Daybreak – 1.3

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This was the point in time that I would have liked to be able to take to the skies.  Information was important, and if I didn’t have surveillance cameras, I would have been pretty content with a bird’s eye view of the scene.

I clenched one fist, cracking my knuckles, before wrapping my other hand around it, cracking them again for good measure.

I turned to look at the people from the patrol.  “Set up around the building.  Watch what’s going on outside, stay in touch, report anything unusual.  Jasper?  Hang back.”

The others turned to go, some looking back at the capes one last time before leaving.  Interest, other things.

“Can’t hurt,” the painted lady said.

“I’m Victoria,” I said.  “That’s Jasper.  I know Fume Hood from the notes we got, and I caught Crystalclear’s name.”

“Longscratch is the one who just left,” the painted lady said.  “I’m Tempera.”

“Thanks,” I said.  “Good to meet you.  Crystalclear, can you fill me in on your power?  What are you getting?”

“I see through everything,” Crystalclear said, tapping the chunk of crystal that stood out from the lower edge of his eye socket.  “As if everything was crystal.  I’ve learned there’s a lot of nuance to it.  A little bit of seeing into the past, a little bit of seeing into the future, a little bit of a sense of people’s focus.”

“He has a blaster power too,” Tempera said.  “Goes through walls and the ground.  Synergy.”

“I really hope it doesn’t come to actually using that.  Right now, I’m more interested in how this points to possible trouble in the future,” I said.

“Uh,” Crystalclear said.  He looked around.  “It’s hard to explain because it’s not a sense anyone else has.  Say I was looking at a wall.  It looks like a chunk of clear glass and the light catches at the edges and corners and they’re highlighted.”

My eye roved over the room.  It was reminiscent of a teacher’s lounge, but it had less of an emphasis on the lounging.  Coffee cups sat on windowsills and there were places where furniture had been stacked once, and the furniture had been moved out into the open room at the front of the building, where all the people were or had been seated.  Glass cases with model buildings had been brought inside and carefully stacked against the wall.  A long table that might have served as a conference table was folded up in one corner.

I tried to imagine it like Crystalclear was describing it.  A sketch in three dimensions, only the lines visible.  “I follow you so far.”

“The edges of walls and floor are usually clear, crisp, and closer to white.  Solid objects don’t change, so there’s no reason for that to change.  It’s blurred.  Blue tinted.”

“Future sight,” Tempera added.  “Past-sight is red, future-sight is blue.  Like the doppler.”

Crystalclear went on, “In the future, that wall vibrates.  Similar effect with people, but they move around more.  I see you all as streaks, shifting around, white-edged where you’re resting in present.  There is refraction and some fractures around people’s heads, representing focus and kind of thinking.”

“That gets blueshifted redshifted?” I asked.  “It’s not displayed as color?”

Crystalclear nodded his head.  It was a motion made more weighty by the heavy growth at the top of his head.  “Not as color.  It’s… edges to the light around them, sharpness and softness, distortions like how you can look at a glass of water with a straw in it and the straw isn’t straight, or you see multiple straws.   The worst breaks in focus look like grooves or outright breaks.  A lot of people here are going to be distorted soon.  Or were.  They’re leaving and they’re clearing up.”

His head turned as he focused on things on the other sides of the walls.

“What about, say, Jasper?”  I asked.

“Hey,” Jasper said.  “Use yourself as an example.”

Crystalclear looked at Jasper.  “Hard to say.  Whatever it is, it’s small or it’s distant.”

Crystalclear glanced over at Tempetera and Fume Hood.  “Not just him either.  It doesn’t give me much to work with.”

He turned his attention to me.

I cut right to asking my next question, before he could comment.  “Do you see the direction of it?  Anything big and blue that’s suggesting a major thing coming in sometime in the future?  One section of the building that gets hit harder?”

He shook his head.  “I’d have to see it before I saw how things were around it, and even then there’s nuance.”

“You’re thinking of a parahuman or weapon?” Tempera asked.

“I have no idea,” I said.  “If I was a civilian with an issue, and I was going after capes, I’d go big or I wouldn’t try at all.  If we’re talking something that shakes this whole community center… bomb?  Parahumans are definitely possible, except I’m not sure how using parahumans squares with the sentiment toward parahumans.”

Fume Hood spoke up from the background.  “Set us against each other, they benefit either way.”

“Could be,” I said.  I paused.  “As soon as the crowd has dispersed enough, I want to get you guys clear of here.  Do you have a decent mover power to use?”

“Longscratch does,” Tempera said.

“Not a mass mover power, is it?” I asked.  At the negation, I turned to Jasper.  “Can you bring the bus close?  If the crowd is thinning out, you should be able to pull right up to the door.  Take someone with you, if we’re delayed, do like I discussed earlier.  Keep an eye out.”

Jasper saluted, turning to go.

The bus wasn’t elegant, but hopefully it would take us away from vulnerable civilians or areas.

“How is Longscratch?” Tempera asked Crystalclear.

“He’s fine.  Stalked off.  He’s keeping an eye out for trouble,” Crystalclear said.  He pointed up and off to one side.  On an upper floor, it seemed, or on the roof.

“That’s how he is.  I won’t bother him.  I’ll go talk to the district representative, instead, if that’s alright,” Tempera said, looking my way.

“If the coast is clear,” I said.

“Most people have cleared out of the main hall,” Crystalclear said.  “The ones who are hanging back seem like the types to be doing it for good reason.  Parents with kids, teenagers hoping to get a glimpse of the heroes they came to see.”

“That’s positive,” Tempera said.  “I’ll give them a glimpse then.  Thank you, Victoria.”

“I’m going to get a glass of water and get my head straight,” Fume Hood said.  “I’ll catch up with the rest of you in a minute.”

“Don’t go running off,” Tempera said.  “Get your water, take a minute, but come back after.  I don’t want you to throw yourselves to the wolves.”

“I won’t,” Fume Hood said.

“Or whatever variant on that plan you might be thinking.  I can see you trying to lead the enemy way from us,” Tempera said.

“I won’t,” Fume Hood said, annoyed.

“It wouldn’t work anyway,” Crystalclear added.

“Your future sight telling you that?” Fume Hood asked, her annoyance becoming something more bitter.

“I don’t see the future like that.  You know that.  But I do know that they’re mad at all of us.  Our fortunes are intertwined, and their hate is- it’s not very targeted.”

“Not hate,” I said.

They looked my way.

“It’s easy to see it as hate, but I’ve been thinking about it a lot,” I said.  “It’s not that.  It’s blame.

“Blame,” Fume Hood said.

“I don’t think it’s a reflection on you.  Humanity is hurt.  It’s hurt in a way that makes it a little bit animal.  Reactive.  They’re snapping at any target that presents itself, because the hurt is fresh.  They’re taking that hurt and they’re looking for anyone they can put it onto.  You…”

I trailed off.

“We presented ourselves,” Tempera said.

“Not in a bad way,” I said.  “This isn’t your fault.”

“I’ll get my water,” Fume Hood said, curt.  She didn’t wait for a response, heading into the adjacent room, further from the front of the building.

Once Fume Hood was gone, Tempera nudged Crystalclear.  “Keep an eye on them?”

Crystalclear nodded.

Tempera gave me a nod before stepping out the door.

“Is Fume Hood going to be okay?” I asked.

“Who knows?” he asked.

“Trouble still isn’t imminent?”

Crystalclear shook his head.  “At least fifteen minutes off.  I’m thinking we should go get a better vantage point, see if I can’t spot any troublemakers.”

“Watch out for my guys,” I said.

“Watch out for what?”

I glanced at the door.  “Blame.”

“Got it,” he said.  “I shouldn’t stick my neck out or draw attention to myself, then?”

“Not unless I’m there.”

“And where will you be?” he asked.

I looked at the other door.  The one Fume Hood had taken.   “I was thinking I’d get a glass of water.  Unless you think that would be overstepping.”

He looked in the direction Fume Hood had gone.  His voice was soft as he said, “I have no fucking idea.”

“I’ll catch up with you,” I said, clapping a hand on his shoulder in passing.

The area adjacent to the conference room was a kitchen, set up with multiple stovetops and long counters.  Catering-focused, at a glance.  The stoves were of different makes and models.  Scavenged.

