Daybreak – 1.6

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Snag’s power hurt, and it hurt in a way that had nothing to do with shedding blood or breaking bones.  Emotion.  My body still reacted, my heart rate picking up, breathing choked, adrenaline churning, hormones shifting.  My thoughts were scattered, thrusting me into a state where I could either only reel or I could grope for a position in familiar ground.

I didn’t want familiar.

Reeling meant trying not to think, letting it wash over me and through me, and not letting my thoughts go where the feelings pointed.  It meant I still had a metal gauntlet on my face and a metal arm pulled against my throat, and I was handling the situation with instinct.  Fight or flight.

Fight-

No.  I only barely stopped myself.  I’d kill him if I fought.

Fly then.

I pushed out with my aura, hard.  The flip side of my observation moments ago was true.  I was supposed to be resistant to hits to my emotions because I could deliver those hits myself.  Snag would be resistant to my aura for similar reasons.

He still let go, arms slipping back through the wall.  I had a moment where I thought about grabbing one of his wrists as it passed me, and I hesitated a moment too long.

I backed away, staggering until I bumped into the window next to the broken one.  My chest hurt as if I’d had my heart ripped out, and thoughts of Dean flickered through my head.  It was a continuation of my thoughts from earlier, one sample in a long, long series of thoughts I hadn’t let myself finish over the past few months and years that the surge of emotion was now filling in and pushing to the surface.

It was loss, if I had to put a name to it.  Nothing to do with the man on the roof.

It was me in the hospital, with Auntie Sarah and Crystal, not knowing what to say because Uncle Neil and Eric had just died.  Crystal had been hurt too, and the place had been so busy and crowded that we’d gathered in the small curtained enclosure where her hospital bed was.  My mom had been gone, trying to get news on my dad’s situation, and my sister-

It was going from that, the horrible feeling of helplessness and hopelessness, to hearing the curtain move.   I’d known it wasn’t my mom – she’d left only a minute ago.  It was as if someone had taken a want, desire, even a need equal to what I’d experienced in my childhood and early teens, when I’d wanted to be a hero, when I’d written letters to Santa and wished it during every birthday candle extinguishing and for every shooting star I’d seen from when I was four to when I was fourteen, if someone had gathered all of that feeling and compressed it into a single, concentrated moment of wanting it to be Dean coming into the enclosure to give me a hug.  And then not getting what I wanted.

The PRT staff member had come in to let me know Gallant had wanted to see me while there was still time.  Dean had.

Heart ripped out of my chest, just like that, just like this feeling here.  Losses, losses, fucking losses.  That ambiguous fucking word they’d used when they’d delivered the mass report.  Not deaths, not the ‘downs’ that were injured just enough they were out of the fight, just losses because they’d needed to be brief with the list of names so long.  Dean’s name had been on that list.

Where?  It had taken me three tries to get the word out.  They’d told me where, but I hadn’t traveled  a straight line to get there.  I’d zig-zagged, from doctor to nurse to PRT staff.  I’d asked people who had no cause or reason to know, tried describing her.  Asking, asking.  Pleading.

Where was she?  Had they seen her?  Where was the last place anyone saw her?  I need-

Where?  I shook my head, trying to rattle my brain and get centered in the present.  Where was Snag?  He’d disappeared into the next room.  I stepped forward, feeling unwieldy, and thrust my hand at the door, taking it off of the hinges, damaging the door’s frame.  Empty room.  Nowhere to be found.

My hand shook from the emotion, extended out in front of me.  I clenched it into a fist.

She’d been nowhere to be found too.

I’d arrived alone, no help to offer.  Too late to say anything or hear anything from him.  I’d choked on my words when it came to saying something to his parents.  There’d been this feeling like I couldn’t react the way I’d wanted and needed to, because his parents were there and they were somehow maintaining their composure.  Upset, yes, but they were wealthy and dignified enough they would do their crying in private.  They had weathered their losses years before and it had been the same then, according to Dean.  Now it was on Dean’s behalf.

What options did that leave me?  Break down into hysterical sobbing and act like I was hurting more than his own family was?  It might have been dismissed as the drama of a teenager and I hadn’t wanted that to be the final note on Dean and me, in their eyes, in the eyes of bystanders.

Like I imagined anyone in a relationship did, I’d wondered if we were in love, and then I’d known we were in love, and I’d grown close enough to him to wonder if he was a soulmate, dismissed the term just as easily as it had come up because it was silly and it didn’t matter either way, did it?  I’d received my answer on the question as I’d felt a part of me die during those long minutes of me trying and failing to say something to his family.

From that to home.  Southwest end of the city, our house mostly untouched by the attack.  To dad being ‘impaired’, mom’s word, and mom being business as usual, emphasis on business, because that was how she dealt.

To… a family member acting like they’d been replaced by a fucking pod person from another planet, gradually realizing that replacement had been a long time ago, and it was only now in context and crisis that I’d seen the alien-ness clearly, in the then-present and in retrospect.

Painful, in its own way, to have nobody to turn to.  The hurt had been there like a block of ice, melting too slowly when I hadn’t had any warmth to reach out for, not any less cold as the water pooled.  Not any less for the time that passed.  Just… more ambient.

This was like that.  Snag’s emotional effect was temporary.  The pain ebbed out, made my fingers feel numb and tingly, made it hard to breathe, and made me feel more physically weak and less coordinated than I should have been.

I stumbled a few steps, and reached out to touch the wall for support as I resumed moving, entering the room Snag had been in when he’d punched his arms through the wall.  It was reminiscent of a hotel room, but rustic enough it could have been a bed and breakfast.  Two small beds, a bedside table, a desk, and a flatscreen television sitting on a dresser.

He had a mover classification, I was pretty sure.  He’d used a trick to jump after the bus.  I made sure to look up, to avoid any ambush in case he jumped at me from the space between the top of the door and the ceiling.

The room was empty.

“Snag?” I asked.

No response.

My emotions were jumping around as I bucked the worst of the effect.  I wanted to have him to talk to, to pull me out of the mire of past feelings and into the present.  It made for a wild, disturbed kind of familiarity, almost a longing, as distorted emotions tried to find reconciliation with my head.  It ended up parsing him as if he was an old friend I was trying to reconnect with.  The same kind of weird emotional fixations that made Stockholm syndrome a thing.  Cult leaders and abusers used it.

When you had nothing, you groped for anything, even if it was the person who’d brought you to that point.

I’d reached out back then, too.  I’d turned to the Wards, because my mom had been the only person doing anything to keep New Wave in motion, the team had been falling apart, and I’d needed something.  Because the tests and briefings made me feel closer to Dean, reminded me of the study sessions.  Because the first time I saw her after the Endbringer attack, Vista had hugged me, because Dean, and it meant something to me that there was someone else properly upset for him.

“Guys,” I said, loud enough to be heard in the next room.

“Victoria?  Are you okay?” the voice was muffled.

I opened my mouth to respond.  My failure to form words reminded me of talking to Dean’s parents again.

I stopped myself, trying to focus and put myself in the present.  I took a deep breath that shook a little on the way in and the way out.

“Step back from the wall,” I said.

“Don’t,” was the immediate response.  “Don’t touch the bomb.”

“I’m not touching the bomb,” I said.  “Get away from the door and the wall to the right of the door.”

Snag had felt secure enough to stick his arms through the wall and not jar the bomb too badly.

I’d take his cue.

I put my arm through the wall, felt my forcefield go down.  I heard the exclamations.  Once I was sure I was good to move, I dragged it to one side, tearing a hole, felt one of the studs, moved it to the other side, and felt another.  About two feet of clearance between the studs.

