Daybreak – Interlude 1

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The truck stopped at the gate, producing the occasional sputter and knocking sound as it sat there.  The driver extended a hand out the window, waving for the camera, and the gate opened by way of remotely operated pulley.

It was another minute to the top of the hill, where the truck rolled to a stop in the parking lot, an expanse of gravel without any defined parking spots.  The three people within remained where they were, warily observing the restaurant from a distance.

It was a log cabin writ large, the cedars stripped of their bark and stained with something that made them almost glossy, a warm yellow under the sun.  The third floor was half the size of the other two, allowing the other half of what would have been the third floor to be a rooftop patio instead.  A series of tables was scattered around the building, some close together and others a considerable distance away, as if they were trying to escape into the woods.  Beyond the building was a cliff, and a vast expanse of forests, hills, mountains, and a small lake.

“Nice view,” Moose said, from the backseat.

Linc was settled in the passenger seat, reclining a bit with his seat angled back and his legs folded under him.  With Moose in the back, he’d had to slide his seat as far forward as it could go, and it didn’t leave him much legroom.  “Just think, past that view there isn’t nothing at all.  If you headed straight ahead and kept going, you might not find any habitation until you ended up on the backside of this settlement here.”

“If you headed straight ahead,” the driver said, pausing to take a swig of the bottle of water she’d wedged into her cup holder, making a face at how warm it was, “You’d put yourself into that lake down there.  Or you’d end up in the ocean.  You’d drown either way.”

Linc smirked.

“People would call you an idiot,” she said.  “Why would you go straight ahead like that?  Are you proving a point?”

“I don’t think that’s what Linc was getting at,” Moose said.

“Harper knows what I’m getting at,” Linc said, turning around in his seat to look at Moose as he said it.

Moose was a big guy, with tousled blond hair.  He’d undone some of the straps of his mask and had the mask laying over one muscular shoulder.  The mask was metal, crude, and Moose wore something cloth under it for padding, which he had on now.  He wore a sleeveless undershirt, jeans, boots, and had two gauntlets sitting next to him on the car seat.  Even with the truck being large and Moose lying down across the length of the seat, he barely fit.  He didn’t seem to mind much.

Behind Moose and the truck was the gravel road that led up the hill, the gate checkpoint, and a ways below that, the simple settlement where most visitors would be made to feel unwelcome.  One to two thousand people would be living there at most.

“They built this place and situated it on the very edge of civilization,” Linc said, to round off his earlier thought.

“You two always seemed like the kind of edge of civilization people to me,” Moose asked.

“We do okay,” Linc said.  “Put us in the middle of a city, we do fine, eh babe?”

“Mm,” Harper made a vaguely affirmative sound.  “This a trap, y’think?”

Linc turned his attention to the building at the top of the hill.  “Nah.  Why would you build a nice place like this and use it for a nefarious purpose.”

“Well, y’know, it’s gonna be nefarious.  That’s why we’re here,” she said.  “It’s a question of if it’s a murderous sort of nefarious.”

“That’s a good question, I admit,” Linc said.

“I knew a guy,” Moose said.  “He had a mansion.  Inherited or somethin’.  Super nice.”

“The guy or the house?” Linc asked.

“Hm?”

“The guy was nice or the house was nice?”

“The house.  That’s what I’m gettin’ at.  The guy was as nefarious as they get.  He renovated the insides.  He wanted to make a whole business of holdin’ people that needed holdin’.  For ransom.  Said he’d deal with ’em and clean up the mess if ransoms weren’t paid.  Wanted to be a contractor for disposin’ of people in horrible ways.”

“You’re supposed to just drop them off at the nice, conspicuous mansion, hand over cash?” Harper asked.

“That was it, I think.  He’d make sure they died slow and horrible for you, clean them up, make sure they weren’t found.”

“Definitely not a nice guy then,” Linc said.

“I dare say he wasn’t,” Moose said.

“That’s a terrible idea for a business,” Harper said.

“It kind of is,” Linc said.

“Might’ve been,” Moose said.  “He didn’t seem in it for the money, gotta say.  I highly suspect he was more focused on the part where he would do horrible things to people.  Guy has a nice place, he wants to do creatively bad things to people, and he wanted a bit of pocket money.  Draw lines between each of those things and you end up with something shaped like his game plan there.”

“A triangle?” Linc asked, looking back at Moose.  At Moose’s shrug, he elaborated, “If you draw straight lines between three things, you get a triangle.”

“Maybe the lines weren’t straight,” Moose said.  “But if you’re wondering if this is a trap, I don’t think it being fancy is ruling anythin’ out.”

“It’s a log building, Moose.  Nothing that fancy.”

“Fancy to me.”

Harper leaned forward against the steering wheel, to get closer to the windshield, squinting against the sun.

“What do you think, babe?” Linc asked.  “Is it a murderous nefarious or a prosperous nefarious.”

“It’s something,” she said.  “The people on the roof are in costume and some of them are looking at us.  I think we better get ourselves inside or they’re going to start laughing at us.”

“They’re going to laugh whatever happens,” Linc said.  “Your truck has seen better days-”

“Don’t go talking about my truck, Linc.”

“And we’ve got Moose with us, no offense Moose.”

“Some offense taken, thank you very much,” Moose said, indignant.

“You call yourself Moose.  People are going to laugh.  That’s when you show your merits and make them stop laughing, is the way it works.”

“People shouldn’t laugh in the first place,” Moose said.  “The Moose is a terrifying and noble creature.  If you wouldn’t fuck with a rhino, you shouldn’t fuck with a moose.  It’s one of the only proper prehistoric, giant animal species to have the grit to last to today.”

Harper turned off the truck.  The truck sputtered, coughed, and died abruptly, in a way that suggested it wouldn’t revive again.

“I know, bud,” Linc said, taking his eye off the truck’s much-abused, dust-caked dash.  “I know that much, I’ve seen one up close.  I’ve seen one run through snow that a normal person couldn’t walk in and hit a car hard enough to roll it.  I have a healthy respect.”

“Damn right,” Moose said.

Harper gave Linc a look, pulling her full mask on and flipping up her hood.

“But they don’t all know it,” Linc said.  “You gotta work with that.  You picked a jokey name, you gotta put up with the jokes.”

“Hope was they’d be laughing with, not laughing at,” Moose said.  “At least I’d hope you weren’t the ones poking fun at me.  It’s unkind, Linc.”

Harper climbed out of the truck.

“I’m not laughing at, bud.  I’m just saying they might be.  That’s all,” Linc said.  He pulled his mask on, fixed his hair and beard with few sweeps of his hand, and climbed out, then hit the lever to flip his seat forward and give Moose room to squeeze out.

Moose kept the cloth mask on over his upper face,  leaving the metal mask on his shoulder.  He stretched, his joints popping audibly, and pulled his fur-lined gauntlets on.

“You’re going to have to take those off again if we end up eating,” Linc said.

“It’s about presentation,” Moose said.  “Besides, the name doesn’t make sense if I don’t got ’em.”

Harper was in costume, though the costume part was mostly a hooded, sleeveless top in her namesake velvet color, lopsided in how it trailed down over one leg in a robe-like aesthetic.  She wore skintight shorts underneath.  A black mask covered her upper face, and had truncated, forking horns that poked out through the top of the hood and kept the hood from falling back.

Linc wore a mask like Velvet’s, but his traced the area around his eye sockets and eyebrows, with the edges tracing back and into his hair, forking as they did.  He wore a bodysuit for the upper body and pants.  His costume had always been meant to be layered, but the heat had forced him to strip down to the base layer, with the pants only because he felt like a clown if he wore only the skintight stuff.

People leaning against and over the railing on the roof watched them as they approached the door.

“This place is a hell of a lot better than the last couple we visited,” Prancer remarked.

“More expensive too,” Velvet said.  She was looking at the blackboard posted by the door, with prices.  “Twenty dollars for a chicken sandwich?”

“Come on,” Prancer said, pushing the door open.

The inside was expansive, with the kitchen as an island in the middle, counters and surrounding it, booths around the edges of the room, and tables in the space in between.  There were only eleven non-staff people within, but the ground floor could have seated a hundred or more.

Prancer approached the kitchen island.  He spoke to a black, twenty-something woman in a tan polo shirt and apron, “Who do I talk to for the rules?”

She jerked a thumb over her shoulder, indicating an elderly black man who was wiping out a glass.  The man was watching, squinting with one eye, as he carried out the routine motion of cleaning the glass.

“He’s in charge?” Prancer asked.

The employee gave Prancer a single nod.

“What can I do for you?” the man asked, as the three approached.

“We’ve been around the block a couple of times, I’m just looking for a primer on customs, and any special rules.”

“Payment up front for what you’re ordering, have the money ready when you order if it’s busy.  Don’t cause trouble, don’t draw weapons, don’t be loud, give us a heads up and use the side door or the patio if your power is going to bother anyone.  Upstairs is the bar, you don’t go upstairs unless you’re invited or you already know you qualify to go upstairs.”

“What kind of qualification?” Velvet asked.

“If you have to ask, you don’t have it,” the old man said.  He put the glass down and picked up another.  “Roof is for more private meetings than you’d have on the second floor.  Don’t go taking yourself up there if you wouldn’t be allowed on the second floor.”

“Noted,” Prancer said.  “Anyone to avoid, watch out for, anything like that?”

“That’s more for you to watch out for than for me to bother with.  If they’re causing a problem or being a bother to others, they’ll get kicked out.  If you help with the kicking out, I’ll give you something on the house.”

“Right,” Prancer said.  “Got it.”

“Do you serve drinks down here?” Moose asked.

“We do.  Anything fancier than beer or wine, we’ll have to send someone upstairs to fetch it.”

“Could I grab a mightyman?” Moose asked.  He pulled off a gauntlet and retrieved a wallet from his pocket.  He held out a twenty.  “Long, hot drive.”

“Name?” the old man asked, gesturing at an employee.  The employee set to getting the beer.  The old man pulled a pad and pen out of his apron.

“Name?  Uh, M.K.,” Moose said.

“No initials,” the man said.

“Just Moose then,” Moose said, sliding the twenty across the bar.  “We can order food at the tables?”