Fume Hood was standing by the sink, a glass of water in hand.  She looked at me, her eyes barely visible with the surrounding mask and the overhanging hood.

“Can I grab some water?  The bus ride was warm, even with the windows rolled down.”

She filled a glass, then slid it along the counter to me, so it met me halfway as I made my approach.

“What was the plan?” I asked.

“The plan?”

“Corporate?  Sponsored?  Ideology-driven?  There are a lot of those nowadays.  Move forward, rebuild, hold to the past, unity in strength, religion…”

“No ideology,” she said.  “No sponsorship.  No business partnerships.  I’m not even sure what we would have done about the money.”

“That can be hard,” I said.  I drank my water.

“It wasn’t supposed to be easy.”

I finished my water, then approached the sink to get more.  Fume Hood turned around, leaning against the counter just beside me.

She said, “It was community focused.  Serving the area, hometown heroes like the old days.  I thought of it as community service, in more than one way.”

“I like that,” I said.

She shrugged.  “I’m not sure if there’s anything to like about it.”

“It’s a good idea.  It sounds positive.  Maybe it’s worth trying again later.”

“It won’t come together again like this later.  Tempera is pretty good at this whole thing, and she needs to do the cape stuff, so she’ll find a team to join.  Crystalclear will get poached because decent thinker powers are in demand.  Longscratch… I don’t know why he’s even here.  Tempera suggested it to him, for some reason, he accepted for some reason.  He’s upset it fell apart.  Next time, he’ll just say no.  He’ll steer clear so he doesn’t have reason to get upset again.”

“Mover psychology?” I asked.

“I don’t know about that stuff.  I just know he’s a weird mix of wants and needs and he’s really cool when things are good and he’s impossible to understand when they aren’t.  Which they aren’t.”

“Sorry,” I said.

“You wouldn’t be sorry if you knew,” she said.  She stood taller, stretching a bit.  She tossed the empty glass between her hands.  “It’s my fault.”

“You orchestrated this?” I asked.

“I hurt a pregnant lady and she lost her child and I don’t even feel that bad about it,” Fume Hood said.  “I turned myself in, but it was because people thought I’d become a PR problem for capes in general.  I’d run out of friends and places to run to.  It seemed like the only way to get things to cool down.”

The glass smacked against each of her hands as she tossed it back and forth.

I drank my water, still watching her.

“I’m pissed,” she said.  “People are making such a big deal over this, and I can’t bring myself to see it their way.  It was an accident.  I told the civilians to sit and stay put, and this stupid-

She stopped there, clenching her fist.

Fume Hood continued, “-stupid fucking woman.  She ran right to where I was shooting out a display window, gets knocked on her ass, breathes in the gas.”

“I wonder what she was thinking,” I said.

“I’ve wondered that every day since.  I’m mostly caught between thinking she wanted to get hurt and lose the baby, it was so blatant, or that she thought the broken display window was an escape route, even though there were others she could have run for,” Fume Hood said.  “I was so pissed.  I shouted at people to take her outside and get her some fresh air, even though I knew it made everything harder with the robbery.  They’d contact authorities, we’d have to protect ourselves, whatever.  I thought I was pretty fair.  She got medical attention and shit.”

“Could have been worse,” I said.

“I shouldn’t have pulled that robbery at the mall.  I know that.  But it’s not one of my big regrets.  Her being a stupid fucking idiot isn’t one of them either, obviously.”

“You turned yourself in after that.”

“The heat got too much, like I said.  And- and I was tired, you know?”

Her voice had cracked on the ‘tired’.

She sounded tired now.

“It had been years, trying to get by.  A lot of it was fun.  The drugs, the robberies and mercenary work, the adventure, new places and really interesting people.  Some shitty people, lots of scary people, but they were always interesting.  Capes are interesting in a way you probably wouldn’t get if you didn’t know any for real.”

“I grew up with capes,” I said.

She stopped passing the glass from hand to hand, holding it in both instead.  “Did you?  Huh.”

I shrugged.  My glass was empty.  I put it on the counter and, finger on the inside, spun it in a circle, the bottom rattling on the metal countertop.

She continued, “Well, all I know is, the crime stuff started to feel like work.  The drugs stopped feeling like they were a plus and started feeling like they were something I had to do.  I was never addicted, I never craved it, I never had withdrawal after.  This analogy I’ve been thinking of is it’s like I had to go to the bathroom every half hour and who wants to do that, you know?  Who wants to keep interrupting their day for something they aren’t even enjoying anymore?”

“No idea,” I said.  “But I can see what you’re saying.”

“The cool people started dropping away.  A couple dead, others just stopped being cool.  High people are really boring to be around.  So like a genius, I thought hey, let’s just go to prison.  I made a deal.  I wanted a bit of an education, training at some job or another, safety, I didn’t want to be stuck in there too long.”

“How’d it work out?”

“Deal worked out fine.  Judge agreed, heroes agreed, it was one less parahuman on the streets that people were really upset about.  Jail isn’t fun, but it was what I needed, I think.”

“Shows character, I think,” I said.  “Realizing where you were at, where you were headed, and changing course.”

“I don’t have character,” Fume Hood said.  “It was selfish and self-centered.  It was me, me, me, I’m bored, I’m done with the drugs, I’m scared of being caught by angry people, I want this deal, I want some education.  I don’t and I never cared about that pregnant idiot.”

She met my eyes as she said that last bit.

Challenging me.

I spun the glass on the countertop again.  “The community service hero stuff?”

“Me, me, me,” she said, her voice quiet.  “I thought it gave me the best chance of dodging any lingering heat.  Ha.”

I took my finger away from the glass.  It spun in a circle before settling with a rattle.

“I don’t buy it,” I said.

She shrugged, tossing the glass into the air, catching it.

“You said before that you have real regrets,” I said.  “And you can call yourself selfish, but I think the dots connect here.  Your reasons, your regrets.”

She tossed the glass into the air, caught it.

She did it a few more times.

“We should go,” she said.  “Check on the others.  Do our part.”

“We should,” I said.

The water from the faucet we’d used deposited a fat droplet on the metal bottom of the large sink, producing a hollow sound.  Neither of us budged.

“I got friends into the soft drugs and I egged them on instead of stopping them when they got themselves into the harder stuff.  I regret that, I turned myself in for that, even though I was supposed to be serving the punishment for the pregnant woman.  For other stuff, more on that level.  I turned myself in for the” -she took a deep breath, as if to signify magnitude- “years of being a low to mid tier nusiance.  For being tiresome.  And because I was tired of it.”

“I’m not a priest,” I said.  “I don’t have the power to say some words and absolve you.  It’s up to society to decide how angry they are and how they come to terms with it.  It’s up to you to decide how willing you are to face your deeds.  When it comes to me… I can say I respect a lot of what you’re saying.   I definitely think you should own up more to what you did to that woman, stop calling her stupid.  It’s not a point in your favor.”

Fume Hood nodded.

“Honestly,” I said, “I really like the community hero idea.  I’d really like you to try it again, after a bit.  For that to be your way of working through it all, from influencing your friends to hurting that woman.  We’re dealing with blame, not hate, and blame finds a place to roost eventually.  There has to be another shot at making this happen.”

“Blame seems like too small a word for what Crystal was saying.”

“Blame can be big,” I said.  “Blame has led to the ruin of nations.”

She nodded.  “That sort of helps, actually.”

“I’m glad to have sort of helped.”

“Blame can become something else, given time, can’t it?” she asked.

“It can,” I admitted.  “I’m spooked at the idea it will.  For now, just… be a hero,” I said.  “Don’t walk away from this sort of thing for good.”

“You guys keep saying stuff to me, like, don’t run off, don’t sacrifice yourself, be a hero, as if it’s implied I’ve got ideas I haven’t said out loud.”

“You’re a self-described shitty person and an ex-villain.  We’re not allowed to be suspicious?” I asked.

That got a half-smile out of her.

“Come on,” I said.  “I’m getting worried about my guys and I’ll get yelled at by my boss if I leave them to their own devices for too long.”

“This is your thing, then?” she asked.  She followed me as I left, setting her glass next to where I’d left mine.  “You joined the junior-PRT to convince shitty people to be less shitty?”

“On the most basic level, I got into this because capes are what I know,” I said.

