Daybreak – 1.5

Previous Chapter                                                                                             Next Chapter

I paused at one of the doors of the kitchen.  I’d come in one door and there were two more.  One led to a hallway with people standing stationary at the end.  Another led to the main room, where everyone had been seated before this had begun.

Crystalclear hadn’t signaled me further, and I took that to mean I was supposed to pause or wait.  People in the main room were moving around.  I peered through a crack in the door to see if there was an opening, a break in the ranks I could use to slip through or get something done.

I saw the people Kingdom Come had controlled had settled in, most finding seats in the folding chairs that had been set up throughout the room.  Some stood around the side or sat with their backs to the wall.  Others stood at the windows, watching outside.

The majority of the crowd was at rest.  The ones who weren’t had guns drawn.  The police officers were among them.

The officer with the sad mustache was at the front of the room, face streaked with blood.  He was talking, and I couldn’t see who he was talking to.

I listened to the conversation, two people talking against a faint background of a chorus of hums and music box sounds.

“You want me to negotiate with terrorists,” a woman said.

“We want you to do what is best for your community,” the police officer said, in a very different voice than he’d used earlier.

“By playing along?”

“This started with civilians, it involves cape on cape violence,” the officer said.  “If you cooperate, we’ll pay for damage done, we’ll extend our protection over your community in a way that keeps capes out of sight and mostly out of mind.”

“A protection racket?”

“Not a racket.  No money or expectations.  We’ll take the woman and we’ll tell you what to do in order to smooth things over.”

“I don’t understand why.  What does this serve?  Fume Hood was upfront about her history.  She wanted to serve her time in this way.”

“If we tell you why, will you cooperate?”

“I can’t promise that,” the woman said.  I was assuming she was the District Rep.  Why had she left the others?

“The City is like a pressure cooker.  The pressure is mounting and has been for a while.  Things inside are heating up and winter is fast approaching.  A number of great thinkers seem to think we need to vent the-”

“Vent the pressure?” the District Rep asked.

“Yes,” the police officer said.  “The-”

There was an explosion overhead.  Another of Crystalclear’s shots.  Two more, leading from one corner of the room and away.

I looked at the crowd, and I saw the person closest to me staring at me.

Kingdom Come knew, he’d seen.

“We’ll continue this conversation shortly.  You’ve got a cape with a gun inside the building.”

I backed away.  Crystalclear created more explosions close to the other door.  The people who had been standing guard at the end of the hallway, probably.

I retreated, ducking behind a counter.

They entered the room simultaneously, doors banging against the wall.

I ducked down, staying behind cover.

“You’re the one who fought Blindside?” the one at the door asked.  The police officer.

I remained silent.

“I don’t want to shed any blood that isn’t mine,” he said.  He was moving deeper into the room.  I heard the door squeak, peeked, and saw the corner of it.  It had been opened and was being held open.  Another person?

“Alright,” he said.

One of the issues of being a parahuman was that there wasn’t a history to build on or a peerage to draw from.  We had powers, yes.  Some of those powers were similar to the powers others had, but there were almost always tricks and caveats, strengths one person had that another didn’t.  I couldn’t copy Alexandria’s old tactics and style because my invincibility worked differently.  Timing was so much more important to me.

I could be shot, if my timing was wrong, or if their timing was especially right.

A person like Jasper could take classes in martial arts and get lessons on the range, and he could use tools and draw on the experience of millions of others who had bodies that worked like his did, a set of capabilities that were virtually identical to his own.

There was only one Victoria Dallon with Victoria Dallon’s powers.  I had to lean heavily on my own experience.  In exercising my abilities, there was a point beyond which I was the only person that could teach myself – nobody resembled me closely enough to be an instructor in how to fight, how to process, or how to or pass on their experience.

But my own experience was a drawback if I was caught in the moment, where I had to rely on instinct but that instinct pointed me right back to my old ways.

These people were innocent.  The officer, the others at the door.  Maybe some had been protesters.  Kingdom Come had no issue in using them, but I couldn’t hurt his pawns.

He could have moved them as a group, but he didn’t.  He moved like a chessmaster played chess.  One person taking a new position, pausing, checking the area, then another person moving.  The police officer in charge -chief or sheriff, I wasn’t sure-  had stopped in the center of the room.  Others were moving around the perimeter.

I caught a glimpse of one by the gun he was holding, and moved around the corner.  They all moved the same way when they moved, pistols held up, gripped in two hands that were dotted in drops of drying blood, pointed at the ceiling.  I saw the gun before I saw the rest of him.

The lullaby continued, faint and distant.  It wasn’t enough to obscure any scuffle I made.  I didn’t want to make noise, and whatever the movies showed, it was hard to crawl around while wearing boots and be sure to not make any sound.

I didn’t like flying.  I wasn’t confident in it like I had been.  Two years had passed in the hospital, and my sense of flight had been as disturbed as the movement of my arm or my attempts at vocalization.  It was supposed to be back, but it was a muscle I hadn’t exercised.

I wanted to fly, but it was tainted.

I raised myself off the ground, still hunched over, staying low enough that the counters would block me from sight, and used flight as much as light pushes on the sides of the cabinet to propel myself away from the advancing gunman.

I had other training to draw on that wasn’t self-taught.  There was what I’d learned and absorbed from time with family, but that whole experience was so full of pitfalls I barely wanted to touch on it.

The Wards.  I hadn’t been with them for long.  I’d absorbed some things from Dean, because I lived the cape stuff and Dean was willing to teach it.  I’d studied up and I’d taken the tests.  I knew the numbers and the labels.  I knew the approach formations for squads.  Simple, making conflict with parahumans as textbook as possible, black ink on white paper, sans serif.

In fighting that perpetual battle of trying to think things through and still act in time, the classifications were a nice shortcut.  Apply the label, assume what worked against most people of one classification, and if it clearly didn’t, it was still a starting point.

He was edging closer.

Kingdom Come was a breaker and a master.  He had a toggled state that changed the rules as they pertained to him.  Shake, blow up, and he was now a horde of people controlled by the bodily fluids on them.  Masters were second highest priority as targets, breakers were targets that required timing, often hitting them when they were in the state that they were weakest.

Kingdom Come made that complicated by not giving me a body to target.

They were closing in.  They’d crossed the length of the room and if I had to guess, four of them were standing within fifteen feet of me, guns held high, where it would be that much harder for me to lunge for the weapon.  He didn’t have perfect coordination of their movements, I had to assume, unless they were all doing the same thing, like when the crowd had turned their heads.

The old me would have dealt with this by blitzing them.  Hit each hard, fast, before they had a chance to react.  Some minor harm would have come to innocents, but the situation would be resolved.

The current me waited, staying silent, letting them get close.  One to my left, one in the middle avenue of the kitchen, between the two rows of counter-islands, and one on the far right, furthest from me.

As I set my boot down on the floor, ready to move, Crystalclear volunteered his help.  An explosion at the ceiling, a few feet behind the guy to my left.

He spun around, looking, and I took advantage, leaping over the counter, reaching for the gun he held aloft.  I seized it and his hands, and pulled both to the ground, where the counters kept us out of sight of the other two.

