Torch – 7.1

Previous Chapter                                                                                        Next Chapter

I gripped until my fingernails threatened to penetrate the skin, squeezing, strangling, until my hand hurt and my bullet wound hurt more.  The pain in the bullet wound intensified, until the muscle started to cramp.

“Relax.”

Relaxing my grip was a thing I had to tell myself how to do, more than pushing on through the pain had been.  I released the stress ball with the doofy character face on the front.  Bloodshot eyes receded into sockets and the mouth closed to settle into the infuriating little grin.  My handprint remained as an indent on the ball’s thin skin, slowly disappearing.

“Agh,” I made a sound.  The cramping feeling in my arm wasn’t going away.  It was like a charlie horse, but more intense than any I’d had.

“Are you okay?  Was it too much?”  She gingerly touched my arm, being shy of the wound, and felt out the muscle.  “Let me know if this hurts.”

I nodded, because I couldn’t really talk.  The massage helped.  It did hurt, when the fingers pulled against skin closer to the bullet wound, but the massage soothed the cramp enough that the pain was worth enduring.

“I wasn’t sure if you were using super strength or if it was you,” she said.

Then ask, I thought, the pain sharpening thoughts that might not have been so sharp five minutes ago or five minutes from now.

“Well, it seems like you have good strength in your hands.”

“It doesn’t feel strong,” I said.

“Okay.  Not to worry!  That’s something we can work on.”

Anne Lynn was my physical therapist with a first and middle name that she’d insisted were to be used together because she was not an ‘Anne’ and she definitely wasn’t a ‘Lynn’.  Okay, fine.  Going by first impressions, she seemed to be a lovely, warm, caring person who was painfully new to what she was doing.  She went to her mentor, who was in our mostly empty activity area, for things I didn’t imagine really needed clarification or reassurance.  She did much the same for me, double-checking what I said in a way that made me think she wasn’t taking me at my word.

It seemed she also didn’t ask for clarification at times she needed it.

She was a hard person to really dislike or resent, though.  She was shorter than average, cute and bubbly, and her smile seemed persistent and genuine.  That was a hard thing to find, given recent events.

“No super strength, for the record,” I said.  “I turned it off.  It kind of defeats the point, doesn’t it?”

“We should make sure that works as you heal,” she said.

“It’s not a concern,” I said.  “I could be the strongest or weakest person in the world and it won’t affect how my super strength works.”

“Oh?  Okay, got it.  If you’re sure.”

There it was.  The vague impression she doubted me.  Was I being unfair?

“If you keep me talking about this I’m going to go full powers geek on you,” I said.

She snorted.  “That’s convincing.  Oh no, please don’t tell me about your power or show me anything neat!”

“Ahhh,” I said.  So she’d hoped to see something.  I thought about how much she didn’t want to see my uncontrolled forcefield in action, and I smiled anyway.  “Maybe sometime.”

“Sometime, if you’re comfortable doing it.  But not today, our session is just about over.   How’s your arm feeling?”

I tried moving it.  The cramp had mostly subsided.  “Better.”

She smiled, reaching for the shelf under the bench I was sitting on.  Papers and plastic bags rustled.  She put a pile of stuff beside me.  “I have stuff for you.”

“Homework.”

“Some!  Papers, this one has your instructions for your physiotherapy you can do at home.  We want to keep up your hand, wrist, elbow and shoulder strength while letting your arm recover.  This paper here has some recommended tips for recovery and pain.  On the backside, we have some things to watch out for.”

“Neuromas, muscle cramps lasting for long periods of time, persistent fever, swelling that appears suddenly or doesn’t let up.  Got it.”

“If any exercises are too painful for you to do, make a note.  I’ll see you in two days and you can tell me then.  We’ll figure out if there’s something wrong or if it’s something we want you to work through.  If I don’t know for sure then I’ll talk to someone who does.  We’ll meet two days after that session, then scale down to twice a week after that, and once a week toward the end.”

“My doctor told me I should expect two to four more weeks recovery.”

“That’s for the muscle damage.  Longer with the bone healing, but my notes say that was minor.  I printed this out for you.  Bone fracture healing is explained on this sheet.  I included a copy of the list your doctor gave for the supplements to take.  Okay, that’s all the papers.  We have some slings for you- various colors and styles.”

A sling.  Ugh.  “Great.”

“And finally, a bag of rubber bands for some of the hand exercises and-” she paused, raising a bag filled with colorful stress balls.  “Stress helpers!  We have a variety!”

There was a part of me that wanted to groan at the forced cheer, and at the even more forced use of ‘helper’.  I went with it, maintaining a smile and peering at the bag.  It wasn’t worth making her an adversary.

“We have the faces, Grimace Gus, Dopey Dan, Pinhead Pam, and a few others.  I have a few of these myself.  You can pick one to represent someone you hate and channel that emotion into getting better.”

No blonde Smug Susans.  Too bad.

Hearing Anne Lynn get so excited over little toys helped me put my finger on her image and way of presenting herself.  She made me think of a kindergarten teacher.  I could imagine her hyping up a class of munchkins with the same attitude she’d shown around me.

I poked the bag.  It was a resealable bag, but it was old enough that it had crinkled and scuffed to the point it was foggy.  “You have a few of these, huh?  Do you have a Grimace Gus in your life?”

“I do,” Anne Lynn said.  “But it’s mostly the Dopey Dan and Pinhead Pam that give me grief.  Family.

“Ah.  I hear you on that.”  I liked her a little more than I had, hearing that.  I peered at the bag.

“We have other things, like the animal balls.  Let’s see… beetle, ick, the bird, the snake, the lion-”

“Lion,”  I said.

“Do you want to check the bag?  There are others.”

“The lion would be great, thank you,” I said.  “I had a childhood toy that was a lion.”

“Perfect,” she proclaimed, while retrieving the lion.  It was just a head, with two black dots for eyes, no mouth, and the mane taking up three quarters of it, with ears poking up on top.  “Your therapy partner for when you’re not with me.  Treat each other well.”

There was a part of me that felt like she was treating me like a kid, but that might have been her usual demeanor.  I could have rankled at it or said something, and I didn’t.  Another part of me that felt very tired, and that part of me welcomed having a stress doll that reminded me of the stuffed toy I’d loved to the point it had looked monstrous.  That tired part of me almost welcomed the cheer and the being taken care of.

Picking my sling was a little less interesting than picking the stress ball.  I tried on two and went with the most comfortable, holding it instead of putting it on.  I said my farewell to Anne Lynn and walked past others who were in the midst of their own exercises at parallel bars, benches, and weight machines.

One woman with tan skin, black and gray exercise clothing and her hair in a bun was at the weight machines.  She gave me a nasty look.  I had no idea who she might be.

I dropped my stuff off at my locker, then made use of the shower that was adjacent to the therapy area.  It wasn’t that I’d worked up a serious sweat, but I hadn’t slept well, and so I’d flown around before my appointment, checking that all was well.

All wasn’t well.