“Because you grew up with them.”

“Yeah, but keep that under the lid for now,” I said.  “I’m not broadcasting it to the world.”

“Lips zipped.”

I pushed the door open, stepping back into the now-empty conference room.  “I want to help.  I could have helped with construction or farming or whatever else, but like I said-”

“Capes are what you know.”

“Yeah.  I knew so many great people and I don’t know if all of them made it, but I want to be in a position to help them through whatever comes next.  I want to figure things out, because the lack of answers is what fucks us over, and fucks them over.  I want to talk to people like you, if you happen to be on the fence, so maybe you land on the side where you’re more likely to help out those really cool, great people.”

“I thought you junior-PRT kids were all about training so you can go after the monsters.”

She’d created a hard green sphere, the size of a billiard ball.  She tossed it between her hands as she had the glass.  It smacked against each palm.

I answered her, “Don’t get me wrong, but I have pretty strong feelings when it comes to the monsters.  I’m pretty far from being okay with them.”

She gave me a sidelong glance while opening the door to the main room.

“But I don’t think you’re one of them,” I said.  “Sorry, but you’re safe from me.”

She threw the ball to the right, but instead of smacking into her palm, it curved in the air, orbiting her hand in a long ellipse as a moon might a planet.

“What a relief,” she said.  She was smiling a bit more, now.

The smile faltered a bit more as we faced the situation at hand.

Some of the police had come inside.  My guys were standing near the windows, looking out.  Some were talking to the police.

A share of the crowd had remained behind.  Community leaders, possibly.

Fume Hood hung back as I approached them all.

“You’re in charge?” a police officer asked.  He had a mustache.  It bothered me, because I’d never really got mustaches, barring the truly awesome ones.  This was lip decoration, bristly and at odds with how his hair was combed back and close to his head.

“Yessir.  I’m Victoria, I take my orders from Instructor Gilpatrick at Wayfair High School.”

“They said you told them to follow our orders?”

“Or to keep a lookout for trouble.  There’s still people here?  Is there a problem?”

“No,” the officer said.  He sighed.  “I don’t know what to do with them.  Yours or with the others.  Situation seems to be resolving itself, but the teenagers in uniform are insisting it isn’t.”

“The capes say it isn’t,” I said.  “I’d believe them.”

“Huh,” he said.

I took a deep breath, exhaling slowly, while the officer took a look around at the situation.

“Haven’t you talked to them?” I asked.  “The capes?”

“A little bit,” he said.  “Not recently.  I don’t really know how.”

“They’re people,” I said.  “Capable people who want to help.”

“They’ve got the eye thing, and the masks.  One doesn’t have eyes at all,” he said.  “He has these crystals.  He pulled one out of the top of his head earlier, and it made a wet sound.  It was in so deep it should’ve been inside his brain.”

“They’re people,” I said, again.

“It’s disconcerting,” the man said.

I wanted to say things to that, but I bit my tongue.  I could hardly criticize when I’d been talking to Fume Hood.

I’d just- I’d really hoped for better.

“If you need me to be a liason, let me know,” I said.  He didn’t give me an immediate response, so I called out to the squaddies.  “Get back from the windows, guys!  The working theory is a bomb, heavy impact, cape power, or something like an earthquake, and you don’t want your nose pressed against the glass when it comes!”

They shuffled back.

“Bomb?” the officer asked.

“Yeah,” I said.  “Can you get everyone here clear of danger?”

“To somewhere inside or further outside?”

I looked around.  Crystalclear and the others hadn’t come to find us, so I was left to imagine the danger wasn’t super imminent.  Inside posed risks.

I didn’t like making the calls, but I said, “Outside, but hurry it up.  If there’s any remaining crowd outside, get them further back or get them to go.”

“Alright,” he said.  “Makes sense.”

He whistled for the attention of his people and the crowd that had gathered closer to the front door.

While he handled that, I looked at the others, “Where’s Jasper?”

“Still out there.  He has Mar and Landon with him.  The crowd is in their way.”

I hurried to approach the window.  I could hear a commotion behind me, as others entered the room, but my focus was on the commotion outside.  My view was briefly blocked by the cops and the people they were leading outside and across the street to our left, away from both the building and the lingering protesters.

“Victoria,” Crystalclear said, behind me.  He was with a small few members of the community center staff, including the district rep, and he had Longscratch and Tempera with him.

He would be here because trouble was imminent.

“How soon?” I asked.

“Two impacts in a couple of minutes.  Six or seven.”

Two.  Six or seven minutes gave us a window to act.

I watched the scene in progress through the window.  Jasper wouldn’t make it to the front door in two or three minutes.  Some of the protest had dispersed, but a lot of it had spread out from the square of grass, sidewalks, fountain and trees just in front of the community center, dotting the streets.  A share of them occupied the street Jasper needed to come down to reach us, and a lot of them had their back to him.  He honked, not for the first time, and one of them gave him the finger.

“I’m going to help Jasper out, get us our bus so we can drive out of here without being mobbed,” I said.  “Is there a side door?”

Crystalclear pointed at what would have been the south side of the building, to my left.

“Go there, stay clear of windows.  Protect my people, keep them clear of danger.  The moment there’s real trouble, they’re just high schoolers and should be treated as such.  High schoolers- you guys protect Fume Hood.  Protect the capes.  Be good.”

“Do you need help?” Tempera asked.

She couldn’t help.  She would cause more problems than she fixed, being in costume.

No.  I shook my head, heading to the front door.

Was this an emergency?  Yes.

Did I like using my power?  No.

I marched toward the bus, glaring at the first person in my way.  I activated my aura.

“Move,” I said, and I pushed out with my power.  Heads turned, noticing.  Maybe they would put their finger on why they’d noticed.  Maybe not.  I was nudging, here.

I could see the man’s reaction.  He took a partial step back.

I stepped it up a notch, not with more use of my power, but by raising the volume of my voice.  “Out of the way!”

He got out of the way.  That and me drawing nearer made it easier for the next person to come through.

“Bus!” I called out to Jasper.  “Get moving!  Side door to the right of the building!  South side!”

People looking back at the bus and back to me had more pressure to deal with.  That was easier.  They got clear of the bus’ path.

The one who had given Jasper the finger, though, he had just a little bit more to prove.  I put my hands on him.  I pushed him, and he resisted.

I pushed him with my aura, small, closer to center, a pulse of intimidation just for him, to break his posture and resolve.  My hands pushed him the rest of the way.  He landed on his ass.

He wasn’t wholly out of the way, but Jasper was able to drive up on the sidewalk.  His door was open and the stairs leading up to his seat were there.  I hopped up, grabbing the bar that the driver used to climb into the seat, hanging off the side.

“Things okay?” he asked.

“They’re about to be not okay,” I said.  “We’ve got four or five minutes, probably.  I want to be gone by-”

Jasper’s two passengers, Mar and Landon, were at the window behind Jasper’s seat.  They were looking out and over my shoulder.

I turned to look.  In the crowd, a man was standing there, shuddering.  People were backing away from him.

He wore a black hooded sweatshirt and black pants, and he stood so the hood hid his face.  His arms were at his side, vibrating.  Head, arms, body and legs all moved like he had a paint shaker wedged up his ass, moving more violently by the second.

Building up to something.

“Take cover!” I shouted the words.

Some people did.  They ran, they sprinted for mailboxes, for trees.  But it was too open an area for everyone to find something.

I threw up my personal forcefield, shielding Jasper, my arm out toward the windows the other two were looking at.

The man in the crowd exploded, showering the crowd with chunks of bone, flesh, and a mist of blood.  More than should have been contained in a human body.  Some of the windows in the bus had cracked, and my forcefield was down.

The people over the square of grass, around the fountain, on the sidewalks and the streets surrounding the explosion all stood, calm.

Streaked with blood, they looked around, every single head turning left, then turning right.  All in unison.

“Drive,” I said.

Jasper stomped on the gas.

Further up the street, the cops that had been evacuating people from the building and across the road were standing near the street.  They’d been touched by the gore-explosion, and now they were drawing their guns.

“Don’t hit them!”

“I’m not going to hit them!” Jasper called out, swerving so the side and then the rear of the bus was between us and them.