“You can,” the old man said.  He picked up the money, then pulled out a fiver from the pocket of his apron and passed it back to Moose.  He looked at the others.  “Names?”

“Prancer.  She’s Velvet.”

“Do I need to worry about you?”

“Nah.  We’re pretty tame.  We’re here to make contacts and get our names out there for the small stuff.”

“If you do any business, be discreet enough I and my staff don’t see it.  If you use powers, don’t bother the person next to you.”

“Got it.  Can I grab a beer?  What my buddy Moose is having,” Prancer handed over the bills.

“Me too,” Velvet said.

Prancer withdrew a larger bill from his wallet, and set it on the counter, sliding it toward the old man.  “Gratuity?”

“No need,” the old man said.  “Service fees and peace of mind are worked into the food prices.  Order something, if you want to thank me.”

Beers in hand, they briefly considered sitting at the counter before Moose took a seat at one of the tables.

“Where you sit is important,” Prancer said.  “Booth, you’re minding your own business, you’ve got walls around you.  Sitting at the counter, you’re open to people approaching you and joining you, I think.  Not entirely sure how it works here in particular.”

“I hear you,” Moose said, “But I was sittin’ funny the entire drive here, and if I sit on one of those stools then I’m going to have my back spasming the entire way back.  I need a sturdy chair, here.”

“Sure, doesn’t matter that much,” Prancer said.  He twisted around in his seat, one hand on his beer, taking a look at the others who were present.  “Pretty laid back here.”

“Could be a quieter time of the day,” Velvet said.

“Out of the way place, too,” Prancer said.  “You heard what he said about using powers?  How many places have we been to, and how many allowed use of powers at all?”

“Ten.  Ten places,” Velvet said, hunkering down over her beer.  “This is the only one, I think.  Might have been a rule in The Well, but that was more the kind of place where you don’t know the rules until someone’s punching your face in for violating them.”

Prancer watched as a faint speck of dust traveled across his vision, pink-tinted.  He smiled.

Four teenagers in the corner booth.  They wore dark clothes with symbols and designs spray painted on and bleached into the fabric.  One with a bandanna on his head looked their way, and Prancer flashed the guy a smile.

Three in another booth, against a wall.  Tinkers.  There was a cloth strewn out over the table, and parts were laid out.  They ranged from twists of metal to a glass tube housing something that looked like a large, chewed wad of gum.  The wad was throwing itself against the sides of its glass cage.

He wondered how that worked with the ‘no business’ rule.  Were they only talking shop?  Where was the line drawn?

Sitting alone in one booth was a woman with a mask covering her lower face, long black hair, and a long red dress with a slit down one side, exposing a tantalizing bit of leg.  She wore an intricate framework of metal at her arms and hands, a series of bands at the elbow, wrist, knuckles, and rings at the finger, with thin rods of steel extending between each, along the back of each finger, and stopping at each finger and thumbtip.  Each tip was enveloped by an ornate claw.

Her heels were much the same, Prancer noted.  Heels were unusual for someone in costume, and hers were more unusual still.   She wore something similar to her gloves, with the same bands at her leg, ankle, and foot, with the thin metal bars extending between each.  Her toes were covered with the same metal claws, there was a strap of metal below the balls of her feet, and at her heel, one large claw-point served as the ‘heel’ of her heel, stabbing straight down.

When she moved one leg to fold one knee over the other, the claw tips moved on their own, twitching, recalibrating, the heel shifting back to stay pointed at the ground, flick back and away, then flick down.

She undid one side of her mask so it swung toward Prancer, still blocking his view of her mouth, helped by the draping of long hair, and she leaned down, taking a bite of her wrap.  She put one hand to the loose end of her mask while she chewed, and fastened the end as she swallowed.

She saw him looking, turning her head his way.  He smiled at her.

She only stared.

“Someone’s coming,” Moose said.

One of the spray painted kids.  The guy Prancer had smiled at.

“You’re new.”

“Prancer, Velvet, M.K.,” Prancer introduced the group.

“Where are you from?”

“Alaska, believe it or not.”

“Long way,” the teenager said.

“Especially when you’re driving it,” Prancer said.  “Who are you guys?”

“The group’s Ripcord.  I’m Gorgos.  We raid stores and resell, mostly.  We’re nobodies.  It’s the B-listers and small fry down here.  The people with name recognition go upstairs.”

“Meaning the people we want to do business with are upstairs,” Velvet said, still leaning heavily over her beer.

“It’s fine,” Prancer said.  “We’ll work it out.”

“What do you guys do?”

“We wheel and deal,” Prancer said.

“Prancer likes to be clever, but he doesn’t get that sometimes you have to explain why it’s clever, otherwise you only confuse people,” Velvet said.

“It’s why I have you, babe.”

“The wheel part is getaway driving and transporting,” she explained.

The kid leaned forward.  The decoration on his outfit looked like the sort done with a stencil and a spray bottle filled with bleach, strategically bleaching fabric.  Snakes and a woman’s face as a recurring motif.  He had a bandanna over the top of his head and one over his nose and mouth.  “What do you deal?”

“Grass, mostly,” Prancer said.

“You actually have some?”

“Not here, but we have it.  Brand new and in high demand, given the times,” Prancer said.

“Are you looking for resellers?”

“For the right price.  Mostly we’re looking for new friends, and we’re trying to get the lay of the land before we do anything too enterprising.”

“Can I get back to you?” the guy asked.

“You’re welcome to,” Prancer said.  “We wouldn’t mind company either, if you guys wanted to join us.”

“I’d have to get back to you on that too,” the guy said.  “We’re trying to find our way these days.  We agreed in the beginning we wouldn’t have one leader, and that was great then, but right now we’ve got two different leadership styles butting heads.”

Prancer looked over at the table, where those seated were having a very fierce, hushed discussion.

“If you want to just sit and trade stories, we’d be happy to have you,” Prancer said.  “Get away from all that, maybe come away with some fresh perspective.”

“I might take you up on that.  For now I’d better get back and make sure nobody reaches across the table to strangle someone.”

“Question before you go,” Moose said.  “Is it always this quiet?”

“It’s about to get noisier,” Gorgos said.  “Keep an eye on the guy at the end of the kitchen there.  He communicates with people in town.  He was talking to the boss about something and the boss put another cook on the stove.  Wait ten minutes and I bet he’ll hit the button to open the gate.  If he holds it down it’s a lot of people.  My guess is the ferry from NYC hit the shore near the G-N portal twenty minutes ago.”

“Good to know, thanks,” Prancer said.

Gorgos jogged back to his team.

“You’re dwellin’ a lot on going upstairs,” Moose observed.

“Reminds me of being a kid and being told I had to stay downstairs with my cousins and their friends during the holidays.  My cousins were assholes,” Velvet said.  “One good thing about Gold Morning is it took them out of the picture.”

Moose whistled.

“She’s wearing the purple cloak, that’s a sign of royalty, don’t you know?” Prancer plucked at Velvet’s hood.  Velvet batted his hand away.  “And royalty doesn’t not go upstairs.  Royalty doesn’t show mercy.”

“Y’know I went to prison because of you, Prance,” she said, quiet.

“Well, yeah.  I will point out we survived Gold Morning because we weren’t home when Alaska got hit.”

“I went to prison for you,” she said, again.  “That counts for a lot.”

“‘Course.  How does that connect, though?”

“Just sayin’,” she said, her accent thicker as her voice became softer.  “You said things would be different.”

“They will,” he said.  He put a hand around her shoulders and pulled her closer, then kissed the top of her head.  “We’ve got a decent crop, a lot of demand.  We’ll do okay.  We’ll make inroads.”

“I’m optimistic,” Moose said.

“I’m not unoptimistic,” Velvet said.

“You’re not enthused either, doesn’t sound like,” Moose said.

“Just sorta hoping for more, sooner,” she said.

“Yeah,” he said.  There wasn’t much more to say.

Velvet reached out, and the menu flew from the tabletop to her hand.  It was tinted red and dusty, but much of their table and glasses were, now.

Prancer took stock of the other three capes in the room before the newest batch of arrivals reached the front door.

There was one, who might have been a bouncer, who had stepped out the side door momentarily and was now taking a seat by that same door.  He wore a mask of metal bars that looked like they’d been welded to one another, all vertical, but he also wore a black apron.

That left only the couple at the bar.  Matching costumes, white armor with jet black iconography, multiple circles and crescents in various patterns, with the armor sprayed black around each icon, so it looked like the darkness glowed.  The man wore full armor, the woman wore only scattered pieces of armor, with white chainmail to cover the rest of her.

They drank white wine, in the middle of the afternoon.

Capes were strange people, Prancer mused.

“I want to be the kind of person who earns her way upstairs,” Velvet said.  Her head still rested against his shoulder, where he’d pulled her close.

“That’s really stuck in you, huh?”

“It’s stuck,” she said.  Without moving her head, she raised the beer to her lips and took a careful sip.

“You might have to lose the beater of a truck, babe, if you want to dress the part.”

“Don’t go talkin’ about my truck, Prance.”

“Every time you turn it off, it sounds like it’s off for good.  I say a little prayer to myself that it will be, even knowing it’s a long, long walk back to home.  Then I can take the money I’ve got saved up and buy you something nice.  All the bells and whistles.”

“When I got out of prison, I only had two things, babe.  That truck, and you.  I wasn’t feeling especially fond of you at the time, either.  It’s the only thing I’ve had for myself since I was old enough to have anything, that I’ve been able to keep.”

“Counts for somethin’, that,” Moose said.

“It does,” Velvet said, frowning down at her beer.

Prancer frowned at Moose, who only shrugged.  Guy wasn’t making it any easier.

“What if we overhauled the outside, got someone to give the engine a real solid lookin’-at?” Prancer asked.

“So long as it stays my truck.  I don’t want you ship-of-Theseusing it.”

Prancer resisted swearing under his breath.  So that tactic wouldn’t work.

There was more of the pink dust in the air, now.  He gave Velvet a kiss on top of the head, then shrugged slightly.  She moved her head off of his shoulder, sitting upright.

“Things will be better,” he said.

