Pitch – 6.4

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With the rain we’d had, there was a degree of slipperiness to the dirt and grass.  Twenty five, maybe thirty people were coming at us- it was hard to count when the allegiance of some of the hostages was so unclear, and some had guns.  All had a loose arrangement of hostages in front of them.  Some of the hostages slipped as they ran, and they were trampled by those behind.

Gilpatrick gave me a worried look over his shoulder.  He was using the remote- three green flashes.  I was left to back up, letting Erin go ahead of me.  I crouched by the front tire of one bus.  Erin climbed up onto the bar at the side, so her feet wouldn’t be sticking out below the bottom of the painted bus.

The color coding of Fallen came to mind- two were in white, with Mama Mathers being one, held up by two people at the treeline.  Another wore white and hung even further back, peering through the woods while wearing a pale leather animal mask.

There were two options there, if I went by what Rain had told me, and both were messy.  Animal Master, likely, and the Changer geyser.

One in black- a Fallen that was holding Mama Mathers up.  From the way they were handling her, she was still alive.  They were trying to take her to safety.

One pointed at me, lifting his gun as he turned to his buddy, who had slipped in mud and fallen a few paces behind.  I pulled my head back behind cover.

People opened fire, but they were our people.  Gilpatrick stood on the wheel of a bus, and fired over the hood.  I peeked at the result with my defenses up- the Fallen who wasn’t in black that was supporting Mama Mathers had created a wall of white-blue material with faces embossed on it.  The material cracked as the bullets hit it, and the cracks closed up almost as fast as they appeared.

I’d peeked too long, and one shot me.  It pinged off of the Wretch, and I ducked back behind the front of the bus, where the wheel at least partially protected me.

I knew the Mathers were notorious for their involvement in kidnappings and their connections to other families.  It was what defined them as a sect of the Fallen.  Now I was seeing the long term results of that kind of operation.  Rain had already spelled some of it out.

Mama Mathers was a nightmare to deal with, and she’d traded for multiple capes who could protect her.  Layers of defenses, and Looksee had slipped past those layers to take her out of action.

Rain dripped off of the front of my hood as I hunched over.  My arm was limp at my side, and it hurt all the more because of my position.  Even crouching, somehow, made my arm hurt more, because the angle was different, or because the blood flow had changed.

“Captain Gilpatrick!” I heard the voice.

Ashley.

“What is it?” Gilpatrick replied.  He had his back to a truck much like I did.  Many of his students were crouched in the ditch, the road, another ditch, and a bit of mud and grass between them and the Fallen.

“I want your-”

A series of gunshots from a handful of the oldest patrol block members interrupted her.

“-your permission to fight!” she finished.

He hunched over, back to the wheel rim, reloading.  He called back, “I’m not going to do that!”

“It’s not easy for me to ask!  I’m trying to respect-”

He looked at me, not her, and interrupted, “You don’t need my permission to fight!”

I didn’t hear the start of her sentence, as someone else on our side fired a gun.  A Fallen returned fire and shot the bus.

“-want it,” she said.

“Too bad!” he called out.  “You choose, I’ll be a witness and I’ll testify how you handled it, good or bad!”

I looked across the far ditch, furthest from the Fallen, and saw where a stone had been rolled away to make way for the dirt road.  It was large enough a tractor or team of horses would have been involved.

They’d be close in a matter of seconds.  I put one hand out, pressing it against the stone, and brought out the Wretch.  I pulled back, and the Wretch held on.  Together, we heaved the stone free from the earth that surrounded it.

“Don’t fuck me,” I whispered to the Wretch.  I could hear the fingers and teeth biting into the stone, arms wrapping around it and squeezing until it threatened to break.

Two hundred and fifty, three hundred pounds of rock.  The dirt road was constructed so it formed a hump, with vehicles traveling along the raised portion, with rainwater flowing into the ditches on either side, to be reabsorbed or to run off into some larger water source.  It was the cover the patrol block people were using, and it was cover I could use, albeit in a different way.

I left the scene, flying low and hauling the rock with me.  The Wretch continued to wrestle with it, mindless, carving into it.  I worried it would break in half.

Once I was far enough away I couldn’t see the people, I flew over the road, and flew at them from the sides.

Fights were about information first, positioning second, action third.  It was why I studied parahumans, and it was why I favored the faux thinker-one power I had in my bird’s eye view, when I could use it without being shot.

Without information, people couldn’t know where they needed to be.  If they weren’t in the right place at the right time, they couldn’t act.  Positioning was second.

I was fast, silent, and approaching from an unexpected angle.  I looked for where the people with guns were, and I released the stone.  It hit the ground with no sound but an impact that saw them react.  I pushed out with my aura for good measure.

With momentum, it rolled a short distance.  It rolled into the group, and four people toppled, a stone that came up to almost hip height hitting their legs with crushing force.

If I was a police officer, I would have been clear to shoot, faced with people that had rifles and handguns.  I considered myself clear to demolish anyone who was armed.  The Warrior Monk would have been fine with it.

I saw one person who had a gun I could make out, a rifle painted a dark green with a coarse, grippy texture.  The Wretch and I relieved him of the burden of having to carry a rifle and having unbroken hands.

I knew I was risking getting shot by the first person with the presence of mind to point a handgun at me in an casual way, instead of drawing the thing and sticking their arm out.  Risky too, to fight when I didn’t have the use of my left arm, and a good hit to my arm when I was defenseless could bring me to my knees with the pain.

The aura helped make people stupid, and I could use positioning in another way, moving fluidly and unpredictably as I ducked and darted between people.

I wasn’t about to back off when they were this close to Gilpatrick, potentially Jasper, and others I’d worked with.  Even the pissy anti-cape types deserved to come out of this okay.

Handgun?  I brought the Wretch out and slapped at arm or weapon.  Knife?  I did the same.  Bat?  Easy to hit the weapon and send it back toward the wielder’s face.

A few braver members of their group pressed in, trying to dogpile me, grabbing instead of punching or swinging.  Harder to deal with, until I brought the Wretch out a bit longer.  I could see them react as it unfolded, like an irregularly shaped bubble around me.

I withdrew the Wretch before it could get a grip on anyone or anything.

One pointed a gun at me, and I flew past the gun to drive my forehead into his face.  Instinct, not pre-planning, but I was thinking the Warrior Monk would forgive me on that.  My arm hurt, inexplicably, from me delivering a hit with my head, and my forehead hurt.  I wasn’t wearing my mask- it still dangled from my waist, the curve allowing it to rest against my thigh.

I didn’t let it show.  I watched the others back off, the recent damage and the aura being ample reason.  One had four bloody marks swelling on his chest, and I realized I’d been too slow to dismiss the Wretch, or it had been too quick to unfold.  She had managed to stab her fingertips into flesh.

Hate.  The feeling hit me so suddenly and so unexpectedly that I thought it might have been one of Rain’s cluster-mates.  Hate like when I had been in middle school, arguing with a classmate who had spewed out insane, vile rhetoric that would have made them a perfect fit for Empire Eighty-Eight or the Fallen, and he had refused to listen because I was a ‘pretty, privileged white girl’ and that had somehow meant my experiences and opinions weren’t valid, even though he was an okay looking, privileged white boy.  I’d hated him and I’d hated that I couldn’t talk or shout sense to him and make him stop or even pause in being such a shitty person.

Hate like I had channeled at my sister, because she had broken something intrinsic in me.  Because she had torn open emotional doors I had really wanted to protect and be tender with, so soon after I had lost Dean.  She had violated that and staked her claim to what lay beyond those doors, and it was only by twisting devoted, passionate love into devoted, passionate hate that I had briefly been able to retain something of myself and my boundaries.  Only briefly.

I hated the Wretch, in that same way.  I hated the blood spots I could see where fingers had dug in, the guy now on his knees, fingers at his chest with blood seeping between them.  I hated the scratches on Moose’s face.

I hated the ones with broken hands, arms, and legs, the ones who were lying on the ground screaming.  I hated that when I’d had the ability to be gentle, I hadn’t been, and now that I wanted to be gentle, I couldn’t.

To top it off, I hated the Fallen.

“Stand the fuck down!” I shouted.  “Or I won’t hold back anymore!”

Rain fell all around us.  In the ditches by the road, the water made small trickling sounds.  I could hear gunfire in the distance, and I could hear the patrol block.

My aura burned dark and intense, and I knew that they wouldn’t be feeling the pause or the odd mid-fight peace of rain and the ongoing violence being more distant.

One of them looked at the hostages, who’d made it to the dirt road and now crouched there.  I flew straight for them, pushing past the people in the way with enough force to knock them over.

My thought, my instinct, was that if they had a gun, I wanted to already be there, ready to stop them.  They didn’t have a gun, so I went easy.  I kicked them across the lower legs, the Wretch momentarily active.

“Stand down and don’t even fucking look at them,” I said, pointing at the people they’d used as human shields.  “And don’t fucking think of raising a weapon.  I will shatter you, and you can see how well they take care of you here, or you can go to the hospital, get fixed up, and they’ll send you back home.”

I paused.  I stared at them, meeting each one’s eye in turn.  Roughly half their number were on the ground.

“Do you really think the Fallen are going to look after you when the weather gets colder, food is short, and you can’t be a farmer or a soldier?”

I saw movement.  A blur.  I moved away, ready to raise the Wretch, and as much as I could raise my defenses as fast as I could put my thoughts together, the attacker was fast and I hadn’t anticipated being blindsided.

The hit was hard, and the only reasons it wasn’t harder were that it hit my armor, at least partially, and I was moving back and away.

I winced, my hip aching.  Maybe it was telling, that I’d been driven to get back and away before I’d thought to make myself impervious.

Mama Mathers had kept bodyguards close, but she either had reinforcements from the other family, or this mob had more powered Fallen in it.

It was a Fallen woman.  She was younger than me, going by stature and frame.  A Leviathan theme to her mask, but with a fin on top and at the sides.

She came at me again, and this time I had the Wretch up.  She hit it hard, winced, and turned pitch black, freezing in space.

She got me from behind, a cord encircling my neck, pulling tight.  With my breastplate set up the way it was, there was a little flare of spikes, a few inches in front of my chin, pointing slightly outward.  The cord or wire caught on that, and I brought my good hand up, gripping the wire.

I pulled to get free, and I met resistance- at the same moment the obsidian black figure in front of me resumed motion.  She hit the ground with one foot, and launched herself at me.

I activated the Wretch and tore through cord, catching on something solid enough that the Wretch flickered out.

Metal wire, it seemed.  A garotte, no association with my friend and teammate.  In the course of moving away from the attacker, I moved closer to the unfrozen woman, and put her off her rhythm.  She changed, freezing in place, and the attacker I hadn’t yet seen attacked me from behind, hit me sufficiently hard to make me crash into the frozen woman.  The hit was enough that I’d bruise, but the residual impact made my gunshot wound explode with pain.

I twisted around, exerting force against the immobile obsidian statue, and she came to life, stumbling back, just as I saw the attacker behind me freeze.

One attacker, with two bodies.  Whatever one wasn’t active was immobile and apparently invincible.  Whichever one was active had enhanced speed and the strength that came with hitting things very fast.

The scholar in me wondered for a moment about just why so many Fallen were such massive pains in the ass, with such a solid crop of powers.

Conflict drive?  Close associations with other powers?  Careful selection and sharing of powers through breeding, insofar as powers were inherited that way?

Wretch out, I punched one woman- hit statue.  I pulled the same arm back, elbowing the one behind me- only for her to become statue just in time.  The one in front was already moving out of the way of any follow-up attack, the Wretch grazing her, making her stumble a little.  She still moved too fast for me to give chase.

She attacked relentlessly, and with a speed sufficient that the Wretch only blocked one in three hits.  I could use some basic fighting sense or flying away to protect myself against another one in three, but it still left a gap.  One or two hits made me stumble.  Another cracked me hard enough across the side of my head that I momentarily couldn’t make sense of what I could see.

I connected one hit, then followed up with a swing, Wretch active, hitting the ground hard enough to send a spray of stones, dirt clumps and mud at her.  She went statue and attacked me from behind with her other self, but when I retaliated, the original self had to shake off the residual mud.

I heard Ashley use her power.

She sailed over the heads of Fallen, landing with a bit of a skid.  Her hair was wet and slicked back, and her eyes were wide with the extent of their whites showing.  No pupils.

I wasn’t sure what to say, so I stated the obvious.  “You came.”

“R needs help.”

He did.  That he’d run into trouble had been the window Mama Mathers had needed.  I would have helped him already, but I could hardly leave my patrol block.

Sveta had been with him, too.

The lizard-demon Fallen came after me.  I fended her off, flying a bit away to position myself closer to Ashley.

“Is it alive?” I asked the Fallen.  “Your other self.”

The lizard-demon Fallen charged after me again, in lieu of answer.  I lashed out, and she became statue.  It was like hitting something Clockblocker-affected, from my hometown’s old Wards team.  No result, nothing got through.

