Beacon – Interlude 8.y

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William’s shoes rubbed his feet raw as he ran, the seams like tiny saws against flesh, the crisp edges of the material at the ankle and tendon more like the blade of an axe, waiting for flesh to come to it, rather than the other way around.  The ground by the fences was dirt that had been packed down to be as hard as any concrete, and even if his shoes weren’t shredding his feet, he would still be suppressing a wince with each footfall.

He couldn’t show weakness.  Stepping onto the grass, it would cost him too much.  Stopping?  Resting?  It would be an excuse that too many people would use against him.

Not just the people here, either.  There were a dozen people in the yard, no doubt taken painstakingly from a list, to keep them away from bad influences and their old gangs, to avoid power interactions, and keep it all simple.  It wasn’t just them that he had to concern himself with.  The buildings throughout the prison complex were spaced out, but plenty of them had a view of the yard and the surrounding area.  Man and woman, divided by a short wall and a wider gap than usual, could look over at the yard from their individual buildings.

People could only watch so much television, and there were plenty of strategists and long-term thinkers who watched the yard to evaluate, study, assess.

He knew he wasn’t a big guy.  He was fit, decently attractive, with his mop of blond hair that was halfway between curly and wavy being his primary selling point.  He’d been told since he was in middle school that he had a natural glower, and now for the first time, he found himself grateful for it.

This was a stage, and by running, he performed.  To stop or take the easier path of running on grass would see an easy dozen people judging him.  They would switch over their assessment of him from ‘villain’ to ‘victim’, and then they would victimize him.

His own assessment of himself would change.  He’d dealt with worse.  Caving to hardship now would… it would be a new low point on the graph of his successes and failures, part of a set of points that suggested he was on a decline, that more lowest points were to come.

“Slow down, Gambol!” a guard hollered, very close to William.

William could hear Gambol well before Gambol drew close.  Feet tromped on the dirt and grass, more of a gallop than a run.

“Slow the fuck down!” the guard’s voice reached the point of rawness on the lowest syllables.  He hefted his assault rifle, and William staggered to a stop, dropping to his knees on grass, hands up and touching the back of his head.

Gambol stopped, taking the wide path around William.  He was a changer, and his arms and legs were a good six feet long each, each mutated to have a lifeform at each end – like a headless dog or ape with its own limbs that served as Gambol’s digits.  His knees were effectively backward and the weight distribution and center of balance were screwed up enough that he had to do a push-up motion to get his upper body up enough that he could stand up, for lack of a better way of putting it.  His exaggerated ‘hands’ went behind his head-two ‘thumb’ limbs touching, other limbs radiating out.

“Too fucking fast, asswipe,” the guard said.

“I have a note from my doctor.”  Gambol’s normal way of talking was like other people’s telling-a-joke voice.  Not the kind of thing that went over well with the guards.

“Walk or sit.”

“I really have a note.  Can I reach for it?  I’ll show you.”

“No.  Walk or sit, Gambol.”

Gambol moved his arm.  William, about four paces away, winced in anticipation of a possible gunshot.  Instead, he heard the radio buzz as the guard signaled the others.

Paper rustled, and Gambol reached out with his long arm, pressing a piece of paper to the double-layer wire fence.  “See?  I need to exercise these limbs, or my body cannibalizes itself.  I’m supposed to go all out.”

“You’re going to trample someone.”

“I won’t.  I’m better than that.  I’m doing warm up laps right now, but once I get going, I’ll just go over them.”

Other guards were approaching.  William couldn’t get his ankle in a position where the hard back of the shoe wasn’t biting into the raw flesh around the tendon.  His face settled in a glower, his eyes on the ground, while he waited for this to be cleared up.  At least he wasn’t running for now.

The guards talked, the loud one with his gun still raised giving the note a dubious look.

Another guard said, “If the doc says it, we have to let it go.”

“I could die if I don’t run as fast as I can,” Gambol added.

The comment was unnecessary, the smug tone doubly so.  William remained silent, tense.  He knew Gambol was a weird guy, too prone to pushing limits and boundaries.  The guy got away with it too, like with this doctor’s note.

The guy had befriended Coalbelcher, William knew.  That might have explained the doctor’s note and the arrogance.  Fucking whatever, it was still a bad idea to play with fire here.  The guards looked ready to shoot someone.

William kept his eyes down.

The guard lowered his gun.  Gambol took that as his okay to go.  He stretched in front of the guard before running off, a loping, awkward motion that still covered a shocking amount of ground.

“You can go, William,” a guard ordered.

William found his way to his feet.  “When do we get better shoes?”

“Shoes are expensive.  Those will be fine once you break them in.”

Breaking them in.  That wouldn’t be before it was too cold to wear them outside.  It would, however, be a possibility after winter.  It hit him just how long he might be here.  His expression twisted into a scowl as the pain resumed, each stab matched to a footfall.

Gambol approached from behind, already prepared to lap him.  He stepped over to the grass, while Gambol leaped- hitting the fence full-bodied, limbs finding purchase on the multiple layers of chain link, hauling him forward.

The guy was moving fast enough he was putting his mutated extremities against the fence to brace himself as he rounded corners.  Mutated musculature around the spine flexed as the body absorbed the shock.

William focused on running.  He was lapped several times by Gambol, who was moving faster than before, still periodically leaning hard into the fence as he turned a corner.

The guard that had been calling for Gambol to stop was standing with his arms folded.  He was talking with another prisoner- up until William drew closer.  The conversation aborted.

A convict friend had told William about how things went in jail- what was true, what wasn’t, what to watch out for.

Silence was dangerous.  Something was about to happen.

Gambol approached- on his fifth lap, while William was just wrapping up his first since the earlier incident with Gambol.  He leaped up to the fence, gripping the bar at the top with the complicated arrangements of three separate limbs for a more solid grip.  He went over William’s head, leaped down to the path, scuffing and breaking up the packed dirt, and then broke up more dirt by sprinting from his landing position.

William had to jog over the broken piles of dirt.  He used it as an excuse to kick some chunks of dirt back into their holes, stepping on one to help it find its fit.

“Keep moving, William!”

He jogged on, glancing around to check where the guards were.  The prisoner that the one guard had been talking to- paying attention to Gambol.

It happened almost forty seconds later.  Behind William, Gambol leaped to the fence to grab something and go over the heads of a group of others, and the fence distorted.  It was a flicker, a separation of the wire from its diamond-shaped links to a webwork of segments of wire, each sharp at both ends.  It was so quick and momentary that Gambol and most who weren’t paying attention wouldn’t have seen it.

A slash of crimson.  Gambol had cut his hand.  He tumbled through the group he had been meaning to jump over, with some glancing hits and a violent fall.

He’d been moving fast, and the fall was consequently violent- the kind that could snap necks or break limbs.

William jogged over, while the guards called for backup or ran to the gate where they could enter the yard.  Other prisoners were backing off.  Staying out of it.

“What the fuck was that?” Gambol’s voice wasn’t jokey anymore.  He was writhing on the spot, back twisting, limbs curling and twitching.  The words came through grit teeth.

“Don’t move,” William said.

“Can’t not,” Gambol muttered.

William reached out, placing his hand on Gambol’s shoulder.

I hate my power, hate it so much.

He sensed the wound to Gambol’s back and he sensed it, feeling it in detail and in entirety, so real that he might as well have been the one to destroy his back in a freak fall.

He explored that sensation and found a catalogue of similar scenes.  He could see other Gambols, including ones without powers, arranged so that some were close, others far away, and there was a pattern to them that distorted the perspective. Where they had powers, they stood in the shadow of great monoliths that were simultaneously existing in the plural and the singular, the images too indistinct to make out, too great in scale to ignore.

He could see himself, blurrier, hard to track.  He could transfer things from the other to himself and vice versa.  Even ailments or complaints as minor as feeling too hot or too cold could be moved.  On the other end of the scale, he had brought someone back from a point so close to the brink of death that he wasn’t sure he hadn’t brought them back from death itself.

A lower back injury was easy, in the grand scheme of things.

He picked out versions of himself, distributing the load.  He took on the lower back injury, the injuries that would be bruises from the fall.  Some of these alternate Williams would feel a share of the injury, possibly even a totality of the injury.

He set about taking on Gambol’s injuries, bearing them himself, distributing the load among his fellow selves while using his own wellness as a template to contrast with and highlight the damage.  The pain hit him sharp, and the strength went out of his legs, seemingly concentrated in a trio or quartet of lower-back muscles, which started crumpling into themselves, or that was how it felt.

“Step away from the prisoner!” a guard bellowed.  “No contact!”

“I have first aid training and field experience!  If we don’t stop him from moving, he might do permanent damage to himself!”

“Step away!”

“I can’t!” was his answer.  He met Gambol’s eyes.  “If I let go, he might never walk again!”

“You will not be asked again!”

It wasn’t the jerk guard from before that was making a point of this.  It was a new face, female, stern, and rigid, who was acting like a wall, getting in his way.

He avoided looking at her, his attention on Gambol and the aftermath of the violence.  He looked past Gambol and at the arrangement of other Gambols, who had made their own decisions and faced their own consequences.

He was already taking on a lot.  The pain in his back was intense, no doubt permanent.  Part of the reason he said he couldn’t back off was that he wasn’t sure he could walk.

The cut on the hand transferred to his own body, a dotted line drawn across his palm, raw and painful.  The dots were where other Williams had taken some of the burden onto their own shoulders.  Unwitting and unwilling.

There had been a time when he had felt bad about it.

“Step away!” A new voice.  They’d said he wouldn’t be asked again.  The woman was talking into her radio.

“Can’t!” he shouted.  “But I’m not hurting anyone!  I’m safe!”

“Our decision, not yours!”

It wasn’t that he didn’t respect that kind of thinking.  Stubbornness was strength, in its way.  He’d seen it among the Crowley Fallen, especially.  Weak opposition could be broken surprisingly easy with enough stubbornness.