Rinsing off gave me a chance to refresh myself, resetting to zero, and it allowed me to change my clothes.  What I wore for a doctor’s appointment and preliminary therapy session wasn’t going to serve for the rest of the day.  Once I’d dried off, I put on a top with a collar that had a fine gold zipper instead of buttons, chosen because it was easy to put on with an injured arm.  I pulled on a pair of olive slacks that served as good all-purpose pants.  The pants proved to be less of a stellar choice with two stubborn buttons that needed doing up, but they were business casual and they’d survive if a fight broke out, which I wasn’t quite ruling out.

I stopped at the mirror to braid my damp hair as best as I could with the one hand, taking my time to do it, and then put a bit of makeup on around my eyes.  I was mid-application when the woman with the bun who’d given me a dirty look passed through the shower room, walking behind me and into the locker room, eyeing me as she passed.

I almost said hi.  Maybe I would in the future.

I got my things, put them in a bag, took a minute to situate my arm in the sling, and situated my bag on my other arm.

Leaving the building, I left the smell of sweat made muggy by showers behind me and ventured into the cool outdoors, closing my eyes against the cold sun.  Opening those eyes, I saw the gold-tinted city and a mostly blue sky that would have been pleasant in any other circumstance.

Pleasant if the horizon hadn’t been shattered like a dropped mirror.  The sky was divided, with vague shapes stabbing up into it, the sky on the far side taking on different tints and weather.

The portals hadn’t been flat doors that things could pass through, but three dimensional objects, transition points with rules that we’d simplified by driving trains straight through them.  Nothing about it was simple now.

Four portals in this area of the city had been drawn out to a height taller than our tallest buildings, and expanded out to encompass multiple city blocks.  The fourth had been a surprise by a parahuman that had used a power to hide until the heat had died down.  The worst expansion covered twelve blocks, and it would have covered more if it hadn’t been close to the water.

At the edges of those portals, buildings and one bridge had collapsed.  Within the areas encompassed?  We still didn’t know.  The portals had expanded out, bled into one another to surround one of the more critical areas of the city, because that area had been centered to be symbolically near the largest cluster of portals, and they’d scrambled.  They didn’t point to where they once had.

I checked the coast was clear enough that I wouldn’t scare anyone, and I took flight.

The bugs in the city were bad, stubborn even as the weather was cooling down.  It had been that way for a while, but the spring and fall seemed worst.  They hadn’t gotten the message yet, that the city was here and wildlife and insect life needed to move elsewhere.  Now, though, we had wind.  Different earths had different weather and we had gaping holes in our city with starkly different pressures on one side than we had on the other.  Flying, I could feel it.

I could feel it more as I flew over the portals, to the point that I was course correcting more than I was flying forward.  Crosswinds.  If my hair hadn’t been in a braid, it would have been all over me.

In the center of the portals, three separate doors sloshed together.  The Wardens headquarters had been there.  Key members and staff of the three sub-teams and the Wardens themselves had been stationed there when it had all gone to hell.  Jessica had been working late.

Option one suggested that they’d been torn to shreds, caught by three portals that were clashing together and switching what world they were connected to moment by moment, until they finally stopped expanding and settled.

Option two might have been worse.  The Wardens’ head office had been serving as a place to sequester dangerous capes.  Slaughterhouse Nine, ex-Birdcage capes, international enemies, and Class-S threats like Nilbog.  Even the ones who had been cooperating had been kept under close guard because cooperation didn’t necessarily equate trust.

If Jessica and the other late-evening staff at the Wardens’ HQ were out there, stranded somewhere after the portals swallowed the area up, then they weren’t in good company.  I imagined it ending up something like the Lord of the Flies, if the talking severed pig’s head was the least fucked up around.

It wasn’t a good imagining.

Construction crews were working to mend the damage.  Building hadn’t even begun on the structures that might contain the portal.  It was a herculean undertaking, even with powers helping.

Even after I returned to the streets, the wind was something I noticed, a constant gust that was either coming or going from the direction of the disaster.

Life moved on like normal but the cold wind blew hard.  People on the street kept their heads down and walked briskly, even less likely to make eye contact or offer a kind word than they had been before this.  Businesses were the same, when they were open.  That was saying something, considering this area was the closest thing we had to New York.

Brockton Bay, when I’d paid a visit, had been similar enough.  It had been more of a slice, cutting the city and its industry in two, leaving one half without power or internet.  The attitude shift had been felt there too.

All of the affected areas.  The affected areas of the city felt like ghost towns that weren’t empty nor were they towns.  The warmth wasn’t there, there wasn’t a soul or community, and everything felt eerie.  Too new, too worn out for how new they were, insects clustered on warm surfaces, and too many businesses were closed with all lights off, despite their posted hours.

It was no surprise that I arrived early at the meeting place and yet Kenzie had beaten me there.  She was at the table with her laptop, hair immaculate, and what looked like a set of two individual hair pins that were each one part of a heart, the heart split down the middle by a crack.  She wore both halves, the pins set in her hair so the cracks meshed.  I wasn’t sure if it was meant to be a ‘BFF’ style thing where each friend wore one, or if she was supposed to wear each pin on one side of her head.  She wore a maroon dress with a pattern of black scribbled hearts, and black tights.

Her dad stood by.  He wore a long peacoat, one side of the collar turned up against the wind.  His hair had pulled away in strands that swayed with the wind.

The patio area was otherwise empty.  The business it served was closed.  There weren’t that many people on the street.

“Victoria is here,” he said.

Kenzie sat up to peer over the top of the screen, her eyes large.

“You’re early,” I said.  I sat in the chair across from her, scooting it over so I could see past the laptop to her, and see Julien standing behind her.  Considering we were nearly as close as we could get to the city center without being able to see the base of the portals, there weren’t many people around.

“I like seeing people arrive places.  When they arrive and where they sit tells you things.”

“Does it?”

“Yep.  People sit closer to people they have an affinity with. It’s not always people they like, but it’s usually people they relate to.  And whether you’re a boy or girl matters.  Girls tend to sit next to others or across from others, but guys sit diagonally across.  Once you start noticing it, you’ll see it all over the place.  It’s a puzzle.”

“You like that kind of thing, huh?”

She nodded.

I leaned back into the back corner of my chair, the armrest and the wall beside me supporting me as much as the chair back did.

“How’s your arm?” she asked.  She closed her laptop and turned it over, pressing her hands down on the warm underside.

“Doctor said it’s healing well.  I’ll spare you the gorier details.  Physio started today.”

“What happened?” Julien asked.

“I told you this stuff, dad,” Kenzie said.

“When you tell me things it comes in a stream.  I pick out what I can.”

“I got shot,” I said.  “In and out.  I had to have two fragments of bone removed.”

“I’ve been shot,” Julien said.  “Twice.  Except I didn’t get physio or doctor’s appointments after.”

“I only know about the once,” Kenzie said.

“Both before she was born,” Julien told me.  “I grew up in a neighborhood where you either went to a gang or the gang came for you.  I went to them when I was twelve, they raised me.  I got shot once while working for them, and once when I left and didn’t keep it secret enough.”

“I only heard about the second one,” Kenzie said.

“Why did you leave?” I asked.

“If you asked me then, I would have said there were different middle managers.  Now?  Wasn’t me.”

“You said you were good at it,” Kenzie said.  “Sales.”