It hadn’t been five or six minutes yet.  It couldn’t have been.  The building hadn’t been hit yet.

I climbed up higher, standing on the headrest of Jasper’s seat to reach a higher point on the bus, looking over the roof.

Where?

The worst possible location.

An eighteen wheeled logging truck was coming down the road.  The front had been reinforced with metal braces.  It was coming from the direction of the water, only four hundred or so feet of road between the waterline they’d started near and the community center, but it was going full speed, straight for the side door.

“Fuck me.”  Jasper’s voice.

Even if Crystalclear saw-

“Hit it!” I called out.

“What?  Are you insane?”

“Hit it!  The others are waiting on the other side of the door!”

I scrambled to get in position.

“Trusting you,” Jasper said, and the bus picked up speed.

You shouldn’t, I thought.

I had one partial glimpse of the inside of the truck.

Multiple costumes.

And then the impact.

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194 thoughts on “Daybreak – 1.3”

  1. Typo time:

    “That gets blueshifted redshifted?” I asked. “It’s not displayed as color?”

    Should be one or the other.

    1. “That gets blueshifted redshifted?” I asked. “It’s not displayed as color?”

      Missing something between blueshifted and redshifted. Maybe a slash, maybe and or?

    2. “Don’t get me wrong, but I have”
      The but in this line seems superfluous, especially considering the next line also starts with but.

    3. Crystalclear glanced over at Tempetera and Fume Hood. “Not just him either. It doesn’t give me much to work with.”

      Tempera

  2. I still find it kind of surreal that Victoria is the protagonist of this story, but it’s also very, very interesting. We saw that Victoria had an interest in parahumans in 3.11, 3.12, and in 9.3 with her study in parahuman sciences, and so on some level, she’s always had an eye out on that end. And we can clearly see her using that knowledge set here, something she’s obviously accrued over time since then, in terms of handling the situation and also talking with Fume Hood, and having an idea of where she’s coming from. I know Victoria says she’s not a priest, but given her overall approach to capes thus far in the PHO interquel as well as what we’ve seen in 1.1 and 1.2, it’s almost like she’s turning slowly into the cape equivalent of Jessica Yamada surprisingly enough.

    1. Yeah, until this chapter, I was convinced that this was actually another cape we knew, like Riley trying to live a new life. 1.2 was full of references to just how out-of-place and uncomfortable Victoria was in her own body, and with her personality changed so extremely, it really felt like it was another person posing as Victoria. It wasn’t until Victoria explicitly mentioned her own power’s abilities that I finally accepted that this was really her.

      She’s just so different. I’m not saying that as a criticism of the writing, just that I’m very interested in what we missed and what comes next. I can connect the dots and draw the connections in some places, but it will be great seeing it all fleshed ou-, err, I mean get all the details.

      1. People can change dramatically when they go through the kind of hell she did. Wouldn’t be surprisedbif, given the time cap of a few, intensely traumatic, years, we end up seeing more familiar faces acting in unfamiliar ways.

        1. People can also change dramatically when they go through puberty. You’d be suprised. Thats in tandem with the hell too.

        1. Fanfics flanderised her a lot, but still- in Worm she escalated and threatened others constantly (though, arguably, she had reason to). Here, in similar situations, she deescalates. She also sees the world in less black and white.

    2. She knew Jessica Yamada – Yamada was one of her therapists during the period she was in that dangerous cape care facility with Sveta.

  3. >“It wouldn’t work anyway, Crystalclear added.
    missing closing quotation mark after “anyway”

    >I turned myself in for the-” she took a deep breath, as if to signify magnitude, “-years of being a low to mid tier nusiance.
    dialogue interrupted by action should be written like this
    I turned myself in for the”—she took a deep breath, as if to signify magnitude—“years of being a low to mid tier nusiance.

    >“Yessir. I’m Victoria, I take my orders from Instructor Gilpatrick at Wayfair high school.”
    “high school” should probably be capitalized if you’re gonna use it like that…or just “Wayfair High”.

    also i managed to somehow copy the entire chapter when trying to correct a single typo i hope wb delets that comment soon

  4. So, I guess that settles the question of whether Victoria still has her power. Also, Wildbow seems to have gotten even better at cliffhangers.

  5. There goes all the speculation about being depowered. Aura, check. Forcefield, check. Flight, hinted at.

    A mix of de-escalation and escalation. They’re ramming the logging truck with a school bus?

    1. I think putting the school bus between the logging truck and the door, in hopes to stop the truck from taking out half the building.

  6. Cool that we get more on her powers workings.
    I had assumed her forcefield was automatic, but apparently she has to throw it on. She has more control over her aura than I would have thought.

    1. I reckon when Amy put her back to one head she increased Vicky’s control over her powers—she had, after all, just got in some experience at *decreasing* a cape’s control of their powers.

  7. I’m enjoying seeing Victoria try to use her power without anyone noticing. It’s also interesting that she hates her power so much. I wonder why. Maybe she blames it for making Amy attracted to her?

    1. My money is on “i was a shitty person back then, and my powers were part of it.” Think about how she’s talking about blame and reconciliation all the time. Anti-cape sentiment too, but if it were just that she’d’ve definitely changed her name.

      1. Not only this. Scion’s shards prompted their parahumans to seek out violence as a solution. Could be because Scion was the Warrior and Eden was the Thinker… but it could also be because Scion was still alive and driving his shards into conflict. If that’s true, then with Scion’s death his shards are no longer as driven towards violent solutions. I’m leaning towards this since it’s been hinted at already in this story, with mention of heroes now suddenly outnumbering villains post-amnesty instead of the reverse.

  8. Powers confirmed! The awe aura (awe-ra?) and force field, at least. Still waiting on flight and super-strength, though.

    I’m really liking Fume Hood so far. Hope she sticks around for a while. Crystalclear, too: his power is quite interesting.

    And then there’s Mr. Goresplosion. What’s his deal? He blows up, and mind controls everybody that gets splattered with his blood? How does he not die? Or, perhaps he was just an innocent bystander, and one of the other capes in the truck is the one pulling the strings. How strange.

    1. We know from Worm’s epilogue that triggers are going wrong. It might be that he got the superpower to immediately explode and body hop.

      1. This seems a little bit too restrained to be a broken trigger. (That would probably be more like “everyone who gets hit also explodes, and so on, even as the shards of gore start to reanimate and move around on their own …”)

        Yeah, it looks like that’s what he does – I’m guessing he reforms out of nowhere and relinquishes the mind control after a certain period of time. (So this is what a Master/Breaker classification looks like …)

        1. Now that sounds like something Bonesaw could do – turn someone into a ticking bomb just to contaminate more people with ticking-bomb-tinkeritis.

          So maybe it’s just that and not a shard hopping between victims.

          1. She did EXACTLY that in he merchant party, although they set a limit to how many times the chain reaction would go, hint that she could do it indefinitely if she wanted. Man, Bonesaw was truly fucked up.

    2. I’m guessing that after some time to recharge, the people splattered will also be able to explode and infect others.

      Although I guess it’s possible that it just wears off and The Goresploder re-forms.

      1. Is it just me, or does this power remind anyone of Bonesaw’s weapon from the interlude where they slaughter the Merchants?

        (Somewhat tangentially, I’ve always wondered what happened to the people at the tail-end of it who managed to survive that thing … )

        1. It reminds me of Marquis and his bone powers. I think it’s most likely someone wired up as a bomb by other capes, since using any sort of self-replicating explosion powers against a crowd seems like a good way to join Valkyrie’s Einherjar within the week.

    3. I either thought that a) Mr. Goresplosion can literally pull himself together after an explosion or b) the exploder isn’t the actual cape, but a proxy that got “infected”, similar to how Teacher can use his powers on other people.

      The option that everyone infected with the blood would become the new Goresplosion seems to be too powerful to me. Or, it was said he contained more gore than normal for a person…maybe all the infected people merge into a single one…

    4. Not sure if it’s any more than headcanon, but I always assumed her flight and strength were applications of her forcefield

  9. So … anti-parahuman terrorism is a thing now, it looks like? Although they apparently have to hire other parahumans to pull it off.

    1. I wonder if of5 or one of his triggermates is involved in this somehow. That might explain why we seem to have parahumans attacking parahumans.

