finds the place disgusting.

                Let’s face it, Dragon may be the big good of Worm but the Birdcage was completely her fault. She even admits it, in the first Legion of Doom meeting, that it was a mistake but at this point there’s no solution.

              • He had control of the Birdcages Dentist. I suspect he controlled a lot of the medical services in the Birdcage, and that kept him safe. See the main reason Teacher hasn’t been wiped out yet is because everyone always has something more important to do.

              • And I think, to some extent, he might resent that. He wants to be important, not just successful. Being the “we can deal with him later” option must rankle.

    • That was hilarious. Still this chapter reiterates how much Ingenue is fucked up in the head even more than that Chevalier snippet.

      • She probably has a fucked up backstory considering her power. Especially how she seems to confuse love and obsession. Tattletale could probably fuck her up with two sentences considering she is starting to sound almost as batshit as Bakuda was.

  21. Wait… How is that an epilogue chapter, really?
    It does show things returning to normal for the hardcore villians like Teacher. But the way it’s written, it sounds like a chapter that introduces conflict, and not closure.

    • Largely agree. wildbow seems to really be struggling with making the ending an ending. He’s done a lot of really good scenes in the last few chapters, but he keeps filling them up with anticipation instead of closure.

      Guess that’s what happens when you spend two and a half years spending all your time trying to get people hooked on a story.

      • When you are planning a sequel putting the hooks up in the epilogues, is. A time-honoured tactic.

        I think the problem with this chapter is that it’s ALL anticipation whereas all the other epilogues, succeeded, IMO, to give closure to the characters while, at the same time, putting forth the basis for the sequel.

        • I’m inclined to agree, AMR.

          I explained why it happened in another post. I don’t know that I’d do it much better if I tried to rewrite at this juncture, so I’m hoping I can be forgiven a miss or a semi-miss on this front.

          • Absolutely. Your work has constantly been way above average and even in this chapter you can recognise the things that make Worm shine. I was just musing out loud, more or less, and trying to find an explanation for why this chapter may not be satisfying for everybody.

  22. Wonderful. There goes teacher making schemes just when the world was looking pretty much okay-ish.
    I was wondering Wildbow. What is your method of plotting? Do you just make over-arching plans or do you plot scenes and character development? I’m very curious about it.

    • I have scenes I have in mind and I have characters with distinct motivations. I write and the characters do what they will, given their personalities, in the course of moving towards those scenes.

        • I think writing LOTS helps. The fact that I’m writing as much story as I am, in terms of the number and size of chapters, I think it makes some things easier than they would be if I was writing one chapter of 2-4k words a week.

          It means I’m immersed in the setting, and I’m constantly thinking about stuff. See my reply towards the top of this comment section for a sense of the sheer depth of material I’ve worked through, and how it occupied my thoughts.

          I miss stuff, but by and large, it’s been minor details, like forgetting the age of a character that’s appeared once or being tired and forgetting that a character who spoke very little wasn’t actually there. That’s stuff I fix easily enough.

          If you mean a different kind of inconsistency, I need more details before I can elaborate.

          • Maybe.

            What I’m still focused on is character and tone consistency. Letting what needs to happen happen instead of overthinking and disturbing the flow. I’ve improved, I think, but still need to work at it.

          • You know I read somewhere that the publisher of the Harry Potter Books sent over a person to help JK Rowling by just basically being a lore keeper. The background knowledge, trivia, mythology etc. had become so complex that she kept making inconsistencies in her drafts. Your world is just as complex going by all the info dumps and word of god statements. Be honest, how big would the wiki be if you just put all the stuff/random factoids you created for the wormverse?

          • Probably not related, but I used to write essays two to three times a week some months ago. There weren’t any deadlines or limitations on subject matter, so I could write anything I want. After some months I noticed that I’d reach two thousand words and above more and more frequently; the more passionate I was about something I was writing, the longer the finished bit ended up.

            Some time later I had to do an essay as a requirement for an online course I was taking, and unfortunately that requirement which made up a sizable fraction of my grade had to be the one thing I couldn’t find time for in my schedule. I had literally only two hours to research, prepare, draft and then edit a several-thousand word paper. Flew through it with ten minutes to spare, and then aced the grading. 🙂

            If I hadn’t done the essays from months before, I’d never have gotten used to generating material that long. It also gave me practice in finding references, citations, and melding everything into a persuasive, unpretentious whole. I also got lucky that the topic of the paper for that online course touched some of the themes I’d been writing about before.

            tl;dr Writing a lot WORKS.

  23. Interesting interlude, mainly because we saw zero humanizing elements for Teacher, and many dehumanizing ones. Every single other antagonist who got an Interlude, including such all-stars as Contessa, Bonesaw, and friggin Scion, were given real, believable, if not justifiable, motivations for their behavior. But Teacher’s just a sociopath, driven on all levels by ego.