“Mm hmm,” Julien said.  “It wasn’t good for me.”

“I can respect that,” I said.  “Leaving.  That can’t have been easy.”

“Thank you,” he said.  He looked down at Kenzie.  “Was she at any risk?”

Dad.”

“Minimal to no risk,” I said.  “Given how everything went last week, it might have been riskier for her to stay home.”

“My wife invited you over, but with everything that happened and the station exploding near our home, you’ll need to give us a few days to get organized.”

“It’s a mess,” I said.

Julien nodded.  His hand rose to his chin as he stroked his beard.  His eyes were on the distance, first on the shattered horizon, and then on the street.  “I can’t tell which one that is.”

I turned to look, wincing as my elbow banged the chair back.

I couldn’t tell who it was either.  He walked with confidence, head high, but his hair had no paint or dye, and it was combed neat.  He wore a vest over a button-up top.  A lot about that image seemed to convey ‘Tristan’, but the lack of color and the more serious expression didn’t.  He seemed to have Tristan’s build, but the cut of the outfit could have created that illusion.  It was a nice suit, minus the suit jacket.

“Victoria.  Kenzie.  Good to see you two.  Mister Martin,” he said, as he arrived at the table.  By voice and manner of speaking?  That was Tristan.

“Tristan,” Julien Martin replied.  He put a hand on Kenzie’s chair back.  “Kenzie.  You wanted me to stay until people came?”

“You can go, dad.  Thank you for sticking around.”

He gave us a nod, and with hands in the pocket of his coat, he walked to his car, which was in what should have been a heavily contested parking spot.

Kenzie smiled, giving me a shrug.  “Sorry.”

“Why sorry?” I asked.

“He’s embarrassing.”

“You pick the weirdest words,” Tristan said.

“Embarrassing doesn’t feel like the most accurate fit.”

“What do you think about him, then?” she asked.  She leaned forward, hands still on her laptop.

“I-” I started.  “Is it undiplomatic to say he gives me a weird vibe?”

“No,” Tristan said, settling into his chair.

“No,” Kenzie said.  The smile fell from her face.  “I give off a weird vibe, too.  I had to get it from somewhere, so obviously I overachieved and got a full share from each of my parents.”

“Speaking of overachieving and casual segues away from uncomfortable topics,” Tristan said.  “I like the saintly laying-on-hands you’re doing for your laptop there.  That’s a new thing.”

“It’s warm and my hands are cold, duh.”

“Of course.  Too bad, I liked the image of you as technology Jesus.”

She closed her eyes, leaning back, and hummed.  She kept her eyes closed as she stopped humming, and said, “I wish I actually got to go to Church enough that I could know something fancy to say.”

“I’m not much of a memorizer,” Tristan said.  “Most of what I could tell you is what I remember from choir.  I could give you Byron, but I don’t know how he’d feel about that.”

“No, it’s okay.  Not a big deal,” Kenzie said.

Chris was making his way down the street.  Where Tristan had been confident and well dressed, Chris wore a sweatshirt and ducked his head.  He had the headphones on, but not the braces.  He looked very much like a thirteen year old boy, down to the sullen look in his eyes.

“What the hell, Tristan?  I feel underdressed,” Chris said.

“You dressed up a little,” Kenzie said.  “No braces.  It’s nice.”

“No braces because I have back to back dentist appointments,” Chris said.  He put one finger at the corner of his mouth, yanking it back to show his teeth.  The mounts for the braces were still on the teeth, and two of the teeth were missing.  A canine and the molar behind it, at the top.

“You changed too much,” Tristan made it a statement and not a question.

“And I got dry socket.  I’m fucking miserable.”

“You shouldn’t change too much.”

“Oh yes, thank you Tristan.  I completely forgot.  I need and want to change, in case you forgot.  Like right now, I want to get back home and change into a puddle of flesh with no nerve endings or teeth.  But we’re doing this instead.”

“We’re just missing Sveta,” I said.

“The only person without a phone.  Great,” Chris said.

“The trains are down so getting here is tough.  I know it sucks, but stick it out,” I said.

“Do you have any fun painkillers your doctor prescribed you?”

“I have some.  I’m not going to give them to a minor who didn’t have them prescribed to him.  Do you want a boring over-the-counter painkiller instead?”

Chris nodded, and I got a bottle from my bag, passing it across the table to him.

He tipped four or five pills into his hand and before I could get an accurate count or realize what he was doing, tossed them back into his mouth, swallowing them dry.

“Chris!”

“Fuck off,” he said.  “I know my physiology and I know what I’m doing.”

“You keep saying that,” I said.  “It sounds less convincing each time.”

“Chris!” Kenzie said.  “Do you know any good prayers I could say over my laptop?  It’s a thing we were talking about.”

“Do I strike you as the churchgoing type?”

“Nothing?”

“Some random latin.  Ex nihilo nihil fit, I think is a good phrase for you.”

“Why do I feel like you just insulted me?” Kenzie asked.

“It’s not insulting, nimrod.  It’s actually a compliment.”

“Aww!”

“Which I’m regretting now.”

“I’m struck between the fact that you know that, first of all,” I said.

“I spend a lot of time reading when I’m waiting out a form.”

“And the fact you’re doubling down on the moody teenage boy thing.  Most just get into nihilism, but you fit two ‘nihil’ in one sentence there.  What is that?  Word, nothing, nothing, word?”

“Why do I even talk?” Chris asked, leaning back.  He pulled his hood down over his eyes.

Sveta arrived, spotting us before jogging to us in an ungainly way that made me worry she might fall.  She didn’t crash to the ground, but she did teeter, and stopped, her hand resting against a window to catch her balance.

She wore long sleeves, a new wig, and her body was scrubbed of paint.  Her dress was long, layered in stages of darkening green from layer to layer, with shapes cut out of each lower portion.  Fish or leaves, it looked like.

“I love the dress,” I said.

“Oh, this?  It was a gift from Chief Armstrong,” she said.  “I’m sorry I’m late.”

“It’s fine,” I said.  “I don’t think we’re all late.”

She smiled.  “I’m weirdly nervous.”

“It’s a weird thing,” Tristan said.

It was a weird thing.  In timing and place, in atmosphere, and in aim and objective.

The wind whipped around us as the five of us walked as a group.  There weren’t any crowds, and the building was largely empty as we made our way inside.  The interior of the building was dim, but it was mostly because the lights were off and illumination came from the windows to the outside.

“No word on Mrs. Yamada?” Tristan asked.

“No,” Sveta said.  “Not according to Weld.”

“And we don’t know who was behind it?”

“Not yet,” I said.

There were some simple folding chairs lined up down the wide hallway.  Either end of the building had large windows, which let the light come in, casting its long, vague shadows.  Some people were already in the hallway, clustered in groups.

There was a man sitting alone who gave me a curious look as we looked for a spot to situate the five of us.  He was the kind of guy I might have imagined as a kid’s baseball coach, with a bit of a belly, short hair, and a soft expression with lines in the forehead.  As easygoing as he looked in the moment, I could imagine him getting really intense in the right occasion.

He stood when he saw me, and that got my attention.

I left the group to approach him.

