Pitch – 6.5

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The weather had relaxed some, but the barn we were in had a corrugated metal roof, and each drop that hit it snapped against the hard, hollow surface.  The sound was like dull static, punctuated by Rain’s gasps.

Nobody around.  Most of the fighting had moved to the fringes and perimeters.  Whether it was upside or downside to our secret plan to get behind the fighting and hit them somewhere vital, I couldn’t be sure.

Had to admit, after seeing Rain, I really would have liked to hit something.  It might have been nice to have some regular bad guys around.  Something told me Cradle wasn’t about to let himself get smacked around.

He was smiling slightly.  Asshole.

I kept an eye on Cradle and his assistant as I got closer to Sveta.  She adjusted as she could to put Rain closer to me and further from the crack in her shell where the tendrils were licking out.

I knew the rule that the badly wounded weren’t supposed to be moved, less because of any medical knowledge I’d picked up, and more because I’d seen an awful lot of people with injuries over the year.

Rain?  The rule should have applied.  It was the kind of badly hurt that made me worry that any further tampering would break him.

He had a cut on his face that parted his mask and the bridge of his nose, extended through his upper lip, through the lower lip, and down to his chin.  His mouth was open as wide as it could go, bloodstained teeth showing, and the cut on his chin was open wider than his mouth.  There wasn’t darkness beyond that wound- it was the opposite, with the white of bone showing.

Sveta cradled his head with one hand and arm, even after moving him some, and her hand pressed against the chin, blood getting into the gaps of the prosthetic, the fingers doing very little to hold the wound closed or staunch the bleeding.

I knelt at her side, felt Rain jerk his head as I moved her fingers.  I pushed the wound closed, then moved her fingers with my hands, positioning them, holding them firm.  I took my fingers away, and it was sticky enough I felt her fingers move as mine did.  They didn’t move so much that the wound opened again.  Better.

There was another cut at his eyes- eyelid, bridge of the nose again, and the orb of the other eye.  Shallower, but the damage to the eye made for a lot of fluid.  His good eye was closed, a mixture of blood diluted in damp settled into the creases and cracks.  He pried it open, jaw chattering a bit with the effort, and stared at me with one eye that was shot through with blood, but not bloodshot.

More moisture.

“Come on,” I said.  “Hang in there.”

“We should go,” I heard the man with the red handprint on his mask say.

“If you try to walk away from this, we’re going to have a problem,” I said.

“Don’t be unreasonable,” Cradle said.

“Thinker,” Sveta whispered.  “Combat focused.  Cradle hit me with something I couldn’t see.  It might have been a laser not visible to the naked eye.”

I nodded, trying to divide my attention between the villains and Rain.

What was I even supposed to do?  In any other situation, I would have picked up Rain and flown him to the nearest hospital.  The reason I wasn’t was that I was genuinely worried that a firm shake would make what little blood he had in him fall out.

A mercy, maybe, that Capricorn, Vista, and Chris all turned up.  Less a mercy that they had to see.

“What did you do?” Capricorn asked.

“And they all turn up,” Cradle said.  “You swapped one member out.”

“Oh no,” Vista said, as she moved close enough to see Rain.  She hurried to my side.

“There’s no point,” Cradle said.

I was undoing my belt, a faux-gold band that I’d used to add some color so my costume wasn’t too top-heavy.  The process was hard, complicated by the fact that my left arm had a hole in it and my hand wasn’t cooperating as a consequence.

I needed to refresh myself on things- I’d learned about tourniquets from the patrol block, but in the moment it felt like half of what I’d learned was that tourniquets were a complicated, complicated thing.  Compartment syndrome, damage from long-term use.

“You bastard,” Capricorn said.

“I’m not the bastard here,” Cradle said.  “He is.  Everyone we’ve told the story to has agreed it’s fair.  When the bad guy is shitty enough, it stops being revenge and starts being justice.”

“That’s not right at all,” Sveta said.

Cradle sighed.

“Does ‘everyone’ include Tattletale?” I asked.

“I don’t see how that matters,” Cradle said.  “This is done.  He’s done.  Things have come full circle, telling you would only…”

His machine’s hands moved.  Everyone, myself included, tensed.

One hand moved, palm upward, elbow pointed down.  A one-armed shrug.

“…Multiply the grudge,” Cradle finished his sentence.

Rain’s hand and one arm were my focus here, as I grit my teeth and tried not to be distracted.  He was cut up pretty badly- defensive wounds, with the degree of damage hard to discern.  The way cloth draped and the hand-coverings he wore obscured things.  Like his teeth, the blood ran between the decorative elements of his glove.

His other hand had cuts, ones I might have called serious, if not for the fact that I was having to look at things in totality.  If Crystal had cut her hand like that on an ordinary day, in some hypothetical universe where she tried and failed to use a real knife, I would be rushing her to the hospital.  As it was?  Low priority.

There were cuts on his chest- I’d look at those after.  Vista was tending to his leg, which was as bad as the arm.

“Multiply the grudge?” Capricorn asked.  He stood between us and Cradle.

“You’d walk away wanting to kill against me and against any co-conspirators I named.  You go after me, after them, and assuming they have friends and contacts, assuming you succeeded, those contacts would go after you.  Each time, it becomes something bigger, until one side gets wiped out.  Let’s end it here.”

“What do you think is going to happen, Cradle?” Capricorn asked.  He was incredulous as he asked, “You really think I’m going to walk away when you’ve done this to my friend?”

“What I want to happen, is for Operator Red and I to walk away.  You walk away, and leave the Fallen asshole here.  Your friend killed my friend and clustermate, the scales are even, we can resent each other and still never see each other again.”

Capricorn barked out a laugh.

“I hate that kind of life-death calculus,” Sveta murmured.  Not loud enough to be heard by Cradle.  Her focus was more on Rain and on herself.  Her tendrils kept groping at the more ragged edges of her shell, then pulling away, sometimes bending them in or twisting them around.

I focused on Rain’s more damaged hand and arm as I attached the belt.  He fought me, struggling as I tightened the belt, which made the pain in my left arm all the worse… but the fight wasn’t nearly as intense as I wanted it to be.  A more intense fight in response to what had to be agonizing pain would mean there was more life in him.

This tourniquet would have to do.  I was pretty sure I was good to go if the risk from blood loss -real and present-outweighed the damage from amputation.

“I don’t think they’re going to do that, boss.  They look ticked,” Operator Red said.  He was still holding on to one of the Cradle-machine’s fingers.  He dropped, and fell about ten feet to land on his feet, legs bent.  He straightened, and Chris moved forward a step.

Chris looked back with one bulbous, dark eye.  He had no expression to read.  There was only armor and coarse hair, and a long snout with eyes set on the side, the head more fishlike in dimension than mammal.  His eye protruded and narrowed, more conelike than round as it pointed in Rain’s direction.

“Let me turn the question back on you, Capricorn,” Cradle said.  “How do you want this to go?  A fight?  You all fight me and Operator Red, you get your vengeance on behalf of your murderer friend, and this makes it better?”

Might help,” Chris hissed the words.  Broad blades with a swirling damascus-style blend of white bone and steel were emerging from his various armor plates.  Retractable weaponry, but not in a quick way.

The ‘Keen’ part of Keen Vigilance.

“It might,” Capricorn said.  “But if you really think it was justice, how about we… leave?  We arrest you, we go talk to authorities, and if you’re right, if it is justice, you’ll be free to go.”

“Free to go.  I’m sure,” Cradle’s voice was quieter, not because he was quieter, but because he’d shifted position, turning his back to us as he straightened up.  He turned back to us, and his voice was stronger,  “You don’t see the hypocrisy?  How wrong it would be for him to be free while we’re in custody?  He killed people.  He laughed about it, to my face, to Love Lost’s, to Snag’s.”

“He turned himself in,” Capricorn retorted.  “He tried.  At the first opportunity, he left the camp and went to confess.  He was so twisted up about it he wasn’t coherent.  They had him talk to people, but he couldn’t say much.  I guess because of Mama Mathers.”

“He tell you that too?  I was always fifty-fifty on it being a lie,” Cradle said.  his tone was so casual and conversational, even pleased with himself.  Maybe he was, with Rain bleeding out.

“It’s true,” Sveta said.

I focused on what I could do.  Cuts marked Rain’s upper chest, shoulders, and stomach, until there wasn’t much of his top that wasn’t wet and shiny with blood.  In one place where the cuts ran in horizontal parallel, the flesh had come away in a ribbon, the ribbon dangling toward the ground.  I fixed it as best as I could, pressing a hand down on the wound.

It felt futile.

The wounds to his right leg were as bad as the defensive wounds to his hand.  I could assume they were early wounds, intended to keep him from running.  Vista was bandaging them with strips of cloth.

There was only so much I could do.  I could go through two first aid kits and still run out of material to to bandage and tourniquet this.  I staunched the wounds with my hands, as best as I was able.

“Capricorn,” I said.  He turned his head.  My voice was tense as I asked, “Can you use your power?  A cast, or something to seal the wounds?”

The first orange lights appeared.

Cradle kept talking, like we weren’t trying to save a life. “He killed Love Lost’s daughter.  The girl’s friend died too, and another one is devastated, even after a year.”

“He knows!” Capricorn said, raising his voice.  “He went to the authorities!  He wants punishment!  He wanted jail, because it would at least get him away from this, except you all were coming after him, Mama Mathers had him locked down with her power.”

And because there wasn’t necessarily room, I presumed.  If it was as serious as Cradle was saying, though…

“That way doesn’t work, this way does,” Cradle said. “Tidier.”

Operator Red clicked his tongue, “Tidy is high praise.”

“Oh, fuck you,” Capricorn said.

“This is a fucked up way to go about it,” I growled the words, adding my anger to Capricorn’s.  “This is barbaric.”

Cradle, despite being younger than I was, managed to sound condescending.  “The Fallen are barbaric, and your friend was right there with them.  He locked us in a shopping mall and let us burn.  Snag lost the last mementos he had of family and the old world.  Snag was left with nothing, no escape, only his life… and your teammate got around to taking that from him too.”

“Move your hands,” Capricorn said, glancing back at me.

I took my hands away.  The orange solidified into an encasement around Rain’s arm and hand.  I put my hand to the edge, felt the gap- too much space.  It wasn’t a tight enough fit to staunch the blood or keep things contained.  I looked at Capricorn and shook my head.

You suck at first aid,” Chris hissed.  He cleaved at his sash, and the contents fell to the ground.  The containers were like tupperware, but metal, with rubberized lids, apparently color coded.  I reached for the nearest one.

Careful what you touch,” Chris hissed.  “Green lid.  Open.

I grabbed it, prying the lid off.  It was a tight fit.

Syringes.  There was colored tape around various syringes, no labels, no words.  A foam insert had been carved at in a rough way, to give the needles places to fit in.

Red band.  Coagulant.  Use little.

“What are you doing?” Cradle asked.

“How little?” I asked.

Maybe half inch.”

A half inch as a unit of measurement for a liquid?

It won’t save him,” Chris hissed.  “Might help.

“Why do you have this?” Sveta asked.

One day I change, come apart instead of changing back.

I prepared the needle, holding it over Rain’s heart.

Chris nodded.

“Stop,” Cradle said.

“The man said stop,” Operator Red said.

Didn’t want to use,” Chris was quiet.  “I like him more than most of you.

I plunged the syringe in.

“Operator,” Cradle said.

“Yeah,” Operator Red said.

Operator paced forward.  Chris put himself in the guy’s way, the eye I could see opening wide, ears going back.

I pressed the plunger down.  Half of an inch.  I pulled it free before anything could happen to make me put in more than was necessary.

“Combat thinker!” Sveta called out.

Aw fuck,” Capricorn swore.

“Cradle has invisible weapons!” I added.

Fuck!” Capricorn said, as orange trails surrounded his hands.  He gave Cradle a nervous glance.

Cradle, at least for right now, was hanging back, letting his hired assassin do the dirty work.

Operator reached behind his back, drawing another meat cleaver.  He flicked it around, so it rolled off the back of his hand, and he caught the handle, with the blade beneath his fist.

Capricorn created his weapons.  Two swords of the stone material.  He thrust one in Operator’s direction, and was almost immediately disarmed of it.

He held the other out, to keep Operator more at bay.  Orange lights danced around us without any seeming rhyme or reason.  I left Rain behind and took flight, going high above Operator.

Put the needle back,” Chris hissed, more insistent than before.

“Are you serious?” I asked.

I need it,” he said.  He put his arm in Operator’s way.  The cleaver bit deep into an armor plate.  Operator ducked low, swinging under Chris’ arm.

A blade at Chris’ elbow extended as he clenched a large, brutish fist, and he drove his elbow back.  The two cleaver blades caught the elbow-blade, and Operator was pushed back toward the door.