I saw the faces on the other side.  Worried.  Angry.

The window shattered.  Snag reached through, seizing me by the throat.  He swung by one arm outside the building, dragging his other arm through the windows and slats, shattering them with explosive force, as he drove me toward the wall opposite the hole I’d just made.

I still had my forcefield up.  He hadn’t grabbed me that hard.  Flight and forcefield together helped to stop me in my tracks.  Floorboards shattered under me, and a window beside me broke as the force was transferred out.

Seizing his arm, I swung it like a bat, hurling him into the room.  I maintained my grip on him as I did it.

He touched the ground with one foot, then changed trajectory.  Dust fell from the ceiling as he landed on it, upside-down, his arm still extended my way.

I felt the machinery hum with activity, and tore the hand away, pushing it away from my throat and face.  The emotion effect grazed me, minor, but I hadn’t recovered from the last hit.

A small kind of loss, this.  The hit didn’t do what the first had, rounding out a memory.  It did buzz through other memories.  Ones that were more minor, that I’d never put to rest.

Being in the bus stop with my mom.  Weird, because it had once been a happy memory.  She’d been stitching up a cut on my forehead while I suppressed my forcefield.  The rain had been pouring, streaking the graffiti-covered walls of the bus stop.  A moment for just my mom and me.  She’d paused midway through the first aid to tell me that she was proud of me.  We’d got the guy we were after.  Then we had talked about how I’d have to change my hair for a short while to hide the stitches.  One of my first times officially out in costume.

It was a memory I kept going back to.  One I’d brought up several times in the hospital.  Bittersweet somehow, and it had become more bitter and less sweet over time.

It bothered me, brought me down just a bit, because it was something unresolved that had weighed on me, because I was already down a ways.

Stop,” I said.  I didn’t sound like myself.

His hands freed, he reached back to his boot with one gauntlet.

He threw a trio of fat shurikens at me.  My forcefield blocked them, saw them bounce off, one landing on the bed, two falling to the floor beside me.

I kicked the bed to bring the more solid bedframe to where I could grab it, and rammed the end of the bed at the corner where he was.  The shurikens detonated behind me, and on the bed in front of me.  Something that wasn’t fire or anything of the sort.  Something jumped between them, like electricity but not.  Where it touched me, my heart jumped, my mind stumbled, and feelings welled.

All of the doubts, fears, and hesitations inside me magnified, multiplied.  It paralyzed me for the moment.

This, at least, was something I’d been trying to get a handle on.  Here, my resistance applied.

He’d dropped down to the ground before the bed struck him, landing on both feet, arms spread out, hands planted on the ground.  He sprung back using his mover power, landing with one hand and one boot near the ceiling and another hand and boot beneath and on the window as he clung to the wall.

With the damage I’d done to the bed already by using it as a weapon, the swipe I used to get it out of my way destroyed it, only the mattress surviving.  I still had to pick my way past a slat.

He seemed surprised that I was already moving.  After pausing momentarily in shock, he used the moment of me navigating the wreckage of the bed to spring off to the right, down the hallway.

I passed through the doorway, pursuing, and my head turned against my will.  I heard glass break, saw Snag vault through the window he’d broken.

He was nimble, for a guy that big, but it seemed his mover power was responsible for most of it, his mechanical arms only helping with the legwork.  He was strong in many respects for what I was gathering was a multi-trigger.  Robust tinkerings, what felt like a full-fledged emotion affecting ability, a decent mover power.

My attention was more on the other two further down the hallway.  Blindside, I assumed, and a hint of the pink and grey coloring to the carpet that might have been Nursery.

Blindside’s bat tinked against a solid surface as they loitered there.

“Damn it, Snag,” Blindside muttered.  “Running off and leaving us with this?”

“He’s a character,” Nursery said.

“You’re a character,” Blindside said.

I could hear wet slurping sounds and I couldn’t see what was making them because Blindside was standing close to Nursery.

“Stop this,” I said.  “It doesn’t end anyplace good.”

I didn’t hear the response, because Snag reached up through the floorboards, seized my leg, and hauled me halfway through the floor.  I might have gone further, but I braced myself with flight and forcefield.

It left me kneeling with one leg, the other stuck straight out and down through the floor, my hands on the ground in front of me.

I heard Blindside’s running approach.

Bat in hand, probably.  I pushed out with my aura, hoping to give them a reason to think twice, buy myself a second.

Lurching to my feet, I brought Snag’s arm up above the ground.  I reached down to grab his hand, and then kicked nearer to the elbow.

The mechanical arm broke off.  With a bat of my own, I shifted my grip to the wrist rather than the now-limp hand, and held my weapon out, waving the broken end of the arm in Blindside’s general direction.

No blood.  I’d broken it off far enough down.  That was good.

I was breathing hard, my heart was racing, and old wounds felt fresh again, but I was finding some equilibrium again.  I-

The arm I was holding self-destructed, or the emotional battery within it did.  It stayed in one piece and it dashed me to pieces.

Again, the ripped-out heart feeling.  Again, the heavy sense of despair.  Deeper-seated now, because I hadn’t recovered entirely from either of the other two hits, the big one and the graze.

I saw double, more than double.

Months and years of seeing double.  One eye on the computer screen beside me, watching the time, looking for chat notifications.  One eye on the television.  One eye on the door.

Twenty past two.  Fifteen minutes late.  I counted the minutes.  Twenty one past two.

Twenty two past two.  The sound from the television was almost abrasive, made to be attention-getting.

I wanted to say something, protest, and I didn’t have a voice.  The computer was in arm’s reach, but it was a herculean effort to get a message out.

The door opening and the wrong person being on the other side.  Just like with Dean.  It wasn’t the staff member who came on weekdays at two-oh-five when I had visitors.  It was someone else, with a face I knew, a name I didn’t, and a gentle voice that was telling me that another patient was throwing a tantrum and the facility was on lockdown, they had contacted my visitors.

My visitors, my family, had decided that because they didn’t know how long the lockdown would be, they would come another day.  It was a long trip.

I reached for the laptop, started to type out my message for the text-to-speech speaker, using keys that were oversized and spaced out, with screwholes in the middle of each key for knobs and joysticks to be screwed in for when other patients had their turn.  It was supposed to double as physical therapy for me, coordinating myself, making the effort to reach and reposition.

The staff member had apologized, then turned to go notify other patients, closing the door behind her.  I’d tried to vocalize and of course I’d failed.  It was too long and byzantine a way from lung to mouth.

The message had been left unfinished on my screen, only a few words of what I’d wanted to say.  Even completed, the statement wouldn’t have meant anything to the staff member, and they wouldn’t be able to do anything about it.  All I’d wanted to express was that my family had missed the last two visiting days as well.

My eye had found the clock on the laptop, noted the ‘F’.  Friday.

One eye on the clock, watching the minutes.  One eye on the television.  One eye on the F, counting the days to Monday.  One eye for the email icon on the computer screen, waiting for the apology email that would come.  When it did, I would check the time, comparing it to other apology emails, to try and figure out if they were getting further apart, less.  To see if they would stop entirely, a prelude to the visits ceasing altogether, because it was easier to forget me than to do otherwise.

Something inside of me had broken at that.  I’d known it would cost me privileges.  Maybe even visits.  I’d known it would hamper or hurt other patients and staff across the hospital.  Ones who didn’t deserve it.

But I had nothing else.

I’d pushed out with my aura, as hard as I could, as far as I could.

I pushed out with my aura, as hard as I could, as far as I could.

Things had been happening while I was elsewhere.  The building shook.  The villains were gone.

“Victoria!”

Jasper.