“Do I know you?”

“Not yet,” he said.  Before he continued, I was already placing his voice from the phone.  “We had an appointment today.  I’m Dr. Darnall.”

“Oh,” I said.  I felt momentarily awkward and weirded out both.  “I’m sorry to reschedule on you.”

“It’s fine,” he said.  “Both reschedules were for very good reasons.”

Outpatient surgery and this.

“You’re here, though.”

“I was asked to consult,” he said.  “When you rescheduled to attend, I realized the connection to this.  I thought I’d look in and see how he made out, and get our first meeting out of the way, so you don’t have to worry about it.”

“I’m not worried,” I said.  “I’m just trying to work out a lot of things, and timing gets awkward.”

“Absolutely,” he said.  He had an easygoing tone.  “Is that the team you’re looking after?”

“Kind of.  They’re not so much a team anymore, but I do want to look after them.”

The group was all together, talking, with Sveta being the one to look momentarily exasperated.  Each one of them was glancing my way now and again, checking on me.  When the door opened, they would look, waiting to see if we’d see Rain or Ashley.

“Understood,” he said.

“They’re catching up after a week of everyone going their own way.”

“You don’t need to justify or explain, Victoria.  These things are complicated.  If you want to talk about it someday, we can.  If you don’t want to talk, that’s fine too.”

“I’d rather they had therapists than I had one,” I said.

“I’d like it if they had therapists too, but I don’t have the room in my schedule.  When the plane is going down, it’s important to put your own oxygen mask on first.  If we can’t address all of their issues, we can at least help you enough that you can help them.  If you want.”

“Mrs. Yamada- you know her, right?”

“I do.  We were friends.  I attended her cousin’s wedding with her.  As a friend of hers.”

Weird to think about.  I’d never heard mention of a cousin.

“She thought something really bad was going on with this group.  It could be really serious.”

“Yeah,” he said.  He glanced at the window, where the shattered skyline was visible in the distance.  A damaged building still stood, but with a chunk missing.  The girders and beams stabbed out into the gap left by the missing chunk.  Black bones and a tinted yellow exterior.  “She seemed very worried about something.  She didn’t confide in me about it.  I can’t think of many others she would have talked to.”

“It’s on my mind,” I said.

The door opened.  I glanced at it, checking to see if it was Rain or Ashley.  It wasn’t.  It was a middle-aged woman with glasses.

“Rain Frazier,” she said.

People began filing in.  The others made way for others to pass while looking in my direction.

“I won’t get in your way,” he said.  “I’ll be in the back, seeing how I’ll have to leave.  I have an appointment with a patient in ten minutes.”

“It was nice to meet you,” I said.  “Sorry for rescheduling.”

“I work with superheroes and supervillains.  Some stay up all night, others run off to manage crises partway through most sessions.  A couple of reschedules isn’t a blip on my radar.”

“You still came to find me.”

He shrugged.  “My clients rub off on me.  Sometimes you can’t limit yourself to chasing after or staking out and waiting.”

“Getting out ahead of the problem,” I said.

“If you want to put it that way,” he said.

I nodded.

The others were waiting for me, so I ducked my head in a quick farewell and went to join them.

It wasn’t a courtroom, but there was a layout that echoed one.  A series of tables had people behind them.  A woman from the Wardens that had been there when we’d pitched our response to the Fallen hit, then others I didn’t know.  An old man, another.

Ashley was sitting in one of the chairs off to one side, and so we all joined her, filing in to sit around her.

Rain sat past the divider, facing down the tribunal.  He’d cut his hair.

With us, Ashley looked the same.  Kenzie sat beside her, her head leaning on Ashley’s shoulder.

What did it say, when I had no idea what outcome we wanted?  He wanted consequence.  Whether he was found responsible or somehow allowed to go free, the resolutions felt right and wrong both.

Previous Chapter                                                                                        Next Chapter

103 thoughts on “Torch – 7.1”

  1. I’m wondering whether Amy was in the Warden’s Headquarters when the portal bomb went off. Since this is the Wormverse, I feel safe to assume that option two is the actual result of the catastrophe.

  2. Okay, so wow.

    No interlude (a first?), although we’ve gotten a lot of mid-arc and double interludes in this book compared to Worm. Not complaining, just commenting on the difference. It’s good to see an update on our group.

    Okay, so interesting. A trial for Rain? On what, exactly? And Ashley is apparently free? So many questions. Can’t wait for the courtroom drama that’s about to happen!

    Lastly, some confirmation that the portals are three dimensional. Ugh. I hope folks are alright and just shunted. Maybe this will be the bonus arc Wildbow mentioned, following the group shunted out from Wardens HQ? Yamada perspective, even?? I’d absolutely love that, talking pig head or no.

    1. Agreed — I think Doormaker’s portals were effectively two-dimensional but the ones made by Scrub/Labyrinth were more of a “block”/”chunk” shaped portal taken out of reality…

    2. >Okay, so interesting. A trial for Rain? On what, exactly?

      He’s been wanting to turn himself in for the crimes he committed with the Fallen. This is presumably that trial.

    3. Rain is on trial to be blamed for this whole fiasco and every death due to the portals. Ashley is a perfect witness for the prosecution cause she would tell the truth the whole unvarnished truth with an extra dash of harshness.

  3. So, Nilbog was in the Wardens HQ, right? Wasn’t he one of Yamada’s patients back after Gold Morning? If they got stranded together, I’d imagine he’d be able to keep her safe, if he wanted to.

    1. Also saying the Wardens? That sounds like a lot of big names could have gotten caught in this, including Chevalier, Legend, Ms. Militia and perhaps second only to Mrs. Yamada in importance VALKYRIE. The Wardens, and the white hats in general could have just lost their core.

      On the upside if they are alive, Mrs. Yamada is with people who would want to keep her alive.

      I think this is going to lead to Vicky and the team co-operating more with The Undersiders, because of lack of other groups they really can do so with.

      1. Yamada was only there because she was working late, and Victoria only seems to be concerned about people living in the HQ, which suggests to me that most of them are likely fine. Valkyrie is a notable question, though.

        1. The other important one to note is that the majority of combat capable heroes would have been deployed in one fashion or another, either against the Fallen, to cover areas for those going against the Fallen or in the scramble to protect all the portals.

          Valkyrie most likely would have been out. The most likely heroes in the building would have been thinkers. Maybe tinkers like Kenzie and support personnel like Yamada. Considering the day’s events and the immediate situation with the portal threats, that could have been a fair number of important people staying late to co-ordinate and debrief.

          Depending on how hard it was to escape the expanding portals, they might have caught combat personnel and capes who were working to guard them.

          1. Don’t forget about people like Bonesaw and Nilbog who were being kept in custody. Shit there goes the only real alternative healer to Amy.

      2. It was implied when Victoria went to the Wardens for help that most of the top dogs were off taking care of stuff like the brewing war with Earth Cheit. I don’t think anyone important was in the HQ at the time.

  4. The City is now The City Of Doors. Question is, is it Sigil or Tanelorn?

    And also, getting mad “did you know Dumbledore at all, young man?” vibes from Victoria realizing she knew nothing about Yamada beyond her work. Well done.