Gambol, oddly enough, was a good representation of that kind of confidence.  The issue was that like the Mathers Fallen, he’d stirred up things that could have been left alone.  Gambol had crossed the guards, made them look and feel dumb, and their resentment had hit a limit.  The Mathers group had attracted too much attention in too short a span of time.

Had either been subtler in that, they might have provoked the enemy while making that enemy look unreasonable if they went on the offensive.

William winced as the pain set in, worse than before, and winced because he was pissed off that the recklessness of others landed on his shoulders.  The Mathers’ failure was why he was here.  Gambol’s idiocy had brought them to this crossroads.

Well, he’d had an idea of what he was getting into.

“Why?” Gambol asked.

Why?  Because he was thinking longer-term.

“Put in a good word for me with Coalbelcher,” he said.

Gambol smiled.  “I can do that.”

Simple, easy to process.  A favor given for a favor granted.

He pushed some of the ankle pain out, then worked on more of the stomach and back pains.  Feeling how they naturally grouped, the musculature at the core of the body overcompensating for the damage to the back.  Focusing on one damaged vertebrae, he could trace it down to legs he was just now realizing were oddly numb.

That numbness made it hard to adjust his seat and lean toward the deceased.

“Last chance!  Don’t be stupid, William!”

He chose to be stupid.

Instead of stopping, he talked to Gambol.  “This fix is fragile.  If either one of us gets too hurt, the injuries will go back to the source.  Use this opportunity to take care-”

A bullet shattered his work like so much glass, on its way to demolishing his ribcage and casting him out of consciousness.

A thousand images of himself, viewed in a thousand different realities.  Each self had made its own decisions, faced its own consequences, and found its own unique perspectives.  One thing was near unanimous, however, and that was that when those versions of William Giles had their power, it was this power, and they fucking hated it.

Sunlight streamed in through the window of the hospital room.  It was on-site for the prison, the room flooded with an orange light, more because of the texture and color of the curtain than because of the time of day.  Armed guards stood on either side of the wall, guns ready, but they were paying more attention to the television than to him.  A nurse was going about her business, adjusting his IV bag, which had another bag connected to it.

He tried and failed to move, and the act made his back hurt.  He groaned.  His feet felt awful, too.  And as he took in a deep breath- his ribs.  They’d broken.  He reached for the wound, to try to feel it and see if there was a trace of the bullet’s passage, and restraints clinked taut instead.

“The hell?” he asked.  He immediately regretted the question.  Asking made his throat hurt.

“Oh, you’re awake.  Good morning, William.”


“You had surgery.  You were intubated, that’s why your throat hurts.  I’ll page the doctor, and he’ll be along shortly to explain what happened.”

He started to move and winced again.  His feet had been bandaged where the shoes had cut them up.  He felt strange about that.

“I’ll get you some pain medication soon,” the nurse said, looking up at the television.

What was so important?  A show?  ‘Hard Boil.’  The kind the other Fallen liked.

He recognized some of the people on the stage.  There was the blonde from the Fallen assault, he forgot the name, but she was standing in front of her seat, speaking with conviction.  The one with white hair, Damsel, he remembered her.  There was Capricorn, another goat by theme.  And some black kid.

“…There it is. Powers and where they come from. Millions are watching and millions are on the same page as us. Scion? Something set him off, I don’t know the particulars, but he wanted to wipe us out, parahuman and human both. We fought like hell and I lost family members in that fighting. He was everything that was wrong with parahumans, and we beat him-“

Oh.  It was important.

And, it seemed, it was a clip from a show being played by another show.  From the ‘beat him’, it cut straight to an interview.

Mayday from the raid on the Mathers camp was on stage, talking to smiling hosts.  Where the show in the clip was severe, stark in lighting, this one was warmer, less shouty.

“It’s true, and I’m grateful that Breakthrough opened the door for this conversation to happen, this morning.”

“Talk to us.  Can you tell us what happened that day, from your perspective?”

“I can tell you that I’ve worked with twenty-six people with powers over the years, who I would have called my teammates.  Some were with me for most of my career, up until that day.  Others were… fleeting.  But they still were teammates.  Sixteen died that day.  We fought to occupy him, distract him from attacking whole cities or sinking landmasses.  Every last one of us was fighting him, and it still looked like he was going to win.”

“But you won,” a man breathed the words.

“We won, absolutely, but that victory isn’t what I hold close to my heart.  Let me say this, as a veteran of Endbringer fights, fights against monsters, and someone who fought in the endless war on gangs, it’s not that we won, it’s that we gave our all and we came together when it didn’t look like winning was possible.”

“Skipping some things there, Mayday,” William said.  He laughed a bit, and the resulting pain in his ribs almost blinded him with its suddenness and intensity.  Worse, it made him gasp, which in itself made the ribs explode with pain once more, and the whole-body reaction made the pain of his back reawaken.

The nurse approached, watching over him while he found his way to a pained stasis, unable and unwilling to move without something dissolving into agony.

“Skipping?” a guard asked.

“We fought each other, around then.  Different opinions on how to do things.  There was infighting, bitterness, old rivalries.  Can I get some of that pain medication, now that you’re not watching as much?”

“You’ll have to wait,” the nurse said.  “It’s not the tee-vee.  Supplies are limited and you’re being rationed one dose every eight hours.”

He grimaced.

He did have options.  He had a mental template of his uninjured self.  With focus, he could round off the edges, hold things off, or take the almost-healed and push it away.  It was the holding that he wanted to use here.  If his power was to take the ailments of others and then give them to others, then ‘holding’ something was to take it and not shelve it within his own body, with that body feeling the worst of it.  He’d hold it in his hand, apart, away, and ready for another target, leaning on the template of self to keep everything in rough place.

Ready for another target – the nurse was being careful, and he was pretty sure using his power on her would get him shot in a more final way.  No.  And besides, he would feel shitty for making her deal with all of this.

Things got a bit easier as he focused on holding things off.  There was a drawback to this, where dropping what he was holding meant it would take hold with a splash.  The effects would be worse if held off and accidentally dropped or if he was disturbed enough by outside factors.

“You don’t seem to have a very positive view of this stuff,” the guard said, indicating the television.

“I had a lot of teammates over the years.  I lost a few too many of them.  I saved a few of their lives, before, and… it was for nothing.  I helped save towns and those towns are gone now.  When everything went to shit, it all went to shit.  No use prettying it up.  Can you change the channel?”

The nurse picked up the remote from the small rolling table that would later let him eat in bed.  She changed the channel.

Another hero, from another team, talking to people.  “No.”

Another show, a children’s cartoon.  “No.”

A third segment where heroes were talking to the media.

“Turn it off,” he said.

She changed back to the original channel.  “Say please next time, and I might.”

“It’s all pretty words.”

The nurse looked a little upset as she walked around his bed.  She approached the IV bag, adjusting something.

It made itself felt over the next twenty seconds.  His head lolled back to the pillow.

His power afforded him a greater sense of the shape of things.  For a long time, it had been masked or protected somehow, his thoughts steered away from understanding it all.  Since the golden calf had been slaughtered, the protections were peeling away.  From noises he’d heard while with the Fallen, he wasn’t the only one.

It was a scary thing, to see what they were working with.

The shape of their reality, for one thing.  As the golden man had made his descent, he had sorted out the universe, taking something infinitely branching and viewing it through a lens.  The Bet reality, which had been William’s before he’d left it for Gimel, was the point at the peak of the lens, the most ‘forward’, for lack of a better word.  In the eighties, the golden man had arrived.  Bet had cleaved off from Aleph.

‘Bet’ was, within the umbrella of the lens, a collection of realities, all of the derivative realities flowing from that point of cleaving, with the more far-flung being further away from ‘his’, harder to reach and see.  Accessible, despite common opinion, but only for power interactions, not for actual travel.  The golden man had been careful to limit that.  Careful enough that even after his death and the ruin of his insane designs, that separation was inviolable.

When William used his power, he made use of the ‘lens’ and its construction.  Earth Bet was a pool of William Gileses thirty years deep.

As a side effect, it made him just a little bit better at noticing other dimensional manipulation.  A shockwave through existence, almost upsetting his hold he had on the broken ribs.

This was the point he could have said something, warning the guards.  He could have helped the nurse.

But he’d given his all and tried his hardest to help for so very long, and what?  Lives he’d saved had been ended in Endbringer fights and on Gold Morning.  Towns he’d helped rescue had been leveled.

He’d joined the Fallen because all that selflessness and communication had amounted to nothing but whole universes of ruin- great golden beams that had cut through the lens, through the Earth Bet he knew and into the seemingly infinite Earths that were included in that package, that were used for predictions and simulations, for templates and data.  It was too vast to comprehend, so people didn’t bother comprehending.  Nothing meaningful had changed since that point.

The guards on either side of the door slouched, then, backs to the wall, they slid down to the floor, collapsing unconscious.  The nurse turned to look, alarmed, then looked at him, as if he was somehow responsible.  A moment later, that thought dismissed, her eyes searched the room, anxious.

“Free me,” William said.  “It’s your best chance.”

She dove for the gun that the unconscious guard held, instead.  She got her hands on the weapon, and then slouched, collapsing on top of the guard.

William’s heart pounded in his chest.  He was tied down, helpless, and what came next was either his salvation or his doom.

Three people entered the room, the first one doing so with caution, ducking his head in, glancing around, and then letting himself in, his attention on all corners and crevices.  The man seemed to look past William as if he wasn’t even there.

No mask, nothing fancy.  A t-shirt and black pants.  The white t-shirt had a symbol on the left sleeve, with faint lines that extended over the rest of the shirt.  The hairstyle was short, a utilitarian buzz cut.

The girl that followed was almost identical, down to the buzz cut, but her skin was light brown and she had a scratch through her eyebrow.