She reached for his hand and squeezed it.  “I’m going to go find the ladies’ room.  Order food before things get hairy.  I’ll have the chicken caesar sandwich and grab a few bottled waters while you’re at it.  For the drive back.”

“You know the markup on those will be insane,” Prancer said.

“Just get me my water,” she said.

She walked away.  Prancer watched her walk away, feeling wistful.

He signaled the waitress.  He made sure to give Velvet’s order while he remembered it, and then gave his own.  Moose put in enough of an order for two people.

When they were alone again, Moose commented, “Sorry, for interjectin’.”

“Interjecting?”

“When you were talking about the truck, and about prison.”

“Ah.  Yep.  Apology accepted.”

“Hard to be the third wheel sometimes.  Especially when things get complicated, relationship-wise.”

“Can’t speak about the third-wheeling.  That’s for you to figure out.  But for the relationship part, it’s the simplest thing in the world, Moose,” Prancer said.  “She’s my girlfriend, I’m her boyfriend.  Sometimes you and she enjoy each other’s company, sometimes I enjoy someone else’s company, but that doesn’t change that it’s me and it’s her as the boyfriend and girlfriend.”

His voice had become progressively more stern as he’d talked.  He paused, meeting Moose’s eyes.

“Makes sense,” Moose said.  Prancer smiled.

“Doesn’t seem like you’ve had anyone but her keeping you company, gotta say,” Moose said.

Prancer looked at the woman with the mask on her lower face and the claw-heels.  “Trying to be better.”

“Good for you,” Moose said, before taking a drink of his beer.

“I’m going to marry that Velvet sometime soon,” Prancer said.  “I’ve just got to make amends for old wrongs first.  Can’t ask her to marry me when the last momentous event in our lives was me being a screwup.”

“The prison thing?”

“Everything before, too.  Trying to be better.”

“I don’t want to step on any toes or get into anythin’ too sensitive here,” Moose said.  “But can I ask?  Would be easier to not step on toes if I can ask.”

“It’s the whole thing.  Get powers as a kid, sixteen years old, make friends with the right people, start dealing.  It’s an elevation in status, y’know?  I was the guy who the cool kids in high school went to for product.  Had money, had girls throwing themselves at me, I was invited to all the parties, and I meet Velvet there.  One of many girls in one of many cities.  But she gets powers and comes back to me, wants in, wants out of her house, especially.  I oblige, and she doesn’t make me regret it.”

Moose nodded.

“Years pass, we find our fit.  She’s got more financial sense, I’ve got the salesmanship.  Most capes, there’s going to be conflict.  She’s got her thing, you know how her power works.  She hangs around somewhere, and this dust collects, and she can telekinetically control stuff, more dust there is on it.  It’s how she gets that fucking truck going again, when it refuses to move.  She makes us sit there for five minutes and then gives it another try, and it works, and she’ll fiddle with it later and get it tuned up just enough it starts going.”

“She must care an awful lot about it,” Moose observed.

“She does.  But that’s her whole psychology.  She wants to settle in, wants to have a place she can call hers, whether it’s that truck cab or, I don’t know, going upstairs.  I get restless.  The mover thing.  That causes friction.  But we work despite it.  We’re as soulmate as you can get when you’ve got… whatever these things are giving us our powers.  Parasites.  You had the visions when we were on the battlefield, that day.”

“Sure,” Moose said.

“As yin-yang soulmate as you can get with these things screwing up the fit,” Prancer said.  “But we got comfortable.  I graduate school, barely, she graduates a year after me, we keep up the routine.  Some wheeling, mostly dealing.  The parties every weekend, tooth and nail fights because we’re both the type to flirt with others, before we realized we were fine just not worrying about it.  Couple more years pass, I’m twenty-one, she’s twenty, still in the routine.”

“A rut?” Moose asked.

“Just the way things were.  Somewhere along the line, you know, I’m twenty-seven, she’s twenty-six, and I’m still boning boys and girls from high school.  Still partying.”

Moose’s eyes had widened.

“Legal, mind you,” Prancer said.  “But… sketchy, in retrospect.”

“More than a little, no offense,” Moose said.

“None taken.  I deserve it.  I didn’t realize until they came after us.  Capes, police.  You get into a groove and you don’t think about things and somehow a decade gets away from you.  You’re not the cool guy people are excited to get to know.  You’re the guy they’re into because they have to be if they want a discount, or if they want someone accessible that’s older.  Sad.  Pathetic.  Slapped me in the face while people were talking to and about me in court.  Forced me to take a long, hard look at who I was and who I wanted to be.”

“That’s good,” Moose said.

A young woman entered the restaurant.  Prancer almost thought it was the first of the influx, but she was alone.  She was an older teenager or twenty-something, with long white hair, wearing a black dress and black makeup, and she took a seat alone at the table.  She rummaged in a bag to find a book.

The waitress approached her, kettle already in hand.  The money was passed across the table, and the tea was poured.  A regular.

Her mask was so simple it might as well have not been there.  Curious, too, that she’d come this far to read a book.  Maybe someone would be joining her.

Prancer watched the new arrival, but he kept talking, “She told me, over and over again, I needed to be better.  That she wanted better.  That we needed to be careful.  I didn’t listen.  We got out of prison, she took me back, and I owe her for that.”

“If your critical flaw was not listening, might be you’ve gotta listen when she’s saying she loves that vehicle out there.”

Prancer nodded slowly.  Then he let his head loll back, and he groaned.  “I’ve put up with that thing for so many damn years.”

Velvet’s glass of beer slid across the table, and Prancer caught it just before it could reach the edge of the table and tip into his lap.

“You’re talking about my truck?” Velvet asked, making her way back from the restroom.

“Moose is telling me to let it go,” Prancer said.  “I’m trying to come to terms with the idea.”

“You’re a good boy, Moose,” Velvet said, taking her seat.  The glass pulled out of Prancer’s hands, sliding across the table to slap into Velvet’s hand.

“Appreciate that, Velvet.”

“Did you order or did you forget?” she asked.

“Remembered,” Prancer said.  “It’s coming soon.”

The front door opened.

A large collection of capes entered and immediately headed off to find their booths and tables.  One of the new arrivals stepped inside and loitered by the door.  She was a woman with a slender figure and a bag over her head, for lack of a better description.  The bag was cloth, with a pink animal pattern on it.  The rest of her form-fitting outfit matched, including the shawl she wore.

Prancer leaned in the direction of the door, putting his mouth near Velvet’s ear.  “I see Nursery.  I wonder if Blindside is around.”

“I hope the kid’s okay,” Velvet said.  She looked at Moose.  “Were you there when we talked to ’em?”

“I was.”

“They were up to something.”

“I remember.”

A man in armor was one of the last to arrive.  The armor was white, and looked like it was fashioned of strips, woven and wound around him, the ends left frayed and sticking out to the sides and behind him.  There was no face to it.  Only a Y-shaped set of ridges.  He stood between Nursery, a man in a black outfit and heavy hood, and a heavyset man with long hair, a dense beard, and a mechanical arm that extended to the ground.

At his arrival, people across the room started applauding, from Ripcord to the people at the counter, to the white haired girl and the woman with the mask.  Even the kitchen staff.  The man in armor laughed, the sound mingling with the general applause.

Moose joined in, and Velvet and Prancer offered their own light, confused applause.

“Thank you.  Thank you.  Is Marquis here?” the man in armor asked.

The old man at the kitchen pointed skyward.  “Roof.”

The man in armor saluted, then ducked back through the door.

Velvet raised her hand to get Nursery’s attention.  The woman’s group was already splitting up.  The man in black joined the people in white armor.  The bearded man with the mechanical arm walked over to the woman with the claws, sitting in her booth.

Nursery approached the table.

“Good to see you,” Prancer said.

“I didn’t think I would see you three all the way out here,” Nursery said.

“We’re trying to see who’s out there.  The other places have been a little seedy.”

“They are.  Seedy can be fun, though,” Nursery said.  “Reminds me of the old days.”

“You keep updating your costume,” Velvet said.

“Silly thing, isn’t it?  It’s easier to make a new one than to wash the blood and slime out.  I feel ridiculous.”

“What was happening with the applause?” Prancer asked.

“Mission success,” Nursery said.  “In a roundabout, unexpected way, but that’s often how these things go.”

“Congratulations,” Moose said.

“Thank you, Moose.  It was a thing.  We took a week to figure out what we were doing, we had to check with a few people, a number of thinkers, make sure we weren’t stepping on toes.  The peace being what it is, we didn’t want to cause too much trouble.”

“Was it a big mission?” Prancer asked.

“Big,” Nursery said.  “Plenty of room for things to go very wrong, with some bad repercussions that could be felt by everyone.”

Prancer’s eyebrows went up.

“But we were careful, we had the right people-”

“You included among those people,” Velvet said.

“Yes,” Nursery said, clasping her hands together.

“What was the job?” Prancer asked.

“To kidnap someone, and have her disappear for long enough that people would get upset about it.”

“Huh,” Prancer said.

“They’re anxious out there.  They feel powerless.  The idea was to pick someone controversial, and take them out of the picture.  Make them the topic of debate.  Is vigilante justice right or wrong?  In this case, where the wrong isn’t so terribly wrong?  Well, that was their idea.  I do think she did something horrible.  It’s why I agreed to the job.”

“What was that?”

“Hurt a woman and made her miscarry.  They say it was a mistake.”

“I can see where that hits close to home.”

“Sorry to hear,” Moose said.

“Thank you.  You’re kind.  The plan was to provoke the debate and raise the issue before things reached a more critical point.  Venting off the steam before things exploded.  The debate seems to be trending that way.”

“Sounds like it needed a fine hand,” Velvet said.  “That’s some good work.”

“I didn’t do it alone,” Nursery said.

“Your first time working with the others?”

“It was.  Lord of Loss is sweet, good at what he does.”

“He went straight to the roof, I’m guessing that means he isn’t the type to work with B-listers like us.”

“No, I suppose not.  He doesn’t like being indoors.  You’re recruiting?  That’s what you’re asking after?”

“Or looking for a spot of work,” Prancer said.