  5. I’m suddenly less worried for Mrs. Yamada. If she was at Warden’s HQ where they keep Nilbog and Riley and other crazy Parahumans then I’m pretty sure WB wouldn’t ice ALL of those great characters off screen. I get the feeling we’ll likely see them later on.

    1. I don’t know, seems like it would stop people from going “Why don’t they use Nilbog/Riley/others to solve this problem” all the time…

    2. I wonder if Riley was one of those caught in it… ‘cos isn’t she the one who built and maintained Ashley’s prosthetic hands?

  6. Just throwing this out there but what happens if Valkyrie is trapped in there? Is there some combination of powers that she has that might allow her to protect at least herself?

    Also what happens if she’s outside can she use door makers power to look inside the cross section? Just a thought to explore because I think having a point of view chapter from each of the main characters trapped inside the headquarters as they need to get out would be pretty cool and I imagined Valkyrie could be the linchpin

    1. If she’s stuck, and she’s got warning, she can conjure Grey Boy to use his time-looping immortality to reset her body when it gets warped. Then she can use Doormaker to get out.

      For protecting others, she can have them touched by Clockblocker (unless he’s been repatriated to a clone) to prevent damage until the time wears off.

      Doormaker isn’t the one who can see everywhere- that’s the Clairvoyant, who is limited to earth’s atmosphere. So if he’s dead, and she has a copy, she can see through the portals.

    2. I’m pretty sure that if Valkyrie were in the headquarters she’d be back by now. She had sufficient dimension-hopping powers to chase Scion alongside Eidolon and then ditch when he died, and that was before she grabbed Doormaker. It’s pretty likely she’d have switched to some kind of combat configuration when the alarm went up, and the odds that the portal would put her in any trouble she couldn’t get out of when there’s only a handful of people for her to protect are pretty low. Unless she’s just outright lost and can’t find Gimel, she’s probably still hanging around at home dealing with the much more difficult proposition of trying to find specific people in the entire multiverse in between staying on standby in case there’s a follow-up attack.

      1. Excellent analysis. Plus, it would be super unsatisfying for such a powerful hero to be offscreened. I’m guessing Valkyrie wasn’t in the building.

  7. You can really see in their first interaction that Dr. Darnall made a good first impression, especially when contrasted with her interaction with Anne.

    1)Victoria takes him and what he’s saying seriously, no mental sassing.

    2)Darnall genuinely related to her, no mentions of having to take emotions or put on a mask near him.

    3)Something I’m just noticing Victoria does when she approves of someone: She is oddly forthcoming and frank about what she feels and answers questions honestly.

      1. If Ashley has normal arms it’d put her back in the state where her power is uncontrolled and keeps maliciously destroying her food. Not fun for her.

          1. Not sure about the wisdom of equipping her with especially breakable prosthetic when her prosthetic breaking makes her shoot of random blasts of matter eating energy.

  8. I’m not sure how I feel about getting rid of the Warden Headquarters so soon.

    Maybe if we had been exposed to them a little bit longer and seen how they operated, this might have had more of an impact.

    But instead of coming off as a shock and horror, it’s more disappointing. Less Leviathan attack and more 01101100 01101001 01101011 01100101 00100000 01101011 01101001 01101100 01101100 01101001 01101110 01100111 00100000 01101111 01100110 01100110 00100000 01010100 01101000 01100101 00100000 01000100 01110101 01101011 01100101 00101110.

    It needed more exposure to how the multiverse relied on them before this.

    1. Not to mention Leviathan had a more immediate, brutal feeling, and we were there for it. Even if we didn’t know someone like Shielder well you’d still feel it with him getting gutted against the side of a building, while his sister who’d just narrowly escaped had to watch. It’s the sort of thing that helps build for them later too, since you remember that when Vicky talks about a cousin who used to be good with forcefields, or think that maybe part of the reason why Crystal doesn’t mind having Vicky around is she lost her immediate family.

    2. I don’t think this is “getting rid of the Warden headquarters”; I think that this is “shunting the Warden headquarters off into a different dimension and making it into a McGuffin to be recovered later, possibly by someone really bad”.

    3. It does give more of s feeling of being just set-up for Jessica Yamada’s Wacky Multiversal Adventures, doesn’t it…

  9. I just realised that these comments will be here for posterity’s sake, and that some day someone might be quoting them like I do Twig comments on my Twig let’s read!

    so…..

    HOORAY! ASHLEY ISN’ T IN JAIL! SHE’S BECOMING A HERO! ONE DAY PEOPLE MIGHT WRITE FANFICS OF WARD TOO BUT FOR NOW ASHLEY ISN’T IN JAIL!

    1. There is a fanfic of ward: I wrote it.

      Okay, so it’s less than a thousand words long, wouldn’t win any grand prizes and was written before Tattletale spoke with Victoria in canon. Nonetheless, ‘BusWards’ exists.

    2. For reasons I can’t totally describe, your comment pushed me into writing a short fanfic:

      The sensation of the moment would be happiness, if indeed there was a sensation. It would have been a good feeling, to see the fractured sky.

      Of course, she *didn’t* feel–not in any human sense of the word. She didn’t smile and she didn’t have the same frame of reference for pleasure. She didn’t have the same notion of purposes, precisely.

      But there was, yet, a sense of progress. There was an awareness of resolution, and of the course of the story. One has seen a favorite movie before, perhaps many times; the story is known, but does not one revel in the victories of the protagonist? If such a set path can be appreciated, if such a known series of events can yet delight, then surely there is something to be gained from a story which yet has some variables.

      Some blind spots.

      One such blind spot had been unsatisfactory. It had killed two of her brothers in a short span of time and yet not itself persisted. It was too much action for her tastes, if such human traits as “tastes” were to be attributed to her.

      The disappearance of the protagonist was not a major factor in her opinion-analogue of the situation. That perception of coincidence would have been a human fallacy.

      One might say the story had drifted from the main character. It made for a less satisfying stretch in the narrative, but you’ve read this book before, haven’t you? You know he’ll be back soon.

      Good things came in threes. The three initial siblings and the three current groupings, if you didn’t fall into the human trap of counting mere physical bodies. The three tube-babies. The three factions about to contest control of the multiverse, and the three wild threats preparing to bring it all down. The three faces of the Wielder of the Dead and the three faces of the Wielder of the Living.

      And “now?” Now we’re picking up the main thread of the story again. The three successes (plus one distraction) and the three supporting characters. They would face three trials, and on the third…

      No, she couldn’t feel pleasure, but something was better now. Something was at a high point.

      The freshly-displaced Wielder of the Dead would be on her second trial now. It was a blind spot, but she had calculated from where these stones were being thrown. She had seen the future damage to the creatures from the second supporting character, she had seen the modifications and repairs made by the third.

      Their subplot was reaching its climax. They would try something desperate, and the plot twist would manifest.

      It was a satisfying twist. It would return the story to focus. It would return the sense of narrative purpose.

      The agency. *Her* agency. Her motivation to again be active. Her spiritual core, distinct from the physical core at the joint of her largest wing.

      Her Agent.

      Her Eidolon.