The man who followed was forty-five to fifty years old, but it was hard to judge with the clothing and look.   He wore a black blazer over a black turtleneck sweater.  His head was shaved, his beard grown out, and he wore glasses with circular frames, tinted.  If he was trying to look cool, it was dampened by the fact that his cheeks were ruddy-blotchy with red where the beard didn’t cover them.

“William,” the man said.  He smiled.

“I thought that if someone came after me, it would be someone I knew.”

“No, we haven’t crossed paths, but you’ve seen my plans at work, and I know I’ve noticed you.  When you got people’s attention in the yard yesterday, I decided to move up my timetable.”


“Reaching out, recruitment.  Giving you what you need so I can get what I need.”

“I’ve heard that a few times over the years.”

“I know about your tentative relationship with Tattletale.  I know you tied yourself to the Fallen- that’s fine, so did I.”

“Uh huh.”

“Let him loose, would you, Key?”

The girl with the buzz-cut started forward.  She stopped when she reached the bed.

“Get the keys for the cuffs from the guard’s pockets,” the man said, like he was speaking to a child.  To William, he said, “She was unruly, but essential to my long term plans.  The influence I need to exert to keep her in line doesn’t leave room for much autonomy or intelligence.”

“You’re Teacher.”

“And you are Scapegoat, onetime Ward, onetime Protectorate.  Later you were the Black Goat in the paperwork and clandestine conversations between high-ranking Fallen.”

“Yeah.”  William was wary, not taking his eyes off the man as his cuffs were undone.  He winced, then coughed violently.

The man waited until William finished coughing.

“I want you with me.  Right now, we’re all at the team-picking stage, and I like you.  I want you in my corner before people pay attention to your incident with Gambol the Vandal.”

Gambol’s full title.  “I have other allegiances.”

“The Fallen.  Tattletale, to a far lesser degree.”

William shrugged.

“You’re still here, William.  Have they done anything for you?  Provided connections, conveniences, smoothed over any wrinkles, given you a way out?”

William was silent, his efforts momentarily focused on sitting up in bed without another coughing fit.  Once he was sitting up, he removed his intravenous drip.

“They haven’t,” Teacher said.  “Tattletale is trying to save her area of the city after a portal cleaved it in two.  The Fallen will focus on their own first.  The family, then friends, and then recruiting new elements.  It could be six months before they remember the capable young man that was left in prison.”

William worked his way to a standing position, and the weight of his upper body on his back and ribs made him want to fall to his knees.

He’d dealt with pain before.  Pain was transient.

With careful steps, he approached the unconscious guard, one eye always on Teacher.

“No,” Teacher said.  “Leave him be.”

“If you leave me like this, I won’t be any good to anyone.”

“I want to help you, William, and I want you to want to help me.  Let’s stop problem solving each problem that comes up, giving each an imperfect solution until the imperfections pile up.  Let’s resolve.”

It sounded like the evangelists from the Fallen, but with different terminology.  ‘Resolve’, not ‘believe’.

He looked up at the security camera.

“Don’t worry about that.  Nobody is watching the cameras, and a glitch will ensure the recordings don’t keep.  These three won’t remember anything.  We’ll go for a walk as soon as you’re able.”

“How will I be able?”

“Do you know who I am and what I can do?”

“No.  I’ve heard some but…”  But this man had never seemed important, however frequently he’d come up.

“I grant abilities.  Mental abilities, tinker powers, and thinker powers.  The powers are minor.  The abilities are… powers, but so close to our own capabilities that they blend in.  The ability to understand a language, to do math.”


“My powers come at a cost to the person who takes them.  They lose free will and independence.  They’re brainwashed, for lack of a better term.”

William looked at the pair who had accompanied Teacher.

“It traps me, William.  It limits my ability to gain the trust of others or flex my abilities to their fullest.  Volunteers help, but finding those means putting my neck out for others to axe.  I think you’re the key, and I’m prepared to reward you handsomely if you can provide what I need.”

“Suspicious as fuck,” William said.  He walked over to the security guard, and with one arm on the wall, he eased himself down until he could grip one of the guns.

“I’ve studied you.  I got access to the old PRT files, while their previous custodian was in my custody.  I read your files and I have some idea of how you work.  You can ‘hold’ your conditions, can’t you?  You can concentrate to keep them at bay, reverting to a template of yourself.”

“Sure,” William ventured.  “I’d say more, but I don’t like that you looked at my files.  That’s personal.”

“William, trust me.  If I’m correct, we’ll both think this was more than worth that breach of privacy.”

“I’ll think it because I’m brainwashed, probably.”

“Why would I invite Key in here, if it wasn’t to let you know the full impact of my power?  If I wanted to brainwash you, I would hide that sort of thing from you.  I would have taken another route, like entering this room while you were drugged from your surgery, and getting my permission then.”

“I don’t like it.”

“Nobody does, William, but if you’ll extend me the smallest measure of trust, I’ll reward you.  I want you to let me fix your head.”


“Better than.  Put your hand out, like you were going to shake mine, please.  I’ll explain before doing anything… good.  I’m going to put my hand out, the back of my hand touching the back of yours.  Neither of us can easily grab the hand of the other without stepping in closer or opening ourselves up to having our arms twisted back.  If you don’t like it, you can pull your hand away.  If you try anything, I can do the same.”

Hand still outstretched, William considered his options.

He made his contact with Teacher, the back of his hand touching the back of Teacher’s.  He felt the connection.

Teacher was on the far end of a lens, like anyone else was when William used his power.  The fishbowl perspective let him sort through the various incarnations of the one human being.

And then there was the monolith.  Teacher’s was much different from Gambol.  Gambol’s had been blunter, more singular of purpose, and Teacher’s was so segmented as to look crippled and broken.  It was clearer, and it moved, scraping at the empty space between itself and William as though it could somehow claw its way to him.

Before he could voice anything on the subject, he felt teacher’s power work, like a shot of cold water extending from the front of his brain to the back.  With that water, he felt a kind of steadiness.

Teacher had asked about ‘holding’ effects.

The back pain.  The ribs.  The feet.

All ‘held’, suspended in a place between being used on someone else and being shelved, placed on his own body for later use.  Three at once, and it was easy.  A sufficient impact or distraction

Slowly, he arranged it all, the effect flickering around his body, and then he held it at bay.

He was well again.  He felt a kind of amazement, tempered by just how fragile it all felt.  He was horrifically injured, and with, what, a small tune-up, he could effortlessly maintain that concentration and keep everything suppressed?

He had little doubt it would get harder if there was more to hold at bay, but… he could see the danger and addictiveness of Teacher’s influence, now.  He’d heard some tales, but this was worrying.

“Come, let’s move quickly,” Teacher said.  “We’ll want you back here before you’re missed.”

“What?” William asked.  “Where?  And I’m leaving?  I’m coming back?”

“You’ll have your way out.  You leaving is temporary for now, but you’ll be a free man soon enough.  Let’s talk on the way.  I don’t want to risk being overheard when I talk about the big picture.”

William hesitated, then followed.

Leaving the medical room, they entered a hallway.  At one end, a portal was open, the edges ragged and crackling.

“I’m still refining transportation, but this works.  We’ll need to take three trips to get where we want to be.”

“I can’t leave,” William said.  He shook his ankle.  The bomb was still attached.

“It’s fine.  I’ve handled it, trust me.”

William hesitated.

“I wouldn’t come this far and give you this much of my time if I thought there was a possibility you’d lose your leg.  Come.  There’s not a lot of time.”

He walked toward the portal, following Teacher.  The two white-shirts followed behind, eerily quiet.

“My deal is as follows, William.  Give me the next five to ten minutes of your time, and I’ll make you one of the most dangerous and influential parahumans of our time.  Believe it or not, you already have the tools to do it.  In exchange, you’ll go back to the prison and pretend nothing is amiss.  You’ll lie if they ask why you’re well and say you used your power on a mouse.”

“What if they test me or don’t believe me?”

“If you really want it, I can help tune your mindset.  Some limitations can be tripped.”

“Giving you more control over me.”

Teacher chuckled.  “Give me those five to ten minutes, and I promise you, you won’t be thinking like that.”

“That’s still worrying.”

“I won’t use my power on you again, not without permission.  As I said, we don’t need to go any further.”

Through the portal, a smell of burnt ozone in the air, they were on a rocky clifftop.  Rain pattered down around them.

Another device was rigged.  Ten people with white shirts or white clothes were working on it.  An archway with power from a chain of six generators feeding into it.

“Goddess is on Earth Gimel.  I have her pinned, and she’s desperate.  She will make a move for the prison soon, because she needs and wants subordinates, and it’s the best place to find them.  You’ll be my trap for her.”

“What do I get out of this?”

“Power.  A power that works.  Position, with a place to belong.  A world of your own, if you want it.  Endless wealth.  Name it, or name several.”

Teacher’s men were arming themselves with ray guns.

“That kind of generosity makes me suspicious.”

“Tell me, William.  Did you trigger with other parahumans nearby?  Did they have a role in things?”

“In most circles, it’s rude to ask about triggers.”

“I did.  The PRT called those with powers having to do with powers Trumps.  The nullifiers, the people who choose their own powers, the power granters.  I’m a granter.”

“Sure.  I was a Ward, for the record.  Briefly Protectorate.”

“And you know the kinds of events that lead to certain triggers.  A need to get away leads to movers.  Physical injury leads to brutes.  The involvement of powers leads to the complicated trump classification.  I think you’re a trump.”

“You’ve read my files.  You already know.”

The gate that was hooked up to generators was being powered.  Electricity crackled, arcing inside the gateway until it looked like the ‘door’ of the arch was a solid pane of crackling energy.

“This gets us past defenses,” Teacher said.  “And it carries us laterally, not just to the same point in space in a different reality.  Follow.”

Then he strode forward, into the electricity.  William could see him flinch at the touch of electricity, the burning of clothes.

Not perfect.  Worse, if that broke his concentration, augmented as it was…

Better that it happen now than later.

He marched forward, his strides long.  His hands pushed his sweat-damp hair out of his eyes and against his scalp.