No sign that he’d lost his balance or been caught off guard in any way.

I reversed course, dropping to the ground.  I placed the needle in the foam insert, and then started to replace the lid.

“Victoria!” Capricorn called out.

I looked to Operator first- the most immediate threat, and then I heard the crash.  Metal fingers and hands reaching up to the roof, finding a grip where it had been bolted or hammered to a broader wooden beam, and then crumpling it.

Water poured unevenly throughout the barn as hands that could have wrapped around a small car brought down the roof.  Beams cracked and split.

I flew for the largest, most pressing part of the roof, and the beam that was attached to it.  The walls were shuddering in a way that made me think the entire barn could come down.

Cradle had apparently lost patience.

The Wretch and I hit the roof in Cradle’s machine hand with enough force that it would take a couple of minutes to walk to wherever it landed.

Sveta, Rain and Vista weren’t in the building anymore.  Sveta had dragged them out through the open door.  Capricorn and Chris were facing down Operator Red, and Cradle loomed in the hole in the roof he’d made, looking up at me.

He swiped a hand in my general direction, coming almost ten feet shy of connecting.  I put the Wretch up anyway.  I glanced at what was happening below- Vista was distorting space, keeping Operator Red in the building and giving Chris and Capricorn time to escape.  Chris was delaying his escape.

Something hit me like a truck, knocking the Wretch out and knocking me almost twenty feet through the air, before I could right myself.

Cradle turned, his attention on those on the ground.  A lot of strength in those mechanical hands.  There had to be a good fifty feet of armspan when the two longest arms were extended, and he had a lot of arms.  He hopped over to one of the shorter arms- almost just a wrist that connected to the central hub, and stepped onto the hand, where he crouched with the hand cupped around him.

I flew at him before he could do whatever he planned to do to the others, my aura down.  A hand came up, intercepting me, and I hit it.  The building creaked and crumbled as hands twisted and wrenched at wood to maintain his position.  He turned his attention back to me.

Another swipe of the hands.  I flew down, away from the direction of the swipe, and again, something collided with me, knocking me downward at an angle this time.

“Looksee,” I said,

“Mm?” was the response, small and emotional.

She’d seen Rain.

“Can your cameras see-”

I flew to evade as the hands moved.  They weren’t moving my way, but to get him oriented, as he closed on the others.  I changed course, flying more toward Cradle himself.

Two hands came up, one to either side of Cradle himself, as if they were going to slam together, catching me in the middle.

They didn’t.  I hit something, a field or barrier between the hands.  It didn’t hit the Wretch so much as it dashed the Wretch to pieces, with me bouncing fifteen or twenty feet back.  The hands came after me, and I flew to evade.

“Can you see what he’s doing?” I asked.

“I think so,” Looksee said.  “I need the projector disc, and you need to connect it to my camera, it’s easy to do, and I need to get it ready.”

Operator Red had exited out the far end of the building, and was circling around.  I wondered if Capricorn’s power had given him pause.  Chris was only just now going out the door that the others had left by.  He had the cloth bundle with his boxes and things.

A… mess of emergency measures, it looked like, for a boy who thought he might fall apart with any transformation, but who had no choice but to transform.

I had to get past Cradle to get to him, and I had to get to him to get the projector.

Sveta hauled Rain a distance off to one side, his back to her chest as she used herself almost as a sled, for the easier ride.  She pulled herself to a fence.

I could see Cradle’s thought process, as he considered going after her, as he turned his mind to the others- to Vista, to Capricorn, and more specifically, to Chris.

The hand came down, a good distance from Chris.  Chris, a mound of armored, furred flesh, hopped, ducking and rolling, as the entire area around him was demolished.  Dirt and soil became a cloud of particles and mud, as something smashed into it and sent the destroyed ground up ten feet in the air.

And as it settled, splattering against one outside corner of the barn, and everything around them, Chris was there, moving slower than an ordinary person might run, with short, heavy running steps.

Vista was using her power to create distance.  Cradle crossed that distance by leaping, each hand pushing against ground or the edge of the barn, with one hand up and outstretched, ready to come down on top of them.

I flew after him, and it was easier to close the distance when Vista was using her power.

I reached him just as he’d almost reached them.  Then his hand came down early, touched ground, and his entire form rotated, a second hand grazing the ground, turning the landing into a cartwheel, one of the longer arms coming around my way.

Whatever he hit me with caught me and knocked me down into muddy field.  The landing reawakened the pain in my arm, to the point where I felt the sensation swell, my body telling me that passing out was a possibility.

Not a possibility, body.

Chris having run off to one side and Cradle being fixated on Capricorn and Vista meant I could reach Chris.  I flew to him, landing.

“You can see what he’s doing?” I asked.

He gave me a single nod, and his eyes opened wide, ears twitching.

“Of course,” I said.  “Projector disc?”

He tapped the sash he’d made with the cloth bundle.  The disc was a belt buckle, as large as a dinner plate, as thick as a textbook.

“Looksee wants it,” I said.

Operator Red was on the approach, jogging our way with cleavers in hand.  Cradle- fixated on the others.  Vista was trying to keep both opponents at bay by increasing the distance between them and everyone else.

Chris managed to get the disc free.  He passed it to me, then turned toward Operator Red.

The thing with Vista’s distance power was that the closer two people were to one another, the harder it was for her to utilize the distance that remained.

“Keep backing up,” I said.

I flew straight up.

“We have a teammate who needs help,” Looksee said, in my ear.

“I know,” I said.  Sveta still had Rain.  He wasn’t moving much.  She could have left with him, but I wasn’t sure that kind of movement was any good for him.  “But if I leave with him, I’m not sure I won’t come back to more of the same.”

It was already so dark out.  The clouds were heavier, even though there was barely any precipitation anymore.  In the gloom, Capricorn’s lights and the glowing points at the joints and knuckles of Cradle’s robot were eerily bright.

Equally as bright, Looksee’s camera flew to me.  Football sized, with a round lens on the front.

“How do I do this?”

“Attach it on front.  Press it on, rotate.  Like a smoke detector.”

I wasn’t sure I’d used a smoke detector with that setup, but I could guess how it was intended to go.

The entire thing thrummed as the connection was made, the small, quarter-sized lens in the middle of the projector disc illuminating.

“Not much battery,” Looksee said.  “You can let it go.  There’s going to be a time delay.  It’s not accurate.”

“Okay,” I said.  I dropped it.  It fell a short distance before taking flight on its own.

“Help- help everyone.”

“I’ll try,” I said.

“I wish I could do more,” Looksee said.

So did I.

I flew after Cradle.

I could see it now.  Cords or cables, normally transparent, were illuminated in red light.  There was lag, the light tracing one cord that extended from each fingertip, snapping to another position when it fell out of sync.

“Annoying,” Cradle said.  “Doesn’t change anything.”

He raised a hand, bringing it down from overhead, in Capricorn’s direction.

I flew in, and I used the wretch to hit and deflect.

Again, that unreasonably intense force, exploding out and away, as the impact hit the Wretch and the aftershock cascaded out to thrust me away in the air.

The attack was off course- not so much it couldn’t have hit Capricorn, but he’d seen me coming and had moved away.

Vista was a short distance off, using her power.  They’d decided being split up was better, and I knew her power was best when she was alone.

She wasn’t using her ability on Cradle’s robot.  Was it immune?

He kept going after them, trusting his robot to deal with me.  I didn’t have a lot of tools.  Some ideas, now that I thought about it, but…

I’d try for the most basic, tried, and true option.

“Cradle!” I called out.

He glanced back at me, but he continued to ignore me.

I grit my teeth, scowling briefly, and flew in.  His hand came out, and the red lights showed me the rough path of the cables.  They moved like a flail would, delayed, swinging out in a lazy arc, the five cables fanning out as they cut through the air.

I could evade, draw closer- and the hand itself got in my way.  As I moved, so did it, staying between Cradle and I.

I was quicker than the hand, and I could change my path and catch him off guard, but other hands moved, complicating things.  It would be too easy for hands to close in around me.

Above me, cables were swung up, and they connected to another hand, extending from the fingertips of one hand to the fingertips of another.

That’d be the barrier I ran into, then.

As I flew around, they broke free, snapping out with more force than a swing would provide.  They hit me- hit the Wretch, and knocked us off course.

I shouted at a volume that made my throat hurt, “You left yourself out, Cradle!”

Again, another glance my way, before he turned his focus to other things.

“He did all that to Love Lost and Snag, he didn’t do anything to you?”

I chose those words with some intent.  Not just to ask what Rain did, but to imply there was nothing, and invite the retort.

“He took people and things from them!” Cradle roared out his response, so he could be heard.  “He took me from me!

With that last exclamation, it was an actual show of emotion- not that he hadn’t said emotional things, but it was the first time he’d put the emotion out there.

Out of the corner of my eye, I saw Chris sit down rather heavily, clawed hands raised.  He was bleeding in multiple places, and he didn’t have any fight left in him.

Operator Red turned toward the rest of us, and walked away from Chris, cleavers in hand.

Combat thinkers.  Worse in a lot of ways than fighting someone like my mom, with her energy weapons.  She could slice a grown man in half with her weapons.  A combat thinker?  There were ones who could hammer at you psychologically by mirroring mannerisms of people you knew or feared, ones who could hit your nerves or arteries any time, with any strike or weapon they had at hand, and there were ones who could win most fights without trying, because they had the fighting skills without working for those skills, combat precognition, or they saw the fight move at a hundredth the speed.

I was mentally slotting this asshole in that broader ‘win without trying’ category.  There might have been some of the former, though, if Snag’s team been drawn to him.  The awareness of biology and weak points could both help in combat and in torture.

“He took you from you?” I asked Cradle, keeping one eye on Operator.  Cradle was looking up at me.

I did have his attention now.  Objective achieved, I guessed.

“I was getting everything set up, finally living the life I wanted to live, and he fucked it all up.  He pulled me into this, he infected me, and now I’m different!”

I opened my mouth to respond, to retort, bait out more and keep Cradle’s attention, so we could figure out a way to get Rain away.  If Vista could get to Sveta and Rain- and it looked like she was heading that way-

“He violated my self!” Cradle’s words were more raw than any others I’d heard from him.  Angrier.

My train of thought stopped where it was, as Cradle’s words entered my head and overrode everything else.  In those four words, I got Cradle.

There were so many responses I wanted to give, about everything from the preceding events, the event, and everything that followed…

It was upbringing.  Really questionable upbringing, sometimes or even a lot of the time.

He was in a bad place, desperate, with nobody to turn to.

He regrets it.  He’s trying to do better.  He was willing to turn himself in, even though that wasn’t what Cradle wanted or needed.

He didn’t want any of this any more than Cradle did.

It wasn’t him that screwed with Cradle like that.  It was the power, acting according to some alien programming.

No.

There wasn’t one response I could give without feeling like I might be compromising my integral self.

Well, there was one response.

“Yeah,” I said.  “I… yeah.”

He was too far away to properly hear me.

I nodded, instead.

“If you understand, let him die!”

This time, I shook my head.

“No,” I said, knowing he couldn’t hear.

That would violate my integral self too.  Just as much.  More.

He moved a hand, and the red-highlighted cables swung out, and connected to the ends of other cables, which separated from other fingertips.  One hand now had cables of double the length.

He repeated the process again.

Arming himself for combat.

Chris was okay, it seemed, limping toward the fight.  Operator was crawling toward Capricorn and Vista, who had reunited, and who were only a short distance from Sveta.  Vista was more focused on making the way between Operator and them as steep as possible.

Operator’s cleavers periodically stabbed into the earth for handholds, as he trudged through muddy field at a forty degree incline.

Cradle swiped his cables at me.  I flew back and away, evading.  He swiped again, a backhand, and I barely needed to evade.

Not meant for me.  He’d swiped at the camera.

The camera dodged.

The hand shook, and cables reconfigured.  The one at the middle finger was longer.

One swipe, angled to connect with either me or the camera.  I hit it with the Wretch, and saw the crimson highlighting twist and distort, as the camera struggled to keep up with the outline of the cable.

The cable hit the ground around the base of Cradle’s robot, and the soil exploded with the impact.  Again, that surrounding force.

His version of Rain’s power.  Or something he’d begged and borrowed for, maybe, another tinker’s tech, modified to work with his gear.  That was a thing tinkers could do- a thing that drove them into tinker enclaves or the PRT.  Past tense ‘drove’.

That effect meant I couldn’t catch it, but I could still deflect.  Where things got harder was that I wasn’t sure of the fallout now.  The cord was over a hundred feet long now, the arm was twenty five or so feet long, and even if I knocked the cord to one side, I couldn’t be sure it wouldn’t land in a way that put it near teammates.