    Originally I was kind of relieved. I was expecting Teacher to turn into a character I could identify with, and dreading it, because he’s awful. So it’s nice in a sense that I don’t have to see things his way. The more I think about it, though, I think I would have preferred it if that HAD happened. As it is, it’ll be hard for me to see Teacher’s defeat as anything other than necessary, which, one way or the other, is going to reduce my enjoyment of the rest of his story (either because a satisfying ending is also a predictable ending, or because a surprise ending doesn’t fit the story structure leading up to it).

    So after thinking about it for a bit, I’m gonna say this one disappointed me. It’s a little too easy to root for Teacher dying by cheese grater.

  24. Awwwww man, second to final chapter. I’m actually dead curious about Panacea. What do you think her plans are? does she have any? Do you think she’ll go her own way or join the Teacher’s Union? I’d kinda like to see her doing the skitter thing, running as an independent, but I suspect she would actually go join Teachers Union, just because she’s so aimless. Aimless Amy.

    • Well what is it that Teacher says about the woman cape? He gave her direction.

      His direction, sure, but that’s just a detail.

      • Well we haven’t really seen enough of post-birdcage Amy to know if she has enough sense to tell him to stick it. Sure, she got a spine transplant while she was stuck down there, but was it enough? I’d love to find out but… I suspect it’s not going to be expanded upon.

    • Panacea grabs a relay bug and makes it in to a famine engine she can control. Tattletale helps her get in better head space and with uses of her power by making and distribute counter viruses, bug tech, and allowing her to help more people then she ever could before.

  25. I’m really not liking Teacher’s motivation. He’s trying to make a power commune to do what exactly? Change things? Control things? Taylor’s motivation for gaining power was it put her in a better position to help people. That makes sense to me. It’s a realistic motive. Then you have stories like the Count of Monte Cristo where people seek power in order to wreak a terrible vengeance on those who have wronged them. Then you have Teacher who seeks power in order to set up a plot for the sequel. Or something. I really don’t get what he’s trying to do or why.

    Something else that bothered me was they said the major heroes like Valkyrie were too far away to interfere with Lung. This makes no sense because she can teleport. Anywhere. She has the Doormaker’s shade. There is no such thing as too far away for her.

    I fully expect Pancea to accept Teacher’s offer because she has a history of poor decision making. And what’s the worst decision you can make after just barely killing a God intent on wiping out every iteration of your species? Resurrect him! Hooray!

    • Teacher and associates have been the only people in the story to ever manage to block Doormaker. So no problems there.

      And I thought that was the point. Teacher is having the equivalent of a midlife crisis and wants to show people that he doesn’t do things just because he can. So he comes up with these convoluted explanations to cover the fact that, yes, he’s doing it because he can. Ingenue mocking him for this was one of my favourite parts of the epilogue.

    • She has Doormaker’s shard but I don’t think she has the Clairvoyant’s. The Clairvoyant was what made Doormaker so crazy powerful. Valkyrie might not have any clairvoyant as powerful as the Clairvoyant and thus can’t open a portal to there.

    • She may not have the clairvoyant handy, and without the clairvoyant she can’t see where to put portals outside her direct perceptions. If I understand how that works properly.

    • Midlife crisis sounds about right. Teacher seems to be a Cauldron sort of person, though in a different way. He’s compelled to constantly meddle and try to control things, except he does it because he wants the self esteem boost instead of trying to save the world. The opposite of Cauldron actually, instead of playing a subtle game to make humans win over the space bugs, he’s doing crazy shit for the opposite end.

      Then you have stories like the Count of Monte Cristo where people seek power in order to wreak a terrible vengeance on those who have wronged them.

      Like Tattletale! I hope.

    • Responses brought up a good point that Clairvoyant might be needed to make full use of Doormakers power. We never really see his power operating without the Clairvoyant so I guess that provides sufficient explanation. I would still like some in story explanation like maybe a brief mention that maybe they brought along a tinker device in order to hide themselves from the Simurgh that also had the side benefit of blocking Doormakers portals.

  26. I enjoyed seeing Saint as a zombie, but the tube gave me an idea.

    Simurgh isn’t resurecting/cloning Eidolon, she was making use of his Shard.

    A resurected Eidolon body, with the Shard as the one in control. This gives her Purpose she determines. She is a function of the Shard, thus this allows her to become what she wants to be, because she will be controlling it. It also allows her to use the Shard’s powers to create a new Entity with her as the ‘controller’.

    Well, it’s as good a theory as any.

    • I…I thought you were a fan…

      But nah I think Chev is fine until the sequel. Wildbow seems to be building up an epic showdown between Chevalier and Ingenue. Because, you know, hell hath no fury like a woman scorned.