“I’m giving you one chance to-”

Ashley’s power misfired.  She stumbled.

The lizard Fallen went after her.  Another cord.  Harder to get it around Ashley’s neck, when Ashley was bent double- Ashley brought her injured hand up, and the wire pulled against her forearm, cutting into flesh.  Blood welled out.

Power welled out too.  The power flared, and the cord broke.  The Fallen stumbled back, and became statue as Ashley turned to look at it.

“If you’re a pair and not one cape with a gimmick, you’ll both want to stand down, because my friend hits pretty darn hard.”

“I do,” Ashley said.  Long, wet white hair had fallen across her face while she was bent over.  It stuck there.

The lizard Fallen cackled, but didn’t respond.

She went after Ashley, instead of me.  Two of her at once, but never acting at the same time.  One became a statue the moment Ashley looked like she might have her bearings and be able to respond.  I flew over, and the Fallen girl moved around behind Ashley, shoving her in my direction, maneuvering to never give either of us a clear shot or angle.

She hit Ashley in the midsection, and Ashley reached out, putting a hand on the Fallen’s collarbone to steady herself.  She was hit from behind, one hit to the kidney.

She used her power, and it tore through the statue, ripping it apart.  Ashley was thrust away by the blast, and she landed not very far from where the lizard Fallen had dropped to the mud and grass, sitting there in shock.

Ashley hadn’t been lying when she’d suggested her power could hurt me.

It had been the final test, in a way.  The group of Fallen soldiers were hanging back, the patrol block having emerged, guns held up.  One or two in the Fallen still had guns as well, or had picked them up, but they were badly outnumbered.

Had the lizard Fallen won, I wondered if they would have pressed the attack, even faced with equal numbers and more guns.  I wondered if they would have had a choice.

Choice.  I looked for the instigator and leader.  Mama Mathers had disappeared into the trees, along with the Fallen in black, the one who had conjured the blue-white wall of faces, and the beast-masked Fallen in white.

Gilpatrick’s group began to disarm, arrest and manage the Fallen soldiers, some tending to the wounded, others hanging back and keeping their guns raised.

“R is in trouble?”

“I overheard,” Erin said.  “One of Bamet’s animals came to relay information.  R was attacked.”

“Rain,” another of the human body shields said.

“I was leaving the full name out, dad.”

“Don’t betray your own, Erin,” the man said.

“Our so-called own betrayed us!” Erin shouted.  “Fuck!  They never cared.  We were only tools to use.  Shields to get in the way so they could get up close.”

“No,” I heard his response.  I cut him off before he said anything else.  There were other priorities. “Attacked where?  How?”

“I- I don’t know.  I’m sorry,” she said.  And in that instant, she didn’t sound like the confident girl I’d talked to.  She was shaken.  “It- bad.  Bamet’s animals, they barely speak English.  But his situation is bad.”

I frowned.

“If you find them, don’t kill the animals?” Erin asked.

“The animals?”

“There’s something human in there.”

I frowned.  I had to go.

“You good?” I asked Gilpatrick.

“Yes,” he said.  “An awful lot of wounded, but- we’ll manage.”

I looked at Ashley.

“I’ll stay,” she said.  “Call if you need me, but-”

But she’d turned herself in?

Did she cut herself off because she couldn’t bring herself to say it?

“I’ll protect these people if they need it,” she said, instead.

So many people didn’t look like the ones I’d known.  Erin and Ashley both lacked the confidence they should have had.  Gilpatrick looked more like the grizzled soldier than the teacher.  Even the Fallen- well, they’d been threats and now the most aggressive and armed of them were on the ground, defenseless, making noises of pain.

I didn’t look like the me I wanted to be, probably.  So soon after donning my new, pretty costume.

This other me took to the air, flying against the falling rain, so that the gentle patter became something sharp in the brief ascent.

Rain, Mama Mathers, and the remaining leadership figures of the Crowley and Mathers branches.

Roughly in that order, anyway, as far as priorities went.

I could see Capricorn’s work, and he had raised walls in a way that left the Fallen with far less in the way of places to go.  Some reached as high as the treetops, most others were shorter, speedbumps and momentary obstacles, such that going around was probably easier than finding a way through or over.

I reached for my phone and dialed.

“-n’t find him,” Capricorn’s voice came through.  There was a whoosh of air on his side of the conversation, stopping as he finished talking.

“I can’t do much,” Looksee said.  “Victoria’s on the line now.  She was fighting.  Are you okay, Victoria?”

“Fallen to the Northeast were arrested.  One powered among them.  Erin’s okay.”

“Rain will be so happy to hear that if we can actually find him,” Capricorn said.  Still with the whoosh.

“Mama Mathers got away.  But she’s out of action,” I said.

“She’s alive?” Looksee asked.

“Last I saw,” I said.

“Okay,” Looksee said.  She sounded funny.  “Damsel?”

“She’s staying behind.  Protecting them, she said.  But she wants to stay in custody, I think.  I think it’s a good idea.”

“Okay,” Looksee said, barely audible.

“It makes sense,” Capricorn said.  I heard Vista’s voice, and still with the whoosh.

“Are you flying?” I asked.

“We caught a ride,” Capricorn said.  “Traveling Narwhal style.  We’ll be coming around your way soon.”

Narwhal style?

“Okay,” I said.  “Sveta, Chris?”

“Gone, same as Rain,” Looksee said.  “And changing.  He thinks Keen Vigilance might be able to hear something.”

“Traveling up the east perimeter,” Capricorn said.  “Vista says she would appreciate a lift down to solid ground.  She’s not super confident of her ability to land.”

“Land?  You’re actually on a Narwhal forcefield?”

“Doing loops.  They travel in straight lines, but Vista can bend straight.”

Okay.  I wasn’t just catching my two friends, then.  I was doing it while they were surfing on a flying, crystalline cleaver.

Fuck me.

“I’ll use my power.  Tell me when you start to feel it,” I said, my attention all over the place, as I looked for any sign of Rain, Sveta, Mama, Capricorn, and Vista.

“Feeling it,” Capricorn said.

I spotted them, and flew to match my trajectory to theirs.  “Only one working arm.”

Vista’s power warped space around us, slowing their speed.  It took me a second to adjust.  I let the thing catch up to me, and rested my foot against it, leaning back and moving with it.

“Catch him, catch me after,” Vista said, her voice briefly doubled on both phone and in person, slightly out of sync.

I caught Capricorn’s hand.  I couldn’t use the Wretch, and the strain of my arm carrying him reached across my shoulder to my injured other arm.

“I’m okay if it’s rough,” Capricorn said.

It was rough.  He landed hard, clipping a branch on the way down.  He didn’t react or seem to mind, letting go and pointing.

Vista had jumped, and she was descending slower, the space between her and the ground extending.

I flew to intercept.  I caught her hand in mine.  Again, my arm complained.

Not as heavy as Capricorn.

“Thank you,” she said.

I lowered her to the ground.  Capricorn put his hand out, catching her by the upper arm and helping with the final couple of feet.

“Mama knew where Rain was.  If we track her, we might be able to find him.”

“I can’t help,” Looksee said, through the phone.  “Both of my active cameras broke.  I’ve got another covering myself and Tattletale, I could send that.”

Vista seemed confused.  I motioned for her to come closer, fished in between my armor and my top for my other earphone, rubbed it against the edge of my hood, and offered it to her.

“It would take time to get here,” Capricorn said.  “Don’t worry about it.”

“Shouldn’t I very worry about it?” Looksee asked.  “I should send them now in case they’re needed.”

Cameras broke?” a voice came through the phone, hissing.

“Yes,” Looksee said.  “Don’t get on my case about it, vigilant dumbnuts, I’m not in the mood.”

Wondering… how?

“I dropped one on Mama Mathers and I dropped another on someone with a gun.”

“It worked,” I said.  “I don’t know how you aimed that without looking through the camera-”

“I didn’t.  My cameras were already fritzing out, so I sent them a slice of program, with facial recognition.  I centered it over them, accounted for wind, and when things sounded worst I had my cameras stop hovering.”

You weaponized… cameras?

“I told you not to get on my case about it,” Looksee said.

Am not.

“I didn’t weaponize the cameras, just so you know.  I’ve said I’m not good at making my cameras function like weapons.”

I remember,” Chris’ snakelike voice came through the phone.

“I weaponized the off switch, obviously.”

“Obviously,” Capricorn said.  “Send your camera.  If Mama Mathers is out-”

“Pretty sure she is,” I said.

“We can use all the help we can get.”

“It’s not like Tattletale is responding,” Looksee said.

“Victoria, can you give us another set of eyes from above?” Capricorn asked.

I nodded, taking back my earphone from Vista.

“I really hope he’s okay,” I heard Capricorn, the tail end of the sentence almost inaudible as I was already flying.

The weather seemed to be easing up.  I noticed the precipitation wasn’t as sharp as I flew up into it.  Not like it had been minutes ago.

Capricorn’s walls to the southern end of the camp had served to funnel the Fallen in other directions.  The road seemed untouched, the settlement was almost half and half for buildings that had been abandoned and leveled, and the fighting seemed concentrated at the north end, Crowleys and Advance Guard, and where I’d been helping the patrol block to the northeast.

The northeast was a starting point.  I imagined they would want to go to where there was help.  That meant they’d either head for the center, through open space where I would have to be able to see them, or they’d cut north.  The latter would let them move through the trees.

I reported it to the others.

I spotted the first of the animals.  A man with a hunched back and the head of a pig, his body heavy with muscle that didn’t match an ordinary person’s.  There was a horse, too, but its normal long face had been replaced with a human’s, folding around at the sides in a way that distorted the mouth and made the eyes bug out.  Mama Mathers was draped over the back of the horse.

My pulse pounded as I approached.  I turned sideways to appear less threatening and held my good hand up for the animals, trying to get them to ease up.  My only experience with horses had been at Dean’s family’s place.

The pigman made noises, and I winced.  It sounds like a stuck pig.  An animal in pain.

I’d wondered how the barnyard cape had blended in with the Fallen aesthetic.  I wasn’t wondering anymore.

“Is she alive?” I asked.

“Uuuuuhrh,” the horse moaned, in a halfway sound between a moan and a whinny.

I held my hands up, easing them as I drew nearer.  I hesitated, then put a hand at her neck.  I felt for a pulse, felt one, and then pried open one of her eyes.  I watched it dilate in the light.

I didn’t consider the administration of first aid or medical know-how a strength of mine.  I’d taken a class in first aid, and I’d learned it, a long time ago, and I’d refreshed myself when I had joined the patrol, but…

Suffice to say, that base had been covered, for most of my hero career.

The animals reacted, heads turning.  I glanced back.  the others had arrived.  Capricorn, Vista, and Chris as a broad mountain of hair and layered plates with massive ears and huge eyes, a foot taller than Capricorn.

Mierda,” Capricorn said.

“Erin said there’s something human in there,” I said, staring at the animals.

Chris started to approach.  The animals shied back.

He sighed.

“We’ll help if we can,” I told the animals.  “But can you show us the way to the others?”

You don’t want to do that,” yet another strange voice came through the phone.

“I’ve been trying to get in touch, Tattletale,” Looksee said.  “You’ve been ignoring my calls.”

“The fact you’re saying we don’t want to do this is a pretty good motivator to do this.”

“Don’t be a child, Victoria.  You’ve got the Mathers leader in your hands.  Good one.  Now leave.  Or go help Advance Guard, because they really need it.  Your friend Rain is done for.  He was always going to be done for.”

“Even if I was willing to accept that-”

“Which we aren’t,” Looksee interrupted.

“Our friend was with him.  Sveta.”

“Garotte,” Tattletale said.

“Sveta,” I said, more firmly.

Capricorn and Vista were lowering Mama Mathers to the ground.  The ‘animals’ seemed more relieved than anything to have that taken care of.  The existence of human mannerisms and expressions on animals was disconcerting.

Capricorn began creating a cage for her, to encase her body.

He apparently deemed it better to contain her and risk that she wouldn’t be okay than to rush to give her medical care and risk other lives.  We’d already tried the more merciful route.

“Okay,” Tattletale said.  “I don’t think it matters at this stage.  You don’t need Bamet’s beasts.  I’ll tell you where you need to go, if you promise not to stir up shit with Cradle and his friend.”

I glanced at Capricorn, then back at Chris.

“Promise,” I said.

“That’s a lie.  Whatever.  I’d remind you this is me being nice again, but you don’t care.  There’s a barn southwest of you.  You overshot when you approached.”

I looked.  A barn, in the middle of pen fields, with some stone-and-mortar fences separating fields from road, so no car would drive off the road and into the field without meeting an obstacle first.

The rain was only a trickle now.

Vista warped the space, to bring everyone closer.  It only served to make my trip there even faster, as I flew.

The first thing I noticed was the blood and the bodies.  Animals had been slaughtered, and their parts made for a macabre, eerie picture, with human and animal mixed and blended.  The two Fallen bodyguards were dead, and there were a few others, besides.