He was with others.  I barely recognized them.  The heroes in particular took me a second.  The kid who looked a little bit flamboyant, hair gelled back, wearing what was almost a crop top, a beast’s upper face with fangs pointing down at his chest, the lower jaw and fangs on the belt, with diagonal slashes worked into either side of both parts of the icon, painted on his abs in a faint color that might have been missed in dimmer light.  Tempera with more of the white paint on her, a bit of blood.  Fume Hood was using one hand to press a bandage to her shoulder.  Crystalclear was missing more than a few chunks from his head.  One of his eyes was exposed now, peering from between one chunk that grew from the bridge of his nose and one that grew from his temple, very blue.

They looked frightened of me.

That was what my aura did, really.  Another of those contextual emotional things, like the Stockholm syndrome.  Awe and admiration if they liked me, fear if they didn’t.

Just fear, here.

“S-stop.”

Not my voice this time.  Jasper’s.

I stopped.

I trembled as I made myself get back to my feet.  I wiped my cheeks where they were wet.  My hair was a mess from being thrown around.  I used numb fingers to pry at it, undoing the tie.

“Christ,” Mar said.

For the first time, Jasper didn’t shut him up.

The building shook.  Daylight reached parts of the indoors it wasn’t supposed to.  This would be their plan B.  Property damage indeed.  Lord of Loss was tearing off the roof.

“We need to go,” Tempera said.

I nodded.  I looked back for the hole I’d made.  I saw the teenagers in uniform in the trashed room.  They’d opened the hole the rest of the way and filed out.  Now they stood as far away from me as the room’s boundaries allowed.

They would have seen me throw the bed.

“Yeah,” I said.  My voice sounded hollow.

The partial uniform I wore, still without the vest that I’d left outside, dusty  blood-spotted, it didn’t fit me anymore.  I felt choked by it, because I knew I’d just lost my job.

I led the way down the stairs.  I stumbled in one place where a trace of Nursery’s effect made the stair a different shape, carpeted when it shouldn’t have been.  Flight helped keep me from sprawling.

“You’re Glory Girl,” Landon said.

I’m not, I thought.

“People said you died when the Slaughterhouse Nine attacked Brockton Bay back in twenty-eleven.”

“Landon,” Jasper said.  One word.

The people who had been gathered inside were evacuating.  Kingdom Come wasn’t making it easy, either.  As they reached a safe distance, near where people had been protesting, they were gathering in offset rows, so we would have to move diagonally or zig-zag through their ranks to get past them.  A fence.

It was hard to tell what the villains were doing when Blindside was part of the group and they were already distant, but I could turn my head and see a bit of them out of the corner of one eye.  They were backing up, moving away without actually fleeing the scene.  Nursery was creating her effect.

The kids I’d brought with me were backing away, putting themselves  a distance away from us.

I looked up for the branches overhead and I didn’t see them.

“Watch out for Lord of Loss,” Tempera said, following my line of sight.

Where was he?

“He’s up there,” Crystalclear said.  “He’s changing.  Centaur?”

“That’s his combat form,” I said.  I still didn’t sound like myself.  “One of them.  It’s mobile.”

“I’ll keep the others busy,” Longscratch said.  He swiped one of the weapons he held, the buckler with the three swords mounted on the back, and three deep furrows appeared on the ground, stretching out beneath the feet of the crowd.

“Wait,” Tempera said.

Longscratch flickered, appearing momentarily at two of the points on the far side of the crowd where the furrows ended, before finalizing at the third.

“Help him,” she told Crystalclear, touching his shoulder, leaving white fingerprints.  “Fume Hood, stay close.  They’re still targeting you.”

Tempera moved her hand, and deposited what looked like fifty gallons of the white paint with black edges on the street.   We spread out as it appeared.  She moved her fingers, and it spread out.

“Tempe!” Crystalclear shouted.  He extended one hand out to the side, pointing.

The paint moved, a tidal wave, leaving a streak where it went.

I chased it.

Lord of Loss leaped from the rooftop.  Ten feet tall, a centaur in vague shape only.  His lower body looked more rhino-like, though the legs were longer, and he was plated in those same straps that looked like twists of smoke frozen in place, or wispy bands of metal that peeled away from him at the end.  He carried a heavy shield on one side, cut in a way that let its bottom left edge rest against the shoulder of his foreleg when he held it tilted forward, and he carried a heavy lance in the other hand.

His face was a helmet, the slits for the eyes and lower face were closed up, so the face was only a series of ridges where bands met and poked out, Y-shaped.  His hair was a mane of bands left to flow like smoke.

He landed in the streak of Tempera’s paint, and he lost traction, falling to one side.

The paint rose up and over him, then solidified.  He shattered it, lurched to his feet.  The paint liquified and rose up and over his legs, and he shattered it again.

Was it more easily than he’d shattered it the first time?

Actions he repeated were supposed to be stronger.

To give Tempera a hand, I threw myself forward at Lord of Loss.  Flight, forcefield up.  He twisted around and raised the shield, blocking me.  I still hit him hard enough to cost him footing.  Paint covered him, hardened.

He broke the paint, swung his lance around, hitting me with the broad side.

Forcefield down, impact dampened but not entirely broken.  I hit the ground and it hurt.

He broke through the paint yet again, found his feet, hit me again, this time while my feet were planted on the ground.  My forcefield came back up just in time to be broken again.

Yeah, that hit had been harder.

Fume Hood shot him, hit him in the face.  The paint crawled up to his upper body and joints, hardened there, trying to limit his movement, and he broke it again.

He laughed.  Then he hit me again.  I deflected the hit, swatting at his lance with one hand.

He was advancing, pressing closer to Fume Hood, and as much as I retreated, as much as I was sure Fume Hood was backing up, he had longer legs.

When he hit me yet again, pavement cracked beneath me, around my feet, the forcefield pushing the impact out and around me.  I almost lost my step backing away, with the cracked ground.

Each hit stronger than the last by a significant margin.

This was the point I was supposed to throw my hands up and surrender, or get out of the way.  If he decided to hit me more frequently, or if he lurched forward and kicked me with one of those feet of his after swatting me with his lance-

Crystalclear had turned around, was using his blasts on Lord of Loss now.

Loss, losses, losses, losses.

I threw myself forward, flying, seizing him by one leg, twisting, trying to knock him over.

I got him off balance, and then he hit me.  Only a moment of me holding onto him kept me from getting smacked into the ground with no forcefield.  I fell to the ground and scrambled out of the way of his legs.

I waited until my forcefield was back, then threw myself at him, bowling him over.  I tore at strips, peeling away at him.

In the background, Kingdom Come had abandoned his control over the crowd.  They woke as if from a deep sleep, and they seemed surprised by what was happening around them.  They fled.  Away from the brutes fighting, away from the chaos and the damaged building.

He elbowed me.  It took him long enough to rise to his feet again that I was able to get in front of him again.

I could do this.

I needed to do this.

It-

It wasn’t my day to get what I wanted.  I barely registered the sound.  A crack, coinciding with the noise of the crowd.  Lord of Loss went still.

My back had been turned, so I hadn’t been in a position to see it.

One bullet, from somewhere nearby.  Fume Hood on the ground, Tempera beside her.

It wasn’t my day to get what I wanted.

I’d frozen.  A lot of people had.

“Go to her,” Lord of Loss said.  “Help.  I’ll let you go if you let us go.”

Numb, I nodded.

“Let people know it wasn’t us.  This wasn’t our plan,” he said, behind me.

I flew as much as I walked, and dropped to my knees at Fume Hood’s side.  I put my forcefield up, tried to position myself where I could be a wall for her.

“Put your hands here,” Tempera told me.