I closed the distance.  There were still other cables, and if I couldn’t control the whip-

The hand came up.  I flew to intercept, and hit the back of the hand as hard as I could, before it reached the momentum necessary to flick the whip.  The impact dented the surface of the hand, but didn’t stop it from raising up, catching me as it rose.  The movement was too slow for the impact to hurt, but it was an impact, and that impact made my gunshot wound hurt more.  Again, there was that suggestion that I could pass out if I let myself.

I maneuvered with more care, aura blasting to try to distract Cradle, for all the good it did.

A tinker who’d had a year to prepare, a team funneling him resources, and apparently a bit of talent to boot.

A hand moved to shield an attack from the side.  Something crashed against the hand, and Cradle turned his head to look.

Capricorn’s power.  Water had splashed against the hand and then turned to stone.

A moment later, there was another.

The hand closed, and the stone broke.

I flew back and up a little, to get a better vantage point.

Capricorn was with Vista and Sveta.  Capricorn was creating a sphere somewhere between the size of a beachball and basketball, though spikier than either.  Sveta grabbed it, used her power to fling it from fifty feet behind her to Cradle.

Stone became water, which became stone immediately after impact.

Operator’s advance had been stymied, as the top of the hill folded up and overhead, creating a ridge he couldn’t climb. He was going around, which only served to give them more time.

Cradle moved his whip hand.  I smacked it down, then evaded the various cables that swung in my direction, while I waited for the Wretch to return.

Chris was closing the distance, slow as he was, approaching the hands.  Capricorn unleashed another shot.  The shot clipped the top of a finger, splashing well over Cradle’s head, and then the water became stone.  Each bit of water was now a stone smaller than a fist, raining down on Cradle’s head.

Vista shouted something.

Good.

Good, this was the part I liked, that didn’t make me miserable.  Having a team.  Finding a way to work together and mesh, solving problems.

I just wished it wasn’t at the expense of time.

I struck an arm again- getting past the endless barriers was next to impossible, especially when the cables were whipping around and I was vulnerable right after any impact.  This hit was aimed at destabilizing, putting him on tilt, so he had to adjust, shift weight, and move arms around.

Capricorn and Sveta had been delivering the projectiles at a fairly steady rate.  Now there was a pause.

Above,” I heard through my earphone.

I got out of dodge.

One shot, larger than the others, fired so high it had disappeared into the clouds.  Now it came down, and the descent was guided by my favorite space warper.

Cradle put a hand over his head.

The stone became water at the last moment, but the impact was still enough that the hand came dangerously close to the top of Cradle’s head.  Water filtered between the fingers in streams- and then froze, like the bars of a cage around him.

I flew in, straight for him.

He hurled himself at the bars, at the same moment hands moved apart and the stone shattered.  The bars had broken just in time that he didn’t collide with them.  A hand moved to provide footing below him as he descended, bobbed to absorb the impact of the fall.

Was that intuitive sense of how to stay steady on his contraption his mover power?

It had cost him time, and he was purely on the defensive.  Chris was climbing up one arm- something Cradle could have easily dealt with, if he wasn’t dealing with all of us.

I glanced at Operator, thinker-one bird’s eye view at work, and saw that he was at the edge of Vista’s wave-shaped crest of earth.  A few more steps and he’d be able to walk around it and charge them.  Vista had been too distracted guiding the stone from above to keep tabs on the guy.

“Operator incoming!” I shouted.

An arm moved- not the hand or the arm itself, but the elbow that came at me.  I deflected.

Every second we couldn’t end this was a second Rain was bleeding.  I was worried at how long it had been already.  I could have flown, but I would have been leaving the others at Cradle’s mercy.

I renewed my efforts, taking more risks, as I flew in closer.

“Don’t dodge,” I heard another report.  Looksee.

Don’t dodge?

Capricorn and Sveta hurled another projectile.  A hand blocked it, then shook off the stone.  Other hands were warring with Chris, who was slowly climbing, stabbing, and doing a better job than I was at keeping tabs on everything immediately around him.  It was another distraction for Cradle, but I doubted our changer would manage to get in close if I couldn’t, situational awareness or no.

Speaking of- what was I not supposed to dodge?

“Looksee?” I asked.

“One second, fiddling!”

Fiddling.

I got within ten feet of Cradle, only for a hand to block me.  I flew around it- and he wasn’t there anymore.

He’d hopped down to another hand.

The whip hand moved, and I moved to counter.  I struck it, closer to the elbow than the hand, and the hand slapped down toward the ground.

I went straight from that hit to flying for Cradle, to keep him on his toes and create room for a mistake.

A blur of red in my peripheral vision gave me pause.

The long whip?  It was falling down on top of everything.  Cradle saw it too, moved hands to provide a shield.

I trusted the Wretch, and used the opportunity to hammer him.

The red line passed through everything.  Projection.  A feint.  Cradle had an intuitive sense of where things were, but seeing the red lines had preconditioned him, toyed with that perception as an optical illusion, and with that deception, I could get close enough to make contact.

I grabbed him by the fabric at his back and hauled him up and away.

“Victoria,” I heard Tattletale over the phone call.

“Stop breaking in, please,” I heard Looksee’s reply.

I flew Cradle away from his machine, and dropped him harder than was necessary, relatively close to the others.

Operator was still trying to navigate the Vista-modified battlefield.  He’d managed to dodge some traps already, ground cupping over him like a dome, pitfalls.

“Call off Operator,” I said.

Cradle was silent.

“Call him off!”

“I need him intact and free,” Tattletale said, over the phone.

“Get bent,” I said.

“I’m willing to negotiate,” she said.

“Set him in stone,” I suggested, to Capricorn.  “Leave him for the Fallen when they come back.”

Cradle tensed.

“You’re not going to do that,” Tattletale said.  “You’re too righteous.”

Wah!” was the distant shout.

I turned to look.  It was Chris, and Cradle’s robot was still operating.  The whip hand was moving-

I flew to intercept, as the whip came around.  I knocked it away.

“Again… we can leave you for the Fallen,” I told Cradle.  “Or you can call Operator off.”

“Red!” Cradle called out.  “Enough.”

That meant the assassin wasn’t an immediate concern.

“How’s our guy?” I asked.

“Not good,” Sveta said.  She pressed her forehead to Rain’s.  “He’s not really breathing.  He’s cold.”

“Advance Guard.  They have a healer,” Tattletale said.

“I know,” I said, annoyed.  “Go away.  You led them right to him, didn’t you?  Through our video and phones?”

“Yes, but not like that.  It doesn’t matter.”

“It matters,” I said.  I bent down by Rain.  Capricorn gave me a hand in scooping him up.  I checked to make sure the robot was being good.

“We can handle this now,” Capricorn said.  “Get him help.”

I nodded.

I flew.  Advance Guard had been to the northern end of everything, where a road exited the settlement.  There were some sparse buildings in that direction, but it looked to be mainly for logging and maybe some quarrying as well.

“Victoria,” Tattletale said.

“I can kick her off,” Looksee said.  “I think I figured it out now.”

“I’ll talk to her,” I said.

“The Crowleys came out ahead in this.  I know they’ve got a reputation that makes people underestimate them, but their own people were just attacked.  They’ll be out for blood, and the Fallen have far more reach than you’d imagine.”

“I don’t know what you’re getting at,” I said.  I checked my charge.  Rain was limp.  No fight, no response to anything.

“Let Cradle go.  I’ll keep him and Love Lost out of your way.  He promised to help me after I helped him here.  Do that for me and I will help you.”

“You were talking about the Fallen.”

“I’ll coordinate.  I can get you March and what’s left of Prancer’s band.  The Crowleys are already on their way out, they’re hitting the road, we can hit them before they get where they’re going.”

“I don’t know what games you’re playing, Tattletale, but one of mine might be dead.  Someone I pledged to help and keep alive.  You pointed the killers to him.  You were a cog in Snag and Prancer’s thing, and that turned out pretty shitty.  How much of that was intentional?”

“That’s the kind of conspiracy thinking that gets you put in an institution,” Tattletale said.

“Either you’re incompetent or you’re malicious,” I said.  “Neither lends themselves to us working together.

“Or I’m wrestling with bigger things, Victoria,” she sighed out the words, sounding exasperated, annoyed.

I spotted the first glimmer of color in the trees.  I flew closer.

“I made my offer.  Feel free to accept it,” she said.

“She’s gone,” Looksee said.

There was a pause.

“Is he really that bad?” she asked.

“I don’t know,” I said.  I wasn’t willing to spare the time to check, either.  “But if this doesn’t work-”

I didn’t finish the sentence.

If this doesn’t work, thinking about all the responses I couldn’t give Cradle… would I be willing to try another route?

Another healer?

I dropped down the rest of the way, through the largest gap in the foliage.

Not Advance Guard.  Prancer and his team- half the size it had been, and that was after the defection of Beast of Burden.

Prancer had no Velvet at his side, and he had no Moose.  He did have a dark expression on his face, one that darkened further as he recognized me.

“Advance Guard?” I asked.

He pointed.

Northeast.

No fight, no resistance.  I just hoped he hadn’t lied.

He hadn’t lied.  Advance Guard was with the patrol block, and the patrol block was trying to corral a hero team and somewhat hostile evacuees who outnumbered them four to one.

I landed in the center of the camp.

I spotted Mayday with Gilpatrick.

“Healer?” I asked.

I saw the hesitation, and my heart sank.  The sick feeling was worse.

“Is your healer hurt?” I asked.

“He’s- he’s here,” Mayday said.  “Unhurt.”

“But?”

“But everything went to shit,” Mayday said.  “Come.”

I followed, giving Gilpatrick a look over my shoulder.  He was already talking to others, the moment Mayday was gone.  Things to do, people to coordinate.  It looked like other leaders of other patrols, that he was helping to coordinate.

One of the buses had the remnants of Advance Guard around it.  Mayday hopped up and hauled on the lever to open the emergency door of the bus.  Capes converged, ready to guard

The cape wore a goat mask, golden, and a black costume.  He sat on one of the benches of the bus.  There were others in the bus, men and women in cuffs.

Now that I looked, the cape had cuffs on as well.

“This is Scapegoat,” Mayday said.  “He can heal.  Sort of.  It’s complicated.”

“It always is.  What happened, Scapegoat?” I asked.  I used flight to stead myself as I dropped low.

“I don’t know,” he said.

“He went Fallen,” someone supplied.

“He’s not the only one,” Mayday said.  “We had one other, who died in the scrap.  A lot of people were looking for answers after the end of the world, and the Fallen were promising them.”

Scapegoat shrugged.

Reach, as Tattletale had put it.

I wanted to ask him things, to shake him, to push for more than a shrug.  I imagined a lot of people did.

But I needed his help.

I draped Rain out on the road.  Scapegoat looked down at him.

“Hey,” I said.  I pressed a finger to his pulse.

I couldn’t tell if there was something there or if it was my feeling my own pulse reverberating through.

But he moved.  His head shifted slightly as he looked at me, eyes flickering as he tried to open them – but one was cut and the other was crusted with blood.

“I want someone to heal you,” I said.  “Okay?  Hey.  I need your okay.”

I saw his head move a fraction, then again.

When he tried again, there was more of a nod.

I looked up at Scapegoat.  He looked away, looked at Mayday.

“You want to play games, Scapegoat?” Mayday asked.

“Not games,” Scapegoat said, voice soft.  “But I’ve helped you a lot already, and it doesn’t seem like my situation is any better.  My power sucks to use.”

“I got a message from Tattletale,” Looksee reported, coming in over the phone.  “Tell Scapegoat Tattletale says to, and that he needs the goodwill.  He needs a lot of it.”

I didn’t hesitate.  “Tattletale.  She says to.  You need goodwill, here.”

He paused.

A tense moment later, he nodded, crouched, and held his hands over Rain.  He looked up at Mayday.  “Can you get him warm?”

“We have blankets,” Mayday said.  “Shortcut, grab some.”

I didn’t look for my would-be nemesis; my focus was on Rain and on Scapegoat, making sure Rain was safe, as flickering images overlapped with him.

“You’ll need help too?” Scapegoat asked.

My gunshot wound.  He’d seen the bloody bandages.

“No,” I said.  “I’ll heal it naturally.”

He seemed to take that in a matter of fact way.

There were more things to handle.  Tattletale wanted to cooperate to wrap this up in a better way, and I was not ready to forget or forgive her role in this.  I didn’t want to engage in life and death calculus, as Sveta had put it.

I pressed a hand to my ear, so it was clearer that I was talking to someone.

“Looksee, I’m not sure if you can see-”

“I can’t.  My cameras are down or repurposed.”

“I think he’s getting the help he needs, okay?”

“Okay.”

The minutes passed as the injuries disappeared.  Ashley joined us, with Gilpatrick standing behind her.  Her power sparked a few times, and Scapegoat said something.  She moved to situate herself further back, in a place where she could still watch.

