Daybreak – 1.8

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Daylight streamed in at a low angle as I stepped back into my office.  The light was blurred as it came through the condensation on the window, spotted with dots of darkness due to the melted frost that still clung to the window’s surface in lines and constellations of droplets.  Ninety percent of my books were packed up, the boxes that were still here were stacked near the door and the bookshelf, labeled in thick marker, with shorthand notes on the most interesting and essential files within written on the boxes in pen.  I’d left a few of the more interesting files available.  I’d put them in a box on their own, in case I needed something to read.

My phone was plugged into the computer.  I checked it, and made a small and sleepy pump of my fist as it lit up.  Then I saw the red number on the digital-display dial, and let my hand drop.  Missed messages: too many.

It wasn’t that I cared that much about the phone.  It was that the phone being on meant there was power again.  That the power was on again meant I could turn the space heater on.  I flicked the switch, turned on my computer, then lit the candles for what little good heat they offered and wrapped a blanket around me before settling in my computer chair.

I was freshly showered, towel around my hair, and I’d gotten dressed in a slightly musty spare change of clothes.  I had a blanket, candles, and a computer booting up.  I watched as it started the struggle of fighting every other computer out there that was wanting a piece of the web.

There were worse ways to take things easy on myself.

I slid my to-do list across the desk until it was beside my keyboard.  I’d need a car.  Plenty of people were willing to offer the use of theirs in order to pay for fuel.  Food, a place to stay.

Living accommodations might be tricky.  Demand was high, and it was a pretty steep drop in quality from the central areas and the fringes.  Many companies were putting up five or more houses a day or an apartment complex over the course of a week, slapping them together like there was a gun to their heads.  When it came time to find renters, they were more interested in filling the spaces fast.  They had no reason to answer questions or have a potential buyer investigating the nooks and crannies or checking the plumbing if they could turn that person away and have someone else on their doorstep within minutes.

It was a minefield.  Word of mouth, cash, contacts, or luck were required to get a proper house that wouldn’t start falling apart after the fact.  Fume Hood was one of the ones who’d been unlucky.

In more than one way.

My homepage was parahumans online, though.  On top of the missed calls and messages on my phone, I had a slew on the site.

♦  Unread Private Messages from NW_Brandish (2)
♦  Unread Private Messages from Glitzglam (8)

I deleted the messages from my mother.

I opened the second link.

♦  Private Messages from Glitzglam:

Point_Me_@_The_Sky: Staying the night at work.  Don’t fuss about me.  Tell the Dallon parental units if you think it’s necessary to keep them from going on warpath.  I want to be left alone for now

Glitzglam *New Message*: i can field them
Glitzglam *New Message*: I’m *so* sorry that happened i want to explain
Glitzglam *New Message*: I arrived and then Amy did and my eyes must have bugged out of my skull but your mom said it was okay we were trying this and you knew it was a reunion and I was wtf
Glitzglam *New Message*: It didn’t sound like you but I thought ok if you thought you were down I could roll with and back you up
Glitzglam *New Message*: Then Uncle M came and oh man if a man could shit crocodiles and piss bears Uncle M would have been doing that he was so fucking pissed b/c HE wasn’t told and he knew the story from the funerals right?
Glitzglam *New Message*: and he brought his wife/kids there
Glitzglam *New Message*: I knew something was up and tried to call but no answer? & then you didn’t show so I let my guard down. I thought u knew and had cold feet and was relieved
Glitzglam *New Message*: I am so sorry. I had no part in this. I should have been smarter. I did not know really truly

I marked it as unread and minimized it.  I didn’t want to think about it for the moment.

News.  Inquiry into the circumstances of Lachlan Hund.  Not a trial, but an inquiry, some questions by people with more official standing.  He’d fallen in with some sketchy people, and there were thoughts about there being powers involved.

The inquiry was the story of the hour, it seemed.  Heroes stood by to step in and take him away to get help if officials were suspicious he’d been manipulated, but it was sounding like he would go home with his new family.  That sucked.

Other articles, further down the pages.  Fume Hood was alive, and she was a contentious topic.  The actions on the part of the shooter seemed to have split people into two factions, with the ones supporting Fume Hood slightly edging out the ones who condemned her.  Strange to see.

I wanted more info on her situation, and unfortunately, that was all I got.

I added another note to my to-do list.  I’d reach out to Fume Hood, check in.  I’d satisfy my curiosity and nag her about the name choice, which I’d been meaning to do but hadn’t had the chance to.

My eye traveled up to the unread messages.  Crystal’s responses.

It all felt like I was taking a massive backward step.  Like I was back in the immediate aftermath of Gold Morning.  Two legs, two arms, bewildered, emotional.  I was bothered, upset.  I didn’t know what to do with myself.

I’d been angry at my parents then too.  For various reasons.  Angry at a lot of people and things.

I hadn’t and didn’t want that to define me.

I clicked on Crystal’s account name again.

Glitzglam *New Message*: I am so sorry. I had no part in this. I should have been smarter. I did not know really truly

Point_Me_@_The_Sky: S’okay.
Point_Me_@_The_Sky: I know how these things go.
Point_Me_@_The_Sky: I saw this sort of thing play out when it wasn’t aimed at me.   I can read between the lines and speak Carol-ese and I picked up on what she was saying about you being skeptical about the situation
Point_Me_@_The_Sky: I absolve you on the condition of one get together where we have some good eating, your treat, and you need to let me know if you hear of any good apartments or things because I am not good going back to my dads

I drummed my fingers on my desk, mused that my motivations might have to do with my being hungry.

More news articles.  Some capes were taking on roles as icons and iconoclasts for the various movements in the civilian sectors.  Four hero teams led the ‘icon’ groups.  Advance Guard, Foresight, the Shepherds and the Attendant.

The first two were aimed at pushing forward.  New approaches, doing things right this time.  The opinions on what that way forward looked like it differed, feeding into the division between the two groups.

Things were changing.  The Shepherds and Attendant had been groups divided along similar lines, but the Shepherds were self-combusting, and the remaining members were folding into the Attendant.  There was some debate over what the name of the resulting team would be.

And then there were three, I thought.

I idly browsed, caught between liking the Shepherd’s aesthetic and icons better while liking the Attendant’s mindset of moving slowly, with caution.  I was suspicious it might end up being the opposite.  As it was, the Attendant’s approach tacked on a bit too much ‘remember what we lost’ for my liking, clinging to the past, being defined by it, but-

There was a knock on the door.

“Come in,” I said.

Gil opened the door.  He had two coffees in a tray in one hand and a bag in the other, and he had to juggle them both as he opened the door.

I rose to my feet.

“Sit,” he said.  He nearly dropped his drink as he saw the boxes.  “Shit on me, you’re packed.”

“I’ll be done in time to be gone before the students turn up,” I said, sitting.

“I’m not so concerned about that right now,” he said.  He put the bag and coffees on the desk.  “How are you?”

I shrugged.

“You look better.”

I had a headache from not sleeping and not eating, and from the post-stress hangover, but I also felt lighter than air in a euphoric, fragile way.  It was as if I’d just gotten over a bad round of the flu, and I was at the point where I was getting over the worst of it, but if I did the wrong thing or tested my body in the wrong way I’d be sick and hurting again.

Better.

I shrugged again.  “Yeah.  That word could apply.”

“Did you sleep at all?”

I snorted air out of my nose.  “I’ll sleep when I’m so tired I have no other choice.”

“But you’re feeling better than you were?”

“Yeah.  Better than I was.  Thanks for letting me stay over,” I said.

He pulled a breakfast burger out of the paper bag, and my eyes must have lit up, because he smiled, passing it to me.

A double-decker English muffin, with bacon, two eggs, lettuce, tomato and very sharp mustard.

I wasn’t normally one to eat egg, but I didn’t let that stop me.

I’d taken too big of a bite.  I swallowed hard.

It was good.  Visceral.  Like Snag’s power, the hit of emotion as I enjoyed it was like a bit of metal, closing an electrical connection.  Rounding off a thought I hadn’t wanted to make.

Feeding tubes.  The insertions, the removals.  The tube being there, one eye watching the beige fluid moving through steadily.  Really wanting something good.  Going almost four months without, because they weren’t sure I could.  Then having it be a chore.  It had been better than the alternative, but a chore, to force myself to eat it right, to chew it thoroughly enough.

I swallowed hard again, not because I had another bite to swallow.

Gilpatrick was looking at my files and notes, his back to me, my English muffin sandwich in my hands.

He glanced at me, saw the blinking, and looked away.  “If you want to talk, I’m all ears.”

“I don’t, thank you,” I said.  “I had a bad day, the part you knew about, then it got worse.  Now I’m trying to get centered.”

He nodded.

“This is really good,” I said.

“They are, I took a bite of mine in the car and then ate it before I got here,” he said.  He bent over a box, looking at the notes.  “Man, I wish I still had access to these files and books.  I’d try bribing you if I could do it in good conscience.”

I swallowed again.  “They’re mine and I’m too straightlaced to be bribed.  You can call me if you want to ask about any of it.”

“Then I owe you more favors, am I right?”

“I thought we weren’t counting anymore,” I said.

He didn’t respond to that.  He picked up a file, paging through it.

“Which one is that?”

“Ossuary.  Why leave it out?”

“They’re back, or they will be soon,” I said.  “Activist villains with a heavy focus on environment.  They wouldn’t call themselves villains, I don’t think.  Long list of really messy executions, longer list of leaders with very short tenures, who try to pull a very disparate group together, fail, and abdicate.”

“Were they the ones who used to call themselves Elephant Graveyard?”

“That’s the one.  One of the early leaders pushed the name change along with a shift away from focusing on animals and animal welfare,” I said.  “I liked Elephant Graveyard more, I think.  Clunky, but clunky in a way that stands out, and it made for really good imagery, when they left a spray painted calling card.”

“I don’t want to pry,” Gilpatrick said.

“About Ossuary?”

“About you.  I spent a while thinking about what to do.  I’ve had some good bosses and bad bosses over the years.  When you throw yourself into the fray like you do when you’re a PRT squaddie, you really need to know that the people above you are looking out for you.  That your back is covered.”

“Yeah,” I said.  Same applied to family, to parents.

“I don’t want to push boundaries or cross any lines, and I don’t want to ask the wrong thing.  When you say you don’t want to talk, can I ask why?  Any answer you gave could help me make sure I’m covering your back as you move on to better things.”

“Because I’d have to fill you in on years of background and that’s not stuff I want to relive,” I said.

“Ah.”

“Because it’s confidential, because it’s messy, because… as cool as a guy as you can be, you can’t make it better.  You can’t give me the answers or guidance I need because there’s a whole ream of things that’s separate and aside from the years of my background that you’d need to get into or know and… I’m going overboard with this.”