I did, pressing down on the stomach wound.  Blood pooled out, covering the backs of my hands.

The crowd had gone still.  There was a murmuring, and people were drawing closer to watch and to see.

Reminiscent of Vikare.

In the background, Longscratch and Crystalclear had already apprehended the suspect.  A protester that had been in a building nearby.  Hunting rifle.  The villains were leaving.

“Not-” Fume Hood grunted.

“Not?” I asked.

“Not a good day,” she muttered, through gasps.

“No,” I agreed.  Very much agreed.

Landon had come closer, and was helping by getting the first aid kit out.  Tempera took the components.

“Not a good day for any of us,” Tempera said, giving the crowd a glance.

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146 thoughts on “Daybreak – 1.6”

    1. “I’d pushed out with my aura, as hard as I could, as far as I could.

      I pushed out with my aura, as hard as I could, as far as I could.”
      Should probably be one sentence.

    2. “I thought about grabbing one of his wrists as it passed me, and I hesitated” Maybe ‘but’ instead of ‘and?’ Not really problematic but makes it a bit ambiguous as to whether she actually attempted anything at all.

      “‘impaired’,” comma should be inside the quotes.

      “mom’s word, and mom being” Mom would usually be capitalized when it is used as a name.

        1. Uhm. I swear when I wrote this the text said “Dean and I” and I tried to de-hypercorrect it to “Dean and me”. I guess I wasn’t as awake as I thought I was.

      1. This one’s controversial.

        The phrase “Dean and me” is the object of the preposition “on.” A lot of English teachers will tell you that, if a pronoun is the object of a preposition, it has to be in the objective form, even if it’s part of a conjunctive phrase. If you exclude “Dean” from the phrase, you would say, “The final note on me.” You’d never say, “The final note on I.” By that reckoning, “Dean and me” is correct.

        But a lot of English teachers are wrong about a lot of things. In actual usage, in both professional and non-professional writing, “Dean and I” is commonly used. A lot of people will say that it’s hyper-correction. I think they’re wrong. There are plenty of examples of “between you and I” in English works (including Shakespeare) that were written before English grammar studies as we know them today even existed. They couldn’t have been hyper-correcting based on a misunderstanding of what their schoolteachers taught, because their teachers didn’t teach them anything about the subject.

        I agree with Stephen Pinker:
        “Probably no ‘grammatical error’ has received as much scorn as ‘misuse’ of pronoun case inside conjunctions (phrases with two parts joined by [and] or [or]). What teenager has not been corrected for saying [Me and Jennifer are going to the mall]? The standard story is that the object pronoun [me] does not belong in subject position — no one would say [Me is going to the mall] — so it should be [Jennifer and I]. People tend to misremember the advice as ‘When in doubt, say “so-and-so and I”, not “so-and-so and me”,’ so they unthinkingly overapply it, resulting in hyper-corrected solecisms like [give Al Gore and I a chance] and the even more despised [between you and I].

        But if the person on the street is so good at avoiding [Me is going] and [Give I a break], and even former Rhodes Scholars and Ivy League professors can’t seem to avoid [Me and Jennifer are going] and [Give Al and I a chance], might it not be the mavens that misunderstand English grammar, not the speakers? The mavens’ case about case rests on one assumption: if an entire conjunction phrase has a grammatical feature like subject case, every word inside that phrase has to have that grammatical feature, too. But that is just false.

        [Jennifer] is singular; you say [Jennifer is], not [Jennifer are]. The pronoun [She] is singular; you say [She is], not [She are]. But the conjunction [She and Jennifer] is not singular, it’s plural; you say [She and Jennifer are], not [She and Jennifer is.] So a conjunction can have a different grammatical number from the pronouns inside it. Why, then, must it have the same grammatical [case] as the pronouns inside it? The answer is that it need not. A conjunction is just not grammatically equivalent to any of its parts. If John and Marsha met, it does not mean that John met and that Marsha met. If voters give Clinton and Gore a chance, they are not giving Gore his own chance, added on to the chance they are giving Clinton; they are giving the entire ticket a chance. So just because [Al Gore and I] is an object that requires object case, it does not mean that [I] is an object that requires object case. By the logic of grammar, the pronoun is free to have any case it wants.”

        I originally looked this up precisely because of Wildbow’s former predilection to use phrases like “Dean and I.” He doesn’t do it as much anymore. It used to drive me crazy, but I was wrong. Now I think both are acceptable.

        1. Having not read your comments, please let me just say: this is not the place for a grammer lesson; the legnth of your post affends me.

          1. Are you easily affended when someone speaks at legnth regarding their views on grammer, or is this a one-time thing? I would think the official corrections thread to be specifically the one place in the comments where this would be acceptable.

    3. He sprung back using his mover power,
      -Sprang

      The partial uniform I wore, still without the vest that I’d left outside, dusty blood-spotted, it didn’t fit me anymore.
      -dusty, blood-spotted

    4. I disagree.
      She is explaining how the emotional effect is experienced in a split second, a fight or flight responce, and then narrates her train of thought, which is:
      Fight-(“or flight” is interrupted )…
      ‘No, wait I can’t fight I’ll kill him’…
      “(I will) Fly then.” This has an implied self as the subject, to imitate thought-speech patterns.
      “Flight then.” would have been acceptable as well, though as an answer to the implied question.

  1. Jesus Christ, her psyche is a complete mess, paralysed with 4 hours is proper nightmare fuel.

    It is great to have a brute hero finally though.

      1. I’m not so sure about that. Taylor could have WASTED blindside and Kingdom Come without too much trouble, and while repeated bug swats make LoL better at swatting bugs, it’s no use if his crotch is already rotting. Nursery might work against her but since people can enter and exit her aura it’s possible Taylor can just bug it. Plus Tay can do everything she does from the safety of the building next door, and maintain contact with the whole of the capes present. She also could have prevented FH from being shot; it’s her habit to keep tabs on everyone, so she would have noticed someone drawing a bead on her.

    1. Yeah, I can really see a lot of the influence from Twig in this chapter. Sy was a real mess at the end, and the experience writing that really shines through with this glimpse at Victoria’s psyche.

  2. God, the scariest part of this was that apparently all her Brute powers combined didn’t scare the guys but her aura apparently sent them running fast.

    1. Brute- Okay, she’s just going to punch me hard. Maybe throw me around. I can deal.
      Aura- Gah she’s so scary and awesome and awesome scary!

  3. We’ve seen it consistently established in the previous five chapters since, but again it intrigues just how hard Victoria is trying to restrain herself from going too far with her powers, when she chose flight over fight here. We did see cracks of her struggle later on when she pushed out with her aura — understandable given what Snag was doing to her emotionally — but her degree of self-control in a situation even as hectic as this is impressive.

  4. Until Crystalclear showed up with the shooter, I was certain that Lord of Loss’ team had been set up by whoever hired them, and that they would take the fall for something even worse than what they intended. Instead it’s just some random civilian who thought it would be a good idea to bring a gun to a protest.

        1. Does it matter? They are fully culpable for everything that happened that day, and any court worth the name would convict them for attempted murder (or pre-mediated murder, if she doesn’t pull through), whether or not they were involved in that man shooting her.

          They willingly and knowingly escalated the situation, and should be held accountable for everything that followed.

          1. In US jurisdictions, attempted murder wouldn’t be in the cards. Felony murder would if Fume Hood died. Attempt crimes have specific intent requirements which wouldn’t be satisfied, here. On the other hand, this is a whole new world that was created by Earth Bet refugees, largely initially originating from a US city, but it is at least questionable what manner of legal framework was established in this new world. In all likelihood the court and legal system at this point would be a shell of a kind with what we see in developing nations after a major governmental changeover.