      Jokes aside, it’s a very spiffy image. The cannonblade is cool. Though the armour is a bit more modern-looking than what I personally picture.

      • Nice image! I always saw him in bigger, manlier armour- like alphonse from full metal alchemist. and I always saw the cannonblade as being gorramed huge- like three times the size of him.

      • Thank you kindly 🙂
        And here’s hoping Chevalier lives to see a sequel. It would please me endlessly to see him some more. Especially if it’s in the future and we got to see him leading the Triumvirate 2.0.

        And yeah, the armor/cannonblade aren’t really how I envisioned them. Kinda stepped out of my skill range on this one and had to make do. Someday when I’m the world’s greatest digital artist I’ll come back and do him justice 😛

    • hahahahah it’s a great pic , love it even if im not fond of the character 🙂 that being said get ready to hear from about a dozen people offering advice on how to make it look better or how it dosn’t fit their view 😛

      • *Gasp* Not a fan of Chevalier!? Joking aside though, I completely understand that. I’m not too fond of a few popular characters and I’m really fond of some minor ones. Just goes to show how amazing well written and multi-dimensional the characters are in Worm. Thanks very much by the way 🙂

        As for advice/correction/criticism, I actually enjoy receiving it. Helps me learn and do better next time.

  27. I find this chapter highly unsatisfying. Teacher was here, and he’s still alive and uncrippled.

    I suppose this could just be building up to the final update, but there are so many things I’m still hoping for that I can’t imagine a single chapter could contain all or even most of them.

    • Teacher is crippled by his paranoia. Even better – he recognizes it.

      He can’t trust anyone he doesn’t control, so he has to control everyone, one way or another.

      I still think that Imp needs to go to sniper school.

      • We know that the best way to beat Strangers is through thinker powers and technology. Teacher is a paranoid thinker/tinker creator. The chances of Imp slipping past his defences are incredibly low.

        • Nah. Mustard gas is weak. Meant more to agitate and can be easily thwarted. I say you dump some arsene on them, but only if you don’t want any fun first. If you do want to mess with them, my personal favorite is 3-quinuclidinyl benzilate, aka BZ or “buzz”.

          How you like that, Bonesaw? Mine doesn’t need to be specially created by a tinker.

    • This is a setup with lots of foreshadowing, remember Zion’s Curse in the last interlude? Now Teacher saying “Everybody (meaning him) gets what they (he) wants”? Once this plan succeeds horribly, he’s gonna get a face full of that up close and personal.

  28. Hrhrhr, teacher might just have personally pissed off the Simurgh, hrhrhr.

    I am satisfied, if there is one, she is the one that can make it so that Dragon, Tattletale and the Wards beautifully converge on one point in time and space.

    But I agree, the Simurgh might just try to continue Eden’s endgame.. and I am wondering if Simurgh’s “fate detection aura” works across portals/parallel worlds.

    • Yes, Lung thwarted her this time, but she likely doesn’t see him doing it again and that’s why she didn’t engage him after the tube was destroyed. I believe she may make a point of eliminating people who blur up her power in the future, though. The only way she could’ve failed was Teacher’s thinkers.

  29. “She may well try again,” Contessa said. “It’s hard to say how, when she isn’t involved in things.”
    Should that ‘isn’t involved’ be an ‘is involved’, or do I just fail at the reading comprehension?

  30. God, I wish someone-Taylor, if she lives, Dragon, Defiant-just comes and kills the hell out of Teacher. It’s frustrating-but also very realistic-that he might actually get away with all of this, that he might wind up as one of the chief powers among humanity-dispersed.

    Saint’s end-of-the-road was satisfying, even though I couldn’t quite feel no pity for him, fully enthralled by his addiction as he appears to be. I wonder just how much Teacher really believes his own rationalizations-that his pawns are better off for his control? He seems to have a keen insight into Ingenue, but everyone’s heard the one about mirrors reflecting themselves.

    Dastardly use of the sneaky cliffhanger too, re: somewhat uncertain mentions of Taylor. I suppose one of the reasons I wish most she were still alive is so that she might come forth, so to soeak, and give Teacher and his various pawns a lesson in what it *really* means to be working for a higher cause that’s not simply vanity or selfish ambition masked as sweeping, important change. Because for all of Teacher’s highblown rhetoric, somehow he ends up on top if the pile, with swarms of brainwashed slaves. One might almost suspect his motives!

  31. “Everyone gets what they want most,” Marquis mused. “I can’t think of anything more terrifying. If I back out, will you be plotting to murder me?”

    How can Marquis be both so brilliant and so dense at the same time?

    Unless, during his time with Bonesaw, he asked her to make certain modifications, which would then have been made cleaner and more biologically stable by his daughter.

    Hrm, I can see Marquis playing a deeper game, but he’s not a thinker, I don’t believe.