They started to approach at a run, each around one end of the counter, so they’d catch me on both sides, and Crystalclear offered another blast between me and them.  It took out the light fixture above, and cast the corner of the room into shadow, illuminated by periodic sparks.

It gave me a moment’s pause to think.  I ignored the man I’d brought to the ground, as I held his hands and the gun.  I didn’t even need my strength- only leverage and my body weight.

I couldn’t do anything to him that would put him down for good without risking hurting the real person.  I couldn’t do anything to Kingdom Come, as much as the rule for dealing with masters said I should.  He didn’t have a material body.

I used a burst of strength and tore the gun from the one man’s hands, sliding it along the floor so it went under one of the appliances.  I’d gone high to go after the first one, so I went low as I went after the officer to my left, throwing myself around the counter, using a bit of flight to help keep up my speed as I went around the corner.

I tackled him to the ground, holding him as we went down to keep the impact from being too hard.  I’d managed to get one hand around his wrist, and as he pulled his other hand away, gripping the gun, I seized that wrist too.

That left one in the middle of the room, one unarmed and on the ground and no doubt climbing to his feet, and one coming around the corner, gun ready.

I flew, sliding the police officer along the floor.  I twisted to hit the cabinet with my shoulder as we reached the end of the row.  That would bruise tomorrow.  I flew again, to move another direction, keeping away from the rest.

As we stopped, the officer had enough in the way of bearings to drop the gun.  He drew his knee toward his chest, and then kicked the gun so it would slide on the kitchen floor.

Someone stepped through the doorway, stooping low and catching the gun in a way that wouldn’t have been possible if they hadn’t had a greater awareness.

No, as much as he was a master in execution, he was also a breaker.  I had to be sensible.  It didn’t make sense to fight a breaker like this when he was in his breaker state.

I pushed the police chief away, and then, reorienting, I flew straight up, through the ceiling.  I felt my forcefield go down, bracing myself in case I brushed up against any wiring.

Second floor.  I checked my surroundings.  None of Kingdom Come’s people.  The lullaby music was louder.  The drones would arrive soon.  I moved, hurrying down the hall.

I found the stairwell.  I stepped into it, glancing down.  No sign of an approach.

I peeled some of the metal away from the railing, stepped back into the hallway, and leveraged my strength to twist the metal around the door handle, to seal it shut.  I knew there could be other stairwells, but at least this way I’d hear them if they tried coming this way.

Covering my back.

Priorities.  Blindside was as classic a stranger as I’d ever dealt with.  Out of action or out of consideration for now.

Lord of Loss was a brute.  Textbook answer when faced with a brute was to ignore them as much as they allowed you to.  It would take too much effort and it would take too much time when dealing with someone who couldn’t be decisively dealt with.

I could remember studying the PRT paperwork with Dean, doing the quizzes.  He’d said the rule for brutes had an unofficial second part.  That as much as you might try to put them off, they had a way of making you deal with them.

What had I said in response to that?  I was a brute on paper.

Had that been the study session we’d had in my room?  Dean would have been leaning against a pile of pillows at the head of my bed, Lyo-Leo on his lap, while Dean pretended to have him read the answers.  I’d been sitting at the foot of the bed, papers and books strewn between us.  Real homework and superhero stuff.

The door had been left open, at my dad’s insistence.  One foot tucked under me, I’d snuck my one foot across the bed until I could touch Dean’s knee, trace my toe along his leg.  Seeing if I could break his focus enough to make him mess up while reading aloud.

No, wait, that had been a few days after Dean had reminded me of the brute rule.  I’d been studying it with more interest because Dean was turning eighteen before long, and we were worried he’d get moved to another city, even with his family situation being what it was.  I’d seriously been considering joining the Wards and then the Protectorate, so I could follow him.

But I’d told my stuffed lion that he needed to remind Dean that brutes like me had a way of making you deal with them.  They could only be ignored for so long.

Normally clever Dean had been at a loss for words.  He’d grabbed my toe and squeezed it.  I’d wiggled it in his hand.  We’d been familiar enough with each other that the silence that followed didn’t feel bad.  Awkward in a good way, even.

He’d, after a long pause, found the clever thing to say, but he’d stumbled his way through it.  It would be my pleasure.  Pause.  To deal with you.

It hadn’t been long after that that we’d had our first night together.  It had taken two days of desperate attempts at coordinating schedules and patrols, for me to get out without family wanting to join me, for Dean to avoid the ‘sidekick’ situation and go out in costume without a Protectorate member joining him.

My heart hurt, thinking of Dean.  My knight in shining armor.

Still, I smiled as I remembered some of the emails we’d exchanged, my hands resting on the metal I’d used to lock the door.  Dean, ever the gentleman, had wanted to negotiate and check everything, from my comfort levels about X, Y, and Z to how my personal forcefield would factor into our time together.

I’d laughed at that, which had been the tip-off for Amy to realize something was up.  She’d-

And I’d gone and done it.  Let my guard down, tripped over the stumbling block, stepped on the emotional landmine.  There was only the hurt, now, none of the mixed, warm feeling that came from thinking about Dean.

I pushed it all out of mind.  It wasn’t the time for that anyway.  I was prone to getting lost in thought, even though it sometimes felt like every path led to the same, regrettable destination.

Dry, deliberate classifications.  Moving forward.  Deep breaths, when my chest hurt enough that breathing was hard.  Back to numbers and labels.  Lord of Loss and Kingdom Come had to be ignored, but I could trust that Lord of Loss would come into the picture somewhere along the line.  We still had to get out of here or deal with him.

Nursery was close enough for me to hear the hums and chimes.  Shaker, clearly.  Not dissimilar to Labyrinth from back in Brockton Bay.  The rule for dealing with shakers was to avoid fighting them on their own turf.

Snag was changer or tinker, possibly striker.  Those arms.  He had something mover going on with how he’d gone after the bus Jasper was driving.

Still, there might be another in play.

I ventured down the hallway, still feeling that ache in my chest, feeling acutely aware of my own body, the way clothes constrained me, reaffirmed me, yet every reaffirmation was a reminder that I needed that small reminder in the first place, and why.

My hand brushed against the wall as I walked.  The closer to the north end of the building I got, the more of the lullaby I could hear.  Multiple sources formed the humming, soft around the edges, each slightly out of sync with the others in a way that suggested they all came from different places.

I felt the texture of the wall change.  Smoother.  I felt and saw the difference in texture and color, respectively.  Gray and dusty rose shades, as if seen through a filter.  The wall had become a painted surface that felt as if it had been painted over many times, some droplets having run down the wall and set in place, ridges elsewhere where similar bumps had been painted over and become a faint rise.

I could hear her now.  Nursery.  A human’s hum, joined by all the others.  She was close.

Peering around the corner of the T-shaped junction, I didn’t see her, but I saw the change.  Her turf, as it was.  Dusty rose carpet, picture frames with simple things like animals and boats in grays, blacks, and pale pinks.  A crib, white, covered with a quilt.

I stayed at the edges of it, going further down the hall rather than turning the corner and venturing into her realm.  Only the wall to my right was affected.  A baby carriage draped in a blanket was parked beside a small bookshelf that had been stacked with children’s books and building blocks.  The cloth stuck as if it had been taped down or the sheer amount of time it had been there had nearly fused it to the fabric of the carriage, producing a tearing sound reminiscent of Velcro.  The carriage was empty, except for a vague oblong stain on the seat’s back and the seat itself.