“Snag, sitting over there, is looking to hire people for a project down the road.  He wants to do test runs first, make sure he succeeds on the first try.  Those two hired the same information broker we worked with for that job.”

“You had an information broker?”

“She was ops too.  Talked to us on the earpieces.  A little shaky on some things, surprisingly quick on others.  But I think you run into that with any thinker.”

Prancer nodded.

“Snag is a few months new, a rookie, with a rookie’s mindset, but he has good instincts.  If I can say this in confidence…”

“Of course,” Velvet said.

“…I wouldn’t want to be on a team with him long-term,” Nursery said.  “He’s mean.  Unkind, impatient.  Emotional.  You get that with a lot of the new ones.  Too close to whatever set them off.”

Prancer nodded slowly.  “Old ones have their own problems.  Ruts and routines.”

“They do.  Um, I should hurry.  Blindside has a mouth but I do like them.  They do a decent job, if you can work around the limitations.  They’re outside now, sitting on the patio by the side door.  Can’t come inside without turning a few heads.”

Prancer smiled at the bad joke.

“Kingdom Come likes his bible verses, I earned some considerable brownie points by knowing the names and numbers to go with most of them.  Benefit of bible school until I was eighteen.  He’s a consummate professional.  Very gentle, very efficient.”

“Expensive?” Velvet asked.

“Not too bad, I don’t think.  I don’t know what he was paid, but if it’s close to my own wage, it shouldn’t be horrendous.  He’s very selective about the jobs he’ll accept.”

“What about you?” Prancer asked.

“Me?  I’m boring.  I’m not even a parahuman, not really.”

“Wait, what?” Moose asked.

“I’m not,” Nursery said.  She had a light tone of voice, like she was smiling from the other side of the cloth mask.  “It’s why I feel so out of place in costume.”

Prancer watched as others came through the door.  He recognized Biter but failed to get Biter’s attention with a wave.

“How does that work?” Moose asked.

“Show him the bump,” Velvet said, smiling.

“The bump?” Moose asked.  “Oh.”

Prancer glanced over at Nursery, who was holding her cloth costume tighter against her stomach, showing her slightly protruding belly.

“They’re the parahuman,” Nursery said.  “I’m the ride.”

“Oh,” Moose said.  “Oh wow.  Sorry.”

“No need to be sorry.  It’s a bond unlike any other,” Nursery said.  She gave Moose a pat on the cheek.  “It’s hard sometimes, but I owe it to them.  Making up for mistakes I’ve made.”

“Yeah,” Prancer said, staring at his beer.  He looked from his glass to Nursery.  “Don’t be too hard on yourself, hm?”

“I’ll try,” she said.  “I should go.  Take care and wish me luck.”

“Good luck,” Moose said.  He still looked shell-shocked.

“What’s next?” Velvet asked, smiling.

“What we did yesterday is only one instance.  They’ll have to do it again when the pressure builds.  Sooner or later, however many thinkers they work with, however good the people they hire, there will be a mistake.  Something will happen, it could be too much, too little, and then everything goes to hell in a handbasket.”

“Heavy,” Prancer said.

“But I’ve stayed too long.  My baby and I earned ourselves an invite upstairs, because they might hire me again, and because we showed our stuff, I don’t want the offer to expire,” Nursery said, excited.  “We can’t drink at the bar, but it’s still a chance to meet some of the people running the corner worlds, the major players.  A huge opportunity.”

“That’s amazing,” Moose said, looking down at the bump.  “Congratulations.  Both of you.”

“You’re so sweet.  I should go, excuse me,” Nursery said, leaving.

“We’ll talk again,” Prancer said.

Velvet raised a hand, her smile frozen on her face.  Prancer reached over to squeeze her thigh.

“I think I hate her now,” Velvet said.

He gave her leg another squeeze.

His thoughts turned over as he watched the people enter.  Some headed upstairs.  Ones with nice costumes, scary ones.  He recognized quite a few.

There were also the others.  The B-listers, the dregs, the people who weren’t yet established, filling up the ground floor, ordering their food and drinks.

“Hey Moose,” he said.

Moose stared off into space, in the direction of the stairs.

“Moose,” Velvet said.  “I’m pretty sure she’s a loon.  I wouldn’t worry too much about it.”

“Moose,” Prancer tried again.

Moose frowned, glancing back at the stairs.  “Yeah?”

“Look at the room.  Tell me, who do you know here?”

“Some of the big guys.  Biter, you and I had drinks with him.  Etna, Crested, Beast of Burden, Bitter Pill, Nailbiter, Hookline, Kitchen Sink.”

“Do me a favor?”

“Sure.”

“Round ’em up.  Anyone you get along with, who you think wouldn’t cause a fuss.”

“What are you doing?”

“Still figuring it out,” Prancer said.  “You recognize anyone?”

“Few people.  You want me to gather ’em?”

“Please.  We might have to take it outside.  Actually, let’s definitely take it outside.  By the side door.  So the owner doesn’t complain.”

“You’ve piqued my interest,” Velvet said.

Prancer nodded, still lost in thought.  He watched as she walked away, pausing to feel a moment of fondness for her, and then resumed his thinking.  He made his way to the side door.

“Hey,” Blindside said.

“Hey.  Gathering some people.  Thought we’d come to you, invite you to hear me out.”

“Thanks, Prancer.  What’s this about?”

“Give me a second to think.  I’m a salesman, and I’ve got to figure out exactly what I’m pitching.”

“Sure.”

Prancer stuck his fist out, stopped where Blindside’s power made it stop.  He felt Blindside tap a fist against the side of his hand.

The others assembled.  The people who had been invited, then the people who hadn’t, who were curious.

“I want to organize,” he started.  “I’m not the person to lead it, don’t get me wrong, this isn’t a power play.  I’m not a power player.  But I think, right now, while we’re still at peace, while there aren’t so many people who have beefs with one another, or the beefs have had two years to go quiet, this would be the chance to do it.”

“You wouldn’t be the first person to think about doing this,” Biter said.

“No?”

“No, some other groups, some small, some large.  They’re banding together, a mutual peace.  Forming a set of rules and expectations that aren’t unwritten, that we actually discuss and work out.”

“With the little guys?” Prancer asked.  “B-listers?  Those of us who aren’t being focused on while the big guys are laying out tracts of territory and settlements?”

“Some of them.  Those groups are smaller than you’d be talking, if you’re talking about everyone here.”

Prancer nodded.

He glanced at Velvet, and he saw the way she was looking at him, and he felt like a proper man for the first time.  She reached for his hand and squeezed it, hard.

Then, more alive and excited than he’d seen her in a long, long time, Velvet spoke, “You think they’d be open to talking?”

“I think they might,” Biter said.

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155 thoughts on “Daybreak – Interlude 1”

  1. As a former Fairbanksan, I’m always happy to see Fairbanks capes running around. Sorry Victoria, you’re no longer my favorite in this story.

    On the other hand, the fact that Fairbanks got Scion’d makes me less happy…

    1. Current Fairbanksan here! I had guessed that Alaska, and certainly Fairbanks, had avoided the worst of the Gold Morning since our population is so spread out.

    2. As someone born and raised several hours north of Fairbanks, I didn’t think I could like Scion any more, and then I find out he blew up Alaska!

      I’ve never forgiven my ancestors for settling down there. Miserably cold and dark. ALL YOU HAD TO DO WAS WALK SOUTH AND IT GETS BETTER, YOU RETARDS. They somehow didn’t figure that out in the 10,000+ years they were living there.

      1. That long ago, further south was another tribe that only wanted to lop their heads off and dance on their fresh remains. And then you wouldn’t be there blaming them for wanting to live.

        Cold and dark, but safe. Gotta compromise sometimes.

    3. Born in Fairbanks, here. Doesn’t count for much since I left when I was six months old, but it counts for somethin’, I’m sure!

    4. Hail, fellow ‘banksers!

      It kinda makes sense that the Golden Heart would be exploded on Gold Morning. Actually a bit poetic.

      1. I suppose she may have tried to abort it, given the way she seems to feel guilty about her actions towards the baby (I don’t mean to suggest that that anyone who has had or will have an abortion should feel guilty about it, just to be clear)

        1. Reading the reddit thread resulted in me learning about the rare but factual phenomenon called Lithopedion. Very disturbing.

    1. I have this image of kids tapping on aquarium glass being superimposed with strangers feeling a pregnant stomach for baby kicks.

    2. My guess? They both triggered. She was doing something dangerous, or at least something she blames herself for in retrospect, the kid felt an environmental threat and got a Cloaker power, while she felt the threat of losing the kid and got a Jacker power. Both are closely linked, because the shards decided to treat them as one-and-a-half organisms.
      Also, I expect Nursery will second-trigger if her baby is ever removed. (I could easily be wrong, though – if Panacea can extract her baby safely, she could be quite happy to have the kid mobile on his own. And if she actually isn’t a parahuman, the kid’s Shard should bud to her immediately.

  2. Our first real look at the local cape scene in the aftermath of it all. Or whatever the villain analogue is, anyway. I like what I see so far. Nursery just became significantly creepier, did not see that coming.

    1. I’m not sure whether she was being honest there. Or rather, I think that, if she was being honest, it’s because she’s completely delusional. Nothing about how trigger events work has indicated that this is a thing that’s possible; Nursery seems to have control over her power in the sense that she’s the originator of it, and of all the rules I can see being broken by new triggers I doubt this is one of them – especially when I’m pretty sure she triggered pre Gold Morning. I mean, at least she seemed amiable. All of the people here did, to be honest.

      I want to see more of this team, if only because they have excellent names.

      1. Keep in mind, an unborn baby would still be biologically connected to the mother and in a sense they could still be considered a single organism. So if one or the other triggered, her situation could make perfect sense. Also worth noting that without active guidance deciding where the Shard goes, it could totally set itself up in an infant if that infant was ‘alive’ enough to count as its own being at the time.

          1. An Anmila is about as likely as a software… pro…gram… triggering….

            If Bitch was in danger and Bastard couldn’t get to her, might he trigger? Especially since Rachael is his passnger.

        1. Especially if the child has the brain structure for triggering while the mother does not. She could have triggered, but had the connection develop within the fetus’ brain.