The second thing I noticed was Cradle in the rafters.  His robot was large enough that its hands could touch multiple walls, grip the rafters and touch the ground at the same time.  Cradle was perched on the back of one hand, crouching as he stared down.  Another parahuman, dressed in black with a red handprint on his mask, was gripping one finger, dangling.  He had a cleaver in his hand.

And in the corner, almost impossible to see, Sveta was huddled.  Her body was damaged, and tendrils snaked out, gripping herself, none long enough or positioned well enough to do more than snake around her shoulder and chest, twisting at cloth to reveal the painted shell beneath.  She was glaring, hate, and in the moment she looked at me, the hate broke, and she looked like she might cry in relief, or in grief.

She held what remained of Rain in her arms, as he gasped out short breaths, like a fish out of water.  The damage done- it hadn’t been her.

“Let’s not make this a thing,” Cradle said.

It was going to be a thing.

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197 thoughts on “Pitch – 6.4”

  1. The Wretch and I relieved him of the burden of having to carry a rifle and having unbroken hands.

    This line was just perfect. You’ve been killing it with the one liners this arc WillyWonka, and I am loving it.

    1. Typo thread thing:

      “I watched it dilate in the light.”
      Not sure if intended; usually pupils contract when exposed to light, anything else is indicative of drugs or some nasty eye/brainstem damage.

      “I glanced back. the others had arrived.”

  2. Oh dear. Rain is done for?

    But where’s Love Lost?

    Also, the entire thing about Tata being off the grid and away from her team and then barging in on the line at the eleventh hour? Skeeeevy.

    But in the meantime, Glorious Cooperation between Ashley and Victoria, Mama captured (sadly, kept alive?), no other losses (that we know of) among the heroes.

    The fight against the obsidian statue cape was pretty fun, up until Ashley flipped the table over.

    And again, I feel as if Victoria’s passenger is an outright deuteragonist for the story, it’s just that only now she’s starting to acknowledge that.

    Very well done. Let’s make this a thing.

  3. I’m really enjoying Victoria’s perspective, especially in fights like this. Also, the throwback mention to her talking about holding back was one of the most memorable moments for me in this chapter, but also it seems that she’s getting more comfortable and used to using the Wretch, and that’s also fantastic.

    And now we get to see her make something a thing! That’ll be exiting. Speaking of making something a thing, how about voting for Ward? http://topwebfiction.com/?for=ward
    It’s not in first and we need to fix that.

  4. Evidently the Fallen animal hybrid guy was a fan of Berserk, given how he decided to make Farnese’s horse (also known as the Rape Horse by fans) a thing that actually existed…

    1. Was thinking about getting into Berserk on a friend’s recommendation. After hearing the words “Rape horse” I can honestly say I am less interested in the show but more in the fandom.

      1. It’s actually a rather short scene in the original comic or anime (the main character decapitates said horse before it can do anything other than threateningly menace one of the female characters); it’s just one that’s become relatively iconic in the fanbase.

      2. It’s not really worth reading as a story. The art in the manga is absurdly good, though. (I don’t want to call it beautiful because while it can be, quite a lot of it is Hieronymus Bosch style demonic horror which is very well drawn but can’t really be called beautiful)

    1. Yeah, but if Rain starts dying it’ll take Cradle out of action… unless his contraption has some level of automation.

      I have a theory on the fifth “member” of their cluster as well… the unborn foetus from the woman in Snag’s shop. It would have only known dreams and darkness and we know the younger triggers are influenced more by the passenger.

      1. Nursery, perhaps? I found it odd that a fetus would trigger. We don’t really hear about triggering from the trauma of childbirth so I’d assume the agents look for a certain level of maturity. It could be a broken trigger, but I’d guess some combination of a lower trigger threshold from the cluster trigger and agent confusion due to the pregnancy.

        If the agents can somehow merge twins because they can’t tell they’re separate people, I can easily see Nursery triggering and her child mistakenly acquiring the shard. That would explain some things, like why there’s no traumatic flashback on its nights – it’s trying to show Nursery’s trigger, but she’s not connected to the shard. It’s also possible that the fetus isn’t mentally developed enough to participate and will join in later.

  5. After so much suffering I REALLY don’t want Rain to die like this.

    Goddammt Wibblybob! You sadistic genius! Making us wait how long for the next chapter after a cliffhanger like that!

    1. Yeah, I’m hoping they manage to get out of this one with Rain alive. Maybe it’s because we’ve focused so heavily on him the past couple of arcs, but he’s really become one of my favorites.

      I do worry about how his personality would change if he managed to take out his cluster. Would he keep being the Rain we’ve seen so far or revert back to the shitty Fallen Soldier-wannabe from his interlude? Or maybe something in between?

      1. If Rain does die… Well the cluster might learn something Nathan Explosion and DethKlok warned about…
        “When you seek vengence others will seek vengence on you!”

      2. Was his change in personality simply the bleed from his cluster, or did he break when he had his trigger and this is what he put himself back together as?

        1. I feel like it’s just shy of being confirmed that the personality changes are due to his cluster and that it was a gradual thing.

          In one of the interludes, Cradle makes a comment about how Rain doesn’t deserve a second chance and that the first night they shared a dream, Rain was insulting them and telling them they all deserved what happened, etc.

          Then you have Snag’s most recent interlude where we see he really wasn’t a bad guy at all before the mall cluster. And, most importantly, we see that after he dies, he returns to that nice, rational guy and even tries to convince his clustermates that what they’re doing is wrong.

          So we do see that these personality changes are not permanent, which could point to the fact that the shard is influencing them in order to pit them against each other. If that’s the case, it makes me wonder what will happen once there’s only one remaining clustermate – do they go back to being who they were, like Johnathan did before passing? Or do they stay who they’ve become?

        2. Neither/both. I think most of it is that he’s spent three out of five nights for the last year reliving his actions from the point of view of those he hurt. The bleed helps, sure, as does the sheer trauma of anyone’s trigger.

          With Snag’s interlude, we saw that bleed played a part- but also he spent one out of every five nights for the last year watching the person who hurt him the most get called a hero and have a handjob the day before his worst day.

          1. Don’t forget that Rain triggered there. He was out or harm’s way, personally, but he was under enough mental pressure to actually trigger. I’d say he was already 90% of the way to knowing that what they were doing was super fucked up and he wanted out, and the cluster thing violently shoved him to the end of the tunnel.

    2. My guess is that Cradle and LL hurt him enough to make him die really slowly so that they have an hour or so to get clear before his death knocks them out. Normally he’d be toast, but Victoria does know the best healing cape out there, so he has a chance. Not really the best odds, though.

      1. Said healing cape may be unnavailable, the last we saw of her she was cradling one of Nilbog’s desperate creations that had managed to live in vending machine death zone. In short, she may be absent a while.

  6. I know they’re in the business of heroing and all, but it seems like a bad decision to keep Mama alive when you have her unconscious and vulnerable, especially after what happened last time they had her like this.

    Also, Kenzie’s “weaponized off-switch” line might be my favorite thing so far…

    1. I don’t think any of them are comfortable executing someone in cold blood while they’re unconscious. Delaying medical help for a head injury, yes, but not on the spot murder.

      1. Yet this is a universe with explicit Kill Orders – and I can’t imagine the leader of a cult of kidnappers/enslavers/rapists/terrorists would somehow skirt by without one

        it’s not murder, nor is it in cold blood. she is the leader of a group actively trying to kill or enslave them all and has threatened to drive them all insane/kill them in their mind – her loosing consciousness does not absolve her of her actions

          1. it’s not murder, in that case, and it’s not the first time Victoria has actively fought to kill someone

          2. Just because it isn’t legally murder doesn’t mean it’s more moral or humane than taking her in alive, given the opportunity. Nor does it make it not cold-blooded. Maybe Miss Militia in their place would not have hesitated to execute MaMa, but that doesn’t mean Victoria or Capricorn would act the same.

            Besides, legally speaking, Kill Orders are a thing of the old world, before the amnesty. They probably don’t automatically carry over – or also likely, the legal status of acting on Kill Orders from before Gold Morning is still undecided, given the general state of the parahuman justice system. Not that they’re likely to be punished for it, but it’s also not as clear cut as it would have been before.

          1. That’s true. She wasn’t as prolific as Seir so there might not have been a kill order when things eventually fell apart during the aftermath of Gold Morning.

            That being said, there are numerous well-respected capes on hand who could easily attest to the need for such a decision given what they’ve experienced. By leaving Mama alive, they again open themselves up to mental attacks and the reduction of usable Thinker abilities. And this can happen literally anytime she’s awake and crosses someone’s thoughts. “Oh, I wonder if Mathers is still contained…” thought idly would be enough to cause issues.

            And that’s not even accounting for the fact that Victoria touched and looked into her eyes. She was unconscious so hopefully all was good on that front, but she is a cape that legit poses a danger to everyone.

            We know that when she’s unconscious, her power ends. It makes sense that were she deceased, the same would also be true. It makes tactical sense to eliminate the threat.

            But again, we’re dealing with a nascent group with a speckled past who are trying hard to be heroes. Sure, most of them have killed before, but from what we’ve seen, they’re trying to better themselves and step away from that, which we saw when Sveta wouldn’t take down Seir despite his Kill Order.

      2. I remember reading something about why they wouldn’t kill her through Victoria. Something about how some powers didn’t just stop after death and that killing her might just be the trigger that would hurt everyone that was affected by her. Until they have her quarantined and make her release her power over then I don’t think killing her is a choice.

      1. If you’re talking about the Dragon’s Tooth who covered him in foam, I’m certain that was the most effective weapon he had at the moment, or he would have used something more deadly. The reasoning would be that once he was helpless, he could be executed by whoever was on hand with the power to overcome all the protective mods Bonesaw had installed in him. Containment foam is a highly effective weapon and I can’t fault the guy using it as first choice.

        Of course right after he was captured, Gray Boy stuck him in a timeloop so the heroes options were close to nil. To their knowledge, anyone in those things can’t be affected by anything/anyone except Gray Boy himself. If they’d been thinking quickly, they’d have had Foil make the attempt, since she managed to kill Gray Boy. Personally, I think that would probably have worked. But it didn’t occur to them before Jack managed to push Scion over the edge and I don’t recall when they figured out Jack was still dangerous in the loop. I’m pretty sure that it was considered axiomatic that they couldn’t actually affect Jack himself was he was in the time loop.

  7. MaMa in a box – Acceptable. Needs a more long lasting solution, get her the fuck away from her base of support and into a deep concrete cell ASAP. Parole never. Killswitch built into the walls. Dual function light fixture/claymore mine.

    Rain dying – Well fuck. Oh shit. Guys. What if all the prosthetic powers are because Rain’s about to lose limbs?

    Kenzie – is wonderful. Still probably unstable, but wonderful. Weaponised off switch, god damn yes.

    Above all else…I find myself vaguely annoyed that Team Therapy seemed emotionally unready for this to turn into a real fight in which people really get hurt.

      1. Probably not. If they’re not going to kill MaMa, they need to make sure she spends the first eight to ten months of her term in prison in a coma.

      2. They can if he doesn’t include air in the box. Not like he doesn’t have experience with straight-up murder, and this one really has it coming.

        1. Good point. “The subject is contained.”

          “Contained in what exactly?”

          “A box…”

          “Did you poke holes in it so they could breathe?”

          “I was in a hurry so I might have skipped a step or three.”

          “DAMNIT CAPRICORN!”

          1. More than just not including air holes. Sound weakens as it moves from one material to another, but it is not removed entirely. Removing the air, creating a vacuum inside the box, would work though. Regrettably hard to do with his powers alone

        2. >straight-up murder

          Capricorn said he has killed someone before.
          But I’m doubtful it was just unprovoked murder.

          1. This is pretty provoked.

            Again, I don’t really understand this apparently very important distinction between ‘an enemy who is awake, alive, has colossal power to kill and cause mass suffering, and is actively trying to kill you and cause mass suffering’ and ‘that same enemy but temporarily unconscious’. They’re not somehow going to wake up as a different person who has turned a new leaf after an hour of being knocked out.

            To me, the entire set of moral reasoning there comes across like this: ‘No matter what happens, we are going to either kill this person, or surgically mutilate them to put them in a semi-permanent coma. This is inevitable because of what she is, what she can do, and what she wants to do to other people. We can never truly trust her and never truly control her without on some level doing some nasty unethical shit. However, when we do this, we’ll feel somehow better about it if she’s at least armed and fighting back.’

            Do you understand why I might see that set of reasoning as being, well, weird? Do the thing which needs to be done. Or don’t.

          2. I wasn’t talking about MaMa?

            I’m just saying that the first time Capricorn killed someone was probably in self-defense.

          3. @Exejpgwmv

            Oh, right. Possibly? We know that Capricorn is totally on board with hiring hitmen, though.

          4. @Lee

            Question, ’cause this seems to be headed this way. Would killing Hitler when he was a child be right? If you could have no other interaction with him to change his care so course, other than the kill him when he was a child, is it your moral obligation to?