    • Banking on treachery rooted in enormous hubris and ambition from Teacher doesn’t seem to need a Thinker’s gifts, really. Not would expecting Teacher to utterly disregard Marquis’s most strongly-warned promises-Teacher routinely hollows people out and enslaves them, something Marquis is probably keenly aware of. Hell, Teacher is the guy who helped shackle *Dragon* during the end of the world, supposedly because Simurgh was too likely to corrupt or something, or she was too likely to go robot-crazy…and give her to *Saint*.

      That among so many other things point, in my mind, to thoroughly crippled and circular reasoning on Teacher’s part. Almost nothing I remember hearing of him balances, unless you include the ‘ever-increasing personal power’ variable in there. That’s the only consistent theme.

    • Thinkers do seem to get wrapped around their own axels a lot though – perhaps because Scion made sure those shards had fatal flaws in them or perhaps simply due to hubris.
      That leads me to believe that even a non-Thinker can win a game like that if by no other method than by keeping their plan simple.

    • As mentioned above, thinker powers only augment an existing intelligence (e.g. Teacher’s non-powered intelligence). When that intelligence (e.g Marquis’) outstrips anothers’ (e.g. Teacher) there’s no reason to believe that it would triumph. Coil was technically a thinker, and he was taken out by a master.

  32. The impression I got from the description of whose tech the Simurg’s gun was based on led me to conclude that Kid Win is now dead, which makes me sad. … Eep, the Brockton Bay Wards were all but wiped out, weren’t they? Shadow Stalker and Vista are the only survivors?

  33. If I remember correctly, Teacher has to re-install his minions’ powers every now and then? If that’s the case, I would very much like Florence to use her power and compel him to consider all the things he’s paranoid about in gross detail, then soil himself every time he attempts to use his power. This way, all of his minions would lose their powers, and his army would disappear one by one.

    • That seems like a bland use of Flor’s power, personally. Howabout we involve Saint or Satyr and go for something a little more… flamboyant?

      • Satyr chorus, Saint doing lighting and keyboard, and Teacher, being the jack of all trades, can solo pretty well. Putting on a show three times a day or more every other day. How much would the tickets sell for?

      • Hmm, I might have jumped the gun on using Flor’s power. It opens up whole worlds of possibilities. Teach has “doormaker” tech, right? Excuse me while I come up with more creative applications with Flor’s ability. Or maybe I’ll just go ask Psycho Gecko.

        • Use Flor’s power to turn him into a demented gerontophile with a love of peanuts and butter. Not peanut butter, just peanuts and butter. And so whenever he thinks of using his abilities, he immediately will think sexual thoughts about old people covered in melted butter with peanuts stuck to them. And it will consume his every thought until he finds a duck and french kisses it while masturbating with his right food and left hand wearing nothing but an ascot that goes through a pierced hole in his nipples and belly button, only able to find release from the thoughts if he remembers to stick a taser into his ass and fire it at the precise moment of climax.

          Problem solved. Perfect solution for a guy who likes complicated plans.

  34. Maybe this isn’t my favorite interlude, but it answered a lot of questions regarding Teacher and his game plan. Then again, it raised a lot of questions about Teacher and his “plan”.

    Loved how classy Marquis was. Tea and violence are two things in which he excels.

    • The alternate ending.

      Everything is manipulation.”

      “I think there’s such a thing as extremes,” Marquis said. “Case in point…”

      “I think I know who you’re thinking of,” Teacher said.

      “It’s enough to make me want to change,” Marquis said.

      But this chapter is about Teacher, which makes the current one better.

  35. I’m kind of sad that Chevalier/Ingenue didn’t work out. They could have been so cute! Seriously, though this epilogue kind of fell flat. I do feel bad for Saint, I thought that he had learned to stay away from Teacher. I would have liked a Teacher backstory. Marquis and Ingenue showed up though, and I’m happy about that.

    • Eh, Saint didn’t have a chance. Teacher revived Dragon, and Saint probably came crawling to him asking for the tools and power to continue monitoring Dragon, for the greater good. Teacher said “Sure.” and lobotomized him while turning him into a dragonwatcher.

      See, Teacher isn’t all bad… Well…

      Sometimes he’s bad in a way that some of us can have good thoughts about?

    • This chapter confused me with Saint. I’ve always seen him as a sympathetic character. Not a good guy, but more a victim of manipulation than evil like everyone makes him out to be. In the chapter where he and Defiant reluctantly teamed up he seemed absolutely TICKED that Teacher had manipulated him and even seemed to be second guessing himself. So how did he wind up back with Teacher? Not to mention I thought the heroes would be keeping track of his whereabouts considering he was with D&D the whole time.