When I left it behind, though, I could tell that there was humming coming from that vicinity, one of the soft, vague hums in the grander chorus.

Fuck me.

Every five or ten feet, there were more.  A car seat removed from the car, handle up, blanket over it.  Another crib, a much-used blanket tangled in the mobile, a child’s wagon.  Toys, clocks, wall decorations, cardboard boxes stuffed of baby clothes, marked for ages zero to three.  A rocking horse and more.

I was forced to venture further into it to get closer to the true sound’s source.

I saw her.  Nursery was a woman with an ankle-length dress, a shawl over her shoulders.  She clutched the shawl and rocked from side to side, speaking the inarticulate sounds rather than humming.

Beside her was Snag.  He was heavyset.  Two hundred and fifty pounds, at least, possibly three hundred pounds, and he wasn’t quite six feet tall.  That mass was made even bulkier by his coat, which was fastened closed, draping down to his ankles, where his boots were.  The sleeves had been modified to be longer, fitting the arms, which reached to the floor.

It was my first chance at seeing his face, though.  He had long black hair and a thick beard, both in the loose heavy-metal take.  His mask looked like he’d taken handfuls of black clay and layered it over the skin his hair and beard didn’t cover.  The mask created a kind of neanderthal brow with a permanent glare built into it; the circles under his eyes were so dark it was hard to tell exactly where the eyeholes of the black clay mask started.  It might have been thick rubber, melted to be in the crude shape needed, the texture left unrefined.

Nursery barely flinched as the door opened.  Fume Hood stuck her head and arm out, and she fired three projectiles.  One hit the slash of white paint that separated Nursery’s realm from the door, exploding into a cloud of gas.  Two hit near where Nursery and Snag were, going to pieces instead of exploding or producing gas.

The gas from the first shot expanded to fill the space between Nursery’s pocket world and the door at the end of the hall.

“Speed it up,” Snag said.

Nursery turned his way.  She wore a cloth mask with holes cut out for the eyes.  The cloth had a floral print and was bound close to her neck with a series of chokers.  She continued to mumble and hum, but she’d stopped rocking in place.

“Come on now,” Snag growled.  “We’re expecting trouble.”

The humming stopped.  The music box chimes that seemed to be plucking and pealing from the light fixtures and behind the walls grew noticeably quieter.

“Every time I have to stop to respond to you, Snag, it slows us down.  Be a good boy and be patient, trust us.  We’re making progress, even if you can’t see it.”

“If we get caught between the new player and Bad Apple’s team-”

Nursery let go of her shawl to reach out, placing her hand flat on Snag’s face, covering eyes, nose and mouth.  He pulled back, and I ducked back behind the corner, so he wouldn’t catch a glimpse of me.

“Hush,” she said.  “We’re safe even if that happens.  This is my sanctuary.”

“I will bite you if you touch my face again.”

“You’re not as scary as you pretend to be, Snag.  I know scary.  You’re just a man that’s dressing up,” Nursery said.  She sounded gentle, calm even after being threatened.

“Try me.”

“Please, hush,” she said.  “Let me do my work.”

“If you take any longer, I’m going to push for plan B.”

Nursery resumed humming.

No more feedback from Crystalclear.  The group at the end of the hall weren’t doing much of anything.

More to the point, I was rather concerned that the area of the building I was in didn’t entirely map to the layout of the building that I’d seen from the outside.  There was just a little too much room to either side of Nursery and Snag.

“Tell me the details,” Snag said, his voice growl-like even when he wasn’t threatening Nursery.  He’d walked a distance away from her and toward me.

A pause, long.  Snag picked up a child’s plush and threw it down the hall, bowling over a stack of thin hardcover books.

“Well, it’s taking plenty of time.  So is Nursery,” he said.  “What’s Kingdom’s status?”

Another pause.

“At this stage I’d settle for plan B,” he said.  “I’d pay for the property damage.”

Pause.

“They’re trying to buy time and it’s working.  Tell Blindside to hurry up.”

Blindside.

I stood with my back to the wall, listening in.  Crystalclear hadn’t communicated, but I wasn’t sure he could.  Fume Hood and Tempera weren’t doing much but holding the fort and delaying.

Nursery continued humming, but she piqued the last hum with an inquisitive note.

“Blindside faked being out.  Should arrive soon.  We’ve got some details on our mystery guest.  Dressed like one of the troopers I stashed in the room back there.  Untouchable but still wary of being hit.  Emotion control.”

The humming stopped.

I expected Snag to complain.  He didn’t.

I chanced a look around the corner.

Nursery had turned around.  She faced me.  Snag was gone.

I stepped out of cover, one hand on my gun, glancing around to see where Snag had disappeared to.

I wasn’t supposed to fight a shaker in her domain.  But here she was, standing with her hands clasped in front of her, defenseless.  She was also the only thing standing between me and the room where Fume Hood was.

“Let me through,” I said.

“No,” she said.

I pushed out my aura, as hard as I could manage.

She didn’t flinch.  It didn’t reach her.

That was what this was.  Her sanctuary was a protection from shaker effects.  She overrode everything by transplanting this screwed up baby decor into the area.

I wondered if I could hit her.  I looked around for Snag and didn’t see him.

“Wake up,” she said.

“What?” I asked.

“Wake up, sweetie.”

The crib, a little red wagon with blankets heaped over it, and a carriage nearby jumped, rattling as if something had moved within.

I heard wet sounds.  Throughout the hazy altered space, the meaty squelching started to overtake the background hums.

I stopped in my tracks.

Things moved beneath the blankets.  She still hadn’t budged.

I turned around and ran.

Fuck this.

I got away as fast as my legs would take me.  I hit the wall at the end of the hallway and stopped myself with my hands rather than slow down with my legs.  I turned right and headed away, past more cribs, more strollers, baby seats and bouncy chairs, all draped in their blankets of varying types and quality.  Some tipped over from the violence of the agitation.

Yeah, no, whatever it was she was doing, I wasn’t going to mess with it.

There had to be other ways.

I escaped the area of Nursery’s shaker effect, stepping back into ordinary community center hallway.  I was in the opposite corner of the second floor from where I’d started.

Looking out the window, I could see the shadows cast by Lord of Loss’ branches.  Was it worth chancing flying outside, then flying into the room where Fume Hood was, when Lord of Loss could try hitting me or grabbing me?

There was another stairwell at the end of the hall- one I hadn’t sealed.

The door opposite it had something hanging on it.  A gauntlet with clawed fingertips, the ‘arm’ something electronic.  The claw’s tips were embedded in the wood of doorframe and door both.

“Hello?” I called out.  I glanced back to make sure Nursery and Snag hadn’t followed me.

“Don’t touch the door!” was the rushed response.

“Who is it?” I asked.

“Patrol from the high school, community center staff,” the voice from the other side said.  “Don’t touch the door.  There’s a bomb!”

“I see it,” I said.

“They said they’d disable it when they left.  You said to stay safe, so we cooperated and let them lock us in.”