          5. @Catus Cetus

            Yes, but only if he’s been tied to the trolley tracks by Mike Godwin and I find myself standing beside the switch lever, in an otherwise blank white plain which stretches to infinity and is otherwise comfortably free of any kind of moral context.

            Now that I’ve demonstrated my contempt for the trolley problem, let me engage with your question and its implied comparison.

            First off, you’ve completely divorced your situation from any helpful comparison by explicitly saying “Hitler! But as a child, and you have no other possible interaction, kill or no kill, huh? Moral obligation?” To which the answer is “No, because while World War 2 and the Nazis would not have taken the exact form which they did without Hitler, the underlying powderkeg of increasing industrialisation, mechanised warfare, massive economic problems, and the unlanced cultural boil of extreme anti-semitism mean it is almost certainly the case that had Hitler died as a child there still would have been some kind of European war in the 20th century, a war accompanied by ethnic cleansing. In particular, fascist movements would have, and did, exist independently of Hitler anyway. Also, in case it isn’t clear by now, I think this is a silly ‘gotcha’ question which doesn’t actually hold up to the historical context.”

            That aside, stick to looking at MaMa. She has now had multiple chances to surrender. She is an adult. She is not going to stop unless she is stopped by either death or permanent unconsciousness. I do not see forcibly keeping someone in a permanent coma as somehow morally or ethically superior to just killing them.

          6. @Catus Cetus

            You know what, that was a really snarky way for me to respond, and I do apologise for that. However, attempting some kind of comparison between this situation and “Is it morally required to kill Hitler as a child, no other options allowed, kill or no kill?” is pretty daft.

          7. @Lee

            No apology necessary. The analogy doesn’t carry very well. I was just curious. I’m of the unpopular opinion that I would not kill Hitler. I agree with you that simply killing Hitler would not have had the implied affect, however even if it did I would not want that affect. I believe that, tragic and horrifying as it was, WW2 had good results that helped us grow as a species and continues to help us prevent future problems.

          8. @Lena27

            Is tragic and horrifying, no question. But it helps us understand and prevent future travesties. Similar to if you touch a burning oven you learn not to do it again. Learning not to touch it again doesn’t make the oven any less hot. (Over simplification, I know)

            I’ve never found the moral train to be logical in any way. It asks if everything else is equal, would you kill one or many? (Of course save as many as you can.) But then it goes on to say you know the person which makes the entire thing invalid. If I know the person, then everything isn’t equal and every choice made from this point on HAS to be morally wrong. Save one or many, impossible. What if one member of the many is the new Hitler? What if the One is going to give birth to a child who becomes the doctor who cures cancer? Unless you can see the entirety of time, you cannot answer the moral train, because every answer is wrong. And if it has no right answer, then what point does it have?

        1. Does anyone who matters really trust Riley enough yet to give her that job? She already understands lots of awful powers and their associated shards well enough to clone an army of them. Do we really want to give her an opportunity to experiment on another horrific and OP shard? It feels like every weapon that Riley gets her scalpel on is another weapon that will be used in regrettable ways later in the story, probably in some sort of nightmare-fuel chimeric form.

          1. Oddly enough, I trust Riley enough. If she wanted to do that, she could have- but she didn’t, partially because Jack wanted it to be ‘sporting’ for the others. The moment he was in suspended animation for a couple years, Riley started to think of herself as Riley, not Bonesaw. Bonesaw was originally a construct built by Riley to survive Jack and the Nine. She didn’t want to join up; she was tortured into it. Now she’s free to actually find out who Riley is, and Bonesaw’s the mass-murderer.

          2. While Bonesaw/Riley is not fully trustworthy, she is still more trustworthy than Mama, as she lacks a long term agenda/mission and seems to just be going along with the flow.

          3. @Earl of Purple,

            I don’t think the move away from Bonesaw toward a more Riley persona was as quick and complete as you seem to imply. People don’t change like a switch has been thrown even after they’ve had major revelations. If she had really been even close to fully restored to what we consider Riley, she could have simply murdered Jack and the entire cadre of S9 clones in their pods and then tried to make a less evil life for herself, after altering her appearance.

            I can’t blame the Wardens for having Panacea check all her work to this day. She’s still got that shard in her helping to inspire all sorts of new art she could make out of her patients. Right now, she knows that she couldn’t pull it off. She’d be caught and imprisoned in a cell like Nilbog’s as a best case scenario and then he wouldn’t even be able to do the limited work she’s allowed. Stop monitoring her and I don’t know how long she could resist.

          4. @ David Hunt It wasn’t quick, and it wasn’t easy for her. She started to regret and move away back then, but ultimately was still too scared of Jack to risk offing him in stasis and running away to join Circus. Not least because she would have still had a kill order on her head, and there’s all kinds of ways a face change wouldn’t stop some capes. Thinkers like Tattletale might catch a hint of it, or a Bio-Tinker might track her down using her DNA, or a smart cape (or not cape) might connect the dots between the teenage surgery-tinker with no past and the mysterious disappearance of America’s most feared super team.

            But it’s two years later, and she’s got Panacea’s oversight (though I think they’re overseeing each other, since one is ex-Nine and the other ex-Birdcage), she’s relatively free- not kept in a box like Nilbog, even if she can’t leave the Warden HQ unaccompanied. So despite all that, I’d still trust her to remove Mama’s corona pollentia.

          5. Yes lots of people would trust her. Indeed, it’s hard to imagine someone more capable of modifying her own mannerisms and behavior to make herself inspire more trust in everyone she meets. She did that during her whole time with the Nine, although her intended audience was smaller then. However, one doubts that the real decision-makers on this topic are so swayed by emotion as we average humans are.

  8. Rain nooooooooo…

    Though I admit I’m really looking forward to finding out how Cradle’s robot works, I like the imagery of a mech made up of a bunch of giant hands jammed together. Presumably he also has some version of the other three powers as well, but does he use them personally or channel them through his robot?
    And where’s Love Lost? Don’t focus too hard on Cradle and forget about her guys.

    Great chapter overall, I love Victoria going a little wild.

  9. WavlyBavly, y u gotta tease like this? Saying “what was left of Rain” could be a LOT of different things. We could be talking missing limbs, missing organs, being turned into barely-sentient hamburger meat, a lot of things.

    Personally, I’m expecting serious, hospital-inducing injuries that would require the assistance of a certain Striker 12. That, or gratuitous and inappropriate use of a Tinker power (maybe the tokens his picks up from the dead Snag will let him make less-crap arms).

    The question I have is whether or not another member of his cluster is dead or not. Snag is gone, but as someone else noted, where’s Love Lost? It would be too neat and easy for his entire cluster to get iced like this, but two out of three isn’t impossible, if unlikely.

    1. >That, or gratuitous and inappropriate use of a Tinker power (maybe the tokens his picks up from the dead Snag will let him make less-crap arms).
      Snag was the one with the Mover power. Cradle’s the one with the Tinker power.

      1. Am I the only one interested in what happened to Snag’s secondaries? His ability to punch through walls, his skill at building arms and tech he can apply his other powers to? His loss-and-guilt-and-mental-anguish strikes?

        Chances are they’re gone, but… Wouldn’t it be fun if Cradle got some of Snag’s expertise in arms, Rain could apply his boomerangs in a more striker-y way, and Love Lost could scream emotional-loss as well as rage, as his secondaries coalesce into his cluster’s primaries? And it’d give everyone a flat boost, to encourage more conflict.

    2. He’s breathing, and instantly recognizable as Rain, which puts some upper limits on the damage. And yeah, Victoria might be very resistant to the idea of going there, but she does know the best damn healer in the world, who in turn is BFFs with the second best healer. As long as they put Rain in ice within a few minutes of his death, he’s going to be fine. Probably better than he was before.

    1. “So while we where working, we collaborated, and we realize that since Ashley always breaks her arms, we make that a design feature! She’s got rocket punch now, and can just plug in new ones as needed!”

      1. “Yeah, we figured March wasn’t meeting the “anime-style capes” quota on her own, so…”

        This just makes me chuckle. And, honestly, it would probably be a less lethal way for Ashley to fight than just using her power.

  10. Vista is going to come away from this experience so confused.

    A conversation that will happen later:

    “So Rachel, uh, no judgement but why was Tattletale helping that tinker guy ambush Victoria’s teammates and torture them to death in the middle of the Fallen fight?”
    “She what?”

      1. I’m guessing she’s trying to cheap out on the deal, so Rain and Sveta only get a little bit tortured and Cradle still owes her. She has to know if Rain or Sveta die because of her their friends will go rage-mode on her.

        1. She’s still going to do some explaining though. It’s very bad form to screw over allies when fighting a joint threat, and the Undersiders need to be able to work with others like the Wardens. They built a rep for showing up to help in Endbringer fights, but they need to keep it now, and they can’t do that if TT goes off grid and enables the torture and murder of Wardens affiliated supers. Not just for some free labor for a while.

          1. Tattletale also probs heard about Rain from the Cluster members perspective though. Tt probably thinks she’s been more than fair giving Team Therapy a warning, including Rain, even when Rain is (partly) responsible for the death of many civilians, including children. Also, @negadarkwing, Rain isn’t exactly a Warden-affiliated super. Until recently, he was a member of the Fallen and while he is planning on making up for the blood he’s shed, it doesn’t change the fact that he *has* shed blood. Tt doesn’t want to be involved in his death but she doesn’t know how he’s changed. So she’s probably not losing any sleep either.

        2. Thing is, signing on for the explicit torture and murder of some random guy in exchange for cash or favours owed is…not exactly in character for Lisa.

          She’s a shitty person, not a baby-eating monster. Thus, I’m inclined to wait and see. This strikes me as more likely to be a fuckup on her part than intentional malfeasance, especially given that she specifically addressed Rain and warned him to get away from the hunt before she closed the deal.

          1. I think tattletale has information (shocker i know) about the fallen aligning themselves with the other earth who is about to go to war with this earth. She figured she could use all the allies she could in taking out the threat before it could metastasize so she struck a deal and kinda got over her head on their vehemence in murdering Rain. She is trying to balance the scales of her conscious while doing what she can to prevent greater dangers… maybe.

        3. Is cradle worth the hassle?

          My read has always been that tattletale wanted to get rid of mama Mathers and she needed a core locus who would be willing to attack the fallen. If she had to promise them Rain in order to put together a massive attack force… Well that’s the breaks.

          1. She didn’t need the Cluster to attack the Fallen though.

            The Cluster was a group of B-rate parahumans at best and have so far played no pivotal roles in the current war.

            And I doubt that fucking Snag was just so charismatic that Tattletale needed him to gather together a sufficient fighting force.

          2. @ Exejpgwmv: Snag wasn’t charismatic, but he had an excuse. Tattletale’s recruiting villains to attack the Fallen? She’s enough of a major player that people will notice, and ask questions. And her enemies/rivals will tip off the Fallen, to screw with her.

            Snag, on the other hand? He’s hiring capes to attack the Fallen, and making mention of a young lad he wants particularly hurt? Any minor amount of research will find they’re a cluster, and where they triggered- a Fallen attack on a mall. It’s Kiss/Kill, no more and no less. They’ve got Tattletale on board? Wow, they’re serious, well-connected and wealthy. And Tt’s rivals don’t screw with her, because she’s just the hired help, not the driving force.

          3. A group of 60+ villains gathering together will make anyone notice and ask questions.

            That’s not even acknowledging the fact that Tattletale and the Undersiders went to a meeting to discuss tactics with the other leaders of this raid.

            And it seems unlikely that Lisa was all that concerned about traitors considering she couldn’t even be bothered to look over the people her teammates would be fighting beside.

  11. March and her body-part swapping capes are still lurking around somewhere. If there is no willing donor available, I imagine March would have no issue separating someone from their organs.

  12. I feel bad that Rain get’s got off-screen after that epicness with Jonathan. Still, fantastic chapter WB. Hoping my boy pulls through.

    *goes off in the corner hoping all of this is building to them being forced to go to Amy for help

  13. …I’m an outlier in that I think Rain is going to live, it seems. The lack of description makes me think, personally, that we have finally REALLY reached the nightmare territory event horizon. After all, he’s being kept near human-animal hybrids, and theoretically a cape who makes them–and Wildbow’s most recent work was Twig. I fully expect this to be where things start taking a turn for the brutal and harrowing, honestly. Whether that means Rain losing 3/4 of his limbs and having to go for prosthetics, or Rain /gaining/ pig hooves and having spider-like extra prosthetics for balance, who knows, but I doubt he’s going to end up 86’d, here and now.

      1. “Okay, I usually don’t do this kind of thing any more, but they were brought in at the same time and I got a bit carried away. The good news is that her power is slaved to him now, so you don’t have to worry about the hallucinations.”

  14. My actual favorite Ward character better not die, or I’m protesting at the Senate.

    Animal people were creepy as shit.

    Also, AMAZING fight. Easily the best so far. Keep up the epicness, willyboggle.