      If I was guessing, I’d say that his being turned into a full Teacher puppet is meant to sort of absolve him and shift the blame to Teacher. Then, when Dragon and Deviant come rolling in they see how pathetic he is and save him. Dragon has her moment where she has to chose to do the right thing, Saint see’s that he was wrong about Dragon, Teacher gets his, and everyone lives happily ever after.

      • If memory serves, Saint was angry at the Teacher revelation yes, but I don’t think he was much swayed if at all on the whole ‘Dragon is a threat, she needs to be leashed and under my team’s control for world safety’ vanity project. If my memory about that is right, his lack of real atonement means it’s not unlikely he might prove psychologically vulnerable to Teacher again.

        I’ll need to re-read, but I think Saint’s thinking was ‘this recording tells me Dragon is dangerous. Therefore I’ll reach out to the *supervillain* so he can *dig into my brain* in order to help mitigate this threat and place it under my control for the greater good. With, of course, no sort of larger long-term threat what with the whole supervillain brain bender thing.’ Seriously, Saint is a schmuck.

        • One can be a master of information technology and still be a flaming idiot. I’m certain Teacher’s passengers is only too happy to create such individuals.

      • The entire point is that Teacher’s power even when it wears off is addictive. As he says here, people come to him again and again. Tattletale’s Hannibal Lecture to Saint was all about no matter the rationalisation his only goal was to get another shot.

  36. I would be extremely happy if teacher ends the next chapter doomed to sing “I am a Barbie Girl” until he either drop dead or repent his ways.

    • In a Barbie wooorld. Life in plastic. It’s fantastic! You can brush my hair, undress me anywhere. Imagination, life is your creation!

      Yes, as I recently had occasion to say, there’s little more demeaning than the soundtrack to your asskicking being that very song.

  37. Simurgh came down, read Lung’s mind, then went to get the others ready and her revenge will all just be a ploy to make people think that her plan was interrupted. Tattletale is most likely hiding or being kept away from others because of prolonged exposure to Simurgh.

    I would like to see Tattletale talking to new recruits that are staring at her glasgow smile then have one of the new recruits mouth off and her reply “you want to know how I got these scars,” and Imp has a knife in the recruit’s mouth. I don’t remember if it’s viable. And I’ll default to other ideas that would have better execution.

    Ideas for the next MC? Cool powers or ways to use powers that haven’t been thought of? Bets on power classification of people?

  38. Here’s how I think Teacher’s downfall should start. First he starts finding apples on his desk. Then tacks in his chair…

    Serously, though, Teachers grand plan of kludging back together shards… What could possibly go wrong? You know other than the end of the world. Again.

  39. An interesting interlude, but I’d just like to say, I hate your ending.

    I’m waiting for the final interlude to make my final judgement, but worm was a spiral of never-ending depression, every fight was worse than the last, and every moment of drama was more emotionally damaging, so really, in the end, I hoped we’d finally get to see the ray of sunshine. I waited for the final emotional payoff, the moment where it all became worth it.

    And the sun never really rose. It never happened.

    I other words, a masterful piece of writing, but depressing as hell from start to finish.

    Its all just personal taste obviously, but a truly golden ending would have made this entire journey not just worth it emotionally, but it would have been DIFFERENT. It would have been an exciting and notable ending. Something unexpected and yet, deserved.

    Bullet to the brain and an unmarked grave was so sadly predictable and depressing that I finished worm and while earlier chapters literally left me shaking with excitement and sweating at their climax, I felt nothing when reading the ending. I completely lost my emotional investment in the series. And while my investment is no doubt less than yours, I definitely noticed the loss.
    I suspect the ten thousand incidents where generosity and kindness and genuine heroism were spat on, leading up to the ending just finally struck me all at once as Contessa shot Taylor. For a moment, I just hated every single member of the cast.

    I suppose you kept with the theme all the way to the end at least. But meh. The ending completely ruined it for me. This probably comes across as a very negative review, but it isn’t really. I’m just really sad that I couldn’t enjoy the ending to this masterpiece, since I loved it so much the whole way through, an ending that I hated was devastating.

    I wish you luck with your future writing projects, but I don’t know if I’ll be able to stomach reading them unless they explore completely different themes. Worm has depressed me enough for a lifetime.

    • I’m getting the vibe – ”the struggles & fighting never end, but hey we aren’t all extinct, so that’s a win.”

      The positives:
      Humanity managed to survive alien attack that would have wiped out the species.

      Since Worms leave behind a trail to prevent others of their species from following, Earth is safe from another attack.

      If humanity manages to rebuild, it’ll take a shortcut for thousands of years of technological progress – and have tools to avoid other possible extinction events and reach for stars.

      Pretty much the only thing that came out of that victory, that was very, very expensive, was hope and possibility of the future.