Lightning kissed him, and then licked across his arm, up to his sleeve.  The arm burned, and the sleeve was set on fire.  Another shock made his body go stiff, and he felt one of the things slip out of his hold.  His back.

He staggered through what felt like a very long tunnel, collapsing to his knees.  Teacher’s minions were fanning out along the length of a hallway very similar to the one they had just left.

“What is this?” he asked.

Teacher pressed his finger to his lips.

William did what he could to suppress the back pain.  Harder, now that it had been reapplied.

Together, they walked down a corridor.  They reached a door where two guards already slumped down against the ground.

One of Teacher’s minions hurried to the electric keypad, attaching something to it, then dialing.

The door cracked open.

“Good, we’re clear,” Teacher said.  “We can talk normally.”

One room, with a comprehensive medical array.  A young man lay on the table, bandages heavy around his lower face, a machine managing his feeding, hydration, and breathing.  A catheter tube extended from beneath the blanket.

“Valefor.  You’re playing with fire, Teacher.”

“I’m harnessing it.  This is where our discussion comes full circle, William.  Everyone else is recruiting.  They’re picking their teams, and you’re my first pick.  This is how we cheat the game.”

“You’ll use him to recruit?”

“Not just him,” Teacher said.  He smiled at William.  “I want you to give him something.  You’re not limited to physical maladies, are you?  You can take mental illnesses, stresses, poisonings, parasites, take them into yourself, and then transfer them.  And, I think, you can move other things.”

“He’s an ally.”

“He’s a complete and utter monster that even the other Fallen detest and fear.  I need you to work on him for me.”

“Work?” William asked.  He frowned.  “You want me to give him… the influence you gained over me?”

Teacher smiled.  “You take and you give injuries, ailments, and other maladies.  This slavishness and loss of autonomy is a malady.  Part two of this process is to give it to him.  I want him under my thumb.”

“What’s part one?”

“He put a compulsion on himself, using his own hypnosis.  We’ll give that to someone inconsequential.  We can’t have his loyalties divided.”

“It doesn’t stop with him, does it?” William asked.

“You are so immensely powerful, William, but you were always limited by the fact you had to endure whatever it was you intended to heal or inflict.  I can suppress that.  In exchange, you can turn anyone into a pawn for me.  We’ll turn the most dangerous monsters into docile servants, and the world will be better for it.”

William approached the bed.  He felt for and found Teacher’s influence.  It was hard to look directly at, because he could feel the pressure of the thing on the other side, trying to do its work.

Reaching out, he touched Valefor’s forehead.

He’d barely noticed the influence while it was in effect, but he noticed its absence.  A weight was off his shoulders.

“We’ll give him his jaw back,” Teacher said.  “And we’ll give him his eyes.  He’ll be able to use both.”

“After, you mean?  You’ll want more influence first.”

“Of course,” Teacher said.  “We’ll be careful, even with someone already accustomed to servitude.”

William paced around the room, deep in thought.

“You’re interested.  Will you leave the Fallen and join me?”

“Are they mutually exclusive?  You helped them before.”

“Not mutually exclusive, but not wholly inclusive either.  Some are too dangerous to leave alone.  Others, like the new branch, are already firmly in my camp.  Our camp.”

“Who else?”

“Goddess recruited her own healer and is trying to find a way forward that isn’t picking a war with a whole reality.  The heroes are banding together.  Mortari is focusing on running the city and following their precious plans, but I don’t think that’s where it stops for them.  They’re up to something else.  The humans who have come through the end of the world with hate in their hearts are taking marching orders from the same young precognitive who predicted the end of the world two years in advance.  Well, one order with some advice.  We don’t know her aim yet, but she’ll be high up on our list.  I want a Contessa of my own.”

“I don’t know who that is.”

“She would be the person who saved the world once, and predicted this end of the world thirty-one years before it happened.”

“Thirty-one?  How?”

Teacher smiled.  “You sound interested in this.  More knowledge comes with the role.”

William nodded.

“Give me a moment.  Something to follow-up on,” Teacher said, walking around the table that Valefor was on.

William didn’t answer right away.  This wouldn’t be easy.  Major players.  He’d been at a low point, contemplating how to read the graph that was his life.  This-

He felt inside himself, to check that all was well.  Those like Teacher and Valefor were dangerous influences, liable to work their way in and take someone over.  He could check that he was free of trace influences by way of the same power that let him seize his own diseases and cuts and bruises and transfer them elsewhere.

He was aware of all of the faces of alternate William Gileses.  The successes, the failures, the broken, the fearful, the triumphant.  He couldn’t really see their faces or make out details, any more than he could know the nuance of grains of sand on a beach… but he knew how diverse they were.

It was in recognizing just how many different ways he could have turned out that he could shrug off the role and the identity, that William Giles who had sulked and kept his head down, trying to look tough while he waited for his family and church to find their feet and bail him out.  That was gone, transferred away like any disease or cut.

He could become something else.

Teacher put away his phone.  The man raised a wiry eyebrow at William.

“Let’s do this.”

“Let’s.  To start with, we’re going to have to adjust slightly.  I was just informed that while the security team at the prison wasn’t observing us… someone else was using those cameras.”


“Not a problem,” Teacher said, smiling.

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110 thoughts on “Beacon – Interlude 8.y”

  1. Scapegoat has some serious issues, huh. I wonder how Teacher’s trapped Goddess-Breakthrough’s surveillance didn’t pick it up, so it must be fairly subtle.

    Also, wtf Dinah, what are you up to? I suspect Teacher will be unpleasantly surprised if he thinks he can enslave her like Coil did.

      1. Because he said so:

        Goddess is on Earth Gimel. I have her pinned, and she’s desperate.

        We don’t know the nature of this pinning yet, though. Some kind of check on her powers? Holding something or somebody she cares about hostage? An empathic tracking power that’s firmly locked onto her? Has he gotten to some key resource she needs and has it locked down? Or does he mean “pinned” in the sense of “pegged,” as in that he understands her deeply enough to predict her accurately and mitigate the threat she poses?

        1. My interpretation of the line is that since Teacher was the one wrecking the portals, maybe he thinks that keeps Goddess from getting back to Shin. We know she could head to corner worlds, but she may well be blocked from going ‘home’.

  2. You know, it’s at times like this that one has to remember just how terrifying this setting can be at times. Whelp. I’m off to have a look if there were any hints Dinah was the one behind Gary Naivette.

    1. A possibility, but he sounds too confident here to rely on that failed attempt.
      There’s a whole bunch of shoes flying around right now.

    2. I don’t think the timeline works for that; the hit was within hours of the TV show, right? Whereas this seems to be a day or two later.

  3. Hahahahahaha

    Glorious. I wasn’t sure I could be sold on a Scapegoat interlude, but the infodump was amazing (Dinah!) and I like the idea of Scapegoat as… What, Bio-Chevalier?

    Seriously, that’s a fun trump power. I bet he can offset Ingenue’s drawbacks too.

    1. Agreed. Since Teacher was the one fixated on the idea of power combinations at the end of Worm, I was hoping we’d see some meta-gamey power shenanigans from him soon and he didn’t disappoint.

      This team up is troubling and really freaking exciting!

  4. So it was Dinah backing Nieves, not Teacher? I’m not sure what to make of that, or whether to take what Teacher says at face value.

    1. Well I’m sure Dinah has a good reason. Probably one totally inscrutable to anyone else and unclear even to her, but her precog power is in contention with Path To Victory for being best. Path To Victory is less subject to disruption but also less amenable to broad searches and forecasting side-effects.

      50/50 on whether she plans for Nives to succeed; she may be planning on his campaign collapsing at a critical point, or she may want Gimel to become a vassal state of another Earth. Probably an as-yet uncontacted one; Chiet seems the best-organized and technologically advanced if Shin is out of contact but also not a good choice.

      Regardless, I’d be inclined to tell Breakthrough to sign on with her, except that Dinah hasn’t called them up so their signing on isn’t part of the plan.

      1. Yeah. Contessa didn’t foresee Skitter until she became a bigger player. Dinah foresaw Skitter very early and moved her into position to save the world. We’ll never know how much precision Dinah’s power has, but it’s the biggest Deus Ex Machina in the story.

  5. Oh hey, Dinah is making things harder for people, probably in the name of a greater good that is both not guaranteed and largely based on her own understanding.

    What a shocker.

  6. Oh no Wildboar, are you serious? ANOTHER end of the world? I sense a massive game of thrones coming, and I like it!

    Our hero hasn’t even adjusted yet, I wonder where this put her in the big picture.

    Also, hearing from teacher, basically Amy has come of her own volition, or at least has been compromised. If the former is true, why tho? It’s not like she’s evil or something, I seriously hope that’s not the case.

    1. I could be mistaken, but I think that they were just talking about the end of the world that got them into their current situation.

      1. I would quote: “She would be the person who saved the world once, and predicted this end of the world thirty-one years before it happened”, but rereading the whole thing makes me realize you’re right. Teacher probably just referred to Contessa. Since he was talking about Dinah also, I immediately jumped to conclusion. My bad. Sharp one, kudos 😉

        P/S: Imho, as the context goes, the incoming interdimensional war might as well qualify as an apocalyptic event, or it can generate multiple of such events. I’d like to see how Dinah plays the role of Contessa in this conflict.

        1. The difference between this event and GM would be that for this one, if you don’t care to take part, you can head for the hills in some unpopulated corner world. Also, no one party is strong enough that some combination of other parties wouldn’t be expected to beat them. On GM, Scion was coming for everybody everywhere, and he didn’t need to team up with anyone.

          Since Dinah is still a kid and claims to have this awesome OP predict-the-future ability, it seems possible that she might be used as a figurehead for someone else’s organization. If that someone else has any idea what happened to Coil, Director Tagg, and Skitter, they will use Dinah’s powers very little. When you completely turn over strategic control to Dinah, she burns you up completely. That may have the side-effect of helping Dinah, but if any of those three had it to do over, they would choose differently.