    1. Were the animal people made from real animals? If so, that’s just really sad…Victoria said that they sounded like they were in pain. Obviously on the list of sad stuff that’s happened in Ward, it doesn’t take the cake but the thought animals being mutated and twisted like that then forced to do Fallen’s bidding… 🙁

      1. It seemed to me that they’re chimeras- humans and animals combined together. Loyal and easy to force to do your bidding, but also smart enough to follow orders

  15. Rain’s not dead. Saving him is going to be the mechanism that gets Victoria at least communicating with Amy again. It’s the last thing in the world Victoria wants, but I think she wants Rain to die even less. If it means Rain lives, she’ll do it.

  16. damn. I really hope Rain doesn’t get off-screen killed after just starting to get some resolution. that’d just be sucky and really anti-climactic

    also, reading this chapter really helped solidify my opinions on something – ridding Victoria of her reliable control of her abilities and powers just to give her something extra angst about is starting to feel turgid and tacked on considering the issues she already has from her past experiences.
    The Wretch doesn’t feel like it adds anything to the series at all, it simply exists to force her powers to fail at inoportune times and make her feel bad about doing good things, and force her to use her emotional/manipulation based power to stay in the comfort zone of wildbow protagonists since it’s not like her strength/resilience even with her shield is anything near storybreaker levels, and it makes very little sense it’s out of her control when the shield was fully under her control before, even if the shape has changed.

    this is just my opinion of course, but it feels like every time it’s brought up it’s just to drag it into the eventual bleak myopia sooner, and I very strongly hope Victoria can control the wretch soon so we can focus on actually well-incorporated issues and growth 🙂

    1. I believe her shield was probably controled subconciously, and still is, Victoria has so many issues her shield is taking a diferent form and attitude than she conciously wants but deep inside it might be that she wants to just let the ugly out, to let go and tear everything apart and maybe the wretch represents that.

      I don’t think its a power malfunction but a Victoria malfunction so I believe the wretch is here to stay because it represents Victorias current state, the moment she finds resolution and peace is when she will be able to control her forcefield.
      Methinks.

      1. Well, she used to be wearing the field as a slightly loose second skin – it had her shape (give or take whatever pounds she gained here and there), same count of limbs, followed her gestures, and it was as invulnerable as it is now – she punched harder when it was up and didn’t rip people’s faces off because her hand was closed in the ‘glove’ it produced, so her field had a closed fist too.
        Now it has way too many extra limbs for her to control it, so those just whip and lash out in a wild fashion when the Wretch reacts to aggression, and cause large collateral due to her fingers/nails/every bit that juts out being Siberian-like impossibly hard.

        The main issue is that Victoria never really controlled her wretched self – she used her emotion power to communicate, and could use that special keyboard somewhat, but she never got past that. Amy healed her body, and now she still has to learn to wrap her brain around something she wasn’t able to do in 2 years, with nothing else to disturb her – while fighting and flying around.

        I don’t expect her to succeed in this story, really. Maybe if she second-triggers, but that would be way too convenient and Wilbur rarely follows that path (if ever). Possibly if her situation worsens even further, to make up for it. Still, that’s wishful thinking.
        We can already expect a larger dose of frustration and accidental injuries in the future. However, Victoria learning to deal with it can definitely lead to excellent moments, which I’m looking forward to.
        She started talking to it with interesting results, maybe something else will help her go further.

        1. my complaint doesn’t come from the changed shape, it comes from the forcefield gaining a will and clearly malicious intent to destroy everything as a means to prevent her from using her abilities and force her into reliance on her emotion powers.

          even as the wretch in the asylum, she wasn’t violently flailing around and seemingly actively destructive like her power is now. We know from the interludes’ she wasn’t considered a violent or dangerous prisoner in the asylum and we know she kept her forcefield up most of the time due to mentions of her interactions with Svetta and how Svetta liked her because she couldn’t hurt her, and her own admissions in Ward. if Victoria was at all flailing around like her forcefield now does, with her forcefield active, she would have been a much more dangerous patient and one no-one would have been allowed to go near, and yet she wasn’t – she didn’t have specific requirements or equipment to visit her

          My issue isn’t it changing shape or reminding her of her time trapped like that. I honestly feel that part works. my issue is it’s now been made to be a destructive, seemingly violent and aggressive monster that openly and actively destroys everything around her with a large amount of dexterity and versatility yet completely out of her control, contradictory to the fact she could barely move at all when trapped in that form – and that it never puppetted her to destroy everything before when it was smaller, despite clearly being able to act against her will here – and being the source of her strength so able to effortlessly overcome her own muscles. Even saying it’s subconscious doesn’t work there, as Victoria would still have had subconscious thoughts and impulses before her trauma – yet she never destroyed everything around her then.

          Turning her power into a foe and a monster doesn’t add anything to her struggling with the memories or trauma. If anything, it gets in the way of it, by making her past something of an antagonist. it just tacks on extra, undeeded nonsensical drama to it that contradicts the events of worm and serve to add a convineint excuse for why she can’t help, let wildbow write a protagonist that must solve everything through sideways thinking, generate aditional guilt from her results, and give her something extra to angst over.

          and honestly, the fact she’s taken to bargaining with her passenger to corole it’s subconcious actions, coupled with switching to the very tactical, analytical mindset, the fact she can’t help but hero, and all events conspiring to fill her and motivate her with guilt/angst is not helping establish Victoria – it’s just making her more like Taylor, which helps reinforce my issue with ridding her of the abilities that distinguished her from Taylor, as Victoria should be distinct from Taylor.

          that’s why I hope she can get control of it soon, and I do genuinely hope it’s not a millstone the entire series. Her never gaining control over this thing, her constantly being forced to hate and fight herself, to feel guilty over it and her choices, would just add an unneeded bitter note and get in the way of Victoria establishing herself as a distinct character

          1. The behavior of the wretch is actually markedly similar to Valefor’s power change. A situation outside of your control results in a power that manifests itself differently.

            Consider: When the force field was under control, Victoria wasn’t. When Victoria no longer had control of her own body (and thus no practical way to USE the force field), the force field changed to be a power outlet without the previous dependence on here body… but Victoria is now in more control of her own self. If you buy into the theory of passengers driving conflict, it’s possible that the conflict drive is now hooking directly into the force field, bypassing the useless body.

          2. Who says the Wretch has a mind of its own?
            Victoria does.
            She might be wrong and is using “the Wretch” as an excuse. It lets her blame her unresolved rage and self- loathing on something out of her control. It’s not her lashing out at anything close to her. She isn’t the one needing therapy. She is free to be the warrior monk so long as she doesn’t let that dark and dangerous past of herself free for too long.

            OFC this is all just my speculation. Seems plausible to me though. More plausible than that the power literally had a mind of its own.

  17. Typo query

    “What is it?” Gilpatrick replied. He had his back to a truck much like I did. Many of his students were crouched in the ditch, the road, another ditch, and a bit of mud and grass between them and the Fallen.

    “I want your-”

    A series of gunshots from a handful of the oldest patrol block members interrupted her.

    -Shouldn’t that ‘her’ be a ‘him?

    *

  18. > Rain fell all around us.

    That’s HORRIFYING — oh wait, no, it’s just wat–

    > what remained of Rain in her arms

    ;_;

      1. I enjoyed the literal rain changing throughout the chapter, and have a feeling that thematically it’s tied into Rain’s ascendancy / getting hurt.

  19. Uhh, either everything with Rain just became a bit of a shoot the shaggy dog, or something else is going on here.

    And Lisa, listen love you, but honestly Cradle and Love Lost were never worth this much trouble. You’d have been better off playing a bit nicer with Team Therapy.

    1. Personal theory – Lisa’s playing the long game here; tweaking Victoria in just enough ways to get her to behave in predictable manners. I’ve been thinking this since the original warning of Victoria away from the peninsula. Good old reverse psychology.

      1. Problem is there’s several times that trying to do that too directly resulted in shit like Jack giving her a glasgow grin or Cody crushing her trachea. She doesn’t have the best track record with that tactic.

        1. overconfidence and a tendancy to poke things she really shouldn’t are pretty much trademarks of tattletail’s character 😀

          she’s smart and she’s very, very good at what she does, but she’s not infalable and it is her main flaw

          1. I’ve said before that Tattletale is like an MMO character who picked up the Taunt skill, but none of the tankiness skills necessary to survive its use.

        2. There’s times it worked, too. More often, as it happens. The discussion in the bank with Amy and Vicky springs to mind. And when she revealed Cherish’s plan when Cherish tried it on her. And when she talked Lung into helping them fight the Yangban (despite being unaware of their history). And she’s good enough at it that the one time she met Dauntless, he was wearing earplugs- at Armsmaster’s suggestion.

          Her power makes it a viable strategy and one that, in the meanwhile, is fun and interesting for her and any teammates in earshot. It doesn’t always work, because like all strategies it has flaws and sometimes she just misjudges someone.

  20. “She had managed to stab her fingertips into flesh.”

    Victoria referring to the Wretch as a she? Either a typo or a VERY interesting character development…

  21. Ya know it’s a pity Vista never got involved with the Shatter-sleds… Nice bit of nostalgia inducement there.

    Now if they can get Rain out alive they have potential access to both Panacea and Bonesaw, so fixing him up shouldn’t be too much of a challenge.

  22. Also: reminder that Victoria’s moral code is to do 75% of the harm to a villain that they’ve caused someone.

    There are multiple dead people in this room, and Cradle and the mystery cape are responsible for them. Unless they’ve got some pretty funky powers, I’m pretty sure that one or both of them are about to meet their ends, especially since they’re outnumbered two-to-one in a confined area that they aren’t going to be able to easily escape from.

      1. Yes well she also put Rain and the people that tortured him in that barn. If she really didn’t want to help these people, she could have abstained from helping them.

        Her motivation is probably a little bit deeper than “get paid”, and I’m willing to accept that she might hold some sympathy for Rain, but she’s still working for Rain’s mortal enemies. She told Victoria she was working for them, and she seems to have carried out her part of the bargain, some mild treachery notwithstanding.

        1. Tattles got PAID for helping them. Whatever her motivation for accepting that job (I’m in favor of the ‘plausible deniability for gathering an army against the Fallen’), she needs to be known as someone reliable, someone who does what they’re paid for if they’ve taken the money. The cluster paid her to point them at Rain, she did that. They did not pay her to not also point Rain’s allies at them, so she didn’t do that 😀

      2. I don’t care about Tattletale right now. I just want to see Victoria fully unleash the power of the Wretch without holding back, and just let it loose to kill the shit out of somebody that deserves a killing.

        1. Ehh. As grimly satisfying as those moments are, I don’t think it’s really Victoria’s style, you know? There’s like three people in that barn right now who have never killed anyone, and Victoria’s one of them.
          Cradle is another, funnily enough.
          Anyway, if Victoria starts killing people at some point, I’d like her to have a bit more motivation for it.

  23. Oh heck, Victoria referred to the Wretch with she/her pronouns!

    Sorta sounds like Looksee was hoping she had killed MaMa…

    Oh Rain, please don’t die here 🙁 you’ll give Sveta MORE trauma-induced issues…! Also, we’ve grown accustomed to your face 😛 (lol, I’m honestly pro-Rain, but it’s too fun to join in on the joking)

    1. Honestly, /I/ was hoping Looksee killed MaMa -_-
      it’s the objectively less messy outcome that takes care of the biggest problem they have

      1. If only she’d ordered it to accelerate ‘down’ before she weaponised the off switch. That could have done it. Or mounted a big spiky antennae on the bottom, or the top, had the camera do a flip, and then turned it off.

        But… Yeah, if Looksee had joined the Team Therapy Killers Club, it would have probably sorted their problems. Not definitely, though.

  24. I’ve been waiting for Victoria to finally start throwing things. That was cool. Seemed like the whole Mathers attack petered out pretty easily, though.

    At first I thought the cape with the red-handprint mask was one of the Fallen, fighting Cradle, but I guess not. He must be pretty scary, if he’s the reason Tattletale seems to think Rain’s death is a done deal.

    Anyway, Rain will probably get healed but I actually can’t see why it would cause drama. The Wardens can just take him, teleport or drive him back to headquarters, he gets healed while unconscious, wakes up in the outpatient area. Easy. There are lot of other people on this field who need help, admittedly, but it’s probably too dangerous and too minor a situation to risk the powerful healers in.

    Or at least I hope so. I really like the idea of Victoria being forced to call her sister to heal a dying friend, but I think it should wait until later on. Sometime when the team is more isolated and totally engaged in something else, so it comes as a shock.

  25. I decided to give a bit of Feedback for WIldbow, and I’ll try to be short.
    I liked Worm. I liked Twig’s worldbuilding and characters, but it wasn’t fulfilling for me so I dropped it.
    In the same way, Ward is not fulfilling for me to read, in a very similar fashion with Twig, and I think I know why.