I wasn’t sure what to say or do- a smile felt wrong, I couldn’t think of what to say that wouldn’t be too casual, too personal, or too confrontational.

I raised a hand in a bit of a wave.  She did the same with her good hand.

For now, I could put everything out of mind for the moment.  At the very least, I’d stand watch over Rain like nobody watched over me.

“Looksee,” I said, hand at my ear.

“Yeah?”

“Tell Tattletale I’m willing to consider it, but I want something else on the table.”

“Yeah?”

“We’re going to need more explanations.  I want to know what the hell is going on.”

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184 thoughts on “Pitch – 6.5”

  1. Woooh, that was a rush.

    But fukken finally, Tata is gonna have to TALK talk instead of dodging around issues. I hope.

    In other news, Chris is the MVP of this team, hands down. The most prepared for field healing. The most capable of dealing with Masters. The most capable of stalling Mr Thinker Cleaver. The most awesome.

    (Oh, and Capricorn/Vista synergies continue to amaze, can we have her on the team, pleeeze?)

    1. Chris has been incredible, but for me the MVP has been none other than our protagonist Victoria.

      She has been a constant goddamn NIGHTMARE for any member of the Fallen unlucky enough to run into her. Played a vital role in defeating among others; Valefor, Seir, Ahrima, Cradle, Valefor and a number of Fallen goons so great I lost count a long time ago.
      She’s even put herself on the line to protect civilians repeatedly including moving to shield Eren with her own body without hesitation.

    2. That should be an interesting chapter. Since Victoria missed everything from between the Nine incident and Gold Morning she didn’t get the deep look into what the Undersiders had truly become under Taylor that hero’s such as Miss Militia did. She has pieces of it such as knowing that at least one of the big construction companies and a mayoral candidate has ties to the Undersiders, but she hasn’t noticed that the Wardens are not focusing on Tt and them. She should have been asking the question of “Why?”. Why are they not that concerned with the Undersiders having that much power in the new world?

      1. Why should she have asked? She had a perfectly functional (wrong) answer already: the 10% rule. She had reason to assume they weren’t targeted because they weren’t evil enough to get a trial under the current damaged and overburdened legal system.

        We know the real reason Valkyrie and Chevalier aren’t hunting them but there’s no reason Victoria should’ve gone digging for further explanations.

        Heck no one would think the Undersiders were a bigger threat than the Fallen and the Fallen haven’t even been targeted. The Wardens only joined in this action because they were convinced to help with an imminent crisis. There’s no reason for any cape to assume the Undersiders should have been any kind of priority target even if they were being political. They have too much to deal with from the real threats.

    3. Well, why does she have to talk? She is probably dealing with bigger problems, and telling people things they don’t need to know is stupid.

      1. Knowing why someone is selling out your friend to people who wants to kill them, as well as starting a massive turf war in a clumsily coordinated attack with low chance of success is very much something people need to know.

      2. She doesn’t HAVE to talk, of course. She can just leave Cradle to rot. Or, if she isn’t lying about actually needing him for something, try to find some other way to bust him out. But explaining her master plan to Victoria is the path of least resistance here, and it would kind of lessen the impact of her “you don’t have the bigger picture, just trust me” line if she refused.

  2. So, any theories gain purchase within the community for what Tattletale’s bigger picture is? Considering she mentioned them leaving Cradle alone, I get the impression that her group needs Cradle’s power for something, which would be stronger (and Cradle less distracted) with Rain dead.

    The emphasis on leaving Cradle alone rather than helping Rain die seems to suggest that order of priorities to me, anyway.

    I do also think that it is interesting how everyone else genuinely wants Rain to die. They seem to just treat custody or self-punitive measures with disdain, and I can’t tell if that’s because they know more about cluster triggers and why Rain’s approach genuinely wouldn’t work, or because they are just so filled with rage that they can’t stomach lesser punishment. Cradle seems the sort to just be angry, but the combination of Love Lost, Snag, and Tattletale working the way they do makes the situation seem potentially more complex than that.

    1. I suspect TT has manipulated this entire situation to destroy the fallen, coordinating everyone to do exactly that, or at least break their back (most valuable members, who make them nearly untouchable).

      1. But does she have any indication that Teacher is working with Fortuna?
        It seems pretty useless to try and go against that kind of opposition even if you do have a number of allies against that.

        1. 1) As noted by grinvader, Fortuna may not be actively working for Teacher right now

          2) There are guns big enough to fight Fortuna with. Not many, but there are ways to interfere with her power. It’s a safe bet that the Wardens have at least one. The Simurgh is another.

          3) Zion had that power and was defeated. There are ways to do it, and a powerful thinker like TT would be the best bet of figuring them out.

          1. So, on this note, I actually have a (hair brained) theory that Imp is a good counter for Fortuna. Her power is always working without her activating it so in a fight, I think Fortuna would end up just forgetting whatever he power tells her about Imp and how to beat her. From what we saw in Worm Imp had mastered her power to the point where she could use it to make people selectively forget specific things about her (things said in a conversation) so maybe she could use it to make Fortuna forget what her power says about her. This has a LOT of maybes that we can’t know until we see the two interact, but I think Tattletale would be able to know if it could work without testing it.

          2. ‘Fortuna’ sure ain’t working for anyone—’Contessa’ could be.

            She can ask herself questions about strangers in general, and did notice Imp that way in Worm. No dice, Volunder.

          3. When Contessa asked herself that question in Worm, Imp had already had a knife at Dr. Mother’s throat for ten minutes. Imp is difficult to deal with.

        2. I am betting Tattletale has a significantly higher for “this is so scary, I’m not going to approach it” than most.

        3. Tattletale (and thinkers like her) are actually the closest thing to a counter Contessa has. Well, after anti-thinker capes like Mantellum, of course. If you’re not one of those anti-thinker, power-immune capes there’s nothing you can do that will prevent Contessa from succeeding at her goal. However, capes like Tattletale can figure out what that goal is and work with or around it.

          Interesting unrelated question. How would Contessa’s power interact with Mama Mathers’? I don’t think it would be affected, because Contessa doesn’t actually see/hear/sense anything with it, it just tells her the necessary steps; it’s focused on her, not the outside world. On the other hand, the power/passenger itself would be viewing MM, so maybe it would be affected.

          1. I think even if Fortuna was affected, she could slip Mama’s gaze at will by just applying her power to the problem of not thinking about her. The very first thing she used her power on was remembering her trigger dream, and the first step of that was to stop thinking about it.

    2. I think the reason why others were ok to kill Rain was more an attestment to the kind of people Cradle told and the version of the story that he told, than any indication off the population as a whole.

      1. That’s true.

        It occurs to me that if Victoria has ever seen those dreams she could have given the one response to Cradle that wouldn’t have left her feeling dirty.

        It was Seir. Seir put the lock in place, threatened him if the people were let out. The lock itself couldn’t have been easily opened once it was under that much pressure. And Seir pinned it on Rain once everyone broke out. But that part of the story would never get told or even seen by anyone outside of the few who talk with Rain, and only then if he can articulate it well.

        Rain’s role in the mall tragedy was kind of… superfluous? Like, if Seir hadn’t wanted anyone getting out, all he had to do was close the padlock. Instead he leaves it open and puts Rain as a guard in the one position where a guard is patently useless? Even there, during the raid, he was the patsy/loser/fall guy. The runt, as March called him. Hardly worth the hate he’s getting.

        So I think Rain was wrong when he protested, early in the story, that his dilemma with his cluster wasn’t kiss/kill. Snags last moments should have suggested that it very much is.

        I think it’s important to remember that every aspect of this feud – how the people feel about each other, how they present it to others, who they present it to, how they feel about themselves – ultimately has a super dimensional space chthulhu behind it, twisting everything so that it creates maximum conflict, unfair hatred, and death, all for reasons we’re not sure of yet.

        1. Seir put the chain in place, and looped a padlock into it, and set the fire and told Rain to guard, but he didn’t lock the padlock. Rain did that. Rain did that and laughed hysterically because he was scared, whilst they pounded on the doors and tried desperately to escape.

          Seir was the prime instigator, but Rain was the one who actually did the thing that prevented escape. That’s why he’s the easy target to blame.

          1. When I read through that scene initially, I was moving at a pretty fast pace. Your comment made me curious and I went back and re-read it to see if I had missed something. I’ve gone through it multiple times now and I can’t see any mention of Rain actually closing the lock.

            The situation that Wildbow created there was really ambiguous and I can see how it could be read two or three different ways. I’m trying to figure out if I missed something. My read on it is this – Seir left Rain there with a “special task” – supposedly, guard the door. He looped the chain through it and slid in the padlock but left it unlocked. When the crowd hit, Rain was fighting an internal battle over whether or not to remove the lock – he even handled it a couple times, gripping it, but didn’t remove it, probably because he was genuinely afraid of the consequences of disobeying; Seir was pretty clear that if he didn’t follow orders, horrible stuff would happen to him. But it doesn’t look like he actually locked it I get the impression that Seir was trying to set him up for a lose-lose; if he let them out, Seir could claim disobedience and then kill him. If he didn’t, then he could unleash the crowd on Rain.

            Seir came back and then basically turned on Rain – originally, he told Rain “don’t let them out” and then, when he got back, he told Rain he should have let them out. But Seir had to rip at the door/chains to open it since there was so much tension on the chains that he couldn’t simply undo the lock. Also, maybe he was putting on a bit of a show for the people on the other side of the door? I’m not sure – it doesn’t seem likely they would have heard him or understood what was going on in the middle of their panic. The one thing Seir didn’t account for, I think, was the multi-trigger happening.

          2. @SJ84: It is ambiguous, yes. But why would Seir have to rip at the chains and break the chains if the padlock isn’t locked? He could just take the lock out and pull, and the chain is removed. Rain locked it by ‘gripping’ it. Padlocks can be locked without the key, if the locking bar is pushed into the main mechanism. That can be done one-handed, by holding the loop of the bar with the fingers and pushing up on the bottom of the lock with the palm of the hand (not sure how well you can visualise this; I know what I mean).

            I noticed a comment at the time about it, and reread it then; and I’ve reread it now, and I still think Rain actually locked the padlock.

          3. @ Earl of Purple

            That makes sense. I did see the part where Rain gripped the lock – and I can see what you’re talking about when you refer to closing it one-handed.

            My assumption is that the reason Seir had to rip the chains off of the door was due to the tension on them – with the full weight of a crowd pushing against the door, to the point where it was completely taut (I think they mentioned this in text – the weight of the group had pushed it so far and with so-little give that the door couldn’t even bounce back a little) made it too difficult to simply pull the lock out. Given that he’d wound the chain through the door handles multiple times, this would make sense to me; the friction and tension would pull the chains so tight that they would basically catch on each other, and the lock holding them in place would be jammed tight enough that it wouldn’t be easy to remove.

            I also think there’s a possibility that Seir was putting on a show. The contradiction between his original instructions to Rain and the way he acted when opening the door is kind of plain, and Wildbow made a point of emphasizing that Seir had it out for him. I think he may have been setting up Rain to take the fall either way – if he did try (and manage) to wrench the lock loose and let the people out, then Seir could basicaly get him executed for failing to follow orders from a high-ranker. If he didn’t, then Seir could make a show of yelling “why didn’t you let them out, you idiot?” loud enough for the people on the other side to hear (and possibly could spare a thought or two for Mama Mathers so she could snoop and see him chastising Rain), and then make a small show of ripping at the door. Once they’re out, they see the twisted little Fallen kid standing on the other end, have a rough idea of what went on, and then they all see red.

          4. @ SJ84

            Oh, Seir definitely wanted Rain in trouble. That’s why Seir put Rain there. Your interpretation does make sense, too, but… I think I still prefer mine.

            I don’t think Rain would be as remorseful as he is if he’d left the door alone, knowing he could have done something about it, than if he’d actively locked it. Plus if Rain did lock the padlock, then he can say and believe that it’s not Kiss/Kill, or not wholly Kiss/Kill. And even if he didn’t actually lock it, I’d bet pounds for pennies that the shards want it to look like he did, so they can learn from the conflict and see how the powers are used in potentially new ways.

          5. @ Earl of Purple,

            Ambiguous situations like this are part of the reason I enjoy Wildbow’s work so much. It’s amazing how much of our interpretation of his character and the following events hinges (no pun intended) on whether or not he made a simple closing motion when he was gripping that lock.

            I’m happy to go with the “agree to disagree” approach to this one, and even more happy that we could have a fun conversation about it in spite of the disagreement. Either way, the situation with Rain and the rest of his cluster is tragic – and gripping. Both specialties of Wildbow’s.

          6. Any padlock I’ve ever seen is only durable when locked. When unlocked, the hasp can be pulled completely out of the body (destroying the lock) with about fifty pounds of tension. Presumably a crowd of panicked burning people would apply more tension than that. Thus it seems likely that someone locked it, whether that was Seir or Rain.