“That’s- that’s good,” I said.  My heart was still pounding from Nursery’s thing.  I was pretty sure Blindside wasn’t around, because my senses weren’t being affected.  “We’ll get this figured out.”

I wasn’t sure how.  They had a shaker power to override Tempera and Fume Hood.  Potentially Crystalclear and Longscratch as well, depending.  They had Lord of Loss sequestering the outside and they had Nursery taking over the inside.

In the same moment I turned my thoughts to Snag and his disappearance, two mechanical arms stabbed out of the nearest wall as if the wall was paper.  One hand caught me around the neck.  The other across the face.  I was slammed into the window, hard enough to shatter it and take out my forcefield.  Glass tinkled onto my head, into my hair, and all around me.

Before I could get my bearings, he hauled me into the wall.  My head cracked into the drywall and I felt it break with the impact.  His hand gripped my mouth and the length of his long forearm caught me around the throat.

I put my hands on his arms, and I felt the whir as machinery kicked into life.

As someone with the ability to control emotions, I was supposed to be harder to read and affect.  It was why I’d deflected Crystalclear earlier.

It was why Dean and I had gotten along.  Even why we’d been possible.

Maybe that resistance came into play.  Maybe it turned Snag’s power from an emotional uppercut to a mere slap.  Negative emotions poured into me like liquid from a syringe.

But a slap on an open wound could be enough to bring someone to their knees.  The walls came tumbling down, the memories flooding in, and my last coherent, present thought was that I hoped I wouldn’t maim or kill anyone in the meantime.

Previous Chapter                                                                                             Next Chapter

157 thoughts on “Daybreak – 1.5”

  1. The comment threads on the first few chapters have been too disorganized for my taste, so let’s try to revive a tradition form Worm:

    the TYPO THREAD.

    1. I loved the chapter (RIP Dean), but there’s one bit that stood out to me: “I stood with my back to the wall, listening in. Crystalclear hadn’t communicated, but I wasn’t sure he could. Fume Hood was” <== no clue what she was.

    2. Fixed now, but I noticed that Snag was first described as Snatch in the original post. I wonder if that’s someone we will meet later, or if it’s just one of the draft names for this same character.

      1. Now that I think of it, “Snag” would make an adequate title for a future wildbowwork.
        A sprinkle of wildly different meanings in a compact 4-letter package.

    3. I WAS pretty sure the color was called Dusky Rose, but looking it up I’m not sure if both are correct but different colors, both are correct and interchangeable, or one is correct and one is mistakenly used to mean the other.

    4. Noticed a few things, not all of them strictly typos:
      ==========

      “I retreated, ducking behind a counter.

      They entered the room simultaneously, doors banging against the wall.

      I ducked down, staying behind cover.”

      Was she not already ducking by the second time?

      —-

      “nobody resembled me closely enough to be an instructor in how to fight, how to process, or how to or pass on their experience.”

      “Or how to or” looks like you originally had one phrasing then switched halfway through.

      —-

      “Had that been the study session we’d had in my room? Dean would have been leaning against a pile of pillows at the head of my bed, Lyo-Leo on his lap, while Dean pretended to have him read the answers. I’d been sitting at the foot of the bed, papers and books strewn between us. Real homework and superhero stuff.”

      Just sort of weird to see “would have been” for Dean and just “had been” for everything else in this little flashback.

      1. nah, makes sense. She starts off reconstructing the memory, ‘had that been…’ matching ‘would have been’, using Dean’s habits when they’d done that several times before. Arguably as she traces the memory it solidifies.

    5. Not exactly a typo, but:
      “My head cracked into the drywall and I felt it break with the impact. ”

      I reread this three times until I figured out that it is not her head breaking but the drywall. Maybe putting “head cracked” next to the ambiguous “it” makes it even more ambiguous when stuff starts breaking right after.

      1. I personally thought that was fine as-is. Usually in the English language when two subjects are followed by a pronoun that could apply to either, the pronoun is referring to the most recent subject – in this case the drywall. It reads awkwardly to me if it was instead “felt the drywall break” right after mentioning the drywall.

        1. That’s the general case, but as you said, only “usually”. I think that having the head “cracking” against things made it a bit more of a candidate for breakage in the second part of the sentence. It would be less ambigious if the head “encountered” the drywall for example, but it also wouldn’t be as clever.

          Ultimately I can only say that the sentence in question broke my reading flow and made me do a couple retakes until I got what’s happening, the rest is just guessing at the reason.

  2. “I stood with my back to the wall, listening in. Crystalclear hadn’t communicated, but I wasn’t sure he could. Fume Hood was

    Nursery continued humming, but she piqued the last hum with an inquisitive note.”

    Something missing there with Fume Hood was?

  3. I see some amount of Silent Hill inspiration in the creepy baby theme shaker. I approve.

    I’m definitely feeling the lack of Tattletale to tell us about opponents’ powers. Going in unprepared is making things much more unpredictable.

    I’m enjoying the call backs to Victoria’s past and the wistful nostalgia tempered by avoidance of thinking about Amy. It feels particularly organic to me, as someone with some experience with PTSD.

    1. Excellent to hear.

      Not that you have experience with PTSD (that’s a damn shame, I hope things are/get better) – but that it feels organic. I very much appreciate that bit of input.

      Glad to have your approval on baby-theme shaker.

      1. It’s not a huge deal, and I’m doing much better of late. I was told by psychiatrists that in terms of severity I was dealing with 0.75 out of 10. But the experience of remembering things and going off on tangents until you hit a source of trauma, and then dealing with hurt and trying to calm yourself down is painfully familiar. You’ve captured that fairly accurately. The comment about walls being kept up also rings true in my experience. I do appreciate that you’re going for a much more on the nose PTSD approach to the trauma theme this time. So far you’re handling it well, and far more tastefully and realistically than I’ve usually seen it done. I’m looking forward to seeing this character element develop.

        1. But yeah, happy to give useful feedback. I don’t know how bad you want Victoria’s PTSD to be, but I’d be happy to answer questions about some of my experiences if you’re planning for it to be lower severity. I can confidently talk about the lower end of the scale.

  4. Jesus, Nursery is CREEPY. The way the things in the crib started to stir and writhe… *shudders* Absolutely excellent.

    Also, what a way to end the chapter!

      1. From the way Victoria was talking about wet sounds and the like, I don’t think those were normal babies. Certainly not the type I’d want to punch. I’d recommend a flamethrower in this case.

        1. Actually, I think they ARE normal babies. I theorize it’s just an effect of Nursery’s “safe haven”: her shaker powers allow her to transform babies and toddlers into little monsters within her power’s radius. Remove the imps from the “safe haven” and they become normal again.

          Maybe.

      1. I doubt this theory is true, if only because Victoria seems pretty certain the woman is now dead, and it was used to catch Blindside in a lie. However, I really like the sound of it, and if you want some supporting evidence, her powers have Trump side effects (power suppression), which usually indicates trauma involving others powers (Miscarriage caused by a parahuman).

        However, I’m also not sure powers work entirely that directly, IE trauma from lost child making you summon dead babies. Powers are usually much more abstract than that, and less directly tied into the key event that spawned them. That being said, I am not sure we have seen many people with as specific powers as our lovely dead baby summoner here, so maybe I am wrong. I kinda want to be, because it is a good theory, I just don’t feel like the story is likely to take this route.