“I do want to hear,” he said.  “Anything else?”

“That’s mostly it,” I said.

He nodded.  He rubbed his head for a second, thinking.  “You want company?”

“Nah,” I said.  “I’d just be packing the last few boxes.  I wouldn’t mind a hand getting them out to the car, just to speed things up when the time comes.”

“You have a car?”

“I’ll get someone off of a listing or something.  I’ve got to figure out what I’m doing, so there’s that too.  I wouldn’t be good company, while I’m working through all of that.”

“You don’t have to be packed up and gone today,” he said.

“I kind of need to,” I said.

He nodded, rubbing his head again.  “I’ll cover the car.  I’ll pay the driver.”

“Thank you,” I said.

“You know where to find me.  Place is empty, so you can shout from the stairs and I’ll hear you.”

“Right,” I said.

“I’m going to head to my office.  I’ve got something to do.”

I gave him a little salute.

Energized by food and coffee, still feeling lightweight, I worked on getting my boxes packed up.  Along the way, I slotted my files and folders into the box I’d reserved for the most pertinent factors.  The villains of the area, the heroes, and the villains turned hero.  The hoods.

The day was warming up.  The light from the sun was warm enough to counteract the lower temperature.  By midday, if yesterday was any indication, it would be short-sleeves and shorts weather again.

A message popped up on my screen.

♦  Private Messages from Glitzglam:

Glitzglam: game plan. u situate yourself at my place until you have apartment ur happy with.  u & I raid ur dads place while he at work, get ur stuff.  standard attack formation, I play defense, make sure coast is clear, I support you, u take point and do what u need

I fired off my response.  That worked.  I had a couch to sleep on.

One thing off of my to-do list.  I liked the progress.  Progress was good.  So long as I moved forward, I could stay aloft.

I cleared off the remainder of the bookshelves, stacking the boxes.  I scribbled out my notes on the lid, checking the contents.

There was a knock at the door.

“Come in,” I said.

Gilpatrick.

“Time for me to go?” I asked.

“Nah,” he said.  “There’s a bit.  I don’t want to force you out the door like that.”

“Okay,” I said.  I raised an eyebrow.

“I was thinking, over the past twelve hours, if you were my student, I wouldn’t want to let you go with things like this.  Normally I’d contact a guardian.”

My heart skipped a beat at that.  No.

“But you said last night you had a family thing to do.  I can connect dots.”

I nodded.

“I made some phone calls,” he said.

He stepped out of the doorway.

Mrs. Yamada.  Shorter than me, hair tied back in a simple ponytail, wearing a skirt, white top, and jacket, with a simple, short string of pearls at her collarbone.

“Oh wow,” she said.  “Look at you.”

I didn’t have words, so I just lifted my arms to either side and let them fall.

“Is this okay?” Gilpatrick asked.

“Yeah,” I said.  I swallowed.  “Yeah.  Just about perfect.”

“I’ll leave you to it,” he said.

Jessica blinked a few times, before fanning herself.  “I’m a little misty eyed.  Sorry.”

I was a little misty eyed myself.

“Can I give you a hug?” she asked.  When I nodded, she did so.  I hugged her back.

“You put me down as your emergency contact?” she asked.

“Sorry,” I said.  “I- I honestly forgot I did that.  It was more than a year ago.”

I’d had to name someone, and I hadn’t named my parents because-

Because.

“It’s more than alright,” she said.  “Your boss said he was worried about you.”

I opened my mouth to reply, and then the waterworks started instead.

Jessica slammed the back hatch of her car, most of the boxes settled inside.

“Do you want to walk?” she asked.  “Around the block, maybe?  Or we could step back inside.”

If I was going to start crying again.

Students were just now starting to appear, and I didn’t want to sit still.

“We can walk,” I said.

“It’s been amazing to hear your voice,” she said.  “I know you were often frustrated, trying to communicate with the means you had available.  I was frustrated too, but I wasn’t allowed to say that.”

“I could tell,” I said.

“You were a challenging patient, those first few months-”

I snorted.

“-but much like many teachers say they grow to care most about the class clowns and problem students, I came to hold you close to my heart.  I wanted so badly to give you answers and to hear you out without having to rely on text to speech and letters you wrote between appointments.  I wanted to dialogue, and it was so very hard to do that.”

“It was,” I said.

Why was it so much easier to talk about the things that I couldn’t normally even think about, like this?

“How did you find your way back from that?”

How did I become Victoria again, instead of the wretched thing in the hospital room, or in the home for invalids?

“My sister,” I said, my voice soft.

“Oh.  That’s not an easy thing,” she said.

“No,” I said, my voice even softer.

I’d already filled her in on the details of yesterday and the past few months.  She’d offered a listening ear.  I’d spent all night working out my next few steps, I knew what the situation was, I didn’t really need more angles to view it from.

This, though… if I was going to make the most of the time I had with her here, then I wanted to at least get a handle on this.

“We were all brought to the battlefield during Gold Morning.  There’s… that’s a hard topic to field.”

“There’s an unspoken agreement that the civilians don’t get to know,” she said.

“But you’re not really a civilian,” I said.

“No,” she said.  “I’ve heard reports.  Some from very close to the center of the action.  I know what happened.”

“Body, mind, and heart, you know how that’s a thing?” I asked.

“Yes.”

“I lost my body, two years before Gold Morning.  My heart was… twisted into something unrecognizable.”

“Yes.”

“And… Gold Morning hit.  And the-” I paused.  There were people on the street, walking toward the school gate and the various block buildings as we walked away from it all.  A tide we walked against.  I had to shut up until people were mostly out of earshot.  “And I was controlled in mind.  I didn’t have much, but I could make my decisions.  I could decide to use my power or not.  She took that away from me, for a brief time.”

“I’ve talked to a number of people who had a very hard time with that.”

“You know who she was?”

“I do.”

I nodded to myself.

“Yeah,” I said.  “My sister told me.”

Even if I was free to talk, the words still carried their ugly weight.  The words and associated mental pictures still dragged my mood down.

“She knew me or knew of me, or she knew my sister.  She decided in the end that she’d put my sister right next to me.  She didn’t do that for many people at all, as far as I can tell.”

“And your sister healed you?”

“Gave me a body again.  Um.  She made me seventeen again.  Walked back the clock, as if it… I don’t know.  So she didn’t take two years of my life from me in body, like she did in everything else.  I’m physically nineteen now, apparently.”

“You said body, mind and spirit.  She fixed one of the three.  Did she undo the effect on your emotions?”

I drew in a breath, sighed heavily.  I nodded.  “She actually- she turned off my emotions.  Suppressed them.  Then she asked me what I wanted.”

“What did you want?”

“I remember thinking, you know, it was really possible she wanted me to say that I wanted to go back to liking her.  And if she did think that, then it was unconscionable.  Divorced from all emotion, I thought it was unconscionable.”

“Okay.”

“And divorced from all emotion, I thought I’d be fair.  That I’d give her the benefit of a doubt.  That I’d assume that wasn’t what she meant or wanted.  I told her I wanted to remember.”

“To remember?”

“Those two years,” I said, my voice hollow.  I drew in another deep breath.

Further down the street, a nine or ten year old boy with straight black hair and brown skin looked at Jessica, his eyes widening, then he looked at me.  He raised his hand, extending it toward Jessica as they passed one another.

She gave him a high five, then pushed his head, sending him on his way, toward the school.

“They weren’t good years.”

“Rationally?  Divorced from emotion?  I knew.  I can’t forgive her.  Ever.  I can’t forget what she did, or she might do it again.  To someone else.  To me.  I told her to fix my feelings and leave my brain alone otherwise.”

“It’s a heavy weight to carry,” she said.

“Those two years are really damn heavy,” I said.  “Everything else is.  But I’ve been holding on to that moment.  I hate that I hold onto it, because she did it, but everything is tainted by her, so what can I do?”

“You hold onto it?  How?”

“Being emotionless, putting those feelings away.  My feelings and impulses got me into that whole mess in the first place.  I hurt an awful lot of awful people, you know.”

“We’ve talked about that.  You wrote letters outlining your thoughts and how you wanted to apologize to some of those affected.”

“My entire life leading up to that basketball game, I wanted so horribly badly to be a hero, you know?  It felt like I thought about it every ten minutes.  My parents were heroes, my cousin was, my aunt and uncle were, and everything revolved around it.  I wanted it all so badly it hurt, and I didn’t have it for years.  Then that basketball game, and I wanted to have something where I was the hero, where I got to stand out.  Because sometimes it felt like my parents didn’t see me.”

“That’s been a recurring idea.  You talked about their missed visits.”

“They came a lot,” I said.  “I know that.  My dad more than my mom.  But every missed visit was a horrible thing, and the little things mattered so much when I had nothing else.  Um.  And this basketball game, I know I’ve talked about this before.  But this one girl kicked my freaking ass.  In my face, knocking me over, intercepting every pass, blocking every shot.  She didn’t have any powers or anything, she was just… good.  Better.”

“A lot of things came into focus in that moment.”

“Every time she or one of her teammates beat me, I could see the look of disappointment on my parent’s faces.  In the other moments, they looked so bored.  And it was boring, you know.  No parent wants to go sit through amateurs doing badly at a high school sport.”

“Some do.”

“Anyway, she hit me hard, she said something about me being overrated, and it was the last straw.  Realizing I stood so far from family, that I didn’t want to be there, but I had no other choice, my sternum was hurting where she’d driven her elbow into me.  I got my powers.”

“Years of wanting, leading up to that.”

She’d caught the thread I’d wanted to lay out.  It helped.  “And then just under three years as Victoria-slash-Glory-Girl.  And then… hospital.”

“Which was undeniably horrible.”

“It felt like my life had ended.  No hope or help.  All I had to cling to were those memories of the three years I was Glory Girl.  I could look back, think about every fight, every encounter.  The ones I was proud of.  The ones I wasn’t.  I had so much regret, replaying events out in my head.  It started with me thinking about- that moment when it all went so wrong.  When she messed with my emotions, then going backward.”

Emotions caught me.  I made my expression a scowl, because I was worried what my face might do otherwise.

“I was such a stupid fucking kid,” I said.

“That’s allowed,” she said.

I shook my head.  “Not when you’re as strong as I am.”

“And you want to be emotionless?  I don’t know if that’s healthy.”

“Not emotionless.  But… smarter about it.  The idea I keep coming back to is I want to be a warrior monk.”

“A warrior monk?”

“Just- centered when it counts, I guess?”

“Why the warrior part?  Do you envision yourself fighting?”

“I don’t honestly know.  It never occurred to me.”

Jessica smiled.

“What’s next for Victoria Dallon?” she asked.

“You need to mock me, say Victoria Dallon, warrior monk,” I said.  “I deserve it.”