        2. @84
          Well we know why the “super interdimensional space cthulu” twists things to generate hate, conflict and death. The entities goal for the shards was to have them evolve–the shards attach themselves to a candidate and gather data on how that person handles conflict. The more conflict they’re exposed to, the more they evolve. And the more data the shard collects for the entity. When the conflict causes so many chain reactions that the entire world basically collapses or at least doesn’t have the potential for the type of evolution the entities want (because too many people have died) then the entities move on to another world and repeat the process. The data they collected was meant to try to solve the problem of the inevitable heat death of the universe. Its on the Worm wiki and in Scion’s interlude.

      2. “Rain locked us in, so that we couldn’t escape the Fallen in the mall, and laughed as people were crushed to death.”

        Sure, it sounds pretty bad, even if they just stick to facts.

    3. >I do also think that it is interesting how everyone else genuinely wants Rain to die. They seem to just treat custody or self-punitive measures with disdain, and I can’t tell if that’s because they know more about cluster triggers and why Rain’s approach genuinely wouldn’t work, or because they are just so filled with rage that they can’t stomach lesser punishment.

      Put yourself in the cluster’s shoes. Your daughter was killed. The last remnant of your old life was taken from you, leaving you with absolutely nothing and no one. We’re not sure what Cradle’s deal is yet, but at the very least he was locked by Rain in a mall where Rain’s gang set off bombs killing dozens and injuring hundreds. You’d probably feel like killing him too.

      And if you were an outsider hearing this story, you’d probably agree Rain needed to die. Especially since he’s Fallen, a gang of fanatic murderous thugs.

    4. I’m pretty sure Tattletale’s “bigger picture” is a brewing conflict with Teacher. At the end of Worm he was pretty much set up as the new threat to watch out for. From what I can tell from the Numberman/Citrine interlude I think he has been gathering up Cauldron vials, and setting himself up to fill up the power void from Cauldron’s fall. He’s been amassing a massive amount of power (and as I recall one of his minions has had Khonsu imprint on him?) and I think he is liable to try and take over (what’s left) of the world. From what we’ve learned in the last chapters, I think her power/intelligence network let her know that he was going to make an alliance with the Fallen, so she is focused on taking them out before that can happen. It’s also possible she is worried about some of the brewing off-world conflict we’ve been hearing about (and maybe Teacher is also working on forging alliances with those factions?)

    5. Also, Tattletale probably wants Rain dead because he agreed to help March kill Foil, and she knows on some level that him living could fuck with her plans. Considering he also killed Snag according to the Wiki, I’m officially in the “Rain is a douchebag” camp now.

      1. Wait, we already knew he killed Snag…and though Rain is by no means blameless, you know he killed Snag in self-defense right?

        1. They were right there in front of each other. If it were a kill compulsion, I imagine she would have taken any risk to kill Foil, just like Rain’s cluster. She didn’t, so either there’s no compulsion, or it’s a kiss compulsion

          1. That’s what I was saying. Anon was saying that March wanted to kill foil, and I wasn’t being clear about refuting that

  3. Wow this chapter! Where do I begin?

    Cradle’s Bad Touch Bot was insane, being able to take on six people at once with his only aid coming from a single combat thinker who honestly spent most of the fight getting tripped up by Vista.

    The awesome fight winning synergy between Capricorn and Sveta (with help from Vista and Victoria) is the reason why I love Wildbow’s fights. Of all the moments that have come out of this insane arc I feel like this fight scene has been one of my favourites (Up there with MM getting Kamakenzied and Victoria “relieving” Valefor of his lower jaw)

    Sucks goat bro is Fallen though. I enjoyed what little time we had with him in Worm.

    1. Cradle feels like the most well-rounded in terms of power(s) – all the others have cleanly separate expression of each facet, while he seems to have merged them all (destruction/movement/emotion/tinkering) together into quite the effective result.
      Kinda like Snag could channel emotion down his arm prosthesis, but everything at once.

      Clusters are pretty damn scary with the power mixes they cause…

        1. Honestly, I was suspecting that his emotion power was tied to the hand wires. I assumed the impact of the wires released emotion to give them extra oomph. But then Victoria discerns that it’s Rain’s destruction. Could still be both, though 😉

        2. I think it’s straight up suppression. Victoria got absolutely nothing using her aura, and he didn’t express anything until he had to talk about what Rain did to him.

  4. Uh well shit. Didn’t expect to see Scapegoat again. Or that the Fallen could recruit like that.

    And hey Vicky is taking a very important step along. Another 6 arcs she might be willing to send messages through her mom to Amy.

    1. Well more like Tattletale is finally cornered enough to actually negotiate in good faith instead of just bashing everyone with the conflict ball and insisting that everyone should just do what she says because they can’t possibly comprehend the greater picture.

      Her mother would also probably have had better luck with the whole reconciliation thing if she wasn’t doing it in the least helpful way possible.

    2. The thing is, Scapegoat was always corrupt. Tattletale bribed him into healing Skitter, after all. We don’t know how he joined up; maybe he didn’t, not deliberately, maybe he offered his healing powers on the sly, and someone like Valefor purchased them, with a price beyond what Scapegoat was expecting.

      But Scapegoat needs to meet Capricorn.

      1. Yeah, Scapegoat doesn’t seem like a Fallen True Believer. He didn’t even particularly seem like he was fighting on their side. They must have something on him, and that fact came out during the fight.

          1. Or Valefored,

            It definitely would have had to happen prior to Victoria relocating the lower half of his face, but it’s not difficult to imagine that Valefor got to a few of the superheroes and successfully “prepped” them for some later problems (or contingencies) during the raid.

        1. We didn’t see him. We didn’t see how any of the insiders betrayed their former colleagues, except the Speedrunners.

          For all we know, he paralysed their teleporter from the waist down. Or absorbed two people’s injuries, and then inflicted them on the next person he was to heal. Or kept healing people until he got next to someone important enough to inflict them all on.

          1. @Soadreqm: When he turned up in Worm, Tattletale mentioned he had an ‘offensive’ use of his powers. Since he transfers injuries to himself, easiest and most thematic option is he can also transfer them from himself. If he’s holding a ‘paralysed from the waist down’ injury, and therefore using a wheelchair or being held back from the front lines, then he could probably paralyse their best teleporter. At least for eight hours or so, until the effect wore off.

        2. I think the most likely solution is the one Scapegoat himself offered: the Fallen were offering answers that would make the world make sense at a time when it very much didn’t. From there he might have been Mama’d, but I don’t think that’s likely since Valefor is still blind (although the idea that Scapegoat’s multidimensional foolery might be responsible for Valefor’s changed and expanded power is intriguing). There are explanations that could cover this, with the two that came to my mind first being Valefor was worried regaining sight would make his power dependent on it again, weakening him, or that Mama didn’t want him healed, either for that reason or as a punishment/reminder for his failure against the Undersiders.

      2. There’s a huge gap though between getting paid to heal a villain, who was more of a thief/landlord and being a Fallen agent. I don’t see much wrong with the first, just a hero doing a side dig.

        1. There is, but being corrupt opens him up to lots of delicious possibilities for darker villains, especially after the end of the world. As I suggested, all it really takes is hiring out as a cape healer and the wrong customer buying the service. Or maybe not even if he was hiring out- Khepri got EVERYONE involved, and all it took was Scapegoat deciding that one of the more effective Fallen needed to get back in the fray, or being master’d into getting said Fallen into the fray, and things for him go downhill.

      3. Maybe he is a TT double agent? hence why TT’s command to heal prompts him to do it? He probably got Mathered though so that makes problems with being a spy.

    3. I have decided upon a new theory: Scapegoat is the Mastermind.
      You see, he has double triggered and instead of just taking injuries and transferring injuries he is capable of manipulating perceptions of people’s past actions in a similar way.
      He is always beneath suspicion and was able to pin the blame on Mama as well as actively keeping her from suspecting him. In fact, with so many nefarious people in the fallen, who knows how many crimes he has actually committed while always able to waltz, foxtrot and flamenco into town whenever he wants. In fact, the very fact that nobody suspects him makes the case even stronger that he is behind it all. Scapegoat knows no evil he has not committed.
      He is truely diabolical
      Scapegoat did it all

    1. I dunno. Victoria’s pet mutant abomination did blow a chunk of roof Cradle was holding so far into the air that she mentioned it would take a while to walk to where it landed.

      For me at least that brief moment alone was so awesome it satisfied my wretch-action needs for now…

      For now…

    1. >I could evade, draw closer- and the hand itself got in my way. As I moved, so did it, staying between Cradle and I.

      Should be “Cradle and me” since it’s the object of a preposition (you wouldn’t say “between I”). However, this could just be a dialect thing for Victoria, since I notice she makes this mistake a lot.

    2. “You’d walk away wanting to -kill against me-* and against any co-conspirators I named.” – Cradle.

      This sounds weird. I am pretty sure it should be “Kill me and go against any co-conspirators” or something like that.

    3. “I could go through two first aid kits and still run out of material to to bandage and tourniquet this.”

      Two to’s

    4. >“Either you’re incompetent or you’re malicious,” I said.  “Neither lends themselves to us working together.

      Missing end quote.

  5. Capricorn and Vista’s power synergy is amazing. They should see if they can poach her from the Wardens, she’s at least as screwed up as the rest of the team.

    1. I personally like Vista more as a guest star. The team ups are great, but I like the novelty of it too much to want her to join.

  6. Ok. I’d like to know what is going on. Tattletale getting to the point will be nice.

    But selling out Rain seemed fine to me. He is a Nazi terrorist who killed people and psychologally tortured his cluster and then joined team Therapy and betrayed them to March. He’s going to get fixed but why does he live and his victims die?

      1. Maybe. Or perhaps my view is that Rain is completely self-serving and an evil narcissist.

        His attempt at redemption for being an accomplice to multiple murders comes too late and is too self serving. The fact that he then dragged in a gang of innocents to defend him and then failed to advise them of the extreme risk to which they were being placed shows that he is utterly self-centered.

        I think the remainder of his cluster is justified in wanting his death. I think Tattletale is justified in treating him like a chit that can be traded to whom very little is owed.

        And let me say that if my daughter was killed and the night after I was psychically linked to the murderer and saw him laughing and celebrating his premurder handjob then I too would not stop until he was dead.

        1. “The fact that he then dragged in a gang of innocents to defend him and then failed to advise them of the extreme risk to which they were being placed shows that he is utterly self-centered.”

          So what you’re saying is that you forgot major plot points that explain why he couldn’t just tell them?

        2. The desire for redemption or salvation is always by definition inherently self-serving. That doesn’t make it wrong to feel such. And there is also a rather severe oversight from every member of the cluster -namely, they focus too much on the tragedy of what happened and not enough on how precisely it happened or what it meant beyond their personal suffering. They have been part of this cluster for a long time now and rewitnessed the events from Rain’s point of view several times, yet not once did they realize he couldn’t have opened or broken that lock himself. Not once have they thought about precisely what it means that Rain triggered from that incident as well. Hysterical laughter has long been known as one of the prime indicators of somebody who is in shock.

          Rain is a human, who made a mistake and couldn’t find a way out that didn’t seem more terrible than continuing along his path. This is something that happens to many people, both in worm/ward and real life, on an extremely constant basis. Just like his cluster hasn’t stopped to think about any of it rationally, so did Rain not stop to think of the consequences of his actions or how much worse it would be to remain Fallen, particularly not when he had people telling him nightly they were going to kill him and the Fallen were protecting him. Every single one of them is human, nothing more and nothing less. Humans can change. Refusing to believe this is possible shows your worldview to be just as narrow and prejudiced as that of the Nazis.

          Skitter often regretted that she believed many of her actions were necessary. Did she deserve to die for Dinah’s abduction? For Coil’s death? For Alexandria’s? For the civilians she lied to Sundancer about? For the crippling of Valefor and Lung? For condemning Cherish to unwillingly absorb the Butcher? For Khepri? In each of these cases, except for Dinah where she simply didn’t know in advance what her actions would help, she believed that those acts were completely necessary.

          As an honest question I would like to know… How have you made it this far through Wildbow’s works if you don’t believe somebody can honestly come to regret their past actions and desire redemption without them immediately and permanently being deserving of death and torture? Torture is never a reasonable act. Death should (in a perfect world) only be dealt to those who are unwilling to change who would kill relative innocents.

          1. Fair. I’ll try to give a fair answer.

            I’ve read and reread these chapters and I see Rain in a very different light. I see him as being motivated not by regret and not by being disgusted with his former self so much as trying to escape the hell that he himself built and get the girl he wanted.

            Perhaps it is because of my day job but I get to see many many people who have committed wrongs and now aren’t looking for a way to repent so much as a way out of their own trouble.