          1. Thing is, fetuses don’t develop enough to even have consciousness until a ways in there. Like, maybe the third trimester. Even then, they’re basically asleep until they get splurted out into the world. So that adds some complications to a being having a power and using it.

          2. I mean that the Gemma formed in the fetus’s undeveloped brain, not that the fetus itself is conscious.

      2. I could see it as something similar to Manton and the Siberian, actually. Nursery has a miscarriage or something similar that makes her trigger, then her brain tries to avoid the trauma. Maybe the passenger reads some of that and gives her a permanent baby bump or something. Pretty sure in her brief scene before we hear her talking to her baby, convincing it to do something (Victoria was smart enough to leave that whole mess alone). So her delusion is that she is still pregnant and her kid has the powers, and her passenger just goes off of her subconscious desires and lets her pretend.

      3. Make some sense, really. If you read that scene again, her Shaker-baby (insert obligatory shaken baby pun here) didn’t activate the maternity ward of doom until she started singing the lullaby.
        Her discussion with Snag also makes more sense in that light – she has even less direct control on the environment than usual Shakers.

  3. Well, it looks like Tt was the one running the op for Lord of Loss, or someone very much like her. This will make things much harder for Victoria, I think.

    In other news, Nursery is in a most interesting position in terms of powerist issues of the world as it is now, especially with her mindset.

    Very well done, a nice fleshing-out of the new world order.

    1. My bet is that it was actually Dinah. Tattletale would be too experienced, and I find it unlikely she would involve herself directly in any plot since she is managing big things.

      1. I think its unlikely to be Dinah simply because of the scope. Move by move predictions are taxing on her, and she is way to heavy a hitter. More like strategic predictions and stuff.

        TT makes more sense, it feels exactly like her modus operandi, plus of course she is also the “information broker”, which fits much better to her than Dinah.

      2. And Dinah wouldn’t be experienced after two years? Remember no character is a perfect cape fighting machine. Tattletale can still be blindsided like everyone else.

      3. I think it’s pretty clear that it’s Tt. They refer to the thinker doing ops as being the same information broker who was hired by Snag and Claw Lady, who are pretty obviously from the same cluster trigger as of5 (from glow worm). And they were said to have contracted Tt as an information broker for going after of5. I’d be very surprised if Wildbow had set that up like that when it was gonna be a fake out.

    2. I would hate having Tt be the one behind it. She wouldn’t do something so silly and amateurish.

      Also, wouldn’t most capes be out of the real identity hiding costumes?

      Everyone they knew on earth bet is dead. The need to protect the family members is a lot less.

      1. It’s not necessarily silly or amateurish. You heard what their goal was. Tactical and intelligence would be aware of the goal. Tattletale hears Marquis’ plan, power goes “And he’s absolutely right” assuming she hadn’t come to that conclusion herself, she helps out.

        Additionally, being known amongst the A and the B-listers as the approachable thinker for ops gives her positive rep, a bit of extra protection (“Hey, you leave her alone, she’s good people and a lot of us here feel the same”), and of course, networking. She’d do this for the same reason she worked the desk in her own territory back in the day. It’s a great way to learn stuff.

        1. It’s a dumb idea because something that Tattletale would know by now is that Victoria Dhallon was back and working with the new PRT. (Seriously, this is exactly the kind of info that she would know. Especially because Tattle tale has good reason to suspect that Glory Girl would hold a grudge. If Wildbow has overlooked this, I will be very disappointed. )

          I guess Word of God is that Tattletale had been running the op and been part of the planning. With that said, Victoria shouldn’t have gotten the drop on anyone. She would have heard… “There are some highschoolers from the blah blah new PRT.” and her power would have filled her in that there’s a good chance Victoria is there (and again, Victoria is one of those people, like Amy, that she should be keeping track of post Golden Morning.) It makes no sense that Victoria was a surprise to a Tattletale run op because Tattletale would have been keeping track of Victoria.

          Tattletale should be doing everything in her power to not acquire a reputation as a schemer. Very few people know that she took down Coil or her role in coordinating against Golden Morning. She should be giving people the impression that she’s just a girl with an odd sort of clairovoyance that’s not dependable and that dear departed Grue and Taylor were the brains of the Undersiders.

          The fact that Taylor is universally recognized as the MASTER of Masters means that anyone who says “Hey, guys, Tattletale is a really dangerous schemer. She is the one who made the Undersiders capable of taking on big opponents.” The response is going to be… “So your contention is that Tattletale, not the woman who literally took control of every powered person in the multiverse to kill a god… is the dangerous one? Tattletale is just a novelty now.”

          Tattletale should be keeping a low profile and she has the tools to do it. Imp can’t be remembered and the Heartbroken can cover any tracks.

          1. I don’t think Tattletale would have run this mission for the stated goals and wouldn’t have dropped the ball regarding Victoria again, at least not after Blindside reported in, but she might have run it in support of a long-term plan. Building rapport with the team, or gathering intelligence on them, could be useful later.

          2. You are forgetting the key fact that while Taylor was the one that made the undersiders raise to Warmonger status (at the very least from an outsider’s perspective) Tattletale is the one that kept them there for more than 2 years. No more Skitter there.

            I think it was Piggot that said that the fact that they reached that position was not surprising. That the surprising part was if they would last long there.

            Tattletale made that possible.

          3. Tattletale being one of Victoria’s archenemies would seem fitting since they’re both using their encyclopedic knowledge of other capes and the cape scene.

      2. The odd thing about it being Tattletale is that Marquis was working with Teacher. And the Undersiders had concluded they’d need to do something about Teacher before he did something really, really stupid.

      3. Costumes are just part of the culture now tho.

        Killfuck Soulshitter is going to be taken way more serious than “Bob, the guy from accounts who can hit stuff hard maybe I don’t know.”

        If you get the chance to dress like a badass and don’t take it? What’s wrong with you?

      4. On the costumes, it does make some sense to keep them. If you have allies, connections, or a reputation, in your costume identity, that can be very useful in the new world. Capes like Marquis and Lord of Loss will particularly want to keep those identities, since they come with prestige and respect. Does anyone even know their real names?
        Speaking of, it’s not like these guys are living somewhere that is perfectly okay with supervillains. They are still criminals, and unless they set up their own little country, they have to be able to find somewhere to sleep at night. With mounting animosity against superhumans, it makes sense they will want to keep their identities secret for their own safety. The only case where they could abandon their costumed identities and not have to fear being attacked on the street is if they abandoned using their powers publicly, and since they still want to seek conflict, that isn’t likely.

  4. Typos!

    “The old man pulled a pad and pen out of his apron”

    Missing period

    “…dust traveled across his vision, pink-tinted.  He smiled”

    Missing period

    “…otherwise you only confuse people” Velvet said.”

    Missing comma at end of speech

    “…one over his nose and mouthface.”

    Should just be mouth, I think.

    1. > The mask was metal, crude, and Moose wore something cloth under it for padding, which he had on now.
      I suspect “something cloth” is intentional, but it sounds a little odd.

      > “You two always seemed like the kind of edge of civilization people to me,” Moose asked.
      “Moose said” would fit better here. Also, “You two always seemed like the edge of civilization kind to me” sounds less unwieldy, I think.

      > Linc turned his attention to the building at the top of the hill.  “Nah.  Why would you build a nice place like this and use it for a nefarious purpose.”
      Missing question mark at the end here?

  5. Holy crap, we’re witnessing the birth of a supervillain syndicate! I’m envisioning the end stage of this plan as a sort of villainous mirror to the protectorate, only the motives are obviously much more selfish. We met a lot of new players this chapter, Marquis had his name dropped, letting us know he’s a big player in whatever is going to happen here. I want to learn more about Nursery, how does an unborn baby even HAVE a trigger event?

    1. My impression of this new super villain syndicate is that it’s made up of the B-listers, and will be VERY different from the Protectorate. Remember, the Protectorate could always bring in a few A-listers for serious threats. They had a goal (reduce villainy), a massive pool of resources, and a few truly terrifying capes on call.

      For these guys? I think it’s going to be closer to a union. You’re going to have people with weaker powers, who could probably get punk’d by a few skilled normies in a straight fight, all working together to reduce competition, back each other up, and set out the ground rules for what is and isn’t acceptable behavior in the criminal cape scene. They won’t hold territory, they won’t start coups. Instead, they’ll act as a company, hiring out low-tier cape henchpeople. Like, imagine if the Elite was made out of B-listers and was only interested in keeping it’s people alive. If you cross a line and kill one of their members, 10-20 B-listers come over and trash your shit and try to kill you. If you go back on a deal, they don’t work with you.

      Basically, I see this as all the lower-power villains working together to improve working conditions. People like Marquis, Tattletale, Bitch, Imp, Teacher? They’re a law unto themselves, and trying to fight them is a lot like fighting against a small country, not a person. People like Biter? They might appreciate being able to call in back up if their boss decides to be an arse.

      TL;DR: I disagree with your view of them as a mirror to the Protectorate, simply becuase I don’t think this group is going to have a goal beyond “enforce good working conditions,” and I don’t think capes like Marquis are going to be apart of it, simply becuase this group is focused towards the lower classes of capes.

      Also, I’m pretty sure Nursery is just crazy.

      1. Here’s the issue with being like the Elite, though: the Elite has a hierarchy of powerful capes controlling it. If this new group is kind of decentralized in leadership, with no major goals other than stability, and the whole thing is made up of people with distinctively weak powers, it’s just gonna be a sitting duck for someone to take control of to use for their own agenda. Powerful capes could take over with strategic attacks, a small group of members could gang up to coerce other members or leaders into listening to them, members could play politics and gather influence, and all this isn’t even taking Master and Stranger powers into account. If it’s a big organization of weak capes, that’s something a lot of people will find desirable to use for their own ends. They would have to protect the organization itself from countless different fronts.

        1. These are good points! Let me try to refute a few of them:

          First: I don’t think taking over the organization will be quite as desirable as you think. Taking control of a local branch won’t compromise the entire thing, precisely because of that decentralized leadership. You can pull a cup of water out of the sea, but the ocean’s still there. If it’s big enough, even several high-power capes walking around won’t be enough to ensure loyalty or co operation.