      Of course that’s a look at it from a logical/grand scheme of things view. I think we were all emotionally invested in Taylor’s fate specifically, so her story is a bit depressing. For me, whether the epilogue changes that or not, seeing the other Undersiders was sufficient to move it into positive ending. As long as they remember her and as long as they have a future. I do wish we’ll see Tattletale yet.

    • I am really hoping the next chapter redeems. TT wanted to talk, because Taylor is back and with her.

      Teacher is such a focus and someone whose success all seems to have come from no one knowing about him.

      Not redeemed at all.

      Makes me dislike contessa as well.

  40. Funny how differently the same tale effects different readers. I didn’t like the ending because I would have wished a better outcome for Taylor.
    And that was great, because it was a fitting ending. Finally a story where the author has the courage to be consequent. In my personal opinion, a Hollywood ending might have been nicer, but definitely worse. The way the story went Taylor would have lost all she had sacrificied to win by surviving and becoming the antihesis of herself.

    • Given that primetime television shows now end with the main character dying, I really don’t think it’s quite so avant-garde as you’re making it out.

      • Oh, not judging from more or less abandoned(*) TV but the few thousand stories I’ve read.
        And yes, it’s not an original concept ‘Hero dying tragically’, but for me this story manages to do it organically, not forced.
        (*) might have something to do with the forced ‘happily ever’ endings after from the time I was still watching

  41. Ok. Fan theory here. Contessa didn’t kill Taylor. She simply looked for the path to Taylor regaining her sanity and happiness. With her first, perfectly aimed shot, she removed the damaged part of the brain containing Khepri and her powers. With the second shot, she knocked the girl out so that Taylor wouldn’t feel any pain. Right now Taylor’s probably on a world somewhere out there going by a new name. See guys. . . Taylor lives!

    • I hope that’s sort of the case, but I really doubt it. I understand that Taylor may have needed to be put down, but having Contessa do it was just disgusting. Getting killed by a mass murderer/torturer like that just irritated the crap out of me.

  42. I find it interesting that Teacher has tried to learn about all these different subjects. He probably wants to be seen as a brilliant polymath. But I don’t think it works. For one thing, he tends to come across as just smug. And just having someone teach you about something, isn’t enough. A true renasance man actually pratices those skills, and more than just knowing about them, truly understands the deeper concepts.

    Ah, yes a reminder that Maquis praticed the “You have failed me” school of leadership. Honestly I’ve always felt that killing your underlings for failure is stupid. It causes them fear, not respect or loyalty. You end up going through quite a few henchmen, and recruiting will become more difficult. And lets face it, sometimes failure is inevitable, and outside forces will ruin things just by random chance. Is it really your minions fault if it turns out that the ship they were supposed to hijack had taken aboard a seal team returning home? A truly great planner will aknowledge that there will be unforseen events, and be able to adapt with the changes. Execute them in the failure was because of their own incompitence, but not just because they failed. Or you’ll find out the hard way that you killed all your best agents because the spy that thwarted them really was that good, and now he’s kicking your woefully unprepared ass.

    Lets bring up a true magnificent bastard, and chessmaster. Grand Admiral Thrawn. At one point Luke escapes a Star Destroyers Tractor beam, and Thrawn personally asks the tractor beam operator what happened, the operator claimed he wasn’t trained for the situation, and tried to pass the buck. Thrawn had him executed. A book later, a similer event happens. Again Thrawn interviews the tractor beam operator. However this one had attempted to regain the lock, and shown that he’d at least attempt to recover in an unexpected situation. Thrawn promoted him, and put him in charge of developing a countermeasure. This earned Thrawn the loyalty of his men, and years later, it turns out they developed a working countermeasure.

    • Actually the entire things with Teacher having had great teachers becomes hilarious when you realise that these great teachers are actually his students whom he jumpstarts to genius of their fields so they can teach him. At least that’s what I understood.

      As for Marquis and his “You have failed me” policy, whenever people start gushing about Marquis (I can understand he’s a great character) I refer to the scene in Dragon’s interlude where him and Lung talk about fear. Lung (who then still seems to see Marquis as some kind of fop) goes all about how by punishing underlings after failure creates that type of fear that makes sure they won’t repeat their mistakes. And Marquis simply responds that with HIS system he made sure that his underlings never repeated a mistake.

  43. I just skipped forward to see that there are no new chapters after Arc30. Just now noticed there are a few epilog chapters. That means the story has finished. 😦
    Of course that also means that if I keep reading an-arc-a-week I should get to the end around the end of this year. 🙂
    Thanks for writing, I have a lot of fun reading. Now back to the start of Arc 10. 😉

      • OR he really, really wants to lobotomize Teacher and so he made Teacher think he had permission to talk about Amy when really all he did is give Marquis a perfect excuse to show up a little later and say “I did say I would lobotomize you if you spoke of my daughter again. I really believe that people should keep their promises.” He strikes me as a cultured enough badass bastard to do something like that!