            So while others see Rain as feeling bad and trying to change, I see him as utterly corrupt and self-serving. I think his conversion was less about quitting the Fallen and more about wanting to be a hero to the girl he loves, or at least being able to call himself noble for her.

            And I think that drowning people in that moment are utterly dangerous — they will drag anyone into their problems and beg for help. They will be charming and remorseful and sad and hopeless — but they always manage to drag others to help, and leave those others to the wolves when a better offer shows up. That is how I see Rain and his motives.

            Now, you ask, how can I stomach wildbow? Are you kidding? There are damn few authors who could write a character with this sort of honesty, portraying a monster with this level of pathos. I may hate Rain but writing about someone and displaying them as a narcissist with this much nuance is brilliant. Sheer. Utter. Brilliance.

            The last book I read with anything like this level of pathos was Lolita. The character there — like Rain — had an elaborate backstory that supposedly explained why he was the way he was. But when you read it carefully you realized that it’s a con job — he wants to be noble but in fact he is a child molester who cannot really come to terms with what he does or why he does it. He isn’t just a bad guy. He is a monster who is charming and funny and awful because of it.

            As for Taylor, yes, she did much wrong but she wasn’t trying to lie about it and until the end she was always punching upwards. And she had regrets that seemed real — not trying to get out of trouble regrets, but genuine angst over what she did deciding ultimately that the cost was too high — If this was victory, her hands were too small to hold it. That is likewise fascinating but it’s on a different level.

            Ok, I tried. You can tell me that I’m an idiot and a fool but that is how I view Rains character so far. If you want an easy reference see the character arc of Ferian in IN CONQUEST BORN and his pseudo surrender at one point or Humbert Humbert in Lolita. Those were both about self delusion; I think Rain is lying about his motives, or maybe he just can’t perceive them.

          2. Alright, that’s fair enough. Thank you for explaining your reasoning. I can respect and understand the differences in our perspectives. I probably will check those stories out at some point, when I both have the time and remember to. In the meantime, I suppose I’ll agree to disagree on how we perceive Rain and wait until Wildbow reveals which perspective was closer to accurate. I also apologize if you explained this reasoning earlier because I hadn’t seen any comments doing so before but I’m not going to pretend that I went through every comment on every chapter to see if you had. Glad to see that unlike many people I know personally there are people here willing to calmly explain things instead of getting defensive – from what I’ve seen that’s a fairly rare thing.

    1. Excuse you?

      He EX-nazi terrorist who was perfectly willing to give himself up to the people who want him to suffer a fate worse than death as long as they promised to not go after innocent civilians who were forced to be part of the Fallen under threat of death or because of literal brainwashing.

      And he didn’t betray anyone to March. March doesn’t give a rats ass about the therapy group and has no ill intentions towards them at all. The only person who might suffer because of his deal with March is Foil, who is a teammate of the lady who announced that she planned to ensure that he would be hunted down like a dog and that anyone standing between him and his pursuers would be killed (so all his friends in other words). Sucks to be Foil but this kind of thing happens when you push someone into a corner. March was not only a vitally needed asset for Rain to counter Mama’s power but also to protect (not betray, protect) his friends. If Tattletale or the Cluster had been willing to negotiate things wouldn’t have gone that far.

      Also Rain is not the one psychologically torturing his Cluster. That’s the work of their power and its torturing him as well. Gotta get that sweet, sweet conflict juice flowing.

      And it should also be taken into consideration that Rain never really had a choice about being a Fallen. He was pretty much born into the cult and brainwashed since childhood. How many people can honestly say that they would have done any better if they were born in similar circumstances?

    2. Well, if you want the answers given in-story so far:

      1)He isn’t a Nazis terrorist anymore.
      2)He willingly turned himself into the authorities and Is genuinely repentant.
      3)He’s actively trying to use his abilities to help a non-fallen community.(Unlike the Cluster)
      And
      4)The Cluster are the only ones instigating these life-and-death situations now, leaving Rain with no choice but to fight back in self-defense.

      1. He could run. He could commit suicide. He could have just gone to hollow point and let them do what they want.

        Instead he drags in a bunch of innocents into the midst of his personal battle. His attempt at redemption seems way too little and way way too late.

        1. 1)He tried running they just hunted him down.

          2)Committing suicide is a non-option for obvious reasons, don’t be stupid.

          3)You don’t seem to get the fact that Rain wants to live and help people.

          4)When he offered himself to the Cluster in order to avoid civilian casualties they refused specifically because they knew it would hurt him to see innocents get hurt.

          1. I’m lost.

            (1) He ran and they hunted him down…when? In the months he was getting therapy, knowing his cluster was trying to kill him?

            (2) Suicide is a non-option because….why? He offered to let others kill him; he could not do so himself because….? He could have challenged hus uncle again and let his uncle win. he could have gone up to Seir and said “Let’s battle to see who is stronger! To the Death!” He could have shot himself. He could have stopped eating. He could have stopped drinking. He could have drowned himself.

            (3) I get that he wants to live. Help people….you mean the woman he fancied at the Fallen camp? Deciding to help your crush isn’t particularly noble.

            (4) Yes, his enemies wanted to kill him and his family and anyone else associated with him. Sure, they are crazy. It doesn’t mean Rain is redeemed.

          2. @cthulhu

            As somebody who has attempted suicide in the past- it is very, very not easy, no matter how much you may want to do it. So, not really much of a solution.

          3. 1)You’re right, my mistake. MaMa would have killed/had him hunted down if he ran.

            2)See reason 3.

            3)Rain doesn’t just care about Erin. We’ve been told and shown several times that he genuinely wants to be a good person/rebuild his life and help people.
            He had multiple opportunities to bail out of this war if he only cared about Erin.

            ^ None of which he can do if he’s fucking dead.

            4)Yeah, that’s why he has to fight them. When he thought it was just between him and them Rain was willing to sacrifice himself.
            But now that they’ve promised to hurt other people purely to spite him? Now he actually has something to fight for.

          1. Agreed wholeheartedly. Anyone who considers that a viable solution to his problem is either not thinking it through or just a jerk.

    3. Man, Rain was a huge asshole criminal terrorist…who is trying unbelievably hard to turn it around and be a better person. I don’t have to like him, but he doesn’t deserve to die for it.

      Also, unless Tattletale has an amazing explanation, I’ll be disappointed in her. I’ve had some faith in her but she’s been needlessly destructive in this operation while also being sloppy about security.

    4. On top of everything else people have said, who exactly did he kill? It was Seir who lead the group, set everything up and locked the door. Yeah, Rain didn’t open it. But Seir specifically told him not to and threatened him with retribution if he did. Yet the Cluster have yet to ever even mention Seir. At worst, you could say Rain is a coward for not opening the door but, again, he was heavily indoctrinated by a cult and then ordered/threatened by one of the cult leaders to not open it. Do you have any idea how deeply controlled cult members are? And that’s the adults, not people who were basically born into it and don’t know anything else. That’s also just regular cults, not cults with actual super powers. Which would no doubt be worse.

      And even after all of that? He felt bad enough about it that he turned himself in and was willing to take the blame for what happened.

      1. Money says that his shard is heavily responsible for his shift towards the good.

        I actually don’t disagree with anything you said here. But seeing the sudden shift in Snag once he died (and when the shard presumably dropped his influence on him) makes me worry what might happen if the shard is exerting a similar positive influence on Rain. What if it drops the positivity once Cradle and Love Lost wind up dying? We could have anything from a villain-turned-hero-struggling-not-to-backslide, all the way to a very, disturbingly powerful supervillain.

        1. The shard is almost certainly exerting some kind of influence on him, I agree. The big question is how much. Getting out of the cult and having some time to find himself will no doubt help him spread his horizons over time. Hopefully, if the shard influence is on the large side, all of these other positive influences will be enough to keep him on-side.

    5. Y’know, the fallen aren’t actually Nazis. They’re evil and one of the ways they’re evil is that they’re everything-ist. That’s all they have in common with Nazis.

      Sorry for the nit-pick. Carry on.

        1. Didn’t we already have a much clearer Nazi stand-in in this universe? E88 were serious about their Nazism. Fallen are not so philosophical. They just don’t like anybody outside the group and not under the control of the group, and they’re willing to do any awful thing to anyone they don’t like. They have sort of a racist shtick right now, but that could change if there were a reason for it to change. E.g., Valefor wouldn’t mind controlling a black Jewish Asian woman with solid powers.

        2. It’s a fairly big stretch to describe the Nazis as hating everybody other than themselves, given how Nazi Germany had African and Arab soldiers. Heck, the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem wound up helping with the formation of a Nazi military unit called the Free Arab Legion, after a meeting he had with Hitler where he described the common enemies they faced, “namely the English, the Jews and the Communists”, to quote the translated text of the German official notes of their meeting.

          https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Free_Arabian_Legion
          http://www.timesofisrael.com/full-official-record-what-the-mufti-said-to-hitler/

          Now, they may have believed that they were inferior races, but that’s a separate thing from hating them – and the distinction is important to make, lest we flanderize them into comic-book caricatures of themselves. Hatred is an emotion reserved for enemies, and Arabs and Blacks weren’t the enemies of the Third Reich.

      1. It’s a fair nit-pick. The nazi’s are just everyone’s safe evil go-to for picking a Group of Evil. There is a lot of other evil out there to pick from, from butt naked children soldiers to khmer rouge to scalping and genocide in the old west. Calling them nazis is just lazy when there is a whole world of evil out there to explore and discover even if it is feels less safe to discuss due to whatevers.

    6. I think it’s a fair argument that feeling bad about his crimes doesn’t make Rain less culpable for them, but Ward appears to be a story about change and redemption. Rain is trying to atone for his crimes, and killing him while he’s trying to do so is hurting everyone that he could help in the future; it’s vengeance, not justice. There’s also a case to be made that Rain now is literally a different person from the Rain that refused to save those people in the mall. Again, whether that means it’s no longer moral to punish him is debatable, though it could be compared to punishing a child for the parent’s crimes (or perhaps more accurately, punishing a clone with downloaded memories for the original’s crimes). Also, don’t know how crucial this was to your argument, but Rain never “betrayed” his new team, he simply formed an alliance with March and didn’t tell them about it (possibly *couldn’t* tell them because of Mama). Yes, they’re villains, but so is Tattletale, and they haven’t done anything reprehensible that we (or presumably Rain) know about.

      1. I see it a bit differently.

        Rain went on a murder spree with his fellow gang members.

        He got wimpy powers from a trigger event caused by his murder spree.

        While trying to figure out his powers he got close with his crush who he didn’t think he would rate because of his wimpy powers.

        He wanted to save her and looked around for an out. Met team therapy and got them involved in his problems hoping for a solution.

        He betrays the fallen to team Therapy but doesn’t tell team Therapy the vital information he knows. This is before Mamma sees him.

        He knows team Therapy is going to get involved on his behalf in the upcoming fight and that they will be fighting both the fallen and hollow point. He then goes and gets a third group involved for his own benefit and doesnt tell team Therapy.

        He’s trying to dodge the revenge against him by any means that does not involve the inconvenience of running. He constantly gets other people to fight on his behalf and then abandons them as soon as he sees another option b

        I don’t see him as trying to do much that is noble or redeeming. He looks like a guy trying to save his ass. Many of the characters see him the same way.

        In sum the fact that he feels bad and offers to nobly sacrifice himself so that his Girlfriend from a Nazi family doesn’t suffer doesnt mean he’s turned the corner and now is Redeemed.

        1. >He betrays the fallen to team Therapy but doesn’t tell team Therapy the vital information he knows. This is before Mamma sees him.
          Even before he’s re-exposed to MM, he can’t tell them about the Fallen leadership because he was exposed to MM in the past. He’s able to refrain from thinking about her because it’s been enough time, but talking about her would definitely cause her power to trigger again.

          1. Things Rain could have said, without re-triggering Mamma:

            (1) “Hey, I can’t tell you lots of stuff because I’m under a compulsion.”

            (2) “The Fallen use different colors for leadership.”

            (3) “There’s this dude who can make people do what he wants by talking to them. He’s really scary. ”

            (4) “Consider bringing earplugs, in case of some kind of sonic weapon.”

            (5) “Hey guys, I’m safe. I need to get some other powers involved. The Fallen know you are coming tomorrow and think they can buy you off.”

            (6) “Maybe we should all buy kevlar?”

            He had months to talk, and yet it was at the time of battle that he finally turned over information.

          2. @Cuthulu

            All of which would lead to thinking about her directly, and thus activating her power. MaMa’s power is basically like trying to NOT think about a pink elephant.

            Maybe with more time Rain could have found a clever work around but that doesn’t make his reasons for maintaining his cover a “betrayal” or “self-centered”.