  5. Whoof. Those flashbacks were intense. Amazing that Vicky could relive all that in the span of five minutes and still keep her composure long enough to take on LoL. Speaking of which, still love that guy- the instant their plan goes under he packs it up, calls it a day, “go help her out”. A villain, yes, but not really a bad guy. Hoping Fume makes out okay, though. To think after all this she’d be downed by some random protestor.

  6. Man, these flashbacks are emotionally devastating. Adding that context to Gallant’s death makes it significantly more powerful in retrospect, and seeing the misery of living in the asylum just adds to it. Victoria hasn’t had a great life, for the last 4 years. I can see even more so why she’s a wreck, considering that Gallant’s death might have been presentable. I’m a little surprised that she’s restraining her anger so much, though. It seems in character for her to lash out in response to pain. I guess she’s developed a lot of restraint, but when?

    1. Also, she seems to think there are some kind of rules still in play. Asking if Snag is in the room, telling him to stop. Where does she get these ideas? Is she still sheltered about more vicious cape combat, to some degree?

      1. She fought (and was taken down by) the S9, probably not too sheltered after that. The whole asking for Snag thing was a side effect of the emotional alteration.

  7. Man, this is really starting to get good! I feel for Victoria, and I can’t wait to see the wider picture of what her situation and the city is like. Aaaah, I still can’t believe it’s finally here and it’s Glory Girl!

  8. Loved the chapter, as always. The flashbacks were done well, intrusive the way I think you intended while being easy to read but boy do they pack a fucking punch.

    The gunshot was a surprise and I don’t think it’s a coincidence it happened just as Lord of Loss and Victoria were starting to really go at it, stopping them from escalating further. All went according to plan.

    1. It also happened right after KFC released control of the crowd. I suspect he released the crowd so the crowd could get to safety. Dead civilians look bad. So probably not a coincidence, but maybe not part of the plan. Sequence went like this:

      1) Fight begins ramping up.
      2) KFC releases the crowd so the crowd can get safe.
      3) Sniper shoots.

  9. I’m starting to feel like Victoria may have double triggered during her transformation, unless her emotional powers were altered by Amy or something. Her aura seems massively more powerful here than it did in Worm unless she was holding way back

    1. I think it’s more of a practice thing than getting outright stronger since second triggers aren’t just a flat power boost. She’s learned to control her aura to a much greater degree than before, aiming it at people being one of these new skills.

      1. The aiming feature is actually what made me suspect the double trigger, since it seems like a new application of a familiar theme on top of the flat boost provided by experience. That said we never got a full comprehensive dossier on Glory Girl’s power set (though we did get quite a lot) so you could absolutely be right here. Can’t wait to find out.

    2. It did say at one point (if I’m not going crazy, but I don’t have enough time right this second to check where it might have said) that she had a lot of practice with her aura during her…ordeal, since it was pretty much the only way she could reliably communicate. Not that those powers re-triggered or she was holding back, but she’s actually more adept at using those powers than she was before.

      (I do think she triggered again during that time, for what it’s worth. I just don’t think we’ve seen those powers yet.)

  10. I hope Fume Hood survives… I was not expecting that. The flashbacks are just so good. That moment where she realizes her family isn’t coming, might not come again – such a gut punch. I can see how that memory was the one to finally break through her self-control.

  11. So, Snag is probably one of of5’s fellow multi-trigger capes (going back into Glow-worm P.4 of5 looks up capes with “Prosthetic” “Emotion” “Mover Power” and “Acrobatics”, which certainly sounds like snag’s deal). I had been assuming Longscratch was of5, but that seems less likely now, as in that case he and Snag wouldn’t just let each other go.
    Anyhow, I suppose this means Tattletale may have been the one to hire Lord of Loss. I can’t quite figure out why she would be going after young Granny Smith, but I am sure it’ll all make sense in good time.

      1. Tattletale’s power isn’t infalliable. And it’s more about figuring things out than predicting them. If she doesn’t know Vicky is in the PRT or would be sent there, she could very easily get it wrong. And when TT get’s it wrong, she really gets it wrong.

        1. Yes absolutely this. But I think the other poster thought it would be funny because that’s exactly how GG’s introduction in Worm happened. Tattletale didn’t realize GG would be there and the Villains’ jobs were made harder for it.

    1. Lord of Loss does seem like the kind of person Tattletale would hire. Does the job professionally and has the power to make sure it gets done while also having a strong set of principles. A rare combination in the Wormverse.

    2. Interesting! I’d assumed that Snag was of5, that he’d hired Lord of Loss’ gang to take out his trigger-mate Longscratch, and that the focus on Fume Hood was a pretext to create a combat situation to disguise the nature of the hit.

    3. How about this for a theory, Cranefly’s comment said he thought that Snag was Of5, and that is was actually a hit to take out his Triggermate, Longscratch….

      What is Longclaw is Of5, and that the operation is actually Snag trying to take him out? We have learned that they are trying to take him out, but not necessarily both ways. This actually makes a ton of sense now I am thinking of it. We know Of5 doesn’t live in the city, possibly because a female acquaintance he is close to is keeping him from leaving. We know Longclaw is living outside of the city, and is joining the team because Tempera (a female acquaintance) convinced him to.

    1. Well you know if Carol had done a better job being a mom to Amy, and not projected her issues, and managed to get Amy to have a healthier view of the world, things would be so much different. Like the Bank Robbery way back when would have gone something like:
      “Aw man they got away!”
      “Well sis if you hadn’t been distracted that Tattletale girls ass…”
      “Hey is it my fault she was wearing a skintight outfit to show it off? Besides you let guys get away all the time cause you’re staring at Gallant’s ass!”
      “Haha, true. Sisters forever?”
      “Sisters forever!”
      Freeze frame on hug, roll credits with cheesy sitcom theme.

      Still wondering if Amy is going to be at that family dinner. For that matter who exactly is still alive from that family? I remember Photon Mom bought it during the Scion Fight, but I’m not sure about Laserdream and Flashbang.

      1. I reckon Glitzglam or GlitznGlam or whoever in the prologue is Laserdream. Plus she’s got Parental Unit One, which is either Brandish or… Whatever her father’s name was.

  12. WTF protester guy? Even if you don’t like FM maybe you should’ve shot the guy that was previously using the townsfolk as meat puppets and human shields before you concerned yourself with her? Priorities people, priorities.

    1. Well, how do you know protester guy wasn’t a meat puppet? After all KC disappeared, maybe he went to a sniper perch outside of the range of the rest of his minions.

    2. I suspect that as is so often the case in Wildbow’s work, people are dumb, panicky animals who do stupid, spiteful things.

    3. Because people are assholes. Asshole-coated assholes with asshole filling. And trust me, you don’t want to taste asshole. Unless you do, I suppose. No judgment. Just not the kind of place I normally stick my tongue.

  13. Snag a multi-trigger? My theory was that he was a tinker specializing in nervous systems, his augmentations interface with his nervous system to act like extensions of his own body, giving him enhanced strength and leaping ability, and his weapons interface with your nervous system to screw up your emotions, but I guess not.

    He also sounds like the multi-trigger in Glow-worm 0.4, though that was a woman… Calling it now, Snag and the woman in the fanged mask are part of the same trigger group.

  14. Well, that went to shit even further than expected.

    Snag too OP, plz nerf.

    Interesting that each individual para on the attacking team was just a wee bit shy of being able to solo Victoria, but they tag-teamed while she was forced to go at them alone. Since it’s clear she’s losing this job, p’raps it’s time for her to move on to being a cape again? Get a team, do some fixing the world?