      1. Kind of doubt it – Sveta and Capricorn don’t seem the type to do terrorism-against-crowds, and from what it sounded like, this had been planned against Fume Hood’s group in particular.

        I’m sure there’s more than one parahuman out there who wants to attack another parahuman.

    2. If you remember the bridge update concerning the “paraphernalia insurance” then there’s been huge demand for that group to hit all kinds of people, and I took away that there were capes in that organization.

    3. I don’t think it’s anti-cape terrorism. This being an anti-cape thing was an assumption Victoria made when it was just a street full of angry protesters, and with the arrival of the truck full of other capes and most of those protesters being mind controlled, it’s time to revise that assumption. My guess would be that these guys were hired to kill a specific person.

      1. Good point. Given the amount of planning and knowledge that went into this (they managed to track down Fume Hood’s prior persona, and riled up an online hatemob, for misdirection and so that there’d be a street full of angry protesters for their Master to use), I can’t help but suspect Tattletale might be involved in this. Perhaps Longscratch really is one of of5’s other triggermates?

        (This would also explain how the chatroom group enters the story … )

  10. Okay, so she does still have her powers. I had been wondering about that. And it seems like she has more fine control, if she is able to spread her shield out to cover more than just her and if she can focus her aura on one person. Perhaps a second trigger? God knows that being a multi-headed flesh doll mind-raped into loving your sister would be terrible enough to prompt one. Each day waiting for the new chapters already feels like a withdrawal. Still, one cannot rush greatness. And honestly, just glad that this is a thing.

    1. That’s a possibility. I’d assumed it was less “has more fine control” and more “is no longer trying to be fake!Alexandria-plus-awe-aura, and therefore is more open-minded about how to use her powers”.

  11. Ya know, I get the thing with the pregnant woman. Resident villain here, of course.

    You know how it is, you start off wanting to keep casualties down. It just makes things messier, causes law enforcement to be more zealous, all that. Then a plan that should have gone perfectly fine gets ruined because some idiot bank teller pushed a button when you threatened him with a gun and told him to get down. Now a bunch of hostages are going to be in between you and those trying to stop you, with bullets flying all over the place and the occasional whiff of tear gas. If you think about it, the bank teller’s the one who put those lives in danger. And it’s so very easy to justify killing him, then just killing the next one instead of giving them a chance to push that button.

    But seriously, kids, stay off the drugs. Some of them lower your inhibitions, which means taking unnecessary risks that might blow a perfectly good heist. Others mess with your reaction speed. Just because I can sneak around a yacht undetected, stealing hidden bundles of dirty cash and a server with access to offshore accounts, under the influence of sleeping pills doesn’t mean everyone can or should. Worse, some of them might even make you more likely to tell the truth. There are ways good con artists pretend to drink more than they actually do for that very reason. For instance, making sure they order a new drink before the old one’s finished so it gets taken away before they can finish it, while also keeping the wine flowing to the mark so they don’t realize just how much they’re drinking.

    Now you know, and knowing is half the battle. Yooooooo Cobra!

      1. Eh, a civilian in a bank robbery isn’t really a victim, at least in the United States. The FDIC insures every single person’s bank account up to $250,000, so your average person in a bank loses nothing. Hell, the bank hardly has to worry, as many of them don’t hold that much hard currency. So someone chose to move around like that despite the fact that they weren’t going to lose any money and the person robbing the place has a vested interest in keeping them alive. Where’s the personal responsibility? WHY DO SO MANY PEOPLE MAKE ME KILL THEM?!

      2. You do understand that Psycho Gecko is (acting as) an insane villain, yes? Not as a person you are supposed to sympathise , but someone whose absurdities you can laugh at?

    1. Not to mention if you decide to be nice and let any pregnant women in the audience leave, pretty soon they all say their pregnant. And then the men start saying they are pregnant, and with some of the mad scientists around these days, you just can’t be sure their lying. And pretty soon you end up just letting all the hostages go. So what was the point in taking hostages in the first place?

      1. Well, for starters you keep the kids who think it’s awesome to be near a cape fight. Furthermore, if you honestly suspect roughly half of the adults (the “pregnant” men) of being Tinker-modified, you don’t rob banks in that area ever again, because you’re too likely to be outgunned.

  12. Quote:
    “I turned myself in for the” -she took a deep breath, as if to signify magnitude- “years of being a low to mid tier nusiance. For being tiresome. And because I was tired of it.”

    The ” -” and “- ” there should both be m-dashes (—) without any spaces. The same goes for all of the places you use a hyphen for interrupted speech. (Finding all occurrences of “- ” and ” -” should catch most of them.)

  13. Victoria’s powers seem very different here from when they were first described in Worm. She has to turn on her forcefield, and interestingly, she “turns on” her aura. In Worm, it was always on, at least a little. Did Amy do this when she presumably un-fleshpool’d Victoria? Was it intentional? Did Victoria ask for it? Take control of her powers, so she never again entrances someone like she did to Amy?

    1. Well, what we know about her powers mostly comes from other points of view…
      She may have just never invested much thought into turning her powers off – she had no reason to.

  14. So when it comes to stopping vehicles, you have a few options. There is, naturally, killing its momentum. You could do that by putting something else in its way, which would have been a hell of a lot easier before the eighteen wheeler picked up speed, but putting a bus between that truck and the school might help. Moreso if they could possibly get it lengthwise, but that’s a risky and more delicate maneuver than most could pull off under these circumstances.

    Other areas of attack include the wheels, which is a bit harder to pull off when the thing has eighteen of them, the engine block, which apparently has a huge load of metal armor over it, and the driver, who is apparently a superhuman with some reason to feel comfortable driving into the side of a building at high speed.

    What I’m saying here is that this is no time for the conventional thing to do. We don’t need conventional. We need a hero. Or at least Fume Hood to get an explosive underneath the cab of the truck and blow the crap out of it. I can’t speak for these guys, but you’d be surprised how often people forget to armor the underside of the vehicle.

    1. I don’t think that Fume Hood’s powers make that big an explosion sadly. And probably these people are smart enough to have put someone who’ll laugh off the poison gas from her powers.

    2. We never got a general explanation of the physics of cape forcefields, did we? I.e., if something big hits your forcefield, where does that momentum go?

      Option 1: The shield takes the impact, but still applies the force to the (protected) user’s center of mass. Prey 14.5 (Worm) suggests this is how Glory Girl’s forcefield works.
      Result 1: Victoria shields the bus, which barrels on through, but Victoria gets blasted out the back of the bus by the truck’s momentum. Hopefully the back door’s open, else the truck’s impact will momentarily short out her shield and she’ll hit the bus’s rear wall, end of arc.

      Option 2: It takes the impact, but still applies the force to the *shielded object’s* center of mass. Indistinguishable from Option 1, as far as data from Worm go, since we’ve never seen Victoria shield anything but herself until now.
      Result 2: The bus and its occupants remain unharmed, but are still repelled from the head-on collision. Depending on the semi’s mass (if it’s trying to ram the building, they’ve presumably loaded it up, making it 2-3x more massive than a typical school bus) and the elasticity of the collision (do the two stick together, or does the shielded bus bounce off?), the truck continues on with anywhere from ~1/2 to none of its initial speed (although in the latter case, the bus is now hurdling backwards towards the building and the crowd).

      Option 3: It negates the impacting momentum (slash, shunts it into a parallel universe), provided the shield doesn’t break. Plausible, given how many powers rely on interdimensional access.

      Option 3a: The incident momentum goes to zero in the shield-caster’s frame of reference (or the shielded object’s frame of reference, with similar results).
      Result 3a: Victoria shields the bus, negating the truck’s momentum in the bus’s frame. The bus retains its momentum in the Earth’s frame, and the truck either bounces off or gets collapsed around the bus (depending on the collision’s elasticity). A highly effective way of stopping the truck. Possibly also high-lethality, which seems out of character, but if the truck intends to ram the side of the building, it’s presumably got some sort of protection anyway.

      Option 3b: The incident momentum goes to zero in some external frame of reference, e.g. the Earth.
      Result 3b: The truck’s momentum goes to zero relative to the Earth’s frame, but the bus still acts like it hit a stationary, truck-sized object. Jasper and Victoria (the latter of whom isn’t even in a seat, much less buckled in) go through the windshield.