          1. This might seem at best a war to you & indeed people can hide but when taking the exact multiple factions into the equation it gets scarier, red flags everywhere:

            Scion could just kill you with a snap of his finger in a blink of an eye. It’d be a quick death (unless u know, he finds torturing etc. is more amusing).

            Whereas a war, with multiple groups of equally powerful parahumans can be as crazy as it gets (we got enough of WWs as reference). Imagine our world with all the governments and nukes it has, plus armies of super solders that are “parahuman”. But wait, even within each government there are movements against these super solders like in X-men. And it’s not a “world” war per se, it’s worlds’ war. Everyone and everything is fighting each other. Let’s not forget the crazily heavy hitters (a shame they have been portaled), and the angry earth Cheit (which is more technologically advanced). One wrong move can trigger huge war. Can you hide from this war? Yes, of course, but after that? Not much. People will live in a scatter world similar to Fallout, I presume. It’d be a painfully slow death.

          2. @ Little Wolf: It won’t be nuclear. Two years ago, Khepri dropped all the bombs, missiles, grenades and other explosives she could find on a nigh-immortal gold-skinned man she’d just lured to an uninhabited earth.

            There might be a few nukes left, or built in the last two years, but in Earth Aleph, I just bet that the proponents for disarmament took advantage of this opportunity to ensure no new ones were built.

  7. Ok, this is when Tattletale needs to get serious. Also, if Dinah is running things, has she broken it off with Tattletale? It could be they are cooperating but don’t want anyone to know it.

    Also, Contessa? Just shoot Teacher in the head. You can do it. I believe in you.

      1. TT had a front-row seat for what happened to the first three powerful figures who let Dinah decide their strategy. Skitter killed Coil and Tagg, then she destroyed herself. TT might send Dinah a card, but she is very unlikely to do anything that Dinah says. Dinah doesn’t predict the future so much as determine which people she can affect who can in turn affect the future. Then she uses those people up, in selfish pursuit of her own best possible results.

        1. In fairness, Lisa, being a thinker herself, has a better leg up than most when it comes to intrigue (and is definitely more than a little smug about that). And while Dinah may not be her favorite person (and certainly not one she’d trust to have her best interests at heart), I don’t think she’d let any of that keep her from working with someone who can do what Dinah can. However, i’m not convinced that Dinah would be overly eager to work with Tattletale either.

          As for Dinah… I mean. Two out of three of those people were pretty antagonistic. Tagg was trying to jerk Dinah around while being highly aggressive with Taylor. As for Coil, it’d be an understatement to only call him antagonistic given that he’d kidnapped and enslaved Dinah.

          But I think that’s kind of a harsh reading of Dinah — I’m not sure I’d go as far as to say that she uses people selfishly or to get her get her own best interests. She let Taylor go down her particular path because it would give the best results for humanity as a whole and expressed remorse about playing a role in that sequence of events.

          But even if you decide that she did do things for selfish reasons, I think you still may be giving her too much credit by taking away the agency and responsibility of other characters. Even if she could have both averted Tagg’s death and managed to

          I’m not saying that Dinah doesn’t look after her own interests as much as any other character in Parahumans. Nor am I saying that she isn’t a capable mastermind. However, I think painting her as a manipulative, cutthroat way be something of a character assassination. But maybe that’s just me being overly generous (or WB being really good at making his characters sympathetic despite their flaws).

          1. I just think that the best reading of her behavior is that of a child. Children don’t inherently care about others; they have to be socialized into that. Young children only care about their parents insofar as they represent comfort and security. Dinah’s white-bread suburban family were on their way to socializing her before she triggered, but that process was halted and reversed, at least as much by her agent as by Coil or anyone else. Billions of people, including thousands of parahumans, died on GM. Dinah was not among those. That was a decision taken by Khepri, who simultaneously decided to let lots of others die. Khepri was only in that position because Dinah had foreseen that possibility, and had foreseen exactly the communication necessary to bring that situation about. She didn’t trust her own voice, so she used a couple of scraps of paper to convey the message of doom. Skitter was stuck, helpless to take any path but the one she’d been set upon, no matter how much it harmed her or her friends and family. Actually Skitter wasn’t really on the path until Dinah’s second attack on her, at the school.

            This doesn’t mean Dinah planned this all out in an intellectual sense. Young triggers and thinkers both offload thinking to the agent. Dinah was forced to do that early and often. At this point that’s how she thinks. Keep in mind that “powerful girl capes remaining childlike for artificially extended periods” is totally a trope of the Wormverse.

            Of course there are other plausible readings. Many readers seem surprised by Teacher’s description of Dinah in this chapter, so perhaps those reading just became a bit less plausible.

        2. The last TT/Dinah interaction on screen was TT staging a libation ritual for Skitter, pouring out some Henny for her homie to trick Dinah I to thinking Taylor was dead.

          Which… doesn’t tell me that TT wants to maintain a close working relationship with her. Wherever Dinah ended up, I would expect her relation to TT and co would be cordial at best.

          1. I’m not sure how effective that ritual could be with someone like Dinah. How hard is it for her to think about the chances that she would ever meet anyone who had seen a living Taylor after a particular date? If that likelihood doesn’t come back “zero”, she will know she had been misled.

          2. Let’s face it, that was a twist the knife on the part of TT, done to make Dinah feel guilty. Saving Taylor from herself was one of Lisa’s main goals, and Dinah sabotoged that for the sake of the world. Lisa might understand… But she’s very much capable of being a vindicative bitch, and of figuring that maybe if she can make Dinah feel like shit about it, Dinah won’t be willing to do that kind of sacrificing of people in the future.

          3. I had the impression it was to convince Dinah enough that she wouldn’t go looking for Taylor with her power out of guilt and possibly jeapordize her Gone-ness by accident?

        3. I’m not buying the selfish unsocialized Dinah theory. Sure, the supervillain who kidnapped and enslaved her died, then later she sassed and neglected to help the asshole who tried to use her to destroy the person who’d saved her from said enslavement. And yeah, she was unable to find a way to defeat an alien god and save trillions of lives without a few being ruined along the way. These are certainly true things, but I don’t see how they’re evidence that she’s selfish or unsocialized.

          Also, keep in mind that Dinah’s power cannot see beyond her own death. She could be the most selfless, altruistic martyr in the world, but any solution her power could find for Gold Morning would necessarily be one where she was among the survivors. That’s working with what she’s got, not selfishness.

          Additionally, Dinah’s a thinker, not a fighter, so I don’t understand what you’re getting at in pointing out that Khepri didn’t throw her at Scion. What purpose would it have served? I don’t think Scion had a secret weakness to little girl firsts.

          1. If she really can’t see beyond her own death, we’re already halfway to the theory I’ve proposed. That’s fine for her and fine for those without sufficient power to play a role in her manipulations. Her power can’t act on them. They won’t affect her future, so her power can’t see the effects of their actions.

            For those people with sufficient power (and their associates!), however, Dinah is uniquely dangerous. You will play the role that she foresees, until it kills you. If you’re listening to her, you may already be doomed. Any actually-villainous super-villain would kill her on first communication. She would foresee that, however, so such a villain would never hear from Dinah. Obviously, this theory will be disproved the moment we see e.g. Goddess reacting to Dinah’s advice…

            I wouldn’t be shocked by a flashback to the day she triggered in which Dinah left the next day’s lottery numbers on Coil’s voicemail. How would her agent learn anything if she remained a schoolgirl?

          2. Don’t forget that unlike Path To Victory, Dinah’s power works with probabilities. She doesn’t walk the razor’s edge, she takes the most reasonable road. She used Taylor because Taylor consented to be used, more or less, and it was fucked up but the fact is, Dinah worked with Taylor because Taylor worked with Dinah. She can’t make people do things those people weren’t already likely to do on their own. She’s no Valefor.

          3. ““Is it always successful, pet? This something that kills everyone on Earth?”

            She shook her head, “Not always, not all the way. Sometimes more people live. Sometimes hundreds, sometimes thousands, sometimes billions. But millions or billions always die when it happens.”” – Parasite 10.6

            Keep in mind that Dinah can see trillions of outcomes. There were outcomes to get through the end of the world that didn’t involve Taylor destroying herself. The undertone when Dinah is called selfish is that she very likely chose the optimal outcome, which happened to involve Taylor destroying herself. It doesn’t help that Simurgh and Dinah both set Taylor down this route.

            Through the grand history of thinkers screwing Taylor, would Taylor have chosen the outcome Dinah set her on? Taylor may have chosen to do good, but not Altruistic madness. Between her viciousness in getting Dinah off her conscience, and her prioritization of wounded Bastard to save her relationship with Bitch over a wounded woman: I see someone who would go to great sacrifices (skitters surrender) to do good, but ultimately prioritize herself. Even after being Khepri’d Taylor was holding on to hope that she could retreat to isolation and books when this was over. Destroying herself was NOT Taylor’s desired outcome. Not fucking over Taylor like that was the least Dinah could do for her after all of Taylor’s actions during Coils arcs.

            Ultimately the vagueness of the wording of the above quote is the only string I’m lending Dinah, because between Number man’s prediction that the 15 year later world ending would be worse, there is only chance to believe that those “sometimes millions die” meant that most were already dead, and that the dread Dinah was feeling when handing Taylor those notes wasn’t because she was choosing to destroy Taylor, but because she was sparing Taylor a worse fate/or possibly advantaging her and dooming many others in the process, which would be fun and satisfying in its own way.

            Because my attachment to Taylor is greater than that statistic of 10 billion dead, I hope the latter is true.


          4. @Jess I think you’re way overestimating Dinah’s power. She’s not Contessa. The one time she tried to be it left her incapacitated for a week and in excruciating pain. If she tried to do the kind of all-encompassing manipulation you’re talking about it would just take one low-probability outcome for the house of cards to fall apart, probably resulting in her death.