    Then, seventeen arcs later, snap Snag in half?

  15. Really really enjoyed how her more excessive power usage went parallel with her emotional state going rapidly downhill. I don’t think it’s causative, except for regular old association trauma, but it’s a pretty good way of showing WHY she’s chosen to supress her powers.

    Also fucking heartbreaking of course. Her family leaving her alone, rather than inconvenience themselves a little. Again. That’s the kind of horrifyingly, heartbreakingly, plausible thing that grounds all these superpowered shenanigans in a way a lot of superhero fiction just doesn’t.

    1. The sad thing is I can also sympathize with her family not wanting to see her. It’s horrible, but imagine what it’s like for them. They saw their bright, beautiful, intelligent daughter get turned into a mockery of repeating body parts, laying there barely able to communicate. And then, because the Amysexuality is still in effect, she asks about Amy. Of course there’s also going to be guilt, wondering how you fucked up parenting one child so much they did this to the other… Not saying it’s right, but I can’t even begin to imagine how painful it is for her family right then, that coming off of all the losses from Leviathan.

  16. “When you had nothing, you groped for anything, even if it was the person who’d brought you to that point.”

    Very well said. My second favourite line in this chapter.

    My favourite was, “I pushed out with my aura.” Like possibly most readers, I thought it was a repetition typo at first, until the slight difference in tense caught my attention, and a grin broke out on my face.

    Victoria’s inclination toward de-escalation and minimal force offers a great contrast to Taylor’s increasing escalation and force. It also offers a very interesting angle to physical force that I haven’t seen in what superhero stories I’ve read (admittedly not that a whole lot). Restraint was a minor theme in Worm (Sundancer, Ballistic, and Canary come to mind — and although for slightly different reasons, Panacea), but it’s really interesting to be in the head of the character holding back and feeling the tension firsthand. Especially when the character was long used to the exact opposite. And even more especially in the context of unprecedented levels of anti-cape sentiment.

    Of course, this only makes the possibility of berserker Vicky all the more appealing.

    I’m also struck by the contrast of a Taylor who broke rules again and again because she found them too restrictive, to Victoria who — at least so far — eagerly embraces the restrictions but is being forced to colour outside the lines.

    I don’t know for sure where this is all headed for our protagonist and her journey, but I’m sold.

  17. Nice messy fight, with area control abilities pushing everyone around, dictating where combatants can choose to go. I think the exposition on Victoria’s memories while she was influenced by Snag’s emotion-altering power were a bit on the wordy side, the length of them disrupted the flow of the combat scene, but they did serve to flesh her out. A charitable take on them would be that they were moments where time seemed to slow down for Victoria, which is in fact a thing that happens.

    I’m glad to finally see some proper cape-killing action. It was missing in Worm; I chose to suspend disbelief, tell myself ‘precogs thinkers something something’, but there were more than a few moments when I considered a series of events (such as Bitch driving thousands of people from their homes) that should have been resolved under Rule 308. For nine out of ten a bullet is enough. Now for some jury nullification?

    With the terrible ruin wrought by Gold Morning, the slaughter of Earth Bets population and complete eradication of their infrastructure, I would be surprised if there weren’t a growing cadre of people operating under the assumption that the only good freak is a dead freak.

    1. Yo, if Amy actually intentionally went out of her way to not be in the position of healing Dean, then that’s all kinds of fucked

    2. Bullets are effective against many capes, yes, but capes often band together. If someone had shot Bitch, they would have every reason to expect the Undersiders to avenge her, and the Undersiders were seriously fucking scary. Between Skitter, Regent, Tattletale and Imp, you might want to consider just letting yourself be torn apart by monster dogs. It’ll be less painful.

  18. Fume Hood
    🙁
    This chapter made me sad. A theory also came up while reading about Dean, a part of me suspects that Amy might’ve intentionally delayed healing him because of her subtle emotions for Victoria, and mental gymnastics of ‘heal everyone without prioritizing’.

    Hearing Victoria’s loss really explains why Victoria got so angry at Amy said when she’d accidentally changed her sexuality.

    1. Yo, if Amy actually intentionally went out of her way to not be in the position of healing Dean, then that’s all kinds of fucked

  19. Not much to say besides that I don’t think this chapter was enjoyable at all, and a pretty big disappointment compared to previous chapters. It was too weird, disjointed and barely functioning for me to get a grip on. So I can’t really do anything but say it’s a 1/5. I didn’t like it, and sure do hope that chapters like this will be extremely few and far between them.

    1. It also feels like Victoria has been hit with the largest Nerf bat I have ever seen in fiction. She feels woefully inadequate compared to her previous performance/showing in Worm, especially her shield.

      1. Hmm. Concerning the assumed Nerf of Vic’s power, I just read a post on Reddit that mentioned this might just be a perception thing. In Worm we saw it from an outside perpective and it was just ‘powerful’, in Ward we see it from Vic’s perspective, were she has a large amount of focus on timing her power correctly. So might seem weaker than it is.

        1. There are multiple comments about how the various villains are startled she is still up and moving. Internal narration from emotionally traumatized (historically and with Snag’s power recently) narrator struggling with self-confidence issues seems like it would manifest in the framing seen here. Also she still ends up pretty handily smashing both Snag and LoL when she gets rolling…

          1. As someone (maybe several people?) remarked in a previous chapter, a big difference is that we’re seeing a Brute-class parahuman in first-person now, as opposed to through the eyes of a skinny teenage girl whose only defense is bugs and running away very quickly. In the latter case, there’s not much room for mistakes, so it’s not surprising that any sign of Glory Girl having an advantage would be viewed as a dire threat; in the former, we see GG playing things more like a tank, using her resilience and force field to hold out until she gets that one opening to end things (see: Blindside).

            It’s worth noting that, as powerful and threatening as GG seemed in Worm, she got her ass handed to her a lot. In fact, I did a quick search for all the times we see her fight:
            -Fxvggre va ure frpbaq erny svtug + Gnggyrgnyr jvgu n unaqtha. [GG was defeated]
            -Fxvggre jvgu pbagnvazrag sbnz + Tehr nf fhccbegt. [GG was defeated]
            -Onyyvfgvp. [GG was removed from fight]
            -Penjyre. [GG was defeated]
            Granted, some of those are pretty tough opponents, but all the same, I couldn’t find any instances of her actually winning a fight.

      2. I don’t think she’s weaker here, it’s just that this time she’s up against a pretty high-tier group with directly applicable combat powers. Her forcefield always dropped on taking a gunshot, and she’s going hand-to-hand with Brutes.

        1. That’s also the conclusion I am coming to after some time to think it over (aswell as some well written comments here and on Reddit).

          1. As a side note, if you had trouble with this chapter’s level of

            weird, disjointed and barely functioning

            then I have bad news for you; wildbow characters consistently achieve much, much worse.
            Sometimes on purpose.
            Now, Victoria already went through terrible things, but that probably won’t help much.

    2. You mean as disjointed and barely functioning as Victoria is after a repressed trauma is now surfacing forcefully in a perceived life or death situation?

      Seems to me the chapter does a great job conveying that.

      Also, Victoria is trying to hold back her full power, and her forcefield has always gone down with a good hi. since its invisible however, other people only perceive her continuous invulnerability, we now see how it really is.

  20. Those flashbacks fit perfectly into everything that was happening. I could feel how each one was affecting Victoria in the present. As much as they hurt to read emotionally, I’m looking forward to seeing more and getting an even greater understanding of Victoria’s character.

    Thanks for the chapter.

  21. So.. that was out of left-filed ending.

    Is that ending showing us that without Contessa meddling, the people will start shooting parahumans without brute powers and other protection? Are we going to see sequel where sniper rifles are not nerfed to level of water guns?