            ***

            “He had months to talk, and yet it was at the time of battle that he finally turned over information.”

            Because that was the only time when he was functionally immune to her power. This was explained in literally the last two updates.

    1. It kind of seems like she’s making the same mistake Cauldron did, going full utilitarian while ignoring the human element entirely. Not seeing that by doing so they’re is burning bridges that makes it so much harder to get people to cooperate than it should be because nobody trusts them and can’t just ignore all the horrible things they’ve done and continue to do.

      1. Hmmm, yes, but Tattletale has more friends to keep her in check from any mad scientist impulses and to remind her of her personal human elements. She hasn’t secluded herself on another planet with many minions doing her bidding in bringing her test subjects for her to lock up for her experiments yet after all. So yes, same mistake but not irrecoverable yet.

  7. I’ll go for a different take on TT’s approach to Rain. She stated she knows the Fallen compromise the other teams. Rain is the likeliest candidate. If she did not see anything to hint at March’s workaround then keeping Rain down would help the bigger picture, boosting the integrity of Team Therapy, just one of her many moving parts. She wasn’t that committed to Rain actually dying.

    1. Thing is… Rain did compromise the team. His last interlude, or the one before- he meets Mama face-to-face, and then goes meet up with the others and watches as Kenzie spies on the planning for the attack, with Mama aware of everything he saw.

    2. Results > Intentions

      (If what you’re saying is true)She completely misjudged several factors that could have been easily solved by her power if she actually put in the work to try and weed-out traitors.

      1. TT can’t chase every lead. She can chase individual leads better than possibly anyone else we’ve met, but her power has limitations

        1. I bet the thing that has her preoccupied is the inter-dimensional war. Or maybe Teacher is using the Crowleys as a resource or intended to use the Fallen (who would’ve soon been united) as allies to an extent. Probs the former though…maybe a bit of both.

  8. it seems that the fifth power of Rain’s cluster disconnects you from others in your life. Or your past, I’d Snag is anything to go by.

    I still suspect it’s the unborn foetus of the woman who visited Snag but I wonder if part of Rain’s disconnection from the Fallen is a result of his cluster’s general disconnection from their past.

  9. Since nobody else commented on it and it’s a bit of a sideways reference:
    Cradle’s specialty is hands that manipulate string? Yup, Cat’s Cradle.

    1. But what about the silver spoon? Little Boy Blue or the Man on the Moon? When they are gonna fade in their room I don’t know when, but they’ll be together then, yeah, You know they’ll have a good time then.

  10. What happened to Moose and Velvet? Have they been arrested by the heroes? Did they flee in another direction, and Prancer is catching up? Have they defected and are Fallen now?

    Or… Have they been caught or worse killed by the Fallen? I like them, I don’t want them dead.

    1. Judging by Prancer’s reaction, I have to assume that one or both of them may have been killed. Which sucks butts, because Moose is awesome and Velvet barely had screentime =(

  11. I’m a little disappointed that no one else seems to be focused on the most important moment in this chapter. We’ve been exploring Victoria as a character so far, but she hasn’t hit any watershed moments of character development yet. Until now. That moment when she suddenly understood Cradle, and drew the parallel between Rain and Amy, is such an incredible payoff to a buildup that had been going on for arcs without us noticing. It’s an utterly brilliant moment, and I love it so much. I’m incredibly excited to see if this affects Victoria’s interaction with either Amy or Rain, and if not, seeing some exploration into her flimsy justifications for why Rain is different.

    1. Yeah it’s nice to see her essentially go “He’s right to be angry, but his actions are wrong and I oppose them.” Now that’s heroism, stopping people from hurting others while still understanding and sympathizing with the pain they feel themselves.

  12. “One day I change, come apart instead of changing back.”

    That’s an uncomfortable amount of past-tense / future-tense ambiguity.

  13. So if Scapegoat is transferring Rain’s most life threatening injuries to himself (which is how his power works) then how is *he* gonna survive them? I mean, I guess if they’re not immediately life-endangering then its okay. Maybe its more about gradual blood loss for Rain then.

    1. Considering he’s no longer blind after transferring Traylors injuries, I can only assume the damage wears off on him over time.

    1. At one point she also says she “trusts” the Wretch. Sure she’s trusting its physical ability to tank a blow, but still, potentially progress towards accepting it and herself.

    1. Eh, I feel like he’s not impressive enough for that, Number Man always seemed nigh-invincible in direct combat.

      1. Actually, after rereading the chapter I think you’re right. He’s not a Number Man clone. Capricorn was at least a hindrance to Operator Red, whereas the Number Man would have walked right through him without even slowing. And Operator Red hit one of Chris’ armor plates, which is also something the Number Man wouldn’t have done.

  14. This one line, while not reassuring, does answer a few questions:

    “Why couldn’t Tattletale sniff out the Speedrunners?”
    “Why didn’t Tattletale tell everyone about Valefor’s new capabilities?”
    “Where even is Tattletale in all this? Isn’t she supposed to run Ops at least?”

    ***

    I expected Tattletale to frustrate Victoria by being the ultimate MVP in this war. After all; power synergies don’t mean much when you have a parahuman that can find the weakness in any power, mundane equipment, or even psychology.

    Sure, MaMa Mathers complicates things for a little bit. But after March and Rain captured her I expected Tattletale to convince Kenzie to give her full battlefield coverage and then that would be the end of that. Every major strategy, particularly difficult power synergy, and/or any secret weapons would be either flushed out or have holes poked in their defenses.

    ^ Of course, this only applies if Tattletale is actually present and paying enough attention to do those things.

    ***

    The reason Tattletale was so effective in Worm, bordering on unfair, was because Taylor upheld a very simple and stringent rule with her: Completing the mission was priority number one, mastermind-ing a distant second.

    ^ And aside from a few instances she kept to that rule.

    But now that her attention is split and there’s no Taylor to keep her on task?

    It’s no wonder 90% of the help we’ve seen her provide in the assault were barely one sentence instructions to Team Therapy that almost always boiled down to “Go to X place.” 
    Or why the operation almost went to shit several times throughout the Fallen’s counter-attack because no one besides the Wardens/Team Therapy had anything resembling a proper back-up plan.

    ***

    I like her more but Victoria really really shouldn’t have been the near deciding factor in this large scale conflict, Tattletale should have outpaced her by a country-mile. But splitting her focus seems to reduce Tattletale’s effectiveness by several magnitudes.

    Let’s just hope that whatever “bigger thing” she’s working on is actually getting most of her attention.

  15. Amazing teamwork, I loved that orbital strike attack by Capricorn + Sveta + Vista. And then Looksee’s illusion feint at just the perfect moment to let Victoria clinch the fight.

    The fact that it took six people to take Cradle down, though, shows you just how much of a nightmare tinkers can be when they’re well-prepared.

    Really curious what Tattletale thinks she’s doing here. As someone said above, she’s running a very real risk of going down the same path as Cauldron and losing any sympathy she might have gotten from people outside her circle.

    1. I’m kind of hoping that we can get a smug, “while you were doing that, I was busy with [some other awesomeness].” from Tattletale.

      It will have to be something that, while everyone is still pissed that she was not available to dispense useful, but still jerk-wad advice about specific situations, is still important enough that they will have to admit that it was for the best that it was being taken care of.

      What that might be, I count venture to speculate. But I’m still hoping.

  16. This was amazing! I’m so happy to see Victoria feeling like a member of a team, kicking butt and protecting one of her own!

    Also, Looksee’s gambit with the wire illusion was great thinking tbh

  17. My first comment vanished, oddly enough. Hopefully that’s just a glitch as opposed to me being moderated for being argumentative in the comments.

    Anyway!

    Stylistically, both Cradle and Operator Red are *balling*. Cool as hell. In terms of what they’re actually doing, they’re gigantic assholes.

    Chris is frigging cool. I like Keen Vigilance. Chris may be the most interesting member of Team Therapy in a tactical sense.

    Fucking hell Scapegoat. In fact, what the hell altogether? Lads. Death cults don’t offer answers. You idiots. I can understand despair in the face of apocalypse, but the fact is that you survived. Humanity made it, just about. The Fallen were right that the world was gonna end…and wrong, in the sense that it didn’t end all the way, and the survivors are living in a larger world now.

    Also, Tattletale. Look Lisa, I like you, and I’ve been giving you the benefit of the doubt here, but that benefit of the doubt did in fact just reach the limit. You handled this with needless viciousness, combined with sloppy security. So now, either you have an amazing explanation for it, or my opinion of you drops quite a few notches.

    1. The Cluster members are probably really useful for one of Tattletale’s plans. They told her she could have their help if she helped them catch the person responsible for their trigger as well as the death of Love Lost’s daughter. And a lot of other people. Tt didn’t hear another side to it, only their side so she probs didn’t lose any sleep over it. As for security, I don’t know. It’s possible she didn’t have time to focus on all background checking all her allies. Not thoroughly anyways. She assumed Prancer had his shit together. The bigger problems she’s handling must be drawing a lot of attention. Victoria did say Tt looked worse for wear when seeing her so its possible Tt is extending her abilities too much. The more power she accumulates, the more things she has to pay attention to. She’s a big player now, she’ll have a lot of enemies and people expect her to know shit. So she’s trying to know everything but a person can only work so hard before they slip up. She may have let something slip through the cracks because she pushed herself too hard.

    2. Death cults do offer something to people who have lost everything. Something to die for. Death Cults offer answers to the heart looking for acceptance and the closure they will never get, they don’t need to answer to the needs of the mind.

      1. I get that…but he’s still a huge dumbass. The actual message of the Fallen that we’ve seen through their gospels is shallow nihilism, faintly tailored to meet a couple of different tastes.

        Someone once pointed out that Jack Slash’s philosophies are actually just shallow and edgy, and that they’d expect more from such a weird and terrifying bodhisattva of murder. The answer to that is that of course Jack’s philosophy is shallow and edgy and falls apart in the face of a coherent and enlightened counter-argument, and it’s because he’s wrong. Jack is not a dark buddha of enlightened slaughter. He’s just a dickhead with a talent for managing and manipulating other psychopaths.

        Similarly, the Fallen are wrong. They preached that the world was gonna end, and that’s technically kinda true, except for the part where the apocalypse came and yet humanity survived, defeated God, and claimed access to multiple universes. The Fallen are a bunch of shallow dickheads with a shallow dickhead nihilistic catechism which mostly exists to justify doing horrendous shit.

  18. || “I’m not the bastard here,” Cradle said. “He is. Everyone we’ve told the story to has agreed it’s fair. When the bad guy is shitty enough, it stops being revenge and starts being justice.”
    || “That’s not right at all,” Sveta said.
    It’s quite possible that of all the people on all the earths, Sveta is outright the most qualified to speak about this from experience.

    || “Either you’re incompetent or you’re malicious,” I said. “Neither lends themselves to us working together.
    || “Or I’m wrestling with bigger things, Victoria,” she sighed out the words, sounding exasperated, annoyed.
    The eternal story of Worm.

    || If this doesn’t work, thinking about all the responses I couldn’t give Cradle… would I be willing to try another route?
    || Another healer?
    She’s not there. She’s not even close to it. But I think she can see it on the horizon.

    || “Tell Tattletale I’m willing to consider it, but I want something else on the table.”
    So tell me more about Victoria’s black and white morality, and how unflexible and absolutist she is.

    1. Hmm, I think it’s less that Victoria is showing black and white morality and more that she’s learned from Cauldron. Cauldron was also “wrestling with bigger things” for the greater good, and a whole lot of people bought powers from them and accepted their help without knowing or asking for the full picture, and thus unwittingly supported all the unethical shit Cauldron did (incidentally, leading to hundreds or maybe even thousands of Cauldron-born heroes losing their careers when things got exposed). Tattletale looks worryingly like she might be going down Cauldron’s path; asking for the full picture in this situation is not just prudent, it’s wise.

      1. How does Victoria know that much about Cauldron though? She was absent for the majority of events for 2 years and idk how much info on it was available post-GM. I think she’s likely just learning from her mistakes and growing as person. I’m relieved that she’s lessening the black and white morality shtick and showing progress in terms of character development.

  19. Hmm. Character development clues.

    “I trusted the wretch.” Technically, that means she has more faith in herself now.

    “Another Healer?” Her willingness to even consider the option that I fervently believe to have being Amy shws heroism.

    Understanding Cradle may not just have being her having the same feelings but the epiphany ma have been truly realising what she accidentally did to her sister.

    Bonesaw: “I always wanted a sister…”
    Amy/Victoria: “We know!”

  20. Well that was easier than I thought it would be. I guess Advance Guard lost because they let the Crowleys escape? Still seems like a pretty big victory for the heroes, if they come away with the entire Mathers clan in handcuffs. A long way from Citrine’s dire predictions.