  10. So Chris is going on trial, and Ashley is apparently free enough to attend? Interesting. The thing that struck me a while ago with those two is they both wanted to have some sort of punishment for their actions. Even if society were saying, “Listen we’ve got bigger problems” they seem to need this. Not absolution, but some form of punishment, or some way of earning their redemption.

    And considering the mess that just got made, I’m a little surprised there’s even a trial going on for Rain. The question is will he be caught up in the general nailing to the wall the Fallen are going to get, or will he be let off more lightly due to his helping against them? Maybe he and Ashley will be stuck with community service.

    1. Ashley might be out on bail. Just because she’s in the visitors gallery doesn’t mean she’s free and clear.

    2. Presumably this is a court to hear the charges and a guilty plea with agreed sentence from the prosecutor. Courts churn through these types of trials pretty quickly. The judge either agrees with the sentence or gives a different sentence for the guilty plea if they have a differing opinion.

      When I think of Rain I think of the Florida Parkland shooter, Nikolas Cruz, who has since shown remorse for his actions, apologised and directed his inheritance to his victims.

      1. More than likely. General indication is that he plans to plead guilty. In normal court circumstances there would have been something arranged between him and the prosecutor before hand to make a deal on a guilty plea. Prosecutor brings the charges, he pleads guilty, prosecutor makes sentencing recommendation, maybe some mitigating circumstances or additional information is heard as this is now the sentencing hearing but generally the judge accepts and rules with that sentence or gives something different.

        With a post apocalyptic court system it might be modified to deal with things more quickly or differently.

        Maybe this is some special tribunal that hears from him and others the nature of his crimes and what he’s done and been through in lieu of that crime. His torture to the brink of death may factor in to a sort of punishment already enacted to some extent and maybe his upbringing and the situation of the Fallen together with his assistance to bring them down will all factor in (much like plea deals done more formally for assistance from a criminal).

  11. So the portals are both wider and, for the moment, impassable. Cheit’s not invading, but the net result is that Gimel has fewer portals operational than it used to. That must be affecting the supply situation. The refugees from Bet aren’t going to be charging in unstoppably, either, but they’ll be more desperate than ever if they think the last portals might be closing at any time.

    Losing the Wardens’ HQ is definitely the most exciting option. I figure those people are still alive, but being shunted to another world or worlds, probably the latter given the intersecting portals, combined with the delay in help coming will probably mean that most of them are going to end up lost or captured by Cheit/Teacher/Sleeper. Can’t wait for the hair-raising rescue missions where our heroes end up stuck escorting Riley, two interns and Mrs. Yamada back to a portal.

    I’m kind of itching to see all this from a high-level perspective, or just from any Wardens member, but of course we need to wrap up with Rain. Can’t really see either him or Ashley being imprisoned at this point. Gimel needs helpful capes. The PRT would have just forced them both to join under oversight. I wonder if the diminished Wardens might do the same.

    It was good getting a sense of the city’s atmosphere and situation-at-large. Really helps to make the immediate scene feel more definite and real. The main thing, of course, is that the status quo has been shaken up. Our heroes will be forced to take on more responsibility to face now-imminent disasters as the existing order unravels.

      1. If someone can track down Faultline’s Crew, maybe it would be possible for Scrub and Labyrinth to fix these portals in the same way that Tattletale had them pick different destinations the first time?

        I’m also VERY curious to see who the senior member of the Wardens is right now, with the HQ scrambled. Comedy option: it’s Amy.

      2. Oh. Guess you’re right. I just assumed the portals had become inaccessible because of all the talk of being unable to access the area caught inside them and having to drive trains through, before.

        Still, if, say, all the portals that did lead to Earth Cheit now lead to random empty worlds then it comes to about the same thing.

  12. Portals going where they’re not meant to lead and not in control of approved sources? That’s another Lisa and Victoria team up looming, much to their mutual aggravation.

      1. Amy- “WTF, I know I put your sexuality back to Hetro!”
        Vicky- “Yeah, but sometimes you need to hatefuck so badly…”
        Lisa- “Also her forcefield provides a nice buffer from my power.”
        Imp and Rachel hold out their hands to Foil and Parian
        Imp- “Pay up.”

  13. I love how much attention gets paid to Kenzie’s outfits- she puts a lot of work into them, and wildbow puts a lot of work into showing how much work she puts into them!

  14. Looking forward to some courtroom drama. Although I am a bit confused about exactly why Rain is on trial now. I understand the what he is on trial for, but weren’t they having to prioritize convictions due to limited court space? I doubt that has improved in the light of a major government building being destroyed in a terrorist attack, and I doubt convicting Rain, a superhero who is aiding the government such as it is, for a relatively old crime is really a priority.

    1. Rain met Scapegoat and now is gonna be a Scapegoat. They’ll pin the mess of destroying half the cities on this Earth on him because he has no cape affiliations, he burnt his villian associations, no one will stick up for him except some new hero group who is neither official nor well known and consists of heros with the most horrible PR.

      The powers that be will pin this on Rain to get the anti-cape people off their back

      1. How would that get the anti-cape people off their back? Pinning it on Rain isn’t going to change the fact that capes just wrecked several buildings and knocked out the portal network. The anti-cape lobby doesn’t want a scapegoat, they want something done about capes. You know, the whole “anti-cape” thing.

        You’ve said it like four times that Rain’s going to get blamed for the portal thing, but I don’t think that would make any sense. There isn’t any non-fabricated evidence against him, there’s a semi-established hero with connections to the people setting up the legal system ready to vouch for his innocence, other people (ie. the Crowleys) already took responsibility for the attack, while Rain was actually in police custody at the time it happened. The court must know that he’s innocent, and that locking him up isn’t going to do anything to prevent future portal terrorism. Even if you assume that the court is concerned with neither of those things, and they just want to crucify someone in the town square thinking it’ll distract the rioting masses, you’d think they could find a scapegoat who can’t conjure energy blades that let him cut through all solid matter. That makes Rain a bit of a flight risk, once he realizes that he’s facing an unreasonable kangaroo court that doesn’t give a rat’s ass whether he’s guilty or not.

        Also there’s a different crime that he did commit, that he’s likely due a court appearance for, so there’s even a narrative reason for him to be standing trial that has nothing to do with the portals.

        1. Sorry about saying it like 4 times, it was a little overzealous of me on a rather late night.

        2. The cape authority is in tatters and the main heroes and plans to rebuild trust in the community for supporting capes have gotten sucked out a portal to who knows where. The current authority might want to buy time against hordes of angry people by giving them a villian who was a cause of all this bad mischief, one who can conveniently break free of bonds, and (potentially) be set up as a long term hate sink. The Crowleys would be perfect for this except they have lots of information about who they got the portal stretching machines from, how they work, how they were contacted etc. that they can buy their way out of it with their information, if they choose to play their cards right. Rain however was a Fallen who isn’t under their protection and has no publicly known and recognized cape group that will be implicated in his downfall. The authorities may be all hands on deck but an admitted murderer who has betrayed and helped destroy a previous organization he was a part of doesn’t inspire much trust.