“I wouldn’t,” she said.  “If everyone in costume could remain centered while doing what they do, it would make a world of difference.  I think it’s good.  I’d think about that more as you take your next steps.”

“I know I want to move forward, because… I dunno.  I feel like I’m a shark that drowns if it stops moving, or a bird that drops out of the air like a stone if I’m not flying forward.  I know I need to get some of the basics of life squared away.  I’m okay for money for a couple of months, but I can’t stay on Crystal’s couch.”

“In my brief interactions with Crystal, I did like her,” Jessica said.

“She’s great.  But not great to live with long-term, I don’t think.  You’d never know it to look at her, she’s beautiful, she’s fashionable, and very well put together, but if you looked at her apartment…”

I trailed off, using my expression to convey a bit of the horror to Jessica.

“Ah,” Jessica said.  She smiled again.

“I don’t know what to do next.”

“Well, I’d think about how to apply the warrior monk role to your day to day life,” she said.  She pulled off her jacket.  The weather had warmed up enough.  “What it means to you, why it’s the first thing or the recurring thing in your thought processes.”

“I just want to… do.”

“You said you regretted yesterday, but Jasper thanked you.  Would you rather have not done it?  Is it the ‘want’ in wanting to do things that’s problematic, or is it the ‘do’?”

I drew in a deep breath.  “That’s… a very complicated question, I think.”

“You don’t have to answer it right now,” she said.

“I think I can, though.  I think… I had to.  And as much as it was hard and cost me my job, I preferred it to the alternative.  I can’t not do things that help out.  I just want to do it in a good, centered way.”

“Could it be a mundane job?  Construction?  Desk work?  Would you want to do something like you were doing with the patrol?”

I thought about it.

I couldn’t see it.  Not long-term.

“What’s the first thing that comes to mind?” she asked.

“I think… fuck me, I think even now, I can’t quite see myself being anything but a hero.  There are good people I’ve gotten to know.  People I want to protect and help.  Like Gilpatrick, like Weld and Vista and my cousin and a couple of the teenagers I was working with in patrol block.  You.  I want good things for them.”

“Thank you,” she said.  “That means a lot to me.”

“I’ve been trying to convince myself there’s some other way, but… I can’t not do anything.”

“There’s worse things.  Especially if you can do it smart and centered.”

“I don’t want to be Glory Girl,” I said.  “Someone remarked yesterday that they’d thought she died and… good.  She can stay dead.”

“Sounds like you have an idea of what you’re doing next.”

“It’s the wrong climate for it,” I said.  “I just watched a team of heroes get eaten alive by the public.  One took a bullet.”

“Figure it out,” she said.

I frowned.

“Again, there’s no rush,” she said.

“I can’t sit still,” I said.  “There’s a bit of a rush.”

“Touch base with me,” she said.  “We’ll go out for coffee, catch up.  I can offer unofficial, more-friend-than-therapist advice.  I think you’ll figure it out, and I can give you a few nudges here and there.”

That gave me pause.

“You’re not a therapist anymore?” I asked.

“Just the opposite,” she said.  “I’m very much a therapist.  Ten hour days, six or seven days a week, and other peripheral obligations.  I’m afraid I’m not in a position to take you on as a patient again, Victoria, as much as I would dearly like to.”

That hurt.  I didn’t want to say it, but it did hurt.

“I just joined the Wardens as a staff psychologist for their junior members and some special cases, and I’m just not equipped, unfortunately.  If you want it, I could try finding a colleague who you could talk to.  Most are as busy as I am, so it might take a bit of time.”

I want you.

I want-

“Sorry to take up your time today, when you’re as busy as you are.”

“It’s more than alright, Victoria,” she said.  She was looking straight ahead as she talked, one hand on her jacket as she walked.  “With the hours I work, I lose objectivity.  It becomes the work, and I lose sight of the patients.  Sometimes it’s hard to see the wins.  Like I said, you were a patient close to my own heart, and I thought you were one of the ones we lost.  Seeing you, hearing you?  It means the world to me.  It gives me a measure of hope.”

I nodded.

She looked over at me.  “I’ll reach out to a colleague.  I’ll see what I can do, if that’s okay.  Give you some reassurance there.”

“I-” I started.

“Yes?”

“It’s okay, but… if you wanted to reassure me-” I said.

It felt a little less like I could talk about certain topics with her, now.

“If it’s within my power, I’ll try anything,” she said.

“My sister,” I said, my voice soft.  “Send someone her way.”

Mrs. Yamada raised one eyebrow.

I knew what she was thinking.  She wondered if it was selflessness, or if I was a surprisingly good person.  I wasn’t.

“She’s the scariest damn person in the world, Jessica,” I said.  “And I don’t think that’s bias.  There’s a chance she’s going to do something bad, and she’s so damn powerful, that when and if it happens, it’s going to be so much worse than what happened to me, and it’s going to affect an awful lot more people.”

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202 thoughts on “Daybreak – 1.8”

  1. So this chapter was everything I wanted and nothing I thought we’d get for another three arcs or so. In the case of Jessica, fifteen.

    1. Yes!

      Reviewing Interludes 15 and 18.

      “We rotate. The PRT doesn’t want any therapist developing a bond to the point that they could manipulate a cape. By rotating through three or four for a given area, they can ensure that one therapist will be able to identify manipulations on the part of any of the others.”

      I wonder how that ended up with her feelings towards Yamada. Further, I wonder how she ended up developing feelings towards Yamada if constantly in full-blown wanting-Amy mode.

      “Divorced from all emotion, I thought it was unconscionable”: given that Amy loves Victoria, hoping is inevitable, unavoidable, rather than unconscionable. She doesn’t have a choice about what she longs for, but she did have a choice about what she did, and she gave Victoria that choice.

      …on the one hand, everything that happened to Victoria’s heart and body was stuff she did… on the other hand, the original change to her heart was involuntary (also keeping in mind that Amy’s feelings for her were presumably similarly involuntary), and everything else done to her heart and body were in an inept struggle to put thing right–a struggle to put things right which she ultimately concluded successfully on Golden Morning. It is notable that, given that she became able to do that by Golden Morning, she could hypothetically have *not left Victoria* until finally getting it right, with help from therapy and scientists/doctors… I can’t remember though if there was a portion about making a breakthrough about power-control in the Birdcage that she might never had been able to do if she had stayed. It feels as though something like that might have happened. Hmm.

      Quite interesting to see Victoria’s perspective of her early life, here. In Interlude 18, it’s fairly clear that Amy was never the favoured daughter before; it wasn’t that Amy was favoured when only Victoria had no powers, then it switched to Victoria, then back to Amy. Even if a disappointment or viewed as not on the same level as the rest, Victoria was always the only loved daughter. Hmm.

  2. The closing lines to this chapter were rather ominous. Still far too early to call it, but to shamelessly speculate anyway: given how things shook out in the epilogue with Teacher having plans, and Marquis and Amy apparently being involved, I wonder if this is just foreshadowing Amy taking on a role as a significant antagonist within the broader scope of the story as a whole.

    1. I love shameless speculation. My read is that Amy will be an integral part of the greater arc of Ward. There’s no getting around it. But I don’t think she’ll necessarily be part of the ever-increasing fractal crescendo of scale and stakes that I think of as Wildbow’s signature. Amy’s important to the story because she’s important to Victoria. But Amy’s not going to be anything like a primary antagonist. The best analogy would be to the role Sophia played in Worm.

      1. But Sophia absolutely isn’t integral to worm beyond her status as an intro-plot device, followed by being one of the tenets of Taylor’s pivot to villainy.

        If Amy’s role is to be background noise while Victoria struggles, so be it, I guess, but I’m expecting something more along the lines of Victoria overcoming her own issues (and maybe including her issues with Amy incidentally), and then Amy will get re-framed, either through her own accord or Victoria’s actions.

        1. If Victoria’s issues are supposed to be akin to PTSD, which based on other comments in previous chapters is likely what Wildbow is trying to emulate, this isn’t something you “overcome”

          1. Though a large chunk never lose it entirely, people can/do overcome PTSD given time. For some people it just slowly lessens over time while others actively work to get rid of it, similar to generalized anxiety. Certain types of PTSD are easier to overcome, and even within these types different “flavors” are easier to overcome than others and different cases require different therapies.

        2. Amy is more terrifying than Nilbog, the Slaughterhouse Nine, or the Endbringers; she’s easily capable of making an airborne Ebola that would be contagious for a week before her victims turned into a blood paste and capable of surviving outside of a host for days. Being terrified of a person with that power after they mindraped you and turned you into a living coffin is entirely justified. Also, if she decided to kill everyone there is nothing anyone could really do about it, short of sticking a bomb inside of her while she was still good and a long-distance mind reader in a hole with their hand over the big red button for the rest of her life.

          1. Well now that she’s unchained Dragon might be able to counter Pancea if that happens. Also not so sure there’s much Amy could do to the smurf, but the Smurf is her own kind of problem.

          2. She can can be stopped by:
            The Simurgh, probably (small comfort)
            Valkyrie
            Contessa
            Riley
            Dinah (can notice the world will end and take steps to stop it)
            Dragon, probably

            And there are probably more who we haven’t met. Yes, Panacea is terrifying, but she is far from unstoppable.

    2. It’s hard to imagine what Amy could do that would be as impactful as her fiddling with Taylor’s mind, but Victoria may not be aware of that aspect.

      1. >”You know who she was?”

        >”Yeah,” I said. “My sister told me.”

        It sounds like she is aware, but it’s hard to say. It could just be that Amy told her about who Khepri was but not her role in creating her.

        1. I carefully used “impactful” and not “worse”.

          I agree that Victoria has some idea of what actually went down at the end. But I have a hard time imagining Amy saying to Victoria that she fiddled with yet another person’s mind (with permission this time!) who then went on to “mind”-control thousands upon thousands of others. I have a hard time imagining Amy saying that to Victoria in any context, let alone the context in which they had the discussion about what happened. If I remember correctly, only a handful of people know what prompted Taylor’s transformation and few, if any, of them have reason to inform Victoria in any (in-universe) likely situation.

          Admittedly, if Amy *did* tell her, then that’s totally justification for Victoria saying that statement, except… I feel even despite its salience to Victoria that it would be weird for her to refer to her own situation rather than (circumspectly) that situation.

      2. I mean, much like Khepri… It doesn’t matter how bad it was, it would’ve been much worse without it.

        I’d say whatever happened was worth it, and everyone knows it, which is why everyone’s quiet about it. Everyone that knows hates that it happened, yet everyone knows it would’ve been worse for everyone else if it didn’t.

        Khepri might’ve been terrifying to everyone involved, but she saved the damn world and Panacea was a part of that. Hate it or love it. I mean, that was the point to pull all the risky moves in the book. They’d already opened the bird cage and invited the Endbringers. Brain surgery seems pretty minor at that point.