    It’s cool to see Scapegoat again, though I was kind of hoping for a new healer. I’m surprised he’s willing to work on Rain, who seems to have life-threatening injuries, and then offer to help Victoria afterwards. He must have a teammate he can transfer the damage to right away, or something.

    1. Well don’t speak too soon. Mama Mathers isn’t dead yet and one of her very devout followers might use have some powers that can break the stone encasement Capricorn contained her in. If Baphomet can see through his animal-human creations then he knows where Mama is. Even if he doesn’t, there might be a Fallen cape who can locate her. The Crowleys are somewhere, very pissed. This thing isn’t over yet.

  21. Other people have said it, but I’d like to restate that I really like how Victoria is able to sympathize and empathize with Cradle while still opposing his actions as wrong. Perhaps I’m overstating it, but it’s like a balance of condemning the crime while forgiving the criminal.

    Hmm, correct me if I’m wrong, but did Taylor ever do that? Now that I think about it, I can’t recall Taylor ever thinking to herself ‘This enemy is a lot like me’, except for maybe Mockshow and she barely counted as an enemy. Taylor seemed to relate to her enemies intellectually, in terms of tactics and strategies, rather than emotionally.

    1. That was indeed a great moment.

      Not sure about Taylor. Its been a while since I read Worm. On one hand she did tend to be very philosophical at times but on the other she also tended pretty heavily towards With Us Or Against Us/My Way Or The Highway thinking.

  22. YUS
    TALKING
    COMMUNICATION
    EXPLANATIONS

    also I love Victoria’s conclusions about Cradle
    “I relate harder than to anyone else ever” “doesn’t mean Rain deserves to die”

    also, nobody has yet brought up that RAIN TRIGGERED
    he wasn’t in physical danger!! he was outside the mall!!! WHAT CAUSED HIM TO TRIGGER YOU FUCKING UNTHINKING ASSHOLES

    1. He WAS in physical danger. His trigger was staring down the crowd of survivors after Seir released them from the mall and teleported/duplicate-swapped himself away. Oh, and Seir called him an idiot because he was ‘supposed to scare them, not kill them’. Loudly, and as the survivors stumbled from the building. The others, technically, had already triggered by this point, but multitriggers don’t seem to require the exact same time; a small window of perhaps five minutes seems to fit, and in proximity doesn’t require line-of-sight. Hence why Foil didn’t know March was a clustermate.

  23. I don’t think Moose is the type to defect, so I think he might have died in the scuffle. That kinda sucks 🙁
    This reminds me of how I felt when Clockblocker died.

    P.S. I know Dennis could come back via Valkyrie, but at the time it was a substantial loss.

    1. (to be sung mournfully, like a bellowing moose)

      Moose!
      The cape they call Moose!
      He robbed from the rich and gave to the poor.
      Stood up to our girl and she gave him claws four.
      Our love for him now, ain’t hard to explain.
      The hero of Hollow Point, the cape they call Moose!

      Now Moose saw the Mather’s knuckles crackin’
      He saw The Fallen’s lament.
      And he saw that Tattletale takin’
      Every Villian and Cape worth a cent
      So he said, “You can’t do that without my People!”
      “We will make an undersided deal”

      Moose strapped on his hat,
      And in five seconds flat,
      Was running towards The Fallen Ordeal.

      He robbed from the rich and he gave to the poor.
      Stood up to our girl and she gave him claws four.
      Our love for him now ain’t hard to explain.
      The hero of Hollow Point the cape they call Moose.

      Now here is what seperates true heroes
      from common folk like you and I.
      The cape they call Moose
      Knew he might lose
      but went in to fight and die
      He may have dropped in the houses
      He may have dropped in the yards
      The Cape they call Moose
      May have died in this fight
      But the fandom will always call him ours

      He robbed from the rich and he gave to the poor
      Stood up to our girl and she gave him claws four
      Our love for him now ain’t hard to explain
      The hero of Cedar Point the cape they call MOOSE!

    1. You might have missed the chapter where he essentially decapitates himself by fighting while marked by Rain’s power (right at the end of 5.12, leading to 5.y).

  24. Chris has some ‘splainin’ to do, in my honest opinion. Why is he the one who figured out what was up with Rain earlier, why is he so set to stabilize Rain: “Didn’t want to use,” Chris was quiet. “I like him more than most of you.” ?

    For someone so introverted, I don’t understand why he’s so loyal to Rain; I think I need to know more about that entire dynamic.

  25. I don’t understand why rain is so weak compared to his cluster mates. The other members use their main powers and the secondary ones assist in making the main one more deadly or allows them to use the main power in more creative ways.
    Snag has his mover power, which is amplified by his rain-power moving through objects with ease, and is supplemented further by emotion-charged tinker tech.
    Love loss can maneuver around the battlefield, unleash her cry, and get out of the ensuing chaos with her always-sharp tinker-claws.
    Cradle has awesome tinker tech, that contains the destruction power to give it added impact, the ability to dance around moving hands without losing balance, and somehow also has invisible cables.

    Rain has… the ability to make traps. That’s basically the only combination we see him do with more than one power. His move power doesn’t sync with the others, the emotion one is minor and not targetable, and his tinker arms are puny and don’t augment anything. His blaster power is the only useful one, but for some reason, the other powers dont supplement this main power at all and dont allow much synergy between them, besides infusing his blaster power into his tinker tech which he can only do in traps for some reason.
    Why?

    How can all the shards/buds in the cluster work together to enhance the main shard in everyone but him, when his life is was surrounded by a lot more chaos and conflict than the others initially?

    Seeing how strong cradle is makes me even more confused.

    1. Cradle’s a primary tinker whose had a year to get himself set up with the robot. Tinkers need the build up to get their best gear.

      Rain’s powers don’t sync well partly because he doesn’t know how to use them. He’s trying to stay out of trouble, and avoiding conflict; the others aren’t. Rain’s emotion power is weak, or so he thinks. Another read is it’s subtle, so people don’t realise it’s used on them. But Rain focused on the ‘can barely feel it’ and didn’t realise ‘I can make people feel guilty without them realising a power is involved’. He needed added power-tokens to realise how to put blades in his arms, but if he’d been actually getting into fights or seeking conflict like the others, it wouldn’t have taken so long, I think. His ‘stop’ is really the only one that’s properly lacklustre, and that’s only because of how long it lasts.

      Snag’s emotion power is loss, but he has to touch people to apply it- a major downside, if it weren’t for his tinker shuriken. Also remember that when he fought Victoria in Norspan or wherever it was, he was borrowing a token or two from Love Lost. And I reckon he’s been borrowing Cradle’s tokens too, for the shuriken. He can punch through walls, and build arms that can punch through walls. But he doesn’t have Rain’s mind-impulse units; he has to grip his arms and press buttons to control them, that’s why they’re so long. They don’t actually go with his falling-wherever-he-wants, so much as they let him deal more damage when he’s got there.

      Love Lost can run on walls, her scream is rage, and she builds tinker claws. I think they’re more gauntlet than prosthetic, limiting her reach. They don’t seem as fragile as Rain’s, but he has her out-handed, and they limit her ability to manipulate things. I don’t know her breakage power; if she’s used it on screen, it’s subtle enough I didn’t notice it.

      1. Re:Love Lost, I have a hunch the destructive power mixed with her emotion one, since it turns allies into enemies.

        1. That doesn’t fit. Everyone else has a power that helps them break things. A scream that turns people against themselves doesn’t break anything, except maybe the odd friendship or somebody’s face. And even then, it’s not Love Lost breaking that person’s face, but one of the people under her rage-scream’s influence.

          1. Love Lost has her destruction powers in her claws. Victoria mentioned that they are sharper than they should be, and can cut through things it shouldnt be able to, her wretch-field included.

          2. @Harden865 So, even though I’d forgotten, she really had used her breaking power to break somebody’s face? Cool.

      2. Yes, a lot of everyone’s secondary powers are crappy by themselves (like how snag needs to touch people to trigger emotion-power), but my argument is that for everyone except Rain, the secondary powers have some crossover with eachother and with the main power, making the entire powerset either incredibly versatile, or powerful.
        Like how Snag can add the emotion-power he got from Love Lost to the tinker tech he got from Cradle, and the prosthetic he can make also channel Rain’s power to easily go through walls and barriers, making him more deadly and allowing for really devastating hit-and-run tactics, which is perfect for someone with a main mover-power.

        Love Lost uses her mover and destruction powers from Snag and Rain to augment her tinker-tech, making claws on her hands and feet that are incredibly sharp and can run on walls while channeling the mover-power. This makes her fast and elusive for anyone trying to attack her at mid-range (or if she needs to run away…. which we actually never see her do, admittedly), and anyone wanting to close the distance has to deal with claws that are sharper than they should be and can decimate a lot of defensive measures. She uses these skills to position herself near a group of people, unleash her main emotion-power scream to cause chaos and have people turn on their allies, while she picks off any stragglers or anyone that would normally be defended by protectors-turned-raging-enemies.

        And cradle is a bit more obvious. It’s not quite clear how he’s using the emotion power, except maybe to keep himself emotionless and/or make everyone else more emotional, but it’s unclear if that’s just his personality and if that’s just everyone’s normal response to seeing rain injured. But like you said, he had a LOT of time to prep, so that one makes more sense, especially since his main power is the tinker one.

        The issue I have is that besides that one instance where he found a way to have his blaster-power used in his tinker-arms, in which he said it’s only viable in traps and not direct-conflict, none of his powers work with the others. Even if they don’t augment other abilities directly, as far as we know, there’s no way to use one or more powers to indirectly make better use of the others, not even his main power.
        Yes, he isn’t borrowing tokens from the others, which is fine. It explains why everything is incredibly weak. but even if the strength of them isn’t a factor, the way he can use them doesn’t mesh with the other powers, which is weird since every other member has ways that their abilities can mesh.
        For instance, even if Snag’s arms were fragile, or if the emotion he charged in his projectiles just made someone slightly sad, it doesn’t change the fact that his claws can use the destruction-power and that he can inject his emotion-power into projectiles. Or for Love Lost, if she could only run up slopes at a 45 degree incline instead of a 90 degree wall, that doesn’t change the fact that her mover power is being used in her feet-claws and that she can still use the mover-power to manuever better around a chaotic battlefield when she uses her scream.

        Even though Rain’s powers are weak because he can’t borrow tokens, he should be able to use some of the powers in conjunction with the others, or use them in ways to increase the usefulness of the others. But besides *potentially* having his silver-blades in his tinker-arms, there’s no real way to do that.
        Better control of his mover power is the only reasonable way I can think of for that power to help him use his others more effectively. But even that doesn’t synergize with the others.
        Unless….

        You know what, nevermind. I stand corrected. There IS a way for Rain to use his powers in synergistic ways. I’m not sure if he CAN do this, but it’s at least possible, since he admits to rarely using his blaster-power because of how dangerous it is (especially since he only just realized it effects one thing at a time, so he likely never experimented with it). He should, in theory, be able to use his mover power on his silver blades. That would mean slightly randomized time-delayed lines of destruction that he can litter a battlefield with. Or if he can figure out how Cradle made his cables invisible, he could possibly do that to his silver-blades, making time-delayed invisible flying blades of destruction that people wouldn’t instantly know only effects one thing at a time. That would be awesome.

        It’s very possible that his powers can synergize with each other, but he just never thought to try to test out things with his blaster power in case it hurt anyone. This would make sense if the buds from the original shards tried to work with the host’s original shard.
        It could also be that his powers can’t and they really are as useless as I originally thought, but I’m hoping that isn’t the case

        1. I don’t think you’re right about how they synergise, but I agree. He might be able to get them to synergise better with practice. But I think that the channelling powers through the arms is derived from borrowing Tinker tokens- or if not, from sharing a workspace and getting inspiration from each other, copying what they can and so on. Like what Snag offered the Speedrunners.

        2. I think the common factor here is the tinker power. All the others synergize through their tinker power, channeling their secondary powers through it, and everyone but Rain (and Cradle, but he doesn’t need it) has been getting boosts to their tinker power for building their synergistic tech. Rain could probably do the same thing if he ever got enough of the tinker power.

          Hmm, what forms could that take? What I immediately think of is the arms shatter like normal, but the pieces hover in the air with the mover power. Delivering his shatter power to anyone that touches them, like a short-lived minefield? Acting as a relay for his emotion power? What do you guys think?

    2. An easy explanation is that the alien shard growth process relies heavily on RNG, similar to DNA mutations leading to evolution – you can end up with good stuff, but more often than not you get some unsustainable abomination.
      For conflict’s sake, when a cluster trigger happens there would always be lesser mixes and better ones – since the various shards now hold part of each other, they can get rid of the other hosts without losing any ‘value’, leaving the strongest mix alive and ready to bud.

      tl;dr cue Tsoukalos saying “Aliens”.

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