          Why else have the trial so quickly after the Portals appeared? The courts are already backlogged before this went down and Rain was already turned himself in so he shouldn’t be considered a flight risk yet. This begs the question of why and so i speculate something is going to go down.

          The mall murders may be the reason he is in court, but that has been used against him in the past, so why not use it against him in the present as well by getting him to admit he is a murderer before dropping the bombshell of “oh hey, by the way, the information you gave us about the fallen led us right into the trap that you laid for us by leading all our fighters away into prepared gunfire while others set up these city destroying devices, you villain.”. People aren’t as likely to listen to the denials of a self confessed killer after all.

          People are too confident in this ad hoc judicial system, especially with a newfound cape involved tragedy severely dampening the strength of the cape faction with it’s main advocates thrown to the winds. I believe that justice isn’t going to be served but politics are, just much more pessimistically than the people who tacitly agree but are saying that Rain will get off light because of it.

          1. I doubt the Crowleys have that much actionable intelligence to give. They’re not Tinkers and most of their subordinates are dead, scattered, or imprisoned. And they’re being subjected to a Looksee-Tattletale contact tracing, which will probably get a full list of whoever might have supplied them Furthermore, even if they do have new information, if the justice system isn’t actually concerned about justice, there’s a bunch of capes who are at least on Endbringer Truce terms with the Wardens who can just make them talk.

            Beyond that, Mama Mathers is also in custody, probably never to be released or safe to interrogate, and preliminary indications are she wasn’t directly involved. So she’s a much better option than Rain, because literally every part of the plan Rain was involved in was orchestrated by her.

            Beyond that, there’s dozens of Fallen footsoldiers who did not personally assist in the capture of the leadership and help thwart half the attacks. Rain is way down the scapegoat list, since I think it safe to assume most of the attack teams that failed had at least some members taken alive.

          2. There’s also the fact that saying he has diminished culpability due to coercion via Mama Mathers’s power will actually play really well with the anti-cape groups. Master powers like that are deeply unsettling to absolutely everyone, and putting the blame on them is likely to mollify people who hate powers in general. And there’s an enormous number of non-powered victims who can testify to how Mama used her power.

            The only way I see anti-cape groups demanding Rain’s head is as a bullet point on a list of pretty much every Fallen. Which could very well happen, but he’d likely still be in the queue.

          3. The problem with using Mama Mathers is that she is too scary to blame it on. Just the very idea of her power will terrify non-capes into seeing just how dangerous capes are so the pro-cape people probably would hesitate to trot her out as a reason that this all went down. Her power is not easily countered by the public after all so she’d just be a reminder of how powerless the anti-cape faction really is. Plus I imagine that showing off an essentially random (to the public) sedated elderly lady and saying “She’s really Scary. Trust us.” on the news isn’t as good P.R. as showing off security cam footage of a laughing guy locking people up to burn to death.

            Do we know just how many of the remaining fallen foot soldiers that have survived who are a cape, had regular meetings with leadership, has a history of violence against the public, is in custody and not at large, isn’t too injured or dangerous to speak for themselves and remains enough of a threat that people will still wary of their powers?

            Yes, The people in power could have thinkers strip away the crowley’s knowledge except almost all the thinkers are overworked and many of them worked in a building that just got blown away. Trusted thinkers are in short supply and probably should be used for things that normal intelligence work can’t handle in the current war.

            The idea is something worth thinking about at least. A well placed opportunist might just make Rain’s life a living hell (again) just to make a bid for power or for the greater good. The life and well-being of a (former) fundamental terrorist is something they are willing to sacrifice for their own ends.

      2. Who on Earth, any Earth, would make a scapegoat out of Rain Frazier when they arrested multiple people who actually had the devices that expanded the portals?

        They arrested Sabrina Crowley! They arrested her brother! Who cares about Rain?

    2. Rain turned himself in for a serious crime and is fully cooperating. The seriousness of what he did is mitigated by his remorse and the heroic actions he did to reverse the situation, plus the mind whammy MaMa had him under.
      The court case will be extremely brief as these things go. No facts are contested as the only witness is the accused. Since he turned himself in and demands punishment they can’t really let him go or leave him rotting in jail waiting for a trial especially since he’s a hero. This trial has to be made a priority.

  15. I’m pretty confused about why Rain is on trial at this very moment. Given that a distressingly high percentage of their habitable area and their primary headquarters for the core of their government have just been obliterated or scattered across dimensions, I feel like literally everyone should have more important things to be doing at the moment, and if Rain wasn’t simply left free on the basis of “screw it we are entirely too busy” I’d expect him to be in jail awaiting a trial “eventually”.

    Also have the question of who is responsible for this. It has to be someone who can orchestrate a very large-scale attack with a large quantity of portal-related tinker technology, who can get the compliance of at least one and possibly several Fallen factions, and who could know in advance that the Hollow Point attack would provide a significant distraction for the Wardens coinciding with the desired time.

    I’m thinking we know who and she has wings.

    1. The authorities are probably going to pardon Rain, or force him to join a new Wardens team since they just lost several. No use letting a parahuman sit in jail when they desperately need more of them.

      1. No use letting a Parahuman in the ranks who just betrayed his former brethren, who has a history of burning people in malls alive, and who is a useful scapegoat for the current disaster on the streets when they can use him to get the public off their backs.

  16. I’m guessing they lost the girl with the ability to see anywhere and everywhere at once. Probably in the Ward headquarters.

    Otherwise I’d imagine she could easily tell everyone if the people are in another dimension.

  17. I’M CAUGHT UP WITH A WILDBOW STORY! I picked a good time, too. It’s nice to have a bit of a breather after so many consecutive updates of escalation.

    Thoughts:

    When I started reading, we were on the chapter with Vicky saying she might name herself after a star. She *still* doesn’t have a name. That settles it: In my headcannon she will always be “Probably-A-Star,” or just PAS (pronounced “Paz”).

    Rain is probably on trial because he’s *very* recent ex-Fallen, and if the Fallen are blamed for the aborted portalocalypse, any Fallen available jumped to the top of the priority list.

    It is odd and concerning that Valkyrie wasn’t immediately noted as sorting things out somehow, if she survived, but her death in these circusmtances would also be a bit narratively odd. Perhpas time is weird in the intersect zone, or perhaps she is tactically staying hidden? It’s a good omission to build suspense, in any case.

    Finally: Who is the mysterious tan woman?!? She’s clearly put there as paranoia bait, and it worked!

    I only read the interludes in Worm, never the main story. Help me out, do we know existing characters for her to be?

    1. I think it most likely Valkryie was out at the time but can’t immediately fix the problem. I don’t think she got the clairvoyant, so she probably doesn’t have the capacity for a mass search across universal boundries. And I don’t recall her demonstrating the power to shut portals; I think only tinkertech has been used to do so.

      It seems highly unlikely she died; I think it’s safe to assume she keeps some kind of danger sense or universal defense power online when she doesn’t have a reason to commit all three slots, since she has prior experience as dread queen of hell prison. However, none of the problems they’re dealing with are less urgent right now.