      3. Presumably Victoria’s mostly concerned about what Amy might do when she’s free to act independently and without any oversight. Whereas when she made Khepri, she had Bonesaw there to act as an ethics committee.

    3. Amy isn’t a primary antagonist. Amy is scary to Victoria. Amy is not more dangerous than Bonesaw if she’s still alive.

      But Amy hurt Victoria and that’s what makes her seem a prime threat.

      The unrestricted powers popping up probably means an end to manton limits and someone from there is going to be more scary.

      1. I think Amy is much more dangerous than Bonesaw. Amy’s powers require just a touch and confidence to use. To use well sprinkle in the competence of critical and tactical thinking. In Worm Amy never had the confidence or competence. She started building confidence but only ever used Taylor’s competence.

        Bonesaw and her power need time, material, tools, confidence and competence. She had all of these in Worm. Take away her tools, time or material and she gets much worse.

        Bonesaw had peaked and Amy was just getting started. There are only a few things Bonesaw can do that Amy can’t if Amy pulls her head out of her ass.

        1. Amy is pretty much a Rank S threat if she ever tries to be. She can make mating monsters from pretty much nothing. Heck she can make airborne viruses that kill everyone.

          Amy has always been the strongest character on the show. Her power is wasted as a perfect healer, that’s how broken she is.

          I don’t think we’ll go the Amy is an antagonist route. I think we’re going more towards the Amy as a Faultline/Travellers type relevance character only with more emotional investment from the main character.

          Although not matter how I think about it, I’d still rather be reading Amy’s story than Victoria’s, even as I love the shit out of this first arch of Ward. Besides Dragon, which would make for a weird protagonist, Amy was my favorite side character. I wonder if she’ll develop her Trump powers and try to better control how she changes other people’s shard. If she could do the opposite of what she did to Taylor, make the powers smaller while giving back control, she could solve things like Elle’s mental disabilities and shit. Maybe she could make someone completely powerless. That’d be awesome.

        2. Amy’s basically a better Nilbog (way more versatility), better Bonesaw (all the same capacity with none of the limitations), better Blasto (in every way), and is a solid mind-controller to boot.

          Also while Amy’s powers can’t directly affect herself, it’s probably well within her powers to make organisms that *can* affect her and slave those directly to her power. And she could easily make pseudo-clones of herself to experiment on. Amy’s most serious vulnerability is her own squishy-self but with some solid effort she might even be able to make herself into a pseudo-Aegis.

          Like, just to start, she could craft some long, thin prehensile nerve fibers which bond to whatever living thing you touch them to, attach them to herself, and boost her range.

          I don’t know if we’re stupidly lucky that Amy’s as unimaginative with her powers as she is or if it’s a crying tragedy, but there’s no middle ground.

          1. Heck, even if she can’t affect herself just imagine what she could do for others. Like Shielder surviving getting gutted by Leviathan because Amy put in enough redundencies and the like. They biggest thing is that Amy doesn’t have the automatic knowledge bullshit that a tinker like Bonesaw has. Put the two of them together… Or Amy could always make a symbiotic flesh suit. Putting a few levels of brute on would be the easiest thing before she gets creative.

          2. Or she could start turning other capes into fleshsuits and control them from there. Might as well have some Breaker on top of that Brute !
            The potential is there, although I doubt it will take place as such.

        3. Bonesaw has one definite advantage over Panacea. As a tinker, she understands what she’s doing. She needs tools and time, but if she has them, I think she can create better monsters than Amy, since she knows exactly how to optimize living creatures and can augment them with nonbiological materials as needed. She can pull off stuff like the universal disinfectant that countered Taylor’s bugs and Amy’s superplagues when they faced off back in Brockton Bay. She’s versatile.

          Also, Panacea’s power works only on living things that aren’t her. Riley can work on the dead, and alter herself.

    4. I disagree, because of one fundamental thing… Amy is as much victim as villain.

      okay, her actions were really bad, don’t get me wrong, but… well In worm, mind control screws with the victim forever. Heartbreaker and the simurgh’s victims are impossible to rehabilitate, Cherish leaves lasting psychological/Pavlovian triggers. it’s the reason Regent is so insistent that his ability is “body control”, because mind control leaves scars his doesn’t (well, at least he tells himself that, YMMV how true that is).

      this is relevant because Amy spent the better part of 3 years inside Victoria’s Awe-ra, which is implied to be constantly on at least low level (and, would Worm!Victoria really leave it on the lowest settings most of the time?). Im pretty sure (can’t say if this is fan speculation, or if WoG actually confirmed it… I kinda remember Wibbles doing so) that Amy’s attraction was the result of living in the Awe-Ra.

      so, we have a picture of a young girl, attracted to someone they can never have, guilty over the perverse nature of that attraction, trying desperately to be a hero, suspecting that they can’t ever really be, in a family they don’t think really loves them… and then, after everything goes to hell and her adoptive father is rendered brain-damaged, a psychopath strolls in, and talks about what a great team they would make, and how they could be “a family”, she breaks all her rules to escape, and flees her home. and Victoria flies down, and says a lot of things that, if you know about Amy’s feelings, become exactly the wrong things to say (seriously, I re-read it recently, and it was amazing reading that exchange with the knowledge), and she does the thing she was most afraid she would.

      the she spends days tormented by the Abattoir, and when Skitter and Tt give her the chance to fix her mistake, she;s in such an emotional state, and Victoria is so badly hurt, that she succeeds only in Cronenburg-ing her.

      she’s a victim. a victim that hurt Victoria badly, and Victoria isn’t any less hurt because Amy was hurting too, but I don’t think shes going to be the Big Bad, more of a shadow-archetype, or just a personal obstacle for Victoria in regaining mental health.

      Okay, that might be the nerdiest thing I have ever written.

    5. It seems to me that Victoria just doesn’t know that Amy was responsible for changing Taylor, and this is a foreshadow for her but not for us with insider knowledge.

    1. That looks correct to me, but I guess this is still the typo thread.

      >“Shit on me, you’re packed.”
      Possibly “you’ve packed”? It could be saying that Victoria’s packed with boxes, as in she has a lot of them, but it feels like Gil’s talking about her having packed at all. Unless being packed means both in colloquial use.

      1. In my experience “packed” can be used as both a state and an action.

        so both “I am already packed.” and “I have already packed.” are technically correct and basically mean the same thing. but that also might just be a regional thing.

      2. I am using Soadreqm as our typo thread…

        (Used when talking about Elephant Graveyard)
        “That’s the one. One of the early leaders pushed the name change along with a shift *away from* focusing on animals and animal welfare,”

        So when talking about Elephant Graveyard I am almost certain you meant that the name change indicated a change TOWARD focusing on animal welfare. Kinda makes a lot more sense given what they changed the name to.

    2. Packed as in ‘packed my luggage’ is the usage here so it’s correct if slightly colloquial. Gil is remarking on the fact that she’s already boxed up all her files and notes and stuff from her office ready to leave.

  3. Oh hey, the dividing-mark-thingy’s the Gold Morning concentric circles now! That’s pretty clearly Meaningful. (Especially considering this chapter talked about it the most out of what we’ve got so far.)

    So she refers to her parents as a whole as “parental units” and refers to Brandish by her first name, but still calls Flashbang “Dad”. Interesting

    *OHMYGOSH YAMADA’S BACK! :D*

    Also, it’s funny – just yesterday I was wondering whether Khepri dropping Victoria deliberately by the person who could heal her affected her impression of Taylor, and not a day later we get a little bit of her mentioning that. Neat!

    …Yeah. Therapy for Amy sounds… like a very good idea.

      1. Technically, if you really squint,
        >I want you.
        >I want-
        could maybe point toward that.
        But I agree, that’s very likely not what that line means.

          1. No, she wants help from the person she trusts to help, who’s competent, who she has experience with.

          2. Not everything has to be about sex. I spend enough time having to say that anytime I show people the video to Die Antwoord’s “Evil Boy”. And you should just see how people react when I show them my pet Atretochoana eiselti. I call it Jumbo.

    1. I didn’t see anything in this chapter to indicate that Victoria is into women, but there’s no reason to think that’s a thing that would have been “fixed” when Amy put things back to normal.

      Amy made Victoria attracted to *her* specifically, but Victoria could well have been bi and attracted to women in general before Amy got inside her head. In which case removing her forced attraction to Amy would have still left her bi.

  4. What a poet.

    I didn’t know I wanted a Yamada and Dallon friendship, but I’m glad I do now. I thought it’d be Vic and Sveta, but this is nice!

    I’m a bit confused as to the events of her being fixed. So Amy turns her back into a 17 year old, gets rid of her emotions, and asks what she wants. So, if I’m reading this right, Victoria told her to let her remember all 2 years of being Giger Girl in the hopes that Amy wouldn’t turn her back into her love slave?

    1. No–Victoria was operating under the assumption that Amy would do whatever she asked. She wanted to remember everything that happened because forgiving Amy and then forgetting it all happened would be worse. Despite how traumatic it is, Victoria doesn’t want to forget about how Amy treated her, how her family treated her and how it felt to be powerless. And she doesn’t want to forget about all the insights on her past behavior.

      So she chose to remember.

    2. Assuming I understand right, Amy reset Victoria from 19-year old flesh garden to 17-year-old biped (curing the physical damage). She then turned off Victoria’s emotions (particularly the “intensely loves Amy” bit she inserted at the end of the S9 arc) so Victoria could make a real choice about what path Amy should take in “fixing” the mental / emotional damage. Victoria opted to keep her memories of the two years in the hospital / asylum.

  5. Was gonna mention a typo but it was gone by the writing of this comment.

    Cool stuff, I wonder if this is the last chapter of the arc and the next will be an interlude.

  6. Okay. Nice. First time (in a while?) I’ve read one of these shortly after posting.

    I’ll drop the thoughts I was having as I read, then pull things together:

    the funerals right?

    Hm, I’m not certain what this refers to. Probably funerals after Golden Morning, though.

    Glitzglam=Crystal confirmed; first thought this a few lines before it was definitely definitely confirmed.

    Who’s Lachlan Hund again? <_<

    Icon groups sounds alarming to my demagoguery-spideysenses.

    Interesting that she didn't actually say any of what she doesn't want to say Gilpatrick wouldn't want to hear, but he says "I do want to hear" as though she said that.

    Hoods = neighborhoods or hoods = villains turned hero? The latter seems more likely.

    OMG OMG
    YAMADAMADAMA

    “My sister,” I said, my voice soft.

    I think we’re supposed to think she means Amy, but she actually means Crystal. Except Crystal’s her cousin. Damn. Nevermind, I guess.

    Oho. We learn things! Lots of things!

    Yamada madama!