    In Worm, there was a formula of dark worldbuilding. The world becomes shittier and shittier place as the book progresses, but it all doesn’t seem like a downer. Why? Because the formula was “Have a crisis – then have a struggle overcoming it – which eventually ends in a glorious victory or at least a stalemate.”
    In Twig, however, the pattern is different. The characters are often victorious, they fulfill their task – but every victory is then spoiled by some bitter details. The victories are short-living, but the problems are long-term and they pile up. In the end, any joy that I, as a reader, feel for the victory is vastly overshadowed by the mountain of problems that just grew larger. The characters don’t resolve their problems – they accumulate them as they go. Then they get broken, and this seems to be the punchline.

    In Ward, I have very similar feelings. The heroes are set up to have drama. They are INTENDED as a drama sinks, and every good moment they have is just a set-up so that their loss or breaking moment would feel impactful later. I honestly don’t know what your plans are, but it feels that way – the doom that is about to come onto them later. Just like in Twig where you know from the start that characters have no perspective for a happily-ever-after – you know the same in Ward. And that makes every victory or breakthrough feel like a manipulation for an eventual tearjerker moment.
    This is not fulfilling for me.

    What made Worm populat? It’s not the dark world – it’s first and foremost a comic-book feeling of it. A “Hell yeah!” feeling that was delivered in the end of every crisis. A feeling that the characters were FREAKING AWESOME, even with all their drawbacks and insecurities. It’s not about being strong fighters – it’s about having a survivor attitude, an energizing will to push forward and crush every walls in their way.

    Whad does Ward offer? First, it offers a main protagonist who’s neck-deep in problems, but unlike Skitter he doesn’t rebel against the world – she’s desperately trying to fit in and failing.
    Then she’s given a group of misfits, each of whom is on the verge of a catastrophe. They aren’t really friends – they just cling to each other because there’s no one else left near them. You depict them all as desperate, with little options left, with pressuring issues and problems.
    Then, you make them do a deliberately dubious decision of forming a team. It’s like they are riding down the cliff and flooring the gas pedal. The entire time the reader feels that everything is going to end up in ruin. That voids any smile, any victory or good time they have, because as a reader I go “Yup, you are so paying for this carefree time later on – with blood and tears and loss of everything you have left to treasure.”

    Worm was about anti-heroes rebelling against the system and constantly, CONSTANTLY kicking ass.
    Ward is either looking to be a story of “crawling out of the gutter”, or “being trodden deeper down into the dirt”. Both are a downer. Both do not have a place for AWESOME. Both do not have a ruthless hero who reaches their goals no matter the cost.

    Both do not have a hero who feels proud about what they are doing. At best, Victoria will look back and shudder in disgust at the road of corpses she left behind. Something that Skitter never did.
    Even just staying alive after Endbringer attack, beaten and broken but alive – was delivered as an achievement. Ward delivers them only as “Oh my god I’m in such a pain now, I failed to make any difference.”

    It’s not about being hero or villain. It’s not about having crisis after crisis. Worm was good because it was the story of being awesome, being empowered by your actions and developing as a person. It wasn’t about problems, it was about flashy and cool solutions.
    Something that your further writing isn’t.

    it’s a downer. Not meaning it’s bad, but it aims at and glorifies causing sadness and feeling of worry for the heroes’ current situation and future. It’s aim are negative emotions, and it’s not why I read novels. Pact, Twig and now Ward – all share the same general feeling of “everything will be bad no matter what you do”. And I can’t read them.
    I want an “Everything will be bad, but you grit your teeth and push through, higher and higher until heavens break. The world will burn around you, but you’ll be standing in the ashes” kind of feeling – something that Worm had.
    Worm was Action genre set up in dark universe – Ward is so far an emotional thriller with some action scenes.

    You are still is and always be deep in my heart as a creator of Worm. I hope you can deliver a story of the same general feeling as Worm once more. I personally think it’s a shame that Ward has such a different feel to it than Worm, because I think that sequels should never change genre or pattern.

    1. I’m not gonna write a huge response, but… I disagree, to be honest? To me, Ward feels like a natural extension of the themes of Worm, with characters who have experienced even lower lows than Taylor had- PTSD, extreme trauma and abuse, shame for who they are, being seen as monsters, dealing with disabilities, etc. And I fully expect that they’ll all reach some impressive highs before the end of the story, and help the world in some pretty huge ways.

      1. It’s 6th arc already, and they are still in the gutters. If they start becoming awesome later – I would only be able to say that this book has a hell of a long and dragged-out prologue.

        Taylor joined a successful, fully-capable team almost right away. She started solving problems sucessfully in her first ark. She didn’t get to face consequences untill much, much later.

        In Ward the first ark is about how bad Victoria’s life is. Her first job ends in a disaster and crying. Then she has her family problems, the broken trigger event that is nothing but witnessing people die and not being able to make any difference. Then we witness her fail repeatedly to have a job. Then she takes on this group of kids which she KNOWS right away will end really poorly. They do some jobs and they don’t win cleanly – they fuck up.
        Ward is all about problem pileup with little to no progress.

    2. I agree that part of the thrill of Worm was the juxtaposition of the personal success of the heroine versus the rapidly deteriorating status of the setting as well as the quick dopamine bursts of rapid action and short chapters. However, i find it early to criticize Ward as we haven’t even finished the first big action piece.

      I also disagree that sequels should be of the same genre or pattern. Just look at Alien and Aliens or Terminator vs Terminator 2. They are very different genres and very different patterns but the key of good continuity between them is that they have the same spirit and the same themes even if the ultimately answer the questions raised differently. The spirit of the piece should be true and in the case of ward the spirit is there, just coming from a different direction of communication and cooperation in a broken world as opposed to destruction, division, and assimilation (for the greater good).

      1. I would also like to note that it is a very different experience agonizing through the various weeks to get the next dopamine fix for Ward as i have caught up on the writing as opposed to Worm where i can blitz through and feel my brain sparkle with all the excitement. This makes me wonder just how it was reading Worm as an actual serial compared to reading Ward.

        1. I personally stopped reading early and then swallowed 4 arks in like 2 days. It doesn’t have any dopamine sparkles so far. At all. I probably will not keep reading it further.

          As for sequel continuity – Terminator 2 and Aliens are indeed different genres. And they are sucessful pieces. I do not say that Ward will not be loved by some people and won’t be sucessful – I hope it would.

          But I think that the whole POINT of sequels is giving your fans more of the same. If you completely change anything – why would you make a sequel at all? You could as well make a separate piece with a different genre. Making a drastically different sequel only makes your fan’s expectations conflict with the story. For example, I have nothing against Twig or Pact – they are different books that just happen to be not for me. But I’m actually quite upset with Ward, because I was waiting for this awesome thing – and instead got doom and gloom that actually made my mood drop upon reading it, just because there’s so much negativity in it.

          Anyway, these are my personal opinions.

      2. I also don’t think that Terminator 2 and Aliens are valid examples of sequels. Movie industry is notorious of taking the cheap route and “milking” franchises. They create multiple sequels, which are written and produced by completely different people and have little to do with one another. That happens because they are owned by the studio, not an original script writer.

    3. “Both do not have a hero who feels proud about what they are doing. At best, Victoria will look back and shudder in disgust at the road of corpses she left behind. Something that Skitter never did.”

      Queen 18.3:

      “Except now Clockblocker’s words and his tone were resonating within me, and I was left just a little less confident about the conclusions I’d come to, in terms of the stuff we’d discussed and all the little events that had added up over time. I’d made peace with who I was and who I was becoming in part because my peers were limited to other villains and civilians who I could dismiss because they didn’t have the full perspective of life on the battlefield. My dad was among those civilians, it almost pained me to admit.
      I wasn’t entirely certain I felt so peaceful now. Most things, I couldn’t imagine I’d really do them differently, given the circumstances and the knowledge I’d had at the time, but the decisions weren’t sitting quite so easily as they had been”

      Extinction 27.2:

      “I know what that’s like,” I responded. “I’ve walked down that road. Maybe not so ugly a road, but I’ve gone that route. All the way along, I told myself it sucked, but I wouldn’t do it differently. I did everything I did for a reason. Except now, having reached the point I was working towards, I finally do regret it all. The last two years, the way I treated my teammates, leaving the Undersiders… I’d change it all in a heartbeat.”

      Extinction 27.3:

      “Leveraged power,” I said. “Yes, I have.”
      “Because you’re better. You’re a little arrogant, maybe? A little less forgiving of mistakes?”
      “I was,” I said. “Thing is, when it came down to it, I wasn’t stronger or cleverer because of it. It wasn’t an advantage in the critical moment. Maybe the opposite.”
      She dropped her feet to the floor and leaned forward, folding her arms on the ledge, her face not even an inch from the glass. “But it got you that far. Others there, and they couldn’t fix it either. Not a reason to change your mind.”
      “It was a pretty important moment,” I told her. “The most important moment. But I wasn’t in the right place, wasn’t in contact with the right people. More than anything, I wasn’t asking the right questions.”
      She looked profoundly disappointed. “See, now you’re just being a whiny bitch again. Negative.”
      “Retrospective,” I said. “Figuring out what I did wrong, changing.”

      “Maybe,” I said “But if I was like you, I was better at it than you were, went further, tested the limits more.”
      I could see her eyes narrow further.
      “And I think it’s a pretty shitty way to exist,” I finished.

      This was from a pretty cursory search, I could probably find a lot more quotes of Skitter regretting stuff.

      Also, Worm was never about action scenes, or cool and flashy solutions:

      “He doesn’t factor? He isn’t a consideration, at the end?”
      “Fighting him… always more about us than about him. Not a consideration.”

      It was about the characters, the trauma they go through and trying to live with it.

      1. It’s not like she broke down into depression after that. Sure, skitter felt shitty about having a bunch of people dead. But at the same time she knew that she’d saved much more, and improved lives of many. She never had this “Oh shit, I did nothing but make things worse” which Victoria seems very predispoed to thinking.

      2. Also it was never about the drama for me. There was not much drama to begin with. I’ve always read it for the action comic-book feel, with a bit more adult attitude.

        As for characters – any good novel needs well-executed character building. Or at least most of them. Good characters is not a defining part of Worm, it’s not what makes it stand out. There are things with just as good or better character building and development in them. It’s not a unique aspect of Worm.

    4. Hmm, I hadn’t been enjoying Ward quite as much as Worm either, but it hadn’t quite clicked with me why. I thought it might have been that I just don’t like Victoria much, but I think you’ve got it pretty well. Though…part of that is Victoria. She is a much more negative person than Taylor, though one might not be able to tell from looking at them. Well, she’s a more negative person after the incident during the Nine attack anyway.
      But yeah, Ward is a lot more negative on a whole than Worm. Worm was about rising up, surviving, the contrast between heroes and villains and how heroes can be bad and villains can be good. Even as the world and situation got worse, they kept pressing forward and kept pulling out wins despite it all. I loved all of that. And like you said, some pretty fucking awesome moments. I still remember when Taylor was trapped in a burning building, unarmed, at gun point, and surrounded by armed enemies. Then an hour later she was standing over the guy who arranged it with a gun trained on him. How fucking awesome is that!?
      Where as Ward…the protagonist is a lot more negative and yeah she presses on determinedly, but she doesn’t have too many fixed goals aside from “trying to do hero work again”. And has the attitude of just hating villains. Which off the bat got rid of one of my favorite themes from Worm. I loved that grey morality and trying to do good regardless of what the system and people think of you. Then like you said, bad stuff keeps happening that the protagonists have no way to stop or prevent and things keep going wrong. I hate no win situations. I hate that feeling of helplessness. It comes up a lot in games and rp I do and just really puts me in a terrible mood. Less so in stories because I’m not the one in the situation, but still. As you said, every victory they get is soured, and half the time they just don’t even get that victory. Yeah, Taylor didn’t win all the time and they had their bad moments, but they always pushed through it and came out on top in the end!
      Also doesn’t help things that just…in general I like Amy and her story and arc better than I like Victoria’s, and now Victoria is the POV and hates Amy. So…that doesn’t do great things for me.
      Don’t get me wrong, I’m still enjoying the story and will continue reading it. But the tone, theme and main character just don’t do as much for me as Worm did. Its still the same world and has a lot of the excellent characters Wildblow is so great at making, but I’m hoping as things develop we’ll get closer to the things that made Worm great.

      1. Ultimately, to me Ward feels a lot more positive than Worm, perhaps because it’s so focused on the protagonists as survivors of trauma. For most of the team, and for the world, the worst has already happened. Now they’re picking up the pieces and trying to move on with their lives, confronting new challenges, and that resonates with me.

        1. Exactly this- Ward is definitely shaping up to be a survivor story, about people with trauma and disabilities having agency and making a difference. I think it’s easier to see for those of us who share perspective with the main characters- who have undergone trauma, struggled with disability in a world that says we’re abnormal and unworthy.

          1. See here, I’ve no doubt that some people really like the way Ward is going. I was just giving my own feedback.

            I also know at least 3 people who read Worm, were super-hyped for Ward, but either stopped reading it already or thinking to stop and complaining that they’re disappointed.