    3. Seems like Victoria’s power would definitely come in handy here. “Accidentally” go through the windshield, then use flight/strength to shove really hard against the truck as she hits it? Would be rather painful, but she could probably pass it off as just the bus’s momentum (especially since Jasper is distracted by the crash).

      She probably couldn’t stop the truck that way, but at least she’d knock it off course so that it misses the door …

  15. IF and ONLY if Victoria goes cape again, I’d like to see her take the name “Mourning Glory”, because it would REALLY fit into the setting.

        1. Thanks for the inspiration, Pyscho Gecko!

          J Jonah Jameson bristled and shook his fist. he hadn’t been her more than five minutes, on this alternate earth though he knew ho to blame, as usual. “This is all Spider-Man’s fault. damned idiot spandex crowd with their bug theme powers!” Just wait until I get this universe’s Daily Bugle up and running! “

  16. Also, I think this adequately explains why so many protesters were brought in. When it came time to evacuate a bunch of people, they suddenly have a wall of hostile people all around it to prevent timely evacuation. Then, since cops are at that line trying to maintain order and move people out, someone in that crowd is in the perfect position to pull off some mind control bomb that gets them some armed people.

    But was the person who blew up the one with the mind control blood power, or were they just an expendable bomb created by someone with abilities?

    1. One of those lessons learned, I think. We’ll see how many of those we get. A lot of people are resistant to learning and changing. It implies they did something wrong or thought the wrong thing. And they couldn’t possibly have done that. They’re the good guy, at least in their own story. They’re always right.

      We’ll see how it goes. This ain’t no place for no heroes.

  17. Not really related to this chapter but…

    TAYLOR IS GONE

    Re-reading the prologue it’s been confirmed that Earth-Alep is sealed, just like in the Taylor epilogue of worm.

    It kinds of put to rest the whole purgatory/coma theory, it’s too much of a coincidence that, both in the “real world” and in the epilogue, only this Earth has been sealed.

    I think its as good a confirmation as we’ll get…

        1. So there Valkyrie, walking down the street. All of a sudden, Taylor jumps out from behind a corner wearing a bandana with holes cut in it tied around her face and waving around some fake spiders attached by strings to rings around her fingers.

          “Booga booga booga booga!”

          And that’s how Valkyrie died of a heart attack.

    1. I still hope we get to see her, even if it’s just an interlude with her doing completely mundane shit that has no bearing on the rest of the story.

      1. I still think we might see her, one possibility is that it’s more of a cameo, an ordinary person makes an appearance and only those who are observant realize it’s Taylor.

        The other option is that a major player will be revealed to be Taylor, because such minor things like a dimensional seal can’t stop her. Less likely, I admit.

      2. “I felt a rush of air as I passed through the automatic doors. I scanned the area ahead of me. Magazine rack, pets, office supplies. Nothing I could use there. A flash of light to the left caught my attention. A reflection from the glass doors of the frozen food aisle. That presented options. But should I instead get something fresh? The deli was still open; I could get the ingredients for a sandwich. I wanted to take my time and consider my options, but realized that whatever decision I was going to make, I needed to make it soon. It was almost lunchtime.”

      3. From what I gather, THAT is NOT gonna happen.

        The author went out off his way to say she’s GONE (going so far as great walling of China my comments, making me question my sanity for a moment [thanks Wildbow]), however optimistic we are, we aren’t seeing her again.

        Hell, even my hopes that GONE doesn’t necessarly means DEAD have been dampered (despite the fact that this may imply some kind of elaborate afterlife scheme)…

        One thing is for certain, I’d be baffled if Earth-Alep plays any role in Ward.

        1. Which is kind of baffling in and of itself, really – who had the authority to seal off the only Earth with decent infrastructure from any and all refugees? Even a backup of the Earth Bet Internet would be really useful, and that is absolutely something Aleph should have. (And assuming some variant of the LDS church exists there, they should also have a backup of as many of Bet’s genealogical records as they can get, which would really help with identifying people. I get that the Terrifying Cape Army might possibly try to invade, but society would almost certainly be healthier with Aleph backing them.)

        2. If your missing comments were made during Glow-worm, they might just be on the other site. Glow-worm is on both parahumans.wordpress.com and here, and comments aren’t shared between the sites.

          1. Read the first and second of my comments of this particular comment chain and see if they make sense…

            Hint: no comment was deleted, per say.

    2. Wasn’t the seal confirmed back at the end of Worm?
      TBH, I’d like her to stay gone. Much as I love her as a character, her story is done.
      She did her thing, learned her lessons (or not), saved the world. Plus, she’d eclipse poor Glory Hole with pure star power.

  18. Ok: thank fuck,finally Vicky uses her powers in a obvious manner and convinces us that she’s not Amy or someone else living her life.

    On the other hand: she has a monstrous mastery of her power now. I don’t remember her being able to target or focus her aura, and it seems the forcefield is under her control too. Nice going, Vicky.

  19. oh
    *”We Like To Party” begins to play*

    Hough I love Fume Hood, can’t tell if she’ll be recurring but I love her either way

  20. Wow ! After the flying comment I was thinking that it seemed she was depowered and I’m really happy to be wrong. Vicky’s personallity changed enough for it to feel like a new character with a familiar power and that’s fine by me. Really excited to see the fight.

        1. I think he can, but any pleasure he’d derive from peeping is irrelevant because his body and mind are made of crystals and can’t/don’t respond in the same way.

          We’re talking blue/orange arousal here.

  21. What if Fume Hood, Tempera, Longclow and Crystalclear are the other viewpoints from Glow-Worm? Sveta and one other member aren’t there but given Sveta’s appearance and compulsion for violence it’d make sense that she wouldn’t be introduced with the team and there could be a reason for another member not being introduced as well.

  22. The story definitely got started now, now I can’t wait for the next chapter. I wonder if Wildbow makes these decisions on purpose. Worm had a similar start where the action didn’t start on the very first chapter, even though it’s possible it’d catch more readers if it started with the Lung fight.

    In any case, as someone who’s definitely sticking with Ward I don’t think I mind the extra worldbuilding and character set up.

    1. I feel the opposite way. I think starting Worm the way Wildbow did was the absolute best way to grab readers, because it made Taylor instantly sympathetic due to being a victim of bullying, and also intriguing due to the presentation of her power. By introducing us to Taylor that way, it gave way more weight to the Lung confrontation. If the story had started with that fight, readers would probably disregard the story as just yet another superhero story.

  23. Powers confirmed. Human bombs also confirmed. I’m wondering if this whole thing will blow over as an isolated incident, or it’ll carry on into something much bigger afterwards.

    1. Considering this is a sequel to Worm, I think it’s safe to assume any calms are very temporary and to be followed by a huge storm.

  24. Nice.

    It seems like we’ve got some confirmation of either Second Trigger or Amy/Riley-Power-Meddling.

    Vicky has so far shown:
    Conscious control of Aura starting from a zero-activation state and ramping up, ability to focus it on individual people while maintaining a general state for everyone else.
    Conscious control of personal forcefield with the ability to extend it to cover other people/objects (Possibly at the expense of how much damage it can take before failing?).

    Yet to be seen:
    Flight. This may have been lost or she just isn’t using it because she’s avoiding detection as a cape.

    Should be fun to see what happens next.

    1. “(Possibly at the expense of how much damage it can take before failing?).”

      I think the forcefield was established to work by completly negating an attack before failing. With such an absolute effect, I doubt that the forcefield would have more nuance if extended.

      But in general, it’s really interesting how much control she now has over her power. I actually hadn’t considered a second trigger, but that’s a good point.

      1. The forcefield power was originally described as being capable of absorbing blows but a big enough shock could temporarily disable it. A shock like crashing through a wall, a gunshot, the concussive blast from an explosion, as demonstrated here.

        In addition, I don’t think we’re necessarily dealing with a powered up version of our protagonist. We never really got an in depth description of her powers from her perspective, most of what we got was from Tattletale and, presumably, resources like the Parahumans Wiki. The former of which doesn’t get all the information and the latter of which we know heroes and villains alike have obfuscated their true abilities on. We only saw things from Victoria’s perspective for a very short period of time, and that interlude didn’t involve much combat.