    Also, great chapter for showing us how Victoria think and weaving the important memories with dynamic action.

  22. Did anyone else notice how Victoria referred to Dean as ‘her’ a couple of times? Looks like Amy’s changes are still intact.

    1. As Victoria is running through the hospital looking for “her,” I’m pretty sure that’s referring to Amy: she’s trying to find Amy to heal Dean… but she’s avoiding thinking Amy’s name.

  23. Yep. Not a good day. But far from the worst. We’ll see if Fume Hood recovers or not. Victoria had to relive some serious truama, and got outed, but in general people are alive.

    And I think there’s one family member Vicky is trying very hard to not think about too much…

    So had it been established before that Gallant didn’t die instantly? Because with everything else that happened involving Amy, that’s going to be another cloud of suspicion. Heck knowing Amy, she probably wonders if she wasn’t there because she wanted him to die.

    And seriously someone ID’d her in one? I didn’t thing Glory Girl was that famous.

    1. Only takes one person from Brockton Bay with a good memory. Considering the Bay had the first portal, they’re probably slightly over-represented in survivor origins. And New Wave made some money with advertising and so on, if I recall correctly.

      Then there’s the fact that they’ve just witnessed her powers, and if they were contemplating the name Victoria Dallon already, it’d be quite easy to connect the dots.

    2. Back at the bank robbery, Taylor refers to Victoria and Amy as “among the most famous of the local heroes”. So pretty famous, at least in the bay.

  24. A lot of people seem to think LoL and his gang were responsible for the sniper somehow. I disagree – I honestly believe they were genuine when they claimed their intentions were non-lethal. Combined eith Victoria’s continued thoughts on not murdering anyone, and I think I see what this chapter is tryjng to convey. After the end of the world, polite “cop-and-robber” style capery is falling to the wayside, and being replaced with familiar human hate and violence.

  25. So. Worm started with Taylor winning a fight she had no right to (albeit with some help) using a “weak” power, and Ward opens with Victoria losing a fight she seems on the surface better for, with a “strong” power. Still loving these contrasts.

  26. Damn you wildbow. This chapter left me with tears in my eyes. I really felt for Victoria all the way through this.

    Also it is very interesting to see how she handles this emotional stress. She is a lot better at it than Taylor. I do miss Taylors way of just giving them hell when she looses it though. This was so bitter in the end.
    Good work.

  27. This chapter was very emotionally intense, I really felt for Victoria and it was interesting to see how even in this state, she didn’t go berserk and killed Snag. This really shows how she matured and I’m eager to follow her through Ward.

    V jnf erzvaqrq bs gur zbzrag jura Gnlybe xvyyrq Gntt naq Nyrknaqevn naq jura Oynxr fgnoorq Ynveq. Obgu bs gurz jbhyq unir xvyyrq Fant va gur fnzr fvghngvba V guvax.

    All in all, an excellent chapter !

  28. I don’t find myself empathizing with Victoria. I’m not sure whether it’s because I never liked Glory Girl in the first place, or if it’s because she’s not performing to the best of her abilities (like trying to stay undercover when civilian lives are potentially at stake, only to even fail at that), but I find myself hoping that the POV switches to another character.

    I think part of what made Taylor such a great MC was she actively tried to do things and had great inner strength, while to me it seems like Victoria is just hiding. It seems like that will change after this chapter, which is good, and maybe I’m just a cold-hearted bastard, but right now Victoria just seems…weak.

    1. I have to say I kinda feel the same way as you do. I am also not feeling attached to Victoria yet, even after an emotionally intense chapter like this one. I also have to admit that I even felt a little bit dissapointed when I realized she was our protagonist. I am not saying I am desliking her as the protagonist, but she is definitely taking a lot of time to grow on me. Nonetheless. I think it is still way to early in the story to be able to fully empathise with her. Not to mention that crafting a protagonist as interesting as Taylor is an herculean task to undertake.

      As a side note, I also wonder if we will get to see her use her powers with the same creativity and versatility as Taylor did. One of the most interesting things Taylor had going for her was precisely that, and so far Victoria hasn’t presented much inovation regarding power usage.

  29. Yeah, Victoria is definitely choosing to employ restraint where other WB protags would not. I think it speaks volumes in her favor that even when she’s down and hurting, both physically and emotionally, she has enough presence of mind to still reign herself in even if it continues to put her at a disadvantage. It’s easy to let loose and then try to justify that extra ruthlessness once the dust settles but she knows that she can’t afford to do so. No cape right now can afford to do so, not with the ant-cape sentiment and scrutiny they’re under.

    Poor Vicky, she loses the fight by sandbagging or wins the fight and loses in society’s eyes by going full force. She’s in a lose-lose situation and knows it.

  30. Ah, THAT was the plan. Screw around with civilians, wait until a cape shows up, then shoot Fume Hood.

    But why, though? A statement of power? Even as a cape shows up, a normie just shoots Hood in the stomach, regardless of how powerful they are?

    Someone is screwing around, wanting to get capes under either complete control, or six feet. And whoever signed off on sending Vicky there is involved.

    The set up is shown. What’s next?

    Thank you for your writing.

  31. The flashbacks were done really well shown in a way that narratively makes sense and we get to find out more about the past.
    The fight fit well in regards to the interactions of powers and the ending was a pretty big surprise.

    I do hope we get something on Lightstar and Fleur though; as I remember, nothing was mentioned on the fates of Brandish, Flashbang or Laserdream.

  32. Oh hell, please don’t bring Tattletale back! I always felt she was a despicabable human being, with an infuriatingly strong power that constantly saved her from well-deserved payback. She was also arrogant, smug and incredibly obnoxious, and I detested her only slightly less than Taylor “all my problems are someone else’s fault” Hebert.

    Tattletale adopted Taylor’s habit of hurting anyone with a point of view different from hers… though Taylor was the undisputed master of “Do as I say, not as I do.” I welcomed Worm2 because it was a chance to read about ingeniously-imagined superpowers and -people and the worlds they make/inhabit, without having most of the story filtered through the viewpoints of two characters I loathed.

      1. I wholeheartedly disagree. She should have killed more people. She should have bathed in their blood. The bullies? Yes. Armsmaster? Yes. Dragon? Maybe, but only because she has no blood. So many people with too much influence and too little of being dead. Too many crimes, but getting away with it because they’re on the “right” side.

        Wipe them all away. There is not on ounce of justice, not one molecule of mercy, not even an atom of human rights. Fictions that people believe in because to not do so is to be an animal still scavenging the dead corpses of prey animals on the veldt. But those beliefs, like copyright, are meaningless if not upheld and enforced. They tend to be all-or-nothing like this. A system can’t be both just and unjust; always will it be tainted by its failures. And so sometimes justice is upheld by those seen as unjust.

        “I am the punishment of God. If you had not committed great sins, God would not have sent a punishment like me upon you.”

    1. Everything you said is exactly why Tattletake has the potential to be such a great villain in this story, and I am very curious to see what direction Wildbow takes her in.

    2. Taylor tried to negotiate and de-escalate, dunno if it was a coincidence or not, but she was almost consistently put against unreasonable hardasses. She had flaws, but she never hurt someone over a difference in opinion, far as I can remember, though her morality is arguable, she always justified it by the fact that she was protecting others, and even though, in some cases, she had to do mental gymnastics (mostly to do with stuff that’d let her keep her membership of the Undersiders), most of the time her actions were genuinely a last resort to help most innocents possible, with litle chance for things to play otherwise.