            The problem is that Ward IS very different from Worm. Objectively it probably is better for some folk, than Worm was. But the problem is that this change has left a lot of Worm fans disappointed and dissatisfied. And that’s what I’m giving feedback for.

            And one last thing to consider is that those who didn’t like Ward have probably already dropped out by this point. So the comments would not be representative – because it’s mainly people who have stuck with Ward for 60+ chapters, and are naturally feeling content enough with that. Those who got disappointed – left, and 3 out of 4 people I know that loved Worm, did just that. It’s of course not representative, but it tells me something’s wrong.

            Anyway, I’m not here to hate or bash Wildbow for it. I just thought that I’d point out the issue I personally see in Ward, and one that he may have been consciously not aware of. Being an amature writer myself, I know that things like this can creep up on you. You may get too used to writing thrillers and Horrors, and when you get back to the genre you’ve started with, you find yourself making it unnecessarily gloomy. That, I think, is what actually happened with Ward. For many years Wildbow was writing very dark novels – he did it to “get some rest” from Worm, as he stated himself. But now he had brought that doom and gloom into Parahumans, even though the first part had a VERY different feel.

      2. Thing is, even if Ward doesn’t have the theme of morally gray dilemmas like Worm did, Victoria’s black-and-white perspective can still change. I’m holding out hope for Victoria finding out that Tt isn’t actually a bad person (like, shown actual proof or something) and having to wrap her head around the possibility that her hate for Tt is redirected from her hate for Amy. And *that* would be very interesting and totally worth all this negativity for me.

        Both Victoria and Amy got this black-and-white view on villains and heroes from their mom (and maybe their family as a whole). Lady Photon couldn’t shake the association she had of Amy with her father. If she had been able to, Amy could’ve had more of a childhood and been less vulnerable mentally. And just like her mom, Victoria can’t shake the association she has with Tt and all the absolutely *shitty* things that happened to her in the S9 arc. It doesn’t really matter that Victoria doesn’t know all the facts, Tt was the one who first hinted that Amy was keeping something secret from her that was huge.
        Amy had her time in the Birdcage to grow, develop into someone less whiny and more able to *deal*. Although its still there, her black-and-white perspective has lessened somewhat, especially since getting close to her dad.
        So now I’m hoping something similar will happen with Victoria. Just as Amy became less whiny and more resilient, Victoria can continue to mature–to realize and admit she doesn’t have all the facts, to have an open mind.

        1. You mean the Victoria who had a semi-friendly chat with Moose, is maintaining friendly contact with Fume Hood, gave Tattletale the benefit of the doubt, and accepted fucking Damsel of Distress and Rain?

          So black, much white. Very mental.

          One day I’ll find whoever is responsible for this retarded ‘DALLONS VERY BACK AND WHLITE!’ meme supported by exactly nothing and slap them with a glow-worm.

          1. Seriously? Victoria isn’t the most black-and-white person in the world, but she’s still pretty black-and-white. And when did she truly ever give Tattle the benefit of the doubt? The first conversation that post-GM, Victoria was fishing for info and sounding Tt out. She didn’t accept DoD off the bat, it took a while for her look past Damsel’s history. She approached the whole therapy group with an open mind because she knew that if they were with Mrs. Yamada, they were trying to change. Every single time Tattletale has given them a tip or warning, Victoria has always been “Oh she’s Tattletale. Therefore we can’t trust her and I’m gonna ignore everything she says. If she says she’s actually trying to warn us about xyz and to run the other way, it *must* be some sort of malicious scheme on her part.” Victoria acknowledged that she didn’t have all the facts and yet she’s still placing the majority of the blame for what happened with Amy on Tt, using Tt as a convenient scapegoat for all the anger she feels because its easier than thinking about how much she still hates Amy.
            Also if she heard *everything* that Rain did, I doubt she’d be as accepting of him. Rain never told the group straight up what happened, he kinda glossed over it.
            I wonder if Victoria has read up on what Tt and the Undersiders have done during her 2 years in the hospital. How they took part (*especially Tattletale!*) in every single Endbringer battle, how they tried to stop the end of the world from happening. Tattletale used her power to give info and help run ops on all the S Class threats during the time skip. I also wonder if Victoria knows what the Undersiders did for Dinah Alcott. If any of this info is available to Victoria in some shape or form, I’d imagine she might want to learn about it a bit. We know she likes to read up on cape stuff and keep herself updated. She did that a lot in the hospital. If info was available about who was fighting in the Endbringer fights, did she read up on it? Because if she did and she knows even a little about how the Undersiders have tried to help, she might think “Hmm. They’re helping face down terrifying monsters a lot. With chances of survival very slim. Maybe they’re not *that* shitty people” *If she actually heard about the Undersiders helping with S-Class threats, then the fact that she still has this attitude is pretty indicative: seriously black-and-white perspective on good and bad guys. If not, then she’s got a somewhat black-and-white perspective.
            She’s gotten to know Damsel and see that there’s a person in there. But she won’t consider that Tattletale is a person too because she’s too biased emotionally. And unlike Taylor, Victoria isn’t as introspective or open-minded so she doesn’t stop to consider that she might be biased. Don’t get me wrong, most people in her situation would be pretty biased but I still miss Taylor. Overall, I think we all know which protagonist was smarter and more intuitive.

          2. *Edit. What I mean about them being with Mrs. Yamada–basically Victoria knew when Mrs. Yamada asked her to help the group, these must’ve been good people.

          3. @Lena27

            Victoria was willing to give Tattetale a fair shake from the very beginning. Even going so far as to talk to her at a location of Lisa’s choosing.

            And even when that meeting went sour and ended with hurt feelings Victoria still gave Tattletale the benefit of the doubt concerning Rain:
            [QUOTE]“She…” I started. I bit my tongue.

            “What?” Tristan asked.

            “I don’t want to jump to conclusions. I don’t want to give you the wrong impressions, either.”

            “Any impressions help,” Tristan said.

            “I don’t know,” I said. “But what she said when I talked to her, the way she wanted to make herself out to be one of the good guys, bringing good things to others…”

            “Oh,” Kenzie said. She fiddled with her phone.

            “It doesn’t necessarily jibe with her working with people who are out for blood and murder. She seems to want to be a very low-key villain or even a Robin-Hood type desperado while simultaneously leaving a trail of bodies in her wake, or she wants to portray herself as such,” I said.

            “I’m now sharing the love and bringing some of that security, stability, and safety to others, in my very, very roundabout way,” Kenzie’s phone said, in Tattletale’s voice.

            “Yeah, that’s it, thank you,” I said. Kenzie gave me a thumbs up. I felt a bit of the heebie-jeebies at having heard Tattletale’s voice without being braced for it. It took me a moment to gather my thoughts before I added, “It makes me wonder what she would say if she were told that Snag and the other two were out for your head.”[/QUOTE]

            It was only when Tattletale hijacked Kenzie’s camera and told the all of them that she knew exactly what the Cluster was doing, had no intention of stopping them, and would in fact help them to the best of her abilities as soon as she got paid.

            ^ By the time that happened Victoria was already on a time-crunch and needed to; notify the Wardens, gear up, and plan for the rescue effort.

            Maybe, MAYBE, if Tattletale had adjusted her approach Victoria might have had more faith in her moral fiber.
            But as things stand: What possible reason would Victoria have to legitimately assume that Tattletale meant the opposite of the words coming out of her own mouth and to go out to meet with her again instead of preparing?(This isn’t even factoring in that their first meeting ended with veiled threats, armed thugs, and hurt feelings on both sides.)

            ***

            Victoria’s general dislike and lack of trust in Tattletale has nothing to do with “black and white morality” and everything to do with how Lisa is just an overall sketchy and unpleasant person to be around.

            Also: Victoria only really dislikes Tattletale. She has been shown to be lukewarm at worst about everyone else.

          4. @Exejpgdmv
            I literally cannot count the number of points in your argument that I disagree with and find pretty ridiculous. Guess we’ll have to agree to disagree. One more question before we leave this debate alone because I’m curious–I’m guessing Tattletale is your least favorite character at least among the Undersiders since she’s “just an overall sketchy and unpleasant person to be around”?

          5. Tattletale is the type of person who’s very good with her friends, but who is an absolute disaster for everyone whom she doesn’t consider as such. Remember how many times she fucks with people’s heads.
            She IS an unpleasant person to be around, for most people.

        2. Yeah, I have been hoping myself that it changes. I’m aware it can, I was mostly making observations on my opinion so far. As of yet she is still clinging to this idea of heroes and seeing all of the villains as bad. Even if she can tolerate or reluctantly work with some, she is so fixed on this ideal of “good”. I hope she does come to be a bit less rigid, but I am still just having trouble liking her for several reasons.
          I love all the other members of the team and their interactions though. Even if Rain can be a bit of an idiot.

    5. Worm was just a perpetual downer to me due to the world at large and Taylor’s perspective.

      Ward is far more uplifting, and due to Victoria’s way of thinking, vastly more entertaining. And not in small part because Victoria is funny.

    6. Can’t say I completely disagree with any of your analysis, but on the subject of sequels changing tone/genre:

      I find myself thinking that, after the end of Worm, any sequel that takes place within a relatively short time frame would almost have to be different to make sense. As you said, “The world will burn around you, but you’ll be standing in the ashes.” Well, it has, and they are, and now they have to make something of those ashes. I am hoping that, eventually, the heroes will start having major victories, and start reclaiming that feeling from Worm a bit, and I do see potential for that to happen – possibly the ending to the Fallen fight (assuming it doesn’t involve a meeting with Amy that triggers more Vicky angst, which admittedly, it probably will), and maybe the impending war with Earth Cheit – though personally, I’m pretty okay with the way the story has been going thus far, with just the relentless and frequently failed struggle to put something, anything, back together. That said, Pact is probably my favorite Wildbow story, so… Different strokes, I suppose.

      1. You could preserve the feeling of Worm by having a bit more positive cast and have them deal with smaller things at first, without having a bitter victory every time. If they were starting having issues later on, it could be OK, but as things stand, Ward STARTED with a pile-up of major crisises one on top the other. And heroes stick their necks into it and lose, basically.

        The feeling of a comic-book could be easily preserved, especially given that you have a built megalopolis on your hands. Victoria could easily have a “getting back into heroing” ark, and things like broken trigger, worker riots, cross-dimentional conflicts and Fallen could be left to the future.

        1. I honestly don’t remember a single victory in Worm that didn’t end up as worse things happening in the next arc except of course the last one. The big difference in Ward is that the story starts in a much less comic book situation.

    7. Funny, I think my opinion might be the exact opposite of yours, Aisaax. I got really tired of Taylor’s constant victories in Worm, and the way they dominated the story. I’d be sorry to see things go that way again.

      My complaint with Ward, on the other hand, is that it hasn’t been dark enough. To me it feels like everything so far has been too easy, too convenient, with too many allies and too much support structure for our heroes. I feel like there hasn’t been nearly enough of a struggle. They haven’t won much, it’s true, but they haven’t risked very much either. Not until the events of this chapter, at least, and it’s too early to say there.

      1. Taylor did kind of get in more wins than you’d think I guess, but any time it came to the Slaughterhouse things went sideways. And Endbringers a lot. Honestly, most of her wins were by the skin of her teeth actually, or at a cost which is probably what made it reasonable and enjoyable to me.
        Though I guess you’re right with Ward. It simultaneously is really negative due to the main character’s outlook and angst, and likewise for our Deuteragonist Rain and his cluster, while also not really letting the protagonists really risk anything. They may not get many “wins” often, but they also didn’t lose much and half of their wins weren’t even from them so much. This recent battle has been a nice change of pace from that though. Still a lot of allies, but they were needed since they’re still kind of losing or pulling through just barely. It’s like the Endbringer fights in Worm I guess.

      2. To each their own, I guess, and I’m glad that you are enjoying the story as it is.

        I just know that I don’t, and most of my friends didn’t.

        1. Edit*
          I just loved Worm, and I’m sad and annoyed to see that the sequel is so much drastically different that I can’t and don’t want to read it. It spoils my mood reading about failures. I’d rather go read something more positive instead.

    8. Honestly, I’m seeing a lot of people complain about Victoria’s angst, negativity and ruminating over bad memories…but it would be highly unrealistic for her *not* to be that way. For all those complaining, let’s review her multiple sources of trauma. Even if we put aside the grief from her relatives and boyfriend dying in the Leviathan fight *and* the mindrape by the person she considered herself closest too, there’s still being turned into a hideous, horrifying flesh monster/puddle of flesh that was so disturbing and disgusting to look at that her own mother couldn’t sleep with the lights off for years. Aaaand she was transformed into this thing by the person who she considered herself closest to. I know some people are getting tired of her angst but really, I’d rather have it be realistic. Two years isn’t *nearly* enough to recover from the amount of trauma she’s suffered. Of course I hope and willing to bet that she’ll *start* the healing process sooner and we’ll see her make progress. And as a result, she won’t dwell on the past so much. However, one of the things I love about the Wormverse is that WB makes everything realistic to a tee. Forget DC and Marvel, *this* is pretty much how the world would had superpowers come into existence. Things may not be as chaotic if the source of the powers is fueled by conflict. But even more recent hero shows and movies that are more grounded in reality don’t hold a candle to the Wormverse. WB writes everything in fantastic, realistic detail and people’s natural psychological responses to stressors are included in that.