        Thinking about the first major combat we saw Victoria in, the bank robbery, we don’t really see her use it and when we see her use it in the interlude there’s only one potential target, so we don’t get to see any focused exertion, even if she was capable of it. And again, we don’t know the specifics of the barrier power either. We didn’t get an in depth analysis of her powers in Worm so we can’t be sure how they function or whether what we’re seeing displayed here is the default.

        1. Plus, she’d never really had reason to try to suppress her power to conceal it. Her identity was public, after all. And being front and center means she also didn’t have that much incentive to try to throw her shield around other people.

        2. I know how her forcefield works, I meant that before it collapses it can absorb any attack, according to TVTropes wildbow even said it could absorb a direct hit from Scion. So if it can take this, I would say it can take anything, and that’s why I called it an absolute effect.

          1. I think the point was that it (maybe) has a threshold of damage that won’t even break it (e.g. she can punch a dumpster down a street without her force-field breaking from the force on her hand), and that threshold might be lower when spread over more people.

    2. Somebody here speculated that Victoria might have suffered a second trigger even during the time she spent as a blob. I think that might be the best in-universe explanation.

  25. So some thoughts…
    Fume Hood? Good person who thinks they are bad? Bad person who’s trying to be good? She doesn’t come across that great at the surface, but I can’t help but think the lady doth protest too much. She seems like she’d have been a good fit for the Undersiders.
    Vicky has powers confirmed. Wonder how long she’ll be able to keep that under wraps?
    And we’ve got capes attacking. I really hope this isn’t our group from the first prologue.

  26. Cliffhangers… When I read worm I was I couple of years late so cliffhangers were not that bad. Now the cliffhangers are killing me. The thought that I will have to wait more than a couple of hours to get to know what happens is horrifying. I love this torture, keep it up wildbow.

    1. Same experience for me. I didnt get into Worm until Wildbow had already started Twig. Now I’m reading a fresh book from day one and the suspense is killing me 😀

  27. Fume Hood seems to be an interesting character. With just that short performance, she seems to be to me like an wildbow-protagonist in advanced stages, struggling with their own demons. About 2/3 through their own story.

    Crystalclear has a really cool power, and the fact that he could pull one of the shards out of his own head, where his brain should have been, somehow amuses me.

  28. Holy hell.

    …Victoria’s a lot smarter with how she uses her power than Glory Girl was. She’s not grandstanding, not trying to use her power to make herself as an individual look more incredible – and she’s a lot more effective for that.

    That’s also a damn good speech she gave to Fume Hood. Hoping it doesn’t get undermined by her probably being outed as a cape a few minutes later.

    1. As I read it, Fume Hood gets what Victoria means when she says she “grew up with capes”. Victoria’s in the closet, so to speak, and Fume Hood seems to respect that decision, maybe in part because of the whole fuss being made about Fume Hood coming out.

  29. I like how Victoria has clearly put a lot of thought on the subject of blame and responsibility. I’m guessing a lot of capes have, but she seems to be at peace with her decisions in a way that Fume Hood, and probably many others, aren’t.

    On a somewhat related note, is Jessica Yamada now the most powerful woman in the world? As of the Epilogue, she was working with the leadership of the Wardens, including therapy for Valkyrie and advising Chevalier. There are a lot of screwed up people with powers, and she seems to be the most respected, or maybe the only, shrink for superheroes.

      1. And now that there’s nobody telling the Endbringers to go kill people anymore …

        I’d like to see some character development from the Endbringers now, now that they’re acting of their own volition. Possibly including Jessica Yamada. After all, all we need is one Kevin Norton …

        1. Now I’m imagining a therapy session between Yamada and an Endbringer. “We both know you can kill me on a whim. Mentally dominating everyone in the building for the sake of being threatening… I don’t want to use the word ‘crass’, but it does seem like overkill.”

      1. I’ll give you Contessa, but one of my favorite quotes from Worm is Kevin Norton’s:
        “I’m the most powerful person in the world…. Because I can tell the strongest, most *capable* man in the world what to do.”

        Yamada has no powers, but many of the strongest parahumans listen to her regularly, and she shapes them, influences their development. She only does it to help them grow or heal, in the way that’s best for them, the way they want, but that doesn’t change the fact that at the end of the day, she is a strong contender for most powerful person in the world.

  30. I’m still waiting for the Amy shoe to drop. Waiting and dreading.
    About the chapter though: powers confirmed! Greater finesse as well! Also, mind control people bombs. I’d say that’s the creepiest power I’ve ever seen, but I’ve read Worm.

  31. I am so incredibly excited to be able to read this as it is posted! I found out that Ward was being written today…

    I’m really looking forward to finding out how Victoria went from fleshpuppet Victoria back to normal shaped Victoria!

  32. Why does everyone think that GG can now cover other people with her forcefield? That sentence could easily be understood as her throwing up her forcefield and shielding Jester with her body IMO.

  33. And here I had almost come round and convinced myself that she didn’t have powers, after all. Glad that’s over with. Hiding the powers but using them covertly is a lot more fun.

    Victoria having control over the forcefield makes sense to me. I was actually thinking about it awhile ago and I don’t think an uncontrolled, always-on, skin-tight forcefield really works anyway. Because, for example, how would she salivate on her food? How would she digest it? How would she urinate or defecate? Wouldn’t sweat and dead skin and hair get trapped underneath? And so on. It makes things much easier if we assume she can turn it on and off.

    Fine control and expansion seem like they might be new, though. The fact that the forcefield was skin-tight was mentioned more than once. I remember Taylor was even reminded of Glory Girl when dealing with Khonsu, because it also had thin forcefields between the layers of its body. People thought Victoria was ‘invincible’ all the time, even when she was a blob. The invincible part was a lie she cultivated, of course, but the fact that she was always normally protected seemed to be true. Still, I can also see how it might just never have come up before.

    Have to say, I felt like there was a bit too much talking for too long in the early part of the chapter. Gore-explosion mind-control guy really saved it, though.

  34. Everyone else seems to be thinking of Bonesaw with the explosion, but what I was immediately reminded of was the moment we saw Taylor’s powers from the outside and all her bugs moved in unison…

    Maybe Queen Administrator decided to get back in the game and give someone else powers….

    1. My first thought was of the broken trigger from the epilogue, self-destructing and then infecting a new host. This seems to be a bit more controlled, and a bit more physical.

    2. I sure hope not.

      If I’ve learned to expect anything from Worm, it’s that things will get worse. I’d hate to think that the starting point of Ward is a battle against the antihero of the previous story. It’s out of theme. This is likely a very scary dude or group, but they should get overshadowed badly by what’s still to come.

  35. Amazing start.
    It is interesting to see how much Victoria improved in the use of her powers. I wonder if she has new powers and how much her appearance changed.

  36. Okay so a few things come two mind here.

    1) It looks like Gore-splosion guy or what ever caused him has a Master effect thats carried by the gore. Thats one part cool, one part terrifying, and one part god-damn-it-Wildbow-why?!

    2) Stating the obvious Vicky has her powers yay! Though it looks like she’s got some secondary trigger signs going on there. To my understanding secondary triggers are less of an “and” change to a pre-existing power but more of a modification of that power or power set based upon the conditions of the new trigger. I’m basing this off of what changes we saw happen in Worm with Grue. He went from Shaker to Shaker/Trump if I remember correctly, but composition of his darkness became ‘denser’ and slower to generate. The original power was modified as part of that second trigger.

    So for our dear Victoria her Worm powerset was descibed as an Alexandra package consisting of Flight (mover), Super Strength (Brute), Extreme durability ala a form fitting self focused forcefield that could at least one hit from anything (Brute) and a bonus Awe-ra/ Fear aura (essentially Master). However the Mover and Brute aspects of her power really are just sub-features of her forcefield. So her actual powerset is based around her forcefield and her awe-ra, which could very well tie into her forcefield as well. Any secondary trigger that Victoria might have underwent would modify her forcefield and awe-ra application based upon the conditions of her secondary trigger.

    Tldr: As of this chapter the fine details of Vicky’s powers are very up in the air and are likely to function very differently than what we knew from Worm. She clearly has a forcefield and awe-ra but its not the same forcefield and awe-ra that we remember.

    3) The police still suck but that’s to be expected from any setting in which super powers are a thing. I mean, I get that the whole status quo regarding cape involvement with law enforcement went out the window but still, did even attempting to communicate with each other get tossed too?

    4) Villian team woooooo! Safe bet is that it’s not our chatroom buddies but I’m still excited to see who these guys are.

    I’m super pumped for my friend to finish Twig so we can go through Ward together!

    1. My sense wasn’t so much a second trigger, but perhaps ALL capes involved in the Gold Morning swarm got a bit of “Tayloring” to their powers.

      1) Could be directly, the QA shard told their shard better ways to interface with their world.

      2) More likely, the more any cape knows of Taylor/Skitter/Weaver, the more they see how a single power can be adapted and creatively re-imagined. Tattletale may have even let on that it took both thinking of the application *and* practice, like with bug-listen powers. We saw Clockblocker realize he could *plan* things to freeze with his tinkery-gauntlets, so he could reapply the string trick from Echidna; Golem’s fan-of-materials seems to be a Taylor type of idea…and we saw him using the materials-sense to detect buildings and such…again, non-obvious use of implied necessary power that supports the main one.

      So I can easily see GloryGirl in the asylum seeing news reports of Weaver, and even if she can’t manipulate her body, she can experiment with the force field and aura (poor attendants!), and perhaps how to interact with other nearby capes (like Golem/Cuff combos).

      So all the capes at least experienced Khepri using doormaker combos to extend the 16′ range; Cauldron never imagined multiplying his power like that. Vegas capes focused on secondary powers; Faultline got “a lot out of her crew”, I think Tattletale said early on.

      Victoria muses how mere humans have huge martial-art traditions to build on, but I think we’ve seen a lot of evidence that the capes *can* improve the uses of their existing powers, even if no two are identical. No second trigger necessary!

  37. I am probably going to be drawn and qartered for saying this, but the heart-to-heart between Dalton and Fume felt incredibly clunky. It sucked me right out of the scene, and felt very artificial – so much exposition. Maybe Fume was just gravid with needing to have that conversation with someone in her new environ so it all just came spilling out, but there didn’t seem any indication that was the case, and having this kind of conversation between two strangers at very little prompting felt very unnatural. I feel like it would have been better to fill us in on the details of what she did in some other way – maybe Victoria having reports through her PRT contacts that could be excerpted in an intro to the chapter or something – and for the nature of the front Fume is putting up left to be a matter of inference to the reader.

  38. Any theories as to his this human bomb relates to the failed, exploding black junk triggers we saw in the last chapters of Worm?

  39. So, there’s Victoria dealing with a repentant supervillain who’s trying to come to terms with her actions and do better and pretending her decisions don’t matter anyway, since she has very low opinion of herself. There may be a deliberate compare and contrast between Taylor and Fume Hood here… thoughts, everyone?

    @Packbat. I found the answers about fanfic I was looking for, they were cunningly hidden in the FAQ section! I dd Honestly fail to see it. Anyway I made my decision to post my short based on your guidance. So thank you for the guidance!

    1. That’s an interesting question. I don’t think Glory Girl was around for Taylor’s villain-hero switch, though – and in the case of Fume Hood she’s not talking to someone who hurt her specifically the way Taylor did.

      And honestly, it’s easy to miss if you’re looking at things through Taylor’s perspective, but Taylor was never in her entire career a mere nuisance. She started off scary as hell and kept on going up from there.

      (You’re welcome re: the fanfic thing!)

  40. So, at all times Crystalclear knows where his allies and enemies are (through walls/floors) and can attack them from anywhere in the building as well? Ouch – blocked and reported.

  41. Yknow, I’ve very much taken a shine to Crystalclear so far. His powers are neat, I’ve always loved mutant capes, and his personality is great. Hopefully he sticks around but considering Wildbow’s MO, I can only hope that he /survives/.

  42. Someone on reddit said that posting and checking the follow boxes is how to subscribe to notifications for new chapters. That seems awkward, so if there’s a better way, please tell me.

  43. For some reason, everyone now seems convinced that it’s actually Glory Girl. I, for one, won’t believe this isn’t actually a disguised Simurgh protag until Word of God says so, and perhaps not even then.

  44. I’m thinking Vicky’s newfound control of her powers comes from Amy’s meddling with her body. Amy states flat-out back in Carol’s interlude that she’d set out to try to improve Vicky’s powers. As she put it: ‘Tweak, expand, change things to serve more than one purpose.’.
    So what if, once she was in a better headspace following GM, she actually followed through on that when she rebuilt Vicky? Deliberately improved her control over her powers, because of all the hassle that had come about due to said powers being out of Vicky’s direct control?
    It certainly makes sense from Panacea’s PoV.

  45. Big development here: Vicky’s powers are more nuanced and manipulable than previously portrayed. From Wildbow’s interview that’s listed in his Parahumans Wiki entry: “I really do like the schtick with crappy powers that can be good with out of the box thinking.” These two data points suggest that he settled on Glory Girl as the protagonist (also from that same article: some of the earliest drafts of proto-Worm focused on GG and Amy as protagonists, and he’s mentioned several times that he had a lot of fun telling that story), then made her more Taylor-like so that he had more room for creative applications of her power. The fact that she doesn’t seem to have become any less powerful in the process suggests that power levels are going to go very high, in order to make GG powers + creative application necessary. Either that, or he decided that late-game Worm went too heavy on the “creative applications” gimmick, so he’s going with higher base power level but still with room to use them in ways that surprise us.

    1. Also, re: that wiki page, I know it’s a very old interview, but… I have a deep urge to talk to Wildbow about his taste in comics, and the fact that… well… it’s not good. Okay, it’s not all bad, but there are some things on there that… no.

  46. Such an interesting mix of egoism and self-reflection, this Fume Hood. Just how much of this story is going to be about Victoria, and how much about people around her? I wonder.

    And hey, she still has her power. Can’t wait to hear the specific reasoning behind why she hates using it now. I mean, Aura is a given. Everything else isn’t quite so. Or, were all of her powers linked to one another? Can’t remember.

    And first trouble begins, with a VERY dangerous power to be against. Fascinating.

    Thank you for your writing.

  47. First comment here. Long-time fan. Wow. Wasn’t sure until this update that Victoria Dallon was actually her. Big change from the GG we knew before. Can’t wait to get more things explained. How did she get to where she is? Where’s Panacea? I want mooooore

  48. Hm. Vicky is still with powers, but they… change. Neatly.
    Or she did take a couple points of control or… I REALLY do not want that it was a “gift” from the Teacher.
    Who can change powers in theirs control form? Yeah. That’s it.

  49. Crystalclear has yet another of those weirdly intricate yet sense-making powers Wildbow is known for. Hitting it out of the park again.

    “Move,” I said, and I pushed out with my power. Heads turned, noticing. Maybe they would put their finger on why they’d noticed. Maybe not. I was nudging, here.
    I could see the man’s reaction. He took a partial step back.
    I stepped it up a notch, not with more use of my power, but by raising the volume of my voice. “Out of the way!”

    Victoria’s acting a lot more subtly than she used to. It seems she’s matured at some point since being turned into a giant limb-monster, which is just another thing I look forward to seeing how happened.(Alongside how she stopped being a giant limb-monster.)

  50. We were getting teased throughout the arc about whether Victoria had powers and when says she is unhappy about using them, it felt like such a strong and resonant line ! And wow do they become necessary quickly. Seriously, how do non capes survive in this world? And btw, why is everyone so calm when ExplodingFluids attacks? Were they expecting him? Did she awe-ra them? Did they hire him? Are they calmly waiting to see if the hopeful heroes will step up and save them? Have people just stopped caring about danger?

    Also, I am very curious in this dynamic of a main character that dislikes using their power, it’s very different from Taylor’s creativity and curiosity about hers. But it’s also nice that this dislike does not lead to irresponsible/ unreasonable reluctance, like it sometimes felt to be the case for Panacea or Sundance, for instance…

  51. Hiya.
    Still catching up on Worm 2, but my first thought reading this is…
    Crystal themed powers with an emphasis on future and past sight, at the expense of normal vision?
    Crystalclear has some connection to the Simurgh. Most likely, they share that particular shard with her. Either because the shard divided, or because both Eden and Zion posessed such a shard.

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