        1. As far as the specifics of powers go I was under the impression that the general workings of you power were determined by your shard (so already decided way before you trigger) but that the specifics, such as who you can affect or the form your powers take, are affected by your trigger. For example, Bitch’s powers would always involve turning allies or animals into monstrous creatures, and would probably come with the power to communicate with them, but because her trigger event revolves around dogs her power specifically works with dogs. So perhaps (assuming this theory is true) nursery was always going to be a shaker with a power dampening environment and the ability to summon minions, but because of her trigger event the environment is a creepy nursery and the minions are weird meat babies

        2. However, I’m also not sure powers work entirely that directly, IE trauma from lost child making you summon dead babies. Powers are usually much more abstract than that, and less directly tied into the key event that spawned them.
          Yeah, this hypothesis seems a bit Armorfacey. And pointless.

  5. Nursery’s power reminds me of indie horror games: totally normal and safe setting twisted with creepy dead baby stuff. Nice. Have to wonder if this is related to something from her past. Maybe she had a miscarriage? Maybe that’s what caused her trigger event? I get the feeling it’s not quite that cut-and-dry, though.

    1. Part of me is thinking she could be the woman who lost her baby to Fume Hood’s gas. She’d certainly have the motivation to be here.

      On the other hand, that seems unlikely. It feels too obvious, in a way. Maybe she just sympathized with her?

        1. I don’t think that was a thing they had a record of. Just the area she was in was destroyed. If the mother suddenly got a cool pocket universe to escape too on Golden Morning she could have survived.

          Although I suspect its probably more a sympathize angle.

    2. My guess is that she tried to shield her baby from something environmental, failed, and triggered. Good catch with the miscarriage woman and the Maternity Ward Incident, but aside from being a Cloaker profile with Breaker slant, we don’t really know who she is. Don’t even know if she’s a Jacker or a Puppeter – the Breaker slant would indicate Jacker, but we don’t have actual confirmation that she can sense through her minions.

      (Don’t worry if you don’t recognize the terms. I made them up as part of a project to improve the classification system, and I think this is the first time I’ve written any of it down. Cloaker is self-centered Shaker powers, Jacker is Masters who share the senses of their minions, Puppeter is Masters who don’t. )

      1. Hey, that project sounds kind of interesting. Could you post more details on it? Other categories (if you have them, it kind of sounds like a work in progress), specific areas you aim to improve in, that sort of thing? And if you do post it, would you be interested in feedback and discussion about it?

        1. Yes and yes please. Sorry it took so long to get back to this; I tried writing the whole thing up on a Google Doc and then lost access to my desktop.
          In short: Masters have been split into Jackers and Puppeters (no, that’s not a typo, but it’s still longer than I’d like), Movers have been split into Floaters (constant or at least longterm mobility stuff) and Jumpers (mobility with cooldown time, which normally covers teleporters), and they’ve all been mapped to one of three profiles based on their general method of dealing with stress. (Brute/Floater/Thinker/Changer, Breaker/Jumper/Jacker/Tinker, and Striker/Blaster/Puppeter/Trump, respectively.)
          Changer/Tinker/Trump have been reworked to mean “powers may change over the timeframe of a fight”, “powers change proportional to downtime and usually resources”, and “power has a number of modes which can be rapidly swapped between”, respectively. Capekiller is the new “interacts with other powers” class, but power-gifters count as a subclass that’s always linked to another classification by a dash, which signifies that the latter is enabled by the former. (So Othala is a Gifter-Trump, and Galvanate is a Gifter-Brute-Striker.)
          Capekiller, Stranger and Shaker are profile-independent, but appear in response to more environmental Triggers, and Shaker has been split into Cloakers (self-centered AOE) and Shakers (ranged AOE), so if they’re matched to the main stress classes (melee/ranged/social-or-abstract/class-specific) you get Cloaker/Shaker/Stranger/Capekiller.
          Type one profiles (which I usually abbreviate to Brute profiles) deal with stress by bulling through, trying to deal with them reasonably directly, etcetera. Type twos (Breaker profiles) try to distract themselves or disassociate from the event, and often have a theme of becoming someone who can deal with their problems. Type threes (Striker profiles) ‘deal’ with stress by exerting power (often by lashing out to hurt people), and as such can be difficult to get along with.
          Changers are Brute profiles who failed to solve their problem by a seemingly slim margin, Tinkers are Breaker Profiles who put off their Triggering problem for ages (and can be expected to survive long enough to build something), and Trumps are people who triggered in very complicated situations (where one sort of power probably wasn’t going to be enough), most commonly a cape fight.

          Any questions?

          1. Oh, I forgot some things: Ratings are split into Attack, Defense, and Containment Difficulty, and the first two can be power-specific, with different power-enablement-chains being denoted by an ‘and’ between their ratings and the next set. (The ratings may be dropped if you’re in a rush.)
            If two powers occupy the same space in a chain, they’re separated by a slash, and if two power-chains share a common link, they’re separated by an ‘or’, and the enabling one is followed by an ‘E:’.
            Actual numbers are sort of fuzzy, but a one is roughly “average Joe on a good day”, a seven is a “this is basically unbeatable in one area”, a nine is “this can defeat almost anything, including some unbeatables”, and a twelve is “Siberian-level, nothing we’re aware of can reasonably be expected to beat this”, which is as high as they’ve ever classified something.
            (So for clarity: Victoria would be something like a Breaker 4/7 and a Floater 2/4 and a Cloaker-Puppeter 2/2. Miss Militia would be a Trump E: Striker (1/1) or Blaster (5/3) or Blaster-Shaker (6/3). Myrrdin would be a Cloaker-Blaster and a Trump-Blaster, but I don’t know his ratings – probably 8-4, or something like that? Maybe higher defensively since he was a team leader and the Protectorate doesn’t like squishy commanders? Dennis would have the purist ablility we’ve seen, as a Striker 7/7.)

          2. I think it would be easier to understand if made visual, some sort of chart perhaps. I like your ideas though, they seem fitting.

      2. I think Nursery’s powers are limited to the range of her “safe haven”. Like, the little goblin kids are projections like the Siberian was. Nursery can make a bunch of them, but the projections are limited to the sphere of her radius. To go farther than that, they’ll disappear.

        1. Yes, which is why I guessed she’s a Cloaker-Puppeter or Cloaker-Jacker. (It means a Shaker-enabled Master, in older terms.) And I think she might be a grey area, where she has considerable awareness of her minions but not of the senses they use.

          1. So what would Taylor be? She senses her bugs/through her bugs. But she can’t see what they see

  6. Kingdom Come? Controlling people *Individually?* Ha!
    I knew Khepri – and you, sir, are no Khepri. 😛

    The info on Victoria and Dean’s neat – we never really saw that much of the guy in Worm, so it’s neat to have a chance to get invested in him now.

    Okay Nursery’s basically a walking horror movie.

    And uh oh. I take it we’re not going to like Victoria when her compartmentalization (hey! There’s a bit of Worm-protagonist to balance out the deescalation! :P) breaks down. D:

    1. I’d say the compartmentalisation is pretty different here in that she’s not lying to herself. She’s very aware of the things she’s hiding from, and aware of her ongoing inability to cope with them.