          Second: politics/gathering influence. I mean, what are you going use it to do? The goal of this organization would be to keep things relatively sane, and it’s main job is going to be keep a weird Geneva convention updated. What are you going to do, try and convince people to make kidnapping children acceptable?

          Third: Master/Stranger. This is a problem with literally any organization.

          Your first two points are reasonable, and not something I thought of when I considered this. I just don’t think that the A-listers are going to care about this, and I don’t think the group would be interested in adding them to the decision-making process. That, and with enough quantity, quality is meaningless. Like, Marquis is one of the strongest capes in a straight-up fight. I’m not sure he could win a 10 v 1, though he’d inflict hellish causalities.

  6. What is this, a henchman and henchwoman union in the making? Only in a wonderboar story would I expect that A: that would be a serious undertaking and B: that sich an organization would end up benefitial to the main characters (reestablishment of the rules of engagement and whatnot)

    1. Reminds me of the early version of the Serpent Society from Marvel. When they formed it was basically a co-op of all the snake themed villains. It was set up by Sidewinder, who was good with money being a former corperate accountant, and who had the bonus of being a teleporter so he never went of field missions. Instead something went wrong he’d rescue whoever was in jail. Then he retired and the consideribly less buisness savvy and much more idiotic Cobra took over, and all the proffessional mercenary members ended up ditching the group.

  7. A very chill chapter.
    No throwing beds at people, no flying through walls, lovely.
    Reaaallly hope the lady with white hair was (a) damsel of distress!!!
    Also, perhaps my memory is being silly but wasn’t Biter one of Bitch’s pals?

    1. You are correct. Biter was one of her henchmen back when the Undersiders worked for Coil and into their ruling days. I don’t remember if we knew what happened to him after Rachel moved to the other side of the portal.

      1. As of Rachel’s interlude he was thinking of leaving her and her group so he could move into the city and enjoy more luxuries like french fries and civilized society. Guess he has.

      2. They were an item for a while. He got tugged back toward civilization while she loved the wild places. Implied they just drifted apart due to wanting different things.

  8. First time I’ve ever read a chapter live! From some of the typo threads I’ve seen I was worried I wouldn’t be able to handle it, but this was fine!

    It was interesting how everybody clapped, is that a villainous camaraderie thing, or are they actively against the idea of Fume Hood becoming a hero?

    (Truly I am just commenting to cement myself in WheatBeer internet history.)

    1. I’m not sure how much they were against her becoming a hero vs against her getting lynched by an angry mob. Especially since said mob might have collateral effects on them.

    1. Obligatory “Mynd you, møøse bites Kan be pretti nasti…”

      … After checking the full credits again, I couldn’t help but notice there also was

      Miss Taylor’s Møøses by HENGST DOUGLAS-HOME

      Coincidence ? In my wildbow ?

  9. I never expected PRT Quest bit characters to get an interlude, but I don’t look a gift horse in the mouth.
    And it seems like Tattletale was directly supporting the strike team…
    And Nursery’s situation is just plain bizarre…
    And Biter seems to have gone off on his own merry way, just as Rachel predicted/worried.

    1. I wasn’t there for all of PRT Quest, and I forgot a lot of the players and events I was there for, but the mention of them coming from Alaska did make me wonder. What was their deal in the quest?

      (I shudder to think what would happen in the comments section if Wildbow brought Feint back.)

      1. They were on the periphery of the quest. They were mentioned briefly as low threat and low priority villains who were basically drug dealers and party animals. I think they had files on their powers as well, but I’m not sure about that.

      2. From what little I’ve seen, Feint was a textbook Puppeter who Director Seneca handled very badly. Puppeters hate being manipulated, and Seneca wasn’t subtle about it at all. Taylor, conversely, handled Rachel quite well – she offered the hand of friendship without ever demanding something in return, but didn’t let Rachel walk over her. In response, Rachel became possibly her closest friend, and she certainly became Rachel’s – Rachel even sacrificed much of her pack to save Taylor from Leviathan, which is kind of amazing when you think about it.

  10. Man, what the hell is Nursery. I wonder how much of her nice demeanor was real and how much was a veneer. Perhaps she seemed more out of it from Victoria’s perspective than she actually is, or maybe she’s just good at acting sane most of the time…or using her power (or is it really the ‘baby’ that is a parahuman?) messes up her head. Either way, I’m intrigued by her character.

  11. I thought Prancer explaining Velvet’s power to the audience was a bit too forced, and at one point Velvet’s costume is described as a ‘velvet color’ when I’d have thought it would be a ‘velvet texture’. Enjoyed hearing Biter’s name, Lord of Loss seems like a real character, and maybe in regards to Nursery, her shard budded to her unborn baby but still left her with some control?
    Thanks for the chapter, super interesting!

    1. Velvet is a type of material, yes. It’s also a shade of red, presumably because medieval velvet was usually dyed that shade.

  12. Prancer and Velvet are nice. Aging people in an open relationship, still dealing with their own issues, still more or less in love. And I guess Moose fills in when they need a third, apparently. I support Moose and his love of the beasts of the Canadian wilderness.

    Other stuff-Nursery uses “they” for Blindside, nobody contradicts her. Blindside’s power seems to conceal their sex, their voice hasn’t been described even though Prancer recognized them which makes me think it’s a subtle Stranger effect. Does Blindspot deliberately present as androgynous? Neat if so.

    I’m a little skeptical on the whole “Thinker plan to avoid anti-cape violence by staging vigilante attacks” thing. It’s gonna explode. When it does Victoria might get to get some catharsis from the bank job and punch (or lightly tap) Tattletale.

    Still doubting that “ram a truck into a populated building” is a zero-casualty plan. That thing was reinforced, and that’s even before you consider Crystalclear potentially messing up the enemy Thinker power.

    1. Blindside could be pretty recognizable just from their power. Prancer seems to know about Nursery’s team, so it makes sense that he’d know about the power. Plus he and Velvet get that joke from Nursery about why Blindside’s staying outside.

        1. Ignore the troll- nonbinary representation is great <3 and yeah, given here we have characters who know Blindside referring to them with they/them pronouns, that pretty much confirms that those are their preferred pronouns. After all, if they wanted to be called him or her, they would've told the people they're working with.

    2. It’s dumber because it relies on us readers believing that Tattletale would not know about Victoria Dallon being back.

      I imagine Tattletale has a pretty long list of “People who I should keep tabs on because they might hold a grudge.”

      Victoria and the rest of New Wave would be on that list. (i.e. once New Wave found out that Victoria was back… Tattletale would have found out too.)

      So she runs an op within a 30 minute drive of where she knows Victoria to be and she knows that Victoria is part of the high school PRT program….

      I’m really hoping that this was all just an elaborate scheme by Tattletale to get Victoria back in the cape game because anything else makes Tattletale look like an incompetent, negligent idiot.

      1. Victoria’s not ‘back’. Not yet. She’s spent the last two years as, basically, a cross between a substitute teacher, librarian and cape expert. Maybe she’s done babysitting like this before, in the last two years, but if so nothing like this has happened before. She’s been subtle with her powers, if she’s used them at all. And New Wave is in retirement; as far as Victoria’s aware, the only one still in the cape scene is Panacea (but LaserDream might come out of retirement soon, too. If only to support Vicky). Tattletale might keep tabs, but they aren’t going to be a priority. Not like Teacher, or Panacea, or Marquis, or Dragon, or Valkyrie, or the surviving Endbringers, or however many other powerful, potentially important capes survived that mess and might be working to destabilise things… Or who might not be keeping things stable in the same way that Tattletale wants.

        Tattletale isn’t going to keep track of capes that, for all we know, she thinks are still flesh-blobs or dead. Tattletale was very careful not to get close to Khepri; she may have been watching, but if so, she wasn’t watching everything and everywhere. Her missing that little reunion is not impossible- lots going on everywhere, hard to keep track of everything, and it’s all going on across four or five worlds. Vs vg jrera’g sbe ure raunaprq zhygv-gnfxvat, Xurcev jbhyq unir ybfg genpx bs guvatf. Va snpg, fur qvq. Fur pbhyqa’g svaq Tehr’f pnova frireny gvzrf, be ure zhz’f tenir.

        1. Tattletale, if she’s keeping track of Panacea, (which she would be) would know that Glory Girl has been restored.

          What Victoria was doing manually with her Cape library is what Tattletale’s power does automatically.

          It doesn’t make sense that she wouldn’t have some idea that Victoria is no longer a blob.

          1. Why would she? Panacea healed Victoria whilst other things were going on, potentially several worlds different. And Victoria’s been keeping her distance ever since.

            And Silverbane, below, also has a point. Not telling the team that she’s expecting Glory Girl helps keep herself covered, and Victoria’s been keeping herself out of the spotlight and not using her power. TT could have been testing Victoria, to see if she’d intercede or flee. Then Victoria still has some anonymity as TT didn’t tell her team.

      2. I’m not sure that this chapter gives any indication that Tattletale *didn’t* take into account the presence of Victoria Dallon. The Op was considered a success, but not in the way that the Operators expected. A non-cape is implicated in a crime against a controversial cape. Also, Victoria Dallon got outed as Glory Girl. This doesn’t look, to me, like a Tattletale screw up. It looks to me like a win-win-win.

  13. One thing I found funny: Prancer giving Moose shit for his name.. when his is Prancer?? like, god that sounds pretty lame in comparison if you ask me.

  14. This chapter is awesome!!! Cool new characters, plus a Marquis namedrop (!!! my jaw dropped at that one), a (possible/probable) Tattletale reveal (also !!!!! yesss), also Biter hello, and the Nursery thing is… fascinating. Super fun read and I am very excited to see what happens with these teams (team?)

  15. I feel conflicted about this chapter.

    We know that humanity from earth bet is spread out over 50ish worlds in the hundreds of millions and many of them have existing human populations so billions more.

    But somehow, there is a capes only bar where people in a post apocalyptic civilization are still dressing in costume.

    Cops and robbers should be over. The only reason it would be continuing is because of what was happening in the Worm epilogues, namely powerful villain Capes like Tattletale and Marquis keeping the rest from breaking the peace.

    A Cape who decides to start robbing random people or goes on a murder spree is going to be killed by villain capes long before the new prt gets there.

    I didn’t hear enough menace in this chapter.

    People still care about Weed as an illegal substance after the apocalypse?

    These are people who A) just saw everyone they loved and cared about die b) were mind raped by Taylor c) have vastly superior powers to most of the people around them d) there is no longer any credible legal authority that they need to fear.

    But they’re still sitting and hiding in some ridiculous costumes?

    In Worm, costumes made sense because the Prptectorate used them for branding while the villains didn’t want their families and day jobs to be in danger.

    Well, most of these people have lost their families and being a parahuman is now their day job.

    Why are most still wearing masks?

    1. Well, there is always inertia. Prancer’s comments about getting into a rut are of interest.

      Costumes and masks also offer the opportunity to hide your identity in other ways. If you have a not-immediately-identifiable power, a change of costume is a way to make a clean break from people who knew both of your identities. And given the way the cape community works, wouldn’t surprise me to see a fair bit of that.

      As far as dealing goes, it may not be the illegality so much as supply and access. Weed is not easy to get, and won’t be a priority to grow and acquire for most struggling post-apocalyptic communities. When people are clustered together and trying to survive, a community might not approve of a subset of the population spending money/resources on something that’d be easy to see as a luxury. So you have to buy on the down-low.

      This gets potentially more common a problem for buyers/smokers if they end up stuck in religious enclaves or other tight-knit communities with values that preclude weed or other things.

      1. You’re rationalizing Wildbow not reexamining the world post golden morning.

        Changing costumes could be a clean break from the past… but you know what’s even easier? Going from being “Biter” in a crazy denim jacket, festooned with teeth… to just being “Steve.”

        I would have a very hard time identifying Steve’s powers.

        If you’re a drug dealer or smuggler, do you want to be dressed in a purple hoodie that screams “PAY ATTENTION!” or do you want to be dressed in normal clothing?

        Wildbow already conceded this point that “costumes make little sense” in the last chapters.

        Victoria was much, much, much more effective against a group of 5 pretty high powered villains because they first had no idea that she was a cape and then had no idea what kind of cape she was.

        If Victoria had showed up to that Community center in her Glory Girl outfit, they would have immediately ID’d her and dealt with her much more effectively.

        In canon, villains didn’t go uncostumed because having a costume meant a modicum of protection. The PRT would go easy on you. You’d be a member of good standing during Endbringer fights and could buy good will. You might even get a new identity and go hero. That was worth giving up some of the tactical advantages of being incognito.

        Post Golden Morning, none of this is true. The Hero teams would still want to be in costume for branding purposes, and for things like not getting shot by cops. But for the villains… No. If you want to walk into a bank and use your special red dust to lift some money out of drawers and crack a vault… people will probably notice the lady in the Purple robe and mask. But going back to the bank robbery in Worm… It was almost foiled because Victoria and Amy were in the bank without costumes.

        Costumes still have some usefulness for intimidation and as an ID. But even then, I’d expect a retreat to practicality. Why do these guys have masks? Why are they wearing a mask in the truck? The Internet and facial recognition and databases are gone.

        Why are these rebels and outcasts and badasses carefully laying out stencils and buying spray bleach and asking if these cutoff jeans make them look fat?

        Blackbeard put matches in his hair when attacking ships to look intimidating as possible… I don’t think he kept them in when going to have some rum in Port Royale.

        These people should be in partial costume. The costumes should be less ID concealing than they were in the past.

        The image I got from this scene too often strayed from “Badass villain meeting up in the saloon” (sort of a High Noon vibe) because I kept imagining each of these villains putting on their skin tight leotards, checking their makeup, making sure their mask isn’t wrinkled, and going through a lot more preparation than necessary. I get that Moose, Velvet, and Prancer want to look intimidating so they come in full costume… but the bouncer? A costumeless guy in a cape bar is more intimidating. Who is he? What are his powers? Could I take him?

        It really takes me out of it to see so many villains in full costume when presumably some of them are just there to chill.

        1. Or you could stop being a whiny bitch and remember its a superhero story with a villain bar, of course they’re going to be in costume it’s a rep thing

        2. You’re commenting the same idea in several places here, which seems unnecessary.

          To your point, maybe extravagance and recognizability are negative points to costumes (though I could argue about both points), but you also mentioned that identity concealment shouldn’t be a concern, which seems really silly to me. If you are a cape villain, you will be committing crimes. When committing crimes, wearing a mask is a really good idea!

          I get how your point might apply to heroes, at first. However, they will soon form new friendships and bonds, and then the incentive to keep their civilian and cape life separate will be there once more.

        3. I would offer that you are ignoring a key point of cape psychology: attention. It takes a special type of crazy to trigger, and part of that is usually a delusion of grandeur. People are proud of what they can pull of, and they want everyone to know about it.

          It DOES make more sense to wear a grey hoodie and a blank white mask to a robbery, while using a voice modulator to mess with voice recognition. It DOES make more sense to a face in the crowd. It WOULD make more sense for Taylor, if what she really wanted was to do good, to go straight the PRT and simply put up with high school 2.0 with the Wards.

          But you don’t get into the game becuase it makes sense. You do it for the attention, for the fame, for the reputation it brings. Like, if Grue was smart, he’d offer to fix nuclear reactor for a living, or help science advance immeasurably (I know some particle physicist that would give their left arm for his power). If Regent was smart, he’d use his power to force people through PT. If Bitch was lucky, she’d use her power to be the world’s greatest vet. If Tatttletale had the option, she’d work for Watchdog and get paid several thousand dollars and hour. Instead, they play the most dangerous game with more steps.

          The costume is part of the game, and wearing it lets capes feel special. If you’re going to relax, why not do it in the clothing that makes you feel like a badass?

          Again, you do make really good points. No one here is a good criminal. But I don’t think capes are usually trying to be good criminals. When they are good criminals, they have to play by the rules in order to not seem scary enough to shoot first and ask question never.

          1. Not everyone lost everyone. And everyone makes friends and gets to know new people. Incognito helps a lot. Plus, if you’re a cape robbing a bank and you’ve got pyrogenesis, turning up in fancy dress immediately lets everyone know ‘This person has powers’ and you don’t have to demonstrate the ability whilst surrounded by panicked people who don’t yet know why they should let you walk out with whatever you want and potentially being another Fume Hood.

            The older ones still dress up for the normality of going out in costume. The younger ones, triggered in the last two years, do it because everyone else is, or to fit in with the older ones. Or because they knew somebody in costume that died over Gold Morning and want to honour them- second- and third-generation capes in particular could go out in their parent’s old gear.

          2. Let’s also not forget about branding in a place where people’s skills are a tradeable asset. Hot dogs may all be made of the same animal asses, but if that ass is in a nice enough package, you might just decide you’re going to get all up on that thing with your tongue. Then you throw in messing with colors, like how red is supposed to stimulate appetite, and you have even more ways to pull attention to your wiener.

            Something tells me someone’s going to start noticing just how often red is used as a main color at fast food places and on food packaging now.

        4. Inertia probably has a fair bit to do with it, but I would also like to point out that post-Gold Morning, there is no more PRT downplaying individual power of capes. After Zion did his thing, and with Taylor pulling out all the stops – even if people don’t know the details, they know that capes have a lot of raw power in general terms. The masks and costumes are not just for concealment – they are a statement about the power of the individuals wearing them.

        5. Honestly, I think costumes make plenty of sense now, precisely because now villainous capes *don’t* have to worry about being identified. There’s no cohesive government right now and no serious law enforcement that can seriously police capes, so capes don’t have to worry about being identified. That means they don’t have to try to stay on the down-low, play at being a civilian, and avoid detection.

          Villains can now choose to be as open and flamboyant about their powers as they want. I’m sure plenty of them are flying under the radar, trying to slip into the new era unnoticed. But plenty of others will be taking advantage of the newly available notoriety and exercising that power. By wearing something which clearly identifies them as a cape, they gain the respect and fear of those around them. To be known as a cape is no longer to be surveilled and monitored by the government. Now being known as a cape means you have *power*.

          And what, in this universe, classically identifies someone as a cape? Why, costumes! So what are capes in this new world going to wear? Costumes, obviously.

          (P.S. These villains are most definitely not ‘just going about in public’ in this bar. They’re here to make an impression, earn respect, and gain recognition. And in cape circles that means having a quality costume which makes an impression. For all we know none of these people would wear their costumes elsewhere when not on a job, but they’d all be fools to come to this place without one.)

        6. I would believe the claim that costumes make less sense now than they used to. But two reasons for identity concealment I believe haven’t been brought up in this thread:
          1) As I understand it, villains on different teams aren’t all buddy-buddy with each other. Even if you don’t need to protect anyone or your civilian self from the authorities, you might not want potential rivals or enemies finding out who you are.
          2) If you do want to have a day job, which admittedly is probably a minority of villains, you probably wouldn’t want your boss knowing you’re a villain even if the authorities don’t have the manpower to crack down on you.

          Beyond that, I don’t think anyone wants to be the first person to try to be an undercover villain and risk other villains getting mad at them for not playing by what rules are left of cops and robbers. For the same reason, nobody wants to be the first cape to e.g. use a different costume every time to confuse people.

    2. Even without databases there’s still survelliance cameras, witness reports, and wanted posters. Criminals wore ski masks long before facial recognition software.

      Also, legal authority has Dragon, Valkryie, and Legend on call, so honestly they’re actually more terrifying than ever.

    3. Re: Weed

      Marijuana is a pretty useful crop. Nigh-impossible to overdose on, it functions as a painkiller with some beneficial effects in fighting certain forms of cancer. It can be used to help treat PTSD, seizures, etc, etc., and that’s only the drug benefits. The fibers and oils are useful for other things, including hempcrete, plastic, paper, water purification, and biofuels.

      So now you got a guy growing stuff used for building materials, water purification, fuel, and paper, in a post-apocalyptic Earth. Sounds nifty, and reminds me of how important the pot farmer became in the 1632 series for similar reasons.

  16. I’m really interested in these characters. It was nice to see a glimpse of the villain community, and I’m looking forward to when Victoria ends up interacting with all these capes.

    Thanks for the chapter.

  17. Jesus Christ. Whether or not it’s really the baby with the power, Nursery is messed up. I am thoroughly disturbed.

  18. I find it funny how prancer considers moose a joke name. I mean, prancer. Really. You are literally named after one of Santa’s reindeer.

    1. I want the rest of them damn it. On Donner and Blitzen and all the other’s I’m too sleep deprived to remember but who never got their own movies like Prancer. Oh and Rudolph with his TV special played every year.

  19. Lots of capes have fairly literal names, but now we learn that Nursery is, actually, a literal nursery.

    One sort of hopes that this isn’t a setup for violently imposed irony like e.g. “Armsmaster”.

  20. Nice! Sounds like these guys are gonna be major players, if just through benefit of being the minor players who got everyone together and built some new Written Rules.

    So LoL and co were after the same goal as Victoria in the end, huh? Both sides were trying to prevent the explosion, and they just had different means of it… that certainly increases the chance that they’ll wind up allies at some point!

    I like Moose.

    Also hold on, didn’t we hear from some cape who realized something about themselves in court in one of the Glow-Worm chapters? Was that Prancer?

    Nursery’s baby triggered, huh… I wonder how that actually works.

    1. I’m guessing it wasn’t actually the baby that triggered – a baby doesn’t really have the emotional capacity to feel that shitty. Possibly she’s one of those broken triggers we’ve been hearing about?

  21. What I like about this interlude is what it sets up for the ongoing world narrative around Victoria. As the protagonist/narrator (if you want to call her either) it gives an interesting tension — this chapter indicates that cape versus cape violence in the new order is to prevent citizen versus cape tension, kind of a steam valve to head it off before it gets out of hand. Given that Victoria is an outsider to the cape system right now it makes her “punch first, ask questions later” attitude problematic in the bigger picture.

    In other words, to other capes she’s going to look like a disrupter/antagonist to their goals, which for instance seemed “criminal” to Victoria in fighting them, but here at the bar seem almost benevolent. Thinkers (possibly Tattletale) are planning systematically and Victoria is thinking without context.

    This will be interesting.

    1. You don’t seem to have noticed how different Victoria is than she was before the S9 hit Brockton Bay. She doesn’t go off half-cocked. She thinks before acting, holds back when she can, and deeply regrets her old recklessness. 1.8 in particular shows how hard she’s working on self-discipline. Once she encounters the Blister Union, I think she’ll surprise you.

  22. This was a very good chapter. I believe Marquis runs this little joint so that means he is doing quite well for himself.

  23. Also nice to see that capes who were around Gold Morning do remember learning about Passengers and aknowledge that they have alien parasites affecting them.

  24. Panacea was closer to her father last we saw of her. I can see WiggleBot giving her a topdog role in this budding organization, if Marquis gets involved.

  25. An interlude, how much I missed those…

    Wow, I did think that Nusery’s power was a bit strange in nature, but I guess it makes sense if she is actually right with her idea of how it works.

    And if Marquis is there, does he still have contact to Amy?

  26. Am I the only one making a note of every single person with tinker claws in case they are part of Of5’s trigger? Pretty sure that’s the same chick Of5 found before, but still. Also, pretty sure the only reason know one has pointed out that Lord of Loss’ initials are LOL is because they enjoy living.

  27. Ooooh, Nursery is VERY interesting, especially since that’s almost definitely not the full story.

    The one running the op? Might be Tt, but where’s the inexperience coming from? Something to do with gathering the details?

    And once again, people strive to organize. Might end up being something akin to that Eden timeline interlude. To keep an eye on, definitely

    Thank you for writing.

  28. This was an interesting introduction to some of the new player; B-listers can be pretty interesting when you give them time.

    And a kid triggered before they were born? they are going to be really messed up

  29. I notice how Wildbow’s characters sometimes reflect the current social conflicts going on in North America.

    Legend being gay, now Nursery, being a shard-enforced anti-abortion platform, Prancer being bi.

    Is it a way to generate more readers by hooking up the the trends?

    Or is he subconsciously manipulated by the leftist propaganda?

    Anyway, wormverse is still a shitty place, even after Scion got killed.

    Thinkers and Tinkers still use their powers for small and meaningless status boosts, then plan something more for when the buzz fades, so they remain in the public perception.

    Still, no science been done, still no clean energy, still capes abusing their powers. No wonder the anti-cape sentiment is growing.

    And with access to worlds and portals, there would be simple solutions. Just exile them on some planet and lock the door. Get civilization going. I want spaceships, not nursery rhymes.

    1. There have always been gay people, bisexual people, and trans people, as well as people handling controversies over pregnancy, whether it was the 100% gay Sacred Band of Thebes kicking ass in the 300s BC or women of the Middle Ages eating lots of Tansy to induce a miscarriage.

      As people become less hostile to their existence and a wider distribution of knowledge allows people to even know they exist, it’s only natural that art begins to more accurately reflect people. It’s kinda like how greater knowledge meant that people were able to figure out that the holes letting light through the dome around the Earth were actually stars a long way off, and that said stars might have planets of their own, and that their sun might be like one of those stars, and that their planet may not be the center of the universe, and neither is the sun.

      And what seemed strange and blasphemous in one age becomes accepted as fact in another.

    2. Exile who? The capes? Not going to happen, on account of the capes have all the powers. The normies can’t even manipulate the portals without tinker tech, and there’s no way they can force hundreds or thousands of parahumans, several of whom could probably wipe out what remains of humanity ALONE, to take a walk in the Prison Dimension. Birdcage only worked because the Protectorate and Dragon could supply the firepower to move people inside and keep them there.

      Also, I thought abortions were left-wing. Did it flip recently, or something? I don’t follow American politics that closely.

      1. The best description I can give that might still be allowed here is: Imagine a second remake of Red Dawn, where the Russians also have Nazis, pedophiles, and Gordon Gekko on their side, except it’s still as terrible to watch as the first remake.

      2. “Also, I thought abortions were left-wing. Did it flip recently, or something? I don’t follow American politics that closely.”

        No, Pef is just incorrect. On this matter and also others.

    3. Actually, one of the things I like about Wildbow’s writing is that he doesn’t push issues like that. If he’d, say, made Taylor homosexual and had that be a major thing, I might not have been able to get very far in Worm. Legend, Flechette, etc were people first and gay second. We aren’t supposed to feel or think a certain way, things just are the way they are.
      All his characters, really, are very human and at least a little sympathetic, events the worst capes like Nilbog, Bonesaw, and the E88 were written as people, not one-dimensional types.

  30. “More expensive too,” Velvet said. She was looking at the blackboard posted by the door, with prices. “Twenty dollars for a chicken sandwich?”

    Clearly, nobody told them that these are only the best and most wild chickens. Longhorn chickens, raised in Texas. They broke out of their cages when people stopped feeding them. After picking through the remains of a destroyed Texas bovine growth hormone plant that exploded and then making their way up through the irradiated remains of the Great Plains, they soon found themselves at the top of the pecking order.

    Now they hunt across the plains, wild and free, the size of elephants and regaining their ancestral teeth. Their mighty roars signal to wake nearby potential prey and tell them that this day is likely their last.

    All but one brave superhuman with the power, guile, and badass biker jacket to hunt them, armed only with a collection of muscle cars jacked up with rockets and machine guns. If there’s one being the Chickasaurus rexes know not to cross it’s… The Road.

    1. So that’s where Squealer’s power ended up. Headcanon accepted. Incidentally, have you read Hollywood Chickens by Terry Pratchett?

        1. Indeed you do, good sir.
          …I want a background book styled like an RPG supplement, detailing various corners of the setting. What was Germany like? How did India actually operate in practice? How has the apocalypse changed things? Bioshock Splicers versus Terminator armies with a dash of Mad Max villains for flavor may seem like a good start for Modern Earth Bet, but I’d quite like to see detail on who the factions are, what sorts of damage Zion did, and a bit of detail on specific areas, particularly their history before Year Zero compared to what they are now.
          Are you the sort of person to talk to about this?

          1. There is a hell of a lot of that where I’m certainly not. Maybe on the micro scale from time to time, but there’s a lot of this I’d end up pulling out of my ass while messing up something Wibbles the Wonder Pig has already written elsewhere or will write. That’s before we even get to me managing to pull off a book.

            I don’t even remember this Squealer person, or know what PRT Quest is, and people are tossing out fanfics everywhere.

            But when you need crazy with a dash of pompous social commentary, I might just be the one you need.

          2. That’s alright, I enjoy your jokes anyway.
            (Squealer was one of the Merchants, and girlfriend to Skidmark. She was also a large-dangerous-vehicle tinker, and died fighting the Nine.)

  31. I just imagine what Taylor would have done, instead of Victoria.

    “Crazy lady, sings lullabies for babies. I wonder if she’s pregnant…

    Should I, kick her in the belly, stab her, suffocate her with silk, poison her with spiders?

    Nah. Not painful enough.
    I know. Bees. All the bees.

    Then mace her in the face.
    And then scoop out her eyes.
    That seems to work most of times too.

    And if that’s not enough…maybe a bomb from Oni, a singularity always hurts.

    And if that’s not enough, then I’ll escalate. Hmmm.

    Simurgh seems bored. And she’s fun to hang with. She barely speaks.”

    1. Reminder that Coil rather wanted to live i the timeline where he didn’t give the order to throw grenades at a half-dead Skitter.

    2. That’s the reason why I liked Taylor so much. She was not a pansy ass hero who hesitate to kill people who DESERVE to be killed, she was a great anti-heroine who didn’t had any qualms to get a job well done, even if she had to maim/torture people, and yet she did better than lots of heroes who are too spineless to get their hands dirty. I so love anti-heroes, especially sadistic, ruthless ones, the ones who left behind them countless of dead bodies of evil people in order to reach a purpose that might help innocent people, too bad they’re so freaking rare in the works of fiction. Punisher and Skitter are my all time favorite antiheroes.

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