    “She’s the scariest damn person in the world, Jessica,” I said. “And I don’t think that’s bias. There’s a chance she’s going to do something bad, and she’s so damn powerful, that when and if it happens, it’s going to be so much worse than what happened to me, and it’s going to affect an awful lot more people.”

    God damn

    Okay, now to compose myself and put down something a bit more solid (less fluid).

    I thought the previous chapter was amazing and was a great point to end the arc or move to an interlude. I stand by the former, but I was wrong about the latter. This chapter absolutely deserves to follow it, and I’m actually super happy that it lets us almost end positively. The right kind of bittersweet, one might say.

    For all that arguments could be made that the new story should use new characters over characters from the first story where possible, I am ecstatic to see the woman who, thanks to excited keyboard smashing, I shall hereafter refer to as Yamada Madama. She has reason to connect to Victoria and in scenes like this one it’s useful to have her more removed but compassionate and intelligent perspective help our protagonist introspect and reflect.

    Introspection is, in our modern world, one of the hardest things. It remains hard even when everything else is harder. I appreciate any work that shows it being tried as a significant focus of the tale.

    1. …”The Fallen operate as a cult and they’re one of the largest cape groups around. The article doesn’t talk about it directly, but the forum thread has some great posts on the subject (see page 3 and 12). Their recruitment numbers are swelling and I (and others!) think it’s the amnesty that’s letting them get away with it. There’s a lot of talk of Lachlan Hund [article linked] elsewhere and there might be a court case revolving around what others are saying was a powers-assisted abduction. Totally Fallen M.O. for years prior, family says Lachlan never showed any pro-Fallen sentiment before this.” Glow-worm P.3

          1. If the Fallen are worshiping Taylor I kinda expect Imp to drop in to kick their asses for taking her name in vain.

    2. “Interesting that she didn’t actually say any of what she doesn’t want to say Gilpatrick wouldn’t want to hear, but he says “I do want to hear” as though she said that.”

      Good sir, you have just won the internet with that wordplay. Those semantics are on par with the best, right up there with Google Translate.

  7. Jessica Yamada
    Clarification: Therapist
    Rating: Don’t worry about the number, just relax. Everything’s going to be alright now.

      1. Yamada is why Taylor didn’t decide to kill everybody in order to prevent people from being violent to each other.

        Yamada has saved the world like, 20 times over at this point. Kherpi and Glastig are only a tenth of the good the Path to Therapy has wrought on the world.

  8. Who’s Lachlan Hund? He was mentioned in Glow Worm in a post about the fallen but I don’t think we have anything else to go on.

    1. Lachlan Hund is someone who suddenly ran away and joined the Fallen’s cult. However, those that knew him claim that is was completely out of character for him and that a powers biased abduction is responsible for his unusual behavior. Authorities are investigating but nobody can prove anything at this point.

  9. Hoooooo yes, this is the best follow up to the whammy of last chapter that I never knew I wanted.

    From an outside perspective Amy is the most terrifying potential threat we have in this setting with Khepri out of the picture. The sheer utility of her power means that the worse thing that any of us can imagine her doing Wildboss can easily top by a magnitude of ten if he wants to.

    Altering brain chemistry, memories, and/or emotions at a touch? Easy. How about micro organisms in the vein of toxoplasma that can actually make real changes to a person’s brain. Or that Fungus trigger, Casey? How about that being everyone. How about something that intereferes or alters the Corona without her dirrectly having to touch the Cape? Nerfed or jailbroken capes left and right at her whim. She can literally make the experiments from Twig an actual thing in Ward.

    She can be Nilbog but worse. She can be Khepri but more. Amy is terrifying.

    But she’s also a person who’s capable of growth and having morals and ethics. While those morals and ethics can be broken it’s important to have faith in the person because that faith can make all the difference.

    It’s understandable but no less heartbreaking that the person that used to be Amy’s biggest supporter and stabilizer is the most wary of her now and what she can do if she goes rogue.

    1. And now we see why Bonsaw wanted to sponsor her for the Slaughterhouse Nine.

      Two years later….
      “Pancea has turned horribly evil!”
      “Quick! call her good aligned counterpart!”
      “Who’s that?”
      “Sawbones!”
      “Wait, didn’t she used to be_”
      “We don’t mention that any more than we talk about Blingo’s old name!”

      1. What’s Panacea’s villain name going to be? “Nurgle”?
        More importantly, what’s the Simurgh’s hero name going to be?

          1. That works. I was thinking “Beginner” as a lame “Endbringer” pun. Maybe “Dr. Beginner” so it’s also an anagram.
            For the costume, I’d suggest a cheap carnival mask.

        1. I’m stealing this from a fic, but “Pandora” fits well, thematically and on a personal level for Amy.

          Failing that, “Biohazard.”

          1. Pandora is taken, or was briefly taken, by Dragon’s copy. As I understand, it’s considered very rude to use another cape’s name, even if they were only active for less than an hour.

      2. Okay, who’s Blingo supposed to be?

        Amy even back in Worm when she was first introduced kinda ran into something that comes up sometimes with characters like Superman. It would have come up even if her power was purely healing. The toll having a power that can be used for great good and the expectation of doing as much good as possible with it.

        It’s that arguement, if Superman is supposed to be so good, why is he wasting time being Clark Kent, when he could be using his powers to help people. Well he’s said “I need to be Clark Kent. If I had to be Superman all the time I’d go insane.” Amy always got hit by this hard. She can’t help everyone who needs her help. But how do you say to some parents who’ve got a child suffering from severe burns “I’d love to help you but I’ve been at this for a while, and I really need a fucking break.” There’s a huge amount of pressure there and it can break someone down. Add that to all the other issues Amy has had to deal with, and it speaks in some ways about how strong Amy is that it didn’t happen sooner or wasn’t worse.

        1. “Blingo” is an anagram of “Nilbog”, and also of “Goblin” which is “Nilbog” backwards. Also called the Goblin King, he’s sort of a cut-rate Panacea who can’t heal people (that we’ve seen) but can construct monsters out of their biomass. He was alive in the epilogue, chilling with Riley.

        2. Superman is [i]already[/i] crazy, because there are loads of things – long-term-improvement projects, not just firefighting – which he could do but hasn’t. Panacea, on the other hand, was seriously overworked and not actually using her power optimally (although that may have been entirely down to her ‘not touching brains’ thing or possibly to a ‘I don’t want to be an obvious S-rank threat’ thing – I don’t recall hearing that she [i]hadn’t[/i] made a huge variety of phages, vaccines, and other cures, just that she spent all her time on surgery), but she was trying, and that’s worth a lot. More like Astro City’s Samaritan than Superman, and that isn’t exactly a bad thing.

          1. I don’t know how they didn’t see her powers would make anyone crazy and send her to therapy immediately.

            I mean, it’s not hard to see how having the capability to save every single dying person would riddle someone with feelings with guilt whenever not saving someone.

  10. Firstly, just a round of applause for the OG Jessica Yamada.

    And, wow. That’s some nice character development I’m seeing. Is she biased about how dangerous Amy is? Perhaps unstable, but all points suggest that she’s a changed person.

    That’s it for this comment, so I’ll just end with a hearty thank you to the always dazzling, eternally sparkling Wildbow.

    1. Well, she’s definitely dangerous in the sense that her power is incredibly powerful and she could probably become an S-class threat if she wanted to destroy humanity for some reason. She broke Victoria by accident, but that doesn’t mean she shouldn’t have someone keeping an eye on her. Quite the opposite.

      1. I mean this is the right amount of observation. Vicky seems to have good perspective here.

        You have a potential hornets nest and the hornets are atomic bombs? You don’t poke the nest, you get it good therapy!

        1. Not to mention what happens if Vicky lashes out with her Aura? The emotion manipulating aspect? The thoughts of what could happen if Amy gets hit with a panic attack in that situation are horrific.

  11. How could I forget the best part of this chapter?!

    Taylor, Taylor, Taylor . . .

    I’m still waiting for a cameo. What I am predicting, however, is Tattletale entering the picture sometime in the near future. Lachlan Hound, cluster triggers, the failed explosive triggers at the end of Worm . . .

    Malfunctions due to the entities’ death? Or perhaps a play from the Simurgh? So many paths . . .

    1. I want Tattletale to be an antagonist but like a competent Doctor Mother.

      In Worm, Taylor was always the tactician but Tattletale was a far better strategist.

      1. I loved how in the end, Doctor Mother and Contessa were less the evil organization that everyone supposed they were, and more the outcome of someone with a power and a friend from another dimension trying to do the right thing, and that escalating out of proportion because Contessa is Contessa.
        In the end it seemed so much less from their PoV than from everyone else’s. They were just two scared kids following Contessa’s shard.

          1. Blingo was indeed Nilbog and his house guest makes magical Canapes that somehow heal anything as soon as the freckle face little chef hands them to you.

            So many capes hiding behind anagrams, looks like a job for she who works for Mother Earth and can decipher any language: ‘Gaea Linguist.’

    2. I don’t know that I want Taylor to appear, but I really do want us to encounter the fallen, and have somebody screaming about their highest lord and god Khepri.

  12. People were saying that they really want to see Victoria find (found?) her own Undersiders. I’m wanting… not that. I don’t doubt that Victoria will have people around her as she makes her way forward, but we’ve already had Worm. Which was great, but I want Ward to be something else.

    There’s already some parallel here in the opening chapters: young female protagonist, dealing with trauma, driven to isolation by circumstance without sufficient support from family or social institutions. But I’m hoping that degree of parallelism is meant to make the contrasts more visible, not setting the scene for a similar trajectory.

    And I’m hopeful that I’ll get what I want out of this story. That’s just my impression of how Wildbow works. If you pressed me for evidence, I’d pick this moment:

    “Can I give you a hug?” she asked. When I nodded, she did so. I hugged her back.

    Think about how much had to happen in Worm before Taylor got to this point, being able to trust enough and be vulnerable enough to take some offered comfort. The best analogs I can find are: 1) a farewell hug for Lisa, 2) the hug from Dragon, 3) the epilogue. But Victoria’s story is starting here.

    I think Victoria is likely to return to the idea of heroism by capes as a form of community service, as she does more meditating on the nature of being a warrior-monk. After all, we often give to others advice we need or want for ourselves.

    1. I mean, Taylor took some comfort from Grue and just the company of the undersiders. She was never as physical and extroverted as Victoria Dallon. Vic is traumatized, but she’s still an extroverted talkative person. Taylor was the awkward bullied teenager.

      Yeah, we didn’t get to see Taylor get a comforting hug. Yet Taylor functioned pretty well without hugs and friends. Way better than Victoria in this first arch. Taylor was a bit depressed, but it never felt as fucking awful as the last two chapters. She was very good at avoidance and rationalizing. Taylor makes herself happy by focusing on practical things and having them work. I’d say she would have quite a reasonably happy life in Broktonbay if she hadn’t gotten the worst words one can get from a mind reader.
      Taylor coped. Victoria was a walking panic attack until this hug. Taylor might’ve needed more hugs, but not as much as Vic does.