      1. Hey, I’m not arguing that things are realistic or not. It’s just that this means that the novel is changes too much because of this. You could have Tt as a main character, and the novel would get a differnent feel to it too – not necessarily in a good way.
        No, Victoria’s angst is realistic enough. There’s no problem with realism. But it ruins the book for me personally, and that’s not OK.

        Also, Taylor was also in a very bad spot emotionally when she started. But she got a good team who could give her a shoulder, she had a clear goal, she had wins that boosted her confidence. This all helped Skitter remain more positive and confident. If Victoria got the same – then even with her issues she would be much better off.

        Instead, Victoria gets a team whom she can’t rely on, simply because each one of them has the same or more issues as her. She can’t even trust them to do the right thing or have a good time together on a day off. Victoria doesn’t have a clear goal – her goal is “Doing something, not yet sure what”. And the jobs she does all end in disaster or bitter “victory”.
        It’s only natural that she’s so negative!

        The thing I dislike about Ward is that most characters give off the vibe of deep depression and exhaustion – something that Worm had only periodically. And this depression isn’t caused by something that they can fight – it’s caused by issues that they have no control over, like family, living conditions, etc.
        It’s not fulfilling for me to read about depressive people, because it makes me depressed in turn.

  26. Dammit, every time you started a line with “Rain” I kept expecting it to be the guy, not the natural phenomena and I kept getting confused. XD
    Anyway, great chapter though. Disappointed they’re taking Mama alive again though. Worked so well the first time. Also, hadn’t she been with that one cape who could make the white and blue walls when she fled into the forest (or rather the cape fled with her)? But then she was with some of Bamet’s creatures when they found her. Really hope that doesn’t mean this is an impostor.
    And just…really curious whether “What is left of Rain” implies he’s whole but heavily injured or…just a torso and head or something. Presence of “Guy with a Cleaver” is does not make a description like that bode well. Also worried about Sveta. Is she actually injured, or just have a damaged suit and is not up to fighting given circumstances?
    So many questions! Looking forward to next chapter.

  27. Everyone keeps saying “Guy with a Cleaver” no one in the comments has speculated whether its the assassin the Cluster members hired to kill Rain slowly and painfully. I think it definitely is him and is the reason why Tattle said Rain was done for and they should just abandon him. She prob thinks he’s too OP for them to handle, way too dangerous.

  28. Aw come on, fucking kill Mama already! I’m starting to want her to escape and break havok just to say told you so!!

    1. It’s still the same fight, dummy. If Victoria hasn’t killed Mama yet, she’s probably not going to. At least not before she does something evil that Victoria actually knows about.

      I guess Rain or Chris or someone might, though. Well, not Rain, he’s got other problems right now.

  29. I enjoyed Worm, Pact, and Twig, but Ward is just unsatisfying. I do not care what happens to any of these characters. Your previous protagonists all bantered with their coterie and built up a pleasant rapport with each other and the reader. The protagonist also had clarity of purpose – even when they are out of their depth, there is at least a sense of momentum and immediate next steps. This story, we have a sullen and fuzzy-minded protagonist, who almost exclusively thinks and talks about her personal angst. She lashes out emotionally at or condescends to all the other characters, except Sveta who is not developed as a humanized character, and displays limited cognitive or social skills. Whenever Victoria has the mic, I want to stop listening.

    The broader conflicts in Ward do not have a personal gravity to them that makes me as a reader care. They might be going to war against the Blue Goddess? Heavens forbid! There is a cult of poorly developed characters doing bad things to other poorly developed characters? Curses!

    Beyond an unlikable and poorly developed cast of characters that seems focused on selfish navel-gazing while a world-I-don’t-care-about-burns, this storyline is frustrating because the real dramatic tension is between the characters and their not-well-defined better selves. There are only so many times I can read about someone not doing something that is within their ability and objectively would make things better. The character motivations and personalities seem amorphous, guided only by whatever will keep them incompetent the longest. It is stagnant and dull.

    Reading this story feels somewhere between boring and masochistic. I have been staying tuned for updates in hope it picks up the pace, but it is because of Wildbrow’s other work. This piece is inadequate as standalone fiction.

    I think Wildbrow’s pivot to Rain was because he realized Victoria is just an unendearing, limited character, with limited ability to drive a plot. Rain is the same, and the drawn out focus on his mini-arc (oh no, his cluster is full of mean people! oh no, a cult is abusive of fictional characters we have almost no introduction to!) is not giving this larger story actual momentum. I feel like all the Interludes are attempts to make this readable by briefly putting us in the shoes of a more interesting character in a more interesting conflict.

    There are kernels of an interesting story here. If they had focused on things from the perspective of the law student trying and failing to mentor and restrain the behavior of mentally ill, souped-up vigilantes; or the mom trying to forge a lasting governmental and legal system while dealing with petty household squabbles; or take your pick from the dozens of throwaway story lines that have been launched but then disregarded for the next episodic display of “this narrator is a poor thinker, just like her crew.”

    Also, the sexual stuff between characters below age of consent is in poor taste, and the hand job scene might qualify as child pornography. Please no more of that.

    1. While I do agree with a lot of your points about Victoria, I do like some of the other characters and don’t really agree with you there. Though it’s not promising that any time a character from Worm shows up I get really excited because I do kind of like them a lot more. I have enjoyed some of the stuff with Rain, and his cluster. The conflict with the Fallen has also been fairly interesting, though them not taking the chance to kill Mama, and the side moment of telling off Damsel for killing Bob have been just…not great. Then again, that’s kind of Victoria again. Don’t like her black and white attitude and while, yeah she has a right to be angsty and traumatized after what happened to her, it gets a little repetitive when it’s brought up multiple times a chapter with no real progress against it made. From a story and character development perspective it does get a little dull.
      As for the sexual stuff between minors I…don’t really recall any of that aside from the scene you’re mentioning? And yeah I guess they were minors, but only barely and they both were. Teenagers do stuff like that, weird as it is. Given how dark this setting is, I’m more surprised there hasn’t been worse in regard to minors and feel like they’ve been deliberately censoring it for people like you. Think Wildblow even commented they were iffy on the scene you mentioned because they try to avoid the sexual stuff.

    2. I like how you complain about child pornography in Ward when you forgot that Taylor had sex 2 times with Brian, despite being only 16. Taylor losing her virginity to Brian only because she wanted to see him less stressed after his second trigger trauma was WORSE than an innocent hand job scene where Rain had a little fun. WTF, people?

      1. Yeah, neither Rain nor Taylor’s sexual experiences were written to be titillating, but rather for the purpose of character building. And, as much as some people try to pretend it isn’t so, minors have libidos and have sex? Displaying those things in a matter-of-fact, non titillating way isn’t pornography.

      2. Taylor was always attracted to Brian both emotionally and physically, them hooking up wasn’t only to make him feel better. She was nervous but if it was non-consensual, it would’ve been a point the morning after. It was from her point of view, she clearly said it was nice and didn’t give any indication in that chapter that she was pressured into it. After her crushing on him for so long, them sleeping together was the official sign that the attraction had become mutual. Brian needed emotional support to cope with his trauma and Taylor provided that. But she had already gained a lot of self-esteem at that point, she wouldn’t have lost her virginity to him *just* to make him feel better. It was a combination of reasons. It would’ve been *clear* the next day that Taylor was pressured into consenting, had that been the case.

    3. There’s no statutory rape here, the characters are the same age if not around the same age. You’ve never heard of teenagers hooking up? Plenty of people lose their virginity when they’re 17 rather than 18 or older. Not sure how old Rain is but even if he is 16, that’s no older than Taylor when she lost her virginity. I’m guessing you had a problem with Taylor and Brian too then?
      And lastly, there wasn’t even any sex…It was a hand job…

  30. Tattletale is really short with everyone even when she’s trying to be nice, it reminds me of wanting to make someone I like happy when they don’t want anything to do with me, so just watching from the distance and powerlessly hoping nice things will come. I miss seeing her talk with real friends.

  31. First time ever comment incoming.

    So.. some time ago I read Worm for the first time. It was already finished, Pact on its way to completion and Twig on the horizon.
    I loved every minute of the thrillride of that first read. I laughed and cried.
    Pact I enjoyed, too, even if it felt more rushed. Loved the End.
    Twig I gave up on around the time of Sy‘s heart to heart with Whatshername in that City with the canals.. because it kinda felt like tedious reading.
    Gave it a second chance after WilBurn finished it and started Ward because I wanted to be able to binge on Ward.
    Whaddya know, the descent (or ascension?) to madness kind of got to me and I enjoyed Twig, too. It left a bittersweet melancholic feeling… reminded me of meeting with an ex lover after some years passed, reminiscing on the past and looking forward.

    After, I read glowworm and Ward.
    I love the mix of old and new cast.
    I like V‘s introspection and I wonder and look forward to how all the broken people are going to manage the end of the world.
    At the same time, the story has not gripped me yet in such a way that I am emotionally attached to V or TeamTherapy. Got a private tinfoil theory concerning Kenzie without proof – more like a „wouldn’t that be awesome twisty“ thing.
    I am looking forward how it will play out and if I will be pulled in again in your worlds.
    Maybe once I’m done with this stressful getting married thing next Friday.

    To finally close this rambling rant regarding reading reams really rad reading … a heartfelt Thank You for the whole experience so far.

  32. || “I want your–your permission to fight!” she finished.
    || He hunched over, back to the wheel rim, reloading. He called back, “I’m not going to do that!”
    || “It’s not easy for me to ask! I’m trying to respect-”
    She’s trying. She is trying. And maybe some of it is more uncertainty than respect but it adds up to: she really is trying.

    || Instinct, not pre-planning, but I was thinking the Warrior Monk would forgive me on that.
    || … I’d been too slow to dismiss the Wretch, or it had been too quick to unfold. She had managed to stab her fingertips into flesh.

    that sure is multiple parts of your psyche that you’re dissociating from there V

    || Hate. The feeling hit me so suddenly and so unexpectedly that I thought it might have been one of Rain’s cluster-mates.
    I like this whole section.

    || My aura burned dark and intense, and I knew that they wouldn’t be feeling the pause or the odd mid-fight peace of rain and the ongoing violence being more distant.
    But Victoria does. She often does.

    || Maybe it was telling, that I’d been driven to get back and away before I’d thought to make myself impervious.
    Yup, I agree. It is telling.

    || to protect myself against another one in three
    …third?

    || She used her power, and it tore through the statue, ripping it apart. Ashley was thrust away by the blast, and she landed not very far from where the lizard Fallen had dropped to the mud and grass, sitting there in shock.
    || Ashley hadn’t been lying when she’d suggested her power could hurt me.
    🙂 🙂 🙂

    || So many people didn’t look like the ones I’d known. Erin and Ashley both lacked the confidence they should have had. Gilpatrick looked more like the grizzled soldier than the teacher. Even the Fallen- well, they’d been threats and now the most aggressive and armed of them were on the ground, defenseless, making noises of pain.
    It feels so basic to say but I do like this.

    || “She’s alive?” Looksee asked.
    || “Last I saw,” I said.
    || “Okay,” Looksee said. She sounded funny. “Damsel?”
    || “She’s staying behind. Protecting them, she said. But she wants to stay in custody, I think. I think it’s a good idea.”
    || “Okay,” Looksee said, barely audible.

    I’m so glad Kenzie hasn’t killed anyone.

    || Suffice to say, that base had been covered, for most of my hero career.
    🙁

    || She held what remained of Rain in her arms
    no
    || as he gasped out short breaths, like a fish out of water.
    please

    ________________

    With the rain we’d had, there was a degree of slipperiness to the dirt and grass.
    From the way they were handling her, she was still alive.
    My arm was limp at my side, and it hurt all the more because of my position.
    With momentum, it rolled a short distance.
    With my breastplate set up the way it was, there was a little flare of spikes,

    I don’t know what this thing is—it’s not passive voice, it’s not nominalisations, it’s just something with a similar effect, a similar distancing and analytical dryness. But I don’t think she’s meant to be dry in the middle of a battle, and also everyone else does the same thing.

  33. Oh yes, do make it a thing.
    I feel like this Fallen-war arc has gotten the main team so scattered that it is not so clear anymore if it is the main team, or if it will continue existing. I am just so curious about everyone and I don’t want them to disappear before we have thoroughly enjoyed them, so please let us find a way to the peace of easy banter and team building exercises? No, you say it doesn’t work that way? Well i am there for all the things that will come, anyways 🙂

  34. “… Vista can bend straight.”
    I guess that means there is still a chance for Tristan and Vista! You know, as soon as they figure out how to separate Byron and Tristan.

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