          5. @Dreadcord

            It’s not like anyone actually knew with certainty how GM would play out. I’m pretty sure even the Simurgh (who as it happens telepathically prompted Taylor to remember the note) didn’t know how it would play out. Most particularly I think one of the ways it could’ve ended was Eidolon and Glastig Ulaine killing Scion in Eidolon’s interlude; he was in significant trouble against the duo. The Endbringers didn’t move until after Eidolon died, which makes me think the Simurgh didn’t know if they’d need to until after the fight. With all the precog and anti-precog powers involved, none of them could return precise results. So Dinah had to explore the paths avaliable to her and take actions to follow the best ones. And she was involved in trying to avert Golden Morning entirely until she ran out of predictions for the day while Golem was engaging Jack, so it’s not like she’d decided that the path Taylor ended up following was the best possible future. It was at least a layer deep in her fallback plans, possibly several. And while Taylor didn’t want to destroy herself, she preferred it to total human extinction, which was on the list of other futures Dinah saw.

  8. So I get the distinct feeling Teacher may be on the cusp of the kind of overambitious fuckup that landed him in the Birdcage. I’m already seeing two bad ideas in here.

    First is getting Valefor and restoring him; master powers are apparently variably reliable on other masters, Teacher’s is a bit tenuous, and Valefor’s is nasty and probably works on the minions. If Teacher’s hold is even a bit shakey Valefor could steal the entire organization.

    Second, Teacher, you do know Goddess’s power list, right? She’s got a derivative of Scion’s ability to select countermeasures to specific powers. Khephri needed power amplifiers and support from another Master to get her. We can infer Path To Victory is unreliable against her because Cauldron let such a heavy hitter and at least one additional parahuman suitable for directly engaging Scion on the bench. Are you really counting on being able to use a power to take control of her before she notices and punches him through a concrete wall? And just in general is it a good idea to go after her first rather than last?

    1. He hasn’t said anything about fighting against her frontally – that’s not really his thing, after all.
      Since she’s gathering her army, he needs to step up as well or lose everything he built up to now when she makes her move.
      And since Scion’s demise gave everyone a better grasp at their own power’s nature, he uses this newfound knowledge as best he can, in a rather terrifying fashion. Through Scapegoat, he doesn’t need his targets’ consent to enslave them anymore.

      Also, the fact Dinah chose to push things is scary in itself. Last time was bad enough.
      Feels like the upcoming chat with Goddess will be even more interesting than initially expected…

      1. His plan is apparently to bait her into coming for Scapegoat and having him control her. I do not think that is going to work, and if he’s just bait his cooperation is unneccessary.

        1. Scapegoat might not be intended to use his power on Goddess. He might just be a spy. If he can use his power to detect and give away Teacher’s influence, it stands to reason that he might be able to do the same with Goddess’s influence. If she can’t detect that he’s doing this, it could allow him to conduct all sorts of skullduggery, including framing her for using her power on the wrong people.

      1. Oh, I just remembered number 4:

        He did something he thought would piss off the Simurgh and he did it on purpose. What the hell was he thinking? If he actually pissed her off she’s presently hanging out in high orbit waiting for his already-scheduled painful death, and if not he has advanced her plans in some way liable to also end in his painful death. Without Scion’s help the entire combined parahuman strength of Bet couldn’t reliably repel Endbringer attacks when they were jobbing.

        1. Do we really know that that wasn’t just Lung being cantankerous? He had already vowed to kill Teacher, why wouldn’t he do something to screw up one of Teacher’s plans?

    2. The Woman in Blue does not have any powers that could hurt Zion. Taylor says this explicitly when she picks Blue up.

      1. Right, but she has a defensive power like Scion’s, which is pretty bad news for anyone trying to use a power on her.

        It’s the Simurgh I credit with killing Scion years in advance.

    1. “Before he could voice anything on the subject, he felt teacher’s power work,”

      Uncapitalized Teacher

      “Three at once, and it was easy. A sufficient impact or distraction”

      Unfinished paragraph.

  9. Clearly Scapegoat has never read “A Clockwork Orange” or he’d know that this is a very bad idea.

    Taming dangerous/evil capes? Already pretty controversial. Putting them in Teacher’s power? It almost sounds like Teacher’s setting himself up to be a second Goddess.

  10. So Earth Bet wasn’t a single Earth, but a collection of too similar Earths?

    That’s, uh, impressive as hell.

    1. That was mentioned back in Worm. Originally there was a more or less infinite variety of slightly different Earths, but to make things manageable, the entities sorted through and grouped any that were too similar. That they still exist and are merely being suppressed (as opposed to being destructively merged together) is new information, though Scapegoat’s past description of his power coupled with what we knew about the partitioning did imply this.

  11. What is this? Someone gets fucked over for doing what looks like a good thing?

    Yeah, now we’re back in Worm, boyos.

    So if Dinah backed Nieves, we know she *knew* this is what’s gonna happen, she was setting up Victoria to do this talk show. Maybe even for Scapego– wait, Black Goat, to see it, even if indirectly.

    How many fucking factions does this Game of Parahumans even have?!

    Is at least one of them gonna have Antares’s back?
    (Bonus points for Mayday for supporting Breakthrough on this as promised)

    1. Dinah doesn’t actually know WHAT her machinations do, all she sees is that if she has Gary attack Looksee, the probability of total human extinction goes down two percentage points. Assuming Teacher is even telling the truth here.

      Amy’s probably gonna be on Victoria’s side, no matter what happens. The world is cruel that way.

    2. Active factions… there’s Breakthrough+random hero capes trying to work together; what remains of the Wardens+Dragon & Defiant; Dinah playing with fire; Citrine & Number man; the Undersiders; Goddess (& Amy?); LoL & Marquis; March’s clique; Teacher & Scapegoat; Earth Cheit…

      Nice game of Calvinball incoming.

  12. Daaaaaaaaaamn. There’s a hell of a lot of moving pieces here. Teacher and Scapegoat teamup has the potential to be really, really scary, in a more subtle way than Amy can be scary.
    The part of this interlude that sticks out to me the most, though, is the implication that Dinah is behind the anti-parahuman movement. Dinah, why? I’m sure there’s a good reason but…Well, I hope it’s gonna be worth it. And I REALLY hope that Teacher isn’t successful in “recruiting” her. Surely she’s asked the right questions to make sure she’s adequately protected from that sort of angle?

  13. Great chapter as usual. The “infodump” is good. Almost the major players were just revealed. Actually I thought Teacher was behind Gary Nieves, turns out it is Dinah the girl Taylor rescued before. I wonder how it will play out, all these pieces being put into places. Excited for tuesday!

  14. I reread the Glare interlude yesterday. I would recommend doing so to everyone else too. I believe your perspective on this chapter will be enhanced.

    1. [Nilbog:] “You’re a queen. You have such power. You can go anywhere you want, if you’re willing to wield that power. Your struggles are because you’re trying to be something you aren’t. Take that as advice from a king who has lost his kingdom to a Queen who has yet to claim hers.”

      [Amy:] “I don’t like what happens when I try to use power to claim anything.”

      [Nilbog:] “Then use position. The fact that you’re a queen affords you power by default. If you stand in the right places, things will change as a result. Use that. Recognize it. Things may start going the way you hope they might.”

    2. Is this the perspective you’re referring to? “You’re a queen. You have such power. You can go anywhere you want, if you’re willing to wield that power. Your struggles are because you’re trying to be something you aren’t. Take that as advice from a king who has lost his kingdom to a Queen who has yet to claim hers.”

  15. Guys… really unpleasant thought… could Teacher potentially be Abaddon’s avatar? What Scion was meant to be for the Warrior? His power resembles a more direct version of what the worms were trying to accomplish with their shards. Does it seem possible?

    1. There was an interlude from Teacher’s POV back in Worm, and his perspective seemed human. His power is obviously a stripped down version of the power the entities use to encode and distribute powers, but that doesn’t mean anything. A lot of powers are core entity functions reinterpreted through humans.

  16. I like how Teacher tells Scapegoat he’s a mind controller, and then like a minute later Scapegoat lets Teacher control his mind.

    Just light your agency on fire and be done with it, why don’t you.

      1. Every time Teacher shows up I keep hoping that someone would just shoot him in the face. He’s a good character and all, but it would be so satisfying to see all his carefully laid plans collapse because he failed to account for one trigger-happy antivillain who was sick of his shit.

        1. Taylor basically did this way back in her very first outing, when she came out of nowhere, damn near offed Lung, and inadvertently let Bakuda off her chain. Sometimes cutting the Gordian knot makes things worse. 😐

        2. I virtually guaranty that one of the “students” that was present when he was talking to William was one the few-seconds precogs that he can empower. That person’s job was to warn of imminent attack by William (or anyone else) so the other one could incapacitate/kill the problem with some sort of combat thinker power. He had a bunch of people like that around him when Taylor came calling. He knows he’s not a superpowered Thinker and he makes up for it with extreme paranoia.

  17. I’m sensing an extreme case of Kansas City Shuffle going on here. Teacher is organizing a ton of moving components and then straight up spills his plans to Scapegoat? He’s going to recruit Valefor and take on goddess? Then he’s going to pile influence onto Scapegoat while telling Scapegoat exactly how to get rid of it?

    Seriously. Kansas City Shuffle.

    And for those of you who don’t know, a KCS is a con where the con artist tells the other person exactly what they’re going to do and how they’re going to con them in order to trick them into falling for the real con.

    1. I have only ever heard “Kansas City Shuffle” used to refer to the dance people do when they need a restroom badly but are forced to wait.

  18. Daaaaaaaang

    So, here’s my current projection of the coming events

    We learn that Goddess is actually pretty cool, Amy is working with her of her own free will, Dinah’s influence on the anti-parahuman movement is setting it up to fail (because it may have succeeded if she didn’t), and everyone hates Teacher (because seriously, what the fuck dude)

    1. Or she’s setting it up to succeed in a way that doesn’t cause mass casualties and a war between parahumans and non-parahumans. Or a way that doesn’t leave Gimel invaded and occupied by Chiet. Or weakened ready for Goddess to take control. Or some other, worse thing to happen instead.