      1. Saying that Taylor [i]coped[/i] is a good way of putting it. She didn’t enjoy the intense stress she was under, but she handled it very well. She didn’t ever really panic, as I remember. When pushed to a breaking point, her reaction was to seize control of the situation and then kill the people responsible.

      2. I don’t disagree that mentally and emotionally, Victoria is rather worse off than Taylor was. The reason I keyed in on *social* isolation is that I think that was key in a really big decision point for Taylor. It’s the whole reason she ended up with the Undersiders. If Taylor hadn’t felt so distrustful of the social institutions around her, her first arc with the Undersiders would have gone very differently.

        Victoria, on the other hand, deals with her issues by deepening her connections to people she can trust even when she has to disengage to deal with her issues. She doesn’t flee from one network of support to supplant them with another wholesale. She doesn’t see *everything* around her as tainted even when those in positions of power or authority over her make the (egregiously) wrong call.

        1. I sort of agree. I’d add, though, that if the cape with limited access to superhuman intelligence couldn’t have achieved her goals re:Taylor by getting her to clash with Armsmaster, then Tattletale would have done something else.

          Also, what Victoria just did comes pretty close to ‘fleeing one network of support,’ and she might have done so more thoroughly if Crystal had behaved a little differently. The rest of your comment does seem right.

  13. Possible typo?

    “The first two were aimed at pushing forward. New approaches, doing things right this time. The opinions on what that way forward looked like it differed, feeding into the division between the two groups.”

    The second sentence could be reconstructed for clarity, I think. Say, something like the following? “Opinions differed on what that way forward looked like, feeding into the division between the two groups.”

    1. I think the “it” is a typo. It should be “The opinions on what that way forward looked like differed, feeding into the division between the two groups.”

  14. I said a while back that I hoped that Victoria took the name “Mourning Glory”, but this chapter has made me realize that would be a very bad idea.

    1. She’s never been the joking type, anyway.

      Talking about names, Victoria’s thoughts give a different light on Fume Hood’s.

      1. I never intended the name as a joke. I thought it would show respect for those lost, and also provide a callback to who she was before. These last couple of chapters, though? She really does NOT need a callback.

    2. If not for the problems with the brand name, I’d suggest Nike. Winged (and therefore flying) Greek goddess of victory. Athena’s also a viable option, as a goddess of just war, strategy, and wisdom. The famous sculpture of her from the Parthenon even had her holding winged Nike in hand. Plus, she had the Aegis, depicted as a sort of armor or shield that could prevent harm from coming to whoever had it.

      There’s also taking into account that Ward has a few different meanings, one of which works for her too.

  15. Hmm, last chapter Victoria mentioned Carol only having enough love and compassion for one daughter at a time, and it wasn’t her this time. So Victoria knows that Carol never really loved or trusted Amy and treated her badly. But the question is, did she know this in Worm?
    She obviously knew that Amy trusted and relied on her more than their parents, but Victoria knowing that Amy was being treated badly and did the ridiculous hospital shifts out of guilt and then still pressuring her into hiding Victoria’s fuck-ups is pretty bad.

  16. Plenty of people were willing to offer the use of theirs in order to pay for fuel. Food, a place to stay.

    Typo, should be one sentence.

    1. I think it’s intended, here. Sort of captures the fragmentation of Victoria’s thought process. The second sentence refers to other things she wants besides a car (which she can trade fuel for): she also needs food (brought by Gilpatrick) and accommodation (offered by Crystal).

  17. After the emotional intensity of the last chapter, the emotional coming to terms here is a nice and well-narrated contrast.

    The insight into how thoroughly Victoria has been broken as a person is — well, almost heartbreaking. But I still think there’s (from the comments here, at least) a lot of underestimation of how broken her family members are also, perhaps because we’re in Victoria’s POV and can more easily empathise with her. (Plus, she’s understandably not really interested in the issues of anyone else in her family at the moment. I’m reminded of Taylor as an unreliable narrator.) But there are hints to a similar brokenness in the others.

    I really think the last bit foreshadows Amy doing something really really messed up soon (even though I’m half hoping against it, because I really do like her super-conflicted character and hope she finds redemption, if not Victoria’s forgiveness. (Please let us have the former at least, Wildbow!) Also I realise her messing up further and her finding redemption are not mutually exclusive — but they seem about as close to that as can be.

    It’s nice to finally get more hints to the wider cape world and the groups involved in it. Hard to say now which will be presented as worthy of our support, despite the hints that the Attendants won’t be.

    And what to make of the Ossuary group? (I preferred Elephant Graveyard, too, by the way.) Does that foreshadow a major antagonist?

    I really really want to see more of Amy, and certainly some time from her POV — I think the former will come soon, but the latter maybe much later.

    But it’s great to see Jessica Yamada again! She’s so so lovable. But I also like how decent Gilpatrick has consistently shown himself to be.

    1. Foreshadowing “Amy does something bad” would be bad writing.

      Amy as antagonist has already been somewhat played out with Bonesaw in the S9 arc. We’ve seen the bio horror. Also, I’m pretty sure Amy has probably largely sworn off her Panacea role for a while.

      Amy as “retired Superman” who has chosen to disagree with the “with greta power comes great responsibility” is a bit more interesting.

      Also, Victoria is a Brute. She grew up with lots of straightforward powers. She doesn’t have the imagination to really adequately evaluate who is the most dangerous.

        1. Who is the most dangerous? Well, I’d rank them as
          1. The Simurgh – Oldest remaining Endbringer, she’s almost indestructible, and possesses the power to see the future and derail plotlines. With so much of humanity living in one city, they’re somewhat vulnerable to all getting cursed.
          2. Other Endbringers – Tohu’s alive, I think Bohu bit it, what about Khonsu? Not quite as insidious as the Simurgh, but still pretty much unstoppable.
          3. Valkyrie – She was Eidolon tier before, and Eidolon is dead now.
          4. Contessa – Path to victory: Kill all humans. There’s at least one guy who can completely negate her power, though, so at least we know it’s possible.
          5. Dragon – Assuming she’s capable of creating other AIs now. Probably least likely of all named characters to actually use her powers for evil.

          Honorable mentions:
          Taylor Hebert
          Sleeper

          1. 0.5. Psychopomp Gecko – The lean, mean fightin’ machine. He’s got no shard, but he’s got heart, and shards, and sharts. Loaded down with bad puns and an irritating refusal to go away already, he’s ready to find anything and everything he can do to inhume the other superhumans.

            Like Contessa, it just takes something that can destroy several worlds hooked up to multiple deadman switches.

            Or, for Valkyrie, you gently chloroform her in the face. With shotgun-fired beanbags soaked in chloroform. It works on multiple levels. And if that doesn’t work, just poison her food.

            Finally, for Simurgh, you throw a big rock at her. Really big fucking rock. Maybe stick an engine on the moon. Open the door, get on the floor, everybody do the dinosaur.

      1. Nonsense. Even before Worm she was studying parahumans. You don’t do that without figuring out how powers that seem harmless can turn out to be the most harmful.

        She also fought with lots of villains, including non-Brutes. I think it is being way too dismissive to say she “doesn’t have the imagination” to recognize more serious threats.

      2. >Amy as antagonist has already been somewhat played out with Bonesaw in the S9 arc.

        Not to mention the entirety of Twig.

      3. Speaking of Eidolon, though, the Simurgh will unquestionably get someone to produce an Eidolon^2 or clone of him. The person who does it could easily be Amy.

  18. Victoria is my favorite person. I mean, even in the very first chapter, when she was handling the car accident, I was thinking “This person is great.” Be the warrior monk Victoria! This situation she’s in sucks but I like seeing how it drives her forward.
    I also liked her musing on the various groups. With the way she focused on symbolism, she obviously prefers the iconic over the iconoclastic. She’s not Glory Girl anymore, and she’s going to need a new name, new symbols, and maybe a team focused on helping people find their own way and letting go of the past.

  19. Yay for Jessica! Victoria needed the support, Jessica needed the payoff. Good call, Gil.

    That said, I wonder if that doesn’t mean that instead of joining the Wardens, Victoria is going to start her own team. Her boxes of cape research practically scream “The Fourth Man”, you know what I’m saying?

    1. I believe that Victoria will start her own team or at least stumble her way into one. One of the first members should obviously be Fume Hood. Ostracized by society and nowhere to go, in danger of being pushed into being a villain again, it would be the perfect project for Victoria. Redeeming people or giving them the chance to redeem themselves, as a surrogate to redeeming herself.

      1. On a meta level, this would be a nice stylistic fit with other wildbow work, too — a seemingly third-tier ability put to clever uses.

  20. This is my favourite chapter of Ward, so far. This is exactly what I meant when I said Victoria needed to catch a bit of a break. It’s a break both in pacing as in stress for the character (which affects the readers through empathy, making it so important).

    Not gonna lie, I had to blink away some tears when Jessica showed up.
    Good job, John.

    1. Same. Yamada was the last person I was expecting, but I felt so much of my anxieties melt away with Victoria’s.

      Thus, I was moved to tears on a crowded subway car. 💜

  21. She choose to remember! I seriously wondered why Amy didn’t mondwipe her, but Victoria remember by her own choice!

    I literally fist pumped when I saw Yamada, love this chapter!

  22. This chapter implies that Yamada is considered an honorary cape by some.
    I take issue with this. She is obviously an honorary endbringer.

  23. “Mrs. Yamada. Shorter than me, hair tied back in a simple ponytail, wearing a skirt, white top, and jacket, with a simple, short string of pearls at her collarbone.”
    It’s very surprising how excited that made me. I mean it’s pretty nice how Mrs. Yamada made me as excited as I’d be to see someone like Dragon. Of course she’s overworked.

    Yes, actually, Amy definitly needs a therapist. A dedicated one. In fact she’s needed them for a very, very long time. And yes I would be afraid of what could happen if she snaps. You’d better hope she’s on an earth you can close off utterly, immediatly. Because Amy is a potential T-Class threat.

    Nice to see that Crystal and Mike weren’t in on things and are upset. I can understand why Mike wouldn’t want to bring his family into that situation.

    Amy did her best to try and mend things. And she could have easily made it easier for herself. She didn’t.

    Well Victoria needs a new cape name. Warrior Monk sounds cool, but probably would get some questions, since Monk is normally a masculine term.

  24. I’m so proud of Victoria for making the choice to remember, and how she thinks she should treat heroing from now on.
    Also after this tiny insight into the trauma from GM, i think i get why the ones who fought aren’t telling civilians, imagine everyone (most people would i think) praising the person who enslaved you so completely, maybe having to see everyone treat her as the savior she was, no matter the cost.