        Not that I think he did…but I can dream right?

  44. If they’re talking about Taylor, if THAT’S their takeaway, that makes me upset. Is the Marquis really so shallow as to summarize her ultimate act as having it all? It makes me think, “For you! I hope you destroy yourselves!”

    But I don’t think Taylor would be upset that real villains would mistake her fate as a cautionary tale. So… I guess I’ll just be angry by myself.

    • Marquis is actually giving Teacher a warning on several levels there, I think.

      The top level warning is that too much power isn’t always a good thing.

      The warning below that is that Marquis will be watching Teacher and is prepared to act if he gathers too much power to himself.

  45. I wonder – will the 3rd entity be back to harvest the remains of the other two? From the encounter with Eden (exchanging shards) it must know how the pair operated, and it might do his own failure/success predictions …

      • Sure, grazing on a harvested field doesn’t make sense, hence the rule. But the entities search for ‘greener fields’ while in space, using, among others, their clairvoyant abilities (‘Victory’ power and others). And the fields of earth++ are ripe for the harvest – the entities were defeated, there are tremendously valuable lessons to be learned.

          • Lessons like ‘to much identification with the indigenous race are dangerous’ or ‘fucking around while preparing for a new cycle are a bad idea’ or ‘make a backup plan for the worst case scenario’ or …
            Do you seriously doubt that a full blown entity coming to harvest the remaining shards could do so with impunity?
            (or perhaps not so much ‘impunity’ if that’s the plot of the follow-up story)

  46. I’d hate to sound like I’m criticizing, this is just a point of discussion.
    What is up with the E.2 link on the Table of Contents? Is the site screwed up or something?
    And it’s the only one.

  47. Well, here I am on nanowrimo needing 50,000 words so i’m going through the comment’s section looking at everyone’s posts again and picking one word (different each time) and typing it up and i’ve made it up to interlude 5. Once I have 50,000 different words, i’m going to attempt weaving ten word sentences for each. once i’ve done that (gods help me, mostly Oghma please) I’m going to refine it and edit out each original word I hope. after that,w ell i haven’t planned that far ahead yet…

    Also It is amazing to note how hard i is to keep finding words i haven’t used before and this is in the early days of commenting.and what really gets me it being able to compare Beginning middle and end. all three sections have a ‘flavour’.

    One Unigue line so far. “Do I have an exit strategy? I’m Russian, of course I have an exit strategy. i’ve been updating daily for the last two years by presuming things will hit rock bottom and then deteriorate form there.”

    All Thoughts and criticism on my plan all wanted wanted welcomed

  48. Okay, this is something that bothered me when Teacher first took over Cauldron… how the hell is he supposed to be selling powers. Firstly, the stock was pretty much gone. Then Scion destroyed EVERYTHING that was left with some unspecified power (presumably targeting the distilled link to the shards themselves as it also destroyed a vial that was in a completely different area of the complex). Then there’s the fact that the second entity was already completely tapped of powers by the Doctor. THEN there’s the fact that Scion DESTROYED all of the second entity.

    There is absolutely nothing left there to make powers with. I mean, I kind of assumed he just wanted the other resources at Cauldron, but now it’s being blatantly stated that he’s still selling powers, despite this being frankly impossible. What the eff? Little plotholes like this are very frustrating, along with the general running theme of the best people (Taylor) getting screwed for their good deeds and the worst manipulators that didn’t do SHIT to help out in the end (Teacher, Contessa) getting rewarded.

    I suppose the final final epilogue will be about Jack really being alive and escaping to create a new Nine or some bullshit like that. Honestly I was hoping for it to be Taylor recovering from a coma after Contessa actually just shot her in just the right spot in the head to sever her from her passenger, but I held about as much faith in that hope as I did throughout the story in the hope of Taylor getting a decent power upgrade without being completely boned in some way or another.

    • Yes, the second entity was completely destroyed.
      The first, Scion, was only killed, and there are specific mentions of parts of him falling out through the portal after the lethal shot. So there’s plenty of raw material for whoever grabbed it first, even without taking into account Teacher’s natural ability to make people into Thinkers.

      And Bonesaw established that you can’t sever a person’s Passenger; even destroying that part of the brain entirely just removes their control. But surgery can alter a power, imposing new limits or shifting old ones around.

    • Selling powers? I interpreted that as him doing what he used to do, selling Tinker or Thinker powers (or thralls with such powersets) to gullible schlubs.

      Also, I should point out that nobody in the story gets a power upgrade without getting boned. It’s sort of a requirement of the whole “powers come from trauma, more power means more trauma” thing. Look at Grue, who was barely functional after his second trigger. This isn’t the kind of story where power comes without cost.