  7. I just felt really bad for Victoria this chapter overall. The stuff with Dean and Amy, while it let us see a bit more into the whole Victoria / Dean dynamic and how things worked between them, was pretty rough to read. I’m guessing we’re going to be seeing some pretty heavy flashbacks next chapter potentially, considering the closing lines of this chapter?

  8. Dean is getting more characterization while dead than a lot of people got while alive. I don’t know how to feel about that.

    1. Some sort of combination of happy and sad? Had? No, people would confuse that with had, and then I’d get mad. So Sappy? Yes it makes me feel sappy.

      Of course we’ll all be shocked when it turns out Dean’s alive, and that he’s been turned into a cyborg and sent to kill Victoria or something like that.

      1. I’m a firm believer that in fiction when someone dies you leave them dead. It cheapens the emotional impact of death by bringing people back or having them fake dead.

        That said I will climb the highest mountain near me and shout for joy if Dean comes back. He could have easily been one of the most interesting characters with his ability to read people. For those of you that have read Twig, think of Sylvester with strong morals and a good memory. I would gladly make Dean an exception to that rule just because of all the potential he brings to a story.

    2. Green Door it feels freaking good if you’ve scoured the amount of Word of God on Parahumans. Dean Stansfield was one of the few parahumans that was just a great person. Dragon, Chevalier, Gallant it’s kind of funny that three of the heroes who wanted to do the most good name’s revolved around the age of chivalry.

  9. So Victoria’s use of her aura seems to have improved, while her flight has atrophied. She’s a cautious fighter now, relying on technique over brute force. Mentally, she seems to have shifted from choleric to melancholic. Glory Girl is well and truly gone.

    1. She describes it as atrophied but I quite like how she’s incorporated it into her actual movements in very subtle ways. That feels like growth to me, whatever she says. But we will see how things go.

      1. Being able to restrain your powers to a degree is also usually a sign of better proficiency than having them maxed out 24/7 (insert more scalpel vs hammer metaphors here).
        Her fugue state might just crank the levels way up, we’ll have to see the outcome…

        1. That being said, you’ll never get through a brick wall with a scalpel like you could with a sledgehammer. At some point she’s going to have to deal with her shit so she can safely bring out the big guns when needed. Instead of flipping out like it seems she’s about to.

  10. I’m still wondering why Victoria didn’t just kneecap Nursery. Non-lethal, takes the Shaker out of play who clearly has to concentrate to work, maybe mess up Snag’s relocation through the Shaker effect. I mean, at this point, she can at least opt to hurt, if not kill, the attackers in retaliation for tge attack on civilians.

    On a lighter note, makes you wonder on what terms she parted with Amy, given how merely thinking about her brought her out of the loop.

    1. Nursery’s shaker-turf affects anything entering its field (see Applesauce’s grenades fizzling). Guns have no place in a nursery, so bullets will probably decay similarly, or turn into nerf darts, w/e her deal exactly is.

      1. Everything else that was dissipated by her power was power-related. It might just be a trump/shaker power, and not localized quasi-omnipotence.

  11. On one hand I wonder if Victoria’s impulse to get the heck out of dodge when Nursery started to go horror movie on her was power driven, and then on the other hand I applaude Victoria for making the smart choice and noping out of there. If only most horror genre characters were that wise…

    … I just realize we actually had a full on horror genre scene in Worm during the SH9 clone hunt where they literally chose to keep going. I mean, granted this was Taylor and they didn’t really have a choice, even though anyone with any kind of self preservation instinct would have turned around and walked away after encountering Breed bugs, Mannequins, and Murder Rats.

      1. Besides Taylor probably figured she’s the Final Girl. Oh damn now I want a slasher fic where that happens. And I hate the slasher genre.

    1. To be fair, most wb protagonists tend to BE the horror movie monsters rather than the victim. In a good way. Though mabye vicky will be difficult. Worlds most genre savy blonde. RUN FROM THE DEMON BABIES!

  12. It’s amazing how much of the Worm universe Wildbow has managed to keep under wraps. Case in point, all this new info about how best to take on different powers. Victoria’s perspective is becoming more and more interesting by the chapter.

    Also loving the flashbacks to her time with Dean/Gallant. Looking forward to more on how the whole thing with Amy affected her from her POV, as well as how she (and other capes) navigate this world with its new anti-cape sentiments.

    1. Also like how Wildbow is already pointing out the differences between how the powers of Victoria and Alexandria work, after all the questions raised in the comments.

      1. I’m pretty convinced Wildbow does take in to account things that get brought up in the comments, and use them to tighten up his work.

    2. A lot of this stuff is discussed in the PRT protocols handbook that Wildbow put out. You see it referenced decently often in the Weaverdice community. There’s been a good deal of stuff that was previously WoG that’s now showing up in text, like all that information about group triggers.

  13. This is…. AWESOME! In every sense. I like how Victoria has been trying hard to control and prevent her instinct from taking control. I just remember that interlude about her and I was fcking angry at how she dealt with the guy from the white supremacist. We can see the character development there. The maturity of the character. And I am now wanting more of the next chapter because I would like to see if she will conpletely lost herself in rage or will she come to her sense before she kills anybody innocent.

    1. Hey remember how Victoria’s boss sent her out with observers to gauge if she’s trustworthy?

      || my last coherent, present thought was that I hoped I wouldn’t maim or kill anyone in the meantime.

      …yeah.

  14. Ok, this is may be a bit… obvious to those of us who have read Worm, Pact, and Twig; but I’m really curious what it would be like if Wildbow wrote something that was first and foremost a horror piece. As evidenced in this chapter they can really nail both the horror aesthetic and emotional impact it would require. The S9 arcs and… almost all of Pact… also heavily evidence WB horror being great.

      1. This has been my observation too. I forget who said it – Clive Barker? Stephen King? – horror is about taking what’s familiar and warping it. Wildbow takes familiar superhero tropes and gives them a dark twist. His other stories do much the same in their own genres.

  15. Snag is really reminding me of of5’s multitrigger now. Emotion-affecting powers, prosthetic arms, severing through that wall (and/or his own arms), and some sort of mover power …

  16. Lord of Loss’ team feels a lot like a dark mirror of the Undersiders – seen from the outsider’s perspective. An eclectic and extremely potent set of powers, and intentions that aren’t necessarily bad or dishonorable. They’re just mercenaries trying to do their job with minimal collateral damage. I wonder if this reversal of viewpoint is intentional or just a coincidence.. either way, it’s fun!

    I wonder how much of the new, thoughtful Victoria is due to Amy altering her mind – it’s possible she turned her aggression down while fixing her in order to not face her wrath.

    /squelches out

    1. I don’t think she would do that. I think she regrets what she did, so much that she feels like she deserves anything Victoria would throw at her.

  17. Is it weird that i’m disappointed that Victoria ran when Nursery started working her power on all the baby cribs? I kind of wanted to see what happened next.

    Call it morbid curiosity.

    1. Ah yes, the ancient sport of baby wrasslin’. One adult versus a tag team of toddlers. They had to modify the rules somewhat after that Chronos guy got all bitey. Still, nothing in the rulebook says I can’t light a baby on fire.