      And Tt never claimed to be anything else than a mercenary with reasons to want to help suicidal people, who ended up having a partnership with Taylor, so w/e.

      1. Did this Sy person at least have some fun with it? You know, like pass a slow driver and press a button to drop a mine in front of them? Kidnap the Sandy Claws, throw him in a bag? Anything?

        1. You know how Taylor occasionally had those Ender Wiggin moments, where she was hopelessly cornered by a vastly superior enemy, so she abandoned all constraints of fair play and basic humanity, and UTTERLY DESTROYED that fucker? Sylvester was like that, but all the time.

        2. I cannot recommend Twig enough. Don’t let the nonstandard setup turn you away, there’s delicious cake to be found (and no grief counseling), and plenty of characters right up your alley.

      2. Sy’s sociopathic behavior was part of why I liked Twig so much — he did what I would do most situations and I absolutely loved that.

        Sociopathic protagonists are hard to come by after all

        1. Sy is an… interesting protagonist, and he makes for a really entertaining story, even if I really can’t bring myself to like him very much. (I’m only on Arc 11 right now, so please don’t spoil anything for me!)

          There have been several points in the story that have made me think, “Hmm, is he really the good guy here?” And I’m tempted to root for some of the antagonists even more when I think about the overall plot.

          But still, Sy is a very compelling character, and I can’t help by feel sympathy for him even when he’s doing terrible things. He reminds me a lot of Taylor in that regard.

          It seems like WildBow has been alternating between bad and good protagonists. Taylor was a villain, Blake was a good guy, Sy was a villain, and now Victoria is pure-hearted so far. It’s hard to judge how much I’m going to end up liking Victoria, since we haven’t seen much of her yet, and most of what we have seen has taken place on a single day. I think we’ll like her even more as we get to know her better over the course of the next 20 or so arcs.

          1. Gnlybe unq hanzovthbhfyl tbbq vagragvbaf, naq fur jnf pbzcyrgryl ehguyrff va npuvrivat gurz. Fur qvqa’g urfvgngr gb xvyy nalbar jub jnf va gur jnl bs ure fnivat gur jbeyq.

            Oynxr fgnegrq bhg n avpr, vs fbzrjung oebxra thl, naq raqrq hc n avpr, vs fbzrjung oebxra zbafgre jub fgnyxrq gur qnexarff naq zheqrerq crbcyr va freivpr bs uvf qrzbavp fvfgre-unys-pybar.

            Flyirfgre jnf… V jnag gb fnl rivy, ohg ubarfgyl, zbfg crbcyr va guvf frggvat jrer rivy. Frevbhfyl, gjvt jnf yvxr gur rivy Ovmneeb Jbeyq irefvba bs Jbez jurer rirelbar’f rivy, jvgu Flyirfgre nf gur yrnqre bs gur Ovmneeb Fynhtugreubhfr Avar. Ur fgvyy zheqref crbcyr, ohg gurl’er nyy nffubyrf, naq ur nyfb ohvyqf becunantrf naq nyjnlf gevrf gb uryc gur qbjagebqqra. Va gur raq ur jvaf ol pbaivapvat gur svefg zbafgre bs uvf jbeyqivrj.

            I wouldn’t exactly call Victoria pure-hearted, either. To me, it feels more like she’s always lived in this highly privileged position of not having any serious problems that could be easily solved by committing evil acts. She doesn’t have to suppress the urge to wasp all her bullies to death, because she has neither bullies nor wasps. She’s never been heavily in debt to Satan. Like, if she could have become human at any time she was at the asylum just by murdering everyone there, then it’d be commendable that she didn’t, but that was never an option. She’s trying not to kill people here, but it’s not as if her personal situation would be improved in any way if she did kill them.

            I’m not necessarily saying that not having reasons to kill people makes her a bad person, but it is a bit suspicious.

  33. Seeing some dislike of this chapter. I actually really like this one. The emotional aspect isn’t often accounted for. A lot of people think you should just ignore it, and that’s not quite right. You can’t ignore it. Even people who think they’re nothing but rational tend to be slaves to emotion, and all the worse for being blind to that condition. If you know you’re in that situation, you can try to mitigate the problems. Try to fight back against those instincts, maybe direct them toward something more useful to you.

    Also, I’m not really seeing Glory Girl as being all that weak, considering she was having it out with a shapeshifting version of Lung there at the end after fighting her way through people with powers that seem to really freak out everybody else. I also don’t see how someone’s first instinct is to criticize Taylor for things being other people’s faults. Was her trigger her own fault? Armsmaster being a dick? Coil and Dinah? That time at the school?

    It’s not paranoia if everyone’s actually out to get you. And I don’t know where they read something like Tattletale being OP or being authoritarian.

    I’m too busy enjoying the fact that Snag was tossing around explosive throwing stars that caused extreme doubt if you were hit by the explosion. Or, as I like to call them, “shurIcan’t”.

  34. Nice chapter. My favorite so far, I think. I’ve been enjoying all the flashbacks, but this one really brings home the horror of Victoria’s condition at the asylum, which I had been waiting for.

    Though, I notice she keeps calling it ‘the hospital’ and never ‘the asylum,’ while we know very well it was the latter. A lie they told her? Some kind of insistence on her part that she wasn’t insane, so she couldn’t have been in an asylum?

    The brute fight with Snag was also good, interspersed between the flashbacks. Snag is really pretty nasty, isn’t he? He’s fast, he sticks to walls, he’s got brute-level prosthetic arms, he’s got special weapons which convey his power. If Victoria is right and her aura makes her resistant to his emotion-altering effects, then they must be totally debilitating to someone without protection. He’s like a tinker version of Newter.

    Finally, it seems entirely appropriate to me that Victoria should lose, or at least not win. She lost all of her fights in Worm, pretty badly, or was taken out of action without accomplishing anything. In every case. And that was when she was more together, more in-practice, more motivated. If anything, she made a better showing here than usual.

    Which is one of the reasons why I think she’s a good protagonist. Precisely because she was so much on the losing side before, she’ll really have to claw her way up now. That’s what we see here. This is how an average fight for Victoria goes. If she’s going to do better, she’s really going to have to struggle for it.

  35. I feel certain that someone else has noticed this, but I haven’t seen anyone mention it, so I’m pointing it out: Snag is the second person from Of5’s group trigger. If we recall some of the keyword’s Of5 searched for were emotional manipulation, tinker, claws and prosthetic. These are all things relating to Snags powers, and considering how rare grab bags are, and how rare that combination must be, he is definitely part of the group. I did consider he could be Of5, but then we’d have to ask where Sveta was, and the rest of the cast doesn’t seem to match up well with the discussion group members and their powers, based on what we know.

  36. Hey, Wildbow, just wanted to say, I really like your choice of using Victoria as the main protagonist. I liked Skitter/Taylor a lot, but this isn’t Worm, and it’s nice to see it set itself apart a bit. Seeing things from the perspective of more of a brute was actually something I wanted in Worm, partially because Skitter was so good at noting her own shortcomings. It’s great to see a fight where someone can take a hit, and the way Victoria’s power works she is always in real danger even if she is powerful. Cudos.

  37. Did anyone else get a flashback to Jack Slash when Longscratch revealed his power? (Before the mover part stopped me from going too crazy with wild, improbable theories.)

  38. The question of whether Victoria had a second trigger may or may not be tied to the question of precisely how she regained a normal human body instead of remaining the pile of assorted meat and body parts Amy accidentally turned her into.

  39. I’m only just remembering this, but wasn’t one of the very first drafts of Worm intended with Victoria/Amy as the protagonists?

    Really cool to have Ward come full circle and focus on Victoria now, especially now that we’re so in love with the universe.

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