    I can imagine even the general capehate that’s happening would be better than that.

    1. Having just read Oathbringer (Stormlight Archive #3 **some spoilers ahead** I value that decision a bit less than I would’ve before reading Oathbringer. In fact, not having read Oathbringer I would’ve thought it the only viable choice to make. Now? I think there’s much to say about forgetting and moving on.

      I honestly think Victoria should’ve went for it. The world would be better if she did. Amy would be less of a threat if she did. Every single person in the world would be better of if she did. Forgiving Amy wouldn’t make her more likely to go for a second burst… She didn’t do it rationally, she did it in an emotional upheaval watching the person she loved meltaway in acid as she tried and failed to remember how she looked.
      Having the possibility of a friend. Not being hated by her sister? She’d be much less likely to become an unstable S+ class threat.

      I can’t blame Victoria for not making that choice. I hold my memories dear enough that I’m not sure I’d make that choice ever. Yet… I actually feel like her choice to keep suffering is in a way more selfish than forgetting. In a way, she’s choosing to keep suffering so Amy will keep suffering as well. It’s sort of twisted.

      1. No. Nobody should have to sacrifice themselves. If she’s that big a risk that one person is all that stops her from being a monster, better that Vicky crush her head the second she’s fixed. Your strategy would put the responsiblity of Amy entirely on Vicky, and Vicky would be left not even understanding why. Because Vicky would have effectively killed herself to be replaced by a clone with partial memories. Who but the suicidal would ever think that was a good idea?

      2. Oathbringer spoilers ahoy: Qnyvane’f fvghngvba jnf fyvtugyl qvssrerag orpnhfr uvf zrzbevrf jrer frg gb pbzr onpx nsgre n gvzr.

        With Amy, it’s permanent (because Victoria would be out of her flipping mind to have Amy ever touch her again, even if she considers Amy a friend).

      3. As Landis963 pointed out (and for several other reasons), Dalinar’s situation was very different. I think he and Vicky each made the most productive decision for their respective situations.

      4. Really don’t think that the mutually assured suffering is a part of this. Victoria went through a hell of a ride. She changed. Then, boom, suddenly she can’t remember what she’s been doing for the last two years, why her powers are changed, why she’s not as old as she should be, and why the world’s in an apocalypse.

        Look at her now. Better control over her powers, better understanding of her family’s dynamics, and a better idea how to deal with people. She grew. She just happened to have suffered when she grew, but she still grew. Kinda sells her short to erase that just because it feels slightly better. Just ignore how someone wronged her because it’s more convenient for other people that way. I could see many an abuse victim being rightly pissed off at that suggestion. “Oh, just forget about that time he pulled a knife on you. I know I wasn’t there and you insist otherwise, but it’s not like he was actually threatening your life. Just pretend it never happened.”

  25. I’m really glad to see Ward is continuing Twig’s method of having some additional time to the characters even after things have cooled down. It expanded the characters in Twig beyond those in Worm, and it’s already doing the same for Ward.

    On that note, I loved seeing Jessica here, and I’m looking forward to seeing more of Crystal.

    Thanks for the chapter!

  26. Thank you, Vicky. I really can’t imagine Amy not making a mess of things if left to her own devices, and neither Marquis nor the Dallons seem to be anywhere near properly equipped and put-together for preempting that.

  27. So many amazing gifts this morning. I read the previous chapter on my phone this morning thinking it was the Saturday chapter and reeling at my desk before realizing that they were all dated Nov 30 and realizing I STILL HAD ANOTHER CHAPTER TO READ!

    After the emotional devastation of the last chapter, I actually cheered at my Desk this morning when Jessica Yamada showed up (I swear WB is gonna get me fired one day).

    I’m pretty much saying what everyone else has said at this point, but I love these characters. I love Victoria, I love Amy, I love their flaws and their virtues. Based on the idea that Vicky made the conscious decision that she cannot be forgiven devoid of any emotion, it makes me….less than hopeful that a reconciliation will ever happen. This is truly sad since you can see where both of them are coming from. Sometimes people just CANNOT co-exist, though. I know we’ll see more of them and the inevitable meeting will be rough, but I cannot wait to see it.

    Well done, WB. Well Done.

  28. I have to agree with Victoria, Elephant Graveyard is a much better name than Ossuary. It raises questions and sparks curiosity where Ossuary just makes you want to look for a dictionary.

    1. It’s interesting how not being english (I’m portuguese) sometimes makes understanding English easier.

      Ossuary is literally bones-ary in my language, so it sounds quite cool and creepy. Although I’d like it more if they kept the Elephant imagery. Elephant Ossuary sounds like the best of both worlds.

        1. They don’t teach Latin the old-fashioned way anymore… with a Roman centurion threatening to cut off your balls if you don’t write the phrase correctly 100 times on all the buildings around by sunrise.

  29. This chapter was wonderful. These last two chapters have been by far the best ones in this arc. I know that since this is a super hero stories that action scenes are inevitable, but I vastly prefer quiet and introspective like this one, with great dialogue and character development. The irony in that isn’t lost in me.

    But I do feel a little bit confused regarding Victoria’s description of the Khepri incident. She seems to have been controlled by Khepri, and so was Amy. In fact, the reason why Amy fixed her was because Khepri put Amy next to her. But at the same time, it is also strongly implied that Amy and Victoria were both control-free, given that Amy asked Victoria wether or not she wanted her to fix her emotions/memories. Also, what did Kephri actually made Victoria do while controlling her?
    From what we know, Khepri never got to use Victoria in the final battle agaisn’t Scion. So it sounds like Kephri brough them together, but didn’t do anything else, which kinda sounds like an odd decision on her part.

    1. Taylor ‘released’ her control of everyone at the end – she wasn’t controlling Amy to have her fix Victoria, she just set up the situation so they’d be near each other.

      Presumably the actual ‘fixing’ of Victoria happened after Taylor’s teleporting away to the planet where Contessa finds her and either kills her or lobotomizes her.

      1. Yeah, but why set up that situation if there was no intention to use Victoria in battle? With so much going on in the ultimate battle agaisnt Scion, why would Khepri worry about working as a catalyst for Amy to fix Victoria, specially if even before becoming Khepri, Taylor never gave much of a shit about Victoria?

        1. It’s admittedly a little vague, but IIRC Victoria was used to tank at least one of Scion’s ‘FU’ golden beams.

          Taylor grabbed like all of the capes ‘in case’ they could be of use, including the ones at the containment facility Victoria was at.

          As for why bother…..I think on some level, that was Taylor being Taylor, I guess? And the fact that she ‘owed’ Amy on some level, or at least, had some kinship with her, at the end. Not anything like what she had with Lisa, but more than nothing.

        2. My interpretation was that Victoria was one of the people used to bully Scion, because with all the arms, she looked sort of like Eden. I don’t remember if that was ever explicitly mentioned, though. It’s just as likely that she was used as a bludgeon, or held in reserve and not used at all.

          As to why she placed them next to each other when she relinquished control, Khepri’s internal narration didn’t even know. Maybe it was the Administrator shard doing it, because, you know, it’s an optimization problem. Glory Girl was not performing very well due to her body having been altered by Panacea, and both of them wanted Panacea to fix her again. Maybe the viewpoint character was the Administrator at that point, and it was done by Taylor, because she knew who they were and felt pity for them both.

    2. The moment where Khepri deposits Amy & Victoria next to each other can be seen in 30.7 https://parahumans.wordpress.com/2013/10/29/30-7/

      “I watched the individual members of the swarm touch ground. The girl with healing powers had been placed deliberately next to a living pool of flesh with multiple heads of golden hair. The healer’s hands were covering her face, but she didn’t step away.

      Her hands slowly lowered, and she laid her eyes on the monster, which was actively, ineffectually reaching out for her.

      Others were placed indiscriminately in the crowd below me. My swarm, returned to the place they came from.”

  30. Hmm…kind of disappointed that this is basically aping the ‘cut off ties’ aspect from Taylor’s story, and that things seem (admittedly at this moment) so cemented to keep Victoria as far away from Amy as possible, in order to have Victoria get her ‘own’ story.

    I mean, I get it, with what happened last chapter it’s not like Victoria can trust her mom for the time being, much less Amy (of which I dunno if I can see reconciliation ever really happening outside of something HUGE happening, given the ‘no emotion’ Victoria deciding that what Amy did was an absolute deal-breaker, even if it was on accident (which it was).

    Granted, ‘no emotion’ isn’t really a perfect frame of mind to make decisions on, because cold-hard logic isn’t objectively ‘better’, but it’s still a big, foreboding thing. It also totally ignores the fact that Amy, unlike Taylor, gave her the CHOICE of what she wanted, which should be a point in Amy’s favor, but Victoria obviously isn’t exactly unbiased at this point.

    And as Victoria says, Amy’s too powerful, too binary – either Amy reverts back to where she was (not/barely using her powers) or tries to find out another way to keep her shard happy without going insane. Neither of which will ever make Victoria want to come anywhere near her ever again.

    But I dunno…Vicky ending the situation with Amy by not being a good person, but by basically being scared enough of her to make sure she doesn’t blow her stack leaves a bad taste in my mouth.

    1. Just because it’s an accident doesn’t mean a thing. A drunk driver doesn’t mean to hit and kill your kid, he wanted to go out and get drunk and the rest was a horrible accident. That doesn’t mean it will ever be okay or excusable to you.

  31. “Advance Guard, Foresight, the Shepherds and the Attendant”

    I wonder if one of those is the one with all the Protectorate veterans and the reformed supervillains? You know, Legend, Valkyrie and the sword guy. They probably wouldn’t be calling their group the “Protectorate” again.

    Weren’t the Shepherds one of the groups from Eden’s ideal future?

  32. Judging by the last few chapters, I’ll probably have to say this again in the next one – but this is probably the best chapter so far.

    Bonus cookie points for smashing the Ossuary fantheories, giving us our first taste of serious Khepri / Gold Morning talk, a terrifyingly ominous wham-line ending, and of course the pure, concentrated fanservice that is the one and only Araphuman JESSICA YAMADA!
    It was only a matter of time, but boy did it happen quickly. A part of me feared that Wilbaw might throw the ultimate curve-ball and say that Jessica wasn’t even Victoria’s favorite therapist, because she had a few, but thankfully it is physically impossible to not love her.

    I’m honestly amazed at how much I’m enjoying Ward so far.
    My expectations were inhumanly high and they were easily surpassed.

  33. Wildbow you write fantastic therapy scenes. A+, really.

    Also, yeah, Amy ought to have been in therapy a loooooong time ago. If she’s not currently in therapy 3 days a week at least, someone has fucked up badly and ought to be fired.