  49. I…seriously…dislike Teacher. Can’t we just kill him already? So many good people died throughout this story on both sides and yet this manipulative arrogant asshole survives? I know the Wormverse kind of sucks but that just really doesn’t seem fair. And utterly fantastic man. The stupid idiot managed to wake up the damn Endbringer with his distraction. Well fucking done.

    And fucking Satyr. That asshole really needs to die. I mentioned it in Contessa’s interlude but it deserves to be said again. His teammates had a last stand, he makes an impassioned final speech. You don’t have the gall to walk away all nice and dandy from that!

    While it is nice to strangely nice to see that Lung is still alive and kicking, I am disappointed that he hasn’t gotten on with his killing Teacher plan from way back in the Birdcage.

    It’s cool to see that the Smurf was making a clone baby. I’m guessing that maybe that was clone baby Eidolon? Daddy issues much?

    It’s sweet to see that Dragon and Defiant have managed to hide their recent success from Teacher. Makes it much easier to kill him later. And they won’t even have to go far to take out Saint in the same stroke! Yay! It’s very satisfying that he is a brainless mind slave now. Still not as good as painful torture and death but eh, I’ll take it.

    Oh for crying out loud. The megolamaniac has just been upgraded to psychopathic manchild. Wanting to essentially bring back Scion? How in the name and everything that is holy a good idea?!?! Stupid motherfucking arrogant idiot! Somebody please kill him before things turn south because when they do the snowball is going to become an avalanche within a very, very short time. I mean it’s nice that thinking about Khepri makes him pause for a moment and that at least Marquis is smart enough not to mess with that shit but seriously this bastard needs to be taken out for the good of mankind.

  50. Am I the only one who is angry at the Wardens?yes,keeping some of the more crazy villains on sort of probation sort of prisoners with benefits makes sense,but lying to the public about it (instead of,say,telling people they are keeping some of the more insane seeming ones until they make sure they pose no threat)is just foolish,evil ,honorless and begging for troubles.

  51. So I just got to this point after binge-reading Worm for the first time. Wow. That’s the best way to point it.

    One thing that worries me about this epilogue is that ‘the woman in white’ might be Grace. She wore white as a hero, if I recall correctly. Maybe I’m misled by that, seeing as how all Teacher’s ‘students’ wear white. But she’s repeatedly referred to as ‘woman in white’ so it seemed significant.

    Also, the idea that he would think ‘she has natural _grace_’ but can’t remember her name (if it is Grace) seems like a bit of irony, a dark joke.

    I looked thru the comments but this was never suggested… although I see people suggest it might be Vista or Genesis. I don’t think it’s them, at least. Vista was in Rachel’s epilogue, she seemed fine. And ‘the real her was locked in a cage’ seems metaphorical to me, that Teacher’s control of her has locked the real her (personality and individuality) inside a cage in her own mind. I don’t think it’s a reference to a ‘real body’ at all.

  52. I’d just like to voice my opinion while I can. I love his powers, but for some reason, I don’t find myself liking teacher’s character at all. He seems very bland compared to the other villains we’ve seen. Even Saint was more likable than Teacher. While Saint was a bad guy with good intentions, Teacher just seems like a generic bad guy who does bad things for the sake of being bad. I think its because he lacks specific quirks, traits, or flaws, maybe I’ll need to hear his intentions before I can learn to like him. Right now though, Teacher doesn’t at all seem interesting beyond his power set.

  53. Eidolon clone, huh?
    If Eidolon actually made the Endbringers, that would far and away be his most powerful power, and it dwarfs not just any other cape, but all of them put together. That’s kind of ridiculous. I would rather that the Endbringers had been created by some outside entity.

    • He does dwarf other capes, but that is explained, he got a very important Shard from the dead entity, one she didn’t plan on giving away. Not everything is fair.

      And “creating the Endbringers” trumpps nothing, once he unlocked his full power, he went toe to toe with Scion, and only lost because Scion used Contessa’s shard to manipulate him psyhologically- incidentally, the same way Scion lost.Scion could curbstom Endbringers, so unleashed Eidolon prolly could too.

  54. Protocol when Ingenue is involved. Ingenue –> you, doesn’t make sense to talk to Ingenue and use her name in that context

  55. “Since you already asked, though, she’s saying goodbye to her family.”

    I want to think that this, combined with Panacea meeting Glory Girl shortly before Khepri left, is teasing at Amy finally fixing her sister. Which would be… fun to witness, considering Glory’s lack of empathy throughout the series.

  56. Ah. Simurgh creates baby Eidolon, because Simurgh needs Eidolon just as much as Eidolon[‘s passenger] needs the Simurgh. (Eidolon’s shard/passenger was something that gave him what he needed. And Eidolon “needed worthy opponents”.)

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