    2. For the same reason I often end up staying when the monster comes in horror games, just to see what happens.

      If I ever would land in a horror movie, I wouldn’t survive long.

  18. How does Blindside’s power work?

    It has to be directed otherwise he would murder hundreds of people by accident just walking down the street.

  19. I can’t help but feel like Snag using his negative emotion power was kinda dumb. Using that on a cape would have been a dicey prospect before Khepri went and gave everyone a Super Bonus Trauma Special, and now, well.

    …Unless he’s trying to make Vikky go berserk, in which case he got exactly what he wanted, I guess.

    1. I love it when people get what they asked for. Gilpatrick wanted to put her in a volatile situation. Snag wanted to mess with her emotions. People wanted help, but maybe help from some perfect person who has never done anything wrong before.

      My prediction: someone’s gonna want some toilet paper, because shit’s about to happen.

  20. Just thought I’d chime in. This one line from your chapter was great.

    “Simple, making conflict with parahumans as textbook as possible, black ink on white paper, sans serif”

    I’m pretty sure your play on words here was intentional (sans serif = simplified text, without frills or adornment). I love the cleverness and double meaning to it. Look forward to reading more of your work in the future, as always.

  21. Now, see, this is just me speaking here, but I kinda hope some civilians die. Some of this is for spite, true, but just because something’s spiteful doesn’t mean it’s wrong. There are perfectly good reasons to want some of them to die.

    For starters, the villains are more than happy to walk around with guns and bombs to threaten the lives of civilians, but then claim they don’t want anyone hurt. Yeah, let’s stick people in a room near a bomb with a superpowered fight going on and vehicles running into buildings, but tell them to be really careful not to cause the bomb to go off. Brilliant move there.

    See, and we’re going back to gun talk here, but you’re never supposed to threaten lethal force unless you’re prepared to use lethal force. Things that cause lethal force have a habit of doing their job well despite the wishes of those employing them. And that means that these villains can’t entirely control this situation. What if the gun went off in the struggle and one of those hostages died? What if the bomb explodes and kills people? Suddenly, the people hunting down someone who killed a civilian end up having killed a civilian in the process.

    As for a quick minor reason, it’s also pretty shitty to think it’s ok to go around destroying infrastructure and holding people hostage, but thinking it’s ok just because no one died and you’ll pay for damage. Labor spent rebuilding is labor not spent improving. Money doesn’t do shit for psychological damage, especially on a frontier where everyone’s got anxiety over supers anyway. As a wise golem once pointed out, in a myriad of small ways, they have hastened the deaths of many.

    And now for one last major reason… because they don’t want them to die. They’re talking about pressure valves and needed a controlled release, and the contrarian in me just wants to push that particular red button. After all, why should I like or trust these people enough to listen? The hero team wants to actually help people, but these folks are more than happy to drag one off to her probable death. Not exactly a recipe for trust. If the big, bad villains are so scared of it, maybe it’s worth happening. Can hardly say they didn’t bring it on themselves with the bombs and guns.

    It’s possible I’ve grown cynical in recent times.

    1. Honestly, the “releasing pressure” argument doesn’t really make sense, either.

      Suppose they get everything exactly how they wanted. Fume Hood disappears, there are no civilian casualties, they get away clean. What happens next?

      The tension ratchets up as crowds of civilians get more and more vocal about the crimes of ex villains. More protests happen, and more attacks happen. The rift between capes and non capes grows even wider, with capes closing ranks in the face of outside pressure. The success of this attack and others means that there are several capes angry too, capes that call for isolationism and retaliation.

      The pressure cooker screams, then bursts.

      The death toll isn’t nearly as impressive as Gold Morning, but it is comparable to an Endbringer attack.

      1. Not to mention anyone who wants to turn coat and try doing what Fume Hood did and being a hero will have even more reason to not do it after this. After all look what happened to her when she tried. And instead you get what is basically a parahuman protection racket.

        Shit is Teacher behind this? I mean it’s the exact sort of arguement that falls apart when you examine it he loves.

        1. The negative object lesson is pretty significant.

          I suspect that the “bomb” for the civilians is nothing at all. That is how I’d do it if I wanted to have civilians stay put, but not run the risk of killing them.

          Now I’m thinking of just how much I’ve forgotten from Worm.

          1. This is how the 9/11 hijackers controlled the crowds on the planes. Fake bombs and a promise that things would be OK.

        2. I’m betting Contessa and Teacher. “Releasing Pressure” may be an excuse Teacher’s using while following the Path to Victory, but even Contessa doesn’t know WHY each step has to be taken. Then again just because they’re the Shepherds now doesn’t mean they’re guiding everything behind the scenes… does it?

    2. Uhmm… if something is out of spite, that’s exactly what makes it wrong.
      Morality is all about the quality of the intent and effect of a choice.

      Sure, there are moral reasons to to kill, but not necessarily to ‘want’ someone dead.

      Otherwise I agree with the rest. The villains have no moral ground to stand on. And police or PRT wound have every justification to use lethal force in a hostage situation.

      Same as when Vicky and Amy interrupted Undersiders bank robbery in Worm. Lethal force was completely justifiable.

  22. Nursery is a friggin’ nightmare, ye gods. I’d have also peaced the hell out in that situation. Fume Hood and co. have it worse on that front, stuck in that room while an impending Baby-themed Hellscape slowly crawls towards them.

    Oh and I’m sure beserker Victoria’s gonna be a real barrel of fun times for everyone!

  23. First time poster. This is amazing, Wildbow. “Good” doesn’t even begin to cover it

    Just a thought, but the woman who lost her unborn child (thanks to Fume Hood) and Nursery might be the same person. And even if they aren’t the same person, I kind of get the feeling that Nursery’s “worst day of her life” (ie trigger event) involved a similar loss.

    Oh, and Nursery is by far the creepiest cape ever.

    1. Like I keep saying, we’ve also got the time the Slaughterhouse Nine visited the Maternity Ward. That would fit too. Assuming that Nursery’s trigger event has anything to do with anything we’ve seen. And if she was the woman who lost the baby because of Fume Hood, I’d think that she’d have said something.

      Also over on spacebattles someone brought something up. Nursery was in the explination of kill orders Wildbow gave. In the example that Nursery got a kill order for baby killing. Are these supposed to be the same person, or are there two Nursery out there?

      1. I would not be surprised if her trigger had something to do with the Nine.

        Key quote: “I know scary. You’re just a man dressing up.”

  24. So next chapter: GLORY GIRL SMASH!? Seems like triggering her wasn’t a good idea at all.

    And we’ve got the real motivations of the attackers. Yeah they definitly seem like an Undersiders sort of crew to me. Though I’d be leery of doing something just because a bunch of Thinkers say stuff. Thinkers have two major problems. First off they tend to be very full of themselves. Secondly they do have blind spots, and without something grounded that will inevitably come back to bite them.

    And Nursery is like Pact Creepy.

    1. Now that you mention it, that’s exactly it; Nursery feels like she walked straight out of Pact. Honestly she wouldn’t feel out of place among the bogeymen.

  25. Victoria may have given the meme reaction, but jolly jee, I’m pretty sure it was the *right* reaction.

    Also, RIP Aegis. I was a Leviathan fan, but eh . . .