    2. I’m sorry but I gotta know. Aren’t you missing out a lot on the significance of events in the Wormverse if you never read Taylor’s story? I mean, for instance, the history b/w Tattletale and Vicky. I’m guessing you read summaries on worm.wiki or something? There’s a fuckton of stuff you’d be missing otherwise. What happened to Cauldron, how Sveta helped out with the faceoff against Scion at Cauldron HQ as another example…Or how Lisa wanting to help Taylor when she first met her (she sensed the same depression in Taylor that she had sensed in her brother before he killed himself) shows that she really is a good person, despite the commenters who’ve been asserting that she’s a shitty person. Because of Taylor’s POV in the past, we know that Tt is just a really shitty person to have as your enemy. Of course from Victoria’s perspective, she seems pretty bitchy. We know from the history of the Undersiders that there’s more sides to Tt’s personality and its just really complicated.
      The examples go on and on. I mean, I can’t imagine how anyone could follow the main plot of Worm by only reading the interludes…

      1. You’re correct, I’m missing about 1.2 million words of context. I read three or four Taylor chapters–mostly to clear up confusions I had from wiki summaries, as you guessed–but I decided Team Therapy was more interesting. I wasn’t patient enough to sit through 1.2 million words of Taylor when I could hurry through to the story I liked better.

        Frankly, I get most of the context from comments like yours. Someone posts a misconception, someone else refutes it by pointing to Worm, and I thereby learn about it for the first time.

        On that note, thanks for the extra context about Tattletale.

        1. Maybe you’ll also want context on Undersiders and Brockton Bay: it was a shithole that they actually tangibly improved in terms of safety by taking over. It’s context that Victoria also doesn’t have, since she was turned into a lump of flesh by her sister before they finalized it.

  18. Yamada’s a tough af lady I choose to believe she’s out there somewhere being a badass.

    What’s tan woman’s deal? I’m gonna go out on a limb and guess she’s either anti-cape or the secret identity of a cape we’ve seen.

    Things continue to not look great for our burgeoning hero team also.

    1. She might be the Fallen girl who was protecting the powered Fallen with electric eyes. She had some power where she could form large dark hands or such.

      A hood covered her face and she had long hair with a scarf or ribbon through it so she may have put it in a bun now. She also had tats on her midsection but the gym clothes could be covering it up.

      She got hit by Beast of Burden I think so presuming she escaped, this may be her seeking physical therapy in the aftermath of that beating.

  19. I have a feeling Rain will be let off scot free but that it will lead to him being a target of anti-cape ire and with the spotlight put on him the dark past of the rest of the team will also come to light, with the anti-cape crowd not caring much for the circumstances behind that past.

    1. I’m not sure Rain will get off scot-free… If anti-cape ire is that high then it might be in the court’s interest to pin it all on him, a former fallen, defected to the cape side to get intel, destroyed half the cities with portals… It is in a lot of capes interest to through the anti-capes a bone by giving them someone to destroy and blame.

      If that is the case then the rest of Team Therapy is in trouble as they aren’t saints and their association with Rain might get them turned into scapegoats too, especially if they are supporting the scapegoat so adamantly.

      I think it more of depends on if the current cape group thinks they can use Rain or if he is a liability with too many split loyalties and a history of betraying his former causes.

      1. They don’t need scapegoats; they’ve arrested Fallen High Command and any survivors of the strike groups they stopped.

  20. Some of us had previously commented that attacking Gimel looked a lot like suicide. If Valkyrie, Riley, Nilbog, and a large chink of logistical infrastructure are all gone it all of a sudden does seem quite as crazy. Teacher allying with (or using) Earth Chait seems more and more likely. Of course, if we have tinker-tech and Teacher, I would expect to see Dragon and Defiant showing up.

  21. So I’m wondering where Labyrinth is at. With her power, they might be able to find out which parts of the intersecting portals lead where. Either something happened to her and that’s why she’s not here or she already tried it and for some reason, it didn’t work. Or maybe she’s on her way and we’ll see her trying to figure it out. Finding out which of the portals lead where is crucial info for possibly recovering the people who are missing and just in general.

    Also I’d like a flashback interlude to see how the Undersides shoved Teacher down that elevator shaft. I could definitely see WB giving us that. At least I hope he does.

    1. I have a suspicion that shoving him down an elevator shaft is what they’re working on right now, not flashback material

  22. >>> “Both before she was born,” Julien told me. “I grew up in a neighborhood where you either went to a gang or the gang came for you. I went to them when I was twelve, they raised me. I got shot once while working for them, and once when I left and didn’t keep it secret enough.”

    I can’t quite express why, but I’m feeling this dim and distant disappointment. Not with Julien.

    1. Except for the part where he’s clearly her birth father and didn’t adopt her post-Gold Morning. That part I’m not disappointed about. Just the…
      😐

    2. You do have to remember that Julian is telling this to a Victoria who has just gotten shot in a gang war of sorts. Does he see the capes as bigger badder gangs vying in bigger badder stakes then when he was young? If so, does that help explain his distance and how he views Victoria and his daughter?

      Also, is this Foreshadowing Victoria’s fate? Shot once working for them and eventually once leaving?

      1. I like that parallel…it keeps it from being “black guys are all (ex?)-gang-members” (a.k.a. “I learned all about gangs from HBO’s “The Wire”) .

        Instead it’s more “Capes think no humans can know their experiences, but it’s just another cycle of history.”

        (It reminds me of earlier when Victoria was thinking how there were no Cape Martial Arts or generations of wisdom she could rely on, but she really could do what Grue did, and learn a bit of “human” martial arts, and keep what works, adapt other elements. Like many could teach her body positioning to be less of a target when attacking, and Aikido can have her use her opponent’s momentum instead of the Wretch for strength. Knowing how to safely apply enough pain for someone to quit (via holds, twists) could help when trying to peacefully de-escalate a violent non-cape situation. )

        Or as Battlestar Galactica(?) put it: All this has happened before, and it will all happen again.

        1. When she was talking about that, Victoria was referring to the use of powers themselves. There’s no lessons to learn from other people because each parahuman has a unique way to interface with their shard.
          Each ‘visible’ power has a multitude of possible origins, and capes are hard-pressed to detail how they personally work since it also reveals their inevitable weaknesses. It’s a shard-eat-shard world out there, every parahuman for themselves.

  23. What does it say about WB as a writer that I feel way more excited about the upcoming court room drama with capes than with big cape fights?

    1. It says that he is much better at making intriguing dialogue than action scenes, which makes sense, because most people care about the drama and impact of fights rather than the fights themselves (at least in this medium. I can imagine no one wants to read a book version of the Fast and Furious franchise…)

    1. I believe WB has said he’s likely to do a “bonus arc” to makeup for bonus chapters. Every day for a week sort of thing.

      *fingers crossed for Mrs. Yamada and her own set of misfit toys*

  24. Actually, I have a new theory.

    Rain isn’t on trial. He’s testifying against Sabrina Crowley et al. Might be found partially responsible, but his testimony and actions in the previous are are going to buy him a very light sentencing, if anything at all through a plea deal.

  25. This chapter maintains the suspense about Chris and his “falling apart” concerns. I admire the way Wildbow can gradually build up such subplots in a natural-feeling way.

    I also updated Chris’ TVTropes page to reflect the new information.

Leave a Reply

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