  34. H O L Y SH I T that last line has me more excited than i have been for something fictional in like… a while. Amy was my favorite secondary character from Worm and I’m really hoping she’ll play an important role in ward. Also! made a sketch of our (or at least my) new favorite protagonist, in some gear that I’m kinda disappointed she won’t be wearing again. I really dug the whole “Makeshift PRT Librarian/squad leader” thing.

    https://twitter.com/IAmJoshAlso/status/937243959033810944

  35. I like “Elephant Graveyard” too. Good imagery. “Ossuary” just seems so divorced from meaning. Too clean and clinical and fancy, like saying the excrement hit the air mover. Always reminds me of that movie with the woman banging the zombies. Not to be confused with that episode of Masters of Horror with the woman banging the zombies, or that collection of zombie short stories with everyone banging the zombies.

    On the plus side, if I’m ever short on cash, there’s apparently a fortune to be made running a resurrectionis brothel. I think I’d name it “The Choked Chicken”.

    1. Well at least unlike the Mail Order Bride incident you didn’t accidently link to anything this time. Besides Zombies are a little played out these days. Though we got our robosexual with Defiant.

      1. Ah, good ol’ robosexuals. Nothing quite eats away at the concept of gender being the same thing as sex quite like asking someone if a guy getting it on with a partner who runs on electricity is gay or straight.

        The answer may shock you.

  36. So we see a bit of nuance on the notion of moving forward here, and it’s hopefully something Yamada picked up on. Part of moving forward would involve letting go of the past. Forgive and forget, for instance. Ugh, forgive and forget. There hasn’t been a worse trio of words since… nah, not turning this into a politics flame war.

    What Victoria’s doing here ISN’T moving forward. She doesn’t want to, not really. She’s spinning her wheels. Stalling. She’s moving in circles. She’s distracting herself. Sometimes it even works. Suicidal people come to mind. Lucky bastards. Oh, where was I?

    Anyway, sometimes it works, but it can backfire spectacularly. Many a life has been ruined by people perpetually distracting themselves and never focusing on what’s real and important. Hello, hello, hello, Beautiful Stranger. How familiar the danger, slipping into the shadows…

    But enough cryptic references to make myself feel superior: it’s time to drop a knowledge bomb. Related to all this, Victoria had her emotions turned off to make a decision. That’s really a terrible idea. I know, I know, people think emotions are the enemy of rationality and that you do your best thinking when you’re a robot. Well, no domo arigato, Mr. Roboto. Turns out, the truth is a little more nuanced than that. Without emotions to help people prioritize, people actually have a harder time making decisions. Without emotional weight, turns out you do some dumb things. You might spend your work day deciding if you want to organize documents by size, date, priority, or smell instead of working. You might decide that guy with the snake oil makes a perfectly reasonable pitch.

    I get the feeling Victoria’s going to come to regret her emotionless decision. But, for all those who don’t believe me, here’s some hot neuroscience action for your cortexes to get all jiggly for: https://www.thecut.com/2016/06/how-only-using-logic-destroyed-a-man.html

    1. I disagree that letting go requires forgetfulness. What you ultimately have to remember is that forgiveness isn’t for the other person, it’s for yourself. What it is, at least as far as therapy is concerned, is letting go of anger and hurt that might otherwise rule your life. But that doesn’t mean you can or should put aside history, especially when the risk of it repeating still exists.

      A friend of a friend has a situation i feel encapsulates this. She has ultimately decided to forgive her drug-addiction son for sexually assaulting her daughter. She has also made it clear that he has no home in her house and is never to appear to her or her daughter again, and pressing the issue would end very very badly for him. Because he used up his chances forever. Some of her family has told her she needs to let him back into their lives. She has made clear any family who suggests this more then once is also no longer family. She (and her daughter) are doing very well these days and I see no contradiction in any of her actions.

      1. Certainly sounds like he’s not forgiven to me, unless this was all the punishment he got for it. If forgiveness is just something you say without any real consequences, then it’s not worth anything. You’d have to ameliorate some negative consequences for the other person.

        Or at least that’s my view on it. Outside of vague concepts often brought up in sermons but never elaborated upon, I’m not sure I’ve run across too much that explores it on an ethical level. Sources welcome, because the closest I have to something actually useful is Generation Why episode 187, Jane Doe January, for a brief discussion of forgiveness near the beginning: http://thegenerationwhypodcast.com/jane-doe-january-187-generation-why

  37. At the moment “Ward” is not showing anywhere on Web Fiction Guide, in particular it is not listed as one of Wildbow’s works on his Author page.

  38. One sad thing occured to me. With Wildbow’s really only doing a character other than the lead’s POV once in interludes we aren’t going to get much from Amy’s. And Amy and Vickies stories are simply so intertwined I kinda think that’s going to be a shame.

    1. Or Wildbow could actually change the main character to Amy later in the story, Then intersperse the arcs. I seen to recall him having said that having literally rolled the dice to see who survived Leviathan, that he would have continued on from Rachael’s point of view.

      I also remember how he switched Whazzername to thingumyabob over in wotsit. (Not the ral names obviously…

  39. Now I’ll be disappointed if we don’t get an Amy rampage at some point. Undoubtedly as a result of something done by or to Victoria.

    I can even think of how it might go, without being too much like another iteration of Bonesaw, Nilbog or Twig. Clone powers. We know from Bonesaw that shards are always ready to re-connect to their hosts, they just need a match of living genetic material and similar memories. For Panacea, gene editing would be comparably easy, she can turn bugs and animals into human genetic material, and we see here that she can edit memories and feelings with a great degree of confidence.

    Think if she made a clone of Eidolon. A completely emotionally controlled clone, to try to master the Endbringers. Heck, that would fit with the epilogue where we see the Simurgh was growing a clone Eidolon, but she only stares at Lung when he boils it alive.

    It would be just like the Simurgh to have a backup plan already slowly moving toward fruition. Probably make for a good boss fight, too.

  40. I just wanted to say that after finishing a complete reread of Worm, Jessica Yamada is my favourite character in the series. It’s really good to see her here.

  41. The way Jessica Yamada wants to, but literally does not have time to, take Victoria on as a patient is one of the those little things which makes your story feel real. My mother is a psychologist, and one thing I’d hear from her often growing up (and heck even to this day when we talk) is how she’ll get referred patients who she thinks she’d be a really good match for, but be unable to take them on because she’s already stretched way too thin with her other patients already.

    That little thing just felt very familiar and real and it was a nice touch.

  42. Panacea could do a lot. And don’t think just because the material of her art is organic, it means weak.
    Graphene is an organic material made from carbon. It’s durability is about 200 times that of steel.
    So, a powered armor made from a 5 cms layer of graphene would equal the resistance of modern tanks, having about 1000 RHA (rolled homogeneous armor) or 1 meter of steel.

    There are organisms living on Earth that are biologically immortal. Hydras and some sea mollusks. There are organisms that can survive volcanic sulphur pits and outer space. They look like tiny bears. There are stomach organisms that thrive in hydroloric acid. Lizards can detach and regrow limbs.

    There are animals that see in infrared and in ultraviolet and in radio waves. Some see smells and vibrations.
    Animals that can paralyze your nerves with touch, electrocute, poison, strangle, or just terrify you with a roar.

    Even without slaving shards, just the ecosystem is dangerous enough to wonder humanity even survived this long. And Panacea can use and duplicate those abilities for anyone. For everyone.

    She could be a real goddess. Make everyone healthy and immortal. Feed everyone. She could heal the world. All the worlds.

    Tragedy is that’s she’s not. That she’s snarky introvert with problems.

  43. Very glad to see the sequel come out, although I had to go back and read Worm and refresh myself on persons/personalities/who’s still alive.

    I’m already missing Taylor, lol, although now that we’re a few chapters in, I’m getting into being in Victoria’s headspace better. I can’t even imagine the horror she went through, so I don’t blame her for never wanting to see Amy again. However, it’s still sad.

    Did it seem to anyone else like Victoria has the worst invulnerability ever, like a couple of snipers with high caliber rifles or a 50 caliber machine gun could take her out? Or anything else the had a rapid attack and enough oomph to take down her shield for a few seconds.

    Thanks for the new story Wildbow!

    JN

  44. Jessica, the most wonderful person. Now, will her character get fleshed out, or eventually die and become a reason for Vicky? Oh boy.

    Also, Crystal to the rescue? Heh. Here’s to hoping it doesn’t become another trap.

    Vicky’s remarks about Amelia are interesting. Is it wrong to say the right things for the wrong reasons? Are her reasons wrong, even?

    Thank you for writing.

  45. It’s this chapter that makes me really really excited at reading your edited version of Worm Wildbow. I don’t know how you measure progress as a writer, but I can see it, I can feel it and it’s amazing! 😀

    Ps: I feel like people forgot to thank you for not offing Fume in the last chapter. so Thanks. 🙂

  46. So, the following is a comment that uses information from an author comment on Worm, so if you haven’t read Worm, or want to avoid getting outside of the story info, don’t read this.

    -So… firstly, it’s a little bit ironic that Glory Girl doesn’t understand the effect her power has on people over long periods of time. She keeps talking about the damage her sister can do if she doesn’t get help, not realizing she is also potentially dangerous. Plus, at the end of Worm Amy seemed *reasonably* stable. Also, if her sister does get Psychiatric help, do you think they will put two and two together and realize that Amy’s attraction to Victoria was because of constant exposure to Victoria’s power at a formative age?

    Link to the comment I am basing this on:

    https://parahumans.wordpress.com/2013/04/30/interlude-21/#comment-20604

  47. TLDR: Yamada is a Safe Place.

    First is the obvious and much needed change of pace from the fear and trauma. Good for story flow, good for our friend Victoria. Bravo.

    My personal experiences with therapy I can lump into two categories:
    1. Me: “There’s something wrong with me.” Therapist: “Yup. Try these things to fix it.”
    2. Me: “There’s something wrong with me.” Therapist: “Yup! Welcome to the club. Here’s how I live with my own insanity; hopefully it helps.”

    The first kind always just aggravated the hurt. Guilt and shame (courtesy of the internalized judgements of others) doesn’t go away for me when the whole relationship is based on accepting that the others were right and I’m a worthless piece of shite.

    The second kind took a lot of adjusting to, and eventually got me to the point of being able to feel and say, “There’s nothing wrong with me. I am who I am and I’ve done what I’ve done. Some of it I don’t plan to do again, but even if I did, I still wouldn’t be a monster. Just another flawed person, like everyone.”

    Jessica Yamada feels like a category three… the kind of person who can ask a serial killer about their day genuinely, without it coming across as ‘avoiding the issues’. No judgement. No “Stop being you and start being what I tell you to be.” Just, “Hi, how are you? It matters to me.”

    Everyone could use a Jessica Yamada or three in their life. What we’ve seen of her so far is a fantastic role model.

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