  26. It took me a moment to realize all these people were under Kingdom Come’s control.

    I somehow feel Nursery’s power sticks out from how powers usually work in Worm. It certainly is a more unique one. And like right out of a horror movie. I certainly laughed at Victoria’s immediate reaction of “Fuck this, I’m outta here.”

    It was actually nice to see some backstory for Dean.

  27. Jeeze, normal baby stuff is creepy enough without adding horror-movie powers to the mix. I’m loving these new powers, it’s always a fun little game to try and intuit what trigger developed then, what the stimuli was and mental state the cape was in at the time of trigger.

  28. Very exciting situation; can’t wait to see where it goes!

    Of course, we don’t know what sort of fire alarms and sprinklers the building has(if any) but I was really expecting her to try and wash off the delicious KC mastersauce when I saw those references to sparking stuff and her musings on the possible nature of his control.

    1. Sprinklers would have been an interesting strategy, though they probably wouldn’t have gotten all of the blood off. Personally, I was wondering if Vicky would try to punch one, get some Kingdom Come on her hand and end up as Mindslave #97, Codename: Gory Girl. I suppose if that was possible, they wouldn’t have needed to lock anyone in a closet because they could have subdued their enemies with the power of love and hugs.

      On a side note, is there any way to get email notifications without commenting?

        1. No, not necessarily. A master power that affects humans will affect capes unless said cape has a power that interferes with it. Case in point, Regent v Shadow Stalker and Khepri v everyone.
          However Victoria’s aura (if active at the time) would prevent KC’s fleshy bits from touching her directly and would therefore need to have somebody take her field down before splattering her with any of him. I really can’t think of a way to make that NOT sound sexual, so apologies for any mental images even though they amuse me.

          1. Meh, I was more or less considering them different applications of the same thing – her powers. I can see where the confusion could come into play but I do realize the aura is the part that affects emotions and the field is protection from physical objects, suppose I just have watched/read too much of RWBY verse stuff recently so I misnamed the first one.

          2. “I really can’t think of a way to make that NOT sound sexual”

            I expect that when KC becomes more famous, there will be a lot of sexual jokes made about him in-universe. He particularly screwed himself over on that front when he chose a name that contains the word “Come.”

  29. Hey, wildbow, any chance you could stick a link to the comments at the bottom of the chapters? I’m always reading from the main page, and I only think about the comments when I hit the end of the chapter and there’s no quick way to get to them.

  30. So precise, so methodical.

    So broken.

    Of course – some would say it is no fun to read about sane people with happy backgrounds.

    Victoria aside, one has to wonder exactly who Nursery is in normal life. Probably not the miscarriage woman, too obvious.

    The more interesting thing, of course, is what form Victoria’s rampages are going to take. One way or another, consequences will be far reaching.

  31. So, my first thought on Nursery was that her being the miscarriage lady was way too obvious, but the more comments I see to that effect, the less certain I get about it.

    And characters going berserk is always fun.

  32. I’ve had a hunch for a while now that Victoria’s physical recovery might have been as incomplete as her mental/emotional recovery.

    Maybe better to say “in progress” rather than “incomplete”.

    But I rather suspect that she doesn’t look like she used to. Or perhaps even that she doesn’t look the way she looks now. A distorted or redefined use of her powerset might cover all sorts of things in that certain. So might a second trigger.

    I have low confidence on this hunch, but if it bears out, I think we’re about to see that in play soon.

    1. I actually think this too. There was a line from a previous chapter (1.3, I think) where she’s looking in a mirror and I got the feeling that she was looking at a different face. It’s not explicitly stated though, but my money is on that coming in a not-long-now reveal.

  33. Ooooh, Nursery is the lady who lost her baby because of Fume Hood/Bad Apple isn’t she… Triggering after losing her baby, now has a fun baby-centric Shaker power, if only her baby would “wake up” :/

    1. I think it’s much more likely a mother who couldn’t protect her child than a miscarriage. Seems like it’s something where she tried to protect her child and create an environment for it but then was still unable to save it. The environment of the nursery and the child’s toys are much more prominent than the idea of unavoidable catastrophic loss.

  34. Wildbow,

    Reading the last two paragraphs, I tripped over the transition. The sentences starting “Negative emotions…” and “But a slap…” seem like they should swap positions.

    What was your intention, putting them in that order?

  35. Ahaha. Victoria’s reaction to Nursery’s creatures is both the most reasonable and amusing thing ever.
    Also, it’s me, I’m still alive, still reading. Thank you for your amazing works, Wooly Blanket.

  36. “A baby carriage draped in a blanket was parked beside a small bookshelf that had been stacked with children’s books and building blocks. The cloth stuck as if it had been taped down or the sheer amount of time it had been there had nearly fused it to the fabric of the carriage, producing a tearing sound reminiscent of Velcro. The carriage was empty, except for a vague oblong stain on the seat’s back and the seat itself.”

    Ummm, what? How does she know what sound the Velcro stuff made/would make? There is no indication that she interacted with it in any way. Did she lift it and look it?

    1. I believe it was implied that she tried to see under the blanket but since it was created as more of a decoration WITH the carriage, it didn’t move and she ended up ripping it. Probably looking to make sure a baby wasn’t in there, although the stain has me a little on edge. I’m hoping the wet monster she ran from isn’t a mass of writhing, obedient dead babies :[[

  37. I enjoyed the difference in showing how the two protagonists fight and how they might be similar in terms of tactical thought.

    Learning more about Gallant was cool too

  38. Rereading this chapter, and I’m struck again by how great this paragraph is.

    There was only one Victoria Dallon with Victoria Dallon’s powers.  I had to lean heavily on my own experience.  In exercising my abilities, there was a point beyond which I was the only person that could teach myself – nobody resembled me closely enough to be an instructor in how to fight, how to process, or how to or pass on their experience.

    I’ve read Worm twice, but never really thought about this aspect of things: how much each cape really has no one to learn from and has to figure things out on their own because powers are so different and not even those with similar powers work the same way. And it raises my respect for Taylor’s ability to work around this by learning how to adapt ideas from the methods and fighting styles of other capes.

  39. After rereading Worm first to refresh my memory, I finally got to start this one.
    Wasn’t really happy to see Victoria at first. Didn’t really like her in Worm. But it turned out great nonetheless so far.
    Really love how the action scenes are so different from Worm. Another heroine, another approach and mindset.
    The appearance of the villain team was also great. The scene with them arriving had such a greater impact than some of the cape teams appearing for the fist time in Worm.
    Sadly the good guys still seem to get their traditional beating. 😀
    And, after first being torn with Victoria, I do like the choice now. Wow to the depth that has gone into her character develepoment since Worm.

  40. This chapter reminded me of that distinction between reading-time and action-time, where the reading-time (so, amount of text) affects how the pace of the story is perceived. The lapse into nostalgia in such an action-heavy moment was a bit disturbing (I was worrying about someone sneaking up on her) because it felt fairly slow/long compared to everything happening around. But maybe the point is precisely this feeling of loosing track of time, being disoriented by your memories and even spacing out in dangerous situations.
    I love how thoughtful, intelligent and rational Victoria can be, and I am looking forward to discovering the monster within her.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *