Glare – 3.2

Previous Chapter                                                                                           Next Chapter

“Hey, Victoria, you’re strong right?” Kenzie asked.

“Kind of,” I said.  “I’d be worried about breaking whatever it is I’m handling.”

“It’s pretty durable.”

I thought about my forcefield.  “I totaled the last car I lifted.”

“I brought things, and I thought maybe Chris could lift some or Tristan could, but Tristan doesn’t think he’s strong enough and Chris doesn’t want to.”

She turned stick out her tongue at Chris.

“Limited duration,” Chris said.

“I can take a look, where is this?” I asked Kenzie.

“At the street.  Black van.  I’ll show you.”

“Yeah, that’d help.  I’ll probably have questions.”

I turned to the others, pointing at the treeline.  “If you guys want to head over that way, stop at the rocky outcropping on the hill.  We’ll meet you there.”

Kenzie walked with me.  She was wearing black overalls and a pink tank top, a red apple clip in her hair, and red sneakers.  Her hair was in much the same style as before, but the buns were set higher.

I paid more attention to her fashion choice because so much about it seemed deliberate, from color scheme to running theme.  During the last meeting it had been a star on her dress, partially on her shirt, and in her hair.

“My dad gave me a ride today, because he needs to buy a suit and more work clothes,” Kenzie said.  “Please don’t judge me too harshly if he acts really lame.”

“I won’t,” I said.  “You said Tristan and Chris could have helped.  Tristan has increased strength?”

“Just a little.  Very very little.”

“I guess we’ll find out soon.”

“Sveta could have helped too, we think, she’s really strong if she uses her real body, but it would have meant dragging it and that would have hurt the grass.”

“How big is this thing?”

“I’ll show you,” she said.  She sprinted the last little way to the sleek van that was parked on the street in front of the library, hopping up to the passenger side window, clinging to the bottom edge of the open window so she could stick her head in.  The back door of the van popped open, and Kenzie’s father stepped out, walking around the van to the sidewalk.

He was almost as meticulous in appearance as Kenzie.  He was very lean, with pronounced cheekbones and a long face that was made to look longer by the goatee that extended an inch from his chin.  He wore a short-sleeved work shirt with a pinstripe pattern on it, and slim jeans that looked like they had cost a pretty penny.  Shoes, belt, and watch, all expensive-looking.

The beard and his longer hair weren’t as tidy as Kenzie was, but I was hardly about to judge, given how it was probably a day off for him and he was sitting in the sun.

“Dad, this is Victoria.  She’s the coach I was talking about.  Victoria, this is my dad.”

“Hi, Mr…”  I extended a hand.

“Julien Martin,” he said.  He shook my hand.  Both handshake and his tone were stiff, but it was a different kind of stiffness than I was used to seeing in Dean’s family.  I was well aware of how easily I’d slotted him onto that same mental shelf.

“You can call him Julien,” Kenzie said.

“Nice to meet you.  What do you do?”

“Realty.”

“Dad only got into realty a year and a half ago, but he’s really good at both the buying and selling sides of things.  I don’t really get it all, but his boss seemed pretty happy with him.  You got a promotion, right?”

“I did.”

“He’s doing it ethically, too, which is so important, with so many shady people out there.”

“I’m trying,” he said.

“I can respect that,” I said.  “Thanks for bringing Kenzie out this far, and for bringing her stuff.”

Kenzie rolled her eyes.  “We should go take a look so we don’t keep the others waiting.”

Julien followed us around to the back of the van, standing back while we opened the doors.  A black box that was a bit larger than a washing machine was sitting in there, strapped down ten ways from Sunday, to keep it from sliding around when the vehicle moved.  More boxes were sitting at either side of the van, with straps to keep them flush against the wall, but they weren’t any larger than a backpack or suitcase.

“We got the van because some of my stuff is hard to move,” Kenzie said.

“Okay,” I said.  The box had a metal frame around the edges, with a crossbar running diagonally along each face.  “What do I need to know?”

“Pick it up and move it.”

“It’s tinkertech, right?”

“It is.”

“Is there a chance of a misfire if it’s moved in the wrong way, if something’s crushed or broken?”

“No.”

“Will I hurt anything if it’s turned on its side?”

“No,” Kenzie said.  “Hm.  It’s best if you don’t turn it upside down.”

“Where should I grab it, to best carry it?”

“Geeez,” Kenzie said.  “It’s not going to blow up or anything.  Or if it did, it wouldn’t be a big enough explosion to hurt anyone.  Not unless very specific conditions were met.”

“Right,” I said.  I had an issue with my power, where I wasn’t sure I trusted the forcefield to simply hold the box and not crush or dig into it.  It was only about a minute of flying to get to where I wanted to go, but even if everything went according to plan, I was worried that handling the box for more than a couple of seconds would leave handprints or gouges in it.

While I investigated, Kenzie climbed in beside me, peering at the box and watching me.

“Give me some space?” I asked.

Kenzie grabbed some smaller things on her way out.

It took a few minutes, but I unclipped the straps that were securing the box in place, and laid them across the ground.  I lifted the box, and set it down on the straps.  I connected them, wrapping them around the box, then slid it around so I could reach the ones at the back.  There was a ramp built into the truck, and I could see where the box could slide along the tracks, but it seemed like more of a hassle to use the ramp and unload that way.

“How dangerous is this team business going to be?” Julien asked, behind me.

“Dad,” Kenzie protested.  “Don’t embarrass me.”

“If I thought it was going to be a serious danger, I wouldn’t be helping,” I said, still working on the straps.  “But I can’t guarantee anything.”

I fastened the straps, then hauled the entire thing out, forcefield up, gripping the box.  It thudded against the street.  Dense.

“Is it a problem?” I asked Julien.

“It’s not a problem,” Kenzie said, firm.  “I can handle myself.  I’ve trained more than a lot of heroes, because I did a year going to all the practice events and stuff.”

“I’m more interested in what your dad has to say.  I don’t want to step on toes, and your parents get the last word.”

“It’s fine,” Julien said.  “If it wasn’t this, she would be doing something else.  I prefer this team idea.”

“You should,” Kenzie huffed.

“Do you need to be picked up?”

“Yes, please.  In…?” Kenzie looked at me.

“Two hours?” I asked.  “Is that okay?”

“It’s fine,” her dad said.  He still had that tone, which came across curt, inflexible.  I had a hard time imagining him as a salesman.  Accountant, maybe.

“Before you do anything, can you go to the train station?  Rain had to take the train and he’s running late.  Bring him here?” Kenzie asked.

Her dad frowned.

“Please,” Kenzie said.

“Where am I going?” he asked.

“Give me your phone, I’ll put it in there.”

While they fussed, I checked and fixed the remainder of the straps.

“I’ll be right back,” I said.

The straps served to let me hold the box without actually holding it.  I flew, holding the length of straps that I’d wound together and attached at the tail end.  The box made for unwieldy flying, swinging below me.

Could the forcefield potentially claw through them?  Yes.  I hoped I’d be able to see it before it managed to succeed.

I flew in the direction I’d sent the others, leaving Kenzie behind.

My phantom self gripped the length of straps, scratched, squeezed, and twisted it, periodically making the ten foot length of cords bend in unusual shapes.

I hadn’t interacted with it much.  I hadn’t seen the limits of its intelligence or lack thereof.  This one minute of flying might have even been the longest period I’d properly used my strength in two years.

I sighted the others, sitting on the rocks and talking.  I dropped low, and I set the box down on the ground.  Even with the care I was taking, it made a noise on landing.

“Wow,” Tristan said.  “How heavy is that thing?”

“No idea,” I said.  “If I had to guess, maybe three hundred and fifty pounds?”

“I can see why she has a hard time moving those things around.”

“She described them as being bigger,” Chris said.  “Others, I think.  I think they start at that size and get larger.”

“Did her dad leave?” Sveta asked.

“Not yet,” I said.  “They’re figuring out logistics.  He’s going to go pick up Rain at the station.  Be right back.”

I flew over to where Kenzie and her dad were.  Kenzie’s dad was in the driver’s seat, and Kenzie was closing the rear doors.  A series of bags and boxes were unloaded, all packed together.

As I landed, her dad pulled away.  Kenzie raised a hand in a wave.

I was aware of the lack of a wave in response.  From the way she lowered her hand and glanced at me, Kenzie was too.

“Want to fly over?” I asked.

Her eyes lit up with excitement as she nodded.

There were very few people in the world who didn’t like flying.

It was, in a way, almost as much of a pain to bring Kenzie, two cases and two boxes without my strength active, as it had been to move the one cube.  I ended up lifting her by the straps at the back of her overalls, my hand also wrapped around the strap of one bag, while Kenzie held other things.

We arrived at the hill with the rocks.  There was light overgrowth, a fairly loose distribution of trees for the fact that it was untamed wilderness, and thick grass.  A surveying team had passed through at one point, and they had disturbed earth here and there, felled a few trees, and spray painted the face of one of the larger rocks before leaving.

A bit of a shame, but I could understand the need for a quick and easy label.  No minerals or stone of any particular value here.

Chris, wearing his headphones again, was wearing what looked like the same shorts as he had worn at the meeting, and a different t-shirt.  He was examining the box, while keeping at least two feet away from it at all times.  He had a bag with him, a travelers’ backpack that was packed full, but he’d put it down.

“You don’t have to keep your distance,” Kenzie said.  “It’s not dangerous.”

“It’s tinkertech.  It’s science that gets at least some of its functionality from interdimensional fuckery, built by cooperation between you and the unfathomable, menacing thing that chose you as its host.”

“It’s a camera, Chris.  It records and projects.”

“It’s a camera built with collaboration between you and a unknowable, violence-driven multiversal horror.”

“My multiversal horror is pretty tame, I think.  She just likes to build things and gather information,”  Kenzie pressed buttons on the side of the box.  A triangle between reinforcing bars lit up.

A hologram appeared a number of feet away.  A potbellied rat with a crooked nose.

“…And you’re using it to make cartoons,” Chris said.

“Plump Rat King,” Sveta said.  “Some of the kids at the hospital liked that one.”

“It’s okay,” Kenzie said.  “Only the first season was really any good.”

“What’s it good for?” Ashley asked.  She was taking things a step further than Chris’ wearing of the same shorts.  She wore the same dress she had worn at the meeting, the damage at the corner mended imperfectly.  One of the straps, I realized, had been damaged and patched, but her hair masked much of it.  She had a black mask in her hand, but she hadn’t put it on.

“Stuff.  Loads of stuff.  I’ll show you some later,” Kenzie said.  She started opening boxes.

Tristan, much like Kenzie, was unpacking a bag.  His costume was armor.  It struck a balance between function and appearance, but it looked like it was a pretty good quality.  Each segment was framed with goat’s heads and horns, spirals and ridges.  Where it wasn’t brushed metal, things were painted or tinted red or light red.  He saw me looking and smiled.

“Byron is the fish theme, then?” I asked.

“Water as much as fish.  Yeah,” Tristan said.

“You have some kind of superstrength, right?”

“A very small amount.  Helps when you’re wearing armor as heavy as this, or when you’re using a power that can make heavy things.”

“Seems like a good place to get us started,” I said.

Tristan turned around, seating himself firmly on the sloped ground, his armor partially unpacked and arranged beside him.  Some bits were already fastened into place on his arms and legs, over a bodysuit that seemed designed to go between him and his armor.

He held up his hand, and produced three motes of orange-red light.  As each one moved through the air, it left a trail behind it, like the afterimage of a sparkler waved through the darkness.  They traced a circle and as the moving points of light connected to the end of each trail, a shape came to life.  A discus, with a slight peak on one side.

I extended a hand, and he passed it to me.

Dense, heavy, very solid.  Matter creation.

“You can throw it,” he said.

I threw it.  It wasn’t as aerodynamic as a frisbee, but it did catch the air.  It wobbled mid-flight and veered off course, crashing into a tree before disappearing into a patch of grass.

Tristan was already making something else.  Twelve or more motes of light traced the shape.  “Requires a bit of concentration, I can rush it or force it to come into being early, but you get weirdness like… this.”

It materialized.  A hammer or a mace, long-handled.  The weirdness was in how the shape finalized its form, drawing pretty creative curves and hooks.  Spikes, horns, thorns, and other slightly curved growths stood out.  It looked unbalanced.

“Are they permanent?” I asked.

“They can be.  Depends if I keep the sparks alive or not.  I can create a lot of sparks, but it requires more time, more concentration.”

“What’s the difference between keeping it alive or not?” I asked.

“Ah,” he said.  He pushed himself to his feet, shifting his footing to make sure he wouldn’t slide down the hill.  He held out the mace, and started to form the motes for another.  He rushed this one even more than he had the last.  The shape was more unwieldy, less balanced.  “Byron, you want to help with demonstrations today, or do you want to be left alone?”

Tristan blurred, features distorting, his eyes flaring with the same light as the sparks had.  The light turned blue, and then he was Byron, wearing a hooded sweatshirt and jeans.

One of the two maces exploded into a spray of water.  Sveta made a noise of surprise, and Chris, still mostly fixated on examining Kenzie’s cube, jumped back from the cube in surprise.

Byron turned his head so the backspray hit him in the side of the face, rather than right in the center of it.  He dropped the still-intact mace he held with his other hand.

“Hi Byron,” Kenzie said.

“Hi,” I added my greeting to Kenzie’s.  “We haven’t formally met.”

“We haven’t.  I got the basics,” he said.

“So I gathered.”

“This is a terrible idea,” he said.  “Tristan being involved, this team concept, the potential for disaster, and this thing with Tattletale?”

“I don’t see anyone changing their mind.  Mrs. Yamada couldn’t convince them, I don’t think I can.  If they’re going to do this or something like this, isn’t it better that they do it smart and informed?”

“I don’t know,” he said.  “But if you’re enabling them, you should know you own a share of what happens.”

“I don’t think that’s fair,” Sveta said.

“It might be fair,” I said.

“My voice doesn’t matter either.  I tried, nobody listens.  Maybe I own a bit of what happens for not trying harder to stop Tristan from going forward with this.”

“You sound pretty certain something bad is going to happen.”

“I was there for all the therapy sessions, even if I didn’t participate,” he said.  He looked at the others.  “Don’t worry, I’m not going to say anything.  But I am going to say, again, this is a trainwreck waiting to happen.”

“We got it,” Chris said.  “Saying it over and over doesn’t change anything.”

“Be kind, Chris,” Sveta said.  “There’s a lot playing into Byron’s concerns.”

Byron shook his head.  He glanced at me.

“You need anything, while we’re talking?” I asked.

He shook his head.  “No.  Um.  You seem alright, so… be safe.  Be wary.  And for the record, since you’re going to ask…”

He showed me his power.  Motes of light, like Tristan’s, blue.  He drew them in the air, two expanding, abstract shapes, not closed like Tristan’s had been.  He positioned them so there was one on either side of him, then clenched his fist.  The lines that were drawn became water, buckets worth, spraying out in the direction the lines had been drawn.  He had drawn them out as expanding spirals, and the resulting water flew out in circular sprays.

“You can use me if you need to clean up, Tristan,” Byron said.  “I’ll do the quick swaps if you need them.”

The water was still spraying when Byron blurred, features distorting and smearing together, the two lighted eyes peering through the shadows between folds and smears, going from blue to orange-red.

One of the sprays of water lost all of its oomph, the remaining water striking the ground to flow through grass and between rocks.  The other diagram became a solid object, a wheel spikier and cruder than what Tristan had made.  It hit the ground and stuck there.

The water that Byron’s power had produced rained down on us for several seconds.

“It’s not going to hurt the box?” Chris asked.

“Nope,” Kenzie said.  “Waterproofed just in case Byron visited.  It was good to see you, Byron, by the way.  I hope to prove you wrong.”

“Yeah,” Sveta said.  “That’s a good way of putting it, Kenzie.”

Tristan’s face was at an angle that saw him looking down at the ground.  At first I thought he was trying to keep the water out of his face.  Then, as he changed the angle of his head a little, I saw his face.

“For the record,” Tristan said, “If it’s my two hours and I ask you a question and then pass the baton, I’d really appreciate it if you didn’t take up extra time and use it to try and sabotage me.”

“I did say hi to him,” I said.

Tristan shrugged.  “He didn’t have to say all that.  He’s quick to say there’s a problem but he doesn’t suggest alternatives.  He whines about the circumstances but he won’t attend the therapy and he doesn’t want to work on figuring out better courses of action.  It pisses me off sometimes, especially when he elbows into my time to make what I’m trying to accomplish harder.”

His tone was hard.  Pissed off seemed like an apt description.  I’d seen Tristan, casual and smiling some before he’d changed, and now this felt like a complete, sudden shift.

It was easy to forget that he was in there while Byron was out here, feeling things, thinking, his mood changing during that short conversation.

I could see the expressions of others.  The sympathy on Sveta’s face, the tilt of Chris’ head.

Ashley looked especially focused and attentive, her pacing around the hill having come to a stop.  One of her hands was at her hair, pushing it back out of her face, the water helping it stay there.

“It seems like hard feelings are inevitable,” I said.

“Yeah,” Tristan said.  He looked away.  “I can keep my shapes ‘alive’.  If they’re still alive when I change, they become water.  If they aren’t, they’re there to stay.  Same for Byron’s water.  It’s effective if he makes water, sloshes it over someone, and then changes, to make it solid.  We’ve tagged a good dozen villains that way.”

“A dozen is a really good number for a teenage hero.”

“Yeah,” Tristan said.

“You’re pretty lucky, getting a name that fitting for a power like that.”

“Constellations forming rock and water?” Tristan asked.  He snorted air through his nostrils.  “Want to know the hilarious thing?”

“I do,” I said.  I wasn’t sure whatever he was going to say was ‘hilarious’, given his tone, but I’d hoped today would be a lighter endeavor, and any humor would help.

“We weren’t even rock and water, originally.  Reach bought the name from the last Capricorn.  She got wounded in battle and she retired.  Win-win.  We got settled into the role, got our name, our armor, our brand, and… power changed to match.”

“That’s really interesting,” I said.  “There’s a lot of potential there.”

“There is.  Absolutely.  And not all of it’s good,” Tristan said.

“But some of it is,” Sveta said.

“Some of it is, yeah,” Tristan said.  He offered her a small smile.

I could see the concerted effort he was making to pull out of the funk.  A few words from his brother and he was upset enough that it showed in his tone and the direction of what he was talking about.

Tricky, that kind of negativity sitting just under the surface.

“Sveta,” I said.  Change of topic.  “I’m guessing you’ve worked on control enough that you feel okay letting loose in limited ways?”

“Kind of,” she said.  “I don’t want to go all-out in a combat situation.  I don’t want to do anything that would risk people getting hurt.”

“Okay,” I said.

“I figured I would mostly stay in the suit.  I can do this…”

She didn’t touch or move anything external, but the joints of her elbow shifted, and the forearm and hand dropped.  Ten or so tendrils extended between elbow and forearm, like a muscle with gaps between strands.

She moved it, tendrils bending, flinging her hand and the attached segment of arm out fifty feet.  She tried to grab a branch, missed it, grabbed another, and seized it, before pulling her body to follow.  I saw her turn her head away as she pulled herself through the intervening twigs and leaves.

She twisted around, pointed a hand, and used tendrils to push her fist out.

She seized the wheel that Byron had left embedded in the earth, and pulled herself to it.

There was a bit of gracelessness to the landing, her pants leg and the side of her body rubbing against the grass, a few clumps of earth flying, but it served to put her in our midst again.  She wobbled as she stood and Tristan and I caught her between us.

She made a small ‘phew’ sound.

“You’re made of grappling hooks, basically,” Chris said.  Kenzie, sitting on her box, stuck out her toe to jab Chris in the shoulder.

“I can get things for my body.  Weld and I were talking about getting a second body for cape things.  If I had hooks I could unfold I could more reliably grab things.  And I’ll get better with practice,” Sveta said.  “And I really want extra shielding for my joints because they’re the easiest part to break, and I don’t want to have to send it out to be repaired and be unable to walk or do things in the meantime.”

“What happens if the suit gets broken?” I asked.  “As in broken enough that it doesn’t keep you contained?”

“Um.  I have a collapsed hamster ball in here.  I can spit it out, unfold it, shove myself in there and bring the lid behind me.  It’s a bit cramped, it’s not the biggest, and it might not always work, but I’ve also been working hard at keeping myself under control.”

I suppressed a wince.  Sveta had worked hard for as long as I’d known her, and I knew that the anxiety was tied into the lack of control in a feedback loop, and that her being so much more confident and happy would mean she had more control, but all it took was one bad incident.

“Workable,” I said.  “We’d have to be really, really careful.”

“Absolutely,” she said, with dead seriousness.  “The way I see it, my body is pretty hardy.  To break containment, it would take something that would maim an ordinary person.”

“Yeah,” I said.  But if they think you’re durable, they might not hold back.

We’d address that when it came to it.

“Alright,” I said.  “So, my line of thinking was that instead of explaining, we’d do a little bit of a team exercise.”

I heard a faint groan from Chris.

“It should be fun, and it should be relatively low-key,” I said.  “We split everyone into teams of three, and we play a small game of capture the flag, here.”

“See, that’s playing dirty,” Tristan said.  “You’re playing into my love for competition, here.”

“It’s fun,” Kenzie said.  “I really like this.”

It seemed Kenzie could be counted on to be positive.  I said, “I’m hoping it’s fun.  Does anyone else need to explain their powers or cover anything before we get into it?  I know what Ashley can do, unless something’s changed.”

Ashley shook her head.

“We’ll see you in action when we have our competition, then.  That leaves Chris and Kenzie, kind of.”

“I’ve got some things,” Kenzie said.  She opened a case.  “Two of these things I had as just-in-case things when I was a Ward.  I got them fixed up recently, and I even made an improvement.  Eye hook-”

She pulled out a coil of metal.  She stuck it on the corner of her cube, then held her phone in one hand, moving her thumb around.  The coil unfurled, prehensile, and its tip unfolded from its teardrop shape.  Three claws, extending from around a circular lens with a pupil.  Kenzie moved her head and body in time with the movements of the thing.

The thing moved closer to me, until it was two feet from my face, the three claw-blades opening and closing a little.  It blinked at me, shutter closing momentarily.

“It was made to look through vents, to start with.  it’s delicate enough it can turn screws and drill holes, and I can swap out the lens for others.  And I’ve got this flash gun too.”

She held up something that looked like a child’s toy, squat, blunt, with a lens on the front.

“It’s for when I had to get closer to the scene when I was with the Baltimore Wards.  They wanted me to be able to protect myself and they wanted nonlethal.”

“What does it do?” I asked.

“Makes light,” she said.  She aimed it off to the side and pulled the trigger.

It looked and sounded like a camera flash going off.

“And the other stuff?”

“Mask with a few settings,” Kenzie said.  She pulled out a high-tech mask, metal around the edges to give a general circular shape to the clear pane for her face, but she didn’t put it on.  She held up a disc, then clipped it to the front of her overalls, so it was directly over the pocket at her chest.  “This is kind of a costume thing I haven’t finalized.”

“Good,” I said.  “Great.”

“I transform,” Chris said.  “Changer.”

I made a motion for him to continue.

He sounded aggrieved, like it was my fault he had to explain at all, “I don’t know what else you want.  I have a few different forms.  They’re inspired by my moods and mental states.”

“You give them names based on what mood or state they’re from,” Kenzie said.  “Like Creeping Anxiety and Wistful Distraction.”

“Yeah,” Chris said.  “Look, the rest of you know.  Explain.  I’m going to go change.”

He grabbed his bag and hefted it over one shoulder, then began trudging uphill.

“These forms reflect the feelings?” I asked.

“Very much so,” Sveta said.

“It sounds like he has more than a few forms,” I said.

“Eight or more, as far as I’ve counted,” Kenzie said.  “He said a few, but I think he loses track.  There’s wiggle room in each form, too.  It depends on a lot of factors.  Diet, time since he last used a form, if he pushes for something in the middle.”

“He’s strong,” Ashley said.

“He might be,” Tristan said.

Kenzie continued to volunteer information.  “The forms tend to come with pretty heavy weakness.  Anxiety is quick but fragile.  That sort of thing.”

“I think I get it,” I said.  “Can I ask why he’s in the group?”

“The drawbacks,” Tristan said.

“The fragility isn’t a drawback?” I asked.

“It’s one.  He doesn’t change all the way back.”

“What?” I asked.

Tristan explained, “He changes to one, he gets a little taller, a little stronger, a little more sluggish.  He changes to another, gets better eyes, ears…”

“Thus the headphones,” Kenzie said.

“…and less responsive in hand-eye coordination to go with it.  He tries to balance, but lately it’s been getting worse.”

“What happens if he doesn’t change?”

“The body stays the same,” Sveta said.  “He doesn’t change physically.”

“Which is good.”

“But he doesn’t change mentally either.  He says he can’t tap those emotions he’s not using, he can’t think as clearly, his thoughts go in circles.”

“Lose-lose,” I said.

“Something like that,” Ashley said.

I could hear Chris’ approach, now.  The sound of branches breaking underfoot, the rustling of under- and over-growth.

He’d grown.  He’d shucked off his clothes and he’d donned what looked like an oversized pair of shorts in a coarse cloth.  They had to have taken up most of the bag’s space.  He was twelve feet tall, with skewed proportions.  Large legs, large around the middle, large hands, all with coarse hair.  His shoulders seemed somewhat narrow, his neck long, his head only a little larger than normal, with faintly pronounced tusks.  His hair, wild before, was just a bit longer than it had been.

“He chose one of the more pleasant looking forms,” Kenzie said, cheerful.  She grabbed her stuff.

How in the fuck was I supposed to make someone like Chris marketable?  How was I supposed to wrangle Ashley or handle Tristan’s issue?

“Twenty minutes,” Tristan said.  “Then he changes back.  We should hurry.”

Capture the flag.  Right.  A part of me wished I hadn’t brought it up.  I could have left things at this, with powers explained and demonstrated in brief, and then I could have taken a few days to think.

I needed a few days to think, so feelings wouldn’t be hurt, damage wouldn’t be done.

I didn’t have it.  I’d lose too much stock with these guys if I changed my mind.  Chris and Ashley especially.

“Who wants to be team leaders?” I asked.

Tristan raised one hand.  Ashley raised another.

“Ashley, you want to pick first?” I asked.

“Kenzie.”

“Woo!” Kenzie cheered.

“Sveta,” Tristan said.  “You’d be my second pick, after Rain.  Weld fan club.”

“Chris,” Ashley said.  She pulled on her mask.  It was v-shaped, covering the nose, ears, and eyes, leaving just a hint of her eyebrows visible above.

“You guys set up over there, opposite side of the hill, then,” I said.  Ashley and the two youngest members of the team.

“You’re filling in for Rain?” Tristan asked me.

“Yeah,” I said.  “I’m mostly interested in seeing how you guys operate, so I’ll mostly stick to playing defense and keeping an eye on things.”

“Alright.  I don’t think that’ll be a problem,” he said.

I wasn’t so sure.  I could see the way he set his jaw, before he pulled his horned helmet on.  I had an idea of his disposition already.  I could see the look of Ashley’s eyes behind her mask, too.  She wanted to be leader, by the looks of things, and that meant she had something to prove.  I saw Chris as the giant, properly smiling for the first time since I’d met him, as he looked back over one shoulder, lumbering away.  It made me more concerned, rather than less.

Sveta took my hand, squeezing it.  Off to the side, Tristan was drawing something out of motes of light, ten feet tall and twenty feet wide.  A wall.

I’d wanted to test them, to see how they functioned as discrete units, and possibly to highlight difficulties.

The more I saw, the less sure I was that these guys were equipped to handle even a friendly contest.  There were so many messy parts to this.  Above all else, the ones with the power seemed least suited to wield it.

“Believe in us,” Sveta said, her voice soft.

I wanted to.  I really did.

“I think,” I said, and I said it to Tristan, “You should take this opportunity to explain your game plan.”

Previous Chapter                                                                                           Next Chapter

88 thoughts on “Glare – 3.2”

  1. Ooh, I like Capricorn’s powers! Waterbenders are always super cool, and creating various shaped implements also seems pretty neat – and that’s not even getting into switching between the two.

    Jeez, it looks like Victoria’s got her work cut out for her… 🙁
    At least we can count on Kenzie to be positive!

    1. Yeah, you can count on that…until you can’t. I don’t have Kenzie’s whole number figured, but I’m pretty sure that the right kind of setback will leave her in a mental state where she’s as relentlessly negative as the positivity that she’s currently displaying.

          1. More like we know she’s mentally screwed up because she’s a cape, and a mental trigger cape at that.

  2. Well, the tokenism aspect of the team continues to expand – does (do? Should we refer to them in plural?) Capricorn count as a Shaker? Chris is a Changer, Kenzie is the Tinker, Ashley the Blaster, Sveta and Victoria are Brute Movers…

    But holy hell, making them *marketable* as a hero team is probably gonna cost Victoria a lot of sleepless nights.

    Very enjoyable chapter overall, though it felt a wee bit short? Or did it just fly by too quickly?

    (Also, dibs on calling Capricon’s power capricious – what did it change FROM?)

    1. If someone is cruel, associating Sveta’s outfit with Mannequin would be a critical wound to marketing. 🙁

      If I imagine the team on a poster, I see Kenzie on top of one of her cubes, with the rest advancing in a V in front of it.

  3. It looks like this is going to be an incredibly versatile team, their powers are so varied and have so much potential for creativity! I actually feel really bad for Chris now, the drawbacks from his power are awful, particularly the emotional loop part. Byron and Tristans issues with each other are absolutely going to raise hell with the group. I can’t decide what sort of terrible thing I expect to happen during this exercise: The group members fighting each other, or an attack from another cape group.

  4. Finally get to see what everyone’s powers actually are. I actually really like the slow exposition Wildbow does, it feels like there’s more going on behind the scenes that we can’t see, and it’s a lot more natural than the forced exposition you often see. It’s also just more aesthetically pleasing to me for capes to capes to just give you rough sketches like ‘he’s a hydrokinetic’ or ‘I make things heavier’ when I know there’s more to it.

  5. I was really excited to read this chapter cause I thought it’d be a fun power analysis interlude, but after finishing it I was kinda left with a sense of doom. I guess up till now I hadn’t really internalized just how bad these people have it, both mentally and in the sense of losing the power lottery.

    Like, Ashley isn’t just talking smack when she mentions wanting to be a villain, she actually wants to go out and hurt people/break things as a way to validate her existence. Each part of Capricorn apparently spends half their life suffering from locked-in syndrome – shades of Khepri there, especially for Byron. Now I’m wondering what Kenzie’s deal is…apparently she scared away her past teammates, so what damage is hiding behind her perpetual good cheer?

    As for the powers, Capricorn’s seems pretty epic. He could set up some pretty nice traps if he’s able to prepare the ground prior to a battle. And the potential for water to metal captures is nutty, depending on fast/well they can switch forms during combat. I wonder what happens if he sprays someone in the face, gets water in their eyes/nose/mouth, then solidifies it? Or does that fall under the “Manton limited” umbrella? Or maybe it has to be contiguous, or a minimum size?

    And what is up with Kenzie’s black boxes? Did she use it to power up her spy device, or did something else entirely happen there? Is she in fact making/discarding AIs to operate her tech, despite denying it in the prologue? Or maybe just emulated human minds, since that probably wouldn’t get her locked up as a potential existential threat.

    I feel like there’s something going on with those boxes beyond them just being advanced computers/programming hubs. Maybe she’s actually a biotinker, and inside each box is a vat-grown brain that she uses for wetware processing? Might explain why she freaked out her past teammates, if she went around collecting toenails in the night and cloning their brains to create chatbot analogues or whatever.

  6. People bond through shared struggle, but every single person on this team has a major and *personal* one.

    If Victoria tries to hold off fighting and deal with practice, the individuals personal problems and making them more hero-like, someone will break off from the team violently.

    Also, parahuman powers strenghthen via conflict. One of the major advantages Taylor had was getting that much stronger by constant struggle and escalation.
    Tristan/Byron and Chris both have powers they would almost rather not practice altogether.

    The only ways I can see this team staying together would be either:

    1)If Rains cluster were to attack them very soon and be defeated, which would solve a personal problem, be a shared struggle, and hopefully be enough of a conflict to make the shards push them less.
    2)”go big or go home” – If they quickly take an aggressive move either against of5’s or in some active locale, getting a head start and accomplishing much the same as option 1.

  7. Interesting that Kenzie’s dad got the van to accommodate her power. I can’t help but think about the potential synergy between a tinker who builds large emplacements and a realtor in a time when safety and proper construction are often overlooked. There’s bound to be at least a few buildings they could have stashed one of those big black boxes in.

    1. Honestly, I’m a little scared of Kenzie.

      So, I think it’s pretty clear she’s an Architect-style tinker. That brings to mind people like String Theory and Ritcher. You know, the two tinkers that were potentially extinction-level events. I know that this is a BIG leap to make (and this IS a leap) but what do we actually know about Kenzie’s power?

      We know she can make computers. We know she can do surveillance, to the point that Watchdog wanted her onboard. That’s it. We don’t know the specifics of her medium (someone mentioned brain-in-a-jar style computers, which we actually saw in a Dragon suit), we don’t know her limits (Can she can thoughts? Emotions? Radio waves?) and we don’t know if she has any more… *offensive* capabilities (Can she create white-noise stereos, epilepsy-inducing flash bangs or pain-beams?).

      And remember. She’s an *Architect*. Anything she does will work better on a larger scale.

      That means you don’t worry about temporarily losing your thoughts/having them filled with chatter. You worry about everyone in the city getting their brain filled with chatter.

  8. I just realized you can read the newest chapter by autocompleting to “parahumans.net” and then clicking the banner. Used to always look for the link to Glow worm in the second paragraph of the landing page, then click the chapter list on the right.

    1. I mean just autocompleting to “https://www.parahumans.net/” (as in, not anything beyond that) *should* have the latest chapter at the top at the top already (though you won’t be able to see comments without bringing the chapter up specifically) above the last 10 chapters or so.

  9. TYPO THREAD

    “She turned stick out her tongue at Chris.”

    There’s a missing “to” in there: “She turned to stick out her tongue…”

    1. “I can handle myself. I’ve trained more than a lot of heroes, because I did a year going to all the practice events and stuff.”
      “Trained with”, maybe? Unless she’s saying that she was giving training instead of receiving it.

      1. I don’t think so, if she was saying she was giving the training the “more than” doesn’t fit. And I don’t think she means she has trained under them, just that she has more training than them. Maybe change “a lot” to “lots”.

        “I’ve trained more than lots of heroes”… I don’t know if it’s better, I thought the originl sentence was clear. Maybe “I’ve trained more than most heroes”?

        1. Oh, yeah, I see it now. I somehow parsed it as “trained with more than a few”, not sure why. It’s pretty unambiguous.

  10. *Filed under entirely ridiculous theories*
    When Kenzie’s dad first showed up he definitely seemed like an AI or something. His replies all seemed like programmed responses to things Kenzie said about him, similar to how she made her chatbots, and just in general he seemed really stiff. Also his style being as described as similar to hers, although it wouldn’t have been surprising for that to normally happen. After he said more I mostry threw that theory away on account of more caring statements and also the fact that he was talking to Victoria directly. Still… a part of me would really like for it to turn out to be true somehow, as far fetched as that definitely is.

  11. There’s a clear theme with these powers, and it’s lack of control. Maybe they should consider being villains instead? It’d be a lot easier, with powers like “transform into nightmarish shapes that feed on your emotions and permanently warp your body” and “tentacles that strangle everything”.

    This would be a really great time for Teacher to be available for hire and not evil.

    1. And total surveillance AIs. And an invisible beast form, massively strong with sharp claws. And with a legit (ex)member of the slaughterhouse nine.

      But unlike the undersiders, some of these powers seem like more of a nightmare for the user than the victims.

        1. If I were fully in control of the bugs like Taylor was, I think it iwould be fine. Sure, a bug crawling on you has plenty of creepy factor going for it… but if you feel from its perspective, its like trying to tickle yourself. You can’t really do it. you already anticipate the sensations.

  12. I see everything is going to work out fine.

    So who wants to put money one what goes wrong first? Sveta killing someone? Kenzie being too creepy? Ashley being to Ashley?

  13. I saw sniggs make a comment alluding to kenzie’s seeming to be holding back some aspect of her power and I agree. The area around AI’s is particularly messy. Though one thing I noticed that no one has commented… Could her dad be an AI? He is needlessly stiff and formal, lacks charisma and does not seem programmed to respond to all stimuli (ignored the wave). It would be a lot harder to make a robot as opposed to a chat bot. She might keep it under wraps to avoid being classed as an S Class threat, and if she could make AI’s I can totally see her making an AI in order to give her a ride. It also explains why she would warn of her dad being “lame” early on. She might want to test how well it works in social situations and wants an excuse for glitches she knows will come up.

    1. Although I think that Julien is an actual human being with a somewhat stiff demeanor, that is still a clever and frightening thought. And of course, I could be wrong about him being just a guy…

    2. I just read it as her dad being tired of her bullshit. She’s charming at first, but from most accounts completely intolerable once you get to know her.

      Anyway, I could imagine someone hiding powers back in the old world, but there isn’t really any reason for it in the new one. The actual S-Class threats are just chilling. The remaining Endbringers haven’t attacked since Gold Morning, Bonesaw and Nilbog were last seen staying with the Wardens (on the basis that they won’t be arrested as long as they don’t try to leave), Panacea is walking around with no obvious supervision, Sleeper apparently buggered off to his own dimension somewhere and most of the others were culled by Skitter when she gathered the final swarm. Besides, the only characters in the entire story to express any kind of anti-AI sentiment are Kenzie herself and Saint. It wouldn’t be that big a deal.

      1. That just leaves the Three Blasphemies unaccounted for. I think Khepri couldn’t get them as they weren’t human. As for Sleeper, well… The fact he’s got an entire Earth to himself isn’t reassuring. What if he gets lonely? Then there’s all the possible S-Class threats that nobody knew about, because they triggered in the Brazilian jungle as a result of illegal logging, or because they’re puppeteering three or four African warlords (or ARE an African warlord), or because they knew their power is an automatic kill-order and kept it quiet, or simply because they didn’t want the hassle and enjoyed their life of suburban bliss which has been quite abruptly torn away.

        Plus whatever’s lurking out in the worlds. A kingdom of poisonous mushroom-men. A Hawaii ruled by a Case 53 that gives off hallucinogenic gas. A world where whales have a space program.

        Any parahuman that expects to get into fights keeps their power quiet. At least the details. Skitter won her first fight because Lung didn’t know what to expect, and nearly lost because he has boosted hearing. Grue editted his own Parahumans Wiki page to mislead heroes. Tattletale’s power is still unknown to anyone who isn’t an Undersider. Particularly now there’s anti-cape sentiment.

      2. @Soadreqm: As I recall from the interlude her anti-AI sentiment was not being against making them, but being averse to people wanting to hunt her down. The new world is still disorganized, but a lot of people would still kill someone if they thought they were an S-Class threat. I’m not sure how the rating for AI’s go, but we know some tinkers (Blasto) would deliberately avoid some creations because they would get a kill order on their head.

        Honestly, I don’t think this theory is entirely true. It just feels a bit too simple, but I kinda proposed it so people could think about it, and maybe refine it. But I think the reasoning for her wanting to take a low profile makes sense, especially for a tinker. She is still fleshy, squishy and vulnerable. I mean, her best offensive weapon is essentially a high tech flash grenade. Tinkers need time to build themselves up before they are a real threat. They need resources and time. I can easily imagine she is powerful enough to be an S-Class threat in a year, but is hiding this fact because she doesn’t want somebody to decide to pick her off while she is still vulnerable (either because they are worried of her becoming dangerous to society, (Tattletale, the Wards, others working to rebuild society) or because they don’t want competition (Tattletale, Marquis, other villains).

        1. I should also point out that two of the S-class threats you have mentioned, they are being kept in captivity (Nilbog being held by the Wardens) or are too powerful to be able to address (Endbringers, probably Sleeper). I can’t imagine that if an S-Class threat popped up, that the Wardens would not intervene, especially now humanity is weakened and more vulnerable. Imagine what would happen if there was a Nilbog-Incident in this version of earth? Most of humanity is only in one city. If he takes an entire district of it, that can be 1%-5% of the worlds population. Maybe more. When there is so left, the world can’t afford to take major losses. I’d actually argue that the scarcity of life, anti-cape sentiment and urgency of the situation actually make it vastly more likely that someone would jump the gun on killing a potential S-Class threat.

          Also, sorry, I know I am long winded. Just a bit of a character trait, but I do understand this is pretty long for just internet comments.

        2. Blasto tried to avoid being a nuisance because he was a villain. The potential for being really dangerous doesn’t get you a kill order, that happens when you utilize that potential with no regard to the law or human lives, as Bonesaw and Nilbog did. Meanwhile, Panacea is more powerful than any one of those people, everyone knows it, but she gets away with it because she doesn’t do bad things. Very often. It was ONE sin against nature and she fixed it later anyway, it shouldn’t count.

          And yeah, Kenzie’s comment about AI was in the context of not wanting to be seen as dangerous, not because she actually has anything against AI in general. The point still stands that nobody but Saint has really had anything bad to say about Dragon’s secret identity. Teacher tried to mind control her, but he literally does that to everyone.

          1. Hey, Soadreqm. Sorry for taking so long to get back to you, college classes take priority over web commenting.

            There are as I understand it things that are more likely to get you a kill order. As far as we know, anyone who makes self replicating superhuman(ish) organisms will get a kill order. So will anyone who uses mind control too much. The only reason the Undersiders got away with what they did to Shatterbird is because she herself had a Kill Order on her head, and therefore was fair game. I think creating overly sophisticated AI might be one of the things that can result in a kill order, though I’m not sure what the parameters are.

            As for your point on Panacea, it isn’t power to, so much as what you do. Panacea is powerful, but she doesn’t play with brains (much). If she built up a Nilbog level army, she might well be labeled Kill Order worthy.

            The technicalities of this actually don’t matter too much though. As you pointed out, this is a world without a very solid PRT-esque group to enforce or issue kill orders. All she has to worry about is someone just thinking she is just a bit too dangerous to be left alone.

          2. “Heart_Shaped_Pupil: If they were A.I. I could be a potential S-class threat.” She also said this. I don’t think it would outright make her an S-Class threat, no, but it would mean heroes would keep an eye on her, and everything she did would be judged more harshly. Basically, I think if she pulled a Skitter and play fast and loose with the rules, the heroes would just start targeting her and not be as hesitant. Things that might be more excusable when she is weaker would possibly trigger harsher retaliation.

      1. Firstly, I love your user name. 😛 That is honestly my biggest point. I mean, there are work arounds. A large box that creates biological organisms that can leave and move around, but still need the factory (box). Or the Van is in fact a a large box with a secret holographic projector that creates a hardlight construct. When I wrote this though, I did it with the idea that she either lied about her powers, vastly undersold herself, or overstated her limits. Even if my (rather crackpot) theory is erroneous, I still think there has to be more to her than she is letting on.

        1. There’s no need to get so complicated- Kenzie showed us that the box Victoria moved is perfectly capable of making holograms all on its own, and she said that the box “records and projects”. Just record a bunch of responses, cobble together a chatbot type AI to run the projection and presto- instant person.

          Of course, such a mimicry would have limits. For example, it might not know what a wave is.

  14. Gah, Sveta is extending bits of herself out! Girl, I want the best for you, but your body is straight up evil. Keep it in the hamster ball!!

    I’m honestly more worried about Garrote than I am about Ashley. If Sveta’s real body touches someone it could go real bad, real fast.

  15. If Kenzie ever fell into Tattletale’s hands they would rule the world…
    Imagine what TT could do with Kenzies power!

    1. “Nice” thought, but I really doubt it. While they might get along well in the short term, I’m beginning to think that the synergies of Tt and Kenzie interacting would cause the situation to messily blow up in the medium term. Kenzie’s got some odd hangup lurking below the surface and I suspect that it might interact while Tt’s trigger hangups in…less than ideal ways.

    2. Tattletale can’t stand anyone who acts like they’re smarter than her, ESPECIALLY if it’s true. That includes most tinkers. I’m sure Kenzie wouldn’t insult her on purpose, but she can’t help being a superhuman genius.

      Also, I don’t think her power could really add much to a tinker. She knows things, sure, but tinkers already know a lot more things. They don’t need help with it. If something can be expressed in terms of large boxes and cameras, then Kenzie knows exactly how to build it. The best Tattletale can manage is guess when a tinker gun she stole is about to explode in her face because of some arcane thing only its creator can truly understand. A useful skill for her, no doubt, but redundant for the creator.

      1. I was thinking more in the line of, imagine what Tattle could do with the amount of Information she could get, if she had Kenzie at her disposal.
        I see why the teamwork would be.. clunky.. but what if Kenzie wasn’t a partner in crime, but a captive?

  16. I hate to say it, but Byron’s right. I was hopeful until now, but this group can’t function in its current stage. They all have interesting powers, but each one has some drawback that will add more stress to the group as a whole. Hopefully Victoria will figure something out, because I like all of these characters.

  17. Learning Chris/Adjective_Animal’s power and attendant limitations sheds a really interesting light on Kenzie/Heart_Shaped_Pupil being so fascinated with him & asking him out in Glow-worm 0.6: they both operate in static emotional modes. While hers seems to be self-imposed and brittle (cling to positivity at all costs, start to fall apart if it fails), his is intrinsic because of his power. What’s more, he has the ability to make controlled shifts from one static emotion to another. I can imagine a pre-teen who has dissociated from her regular flow of emotional states wanting to experience that control vicariously. Especially one with a Tinker’s mindset.

  18. Just re-read Capricorn’s initial Glow-Worm chapter. It’ll be wonderful when the team has to deal with the hit that Byron’s put out on Tristan…..

  19. I can’t help but think it particularly significant that Kenzie’s power (and thus the problem for which she had insufficient tools to solve, per the doc) gives her emPLACEments and surveilance systems, and her father is someone who sells places.

    I get the feeling either Julian wasn’t around much during pre-GM days due to work, or he wasn’t as wealthy as he appears now. Her power suggests she had issues with a sense of insecurity and/or feeling like there was no safe place available to her.

  20. While this chapter was a lot of fun, I can’t help but feel the typical sense of wildbow doom for our mainn characters. It didn’t even need an antagonist or a threat so far, just them being what they are combined with knowing that things are getting worse is enough.

    This team would have been hard to make marketable in the old days, but post-GM with the anti-cape sentiment nearly every one of them is a PR disaster waiting to happen.

    1. Read the next paragraph, please. It’s a floating eye. It has some hooks for manipulating the environment so that it can float to interesting areas.

  21. Kenzie is such a suckup though. I would think she would love TT cause she could be useful and TT would love her cause someone would hang onto her every word.

  22. Worm: In which Aquaman kills Majin Buu using the power of friendship (Henderson scale of Plot Derailment: 0.75 Hendersons[multiversal], 2.0 Hendersons[Earth Bet])
    :
    Glow Worm: “My multiversal horror is pretty tame, I think.” ‘How do I market this?’ ‘I dunno, lets play CTF. Thin the heard, you know?’

    1. > Worm: In which Aquaman kills Majin Buu using the power of friendship

      Oh my god, that is hilarious! And amazingly apt.

  23. As astute as Victoria is with catching on to others hang ups I think she’s falling into a bias trap. I’ll be incredibly surprised if Ashley is the first major in group problem. Everyone in Team Therapy has their own issues that are power related, personal, or both, and coping methods which are pretty clear at this point. But in all honesty Ashley has been the most upfront about hers and what she hopes to take away from all this and I think Victoria has focused too much on her ‘I plan on being a villain’ goal.

    I’m more inclined to expect that Kenzie or Chris will be the first to have a breakdown. Not only are they the youngest and least emotionally developed and experienced of the bunch but their issues seem to be emotional in nature to boot. Forcing positivity is incredibly unhealthy and can’t be kept up forever. Not to mention that Kenzie has now set up the expectation for her to be miss sunshine and enthusiasm around others which only increases the pressure on herself to maintain the facade. I’m worried about her eventual crash. Chris on the other hand is forced by his powers to be stuck in any given mood, none of those which have been mentioned seem to be positive emotions or mindsets by the way, which makes him mentally stagnant. I can see this leading to issues in waiting for a payoff for his efforts if things are slow or difficult to get going.

  24. Yeah, I have to concur with everyone that I have a bad feeling about this. It says something that the team members who were institutionalized two years ago are the most stable.

  25. I’m wondering how Victoria is going to market this team?

    It seems that the only real approach, given the assortment of powers and personalities that she’s dealing with, is to market them deliberately as misfits/irregulars. A team that the down-and-outs and the broken and the stepped-on can root for. That has a sort of appeal to it. It might also help mitigate some of the suspicion that people have about capes; people don’t like the “holier than thou” capes who promised to protect the world and then failed hard. It might be nice to have a group of heroes who seem more approachable precisely because they’re flawed and own it.

    The bigger challenge is probably going to be helping them use their powers in a way that doesn’t get them auto-murdered in a fight.

    1. Your marketing strategy seems like the best idea I’ve seen.

      I don’t think we need to worry about all of them getting auto-killed. We should worry about fights going so far south that Ashley decides to discard rules of engagement, or someone (especially a Brute!) tries to disable Sveta by breaking her prostheses.

  26. OK. I’m sorry for being so negative, but I have to say it.

    In any sequel I value most of all a continuity of atmosphere. And it’s nowhere to be seen, here.

    I can understand the darker social situation. But in Worm, the feeling was about kicking ass. Things escalated, and Skitter only kicked ass more and more, became more cool. It was about freedom, finding confidence and fulfilling herself through her actions.

    Here? So far it’s Veronica falling deeper and deeper, being entangled in things, boarding a train wreck about to happen. Here, all characters have issues and problems as their defining factor. Gloom everywhere. No laid-back Regent and Imp. No confident and positive TT. No responsible (at first) Grue.

    We get problems, more problems, negativity, mental exhaustion and so on.

    So far, I’m reading, but I’m not liking it. And with each chapter – more and more. I’d hate it if V stayed with this team of broken losers, basically, having to deal with their problems more than anything.

    Instead of conquest of difficulties, like in Worm, I feel that this one is about struggle through them. Like Pact, where every win is instantly punished or results in a bigger loss.

    Worm was about living. I feel Ward is about surviving, which is far from the same.

    I hope this gets better. But I think I already feel the mood.

    1. While I could imagine this becoming a slog, as yet I’m still excited to see where it goes. Besides, the true difficulties that Group Therapy faces could be wholly unrelated.

  27. The danger is always this team winning- and that’s what makes Victoria, miss “I cripple villains and have my sister fix them up” perfect for this team. She trained significantly to restrain her powers and make sure they went from crippling to controlled. But yeah I know we’re all curious about Kenzie but I can’t decide who’s the most dangerous. One-shot Ashley? Sveta, who is one significant mental break from letting loose an eldritch body? Chris- powers that create a loop of negativity and a horrific body? Capricorn, who may not seem dangerous but is definitely not to be ignored, or Rain- who seems weak but it’s suspicious AS FUCK that his powers are all “tepid” when it stopped Victoria(admittedly post-PTSD Vicky, but Vicky who is resistant against emotion powers) in her tracks. And we forget that Vicky’s aura is a GARDEN OF FLESH NOW. THAT CAN DESTROY A CAR IN ONE HIT.

  28. “Above all else, the ones with the power seemed least suited to wield it.”

    I see Vicky’s finally had a run-in with Captain Obvious. There are a lot of ways to describe that with psychology that I won’t say here, but you’re basically talking about the fact that nice people don’t generally put themselves in positions to hurt people, and hurting people is probably the most basic form of power in existence. All it takes is a rock or a stick.

    Now that I’m caught up, I must get ready for the next chapter, wherein I’ll battle Rock-And-Stick Man. He’s got a rock, he’s got a stick, and he’s got a day to save. Bleh.

  29. Oh, wait, the next chapter is probably not for a few days more. Got mixed up. So let’s get to commentating.

    In retrospect, world domination… wait, wrong serial. Ahem. Well, I’m starting to see some prominent changes in theme between Worm and Ward. Bullying and fear were a huge part of Worm. In Ward, we’re seeing a lot of things about mental illness and therapy in general.

    Crazy prediction: The world in Worm went to hell in a handbasket. Ward starts with the handbasket in hell trying to find its way back home.

    And here we are. Homeward Bound: The Littlest Handbasket. Starring:
    Kenzie, malevolent voyeur with cameras hidden everywhere and a knack for building bunkers.
    Sveta, workout enthusiast with rock hard abs.
    Capricorn, who has a serious hard-on. No touching, though. He has another fellow inside him regularly who knows how to make him wet.
    Ashley, a sweet and innocent girl from a bad part of town who just wants to know what love is. Baby don’t hurt her. Don’t hurt her, no more.
    Chris, He can stretch any part of his body, and he’s emotionally sensitive. Or is the dashing crimefighter secretly a playboy multimillionaire just looking for a good time when night rolls around?
    Rain, a guy simply trying to escape from a wild harem that’s ready to either kiss him or kill him depending on what day it is. It’s complicated.

    And introducing, Vicky. She’s ok too.

    1. Vicky should be more than just “okay”. I hope Wildbow will make her more interesting as the story progress. It would kind of suck if Victoria didn’t start outshining the other characters eventually. She is supposed to be the main character. Right? 🙂

  30. Something I’ve been loving since this started is the fact that Dean is brought up a pretty good amount. He had such potential as a character, and was killed off so early in Worm. Seeing Victoria go look back on their experiences is really nice. Personally, I’d love to see him return somehow, in some fashion haha

  31. [Kenzie’s dad] still had that tone, which came across curt, inflexible. I had a hard time imagining him as a salesman. Accountant, maybe.
    I’m starting to wonder if he’s being completely honest about his occupation. I can’t tell if that’s just paranoia or if Wildbow’s doing that subtle-foreshadowing thing.

    I see Tristan and Byron share a deep, brotherly love, the kind that festers whenever two people spend enough time around each other to get on their nerves.

  32. Soo much complications band headaches to come for Victoria. I feel bad for her because as much as this project sounds like something she needs, it also sounds like something that will drain all her mental energy, when maybe it would have been better for her to surround herself with more positivity. Who’s gonna help her if she is helping everybody, that’s always my worry. (But Crystal is at home, right?)

Leave a Reply

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