      1. Or she is setting it up so it succeeds, Chelt takes control, and Parahumans get decimated, because her power tells her that’s got the best odds for the most people surviving.

      1. I wouldn’t be surprised if she hated everyone indiscriminately, tbh. She had a rough time of it and coped in a…very Taylor way.

        1. I don’t think Dinah hates anyone, except obviously assholes like Coil and people who just want to use her. I think she has one of the rawest deals of all, having to take actions without even understanding why or how they’ll make everything better, only knowing that if she does X, then Y is less likely to occur, or more likely to occur, or what have you.

          I always got the strong impression that she *hated* what she had to do to Taylor, but had to do things she knew would hurt someone who she thought was pretty cool, because the outcomes for everyone else would be unacceptable if she didn’t sacrifice Taylor.

          Think about it. Put yourself in her place. You can’t see the future. You can’t see the alternate paths. You get no hints. All you can do is frantically come up with “Well what if I did this? No. What if I did that instead? What if…?”

          She can only answer a question about probability, and that’s *it*. It’s an incredibly powerful ability, but it traps her into specific actions just as surely as her actions set of chains of events for others. And at the end of the day, she gets to know that if she were just a little bit smarter, or more creative, maybe she could have found the right question to ask that could have saved one more person.

          Dinah’s power is *fucking Hell*. I suspect she hates the power, more than she hates anything. Because it puts an incalculably heavy responsibility on her, straitjackets her options, and doesn’t give her any insight or improved ability to come up with the right questions.

          Ultimately, she needs to be paired with a Thinker with augmented creativity and problem solving abilities, but there’s no way she could possibly trust someone like that to not try to make her a slave just to further their own personal best interests.

          She’s definitely not the traditional Mastermind, moving people like pawns, uncaring of their fates. She could easily have taken a more selfish route with her power. Let’s be real: Coil couldn’t have kidnapped her if she didn’t let him. But presumably she already knew that if she didn’t allow what was going to happen to her, to happen, then the world would be doomed.

          I think she cares quite a bit about people. She’s practically a saint, despite all the tragedy she brought into specific lives.

          Dinah is probably the most altruistic character in all of Worm.

  19. This was all very interesting, but what I focused on most was that his new nickname in my head is Billy Goat.

  20. Sooooo lets try to break down the various factions here
    1) Teacher, probably with Inguene, recruiting trumps and masters and various powers that let him “cheat”.
    2) Goddess, with Amy apparently, recruiting masters so she can retake her world.
    3) Citrine, Numbers Man, apparently Dinah, backing Nieves for… reasons.
    4) Undersiders, sorta pingponging around, only Tt relevant so far, screwed with Fallen, probably writing her own plot chart somewhere. Fiddling with politics too.
    5) Fallen, greatly weakened
    6) Earth Cheit (is that how you spell it?) gearing for war.
    7) Whatever the fuck was in the 5th Space in Rains cluster.

    Um. Did I get that right or miss anything? I’m experiencing conspiracy overload.

    1. Citrine and Number Man were backing one of Nieves’ political opponents. So they’re a separate faction from Dinah.

      Also, the Ashleys and the broken trigger people are indicating there is something shifty up relating to Shards, which may be related to the fifth space. I’m thinking the Entities are doing the “That is not dead which can eternal lie” thing and some of the Shards relating to controlling powers are struggling to reconstitute.

    2. There is still the machine army and Dragon, both powerhouses in their own right.
      And I guess the union of the remaining earth Beta capes, led by Antares, is still more or less relevant

      1. Well, if you’re counting them, don’t forget the Wardens/Warden remnants and whatever the hell they apparently think is a bigger problem than all of the above. Also the surviving Endbringers being ineffable.

    3. Not sure if Citrine and number dude are backing Nieves in all this. Don’t remember seeing any evidence of it so far.

      Does appear to be a Alcott plot. Wondering if Arc 1 was also an Alcott plot.
      Wondering if Team breakthrough in general is an Alcott plot.
      Actually, that would explain Yamada’s “Something is messed up here, but I can’t put my finger on it”- No one acting out of character or anything just things… meshing better than they should.

      … Heck, I think someone joked around about Breakthrough being a Dinah plot a chapter or so ago and now that seems…. rather likely.
      Dinah is what… the 3rd most powerful precog in the setting?

      Which… would explain why Arc one featured…. Snag (relevant later)…. Lord of Loss (relevant later)… and kingdom come (just so happens to be relevant later).
      Anyone want to put bets that Nursery and Blindside crop up later on? Anyone want to put bets they don’t?

      Actually just generally the entire plot so far makes a whole bunch more sense if you assume Dinah pulling strings behind the scenes… she’s just the kind of precog to line things up this perfectly… but not perfectly enough that things LOOK like they make sense.

      1. I’d argue she and Contessa can both put forth a good argument for second place. Path To Victory can provide optimal plans more readily (Dinah can emulate it by checking a probability and then examining a future where it plays out the way she wants) and isn’t subject to disruption by competing precogs, but seems less informative about things in general and responds to power blockers by just yielding grey fog where Dinah just loses significant digits on her probability calculation.

        The Simurgh basically has the advantages of both given that she can actually process information from all the divergent futures she examines and pick the one she likes and is blocked by fewer things than Path To Victory.

  21. I had been under the impression Teacher was working with Contessa. That makes me wonder where she ended up in all of this.

    1. She showed up with him at the end of Worm, but as far as I know she hasn’t been indicated to be with him in Ward so far. I think she’s just on vacation.
      Let’s face it, she needed to go away for the sake of the story, she has the potential to derail the entire plot when she’s using her power.

  22. Teacher has a recurring problem with tinkers making tech he didn’t anticipate. I really hope that was his action in the last chapter, because I want to believe his plans were foiled by one small bean and the anxious law student. Except Scapegoat was watching replays in a way that kind of suggested that it was the day after. Hmm.

    Dinah, Dinah, Dinah. I’ve been thinking about Cauldron, that they guessed wrong. They knew they were filling in gaps between the certainty and they judged wrong on what was necessary. Hurt people pointlessly. And it should be a warning to those who survived. But Dinah–she made a comparable call or two, but she got it right. Whatever she’s doing, I trust her judgment more than most people there.

    Whatever it is she’s doing. I don’t trust Teacher as an exposition source like I do Tattletale or Dragon. Anyone can be be wrong or lying but with Teacher I’m on guard automatically, not waiting for cause. Goddess ‘pinned’ or is that his arrogance? Is he attributing actions to other factions that are actually his?

    I really have no idea where this is going next. 😃

  23. I feel like Dinah’s power lets her get a lot more generalized information than Path To Victory and makes her more able to actually track the full ramifications of her actions as well as more likely to get some information when she hits a defense. So I’m inclined to trust that if she takes some action that seems bizarre or immoral based on her precog it’s probably actually a good idea to do it overall. Whereas if Contessa takes an action based on her precog against someone her precog works on (namely, not Scion, the Endbringers, Mantellum, Eidolon to an extent, Valkyrie possibly conditionally, possibly Goddess, maybe unknown others) I will trust that it will accomplish the thing she asked her precog to help her do but not that it’s a good idea overall. I mean based on her interlude she could fuck up crossing a bridge by forgetting to append “without being hit by a truck” when invoking her power.

    1. “the truck hit the body in a way that caused it to land on the other side of the bridge, fulfilling the condition of it being crossed”
      yep, that’s Contessa

  24. Okay. Can you guys just imagine the fucking sitdown between Teacher, Tattletale, Dinah Alcott, Goddess and The Number Man/Citrine? That will be the most tense shit ever. Like, every word they say is incredibly calculated.

    But, onto the individual teams.

    Teacher’s biggest asset right now is that he is a mastermind planner able to create very complex plans. He’s not trying to recruit as many as possible, he’s being selectively careful about who is on his team. He is also trying to tweak powers as he sees fit, like Black Goat. His powers give him certain inherit loyalties to others. His main flaw right now is the fact that he’s too much of a planner and not an adapter. He wasn’t prepared that Kenzie had locked into the security feeds. While we don’t know if Kitchen Sink and Hookline were part of the strike team he sent after, we do know that he was sent to the bird cage for a botched plan. This is on top of his problem of unable to defend themselves. Currently, he has a team of Ingenue, Black Goat, Valefor, Satyr, Saint and an army of white shirts.

    Tattletale has information on her side. She knows the ins and outs of various organizations and she’ll know exactly who is responsible for anything. She’ll know people’s motivations, their preemptive attacks and their weaknesses. On top of that, her information makes her incredibly valuable, which makes me think that she was in the pre-stages of acquiring wealth and influence upon the general population. Sierra Kiley was, most likely, only a candidate for the mayoral position of the city just so she can get inside information. Her main flaw is that she’s a cocky little shit that likes to point rub it in people’s faces, burning bridges all the time. She did it with Panacea and Antares. Teacher faults her for not seeing the bigger picture, but he’s underestimating her. She shown that she could with Coil, by buying all his mercs by skimming funds off of her robberies. I also believe she set up Trial and Error as a clear win for Antares, given that Cleat is shown to be at least following Undersiders orders and being on the defense team for Trial and Error after they broke the pact. Her team is consisted of The Sons of Bitches, The Heartbroken, Parian, Foil, and Chicken Little.

    Dinah Alcott has the lovely advantage of having all of her options laid out in entirety. She’ll know exactly what are the odds of success and failure. She can also have a small peak into Path of Victory, at cost to Thinker headaches and required rest, like when Crawler infiltrated Coil’s base. With these options, she can tip dominoes in her favor, like she did with Gary Nieves for some unspecified purpose. She is also shadow-hidden and not a lot of people know of her existence, given how Dinah not only has made no appearances thus far, but hasn’t even been mentioned. Her downside is that she has no idea why she is doing the things she does. Her actions could have unintended side effects if she didn’t think to ask if it was a possibility. We also know that she is only known to focus on non-parahumans, thus she doesn’t have a known army to defend herself with, thus leaving her in a dangerous position. Her team consists of Gary Nieves, Erwin Daeyoung and possibly hundreds of other unassuming pawns.

    Goddess has the advantage of having power. Her power can completely subsume others. So much so that she became a ruling dictator of Earth Shin and was able to comfortably rule for six years. We do not know the current state of Earth Shin, so she could either be a peaceful dictator or a vicious tyrant. With this, she is a very hard woman to kill and leaves for a near perfect defense and offense that the others would have to play subtler than an all out war with her. Goddess also has some dangerous parahumans on her side, making her a huge threat to the others. This is also her flaw. She is too dangerous that various factions deem her too much of a threat and have started taking steps to end her, namely Tattletale’s and Teacher’s factions. Her team consists of various Dot, Panacea, Monokeros, Shin Lieutenants, various other parahumans and possibly Ellisberg residents.

    Lastily, we have The Number Man and Citrine’s faction, which have the main faction of diplomacy. They are very skilled at becoming the city’s main mayoral candidate and seemingly managed to convince Balminder, a person thought to be hunted by Cauldron after betrayal, to come back to their side. They also have Accord’s works on how to incorporate a peaceful life in the city, one parahuman thinker that could solve problems the more complex they are. With this, they can have a parahuman they had back in 1998 still be readily available to help. Since this faction has gained power through legal means, it also gives them a huge backbone to lean on. They also are incredible adapters, hoping for the Heroes to win and planning in case The Fallen wins. Their main flaw is that they aren’t that willing to actually act and rather play politics. This can be seen by not engaging in The Fallen assault despite their incredible powers to easily do so. They also sat on their hands and not meeting Balminder, resulting in Teacher getting his hands on Cauldron vials first. They are also not willing to part with assets so easily, holding onto Barfbat for over twenty years before using him. Not to even mention Contessa, who could easily help any side she pick win. It is unknown what Contessa is doing, but it is clear that The Number Man knows where to find her and that they haven’t so much attempted to convince her otherwise. Considering their diplomacy, it might be a very easy task. The Wynns have The Harbingers, The Clairvoyant and various Cauldron capes that can readily be called upon.

    Breakthrough, even though they are the protagonists, are really pawns. Important pawns, but pawns nevertheless. We know this because Tattletale, Dinah and Goddess have made moves that directly affected them. Unfortunately, it is clear that Jessica Yamada was right about being concerned about the cohesion of the team. Someone brought these kids together for a purpose. The Fume Hood assault was to get Victoria Dallons to be discovered by Jessica Yamada. Sveta might have become part of the team so Weld wouldn’t, as he didn’t want to step on his girlfriend’s metaphorical toes. Kenzi was brought in to be made an example of. Rain was brought in to possibly create a parahuman powerful enough to rival some known or unknown threat. Hell, it’s possible that the mall bombing was planned to create multi-triggers to begin with and choose the best one of the bunch to get the power boost. Ashley was brought into the group as an easy killing machine. Beast of Burden was a Brute and still managed to die. Capricorn and Cryptid’s purposes cannot be guessed due to the little we truly know about them.

    1. Her downside is that she has no idea why she is doing the things she does. Her actions could have unintended side effects if she didn’t think to ask if it was a possibility.

      I do not think that is a downside she specifically suffers from. Check 11.F. She sees the whole possibility tree of futures without focusing, and only needs to focus to bring them into a probability spread. She is limited in how many questions she can ask but can get a vague sense of things beyond the questions she asks, which is at least good enough to warn her when she’s likely to die in the next half-hour and to allow her to preemptively detect that a plan which is good for the next hour is not good for the next five.

      She also has one potential advantage the others decidedly do not, which is that Dragon and Chevaliar, among others, have previously demonstrated a willingness to take extreme actions in accord with her guidance. She’s the only one of the players who can walk up to the main hero organizations and tell them to do things.

      1. What has Chevalier done at Dinah’s suggestion? For Dragon, I assume you mean the school visit, which was really Tagg’s decision. I’m not so sure that Dragon would follow Dinah’s instructions again…

        1. The entire post-Brockton Bay S9 hunt and especially the S9000 battle and its deployments and rules of engagement were based on Dinah’s information. Chevalier was, I’m pretty sure, the lead Protectorate member involved as the Triumvirate was under information quarantine. Dragon used lethal force on a large scale, aided by considerable code modifications to her drones to suppress and erase certain input, also to maintain the information quarantine. Dinah’s precognitive power and conclusions drawn from them were the sole basis for the informational quarantine order.

    2. From what we saw, the Victoria-POV consequences of the Norfair hit are:
      – letting bad, bottled up feelings loose so villains and anti-parahumans would calm down a tiny bit;
      – forcing her out of non-capism, which pushed her right into…
      – stabilising a team filled with chaotic members. Imagine what they would have done without her so far. Hell, imagine what Chris on his own would have done;
      – causing an early hit against Fallen exploiting the situation to grow their influence;
      – reorganising heroes in the wake of the portal attack and limiting its effectiveness;
      – and now revealing the origin of powers to the world, which could have taken several years or more otherwise.

      I’m tempted to say Tattletale had some responsibility in this due to being right there and already knowing her, but that’d be a pretty massive gambit to pull on her own. Either she got more comfortable with her power, or another player had a word in this.

      1. And let’s add finding herself made to deal with a facedown with with Amy.

        This would mean Victoria wouldn’t end up facing Amy by chance later, and will therefore hopefully be better let to cope
        It’s unpleasant but if Victoria has to face Amy, better forewarned and forearmed.

        This meeting will not go comfortably for anyone.

  25. “The humans who have come through the end of the world with hate in their hearts are taking marching orders from the same young precognitive who predicted the end of the world two years in advance. Well, one order with some advice.” – everyone seems to interpret this as Dinah manipulating Gary Nieves, but I’m not so sure. It’s so vague it could mean some other thing entirely, and the ultimate goal from Gary’s interlude (surrendering to Earth Cheit) is very much unlike Dinah. I wouldn’t be so quick to place them in one camp.

    Also, Scapegoat can detect and transfer master’s influence like an ailment. But if the influence is sudden and quick rather than gradual, wouldn’t it suppress his will to do it?

    Scapegoat: *transfers Teacher’s influence to Valefor, heals his eyes and jaw*
    Valefor: *looking him in the eyes* Don’t use your power, stand still, let Teacher teach you.
    Scapegoat: Well, fuck…

    1. It’s generally a mistake to assume an anonymous message from a precognative is a reliable indicator of their intentions in sending the message.

      1. True, but I wanted to point out that we have very little evidence that the message to Gary is what Teacher spoke about. Also I think we didn’t yet see Dinah as particularly devious. To lead people into a campaign for fucking over the society (a campaign against parahumans is basically that), while they *believe* the goal to be fucking over the society in another and entirely different way (surrendering to Earth Cheit), with probably some other *actual* goal in mind… Very much unlike Dinah.

        1. Dinah is a precog; any plan that’s the best plan is like her. She doesn’t seem to like being manipulative, but she and the Simurgh tag-teamed to arrange Khephri by manipulating Taylor; she sent the “1. Cut ties. 2. I’m sorry” message, and the Simurgh pulled in the memory later, and Taylor was thinking of it when she decided to go full Khephri.

  26. Teacher is such a great character. I love it. He is probably my favorite villain in the series so far, if you can even call him that.

    I’m not quite sure why people hate him so much. I don’t think we’ve seen him do anything that Taylor wouldn’t have done if Taylor had the opportunity and was crippled with paranoia and the limitation* that her subjects were brainwashed.

    *I bet this brainwashing is Teacher’s Manton effect limitation. It effectively prevents him from using his power in a way that is turned against him.

    Also the way Teacher gets explicit consent from William here, the way he let’s him choose to be on his side or not, it’s quite noble. Valefor doesn’t get that choice but Valefor also doesn’t get the choice to have eyes or a jaw according to other reasonable people.

    I can’t wait to see the hax Teacher is planning with William now that he can combine their powers to brainwash without modifying a subjects power, or even better, enhance a subjects power without brainwashing them.

    1. Teacher cannot use his power on an unwilling subject. That’s why he needs Scapegoat, to get around that limitation by having Scapegoat voluntarily accept it and then forcibly transfer it. He has previously obtained minions by concealing the extent to which using his power brainwashes them and offering enhancements, but the cat is out of the bag on that one.

  27. Ho boy, there is a lot to of revelations to go back and unpack and analyze in this chapter.

    But first I’d like to note that Scapegoat’s power makes him seem oddly like a ‘hero of Mind’ from Homestuck, (probably Mage, or maybe Maid or Sylph, if I had to pick), insofar as it revolves heavily around insight into the myriad of possible alternate selfs. Which is definitely not an angle to his powers that really occurred to me when I was reading Worm.

    It’s really cool to see a slightly greater exploration of the Many-worlds style multiverse mechanics the setting operates under. I’ve always been particularly fascinated by the point that the Entities apparently segregated or condensed them down from their full infinite/combinatoric multitude into a smaller set of accessible universes.
    I honestly wasn’t sure WB would ever actually explore that aspect in further detail, due to not wanting to run the risk of the logic and implications behind it not holding up well under more intense scrutiny. Needless to say I am pleasantly surprised to find that that does not seem to be the case.

  28. Oh man, talk about a moral dilemma. I could see anyone joining Teacher’s side after what Scapegoat has gone through. I feel so bad that he descended to villainy, yet it makes perfect sense for him. Hard to rationalize that Teacher is the worse evil after what everything Scapegoat has seen.

  29. After Teacher failed to tag Taylor he is now trying to achieve the control with a complicated end-run play.
    Fuck that guy, slavery is the worst, I hope he dies in a fire.

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